The sexual revolution of the last thirty years has seriously challenged the way people in today’s society view each other as human beings and how they understand real love. With its utilitarian view of marriage and sexual relations, this revolution has lead to the pursuit of sexual pleasure as an end in itself – a kind of radical self-seeking that turns human beings into objects of use and thus makes true love impossible.
In his latest column at Catholic Exchange’s Theology of the Body Channel, Dale O’Leary begins a three part series answering these challenges by taking a look at the precursor to John Paull II’s Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility, a book written by the pope when he was still a bishop in Poland.
Bishop Wojtyla begins Love and Responsibility with an analysis of the verb “to use” and a critique of Utilitarianism. According to Bishop Wojtyla, “Utilitarians regard the principle of maximization of pleasure accompanied by the minimization of pain as the primary rule of human morality” and regard pleasure as an end in itself. While this may seem attractive, by making pleasure in itself the sole or greatest good, other values including the value of the person are subordinated. Persons are inevitably reduced to objects to be used to maximize the pleasure of others….
The Utilitarian ethic, sharply contrasts with the Christian norm “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” which contains the corollary: You may not use persons as objects. Fr. Wojtyla formulates this principle in philosophical terms as: “Whenever a person is the object of your activity, remember that you may not treat that person as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but must allow for the fact that he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct person ends.”
This norm provides a universally applicable basis for ethical thinking. According to Fr. Wojtyla, “… we must never treat a person as the means to an end. This principle has universal validity. Nobody can use a person as a means toward an end, no human being, nor yet God the Creator.”
It also provides a foundation for the defense of human rights for: “Anyone who treats a person as a means to an end does violence to the very essence of the other, to what constitutes its natural right.” Once this simple principle is understood and accepted, then the “rules” of sexual morality fall into place, not as arbitrary “don’ts” but as the logical demands of an ethic founded on respect for the human person.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing! I will let you know what parts II and III are available.