Yet contemporary western society, which delights in the unmasking of sexual hypocrisy wherever it can be found, whether individual or, arguably, institutional, is the most overtly sexualised (and sexually politicised) in history, from the images with which we are bombarded through television and cinema screens, the internet, and advertising of all kinds, even to the 'sex and relationships' education given to our children.
In that sense we are all complicit in the overwhelming hypocrisy embedded in our somewhat less than grown-up culture. We (sometimes quite literally) parade our 'openness,' yet at the same time long for the security and innocence which we feel we, and those for whom we are responsible, have lost. The removal of boundaries and previously accepted taboos, particularly for the more vulnerable, do not necessarily make us more safe, but quite the reverse. We are in the painful process of discovering, I suspect, that we can't have it both ways, and that traditional Christian morality has more to recommend it than its sniggering detractors have alleged.
Sex has been around for a long time; one might think we would have become used to all its hypocrisies and contradictions by now and be, well, less shockable and at the same time more realistic, both in the way we view those who fail to live up to the high standards we rightly expect of them (though often not of ourselves) and, most importantly, in safeguarding those who are the powerless victims of such unacceptable behaviour.
Although, if we are silly enough to buy into the self-serving, 'progressive' (generationally exceptionalist - 'we're the only honest generation') myth that sex was 'invented in 1963' ....
Here are some sane comments from Brendan O'Neill in The Telegraph:
"...Consider how every sex scandal gets politicised, turned from something that exposes the moral depravity of one individual or a group of individuals into something which calls into question the entire culture and belief systems of institutions. So those of an anti-Catholic persuasion – ie virtually the entire English establishment – have turned the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church into a platform for attacking Catholicism itself. Everything from Catholic beliefs on sex and marriage to the existence of closed-off confessional booths has been made into part of the problem by abuse-watchers. That is, a scandal which exposed, rightfully, the wicked behaviour of some priests has been refashioned as a tool of ideological warfare against the Catholic faith, against a strain of theology that the Protestant-minded atheists of the literary and commentating sets have always found repulsive..... ..........I am not interested in defending any of these institutions currently being buried by sex shocks. But I am concerned at how accusations of sexual wickedness have replaced political, moral or theological critiques to become the No1 shortcut to getting one over on people or groups you don't like. This leads both to an exaggeration of how depraved our era is (since the more sexually disgusting you can make a person or organisation look, the more likely you are to finish them off), and to a spectacularly dishonest form of political discourse. Now, instead of saying what is on our minds about the Lib Dems or the BBC or whoever, instead of putting forward serious, searing critiques of things that rub us up the wrong way, we line up behind any whispered claim of sexual nastiness and hope that it will do our dirty work for us."Read it all here (I'm sorry to be so pedantic, but shouldn't the Telegraph headline read 'bored with' not 'bored of? - I see they have now changed the heading!) But he's right, far from the tolerant, inclusive society we pride ourselves in being, we simply regard sex as another political weapon. It's this politicisation (and the consequent reduction in the 'private' sphere of activity allowed to us) which is the distinctive mark of the modern age and a true enemy of human freedom.
The inescapable fact is that all human beings, whatever our vocation and status may be, have a tendency to sin and, as we are reminded in this season of Lent, there is no 'solution' to our own inevitable expressions of hypocrisy except through prayer, the grace of the Sacraments and the radical conversion of heart and mind. The Christian faith, in stark contrast to the merciless and prurient judgementalism of modern society, also tells us it is never too late to begin or to start afresh.
Those who are fascinated by the events now unfolding in Rome (and who isn't?) will be interested to hear the solution to the novel problem of how to address a pope in retirement - and what he will wear!