April 11, 2013
"Cardinal leads rethink on same-sex civil unions"
From The Tablet:
11 April 2013
A leading cardinal has said that same-sex relationships should be respected and recognised in law amid signs of a change in church thinking on the subject.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, made the remarks in a lecture at the National Gallery evening titled "Christianity: Alien Presence or Foundation of the West?" on Monday.
"There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection. Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life," Cardinal Schönborn said.
"We should be clear about terms and respect the needs of people living in a partnership together. They deserve respect," he added.
Two other cardinals, Colombian Ruben Salazar and Theodore McCarrick have recently suggested the Church should not oppose same-sex civil unions.
Posted by Michael Perry on April 11, 2013 at 05:14 PM | Permalink
It’s always heartening to see that someone in the Church is open to changing the Church's increasingly anachronistic stance. (And I agree that being anachronistic is not a reason to change the stance, I use the word only to accurately describe the stance.)
I still don’t see how calling same-sex unions “marriage” is at all harmful or confusing. When our culture began to accept inter-racial marriages (or inter-faith marriages) no new term was needed. I don’t see a reason for one now. It serves only to denigrate their relationship.
But I applaud Cardinal Schönborn for is recognition of the need to respect the life-affirming relationships of same-sex couples.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 11, 2013 5:32:14 PM
I concur with the first comment.
I don't know what "open to life" means myself, particularly given the prevalence of lesbian couples where one or the other partner gives birth to a child. But, baby steps.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 7:27:20 PM
His Eminence has gone on record repeatedly and unabashedly over the last several years as having gone well off the deep end. New comment, but old news.
Posted by: Titus | Apr 11, 2013 7:32:32 PM
I hope he doesn't present himself for communion in Detroit!
Posted by: Wj | Apr 11, 2013 8:05:00 PM
The following seems to have not caused much of a stir:
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, explained Sunday that gay Catholics who marry their partners may remain part of the Catholic Church even though the church will not recognize their marriage. In an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Wuerl explained this is similar to how the church treats Catholics who are divorced and remarried.
"We do that same thing with people who are married, divorced and remarried," Wuerl said on the church's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. "We say, you know, you're still part of the family, but we can't recognize that second marriage… and it's never been a great problem."
I have long been saying the Catholic Church could, without changing any of its teachings on sexuality, embrace same-sex couples (married or unmarried) the same way Pope John Paul II spoke of embracing the divorced and remarried.
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 11, 2013 11:06:45 PM
That explains why CCC 2359 was left out of The Catholic Catechism edited by Cardinal Schonborn, and why the YOUCAT was so weak in the area of sexual morality.
David, The Catholic Church cannot change its teaching on same-sex sexual relationships as the teachings of the Catholic Church reflect The Word of God as He Has Revealed Himself to His Church in the trinitarian relationship of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and The Teaching of The Magisterium, as well as the reality that when psychology is not consistent with biology, there is disunity, not unity. One cannot condone same-sex sexual relationships without condoning same-sex sexual acts which demean the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, created in the Image and Likeness of God. The Catholic Church teaches that every human person nust be treated with Dignity and Respect, not just Catholics.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 12:19:05 AM
"When our culture began to accept inter-racial marriages (or inter-faith marriages) no new term was needed. "
That would be because, outside of the US, no one believed the a marriage between the sexes that was also between the 'races' was contrary to the marriage relationship; the same cannot be said of same-sex relationships.
"I still don’t see how calling same-sex unions “marriage” is at all harmful or confusing."
It is both harmful and confusing because, if marriage is not a relationship between the sexes then what reason/s is/are there for concluding that it involves only two people, or should be exclusive, or should be permanent?
So far as the position of the Cardinal is concerned, I don't necessarily see a problem so far as it involves an orientation to a particular relationship, distinguished from marriage, that might appropriately be recognized by the civil law.
Posted by: dover_beach | Apr 12, 2013 3:10:05 AM
"an orientation to a particular relationship, distinguished from marriage, that might appropriately be recognized by the civil law."
Dover Beach, your last sentence is not consistent with the body of your comment as one either believes in The Sanctity of Marriage or one doesn't. To recognize civil unions by law, is to deny The Sanctity of Marriage.
Since it has been reported that Pope Francis had supported same sex unions as well, do you think Pope Francis, and those in the hierarchy who support him, are the source for the statement, "...amid signs of a change in thinking on the subject", or do you think there is simply a group of persons in The Catholic Church high up in the hierarchy who are trying to undermine our Catholic Faith and spreading false information, or do you think we merely have a communication problem in The Vatican and that is why no one in The Vatican has addressed these reports regarding various statements made by members of the hierarchy that are not consistent with our Catholic Faith? Something is not quite right in The Vatican and The Church if certain statements from members of the hierarchy have not caused a stir from The Vatican, which is why I wish someone outside The Vatican would check in on Holy Father Benedict.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 7:44:40 AM
Deserve respect? People...yes. Sodomy...no. Respect them by calling them to chastity and help them live it.
Posted by: Tad | Apr 12, 2013 8:10:09 AM
The very great difficulty is that no one is willing to address the very substantial differences between gay "marriage" and straight marriages. Gay marriage may well pass, but it will always be different from straight marriage.
1) There is considerable evidence that many gays will refuse to be monogamous. Monogamy has always been the standard in marriage. However, if you google "gay marriage monogamy" you will find many stories (NYT, Advocate, others) indicating that up to 75% of gay men have repeated affairs outside the marriage. This is a fundamental problem.
2) Gays cannot procreate. One of the very prime reasons for marriage is procreation.
3) So now, if there is no monogamy and no procreation, what is left of marriage? Not all that much, except an emotional attraction between two consenting adults. If that is all marriage is to become, we are in big trouble.
4) Once we are there, Polygamy is the next step. Canada has already formed a commision to study the issue, they recommended "yes". One lawsuit has been filed claiming that polygamy must be respected in canada. It failed, but there will be more.
Posted by: Markzc | Apr 12, 2013 8:30:06 AM
Some friendly questions about the last comment:
1) Do you have any decent data on whether or how those numbers have changed for married same-sex couples, particularly on generational lines? Also, do you have any comparative data on multiple sexual partners in heterosexual marriages? Have those numbers gone up, altogether or for particular cohorts? (Here's one relevant article--http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/28/health/28well.html?_r=0--but I don't take it as definitive.) How do we define our baseline here? And assuming that we treat monogamy as the standard in marriage, without reference to whether the couple is same-sex or opposite-sex, then will same-sex marriage tend to increase monogamy for same-sex couples?
2) It is true that gays and lesbians cannot procreate through same-sex sexual conduct, but they can of course have or adopt children and act as parents. Why is procreation the baseline here? I understand--sort of--the answer of someone like Robert George, but you don't seem to be making an unadorned natural law argument alone, but one that partakes of pragmatic concerns as well. And even if procreation is a prime reason for marriage, surely providing stable care for children is another. So should the capacity for procreation be a sine qua non, or simply a factor to be (perhaps heavily) weighed?
3) You ask a fair question about polygamy--why stop at SSM? Let me ask a similar question on the other side: given the treatment of procreation as a prime factor, how should we view marriages between heterosexual couples that use contraceptives? The law aside, are those not real marriages, or at least less marriage-y than marriages in which contraception does not figure? As a legal matter, why should we extend recognition to such "marriages?" If it leaves us with many couples for whom the salient feature is just "emotional attraction between two consenting adults," is that really marriage worthy of the legal label? I could of course imagine a number of answers to such a question, but most of them seem to apply to same-sex couples as well. It seems to me that the real reason we--including those who believe contraception is generally wrong--believe those are marriages and ought to be treated as such by the law is that, for largely contingent social and political reasons, we're unwilling to go further. Which is unprincipled but not crazy. Or, in other words, it seems to me that your answer to the contraception question would be the answer that some SSM proponents give to the polygamy question.
Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 12, 2013 9:16:39 AM
People in various cultures believed and still believe in various ways that marriages between races, nationalities, castes, religions and so forth were not legitimate. What the "word of God" has understood to entail has also changed over time, down to the ability of the pope to have a spouse.
A large number of different sex couples oppose monogamy. Lesbian couples are likely to be more attracted to it than many males are to monogamous relationships with females. Data points like this, with respect, isn't really the reason people are against same sex marriages. It post hoc rationalizations like 'procreation' even though children can see their grandparents marry when procreation is no longer in the cards. Monogamy has various practical and emotional differences from polygamy. Slippery slope not shown.
Most married couples, of whatever sort, perform some sort of "sodomy," which is basically non-procreative sense of various types. Why so much focus on such a small number? As with "defending marriage," seems a lot of effort is applied to a narrow range. Divorce, e.g., is also "against the word of God" though the gospels are somewhat unclear on the terms (different gospels phrase things a bit differently). BTW, to allude to a canard, marriage after divorce is not a threat to religious freedom of churches either.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 12, 2013 10:11:58 AM
ETA: The ability to procreate is not a requirement to get married by law or Catholic doctrine. The ability to have sex is though if you by some medical or other means stop being able to during the marriage it is acceptable. So, the focus on procreation is particularly curious. The citation is overinclusive obviously since many people cannot procreate and still are allowed to get married. So, that isn't even the true test. I admit to finding -- like Andrew Koppleman -- Robert George's arguments not able to stand to scrutiny though from past experience he doesn't favor allowing comments, though he at times is quite visceral in his remarks.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 12, 2013 10:15:46 AM
With all due respect, the main idea statement is "signs of change in Church thinking on the subject" the subject being condoning same sex sexual "unions" and thus same sex sexual acts in The Catholic Church. The Vatican's failure to address these statements as well as the statements that claim Pope Francis supported same sex sexual unions, leads me to believe that something is not quite right in The Vatican these days. (Catholic Canon 750)
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 10:22:17 AM
Well, I'll be darn. Coincidence or just a "Zucchetto swap"?
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 10:56:58 AM
Well, I'll be darn. Coincidence or just a "Zucchetto swap"?
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 10:57:00 AM
Oh what a tangled web!
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 11:54:33 AM
The comments of some here, of the heartfelt type or the pseudo-scholarly type, indicate very clearly to me that the Catholic Church for the past 80-90+ years has utterly and completely failed in its duty to teach all nations. That failure is not directed at the Church as a Divinely-created institution, but to those weaklings, cowards and doctrinally-deficient priests, nuns, Bishops, Cardinals and - yes - Popes who have refused to speak clearly about these matters. On the one occasion, in 1968, when it did speak fairly clearly (Humanum Vitae) the whirlwind of dissent that followed should have shown these clerics that they had already failed and needed to fix the problem. Alas they didn't, and we now reap the results of this pastoral negligence.
This explains the scholarly-sounding but confused arguments of some above who, by accepting the fact that one can "plan" their family, go naturally from there to create their own definition of what a family is, such definitions becoming more ridiculous with each passing day. Not even the warping of innocent children placed under the "care" of two homosexually-disturbed people can faze these promoters of "unions" such as these. The utter despair that awaits these children sickens me to my very core, but it does not, apparently, sicken some of the commenters, nor does it seem to bother the execrable Donald Wuerl very much. That this posturing creep is allowed to continue his unfunny masquerade as a Catholic Cardinal, without a peep of protest from Rome, well indicates that the Church is in serious trouble.
Then there is the odd fact that when discussing buggery otherwise intelligent people suddenly lose their marbles, indeed they take leave of their senses. That the unnatural vice of homosexuality has brought down nations, and that this vice is so foul that not even the devils can look upon it without disgust (remember, they are indeed Angels; fallen ones, but Angels nonetheless) seems to matter not at all to these delusional folks.
Some of those who commented regarding the ends of marriage are also a perfect, textbook example of how far astray minds can go when not nourished by sound Catholic doctrine. And the responsibility for this awful state of affairs rests squarely in the lap of our bad shepherds, high and low.
Posted by: schmenz | Apr 12, 2013 12:43:36 PM
You wrote that “the reality that when psychology is not consistent with biology, there is disunity, not unity”. This is true. It is also why enforcing a heterosexual psychology on gays and lesbians, on people to whom God or nature have given a homosexual biology causes them personal “disunity”. Their unity is found in living truly as their biology demands; living as same-sex couples is how many find that unity. Your opposition to same-sex marriage promotes disunity in their lives and in our communities.
As always, I remind you that same-sex sexual acts respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of gay and lesbian human persons who were, like all of us, created in the Image and Likeness of God.
If it is true that the Catholic Church, “teaches that every human person must be treated with Dignity and Respect, not just Catholics” then insisting that gays and lesbians live their lives according to a psychology inappropriate to them disrespects their dignity as human persons.
You also wrote that “one either believes in The Sanctity of Marriage or one doesn't. To recognize civil unions by law, is to deny The Sanctity of Marriage.” I doubt recognition of civil unions “deny” the Sanctity of Marriage, but in any event, same-sex marriages embrace and up-hold the Sanctity of Marriage.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 12:44:57 PM
Marriages involving more than two persons have occurred since time-immemorial; likewise are marriages where exclusivity and permanence were violated. Same-sex marriages do not confuse these matters at all; the confusion was long pre-existing.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 12:45:31 PM
Respect people yes. If their conduct troubles you, advocate a change. If they reject your advice, respect demands you defer to their choice.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 12:45:52 PM
The problem with “the unnatural vice of homosexuality” is that it is natural, and no more a vice than heterosexuality.
The Catholic Church has not failed to teach, the problem is that few students will accept lessons that fly in the face of their experience and reason. The Church’s teachings may have been reasonable once, but the world has changed and so has our knowledge about it; if the Church tries to teach something that once seemed reasonable but no longer does then students will cease to listen.
Teachers teach; students learn. If the lesson is not consistent with the student’s world, the student will learn to ignore the teacher. If the teacher believes that student’s world-view is in error, then the teacher must deal with that fact. I think the Catholic Church has tried to do that, but has utterly failed in that matter. Until it succeeds, or recognizes that the student’s world-view is unalterable or correct, the Church will continue to thrash valiantly but futilely.
I personally know same-sex couples. They are neither better nor worse than other couples I know. Trying to convince me that they are evil–or especially damaged–is as difficult as trying to convince me that the earth is flat. If loving them as I love myself (as Jesus commanded) earns me eternal damnation, then there is no hope for me anyway.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 1:06:43 PM
Professor, God did not create us according to sexual inclination, as that would be in direct violation of His own Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery. From the moment of our conception, we have been created in The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male and female, called to live our lives in Loving relationship in communion with God as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters...
Most of our Civil Rights stem from our inherent, fundamental, unalienable Right to be treated with Dignity and Respect, that has been endowed to us from God, and is thus unalienable even if we choose not to acknowledge this fundamental Right. At the end of the Day, we all have disordered inclinations of various nature and degree, some more difficult to overcome than others, some that causes more suffering than others, which is why we can know through Faith and Reason, we are, all of us, sinners, in need of Our Savior.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 1:13:53 PM
First things first: I’m no professor. I am educated; I have a profession, but I am no professor. I have never mislead on that point.
Moving on to matters of substance: even those who do live their lives as heterosexuals are prone to both lust and adultery, so that is of no significance in this matter.
If God does not create us hetero- or homosexual, then God’s nature certainly does. Either way, homosexuality is a trait given by the same source as heterosexuality; be that God or nature or both. And all are created with equal dignity either way.
Gays and lesbians are sons and daughters; brothers and sisters (if they have siblings). Not even all heterosexuals are called to be husbands or wives, much less parents. Some persons (gay, heterosexuals, or lesbians) become parents because others failed in their obligation to parent or someone died before completing that job. Your sweeping generalization is not correct even for all heterosexuals; its flaws deprive it of any force to rob gays or lesbians of their inherent human dignity.
If “our Civil Rights stem from our inherent, fundamental, unalienable Right to be treated with Dignity and Respect”, if they have “been endowed to us from God” if they are “thus unalienable even if we choose not to acknowledge this fundamental Right” then the fundamental, inalienable right of gays and lesbians are endowed by God and are inalienable even if YOU CHOOSE NOT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEM. Even if the Catholic Church chooses to not acknowledge them.
I can’t disagree that “we all have disordered inclinations of various nature and degree, some more difficult to overcome than others,” but that only magnifies the point: gays and lesbians are entitled to the same, fair, equal treatment as everyone else, including the right to marry someone whose gender and sexual orientation suits their own. This is why legal recognition of same-sex marriage is necessary in the name of Justice.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 2:31:20 PM
Sean, our fundamental Right to be treated with Dignity and Respect is an UNalienable Right. This does not change the fact that men and women are designed in such a way that same sex sexual acts are always demeaning. If you Love someone, you desire to always treat that person with Dignity and Respect. Assigning personhood to sexual inclination does not change who we are as persons in relationship to one another and God. Those persons who are following the True God, The God of our Salvation, desire to overcome their disordered inclinations so that they are not led into temptation, but rather, sin no more.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 3:07:02 PM
The big problem here is that homosexual acts are evil. They are unnatural and separate us from our final end. When Catholic churchmen leave that out of the "conversation" (to use an "in" word), they play right along with the enemies of God and His Church. Such activity detracts from the (extrinsic) glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Posted by: Brother-Andre Marie | Apr 12, 2013 3:10:24 PM
The “fact that men and women are designed in such a way that same sex sexual acts are always demeaning” is not a fact; it is merely an opinion. Gays and lesbians don’t feel debased or demeaned by their lives, and you have no right to impose your opinion on their lives because treating people with dignity and respect (a point you repeat often) does not allow declaring them to be demeaned by their very nature, much less does it allow limiting their human rights because you disapprove of their natures.
This canard of “assigning personhood to sexual inclinations” has been dealt with. Behaviors have no rights; persons have rights; they all have the same rights whether gay, heterosexual, or lesbian. Gays and lesbians ARE persons. They are persons in relationship to all of us.
You said previously that “we all have disordered inclinations of various nature and degree”. I agree, but gays and lesbians have no greater need to reform themselves than do you or I or anyone else.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 3:38:35 PM
You are free to believe that homosexual acts are evil. Some people believe Catholicism is evil; you are free to ignore them, gays and lesbians are free to ignore you. Both you and gays and lesbians have this freedom because, among other things, we live in a land that cherishes Religious Liberty.
Also: homosexuality is conferred by nature at least, so it is natural. Since behavior in conformance with one’s natural state is natural by definition, homosexual acts are natural. Anything that CAN happen cannot violate the laws of nature because the laws of nature can NEVER be violated. Certainly some natural things are evil (murder, etc.) but that has been discussed.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 12, 2013 3:39:05 PM
What is demeaning to gay people is the endless, mindless repetition of statements like "same-sex sexual acts are always demeaning."
Why, in the "orthodox" Catholic mind it is not one offense piled on another piled on yet another for Catholic spouses to use contraception? And yet they are tacitly accepted, while gay people acting according to their own consciences are described as committing acts of "grave depravity" (Catechism 2357). It is homophobic slander, and it is incredible hypocrisy. Are not Catholic married couples—the 90%+ who use artificial contraception—profaning a sacrament? I fail to understand why, from the "orthodox" Catholic point of view, those who are given a sexuality that they can use licitly are not held to more account for using it illicitly than those, in the Catholic point of view, are given a sexuality that they cannot use licitly. I don't understand why gay people are not at least looked on as playing the poor hand they were dealt as best they can while straight people who engage in premarital sex or use contraception within marriage are not considered people who have been dealt an excellent hand and who nevertheless decide to cheat.
The contempt that some religious people feel for gay people today is as pernicious as Christian anti-Semitism of the past. I want to make it crystal clear that I am not accusing all people who object to homosexuality on religious grounds of being bigoted. Moral disagreements between those who approve and disapprove of homosexuality can be on the same plane as Catholics who disagree with Jews about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. Cardinal O'Connor acknowledged recently, "We got to be – we got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody.” It's clear that not all are trying their darndness.
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 12, 2013 4:45:35 PM
"we live in a land that cherishes Religious Liberty"
Yes. But, as with the contraceptive mandate, some people see "evil" and "religious liberty" thru narrow eyes, including wanting deny people rights using logic that very well can be used against them.
As a statement of what members of the Church hierarchy can or should say, what is "evil" does become more appropriately an issue. Still, even there, the church hierarchy accepted Griswold v. Connecticut, even while opposing contraceptive use as a matter of morality. Similarly, I am not aware that the Church wants to outlaw married couples to commit acts of "sodomy" or (if someone was right and it too was 'wrong') mutual masturbation.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 12, 2013 4:48:19 PM
To deny the personal and relational essence of the human person, who, from the moment of conception, has been created in The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male and female, is to deny the essence of God. Only in an ordered, complementary communion of Love, between a man and woman, united as husband and wife, can two become one body, one spirit in Love, creating a new family. Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification. Love desires only that which is Good for one's beloved.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 5:47:15 PM
Unfortunately, I think the policy argument against same-sex marriage is muddled by the unnecessary discussion about the morality of homosexual activity and is muddled by various red herrings like some married couples don't procreate and some homosexual couples can raise nice kids.
The argument against same-sex marriage rests more soundly on two general principles that I think most people agree with:
1. That, on the whole and as a general rule, it is good to create new human beings through normal male-female intercourse, and it's better than the alternative all things being equal; and
2. That, on the whole and as a general rule, it is good for a child to be raised by a male and a female who are the child's biological parents, and it's better than the alternative all things being equal.
Now these are general rules, and there are always particular exceptions to the rule. But the fact that there are particular exceptions is irrelevant to the fact that, all other things being equal, general principles 1 and 2 are generally true.
So, the fact that we can create new human beings in a testtube and the fact that some male-female married couples can't or don't create new human beings is irrelevant to general rule 1. And the fact that a child can be abused in a male-female marriage and the fact that a child can grow up to be a mature and responsible adult in a non-biological parent-family or in a state-run orphanage is irrelevant to general rule 2. Yes, it's better for a particular child to grow up in a state-run orphanage than with his physically/sexually abusive biological parents -- but all things being equal, most people would agree that the biological parents is better than a state-run orphanage.
If you agree with principles 1 and 2, then you can make the argument that principles 1 and 2 are better encouraged by the state's recognition of traditional marriage versus than by gay marriage. And if you disagree with principles 1 and 2, then that is an entirely separate discussion that must be had before trying to argue the merits and demerits of gay marriage.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 12, 2013 8:47:24 PM
Can we stop saying that God created male and female? There are intersex babies born every day. I know that once someone starts saying that God created male and female I immediately tune out and struggle to try and follow the logic of their illogical argument.
Posted by: jfm | Apr 12, 2013 10:17:11 PM
Paul Horowitz is absolutely correct to the extent he is suggesting that contracepted sexual relations are not in principle different than sodomy or, for that matter, masturbation. This insight is reflected in Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, which condemned the use of artificial contraception within marriage and prophetically observed that artificial contraception would destroy the family. For technical legal purposes however there is a difference between marriages in which a couple uses artificial contraception and homosexual relationships. The former have at least the potential of an actual marriage and as such their legal recognition as marriages does not undermine marriage.
Contraception and the view of sexuality that it implies is at the root of the present disintegration of our society's ability even to remember what marriage is. I cannot however entirely explain how we have reached a stage where large segments of the population deny the importance of the child-father and child-mother relationship. I can only say that a great moral sickness has overcome society. These are strong words, I realize. But the words are proportionate to the utter and rapid moral collapse that is occurring.
Posted by: Dan | Apr 12, 2013 11:30:32 PM
If God created male and female, then who created intersex? I know God can be cruel (c.f. a considerable portion of the Old Testament), but adhering to a binary gender distinction in a world with intersex children baffles me. Not to mention the (albeit not very common) cases of gender identity disorder, where one sex is trapped in the body of another. Add to this the call to homosexuals to lead chaste lives, and I have learned more about the cruelty of God than even close reading of Job might reveal.
Posted by: jfm | Apr 13, 2013 12:05:35 AM
"For technical legal purposes however there is a difference between marriages in which a couple uses artificial contraception and homosexual relationships. The former have at least the potential of an actual marriage and as such their legal recognition as marriages does not undermine marriage."
In raw numbers, even with this "potential," this technicality is shown to be frivolous. There is a chance a few will have "actual" marriage (whatever that means ... those infertile or past the age of fertility don't need to worry about this, so apparently "actual" marriage is just man/woman ... procreation is a canard) but realistically most will not. A vast number. It is pure negligence not to be concerned about this more than homosexuals given the numbers.
"I cannot however entirely explain how we have reached a stage where large segments of the population deny the importance of the child-father and child-mother relationship."
Reached a stage? As compared to what? The past involves lots of instances where it is determined that a father and mother is not the best approach in a given approach, including not requiring a young widow to re-marry, which would one think would be very necessary since it is a sin of sorts to allow the child to grow up w/o a father figure. There a loads of children with no good parental figures as well. I can explain (but not justify) why some wish to block same sex couples to provide loving homes for them instead of leaving them in worse straits.
Again, given the prevalence of single mothers and sometimes single fathers, this issue in raw numbers goes much further than same sex couples, couples which repeatedly include mother and father figures (like friends, family members, ministers etc.) if the concern is having people of the opposite sex as role models and guidance. The selective focus here is a sign of illegitimate classification. A form of bias and wrongful animus.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 13, 2013 11:27:21 AM
DNA testing has led to a good prognosis for those persons who have a rare physical disorder. This does not change the fact that men and women are designed in such a way that same sex sexual acts do not respect the inherent Dignity of the human person.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 13, 2013 1:26:33 PM
There is nothing "life-affirming" in same-sex relationships.
Posted by: Shirley J. Schultz | Apr 13, 2013 3:11:35 PM
Shirley J. Schultz,
What do you mean by "life affirming" and, I suppose, by "same-sex relationships"? It is one thing to say that same-sex sexual acts are not procreative. It is another thing to say that the relationship of same-sex couples, which may include a sexual component, is not "life affirming." On definition I have found of "life affirming" is "having or showing a positive outlook that encourages optimism about life." Do you claim that no couple in a same-sex relationship can genuinely love and support each other? You are parroting Nancy, who I know from long experience will evade answering that question, but what about you? Can no two people in a same-sex relationship love, help, support, and care for each other? (One might ask the same question about unmarried opposite-sex couples; religiously married, civilly divorced, and civilly remarried couples; or even opposite-sex couples in an adulterous relationship.)
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 13, 2013 3:41:25 PM
David, the unitive marital act affirms and sustains Human Life and is necessary for Human Life to continue on Earth.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 14, 2013 1:17:51 AM
You have been most diligent in expressing your beliefs about the nature of people and your beliefs about how they should behave, but unless you truly are a fool (I think not.) you must realize that you cannot impose your ideas on others without disrespecting them as persons. As you wrote Friday, “Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification.” You cannot love others and try to coerce them into submitting to your rule; you cannot manipulate them into complying with your opinions. You cannot prevent their demeaning by demeaning them yourself. And ordinary coitus can be just as self-gratifying as any sex act.
“Love desires only that which is Good for one's beloved.” I accept you are only trying to instruct others in their error so they will find what is good, but your opinion of what is good for others is only your opinion. You cannot do good for others by robbing them of their human dignity and reducing them to your servants. You would resist if others tried to do this to you; you make a hypocrite of yourself if you try to do this to others.
You are free to believe what you believe, and to decide for yourself what is the right thing FOR YOU to do. But morality requires you acknowledge that others get to make those decisions for themselves also. Gays and lesbians for the most part reject your opinion, and justice says the law cannot take sides absent any harm to third parties. You and others have utterly failed to show any harm to others from legal recognition of same-sex marriage, so the law, if it is just, must recognize same-sex marriages.
Any consensual marital act is “unitive” and all affirm and sustain life. Procreative sex is necessary to continue life on Earth, but same-sex marriage and their marital intimacies do not interfere with this sustenance.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 14, 2013 10:13:22 AM
I cannot find much to dispute about your two general rules except to say that, in the context of same-sex marriage, they are irrelevant.
Same-sex marriages would not interfere with either general rule, and recognition of same-sex marriage does not prevent the state from continuing to recognize “traditional marriage”.
The law has the standing to prevent actual harms to others, but the mere failure to participate in the encouragement of certain arbitrary ideas is not a harm.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 14, 2013 10:13:51 AM
Dan, from a “technical legal” sense, the “difference between marriages in which a couple uses artificial contraception and homosexual relationships” is irrelevant; procreation has never been a requirement of marriage, neither in potential nor actuality.
I agree that “I can only say that a great moral sickness has overcome society.” It is the sickness of moral absolutism. Many among us no longer value religious freedom but instead insist that others must bow to their opinions.
You, Dan, have the right to live your moral life according to your own opinions, and as long as you don’t harm others, the law must respect and defer to your rights. Like-wise, gay and lesbian persons have the right to live their moral lives according to their opinions, and until you demonstrate a harm to others, you and the law must respect and defer to their rights. You need not affirm their choices, but you must respect their right to make those choices.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 14, 2013 10:14:14 AM
Thales offer two reasons against SSM:
"1. That, on the whole and as a general rule, it is good to create new human beings through normal male-female intercourse, and it's better than the alternative all things being equal"
This should be "encouraged" by the state by recognition of different sex marriage alone. If true, again, the problem goes much beyond same sex marriage and we cannot simply single it out. We allow in vitro fertilization. We allow surrogates. In fact, biblically, the latter was promoted. Not aware where in the Bible it is deemed that Jacob was sinful for having a child with concubines instead of uh one of his two wives.
Also, "all things aren't equal." Marriage is promoted for any number of reasons given reality. Thus, since there are homosexual couples, like Paul's opinion as to marriage at all, it is best, one might think, to promote monogamy and long term security there. Also, with lack of good alternatives, children are better in a same sex household than in foster care, especially special needs children.
Finally, realistically, banning same sex marriages will do little to promote m-f intercourse. In fact, that cannot be what we really are concerned about. That would allow same sex couples to raise children as long as the children were conceived by m-f unions. In fact, some are, and later on, e.g., the couple divorces (or a parent dies) and the primary guardian falls in love with a member of the same sex and they raise the child.
"2. That, on the whole and as a general rule, it is good for a child to be raised by a male and a female who are the child's biological parents, and it's better than the alternative all things being equal."
"All things" are not equal as suggested above. In various cases, children are raised by different kinds of households, as they always have been, for various reasons. Singling out same sex couples or denying them marriage rights (which protects the children in various ways) while still (rightly) allowing and promoting in various ways who raise children is wrong. Marriage also is not just about child-raising. It is simply unconvincing and insulting to couples in such matters to ignore this.
The basic belief here is that men and women have certain roles and that it is unnatural when they do not follow them. This explains why some do not want senior citizens, who will not procreate, to marry each other or those infertile or so forth. It is why, even with all the different sex couples who use contraceptives, raise children outside of two parent families, have children in ways other than "natural" intercourse etc., same sex couples are singled out.
There is some opposition to contraceptives too from some, but the level is just not the same nor the spleen. I find a basic dishonesty here, which might not be intentional, but it often is not.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 14, 2013 11:24:05 AM
It is surely impossible for any useful discussion to take place on the "Tablet" piece without the complete text of what Cardinal Schönborn said. The appeal in the same piece to unspecified recent suggestions by Cardinals Salazar and McCarrick is (without more) mere kite-flying and the headline is wishful thinking.
What we can reasonably deduce from the piece's silence is that none of the three Cardinals condones, endorses, or approves of (a) homosexual acts, (b) legal recognition of same sex "marriage", or – which flows from (b) – (c) the legal adoption of children by same sex couples.
Whether legal recognition of same-sex domestic "partnerships" (Schönborn's word) is acceptable as a political strategy in defending the sanctity of marriage in any given law territory is arguably (and I do not, myself, put it any higher) a prudential rather than a moral issue on which different people, facing different levels of threat to the sanctity of marriage, may perhaps come – as, seemingly, three cardinals have indeed come – to conclusions which diverge from parts of the CDF's 2003 "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons".
Granted that this is a blog "dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory", the combox is grossly over-weight here in tendentious and even incomprehensible remarks which make not the slightest effort to use key terms with precision, and annihilate mature debate by treating Catholic moral doctrine as mere "opinion" and by claiming that what is really at issue is "love". Since when did the state have any business legislating in the domain of love? The subject-matter is not "love" but the status of homosexual acts, and the burning question is whether the state has the right to compel a large body of its citizens to acknowledge as normal what they regard as deviant behaviour.
Posted by: Bain Wellington | Apr 14, 2013 4:49:02 PM
God Is Love. We, who are Christian are called to Love according to The Word of God. Our call to Holiness is a call to Perfect Love. Any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect the inherent personal and relational essence of the human person is not an act of Love because it violates the inherent dignity of the human person. Denying The Truth of Love can never be " acceptable as a political strategy", as to deny that the marital act between a husband and wife, the one flesh union which affirms and sustains human Life, is the singular, proximal demonstrative reason the marital relationship is set apart from all others, is to deny the Sanctity of Marriage, to begin with.
Posted by: Nancy | Apr 15, 2013 1:49:25 PM
You say that my 2 principles are irrelevant to ssm, and ssm would not interfere with either general rule. Let me turn the issue around a little then. Suppose we grant that there are people who want to enter into same-sex relationships, and that other people want to enter into opposite sex relationships, and suppose that we do not intend to denigrate either type of relationship. Even supposing all that, I think you'd agree with me that we would still want to encourage those people in a opposite-sex relationship to (1) responsibly produce children biologically and (2) to stay together during the children's lives and to offer a stable male-female, biological-parent household to their children. Would you agree that these are goals that it is not possible to encourage for same-sex couples since they can't produce children biologically, nor can they offer a stable male-female, biological-parent household? (Now, that doesn't mean that same-sex relationships are bad or that they can't offer a different kind of stable household or some other good thing -- it's just that same-sex relationships are different from opposite-sex couples and can't offer what opposite-sex couples can offer.) And if we want to encourage people in a opposite-sex relationship to (1) responsibly produce children biologically and (2) to stay together during the children's lives and to offer a stable male-female, biological-parent household to their children, could you see that it might be appropriate for society to treat this relationship differently than the same-sex relationship, in order to encourage the unique aspects of this relationship that aren't present in the same-sex relationship?
Sorry, I find that there are a number of red herrings in your comment. First, the Old Testament views of marriage are irrelevant to the discussion. Yes, polygamy, concubinage, and divorce were permitted in the OT, but it's generally understood that those aren't the ideal when it comes to producing and raising children, and it is generally recognized that they are contrary to the NT understanding of marriage as established by Christ.
Second, the fact that we permit IVF or surrogates today is also irrelevant to the discussion of what is good policy that society should encourage. We permit people to marry and divorce repeatedly, to get drunk every night, to spend their entire day playing videogames, etc --- in other words, we permit plenty of behaviors that parents engage in that do not happen to be in the best interest of raising healthy and well-adjusted children.
In my first comment, I was proposing a principle that, as a general rule, it is more likely that we would tend to get a healthy and well-adjusted child if Child A is born naturally and raised in a stable male-female, biological-parent household, as opposed to Child B being created via IVF, born of a surrogate, and raised in a state-run orphanage with no stable male-female parental role models --- notwithstanding the fact that in particular instances, Child B might turn out better than Child A. Now, if you disagree with this general principle, and if you think that there is no real difference between the ways a child is produced and raised -- and thus, there is no reason for society to encourage one way of producing and raising children versus another -- then that is another different discussion that has to take place before discussing the issue of same sex marriage.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 16, 2013 12:00:17 AM
Your persistent demeaning of same-sex couples does not respect their inherent human dignity; the very thing you say we should avoid you persist in. The Truth of Love is that every couple finds their own means of expressing it according to the characteristics which God or nature have given them. To deny the validity of a same-sex couple’s relationship not only demeans their inherent human dignity, it is an implicit condemnation of the gifts God or nature has given to them. If God is love, and if we are all made by his hand, then Loving God has chosen to make homosexuals homosexual. To demean their marital relations is to deny the Sanctity of Marriage.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 16, 2013 9:08:30 AM
Society could legitimately encourage different-sex couples to enact your two principles. Your error is to think those are the ONLY purposes that marriage has, or the only purposes society should choose to encourage.
Marriage is also about people forming couples who mutually encourage, support, and fulfill the lives of their marital partners. Even that is a woefully incomplete list of purposes; people have made careers out of analyzing marriage.
Your general principles also omit consideration of the fact that marriages fail and that children are orphaned. It is ideal that children are raised by their loving biological parents, but the grim reality is that not every biological parent is loving, and not every loving biological parent even knows how to parent lovingly. Society can try to ameliorate these problems, but at the end of the day the grim truth is that some children cannot be raised by their biological parents.
In these cases, ANY persons who are capable of filling that role are better than nothing; even single adults. Same-sex couples are as equipped to fill this role as any equivalent different-sex couple.
You are free to ignore these grim facts when constructing your ivory-tower theories. Society ignores them at its own and the children’s peril. Since stable same-sex marriages offer solutions to this problem as much as stable different sex marriages, society should also encourage same-sex marital stability.
Same-sex marriages are different from different-sex marriages, but likewise Christian marriages are SOMETIMES different from Jewish marriages. Should society–or more specifically: LAW–treat them differently?
No. Mere difference is not a justification for different treatment. In this matter, the differences between same-sex marriages and different-sex marriages are not significant enough to justify the different treatment; and recognition of same-sex marriage does not in any way interfere with or detract from your proposed social treatment of different-sex marriages.
In Summary: If you believe we must choose between your general rules and recognition of same-sex marriage, you offer a false choice. If you don’t think we must choose between those two, then your general rules are irrelevant to the question of same-sex marriage.
Since we live in a democratic society which values freedom, law imperils society when it ignores the actual behavior, wishes, and needs of the people. Just as invitro fertilization is a reality, so are same-sex couples; except that same-sex coupling is natural, invitro fertilization is not.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 16, 2013 9:11:02 AM
Sure, marriage has other purposes like being a relationship of mutual support, etc., but the question is, what interest does society have in concerning itself with a relationship of mutual support? We've already discussed that society has a concern about how children are being produced and raised and that it should encourage people to produce and raise children in the best way possible, but it's not obvious to me that there is any reason for society to be concerned about and to regulate two people who give each other mutual support. Why should the state be involved in the latter?
As I said earlier, the fact that marriages fail and children are orphaned is largely irrelevant to the issue of same sex marriage. We're talking about general principles, principles that apply for the most part, and which will always have particular exceptions.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 17, 2013 7:09:50 AM
I know your focus is on society’s concerns for children, but there are other things to be concerned with too; like civil rights. Recognition of same-sex marriage does ZERO HARM to the welfare of children, and can provide a benefit to those children who do “fall through the cracks”.
Recognition of marriage (any marriage) is not a regulation of people’s conduct, it is a recognition and recording of their relationship. Like you, it is not obvious to me “that there is any reason for society to be concerned about and to regulate two people who give each other mutual support. Why should the state be involved in the latter” beyond merely recording the marriage?
You ask “what interest does society have in concerning itself with a relationship of mutual support?” The principles of equal protection and religious liberty are implicated, that is one place among many where the State’s interest lies.
A better question: what interest does society have in prohibiting same-sex marriage? Legal recognition of same-sex marriage costs society little to nothing (administrative costs) and does not interfere with the purposes that you think society should be focusing on.
So why not just legalize them, be done with that, and go on with other matters? We really don’t have to choose between your general principles and legally recognized same-sex marriage, so why should we choose?
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 17, 2013 9:51:28 AM
You're looking at it the wrong way. Let me try another angle. Suppose we go along with everything you proposed and we have full recognition of same-sex marriage. Now, I'm suggesting that society has an interest in having children produced by male-female biological couplings and in having these children raised by the same male-female biological coupling for the entirety of the children's lives -- and that this interest isn't furthered by same-sex couples (I'm not saying that this interest is hindered by same-sex couples, just that it isn't furthered). So, would you object if the state treated the opposite-sex married couple differently from the same-sex married couple, in an attempt to encourage the opposite-sex married couple to produce and raise children responsibly, say by a special government program that is offered to the opposite-sex couple or a tax break or some other privilege?
Posted by: Thales | Apr 17, 2013 10:45:57 PM
Thales; there are two parts to your question, and each has a different answer.
Programs related to encouraging different-sex couples to have children would be proper depending on whether the “encouragement” was reasonably likely to work, and whether the “encouragement” was not merely a pretext for denying equality to same-sex couples.
Programs encouraging married couples to raise children responsibly should not be limited to different-sex couples because there will always be same-sex couples raising children. Whether that is ideal or not is irrelevant, it is reality. The state has an interest in all children being raised properly, not just those fortunate enough to be raised by both biological parents.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 18, 2013 9:06:50 AM
Well, I think by your first paragraph, you're admitting the point I'm trying to make: that there is a difference between opposite sex couples from same-sex couples (because they can produce and raise biological children), and that this difference is something that society can take note of in distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex couples. If you can concede that point, then you're well on your way of finding a common premise from which a productive discussion about the pros and cons of same-sex marriage can be had. But since this post is already on page 2 of the blog, perhaps we'll have to have that discussion another day.
As a parting comment, you should read the Girgis/Anderson/George book, "What is Marriage". It is respectful of those with homosexual inclinations, while giving a compelling argument for societal recognition and encouragement of opposite-sex marriage.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 18, 2013 11:45:08 PM
I make no such admission because procreation does not distinguish different-sex marriage from same-sex marriage. It distinguishes child-producing marriages vs. everyone else. Only different-sex couples WILLING AND CAPABLE of procreation are on one “side” of your difference; everyone else (including many different-sex couples) are on the other. So this difference does not support legal distinctions between different-sex and same-sex marriages.
And all this covers only the first consideration (State encouragement of procreation).
With regard to State encouragement of good child raising, no difference is found.
If you are going to break off this conversation, that is your choice. I think it worth a few pages on a blog. Restarting somewhere else just means we have to replow the same ground. But you will do what you will do.
As for the Girgis/Anderson/George book, well, as the wise man said once: it is not necessary to eat the whole apple to know it’s rotten. I’ve read a lot of G/A/G’s opinions, unless this book is a radical departure from their past positions, I can fairly put it at the bottom of a long, Long reading list I already have.
Is it a “radical departure” from their past positions?
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 19, 2013 9:21:47 AM
It looks like we've gone in a huge circle because it seems that you're now denying some of what I was trying to establish in the first place and which I thought you agreed to earlier: that, as a general rule, it is the ideal to have children being raised in a stable male-female, biological-parent household, and that this arrangement should be encouraged by society. (This doesn't ignore the fact that adoption and other alternative child-raising situations are sometimes necessary, but it does say that these latter aren't the ideal, as a general rule.)
The Girgis book is fairly short and respectful to those with homosexual inclinations. If you reject it out of hand without giving it any consideration, then I submit that that reflects badly on your willingness to have a thoughtful conversation about this topic.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 19, 2013 11:47:33 PM
Now that we have had a chance to see what your general rule is about and to where you think it should lead us, I can see problems with it that were not readily apparent at first. I learn from these discussions, and sometimes what I learn is that my first impression was not right. I reserve the right to learn.
As a general rule, it is the ideal to raise children in a stable household, and that this arrangement should be encouraged by society. Full Stop. Whether the adults raising the child are the biological parents, whether they are male-female or some other is not subject to any general rule. That they actually care for and love the child is the best.
“Studies” indicate that children raised by their biological parents do, on average, better, but these studies don’t really establish why. Is it because of the social awkwardness of non-traditional households? If so, then as non-traditional households gain acceptance, the advantage of being raised “ideally” will fade. Without knowing why there is a difference, we don’t know how to legislate toward any “ideal”.
In any event, the ideal will always be the exception, so your general rule cannot limit itself to the exceptional without losing its generality. I know children raised by their loving, stable, biological parents who are now in prison. We all read about children abused to death by their biological parents; and others adopted or raised in other non-traditional settings and doing quite well. On this matter, THERE IS NO GENERAL RULE except that children do better when raised in stable situations by adults who actually love them. Full Stop.
As for the Girgis book, I asked a question which you have not answered: does it take a radical departure from the authors’ well established arguments? If it does not, then reading it is not necessary to participating in a thoughtful conversation about this topic. If you are familiar with their arguments, you can present them, and we can discuss them. If you are not, or not willing to, then my reading it will not matter.
As I said, I have a lot to read. I can participate in a thoughtful discussion on this topic, but if reading that book is your requirement to continue, then we are likely done. That is your call.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 20, 2013 8:53:51 PM
I find the Girgis book to be a refinement and more thorough explanation of their argument, similar but not identical to some of the posts they've made on the Internet.
I know that we're all busy and if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to read. I'm only suggesting that a truly thoughtful debate of same-sex marriage requires an understanding and engagement with the best arguments of those who disagree with you, and that some of the best arguments that I've seen were in that book.
So you're of the opinion that, all things being equal, it doesn't matter for a child's well-being that he is raised by his biological father and mother, or by two non-related women, or by a commune of 10 men? I think common sense says otherwise (with one main reason being that it seems to me that a child benefits from knowing his biological origins and, if possible, having these biological origins support and encourage the child.) But if you disagree, that's fine --- that would be a new and different discussion, but I think that we'll have to do that some other time considering that we're already several pages off the main blog page.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 21, 2013 7:40:34 PM
If the Girgis book is a “refinement” or better explanation of their prior arguments, then I see no value in reading it. A refined presentation of a weak argument is no improvement, a more thorough explanation of a muddle is still a muddle.
I agree that “a truly thoughtful debate of same-sex marriage requires an understanding and engagement with the best arguments of those who disagree with you” but a book that merely recasts old arguments adds nothing to this conversation.
To be more specific, I’ve been discussing and debating same-sex marriage since the 1980’s (literally) so I know reading the Girgis et al. book is not a prerequisite to a thoughtful debate and a productive conversation on same-sex marriage.
If you think Girgis et al. make strong arguments, then please share with us why you think that. If you cannot or are unable to, then my reading the book will not further any conversation. You suggest we end this exchange “considering that we're already several pages off the main blog page”. So–even if I did read the book, we’d still be several pages off the main blog; we’d not continue this conversation. Yet another reason to read something else.
If all things are equal, it probably is better that a child be raised by their biological parents, but all things are just not equal. All things being as they are, what matters to a child’s welfare is that whomever raises them (biological parents, adoptive parents, a same-sex couple, one parent, a commune of 10 men) that these adults love and care for them.
Certainly it benefits a child to know their biological origins, but as you imply, that’s not always possible. It benefits a child to have biological parents who support and encourage them, but that’s not always possible. You are seeking a general rule that promotes the ideal, which is fine if it successfully deals with messy reality; which I believe your general rule utterly fails to do.
I am quite willing to continue this conversation as long as you are, Thales; as long as those who run this site allows. Perhaps you could start by telling us about Girgis et al.’s "new and improved" arguments.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 22, 2013 12:34:35 PM
"You are seeking a general rule that promotes the ideal, which is fine if it successfully deals with messy reality; which I believe your general rule utterly fails to do."
But why give up on the general rule or on the ideal, just because there are exceptions? Why not encourage the ideal, while at the same time acknowledging the exceptions and do what is best under the circumstances to help the messy reality? For example, the failure of the stable family and of fatherhood in the black community weighs heavily on my mind, and I wonder whether society can do better in encouraging the ideal. Shouldn't we encourage people to live honorably, or not lie, or be charitable, or whatever other ideal there is, despite the fact that these ideals are rarely met?
So you've been debating same-sex marriage since the 1980s? But same-sex marriage has only been an issue of scholarly debate for the last 5 years, 10 at the most. I have no reason to doubt that you've been debating same-sex marriage since the 1980s, but I respectfully question whether you were encountering arguments against same-sex marriage in the 1980s that are as thoughtful as some being made today, by virtue of the fact that same-sex marriage simply wasn't a topic that people were investing a whole lot of time and thought into. In my opinion, the arguments against same-sex marriage have developed and become much more thoughtful in the last couple of years -- and a prime example is the Girgis book. I encourage to take a look at it; it's a short book and would only take you a couple of hours to read at the most.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 23, 2013 12:14:30 AM
The problem is that the ideal you pursue is not The Ideal, it is just an ideal, one of many. With regards to this topic, The Ideal is probably so narrow and discriminatory that it is unacceptable or unusable.
Consider: the IDEAL parents of a child are probably not just a man and a woman who are the child’s biological parents;
IDEALLY they should be of some minimal economic status. Poorer couples should not get “encouragement”; that would not further The Ideal.
IDEALLY parents need to be in a certain age range; older and younger couples should not get “encouragement”; that would not further The Ideal.
IDEALLY parents should be of certain races or racial combinations. Other couples should not get “encouragement”; that would not further The Ideal.
IDEALLY parents should share certain religious or ideological attitudes. Interfaith couples should not get “encouragement”; that would not further The Ideal.
IDEALLY parents should live in certain regions and kinds of neighborhoods. IDEALLY they should have certain levels of education. Other kinds of couples should not get “encouragement”; that would not further The Ideal.
You can nit-pick my list all you want, perhaps some of those items really don’t affect The Ideal, but likely there are things that should be on this list. Other kinds of couples should not get “encouragement”; that would not further The Ideal.
I hope you see the problem with this. This Ideal is noxious and abhorrent (and I hope it’s clear I repudiate it!) Pursuing an Ideal, “encouraging” an ideal is not always a cost-free or harmless act. In pursuit of an Ideal, much harm can be done.
I am sure you are prepping a response that your ideal is not that narrow and malicious. Your general rule will not hurt so many people. All that is true, but your general rule and the ideal it advocates is still TOO NARROW.
A general ideal is that it is best for children to be raised in stable households of parents who love and care for them, and such households should be encouraged and supported. It does not matter if the child is being raised by their stable biological parents; it does not matter if the child was conceived in vitro; it does not matter if the child was carried by a surrogate; it does not matter because society’s interest is not in HOW THE CHILD WAS CONCEIVED OR GESTATED. Society’s interest is in how the child is raised. And your general rule is too narrow and discriminatory to advance that interest.
I have to admit I laughed when I read that you “respectfully question whether [I was] encountering arguments against same-sex marriage in the 1980s that are as thoughtful as some being made today, by virtue of the fact that same-sex marriage simply wasn't a topic that people were investing a whole lot of time and thought into. In my opinion, the arguments against same-sex marriage have developed and become much more thoughtful in the last couple of years”.
The reason I laughed is that arguments by academics (including Girgis) take the form of what marriage is and has always been about, about why (for example) for centuries, nay! millennia! infertile couples have been allowed to marry. If these explanations are valid, they were valid in the 1980 before academia got a hold of them. How could their arguments be new? Marriage and its purposes are ancient! Or so they tell us.
The problem is that the “arguments against same-sex marriage [which] have developed and become much more thoughtful in the last couple of years” are generally post hoc rationalizations fabricated without any reference to reality. I married in 1985, so I am quite sure what the state of marriage was about before Girgis et al. attempted to tell me what it was I did a decade earlier, or what my ancestors did centuries before. About the only development since the 1980s is that blatantly homophobic arguments have morphed into subtle quasi-intellectual nonsense. There is nothing new under this sun.
If the Girgis book is that short and that good, why do you resist presenting his arguments here? If you understand them, then you should be able to do so quite readily. If you don’t understand them, then you and I could not have a productive conversation about them even if I were intimately familiar with the book. It is THAT FACT that makes me really curious: why wait for me to read it? Why not present his rationale here and see what happens? Even if I read it, you’d need to do that, so why wait? Why are you reticent to explain their rationale?
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 23, 2013 10:41:01 AM
There’s a flaw in your discussion about ideals. It appears to me that you think that if we encourage an ideal, then that requires *not encouraging* (and even discouraging or disparaging) those people who don’t meet the ideal because "that would not further The Ideal." I categorically and wholeheartedly reject that position. I think that encouraging a man to stay involved in the lives of his children – to be a father to them and not to run out on them – doesn’t mean that we can’t also support and encourage and love the single mother with no father in the picture. I think that we can encourage the 13-year-old girl to be sexually responsible and to stay abstinent, while also supporting and encouraging and loving the 13-year-old-girl who finds herself pregnant. We can encourage the teenager to stay away from drugs, while still supporting and encouraging and loving the drug addict.
We should be motivated to encourage every person, regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in, to live the best, most fulfilling, and most honorable life that they can live at that time, and this motivation needs to come at every level of society — from our personal interactions with our neighbors, to our intermediate institutions of churches and social groups and schools, to our government and its government social programs. And while it is possible for these different levels to encourage all people to pursue the ideal life that would be most conducive to a person’s personal good, to the good of his or her family and friends, and to the common good of all, I’m fully confident that, at the same time, all levels of society can support and encourage and love those who are in less-than ideal circumstances.
Regarding Girgis, I don’t understand the first part of your comment. You said:
"The reason I laughed is that arguments by academics (including Girgis) take the form of what marriage is and has always been about, about why (for example) for centuries, nay! millennia! infertile couples have been allowed to marry. If these explanations are valid, they were valid in the 1980 before academia got a hold of them. How could their arguments be new? Marriage and its purposes are ancient! Or so they tell us."
I’m afraid I don’t follow your argument here. Sure, marriage and its purposes have been around for a long time. But arguments articulating the nature of marriage and its purposes haven’t been around for a long time, at least not vis-a-vis same-sex marriage, because the phenomenon of same-sex marriage is only recent. If you have a new objection to an old institution, then naturally, if you want to respond to the new objection, you need to articulate a new argument.
You said: "About the only development since the 1980s is that blatantly homophobic arguments have morphed into subtle quasi-intellectual nonsense." Ah, see, that’s my point. In the 1980s, it’s quite likely that you were encountering unfairly homophobic arguments against same-sex marriage. But that was a different time vis-a-vis homosexuality. Much has changed in society since the 1980s when it comes to understanding homosexuality and the dignity of the human person. The best arguments against same-sex marriage made today benefit from this development in understanding. That’s what I found refreshing about the Girgis book – its sensitive and respectful treatment of homosexuality. The Girgis book is not the unfairly homophobic argument you encountered in the 1980s, which is why I think you’d find it interesting. I haven’t internalized or memorized the book as much as I’d like, and I’m afraid that I couldn’t do its argument justice here in a blog post... and all of that aside, because I think you’ll find it interesting and perhaps even enlightening, that’s why I’m encouraging you to go straight to the source and to check it out yourself.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 23, 2013 6:01:24 PM
I am glad you reject the idea of discouraging or disparaging “non-ideal” couples and families, but if you provide some couples encouragement (which was your proposal), and do not provide that same encouragement to others that is discouraging or disparaging those others.
Since we both reject discouraging or disparaging any couple, it seems we cannot encourage just some. Either we encourage all (“ideal” or not) or we do nothing. If we encourage (or better: support) all in whatever way is best for them, then your “general rule” becomes just one of many general rules, your ideal becomes just another beast in large herd of ideals. It has no special status or importance. I don’t see any objection to that, at least not yet!
My comment regarding Girgis et al. goes to the fact that, objections to same-sex marriage (including those by Girgis) generally claim to be based on long established understandings, expectations, and purposes of marriage. If those things are indeed as ancient as claimed, then we would have been aware of them in the 1980s when I first was drawn to this topic. Some of those were talked up in the ‘80s, and failed to persuade then. Academics like Girgis, Anderson, and George have not added any rationale’s that were truly novel and significant, mostly they have just tried to provide novel explanations of those ancient principles. They serve up old wine in new skins.
To the extent these ancient principles are real, they don’t justify banning same-sex marriage. To the extent that academics serve up post-hoc principles, these novel principles have no authority.
Let me clarify something: same-sex marriage is not a new objection to an old institution, it is a new objection to an old prohibition. The prohibition’s old purposes are irrelevant now. A new purpose cannot be construed to be ancient just because it supports an ancient prohibition. In this case, there are no new purposes for the prohibition that can stand up to scrutiny. Girgis may be creative and even compassionate in their justifications for these new purposes, but at the end of the day creative, compassionate arguments do not justify a fundamentally flawed purpose.
You write that “Much has changed in society since the 1980s when it comes to understanding homosexuality and the dignity of the human person. The best arguments against same-sex marriage made today benefit from this development in understanding.” I agree completely with the first sentence. The second is entirely wrong. Nothing has been discovered “since the 1980s” about homosexuality and the dignity of the human person which justify prohibiting same-sex marriage.
It may be that the “Girgis book is not the unfairly homophobic argument [I] encountered in the 1980s”; but that does not save it. A compassionate, understanding argument is not, perforce a correct argument or an accurate argument. Girgis et al. are at best compassionate, understanding and mistaken. They would then deserve compassionate, understanding correction.
If you are unable to do justice to their arguments in this blog, then my reading of their book would not contribute to a productive conversation here about same-sex marriage. It takes two to make a conversation; probably we should just let that go. I’ll consider reading the book eventually; but there is much that is more valuable on my reading list ahead of it, and new stuff coming along all the time. In any event, a productive conversation on this topic does not require reading the Girgis book. This I know from experience.
Perhaps if Girgis et al. were to engage in this kind of conversation on this blog site, then I should read the book right away, but those gentlemen have not engaged in such a conversation here, and to the best of my knowledge never deigned to do so. George posts here frequently, and closes his posts to comments immediately. C’est la vie. I may get around to it eventually, but more likely their book will be overtaken by events and rendered moot.
Posted by: sean samis | Apr 24, 2013 11:30:58 AM
Thales & Sean S.
Small nitpicky point about your "ideal" ways to parent children - if you present those as points of faith, that's fine, I do not argue faith because it does not concede to logical argumentation. It's what you believe.
But if you're interested in facts - you're wrong. There has been plenty of research about same-sex parenting. Children of same sex parents are as happy and well-adjusted as those of different-sex parents. What's important to children is having adults who love them and parent them. Their sex is irrelevant:
Posted by: Gillian | May 3, 2013 3:16:07 PM
I agree completely that "Children of same sex parents are as happy and well-adjusted as those of different-sex parents. What's important to children is having adults who love them and parent them. Their sex is irrelevant".
I agree completely; if I did not make that clear before, I hope I have now.
Posted by: sean samis | May 5, 2013 1:56:33 PM
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