When I was an undergraduate studying theology, I recall my moral theology lecturer (a relatively youthful religious sister, whom someone at her Roman alma mater had nicknamed Barbie) telling the class that one could extract no useful list of moral injunctions from either the Old or the New Testaments. At the time it seemed best not to challenge this extraordinary statement with some fairly obvious counter-examples... Similarly, my lecturer on the Epistle to the Romans, a well-known Melbourne Jesuit, bent over backwards (if you will excuse the pun) to explain away the apparently damning references St Paul makes in the first chapter thereof to unnatural practices as grave sins. In both cases – and these were classes at nominally Christian institutions – the modern secular Zeitgeist had entirely overcome traditional morality no less than the repeated assertions of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church down to the present day.
A priest friend was talking with me about hearing the confessions of young people, and relayed to me the case of a fellow priest, who, upon being told by his penitent that she had last been to confession ten years ago, and yet had no sins to confess, exclaimed that surely she was a saint – though the intended satire no doubt passed over her head. I have been struck more and more by the modern lack of any sense of sin, let alone of any angst about or craving for redemption, for a Saviour. It is as if whatever one does, it is of little consequence – even in the case of those brought up as what passes for Catholic these days, so inculcated is the hazy notion of a God ever-loving, never ever condemning, that the assumption is made that sin doesn't really exist, let alone matter, or perhaps require some contrition.
In the wide world around us, New Zealand now takes her place as the thirteenth nation to legalize a logical absurdity. And these days, in which legal positivism has triumphed, whatever is legal is perceived as ipso facto right and good and moral and just, and if some desideratum is not yet legal, then all effort will be expended soon enough to have our elected representatives declare it so: whereas the sinister pronouncements of those dreadful fun-killing Christians, let alone the vile monsters of the Church of Rome, are per se to be distrusted, dismissed, loathed, mocked and rejected.
Are we not now living in the aftermath of a paradigm shift along the lines of Nietzsche's seconding of Satan's cry "Evil, be thou my good"? I fear we are; and that the Christian message is not merely repellent to, nor unpersuasive for, but completely unimportant to many postmodern persons, whatsoever their psycho-sexual identity. They have no interest in any pretended God or world beyond this one and its idols. I fear that the compliment is being returned by Providence in the way of ineluctable demographic decline: "I looked for the wicked and he was not there". By living in a way manifestly opposed to rational nature, human kind dies out in the decadent West.
The Christians who lived at the time of the fall of Rome thought it a sign of the end of the world: it indeed marked an end of a world, but Christianity grew and flourished apace in the new world that succeeded it. In the West (whose Patriarch is the Bishop of Rome, whatever his immediate forerunner may have said about it), Christianity is dying in the midst of a dying civilization, the dregs of which are reverting to pagan ways, as a dog returns to its vomit – or rather, worse still, the former demonic lord of this world returns to again reside in his residence of old, with seven yet more terrible devils. O tempora, O mores.