There’s a newish sort of word you may have come across in your Internet travels over the last couple of years: polyamory. Polyamory is exacty what it sounds like – engaging in a romantic relationship with more than one person simultaneously. From an obscure subculture not long ago, it appears that the polyamorous “community” (the puns write themselves) has made rather large strides toward normalcy and cultural acceptance over the past couple of years.
Case in point: this video from CNN Money:
Whatever else you can say about the activities of the people in the video, if you really think about it, they are anything but shocking. We have successfully and almost entirely divorced sex from procreation. What Catholic theologians have long referred to as “the marital act” or “the procreative act” has become far estranged from either of those concepts. It neither occurs predominately in marriage nor predominately for the purposes of procreation. It is instead a pleasurable recreation activity, at times entered into by perfect strangers with little more discretion or care than a handshake.
Monogamy makes sense on a moral level because of what we understand about love and gift of self and the unique and complimentary gifts that mothers and fathers have to offer their children. It makes sense on a societal level because it is the most solid and secure institution for the procreation and education of children. It makes sense on a biological and evolutionary level because what it creates the highest statistical probability that children will survive and ensure the survival of the species.
The moment you remove the word “children” from the previous three sentences, they collapse into meaningless nonsense. Without children, monogamy serves little purpose beyond avoiding hurt feelings. And in a culture that seeks self-gratification above all else, hurt feelings aren’t a particularly strong deterrent from the quest to sate the appetite for the pleasure and novelty of diverse sexual partners.
In other words, we start with artificial contraception, and we wind up with open relationships. We also find ourselves dealing with a higher divorce rate, “gay marriage”, a pornography epidemic, and the scourge of abortion. This is why it is absolutely critical (and theologically non-negotiable) that the Catholic Church hold the line on her teaching on contraception. The acceptance of non-procreative sex is literally a Pandora’s Box that cannot be closed once opened. Pulling on this thread of the Church’s teaching will quite literally unravel the entire tapestry of the faith. And in my experience, disagreement with some aspect of the Catholic Church’s completely unique sexual teaching is almost always the place where people who leave the Church start their journey to apostasy. You literally can’t be in favor of separating sex from its divinely-ordered end and stay Catholic. The two things are inherently antithetical.
I’d also like to mention a couple of aspects of the video I found noteworthy. First, it’s the the secular sex researcher…er, “Biological Anthropologist,” who makes the case that the human brain is just not wired for polyamory. Not for any moral reason – just straight up evolutionary biology. Science and sexual licentiousness have been at pains not to appear to oppose each other for the past half century, so I find Dr. Fisher’s insistence that polyamorous relationships are doomed to fail pretty fascinating.
Second, Chris Messina’s observation that marriage as a “product” (predictable tech entrepreneur analogy is predictable) has a failure rate of 50% and thus warrants a design consideration is spot-on. But not for the reasons he thinks. The reason marriage has a “design” problem is because the vast majority of marriages now involve — you guessed it — contraception. They are not marriages in a sacramental sense. They are state-sanctioned relationship contracts which may or may not welcome children. And even if they do welcome children, it’s only on the terms and schedule of the spouses. Lacking the “life-giving love” and “mutual self-gift” that Catholic sexual ethicists teach us are essential to fruitful marriages, even many spouses these days are, essentially, just using each other for sex – even if they are doing so in committed, long-term relationships. By not being open to life, they have diminished the meaning of marital love to something less-than-sublime.
Thirdly, Messina’s assertion that the Internet has mitigated his sense of isolation as a polyamorist is telling. “My weird is not so weird,” he says, elaborating that the world-wide community of the Internet has brought together enough people that a significant sample of those in fact share and encourage his belief that his behavior is desirable rather than abnormal. Some view the societal taboo-breaking aspect of the Internet to be a feature; I would argue that it can also be quite a troublesome bug. Extrapolating the statement “my weird is not so weird” to other aberrant sexual behavior is chilling. From pedophiles to rapists to torturers and every perversion in-between, the Internet is empowering and enabling communities of individuals engaged in behavior that should be discouraged and even shamed. There’s no getting around the way the Internet connects people — it works to the good as often as to the ill — but it is an undeniable factor in the ongoing descent into barbarism we are witnessing worldwide.
In the moral life, there is simply no more slippery slope than the one created by the objectifiation of sexual pleasure and the rejection of children. Such a fundamental rebellion against the design of our human nature has civilization-destroying consequences. 42 years of legal abortion has bathed us in the blood of our innocent and thrown light on the contraceptive poison that consumes us. The normalization of perverse relationships is just another necessary consequence. My only surprise is that it has taken this long.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.