When grave sins become socially acceptable, they cease to be recognized as sins. It then becomes much more difficult for the individual conscience — especially one not guided by the Magisterium — to perceive that the grave sin is immoral. Although particular examples of this effect are shockingly clear, none of us mere mortal sinners are above the influences of culture and society and peers in our perceptions of right and wrong.
Here is one example over at CNN.
“In some Indian villages, girls are sent into prostitution by their families – a tradition that began as religious obligation but is now continued for money. […] Often, young girls are pushed into the sex business by their own fathers and brothers. The men see nothing wrong with it. They say it is a tradition that has been passed down through generations. It began with the devdasi culture (devdasi means servant of God). Under the devdasi system, girls were dedicated to a life of sex work in the name of religion.”
The people become used to this set of sins; it becomes socially acceptable. In a culture where this is not practiced, the sin is clear and shocking. But in a culture where this sin is practiced for generation after generation, it becomes difficult for people to perceive that it is gravely wrong.
The same problem occurred in the United States, generations ago, with slavery. The sin of slavery was socially acceptable. The founding fathers of this nation had slaves. It took a long time for this nation to see how gravely immoral slavery is.
And yet, today we have other forms of slavery, which also have become, or are becoming, socially acceptable. Abortion is a type of slavery, since it treats the prenatal human person as an object, not a person. Abortion has become socially acceptable, to a great extent, in this nation. The one million or so frozen human embryos in the world today — the result of artificial procreation of various types — are treated as objects, not persons. Artificial procreation itself treats the prenatal human person as a mere object to be owned, used, or destroyed. Artificial procreation is becoming more and more acceptable to modern society.
And as I’ve already explained in a recent post, we are today in danger of treating the 10 million or so illegal immigrants as slaves, by taking away from them the ability to work, to own or rent a home, to have medical care, to have an education, to travel, etc. The moral definition of slavery is the deprivation of all or most fundamental human rights. Without this deprivation, the sin is not slavery; and with this deprivation, the human person is enslaved, in one way or another.
The sex trade is becoming socially acceptable. Instead of being called prostitutes, the modernist approach is to call them ‘sex workers’. It is claimed that sex work is simply another type of work. Legitimacy is sought for this trade by means of changes to laws and even by forming unions. Prostitution is becoming socially acceptable in the entertainment media, and even in the news media. And yet the typical prostitute is not someone who has chosen prostitution as a career, but someone forced into prostitution by persons or by circumstances. The use of a prostitute as a sex object is a type of slavery, since the human person is treated as an object, as a thing that is devoid of fundamental human rights. And this is true even if the prostitute is, in a sense, willing.
But what is worse, as the CNN article and show depicts, is persons forced into slavery by culture or by persons seeking money. Essentially, many of these persons are being sold into prostitution, and therefore into slavery, even while they are still children. Certainly, the sex trade is a type of slavery, and yet it is very widespread in the world today. And we are in danger, as a culture, of making this type of slavery socially acceptable.
But it is not enough for us to reject what is explicitly slavery. For there are many grave sexual sins in the world today that lead to this type of modern slavery. Fewer and fewer sexual acts are seen as gravely immoral. More and more disordered behaviors are becoming socially acceptable. As acts that are grave sexual sins become more socially acceptable, it becomes harder for people to realize that these acts are gravely immoral.