When I heard that there was some kind of political trouble in our state capital, my first thought was, “Oh, the Albany follies.” I did not realize right away what kind of folly it was, and how extensive and immoral, and what the result would be. It soon became clear.
I always ask myself how these things can happen. Before people in public office behave badly, don’t they think about the possible consequences? Don’t they consider the damage they will do to their reputation? Don’t they take seriously the obligations imposed by their oath of office, not to mention ethics and morality? Don’t they realize the gravity of committing acts that violate those obligations?
You and I would think of those things. So, I believe, would many of the people whom we have elected to public office. Others do not, and we watch the fallout in dismay.
Misbehavior in office is nothing new, of course; history is filled with examples, many of them hidden at first. But the media and the appetite for scandal make it harder than ever for those in the public eye to hide. Contemporary culture contributes to the problem. Movies and television shows often make libertine sexual conduct look ordinary, unexceptional and routine—as though, in the old phrase, “Everybody’s doing it.” Monologues by comedians and talk show hosts often promote the same message, the same amoral values. That’s a tragedy. It scandalizes millions of people who faithfully uphold traditional moral values. It sets a dangerous example for children and teens by making traditional sexual mores look irrelevant and sexual license look attractive. It places an extra burden on parents by making it harder for them to pass their values on to their children. Rearing a family is difficult enough without constant chatter from entertainers undermining and insulting those values.
Parents have a duty not only to teach their children but also to protect them from harm, including false teaching. Parents who are struggling to raise their children as faithful Catholics don’t need to have the kids infected with such notions as the idea that sexual activity outside marriage is harmless and has no negative consequences, or that abortion is just a simple, harmless back-up “solution” to an unintended pregnancy.
Regarding the exit of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it’s worth noting that he did not leave office only because of credible allegations of sexual misconduct. There were other issues that might have led to his departure on their own, notably the matter of forcing nursing homes to accept Covid patients, resulting in the deaths of many residents in those homes. But illicit sexual behavior gets more attention and is more difficult to explain away or to rationalize. At the same time, although scandal is part of the mix here, there is something to be thankful for: Sexual mistreatment of women is probably more likely than ever to be brought to light, with consequences for abusers.
What does all of this mean for people of faith, and specifically for us as Catholics? First, we need to uphold without hesitation or apology the traditional biblical teaching about men, women and sexuality. The equal dignity of the sexes is clear in the Book of Genesis: “…God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The New Testament clearly shows the prominent roles of women in Jesus’ life, as well as Jesus’ deep respect for women. Note that the announcement of his Resurrection was made first to women.
It is difficult to insist on the special dignity of sexual union when so much of popular culture trivializes it or treats it as a casual activity instead of a profound expression of love and commitment between spouses. Christians who profess traditional biblical beliefs are mocked by the purveyors of secularism and hedonism. But there are times when we have to ignore them and say firmly with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Which includes praying that those who govern us will seek to attain wisdom and virtue.