“My friends, we’re in trouble. I won’t mince words with you,” said Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. “Culturally, politically, morally, civilizationally – we’re in bad shape.”
The rapid transformation of society’s values, George argued, can be traced to a second century heresy: Gnosticism.
“For many of us, it is difficult to understand. How did we get from there to here? How is it that today you are considered a bigot if you think biological males should not be in the women’s shower rooms in high school? Are you wondering how did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that it was common sense that girls shower with girls and boys shower with boys?” George said.
Opposing beliefs of what it means to be a human being define the conflict between Judeo-Christian and natural law worldviews and “social liberalism” based on neo-Gnosticism, George said in a talk to several hundred people during the four-day Napa Institute conference in northern California earlier this month. The conference was created to inform Catholics in an age of growing secularization, according to its website.
Neo-Gnosticism views the body as a mere instrument of the spirit or mind, he said. In contrast, Catholicism believes that spirit and body are unified, George said. In the Catholic Church, St. Irenaeus successfully refuted Gnostic philosophies in the second and third centuries, including a view that only Jesus’ spirit rose from the dead. Nevertheless, different versions of Gnosticism recur through the ages, George said. “Gnostic heresies have arisen time and time again. Today they are back again.”
Same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, transgenderism all derive from a neo-Gnostic view of what a human being is, George said. Gnostic ideas are “ideologically dominant among our cultural elites,” George said.
Pope Francis “has been a determined critic of gender ideology and the neo-Gnosticism that underlies it,” George said. He quoted Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si: “It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
In Gnosticism, the spirit or mind can choose its identity without regard for biology, whether a person is born a man or a woman, he said. “If human persons are merely mental substances…then human beings and being a biological member of the human species is not necessarily enough to be a human person,” George said.
”In that case, those human beings in the embryonic and early infant stages are not yet persons. They are human beings but they are pre-personal human beings.” Similarly, victims of advanced dementia, comatose patients “are no longer persons. Uncle Harry was a person once…but you see no one is home,” George said. “You see how abortion and euthanasia are justified,” he said.
Similarly, if physical bodies do not matter, then sexuality can take any form for any person, regardless of biology, he said. “It is not that people think you are wrong to oppose the concept of same sex marriage. They think you are nuts,” George said.
[See also: What Does Pope Francis Think of “Gender Theory”?]