The areas of Christian sexual ethics and the role of women in the Church both touch on natural law. In recent decades Pope after Pope has appealed to natural law to impose painful prohibitions. Contraceptives may never ever be used in planning the family. Why? They ‘go against the law of nature’. Homosexual intimacy is always ‘intrinsically evil’ as a sin against natural law. Women’s nature defines and restricts their role.
What is at stake?
Theologians in the Middle Ages revamped the notion of ‘natural law’ already discussed by the Greeks and the Romans a thousand years earlier. The idea was: when God created humankind, he laid down a law in their nature. And no one may ever transgress the law of the Creator. In our time the principle resurfaced as the dignity of the person, as human rights; becoming a useful starting point for international agreements. However, the problem is: what does fall under natural law?
The traditional norms for deciding what is natural and what is not, are purely arbitrary. Thomas Aquinas, for example, worked out that polygamy, a husband marrying more wives, though not ideal, does not go against natural law, while natural law totally forbids a woman to have more husbands. Surely mutilating the male sexual organs is against natural law, you would think? No, not so obvious. Enter the castrati, male singers castrated before puberty so that they retained their high soprano voices. Pope Clement VIII declared it was not against natural law. The ethics of natural law have in past centuries mistakenly been used by the Church to justify slavery, the colonial conquest of nations, the inferior status of women, torture no less than wars of aggression.
The origin of the story
Wijngaards wrote the book thinking: what would happen if a naïve monsignor from Rome would try to implement utter fidelity to natural law in everyday life? Also: what do the celibate lawgivers in Rome really know of the lives of ordinary people, especially the lives of women?
The main character in his story - Mgr. Shamus McKenna - demonstrates what might take place. His quest for the truth brings him to explore options that he never considered before. He meets extraordinary women who invariably push out his boundaries. At every point his determination to follow natural law leads him into more murky and untested waters of sex, morality, heroism, and women’s lives.
His salvation lies in Amrutha whose name means: nectar & immortal. She is a fighter: resourceful, intelligent, able to overcome incredible challenges. With her he eventually finds out that for human beings 'natural law' is the use of reason, that is: of our conscience.
John Wijngaards has published many books. His greatest success in the line of fiction was writing the 2-½ hour film script for Journey to the Centre of Love which narrates the romance between a boy from England and a girl from Taiwan. The film won three international awards:
* the Grand Prix at the International Film Festival in Warsaw (1995)
* a Bronze Award at the Film Fest Houston (May 1997)
* and the prestigious Chris Award for Excellence at the Columbus Film Festival (October 1997).