Humanae Vitae meets Humanitarian Hefner - by Dr. Donald DeMarco

2008 Winter Spring - A peer-reviewed article from an Issue of the Academic Journal "Fedelitas" of The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
Humanae Vitae Meets Humanitarian Hefner  =Dr. Donald DeMarco

Dr DeMarco is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and Adjunct Professor at of.: Holy Apostles College & Seminary;Mater Ecclesiae College
In 1986, Brother Don Fleischhacker, C.S.C., of Notre Dame University, wrote a letter to Playboy protesting that magazine’s fragmented view of human sexuality. Citing Humanae Vitaethis intrepid religious reasoned that once “the contraceptive mentality is accepted, there can be no coherent objective ground for opposition to homosexual activity.” If the unitive aspect of sex becomes an end in itself, he went on to explain, “there is no essential reason why sex should be restricted to couples of different sexes.”
Recent events have proven that Brother Fleischhacker was as prophetic as was Pope Paul VI when he penned Humane Vitae back in 1968. For Playboy, however, the letter was treated as an object of ridicule and its content irreverently dismissed: “Brother, you sound like Saint Thomas’ lawyer,” wrote the Playboy editor. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to pontificate, the editor then directed the benighted Brother to Playboy’s higher moral ground: “We say that either kind of sex can be an end in itself, both kinds are good, but don’t get the two confused.”
Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) Winter-Spring 2008
Playboy presumes to be far more perspicacious in recognizing and baptizing the goodness of things than was the God ofGenesis who restricted marriage to the two-in-one flesh
union that can be achieved only by a man and a woman. The latter saw that many things were good, but stopped short of blessing sexual relations between same-sex couples. The Judeo- Christian tradition has, allegedly, a long way to go before it catches up with the more spacious and inclusive outlook of the Playboy philosophy.
This holier-than-thou posture of Playboy explains why its founder, Hugh Hefner, has declared that he is the most moral human being he has ever met. The Catholic Church blesses marriage and marital acts that are not opposed to procreation, but Playboy’s blessings cover an incomparably broader range of sexual expression. From the perspective of Playboy, it is far ahead of the Church in the sheer number of wonderful things it deems good, including marriage for same-sex partners.Playboy has surpassed Genesis in its generosity, and out- distanced Mother Church in its magnanimity. Mr. Hefner is presumed to be a trailblazing humanitarian.
Why is the Church apparently so stingy in its blessings, so confused about good and evil? And how did Mr. Hefner get to be so much wiser and more beneficent than anyone in the long Judeo-Christian tradition? Two problems here warrant attention. One is the difficulty in recognizing evil. The second is the assumption that more is better.
The main problem in identifying the essence of evil is precisely that it does not have an essence, anything solid or substantial that would reveal its malefic nature to an empirical examiner.
Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) Winter-Spring 2008
Hence, evil is not an object at which anyone can point. Evil lies in what is missing. In order to know what is missing, one must first know what should be there in the first place. Ten football players on the field may look perfectly fine
to the casual observer, but to the referee, it constitutes an infraction that warrants a penalty. There is nothing wrong with any of the ten men on the field. It is the one who is missing that creates the problem. But it requires some degree of spiritual acumen to know what is missing, for what is missing is not there to be seen.
The realistic basis of Humanae Vitae is what Paul VI refers to as a “total” or “integral vision of man”. Two people who are having sex with each other apart from marriage may believe that they are behaving very morally. But if they have willfully excluded love, any concern for conception or any responsibility their act might have on themselves and others, it becomes clear that what they are doing is deprived of the very factors that are needed to realize this “total vision” of thehuman being. Moral good does not exist in isolation.
The God of Genesis, after proclaiming that everything he created is good, declared that, “It is not good for man to be alone. The reason it is “not good for man to be alone,” is that he cannot be good unless he has love for other human beings. Man’s nature demands a communal existence. Hell is where man is truly and finally alone. The Church does not teach that Hell is not good because She is insufficiently liberal, but because She knows that in Hell, one is deprived of love, hope, and happiness.
Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) Winter-Spring 2008
For the same reason, it is not good for sex to be alone. The key to moral goodness is that it not be isolated from the factors that give it its wholeness and therefore its total good. Moral goods are always organic. Moral evils are always deprived.
Playboy thinks that virtually everything is good only because it does not really think that anything is good. It understands neither the nature of a moral good nor the profile of a moral evil. Playboy is not being generous; it is being thoughtless.
Homosexual acts are not good. They are deprived. They are not open to new life, not congruent with God’s plan, andneither health giving or psychologically satisfactory. Among sexually active homosexuals, promiscuity is the norm and the spread of disease is inevitable. The scientific data on these matters is overwhelming. Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, author ofHomosexuality and the Politics of Truth, has reported that 30% of all 20-year-old homosexual men will be HIV positive or dead by the age of thirty.
In dramatic contrast, heterosexual marriage, properly understood, is open to a broad array of goods that give it an indispensable place in the structure of society as its very foundational principle. In no way can sodomy between two men, for example, be the basic unit of society. It is not surprising, then, that militant homosexuals can be violently opposed to the organic unity of the family. Consider the words of homosexual poet Michael Swift: “. . . the family which only dampens imagination and curbs free will, must be eliminated.”
Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) Winter-Spring 2008
The second problem is associated with the assumption that restricting sex to married couples deprives others of meaningful sexual experiences. Or, in the words of a popular comedian, “Restricting sex to one married spouse is likebuying a cable package that provides but one channel.”
G. K. Chesterton offered a bold and eloquent refutation of this view when he wrote: “Mankind declares with onedeafening voice: that sex may be ecstatic so long as it is also restricted. That is the beginning of all purity; and purity isthe beginning of all passion.” Mr. Hefner and his staff seem to have remained deaf to this “deafening choice”.
Humanae Vitae urges a certain “asceticism” in order to “dominate instinct by means of one’s reason and free will”. Sex must pass from instinct to institution so that it can conform to the “total vision of man”. Instinct alone places sex on the level of, to borrow Mr. Hefner’s own analogy, rabbits. The sex instinct is prodigal, whereas the institution of marriage is prodigious. The gratification of instinct does not attain the eternal. Through fidelity, love, and procreation, marriage does, as it images the Trinity.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2002 work, On the Way to Jesus Christ, draws important insights from a passage in the book ofAmos, where the eponymous prophet refers to himself as, “a dresser of sycamore trees”. Citing a number of scholars, thePontiff explains that the abundant fruit of the sycamore tree is tasteless until it is cut to let the sap run out, whereby it becomes flavorful. This image can be taken to symbolize the transition from the pagan world of excess to the Christian world of purification and moderation. The Holy Father writes: “Ultimately only the Logos himself can guide our
Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) Winter-Spring 2008
cultures to their purity and maturity, but the Logos makes us his servants, the “dresser of sycamore trees”.
The application to human sexuality here is easy enough to see. Hefner and his playboys, just as they have reverted to adolescence, have also reverted to paganism. They find meaning in excess, but not in maturity. They claim to possess a special sensibility to sex, but actually reveal a curious insensibility to it. They do not discriminate between the pure and the insipid. Because they see all forms of sex in the flat perspective of equality, they see no one particular form of sex in its sublimity. They promote the tasteless fruit of unseasoned, indiscriminate sex, while criticizing those who understand something about its purity and passion.
Humanae Vitae reminds us that our true destiny is to be whole persons, and that we must discipline ourselves in order to reach that end. The humanitarian claims of Hefner are bogus since they are based neither on a proper understanding of the human person or a recognition of the practical necessity for virtue.