Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
The Sexual Revolution
by Bishop Peter J. Elliott
Freedom Publishing Books
In just over 150 pages, Bishop Elliott, a retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, gives us an excellent summary of the agenda behind the sexual revolution. In particular, he names those whose opinions have led so many people to believe that they may act as if customs and traditions have no value whatever.
He begins by going back to Voltaire, Hume and Rousseau, all of whom viewed human beings as mere rational animals that are in no way morally responsible to a Creator God. Later, we have Jeremy Bentham, whose hedonistic philosophy leads to an "egotistical quest for justification with obvious effects in the area of sexual behaviour." John Stuart Mill was no better, promoting the idea that anything is possible as long as it causes no harm. This doctrine of privacy would later lead to the promotion of pro-choice views on abortion.
For Karl Marx, marriage, family and religion are all oppressive elements of bourgeois society that must be overthrown by the proletariat. The "prophets" of the twentieth century include Sigmund Freud, who provided the pseudo-scientific justification for severing sexuality from procreation.
Havelock Ellis went further, seeing human beings as mere animals whose drives must be satisfied through "free love." This would inevitably lead to the acceptance of homosexual behaviour.
In the United States, Margaret Sanger promoted free love and neo-Malthusian eugenics by means of birth control. Her English counterpart was Marie Stopes. Jean-Paul Sartre argued that if there is no God, morality becomes whatever the individual wills. The anthropologist Margaret Sanger invented the myth of a paradise based on free love.
Having given us some of the key players whose ideas led to the sexual revolution, the author then identifies the three "shaky foundations" that promote the revolution: rejection of God, a radical change in understanding human persons and the deliberate separation of sexuality from fertility.
The author examines the ideas of those whose views were popularized in the sixties, individuals like Saul Alinsky, Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich. Hugh Hefner made pornography acceptable while Betty Friedan and other feminists worked to liberate women from fertility, understood as the instrument of male control. The author examines the role of the United Nations Conferences in making population control more effective by means of easy access to abortion, contraception and sterilization.
The sexual revolution has inevitably "gone mad." We now have gender ideology, a consequence of all that occurred before. For Judith Butler and other radicals, the words "man" and "woman" are unacceptable. Butler argues that gender fluidity means that you can choose your gender, and that choice is not limited to two. She also believes that children should be given the right to choose their gender. Her ideas have neatly fused with the opinions of post-Modernist thinkers like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. But the author also shows that gender fluidity is a contradiction itself: is there not a place in the spectrum for homosexuals to transition to heterosexuality? It would seem not.
Ultimately, what is aimed at is a "new social order and even a new kind of human being."
Thankfully, the author ends with some signs of hope. There is a growing campaign against the sexual harassment of women and domestic violence. In 2014, huge crowds gathered in Paris, of all places, to protest against the legalization of same-sex marriage. The author ends with several positive Catholic responses to the sexual revolution.
This is surely the best current Catholic overview available of the sexual revolution.
This review was originally published in Faith Magazine and is reproduced with permission.