Wednesday, February 25, 2004
As was mentioned here a few days ago, the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, and Public Policy sponsored a symposium tonight on "The Future of Marriage." It was an excellent event, and I am proud of the Notre Dame Law School students who organized it. The panel featured speakers who represented a genuine diversity of opinion, the speakers were courteous to each other and to those members of the audience who asked questions, and the speakers were careful not to play to the crowd for easy applause. I was particuarly impressed at how Professor Andrew Koppelman -- a longtime proponent for gay rights and same-sex marriage -- made his case forcefully without castigating opponents' views as mere bigotry (and, indeed, he was critical of some audience members' efforts to do so). He was eminently fair, charitable, and hard-hitting all at once.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I found Professor Paul Griffiths' argument particularly provocative. In a nutshell, Griffiths argued that (a) the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage and sexuality is true; (b) but America is a post-Christian, "pagan" culture, in which the practice of "marriage" bears no resemblance to that teaching; (c) indeed, even the practice of marriage among Catholics bears little resemblance to that teaching; (d) therefore, the Church ought to take steps to disengage Christian marriage entirely from American civil marriage; (e) this would enable the Church to re-discover, and re-build, authentic Christian marriage; (f) which would, in turn, serve as a powerful witness to our "pagan" culture when -- we can hope -- that culture comes to believe that it has missed the boat.
I need to think more about this argument. I worry that it underestimates both the "pedagogical" function of civil law and the asserted connections between Christian marriage, properly understood, and the common good. Still, the argument requires serious consideration. Congratulations, again, to the Journal for arranging a discussion that -- academic self-congratulation about "intellectual diversity" notwithstanding -- too rarely occurs in law schools today.