Dead center in the middle of the seven deadly sins lies sloth. This is the sin that is so lazy that it doesn’t even care how you pronounce it. Is it slawth? Is it slowth? Sloth, three-toed or otherwise, looks you straight in the eye and gives you that “whatever” look that ultimately means “I don’t care and leave me alone.”
In the opening vision that St. John relates at the beginning of the Book of Revelation Jesus gives him a message for seven of the early Christian communities. Because these words are rather bland when compared with dragons and trumpets and battles in Heaven, a lot of people don’t even know that these brief letters exist, but they are really among the most important verses in the whole New Testament.
To the wealthy city of Laodicea, eighty miles east of John’s adopted hometown of Ephesus, Jesus delivers a judgment that could be given to any bustling first world city today: You are materially prosperous but spiritually bankrupt. It’s not that the Laodiceans are evil, it’s just that they don’t really care about the whole Gospel thing. To wake them up Jesus tells them: “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” What Jesus is saying is “You people make Me sick so pick a side already! Love Me, hate Me, but don’t you dare give Me that look!”
What Jesus was trying to ignite in the Laodiceans was what Bishop Barron calls “missionary zeal”. If sloth won’t get off the couch to answer the door when Jesus knocks, then missionary zeal joins the door-to-door campaign. Strangely, there has been an interesting manifestation of this missionary zeal from those who have been awakened from their cultural sloth by the recent Dobbs decision handed down by the Supreme Court, and their message is very reminiscent of the teachings of the institution that they see as their enemy in this battle.
Following the release of the Supreme Court’s verdict that turned the abortion issue over to the states a movement calling itself both #abstinence and #sexstrike has asked women around the country to take the following pledge:
Because SCOTUS overturned Roe V. Wade, we cannot take the risk of an unintended pregnancy, therefore, we will not have sex with any man - including our husbands - unless we are trying to become pregnant.
When I first saw this story I thought it was from the Babylon Bee. This pledge sounds like it had been authored by either a writer of satire or Pope St. Paul VI, the author of Humanae Vitae (universally known as “the birth control encyclical”). The missionary zeal of both the author and those who are willing to take the pledge and make a personal sacrifice in response to the striking down of Roe v. Wade is quite impressive - especially in light of the millions of Catholics whose attitude towards the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is one of sloth. How many Catholics today even know, let alone care, about this teaching that, until the 1930s, was assumed to be the practice of anyone - Catholic or not - who is a baptized Christian?
The fact that this movement, which proposes an even stricter standard than Paul VI, began on the 54th anniversary of Humanae Vitae makes this movement even more astounding. It’s almost as if Providence is guiding history.
Who, even as recently as last week, could have ever imagined that those who propose abortion as back-up contraception would be leading a movement in favor of sexual abstinence? Weren’t these the same people who always told us that abstinence programs never work and that all will be well if we just put condom machines in high schools or pump hormones into young women?
And yet, here we are in a land where the most “progressive” among us are telling us that a post-Roe world is one where women should take control of their own sexuality and not let men use them as mere objects for their personal pleasure. It looks like they have broken free from the self-imposed shackles handed to them in the name of “liberation” and have seen behind the curtain in recognizing the slavery that had been provocatively dressed up as “empowerment”.
It is almost as if these women have taken an honest look at the world since 1968 and have rejected the many deadly consequences of sexual license. It is almost as if they agree with this section of Humanae Vitae:
A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Just when it looked like the two sides in this cultural battle might never find any common ground they have done so through the writings of an old celibate patriarch from the last century whose missionary zeal for the whole Gospel message produced such an important little document. It seems almost apocalyptic - but in a really good way.