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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009



So now your game is to depict me as "angry"---indeed angry to the point of perhaps being "venomous."  Nice try, but I'm afraid that tactic won't work either.  The reason is simple:  Your Christmas Eve post is there in black and white for everyone to see.  Readers can just go back and look at what you said.  Why is it that your fellow citizens who do not share your liberal views about sexual morality do not see the light?  Well, it's because their socialization and psychology saddle them with a deep emotional aversion to forms of sexuality that are "unfamiliar" to them.  Unlike you, they lack "open, truly open minds."

That's sweet, Michael.  Real sweet.

I don't think the people you've smeared will take much solace (nor do I) in your willingness to exempt me and my "mentors" from the charge of being like racists---or (as you twice put it in your most recent post) like racists "in some hideous sense."

Just to make sure I've got this right, by the way, in explaining why people who do not share your liberal views about sex and marriage think as they do, you are appealing to the authority of Martha Nussbaum?

On conscripting Cathleen Kaveny into our dispute, I simply took her at her word.  She said "since Michael apparently conscripted me into this discussion . . . ."  If you say that you didn't contact her and she felt "conscripted" simply because you referred to her in a blog posting, I'm happy to accept that.  It's an odd usage of the word "conscripted," but I don't see that this is much of an issue.

Now for your three points:

I hang around with a lot of liberals.  They don't mind being called liberals or having their views referred to as "liberal" views, just as I don't mind them referring to my views as "conservative."  "Liberal" is not, in my opinion, an epithet or a "slap."  (In fact, I've argued that contemporary American conservatives are, when they are at their best, "old-fashioned liberals.")  That some people who hold conservative views on most issues break with conservatism to embrace the liberal posistion on certain others is hardly news.  I'm such a person myself.  Most conservatives support the death penalty.  I oppose it.  (By the way, I know liberals who break with most of their fellow liberals by favoring the death penalty.)  That there are some conservatives (the exceptionally gifted Jon Rauch, for one) who break with most conservatives on some questions of sexual morality is an unremarkable fact.  I do not "overlook" it.  I've taken note of it in various places, even debating Jon on the question of whether there can be any ground of moral principle for opposing polyamory (which Jon opposes) if one reconceives marriage in such a way as to elminate the requirement of sexual complementarity.  Anyway, I don't object to my critics (or my supporters, for that matter) referring to my views on sex and marriage as "conservative."  Most people I know who disagree with me on sexual morality don't object to their views being referred to as "liberal."

On your second point, I would say that what what we need above all, from both sides, is careful, rigorous, principled argumentation about sexual morality and marriage.  I'd need to know precisely what you mean by "the yield of modern and contemporary experience" in order to say whether, and, if so how, I would see it as relevant to the discussion.  If you mean what Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler mean in their 2006 Theological Studies article, then I reject it for the reasons Pat Lee and I set forth in our 2008 Theological Studies article responding to Salzman and Lawler.  As to whether we should "reevaluate traditional attitudes toward, and judgments about, the morality of homosexual sexual conduct," I'm all for reevaluating anything that reasonable people of goodwill, be they secular or religious, think needs reevaluating.  There are utilitarians and others today who think we need to reevaluate, in view of changing circumstances, our belief and the Church's teaching about the inherent wrongfulness of torture.  Fine, let's reevaluate.  But let's not prejudge what the outcome of the reevaluation will be.  It might leave our beliefs in place, even strengthened.  I've listened to arguments advanced by very smart and capable people who think I should change my mind about sexual morality.  I've listened to arguments advanced by very smart and capable people who think I should change my mind about torture (and abortion, and non-combatant immunity in wars, and the dead donor rule for organ transplantation, and other contested issues).  But so far at least I remain unpersuaded.  I'm happy for the debate on all these issues to continue, though.

There is a generational shift in moral convictions about lots of things.  Sexual morality (including promiscuity ("hooking up"), "open" relationships, etc., and not just the morality of homosexual conduct) is one.  Lying is another.  Cheating on exams is another.  Sociologists are hard at work on trying to identify and understand the determinants of these shifts.  I expect they will discover that they are complicated. 


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