Archive for the ‘Doughlas Remy’ Category

Another Purge, More Melodrama at The Cornerstone Forum

November 22, 2012

Not long ago, Gil Bailie was considering a run for public office. But voters beware. If he were to run an administration anything like he runs his Cornerstone Forum website and Facebook page, his periodic ideological purges would rival those of the Politburo.

The Cornerstone Forum is certainly no forum, if by “forum” we mean a place where ideas on a particular issue can be exchanged. Those who step up to the microphone must be prepared to parrot the prescribed line, or they’re out on their duffs. The ideological purity exacted from commenters is extreme and even extends to prohibitions against factual corrections.

Mr. Bailie’s bottom line is that the Catholic Church can do no wrong. She is the gold standard for all that is True and Good. She has never erred. Her teachings are not to be questioned. And in Mr. Bailie’s little empire, one does not question them. Or him.

Dorothy Jospin was the latest unwary visitor to Mr. Bailie’s Venus Flytrap. It all started when Mr. Bailie posted the photo shown to the right, with the following caption:

This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb. Legal to kill in all 50 states. Anyone think its not a person? Pass this along. It literally might save a life.

Dorothy responded:

This photo actually shows a plastic baby replica made by Mattel. It sells for $25, and you’ll find it on Mattel’s website.
For a photo of a real 12-week-old fetus (which looks nothing like this one), go to YouTube and find the video called “Week by week fetal development showing fetal development stages.”

At week 5 the fetus is the size of a poppy seed. At week 12, it is about two inches in length and weighs less than an ounce. It’s not until week 17 that it becomes the size of an orange.

The majority of abortions (88% to 92%) occur during the first trimester (the first 12 weeks), and the majority of those are well within the embryonic, pre-fetal stage of development. Most abortions occur sometime after the blastocyst attaches itself to the wall of the uterus.

The blastocyst has 70-100 cells (contrasted to a fruit fly, which has 100,000).

Mr. Bailie responded:

Quite literally, the devil is in such details. Poppy seed. Fruit fly. All these dismissive metaphors, and all the technical equivocations, so profoundly miss the essential point that it is hard not to assume that that is their purpose. Whatever the fetus looks like at 12 weeks – or 12 minutes – it remains perfectly clear to anyone who has not hardened himself against reality that abortion takes the very human life of the most innocent, powerless, and voiceless among us.

To which Dorothy had the effrontery to respond:

If the case against abortion is really compelling, then misrepresenting the facts makes it seem that the facts are not on the side of the pro-life movement. I believe it would be best to studiously avoid any tinkering with images or transparent attempts at propagandizing. They only discredit the movement.

At about the same time, Mr. Bailie posted a photo of German Lutheran pastors filing in front of Nazi officers, with the following caption:

This photo is a march of Lutheran pastors who allowed themselves to be useful idiots to the Nazis, and march under the banner of the deutsche Christians. Do they look like idiots today or what?

Dorothy responded, pointing out that the Catholic Church also collaborated with the Nazis, and not just the Nazis but with virtually every fascist regime of that era. The Church saw these regimes as bulwarks against Bolshevism and French anti-clericalism. Dorothy mentioned the 1933 Konkordat between Hitler and the Vatican. This is something that one must never mention on The Cornerstone Forum.

Mr. Bailie “clarified” by referring to Catholic and Lutheran “heroes” and conveniently ignoring the Vatican’s complicity as well as that of rank-and-file clergy of both confessions:

There were heroes among the Lutherans and Catholics in the face of Nazi thugs. But most of those who complain that the Church failed to stand up to savage oppression are cowered into submission by the threats of political correctness. It doesn’t inspire confidence that these same people would resist something far more threatening. More to the point, those who criticize the Church for not doing more to resist the mass murderers of yesteryear are the first and loudest to condemn it for resisting today’s mass murder of the unborn. You can’t have it both ways.

…Nor should Mr. Bailie. But that was it. Dorothy disappeared. Every trace of her. All that was left were Mr. Bailie’s responses, dangling like half an arch in the air.

At this point, Sophie Sommers, who must have been following the awkward exchange, spoke up to ask, “What happened to Dorothy??” and “Was that really a Mattel baby?” She reminded me of the gangster’s moll played by Mia Farrow in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days,” stumbling into a restaurant just as one of the diners—a Mafioso—has been gunned down at his table. She looks at the assassin, who is still holding his gun, and says in her shrill Brooklynese, “Oh my God! You KILLED Mr. Luciano! I SAW you shoot him!” (View clip here.)

As if that weren’t messy enough, Ben Boyce, a parishioner from St. Leo’s Parish in Sonoma, left this comment:

Oh, Gill [sic], what happened to you? You’ve drunk the Konservative Kool-Aide, and now you see the tepid centrists of the Obama Administration as some kind of anti-Christ threat to religious liberty in America. You might have known that this was ridiculous at one time, but now the logic of orthodoxy has backed you into defending this absurd thesis. The greatest blow to the last remnants of the moral authority of the Catholic bishops was delivered by their own unhinged attack on Obama and making common cause with the most reactionary elements in American society in the 2012 election. Thank God the Catholic laity had more sense than their bishops. When Bishop Jenky denounced Obama as a threat to America like Hitler and Obama, and not a single bishop had the courage to standup for decency and common sense to distinguish themselves from this outrageous comment, I knew that the American Catholic Church has hit bottom. Men of that caliber have no spiritual teaching worth listening to.

Whereupon Mr. Bailie brought out the big guns again:

It pains me, on the day before Thanksgiving, to have to repeat—once again— what I have said multiple times about this Page and our comments policy. But below is a word-for-word repetition of what I have said many times. Those who ignore this, and especially those who insist on slandering the Catholic Church or mock its teachings, should not be surprised to find that they are blocked from further comment.

Mr. Bailie then, for the fourth or fifth time, pastes in his entire speech about the purpose of The Cornerstone Forum.

Mr Boyce responds:

Apparently, my comments have precipitated this response. I do take exception to being described as some kind of random outsider who is coming in to stir up trouble on your Facebook page.I am a weekly Mass attendee at St. Leo’s parish in Sonoma, where you lived and worshipped for many years.I have listened to every audio tape you made over a twenty-year period, until you took a turn to the dark side by falling under the influence of the Religious Right. I have attended a number of your lectures and have always held you in high regard until this latest chapter in your career. You can ban me from the page, but that will not be because I am making inappropriate or offensive comments. Yes, I and my Catholic colleagues are directly challenging your assertion that you and your conservative Catholicism represent the gold standard.

Mia Farrow as "Sally" in Woody Allen's "Radio Days"

Mia Farrow as “Sally” in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days”

And Sophie again, in her best gangsta moll voice:

So THAT’s what happened to Dorothy! Was it her comment about the plastic baby? Or pointing out that the Lutherans weren’t the only ones who collaborated with the Nazis? These things are both true, aren’t they? Don’t you want to know when something you’ve shown or written on your Facebook is untrue? I always taught my children that truth was important–not just “Truth” with a capital T, but “truth” with a small one. The little truths all add up, and when you punish those who speak them, pretty soon you lose the big Truths, too. I know this, because I have family who lived in the DDR before Reunification.

I think you owe Dorothy and Ben Boyce an apology. But you’ll probably throw me off now, too. How many of us have there been?

Mr. Bailie responds:

I shared a post by my friend Jennifer Roback-Morse and the photograph she posted. I never said Lutherans were the only ones who collaborated with the Nazis. My gosh. What nonsense. I made my point clear in the follow-up. Who thought that the fetus in the palm of the hand was an actual fetus for goodness sake? Of course it was a replica —and of course it was not bloodied and covered with fetal fluid. My gosh. To make such a big deal out of that—all the while ignoring the real point—the systematic killing of millions of unborn babies in the womb—is simply amazing. You wonder why I’m uninterested in that kind of dialogue. I know it will be a badge you will wear proudly, but unless you can show some respect for the purpose of this Facebook page, you will be obliged to find another outlet for your positions. Don’t expect further response.

Sophie’s bold response:

I know you won’t like this, Mr. Bailie, but what you said about the Catholic and Lutheran heroes suggests that they were in opposition to their churches’ official positions, because both churches supported the Nazi regime. The Vatican was not heroic; it collaborated and cooperated with fascist regimes. If Catholic priests in Germany were heroic, it was because they spoke out not only against the Nazis but also against their own magisterium. This is what you don’t seem to be able to acknowledge, and I wonder why you can’t. It is the truth.

And an offline comment from Dean Hansen:

Golly Jeepers, Sophie!  Golly gosh!
Bullshit.  Thou dost protest too much. You fully believed the fetus was real:  “….This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb. Legal to kill in all 50 states. Anyone think its not a person? Pass this along. It literally might save a life.”  Why would you ask others if they thought it was a person unless you thought it one yourself?  If you knew it was plastic, it would cancel out the rhetorical assertion in your question. “Anyone think it’s not a person?”  (Well, you don’t of course, but will nevertheless use any kind of trickery to get a concession from your captive audience even if it means lying to yourself.)  I’m sure that once you Googled the images and realized your error, you had two options.  Come clean and acknowledge that you were fooled, or lie and pretend ignorance.  The second option seems to fit you well, but it makes you look no less foolish.  Why make a big deal out of that?  Because you have decided to make abortion your Waterloo; your rubicon.  When you use the word “killing” and “murder” indiscriminately to define what women do when they are pro-active in their own decisions, it is a big deal.  It’s a big deal because 1) You are barred from the actual experience of birth, and need to show some humility when it comes to other people’s plight.  2) Life actually begins before conception (sperm and ova are alive) but they don’t make babies, therefore, since life is a continuum, you draw the line at conception, which, along with birth, are both false thresholds.  At what point does a baby become a person?  Fertilized eggs, like the gametes that precede them, cannot live on their own, or think or feel.  They are biological life in the strict sense, but they are not human life.  Since they are not human, you are not guilty of murder if you abort them.  3)  Look beneath the heated passions on the surface and you will find there is a remarkable lack of polarization on the issue, save with old guard Catholics and picketers at abortion clinics with concealed handguns. Most people think that abortion should be allowed but not encouraged. That is the de facto reality.  And most people choose the first trimester as their own threshold because of what science, biology, nature, and common sense tell them.  It is why only 1% of abortions occur after week 20, and usually only when the life of the mother is in danger, or the fetus is damaged and not sustainable.  (Most women who waited 15 weeks or more to get an abortion did so because it was so hard to find a clinic where the operation could be performed, and not because they were resistant to basic information about gestation and pregnancy).

The Cornerstone Forum Silences Critics

October 11, 2012

Just beneath the calm surface of Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum (TCF), the waters are roiling. Bailie, a paleo-conservative Catholic whose life and career have become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the magisterium, uses TCF as a Gatling gun against all those perceived “enemies” of Catholicism gathered outside the walls: homosexuals, pro-choicers, secularists, and especially the more moderate Catholic voices, the voices of protest and reform. But he is attempting to insulate himself—on Facebook of all places—from any return fire. Bailie has built a fortress that also functions, as one visitor put it, as an echo-chamber and a hall of mirrors—a make-believe world where those who are faithful to the Church can go on pretending that the institution is eternal and that its teachings are unassailable.

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum

Except that it’s not and they’re not. The make-believe world is under attack, most significantly and vocally by Catholics themselves. And Bailie is armed and ready for its defense. Those who disagree with the views expressed on TCF are enemies who must be wiped out, not through negotiation or reasoned argumentation but by making them simply … disappear, like the “desaparecidos” of Chile and Brazil under authoritarian regimes, or those fractious Politburo members whose images were erased from official photos. Bailie regularly purges the site of troublesome visitors. This year’s casualty count is now at around eight. These were all, with one or two exceptions, intelligent reform-minded Catholics. Others were of unknown or no faith affiliation but respectful and thoughtful in their comments. All had carefully crafted their objections to the tone and content of TCF and deserved to be heard, if only by each other.

The latest of the “desaparecidos” is S. Darrick Northington, in whose honor I am posting the conversation that occurred today regarding the HHS mandate:

(more…)

Ten Red Flags on the Mark Regnerus Study

September 7, 2012

by Frank Lozera and Doughlas Remy

Mark Regnerus, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin

In June of this year, the journal Social Science Research (henceforth: SSR) published a study by associate professor of sociology Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas. The study, titled “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?,” purports to show that the children raised by same-sex couples have poorer outcomes than those raised by mixed-orientation parents. The study has been widely denounced for conflicts of interest in the review process and for its flawed methodology. Among professional organizations calling for its recall are the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychoanalytic Association. The American Sociological is poised to join them. Additionally, over 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s signed a letter to the SSR complaining about the study.

The study has been widely touted by conservative media in an apparent attempt to garner support for anti-same-sex-marriage initiatives appearing on fall ballots. Appearing as it did in June, just as the 2012 presidential campaigns were ramping up, it has had a huge impact on the national debate about same-sex marriage.

Amy Davidson, writing for The New Yorker, has this to say about the Regnerus study:

Attacking the methodology of a study whose conclusions you don’t like can be a lazy default reaction. But, in this case, the way it was conducted is so breathtakingly sloppy that it is useful only as an illustration of how you can play fast and loose with statistics.

The study’s methodological problems are indeed so glaring that they should have been red-flagged by qualified peer-reviewers. Instead, an internal SSR audit revealed a shoddy review process and egregious conflicts of interest at every step leading to the study’s publication.

Author Scott Rose of The New Civil Rights Movement has produced a prodigious amount of research on the Regnerus study and is my source for most of what follows. My account is an effort to organize the available information into a list of “red-flags” grouped under two headings: (1) Conflicts of Interest and (2) Methodological Flaws.

Conflicts of Interest

Red Flag #1: Robert P. George commissioned Mark Regnerus to conduct the study, which was to determine whether gay or lesbian parenting had any adverse effects on children. Regnerus received $785,000, which he says came “in part” from the Witherspoon Institute’s Family, Marriage, and Democracy program and from the Bradley Foundation. Regnerus reveals neither the amounts contributed by these organizations nor the source of any additional funding.

Robert P. George, author of The Manhattan Declaration and founder of the National Organization for Marriage

Red flag #2: Robert P. George (see Red Flag #1) is a senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute and a board member of the Bradley Foundation. He is also founder of the National Organization for Marriage (this country’s largest advocacy group opposed to same-sex marriage), board member of the Family Research Council (certified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), and author of the Manhattan Declaration, a theoconservative document advocating civil disobedient resistance to any legislation promoting same-sex marriage.

Red flag #3: W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the Witherspoon program that provided funding for the Regnerus study, is among Mark Regnerus’s long-time personal friends and professional associates.

Red flag #4: Wilcox is also on the editorial board of SSR, which published the Regnerus study.

Red flag #5: SSR’s editorial board decided to publish the Regnerus study on a “rush schedule” (41 days from submission, compared to months for most publications). Why the rush? The most likely explanation is that the 2012 election season was ramping up and various state initiatives regarding same-sex marriage were to be on the ballots. An audit of the study supports this conclusion (see below).

In prioritizing this study, the journal violated its own peer review policy and settled for peer reviewers who possessed no expertise in same-sex parenting or LGBT issues. Three of them were known to be antipathetic toward LGBT causes, including same-sex marriage. SSR’s own auditor (Professor Darren P. Sherket, an SSR editorial board member) admitted that there was “an unseemly rush to publication … that was justified based on the attention that these studies would generate. The published [peer-review] responses were milquetoast critiques by scholars with ties to Regnerus and/or the Witherspoon Institute.”

W. Bradford Wilcox, editorial board member of Social Science Research and program director at the Witherspoon Institute

Red flag #6: Bradford Wilcox, program director at the Witherspoon Institute, member of the journal’s editorial board, personal friend of Regnerus, and paid Regnerus study consultant, was one of the peer reviewers for the study. This was an egregious violation of the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) Code of Ethics.

Red flag #7: According to Sherket, at least two of the peer reviewers had been paid consultants for the study design.

Red flag #8: Mark Regnerus violated the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics by recruiting Robert Oscar Lopez to write an essay—published on Witherspoon’s online publication Public Discourse-–drawing conclusions from the study. W. Bradford Wilcox is an editorial board member for that publication.

Methodological Flaws

Red flag #9: Regnerus did not control the variables in his test group (children of gay and lesbian parents) and his comparison group (children of heterosexual parents).

The alleged purpose of the study was to answer the question, “Do the children of gay and lesbian parents look comparable to those of their heterosexual counterparts?” Regnerus claims that his study proves a correlation between gay parenting and sub-standard child outcomes.

Regnerus should have eliminated any factors that might cloud the issue. If his comparison group contained only children of continuously married heterosexual parents, his test group should have contained only children of continuously “partnered” same-sex couples.

Instead, Regnerus selected children of continuously married parents for his comparison group, and children mainly from failed mixed-orientation marriages for his test group. This introduction of a third factor into the test group (but not into the comparison group) should have disqualified the study.

Because of this asymmetry, the study can only be said to show that children raised in broken homes do less well that those raised in intact homes. But, of course, this is not Regnerus’s own stated conclusion.

All respondents, who at the time of the study were adults between ages 18 and 39, were asked the following question:

From when you were born until age 18 (or until you left home to be on your own), did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?

If the answer was “yes,” the respondent was considered to have been the child of a gay or lesbian parent, whether or not the child had been raised by a same-sex couple. The “romantic relationship” of the question could have been nothing more than an infatuation or a one-night stand. A child of Larry Craig could have qualified as a respondent, though Craig was never part of a same-sex couple.

In other words, the actual parenting of that child might have been done by an opposite-sex couple. Nevertheless, Regnerus places the child into the category of “children raised by gay or lesbian parents.”

Tom Bartlett, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, says, “In reality, only two respondents lived with a lesbian couple for their entire childhoods, and most did not live with lesbian or gay parents for long periods, if at all.”

Of the 253 respondents in the test group, 42% reported living with a gay father and his partner for at least four months, but only two percent of those reported doing so for at least three years.

Red flag #10: All the respondents were born between 1971 and 1994, a period when same-sex marriage was illegal in the U.S., there were no domestic partnership laws, and millions of gays and lesbians were trying to cope with closet issues, many of them marrying (straight partners) in a desperate effort to assimilate. Not surprisingly, many of those marriages failed. Their children’s later behavior may have been a result of family upheaval.

Fallout

Shortly after the study’s publication, over 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s signed a letter to SSR complaining about it. Their conclusion: “There are substantial concerns about the merits of this paper, and these concerns should have been identified through a thorough and rigorous peer review process.”

Darren Sherkat, editorial board member at Social Science Research and auditor of the Regnerus study

After receiving the above letter of complaint, James Wright, SSR’s editor-in-chief, assigned Darren Sherkat (SSR editorial board member) to perform an audit of the publication process. The audit, which has already been made public, will be published in SSR’s November issue.

In the audit, Sherkat found that the Regnerus study was not scientifically valid and that the peer review had failed because of “both ideology and inattention.” He wrote that the peer-review process “failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems.” [emphasis mine] He added that SSR’s owners were more interested in the “impact factor” than in publishing reliable research: “…rigorous independent evaluation [of the Regnerus study] would have made Social Science Research a less popular but better journal.”

In a subsequent e-mail to Scott Rose, Sherkat wrote: “How did this study get through peer review? The peers are right-wing Christianists!”

Elsewhere, Sherkat described the study as “bullshit.”

“There should be reflection about a conservative scholar garnering a very large grant from exceptionally conservative foundations,” Sherkat writes in the audit, “to make incendiary arguments about the worthiness of LGBT parents—and putting this out in time to politicize it before the 2012 United States presidential election.”

Conclusion

Regnerus’s study doesn’t document the failure of same-sex parenting. Instead, it shows the harmful effects of closeting and the devastations wrought upon children by social opprobrium. The overwhelming majority of the children in the test group were raised by mixed-orientation parents, not same-orientation ones.

A society that uses stigmatization and discrimination to force its same-sex-oriented young people into marriages with opposite-sex-oriented individuals should not be surprised when those marriage fall apart, damaging children in the process. If we are to learn anything from Regnerus’s study, it is that children benefit from being raised in stable households. Not only does same-sex marriage offer such stability; it also  helps to stabilize “straight” marriages by siphoning off closeted gays and lesbians who might otherwise stay in the straight-marriage pool.

What could be more sensible?

Joseph Backholm’s Greatest Fear

June 17, 2012

Joseph Backholm of Preserve Marriage Washington

Like many other GLBTs who follow the debates on same-sex marriage (SSM), I’ve often suspected that the professional marriage traditionalists are not leveling with us about what really drives their concerns. Nor do they necessarily understand their deeper motivations. We know that anti-SSM organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC) and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) constantly hone their messages and field-test their talking points. It’s for their opponents to guess which of these talking points are still in testing stage, how vulnerable they may be, and how firm a grip the spokespersons have on them.

In February of this year, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill approving same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, opponents of the bill submitted enough petition signatures to challenge the legislature’s decision by public referendum on the November ballot. The referendum’s sponsor is Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW), headed by Joseph Backholm.

In a June 6 live-chat organized by the Seattle Times, Backholm made a curious claim about the “true” motivations of the marriage equality movement. But in so doing, he revealed one of the deepest concerns of his own movement. Here are his words:

Ultimately this movement is not about marriage. Does anyone really think [GLBT] lobbying efforts will shut down if same-sex marriage becomes law in Washington? I think the goal of the movement is to eradicate from the public sector any notion of the idea that there is a difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality. That is why, whether they go to a photographer, an adoption agency, a courthouse, a doctor’s office, or a counselor’s office, they want to make sure they will never encounter someone who feels free to express their belief that there is a difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality. If that is the goal, it can only be accomplished with a significant reduction in freedom for a huge percentage of the population. [italics mine]

Backholm would have us believe the marriage equality movement is part of a sinister stealth strategy aimed at eradicating the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality—a difference that he believes to be so important that he alludes to it twice in this short statement, using almost the identical words each time. The GLBT movement, in his view, hopes to enlist state power in an effort to suppress all recognition of that difference. Woo-woo!

Oedipus

Anyone who has studied anthropology or social psychology knows that fears of indifferentiation run deep in human societies: social order is based on difference, and any blurring of distinctions—e.g., between male and female, sacred and profane, mother and lover, god and mortal—threatens that order and will almost surely produce minotaurs and cause violators to pluck out their eyes. (See image.) Taboos exist to preserve difference and hierarchical structure, and we moderns are as much in thrall to them as were our early ancestors.

What we need to understand about taboos is that some are conducive to survival—e.g., the taboo against careless handling of blood and feces—while others are purely contingent—e.g., the Mosaic prohibition against eating shellfish. But not everyone does understand this, and Backholm is playing to our ignorance and our fears. If effective use of highly emotive words were our only measure of merit in this debate, then Backholm should be congratulated for homing in on that single word, “difference.” But it is not. Truth claims are still important to some of us and should be carefully scrutinized.

His statement goes off into the weeds on three tangents:

First tangent: The implicit “stealth” claim. There’s nothing stealthy about the GLBT rights movement. Its goals have been fully articulated by legislative leaders (e.g., Senator Ed Murray, D-WA), public intellectuals (e.g., Michelangelo Signorile, Andrew Sullivan), and professional rights advocates (e.g., Evan Wolfson). Put simply, our goals are full equality under the law and an end to state-sanctioned discrimination. Marriage equality represents a giant step toward these goals.

Second tangent: The claim regarding state suppression of ideas, or “notions.” No one holds that traditionalist views about homosexuality or marriage must be suppressed by law. That would be not just undesirable, but impossible. Our hope is to garner popular support for legislation and judicial decisions that will put an end to discrimination. Our goal is to change not only laws but also hearts and minds. That said, many or most of us believe that our constitutional right to equal protection under the law should never be put to a popular vote. In a constitutional democracy such as ours, majorities may not vote to deprive minorities of their rights.

Third tangent: The “reductions in freedom” claim. Backholm’s dire warning to his supporters that they will ultimately lose their freedoms if GLBT activists accomplish their goals is only partly true. No one can deprive Americans of their freedom to believe or profess whatever they like, but our courts have repeatedly placed limits on religious practices for over 150 years. For example, federal and state statutes prohibiting gender or racial discrimination do not typically exempt discriminatory practices motivated by religious belief, except in core religious institutions (churches, synagogues, etc.). Thus, the Catholic church may refuse to ordain women as priests, but a private hospital may not refuse to treat African-Americans, even if it owned by a religious denomination that holds segregation to be part of God’s plan (as Mormons and Southern Baptists once did). So yes, we would like legal protection from discrimination, and this means that some people will lose their “freedom” to discriminate.

So that’s the part of Backholm’s “warning” that is true. What is not true about it is the presumption that GLBTs are united against the “notion” of difference in sexual orientation. This is just frothy nonsense, and he knows it. If he insists on making this preposterous claim, he should be required to offer evidence.

No one wants to “eradicate all differences.” What we would like to see eradicated are differences in treatment and opportunity. This is what true equality means: not that we are identical to one another in every respect, but that each one of us has equal access to opportunities and a fair chance to succeed. Backholm is both bright and well-educated, and there can be little doubt that he is aware of this critical distinction.

Backholm is deliberately vague about this word “difference” and dares not unpack his own rhetoric because it comes so dangerously close to the truth. The talk about loss of freedom to express beliefs about “difference” is code that many in Backholm’s movement are capable of deciphering. The ones who cannot decipher it will take it at face value, which is also fine for Backholm’s purposes. How much of all this he actually understands at a conscious level is anyone’s guess.

So what is the real fear?

It is the same fear that Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage has expressed so often in the latest phase of her propaganda efforts.

It is the fear of the huge shift that is happening in public opinion about homosexuality. That is no small thing to fear, and we must never underestimate its power to motivate resistance to change. Growing acceptance of gays and lesbians has been steadily destabilizing moral discourse around two issues that are always in some sense front-and-center in our psyches and our social interactions: sexuality and gender. What used to be wrong is now right, what was shameful is now a source of pride, and what used to be unspeakable is now considered respectable. As old taboos lose their potency, new ones surface to replace them: anti-gay rhetoric is now more often associated with religious bigotry than with righteousness or respectability, and our movement’s anti-discrimination victories—patchy and uncertain as they are—have radically unsettled the cultural assumptions of millions of Americans.

It’s not pleasant to tell a joke, only to be told it is in poor taste.

It is not pleasant to rant about gays and lesbians, only to realize everyone thinks you are a fool.

It is not pleasant to quote Bible verses condemning homosexuality, only to be reminded that others in your company don’t really give a damn what the Bible says.

It is not pleasant to realize that your nephews and nieces consider your anti-gay views a sign that you are now old and out-of-touch.

It is not pleasant to be stigmatized.

The Civil Rights era was an exceptionally stressful time for many white Americans. The old taboos were being replaced by new ones—their opposites. Where mixing of the races was once taboo, now segregating them was taboo. The familiar polarities of insider/outsider, hateful/good, and right/wrong were reversed in a relatively short period of time, and a whole generation of racists were morally marginalized.

Marginalization looks to be Joseph Backholm’s greatest fear.

 What can Backholm and his supporters do to stay in the mainstream? Here’s one idea.

The Cornerstone Forum Once Again Refuses to be Confused by Facts, Alternative Opinions, Data, Evidence, Documentation, Reliable Information, or Scientific Studies.

June 13, 2012
“I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”  — Sir George Sitwell, English Eccentric

Since its inception, Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum has sought to interpret and respond to contemporary culture “from a Catholic perspective and in fidelity to the social teachings of the Church.” This is because Bailie sees Catholic faith and practice as increasingly caught “in the crossfire,” as he puts it. And he is a faithful son of the church.

Benedict XVI and Gil Bailie

But Bailie’s use of the “crossfire” metaphor is a mite disingenuous. It implicitly casts the Church in the role of an innocent bystander or a disinterested third party—despite all indications that it is not and has never been either of these. Just in recent months, Catholic institutions have sued the U.S. government over the HHS contraceptive coverage mandate, thrown their full weight behind anti-same-sex-marriage initiatives, chastised nuns for focusing on poverty and hunger rather than abortion and homosexuality, bullied the girl scouts over including a 7-year-old transgendered girl, excommunicated doctors and nuns for saving lives, and joined Republican efforts to restrict women’s access to abortions at the state level. Over the years, Church institutions have lied about contraceptives to poor Africans, obstructed patient access to accurate information and services in secular hospitals, and purged scholars who attempted to build bridges to other faiths. (For details on several of these points, see “8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church,” by Valerie Tarico on Alternet.)

There can no longer be any doubt either that the Church has a horse in the race or, in the case of Gil Bailie’s unfortunate metaphor, that the king has no clothes: the Church is not “caught in the crossfire.” It is firing mortars at its enemies.

Bailie’s attempt to propagate an essentially hermetic and authoritarian ideology via the Internet was a tricky proposition from the start. The Internet is by design an open, expansive, inclusive, and anti-authoritarian medium—a “real” forum, unlike the “gated” one Bailie would like to cordon off within it. People come and go, expressing all kinds of opinions willy-nilly, in a real marketplace of ideas. It’s like a Turkish souk alive with chatter and dissension. You can buy anything there, but you’ll have to negotiate—sometimes loudly.

So, The Cornerstone Forum has indeed had visitors from all kinds of people from all parts of the world—England, Austria, China, Italy, and Australia, to name a few—and, surprise!—not all of them have expressed views that perfectly match Bailie’s own. Some of their voices have been more strident than his. Some of them have been highly articulate and even argumentative, as if they had no idea of the gravitas of The Cornerstone Forum’s founder or the unassailability of his views.

Flat earth orbited by sun and moon

A large part of the disputation at The Cornerstone Forum has concerned issues of truth. The thread I have reproduced below is typical: Bailie informs his readers that the earth’s population is in precipitous freefall, and then he seems genuinely offended that they don’t buy it. (Well, actually, some do.) At that point, facts and logical arguments are offered—always by readers, virtually never by Bailie—and he ignores or dismisses them with smug little retorts like, “We’ll see.” A few weeks later, he puts up another post informing his readers that the earth’s population is in precipitous freefall.

This has been the pattern during the many years that I have visited The Cornerstone Forum’s pages, where we’ve learned that climate change is a hoax, homosexuality is gravely disordered, same-sex marriage will cause civilizational collapse, religious freedom is under attack, the Obama presidency is precipitating totalitarianism, the Muslims are taking over Europe, and secularism is to blame for everything that is wrong with the world.

About a month ago, Bailie reacted to the growing chorus of dissent by issuing a warning similar to the one you will find in the thread below. When it was not heeded, he issued a second one and expelled one of the most insightful and articulate of his critics, George Dunn. All traces of Dunn immediately disappeared, and dozens of threads no longer made sense without his voice. If you’ve ever seen photos of Stalin’s politburo with purged officials airbrushed out, you’ll get the picture.

Today, Bailie issued a third warning. This time, the one expelled was I. Here is the conversation:

Gil Bailie:

I am currently researching the worldwide demographic decline and its enormous consequences. The evidence for the decline is overwhelming, but so are the studies that trace it and the data confirming the researchers’ conclusions. I cannot claim to have a complete grasp of the problem, but I have arrived at a preliminary hypothesis:

Whereas some animals don’t breed when in captivity, humans apparently don’t breed when in metaphysical despondency, regardless of how unacknowledged and embedded in material prosperity that despondency might be.

Doughlas Remy:

There is no “worldwide demographic decline.” However, there are declining birth rates in certain countries, such as Japan and some countries of Europe. The world’s population, now slightly over 7 billion, is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. That’s really rapid growth, so rest assured there’s no lack of breeding going on.

I’m not sure how you measure “metaphysical despondency” or whether there is in fact such a thing. But surely people in certain high-growth societies (e.g., in parts of Africa and East Asia) have much more reason to experience metaphysical despair than Europeans and Japanese, and it is not slowing them down.

Birth rates in Europe and Japan are falling because women are now better educated and have more options. And yes, low birth rates can pose social challenges, but so can high ones, as we discussed earlier. See my article about this on The Bent Angle.

Darrick Northington:

This seems like an impossible argument to make. I echo Doughlas, given that every human belongs to some demographic and earth’s human population is in fact growing rather than declining, the claim that we’re experiencing some kind of “global demographic decline” is false.

Gil Bailie:

We’ll see.

Doughlas Remy:

@Darrick: I’m surprised The Cornerstone Forum is again making this bizarre claim after the earlier discussion we had, where so many facts were laid out. And these facts are incontrovertible. Population growth, fertility rates, and youth/elder bubbles can all be measured. We’re talking hard data here.

It’s like one of those strange experiences where somebody points up to the blue sky and tells you it is green. You say, “No, it is blue, and my spectrograph will back me up on that.” And they say, “No, to me it’s green. And what’s a spectrograph?”

Patrick Daoust: 

The Economist recently published a book called Megachange, the world in 2050. I’m currently reading the chapter on demography. Mr Remy’s numbers fit with data in the book.

This said, we must ask ourselves why so much of Europe has such a low fertility rate – I think it’s about 1.3 in Spain and Italy. This is quite a problem for policy makers to deal with. My intuition is that in modern western societies the freedoms normally associated with men are seen as more desirable. A lot of feminist movements fight for equal rights with regards to salary, women in high profile jobs, etc. As a whole, our society seems to have stripped away all pride in motherhood.

Darrick Northington:

‎@ Patrick, it sounds like you think mothers have to be second-class citizens. In my opinion, motherhood and fatherhood are both consistent w/ equality, and any definition that necessarily subordinates one to the other is wrong. To suggest that our society doesn’t take pride is wrong, too. I think this kind of talk has more to do with white male dominance than motherhood…the kind of thinking that says a woman’s place is in the home, in the kitchen, and a man’s place is king.

By the way, birthrates in Spain have increased every year for the last 12 years.

Doughlas Remy:

@Patrick. In connection with your final sentence, about society stripping away all pride in motherhood, here is an interesting opinion from Gail Collins of the NYT:

If you look back on what’s happened to women over the last half-century – how the world has opened up for them to have adventures, pursue careers, make choices about the kind of lives they want to live – it all goes back to effective contraception. Before the birth control pill came along, a woman who wanted to pursue a life that involved a lot of education, or a long climb up a career ladder, pretty much had to be willing to devote herself to perpetual celibacy. That’s what contraception means to women.

Iron Woman. Photoshop rendering by Dean Hansen

So, maybe other life paths are simply more attractive to women. Motherhood, after all, is damned hard work, it’s unpaid and under-appreciated, and raising a child is more expensive than ever. Yearly tuition at state universities in Washington State, where I live, is now over $12,000.

In the face of all these obstacles, we have in this country a political party that wants to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. These cuts are part of a larger proposal to cut social services block grants to the tune of $17 billion over ten years. These grants support Meals on Wheels, child welfare, and day care for children. State legislatures are also unable to raise revenues in the face of anti-tax initiatives.

Child-bearing may also about to become riskier to women if hospitals are allowed to let a woman die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Because of the work that I do, I’ve had countless more-or-less unstructured conversations with Japanese mid-career professionals over the years, and we always talk about Japan’s birth dearth. They say raising a child is just too expensive. They value quality education and would feel shamed if they couldn’t give their children access to one.

I think there are ways women can be incentivized to have children, but governments like our own seem intent on disincentivizing them. Banning contraception is not, of course, an option, and it shouldn’t be. Women’s need for choice in these matters is paramount. The demographic problems will take care of themselves as we begin to think creatively about them.

Gil Bailie:

Let me try once again to explain why this Facebook page exists. It exists to offer encouragement to those who share its point of view. It does not exist to argue with those who don’t.

This is not a bulletin board or campus kiosk. It is a Cornerstone Forum page, and its purpose is that of the Forum, namely: to encourage and, with God’s grace, occasionally to inspire, those who share our vision and concern. The Forum and this Page exist to give an account of the contemporary cultural and moral crisis from a Catholic perspective and in fidelity to Magisterium and the social teachings of the Church, and to do so, when appropriate, by drawing on the extraordinary anthropological insights of René Girard and the theological riches of Benedict XVI, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. It is also our purpose here to bring these perspectives to bear on the sundry cultural and moral issues we now face, paying special attention to what we regard as the gravest moral and civil rights issue of our age – abortion – and the gravest anthropological blunder – the evisceration of the meaning of marriage and the demise of the traditional family.

“Censer,” by Dean Hansen

We are not surprised to find that many do not share these concerns, and we offer our best wishes to those who don’t, but we will no longer allow this Facebook page to become an outlet for points of view that are wearily familiar to us, the refutation of which would be as tedious an exercise for us as it would be entirely unconvincing to our naysayers.

To those more sympathetic to our efforts, we are grateful for your interest, and we will continue to try to be as useful and encouraging as possible. If we occasionally point to certain unhappy developments in our cultural life, it will only be for the purpose of encouraging resistance to them for the sake of our children’s children.

Doughlas Remy:

Gil, I think your only option may be to “de-friend” those who do not share your point of view, as you did to George Dunn about a month ago. The Cornerstone Forum will no longer be an open forum, but at least you will have an echo chamber where you can get validation from your supporters and carry out your mission of channeling the church’s (and dare I say, the GOP’s) talking points on issues of the day. I hope you will be fair with your visitors, however: Let them know up front that they will be de-friended if their opinions diverge too much from your own.

As I said in an article on my own blogsite, it’s obvious you don’t value the time and thought that your readers devote to responding to your posts. That is a shame, and it is why I hope to provide a truly open forum on The Bent Angle for some of the issues that you raise. As you will notice, I have already begun to port some of the discussions over there, for fear they will suddenly disappear from TCF. So far, the idea hasn’t caught on with your visitors, and it may not, but I’ll continue the mirroring effort, as I think it is important.

I continue to maintain that truth is important and that none of us has a lock on it, or exclusive rights to it. We reach the truth through dialog.

Reading a Text of Persecution: William Tucker’s Defense of Bullying

May 20, 2012

Gil Bailie

Or: How to Create a Major Dust-up at The Cornerstone Forum

Sometimes a social networking conversation can develop into something truly revelatory. The following conversation occurred last week on Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum. What set it going was Bailie’s posting—and endorsement—of an article by William Tucker in The Spectator. Titled “The Battle of the Sexes (All Four of Them),” it weaves together several themes and issues that have been in the news lately: same-sex marriage, bullying, and, specifically, testimony from former classmates of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney that he bullied and forcibly cut the hair of a somewhat effeminate younger student while a senior at an elite prep school.

The article evoked a strong reaction from visitors to The Cornerstone Forum. Their remarks so irritated Gil Bailie that he eventually deleted the entire thread, including even the few comments offered by his supporters. I had copied everything before he did this, and I reprint it here now. A lot of thought went into the posted comments and I believe they are worth preserving. More important, they—and Gil Bailie’s reaction to them—speak volumes about the ultra-conservative Catholicism that Gil Bailie represents.

René Girard

Before reading the conversation below, you will want to carefully read William Tucker’s article. Also, please be aware that Gil Bailie claims his own thinking is guided and inspired by that of René Girard, an anthropologist and literary critic who has written extensively about mimetic rivalry and scapegoating and whose ideas are collectively known as “mimetic theory.” The principal contributors to the conversation reproduced here are familiar with Girard’s work and will allude to it at times.

Gil Bailie begins the conversation:

Gil Bailie:

Not that I’m interested in stirring up more trouble on the same-sex marriage question, but this link is to an article by William Tucker which I think hits exactly the right note. I can’t hope to bring all my friends to agreement on this issue, but Tucker comes as close as anybody to putting the matter in its proper perspective. [emphasis mine]

Doughlas Remy:

Gil, offering students of Girard a text like this one and extolling it as you do is bizarre in the extreme. I realize you were distracted while in Berkeley, but really! Did you read the text carefully?

Mitt Romney and classmates

Tucker frames his point about same-sex marriage with the following personal story:

A group of college boys (described by Tucker as a “gang” and a “mob”) converges on a dormitory and “taunts” its only resident, described as a “huge” football player. After an exchange of insults and threats, the group wrestles the football player to the ground and forcibly cuts his hair down to the scalp, using scissors that someone in the group has brought along. Many years later, this event is recounted not by the football player, nor by a bystander, but by one of boys in the group. He denies that his behavior was bullying. He describes it as an “outpouring of exuberance,” “boys being boys,” and “traditional male behavior.”

This is not the story told by Romney’s former classmates. It is William Tucker’s recollection about his own part in a similar incident that occurred during his college years. He is using the incident to express his solidarity with Romney.

The cultural proximity of his story may obscure its underlying structure, so let’s strip out some of the cultural elements:

Trophies

A mob of young adult males decide to raid a neighboring village. When they reach the village, weapons in hand, they find only one man there, whom they encircle and taunt viciously. He threatens them, but to no avail. He is outnumbered, and the mob attacks him, delivering one blow after another until he finally collapses. They cut off his head and his genitals to carry home as trophies, and then they place his body in a tree for birds to devour. When the young men return to their village, they proudly display their trophies and recount their exploits to the others. To make themselves seem more heroic, they describe their victim as a giant. Years later, the perpetrators remember the event as an exhilarating and deeply meaningful rite of passage that created deep and lasting bonds between them.

There are so many ways this story could be told—as a fairy tale, a myth, a historical account, pulp fiction—with a variety of settings and characters. What they must all have in common, however, is the “all-against-one” violence which is later remembered by its perpetrators as foundational. Does any of it sound familiar?

What is even more interesting, from a Girardian perspective, is that the author of this article, William Tucker, uses this “text of persecution” (Girard’s term) as a frame for his remarks about homosexuality and marriage equality. This would be very insightful if his purpose were to denounce the bullying and unjust treatment that GLBTs have to endure. But his purpose is in fact the opposite. If he had read Girard, he would appreciate the profound irony of this.

Now that we have the irony and the frame, let’s look further at what Tucker says.

Having identified himself as one of the mob who held down a fellow student and forcibly cut his hair, Tucker is unapologetic, even proud. He dismisses those who “believe they were socially abused while young.” He describes childhood as “a jungle,” but makes no suggestions for civilizing it, as if to say, “This is the way it has always been and will always be.”

And then he digs himself in deeper with another personal story of victimage, and once again, he is not the victim in the story. He is in the crowd of victimizers. The victim is a schoolgirl who is said to have cooties and pees like a boy. He doesn’t say how she was treated, but I think we can imagine. At the very least, she was taunted and ostracized. Again, Tucker shows no remorse. Nor does he suggest any measures for helping the victims of bullying.

So if Tucker neither adopts the victim’s perspective nor apologies for his part in her mistreatment, why does he include this story? For the answer, we must go to the end of his article, where he writes,

“So yes, let’s forget about the economy for a while and conduct an election campaign over whether tradition sex roles can be defended—whether boys can be boys or whether candidates should be ostracized for exhibiting traditional male behavior in their youth. It’s probably more important anyway. [emphasis mine]”

“Ostracized?” Yes, he actually claims victim status for Romney and—by extension, I suppose—for himself as one whose behavior was almost identical to Romney’s. The victimizers are actually the victims, didn’t you know?

Tucker’s purpose is to claim for himself and his schoolmates the right to bully others. It is within this frame that he opens the issue of same-sex marriage and of homosexuality in general.

Gil, I am simply at a loss for words to express how odious this is.

J. Darrick Northington:

Does Tucker actually make a reference to welfare queens in the fourth paragraph from the end of the essay?! You ought to be ashamed, Gil. I can only assume you share Tucker’s ideas, given that you’ve chosen him to speak for you. Shameful.

When I read this stuff, I can’t help but be reminded of (pseudo-) scientific racism. it strikes me as the same kind of logic. Scientific racism was used to provide an intellectual narrative or rationale for racism. Consider this from Tucker:

“Sexual ambiguity is something that has always frightened children and primitive societies. Tribal cultures usually have elaborate taboos about what men and women can do, which building they can enter, even what they are allowed to touch. Such societies have elaborate initiation ceremonies to make sure young people assume the proper sexual roles as they reach maturity. It was Margaret Mead who in a moment of weakness once said, “The most stable societies are those that make the clearest distinction between men and women.”

Now consider this from Robert Knox (1850):

“All we know is that since the beginning of history, the dark races have been the slaves of those lighter skinned. What is that due to? ‘I feel disposed to think that there must be a physical and consequentially, a psychological inferiority in the dark races generally.’ This is perhaps not due to lack of size in the brain but rather a lack of quality in it.”

See how the bigotry is dressed in bullshit science in an attempt to verify and explain itself? [It’s the] same hateful logic just applied to different groups.

I think Gil’s use of history is strange. setting aside the historical inaccuracies, what do the kinds of historical appeals in the Tucker article buy you? how do they support the argument being made? Even if the history Tucker constructs were real, appealing to the way something has “always” been isn’t an argument for why things should stay the same. Many moments in history teach us that, right? the long history of white supremacy (not just groups like the KKK, but also white dominance in terms of systemic power) in America isn’t an argument and justification in favor of white supremacy, is it?

Given how easily your homophobic observations leave your fingers, I’m intentionally using race-based examples not only to draw a parallel that clearly demonstrates right and wrong, but also because I doubt you will be so quick to make similar observations about black and brown people. Why? because it would be clearly racist. Now you might say you’re talking about marriage, not race, but I’m happy to post dozens of examples of how whites defined certain words in ways to exclude non-whites. Absurd and vague appeals to history were prominent, [as well as] often strange moral appeals about how blackness pollutes and is dangerous for society. In my opinion, the only difference between the examples I’m talking about and what you’re saying here is that you can still get away with public homophobia.

Gil Bailie:

(quoting Tucker)

‎”Altogether, the progressiveness of a society can probably be measured by its ability to tolerate sexual ambiguity and grant flexibility in sexual roles. We are probably as tolerant as any society has ever been in this regard. But putting homosexual marriage on a par with traditional marriage is an entirely different thing. Marriage is a ceremony designed to bind the two halves of humanity together. Homosexual marriage leaves them further apart and isolated. Few societies have ever granted it, yet alone celebrated it, as we appear to be on the verge of doing.”

That is the point.

George Dunn:

How exactly does marriage equality leave men and women “farther apart and isolated?” Tucker’s specific claim is that it will somehow encourage more single parent households, while at the same time legitimating polygamy. As I asked before, where is the evidence for this?

It’s obvious that neither William Tucker nor Gil Bailie have ever been victims of bullying or have any comprehension of how terrifying it is to find yourself on the receiving end of the “exuberance” of a violent mob. I have and I do. To laugh off this sort of brutality as no big deal, just boys being boys, is indeed odious. Furious opposition to marriage equality has apparently turned the author of Violence Unveiled into an apologist for mob violence. That should give us pause.

Doughlas Remy:

@George Dunn: In answer to your question, “Where’s the evidence?” I can provide the answer: There is none. If there were, NOM and other anti-equality organizations would be using it. Some of these organizations have abandoned the overt use of the religious objection because they saw that it didn’t fly very well. Notice that Tucker doesn’t use it. Instead, he resorts to a pseudo-scientific claim concocted out of his own very inadequate understanding of history, anthropology, and biology, with a dash of Margaret Mead and Edward Carpenter thrown in to make it sound authoritative. The few points that he does get right are bent to his purpose of drawing the line at same-sex marriage and staking out some space for further ostracism of gays and lesbians.

“Marriage,” he writes, “is designed to bind the two halves of humanity together.” The word “designed” is key, and it gives away the religious underpinnings of his argument. Since Tucker is so keen on history and anthropology, why doesn’t he know that marriage was until very recently about property and legal responsibility, not about anything so lofty as “binding the two halves of humanity together.” Where does he get this stuff? (OK, OK, I know where he gets it.)

And what does he expect homosexuals to do—marry persons of the opposite sex? Tucker seems so concerned that gay marriage will leave the two halves of humanity “further apart and isolated,” but what would he do, then—require everyone to enter into a traditional marriage? How grotesque!

And would he have us (GLBTs) separate from our partners and abandon all claims to equality? He cannot designate social isolation as a problem while attacking gay unions.

Given that there are millions of gay unions throughout the world, where would Tucker have us go from there? Gays and lesbians will no longer accept being treated as an underclass or excluded from the conversation about what marriage is.

William Tucker

Tucker’s article is easy to pick apart because he is so confused and so clueless that he can’t even successfully dissemble. A psychologist would have a field day with his fears of matriarchy, male dependence/infantilization, feminism, and sexual deviance. (all in just paragraphs 10-12)

BTW, that is a FABULOUS scarf he’s wearing in his photo!

Gil Bailie:

A month ago or so I posted a housekeeping message, but it obviously bears repeating.

For whom does this Facebook page exist? To whom are we trying to communicate? The answer is those who share: 1) our fidelity to traditional Christianity as safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; 2) our conviction that René Girard’s anthropological discoveries are as indispensable to the recovery of an intellectually cogent and wholehearted affirmation of Christian truth as they are to an understanding of the overall cultural crisis in the midst of which we are living, and 3) our belief that the healthiest response to this crisis to resist the winds of fashion and to turn again instead to the moral and intellectual resources—and the historical experience—of our tradition.

There are, and will always be, disagreements between and among those who share our basic premises, and we welcome an opportunity to learn from people with different points of view. But there are visitors to our Page who have fundamental differences with us on many of the cultural, theological, and moral issues of our time. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience required to respond to those with whom an ongoing give-and-take argument would be as endless as it is fruitless—precisely because of the diametrically opposed principles involved.

There are literally millions of venues for the airing of views antithetical to the ones for which we stand, but this Facebook page isn’t one of them. This Page is not a bulletin board or campus kiosk for the posting of angry disquisitions at odds with the three simple principles mentioned above. With no ill feeling, we encourage those who want to champion causes incompatible with our own to find other and better venues for doing so.

Again, we are here to be useful to those who are trying to respond to the deepening cultural and moral crisis of our civilization by rediscovering, reaffirming, and bearing witness to the truths on which that civilization is founded and without which it cannot survive. As best we can, we want to provide encouragement, theological sustenance, anthropological substantiation, and moral reinforcement to those who are sympathetic with the broad outlines of our mission. We welcome those who do not share our perspective, but we hope they will bear in mind that our first and only obligation is to those who do.

Ian Callaghan:

I’d be in way over my head if I tried to seriously engage the comments that have been made on this thread thus far, so I won’t. But I can say this: it seems clear to me that while Facebook certainly is quite open, it is also designed from the ground up to encourage self-selection and affirmation, not serious debate. That’s why there will never be a dislike button! (Not that that would ever be a marker of serious debate.) Anyway, I think Gil is just asking for the space to allow this page to be what Facebook is, for better or worse, designed to be: a place where you primarily share with the people with whom you are mostly in agreement. Does that make it a bit more shallow? Maybe—but I come to Facebook for bite-size content, not steak.

Doughlas Remy:

@Ian Callahan: As one who has often been accused of using objects in ways for which they were not intended, I am all for the plasticity and adaptability of Facebook. Believe me, it’s there to be anything we want it to be within the bounds of its own design limitations. The fact that the majority of people leave friendly bite-size content on Facebook may signify nothing more than short attention spans or minds incapable of in-depth discussion of issues. I am certain that Mark Zuckerberg would have no objection to our having a serious debate.

George Dunn:

@Gil Bailie: Some of the recent comments to which you object are, in my mind at least, quite in keeping with your mission, since they bring to light the elements of violence and scapegoating in your own posts and do so from a perspective that is fully informed by the insights of Rene Girard. Doughlas Remy, for example, highlighted how similar the anecdotes in your William Tucker article are to the classic texts of persecution that Girard discusses in many places in his writings. Meanwhile, I took issue with your abuse of Saul Alinsky, a good man who has been scapegoated by many on the right but whose program had direct affinities with the moral and intellectual tradition that you want to promote. My point was that your readiness to jump on the anti-Alinsky bandwagon displays those very mimetic tendencies against which Girard has warned us to be on guard, especially in ourselves. You’ll recall that when you posted your earlier “housekeeping message,” I explicitly asked whether you objected to me calling attention to the scapegoating tendencies that you frequently exhibit in your posts. You didn’t express any objection at that time and, until you say otherwise, I’ll just assume that you welcome the sort of criticisms that Doughlas and I offer, even if you may not always enjoy hearing them. Believe it or not, I am not only very sympathetic to much of your mission, but also want nothing but the very best for you personally. But for you to achieve your best, you need to start examining and overcoming your proclivity to scapegoat, sneer at, and invent calumny against those with whom you disagree. I have faith that you can do this.

James Hernandez:

George, you can’t play the scapegoating card every time Gil posts something that you think is wrong. It is just as easy to say that you, and definitely Doughlas, scapegoat the “right,” and more specifically those [who] align their view with Orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, Gil’s point is simply that the differences between your worldview and his are wide. Thus, when you argue from fundamentally different premises than he, the two of you will simply be speaking past each other instead of having an actual dialogue. Hence, this is why Gil usually does not respond. It seems both of you continuously respond to his posts because you get some type of catharsis out of beating up Gil’s point of view. So, in accordance with your Girardian point of view, maybe this isn’t the best thing for you. I think that unless you try to actually understand where Gil is coming from, then your comments will never bear fruit.

George Dunn:

James, let me conclude by reassuring you that, first, I don’t bring these things up for the sake of some “catharsis” or purgative effect, since I usually feel just the opposite of “cleansed” when I come away from this forum, and, second, that I do make an effort to understand Gil’s point of view. On numerous occasions, I’ve sought clarification from him on some point he’s made (most recently concerning his conception of “personhood”), only to have my questions completely ignored, not even acknowledged. Despite his failings, Gil possesses a sharp mind and has much to teach. I only wish he would be charitable enough to enter into the sort of dialogue that would allow people like me to learn from him.

Dean Hansen:

@Gil: You’re entitled to hold any view or position you wish on a wide and endless array of topics. But you’re not entitled to live in a vacuum.  So here’s an important reminder: You’re on the Internet. The Internet is a public place. Facebook is the most expansive, public and social environment of them all. It’s also a rowdy, wide-open place with millions upon millions of viewers and participants. The rules of etiquette and propriety which you imagine work in this environment don’t. Unless you have a password-protected site which automatically bans those who refuse to play by your arbitrary, overweening rules, then you can expect that people of every stripe and persuasion, including fellow Christians who don’t hold the same Vatican approved, Temenos protected views or narrow dogma you do, are going to come here and point out your unacknowledged and insufferable intolerance and narrow, fear-dominated version of reality.  Try waving a red flag in front of a bull and then demand to know why the bull didn’t play by your rules after it’s gored you a number of times.

If you’re going to live in a glass house and dispense endless, purposefully loaded, unrepentant provocations intended to shame an entire class of people, or to treat the environmental crisis of global warming as a liberal scare tactic, or denigrate the President for holding views about contraception and abortion which you reject while ignoring everything else he’s done, then you can expect to be bombarded with more of the posts you find so difficult to endure. You have the nasty habit of dropping bombs then scurrying away in the hopes that you can avoid the mess you’ve made without ever having to deal with it. You’re a coward. You can’t have a free exchange of ideas on your lofty terms, by closing your ears when things become unpleasant. Life doesn’t work that way. Try placing the shoe on the other foot for once: Think of all the heart-felt effort and considerable time devoted to encouraging you to consider legitimate and thoughtful alternatives to your unassailable fortress of magisterial truth, and ask why it generates such heat. Because you never listen and you never change course. This is what is killing Catholicism. An unbending, dogmatic, censorious refusal to adapt to the living body of Christ, whose name it bears and whose spirit it often despises. You can’t offer theological “sustenance” to one class of protected people while denying it to another or excluding them altogether when you find yourself vulnerable to legitimate criticism that undermines much of what you’re saying.

Jesus excluded no one, including a despised woman who wanted nothing more than to wash his feet with her hair. That’s the only measure of inclusion anyone who professes to be a Christian should have to abide by.  Everyone is welcomed. Can there be a civil discussion here? Only when you engage enough with the people who are urging to you have one to actually address the issues that you clamor to own.  If you start with the position that your views are sacrosanct and unmoving, you will get nowhere. The only effect that will have is to increase the heat and dissipate the light. If you make the default assumption that no light is coming in, you will soon find it extinguished at the other end.

You say you welcome those who don’t agree with your perspective?  Then stop complaining and whining when they do precisely that. Make up your mind, Gil. Either find a secluded, hermetically sealed venue in which you can postulate your version of reality, or expect to hear the sound of breaking glass as your temple falls around you. The only such venue I can think of that might apply is a seminary or a monastery, where you can renounce the world altogether and apply for the priesthood. It will be like returning to the factory at closing time when all the traffic is moving in the opposite direction. You’ll have a clear, empty road to follow. You’ll also have the illusion that you’re doing it right. After all, didn’t Jesus himself say that many are called and few are chosen? There! See? You were right all along.  Unless he was talking about cryogenics, of course.

Doughlas Remy:

What happened to all the comments? They’re all gone! There must have been a dozen of them.

Gil Bailie:

I deleted them all just to be fair. Thanks to those who said nice things. No hard feelings for those who didn’t. It’s just that the endless back and forth is useless. There are plenty of other places for expressing contrary points of view.

Dean Hansen:

Well, there you have it. “The endless back and forth,” to use Gil’s words, “is useless.” But the one-way misrepresentation of facts will continue,  thereby generating more criticism and by inference, more deletions and outright censorship of ideas. Sounds like a win-win situation, if entropy is the equivalent of winning. Gil is asking us not to make him think about things that trouble him. In a way, he has hamstrung himself with his own theology. He wants to be thought of as someone who is slow to anger, quick to forgive, and never eager to scandalize anyone by losing his temper or being in conflict with those who contradict his understanding of the way things work. Those promptings are commendable and lovely in and of themselves, because they’re part of the Gospel message, unless they make a habit of continuously aborting reality in the process. I think we may have found a form of abortion which Gil approves of. The question is, how will he defend his beliefs, if he shirks his responsibility to do so by simply suggesting the effort is useless?  There’s only one way:  Ignore any criticism he can’t refute.

When you consider how the Catholic church goes out of its way to shelter its own in the midst of an ongoing pedophile scandal, it’s not hard to see why Gil opts for a slash-and-burn policy with regard to his own perception of his reputation. To face the issues squarely by doing honest soul-searching requires a complete re-assessment of one’s life path and a willingness to make concessions and offer some modicum of contrition.  That re-assessment would tear down many of Gil’s treasured assumptions about the majesty and infallibility of the church triumphant. How he still manages to believe in the otherly-world nature of a church that sexually abuses children in this world, and psychologically brutalizes men and women because of their sexual nature requires a degree of self-delusion that most of us don’t possess, or would disown and redress quickly were it exposed.

I feel genuinely sorry for Gil, because his house of cards is too fragile to withstand the internal scrutiny that is required, either on a personal or an institutional level. We’ve backed him into a wall. Gil’s Masthead is “Faith in the Crossfire.” Yet he continuously fires the first round in the “fire fight,” and then ducks and covers during the return engagement. If that’s faith, it’s apparently the same kind Benedict has when he rides around in his bullet-proof popemobile. At least the masthead at Andrew Sullivan’s blog strives for honesty:  “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

You can’t see beyond your nose when you refuse to see what’s before you.

Mark Gordon:

Gil, I wholeheartedly endorse the three principles enunciated above. However, at least in practice there seems to be a fourth principle at work on this Facebook page, and it is this: that the Republican Party and the contemporary “conservative” movement are the bearers of the flame of authentic Christian civilization. This despite their devotion to neoliberalism, nationalist idolatry, militarism and cultural Calvinism, all of which are fundamentally at odds with the teaching of the Church. I spent much of my adult life wedded to that crowd, and it was only my exposure to someone named Gil Bailie that began to dislodge me from them. So you can imagine how disappointed I am to see you embrace those former companions of mine so fervently. The American Spectator? Daniel Pipes? The torture enthusiasts at The National Review? Lord, help us! So, after you read and delete this, know that I will no longer be following the Cornerstone page. It is yours to do with as you please. Sadly, you’ll be doing it without me. Still friends, I hope.

A Response to Thomas Sowell’s “Occupy and the Moral Infrastructure”

May 9, 2012

Thomas Sowell, writing for The National Review Online, claims the Obama administration has granted the Occupy movement immunity from the law and opened the gates to anarchy, barbarism, and civilizational collapse.

Read his article here.

My response:

Sowell, addressing The National Review Online‘s overwhelmingly Christian readership, complains that educators “indoctrinate their students with ‘non-judgmental’ attitudes.” I wonder if he is equally disappointed with the teachings of Jesus regarding judgment. (“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”) Or maybe there is a distinction that I am missing here. If he is correct about the Academy’s indoctrination of the young in non-judgmental attitudes, then maybe there is some hope after all.

Sowell claims the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing equal protection to all citizens) has been “suspended”, or even “repealed” by authorities unwilling to “clamp down” on the Occupy movement. I would just point out that the 14th Amendment has been neither suspended nor repealed and, in any case, a repeal would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. I would also point out that authorities have not stood idly by when anyone’s safety was at risk.

Sowell doesn’t mention the First Amendment, which provides for “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” What does he think it is, chopped liver?

Sowell makes no distinction between peaceful and non-peaceful protest. Fortunately, many or most municipal governments have tried to maintain a balance between their sworn duty to protect citizens and the rights of citizens to protest. Closing down the entire Occupy movement as a response to the excesses of certain individuals would be like closing down the anti-abortion movement over an occasional shooting. Notice no shootings have yet occurred in the Occupy protests.

Sowell claims the Occupy movement’s aim is mob rule. This is patently untrue, and Sowell needs more than a broken plate-glass window in San Francisco to make his case. Not even the Occupy movement is certain of its aims.

Sowell thinks concentrated applications of pepper-spray are appropriate for dispersing students sitting on the ground with their arms interlocked. I think he should try getting doused with pepper-spray before recommending its use on seated protesters.

Sowell frames these events as a struggle between anarchy (barbarism, even!) and law and order. No shades of grey here. No nuance. But why should we expect nuance from The National Review? I imagine President Bashar al-Assad of Syria would take heart that some Americans see things the way he does.

We Are All Nuns. We Are All Same-Sex Couples Wanting to Marry.

April 26, 2012

American Nuns

Roman Catholic feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt boldly challenges the Vatican’s current crackdown on the Church’s nuns:

When it comes to the Vatican’s crackdown on women religious, I believe it’s time to declare that for the purpose of this struggle: we are all nuns.

The mandate by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) via the appointment of an Archbishop Delegate to bring the nuns back in line—below and behind the bishops—has outraged those who respect its rich legacy.

If you can spell Catholic, you are probably asking: how dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world? How dare the very men who preside over a Church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious?

While this story is focused on nuns, it doesn’t stop there. Flowery medieval rhetoric by the Vatican about the nuns’ “special place in the Church,” and the fiction that religious women have “full participation in all aspects of the Church’s life” (while ordination is still for men only—come on!) make the dictum especially pernicious.

But it’s really about all of the laity, especially women, who see the world in terms of needs we can fulfill, not power we can hold; of radical equality, not hierarchy; of the many, not the few.

(Read her entire article, published by Religion Dispatches, here.)

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain

The Vatican’s “flowery medieval rhetoric” about “full participation” of women religious in the church (while in fact they are relegated to second-class status) couldn’t fail to remind me of the Church hierarchy’s weaselly dicta about same-sex marriage. In an April 2012 letter to Catholic parishioners in the Seattle Archdiocese, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain went to great lengths to explain why Washington State Catholics should sign a petition to put Referendum 74 on the November ballot. (If it gets on the ballot, Referendum 74 will ask Washington voters to accept or reject the legislator’s recent enactment of a law granting same-sex couples the right to a civil marriage.)

In his letter, Sartain denies that the Church supports discrimination: “Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination,” he writes, as though the object of the discrimination in question were a mere concept that had nothing to do with flesh-and-blood people.

Sartain knows that replacing “things” with “people” in his little formula would get him in a world of trouble. Imagine if he had written: “Treating people who are different differently is not unjust discrimination.” That tack might have worked prior to the Civil Rights era, but nowadays it doesn’t wash. He might have gotten closer to the truth if he had written “not always unjust,” but I suspect he was less interested in clarity than in muddying the waters.

After focusing on differences (where one might have expected a Christian to ignore or transcend them), Sartain then informs us that “people who experience same-sex attraction have equal dignity.” Note his word “equal” and then compare Mary Hunt’s call for “radical equality,” and you’ll understand why I chose the word “weaselly” to describe the hierarchy’s dicta.

And here’s the real zinger in Sartain’s pastoral letter: “… the Church teaches that persons with same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

Yeah, right. Just don’t let us start thinking we’re equal to straight folks.

How eerily reminiscent Sartain’s justifications are of the pious protestations of 19th-century white slaveholders and 20th-century segregationists. And how artfully he stakes out the moral high ground for the structures of oppression that he represents.

Catholic nuns who routinely have to put up with this kind of unctuous falderal are saints indeed.

Do you suppose the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and same-sex marriage advocates might find common cause?

BTW, the “Archbishop Delegate” appointed by the Vatican to “bring the nuns back in line,” as Mary Hunt writes, is none other than Seattle’s own J. Peter Sartain.

When Dogma Becomes Prejudice

April 25, 2012

Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Dish

A fascinating exchange between Will Saletan, Ross Douthat, and Andrew Sullivan on the “fit” between gay relationships and the “Christian view of sexuality:”

Andrew’s argument:

Let me use an obvious analogy which really gets to the heart of the unfairness at the center of this. Modern America is full of divorced couples. Unlike homosexuality, Jesus spoke unequivocally about divorce. Does Ross insist that our civil laws return to banning divorce on all grounds? No. Does he back a constitutional amendment to ban civil divorce? No. His reason would be to say that it simply cannot be done democratically. But that precisely reveals the church’s discriminatory position on gay people. Unlike divorcees, the gays’ position is not a choice. But unlike divorcees, they alone are the target of a massive campaign by Christianists to deny them any right to marry at all—not just twice but ever! This is where the current hierarchy is.

Notice too how they are not threatening to shut down services for the poor and homeless because one of their civil employees might be re-married or divorced (and thereby violating church doctrine). And yet they apply that standard to gay people—who have not chosen any lifestyle, but are guilty purely of being as God made them. They do it because we are few in number and they can deploy the power of religion to demonize us.

This deliberate tolerance of heterosexuals and deliberate intolerance of homosexuals on the same issue is on its face discriminatory. And don’t get me started on annulments. Newt Gingrich gets to marry his third wife in church, but the Vatican wants a constitutional amendment to prevent my having one civil marriage with no church involvement. What else can this be rooted in but animus? And total panic.

Why David Goldman is Wrong About “Imminent Population Collapse”

April 24, 2012

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum is touting a new book by David Goldman, “How Civilizations Die.” Goldman claims the world is in a steep demographic decline whose consequences will be catastrophic.

The world faces a danger more terrible than the worst Green imaginings. The European environmentalist who wants to shrink the world’s population to reduce carbon emissions will spend her declining years in misery, for there will not be enough Europeans alive a generation from now to pay for her pension and medical care. For the first time in history, the birth rate of the whole developed world is well below replacement, and a significant part of it has passed the demographic point of no return.

Notice that Goldman’s victim in this scenario is the European environmentalist, forced to lie upon the bed she has so foolishly made. He continues:

Imminent population collapse makes radical Islam more dangerous, not less so. For in their despair, radical Muslims who can already taste the ruin of their culture believe that they have nothing to lose. … Population decline, the decisive issue of the twenty-first century, will cause violent upheavals in the world order. Countries facing fertility dearth, such as Iran, are responding with aggression. Nations confronting their own mortality may choose to go down in a blaze of glory.

Wait just a doggone minute. Hold them hosses. Is Goldman really saying that the world’s population, which has grown 300% since 1944, is in precipitous decline? Is it possible that today’s European adults will spend their declining years in abject misery for lack of enough young people to pay for their pensions and medical care? Is population collapse really “imminent” and even irreversible in places? And do populations with “elder bulges” really become more belligerent?

Gil Bailie could not be happier with Goldman’s thesis, for it appears to validate the Catholic Church’s longstanding position on contraception. Bailie has this to say:

The Church was right, and those who scoffed were wrong.

For decades, things repugnant to every prior age—contraception and abortion—have not only been considered licit, but beyond reproach. To the social, moral, and cultural damage resulting from the severance of sexuality from procreation and emotional commitment can now be added the demographic tsunami by which we already being engulfed.

And today our government is more determined than ever to favor and fund the anti-natal policies that are leading to this catastrophe. What many have said about the debt crisis is true as well of the very much related demographic one: Never before have we faced crises that were this severe and this predictable. And we are doubling down on the policies that created them.

The Church was right after all. All the evidence suggests so.

Was it? And does it? Are we really experiencing a “demographic tsunami?”

First, Bailie could have been more precise in his choice of a metaphor. A tsunami is a sudden excess of water pushed into coastal areas. That said, let’s weigh the evidence for Goldman’s “imminent population collapse.” My sources for population statistics are the CIA World Factbook and various United Nations publications, all freely available on the Internet.

Global population growth, 1300-2000 AD

Again, the world’s  population has grown 300% since I was born (1944), and it’s still growing very rapidly.

The population growth rate (not to be confused with the amount of growth) has dropped almost exactly 50% in the past 50 years (from 2.2% to 1.1% per annum, and that decrease is mostly attributable to lower fertility rates worldwide, though HIV-related deaths in Southern Africa and deaths from starvation and genocide in Sub-Saharan Africa must certainly be factored in. The growth rate is expected to reach 0.6% per annum by 2050, but that’s still growth, not contraction.

Global population growth rates. Source: World Bank

Yes, worldwide fertility rates have dropped, but only to 2.47 children per woman, well above the replacement rate of 2.1 cpw. It’s a good thing. We were headed toward nine billion before the end of this century.

None of these stats on growth and fertility points to “imminent population collapse” on a global scale. On the contrary, overpopulation is already straining the earth’s resources to an alarming degree.

Global fertility rates. Source: World Bank

But what about population collapse at the national level? Is any population really “collapsing?” Certainly, one might expect population numbers to fluctuate as environmental conditions vary over time. But is Goldman justified in reading “collapse” into every ebbing of a national population? Is any society nearing the “point of no return?” Are developed countries in a “death spiral?”

Clearly, Goldman’s hyperbolic rhetoric appears intended to evoke fear. It also appears to be driven by his own fears. But fears of what? The answer is beyond the scope of this post, but Goldman’s Spengler page on PJ Media will offer some clues. Suffice it to say that Gil Bailie and David Goldman share a visceral distaste for liberalism, modernism, secularism, Islam, and the sexual revolution; and that both are opposed to contraception.

Population Dynamics

The scientific literature on population dynamics shows basically four “stages” of population growth, with bulges moving up from bottom to top. As you might expect, there are problems with stage #1, which has a youth bulge, and stage #4, which has a “elder bulge.”

When too many young people come on-stream in a society that is ill-equipped to deal with them, as in stage #1, the results are likely to be increased social unrest, war, terrorism, and even genocide. Second and third sons can’t find employment and often turn to religious or political ideologies to make their mark in the world. Nevertheless, the “youth bulge” is never the only factor explaining these pathologies. Resources are key to whether predicting whether a society can effectively handle a youth bulge. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has done well, while Egypt has done very poorly.

Global Median Age

Where there’s an “elder bulge,” as we are seeing in Japan and Europe, social services are strained at the other end (i.e., social welfare for seniors), and the fewer resources that are available, the more acute the problems become. An educated and informed democratic society can always tweak policy to address the challenges. While draconian measures like criminalization of contraception are never necessary, they are often advocated by religious institutions locked into pre-modern and pre-scientific conceptions of social engineering. And make no mistake about it: Policies that criminalize or deny access to contraception are a form of social engineering.

The fourth model, with its “elder bulge,” is never an inverted pyramid. People don’t completely stop having children, even in modern China. And, contrary to what David Golden claims, elder bulges don’t provoke violent social upheavals.  As Samuel Huntington wrote in Clash of Civilizations, “Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30.”

It’s always a complicated equation—never as simple as David Goldman’s model—and one must never factor out resources and other environmental factors. Overpopulation occurs when an area’s population exceeds its carrying capacity, and underpopulation occurs when there are not enough people to maintain an economic system. Depopulation occurs when people leave an area or are killed off. Somalia is overpopulated because it lacks resources to sustain its people, and the continent of Antarctica is underpopulated because conditions of life there are so harsh.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population has quadrupled since 1945, causing a precipitous decline in resources, especially water, fuel, and soil nutrients. In Somalia, 12 million people are facing famine. The linkage between overpopulation and famine is undisputed.

What is the solution to Somalia’s problems? Certainly an infusion of food and water supplies would alleviate suffering there. But until that happens, would anyone dare suggest that Somalis should have more babies? Would anyone in his right mind suggest withholding contraceptives? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you probably need to read up on Catholic teachings.

There isn’t a single country or society where either underpopulation or depopulation, as defined above, is currently a social problem on the scale of the overpopulation problem in Africa. This is not to claim that populations cannot implode. Indigenous populations were decimated throughout the Americas from disease and conquest following the arrival of Europeans. The Vikings left Greenland because of climate change, and some Polynesian islands were abandoned between 800 and 1000 AD for environmental reasons that are still in dispute. In none of these cases was “birth dearth” the cause of depopulation. Again, environmental factors were decisive.

So, if there is, in Gil Bailie’s words, a demographic “tsunami,” then surely we are witnessing it in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is indeed a “death spiral,” but one that results from overpopulation, not depopulation.

David Goldman’s concerns about declining fertility rates in developed countries are driven less by fears of underpopulation than by fears about cultural dilutions resulting from immigration. There is certainly no dearth of people in the world, and, as said earlier, the total fertility rate is still well above the replacement rate of 2.1 bpw. The key to understanding Goldman’s misplaced concerns is to understand what he, as a stakeholder, fears about cultural dilution.

If developed countries need to beef up their populations, they can prioritize financial incentives for families to have more than 2.1 children, as Japan and some northern European countries are currently doing. Or they can leverage immigration, or encourage workers to delay retirement. Students can be given low-interest-rate loans so that starting a family after college does not become an impossible financial burden for them. There are costs involved in any of these measures, but the resources are not lacking.

The reality is that resources in developed nations are not yet at a point where population attrition is inevitable. These societies are now being asked to decide whether unlimited accrual of personal wealth is conducive to cultural or national survival. At some point, the perceived common good may require adjusting priorities. Women who have political choice will not opt for more children when resources are scarce, and they may justly demand a reallocation of resources.

Strained resources in India

If less-developed nations face overpopulation, then why not support family planning as a way of bringing those populations under control? We know that family planning works, but we have not yet seen that resource replacement does so.

To take contraception off the table is to deprive ourselves of a highly effective tool for managing populations and for ensuring the well-being of those who do populate our planet. It isn’t just numbers that we want, or more life. Humans are not warrior ants, driven only to reproduce and make war. We are made for something better.

Randall Jennings comments:

Seems the modern world is very good at creating problems and then creating new ones with their “fixes” on ever grander scales. I could foresee tens of millions Chinese men, for instance, having their own ideas of reducing global population as they realize they will very well never have a bride and a normal family life after the ‘success’ of the state’s one child policy.

George Dunn responds to Randall Jennings:

Randall, the widening disproportion of men to women is a concern of the Chinese government, which is one reason they are relaxing the one child policy. What you foresee is also foreseeable by policymakers, who are in a position to adjust the policy accordingly. But I hope you’re not suggesting (as Gil undoubtedly would) that the solution is to criminalize the use of contraceptives. That would be to consign hundreds of millions of Chinese to grinding poverty and possibly starvation. Say what you will about the current Chinese regime (and, as an expat in China, I am certainly not an unqualified fan), but they have succeeded where their predecessors have all failed in meeting the greatest challenge that a developing country must face—they are keeping every single one of their 1.3 billion citizens fed. Not only that, but they have lifted an unprecedented 600 million people out of poverty. I shudder to think what China would be like today if contraception had been criminalized for the last fifty years.

Ian Mac Laue writes:

I don’t dispute that some of the data might be overblown or used to support xenophobic ends that aren’t by any means admirable, but as it concerns strictly european nations there does seem to be a problem of replacement level growth. Shouldn’t a country be concerned when its tax base is incapable of supporting its older members? Or are you suggesting that any such problem could be allieviated by an influx of immigration?

My response to Ian Mac Laue:

Countries with birthrates below replacement levels have legitimate concerns about the burdens placed on working-age populations to support their elderly. People throughout the developed world are living longer, and women are having fewer babies.

I don’t believe there is any single solution to this problem, but I do believe certain proposed solutions should be taken off the table. Criminalizing or withholding access to contraception is a non-starter. Turning back the rights revolution and the sexual revolution is another non-starter. Once women got the right to vote, the game was up for patriarchal structures of power, and the path ahead is clear. Women will continue to demand equality and the right to control their own reproductive lives, and they will increasingly achieve their goals. We must just accept that as a given.

Populations that are still growing are generally those where women are still substantially oppressed. Oppression is not an option for constitutional democracies.

Solutions to birth dearth include immigration, government-sponsored incentives, and later retirement. None of these solutions is without problems of its own, but at least none of them requires any curtailment of individual liberties.

Dean Hansen responds to Gil Bailie:

I wasn’t aware that contraception and abortion have been repugnant to every age. When we refuse to examine our own “repugnance” regarding reproduction issues, nature steps in and does it for us with bubonic plague, cholera epidemics, wars, droughts, floods, and fires.  Nature doesn’t give a damn about our moral scrupulosity. I’m so glad Gil took this time out of his busy schedule to remind us how happy we could be if we surrendered our autonomy to the authority of a group of demented celibate old men in Rome. Of course, Gil has been taking time out of his busy schedule to say the same stuff over and over, day after day, quoting anyone who will agree with him, and then covering his ears every time someone objects.

What I do believe is that people who live their lives in fear and superstition can make life a living hell for those who don’t, but women have always resorted to whatever means were available to them, regardless of the darkness of the age they resided in, or the potential danger to themselves, to wrest control of their own lives from “well meaning” male authorities who claimed to speak for God. Much of that so-called repugnance was nothing more than a continuation of a shaming mechanism aimed at reducing human reproduction and human sexuality into a miserable farce whose whole aim to is to denigrate any kind of sexual act that doesn’t take place in the sacred baby-making factory of family bedroom.

Yes, those declining years will be spent in misery, unless we make up our minds to burden an already over-stressed world with a new and continuous supply of human beings—who can starve along with the ones who are already here, many of them unwanted or unplanned—and to put additional demands on resources that are irreplaceable and on energy systems that are still dominated by an oil industry determined to keep their profits rolling in no matter what the cost to the planet. The real misery for subsequent generations will be fished-out seas and coal-fired plants belching more carbon into an already overloaded atmosphere. And when the electricity goes off, so does the running water, the toilet, the shower, the microwave oven, the refrigerator, the TV, the air conditioning … well, just about anything that distinguishes our relatively civilized culture from the others that will be dying off at an even faster rate.  Now that’s population collapse, brother, and it won’t be caused by our inability to remember how to fuck and make babies.

It amazes me that Gil holds up Paul Ehrlich as an example of bad science, when much of what he said was prescient and has come true.  The dates were off but the trends are sound.  We are at three times the population world-wide that existed at the time of Mr. Bailie’s birth. We are running out of potable water, sustainable crops, and non-polluting energy, and still he dumbs-down the rhetoric by quoting anyone who parrots the idiocy about “fertility dearth.”  The only real and measurable dearth is in the neuronal dendrites that can no longer be called into service in Bailie’s apparently concrete-filled head as they march into the waste basket of his own personal historical delusions.

And what’s the final cherry atop the tasty Catholic cobbler in this intellectual feast or famine? “The Church was right after all.”  Right about what??

I would modify that numbing bit of falderal by suggesting the people who have left the church in order to maintain their sanity and live lives of honesty were right, and that that will ultimately make the only real difference.