“What habits have changed? Which ones have caused the greatest scandals and arguments?
“Sex magazines for men and pornographic movies and plays have grown in their numbers, becoming ever more daring and unrestrained…
“Nowadays, radio programs are common where sex life is freely discussed with psychologists and doctors dispensing free telephone consultations for sexual counseling…
“Virginity as a prized value in family upbringing and a feminine pre-requisite for marriage, no longer counts. Religious wedding and symbols like the wedding ring and the wedding dress are passé…
“Drugs… are used in large sectors of society…
“Uncommitted pre-marital unions are common…
“Controversial topics that were formerly a matter of taboo are now freely raised and debated on television…
“Homosexuals are advocating the legalization of a ‘third sex’ all over the world…
“The family may be broken up by divorce.”
The quotation marks clearly indicate that I am not the author of this summary. A friend found it in a article titled, “Fifteen Habits That Have Changed,” published by the Correio do Povo of Porto Alegre. Nearly the whole clipping is transcribed above.
Perhaps there are some areas of our huge country where these changes have not been established in the same way. However, with time, even these regions will follow suit.
The summary reflects quite well the overall reality in Brazil, especially the dynamic aspect of it.
This reality is by no means limited to cities in Brazil. These habits are already deeply rooted in larger cities in America and Europe. In fact, several items in the list of “Habits That Have Changed” that the reporter presented in a neutral way, would be considered old hat or passé if published in other cities of the world.
Usually such transformations do not take place in leaps and bounds. They are processive, descending through stages which can only be opposed when the extraordinary action of divine grace overrules the normal economy of grace. An example of this is the conversion of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus.
This will give rise to two questions in the mind of some: “Have we really fallen from so high? Is it also true that we have fallen so low?”
From the Catholic point of view – which I entirely accept as mine – there can be no doubt. These “habits that have changed” epitomize the moral debacle of a Christian people.
The Commandments of the Law of God teach men the perfect way of acting. There was a time when men habitually kept them. Then, the moral climate was elevated, for perfection, by definition, a very high state.
Later, things began to slide. The newspaper article we have cited captures an instant in a fall that tends toward the vertiginous. Previous stages have already been reported in other news articles and future stages will be discussed by later analysts.
When comparing all these changing habits to traditional Church morality, we see how easily worse habits could replace them and deal a death blow to the faint vestiges of Christianity that still survive in our contemporary world.
There could hardly be a more serious finding than this. It is like a shepherd who realizes at the break of dawn, that almost all his sheep have fled, leaving only a few tufts of wool scattered here and there in the meadow.
Another question comes to mind: “What would be the normal reaction of such a shepherd?”
Let us take a short cut and go directly to the point. In the great national debate one hears voices from every walk of life, including many priestly voices. Some of these do not speak, but clamor, contest, insult and threaten… Many of these howling voices come from the well-known ranks of the “Catholic left,” who demand only material goods to attend to the necessities (which they generally exaggerate) of the poor (whose number they inflate).
To the degree that they do not exaggerate, but maintain the upright and limpid objectivity of children of God, they merit only respect and support. They are simply asking bread for the hungry.
However, even then one must ask them another question: “Does man live by bread alone?” The Gospel says: “Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)
If material bread is neither the supreme nor only good, why do liberation theologians speak of it alone? Do they not see that multitudes suffer from an even more acute evil in their souls, corroded as they are by a pervading sensuality?
In short, if these theologians believe in the existence of the soul, the word of God (which is the true bread for men) and the eternity of a reward or chastisement that men will receive after death, how can they keep silent and set to howling about earthly bread, which sustains only a physical life that will perish?
A French writer – I don’t remember anymore which one – defined health as “a precarious state that always ends badly.” Why is it that the “Catholic left” is only concerned about this poor precarious state, forgetful of the perfect happiness which will never end, and which men can only obtain by the practice of virtue?
The preceding article was originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on June 18, 1980. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.