Monday, August 26, 2013

Hitting Bottum


By now you may have heard that Joseph Bottum, reputedly conservative Catholic and former editor of First Things, has assimilated to the hive mind.  People have been asking me for a while now to write more on “same-sex marriage,” though I’ve been waiting for the publication of the full-length version of my new article on natural law and sexual morality -- of which the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly recently published an excerpt -- before doing so.  The reason is that I don’t think there’s much point in discussing the marriage issue without situating it within the context of the traditional natural law approach to sexual morality in general.  And all the usual, stupid objections to that approach are dealt with in the forthcoming piece.  Best to have it to refer to, then, when commenting on current events, so that time need not be wasted endlessly repeating myself answering the same tired canards. 

But I can’t help commenting briefly on the subject anyway, because Bottum’s article is just too much.  And it’s too much because there’s nothing there.  Or rather, while the article is verbose in the extreme, what’s there is almost entirely stuff that completely undermines Bottum’s conclusion.  Yet he draws it anyway.  Matthew Franck at First Things nails it:

At one point in this bloated, interminable essay, meandering hither and yon, Bottum allows as how the authors of the Manhattan Declaration were chiefly thinkers and not writers.  Never was it more obvious that the reverse is true of Bottum.

Though Bottum’s conclusion is entirely un-Catholic, un-conservative, and contrary to natural law, what is most remarkable is just how very thoroughly he still accepts the substance of the Catholic, conservative, and natural law positions on this issue.  To be sure, when you see that he starts the article with some personal remarks about his bluegrass-playin’ gay friend Jim, your eyes cannot help but swivel back in their sockets.  You expect at first that it’s going to be yet another of those ghastly conversion stories, long on celebration and short on cerebration, that have become a staple of the “strange new respect” literature.  “Yes, fellow right-wingers, I too once opposed gay marriage -- until a long heart-to-heart over lattes with my central-casting gay [son, dentist, fellow bluegrass aficionado] convinced me that deep down we’re all just folks.”  The conservative as the dad in Heathers.

Yet that isn’t quite how it goes.  For one thing, by the end of the piece, Jim comes across not as a patient dispenser of homespun, tolerant wisdom, but as a thoroughly repulsive ideologue -- humorless, paranoid, intellectually dishonest, seething with hatred, and even totalitarian in his desire juridically to force the Catholic Church to take on board his pseudo-moral prejudices.  For another, Bottum never quite affirms “same-sex marriage” as per se a good thing -- though he does make a half-hearted attempt to see the empty glass as half-full -- but mainly as a fait accompli he thinks it is counterproductive to oppose anymore.

Hence Bottum acknowledges that there is an argument from principle for opposing “same-sex marriage” however dismal are the prospects for success and the political repercussions of such opposition.   He agrees that opposition to “same-sex marriage” does not necessarily reflect hatred of homosexuals, and that the accusations of bigotry flung against those who oppose it are often politically calculated.  He affirms that advocates of “same-sex marriage” can be “insipid,” “self-righteous,” “uncritical,” and ignorant of the law and of the relevant arguments.  He also allows that some of these advocates of are driven by hatred of Christianity, and of Catholicism in particular.  Indeed, he admits that “one Catholic fear about same-sex marriage with force [is] the fear that the movement is essentially disingenuous,” less about allowing homosexuals to “marry” than it is an excuse to curtail the free practice of traditional religion.

And that’s just for starters.  Bottum laments “the turn against any deep, metaphysical meaning for sex in the West,” sees the push for “same-sex marriage” as part of the general collapse of sexual morality and of the sanctity of marriage, and regards its juridical victories as the “logical conclusion [of] the great modern project of disenchantment” that also led to legalized abortion.  While he criticizes the “new natural law” arguments of Grisez, Finnis, and George, he does so because he regards them (quite correctly, in my view) as metaphysically desiccated, too deferential to modern assumptions, and unconvincing.  Instead he affirms “the thicker natural law of the medievals,” characterizing Aquinas’s natural law theory in particular as “a grand, beautiful, and extremely delicate structure of rationality.”

On the theological side, Bottum acknowledges that Catholic teaching, including that of Pope Francis, “grants the faithful Catholic little room to maneuver on same-sex marriage.”  He agrees that “we should not accept without a fight an essentially un-Catholic retreat from the public square to a lifeboat theology and the small communities of the saved.”  He tells us -- exactly on the money as far as I am concerned -- that “the goal of the church today must primarily be the re-enchantment of reality” (i.e. a defense of the traditional metaphysics underlying natural law) and that it must thereby “start rebuilding the thick natural law.”  And he respects the conservative worry about the unforeseen consequences of radical social experiments like “same-sex marriage.”  Though it’s obviously not what he has chosen to emphasize in this piece, it seems pretty clear that Bottum has for the most part not given up the conservative, Catholic, and natural law moral and metaphysical objections to “same-sex marriage.” 

Yet for all that he recommends that Catholics drop their opposition to “same-sex marriage” as a civil institution.  Why?  As far as I can tell he has four reasons.  They’re all bad.

First, Bottum seems to think there is no common, non-theological intellectual ground on which the opponents of “same-sex marriage” can conduct their arguments with its proponents.   For despite his praise for the natural law tradition represented by Aquinas, he says that its “premises may not be provable, but they are visible to faith.”  That is precisely the reverse of what Aquinas and other traditional natural law theorists maintain, the reverse of what the Catholic Church teaches, the reverse of what scripture teaches, and the reverse of the truth.  A natural law that rests on “faith” is not the natural law.  Natural law arguments rest essentially on what can be known from a purely philosophical analysis of reality in general and human nature in particular -- not a popular philosophical analysis these days, to be sure, but certainly one that need make no reference to divine revelation or ecclesiastical authority.  What Plato and Aristotle knew without revelation, desiccated modern liberals can also come to know without revelation, albeit with a lot more work.  

And as I have shown at length in The Last Superstition, Aquinas, and elsewhere, the most basic metaphysical ingredients of the classical, “enchanted” metaphysical picture of the world, and even some of the moral ones, are in fact already being rediscovered by contemporary secular philosophers.  Anyone who thinks that the moderns cannot be brought around by rational argument to reconsider essentialism, teleology, the notion of the good as what fulfills our nature, and other elements of traditional metaphysics simply hasn’t been paying attention.

Like David Bentley Hart, Bottum seems to be conflating philosophy with theology, and the natural with the supernatural.  That is not a position consistent with Catholicism, given the Church’s condemnation of fideism.  Nor is it consistent with scripture, given St. Paul’s teaching in Romans 1 that those without divine revelation are “without excuse” -- not only for their idolatry, but also for what Paul specifically refers to as their departure from what is “natural” vis-à-vis sexual relations.

I am well aware, of course, that the liberal proponent of “same-sex marriage” does not accept natural law, Catholic teaching, or scripture in the first place.  The point, though, is that Bottum still accepts them -- and that since he does, he hasn’t a philosophical or theological leg to stand on in abandoning the fight against “same-sex marriage” on grounds of fideism.

Bottum’s second reason for recommending acquiescence to “same-sex marriage” is juridical.  He writes:

[U]nder any principle of governmental fairness available today, the equities are all on the side of same-sex marriage.  There is no coherent jurisprudential argument against it—no principled legal view that can resist it.

If what Bottum means here is that the jurisprudential arguments that have won the day in recent decisions are obviously compelling ones, then as Matthew Franck says, this is simply a “howler.”  But perhaps what Bottum means -- given the qualifier “available today” -- is that the despotic legislating-from-the-bench that has become the trump card of even “conservative” justices like Roberts and Kennedy essentially makes a victory for opponents of “same-sex marriage” impossible.  Maybe so, and maybe not.  But such an argument would in any case prove too much.  It would “justify” caving in not only on “same-sex marriage,” but also on abortion, health care policy, and pretty much everything else.  It amounts to a recommendation that judicial despotism not be resisted if the despots are sufficiently ruthless.  What is conservative, Catholic, or even remotely sane about that

Bottum’s third reason also involves capitulation, this time to secular culture.  He opines that:

Campaigns against same-sex marriage are hurting the church, offering the opportunity to make Catholicism a byword for repression in a generation that, even among young Catholics, just doesn’t think that same-sex activity is worth fighting about.

He adds that the clergy sex scandals have undermined the Church’s moral authority on matters of sex anyway.  Perhaps Bottum would also have advised the early Christians to just lighten up and offer a little incense to Caesar -- the young people, after all, couldn’t see what the big deal was, and anyway all that martyrdom stuff was just making Christians look like fanatics.  Perhaps he would have told Athanasius to knock it off already with the Trinitarianism, since it was just alienating the smart set.  Besides, most of the bishops had caved in to Arianism, so that the Church lacked any moral authority on the subject.  And maybe Bottum would have advised the Christian warriors at Spain, Vienna, and Lepanto to get real and learn to accept a Muslim Europe.  After all, these various desperate Catholic efforts were, as history shows, a waste of time -- the Roman persecutors, Arians, and invading Muslims all won out in the end, right? 

But to be fair, those analogies aren’t quite right.  A better analogy would be Bottum suggesting that a little emperor worship might actually serve the cause of monotheism; or that giving Arianism free reign might advance recognition of the divinity of Christ; or that submitting to dhimmitude might be a good way of restoring Christendom.  For here is what Joseph Bottum, prophet of a re-enchanted reality and rebuilder of Aquinas’s natural law, sees, if only murkily, in his crystal ball:

In fact, same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in chastity in a culture that has lost much sense of chastity. Same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in love in a civilization that no longer seems to know what love is for. Same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in the coherence of family life in a society in which the family is dissolving.

I don’t know that it will, of course…

No, of course the level-headed Bottum wouldn’t claim to know that it will.  Just like we couldn’t, you know, have been absolutely sure at the time that offering incense to the emperor might somehow undermine idolatry, or that denying Christ’s divinity would lead people to embrace His divinity, or that ceding lands to the Jihad would lead to new church construction therein.  Hey, it’s all a crap shoot, but we can hope!

If this sounds like good old-fashioned American optimism ad absurdum, that’s only natural given the fourth, and apparently main, reason for Bottum’s surrender:

 We are now at the point where, I believe, American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans.

It’s all about “old-timey Americana, the stuff we all still share.”   Good sportsmanship.  Consensus.  Compromise.  Tolerance.  Affability.  The things that can bring a Catholic Republican together with his gay buddy Jim for a burger and some bluegrass in Gramercy Park.  You know, the stuff that really matters at the end of the day. 

Uptight teachers of the faithful are always setting father against son and mother against daughter, but that’s no way to win over the youth demographic.  The modern Catholic will find a surer guide in Modern Family.  If the kids aren’t down with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let’s try William James’s Gospel of Relaxation.  So take it easy, fellow Catholics.  Go with the flow.  Chill out.  It’s all good.  Not exactly the Beatitudes, but mind you it is all so very American.  I would say that Bottum isn’t being true to his religion, except that I suspect that he is. 

Anyway, as a famous non-American once said, no man can serve two masters.  And by Bottum’s own admission, people like his pal Jim aren’t likely to be satisfied with back-slapping bonhomie, or with the Church being a good loser.  They don’t want Catholics merely to quit the field.  They want them to obey -- to pay for contraceptives, to photograph same-sex “weddings,” to keep their opinions about sexual morality to themselves if they know what’s good for them.  If you’ll forgive more pop culture references -- perhaps the only “stuff we all still share” any more in this One Nation Under Compulsory Genial Tolerance -- Bottum starts by channeling Sally Field, but will end up on the floor alongside Kevin Bacon

424 comments:

1 – 200 of 424   Newer›   Newest»
Timotheos said...

I must say, a brilliant post. Looking forward to natural law article!

P.S. Is the fall semester starting this week at your college, because that would make this post even more impressive, first day of classes and all that!

Top Secret Display Name said...

A little more development:

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2525/joseph_bottum_there_are_a_couple_things_that_i_regret_in_the_article.aspx#.UhxKTZKsiSq

Pedro Erik said...

Fantastic, Feser, as usual.

God bless you.

George LeSauvage said...

Good summary. And a good example of why I could never be an academic. I tried to read the Bottum piece, and my eyes did go over it. But about 1/4 through, the fog hit.

It was a little like reading Kant (or most other Germans), except that it's a different kind of fog. For one thing, at least Kant gave the impression that there was something lurking in the mist, which might be interesting to understand. Here, it was less obscure, and more diffuse. Or rather, wholly diffuse, a kind of cotton candy prose I associate with the New Yorker in its decline.

I'm glad Mr Feser was able to distill a point out of the mess.

mattghg said...

I wish you more success with this political fight than we've had in the UK.

William Dunkirk said...

If you can turn this around in the USA, it will be turned around everywhere else. Your opponents know this. If you fail, then we are all in for a long, rough ride.

Anonymous said...

Good god, what a lot of gas from both Bottum and Feser. I haven't seen as much obsession over gayness outside of Castro Street.

My side will win, because our message is simple and appealing -- leave people alone to seek their own happiness as they see fit.

Anonymous said...

What's leaving people alone got to do with marriage law? Isn't "legislate an obligatory contractual structure, then enforce universal recognition of same" pretty much the complete and thorough opposite?

Recusant said...

Hey, Anonymi, choose a name, because Anonymous#2 destroyed Anonymous#1's weak, sentimental argument very sweetly.

Chad Handley said...

I agree that Bottum's last two points are weak, but I agree with his first two points. Natural law may provide a good philosophical argument against same sex marriage, but it doesn't make a very good political or judicial argument. I guess you could say that natural law is its own political and judicial argument, but at that point you come to having to convert a majority of the populace to an entirely new metaphysical view in order to get them to agree to oppose same sex marriage, and the prospect of that actually happening seems a bit bleak.

Maybe all Bottum is saying is that even the Church has to pick its battles, and it can either put most of its efforts into fighting an unpopular fight they can't win or into fighting arguably more important fights that they can.

Chad Handley said...

Recusant,

By that logic, don't laws recognizing interracial marriage also violate our freedoms?

Laws recognizing the rights of minorities will require something of the rest of us, but that doesn't mean that such laws aren't ultimately on the side of freedom.

TheOFloinn said...

'marriage' from 'maritas' (L) 'a man who has been provided with a young woman,' from *mari- 'a young woman.'

Anonymous said...

What basis is there for not recognizing interracial marriage?

There is nothing about interracial marriage that is outside of the definition of marriage, which is a peculiar and rigid contract between a man and a woman; one that evolved and became dominant because it equalised and harmonised the reproductive needs of men to women and to the rest of society.

Even so, marriage as an exclusive and lifelong contract worked in traditional societies, and was adopted by the modern state as high-utility, precisely because of its severe impositions on freedom.

- Sam

malcolmthecynic said...

By that logic, don't laws recognizing interracial marriage also violate our freedoms?

That's not what anon 2 was saying though. All he was pointing out, and correctly, was that what gay marriage advocates are pushing for is NOT just "leaving people alone".

A point that you actually seem to grant when you say that it "require(s) something from the rest of us.".

Chad Handley said...

Whether you think there's a basis for banning interracial marriage is beside the point.

If, per what I assume was your argument, forcing the universal recognition of a contract is a failure to leave people alone, a failure to uphold freedom, then forcing universal recognition of the marriage contracts of interracial couples is also a failure to leave people alone and to uphold freedom.

As is forcing the universal recognition that Black people have a right to eat at privately-owned lunch counters, or to sit in any unoccupied seat on privately-owned buses. I mean, I'm sure there might have been a segregationist bus owner who considered himself on the side of freedom and liberty, and who might have even cited natural law arguments for the sanctity of property rights in opposing the desegregation of buses. But none of us would seriously entertain the notion that he was standing up for freedom.

Chad Handley said...

malcolmthecynic:

Fair enough, but all that proves is that sometimes people ought not be left alone.

malcolmthecynic said...

Fair enough, but all that proves is that sometimes people ought not be left alone.

Correct...a perfect response to anon 1's dopey comment.

TheOFloinn said...

"Forcing" the recognition of bromine as an element is not the same as forcing the recognition of water as an element.

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: what a lot of gas from both Bottum and Feser.

Gaseousness is not the issue, but rather whether the gasses being pumped out supply oxygen to the argument, or whether they choke off rational thought.

My side will win, because our message is simple and appealing -- leave people alone to seek their own happiness as they see fit.

Ah, I think I can straighten out the confusion: Feser is dealing with facts from nature and arguments from logic; you are dealing with superficial emotional propaganda. I know, that's what you expect on the Internet, but "reason" is kind of Feser's schtick, so you have to account for that when reading his stuff in context. Hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

Chad Handley said...

TheOFloinn, I just don't see that a semantic argument is worth having.

Should a gay man be allowed to participate in his life-partner's insurance policy as his "spouse?"

Whether your answer to that question is yes or no, who cares whether the man calls his partner his "husband" or his "civil partner?"

George LeSauvage said...

Those who continually raise the civil rights analogy overlook one thing. It is a fact (like it or not) that the 60s laws were flat out compulsion. They may have been necessary, given the times. The kind of racism they addressed was itself really of recent vintage, historically speaking. (Note that interracial marriage is not a huge matter in Shakespeare, and none at all in Chaucer.)

It is not at all clear that they are still needed. Consider that ALL state power entails compulsion, and as such, is dangerous. Sometimes it is necessary, but surely not all the time.

What is the need just now, for compulsion on this issue? People often cite things like insurance and taxes. But surely it would make more sense to change those, as we have so often in the past, rather than to change a long-lived institution, and force others to go along. No one will protest a change to insurance policies.


(NOTE: Some of these numbers are impossible to read.)

Chad Handley said...

George LeSauvage,

Who will be directly compelled to do anything if somehow the Supreme Court decides that all private and government institutions have to recognize gay marriages?

What would the average person be compelled to do if this were to happen? How would your daily life change in any way?

rank sophist said...

I'd heard of Bottum's article, but I hadn't seen its contents until I read them summarized in this post. A strange and incoherent piece on his part. And what does it mean to accept natural law but then claim that its premises are an object of faith? The two positions seem mutually exclusive to me, particularly since he isn't making the intellectual weakness argument.

I agree, though, that same-sex marriage is the American way. America has been an experiment in Enlightenment liberalism from the start. Sooner or later, the inherent problems with liberalism were going to destroy all of those pesky traditions that we brought with us.

malcolmthecynic said...

Should a gay man be allowed to participate in his life-partner's insurance policy as his "spouse?"

Whether your answer to that question is yes or no, who cares whether the man calls his partner his "husband" or his "civil partner?"


Seems to me that this is basically a tacit admission that, yes, we want to change what marriage actually is and form something else entirely, but just call it marriage because why not.

TheOFloinn said...

Should a gay man be allowed to participate in his life-partner's insurance policy as his "spouse?"

As I understand it, you can name whomever you wish as your beneficiary. What about a divorced man and his spinster sister who live together in what was their parents' house? Should he [or she] be "allowed to participate" in the sibling's insurance policy?

Chad Handley said...

Why do you care what committed, life-long, state-recognized, gay relationships are called?

Why do you think that what such relationships are called is worth talking about for even a single second?

If you don't think two men or two women should be afforded the same rights as a traditionally married couple, what do you care what those two men or two women call themselves? What difference does that make, if you think it's wrong no matter what you call it?

This is not a debate about the meaning of a word.

Chad Handley said...

As I understand it, you can name whomever you wish as your beneficiary.

Sorry, I should have said I was referring to health insurance, not life insurance.

What about a divorced man and his spinster sister who live together in what was their parents' house? Should he [or she] be "allowed to participate" in the sibling's insurance policy?

My point was, whether or not you think a man should be able to name his life-partner as his spouse on his health insurance policy is the core of the same-sex marriage debate. How the word "marriage" has been traditionally defined is politically irrelevant. The body politic cares not a whit about the traditional definition of the word "marriage." Words change meaning all the time, and the gay marriage proponent's entire goal is to expand the meaning of the word. So, how are you progressing the debate by constant references to traditional definitions?

No one cares.

TheOFloinn said...

Why do you care what committed, life-long, state-recognized, gay relationships are called?

Precision in speech is always to be prized. How many legs would a dog have if we called a tail a leg?

TheOFloinn said...

Words change meaning all the time

Yes, we've all read 1984. The question is whether the changes make it harder to discuss things or easier.

George LeSauvage said...

@Chad:

Well, look at the news from New Mexico. That goes straight to my point. I repeat, what is the need just now, for compulsion on this issue?

I do not care what others call themselves. I will not call them married, though.

Anonymous said...

"The body politic cares not a whit about the traditional definition of the word "marriage." Words change meaning all the time, and the gay marriage proponent's entire goal is to expand the meaning of the word. So, how are you progressing the debate by constant references to traditional definitions?

No one cares."

I completely agree, many don't care. I don't see why that matters. I get the impression you feel the only way to progress entails traditionalist submission or silence. Since neither of those options do much to progress that traditional view I doubt they'd view it as "progressing the debate".

Who cares if no one cares?

Eric

Chad Handley said...

No, the question is whether it's worth denying people fair and equitable treatment for the sake of making discussion easier.

And quite often, probably most often, the re-definition of words makes people freer. The word "men" in legal documents and Constitutions and the like has traditionally been defined in the West as being limited to white, male, property owners. That definition has been expanded to include men and women of all races and incomes. Not all changes of definitions are Orwellian.

Charles said...

Chad,

If the core of the argument is simply the sharing of health benefits, that can be rectified without changing the definition of marriage. I do not believe that that is the core of the argument at all. The redefinition of marriage is a step in the direction of the destruction of the nuclear family as the basic unit of civil society. It's not about fairness, equality or any other such hokum. It is about destroying the only natural society that stands between the individual and the power of the state.

George LeSauvage said...

Perhaps this would be clear:

What they do with, and call, each other? I don't much care.

Forcing me to agree? I must decline.

Forcing others to agree and accommodate them? I must object.

Hope it doesn't end like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD55Cj9iOhg

Chad Handley said...

Eric,

Your impressions are wrong. Here's the situation as I see it (and this may be Bottum's point).

Unlike some other political issues with which Christians and non-Christians share significant common ground, bringing non-Christians around on same-sex marriage will require their entire metaphysical conversion. There's no practical political or judicial law that has a chance of moving them towards the traditional Christian view of marriage short of outright converting them to Christianity and/or natural law theory. And while there might be some slight movement towards accepting something like teleology in some corners of the scientific world, it'll be quite some time before such notions are widely accepted in academia, and longer still before that acceptance trickles down into the body politic. Expecting some wave of conversion to natural law in the general public in the near future to carry the tide against gay marriage is just wishful thinking.

Thus, it seems to me, in the short term, this is an unwinnable war. And fighting the war will make a generation of people come to view the Church in a negative light, making them more reluctant to give natural law arguments a hearing. So that leaves us in a situation where:

1. The best way to get people to publicly oppose same-sex marriage is to make them Catholics.

2. The worst way to make people Catholics is to publicly oppose same-sex marriage.

Does that mean choosing not to spend much effort in fighting against same-sex marriage is like choosing not to fight Arianism?

I don't agree with Feser's analogies comparing same sex marriage to various heresies, and indeed, I don't see the need for analogies here since homosexuality was rampant in Rome at the time of the early Church. The early Church could have devoted most of its public efforts towards opposing homosexual liaisons, but it chose to put most of its efforts towards fighting more important battles. As a result, the entire society eventually converted to Christianity and the entirety of Western culture gradually shifted towards Christian sexual morality.

We're not going to bring the American populace back around to traditional sexual morality in a year, or two, or ten, or twenty. To convince them to believe in Christian sexual morality again will first involve making them Christians again, and devoting a lot of energy to opposing same-sex marriage is going to make that (much more important) goal that much harder to acheive.

Like the sheriff in the movie says, sometimes you have to take the long view.

Chad Handley said...

That should say "practical political or judicial *argument*," not "law."

Crude said...

Thus, it seems to me, in the short term, this is an unwinnable war. And fighting the war will make a generation of people come to view the Church in a negative light, making them more reluctant to give natural law arguments a hearing.

Are you saying that the Church is going to be viewed in a positive light if Christians give up opposition to gay marriage - but maintain that same-sex sexual relations are a sin, that 'gay marriage' is entirely secular in nature and certainly not real in any religious or spiritual or even moral sense?

Anonymous said...

well, Chad, why just for homosexuals? If I can refer back to OFloinn's point, why not siblings, etc? If there is a benefit particular to marriage and not being able to be married is keeping someone from that, why continue to bar a great deal of people from marital benefits by arbitrarily setting the limit at homosexual relationships. That's to say, why are we talking about gay marriage in the first place? If it's really about equality, why isn't the discussion taking into account the great diversity of interdependent adult relationships, sexual and non-sexual, that would benefit from having the perks of marriage extended to them? For that matter, marriages are hardly permanent anymore. Why not extend benefits to folks who are roommates for longer than 1 year?

secondly, maybe I'll get in trouble for this, but I do think that the moralizing doesn't help with the arguing. If we can bracket the moral issues, it should at least be obvious that "marriage" picks out a particular human relationship with particular responsibilities, and that is why it receives a special recognition the world over. It doesn't need to be thought of as excluding any particular kind of couple for any reason other than that male-female coupling has obvious distinguishing features and attendant responsibilities requiring certain accommodations. Understood this way, I think it's clear how strange it is for anyone not desiring marriage per se to demand that their relationship be referred to as such. This observation doesn't even require me to wade into Natural Law or A-T metaphysics at all.

-matt

Crude said...

Another question.

Where is the evidence that liberalizing on these issues will somehow bring more people to Christ, or make for more converts? Has the Episcopalian Church experienced some huge influx of members?

TheOFloinn said...

The word "men" in legal documents and Constitutions and the like has traditionally been defined in the West as being limited to white, male, property owners.

Actually, to restrict to that subset, these documents had to use additional words like "white" or "male" or "property owners." The term "men" might mean "males" in some contexts, but the basic definition was "human being." The constriction of "man" to "male" was another of those constantly changing word meanings that wind up making discourse more difficult. Thank you, Age of Reason. In Latin, of course, the distinction between 'homo' and 'vir' is clear.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

Are you saying that the Church is going to be viewed in a positive light if Christians give up opposition to gay marriage - but maintain that same-sex sexual relations are a sin, that 'gay marriage' is entirely secular in nature and certainly not real in any religious or spiritual or even moral sense?

Something like that. I think if not just Catholics but all Christians devote their public efforts to "caring for the least of these," rather than expend a lot of their political capital opposing gay marriage, they'd win more converts to their point of view.

I'm not opposed to fighting an unwinnable war on principle if it's a war worth fighting - if it's the most important war of our time. But I'd argue gay marriage isn't close to that important, and if I'm going to fight an unwinnable war as a Christian, I'd rather fight it against abortion.

If, as many suppose, we are in a culture war, it's time more Christians start thinking strategy. It would be nice to win every battle, but in war sometimes you have to give ground to gain ground, and avoid some battles altogether in order to win the war.

malcolmthecynic said...

This isn't changing the definition of the word. It's changing an institution. It's less like expanding the definition of men to include men and women and more like changing the definition of the word men to include humans and plants. That's not widening the definition of the word, it's changing its meaning to something else entirely.

You're not changing the definition of a word, you're changing the foundation of an institution. If you like I'll change the meaning of conservative marriage to fish, then argue that only fish should get special recognition by the government instead of marriage.

Now can we move on to the real discussion, your admission that, yes, you want to change the institution of marriage to something different than fish?

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

Where is the evidence that liberalizing on these issues will somehow bring more people to Christ, or make for more converts? Has the Episcopalian Church experienced some huge influx of members?

I'm not arguing that merely being silent on gay marriage will bring more people to Christ. I'm arguing that lowering the volume on the argument against gay marriage while increasing the volume on more important fights, fights with which the Church has shared interests with lots of political coalitions, would be the more productive move.

TheOFloinn said...

bringing non-Christians around on same-sex marriage will require their entire metaphysical conversion. There's no practical political or judicial law that has a chance of moving them towards the traditional Christian view of marriage

In what way is this traditional "Christian" view different from the practice of marriage in ancient Babylonia, Greece, Rome, India, China, Mongolia, Africa, or anywhere else? None of them had anything that could be called same-sex 'marriage'.

What has required an 'entire metaphysical[?] conversion' has been the recent upsurge of interest among Western elites, because the opposite has been the case throughout history and across the world.

Crude said...

Chad,

Something like that. I think if not just Catholics but all Christians devote their public efforts to "caring for the least of these," rather than expend a lot of their political capital opposing gay marriage, they'd win more converts to their point of view.

Alright.

First - 'All Christians/Catholics'. Hyperbole, right? That's unrealistic. They don't march in lockstep.

Second - what evidence do you have for this? You're talking about 'thinking strategically' and doing what's wisest in the long term. So where is the evidence that this has ever worked? There are a variety of sects in the world, with various views on gay marriage - can you point at one that ended up supporting gay marriage, and which experienced a lasting bumper crop of converts? The Episcopalians went further than you suggested - they have, at this point, practically zero internal formal opposition to gay marriage or gay relationships. They're still dying. If anything, it looks like the process accelerated.

Third - let's say some particular US states, or even countries, are majority-opposed to gay marriage. In those areas, the culture would clearly be on the side of the gay marriage opponents. I take it you'd say 'Oh, well, then clearly the situation is different there' and support a ban on gay marriage in those states and nations?

Chad Handley said...

malcolmthecynic,

If gay couples are extended all the rights of traditionally married couples, but we call their partnering "civil unions," would you be okay with that?

The issue is whether or not the partnering is granted the rights of marriage, not whether that partnering is called marriage. Who cares what it's called?

(Well, I guess lots of people do, on both sides, but I don't think they should.)

Crude said...

Chad,

I'm not arguing that merely being silent on gay marriage will bring more people to Christ. I'm arguing that lowering the volume on the argument against gay marriage while increasing the volume on more important fights, fights with which the Church has shared interests with lots of political coalitions, would be the more productive move.

Great. What's your evidence? What did the Episcopalians do wrong, since apparently their position hasn't paid off for them?

malcolmthecynic said...

1. The best way to get people to publicly oppose same-sex marriage is to make them Catholics.

If we use your logic, I totally disagree. Rather, the best way to infiltrate the Church with liberal Catholics not loyal to the magisterium is to intentionally soften on issues in order to gain cheap converts.

Every time conservatives give ground it doesn't work, but we always hear, every time, "Well, maybe if we gave a little bit of ground here it might help us in the long run..." And every time it just gets worse.

Giving ground an issue does one thing: It gives ground.

Crude said...

For the record, I happen to think the social conservative work against gay marriage has been absolutely abysmal and mishandled. I absolutely agree that a change is needed. I often suggest some of my own, and routinely catch hell for it.

I just think Chad's proposed change is a terrible idea, and that other options are available. But hey, maybe he'll convince me that it's a good idea after all.

malcolmthecynic said...

"If gay couples are extended all the rights of traditionally married couples, but we call their partnering "civil unions," would you be okay with that?"

No, because it will be considered marriage. The name doesn't matter - people will look at it as the same institution.

I also think, to be consistent, you should extend the right to have a civil union to EVERY relationship, romantic or not.

malcolmthecynic said...

I think you're missing my point - the problem is that you want to change the entire INSTITUTION of marriage, not change the definition. Calling it a "civil union" but giving people in civil unions the same rights as married couples makes absolutely no difference.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

Second - what evidence do you have for this? You're talking about 'thinking strategically' and doing what's wisest in the long term. So where is the evidence that this has ever worked? There are a variety of sects in the world, with various views on gay marriage - can you point at one that ended up supporting gay marriage, and which experienced a lasting bumper crop of converts? The Episcopalians went further than you suggested - they have, at this point, practically zero internal formal opposition to gay marriage or gay relationships. They're still dying. If anything, it looks like the process accelerated.

The evidence is ubiquitous; there are always popular vices in every Christian society that it's not worth the time to devote a lot of energy to opposing. Again, even in Paul's time homosexuality enjoyed a pretty high degree of (qualified) acceptance, and rose to the level where Paul had to address it a few times. But the Church didn't spend all of their political capital on fighting homosexuality, they spent time evangelizing, and that evangelizing eventually did their work for them. They changed culture one person at a time, rather than by pushing for laws, and I think we should follow their example.

And the Episcopalians haven't gone further than I've suggested. My suggestion isn't that we loudly accept gay marriage. It's not even merely that we more quietly oppose it. My suggestion is we change the subject. We devote our public, visible energies to projects with which we share common ground with more people. Everybody agrees that poverty and starvation is a problem, let's devote most of our time to that. If the image the word "Christian" brings to mind in the body politic is an image of someone deeply involved in "caring for the least of these" rather than as a gay marriage opponent, we'd be doing better in the culture wars.

Third - let's say some particular US states, or even countries, are majority-opposed to gay marriage. In those areas, the culture would clearly be on the side of the gay marriage opponents. I take it you'd say 'Oh, well, then clearly the situation is different there' and support a ban on gay marriage in those states and nations?

I'm not arguing that the Church should change its position based on the local political climate. I'm not saying if it finds itself in a culture that supports gay marriage that it should support it, and if it finds itself in a culture that opposes it should oppose.

I'm saying it should shift its focus and redirect all resources currently deployed to fight gay marriage to fighting winnable fights (against poverty, for example) or fights worth losing (against abortion).

Continuing with the war analogy, how many soldiers are you willing to lose fighting for a hill that's not only of no strategic value, but which will make winning the war much more difficult?

If that hill contained an orphanage with 100 million children in it, then yeah, I'd be willing to risk the war to save 100 million children. That's why I'm willing to fight an unwinnable war on abortion. But if that hill has a bunch of gay dudes in it that want to marry each other, I'm not losing one soldier to take that hill. It's not worth it if it makes winning the war more difficult.

Say Conservatives somehow manage to block same-sex marriage but at the cost of turning a generation of young people against the Christianity. Would that have been something worth doing?

Chad Handley said...

matt:

Calling it a "civil union" but giving people in civil unions the same rights as married couples makes absolutely no difference.

That's my point. So, let's just stop talking about the word "marriage."

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

What's your strategy?

malcolmthecynic said...

That's my point. So, let's just stop talking about the word "marriage."

I'm not really sure what you were saying in the first place then, but great by me. Let's instead talk about changing the purpose of an entire institution to fit some weird equal rights agenda that makes no sense.

Anonymous said...


"Thus, it seems to me, in the short term, this is an unwinnable war. And fighting the war will make a generation of people come to view the Church in a negative light, making them more reluctant to give natural law arguments a hearing."

Ok,I see the point you're trying to make. One of the things I've personally always admired about the church is it's stances on difficult moral issues. Unapologetic and honest. While many protestant denominations conform to social and political trends (contraception, abortion, marriage), the church is, for the most part, unwaivering. Whether I agree or not, I find that trait admirable. Given our current political environment, I don't see a way the church could avoid this fight. You seem to be suggesting that the Church could backoff the issue for now, perhaps adopting a long term strategy. Maybe in 100 years or so, our increasingly secular culture would be willing to give Natural Law theory a fair shake. Ha ha, I hope I'm misunderstanding you on this point.

Yeah, the church did have different issues to confront in ancient Rome. Same sex marriage wasn't one because the Romans, while indifferent to homosexual sex acts, took a "traditional" stance on marriage.

Eric

DNW said...

So, you know, what if any arguments would good progressives use in order to explain why "marriage" between a brother and a sister, or between a homosexual father and his apparently willing son, or of two gay brothers, were unworthy of community affirmation and legal recognition?

Now, a couple of years ago, any such hypotheticals were characterized as so offensively gauche or outre that they could be sidestepped by advocates of homosexual "marriage".

How dare you suggest such a thing as possible! "Frankly, I find the idea of a bug that thinks offensive!"

Unfortunately for those staking out such progressive positions, their own constituencies have undercut the indignation avenue means of escape with such acts as letters to the advice columnist of Slate asking for hints for brotherly lovers on coming out as a couple [assuming this referenced instance was not a hoax. If it is, Kathryn Harrison can always step forward], and cases (at least one) of homosexual pedophile couples effecting the breeding of their own sex abuse victims.


Can progressive's, consistent with their own principles of interpretation, deny demands for - consensual only, of course - marriage and its concomitant public rights and recognition in such cases?

If so, on what grounds?

Crude said...

Chad,

But the Church didn't spend all of their political capital on fighting homosexuality, they spent time evangelizing, and that evangelizing eventually did their work for them. They changed culture one person at a time, rather than by pushing for laws, and I think we should follow their example.

I don't see the relevance. No one here is talking about laws against 'homosexuality' or even 'fighting homosexuality'. The issue is about marriage. Are you saying Rome had gay marriage in anything more than a laughable, isolated sense?

And the Episcopalians haven't gone further than I've suggested. My suggestion isn't that we loudly accept gay marriage. It's not even merely that we more quietly oppose it. My suggestion is we change the subject. We devote our public, visible energies to projects with which we share common ground with more people. Everybody agrees that poverty and starvation is a problem, let's devote most of our time to that.

1. Everyone agrees. But, speaking frankly, few people give a shit. The Church already devotes incredible resources to helping the poor and needy. Who cares, in a broad public sense? They say 'that's nice', or worse, they say it's all for the benefit of gaining converts so it doesn't matter.

2. My point was that the Episcopalians dropped practically all opposition to gay marriage and even regarding same-sex sexual behavior as immoral, years ago. What did it gain them? I mean, by your logic, clearly they should have gained a bunch of young converts because they got rid of all of major modern social roadblocks to Christian belief. Right?

I'm saying it should shift its focus and redirect all resources currently deployed to fight gay marriage to fighting winnable fights (against poverty, for example) or fights worth losing (against abortion).

But fights are won and lost in particular areas. You make the hill analogy. Okay: clearly in, say... Massachussettes, right now, gay marriage probably can't be stopped. What about in other parts of the world?

Let's take a look at the situation in Russia. Take a look at the support for gay marriage, or even support for gay rights marches, etc. Then consider Russia's recent history with regards to Christianity. And on top of that, consider the Russian poll numbers in light of the actual religious makeup of Russia, which indicates that considerable opposition to both of these things must be coming out of the secular/irreligious community.

Now, for the sake of argument, I'm going to say: clearly the Russians are doing something right on this subject, culturally. We should take cues from them. They are evidence for the position that there are ways to oppose gay marriage, to convince people who are NOT Christian to support gay marriage, and to bolster converts in the process.

So, two questions here.

First: What should the attitude be towards Russia on the part of churches? When demonstrations come and it's demanded that people stop supporting Russian businesses or buying Russian goods, what does the Church in America do?

Second: Let's say I claim Russia as evidence that the war you say is unwinnable can still see major success. Let's say that I also cite the previous gay marriage protests in France. What is your reply?

Chad Handley said...

This forum is full with very intelligent people whose comments I enjoy reading.

But too many of you can't tolerate arguing with a person who slightly disagrees with you for a split second without becoming snippy and dismissive and spiteful.

To paraphrase Chesterton, Christianity's biggest problem continues to be Christians.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ed,
this was one funny post! Thanks for giving us the arguments as well as the humour! I guess Bottum didn't like it if it was you he was referring to in his "clarifications".
Good luck with the new semester!
Chris

malcolmthecynic said...

I'm assuming you're talking about me. In any case, I'm serious, I'm genuinely confused about where we started (I also think my point is a valid one), and at any rate you don't actually seem to be in favor of homosexual marriage per se at all.

I mean, I'd drop in on your discussion with Crude, but I think he pretty much has it.

TheOFloinn said...

The issue is whether or not the partnering is granted the rights of marriage, not whether that partnering is called marriage. Who cares what it's called?

Obviously, the activists do, since civil unions have been long available; but you will notice that everyone had to wait until the structure and obligations of marriage had been 'emptied out' [to use an old 60s term] before anyone wanted to play dress-up in the ruins. It's only about slurping government goodies now, not about marriage. Now we have a man in Australia who married his Labrador retriever, a woman in Pennsylvania who married a roller coaster, another who married the Eiffel Tower. Who cares what the word is used for, since once the word can be used for anything, even 'Hollywood marriages,' it ceases to mean anything, and soon enough it becomes impossible to talk about marriage as such. See Plato, The Laws, Book VI iirc.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

I don't see the relevance. No one here is talking about laws against 'homosexuality' or even 'fighting homosexuality'. The issue is about marriage. Are you saying Rome had gay marriage in anything more than a laughable, isolated sense?

If the early church didn't have to devote many of its resources to fighting the acceptance of gay acts, why do we have to devote so many resources to fighting gay marriage?

There will always be popular vices in every Christian country that it's not worth Christianity's time to devote a large number of resources towards fighting. I'm not advocating something novel here; picking your battles is inevitable. I'm just saying I think we picked the wrong one.

The Church already devotes incredible resources to helping the poor and needy. Who cares, in a broad public sense? They say 'that's nice', or worse, they say it's all for the benefit of gaining converts so it doesn't matter.

The Catholic Church does, but Catholics aren't the most visible Christians in the US. The Christians most visible in the public square in the US, who are most responsible for shaping public opinion about what it means to be Christian, pretty much never mention any kind of care for "the least of these," and present a pretty distorted picture of Christianity to the world.

And I would argue that non-Catholics are aware that the Catholic Church does a lot for the needy and that the Church's reputation is helped by that.

I'm going to decline to comment on Russia because I don't know what's going on there, but I will say that I'm not a person who would agree with opposition to gay rights for the wrong reasons. I think if Russia opposes gay marriage not out of an understanding of natural law or out of Christian commitment but merely out of bigotry, then they aren't doing anything right. I think it would be more Christian of a society to accept gay marriage out of misplaced compassion than to reject it out of bigotry.

Chad Handley said...

Can progressive's, consistent with their own principles of interpretation, deny demands for - consensual only, of course - marriage and its concomitant public rights and recognition in such cases?

Probably not, and I think a lot of them will end up biting that bullet rather than support traditional marriage.

Anonymous said...


"To paraphrase Chesterton, Christianity's biggest problem continues to be Christians."

Ahhh, so true. I'm curious, what side of the fence would ole Chesterton be on in this debate. Just kidding.

You should expect some snippiness though. You may receive undeserved annoyance for your views but most here are immediately labeled bigots when giving voice to their opinion. So forgive me if I'm unsympathetic. Roll with the punches.

Crude said...

Chad,

If the early church didn't have to devote many of its resources to fighting the acceptance of gay acts, why do we have to devote so many resources to fighting gay marriage?

What are these resources we're splurging on the gay marriage fight? The mere act of speaking out against it when it's a topic? How we vote and argue others should vote?

Name these resources, and show me how they're at all excessive.

The Catholic Church does, but Catholics aren't the most visible Christians in the US. The Christians most visible in the public square in the US, who are most responsible for shaping public opinion about what it means to be Christian, pretty much never mention any kind of care for "the least of these," and present a pretty distorted picture of Christianity to the world.

Wait a second. You're pointing at how the media portrays Catholics and Christians, and then blaming Catholics and Christians for this?

Are you going to say the media's obsession with Westboro Baptist - a tiny little fringe cult-church that I frankly wonder about the sincerity of - is the fault of the Catholic Church too?

I'm going to decline to comment on Russia because I don't know what's going on there, but I will say that I'm not a person who would agree with opposition to gay rights for the wrong reasons. I think if Russia opposes gay marriage not out of an understanding of natural law or out of Christian commitment but merely out of bigotry, then they aren't doing anything right.

What would constitute 'bigotry' here? Believing that same-sex sexual behavior is objectively disordered? Believing that same-sex sexual desire is objectively disordered? Keep in mind, you don't need to accept natural law to believe those things. It can be an intuition, it can be an unreflective cultural view, it can be anything.

By the way, just for the record. You think same-sex sexual behavior and desire is immoral and objectively disordered? You'd like gay marriage to be banned for those reasons, you just don't want the ban to cause more people to flee christianity than to subscribe to it?

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

I'll give your questions a crack after having read the link:

First: What should the attitude be towards Russia on the part of churches? When demonstrations come and it's demanded that people stop supporting Russian businesses or buying Russian goods, what does the Church in America do?

I'm going to say it depends on why Russia is so opposed to homosexual marriage. Given that the article says that around 40% of the Russians polled say homosexuals should be quarantined, given compulsory psychiatric treatment, or euthanized, I wouldn't claim that "Russia is doing something right."

Second: Let's say I claim Russia as evidence that the war you say is unwinnable can still see major success. Let's say that I also cite the previous gay marriage protests in France. What is your reply?

Again, I think what's going on in Russia looks like a success for bigotry, not traditional marriage. But I think if winning those battles costs very little and doesn't compromise the war, then fine, go for it. That's not the case in most of the West.

Crude said...

Chad,

I'm going to say it depends on why Russia is so opposed to homosexual marriage. Given that the article says that around 40% of the Russians polled say homosexuals should be quarantined, given compulsory psychiatric treatment, or euthanized, I wouldn't claim that "Russia is doing something right."

That seems incorrect. Straight from the article:

On the other side of the spectrum, some expressed strong opposition to homosexuality: 16 percent of those polled suggested that homosexuals should be isolated from society, 22 percent said that the treatment of homosexuality must be made compulsory, and 5 percent said that homosexuals should be ‘exterminated.’

You're assuming that those numbers add together, rather than overlap.

Second, considering that only 5% of Russians support gay marriage, and that a huge portion of the russian public - in spite of this - does NOT support gays being isolated from society, given mandatory treatment, or 'exterminated' - then it would seem that Russia is doing something right overall, even by your standards.

Chad Handley said...

Name these resources, and show me how they're at all excessive.

Lots of money and time were invested in same sex marriage ballot initiatives across many states, and there are entire cottage industries like Focus on the Family and others that spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the Bible's position on the family unit at the expense of all its other teachings, but the main resource being squandered is our most precious resource: the Church's reputation. If we spend our (inherently limited) political capital fighting against homosexual marriage, that expense will cost us in more important fights against abortion and poverty.

Our intellectual capital is also squandered when smart people waste their time complaining about gay marriage rather than devoting their intellectual energies towards less navel-gazey pursuits. And our intellectual reputation is destroyed when not so smart Christians spend an inordinate amount of their time making laughably horrendous arguments against gay marriage.

Christianity's reputation matters more than its money or its other resources, and that's what's principally being squandered.

Wait a second. You're pointing at how the media portrays Catholics and Christians, and then blaming Catholics and Christians for this?

For the most part, yeah. When a Christian's doing what he's supposed to be doing, it's pretty hard for the media to make him into a bad guy. The media had no problem recognizing that Martin Luther King was a hero. Christians in general and Catholics in particular have earned their bad reputations in the last quarter century.

What would constitute 'bigotry' here?

Believing that gays should be quarantined, given compulsory psychological treatment, or put down, as 40% of Russians polled stated they believe.

You think same-sex sexual behavior and desire is immoral and objectively disordered? You'd like gay marriage to be banned for those reasons, you just don't want the ban to cause more people to flee christianity than to subscribe to it?

Full disclosure, I don't have much of a problem with gay marriage at all outside the church.I think at-will divorce laws do much more harm to traditional marriage than gay marriage ever would or could. To the extent I oppose it within the church, I oppose it on scriptural grounds. I don't think gays are any more disordered than most of the rest of us.

I try to answer all your questions, now answer mine:

You say the gay marriage issue is being badly-handled. How would you handle it?

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

Even granting some overlap, at least a quarter of all Russians think some pretty heinous things about gay folks. So, I'm going to need substantially more evidence regarding their reasons before I grant they're doing anything right. That they object to homosexuality out of proportion to their Christian membership is further evidence, to me, that their opposition is not principled (unless natural law theory is really popular among Russian atheists).

Second, considering that only 5% of Russians support gay marriage, and that a huge portion of the russian public - in spite of this - does NOT support gays being isolated from society, given mandatory treatment, or 'exterminated' - then it would seem that Russia is doing something right overall, even by your standards.

That's way too hasty a conclusion to draw, IMO. That at least a quarter of Russians feel comfortable publicly admitting to believing gays should be quarantined, or condemned to asylums, or murdered, suggests to me that there's widespread bigotry even among those who won't admit to such things. I'm not co-signing with them without more information.

Crude said...

Chad,

Lots of money and time were invested in same sex marriage ballot initiatives across many states, and there are entire cottage industries like Focus on the Family and others that spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the Bible's position on the family unit at the expense of all its other teachings, but the main resource being squandered is our most precious resource: the Church's reputation.

1) You mean the *successful* ballot initiatives, some of which were passed years ago when the public at large had a different collective view of gay marriage? Keep in mind, as of 5 or 10 years ago, gay marriage in particular wasn't nearly as popular as it was today.

2) They spend the time and resources they do because of groups going out and angsting for gay marriage. They didn't do this unprovoked.

And our intellectual reputation is destroyed when not so smart Christians spend an inordinate amount of their time making laughably horrendous arguments against gay marriage.

Sure is. Do you honestly think your plan here is going to rein in idiots who love to talk? Do you think they're going to listen to you? Do you think you can MAKE them listen?

For the most part, yeah. When a Christian's doing what he's supposed to be doing, it's pretty hard for the media to make him into a bad guy.

We're not talking about individuals. We're talking about groups of people. Are you really saying that the media cannot demonize a group of people unless they have it coming? Are you insane?

Believing that gays should be quarantined, given compulsory psychological treatment, or put down, as 40% of Russians polled stated they believe.

Chad, the article doesn't say it's 40%. I explained why your extrapolation is unwarranted.

What's more, right here? You just made it sound as if 40% of Russians believe gays should be put down. Once again: "On the other side of the spectrum, some expressed strong opposition to homosexuality: 16 percent of those polled suggested that homosexuals should be isolated from society, 22 percent said that the treatment of homosexuality must be made compulsory, and 5 percent said that homosexuals should be ‘exterminated.’"

So, apparently, the vast majority of Russians who oppose gay marriage do *not* support gays being isolated, forced to be receive treatment, or 'put down'. So by your standards, it's successful.

Full disclosure, I don't have much of a problem with gay marriage at all outside the church.I think at-will divorce laws do much more harm to traditional marriage than gay marriage ever would or could. To the extent I oppose it within the church, I oppose it on scriptural grounds. I don't think gays are any more disordered than most of the rest of us.

That's not really full disclosure.

So you think same-sex sexual acts are immoral? You think the Church should not recognize gay marriages within the church? Say two men in your church want to get married in the church, with a religious ceremony performed that is overlooked by your pastor/priest. Would you support the couple? Or oppose them?

You say the gay marriage issue is being badly-handled. How would you handle it?

To start with? Speaking bluntly about what Catholic and orthodox Christian teaching is. It has nothing to do with 'being a homosexual means you're going to hell', and everything to do with sexual acts and desires for sexual acts. But everyone prefers to mince words, beat around the bush, and act coy. They make it sound as if 'a man loving another man' is what's condemned, when frankly, it's not. Love a man if you like. Love a woman. It's the sexual acts and desires which are problematic.

Granted, there's a lot more than this, but I think that's certainly the beginning. And that, by the way, is one of the biggest failings of social conservatives - they mince words, they mangle arguments. They talk about 'homosexuals' as a monolithic group, when they are simply not.

Crude said...

Chad,

Even granting some overlap, at least a quarter of all Russians think some pretty heinous things about gay folks. So, I'm going to need substantially more evidence regarding their reasons before I grant they're doing anything right. That they object to homosexuality out of proportion to their Christian membership is further evidence, to me, that their opposition is not principled (unless natural law theory is really popular among Russian atheists).

Once again: what's bigotry? I asked you previously, and you basically said 'bigotry is supporting these three things some russians support'. Now you're insinuating that even russians who do *not* support these things may well be motivated by bigotry - and it would seem they're around 50% to 68% of the remaining Russian populace.

So, alright - tell me what bigotry is.

Chad Handley said...

You mean the *successful* ballot initiatives, some of which were passed years ago when the public at large had a different collective view of gay marriage? Keep in mind, as of 5 or 10 years ago, gay marriage in particular wasn't nearly as popular as it was today.

The second sentence would indicate that the success mentioned in the first sentence was exaggerated. I'd venture to guess a large portion of support for homosexual marriage is blowback from the overreach of these initiatives.

2) They spend the time and resources they do because of groups going out and angsting for gay marriage. They didn't do this unprovoked.

This is equivalent to the child screaming "he hit me first!" Again, there will always be some provocation for the church to fight a useless, pointless battle it can't win. The church can still choose to ignore the provocation and not fight those battles. It does this all the time.

Do you honestly think your plan here is going to rein in idiots who love to talk? Do you think they're going to listen to you? Do you think you can MAKE them listen?

Do I think it's within Christianity's power to ignore and marginalize the more stupid voices in its midst? Yes, Christianity did a great job doing so until about 50 years ago.

We're not talking about individuals. We're talking about groups of people. Are you really saying that the media cannot demonize a group of people unless they have it coming? Are you insane?

I'm saying Christians in general and Catholics in particular have for the most part earned their bad reputations in the media in the last 25 years. Nothing they made up about Christians in general or the Catholic church in particular is anywhere near as bad was what those institutions did to themselves.

In the abstract, sure, media can make a group of innocent people look bad. That's not what happened to Christians in American and it's DEFINITELY not what happened to Catholics worldwide. And contrary to your opinion, I don't think the evil librul media has an agenda to make Christians look bad no matter what Christians actually do. I think we're treated better than we deserve, quite frankly.

So, apparently, the vast majority of Russians who oppose gay marriage do *not* support gays being isolated, forced to be receive treatment, or 'put down'. So by your standards, it's successful.

What are you assuming are my standards? Here's a hint: there a little higher than merely being willing not to quarantine, institutionalize, or murder gays.

Chad, the article doesn't say it's 40%. I explained why your extrapolation is unwarranted.

Crude, you don't know if the numbers on that poll overlap or not.

So, until you show me evidence that they do overlap, all we can say is that 22-40% of Russians apparently support some fairly draconian policies towards homosexuals. That's way too many for me to decide they're doing anything right.

You think the Church should not recognize gay marriages within the church? Say two men in your church want to get married in the church, with a religious ceremony performed that is overlooked by your pastor/priest. Would you support the couple? Or oppose them?

Oppose. I wouldn't attend a church that offered gay marriage religiously. I would attend a church that supported gay marriage politically. It comes down to my believing that the religious law and the civil law shouldn't entirely overlap, and that given this is a civil, secular democracy, not everything forbidden in religion should be forbidden in the public square.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

So, alright - tell me what bigotry is.

Bigotry is an irrational hatred of a certain group, and its manifestations include, but are not limited to, thinking that group should be quarantined, institutionalized, or murdered.

Crude said...

Chad,

The second sentence would indicate that the success mentioned in the first sentence was exaggerated. I'd venture to guess a large portion of support for homosexual marriage is blowback from the overreach of these initiatives.

What overreach? The initiatives barred gay marriage. They were popular at the time - obviously, or they wouldn't have passed. You can check poll numbers if you don't believe me. Shall I supply polls about gay marriage acceptance in the US over the past ten years?

This is equivalent to the child screaming "he hit me first!" Again, there will always be some provocation for the church to fight a useless, pointless battle it can't win. The church can still choose to ignore the provocation and not fight those battles. It does this all the time.

Except, as I pointed out - it wasn't a fight they clearly 'could not win' at the time. Which is why they won in a lot of states.

You can't complain about how these groups picked battles they could not win, when at the time they won their battles. The climate changed, and will probably change again.

Do I think it's within Christianity's power to ignore and marginalize the more stupid voices in its midst? Yes, Christianity did a great job doing so until about 50 years ago.

Consider exactly how much has changed in the past 50 years as far as media and communication has gone. Also consider how much coverage Westboro Baptist gets, considering their size.

Again, let me guess; Christians are responsible for that coverage?

I'm saying Christians in general and Catholics in particular have for the most part earned their bad reputations in the media in the last 25 years.

How?

And contrary to your opinion, I don't think the evil librul media has an agenda to make Christians look bad no matter what Christians actually do. I think we're treated better than we deserve, quite frankly.

I didn't mention the 'evil librul media'. I mentioned WBC, and expressed incredulity at the claim that good people who are good cannot be smeared or have the public turn against them due to the media. But thank you for the bigoted remark.

What are you assuming are my standards? Here's a hint: there a little higher than merely being willing not to quarantine, institutionalize, or murder gays.

I'm not assuming what your standards are: I'm referring to the standards you laid down in this conversation. Hint: you're getting close to saying 'I bet they're all bigots in russia, I just don't know why'.

Crude, you don't know if the numbers on that poll overlap or not.

I know that the article doesn't say that they do overlap, and that arguing that they do without evidence is dishonest.

Oppose. I wouldn't attend a church that offered gay marriage religiously. I would attend a church that supported gay marriage politically. It comes down to my believing that the religious law and the civil law shouldn't entirely overlap, and that given this is a civil, secular democracy, not everything forbidden in religion should be forbidden in the public square.

So you think same-sex sexual acts are immoral? And what is your scriptural basis for opposing same-sex marriage?

Crude said...

Chad,

Bigotry is an irrational hatred of a certain group, and its manifestations include, but are not limited to, thinking that group should be quarantined, institutionalized, or murdered.

Okay. So, thinking that same-sex sexual attraction is disordered, and that same-sex sexual behavior is immortal - bigoted?

Crude said...

To clarify,

I know that the article doesn't say that they do overlap, and that arguing that they do without evidence is dishonest.

It doesn't say that they do or don't overlap. I haven't been saying that they do overlap - but they certainly could. So adding them up and getting to 40% (which, by the way, the article itself doesn't do) and acting like that's the fact of the matter, especially in light of what I've pointed out, would be dishonest.

DNW said...

"Now, for the sake of argument, I'm going to say: clearly the Russians are doing something right on this subject, culturally. We should take cues from them. They are evidence for the position that there are ways to oppose gay marriage, to convince people who are NOT Christian to support gay marriage, and to bolster converts in the process."

Let's suppose the worst about the Russians' intentions that any anti-natural law, anti-essentialist, heterosexist resisting, sex positive, queer theorist could possibly suppose.

So, then, with the "objective right" or "objective wrong" angles of attack ruled out of court from the start, what's left to the homosexual advocate apart from obviously empty and transparently emotive rhetoric? Bleats, of a kind, should we suppose?

I suppose that is why indoctrination and marginalization rather than rigorous argument is the default mode of the progressive. As Rorty admitted, they don't have an objective values case to make because it is held to be the case that there are no objective values.

Thus, as the Pres Himself said ... it's all about learning, or pretending to learn, or pretending at least, to see others in ourselves, or ourselves in others, or others in others or something along those lines, which will make it all better. That, or castration.

Not that ourselves in others - the idea of deeply shared values, wants, needs, and INTERESTS - is a true picture of reality of course. And not that such could even be a true picture, given the nominalist presuppositions of the average progressive who spouts these kinds of sentiments in the first place.

But when logic and proportion ...

So anyway, to retrench, why shouldn't, on the progressive's analysis, Russians considered as a majority, make whatever rules they want for gays as the minority?

Is it like homosexuals have some protections derived from natural law principles that all rational beings are objectively bound to respect?

Oh wait, no. They can't have on the progressive's own analysis.

Cue for somebody to start bleating about prejudice and bigotry, I guess.

Chad Handley said...

They were popular at the time - obviously, or they wouldn't have passed. You can check poll numbers if you don't believe me. Shall I supply polls about gay marriage acceptance in the US over the past ten years?

They were popular among likely voters in midterms at the time. Now, they're fairly unpopular, and all evangelicals accomplished is making people more sympathetic to gay marriage and more apt to see Christians as bigots who go out of their way to interfere with other people's rights. In the long term, those initiatives were disasters. Maybe there was no way to know at the time that they were disasters, but we know it now.

And given I said that our biggest expenditure was our reputation, why are you pestering me with minutiae? Other than the fact that it's by far your preferred argumentative technique?

Consider exactly how much has changed in the past 50 years as far as media and communication has gone.

Sure, there will certainly always be some crazy somewhere saying something, and some crazy listening. That doesn't mean there aren't tons of very smart Christians devoting way too much of their time to this issue. I never argued that it was possible or necessary to quiet every idiot, only that the smart people shouldn't join their chorus.

How?

In the case of the Catholic Church, mostly by protecting child molesters on a stunningly massive scale.

Hint: you're getting close to saying 'I bet they're all bigots in russia, I just don't know why'.

I said why: 22 to 40 percent of them express views that are abhorrent, and given they oppose gay marriage in excess of their religious affiliation, that would suggest they oppose it for reasons that are more bigoted than rationally-motivated.

Also, I'm aware that bigotry in general is fairly common in Russia and that their degrees of anti-Black racism and antisemitism are disproportionately high. Given these factors, I'm just not going to assume that Russia is "doing anything right." Being a man of principle, I don't count a potential bigot as an ally just because some of his bigotries might line up with my interests. Others may choose another path...

I know that the article doesn't say that they do overlap, and that arguing that they do without evidence is dishonest.

What's dishonest about saying 22-40%? Because given the views expressed, any number in that range is too high to be unproblematic to anyone with principles. It sort of belies the claim that opposition to same sex marriage has nothing to do with bigotry that you're so eager to throw in your lot with people who give significant indication of being bigoted.

Crude said...

DNW,

The funny thing is, one of the things driving Russia's sentiment against gay marriage and 'gay propaganda' has nothing to do with religion. It's demographic: Russia is dying. They reproduce far below the replacement rate. They strongly suspect that if this does not change, it means doom for them in the future.

So the idea of having a nice, open western-style 'sexually liberated' society - from even a secular standpoint - seems suicidal. They're looking to the west and seeing the demographic problems, and the problems that come with trying to offset it via immigration, and are deciding to try a different course. Whether or not they can change and maintain the culture the way they hope to is up in the air, but between Russia and France, all the claims about how the only opposition to gay marriage or public acceptance of same-sex sexual behavior is 'religious' tend to falter. Right or wrong, there's other reasons and concerns at work.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

Okay. So, thinking that same-sex sexual attraction is disordered, and that same-sex sexual behavior is immortal - bigoted?

Not in and of itself, no.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

The funny thing is, one of the things driving Russia's sentiment against gay marriage and 'gay propaganda' has nothing to do with religion. It's demographic: Russia is dying. They reproduce far below the replacement rate. They strongly suspect that if this does not change, it means doom for them in the future.

Would you mind providing to a link to the article from which you learned all that?

Crude said...

Chad,

They were popular among likely voters in midterms at the time. Now, they're fairly unpopular, and all evangelicals accomplished is making people more sympathetic to gay marriage and more apt to see Christians as bigots who go out of their way to interfere with other people's rights. In the long term, those initiatives were disasters. Maybe there was no way to know at the time that they were disasters, but we know it now.

What we know is that right now the public has turned against gay marriage. In 10 years, it may turn in another direction. My point here was that you've gone on and on about how resources were wasted 'fighting a battle that couldn't be won', as if at the time it appeared that way. It didn't.

And given I said that our biggest expenditure was our reputation, why are you pestering me with minutiae? Other than the fact that it's by far your preferred argumentative technique?

If you're going to pout and bitch and make this personal as you always do, please save me the time: say 'I don't like you Crude, go away, when you discuss things it makes me angry, wahhhhhhh!' so I can roll my eyes and do something else. Otherwise, act like an adult.

And what's more, it's not minutae - it's relevant. Do you really think it was clear, when the attitudes at the time were far different, that taking a position that substantial amounts of people took in polls was 'hurting their reputation'? Bill Clinton himself came out against gay marriage. So did Obama, until very recently. So did many others. Why, it's almost as if it benefited them then, but it does not benefit them now.

Sure, there will certainly always be some crazy somewhere saying something, and some crazy listening.

I keep bringing up the WBC, and you keep blowing past them. Tell me, Chad - how do we silence them? Why is it that they are repeatedly featured in the news? Why do we even know who they are, given how monumentally tiny they are?

I take the WBC's existence, and their prominence, as evidence that what you're saying here is naive. The idea that if only Christians made their opposition to gay marriage and same-sex sexual behavior something limited to their churches formally that they'd be celebrated in the media is flawed.

Crude said...

In the case of the Catholic Church, mostly by protecting child molesters on a stunningly massive scale.

And in the case of non-Catholics? I'll leave others to debate whether it was 'a stunningly massive scale'. I want to know why you apparently think the media at large should be even more negative towards Christians than it already is.

I said why: 22 to 40 percent of them express views that are abhorrent, and given they oppose gay marriage in excess of their religious affiliation, that would suggest they oppose it for reasons that are more bigoted than rationally-motivated.

Or, maybe there are reasons to oppose it that have nothing to do with Christianity specifically, or religion generally.

Being a man of principle, I don't count a potential bigot as an ally just because some of his bigotries might line up with my interests.

LOL.

Chad, your whole entry into this argument was that Christians should downplay their beliefs if they're unpopular with the population, in order to win more converts. You really shouldn't try to present your principles here - they're in dire need of polishing.

What's dishonest about saying 22-40%?

What's dishonest is suggesting that I said it was dishonest to say '22-40%', as opposed to presenting the numbers as 40% based on an unjustified extrapolation.

It sort of belies the claim that opposition to same sex marriage has nothing to do with bigotry that you're so eager to throw in your lot with people who give significant indication of being bigoted.

Chad. Buddy. Remember this?

"Now, for the sake of argument, I'm going to say: clearly the Russians are doing something right on this subject, culturally. We should take cues from them. They are evidence for the position that there are ways to oppose gay marriage, to convince people who are NOT Christian to support gay marriage, and to bolster converts in the process."

Do you know what 'for the sake of argument' means? What's more, I've pointed out that even if you claim that 22-40% of Russians are 'bigoted', you're still left with opposition to gay marriage standing at close to 90%. I said, that indicates that there's quite a lot of apparently non-bigoted Russians opposing gay marriage. You've been saying that there must be, because.. I don't know, you feel it in your bones, and also if you're not a Christian and you oppose gay marriage, bigotry is obvious.

Crude said...

Not in and of itself, no.

Alright. And, same-sex sexual activity - immoral? Sinful? Based on what scripture?

Would you mind providing to a link to the article from which you learned all that?

What, the demographics? It's common knowledge and they've acted on it before. Putin himself has drawn that line:

QUESTION: Mr Putin, could you please tell us if Mr Rutte touched on the human rights issues and the protection of homosexuals’ rights in your country? And what is your position regarding this?

PUTIN: [...] Now, let me be absolutely frank and share my position on this issue. I have already said that I believe it is my duty to protect the rights of sexual minorities, but let’s face it: gay marriages do not produce children. Both Europe and Russia are facing a demographic crisis. Of course, we can address this problem by increasing the number of immigrants, and that is one way to resolve this problem. But I would like to see an increase in births primarily among the so-called titular nations: Russians, Tatars, Chechens, Bashkirs, Daghestanis, Jews, and so on – that is, among the peoples who consider Russia their homeland. In this regard, I think we should come to a consensus with this community, negotiate cooperation terms rather than fight, come to an agreement, understand each other and establish certain civilised rules of behaviour. I think it's possible.

DNW said...

From Wiki with minor editing:
"Bigot ... someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats other people with fear, distrust, hatred, contempt, or intolerance on the basis of a person's ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristic"

Based on this then, the implication would be that once familiarity, experience, statistics, and careful calculation of the most effective path to some desired result are brought to bear, bigotry per se is no longer possible ... no matter who or how many one exterminates.

That is, unless there is some way of objectively evaluating or ordering desired results, or what should be the results desired.

And as regards, "fear", one need not "fear", one supposes history has shown well enough, in order to be motivated to eliminate the troublesome or annoying. Some may view, and have viewed it as mere "social hygiene": acts leading to greater conveniences and an ultimately more salubrious social life. George Bernard Shaw was probably not fearful of those he wished to exterminate for the supposed sake of the race.

It should also be pointed out that John Rawls in his Theory of Justice, offers up some rather vague but unmistakeably eugenic principles which he expects would probably and eventually become part of the social order were his vision of society to be realized.

Normal people too, and not just Ubermen, for an example, do not fear ants particularly, but they recognize no overriding moral duty toward them, and apparently feel little emotional connection either. Or at least not enough connection to make ridding them from their kitchens problematical.

Do we say people are bigoted toward ants or monkeys if they wish to be rid of them? What makes saying it about people, if we take the progressives' own metaphysics and philosophical anthropology seriously, different?

Chad Handley said...

What we know is that right now the public has turned against gay marriage. In 10 years, it may turn in another direction. My point here was that you've gone on and on about how resources were wasted 'fighting a battle that couldn't be won', as if at the time it appeared that way. It didn't.

I already conceded in the very post you quote that it's possible they didn't know it at the time. And you undoubtedly saw that concession.

And what's more, it's not minutae - it's relevant. Do you really think it was clear, when the attitudes at the time were far different, that taking a position that substantial amounts of people took in polls was 'hurting their reputation'?

No, and I conceded as much in my last post, and you undoubtedly saw that concession... but you're still asking me about it.

Minutiae.

I keep bringing up the WBC, and you keep blowing past them. Tell me, Chad - how do we silence them? Why is it that they are repeatedly featured in the news? Why do we even know who they are, given how monumentally tiny they are?

Because the media is biased towards sensationalism and the WBC are great copy. But even your most ardent atheist knows those people aren't representative of Christians because Christians everywhere condemn them.

The Catholic Church doesn't have a bad reputation in the public square because in recent years the 24 hour news cycle has made WBC convenient, it has a bad reputation because it enabled and protected child molesters for decades. And any suggestion that any part of the bad reputation it has for that is the media's fault is appallingly tone deaf.

I take the WBC's existence, and their prominence, as evidence that what you're saying here is naive. The idea that if only Christians made their opposition to gay marriage and same-sex sexual behavior something limited to their churches formally that they'd be celebrated in the media is flawed.

If you believe that, then you must believe there's really a war on Christmas, that Black Panthers really do skulk around at polling places intimidating away white voters, that the media is biased against Anthony Weiner's penis, that Miley Cyrus' gyrations were the most important news story yesterday, etc.

All of our news is absurdist and all of it is biased towards the most extreme elements. That doesn't mean the media is in any large sense out to get Christians. The media is out to get ratings, and WBC is good for that.

Our bad reputation doesn't come from bias and it doesn't come from the WBC, it comes from Catholic Church sex scandals and a reputation for stupid, shallow thinking cultivated earnestly by America's most visible Christians. That stuff is (or was) correctable, and it's that stuff, not WBC, that's responsible for our tarnished reputation.



Anonymous said...

"Chad, your whole entry into this argument was that Christians should downplay their beliefs if they're unpopular with the population, in order to win more converts. You really shouldn't try to present your principles here - they're in dire need of polishing."

Ha ha, fantastic point.

Eric

Chad Handley said...

And, same-sex sexual activity - immoral? Sinful? Based on what scripture?

All sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral, and I base that on all the usual scriptures. This gotcha interrogation debate style of yours is tedious, given that my personal opinions about exactly what aspect of gay sex is objectionable based on what scripture is irrelevant to the subject at hand. Say I had all the wrong opinions about homosexuality based on all the wrong scriptures. Would that prove that devoting a lot of time and effort to fighting gay marriage was a strategically effective thing to do?

Minutiae.

What, the demographics? It's common knowledge and they've acted on it before. Putin himself has drawn that line:

It might be common knowledge that Russia is depopulating but it's not common knowledge that they oppose same sex marriage because of the depopulation. All of Europe and White America for that matter are depopulating but 95% of us don't oppose gay marriage.

Where are you getting the claim that the opposition is caused by depopulation, or is that speculation on your part?

At any rate, I don't see how opposing gay marriage will solve the depopulation problem, unless the gays who aren't allowed to marry are also forced to procreate. I would again point to fighting against abortion as a more useful and effective and important way to solve the depopulation problem, and I'll again point out the fact that the fight against gay marriage is hurting the fight against abortion, both in terms of resources and squandered political capital.

George R. said...

The following provides an idea of what the proper Catholic position on gay marriage ought to be:

http://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/n009rp_HomosexualPriests.htm

Crude said...

Chad,

No, and I conceded as much in my last post, and you undoubtedly saw that concession... but you're still asking me about it.

Minutiae.


If you conceded anything, they came after my responses. Cry about it more.

Because the media is biased towards sensationalism and the WBC are great copy. But even your most ardent atheist knows those people aren't representative of Christians because Christians everywhere condemn them.

Bull. The WBC get treated in many quarters as 'Christians being honest', and the idea that Christians condemn *homosexuality* (as in, a person who happens to have same-sex attraction, regardless of whether they act on it) is ridiculously common - and I don't think it's an accident that the WBC goes out of its ways to present as much.

The Catholic Church doesn't have a bad reputation in the public square because in recent years the 24 hour news cycle has made WBC convenient, it has a bad reputation because it enabled and protected child molesters for decades. And any suggestion that any part of the bad reputation it has for that is the media's fault is appallingly tone deaf.

I nowhere said that the Catholic Church's reputation took a dive because of the WBC. I suggested that the WBC has been repeatedly given coverage, and that said coverage impacts how people who oppose gay marriage are portrayed.

What's more, the Catholic Church has a horrible reputation in some quarters for things that have nothing to do with, let's face it, the actions of many same-sex-attracted priests. Their opposition to abortion, their opposition to women's ordination, to contraception, and more has won them a lot of enemies, regardless of those acts. And further, 'The Catholic Church' didn't shield them, as if this was a matter of dogma. A bunch of rotten clerics, including some very liberal ones, went to bat for their friends.

All of our news is absurdist and all of it is biased towards the most extreme elements. That doesn't mean the media is in any large sense out to get Christians. The media is out to get ratings, and WBC is good for that.

'The media' covers Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Reddit and more. Please, tell me that Fox News and MSNBC are bereft of bias, don't have agendas, or that their bias never has an impact. I want to make your insanity on this topic light up in neon.

If you want to continue to take the attitude that bias in media is non-existent, or that those 'stupid people' who act as representatives of Christianity are not often sought out expressly *because* they have poorly thought out views that they can't articulate well, go for it. And no, this isn't 'librul media' or 'Faux News'. This is a combination of common sense and simply paying attention.

I'm sure that, for example, the Kermit Gosnell case was overlooked for so long because an abortion house of horrors is just terrible ratings too, right? No bias there.

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Chad,

To paraphrase Chesterton, Christianity's biggest problem continues to be Christians.

... and...

[Everything you’ve written, but especially:] I would attend a church that supported gay marriage politically. It comes down to my believing that the religious law and the civil law shouldn't entirely overlap, and that given this is a civil, secular democracy, not everything forbidden in religion should be forbidden in the public square.

I think Chesterton would rather have it that Christianity’s biggest problem continues to be Christians like you. He reminded us – while comparing St Francis with St Thomas – that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most. The point, in Chesterton’s words: “If the world grows too worldly, it can be rebuked by the Church; but if the Church grows too worldly, it cannot adequately be rebuked for worldliness by the world.”

It’s not about staying silent lest we turn off a couple of people here and there. It’s not about fighting more strategically. It’s about what’s true and what’s good above worldly consideration.

(I realise there’s no argument here. Others are addressing you with more substance and, from what I’ve read, more charity – you’ve rewarded them by calling them, among other things, “spiteful;” well, call me “snippy and dismissive” if you like but I was only one split second (or so) into your second disagreeable comment when I realised you were just enjoying a day out talking crazy.)

Chad Handley said...

Do you know what 'for the sake of argument' means? What's more, I've pointed out that even if you claim that 22-40% of Russians are 'bigoted', you're still left with opposition to gay marriage standing at close to 90%. I said, that indicates that there's quite a lot of apparently non-bigoted Russians opposing gay marriage. You've been saying that there must be, because.. I don't know, you feel it in your bones, and also if you're not a Christian and you oppose gay marriage, bigotry is obvious.

1. 73% is not close to 90%.

2. That 22-40% of Russians feel comfortable stating such heinous beliefs to a polster is suggestive to me some significant level of bigotry in the atmosphere.

I'm sure I could find you a poll from the pre-Civil-Rights American South where 95% of people opposed giving Blacks the vote but only 22% thought they should be lynched for trying to vote.

You wouldn't conclude on those numbers that the 73% who did not think they should be lynched were therefore not motivated by bigotry in opposing giving Blacks the franchise.

Crude said...

All sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral, and I base that on all the usual scriptures. This gotcha interrogation debate style of yours is tedious, given that my personal opinions about exactly what aspect of gay sex is objectionable based on what scripture is irrelevant to the subject at hand. Say I had all the wrong opinions about homosexuality based on all the wrong scriptures. Would that prove that devoting a lot of time and effort to fighting gay marriage was a strategically effective thing to do?

It's not 'gotcha', it's thorough. Because frankly, if it turned out that you thought same-sex sexual activity was moral, and you supported gay marriage, then your whole 'This is what I think the Church needs to do in order to make substantial and legitimate progress culturally' schtick would be exposed as less than sincere. Why in the world should anyone listen to someone griping about 'you can't win this battle, just give up' from someone who opposes the views of the very people they're trying to advise?

It might be common knowledge that Russia is depopulating but it's not common knowledge that they oppose same sex marriage because of the depopulation. All of Europe and White America for that matter are depopulating but 95% of us don't oppose gay marriage.

It could be that 95% of people don't care about the future of their country, their culture, or much else besides relatively short-term gratification and preening over whatever social issues happen to be in fashion at the moment.

Either way, I've provided Putin himself drawing the line there. I recall that the actual sponsor of the latest anti-LGBT propaganda bill had much the same view.

Where are you getting the claim that the opposition is caused by depopulation, or is that speculation on your part?

I provided the link to Putin giving his own thoughts on the matter. He draws a pretty clear line between the current demographic trends of Russia and the rationale behind opposing same-sex marriage. Right or wrong, that line is drawn. If you can't see this, it's not because I'm speculating, it's because you're being willfully blind.

Oh, and I suppose I should tack on...

Minutiae. ;)

At any rate, I don't see how opposing gay marriage will solve the depopulation problem, unless the gays who aren't allowed to marry are also forced to procreate.

Because, it would seem, some Russians think that gay marriage and LGBT 'propaganda' cannot be disentangled from desirable cultural attitudes towards sex and procreation. They want to foster a cultural where sex is connected with marriage, and marriage is connected with having children. There is an obvious way in which acceptance and celebration of gay marriage and gay relationships in the public sphere hinder that.

I would again point to fighting against abortion as a more useful and effective and important way to solve the depopulation problem, and I'll again point out the fact that the fight against gay marriage is hurting the fight against abortion, both in terms of resources and squandered political capital.

Idiots presenting poorly argued cases harm the fight for gay marriage. I'm in favor of doing away with the idiots - I see no reason to give up that fight, as opposed to changing the tactics. I'm seeing evidence of success elsewhere, including in France. Nor do I see what 'squandered political capital' there is, nor do I think the 'resources' being used to fight gay marriage are anything close to overwhelming.

And what do you care? You're apathetic to possibly supportive of secular gay marriage anyway, so what value is your advice to people who oppose it?

DNW said...

Crude said...

DNW,

The funny thing is, one of the things driving Russia's sentiment against gay marriage and 'gay propaganda' has nothing to do with religion. It's demographic: Russia is dying. They reproduce far below the replacement rate. They strongly suspect that if this does not change, it means doom for them in the future.

So the idea of having a nice, open western-style 'sexually liberated' society - from even a secular standpoint - seems suicidal. They're looking to the west and seeing the demographic problems, and the problems that come with trying to offset it via immigration, and are deciding to try a different course. Whether or not they can change and maintain the culture the way they hope to is up in the air, but between Russia and France, all the claims about how the only opposition to gay marriage or public acceptance of same-sex sexual behavior is 'religious' tend to falter. Right or wrong, there's other reasons and concerns at work.

August 27, 2013 at 4:26 PM"



Yes, well as you know, a nice open, liberated western-style society as progressives define it does not imply a nice open libertarian society, where practitioners of vice are allowed to sow as they choose, as long as they reap only in their own fields.

Instead, the cost shifting social insurance state is brought into existence precisely in order to indemnify entropic behaviors, and eliminate moral hazards.

The cry on its behalf is "social solidarity"; but it is a peculiar kind of solidarity: lacking internal affinity and convergence or coherence of interests, even to the extent presuming to bind antithetical ends.

The language used to supposedly "justify" these programmatic takings and coercive redistributions in the name of providing distributive satisfactions, is the language of a "through no fault of their own" aleatory probability - entirely fictional and not at all representative of reality.

Progressives, while clearly not believing in ideal forms, nonetheless talk as if uniform human souls dropped randomly into various quality shells; and because of that some deserve special consideration in order to compensate for the injustices wrought by nature.

But of course, no progressive really believes in "justice" whether natural or not.


Most arguments with them will devolve into invective, or result in a game wherein if you are patient and allow it, they will amuse themselves by seeing how many new albatrosses they can hang around your neck while you are trying to untangle from the last one.

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

If you conceded anything, they came after my responses. Cry about it more.

Go look at your 4:41 post. You quoted me conceding that they didn't know it at the time in the very post in which you blamed me for not conceding that they couldn't know it at the time.

Look, I'm just not going to indulge your pity party about the media. If you think the big, bad media is out to get you, if you think they'd give you bad press no matter what you did, ignoring the many Christians (like the Pope) who are media darlings, I won't stop you.

Perhaps you'll concede at least that Christians could do a much, much better job not contributing to their own bad reputations.

Anonymous said...


"At any rate, I don't see how opposing gay marriage will solve the depopulation problem, unless the gays who aren't allowed to marry are also forced to procreate. I would again point to fighting against abortion as a more useful and effective and important way to solve the depopulation problem, and I'll again point out the fact that the fight against gay marriage is hurting the fight against abortion, both in terms of resources and squandered political capital"

Hmmmm, I don't know. The fight against abortion is alienating a significant amount of people from Christianity. Perhaps we should focus on things like poverty, teddy bears, maybe throw in some rainbows. The least we could do is turn down the volume on the abortion debate.

Crude said...

1. 73% is not close to 90%.

Around 85 percent of adult Russians said they were strongly against a law that would allow same-sex marriage, the Levada Public Opinion Center reported; 87 percent said they opposed the idea of holding regular gay pride events in their cities.

I was referring to the overall opposition, not overall minus the 22%.

2. That 22-40% of Russians feel comfortable stating such heinous beliefs to a polster is suggestive to me some significant level of bigotry in the atmosphere.

You don't even know if that 22-40% is bigoted. They may support 'bigoted' policies - they could be supporting them for idiotic reasons that seem legitimate to them, sans bigotry.

And what, 'comfortable stating such heinous beliefs to a pollster'? And on this you base your extrapolations? You may as well argue that the support for gay marriage must be vastly higher in Russia - it's just that everyone is telling the pollster what they think the pollster wants to hear. You have about as much grounding to say that.

I'm sure I could find you a poll from the pre-Civil-Rights American South where 95% of people opposed giving Blacks the vote but only 22% thought they should be lynched for trying to vote.

Unless you want to come out and say that opposition to gay marriage is in and of itself bigoted, the cases don't compare whatsoever. I'd say nice try, but really, the attempted comparisons between blacks being denied the right to vote and two men not being able to marry each other are old news. They're persuasive only to the already convinced. And even the already convinced often find it a bad joke.

Chad Handley said...

I provided the link to Putin giving his own thoughts on the matter. He draws a pretty clear line between the current demographic trends of Russia and the rationale behind opposing same-sex marriage. Right or wrong, that line is drawn. If you can't see this, it's not because I'm speculating, it's because you're being willfully blind.

Last I checked, Putin is one guy, and him giving his opinion on why same sex marriage should be forbidden does not equate to an explanation of the poll numbers of hundreds of millions of people.

It might be that Putin opposes same sex marriage for procreative reasons (that, again, make no sense) and the rest of the Russian populace opposes it because they're bigots. Putin's quote doesn't solve the issue.

Because, it would seem, some Russians think that gay marriage and LGBT 'propaganda' cannot be disentangled from desirable cultural attitudes towards sex and procreation. They want to foster a cultural where sex is connected with marriage, and marriage is connected with having children. There is an obvious way in which acceptance and celebration of gay marriage and gay relationships in the public sphere hinder that.

So, where are all the Russian initiatives promoting married couples having babies?

If the only procreative initiatives are aimed at stopping something which is at best wildly tangential to the problem, that would indicate their motives might not be what they say they are.

At any rate, keep holding up Russia as the ideal moral state if you want to, until the predictable day a poll comes out detailing Russian opinions about Blacks and Jews, (which according to various articles I just googled are horrible), and you again make all Christians look bad for casting in your lot with bigots.


Crude said...

Go look at your 4:41 post. You quoted me conceding that they didn't know it at the time in the very post in which you blamed me for not conceding that they couldn't know it at the time.

Considering the 4:41 post has you testily whining to me that I was criticizing you over minutiae - which would have you conceding the point and then criticizing me for bringing it up in one and the same post - I don't know what you expect that to prove here. Whatever it is, it's not bolstering your point.

Though I am willing to admit that your continued complaining about it certainly qualifies as minutiae.

Look, I'm just not going to indulge your pity party about the media.

I don't really care what you indulge, since the value of your view is extremely low to me. You've already said enough nonsense ('If a man is truly good, then the press won't be able to demonize him!' 'Media is sensationalistic, not biased! Neither MSNBC nor Fox News pushes an agenda!') to hang yourself on that front. Anything you add at this point is just wind-twisting.

Yep, this current Pope has been looking far better in some parts of the media. Oh, by the way? He's also been steadfast in his opposition to gay marriage and the immorality of same-sex sexual behavior. Which, I suppose, just further backs up my own point: that this is not a lost fight. We just have to fight it differently.

Perhaps you'll concede at least that Christians could do a much, much better job not contributing to their own bad reputations.

There's no need to concede it, since I argue as much from the outset, and have for a while. People like yourself merely complicate matters, because whenever someone like me tries to tell people 'Look, we have to modify our message, we can't say stupid stuff, we have to be intelligent and attack bigotry and more', I end up being categorized as a version of yourself - sounding as if I'm telling them to ditch their principles, downplay their teachings, and try to appeal to people who reject the tenets of their faith.

You're making the job MORE difficult, not LESS. Maybe that's your intention.

Anonymous said...

I do believe Putin put forward legislation to give financial rewards to women willing to have multiple children. could be wrong. I'll look it up.

ERIC

Chad Handley said...

Crude:

Say there was a Muslim country where 85% opposed Christians being allowed to practice their beliefs, and 22-40% thought that Christians should be isolated in ghettos, placed in "religious reeducation camps," or murdered for their beliefs.

Would you conclude that bigotry against Christians played little to no role in the remaining 45-63% who believed Christians shouldn't be allowed to practice their faith?

Or would you conclude that if that many people hold such abhorrent views, that speaks to an atmosphere of Christian hate?

Crude said...

Last I checked, Putin is one guy, and him giving his opinion on why same sex marriage should be forbidden does not equate to an explanation of the poll numbers of hundreds of millions of people.

It might be that Putin opposes same sex marriage for procreative reasons (that, again, make no sense) and the rest of the Russian populace opposes it because they're bigots. Putin's quote doesn't solve the issue.


Putin's the leader of Russia (even when he's not in office), so when he justifies Russian policy, I think at the very least it establishes something close to the official rationale for legislation. You asked me to back up my point, and I backed it up. Chase after the bigotry ghosts if you want - I've done what was asked of me.

So, where are all the Russian initiatives promoting married couples having babies?

Right here, for starters.

Do you need yet more?

If the only procreative initiatives are aimed at stopping something which is at best wildly tangential to the problem, that would indicate their motives might not be what they say they are.

So I suppose what I just supplied indicates that you're wrong, eh?

At any rate, keep holding up Russia as the ideal moral state if you want to, until the predictable day a poll comes out detailing Russian opinions about Blacks and Jews, (which according to various articles I just googled are horrible), and you again make all Christians look bad for casting in your lot with bigots.

Ah, more dishonesty. Well, at least you're starting to be consistent, Chad.

I don't hold up Russia as an ideal moral state, nor any state for that matter. I said, for the sake of argument, I could hold them up as a place where we may be able to learn a thing or two about how to fight for gay marriage, given their successes there. You, meanwhile, make all Christians look like insincere hypocrites who downplay teachings that are unpopular in the hopes of picking up converts. Nice televangelist attitude there.

Japan has a rotten attitude towards blacks too, from what I hear. But I'm still going to pay attention to them when they have success on one or another social or cultural issues, and see if there's something of value there. So much for your 'thinking strategically' bull: you only want to think strategically insofar as it results in people doing what you want. This was never about giving advice you think would benefit the Church for you, apparently. You just wanted to play the 'I'm on your side, guys, but I totally think we should throw in the towel on gay marriage, we'll never win, I wish it were otherwise but oh well.' game.

Crude said...

Say there was a Muslim country where 85% opposed Christians being allowed to practice their beliefs, and 22-40% thought that Christians should be isolated in ghettos, placed in "religious reeducation camps," or murdered for their beliefs.

Would you conclude that bigotry against Christians played little to no role in the remaining 45-63% who believed Christians shouldn't be allowed to practice their faith?

Or would you conclude that if that many people hold such abhorrent views, that speaks to an atmosphere of Christian hate?


What's 'bigotry' have to do with that example? Contextually, they could oppose Christians being allowed to practice their beliefs for all manner of reasons, none of which are necessarily bigoted. All of which, of course, I'd oppose and find rotten.

You apparently think that 'bigotry' and 'bad thing' are interchangeable words. They're not. In your example, the 85%, and the 22-40% are advocating something bad. Advocating something bigoted? That's a different question.

That is, believe it or not, a possible position.

Crude said...

As fun as it is to discuss this for hours, I've got work to do - and really, more and more this seems like the most insincere conversation, which is only going to entertain for so long. I'll be back later regardless.

Step2 said...

You, meanwhile, make all Christians look like insincere hypocrites who downplay teachings that are unpopular in the hopes of picking up converts.

To be fair, you don't see many Christians proclaiming the legal slavery verses in the Bible these days either.

Tim Lambert said...

Step2, you're out of your league with this discussion.


Ignorant, snide comments only reflect poorly on you.

Scott said...

Well, it may cost me the respect of some posters to this site whom I admire, but I have to say for the record that I don't think natural-law arguments suffice to show the positive immorality of gay sex (for reasons that, time permitting, I'll be happy to discuss if anyone is interested).

Generally, despite my tremendous respect for the Catholic Church and my tendency to agree with St. Thomas on philosophical matters, my disagreement with the Church's views on homosexuality and contraception are an important part of what keeps me from converting in good conscience.

Tony said...

Leaving off the "all-Chad all the time" network news, now, for something a bit more interesting: has anyone noticed that we now have 3 (at least) more-or-less right-wing pundits, usually people who have far more than 2 neurons to rub together, telling us to abandon natural law in the public square basically because "it isn't going to work" given that people don't even share the right metaphysical base to "get it"?

This meme is coming from somewhere, and my suspicion is - because it has not a single SHRED of intelligibility to it, that it is coming from somewhere a lot deeper into the dark than usual. Yes, the liberal-mania abandoned the natural law quite a while ago, but right-leaning smart pundits don't normally take their memes from such. So where are Hart and Bottum getting it from? They have succumbed to frightening whispers from demons, that's where.

The reason they can put pen to such sheer obfuscation on the subject, and not notice the fall-off from usual standards of quality writing and thinking, is that they have lost their reason - in a sense. They have lost the sense of what reason is in the human scale of things. In a nice Chestertonian topsy-turvy sense, they have lost faith in reason.

In REALITY, not the fiction perpetrated by mainstream media, people are every month and every year led to truth, led to acceptance of truth, led to reliance on truth knowable by reason, through the difficult, patient work of EDUCATING in the proper sense of the word. Liberal education in its original sense (where "liberal" stands for the freedom Christ refers to because the Truth will set you free, and He is the Truth), properly undertaken, fully carried out, can AND DOES, demonstrably, provide the wherewithal to grasp and adhere to reason, to natural law. It did so in earlier times, and it continues to do so now in the 2 or 3 institutions that still practice it - even in the midst of today's post-modernist challenges. The fact that these schools can do it today, even with atheists and the like, disproves Bottum and Hart and the rest when they claim that it cannot be done. What is true is that it is difficult. So? So is practicing Christianity. So is virtue. So is teaching good engineering, for goodness sake.

The fact that it is difficult should get us off our duffs and DOING it, not whining and crying about being losers. Bottum wants to make do with cultural dhimmitude from fear of having to make do with even worse. Well, nuts to that, he can have dhimmitude, I'll take the fight. And, as C.S. Lewis says, the devil whispers to us of these fears of "the worst, but 99 times out of 100 the worst doesn't come about, and your fearful worries were for naught.

Fake Herzog said...

God bless you Tony -- that is one of the best comments I've read all night (even though I did enjoy the back and forth between Crude and Chad).

Speaking of which, tangentially related to the subject of Russian "bigots", on the question of quarantine*, some here will be interested to know that there is actually good evidence for a gay germ:

http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/not-final/

*this should in no way be construed as an endrosement of the policy, but perhaps Russian folk wisdom was on to something...

Alat said...

(Responding to the original post).

Thank you for this, Dr. Feser. Like others, I eagerly anticipate your promised work on this.

I don't know if you are aware of this quote, but it sums up the Bottum business pretty well (and it was written by a Protestant nearly 150 years ago):

When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.

Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them.

From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it.


From Charles Porterfield Krauth, "The Conservative Reformation", 1871, pp. 195-196.

Anonymous said...

"Well, it may cost me the respect of some posters to this site whom I admire, but I have to say for the record that I don't think natural-law arguments suffice to show the positive immorality of gay sex (for reasons that, time permitting, I'll be happy to discuss if anyone is interested)."

No respect lost here. Your posts will remain in my must-read column. Not that this means much. I have an intellect that can only be described as average. Probably slightly below average.

Do you hold the opinion that gay sex is moral (in some circumstances anyway) or can't be proven to be immoral? Thanks

Eric

Anonymous said...

From Bottum's essay: Where we’re going with all this is toward a claim that the thin notions of natural law deployed against same-sex marriage in recent times are unpersuasive, and, what’s more, they deserve to be unpersuasive—for their thinness reflects their lack of rich truth about the spiritual meanings present in this created world.

That sounds about right to me.

Shortly after, though, he writes:

there remains, I think, a question religious believers must ask: a prior question of whether the current agitation really derives from a wish for same-sex marriage, or whether the movement is an excuse for a larger campaign to delegitimize and undermine Christianity.

Which is nothing short of insane. Here's a hint: it's not all about you.

Then later: And when we are ready to start rebuilding the thick natural law that recognizes the created world as a stage on which the wondrous drama of God’s love is played, we will have the information we need to decide where same-sex marriage belongs in a metaphysically rich, spiritually alive moral order

That's pretty good. If you are going to hold to obsolete concepts you might as well have a rich and subtle version of them, rather than the narrow, rigid belief system that dooms you to irrelevance.

Anonymous said...

If one believes in Natural Law I'm not sure on what grounds he'd defend homosexuality. Certainly the near-ubiquity of opposition to homosexuality (which transcends cultures, peoples, religions, and ideologies worldwide) speaks to its place in the moral law. If homosexual behavior is an acceptable practice akin to sport, music, or scrapbooking; certainly there wouldn't be the universal fuss there is.

--GW

Crude said...

If you are going to hold to obsolete concepts you might as well have a rich and subtle version of them, rather than the narrow, rigid belief system that dooms you to irrelevance.

There's nothing obsolete about the concepts, and the only thing 'irrelevance' means here is 'unpopular'. Not even many LGBT activists believe they've found some way to establish the morality of same-sex sexual behavior, much less the rightness of gay marriage. Most of them realize they got where they were by screaming and emotional appeals - it's not natural law arguments that have fallen out of fashion, but 'rational reflection', period.

The great thing is how rapidly the culture changes, and how unreliable emotional appeals are. I will likely live to see the people exploiting these things for cultural dominance have the same tactic used on them, effectively. It may not be good, it may not be moral, but it will almost certainly be entertaining.

Crude said...

Well, it may cost me the respect of some posters to this site whom I admire, but I have to say for the record that I don't think natural-law arguments suffice to show the positive immorality of gay sex (for reasons that, time permitting, I'll be happy to discuss if anyone is interested).

No respect lost here. I can accept reasonable disagreement among people with common ground on these issues. The problem is 'The arguments and views are wrong, obviously wrong, anal sex and the like is totally moral maybe possibly except for fideistic adherence to revelation, and dissent on this is just bigotry and hate'. Play that card and respect will be lost, but it seems unlikely in this case.

Crude said...

Which is nothing short of insane. Here's a hint: it's not all about you.

And, to comment on this: what is all about is any dissent, period. If there's one thing the very concept of 'Pride Day' illustrates, it's that the LGBT movement is wracked by insecurity. It's entirely possible to be gay or accepting of homosexuality, and to still regard same-sex marriage as a joke.

But hey, some people will not be satisfied unless everyone is forced to state that their sexual desires and acts are pure and good and glorious. Which, again, is great - because eventually, it's not going to just be Christians and (in Russia's case) nationalists who get sick of the schpiel, but everyone.

Crude said...

Tony,

As far as why you have some intelligent Catholics taking the position they are, I'll provide my own input on the matter. I think it's pretty simple, and it doesn't have much to do with direct demons per se: Well-spoken Christians do not like to be snubbed. They like to be friends with secular people, even atheists, particular secular/atheist people in high places. Their peers. And when their peers collectively decide that certain opinions are no longer acceptable or tolerable, they have to decide: give up their connections and face some persecution, or try to talk their way out of it.

A lot of times, option 2 is selected.

I think it's a pretty typical human failing. How many people who believe gay marriage is wrong would let themselves get fired to maintain that belief? Or passed over for a promotion, or tenure, or whatever else? 'Far fewer than the number who say they would', I suspect.

That said, I don't think Hart is in quite the same category. Hart didn't seem to say 'give up the attempts to change people's minds on this, period'. He just suggested that any strategy which requires deep and intricate knowledge of metaphysics (and I think he'd mean any metaphysics at all, not specifically natural law) will never have broad appeal. I agree with that much. I think NL and other arguments work in very particular arenas.

If you want to persuade the public nowadays, you need something faster, simpler, and more direct. I think those options are available - I think NL attitudes can be stripped down, communication can be focused. I think other arguments, even secular ones, are available and are largely unused, or are used poorly.

But when a well-known conservative traditionalist or the like chooses the moment where the culture seems to swing against them to say 'We should give this up right now', I think they're speaking with more than their words.

malcolmthecynic said...

I might sound like a broken record, especially to Tony (whose comment was superb, by the way) since I mentioned it before on WWWtW, but I think this is really, really important for us to understand why gay marriage is gaining such widespread acceptance:

Promoting "gay rights" is seen as a civil rights issue, a sort of spiritual successor to the Civil Rights Era of the 60's This is at least true for people in my age demographic.

I am 19. I probably have one friend who doesn't support same-sex marriage. Maybe two. Neither of them consider it nearly as big of an issue as I do. And there's a reason for that. Their feelings are genuine - they think people who think homosexual actions are sinful REALLY ARE bigoted. They are utterly sincere. Trust me on this.

These are people who are pro-life too. Some of them were pro-life enough to go on the March for Life in Washington, D.C.! But that's part of the point. They see gay rights as a part and parcel issue - if you support rights for the unborn, you support rights for gays too. In their minds it's the natural progression.

We're up against something very dangerous, because it's also very, very genuine. These are not bad people. They're actually very good people in a lot of ways who believe they're fighting for a noble cause. And that's what makes this so dangerous. Tolkien always said that Gandalf with the Ring of Power would have been far worse than Sauron ever was.

malcolmthecynic said...

I also want to point out - I said that my two friends who are against gay marriage don't consider it a big issue. But my friends who are FOR gay marriage sure as Hell consider it a HUGE issue, for the reasons I gave.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing obsolete about the concepts

Well, considering it is explicitly put forward as a return to premodern modes of thought, it is obsolete by definition, at least until modernism blows itself up, which I suppose might happen. Will you agree at least that it is old-fashioned, which might be a good thing?

Not even many LGBT activists believe they've found some way to establish the morality of same-sex sexual behavior, much less the rightness of gay marriage.

I imagine most of them have enough experience to form a better judgement about it than you could.

Most of them realize they got where they were by screaming and emotional appeals - it's not natural law arguments that have fallen out of fashion, but 'rational reflection', period.

“Screaming and emotional appeals” is what those in power call the behavior of those out of power.

Kirill Nielson said...

Someone here mentioned Russia as an example of strong anti-gay attitudes. Allow me to weigh in, as I am Russian, and say this -- if anything, my country is a perfect example of bigotry. Gays are hated there. Not because of religion. Not because of the natural law. No, it's cultural. Gayness is viewed as disgusting mental sickness, embarrassment for a man.

While I myself may sympathize with the natural law, I do not condone homophobia. And let's face it, if you are against same-sex marriage, you won't escape being labeled a "homophob." There's just no way around it. This war of yours, dear Catholics, is lost. Make peace with it and turn your attention to other matters.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

We're up against something very dangerous, because it's also very, very genuine. These are not bad people. They're actually very good people in a lot of ways who believe they're fighting for a noble cause. And that's what makes this so dangerous.

That's actually encouraging to me. Because people who genuinely believe one thing or another often have what they think are principled reasons for thinking the way they do. And if they really are trying to think about this in a genuine way, then there's a way to communicate with them.

Here's where the problem for me comes in.

Their feelings are genuine - they think people who think homosexual actions are sinful REALLY ARE bigoted. They are utterly sincere. Trust me on this.

I don't doubt they're sincere. The question is A) if they really think that (I mean, do they differentiate between 'state of being' and 'desire/act'?), and B) what the source of that sincerity is. Because if they feel that way strongly, but can't justify their beliefs, or their justification amounts to repeating maxims or appealing to emotion... then I'm going to question whether that's sincere.

Not to mention, let's be frank - some of the people who oppose same-sex marriage really do come across as people who Just Don't Like Homosexuals. I think there are plenty of valid complaints about the last 'leadership' against same sex marriage and so on. I also think quite a lot of the people who are animated about these things are only superficially animated by the desire to do what's right. Sometimes, people just like to have a group they can draw a box around and say, 'Evil. Get rid of them.'

malcolmthecynic said...

I imagine most of them have enough experience to form a better judgement about it than you could.

What does experience necessarily have to do with it? What type of experience do you mean? Gay sex? And for that matter, how would you even know?

Crude said...

Well, considering it is explicitly put forward as a return to premodern modes of thought, it is obsolete by definition,

Nah, not in the relevant sense. We're talking about philosophical concepts and metaphysical views - even 'modern' concepts are, by and large, centuries old at this point.

at least until modernism blows itself up, which I suppose might happen. Will you agree at least that it is old-fashioned, which might be a good thing?

Doesn't seem to help as much as obfuscate.

I imagine most of them have enough experience to form a better judgement about it than you could.

Fantasize about what you like. I'm basing my responses on direct experience, not imagination.

“Screaming and emotional appeals” is what those in power call the behavior of those out of power.

Nah, it has nothing to do with power and everything to do with reality. You can go look at LGBT activists past antics - they made emotional appeals, acting up, rage and more pretty much the central play. It paid off beautifully. There's nothing particularly new about the tactic, but it is what it is. And it certainly is not strong arguments and careful reasoning.

Crude said...

While I myself may sympathize with the natural law, I do not condone homophobia. And let's face it, if you are against same-sex marriage, you won't escape being labeled a "homophob." There's just no way around it. This war of yours, dear Catholics, is lost.

10, 20 years ago, supporting same-sex marriage would have gotten you called a 'fag lover' or something equal revolting by many liberals, to say nothing of conservatives. The idea that right now opposition to gay marriage is in some quarters unpopular (and among the youth, very unpopular) means 'the war is lost' is silly. You may as well go back 10 years and say, 'Dear homosexuals, people regard same-sex marriage as terrible and wicked. My friends, the war is lost.' It'd make about as much sense.

That's especially odd coming from you. Let me ask: do you advise LGBT groups 'the war is lost, give up, quit fighting for gay marriage'? Or do you encourage them to fight against what is right now the overwhelming opinion of the Russian people, religious and not?

malcolmthecynic said...

The question is A) if they really think that (I mean, do they differentiate between 'state of being' and 'desire/act'?), and B) what the source of that sincerity is. Because if they feel that way strongly, but can't justify their beliefs, or their justification amounts to repeating maxims or appealing to emotion... then I'm going to question whether that's sincere.

That's an interesting point. What do you mean by sincere?

I just put on a performance of a show where we raised 2,000 dollars for charity. I was a producer, and learned way later that one of the leads, who happened to be the most talented person in the whole show, was gay. I didn't really care. He didn't act at all effeminate and it's none of my business anyway.

To get to the point of my story, he was a good friend of one of my best friends and the cast apparently loved him.

It's people like him, I'm sure, who are nice and talented and popular and gay, who influence what my friends are thinking. They see all of these examples of homophobia in the media and on Law and Order: SVU (boy, there was a HOWLER on today), and that's their image of people who think gay acts are immoral. Then they see their friend (let's call him Ken), who has no obvious issues and whose sexual acts, whatever they might be, aren't really affecting us in any way, and they wonder why they ever thought they were immoral in the first place.

It seems like an emotional appeal, but try and think from their perspective here. You're against homosexual acts because you're a Catholic. You're not really sure why. You watch the media and see people like the Westboro Baptist Church make the news. They're bigoted and their "arguments" are really awful. You have this image of signs quoting Leviticus then remember it also condemned eating shellfish. And so you wonder: Why am I associating with these people? What is my reason?. And they can't think of any. Then they meet Ken - nice, smart, funny Ken, who is such a great guy even if he has a boyfriend, and it just seems funny - how is what he's doing harming anybody? Why do I think what they do in bed is immoral if it doesn't affect anybody else? And how come Ken and boyfriend AREN'T allowed to get married? Doesn't that seem WRONG?

Natural law, of course, is a terrible argument to them; after all, people used to think it was "unnatural" for blacks to marry whites, but we outgrew our prejudices. And there's the rub: It's about outgrowing prejudices to them and making sure homosexuals are "treated equally" "aren't discriminated against" and have "equal rights".

Do you see where the logic is coming from? In its own way it actually makes a twisted sort of sense. It's dangerous to argue against because it truly is a moral crusade, and if you disagree you're a bigot just like the Governor of Alabama or whatever. That immediately knocks you down a peg, and your arguments are never going to be taken seriously because you're the equivalent of the "r" word - racist. This is what we're fighting against.

Kirill Nielson said...

Crude,

I can't advise them anything, as I don't interact with them.

But history shows that civil rights movement does not reverse. When people get liberties and privileges, they hold on to them.

Finally, dominance of bigotry in my country is hardly a good reason to discourage any gay movement.

Look, here's the thing - all you have is the natural law. Like I said, I sympathize. But they have utilitarianism, a bunch of scientific studies that prove that same-sex families are just fine for raising children, and finally, most of them are genuinely NICE people. You see what's happening there? Their case is way stronger than yours.

malcolmthecynic said...

Look, here's the thing - all you have is the natural law. Like I said, I sympathize. But they have utilitarianism, a bunch of scientific studies that prove that same-sex families are just fine for raising children, and finally, most of them are genuinely NICE people. You see what's happening there? Their case is way stronger than yours.

There's a whole "quality, not quantity" thing sticking out here like a sore thumb.

Crude said...

But history shows that civil rights movement does not reverse. When people get liberties and privileges, they hold on to them.

History shows a cycle of various groups coming to power, getting liberties and rights and privileges, and then eventually losing them, giving them up, or otherwise. Or are you referring to history that only goes back a few decades at most?

This is doubly funny in Russia. How are those civil liberties you picked up post-Soviets working out? Hell, how did the progress of rights post-Tsar work out?

Finally, dominance of bigotry in my country is hardly a good reason to discourage any gay movement.

So the lesson here is: if, just in this past year, support for gay marriage has finally outpaced opposition, then clearly all is lost and gay marriage opponents should give up, stop talking, don't even think about resisting.

But an absolutely colossal, culture-wide opposition to same-sex marriage in Russia, approaching 90% support, is no reason at all to give up.

I think your advice is pretty disingenuous.

Look, here's the thing - all you have is the natural law. Like I said, I sympathize. But they have utilitarianism, a bunch of scientific studies that prove that same-sex families are just fine for raising children, and finally, most of them are genuinely NICE people.

Let's see. 1) An 'obsolete' (apparently) philosophical view most people either are uninformed about, and which is riddled with problems, 2) soft-science studies, which point in various directions, and which are disputed whenever they fail to go the right way, and 'they're nice people'.

No, I think their case - their intellectual case - is abysmal. And the fact is, you seem to think as much too. The worry is that, if people don't give up, then the pendulum may swing in another direction.

But don't worry, Kirill. When eventually that pendulum does swing back, I'm going to fight as hard as I can to oppose any kind of discrimination or harassment of people with same-sex sexual desires. That's sincere.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

Do you see where the logic is coming from? In its own way it actually makes a twisted sort of sense. It's dangerous to argue against because it truly is a moral crusade, and if you disagree you're a bigot just like the Governor of Alabama or whatever. That immediately knocks you down a peg, and your arguments are never going to be taken seriously because you're the equivalent of the "r" word - racist. This is what we're fighting against.

No, I understand it. Thanks, by the way, for a very good and thorough explanation of what you mean.

I think eventually those passionate feelings subside for a lot of people, and what starts as determined adherence to a noble cause eventually becomes something closer to going through the motions and habit.

I also think that some of their attitudes are good. Ken shouldn't be sneered as a 'fucking faggot' or threatened or bullied. I oppose that shit, it's rotten, and some idiots really do engage in it. They're fighting against, many times, what is a warped image of opposition to same sex marriage and the like. Again, I think conservatives have a lot of blame to shoulder here (you saw what happened with the arguments at WWWtW. I think you understand more than many here.)

But I think the situation is reversible. I will never stop pointing at the statistics showing the change in attitudes in the past 5, 10 years. Or who was present at the march in France. Or otherwise. There's important lessons there.

Crude said...

Also,

That's an interesting point. What do you mean by sincere?

Fair question. When I say sincere, I mean... do they really believe this for intellectual reasons? When they offer up some article defending same-sex sexual behavior, do they even understand the study itself? Or do they get as far as "This supports the position I Like!" and that's about as far as it goes? At the end of the day, do they support Gay Marriage because they really think it's right and opposition is wrong? Or, ultimately, does this just mean "I like Ken. He's my friend. Gay marriage makes Ken happy. No gay marriage makes Ken sad."?

It's not something I think you're going to be perfectly privy to, or me. What goes on in a man's soul, etc. But many times I run into people discussing these things, and under the bluster I realize, a lot of the arguments or reasoning they're offering up are just proxies for something else. It's not 'Gay marriage is totally right and there's nothing wrong with any sexual desires so long as no one is physically maimed or it's not rape or child molestation'. It's, 'X is my friend, or my sister, or my son. X is a good person.'

So I think you're largely correct in what you're talking about. I think I understand it. I just think there's a way past it.

malcolmthecynic said...

Well Crude, here's another related story: When the show ended, the other producers and I all agreed it was a successful beyond our wildest dreams, and all three of us decided to try and do another show next year (which I'm still working on, but I'll get to that).

I am one of three producers. Our "charity", such as it is, was sponsored by a Catholic Church in the area. Without getting into legal stuff it basically means that we officially associate with the Church so we could legally fundraise.

Remember my one friend who was great friends with Ken? He was one of the producers. While we were discussing shows for next year he suggested a show called "Glory Days". I didn't like it for a few reasons actually, but I pointed out to him that we were being sponsored by a Catholic Church and it featured, as a main character, a gay character.

He didn't like that. He pointed out that the character just HAPPENED to be gay, and he wasn't doing anything particularly immoral. I told him, "Look dude, I think if we try doing it we might have a problem. Ask them, but I don't want to do it anyway." He just decided to leave the group, not bothering to ask. I wished him well, he's a good friend and a good guy.

But he thought the Church was being bigoted if it didn't allow us to perform that show. I don't agree, and the reason is that I think it, implicitly, supports what someone at WWWtW called "Will and Grace Syndrome" and what I call "Homosexuality as left-handedness Syndrome". It didn't actively promote homosexuality or the gay lifestyle, but it acted as if it was just another quality. Some people have blue eyes; some people are left-handed; and some people are gay. It's made out like it's equivalent to the other two. I wouldn't have been comfortable performing the show, and while I don't know how the Church would have reacted my money is that they would have agreed with me.

Was I being influenced by bigoted preconceived notions? Maybe, but I don't think so. I think Will and Grace Syndrome is a real phenomenon and went a long way towards causing this mess.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

Never heard of the show. On something like that, I don't think your reaction is bigoted at all. I think when it comes to gay representation in the media, issues get a little complicated.

I don't see anything wrong with there being, say... a gay character in this or that film or whatnot. I do think that media especially becomes this weird kind of proxy battleground, where you need to have gay characters included in media in a practically mandatory way. It must come up. My problem tends to be that, at least in the media I see, when they do come up there's almost always a scene where the gay character is discriminated against, and then...

You know what? Screw that. I'm going to refer to a better article that touches on some of this. Right here. I think there are some problems, and even some agendas at times, with presenting gay characters in media. I also think they tend to be pretty sterilized when they are presented. You can have a gay man as the hero or brother of the hero in a comic or a movie. Make a gay man the villain, or a man who's somewhat effeminate a villain? Well, now you're in trouble.

Oh, and make a woman an out lesbian in the media - and then have her later decide she actually likes men? You'll cause heart attacks, even though this is anything but unheard of.

malcolmthecynic said...

My problem tends to be that, at least in the media I see, when they do come up there's almost always a scene where the gay character is discriminated against, and then...

You hit the nail on the head concerning what goes on in the show (BTW, it turned out that it run for a grand total of, I believe, one performance on Broadway, so it's not exactly famous).

Theater, as is well known, is especially bad regarding gay rights, and as a fan of theater who has no interest in that culture I am decidedly very much an outsider in that sense. It's one of several very good reasons I would never look at this as any more than a fun hobby.

Gail Finke said...

Excellent response! That was one of the most tortuous, long-winded, and bloated essays I've ever read, and I found it difficult to pay enough attention to figure out what he based his conclusions (such as they were) on. Despite the title, he did not make a Catholic case for SSM. At best, he threw up his hands and said "why bother??"

Two things in particular amazed me. This bizarre claim: "[..under any principle of governmental fairness available today, the equities are all on the side of same-sex marriage.  There is no coherent jurisprudential argument against it—no principled legal view that can resist it."

No principled legal view???? Equities are all on the side of same-sex marriage???? A concept invented about 20 years ago and never before dreamed of by man has -- in his estimation -- no possible coherent or fair legal opposition?

And the second was his assertion that marriage being inherently reserved to one man and one woman is a "metaphysical concept" (by which, I think, he means "esoteric") that is just too HARD for ordinary people to grasp. IMHO, it's the other way around. The idea that same-sex acts are equivalent to normal ones and that same-sex couples are in no way different from opposite-sex couples is one that takes a great deal of intellectualization to believe.

Finally, I love this line of yours: "Uptight teachers of the faithful are always setting father against son and mother against daughter, but that’s no way to win over the youth demographic."

Yes, just as all those early Christians threw up their hands and capitulated to the popular Roman customs of promiscuity, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, infanticide, enslavement of abandoned infants, and marrying (and divorcing) whoever your father said to, we should all just.... wait a minute... didn't they OPPOSE those things?

Brandon said...

Well, it may cost me the respect of some posters to this site whom I admire, but I have to say for the record that I don't think natural-law arguments suffice to show the positive immorality of gay sex (for reasons that, time permitting, I'll be happy to discuss if anyone is interested).

Scott,

I actually think there's a lot to be said for the position, since there are complications in any natural law discussion of sex that tend to be glossed over by the overenthusiastic -- the actual Catholic rejection of contraception, for instance, requires not just natural law considerations but also the Catholic theology of marriage, and even the aspect of it based on natural law is based on several distinct strands of thought, not just one. (Two things conservative Catholics who haven't read Humanae Vitae repeatedly ignore is that the whole point of the Encyclical, explicitly pointed out, is that the Church has to step in because the matter is not at all simple and that part of its conclusion is that the Church's view requires an entire approach to society that cannot be confined to simply rejecting contraception and leaving it at that.) The matter of homosexuality is not quite as complex, but it's also a mistake to think it simple. Part of the reason is that most of the natural law's principles related to sexuality chiefly have the species as a whole in view, and it's clear from other principles of natural law that focus on the species (like the requirement for manual labor) that getting such principles precise enough to cover individual cases, or establishing more than general presumptions that admit of exceptions, can sometimes be a lot of work, and generally requires a lot of help from other principles. (Even Aquinas doesn't get his sexual ethics from consideration of sexual matters alone; his sexual ethics is primarily structured, whenever he can manage it, by considerations of rational exchange, not purely sexual considerations. And the reason for that is pretty obvious: principles of exchange, which concern justice, get down to sharp lines and individual cases far more straightforwardly and naturally than principles about human sexuality.)

DNW said...

Anonymous Tony said...


"The reason they can put pen to such sheer obfuscation on the subject, and not notice the fall-off from usual standards of quality writing and thinking, is that they have lost their reason - in a sense. They have lost the sense of what reason is in the human scale of things. In a nice Chestertonian topsy-turvy sense, they have lost faith in reason."


Yes, I think that we - those of us who have left our undergrad days 20 and more years behind - sometimes forget, or overlook, the fact that the fundamental presuppositions of the modern outlook, and quite formally that of the academy, are and have been for at least 80 years deeply nihilistic. Reason cannot by that anthropological perspective be anything more than an instrumental faculty direct-able toward ends and outcomes that in themselves cannot be judged good or bad.

The profound stupidity, the complete and ludicrous intellectual bankruptcy of hedonic utilitarianism is then, all that is left to those holding to that view who even bother with trying to "justify" the social claims they lay against others.

Mostly they don't engage in the "calculus". It's too much work and doesn't prove anything anyway if you don't accept the fundamental premise of "good" as an irreducible synonym for "pleasure".

So, emotion, and vaunts, and the cynical deployment of pseudo-moral emotive language takes reasoning's place.

The unvarnished upshot?

A thing then, which is on its own say-so and understanding, nothing more than a temporary locus of appetition developed from a field of chaos, wells up before you and begins squawking that it, whatever it is, wants, and wants you to accommodate and assist in its fulfillment. Because. Just because, ultimately.

It may make no sense, but then life, as we are informed by the most advanced authorities, is not about sense, but about feeling and doing, and socially about a self-sacrificial and non-judgmental commitment to a shared fate. And whatever that fate may be, it will we are told, assure the run of the mill species-being of all the self-realization it can desire or handle ... or is entitled to, anyway. So help me Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Rorty.

No mystery in any of that of course. The mystery, from my perspective, is why people who have no belief in natural law, or objective morality, or in reason other than as an instrumental faculty, waste their energy trying to persuade you A-T Catholics that they are "right", when on their own terms they can never be "right", but only temporarily socially dominant.

Maybe that is why one sees somewhat less wheedling from them nowadays, but more in the way of vainglory, mind games, and chest thumping.

AndreasMum said...

@Brandon
Thank you for that input! The various interpretations of natural law is exactly what I would like to see more people discuss on a thread like this, instead of people taking for granted that natural law inevitably shows that homosexual acts between consenting adults must always go against what is best for humans.

On the grand scale of the human race as such, you can easily argue that homosexuality is not good, since it does not bring new life with it, but natural law also has a lot to say about what is best for the individual, and here I think the arguments are not so clear. Especially since homosexuals are a clear minority, and we are therefore not in a situation where humankind as such is in danger of extinction.

Thats the debate I would like to read!

Scott said...

@Eric:

"No respect lost here. Your posts will remain in my must-read column."

Thank you.

"Do you hold the opinion that gay sex is moral (in some circumstances anyway) or can't be proven to be immoral?"

I'll illustrate my opinion with a very rough and imperfect analogy. My wife is diabetic and therefore has to avoid starches in her diet, but she likes to eat pasta. One of the regular items on our household menu is a brand of pasta that has a special coating on it that prevents it from being digested (as long as it's not overcooked; underneath, it's just plain old regular pasta). You could say that this pasta is deliberately designed to, and the act of eating it does intentionally, frustrate the natural function/aim of the digestive system: by intent, at least, it's a non-nutritive "food" that circumvents the metabolic processes ordinarily associated with eating. Yet I don't think the most devoted natural lawyer would claim that eating it was for that reason positively immoral, and surely some would say that it's positively moral in that it makes a positive contribution to her overall well-being—objectively, not just in terms of how she "feels." (Moreover, I eat and enjoy it too, and I'm not diabetic.)

As Ed says in his NCBQ piece, we don't just "eat," we have meals; for us, as rational animals, eating has a social and cultural significance beyond mere feeding. One consequence of this seems to be that, morally, we can, and in some cases perhaps even should, "misuse" our stomachs (by eating non-nutritive "foods" and even by taking in, in moderation, actual toxins like alcohol) for the sake of a higher-level specifically human good.

[continued]

Scott said...

[continued]

As I said, the analogy is far from perfect, and of course I'm presenting it as an illustration, not as an argument. But it's not a bad approximation of my current opinion on gay sex. I don't claim to know that the act of anal penetration isn't immoral for some other reason (and of course if there's special revelation that God forbids it, that's a pretty damned good reason!). But I don't think the natural-law argument gets us there. (Sure, the act is physically risky—but it's the anus, not the penis, that bears most of the risk, and it's the latter on which natural-law arguments are concentrated. And sure, I find the thought of it pretty icky. But not only is that not much of an argument for moral wrongness, but frankly the act seems just as icky to me between a man and a woman—possibly more so, as they have what to me is a clearly far superior alternative!)

To borrow an example from p. 194 of Gareth Moore's A Question of Truth: even admitting (as I do but Moore perhaps does not although he grants it here arguendo) that male/female sex is a natural good, it doesn't follow from this that male/male sex is evil—merely, that is, because it's an activity that fails to realize the good of male/female sex. Neither do playing tennis or drinking coffee. Those are just other things we can do instead. The fact that one activity is good doesn't automatically mean its alternatives are evil.

And to my mind, at least, the additional fact that male/male sex (or masturbation, or contraception) "frustrates" the natural end of our sex organs also seems insufficient in and of itself to show that it's wrong. As my example above seems to illustrate (but of course does not prove!), it doesn't seem to be the case that a well-lived life can't involve using our organs in a manner that "frustrates" their natural ends. If there's something wrong with gay sex, I don't think that's it. The subject of my well-lived life is me, not my stomach or my penis; what's at issue is my good(ness), the fulfillment of my nature, not that of my parts.

Of course the goodness of the human species is at issue too, and I think it's tolerably clear that at the species level, male/female procreative sex is "normal" in both senses: i.e., "typical" and "normative." But I don't think that point is decisive at the individual level; if it were, it would seem to show equally well that, since civilization would collapse if we were all plumbers (or monks), therefore none of us should be plumbers (or monks). There are lots of things it's okay for individuals to do that would nevertheless be disastrous if everyone did them.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"No respect lost here. I can accept reasonable disagreement among people with common ground on these issues. The problem is 'The arguments and views are wrong, obviously wrong, anal sex and the like is totally moral maybe possibly except for fideistic adherence to revelation, and dissent on this is just bigotry and hate'. Play that card and respect will be lost, but it seems unlikely in this case."

Thank you. And yes, that's unlikely to the point of impossibility. I could give a pretty good unbiased summary of the natural-law case against anal sex myself, and I think it's not only worthy of respect but pretty formidable. At any rate I certainly don't think anyone who offers it is a hate-filled bigot.

@Brandon:

"I actually think there's a lot to be said for the position, since there are complications in any natural law discussion of sex that tend to be glossed over by the overenthusiastic -- the actual Catholic rejection of contraception, for instance, requires not just natural law considerations but also the Catholic theology of marriage, and even the aspect of it based on natural law is based on several distinct strands of thought, not just one."

Thank you for your elaboration here. I won't reply point by point, but I think you'll see your influence in what I wrote in my previous two-part post.

"The matter of homosexuality is not quite as complex, but it's also a mistake to think it simple."

I think that if I could pick one thing to wish all parties to the debate would agree on, that would be it.

(And for the record, by the way, I think Bottum's piece is a rambling and incoherent mess.)

Anonymous said...

MLK: “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”

Crude: “The arc of history bends every which way, and if it happens to be bending towards justice today don’t worry, we can straighten it out tomorrow”.

Scott said...

Two posts back, "the goodness of the human species" should have been "the good of the human species."

Also, as long as I'm posting again: if anyone wants to read a reply to Gareth Moore, there's an interesting and measured one here.

BenYachov said...

Even thought it's cynical Crude is correct & MLK is not.

After all I never dreamed in a million years the first black President of the United States(admittedly a civil rights triumph regardless of politics) would take civil right away from Catholics!

Ordering them to buy birth control for lazy heathen fascist dirtbags who are free to buy it themselves.

The Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans in the middle of the 60's excommunicated "Catholics" who joined racist "White citizen" councils & took a stand for civil rights on behalf of blacks.

This is how we are repaid?

Telling a Christian Photographer in New Mexico she HAS TO PHOTOGRAPH a gay wedding(even thought gay marriage isn't even legal). Can a gay photographer be penalized for refusing to photograph a wedding between an "ex-gay" man & woman on the grounds of religious discrimination?

Telling a Christian Baker she has to bake a cake for a gay wedding? Can a gay baker be forced to bake a cake with a contra-gay quote from the Bible?

It's sad how the pursuit of civil rights & to banish oppression degenerates into merely replacing the oppressor & or switching places with him.

gay marriage people are doing this with a vengeance.

Scott said...

@Ben Yachov:

"Telling a Christian Photographer in New Mexico she HAS TO PHOTOGRAPH a gay wedding . . . "

Yes, that's one of the absurd consequences of regarding a private business as a "public accommodation."

"Can a gay baker be forced to bake a cake with a contra-gay quote from the Bible?"

Now that would be a very interesting test case. Suppose a gay baker refused to bake a cake with Leviticus 20:13 written in frosting on the top. Would the New Mexico ruling make that baker do it anyway? By its own logic, it should, but I bet in practice it wouldn't. (And shouldn't, but the same consideration should apply to the Christian baker too.)

DNW said...

"BenYachov said...

Even thought it's cynical Crude is correct & MLK is not.

After all I never dreamed in a million years the first black President of the United States(admittedly a civil rights triumph regardless of politics) would take civil right away from Catholics!"


There ought an "Inverse Godwin's Law" response when people trot out "MLK" so fallaciously.

Invoke "MLK", follow with a little hymn singing, and discussion is closed, thank you very much.

DNW said...

Ahem ... "There ought to be ...

DNW said...

cott said...

@Eric:

"No respect lost here. Your posts will remain in my must-read column."

Thank you.

"Do you hold the opinion that gay sex is moral (in some circumstances anyway) or can't be proven to be immoral?"

I'll illustrate my opinion with a very rough and imperfect analogy. My wife is diabetic and therefore has to avoid starches in her diet, but she likes to eat pasta. One of the regular items on our household menu is a brand of pasta that has a special coating on it that prevents it from being digested (as long as it's not overcooked; underneath, it's just plain old regular pasta). You could say that this pasta is deliberately designed to, and the act of eating it does intentionally, frustrate the natural function/aim of the digestive system: by intent, at least, it's a non-nutritive "food" that circumvents the metabolic processes ordinarily associated with eating. Yet I don't think the most devoted natural lawyer would claim that eating it was for that reason positively immoral, and surely some would say that it's positively moral in that it makes a positive contribution to her overall well-being—objectively, not just in terms of how she "feels." (Moreover, I eat and enjoy it too, and I'm not diabetic.)"



Consider an alternate case: "Your wife" does not have juvenile onset, but rather Type II diabetes which could be avoided through dietary restrictions and discipline.

On insulin, she sometimes still craves what she should not eat and what has very little nutritional value. So after a full meal and in order to satisfy the craving for say a couple of donuts she (like others I have actually seen) casually delivers herself an extra dose of insulin.

Any mystery as to what might be considered disordered there?

Anonymous said...

scott,

I think you're right about various non-reproductive sexual acts not being obviously wrong on Natural Law (or additional arguments being necessary to demonstrate their wrongness). I think there's an important difference between taking in alcohol, or eating pasta that's designed to not be digested, though. It seems to me that desiring pasta or a rum and coke can be part of what is an otherwise healthily ordered relationship to food. Desiring sexual satisfaction from something/someone with which reproduction is in principle impossible seems to be indicative of a disordered desire, and so the problem seems deeper there. That's to say that the nature sex makes those desires such that they cannot possibly be ordered toward the overall good of the person. At the very least, imagining that such desires are just fine or not a dysfunction would skew a person's relationship to reality a bit. I can, however, desire a gin and tonic without doing violence to my understanding of the proper ends of my digestive system. I suppose one could then say, "well, certain sexual acts are fine as a pastime" but that seems, at least intuitively, a morally repugnant attitude to have toward sex which must involve more care and deeper commitment.

matt

Anonymous said...

ugh, so many typos, sorry.

"...the nature sex makes those desires..."

should have been, "...the nature OF sex..."
I hope I otherwise made sense.

-matt

Scott said...

@DNW:

"Consider an alternate case . . . "

With all respect, why would I "consider an alternate case" that doesn't illustrate the point I wanted it to illustrate? Even my own illustration of my opinion was admittedly an imperfect analogy; why would I want to use one that was even less perfect?

At any rate, it's not obvious to me that either craving doughnuts or taking an extra dose of insulin to stave off that craving is morally wrong in and of itself. The disorder is the diabetes itself—the adult-onset variety of which, by the way, can and does appear in people with no family history of the disease and no personal history of poor diet, being overweight, or lack of exercise.

(Nor, by the way, was my illustration intended to suggest that same-sex orientation either is or results from such a disorder. But even assuming that it did, it wouldn't follow from that fact alone that any specific methods of coping with it were wrong.)

David T said...

"...it doesn't seem to be the case that a well-lived life can't involve using our organs in a manner that "frustrates" their natural ends. If there's something wrong with gay sex, I don't think that's it. The subject of my well-lived life is me, not my stomach or my penis; what's at issue is my good(ness), the fulfillment of my nature, not that of my parts"

Scott, I think a Thomist would object to the quasi-Cartesian or Platonic assumptions behind this point, to wit that you are something other than your body (if the parts of your body, your brain, your stomach, your heart, your penis, etc. are not you... what is?)

When you frustrate the natural ends of your body, you're not frustating something only accidentally related to your being, you are frustrating yourself. The subject of your life is indeed you, but "you" are the hylomorphic unity of your body and soul... not some third substance attached to or using a body.

Scott said...

@matt:

"Desiring sexual satisfaction from something/someone with which reproduction is in principle impossible seems to be indicative of a disordered desire, and so the problem seems deeper there. That's to say that the nature [of] sex makes those desires such that they cannot possibly be ordered toward the overall good of the person."

Yes, that's definitely one of the possible disanalogies in my illustration, and I'd certainly agree that what you're saying here is one of the strongest points in favor of the immorality of gay sex.

In order for it to work as a positive argument, though, we still need two things:

(a) A non-question-begging argument that sexual desire in a context that makes reproduction impossible in principle really is a disordered desire. I don't claim to know one way or the other whether this is the case. But one argument that's guaranteed to fail is that the desire must be disordered because it involves a desire to use one's sexual organs in a way that frustrates their natural end. That premise is what we're supposed to be trying to show in the first place.

(b) A non-question-begging argument that it's morally wrong to cope with a disordered desire, or at least with this particular disordered desire, by indulging it even in moderation. It could be true that such indulgence is wrong in general, but I seem to be able to think of exceptions. For example, I'd be inclined to argue that there's something "disordered" about a thrillseeker's desire to take on risk for its own sake, but I wouldn't think it was morally wrong for such a person to indulge that desire by, say, riding a roller-coaster or even climbing a mountain. I also don't see that someone with a mild tendency toward alcoholism is morally obliged to be a teetotaler if s/he can keep his/her drinking under control. In either instance it's a question of putting that desire to work in the service of a higher and more inclusive goal. I may well be mistaken in either or both of those cases, but either that must be shown or a special reason must be given why sex is an exception here.

Scott said...

@David T:

Scott, I think a Thomist would object to the quasi-Cartesian or Platonic assumptions behind this point, to wit that you are something other than your body (if the parts of your body, your brain, your stomach, your heart, your penis, etc. are not you... what is?)"

I see your point but that wasn't my intent. What I mean to say is that I'm not reducible to the parts of my body.

"When you frustrate the natural ends of your body, you're not frust[r]ating something only accidentally related to your being, you are frustrating yourself."

Well, I'm frustrating the natural end of something that constitutes a part of myself, but the question is whether it's everywhere and always wrong to do that even for the sake of the hylemorphic whole that I am. My point is that the part doesn't exist on its own but is part of me and subserves the whole—and that I seem to be able to think of other examples (one of which I've given) of its being morally permissible to frustrate the natural end of a bodily part for the sake of that whole.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

I may well be mistaken in either or both of those cases, but either that must be shown or a special reason must be given why sex is an exception here.

I've wonder about this as well. If it's all right to cut off your arm (for example) to benefit the whole, then what grounds prevent sex from following a similar principle? I haven't yet seen a purely rational argument that explains the reason. Even if one cannot be given (which is completely possible), though, I'm more than swayed by JPII's theological arguments.

Anonymous said...

scott,

I think my original comment, albeit vaguely, addresses your (a) and (b).

For (b), the notion of engaging in such sexual acts in moderation seems absurd. How is one a homosexual, for instance, in moderation. I don't think the alcoholic - teetotaler analogy works. This is because alcoholism refers to addictive behavior, whereas with sexual acts we are asking whether or not certain desires are proper for action. The alcoholic, like any other person, thinks that they would like to have a drink. There is nothing about their desire that is different from the normative case, as I understand it. I think that if you take a close look at your analogies so far, they are more than a little rigged to suit your conclusions. I don't say this to be snarky, merely as a critique of your approach to the argument.

as for (a), sex exists, for whatever reasons it came about, for reproduction. I don't think we need to make analogies to bodily functions that involve the will, either. In the case of diabetes, as you mention, there is something amiss, but suddenly when it involves sexual pleasure we are supposed to wonder? In the case of the sort of sexual desires we are talking about, it is hard for me to understand why anyone would argue that they are not disordered. Clearly they involve a misalignment of sexual desire and the proper object of that desire (a member of the same species toward which one's sexual faculties will be properly aligned with to bring about that which sex is for). I don't know what to do with someone who denies this, as it sounds like crazy talk to me. Let's pick a more obvious object of sexual desire, such as paperclips. How could a desire for paperclips not be disordered. Why does it become more difficult to determine when it is a member of the same sex and not paperclips? I suppose here one might say that it is impossible to have a relationship with a paperclip... but that would just be to assume ends for sex but refuse to allow procreation, a painfully obvious end, as one of those ends. We can't also just brush off desire for paperclips as ridiculous in this discussion, and limit it to just homo/heterosexual, since in order to do that we'd have to admit that there was an end to sex other than the good of the individual, which would be to admit ends, and I am repeating myself...

-matt

DNW said...

Scott said...

@DNW:

"Consider an alternate case . . . "

With all respect, why would I "consider an alternate case" that doesn't illustrate the point I wanted it to illustrate? Even my own illustration of my opinion was admittedly an imperfect analogy; why would I want to use one that was even less perfect?"


I grant that since in your continuation you are at pains to say that you are not actually making an argument, but trying to illustrate some point about the legitimate frustration a natural end for the sake of an ostensibly innocuous pleasure of some type, the illustration of a case wherein the tactic of achieving compensation [per definition] for a perhaps partly inherent disorder and which involved deepening rather than escaping it, might not be of much interest to you.


"At any rate, it's not obvious to me that either craving doughnuts or taking an extra dose of insulin to stave off that craving is morally wrong in and of itself. "

I was not paralleling an extra insulin dose with the effect of chemical castration on homosexuals, as you seem to imagine.

The extra dose of insulin - in my own illustration and experience of witnessing it - was not taken in order to "stave off" or suppress a craving, but to allow the indulging of it to the continuing physical detriment - though somewhat ameliorated - of the organism. Perhaps my phrasing made what I was suggesting unclear.

The case mooted was specifically of someone with, "Type II diabetes which could be avoided through dietary restrictions and discipline ...

[Though] On insulin, she sometimes still craves what she should not eat and what has very little nutritional value. So after a full meal and in order to satisfy the craving for say a couple of donuts she ..."

Apparently this is not unusual at all with persons having Type 1 diabetes, and they celebrate it as as form of freedom to behave normally. http://www.diabetesforums.com/forum/dieting-and-nutrition-diabetes/37469-cheating-using-insulin.html

Type 2 as I described it, seems to provide a clearly different proposition.


"The disorder is the diabetes itself—the adult-onset variety of which, by the way, can and does appear in people with no family history of the disease and no personal history of poor diet, being overweight, or lack of exercise."

That some people suffer adult onset diabetes without bringing it upon themselves, does not mean that others who have done so are thereby offered an escape hatch.

The illustration, mine, showed that some people know what is healthy for their bodies, frustrate the end of health, and continue to use artificial means to enhance and prolong the disordered behavior that is causing them the physical problems in the first place; as well as annoyance and cost to those who have been trapped into expense sharing arrangements with them.

Well, I think we can at least agree that if no one has a natural law obligation to try and hew to a healthy ideal, then no one else has has a natural law moral obligation to indemnify these persons against the effects of their self-destructive behaviors.

The public problem of course, is that that is the direction our political association has been dragged these many years now.

David T said...

Scott,

Eating pasta is a natural human activity all healthy people are encouraged to do; your wife's illness prevents her from partaking of it so you do a workaround through science so she can eat it.

Actually, were it me, I wouldn't eat it, and I do find something a litte odd with deliberately eating something you know you can't digest. There are certain things I can no longer digest (milk, among others), but I would never eat a substitute designed to just pass clean through my body. I don't think it's a big deal, but I don't see anything good that can come from faking out your body like this. There are plenty of other good things I can still eat. Better to eat them and forget about the stuff my body rejects.

In any case, unlike eating fake pasta, anal sex is not an attempt to partake of a normal, healthy activity that all adults want to do, and are occasionally prevented from doing because of a disease (like your wife). Unless, of course, you hold that homosexuality is a disease, which I doubt you do. Your wife would eat real pasta if she could, right? So she's getting as close to that natural experience as she can given the limitations of her condition. But engaging in anal sex (or contraceptive sex) is not an attempt to approximate a normal, healthy activity as best one can given conditions, but to substitute a fake activity for the natural one because, for various reasons, one prefers the fake experience to the real one. So I don't think your example is relevant.

(By the way, I wonder if the fake pasta is used by bulimic types to stay thin... they can pound all the pasta they want and stay thin! Not healthy or moral IMO).

grodrigues said...

@Scott:

"My point is that the part doesn't exist on its own but is part of me and subserves the whole—and that I seem to be able to think of other examples (one of which I've given) of its being morally permissible to frustrate the natural end of a bodily part for the sake of that whole."

But is not David T's point precisely that insofar as the part does not exist on its own, it does not have any telos of its own in abstraction from the whole? So to say that such and such frustrates the natural end of a bodily part, is short hand for saying that such and such frustrates the natural ends of a certain faculty or power of the whole as realized by such and such a bodily part.

@Rank Sophist:

"If it's all right to cut off your arm (for example) to benefit the whole, then what grounds prevent sex from following a similar principle?"

In order for the rhetorical question to have force you have to show just as there is a greater good that is served by cutting off the arm, that there is a greater good that is served by engaging in same-sex relations. But that is precisely the bone of contention, is it not? From the last page of Prof. Feser's paper:

"Now, since the natural ends of our sexual capacities are simultaneously procreative and unitive, what is good for human beings vis-à-vis those capacities is to use them only in a way consistent with these ends. This is a necessary truth, given the background metaphysics. It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in a way contrary to these ends, whether or not an individual person thinks it is, any more than it can possibly be good for a tree to fail, because of disease or damage, to sink roots into the ground. This is true whatever the reason is for someone’s desire to act in a way contrary to the purposes of nature—intellectual error, habituated vice, genetic defect, or whatever—and however strong that desire is. That a desire to act in such a way is very deeply entrenched in a person only shows that his will has become corrupted."

On one side, the more proper analogy with cutting off the arm for the greater good seems to be abstaining from sex for the greater good, but this hardly is worth noticing as no Thomist will object to it. On the other side, a more proper analogy to indulging in same-sex relations would be using the arms in such a way as to positively frustrate their proper ends as arms of a human being, but once again this is hardly worth mentioning. So in what sense exactly are we to take the analogy, if it is to do any substantial work?

Crude said...

MLK: “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”

Crude: “The arc of history bends every which way, and if it happens to be bending towards justice today don’t worry, we can straighten it out tomorrow”.


Justice, like couples being forced by law to take pictures of 'gay wedding couples'? Men being threatened with 'hate speech' laws for quoting scripture or condemning same-sex sexual behavior? Gay "marriage"? You've got a funny idea of justice to start with. From my perspective, MLK's quote should worry you, not me, if taken at face value.

But yes, I take a dimmer view of history in general. Is there anything more 'black comedy' than the war to end war, in hindsight?

Scott said...

@matt:

"I think that if you take a close look at your analogies so far, they are more than a little rigged to suit your conclusions."

Fair enough. The ones you're criticizing here weren't quite analogies; I offered them as possible counterexamples to the principle that it was everywhere and always wrong to indulge a disordered desire. But I'm happy to acknowledge that in some (perhaps important) respects they may be disanalogous to the case at hand.

To my mind, though, that leaves the basic question right where it was. Is there any reason in principle why, according to natural law, the use of some bodily part in a way that frustrates its natural end can never contribute to one's overall good as a whole organism? And if not, what singles out the sexual organs as an exception?

@rank sophist:

"I haven't yet seen a purely rational argument that explains the reason. Even if one cannot be given (which is completely possible), though, I'm more than swayed by JPII's theological arguments."

Also fair enough. And again, relating this to the subject of the thread: I certainly acknowledge that special revelation is a pretty damned good reason in its own right and that it's entirely proper for a Christian (especially a Catholic, who believes the case for special revelation can be made out through natural reason) to make such arguments in the "public square."

@David T:

"I do find something a litt[l]e odd with deliberately eating something you know you can't digest."

Oh, believe me, so do I. I'm just not seeing anything positively morally wrong about it. (Of course there might be medical issues we're not yet aware of.)

@DNW:

" . . . trying to illustrate some point about the legitimate frustration a natural end for the sake of an ostensibly innocuous pleasure of some type . . . "

Well, more precisely, I was trying to illustrate my current opinion about gay sex (in response to a question about it) by offering a rough analogy: my attitude toward gay sex is in some respects much like my attitude toward eating non-nutritive pasta.

"The extra dose of insulin [was taken] to allow the indulging of it to the continuing physical detriment - though somewhat ameliorated - of the organism."

Ah. You're right; I misunderstood your point. Yes, I would say that there's a moral problem there.

DNW said...

Anonymous David T said...

Scott,

Eating pasta is a natural human activity all healthy people are encouraged to do; your wife's illness prevents her from partaking of it so you do a workaround through science so she can eat it.

Actually, were it me, I wouldn't eat it, and I do find something a litte odd with deliberately eating something you know you can't digest. There are certain things I can no longer digest (milk, among others), but I would never eat a substitute designed to just pass clean through my body. I don't think it's a big deal, but I don't see anything good that can come from faking out your body like this. There are plenty of other good things I can still eat. Better to eat them and forget about the stuff my body rejects.

In any case, unlike eating fake pasta, anal sex is not an attempt to partake of a normal, healthy activity that all adults want to do, and are occasionally prevented from doing because of a disease (like your wife). Unless, of course, you hold that homosexuality is a disease, which I doubt you do. Your wife would eat real pasta if she could, right? So she's getting as close to that natural experience as she can given the limitations of her condition. But engaging in anal sex (or contraceptive sex) is not an attempt to approximate a normal, healthy activity as best one can given conditions, but to substitute a fake activity for the natural one because, for various reasons, one prefers the fake experience to the real one. So I don't think your example is relevant.

(By the way, I wonder if the fake pasta is used by bulimic types to stay thin... they can pound all the pasta they want and stay thin! Not healthy or moral IMO).

August 28, 2013 at 1:03 PM"


In its positive aspects your paradigm compares well with the case of someone taking Kuvan so as to be able to metabolize an amino acid that would, should they follow normal human impulses and needs, build up to harmful and mentally debilitating levels in their brains.

Very few with PKU are probably determined to cope with their disorder by consuming extra quantities of phenylalanine in order to get a buzz, and wind up retarded.

Would it be wrong for them to deal with their disorder in such a manner rather than through behavioral discipline? It seems pretty obviously so. And most PKU sufferers would probably agree.

The nearest thing to the "gay" sensitivity I can see, is in the potential for dealing with Downs Syndrome through a genetic therapy. Some have been reported as objecting to the entire notion of a cure.

Scott said...

@grodrigues:

"But is not David T's point precisely that insofar as the part does not exist on its own, it does not have any telos of its own in abstraction from the whole? So to say that such and such frustrates the natural end of a bodily part, is short hand for saying that such and such frustrates the natural ends of a certain faculty or power of the whole as realized by such and such a bodily part."

Yes, I think this is right, and it's actually not at all far from the point I was trying to make.

The idea here is that (a) I am a hylemorphic whole, a single organism, and my parts don't exist except as parts of me. Cut off my hand, and there's a metaphysical sense in which it's no longer a hand at all. So yes, the telos of an organ is really the role it plays in the overarching life of the organism of which it's a part, not as considered in abstraction from that whole.

I don't think this tells either way in the present discussion, though; as far as I can see, it's consistent with either of the two main alternatives.

DNW said...

" And if not, what singles out the sexual organs as an exception?"


Call them reproductive organs and you may have answered your own question. LOL

Let's see though. Since we're not talking of "once off" behaviors, what might the other supposedly obvious exceptions to the rule be?

How for example, would you even use your eyes in an ongoing way which frustrated the ability to see, but in a way that was also thought good?

How would you use your hands in a way that frustrates the ability to manipulate, yet is good?

How would you use your larynx in a way that frustrated your ability to vocalize, and yet was considered good?

How would you use your kidneys in a way that frustrated their ability to remove impurities from the blood, yet which was enhancing and good?

How would you use your liver in ways that frustrated its health and ends yet was considered good? Through alcoholism perhaps? Yeah, it's tan colored, fatty, and necrotic and I'm dying too ... but the rest of me sure benefited from chronic alcoholism. Look at my bright orange skin tone and beautiful yellow sclera!

Well, I think I'll leave the teleos of specific organs and possible permissible exceptions to the rules to the Thomists.

Been interesting so far ...

Mr. X said...

Scott:

"
(a) A non-question-begging argument that sexual desire in a context that makes reproduction impossible in principle really is a disordered desire. I don't claim to know one way or the other whether this is the case. But one argument that's guaranteed to fail is that the desire must be disordered because it involves a desire to use one's sexual organs in a way that frustrates their natural end. That premise is what we're supposed to be trying to show in the first place."


I'd say that a desire to use one's sexual organs -- or any organs, for that matter -- in a way which frustrates their natural ends is disordered because it means you are in a sense fighting against your own nature, and hence against your own self. Part of what it means to have a good life is to have a well-ordered soul, and you can't have this while your will is opposed to your nature.

As for the example someone mentioned of cutting off your arm to save your life: this might sometimes be necessary (if it's severely infected, for example), but I don't think many people would actually *desire* to have their arm cut off. Somebody who did would indeed be disordered.

"b) A non-question-begging argument that it's morally wrong to cope with a disordered desire, or at least with this particular disordered desire, by indulging it even in moderation. It could be true that such indulgence is wrong in general, but I seem to be able to think of exceptions. For example, I'd be inclined to argue that there's something "disordered" about a thrillseeker's desire to take on risk for its own sake, but I wouldn't think it was morally wrong for such a person to indulge that desire by, say, riding a roller-coaster or even climbing a mountain. I also don't see that someone with a mild tendency toward alcoholism is morally obliged to be a teetotaler if s/he can keep his/her drinking under control. In either instance it's a question of putting that desire to work in the service of a higher and more inclusive goal. I may well be mistaken in either or both of those cases, but either that must be shown or a special reason must be given why sex is an exception here."

Well activities such as roller-coaster riding are generally quite safe (as is mountain-climbing, if you take sensible precautions), so somebody participating in them isn't actually taking that much of a risk. As for alcoholism, drinking alcohol is not intrinsically disordered, so it's not like your hypothetical alcoholic is actually doing anything wrong by drinking (as long as he's able to keep it under control). So I don't think either of your examples actually represent doing something wrong, in moderation or not.




That said, there is one issue I've been wondering about in regards to NL sexual ethics. NL theorists usually draw a distinction between using body parts in a way which happens not to fulfil their function and using them in a way which actively frustrates it; I was wondering how we can tell the difference. If somebody were to say, for example, that since anal sex cannot even in principle result in conception it doesn't really belong to the same category as regular sex, and hence that it represents a use of the sexual organs for reasons other than their telos rather than a frustration of said organs -- how would people here respond?

(BTW, I'll be going on holiday tomorrow, so it might take me a few days to reply.)

Anonymous said...

"To my mind, though, that leaves the basic question right where it was. Is there any reason in principle why, according to natural law, the use of some bodily part in a way that frustrates its natural end can never contribute to one's overall good as a whole organism? And if not, what singles out the sexual organs as an exception?"

Sexual organs aren't an exception, they contribute to the whole organism in a particular way and it is because of that way in which they contribute that certain strictures are arrived at. Now, the best sorts of arguments that I, in my own limited capacities, can think of at present are sorts of reductio type arguments, such as is implicit in the paperclip story. I think those sorts of arguments suffice to tease out why sexual desires that are not directed at an object fit for reproducing with are MIS-directed desires. It's not far-fetched then to say that acting on or embracing such desires is bad for the human person, at least insofar as it is a hinderance to their understanding of the world.

I'd also like to see you lay out your understanding of what's good for a person. I think that pesky term, "good", is probably more central to this discussion. You're 'good' smells a little bit like 'utility'. I'd like to see how you think that acting on one's sexual desires, whatever they may be, contributes to their flourishing in a robust sense, not just as 'coping'. I think that's very important to the argument. At this point, it sounds as if you think same-sex relations amount to something like scratching some chronic itch. It becomes difficult to see why one would be so intent on defending that.

-matt

malcolmthecynic said...

If it's all right to cut off your arm (for example) to benefit the whole, then what grounds prevent sex from following a similar principle?

Hmmmm, well, that depends. When we speak of gay sex it really doesn't do anything but cause enjoyment between the parties engaged in sex. We would both agree that it would be absolutely morally wrong to cut off your arm just because ti gave you pleasure, however intense.

Given that, I don't really see a lot of force to your argument; in what situations does having gay sex help you with severe medical conditions? Unless I'm misunderstanding something here.

grodrigues said...

@Scott:

"I don't think this tells either way in the present discussion, though; as far as I can see, it's consistent with either of the two main alternatives."

Hmmm, I would say that it does. In August 28, 2013 at 9:51 AM you write:

"And to my mind, at least, the additional fact that male/male sex (or masturbation, or contraception) "frustrates" the natural end of our sex organs also seems insufficient in and of itself to show that it's wrong. As my example above seems to illustrate (but of course does not prove!), it doesn't seem to be the case that a well-lived life can't involve using our organs in a manner that "frustrates" their natural ends. If there's something wrong with gay sex, I don't think that's it. The subject of my well-lived life is me, not my stomach or my penis; what's at issue is my good(ness), the fulfillment of my nature, not that of my parts."

Prima Facie, this seems to make sense only if there is a real distinction between the goodness of the parts and the goodness of the whole. But if there is no real distinction, meaning that the good of the parts is shorthand talk for the natural goods of certain faculties of the whole as realized in certain bodily parts, then frustrating the ends of the parts is really shorthand talk for frustrating the natural goods of certain faculties of the whole as realized in certain bodily parts, and from this it follows that frustrating the ends of those parts is indeed frustrating the goodness, or one of the goods, of the hylemorphic *whole*.

There is still the possibility of there existing a greater good of the hylemorphic whole that is served by frustrating the ends of certain specific faculties. But merely positing such a possibility does nothing to establish its actuality. And as DNW puts it, I am having a real hard time seeing how, given the background AT metaphysics, you would establish that such possibility is actual.

Anonymous said...

like couples being forced by law to take pictures of 'gay wedding couples'?

Um what? It is businesses that are being forced to not discriminate. That interferes with the freedom of thoe businesses, to be sure, but it has been a principle of civil rights law for decades that individual rights trump the rights of businesses to discriminate against protected classes. So right, if you run a restaurant you can’t pick and choose your customers on the basis of race, and if you run a photography business you can’t pick and choose on the basis of orientation. If that’s really such a violation of your principles, better find another line of work.

That’s the dreadful hand of government oppression, forcing those in business to conduct themselves like professionals.

Crude said...

Um what? It is businesses that are being forced to not discriminate. That interferes with the freedom of thoe businesses, to be sure,

Um, 'businesses' are run, owned by, created and staffed by people. Yes, you're forcing couples to do things they'd rather not, and which go against their beliefs and principles, purely to make some petty bullies happy.

If that’s really such a violation of your principles, better find another line of work.

Ahh, that's the sound of justice right there, isn't it? "Either violate your principles, or close down your business. Might makes right."

Like I said, if that MLK quote were true, it would spell doom for your views, not mine. If you wish to continue to use the state to bully, threaten and harass your victims, you'd best fall on your knees and pray to whatever being passes for your god that justice can be beaten back perpetually.

I just wouldn't count on it. ;)

Anonymous said...

So you think the Civil Rights act should be repealed? Or not extended to sexual orientation? Just trying to get clear on what you really believe.

Scott said...

@matt:

"I'd also like to see you lay out your understanding of what's good for a person. I think that pesky term, 'good', is probably more central to this discussion. You're 'good' smells a little bit like 'utility'. I'd like to see how you think that acting on one's sexual desires, whatever they may be, contributes to their flourishing in a robust sense, not just as 'coping'."

What I have in mind is not "utility" but a pretty robust (and Aristotelian) conception of eudaimonia. And you're asking exactly the right question here: how does acting on one's sexual desires contribute to flourishing as the kind of being one is (a rational animal)?

The short answer as far as gay sex is concerned is simply that I don't know. I do know same-sex couples who find that their sexual activities (which are of course not limited to anal sex and, in the case of lesbians, don't involve it at all) express and enhance their personal intimacy and unity, but I have no way to compare their own "flourishing" in this respect to my own, and I certainly don't know how much anal sex itself specifically contributes. But I think that's the direction in which to look.

At any rate I'm not suggesting that eudaimonia is to be attained merely by "acting on one's sexual desires, whatever they may be." I am raising the possibility that same-sex desires could be incorporated into a well-lived life in which virtue is exercised in accordance with reason. I don't know that they can be, but that's the point: I don't know, and so far I don't think natural-law arguments are sufficient to show otherwise.

@drodrigues:

"[I]f there is no real distinction, meaning that the good of the parts is shorthand talk for the natural goods of certain faculties of the whole as realized in certain bodily parts, then frustrating the ends of the parts is really shorthand talk for frustrating the natural goods of certain faculties of the whole as realized in certain bodily parts, and from this it follows that frustrating the ends of those parts is indeed frustrating the goodness, or one of the goods, of the hylemorphic *whole*."

Right. But it also follows that we can't tell what frustrates the ends of those parts by looking at them in isolation or abstraction from the whole. We can't just look at a penis and say That's a reproductive organ and so its use for any non-procreative purpose must be wrong. For one thing, even natural lawyers acknowledge that its sexual function isn't only procreative; it's also unitive, although this function is said to be subordinate to its procreative function. For another, it simply doesn't follow from the fact that an organ has a certain function that the organism of which it is a part is morally wrong to "use" it in any other way that doesn't actually damage it—in large measure because it's only a part of an organism that has overarching aims of its own.

Now, I don't want to hijack this thread, and moreover it's starting to get difficult to keep up with all the posts addressed to me and my time isn't unlimited. So let me just say in closing that from my point of view, this discussion has been both fruitful and an example of the way I wish such discussions could always be conducted. Thank you all for your thoughts, questions, and answers.

Scott said...

"So right, if you run a restaurant you can’t pick and choose your customers on the basis of race, and if you run a photography business you can’t pick and choose on the basis of orientation."

Actually the photography studio in the New Mexico case argued (I think correctly) that it wasn't picking and choosing on the basis of sexual orientation. It didn't refuse to photograph gay people; it refused to photograph same-sex weddings, because the owner was morally opposed to them. Do you think the studio should be legally required to photograph abortions?

(I could argue about "civil rights" as well, but I won't do so here because I think it's a mistake to shoehorn this case into that classification in the first place.)

Tony said...

That interferes with the freedom of thoe businesses, to be sure, but it has been a principle of civil rights law for decades that individual rights trump the rights of businesses to discriminate against protected classes.

That so-called "principle of law" was poorly set out right at the beginning, and we have been hammering out the limits, contexts, and permissible effects ever since. It is certainly not a foregone conclusion that this so-called principle trumps personal rights to religious freedom, including the right to observe your religion in your line of work.

So right, if you run a restaurant you can’t pick and choose your customers on the basis of race, and if you run a photography business you can’t pick and choose on the basis of orientation.

There are businesses, and then there are businesses. That is, there are businesses whose operation is an immediate, one-time and impersonal interaction, such as buying an item in a store, and other businesses where the operation is, inherently a long(er) term relationship of persons as persons, as having specific personalities that must be dealt with, such as (for example) an interior designer being hired to redecorate your house. Persons who are contractors generally have retained the right to refuse business opportunities because they don't think that they are a good fit for the client - that's what the right to CONTRACT is all about, the right to set out details that both sides will find mutually satisfactory, which of itself includes the right not to contract your services if you are not satisfied with the details of the situation. If an interior designer finds that his potential client wants to redecorate his house in "early Marquis de Sade" style, he is free to say no thanks, I don't think that's the sort of contract I wish to engage. If a barber finds that his potential client want him to shave his butt to show a design, he can likewise decline. There are legitimate, non-bigotry limits to the demands of equal treatment in these areas, and the fact is that courts are still working them out, sometimes one way, and sometimes the other.

Imagine, if you please, a movie director lets it be known that he is going to make a movie of Martin Luther King Jr., and he receives 10 applications for the lead role. He seriously considers 9 of them, but the 10th, from a white, blond, 55 year old woman, he rejects out of hand. And then gets sued for failing to abide by employment laws protecting people from racial and sexual prejudice in hiring. The courts would, quite rightly, throw the law suit out. The reason, though, isn't that MLK, being black man, has a right to be portrayed by a black man, no, THAT's not what the law says. Rather, the reason is that the director, (and his bosses to the extent he does not have total artistic control) gets to decide entirely at his own discretion whether a white blond woman can deliver the emotional, intellectual, even physical impact that HE WANTS TO CREATE. An interior decorator likewise produces a total package that puts her reputation on the line as well as being for the satisfaction of the client, and can refuse to put her reputation behind an early Marquis de Sade. A photographer is in the same category.

Anonymous said...

thank you as well, Scott

-matt

David T said...

Me: "I do find something a litt[l]e odd with deliberately eating something you know you can't digest."

Scott: Oh, believe me, so do I. I'm just not seeing anything positively morally wrong about it. (Of course there might be medical issues we're not yet aware of.)

From the natural law perspective, it's about the virtuous or vicious nature of an activity, about doing it well or badly. The virtuous man is a man whose tastes are in accord with nature, i.e. he enjoys eating what is good for him and healthy for him. Anything that falls away from this ideal is to that extent vicious. Obviously, eating something you can't digest is having a taste for something that isn't particularly good for you; it may not be positively bad, but then virtuous eating is not merely avoiding eating what is bad but eating what is good. The viciousness here is relatively minor, but it is real nonetheless. The idea that an activity escapes moral evaluation if it cannot positively be shown to break some moral rule is a very modern, and I think mistaken, perspective.

Crude said...

So you think the Civil Rights act should be repealed? Or not extended to sexual orientation?

Not a single case I'm aware of involves someone saying 'I don't want to take a picture of you, you're gay!'

But you've already made your view clear.

Do you own a bakery and a gay couple wants a gay-marriage themed wedding cake? Bake the cake or shut down.

Are you a photographer, and you don't want to take pictures of a gay wedding couple? Take the pictures or shut down.

Mmm, the sweet smell of justice. God, it seems an awful lot like might-makes-right pettiness sometimes, doesn't it? Funny how that is.

Tony said...

But he thought the Church was being bigoted if it didn't allow us to perform that show. I don't agree, and the reason is that I think it, implicitly, supports what someone at WWWtW called "Will and Grace Syndrome" and what I call "Homosexuality as left-handedness Syndrome". It didn't actively promote homosexuality or the gay lifestyle, but it acted as if it was just another quality. Some people have blue eyes; some people are left-handed; and some people are gay. It's made out like it's equivalent to the other two. I wouldn't have been comfortable performing the show, and while I don't know how the Church would have reacted my money is that they would have agreed with me.

Malcolm, you have touched on a very good point. Like drug addiction, or alcohol addiction, having homosexual desires demands of the person a moral response , and that's unlike being left-handed or blue eyed. A secondary character can be portrayed as having inordinate desires for alcohol, but he cannot be portrayed that way without the portrayal reflecting SOME sense of the moral aspect of actions taken (or not taken) about that inordinate desire. Neither the character himself, nor the play (movie, show, etc) can at the same time bring out his addiction AND simply shrug off the desire as an irrelevancy to his character - to attempt to do so would be inherently to convey a moral point of view about that addiction.

Likewise with homosexuality. Within a movie, the bit-part character may be portrayed as a homosexual, but simply by putting that characteristic on the screen, the director thereby loses the capacity to disregard homosexuality as a morally tense condition. Once it is brought out, either the character uses the characteristic in some fashion (good or bad) or the movie, by being silent about its use, SAYS that its use is irrelevant to character, which is to stake a moral thesis. It is thus impossible to treat the condition as neutral.

DNW said...

In a effort to clear some ground here, we might ask Scott to try and approach the question from the reverse angle.

Let's do what the engineered product salesman does when his client begins asking endless questions about the features and capacities and capabilities of off-the-shelf, say, machining systems. He says, and more more tactfully than this:

"What is it you want to do? Rather than my describing every profiling mill we have ever built, and all their features in hopes you may find one interesting, tell me your demand specs, and we can work backward, defining and narrowing cases and options from there."

Rather then, trying to obtain agreement through analogies which he, say Scott, rejects; and since he yet cannot see what harm there is in the specific instance of the frustration of a natural purpose which he has been primarily concerned to consider, i.e., the act of buggery per se, we might ask this instead. What, if any acts of "teleonomic frustration" (to coin an ugly and awkward phrase) involving the human body, but not involving the imminent death of the entire human organism as an immediate result, would you concede as being self-evidently, or at least persuasively, morally disordered?

"Can you think of any?"

Now if one cannot think of any, then it seems to make no sense for one to say that he tends to generally agree with the thrust of A-T's analysis of objective ends and licit means as an aid to ordering moral acts, while simultaneously not being able to show any cases wherein the rules apply.

What misuse, or perversion, of an "organ's" teleos or purpose, and despite any psychological satisfaction gained by the actor, can Scott think of as obvious cases?

Crude said...

I do know same-sex couples who find that their sexual activities (which are of course not limited to anal sex and, in the case of lesbians, don't involve it at all)

This is a minor thing to point out, but still - it's not something verboten with lesbians, and I actually know gay men who avoid it and find the whole thing off-putting. So, there you go.

But I will say, yeah, thanks as well for the conversation. It was civil and fruitful, even though I mostly watched it.

Anonymous said...

Mr X: "NL theorists usually draw a distinction between using body parts in a way which happens not to fulfil their function and using them in a way which actively frustrates it; I was wondering how we can tell the difference. If somebody were to say, for example, that since anal sex cannot even in principle result in conception it doesn't really belong to the same category as regular sex, and hence that it represents a use of the sexual organs for reasons other than their telos rather than a frustration of said organs.."

Your distinction between not fulfilling and frustrating may be similar to the one Elizabeth Anscombe makes, and for her this tells us the difference between eg. gay sex and contraceptive sex on the one hand, and sex otherwise open to conceiving, but not necessarily doing so, on the other. A link is: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/AnscombeChastity.php

Scott, what do you make of Anscombe's article? She is talking about Christian tradition, not just natural law, but her distinction is about intention - it starts in section III about 5 paragraphs in.

Chris

Neil Parille said...

@Ben

After all I never dreamed in a million years the first black President of the United States(admittedly a civil rights triumph regardless of politics) would take civil right away from Catholics!

Ordering them to buy birth control for lazy heathen fascist dirtbags who are free to buy it themselves.

The Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans in the middle of the 60's excommunicated "Catholics" who joined racist "White citizen" councils & took a stand for civil rights on behalf of blacks.

This is how we are repaid?

Telling a Christian Photographer in New Mexico she HAS TO PHOTOGRAPH a gay wedding(even thought gay marriage isn't even legal). Can a gay photographer be penalized for refusing to photograph a wedding between an "ex-gay" man & woman on the grounds of religious discrimination?

Telling a Christian Baker she has to bake a cake for a gay wedding? Can a gay baker be forced to bake a cake with a contra-gay quote from the Bible?

It's sad how the pursuit of civil rights & to banish oppression degenerates into merely replacing the oppressor & or switching places with him.

gay marriage people are doing this with a vengeance.


Martin Luther King received the "man of the year" award from Planned Parenthood. He compared the contraceptive movement to the civil rights movement.

I don't have any strong opinions on contraception (although I oppose abortion). I'll just say that a little skepticism on the civil rights movement is in order.

My suspicion is that if King were alive today he'd be as far left as Jesse Jackson.

Brandon said...

DNW,

While I think you are raising an important consideration, a problem with the kind of argument you are suggesting is that it doesn't actually address the issue. As I understand him, Scott would be perfectly fine with saying that natural law requires that sex be heterosexual as a general rule, that the presumption is against homosexual sexual activity. But general rules and presumptions admit of exceptions; and this is explicitly recognized by Aquinas himself in multiple passages, since the general rule can fail in particular circumstances that it does not already take into account. The question is how do you get anything stronger than that? And the general thrust of Scott's argument is that the frustrated ends argument does not, in fact, get you farther than this, because it doesn't actually do more than (at best) establish a normal baseline of activity without guaranteeing that there are no circumstances that would be the unusual exceptions. And while I don't think this argument is unanswerable, it does have to be taken seriously: procreation is a species-level end, and in other cases of natural ends that are species-level (manual labor is the one Aquinas talks about at greatest length) there do clearly exist such exceptional circumstances, precisely because they directly apply to human beings qua species and only indirectly to them qua individual. Likewise, there is at least one major activity -- taking interest on loans -- in which there were historical periods in which all circumstances under which it would occur would be vicious (usurious) -- but that did not change the fact that completely new circumstances later, not precisely foreseeable originally, allowed for certain kinds of interest on loans to be non-vicious, perhaps even virtuous. So the real question is what establishes that the frustrated ends argument is not indirect in this way.

And Scott's general approach, whatever the problems with the details, certainly raises the right questions. If we take the other obvious example of perversion directly discussed by Aquinas, the gastronomic perversion of dirt-eating, it does seem difficult to argue that the fact that it's generally wrong to eat dirt because it frustrates the ends of your body's ability to eat eliminates any possibility that there might be circumstances in which, for medical reasons concerning the greater health of the body, someone might eat dirt without actually violating the general principle. And Aquinas quite clearly does regard the two counternatural activities as parallel to some extent (the parallel is essential to his argument that, despite its being a form of wrongdoing, the proper response to people engaging in homosexual acts is not condemnation but compassion) so either (1) the appearance of exceptional circumstances in one case is illusory or (2) we need a principled means of ruling them out in the sexual case.

Anonymous said...

Brandon,

I think Scott raises a good point, but it rests on the kinds of exceptions you're talking about. As far as sexuality goes, what would count as the sort of exception that would make any of the sorts of behaviors that are so prominent on the political landscape morally acceptable? I think the sort of argument that gets advanced is that a person cannot flourish without realizing a relationship in which their sexual desire can be fulfilled. This seems very probably false to me, though. People, I think, do better when such desires are mastered. I'm not supposing that we're in disagreement so much as that I don't see the strength of this argument from exceptions. I suppose it is to say that if exceptions are possible then there really is no moral problem with a certain activity at all, but it is instead just a general principle. Certainly, though, the argument from the advocate of alternative sexualities has to be better than, "i just don't see how..." or "why does it bother you so much that..."

The point just is that for any exception to a general principle it must be a clear enough sort of case so as to be allowed for. I am not sure that there is such a thing in the realm of sexuality (though it is the realm in which we all make some of the most egregious exceptions for ourselves in pursuit of our own 'happiness').

-matt

Tony said...

I don't see what the difficulty is. The normative behavior that uses the sexual organs is a human behavior, and qua human it interposes an integrated order (Integrating man's intellectual and moral capacities with his physical ones). In particular, the order is one that relates BOTH the unitive dimension AND the procreative dimension into an encompassing love, such that the love expresses unity and fecundity as such. To suppose that THIS human activity can express unity while being incompatiblewith fecundity is just to assume, without any evidence, basis, or reason, that UNITY is really all that human sex is about and not fecundity in the least. And to propose that it can express unity while being incompatible with fecundity, and still could represent "just as much human flourishing" is simply incoherent. The love entailed in the fecundity isn't independent of the love entailed in the unity, they are one and the same love under different aspects (integrated, as I said above). So that no, it is NOT possible for gay sex to be the same species of human act-fulfilling as true, full, human love-making.

Does this all stem from the natural law, (rather than a Christian revealed truth)? Heh, yes, of course it does. As all prior societies were quite capable of affirming. The fact that some ancients might have had some trouble articulating some of the nuances is not germane: spelling out in detail the full natural law position is going to change over time (as does spelling out the full meaning of the Theory of Relativity), but doesn't change the underlying truth, which is based on human nature, not on revealed truth.

Scott said...

There have been a couple of posts to which I can't very well refuse to reply, but I'll try to keep it short.

@Brandon:

You've summarized my "argument" (such as it was) better than I did myself.

As to the species level: I'd even say that if some science-fictiony disaster wiped out every living heterosexual human being on the planet, the surviving gays/lesbians would be positively obliged to engage in opposite-sex procreative intercourse (and presumably some form of marriage) in order to perpetuate the human race. But even in that case the question would remain why they (morally) couldn't also engage in gay sex for non-procreative purposes, or why the ones who didn't draw the short straws couldn't continue in same-sex relationships while the "losers" did the reproducing.

@Mr. X: I missed this earlier.

"If somebody were to say, for example, that since anal sex cannot even in principle result in conception it doesn't really belong to the same category as regular sex, and hence that it represents a use of the sexual organs for reasons other than their telos rather than a frustration of said organs . . . "

The late Gareth Moore O.P., whom I've already mentioned, makes an argument very much along those lines in A Question of Truth.

@DNW:

"What, if any acts of 'teleonomic frustration' (to coin an ugly and awkward phrase) involving the human body, but not involving the imminent death of the entire human organism as an immediate result, would you concede as being self-evidently, or at least persuasively, morally disordered? . . . What misuse, or perversion, of an 'organ's' teleos or purpose, and despite any psychological satisfaction gained by the actor, can Scott think of as obvious cases?"

That's a fair question, and even though I agree with Brandon that it's not quite on point, I think it deserves an answer. Just offhand, and without any attempt to be exhaustive or even fully representative, I'm thinking of making oneself throw up after eating (probably in part because you mentioned bulimia) and the practice of deliberately cutting oneself, both of which seem to me to be "self-evidently, or at least persuasively, morally disordered." So (though I'm not sure this example involves an "organ" in the requisite sense) does the practice of misusing one's mind/intellect to believe what one wishes to be true rather than what one has valid arguments and/or apparently reliable evidence for. I'm sure I could think of other (and probably better) examples on further reflection, but you asked about obvious examples and those are the ones that come immediately to mind.

Anonymous said...

"One Nation Under Compulsory Genial Tolerance"

No . . . Compulsory Genial Affirmation.

Tolerance is not nearly enough.

Brandon said...

Matt,

As far as sexuality goes, what would count as the sort of exception that would make any of the sorts of behaviors that are so prominent on the political landscape morally acceptable?

Scott isn't committed, at least in any argument he has given here, to saying that "any of the sorts of behaviors that are so prominent on the political landscape" are morally acceptable; he's just committed to saying that the argument appears to fail that there could not be any relevant behaviors at all that were morally acceptable. Everything he's said is entirely consistent with the relevant morally acceptable behaviors being relatively rare. And, indeed, even on the most generous assumption, one would hardly expect it to be otherwise; most heterosexual behaviors that have been "prominent on the political landscape" in the past fifty years have been immoral; it doesn't really make any sense to expect a better track record for homosexual behaviors. But this is a distinct issue from whether any such behaviors at all are morally acceptable under any circumstances that can arise.

And -- it's important to note -- the reasons he's giving for thinking this are structural: they arise (1) from the frustrated ends argument itself and (2) the apparent place of sexuality itself in natural law. One of the reasons I've jumped in is that both of these actually need to be taken very seriously: these are the kinds of objectiones that need to precede the corpus, and ultimately get answered based on its principles. (1) Frustrated ends arguments are very, very difficult to formulate just right. We see this all the way across the board. The single easiest area for frustrated ends arguments -- the purest case with the fewest complications -- are those that yield the conclusion that lying is always wrong. But even in this simplest case, it takes some work to formulate the argument in a way that clearly can handle even the obvious objections. This is in part because they require a precision greater than our normal workaday moral vocabulary easily allows; and in part because the good arguments always have to be separated from similar-looking bad arguments (a common difficulty with teleological reasoning of any kind). (2) The way sexual matters fit into natural law really is a bit complicated, and we see this from the fact that activities that share various key features of sexual activity in a natural law approach (eating, manual labor, lending at interest, rational communication) show some of the complications (e.g., the difficulty of ruling out exceptional circumstances, even when we set aside the fact that they each cover a truly extraordinary variety of human behavior).

BenYachov said...

@Neil

I don't doubt MLK was too the left.

But I would like to believe he wouldn't be for forcing people to violate their sacred beliefs.


Step2 said...

Ignorant, snide comments only reflect poorly on you.

Touchy. I was only making a narrow point aimed at a comment about persuasion tactics. Anyway, I didn't claim slavery was presented as virtuous only as legal which is indisputable. Exodus 21:2-11, Leviticus 25:44-46, 1 Kings 9:20-21, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Titus 2:9-10.

Some people have blue eyes; some people are left-handed; and some people are gay.

This is a tangent, but using the left-hand is very taboo in many parts of the world. The left hand is used for personal hygiene, to be polite about it, and so it is unclean. The Romans also believed the left side to be unlucky and it is the root for the word sinister. When I went to an American colonial site a few weeks ago, the guide told my left-handed relative the other colonists would have “fixed” her, which implied to me severe penalties for using her naturally dominant hand. Similarly, when people speak of “doing right” that denotes a moral dimension to the standard orientation.

Scott said...

@Brandon:

[describing Aquinas's view] "[T]he proper response to people engaging in homosexual acts is not condemnation but compassion[.]"

This is another candidate for my selection of a point on which I wish all parties would agree. My beef is not with people who think homosexual acts are immoral but with the God-hates-fags-and-wants-to-burn-them-for-all-eternity crowd. The latter is emphatically, decisively, and unambiguously not the Roman Catholic view (and it's not the mainstream view among Protestants either). I'd like it very much if gays would start hearing proposed moral objections not as an expression of antagonistic "homophobia" but as a compassionate You're going to hurt yourself if you keep doing that.

malcolmthecynic said...

Step2:

[Says lots of things on the cultural taboos historically associated with left-handedness]

This has nothing at all to do with what I said and if you think it does you are very, very far off the mark.

Here's the deal: I don't think homosexuality is the equivalent to left-handedness. That was what was relevant to the particular post I made. Can we move on?

(Also, I actually knew all of this already, though that's neither here nor there. The Italian word for left hand is sinistra - a word that in English eventually came to be the word sinister.)

Tony said...

I'm thinking of making oneself throw up after eating (probably in part because you mentioned bulimia) and the practice of deliberately cutting oneself, both of which seem to me to be "self-evidently, or at least persuasively, morally disordered." So (though I'm not sure this example involves an "organ" in the requisite sense) does the practice of misusing one's mind/intellect to believe what one wishes to be true rather than what one has valid arguments and/or apparently reliable evidence for.

Scott, using the sexual faculty for homosexual acts (or heterosexual acts that are inherently sterile, as well) is a lot like using the mind to come up with a highly deceptive but highly successful marketing ploy: yes, you are "using" the mind's intelligence intelligently, but you are still frustrating its function. Or, it is like operating the will in a morally significant act that is good in all ways but just one: like murdering a really evil man to form a new company that will do a lot of good. You choose a good end, you choose a means that successfully achieves that end, you make sure the circumstances and conditions attending that act are good (the man really is evil and deserves to die, and you kill him painlessly and with nobody unjustly being accused, etc), but the inherent act itself is murder. Hey, that's just ONE of the 3 elements of a morally upright act, you're good on the other 2 elements, isn't that enough?

No, the sexual act of human being is integrated with his being in such a way that to express himself in sexual love just is to be oriented toward love that is both (in its own nature) unitive and fecund. A human being can no more decide to act "only with regard to the unitive aspect" and not having regard to fecundity any more than he can choose to operate the will in a morally significant act only with respect to the END and the CONDITIONS of a good human act and not with regard to the object of the act. To act humanly just is to act with regard to the object of the act. To love humanly (sexually) just is to act with regard to fecundity. To (try to) be devoid of that aspect is to (try to) truncate human nature itself and pretend man is like an irrational animal in that way.

Natural law incorporates the fact that human nature isn't simply rationality laid on top of animal nature, it reconfigures animality itself as being oriented by rationality. Thus even the physical appetites are oriented to the rational goods, and the rational goods are themselves integrated into a hierarchy of goods. Which implies that an act of "love" that serves a lesser good at the expense of the higher good is actually a BAD human act, not just an imperfectly good human act. You cannot properly (humanly) love your child so much that you would defy God to save the child, such an act isn't a lesser kind of good act, it is a BAD human act, because it distorts the ordered hierarchy of proper human loves.

So also, you cannot sexually (humanly) love your beloved while at the same time repudiating fecundity with that beloved, that distorts the ordered integration of proper human loves.

Anonymous said...

My suspicion is that if King were alive today he'd be as far left as Jesse Jackson.

Jeeze, ya think? Who do you think Jackson apprenticed with?

But I would like to believe he [King] wouldn't be for forcing people to violate their sacred beliefs.

I dunno, racism was pretty sacred to those white southerners in Alabama and Mississippi who were his oppostion.

Anonymous said...

No, the sexual act of human being is integrated with his being in such a way that to express himself in sexual love just is to be oriented toward love that is both (in its own nature) unitive and fecund.

You guys must be great fun at parties.

The human foot was clearly meant by God or evolution for walking. So using it for anything fun, like dancing or kicking a football, is interfering with its natural ordering and is a sin.

Anonymous said...

"The human foot was clearly meant by God or evolution for walking. So using it for anything fun, like dancing or kicking a football, is interfering with its natural ordering and is a sin."

Yeah, you're right. Things are that simple. Why didn't I see it before. A man using his penis for anal sex is exactly like a man using his foot for dancing or football (soccer ball to you Americans). Perfect analogy.

I've just had an idea for a TV show. I call it "So you think you can use your penis for anal sex?" Title might need some work.

Chad Handley said...

Scott:

Actually the photography studio in the New Mexico case argued (I think correctly) that it wasn't picking and choosing on the basis of sexual orientation. It didn't refuse to photograph gay people; it refused to photograph same-sex weddings, because the owner was morally opposed to them.

What if he refused to photograph interracial weddings, because he was morally opposed to them? Same thing?

Anonymous said...

"What if he refused to photograph interracial weddings, because he was morally opposed to them? Same thing?"

What if a photographer refused a job at an event celebrating an individual's "deliverance" from the homosexual lifestyle?

DNW said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The human foot was clearly meant by God or evolution for walking. So using it for anything fun, like dancing or kicking a football, is interfering with its natural ordering and is a sin."

Yeah, you're right. Things are that simple. Why didn't I see it before ..."


You probably didn't see it before because you thought that that notably intellectually bankrupt line of objection which you were witnessing had been disposed of many months ago; back when it was pointed out to the moron who was going on about the different uses for legs, that all the examples it provided were forms of gait and locomotion, however methodical or contextualized.

And you were probably trying to calculate the relevance of a foot as a critical analog for a reproductive coupling organ which developed in such a way as to encourage sexual conjunctions and the production of offspring.

Additionally, you probably also got stuck trying to imagine how a male's reproductive organ, the evolutionary purpose of which is insemination, could be confused by anyone with half a brain for evolution's fun stick ... Evolution, blind evolution though it be, being more than likely able to produce political progressives with little non-sexual pleasure nodes which they could rub together with other political progressives, if that activity really led to the proliferation of their kind in any sense other than that of proliferating opportunistic social scaffolding nesters.

And finally, you were probably confused in trying to sort it out along the lines suggested by anonymous, because you "naturally" thought that teleonomic coupling involved two elements, and you were probably brought up short in trying to imagine how the "party as receptacle" could make the same argument as "the party as depositor".

But then, the argument being made to you was not even evolutionary; since evolutionary doctrine as currently understood implies no oughts anyway. Whether those who share a political space with them insist on providing every active lifestyle progressive politics homosexual with an IKEA furnished flat in a downtown area, or eliminate the phenomenon through abortion or gene therapy, is of no concern to evolution.

So, it's natural that you didn't get it. There was nothing to get.

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