Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

" ... immoral sexual partnerships ..."

Immoral?  Sez who?  (HT:  The late, beloved Art Leff, of YLS.]

It's one thing to adhere to a conception of marriage--a contestable and, even here at MOJ, contested conception--according to which a same-sex union cannot be a marriage.  It's another thing to claim that a same-sex union--each and every same-sex union--is necessarily immoral.  If I understand the argument, it's not immoral for, say, MOJ blogger Robby George, given his sexual (heterosexual) orientation, to live his life in a way that fulfills *his* sexual orientation, but it *is* immoral for, say, William Eskridge, given his sexual (homosexual) orientation, to live his life in a way that fulfills *his* sexual orientation.  The argument, if I understand it, has something to do with *biological* complementarity.  But why is *biological* complementarity determinative of (im)morality?  What about *sexual* complementarity?  The official (i.e., magisterial) Roman Catholic response emphasizes the immorality of deliberately and/or inherently nonprocreative sexual (i.e., genital) activity--including, it bears emphasis, activity that most heterosexual American Catholics engage in:  deliberately contracepted sexual activity.  The traditionalist evangelical-Christian response emphasizes the will of God, as revealed in the Bible.  But on this proposition the official Roman Catholic position and the traditionalist evangelical-Christian position converge:  It's not immoral for Robby George, given his heterosexual orientation, to live his life in a way that fulfills *his* sexual orientation, but it *is* immoral for William Eskridge, given his homosexual orientation, to live *his* life in a way that fulfills his sexual orientation.  Read on ...

NYT, 11/21/09

Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

They say they also want to speak to younger Christians who have become engaged in issues like climate change and global poverty, and who are more accepting of homosexuality than their elders. They say they want to remind them that abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom are still paramount issues.

“We argue that there is a hierarchy of issues,” said Charles Colson, a prominent evangelical who founded Prison Fellowship after serving time in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal. “A lot of the younger evangelicals say they’re all alike. We’re hoping to educate them that these are the three most important issues.”

The document was written by Mr. Colson; Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, who is Catholic; and the Rev. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, an evangelical interdenominational school on the campus of Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala.

They convened a meeting of Christian leaders in Manhattan in September to present the document and gather suggestions. The 4,700-word document is called the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” The New York Times obtained an advance copy.

The document says, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, or treat them as marriages or the equivalent.”

Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, said it was “fear-mongering” to suggest that religious institutions would be forced to do any of those things. He said they are protected by the First Amendment, and by conscience clauses that allow medical professionals and hospitals to opt out of performing certain procedures, and religious exemptions written into same-sex marriage bills.

The most likely points of controversy, he said, could involve religious groups that provide social services to the public. Such organizations could be obligated to provide social services to gay people or provide spousal benefits to married gay employees.

Mr. George, the legal scholar at Princeton University, argued that the conscience clauses and religious exemptions were insufficient, saying, “The dangers to religious liberty are very real."


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