There is a heresy among us in the 21st century equally, or perhaps even more ubiquitously, among us as Arianism was in the 4th century, but as far as I can tell, it does not have a name. Let us give it one. Let us call this heresy "sexoheresy."
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In the face of the virtual ubiquity of the Arian heresy which rejected that the Son of God was the same substance as the Father (homoousios to Patri) but at most a similar substance (homoiousios), St. Jerome famously stated in his Dialogue against the Luciferians late in the 4th century that "the whole world groaned, and was amazed to find itself Arian." (No. 19)
There is a heresy among us in the 21st century equally, or perhaps even more ubiquitously, among us as Arianism was in the 4th century, but as far as I can tell, it does not have a name. Let us give it one.
Let us call this heresy "sexoheresy." Although famously, Fr. Dariusz Oko has coined the word "homoheresy" to describe a homosexual cabal within the Church, this homoheresy only a part of a greater heresy involving sex. So a homoheretic is a sexoheretic, but a sexoheretic is not necessarily a homoheretic. We are not all homoheretics, but most of us are, at least in the West, sexoheretics.
When I use the term "sex," I use it in its broadest sense to include what moderns call issues of gender or sexual identity, issues of sexual or erotic attraction or inclination, and issues of sexual activity. Sexoheresy involves heresy regarding sexual identity, inclination, and activity.
A sexoheretic can be identified by philosophically erroneous or religiously heterodox positions on human autonomy, human nature, the meaning of the human sexual act, and human conscience. A sexoheretic dissents from, or outright rejects, some or all of the Church's teaching on human sexuality, always with some excuse or justification.
A sexoheretic can also be identified by sexual heteropraxis, that is, by practicing or justifying practices that traditionally would be considered intrinsically evil: artificial contraception, self-abuse, oral and anal sodomy, pornography, pedophilia, same-sex marriage, sex-reassignment, and the like. The sexoheretic refuses to consent to the moral truth that all these acts are objectively and intrinsically evil, and absolutely wrong in any and all circumstances.
From a theoretical standpoint, sexoheresy is based upon philosophical or anthropological errors. We might identify three major philosophical errors of a sexoheretic. In a sense, they are all related. At their foundation, they all appear to reject the notion of God as First Cause or Final End. In other words, there is nothing "outside" one's self--whether Nature or Nature's God--that should govern one's self. They don't believe in a Natural Law because they don't believe in an Eternal Law.
First, a sexoheretic overemphasizes human autonomy (Gk = "self law"). We might call sexoheretics advocates of moral hyperautonomy.
In the matters of sex (identity, inclination, activity), a sexoheretic's moral hyperautonomy rejects any extrinsic or "external" guide, whether derived from Nature or from Nature's God. It regards any such thing, whether derived from Nature or Nature's God, as heteronomous (Gk = "other law"), restrictive, and so foreign to real freedom. Any restriction on the exercise of human autonomy is rejected as evil, a Nietzschean Sklavenmoral or Herrenmoral, because it is seen as a restriction on freedom since it is imposed by, or derived from, a source outside self.
Second, there is a rejection of nature, in particular human nature (including its expression in complementary sexes, male and female). This is a corollary to the sexoheretic's overemphasis on human autonomy. If there is such a thing as human nature or sex (masculinity or femininity), then this thing called "human nature" or sex (maleness or femaleness) would restrict autonomy. So it must be rejected.
This sort of anti-nature attitude and anti-biological prejudice is perfectly reflected in Sartre's work on Flaubert entitled The Family Idiot. In this book, Sartre says that "the idea of nature, of human nature, of natural law is false." This, of course, suggests that anything that is anti-nature is true, at least potentially.
This sort of attitude in the sexual identity area is found in Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex, where she famously writes: "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman." This is a rejection of biological sex for a view of sex which we make ourselves.
For the sexoheretic, it is bad faith (mauvaise foi) to suggest that human freedom, including sexual freedom (in the choice of sexual identity, attraction, or genital activity), is limited by anything extrinsic, in particular such a "thing" as nature or sex (maleness or femaleness).
For the sexoheretic, man, who is radically indeterminate and so is not responsible or answerable to any thing outside of himself (and, in the sexoheretic's view, nature and sex are things we have invented in our minds), is condemned to be free, and this means free of nature and sexual identity prescribed by one's body.
Sexoheretics tend toward philosophical nominalism: human nature and sex (maleness and femaleness) are just names. They are abstractions and have no extra-mental reality.
And this takes us to the third philosophical or anthropological feature of sexoheretics. The sexoheretic is dualistic. He makes an absolute division between the person and the person's body. The sexoheretic takes his anthropology from Descartes, and not from Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas.
For the sexoheretic, man is (in the words of Gilbert Ryle) a "ghost in a machine." The human body is one thing. The real person, the "ghost," is another. The human body is a tool, a plaything, a possession of the ghostly person that is housed within. Only the "ghost" is a person: the body is not.
The sexoheretic's overemphasis of autonomy, his rejection of nature, and his dualistic anthropology lead to sexual heteropraxis, what, in a more sane time, we would call sexual license or even sexual deviancy.
The sexoheretic believes that the ghostly person ought not to be limited by his machine-like body (or the body of others, so long as the "ghost" in the other body consents). Therefore, for sexoheretic, the body does not dictate anything to the person.
This hyperautonomy, rejection of nature, and dualism show themselves in the area of sexual identity: the body may be female, but the ghost may be male. Therefore, the "ghost" may use clothes, drugs and artificial hormones, or even surgery to change the body to whatever sex suits the ghost. Any effort to restrict this is to enslave the ghost to his body, his machine, or to the convention of others about how the ghost should relate to the machine.
In the area of inclination, the hyperautonomy, rejection of nature, and dualism of the sexoheretic show themselves by dividing inclination from the body, so that the body does not inform the ghost what may be a proper sexual inclination or attraction and what disordered. Therefore, the body may be male, but, irrespective of that, the ghost may be inclined sexually toward other males without being considered a disorder. Any suggestion that ordered and normal erotic inclination or attraction should be defined by the body and the mutual complementarity of male and female is considered cruel, a product of bigotry, even irrational hatred.
In the area of sexual activity, this hyperautonomy, rejection of nature, and dualism show themselves in the tendency to use one's body (and another's body, so long as its "ghost" gives consent) however one wants. The body (and its ability to gain and give pleasure) may be exploited by the ghost, and so (oral and anal) sodomy, homosexual activity, mutual masturbation, contraceptive sex are all legitimate exploitations of the body.
In the view of the extreme sexoheretic, the real saint of the sexoheretic, there ought to be no shame attached to any of this, and most certainly no law prohibiting this, and any effort at imposing shame or passing laws is a product of irrational prejudice, antiquated mores, and Puritan or Victorian or Jansenistic prudery because it has no source in reality.
The only practical moral limit to the sexual activities available to a sexoheretic is the other's consent (if there is an other). If there is not an other, but only self, one can do pretty much whatever one wants to satisfy one's erotic desires so long as one does not fall into a solitary hell called "ipsation," which is something, as best I can gather, in the moral ethersphere, a sort of self-imposed limbo, an almost impossible thing to stumble into.
From a religious standpoint, sexoheresy rejects part or (in an extreme case) all of the Church's Magisterial teaching concerning human sexual identity, inclination, and activity. Most frequently, this is done by overemphasizing conscience (and a wrong notion of conscience at that), by rejecting absolute moral norms (and adopting a form of proportionalism), or by relying on false notions of the sensus fidelium and claiming that the "People of God" (or the liberal moral theologians as an "alternative Magisterium") have equal competency to the teaching Church.
However the Church's official teaching on human sexual identity, inclination, or activity is skirted is not really significant: these are schools of thought among the sexoheretics. As long as any Magisterial teaching on human sexuality is rejected in whole or in part one is a sexoheretic. In his epistle, the apostle St. James says that whoever offends the law on one point is guilty of breaking it all. (James 2:10) This is true for our sexoheretic; that is why he is everywhere about us.
Ultimately, the Church's teachings on human sexual identity, inclination, and activity, and even her competency to teach infallibly in this area, are rejected by sexoheretics. A full sexoheretic withholds religious assent (religious submission of mind and will) and certainly complete consent to or faith in some, or even all, of the Church's traditional teachings on human sexuality.
Since the Church's teaching on human sexual identity, inclination, and activity are all rationally intertwined, the rejection of any one doctrine invariably means that other pieces eventually will be rejected. From a historical standpoint, at least in the Roman Catholic Church, the unraveling began with the massive rejection of the Church's teaching regarding the intrinsic immoral evil that artificial contraception entails.
Beginning with the wholesale rejection of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, which reiterated the Church's traditional teaching in light of the invention of the "Pill," the world, including the majority of Catholics, has rapidly plunged into sexoheresy.
(Actually, an incipient fall into sexoheresy may be identified in the earlier rejection or at least deprecation of the Church's traditional distinction between the primary purpose (procreation) and secondary and subordinate purposes (expression of love and remedy for concupiscence) of marriage and the sexual act. This tendency which arose in the 1930s and 1940s was found, perhaps most notably, in Fr. Herbert Doms's work on marriage Vom Sinn und Zweck der Ehe. This tendency promoted the subjective purposes of marriage and sex and made them independently important from the objective purpose. This tendency was condemned by a Decree of the Holy Office entitled "The Purposes of Matrimony," and dated April 1, 1944.)
By their fruits you shall know a sexoheretic. The sexoheretic may, by belief or habitual practice (including a morally unjustified "tolerance"), reject or dissent from the condemnation of artificial contraception in Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii or Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The sexoheretic may, by belief or habitual practice, reject or dissent from the Church's absolute condemnation of abortion in Blessed John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae.
The sexoheretic, particularly the homoheretic among the sexoheretics, may, by belief or habitual practice, reject or dissent from the Church's absolute condemnation of homosexual activity, the recognition of homosexual inclinations as intrinsically disordered, and the invalidity of same sex unions and their being contrary to the common good which are found in such Magisterial documents such as Homosexualitatis problema (1986), Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposesla on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons (1992), Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons (2003).
The sexoheretic may, by belief or habitual practice, reject or dissent from the Church's teaching on the impropriety and illicit nature of cohabitation, of sex outside of marriage, of the fact that "every genital act must be within the framework of marriage," as taught by Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (Persona Humana) promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1975.
The sexoheretic may, by belief or habitual practice, reject the Church's absolute condemnation of masturbation or self abuse such as "intrinsically and seriously disordered" acts, such as found in the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1975 Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.
Look at yourself. Look around you. Look at your friends. Look at your peers. Look at our elders. Look at our youth. Look at our families. Look at our arts. Look at our schools. Look at our social conventions. Look at our politics and our laws. Look at our churches. They are all informed by the reigning and rampant sexoheresy.
Ingemuit totus orbis, et sexohereticum se esse miratus est.
The whole world groaned, and was amazed to find itself sexoheretic.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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