Over the past few days, reports of vile acts of a handful of Americans abroad - among them the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia and the gruesome photos of U.S. soldiers with the torn corpses of dead terrorists - have evoked much commentary, ranging from the thoughtful to the reactive.

Indignation over sordid conduct is normal and a sign that conscience is not wholly dead in our culture. Still, it's fair to ask why these things should, any longer, shock us.

Ours is a society where traditional moral boundaries are mocked, where traditional families are derided, and where healthy self-restraint is seen as unduly constrictive. Our films celebrate every form of vice, our marriages are wracked by the effects of infidelity and pornography, and our children are raised in homes without fathers.

Human sexuality is debased everywhere, homosexuality is affirmed as normative, and multiple relational partnerships are seen as rational alternatives to husband-and-wife commitments. Students are taught to make value judgments based on utility, not truth ("If the ship was sinking, would you save a priest or an engineer?" - this kind of question is not uncommon in public school "ethics" classes).

Watch virtually any network television sitcom tonight: Women will be objectified, children sexualized, fathers shown as buffoons, and petty cruelty and sarcasm will be laced throughout what passes for humorous dialog.

To say something is "wrong" is considered harsh, and provokes the disdain of the post-moral elite. Our President rightly speaks of "high standards" for federal employees, but by what measurement are such standards evaluated? Certainly not the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, which increasingly is portrayed as archaic and cruel.

Why, then, should we wonder that some of our fellow citizens indulge their fallen natures so completely? C.S. Lewis asked this question eloquently: "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful."

Our moral disarray is acute, and getting worse. Brethren, let us pray - and act with the compassion and boldness of a Savior who still invites all to the abundant life He alone can offer.