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Fr. Glenn: Respect To Whom Respect Is Due

on November 19, 2017 - 6:15am
By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

It seems we can scarcely open a news website or newspaper each day—sometimes each hour—without reading that yet another celebrity, politician, or eminent person has been accused of sexual harassment or abuse.

Sexuality, of course, is one of our most basic drives—probably only just below survival itself … and sometimes even survival loses out. I’m certainly no sociologist/anthropologist, but when trying to discern reasons for human behavior, it seems helpful to transport oneself to millennia past when survival was so much more tenuous. Those with strongest instincts to reproduce were ones who survived, and that inner drive only strengthened over time—and probably still does. Thus males “took” females whenever and wherever they could, while females sought lasting bonds with strongest and boldest males to provide and protect themselves and their offspring against ravages of both nature and competing males—precisely what we see in the animal world.

These instincts are still integral to us, ever-so-barely restrained by the gossamer veil of what is often enforced order and civilization. However, in unseen dark corners, acting lawfully is dependent upon the strength of moral character and conscience possessed by a particular person. This is why I caution young girls/women not to underestimate the intensity of the sexual urge in young men when alone with them, for when strongly tempted, that “nice guy” may decide in the moment that forcing himself upon her is worth the risk of being held to account, just as in any crime. “I couldn’t help it!” is the attempted excuse of the caught, for what can be resisted in public can be resisted in private—especially with crimes so despicable and heinous. We recall St. Paul once again: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Doubtless many, many women have experienced this very circumstance—the gallánt turned groper, the principled turned predator—incidents in the news likely the tip of a tragically underreported iceberg.

So we are actually heartened to see these stories emerging, giving hope that society and civilization is maturing to a point that sexual harassment and abuse—which is yet another manifestation of tyranny of the stronger over the weaker—is becoming no longer something to be endured and suffered, but rather exposed and fought. How well we know the truth of Jesus’ words that many have: “…loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil … everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) 

One of the many principles demonstrated by Jesus is the idea of equality, and extending logically from that, the respect due all persons. Even in the midst of His very patriarchal society, Jesus gave unprecedented respect to women and to those theretofore despised by His countrymen—the Samaritan woman at the well of John 4, the adulteress of John 8, the foreign woman of Matthew 15, the Good Samarian parable of Luke 10, and in many other examples. St. Paul continued this theme of equality: “…as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28) 

Perhaps the strongest affirmation of the equality of all humanity before God is from St. John’s vision of Heaven: “…behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…” (Revelation 7:9) Certainly if God holds neither distinction nor rejection of sex, race or origin, we ought not … especially as we remember that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Sexual harassment and abuse, racism, hatred and all the ills of society—the elevation of oneself above others—have been with us since the dawn of Man, doubtless will continue, but hopefully be ever diminishing. Too many just find it too easy to divide that which should be united, to dominate rather than to defer and respect. Only resolute willingness to combat base desires and temptations—regardless how strong—forms both good persons and good society. Let us pray that civilization will continue to mature towards universal care and respect towards all—a principle ringing familiar as “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” As we give thanks this week for our many blessings received, let us transform gratitude into action by seeking to observe this precept of goodness ever more perfectly.

“[Jesus] replied…‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.’”  (Matthew 12:48-50)

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)