by Gerri Laird
Taken from Family Foundations Plus, Couple to Couple League, April 2012
A Buddhist monk, a female Rabbi, a female Islamic chaplain, and a Catholic laywoman sat side by side answering questions on the topic of sex and religion.
When a question arose about faith, reason, and the natural law, the monk jumped to the microphone first and said that sex is natural, so anything goes! Next, the Rabbi took the microphone and responded that religion has to adapt to society. Thus, sexual behaviors that were once considered immoral are now natural and permitted. The Islamic chaplain’s response was somewhat stricter than the previous two. When it was time for the Catholic laywoman to respond, she stopped and first insisted on defining natural law.
The preceding scenario may sound like a joke awaiting a clever punch line, but this is no joke, so no punch line. This was part of an interfaith dialogue luncheon at a Catholic university. I was the Catholic laywoman.
I remember the late Rev. Richard M. Hogan emphasizing that the term “natural law” had been hijacked by our American culture and released with a new identity, one that had nothing to do with acting in accord with our nature as human persons created by God in His image and likeness. Rather than turning to God to determine what behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate, society now turns toward self or others for the answer.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) explained that if self becomes our standard of measurement, then we lock ourselves up in our own individuality, and we try to understand others only by looking to self. When others don’t fit into our image, they become riddles to us. This is what has happened in our current environment: We cannot see that we are unique and unrepeatable persons created for love and to love, with the capability of reflecting God’s love to others in and through our bodies. Instead, many people view the body as a mere commodity – worth no more than the sum of its parts.
Our American culture has lost its moral compass – authentic natural law: the law that is “present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and [with an] authority [that] extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties.”
Natural law is objective, principled, and deductive. Our shift away from that is perhaps best exemplified by the Supreme Court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Thus, we no longer consider life situations objectively and apply principled knowledge of right and wrong to determine what thoughts, words and/or actions would be appropriate in any given situation. Instead, we are inductive – polls and votes decide our beliefs and practices; subjective- reality is based on each individual’s perceptions and not on objective truth; and experiential – “what is right for you is not necessarily right for me!” Individuals are now their own arbiters determining what is, and is not, acceptable human behavior.
This is the America in which we now live; this is the America in which we must communicate. There are no understudies in God’s plan for salvation. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “We see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity [to participate] in public debate about the issues that are determining the future of American society.” The easiest way to do this is through a more consistent witness about the good news of NFP.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 (United States Catholic Conference, Inc.-Libreria Editrice Vaticana), no. 1956, 475.  Pope Benedict XVI in his ad limina visit with bishops of Washington, DC and surrounding areas, January 19, 2012.