Apr 15, 2023 | First Things

In 1883, speaking not as a novelist but as a bystander describing a terrible scene of carnage, Leo Tolstoy observed of what he documented: “We cannot pretend that we do not know this. We are not ostriches, and we cannot believe that if we do not look, there will not be what we do not wish to see.”

Today’s Catholic Church appears split between those who follow Tolstoy, and those who follow ostriches. The division is nowhere more obvious than in the newly, albeit perennially, contested terrain of teachings concerning marriage and sex. True, Christians were warned from the earliest days that the rules governing this culture would be strict, and the disciples themselves complained that Jesus’s strictures were “hard.” But something new is afoot. Two thousand years later, not only do many Catholics and other Christians voice the same old complaint. Some also ­defiantly insist that “hard” teachings are ipso facto “wrong” teachings.

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