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Dorothy Day on Love, Sexuality, Marriage and Pedophilia

I have just read a review of the Kinsey report, which appeared in the spring number of Politics. . .. Here are some of the things I was thinking about the book.

In the first place, I remembered how I came across Havelock Ellis’s Sexual Pathology at the age of seventeen, in the home of a professor at the University of Illinois, where I was working my way through – cleaning, cooking, caring for children – for my room and board. It was an ugly shock to me. I had been as knowing as most children, speculating about the things of sex at an early age indeed. (I can remember talking about it when I was six.) One might also say that an ugly tide rose in me, a poisonous tide, a blackness of evil. . . Dr. Von Hildebrand writes about the poisonous fascination of sex, its deadly allure in the abstract. I felt it then in its most hideous form, and there was no beauty in it, no love, but it was like the uncoiling of a dank and ugly serpent in my breast. These may be extreme ways of expressing myself, but I am sure that at times there has been this consciousness of evil in us all. Evil as a negation, as an absence of good, as a blackness, a glimpse of hell “where everlasting horror dwelleth, and no order is.”

In physical depression, after illness, or after physical excess, there are feelings of guilt in us all, I am sure, and even those who deny there is a conscience feel this. I wonder why that very testimony of guilt in us all is not a witness against such books as Kinsey’s. But of course, these days they are trying to make people overcome their sense of guilt, to deaden consciences. When we are little children, our consciences tell us what is right or wrong, and we know full well when we are choosing evil. The trouble with the Kinsey report is that it makes people cease to regard themselves as the least of all, as the guiltiest of all, as the saints say we should, and instead we say, “I’m as good as he is,” or “He is as bad as I am, in fact much worse.” And we compare ourselves with others instead of with God, horizontally instead of vertically. Christ said, “Be ye therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is.”

St. Paul said, “Let these things be not so much as mentioned among you.” And he also said, “Whatsoever things are good and true and beautiful and chaste, and of good repute, think on these things,” and the lesson for Easter season is, “If ye be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above. People say, “But it helps you in guiding and guarding your own children to know these things. You cannot be like ostriches, with your heads in the sand. You’ve got to know these things, regardless of how much they make you suffer (or what they do to you in the way of shock).” . . .

“All the way to heaven is heaven,” said St. Catherine of Siena, “because He said, ‘I am the Way.'” We have too many samples of hell, and the Kinsey report is one of them.

The marriage union has always seemed to me to be an earthly shadow of the Blessed Trinity. As the love of the Father and Son is the Holy Spirit, the union of man and woman produces a child; the family is a little trinity of love.

Some choose evil because they have not seen the good, and I could write a little Kinsey report myself of sin and damage and unhappiness in the lives of people I know who never learned to bring grace into the realm of sex. Those who suppress sex wrongfully, who hate the flesh, either become neurotic prudes or fall into the opposite extreme of excess. Those unwilling or unable to accept the attitudes of the conventional and puritanical bourgeoisie are easily betrayed by that “poisonous fascination” of which Dr. Von Hildebrand writes. They begin the descent to the Dark Angel, through the mysticism of Evil, only half knowing what they are doing. The novels of Aldous Huxley, who savagely strips away the fascination, are the best antidote I know to this kind of poison, and I shall always be grateful that I read them in early youth. But he, in his turn, is a Manichee with no compassion for this dear flesh.

For a more Christian view of life, the best books I have run across are Life Together by Wingfield Hope (which I frequently re-read for the vision – for its true idealism and refreshing common sense); In Defense of Purity by Dietrich Von Hildebrand; Love in the Western World by Denis de Rougemont; the Encyclical on Christian marriage by Pope Pius XI. And the Nuptial Mass in the Missal.

There are such treasures of wisdom and beauty within the Church – buried treasure. Remember how Peter used to go around saying that on the subject of sex the Catholic Church is foolproof? He was quoting some doctor in the Middle West – Minneapolis or Chicago.
Reprinted from Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage (1948; Eerdmans, 1999).

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, March-April 2003.