Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Legalize Same-Spirit Marriage!

"Spirit" as in liquor, I mean.

I just found out that it is apparently illegal in all 50 States for bartenders to marry two bottles, even of the same liquor!!

I mean, I can understand why it would be illegal to marry two different sorts, even if similar. But if it is the exact same spirit, why should there be anything wrong with marrying the bottles to save space? 

It seems like sort of a stupid law. I bet it's from those damn fundamentalist Christians trying to uphold their antiquated notions regarding marriage...


The real point of this post being, of course, that "marriage" is ultimately just a word, is already extended by analogy (analogy being one of the major ways semantic fields evolve) to other practices, and indeed to practices where the analogy is based on same-with-same rather than some sort of "opposite" complementarity (ie, you'd only ever marry two half-empty jars of mustard; you wouldn't marry ketchup with mustard).

Now, I won't deny that language effects thought, and therefore that there is something very disturbing (and "1984"-esque even) about attempting to change categories of thought (and thus speech and behavior) through legislating changes in the meaning of words. Especially when the definitional/categorical changes being attempted in this manner touch directly on the question of the moral and what constitutes the good.

But, ultimately, I still think we're going to end up looking really stupid if we allow ourselves to be dragged into battles about politics and semantics rather than about the underlying concepts of philosophy and theology. Words are important, but they are also adaptable and historically contingent.

Of course, if you're one of those for whom the legal battle is not merely to reserve the word (and thus, in a certain real sense, the historic mantle of) "marriage" for actual male-female couples (still something I can't believe anyone puts any energy or effort into), but to actually (as North Carolina recently did) make it the "only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized"...then that's rather more substantive as opposed to merely semantic, I suppose.

But in that case, being a supporter of civil unions or civil marriages for a variety of partnership and domestic arrangements (which, by the way, have no legal "sexual activity litmus test") I'd have to strongly disagree with your stance entirely. That may go against the Vatican's attempts to dictate on questions of mere political expediency to Catholics but, like Archbishop Nichols, I'm not too worried. 

Nor am I worried about adoption, actually. If singles can adopt (and who knows what sexual orientation a single might be, or what partnerships they might form later!), and if gays and lesbians can keep their own biological children (surely if it was absolutely harmful we'd advocate revoking custody!), and if step-parents can and do function as legal co-guardians of their children (leaving potential situations where if, say, the mother dies, the child will have two male guardians: a father and a step-father!), and if we don't oppose civil adoption by the divorced-and-remarried or Protestants and other heretics and infidels...then there is really no way I can see to justify any absolute policy of discrimination here (as opposed to a relative expression of what is merely preferable or ideal.)

There's no doubt having a child raised by his own biological parents is preferable, and if not his own, then at least a married man and woman who at least can be "imagined" to be. But, the perfect can't be made the enemy of the good. Indeed, it is still the case in many places, and perhaps rightly so, that finding a racial or ethnic match is considered "ideal" for the good of the child, for his ability to socially identify with the parents and his ease of imagining them as his own. It is therefore one factor to weigh when considering prospective adoptive parents. But it certainly shouldn't be made an absolute, as if it's better to have no parents at all rather than an imperfect situation!

The Church really needs to depoliticize its approach to all these questions, and get out of the culture wars. Otherwise, I'm afraid "RCC" is coming to mean "Republican Conservative Church"...

17 comments:

Alejandro said...

Very good post. As a catholic, I really feel compelled to support individual rights and while I acknowledge homosexual acts as a sin, the Church should stay out of state affairs, something that she apparently hasn't learnt, if the Reformation and the many wars that followed is any indication.

Some Random Guy said...

Sorry, but I completely disagree with you.

Under the pretext of not looking silly, you would have the Church remain silent on an issue that profoundly affects the common good of society? Well, I was always under the impression that the State has been given the God given authority to promote the common good; and while the Church does not do the job of the state, she is there to raise her voice by helping form the consciences of the people and guiding its political decisions in the right direction.

I wish it were as simple as letting individuals do their own thing (as you appear to suggest). But when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, we are not only dealing with rights for people to do what they do, but a concrete effort to have the opposing side be labeled as "bigoted" and "hateful", thus ultimately shutting down any dialogue or discussion on the issue (what do you think that does for the good of the Church?).

The challenge for us lies not in "get out of the culture wars"; but trying to get our point across as intelligently and charitably as possible in the public forum.

A Sinner said...

But what exactly is it about CIVIL gay "marriage" that we're supposed to be opposed to??

The fact that certain legal benefits are being extended to other sorts of partnership? But it's not like they're being take AWAY from true (heterosexual) marriage. Are you asserting that there are no objective legal benefits which must be given to the married (in terms of tax breaks, etc) but that there is some obligation for the State to give it merely RELATIVELY greater benefits than any other institution? That seems rather...relativist!

The fact that a word has evolved and that its definition has, by way of analogy, extended to a wider field of meanings (even though that extension-by-analogy admittedly changes the essence)? Sorry, but that's just how language works; it isn't some sort of unchangeable vessel of meaning, but is a slippery thing.

The MOST concerning thing, as I said, seems to be how the State's legitimacy is being thrown behind a moral/philosophical cause here. That the State's endorsing of it makes it look like a particular notion of the Good is being given the stamp of officialdom, which does effect how people think.

However, I'd argue that it only constitutes this sort of symbolic victory BECAUSE of how WE have framed it. If all along we had downplayed it and said, "Civil 'marriage' is just a bundle of legal benefits, and the mere LABEL you apply to it is just a semantic question. Therefore, do what you want in that sphere"...it unlikely would not have become such a flashpoint or trophy for either side. The very fact that conservatives seem to think of it as like the sky is falling, have reacted with such panic (as if a legal definition actually changes nature or reality or an abstract institution we believe in)...is exactly what has made it so sweet to the libertines.

The Church would NOT have to remain silent. But let's remember what the real message is: chastity is good, the procreatively-structured union between a man and a woman is sacred (in a way other partnerships are not).

This message, in itself, contains no political "program." Sure, the State should recognize and provide benefits to that union...but there's no particular reason to add "and not give them to anything else!" And the fight over a label is understandable but ultimately silly too. The State does not own "marriage." Sometimes the conservatives speak as if the nature of marriage is actually being CHANGED by the changing of the law. No, all the law is doing is extending some legal benefits and terminology to an ambit wider than (but still including) what we call actual natural marriage. Big whoop. We can still proclaim that sodomy is wrong without their being sodomy laws, and we can still proclaim that the union of a man and woman (under SOME label, maybe a new one) is sacred above all others even if it doesn't have legal benefits above all others.

Some Random Guy said...

A Sinner,

This is not a mere semantic problem, though. It's not as if allowing the State to officially concede the term "marriage" to these types of unions -- all the while while we're personally allowed to hold to our own view as theirs being fictitious -- will somehow neutralize the problem. Its official recognition is something that strikes at the very heart of how society views the reality of marriage itself -- the very reality of which the State is obligated to promote and protect (and yes, integral to this notion would include *exclusively* offering those bundle of benefits currently offered to heterosexual married couples -- and this, as opposed to and distinct from offering said benefits to other living arrangement's, say... between a group of roommates, or the lonely man and his animal companion next door).

It's the Church's view that, quote:

"If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties." (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons)

Remember, from the traditional Catholic point of view, the State is an institution that has been empowered by God to promote virtue and the common good. It's not just there to neutrally concede rights in the libertarian sense. The State has the duty to promote what's good for society. And the notion of marriage being exclusively between one man and one woman is probably the most vital as society is built on this very foundation.

Basically, what what the Church is concerned with is how the masses will view and treat this basic building block of our society.

The battle then is not with the mere semantics of the word marriage or the mere legal benefits that would be conceded. It's about how the ordinary outlook of the masses will change upon conceding both those things.

Man being a social animal, the State necessarily plays a vital role in this. Hence, why from the stand-point of the common good, it would NOT be a mere symbolic victory if the State were to recognize (or not-recognize) same-sex marriage. The State's recognition here would be a massive step in helping form the ordinary perception of society in either direction. And this is a fact that everyone basically recognizes -- and I mean everyone from all sides, from the Catholic Bishops who are lobbying to keep the traditional notion of marriage intact, to the gay libertine who is militant about getting gay marriage recognized by the State, but has absolutely no plans on even committing himself to a monogamous relationship. We seem to all recognize what's at stake here but you; which is a bit baffling coming from a traditionalist (albeit a self-proclaimed renegade one). :-)

A Sinner said...

"It's not as if allowing the State to officially concede the term "marriage" to these types of unions [...] will somehow neutralize the problem."

No, but neither will fighting it politically. I'd argue that, weighing the costs vs. the benefits, we're at a point where fighting it politically is doing more harm to public perception of our position than good.

"Its official recognition is something that strikes at the very heart of how society views the reality of marriage itself"

You know, if "society" is only viewing something a certain way because of the State...we already have a problem. It's the Church's job to proclaim Her message loud and clear. Not to try to have the bragging rights of saying, "Look, the State still officially upholds our position!!" (even while a majority of the population no longer do...)

"the very reality of which the State is obligated to promote and protect"

I'm really not convinced, at that point, that legalizing gay marriage will some DIScourage heterosexuals from marrying.

"and yes, integral to this notion would include *exclusively* offering those bundle of benefits currently offered to heterosexual married couples"

I really don't think it's possible to say, "The State is not required to offer any PARTICULAR benefits to straight-married couples, that is up to particular circumstances in each state or country. But WHATEVER it offers MUST be exclusive."

I don't think there can be a relative right to have merely "more" benefits than anything else when the specific benefits themselves are not absolute rights. That seems just arbitrary. A right to have something has never meant a right to expect that other people WON'T get it also.

"Remember, from the traditional Catholic point of view, the State is an institution that has been empowered by God to promote virtue and the common good."

And that's fine and dandy. But in today's situation?? It sort of seems like putting the cart before the horse to try to fight for THIS when abortion is legal and the State is officially secular and classically liberal. That ship sailed a LONG time ago.

"the notion of marriage being exclusively between one man and one woman is probably the most vital as society is built on this very foundation."

Well, again, "marriage" is just a word. As such, I think phrasing this debate as "Marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman" looks silly or like a tautology ("Yeah, if you're defining it that way, then of course!")

Rather I'd phrase it "in reverse" always: "the mating union of a man and a woman is special and sacred above all others, none of which can be compared to it with absolute equivalence."

"Basically, what what the Church is concerned with is how the masses will view and treat this basic building block of our society."

And I'm saying fighting for that in the political sphere, at this point, is doing more harm than good. We don't just have to reach the masses through the State; in fact, though it can work and be legitimate, it's also sort of a cheat. The Church trying to get in bed with the State has always been problematic, especially when the State decides it doesn't want to cuddle afterward but leaves right away because it has to get up early in the morning for a meeting...

A Sinner said...

"It's about how the ordinary outlook of the masses will change upon conceding both those things."

I agree that the primary issue at hand in the political battle is actually one of propaganda, for both sides. It's in the power of the symbolic (if actually only token) victory.

But that victory wouldn't be so powerful if WE hadn't chosen to accept that it was valuable in the first place. If all along the Church had taken the stance I outline here, the whole debate would have been framed differently in the first place.

"it would NOT be a mere symbolic victory if the State were to recognize (or not-recognize) same-sex marriage. The State's recognition here would be a massive step in helping form the ordinary perception of society in either direction."

Yes, but that IS a "symbolic" victory, although NOT a "mere" one. Questions of perception are questions of significance, hence symbolism. Symbols, signifiers, do have power over how people think and conceive of the Good, there's no doubt.

But it takes two to tango, and WE were part of the problem in conceding a symbolic value to the State's stance in the first place. It's almost as if we said, "Yes, how the State goes really is a valid determinant of what is right and wrong and of how people should personally feel on this issue."

On the other hand, we could have said all along, "The State is Babylon already; what this Mother of Abominations does should not be seen as proof that something is good, but rather is almost, in itself, proof that something is corrupt and decadent!"

"We seem to all recognize what's at stake here but you"

I recognize what's at stake given how the debate has been framed. I am arguing that the debate should have been (and should still be) framed differently.

Some Random Guy said...

A Sinner,

That all assumes that the Church can re-frame the debate in the first place. The problem with that is that the State is not just some symbolic entity whom we can deprive of significance simply because we declare it so. Its authority is *real*; it can be used properly and misused; its decisions have real effects that can't be neutralized simply because we choose to see it as lacking any real force.

Like I said, according to traditional Catholic doctrine, the State has a God-given authority and duty that is very real. The Church has not taken the stance that the State is "a valid determinant of what is right and wrong..."; rather, she has reiterated her historic stance that the State has an obligation towards promoting the common good -- not that the State is the determiner of that good, mind you; but that it should seek (via reason, natural law, and to some degree, deference to the voice of the Church) what is good for society and what more easily propagates virtue.

I would argue then that your suggestion of re-framing the debate would have accelerated the Church's demise by placing her in a position where her views would be pushed into a sort of ideological ghetto. There, our views would labeled as bigoted and hateful. Something as being akin to racism -- not worthy of any meaningful consideration. Thus any discussion challenging same-sex unions would be effectively shut down.

Of course, this ultimately doesn't matter since according to you we are fighting a losing battle for Christendom. And to a certain extent I guess I agree. It's just a question then of how we choose to go down, is it not?

A Sinner said...

"That all assumes that the Church can re-frame the debate in the first place."

The Church can re-frame the debate for it's own members. It does not have to put any political energy into mobilizing them for the sake of pushing the cause on everyone else.

"The problem with that is that the State is not just some symbolic entity whom we can deprive of significance simply because we declare it so. Its authority is *real*; it can be used properly and misused; its decisions have real effects that can't be neutralized simply because we choose to see it as lacking any real force."

So is the media's. Frankly, the influence of the popular media is probably more influential than the State's on these questions. Are we going to start suggesting limiting free speech so that the ideas don't spread?

I'm not saying that would be absolutely wrong, but let's be consistent at least. If our vision is a Catholic State, let's be open and honest about advocating that, not fighting piecemeal.

"rather, she has reiterated her historic stance that the State has an obligation towards promoting the common good -- not that the State is the determiner of that good, mind you; but that it should seek (via reason, natural law, and to some degree, deference to the voice of the Church) what is good for society and what more easily propagates virtue."

Right. So let's get started on advocating for the State to fund Catholic churches and let the Catholic Church run all the schools and teach even non-Catholic students religion. That would be for the common good and is within a traditional conception of the State's role. And yet we aren't doing that...

"There, our views would labeled as bigoted and hateful."

Or, like the Jews not eating pork, people in disagreement would say, "Well, that's not for me, but there's nothing wrong if they want to live according to those rules."

"It's just a question then of how we choose to go down, is it not?"

It is. I think going down kicking and screaming is not at all dignified. We should go down with dignity, meekness, humility. Say, "His Kingdom is not of this world, IF it were, His attendants would be fighting for Him. As it is..."

Some Random Guy said...

"[The Church] does not have to put any political energy ..."

But in this matter, she does. She acts no differently than how she has always responded when faced with similar issues where politics and morality necessarily over-lap: think communism, fair-wage, subsidiarity, abortion, etc. It's within her competency to offer directives on such issues that have far reaching consequences beyond that of her own members.

Now specifically on same-sex unions, one such directive is the following, quote:

"...all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians...When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral." [Considerations Regarding Propsals To Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons]

In the mind of the Church, Catholics have an obligation to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions. It would be gravely immoral to vote in favor of such a law.

Do you agree or disagree? ...

In regard to the media and schools: yes, some traditionalists would actually advocate that kind Catholic society as an ideal. But, (1) there is such a thing as the principle where we can tolerate error based on the greater good, and, (2) we have to work with what we've got given the current situation; and right now, that's preserving the traditional concept of marriage between one man and one woman — something we can argue apart from any appeal to divine revelation (there is no then need then to push our faith onto anybody else).

Lastly, on the matter of how we should go down: I guess it's a bit subjective. You perceive it as kicking and screaming. I perceive it as a noble (albeit desperate) attempt to have a rational discussion or debate. Given the current climate, you'll find that the other side is far less willing to concede the right to our own views (as if its just a matter of legitimate difference, like dietary choice), but sees ours as being more on par with racial differences, where our views are considered bigoted and hateful. Hence why I said in the beginning that the challenge for us lies in articulating our own views intelligently and charitably. And I think you can agree to that, at least. The difference being though, that you would prefer the Church to more or less shut-up in the public sphere, and have us engage primarily one on one with individuals.

A Sinner said...

"But in this matter, she does."

No political cause has ever been obligatory for the Church. The early Christians did not try to organize a rebellion to overthrow the Roman government's persecution (not just of Christians, but of vast enslaved nations and oppressed nations, etc)

"She acts no differently than how she has always responded when faced with similar issues where politics and morality necessarily over-lap"

Hm. And yet, there was actually a lot of "silence" under Pius XII about the Nazis. Yet his fans (and I count myself among them) are always pointing out how not speaking out too much was actually HELPFUL for the cause of saving more Jewish (and Catholic) lives.

How we approach politics is a matter of prudence, and is significantly more utilitarian than personal morality. Basically, in politics you do what works to secure the greatest good in the end, as long as you personally have no formal or proximate material cooperation in anything evil intrinsically.

"It's within her competency to offer directives on such issues that have far reaching consequences beyond that of her own members."

I think its dangerous to say the Church can or should tell people how to vote, rather than merely outlining some general principles. That's been tried (in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) and it wasn't good.

"...all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians...When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."

Blah blah blah. Archbishop Nichols now supports civil unions, so I'm not too worried (not that he's my touchstone for orthodoxy, lol).

I think it also depends how you define "homosexual unions."

I'm NOT for some sort of State-sanctioned status of "Official Sodomy Partners" or something like that.

But I'm really not convinced that's what recognizing these partnerships IS. I'm pretty sure it's just recognizing the partnership itself (abstracted from any question of sexual activity; as I said, there is no "proof you're sexually active" litmus test for it).

The Church is the one looking at it as if it's all about the SEX. But most people don't see it that way at all. They see it as about relationships. If we valued and affirmed the persons and their relationships and identities (abstracted from the question of sexual sin), I think you'd find we'd be seen as much less bigoted and it would be see more like a "dietary law" type thing.

The Vatican seems to think gay relationships are intrinsically constructed as something like "Partners in Grave Unchastity" and therefore should have no public reality, either informally in how the two "friends" present themselves, nor in how the State treats them. But I strongly disagree. The partnership relationship has social value even if it contains some sin (as do all relationships). But it does not "revolve around" that sin as if it can be defined by it or reduced to it, and indeed there are huge double standards here with regards to how we treat heterosexual couples who identify themselves as dating (and so probably fornicating) for example.

Likewise, legal recognition of a business partnership may in fact be a recognition of a "same sex union"...but it's not a recognition of any sort of unchastity. Two-roommates signing a lease together is a "same sex union." Recognizing a union with many of the non-sexual features of a marriage in terms of shared life...is therefore only a difference in degree, not nature, from these things.

A Sinner said...

"In the mind of the Church, Catholics have an obligation to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions. It would be gravely immoral to vote in favor of such a law."

That doesn't mean it must be strongly opposed. I'd vaguely vote against the legalization of gay "marriage" still (though not civil unions)...but I have no enthusiasm for it as a political cause.

Also, I'm not even sure they have the competence to dictate on such casuistic prudential things. More and more conservative Catholics are coming out with a sort of "I support civil unions but not marriage" idea, in spite of this decade-old Vatican document which is becoming increasingly irrelevant. But that suggests it was so all along.

"there is such a thing as the principle where we can tolerate error based on the greater good"

Yes, there is, that's my whole point. There is also the point that we shouldn't have double standards OR throw babies out with bathwater.

"you'll find that the other side is far less willing to concede the right to our own views (as if its just a matter of legitimate difference, like dietary choice), but sees ours as being more on par with racial differences, where our views are considered bigoted and hateful."

But that's our fault. They're seeing REAL homophobia and it's obscuring and tainting the moral teaching.

In itself, the moral teaching does not particularly "target" gays. It has been around since long before gays even existed (ie, before the homosexual as a category of person was even socially constructed), and really just follows from the same logic that forbids contraception for heterosexuals (which teaching people ignore and make fun of, but don't villify as long we don't try to force it on anyone).

However, the double-standards and discrimination on this issue is clear homophobia. Maybe they're just thick, but whereas the moral concern should only be with a particular category of ACT...the conservative Catholics and leaders have gone (either implicitly or explicitly) after PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIPS. Maybe they're just thick and bad at making distinctions, but in their efforts to defend the Church's moral teachings, they have instead reduced whole identities and relationships (and life(style)s, whatever that means) to those acts. And when you construct it like THAT, then the whole thing does become bigoted.

"The difference being though, that you would prefer the Church to more or less shut-up in the public sphere, and have us engage primarily one on one with individuals."

Oh no, I'd be all for talking "in the public square." But that doesn't necessarily mean political action. Or it could mean political action SUPPORTING anti-discrimination efforts. The bishops could have done a lot of good for our cause by supporting the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and things like gay-sensitivity training in schools and stuff. Instead, they haven't.

Some Random Guy said...

"I think its dangerous to say the Church can or should tell people how to vote, rather than merely outlining some general principles."

It's true that the Church shouldn't tell people exactly *who* to vote for. But I'd assume you'd agree that it's within the competency of the Church to tell her members *what* they *cannot* vote for. And as a matter of fact, you've given a perfect example of this in Pope Pius XII. Despite his prudential silence—given the lives that would have been lost as a result—the Church's stance was still very clear that you could not support the Nazi cause. Not to mention the Church was still very heavily involved in the political battle behind the scenes!

So, to be quite honest I don't see why you're challenging this point. I thought it was quite obvious that the Church can tell her members, "Look, you cannot vote for X law because X law is gravely immoral. Or, in other words, it would be a form of proximate material cooperation in something intrinsically evil if you do vote for X law." The Church after-all is the arbiter of applying her own moral principles. So I see then no legitimate reason for dissenting from the CDF document I quoted—and this, notwithstanding yours and Archbishop Nichols' own personal opinion on the matter.

You go on to say, "I'm NOT for some sort of State-sanctioned status of 'Official Sodomy Partners' or something like that." Great! But you then say, "I'm really not convinced that's what recognizing these partnerships IS." Well, even assuming that that isn't what recognizing these partnerships is, who in their right mind sees marriage as something equivalent to two really good friends just choosing to live together? Sure, some couples may live a platonic relationship within the confines of marriage due to some EXCEPTIONAL circumstances; but still, the State de facto recognizes that such a relationship we call marriage intrinsically has an underlying sexual and/or romantic competent to it. It's precisely why traditionally marriage is granted those bundle of benefits in the first place (marriage is seen as something that involves the special interest of the State and society—the family, rearing of children, the propagation of our species). And it's why the State doesn't confer the title of marriage on other types of platonic relationships. If it were otherwise, what's stopping the State, then, from allowing my single mother and I to marry and collect State benefits? After all, we're definitely close, nothing sexual, and I regard her as a friend? Heck, why not have me and a group of my other really good friends apply for marriage as well. It would definitely be a burden on the State, but since words have no apparent meaning beyond that which we personally give them, why not? Why have all these complex marriage laws at all; if it's simply a matter of people having a profoundly deep friendship and anything more than that is their business?

...

Some Random Guy said...

(cont.)

Lastly, on the issue of homophobia, I think both sides are to blame.

The Church's stance is very clear about compassion towards those who are same-sex attracted. The problem is with many individual Catholics who are simply tactless.

When it comes to the LGBT community—I would suggest that if they want to be seen as something beyond their own distinctive sexual identities (and the Church does indeed want this!), then the community has to over-come its incessant neediness in wanting this particular aspect of their lives given special attention and approval. It's THAT that the Church is responding to. The LGBT community would have everybody accept their sexual inclinations, and the expressions of those inclinations, as something normal and good, while the Church responds by stating that homosexual acts are sinful, and though the inclination is disordered, it is not a sin in itself. Furthermore, the Church has declared that same-sex attracted people are called to live chastely; we are to strive for holiness by taking up the cross, and are to be treated with respect and compassion. The challenge, once again, lies in communicating that message intelligently and charitably.

Now, could the Church have done more (and do more) on the pastoral level? As a guy who experiences same-sex attraction himself, I say definitely. I just don't think the Church is to blame for responding the way she did in her official capacity, or, that we should gloss over the obstacles placed in the way by the LGBT community itself.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. I've said my piece, and will let you have the last word.

I've enjoyed the discussion, and you've certainly given me a lot to think about!

A Sinner said...

"It's true that the Church shouldn't tell people exactly *who* to vote for. But I'd assume you'd agree that it's within the competency of the Church to tell her members *what* they *cannot* vote for."

In a limited sense, sure.

Obviously, a Catholic politician cannot vote to institute genocide camps or the institution of a national Idolatry or government sponsored eucharistic desecration or something like that.

However, as I was saying above, the realm of politics is much more prudential and utilitarian than day to day life.

So, for example, the State does not have to criminalize everything bad. Even on a question like abortion where I think it should, I'd admit some room for conscientious debate about whether criminalization is really the best route for protecting the unborn, etc.

The government could not positively carry out abortions directly itself, but the question of criminalization is different.

Likewise, when it comes to the question of money. There will always be remote and material cooperation with evil, funding thus becomes tricky. What if you give to an organization that has a subsidiary that maybe sometimes does something bad? I do not think Catholics (or Catholic politicians) can be held to total boycott in such cases.

Much of the cooperation in politics will only be remote and material, not proximate and formal. As such it's more of a prudential judgment.

"the Church's stance was still very clear that you could not support the Nazi cause."

That depends, I think, on how you define "the Nazi cause." If you mean a Catholic couldn't support Mass Murder or destruction of property without due process or real justice...duh.

But does that mean you couldn't vote for Nazi economic policies? Or that a good politician or bureaucrat had to quit the government and could not try to work "within" the system to minimize evil and maximize good? That a contractor couldn't build an office building for Nazi government officials? That soldiers in the army were morally obligated to desert even when their unit was engaged in conventional battle, or even just defensive maneuvers, rather than concentration-camp genocide?

Does it mean that a private citizen absolutely could not judge that, in a given specific case, the Nazi candidate for Town Garbage Commissioner in some small village was the lesser evil compared to some other candidate?? Does it mean that citizens were excused from paying taxes (or perhaps even obliged not to)??

A Sinner said...

"I thought it was quite obvious that the Church can tell her members, 'Look, you cannot vote for X law because X law is gravely immoral. Or, in other words, it would be a form of proximate material cooperation in something intrinsically evil if you do vote for X law.' The Church after-all is the arbiter of applying her own moral principles."

But what principles? In the case of homosexuality, the moral principle at issue is chastity, is the question of immoral sex acts.

The State, however, is not forcing anyone to engage in any sex acts, is not even sanctioning sex acts specifically. It's merely recognizing certain tax benefits and civil privileges between two people in a certain type of legal partnership.

In some ways, I'm not sure I (or, say, Nichols) is dissenting from the CDF document so much as saying that the hypotheticals it describes do not in fact apply to the reality of the situation.

The State is NOT, actually, sanctioning or giving legal recognition to "homosexual unions" QUA homosexual. It is creating a category of legal union, a bundle of benefits, that is simply neutral/agnostic regarding the question of sex (sex both in the sense of male/female, and in the sense of genital activity).

Civil unions may OR MAY NOT be homosexual (keep that in mind!) There is nothing about civil union laws that involves sanctioning the homosexuality aspect specifically of that union (in fact, straight couples can get civil unions too!) In itself it is basically a business-arrangement, and has no "sexual activity test."

"Well, even assuming that that isn't what recognizing these partnerships is, who in their right mind sees marriage as something equivalent to two really good friends just choosing to live together?"

Well, obviously, society is more and more emphasizing the "life partnership" aspect. For many or most people is their life partner a sex partner? Sure. But their partnership doesn't revolve around that, nor is the sex what is being legally recognized; it's the partnership that is the subject of the legal recognition (the sex needs none, especially when there is no question of progeny).

Marriage has been "about" partnership in domestic life more than about breeding specifically for some time. Do most (heterosexual) married couples mate and have children and become parents together raising those children? Sure.

But I think when it comes to how words and concepts are evolving, the partnership itself is considered abstractable from this. The "marriage" is conceived of by most people as simply the institutionalization of the relationship, and generating children is considered an additional office that may come after (or sometimes even, before) that.

Now, the Church's teaching is that generating children should take place only WITHIN an institutionalized life-partnership undertaken as open to that office, and we call the combination which intends this arrangement "marriage" (for now at least, though language is evolving).

But, all other things being equal (ie, regarding chastity), there can't be condemned the idea of an institutionalized domestic or life-partner relationship that does not contain the office of generating children. (And the RAISING of children already-generated is yet an additional office/question).

A Sinner said...

"the State de facto recognizes that such a relationship we call marriage intrinsically has an underlying sexual and/or romantic component to it."

Well, besides this "and/or romantic" you throw in, which complicates things even further with yet another social construct ("romance")...I have to ask: does it even? It recognizes that marriage has an underlying intention to form a household, to become functionally a familial unit, to establish a new bond of legal kinship, I think. At least, today that's the main thing it seems to care about (the legitimacy of children having become a much more minor emphasis).

But family units are not necessarily just the traditional nuclear family (ie, parents and children). It may be two brother uncles raising orphan nephews, etc etc.

"It's precisely why traditionally marriage is granted those bundle of benefits in the first place (marriage is seen as something that involves the special interest of the State and society—the family, rearing of children, the propagation of our species)."

Well, but "in the first place" doesn't really matter NOW. The State's reasons for continuing to grant a certain bundle of benefits can evolve.

Nowadays, I think the value of "the buddy system" is recognized. People who are partnered in some way (even if that partnership does not contain the sacred office of generating children) simply do better. They live longer. There is a built in social-safety-net there because partners can count on each other and rely on each other. If a person trips and breaks their leg, they will be found by a partner sooner than if they lived alone, etc etc. There is a huge social benefit to encouraging people to pair-up and share life, even if it is a pairing other than a mating pairing.

"what's stopping the State, then, from allowing my single mother and I to marry and collect State benefits?"

If a single parent and a single child live together, I do think some sort of package of "domestic caretakers" benefits or incentives should be given. If you were living together and were each other's closest companion, then it makes a lot of sense to give you power-of-attorney, automatic inheritance, hospital visitation, etc, doesn't it?

One difference here, though, is that you and your mother are already family, are ALREADY legal kin. Whereas civil unions of the sort the gays are fighting to have called "marriage"...(would) create a new bond of legal kinship between previously unrelated families. Sort of an adopted brothers type thing, just as a wife becomes her husband's family's daughter/sister-in-law.

It would be weird for a mother to be recognized as her own son's sister(-in-law) however.

"why not have me and a group of my other really good friends apply for marriage as well."

I think this would start to defeat the purpose. If there was truly a community of three that was equally balanced in its support of each other in an exclusive way, maybe a partnership arrangement of some sort should be recognized.

But I tend to think that the point of unions is to recognize your one MOST important companion, in order to provide for questions like who makes important decisions if you do not, or who inherits if you don't have a will, etc.

A Sinner said...

"then the community has to over-come its incessant neediness in wanting this particular aspect of their lives given special attention and approval."

Which aspect?

I don't think the LGBT community particularly cares whether you approve of their SEX ACTS specifically or not. I think their attitude on that is much more, "Respect our privacy; what we may or may not do in our own bedrooms is none of your business."

I think the recognition/approval they seek (and largely rightly so) is much more about the validity of their personal narratives and emotional experiences (especially as regards difference/otherness/queerness/minority-status), their identity and unique insight, their community and social networks with like individuals who can empathize, and their love and relationships (abstracted from any question of the sex acts they may or may not contain).

I think it is a great caricature (unfortunately propagated by a few crass homosexuals) to think that they are all out there demanding that you celebrate and affirm their extra-vaginal ejaculations. On that issue, even where most do not hold to traditional morality, I think they just want privacy and a "none of my business" stance.

However, gay identities and life(style)s (whatever the hell that term means!) are not reducible to sex acts...

"The LGBT community would have everybody accept their sexual inclinations, and the expressions of those inclinations, as something normal and good"

Once again, I think the Church is seeing this in terms of sex acts MUCH more than the gays themselves, who in my experience are much more likely to look at it in terms of identity and community and relationship.