Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"A Catholic's Case for Same-Sex Marriage" [UPDATED]

[Commonweal reports:]
Joseph Bottum, former chief editor of First Things, has taken to the pages of Commonweal to state a Catholic's case for same-sex marriage.
In this thoughtful and personal essay, Bottum states the position plainly: "We are now at the point where, I believe, American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans." 
Bottum also says there is no coherent jurisprudential argument against same-sex marriage, and that it may be time for American bishops to stop fighting the passage of laws that allow it. "Campaigns against same-sex marriage are hurting the church, offering the opportunity to make Catholicism a byword for repression in a generation that, even among young Catholics, just doesn't think that same-sex activity is worth fighting about. 
"I find these practical considerations compelling," Bottum writes, "just as I think most ordinary Catholics do."
Further, Bottum contends, the sexual abuse scandals have helped put the church in America in "its weakest public position since the 1870s," when thirty-eight states passed anti-Catholic amendments to their constitutions. "[W]hat kind of loony, pie-eyed judgment," Bottum asks, "could lead the bishops to engage in a sex-based public-policy debate they are doomed to lose -- feeding mockery of the church while engaged in the process of losing that fight?"
"The Things We Share" is now featured on the Commonweal website. Read the whole thing here.


 [UPDATE:  The "Beliefs" column in today's--Saturday's--NYT is about Bottum's Commonweal essay:  here.

Let me add, while I'm at it, that calling Bottum's essay to the attention of MOJ readers does not entail that I concur--or that I do not concur--in all or part of the essay.  My own position on the "jurisprudential" issue--more precisely, on the constitutional issues--is elaborated in my new book.]


Perry, Michael | Permalink


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Joseph Bottum wrote: "We are now at the point where, I believe, American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans."

Acceptance of the inevitable legalization of same-sex marriage (state by state) is not the same as endorsing or even supporting said effort. Bottum is raising the white flag, not joining the other side. I suggest that Professor Perry re-read the third part of the essay to see what the gist of the argument is. It is not a case for legal recognition of SSM but a plea for the American Church to "move on" from this unwinnable struggle. Ours is a disenchanted age, denuded of the sense of teleos that natural law theory depends on for its persuasiveness. When that social ontology has withered away, how can we possibly agree on the ends of marriage?

Posted by: Clement Ng | Aug 24, 2013 4:29:01 PM

Several readers wrote comments which I decided not to publish. It seems to me that -- while I believe that the Bottum essay (besides being, in my view, overlong and meandering) has some major flaws -- flaws that I expect bloggers and commenters will discuss -- it's not productive, in this forum, to publish personal, snarky, or non-responsive comments.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Aug 24, 2013 5:44:17 PM

"overlong and meandering"

I'm sympathetic to such a "case," but I thought this too.

The first comment notes the difference between "state recognition" and "endorsing" such a recognition. See, e.g., how some Catholic thinkers in the 1960s accepted the legality of Griswold v. Connecticut w/o "endorsing" the usage of contraceptives as a whole.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 25, 2013 1:07:54 PM

Clement Ng, except it's a little bit more than waving the white flag. He advises American Catholic to turn to other tasks in order "to re-enchant the world" and then to decide what deep meaning might be derived from same-sex marriage. But the Church hasn't wavered on the notion of marriage as a union founded on the sexual complementarity of man and woman. How would any meaning derived from SSM square with that basic notion?

Posted by: C | Aug 25, 2013 8:35:01 PM


Posted by: Nancy | Aug 27, 2013 12:42:56 PM

C, I don't believe the two notions can square with one another, and Bottum did not argue that they do. He is suggesting that faithful Catholics will simply have to find a way to face up to the reality of same-sex civil unions, even as they continue to affirm that marriage is a union of a man and a woman only.

By the way, readers will be interested to know that Bottum gave an interview over Ave Maria Radio yesterday afternoon, during which he regret the way he stated his views in the Commonweal piece. Catholic World Report reported on it today http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2525/Joseph_Bottum_There_are_a_couple_things_that_I_regret_in_the_article.aspx#.Uh0ZKL7nbIV

Posted by: Clement Ng | Aug 27, 2013 5:26:55 PM