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Review: Religious freedom after the sexual revolution

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helen alvare - The Catholic Weekly
Book cover with Helen Alvare. Photo: Catholicvoice.org website.

“There is more madness coming out of Manhattan than out of Moscow,” GK Chesterton famously said in 1926. Marxists had conducted a dramatic revolution in 1917, but the seeds of a more potent revolution were being sown: the sexual revolution. 

We, living in the early part of the 21st Century, witness the radical break-up of marriage, the rapid break-down of family, a remarkable decline in sexual mores, the proliferation of pornography, identity-confusion, domestic violence, etc.  

Psychologists tell us, “What is in the way, is the way.” George Mason University Professor of Law Helen Alvaré confirms: “There is no path to the other side of the current storm over the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexual responsibility except ‘through.’” 

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In her latest work, she recommends “clear, positive, and sufficiently thorough explanations of our sexual ethic,” which are often not understood in the right light and certainly challenging for people in every epoch. 

Alvaré does a magnificent job in her book. In particular, she says our response should be threefold: 

“We need to remind people what our Catholic Institutions are: a community of people who are responding to Christ’s call to love him and one another. 

“Articulate how the sexual responsibility norm at issue serves love of God and neighbour. This will entail referencing vast recent social and psychological evidence, supporting the truth of our teaching. 

“State how the teaching is positive, not negative, preserving for society the complementarity of the sexes, fostering both unity (not uniformity) and openness to new life.” 

Our task has never been easy. Jesus told us that we can expect persecutions—in fact, they are a good sign that we are on the right track. 

Alvaré says that many cultural factors have shaped our current state of affairs: “Individualism. Poor definitions of happiness. Sex as revolutionary. A reduced valuation of children. Technology. Materialism. Laws promoting sexual expression unlinked to marriage or children.” 

Our task has become increasingly difficult, too, by media voices who “portray religious freedom as an oppressive opponent of sexual freedom.” 

She cites one activist, sending “a chill down the spine of religious liberty advocates:” 

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” 

“Code words” we do not have, but “the truth that sets us free’ (Jn 8:32). Chills running down our spines we well might have, but Alvaré will ensure we don’t have our backbones removed.  

She is a fine intellect, most eloquent speaker, and above all, a good and faithful woman. Helen Alvaré will deliver the second Tim Fischer Oration for Ethics in Public and Political life, Great Hall, Parliament House, Wednesday 7 August 2024 6pm. 

Our aim is to enable a new generation of leaders to emerge in Australia to help us promote and maintain our free and fair country. 

‘Religious Freedom After the Sexual Revolution’
The Catholic University of America Press (2022)
Helen Alvaré 

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