Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Two Different Arguments

I have been vaguely planning to do a post on the homophobia (different, mind you, from holding to the Church's orthodox teachings regarding chastity, as I do) so blatantly evident sometimes in conservative Catholic circles, and on the incoherence or lack of precise definition and distinction I find in recent rhetoric about "homosexuality" (beyond even just the question of homosexual sex acts) from the Vatican and conservative sources, and on practical questions of this nature both pastoral and political.

However, my orthodoxy must come prior to my "liberalism" and so today I'd just like to share some thoughts I have had based on some recent discussions with heterodox apologists against traditional notions of chastity. Specifically, on the pattern I've noticed in how these arguments about homosexuality (or, in similar ways, divorce-and-remarriage or contraception for married couples) always seem to progress, and how what starts as one argument for them always seems to end up switching to a different argument, one with a much higher burden of proof.

Specifically, I've almost always found that arguments for [sexually active] homosexual relationships being allowed...always ultimately transform (upon probing) into an argument that sexual relationships are (practically) obligatory (not merely "allowed," but obligatory or "necessary") for everyone (or almost everyone). This is related to what I've said before about how "conscience obliges rather than permits."

This is the direction the logic takes when pushed a little (as much as a nominal shout-out for those "actually" "called" to celibacy may be included as an afterthought). Usually St. Paul's "better to marry than burn" is trotted out at some point, and also Christ's line about "he who can accept this, let him accept it" regarding the voluntary nature of [some] celibacy-for-the-kingdom (always forgetting conveniently that He also made it clear that some are born eunuchs or made so by men).

The arguments start out with, "There is no good reason this shouldn't be allowed," but when pressed (for example, by actually good arguments for the Church's morality) usually becomes "But...I need this. People need this. Condemning it isn't just condemning fulfillment of some optional desire, it's condemning a fundamental necessity, an essential moral obligation even. Trying to stop us is in fact to make people act against good-conscience. And this existential/experiential practical 'argument' trumps any mere theoretical argument!"

I simply find that ridiculous. "Needing" anything in that manner strikes me as spiritually dangerous by nature, and while I could perhaps see at least "feasible" (though I ultimately disagree) an argument that homosexual sex acts are "allowed"...the idea (which in my discussions with people has always revealed itself as intrinsic to the internal logic of that argument) that homosexual sex acts are positively necessary or essential or obligatory for some people (ie, most homosexuals) is something I just find absurd.

At the very least, the burden of proof for such a claim of positive necessity or obligation is exponentially higher than for the merely negative claim of non-condemnation/allowance. There is a sort of clever bait-and-switch in this tactic in which they attempt to use all the rhetorical strength of a "necessity" plea, and yet try to sneak it into the debate under the much lower burden-of-proof standard of a merely "allowed" argument.

This subtle (or not so subtle) switch from an argument that there's "nothing wrong" with homosexual sex acts, to an argument that they're positively necessary or essential to people's well-being or even moral health (and thus morally obligatory) is, however, inherent to the whole liberal/heterodox gay agenda on the question. In order to justify their "struggle," to cloak it under the banner of "civil rights" or "human rights," etc...it can't just be about fighting for some optional pleasure they happen to want. It has to be (in order to make themselves not look entirely selfish and absurd) made into an argument that they're fighting for something essential to human happiness or even spiritual flourishing (as mere maximal hedonistic satisfaction can hardly be called a "right").

Usually this is done through linguistically befuddling "love" for "sex" and making the argument about the necessity of "relationship" (without even considering that loving relationships or even a partnership of some sort might be possibly chastely. This takes advantage of the nearly universal modern sentimentalist error, common to contraceptive heterosexuals too, which regards sex as essentially an "expressive" act, "expressing" affection or bonding or some crap like that; something I fear "Theology of the Body" has bought-into too much itself, albeit it then focuses on "correct" expression/significance.)

I have to look at that line of thought however and think that, in the process of trying to convince society to let them indulge themselves, they've wound up convincing themselves that something is necessary or essential to their lives which is not. And that is not what I call true freedom in any sense of the word. To crib from the existentialists, I'd call it bad faith/mauvaise foi.

Anyway, be on the look-out for this line of argument in your own conversations, and if it pops up please do feel free to use my concepts here to deconstruct the ultimately flimsy rhetorical deceptiveness of that facade. Any argument that takes the form that something must be allowed because it is necessary...is backwards. Proof that something is allowed would come before proof that it is a necessity, because the former (should be) much easier to demonstrate given that allowance has a much lower burden of proof compared to positive obligation. If someone is relying on a claim of necessity to bolster a claim of allowance (especially if it's a vague psycho-emotional or "existential" sort of "necessity") then they are likely intellectually bamboozling you.

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