ABNORMAL: the new “normal”

From the Catholic League:


May 10, 2012

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments as follows:

The new normal is yesterday’s abnormal: what was seen as bizarre, if not literally crazy, is now seen as normal. The converse is also true: those who still value the judiciously exercised role of shame, guilt and modesty are now seen as representative of the new abnormal.

The following examples are taken exclusively from news stories of May 9 and May 10:

• The president of the U.S. thinks it’s fine for two men to marry

• Homosexual and transgender characters—all positively portrayed—are proliferating on TV (by contrast, positively portrayed Catholic characters are almost nonexistent)

• There is a bill in California that would make it illegal for a trained psychologist to convert gays and lesbians

• New York’s top court said it is perfectly fine to view unlimited amounts of child pornography online

• The cover of Time magazine shows a young boy standing on a chair sucking his mother’s bare breast

• Tupperware parties run by suburban moms have been replaced by sex-toy parties featuring vibrators and lubricants

• A Nebraska mother has been arrested for charging men to have sex with her daughters, ages 7 and 14

Not all of these incidents are of equal moral weight, but put together they convey a powerful message: cultural ordinates are being obliterated. And when boundary lines disappear, the social fallout can be wicked.

Put differently, if it were our goal to create moral anarchy, we couldn’t have done a better job. There is a risk in pointing this out, but it’s worth being tagged the new abnormal.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Emanations from Penumbras, New Evangelization, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Religious Liberty, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Throwing a Nutty. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Isn’t that all just lovely… Blech.

  2. eiggam says:

    And Facebook posts by my ‘catholic’ friends are defending presidents statement about same gender marriage. sigh.

  3. Southern Baron says:

    It’s like something out of a Walker Percy novel. A sharp man he was.

  4. Johnno says:

    The liberal values of today… are the conservative values of tomorrow. That’s just how it is…

    As we move along, don’t rely on politics to help spread the Gospel message. For too long people seem to equate voting for the government to legislate this or that morality as a good replacement for our own duty to do this personally ourselves like the early Christians and Apostles had to do. What government helped them then?

    As things escalate, things will grow worse. Pedophilia and pederasty is already becoming more and more en vogue. You won’t believe some of the sickest things that people do nowadays. And the sad thing is they won’t ever know just how deep in filth they are. The insane man doesn’t realize he’s insane. The same is true for society at large. The sinful become more sinful… but likewise in such time, the holy grow holier. A great separation and parting is taking place. The battle lines of Armageddon are forming.

  5. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Oh, to go back to the innocent times of the early 1980s when Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos was published! That’s how far we have fallen.

  6. Mrs. O says:

    The common theme I am fimding is using natural and normal as synonyms. It is frustrating and defies logic and goodness. It is saddening and maddening. If that theme explodes (something occurring in nature as normal) society as we know it is doomed.

  7. kittenchan says:

    And extended breastfeeding is so wrong because… it’s gross? It’s sexual? People aren’t used to it?
    Breastfeeding in public (or on a magazine cover) is so wrong because… it’s gross? It’s sexual? People aren’t used to it? Give me a break.

    Should women be ashamed of breastfeeding in public? Should women be ashamed of breastfeeding past one year (the MINIMUM age recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) or two years (the MINIMUM age recommended by the World Health Organization? If the cover had an breastfeeding infant on it instead of a breastfeeding three year old, would there be a problem?

    I find the description “sucking his mother’s bare breast” so misleading as to border on a lie. That description also fits how a baby breastfeeds, yet no one would get the vapors over that and declare it an affront to “cultural ordinates”. Breastfeeding cannot at all be likened to sucking on a breast for sexual pleasure, and should not be set up as equivalent. Sounds like one man’s insecurity with the fact that breasts have a real actual function besides being playthings.

    All the rest of these points have to do with grave sexual sin. Breastfeeding a three year old, even in public, is NOT a sexual sin.

  8. ContraMundum says:

    Breastfeeding in public (or on a magazine cover) is so wrong because…

    Because it is immodest. Dignity and modesty go together. We have come as a society to believe that only acts which are shameful should be hidden from view; that is ludicrous. No Hebrew except the high priest would ever see the Holy of Holies, but this was not due to it being shameful, but due to it being holy.

  9. brotherfee says:

    Signs of a nation adrift, loss of faith, no responsibility for actions, too much money, lack of principles, the list goes on and on. Is this the slow decline and fall of the Roman empire?

    Isn’t it refreshing when you see an elderly person who had worked for 30 plus years raising a family and your thoughts are “this is the kind of person who built this great country”. But are these folks going away now, who will replace them? I do not have much faith in a me first/feel good generation.

    BTW: agree with kittenchan about breastfeeding, what can be more natural and healthy than that. Somehow female breast (adipose tissue with milk ducts) used to feed and support life for the next generation have been degraded into a sexual object by a “civilized” society.

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  11. Murciano says:

    It is absolutely outrageous to see public breastfeeding included in that list. There is no excuse for that.
    Bill Donohue and ContraMundum have to be sick to consider immodest breastfeeding in public.
    Indeed TIME magazine did a good thing reminding us that it is NORMAL for a 3 years old kid to be breastfed.
    Also: there are many pious paintings depicting Our Heavenly Mother breastfeeding Our Saviour.
    TcL is the new NcR for me now .

  12. Supertradmum says:

    Southern Baron, I love Walker Percy and have taught Walker Percy and have gotten in trouble for teaching that the abnormal was now normal. Catholics have had their head in the sand, but it is all connected to the rejection of Humanae Vitae—Unless Americans can be shocked into normalcy, and the normal equal the Human, and the abnormal is Sub-Human, we are lost as a nation.

    By the way, read Marx, Lenin, Gramsci–all this was planned over a hundred years ago by those who got into social engineering for the creation of the Bloated Government. When ideologies take the place of religion and the State takes the place of God, this is the result-a huge disjoint between morals and natural law. “It ain’t over til the Fat Lady sings”, and I shall probably be accused of being prejudiced against obesity for that quotation….

  13. Jim of Bowie says:

    The time photo really has nothing to do with breastfeeding. It is there to be erotic and to sell magazines, which I think is Donahue’s point.

  14. ContraMundum says:

    @Jim of Bowie


    Not everything should be on a magazine cover.

  15. disco says:

    We’re not just abnormal in our traditional moral and societal values, we’re also bigoted judgmental hypocrites.

    Our ‘just’ punishment will come to us before long. The southern poverty law center already has the press release declaring the Catholic Church a hate group drafted and ready to release, no doubt.

  16. Scott W. says:

    Second the Walker Percy recommendation. Especially Love in the Ruins. Some of it is referencing issues of the 70’s which can go over your head, but the basic premise applicable to today is there. Namely that progressivism is a non-theistic religion and just because it has no God, it doesn’t make it any less creepy, maniacal and dangerous. However, I should point out that later Percy swallowed the Kool-Aid a little when he repeated the old canard that anti-abortionists don’t care about the mother after the baby was born.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I have not seen the magazine cover and am not sure I want to, but surely one can distinguish between (1) breastfeeding a ‘young child’ (to put it so broadly) in company/public, (2) displaying the breast in doing so, (3) publishing a photograph of someone apparently doing so with the breast displayed.

    To reject (3) and (even) (2) as immodest and/or discourteous, is not to reject the possibility of a modest conduct of (1).

    The distinction between real-life and photography on one side, and non-photographic depiction (such as painting or sculpture) on the other, invites further consideration.

    Was it, for example, all things considered, a sad day when it became a feature of Christian iconography? And what, for example, of that of the ‘Lactation’ of St. Bernard of Clairvaux? And what, e.g., of further features of iconographic nakedness?

  18. Scarltherr says:

    The list of horrible things happening in our culture is incomplete, but that really isn’t the point. I was shocked when I saw the Time cover. Not because the Mom is breastfeeding, but because her stance and the look on the child’s face are meant to be provocative in a sexual way. Bill Donahue is not speaking against breast feeding, but the pornographic representation of it by Time magazine. The fact that women here feel the need to argue in favor of breast feeding, which I did as long as I could, is to miss the point completely. You have fallen for the trap. Divide and conquer.

  19. Joseph-Mary says:

    Breastfeeding canbe done in public but EVERY mother I know (and myself when I had my little ones) do it modestly and carry a cover or know how to do it discreetly. Yes, I was able to do this in public but not so you would notice. The magazine cover is immodest and suggestive.

    Michael Voris, on a slightly difference topic, continues to sound the alarm: http://www.realcatholictv.com/premium/index.php?vidID=vort-2012-05-11

  20. NoraLee9 says:

    My hubby keeps talking about moving to another more Catholic place. Other than Varican City, where is this place?

  21. Supertradmum says:

    The abnormal is alive and growing in Europe. Please pray for us here, for example. The Internet and skype are working sporadically across southern England and in other countries. Part of it is the financial breakdowns and the lack of electronic grids to deal with it all. Part of it is just plain evil. Learn how to think like a Catholic, please, all and thank you Father, for this posting. There is no longer any hyperbole.

  22. Supertradmum: There is no longer any hyperbole.

    No, there isn’t.

  23. One of those TNCs says:

    (gently asking) Did you look at the Time cover picture before responding, Kittenchan?

    There are many things wrong with this photo and its use, and none of them have to do with whether or not breastfeeding – for any length of time – is good, natural, or wise.

    There are lots of things that are good, necessary, healthy, and beautiful that we do that are completely inappropriate to be shown on the covers of magazines. Out of respect and modesty, we do not, for example, print explicit photos of the beautiful marital act. There is nothing wrong or shameful about the act of going to the bathroom, yet we would not put an explicit photo of someone on the toilet on the cover of a magazine. We take a shower to get clean – do we invite a magazine photographer into the shower with us? No one would appreciate even a picture of himself picking his nose!

    Photos have consequences. Think of the person running for office, or looking for a promotion in a service-oriented job, who gets caught on film picking his nose. There’s cannon fodder for you.

    It is the publishing of photos of these acts, often without due regard to the consequences, that is objectionable. It is, as a reader above points out, a “crime” against modesty. In my opinion, it was also a crime of stupidity on the part of the mother.

    What gets me the most about the Time photo is the mom’s (and, presumably, the dad’s) total lack
    of regard for the repercussions to the child. Just imagine your own three-year-old face on that magazine, and then imagine what going to school is going to be like. How can his parents protect him from the teasing, harassment, and bullying that inevitably will follow? (And if one doesn’t think it’s “inevitable,” may I suggest one is naive?

    A story on the benefits of breastfeeding (for however long) could have been published without the in-your-face, immodest photo that Time used.

    It just wouldn’t have sold as many issues.

  24. Supertradmum says:

    NoraLee9, there is no such place. Find a TLM community and stay there. It is very bad in Europe. Worse. Neither Ireland nor Malta are Catholic. There are no TLMs in Malta. None, Ireland is full of anti-Vatican feeling and communists. Stay put, work on your local community. Trust. If anyone has any other ideas, let me know.

  25. mrsmontoya says:

    When we interact with others, we are abnormal. When we do not, we are invisible.

  26. There is nothing wrong or shameful about the act of going to the bathroom, yet we would not put an explicit photo of someone on the toilet on the cover of a magazine.

    Actually, it has been a fad in recent years for young women to post pictures online of themselves sitting on the can. Why, I can’t imagine. But given that ours is a world in which the unthinkable quickly morphs into the commonplace, I’d end the italicized sentence above with the word “yet.”

    As for the breastfeeding pic on the cover of Time, I suspect some of its defenders of not having seen it. It is not a picture of a modest mother cradling her sweet babe in her arms while he nurses. The mother is standing, wearing a skin-tight exercise suit, and the child is standing on a chair in front of her sucking at her exposed breast. Both are staring directly into the camera. It is disturbing on a number of levels.

  27. RuariJM says:

    Supertradmum – “The Internet and skype are working sporadically across southern England and in other countries.”

    I live in Southern England (rural, to boot) and regularly travel to other countries in Europe (France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain) and if you are talking about physical operation, then I have to ask: what are you talking about?

  28. Laura98 says:

    All of this makes me feel absolutely old – if not ancient. I grew up with “Andy Griffith” on TV re-runs and watched “The Cosby Show.” I don’t even watch TV now… can’t stand it. How did we come to this??? All this grossness, crassness and downright ugliness all around us in society? Just about everything new and modern (except a few of the gadgets) makes me shudder or turn in disgust. I’m only in my 40s and feel like an old curmudgeon already… I should be standing out in front of my house screaming at the kids to keep off my lawn! Er… if my HOA allowed me to have a front lawn, that is.

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  30. Supertradmum says:

    RuariJM, I have many friends in parts of Sussex, Surrey, Kent, eastern France, and Malta who have not had skype or the internet for three days in a row, and sporadically off and on for seven days. If you are not having trouble, good for you.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    I am thoroughly disgusted with a French and international television panel, this evening on French television, which basically was very cynical about the religious right in America, equating those against Obama to those who were against the Black civil rights movement, and totally speaking in terms of same sex marriage as a civil right. In addition, just to be fair, some members of the panel were cynical about Obama as well, stating he was doing this public announcement on gay marriage for votes. Interesting. Cynicism abounds.

  32. Murciano says:

    1. Only the dirtiest minds on earth can say there is something “sexually provocative” or “erotic” in that picture.
    2. When one dares to lead a media with the word “catholic” on it, one have to be very careful about what he depicts as good or bad, as it will be used by the enemies of catholicism as a weapon.
    Mr Donohue is sending a very very [In writing, it is a very very good idea not to use “very”.] wrong message, like “catholics are anti-breastfeeding”, “catholics are ridiculous puritans with dirty minds”, etc. He shouldn’t use the word “catholic” for his personal wicked views. [And yet you think yourself authorized to make some amazing comments about the mind of Mr. Donohue.]
    The depiction of “Good” as “Bad” is absolutely outrageous. Mr Donohue should be ashamed and should publicly apologize.
    3. The breast on the cover is not exposed. That is a lie. It is a modest cover and can only disturbs previously disturbed minds. [?!?]
    4. Indeed that cover is a good one, as it shows how normal can be to breastfeed a 3-years-old son. That cover is needed in this time when breastfeeding is so attacked. Some of the messages here shows how needed is to depict breastfeeding and attachment parenting as normal, good things.

    [You would perhaps be more persuasive if you didn’t use hyperbole.]

  33. Supertradmum says:

    Just saw the magazine cover with the boy and mum on cover. It is totally inappropriate and suggestive. I nursed my baby, and modesty is absolutely a necessity.
    Sigh….this does not help nursing mums who are careful and considerate.

  34. wmeyer says:

    1. Only someone totally jaded by today’s lack of public standards could fail to see that the Time cover is inappropriate.
    2. I think Mr. Donohue is more than adequately versed in his faith to use the word Catholic.
    3. The breast is exposed; the nipple is not. Modest it is not, subject to comment 1, above.
    4. Indeed, the cover is not good. And the child looks to me more like 4-5 years old. It’s a simple matter of decency, but you may be ill equipped to see that.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    Wmeyer…sero molunt deorim moloe…retribution is just delayed

  36. APX says:

    It’s getting annoying. I’m considered abnormal for not having a child despite being single.

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    I nursed, but NOT in a skin-tight exercise suit, NOT while exposing myself, NOT with my little one standing on a chair (!) and both of us staring into the camera. With appropriate clothing and a receiving blanket or shawl, nobody ever knew that I was nursing. And that’s the way it should be. Some things are supposed to be kept private.

    This magazine cover borders on pornographic.

    And as far as helping nursing mothers gain acceptance, it’s counterproductive.

  38. eulogos says:

    I nursed one of my children until he was 3 1/2 (I was also nursing his 17 month younger sister.) But as they got older, perhaps starting at a year and a half or so? I started to encourage them to wait until we got home to nurse. At that age, they were able to do that. I am all for a society in which nursing babies and toddlers is the norm and no one looks askance at a mother doing it. But once they were toddlers their need was not so immediate that I needed to challenge our cultural taboo to meet it right then. I made an exception for times like after they got a shot at the pediatricians; then I would sit and nurse for a minute or two while I talked with the pediatrician. (Who wasn’t fazed at all.)

    However the Times mag picture was posed to be shocking. What the child is doing is not shocking, at least not to me, but the way the mother is presenting herself is. And it is not because of the breast exposure so much as the way she is dressed, the way she is holding herself, the way she is looking at the camera, not at her child.

    I am not sure Bill Donohue was making these distinctions though. He probably has no experience of children of this age nursing, and to him this may have appeared like something shockingly incestuous. And the awful thing is, that that is what the photographer was trying to do, to suggest that. What an awful thing to do to the child. What an awful thing for the mother to let be done to her and her child!

    And remember, I say this as someone who did nurse a child of that age.

    Susan Peterson

  39. Murciano says:

    “you think yourself authorized to make some amazing comments about the mind of Mr. Donohue”

    Anyone is authorized to speaks the truth.

    “You would perhaps be more persuasive if you didn’t use hyperbole”

    But Father, the truth does not need to be persuasive: Stat Veritas.
    Anyway, thanks for your style lessons, I do not deserve them or your time.

    Some supporters of Mr Donohue try to make his words acceptable by adding adjectives (indecent, immodest… etc) to the photo condemned by him. But that is pointless because Mr Donohue didn’t wrote such adjectives.
    So let us analyze what he wrote:
    “The cover of Time magazine shows a young boy standing on a chair sucking his mother’s bare breast”
    “A young boy” is his wicked way to say a 3-years-old son.
    “Sucking his mother’s bare breast” is his wicked way to say breastfeeding.
    He only mentions that it is a cover, the kid’s age (capable of “standing on a chair”, “young boy”), and the act of breastfeeding.
    Therefore it is all about breastfeeding, and not about other (unmentioned) aspects of the photo.
    Nothing of this is wrong: It is not wrong to breastfeed, it is not wrong to extended breastfeed, and it is not wrong to do a cover over it. At least, it is not necessarily wrong.
    If he meant to attack other aspect of the cover, he failed to write it.
    So Mr Donohue is wrong, despite of anyone’s views (good or bad) about the cover itself.
    Not only Mr Donohue condemned something that is (at least) not necessarily wrong, but also his words can be easily interpreted as an attack to breastfeeding in public.
    Therefore, Mr Donohue should either apologize or explain himself, for the good name of the catholic league and Catholicism in general.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    AnAmericanMother, it is porn-and Americans are so desensitized to porn, they do not know it when it literally stares them in the face. Murciano, as a mum who breast-fed, I can assure you this cover does not help the breast-feeding cause. The woman on that cover has nothing to do with Christian mums. And, your answer is not helpful, either.

  41. Mary Kate says:

    This is my first year as a Catholic high school librarian. When I got here, I found some REALLY bad books. They contain explicit sexual content and violence, excessive foul language (including the f-word), and of course, plenty of confusing “catholic theology.” All of the “catholic” characters in her books either realize that they have been brainwashed by the Church or are terrible examples of Catholics. This particular author picks hot-button issues and takes the opposite stance of the Church, then proceeds to concoct a plot that confuses people about Catholic teaching in a subtle (to the uninformed and uncatechized) and destructive manner. And these books are available to our high school students in a CATHOLIC school. I attempted to remove them, but a committee voted that they should remain on the shelves (available to 9-12 grade students). The conclusion that the committee reached was that our students should be “exposed to current issues while they are still in Catholic school so they can be prepared for the real world.” If we are going to expose them, why do we have to expose them through a liberal, anti-Catholic author with a liberal, anti-Catholic agenda? And without the guidance of a sound, Catholic educator…It is sad that we cannot even trust our Catholic schools to protect our children and provide them with a sound Catholic education. This is the new “normal:” that our students should be exposed to evil for the sake of being exposed to evil…in a CATHOLIC SCHOOL! Kyrie eleison!

  42. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Can Mary Kate reveal the name of this author without recklessly endangering her job?
    And what veto do parents have on their children reading these books (if not, by judicious protest, on their availability)?
    How typically “new ‘normal’ ” is this for schools?

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