Archive for the ‘Roman Catholicism’ Category

Catholicism: Why the Sheep are Scattering

August 11, 2013
Avenging Angel

Avenging Angel

by Doughlas Remy

Without fear, shame and the concept of hell, the church would pretty much be out of business. Or at least out of the business they’re presently in.   –Dean Hansen

I think Dean Hansen has it exactly right: “Without fear, shame, and the concept of Hell, the [Catholic] Church would pretty much be out of business.”

Conservative Catholics writers and bloggers routinely use the threat of eternal damnation as their ultimate trump card when they feel cornered by demands for change. The threat is usually covert, thinly veiled by references to “judgment,” “pleasing God,” “consequences of sin,” and “being lost.” The avowed purpose of these allusions is to encourage sinners to secure their salvation while there is still time. Their real and obvious purpose, however, is to stoke feelings of existential Angst about death, guilt, and the Final Reckoning. Once believers are “primed” with such thoughts, the institutional Church is positioned to influence their behavior.

However, these fear dynamics are no longer as effective as they were when the Church’s authority on matters of faith and morals went virtually unquestioned. Western Catholics are now, by and large, well-educated and cosmopolitan. They live in pluralistic societies where monotheisms co-mingle more or less comfortably precisely because the hard edges of absolutist faith have been progressively worn down by commerce, communications, and a worldview increasingly informed by science and reason.

The threat of damnation has lost its sting. We are now all Universalists: the idea of an exclusionary heaven loses its appeal once we see people of other faiths—or of no faith—as “like us,” no better and no worse. None of us seriously believes that the Dalai Lama is an evil man deserving of eternal punishment, or that only a select few (i.e., those who espouse our own particular views) will enter that “strait” gate into Paradise. These archaic ideas have been seen for what they are: naive, tribalistic, solipsistic, and profoundly divisive. Their power to leverage Catholics’ behavior and unify the Church has waned. The old sheep dog has lost its teeth, and the sheep are scattering.

Conservative Catholics—those who have held fast to the modalities of fear and shame—sometimes express their bewilderment about the pace of change in the actual beliefs and practices of Catholic laity, a laity that, in the U.S. and several predominantly Catholic countries, has supported same-sex marriage and access to contraception despite the fulminations of the bishops. What they seem not to understand is that the majority of Catholics in these countries have become “father-deaf,” so to speak. They simply ignore what they are instructed to do, without any fear of consequences. They have looked behind the curtain and seen who the wizard really is.

Valerie Tarico on Mother Teresa’s Fetishization of Suffering / Dean Hansen Responds

May 1, 2013

Easter "Celebration" in the Philippines

by Valerie Tarico

Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance ofavoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she put it, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”

Read the entire article here.

Dean Hansen responds: 

Suffering is inevitable. But its inevitability does not convince me of its religious virtue, any more than a house fire convinces me we need more arsonists. But it does point to the Church’s blatant opportunism in regards to a handy convenient use policy.

People “lick” their wounds because wounds hurt, and because pain can be as intolerable as the bad metaphors that are often asked to carry the weight of human experience. There are more healing properties in a gob of spit than in a bucket of religious platitudes. The most agonizing injuries we endure are often unresponsive to the well-meaning cures and metaphysical vagaries inflicted on us by those who haven’t endured them themselves but who are sure, nonetheless, that they have the solution for our dilemma. If God wants scars, he must want wounds. If he wants wounds, he must enjoy inflicting injury. If the injuries don’t heal properly, it’s because people are more than casually reticent about the efficacy of appealing to the same source for a cure that either bestowed or was indifferent to the injury. What I will do with the wounds in my life is ask why a God who claims to love us unconditionally needs to test our capacity for suffering as an adjunct for bestowing an unearned grace that ostensibly accepts us as we are, wounds and all.

The Church constantly intones that, “Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, John of the Cross, Theresa of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, and many others are models of Christianity.”  And rather ghastly models at that, judging by the state of the church and the sclerotic heritage it has left in its wake. Compare Christ’s words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Mother Teresa spent her entire life living in the slums of Calcutta, working 18-20 hours a day for 70+ years in filthy surroundings in the hope of being an acceptable vessel for Christ’s “love,” and felt abandoned, forsaken, and bereft of faith in the end. Theresa of Lisieux was a neurotic personality who suffered from scrupulosity, a psychological disorder characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues. Scrupulosity is personally distressing, objectively dysfunctional, and often accompanied by significant impairment in social functioning. It is typically conceptualized as a moral or religious form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  She scourged herself and fasted repeatedly as a result.

Saint Francis of Assisi engaged in severe self-inflicted penances which included vigils, fasts, frequent self-flagellations and the use of a hair shirt to increase his discomfort with the loathsome flesh.  Thomas More, Catherine of Siena, and Ignatius of Loyola all engaged in similar acts of sadomasochism  for the favor of their lord’s “easy” yoke.  St. Teresa of Avila undertook severe mortification once it was suggested by friends that her supernatural ecstasies were of diabolical origin. (Certainly her cures were.) The seers of Fatima wore tight cords around their waists and abstained from drinking water on hot days. The Virgin Mary reportedly told them that God was pleased with their sacrifices and bodily penances. John Paul II, who himself was known to practice flagellation and other penitential practices like sleeping on a floor and fasting before important events, wrote an entire Apostolic Letter on the topic of suffering, specifically the salvific meaning of suffering: Salvifici Doloris. It is considered a major contribution to the theology of pain and suffering!  And finally we have Vitamin B16—Joe “the Rat” Ratzinger who proclaims that, “pain, the very product of evil and sin, is used by God to negate evil and sin. By freely suffering the pains that went with his passion and death on the cross, Jesus fully reveals his love.”

Yep.  That sounds like love with a generous dose of abundant living all right. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace. Suffering is Joy.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” says Jesus. A reading of that passage should have forever dispelled the idea that you can earn your way to heaven through oppressive work and endless self sacrifice. But apparently, by the lights of the church triumphant, heaven is within reach only when you’re willing to strive against insurmountable odds until you drop dead from psychic and physical trauma and exhaustion. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, a “saint” who received the stigmata, wrote in one of his letters:

Let us now consider what we must do to ensure that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our souls. It can all be summed up in mortification of the flesh with its vices and concupiscences, and in guarding against a selfish spirit. … The mortification must be constant and steady, not intermittent, and it must last for one’s whole life. Moreover, the perfect Christian must not be satisfied with a kind of mortification which merely appears to be severe. He must make sure that it hurts. 

So much for the imitation of Christ and the Good News of the Gospel!

The catechism  of the Catholic Church states: “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.”

Pope Paul VI also stated:

The necessity of mortification of the flesh stands clearly revealed if we consider the fragility of our nature, in which, since Adam’s sin, flesh and spirit have contrasting desires. This exercise of bodily mortification—far removed from any form of stoicism— does not imply a condemnation of the flesh which the Son of God deigned to assume. On the contrary, mortification aims at the ‘liberation’ of man.

This is the Christianity that Paul condemned, and which Jesus excoriated:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”  – Colossians 2:13-23

Is this ghoulish litany of sainthood supposed to impress outsiders with Catholicism’s rejection of the world and its elevated spiritual consciousness? Such a consciousness is based on nothing more than a perverse pathology of self-loathing. Origen had himself castrated in a sad and savage attempt to “purify” himself.  It didn’t work.  Augustine believed the source of evil was his genitals “Ecce unde” and ended up ditching his common law wife and her son Adeodatus to get the sexual monkey off his back. Then he spent the rest of his life in guilt and regret for abandoning her. Obviously, that too, did not work. Today if you self-mutilate to the point of causing yourself grievous bodily harm, you’re put under observation for 48 hours and pumped full of meds. That generally does work, making the rubber room unnecessary. At least you don’t have to chew your way through leather straps to greet the morning.

I have grown weary of those who say that suffering is somehow redemptive, that it carries with it a positive outcome. I do not deny that this is at times so. Those who suffer can sometimes emerge humbler, wiser, gentler. But there is nothing beneficial that comes from suffering that could have not been achieved far more effectively through a positive means. To the contrary, suffering leaves us broken and cynical, disbelieving and forlorn, miserable and depressed.  — Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Contrary to what you may have heard, the only sort of character suffering builds is the ability to suffer—a useful ability in a world where suffering is the routine nature of life but not a virtue that makes the world a better place.  — Virginia Postrel

 

 

Is Pope Francis Secretly Pro-Gay?

March 21, 2013
Pope-Francis

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina (now Pope Francis)

by Michelangelo Signorile, Huffpost Gay Voices, 3/21/13

So there I was a few weeks ago, making an argument for why we might expect the hypothetical new pope to be even more anti-gay than the old one. Now that there actually is a new pope, that would seem to have turned out to be true, at least on the surface, given his public decrees. Pope Francis, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has made statements that seem even more off-the-rails than Pope Benedict’s most virulently anti-gay remarks: In 2010 he equated gay people, gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the devil, which was enough to have Argentina’s president call his statements “medieval.”

But, although I wouldn’t wager big money on it, I’m thinking it’s quite possible that we won’t hear that kind of rhetoric from him again.

Continue reading this article.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another view:Pope’s Message: Embrace All People Except the Gays,” by Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out, 3/19/21.

The World Can’t Hear You on Marriage

March 18, 2013
Peter Leithart

Peter Leithart

Peter J. Leithart, writing for First Things (“The World Can’t Hear Us on Marriage,” 3/15/13), concedes that “virtually all the cultural and political momentum” is in the direction of same-sex marriage legalization. This is an impressive concession, but even more impressive is his admission that “arguments against gay marriage are theologically fraught.”

Christians and Jews who try to mount biblically or theologically based arguments will find themselves ignored or denounced by secular gatekeepers precisely because they offer biblically and theologically based arguments.

In Leithart’s view, the cause of this sad state of affairs is that the secularized public is “dull of hearing,”  and “foolish and senseless;” they “have ears but do not hear.” The Biblically literate may recall that these grim assessments are delivered by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, apparently frustrated that no one listens to them.

Our cultural drift toward marriage equality can only be reversed, Leithart believes, by a “cultural revolution.” However, he offers no suggestions as to how such a revolution might be launched and does not appear to think one is imminent.

Instead, Leithart urges his readers to continue fighting the good fight using all the usual arguments, but, he adds, “…we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking any of this readily touches the experience or intellectual habits of a majority.” He is spot-on, but then one has to ask why anyone should bother deploying the same old theological arguments, invoking tradition, natural law, sexual complementarity, sin, the creational order, and sexual dimorphism, when it has become so abundantly obvious that they don’t work, even among Catholics, 62% of whom support same-sex marriage in this country? The answer, I suppose, is that the prophet is one “crying in the wilderness;” though no one listens to him, he must nevertheless prophesy, because God has called him to do so.

Leithart believes the Spirit will eventually win people’s hearts. In the meantime, good Catholics should “aspire to form marriages and families that are living parables of the gospel.” As consolation for their failure to win over the larger public, they must remember that they are “in the good company of Isaiah and Jeremiah, of Jesus and Paul.”

I actually appreciated Mr. Leithart’s light-hearted attitude about this issue. (Why do people so often live up to their names?) He seemed to be saying, “Don’t change anything you’re doing, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t reverse the direction that things are moving. People are not listening, but you are a prophet, and people never seem to listen to prophets. It just comes with the territory. So consider yourself in good company, and meanwhile, enjoy your marriage.”

I completely agree, even with his advice to change nothing one is currently doing (I agree because what one is currently doing is not working).

I wrote him the following:

Mr. Leithart, the trouble with prophecies is that so many of them are wrong. If we turn a deaf ear to them, it is often because they are annoying, intrusive, irrelevant, incoherent, and improbable.

There is no shortage of prophets in this world, and there is no shortage of listeners. The reason that you may not recognize this is that their prophetic discourse is secular in nature. It does not use the metaphors of religion, and so it goes under your radar.

Here are three of my favorite prophets: George Monbiot (global warming), Maude Barlow (global water resources), and Paul Krugman (economics).

Opposition to same-sex marriage has so far been almost entirely based in theological notions that most people neither understand nor care about. These notions don’t stand up very well to critical scrutiny in the places that matter—the courts, the legislatures, the media, the universities. What is more, Americans are a pragmatic lot who may pay lip service to improbable theological arguments on Sunday morning, but during the rest of the week they live in a world where love, happiness, and equality are generally valued and encouraged. And nothing can trump theological arguments as decisively as one cherished family member coming out of the closet or one dear friend marrying his partner. At such times, invoking Thomas Aquinas or natural law seems harshly discordant, inappropriate, even mean-spirited. Who wants to be the evil fairy arriving at the wedding party with a curse for the lovers?

Peter Leithart wrote an earlier article (also for First Things) about this very subject, entitled, “Gay Marriage and Christian Imagination” (2/27/13). It is well worth the read, and to fully understand it, one must view the recent debate between Douglas Wilson and Andrew Sullivan around the question, “Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?”

An excerpt from Leithart’s article of 2/27/13:

Wilson closed the debate with a lovely sketch of the marital shape of redemptive history, from the garden to the rescue of the Bride by the divine Husband to the revelation of a bride from heaven. In order for that to carry any weight, though, people have to be convinced that social institutions should participate in and reflect some sort of cosmic order. Who believes that these days? Wilson tells a cute story, many will say, but what does it have to do with public policy?

If that’s a hard case to make, it’s even harder to make the case that homosexuals are in any way a threat to our civilization. Paul says that homosexual desire is unnatural and, more than that, that the approval of homosexuality is a symptom of advanced cultural decay. Sullivan had no time for this kind of argument: Show me data, he kept saying; show me the specific ways that gay marriage has harmed society or heterosexual marriage in particular. Given his assumptions about what might count as evidence, it’s a hard case to make. To believe Paul, we have to believe that God has standards of sexual behavior, that those standards can be known, and that He judges humans for their conformity to the standards. Who believes that these days?

Unfit and In Denial: A Church That Has Lost All Authority

March 11, 2013

by Kevin McKenna, published on Alternet, 3/3/13

Britain's Cardinal Keith O'Brian

Britain’s Cardinal Keith O’Brian

Of all the theories advanced explaining why the Catholic priesthood attracts so many young gay men, this is the most valid: it is a direct consequence of the church’s official attitude to homosexuality and the way that this has insinuated itself into the fabric of what we might call a traditional Catholic family with its roots in Ireland.

In such an upbringing homosexuality is still treated as the sum of all sins. Catholic families long ago found a way of dealing with abortion, extramarital sex and divorce, the other three horsemen of the Catholic apocalypse, whenever they occurred close to home, but not homosexuality.

The others could all be processed and interpreted as very human failings stemming from the powerful instinct of physical desire and our need for affection and love. The Christian virtues of understanding, compassion and forgiveness are built to outlast initial shock and hurt in these “acceptable” moral failings. Not so homosexuality.

For how many Catholic parents have secretly prayed that their son “does not turn out gay” or obsess about their response if the eldest boy shows no interest in football and insists on taking a shower every day and buying all his own clothes? The church’s pastoral care and guidance for its own gay community is nonexistent. Catholic gays are non-people in my church; they are “los desaparecidos” and one day many of us will be called to account for how we have treated them.

The church has nothing to say to a child reared in these circumstances and who is beginning to encounter issues with his sexual identity. And so, by a perverse irony, the Catholic priesthood becomes a viable option for him. For what better way to submerge your “problem sexuality” than by committing yourself to a life of celibacy and a lifetime of reflection on the burden that God has deemed you must bear for your redemption and his glory?

Continue reading this article.

Update: Vatileaks, Benedict’s Final Audience

February 23, 2013

ConclaveFrom La Repubblica.it, 2/21/13.

(No byline) Translated from the Italian by Doughlas Remy

Father Lombardi: “No Comment on the Vatileaks.”

Boffo: “The Pope resigned to end scandals.”

VATICAN CITY: “Don’t expect comments, denials, or confirmations of anything that’s been said on this subject,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, regarding leaks to the press about the report that Cardinals Julian Herranz, Salvatore de Giorgi, and Josef Tomko delivered to the Pope in recent months after an investigation into the disappearance of documents from the Holy See. (Vatileaks)

“The commission has done its work and has submitted the report to the Holy Father pursuant to his request,” Lombardi said. “We’re not going to chase after all the rumors, the fantasies, or the opinions that are swirling around this matter. Nor should you expect the three cardinals to grant you interviews, because they’ve agreed not to respond or provide any further information.”

However, the director of Tv2000, Dino Boffo, insists that the Pope’s objective in resigning could be to “put an end to scandals that could rock the Vatican.” Commenting on the press leaks, Boffo added, “I think that the Holy See is trying to distance itself from the disturbing allegations made in certain anonymous letters.

No expection of an edict regarding new conclave rules: [Note: these rules would address the timing of the conclave and the installation mass for the new Pope.]  Regarding a papal edict, “we’re not expecting one to be published,” added the director of the Vatican Press Office. He clarified: “Whether or not there’s an edict, the Cardinals meeting in the General Congregation during the vacancy will decide on the beginning date of the Conclave. There’s no way of knowing that date before they make their decision. No one, not even the authorities, can yet say when the Conclave will begin.” But he added, “Tomorrow there will be a letter from the constituents, clarifying several points.” Lombardi repeated that the Pope “could intervene to add a few touches—but certainly nothing substantial,” and that it would only be a matter of days before the letter is ready. The Pope will of course collaborate with the constituents, but he won’t sign off on anything that he doesn’t absolutely understand and agree to.

The Lefebvre case. This ongoing case concerning the Church and the Society of St. Pius X [a world-wide radical traditionalist Catholic fraternal order founded in 1970 by the late French archbishop, Marcel-François Lefebvre], will be entrusted to the pastoral care of the next Pope. As the spokesman for the Holy See has made clear, this is Benedict’s decision. It was he who in 2009 attempted to bring the schismatic community founded by the French bishop back into compliance with Church doctrine before finally issuing his edict, “Ecclesiae unitatem.”

Meeting with President Napolitano: On Saturday February 23, following his spiritual exercises for Lent, Pope Benedict XVI will have a private audience with President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, who will be accompanied by a consort.

Already 30 thousand requests for the final papal audience: The papal audience to be held on the 27th of February will be attended by crowds of the adoring faithful in St. Peter’s Square. As of today, only a week before the event, more than 30 thousand people from the world over have requested permission to attend. Father Federico Lombardi has explained that the papal audience will follow a traditional format in terms of its length and other particulars. The audience is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. The Pope will ride around the square in the “pope-mobile” before arriving in front of the basilica to greet the faithful.

Final goodbyes: Thursday February 28 at 11 a.m., in the Clementina Room of the Vatican, the Pope will meet and personally greet all the cardinals then present in Rome. Father Lombardi has specified that there will be no private meetings between the Pontiff and the three Cardinals whom he tasked with investigating the leak of documents from the papal apartments. Instead, in the afternoon, before leaving from the helioport of the Holy See, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone will be present to greet the Pontiff in the courtyard of San Damaso. At this time, the Pontiff will also say farewell to Cardinal Dean Sodano. The Secretary of the Papal State and the parish priest will be on hand to greet the the Holy Father at Castel Gandolfo. A farewell to the faithful will follow, televised directly from the Vatican Television Center.

Austin Ruse and Robert P. George Get Bogged Down in Anti-SSM Arguments (Again)

February 18, 2013
Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse, writing for Crisis Magazine, explains why the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8:

In a Harvard Law Review article, … [Robert] George, [Ryan] Anderson, and [Sherif] Girgis answer the question “what is marriage?” They describe two competing views; one they call “conjugal”, and the other “revisionist.” Allowing for the revisionist view “can cause corresponding social harms. It weakens the rational foundation (and hence social practice) of stabilizing marital norms on which social order depends: norms such as permanence, exclusivity, monogamy.”

George and his colleagues argue that marriage can only be “conjugal”, that is, a “comprehensive union joining spouses in body as well as in mind, it is begun by commitment and sealed by sexual intercourse. So completed in the acts by which new life is made, it is especially apt for and deepened by procreation and calls for that broad sharing uniquely fit for family life.” Such a comprehensive view of marriage is still available to sterile couples but not for homosexuals.

So here’s what Mr. Ruse would have us believe: Opposite-sex marriage (OSM), in its current incarnation in many parts of the world, is conjugal, not revisionist. And same-sex marriage (SSM), wherever it is practiced, is revisionist and not conjugal. Let’s unpack that a bit.

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of “conjugal:” of or relating to the married state or to married persons and their relations. From Latin conjungere, to join, unite in marriage.

Robert P. George

Robert P. George

Ironically, it appears that Mr. George and his associates would like us to buy a revisionist definition of “conjugal,” one that appropriates the term for opposite-sex couples while denying it to same-sex ones. Do we have to remind Mr. George and Mr. Ruse that marriage between homosexual couples is a fait accompli in about a dozen countries and in as many U.S. states? In those jurisdictions, the definition of “marriage” has expanded, and with it the definition of “conjugal.” The horses are out of the barn. The gin has already gone into the tonic. Canada, France, the U.K., Argentina, Spain, and the Netherlands, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Washington State are highly unlikely to reverse course on this issue.

And since when is the term “revision” so negatively loaded? Editors “revise” documents with the aim of improving them, not compromising them. George claims that the revisionist view “weakens the rational foundation of stabilizing marital norms on which social order depends: norms such as permanence, exclusivity, monogamy.” Weakens? Why not “strengthens?” Do we detect a bias here? What is his basis for claiming that same-sex unions are not just as “permanent, exclusive, and monogamous” as opposite-sex ones? With divorce rates at around 50% in the U.S., heterosexuals have not set the bar very high. And what if SSMs proved to be more permanent, exclusive, and monogamous than OSMs? Would either Mr. Ruse or Mr. George renounce OSM as an institution?

But even assuming that the word has purely negative connotations, is anyone trying to “revise” or downgrade the meaning of Mr. Ruse’s marriage or Mr. George’s? An even more pertinent question is whether the marriage template that they consider normative is not itself also a revision of earlier ones. And a quick scan of the history of marriage tells us that it is. That history is so well-known by now that it doesn’t bear repeating here.

If Messrs Ruse and George are trying to lay a sturdy foundation for their argument, bubble-wrap and jello are not good choices for a material. But let’s go on.

Assuming that SSM is indeed revisionist and that revisionism is “bad” in a world resistant to change of any kind, is it fair to describe the “revisionist” understanding of marriage as “essentially an emotional union, accompanied by any consensual activity?” Reducing all the variety and richness of marriage to a single one of its elements is a gratuitous insult to same-sex married couples the world over. And the characterization is patently false, all the more so because it appends the phrase, “accompanied by any consensual activity.” “Any??” Is George suggesting that “revisionist” ideas of marriage allow ANY consensual activity whatsoever? This is the old slippery-slope scare coded into the phrase with a single three-letter word. But the U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating on SSM, not on incestuous marriage or polyandry or marriage with one’s most cherished farm animal. Hopefully, the Supremes will recognize this for the red herring that it is.

George’s panegyric to marriage (the second paragraph I cited above) would describe an SSM very well except for the part about “making new life,” which is pivotal to the Catholic concept. However, he stops short of asserting that marriage should be unavailable to those who cannot or choose not to procreate, though the Church itself requires that there be some “openness” to the possibility of procreation. George’s slight but significant pull-back from Catholic teaching on this point may be a sign of realism on his part: he knows that any argument based explicitly and overtly on Catholic doctrine will be shot down in the SCOTUS. The problem for his modified position (i.e., allowing for the possibility of non-procreative marriage) may open the door to non-procreative marriage between homosexuals, at least from the Court’s point of view. Only by keeping procreation in the equation can George argue against SSM, but in doing so, he limits his audience to fellow conservative Catholics. In other words, he is in a no-win situation.

Ruse acts as though he hasn’t understood what George just said, for he adds: “Such a comprehensive view of marriage is still available to sterile couples but not for homosexuals.” Or maybe he thought he needed to firm it up a bit. George’s reasoning doesn’t justify such a conclusion, and Ruse doesn’t explain what he means. SCOTUS would certainly want to know. Pro-SSM attorneys could drive a semi into such a gaping hole in the argument.

The rest of Ruse’s article is plagued by the same sorts of circular reasoning, red herrings, false premises, semantic slights of hand, and non sequiturs. If either Mr. Ruse or Mr. George imagines they have something to contribute to the defense of DOMA or Proposition 8, would somebody kindly inform them that they’re nowhere ready for prime time. If the SCOTUS judges are half as astute as Judge Roy Walker (whose court overturned Proposition 8), gays and lesbians have nothing to fear.

Finally, I cannot resist calling out Mr. Ruse’s operatic hyperbole at the very end of his article: “[SCOTUS] could declare  homosexual marriage the law of the land. … This would signal the end of any kind of marriage culture in the United States.” Here the beautiful but beleaguered heroine jumps off the castle wall / dies in the arms of her protector (the Church?) / swallows the poison / impales herself upon a sword / is impaled upon a sword by a gang of rampaging homosexuals hell bent on destroying not only the traditional family but Civilization As We Know It. Following the heroine’s death, opposite-sex marriage is outlawed and only homosexuals may marry. Children may only be raised by same-sex parents, who instruct them about the joys of gay sex night and day. Oh weh! What have we come to?

The World as Seen From New York City

February 11, 2013

I remember seeing this drawing by artist Saul Steinberg when it appeared on the cover of The New Yorker in March 1976. I’ve thought back to it many times over the years because it seemed such an apt and brilliant metaphor for the way we view the scope and relative importance of unfamiliar places, institutions, and world views. Over the past decade, I’ve been reaching out to conservative Catholics on their web- and blogsites, trying to break into discussions that are usually happening in echo chambers, as happens when New Yorkers are talking about New York. Most of my blogging on these sites has been about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and my hope has been to direct the bloggers’ attention to a point of view that differs from their own—in other words, to have a conversation with them and maybe to expand their horizons. In the process, of course, I’ve had my own horizons expanded, and that is all to the good. What never ceases to amaze me is how oblivious each of us can be to world views that are fundamentally different from our own. It is as though these views were just sketched out in the most general terms, as caricatures or place-holders or mere labels lacking any meaningful referent, as in Steinberg’s drawing.

SaulSteinberg in New Yorker

Dean Hansen Reflects on “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God”

February 7, 2013

Dean Hansen writes:

What stands out starkly for me in this documentary about priestly abuse in the Catholic church is the willingness of the clergy to believe that being a priest or bishop or high official in the Roman magisterium is somehow a proof of virtue and a protection against its lack. It seems more a protection from those whose compromised virtue cries for justice to the deaf ears of the Vatican. The idea that going through the various religious incantations and mumbo-jumbo of submission, prayer, and works reshapes your human desire nature so completely that you become a “new person” is obviously fraught with many obvious and visible difficulties. It is predicated, at least in Catholicism, on traveling up the river of clerical assignation in the direction of the first pope, whereby you eventually get to kiss the feet of Jesus, and be indistinguishable from him in type. In other words, sainthood. (Think of a Salmon, swimming upstream to spawn closer to Simon).  From the film: “When a man becomes a priest, he is changed ontologically.  He is made a different brand of human being; a little less than the angels.” I love how clerics throw these verbal concoctions around like Molotov cocktails as though they actually meant anything! How else can you fuck little boys if you don’t use a generous dollop of verbal magic combined with absolute power and psychological control? There is no electrical current that connects you by belief to Christ from the top down. If there were, Jesus would have electrocuted most of the church by now in an act of retributive justice. The idea that you are a conduit for the essence of some mysterious nature-changing virtue that travels in a straight line from the fountainhead through the tributaries of faith and manifests by a form of spiritual induction on the initiate, is, judging by the accusations and indictments shown in this film, an outrageous and unmitigated fraud.

You’re a Gonner, Man!

February 7, 2013
Joshua Gonnerman

Joshua Gonnerman

Pursuant to an earlier conversation about my article on Joshua Gonnerman’s celibacy, Dean Hansen writes:

The reason I was scouting YouTube for the movie “Boys in the Band” was to isolate a quote which I was reminded of while reading about Joshua Gonnerman’s effort at disposing of himself through enforced celibacy in order to reconcile himself to the demands of Catholic belief.  Near the film’s end, there is a confrontational scene between Harold (the Jewish homosexual whose birthday is being celebrated) and Michael, the host for the party who has gathered Harold’s friends together at his apartment).  The dialogue is as follows:

Harold: “Now it’s my turn.  And ready or not Michael, here goes. You’re a sad and pathetic man. You’re a homosexual and you don’t want to be. But there’s nothing you can do to change it. Not all your prayers to your God, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you’ve got left to live.  You may very well one day be able to know a heterosexual life, if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you’ll always be homosexual as well. Always, Michael.  Always. Until the day you die.”

This in turn reminded me of something never discussed in these petty little Catholic online squabbles. Something Jesus actually said:

Harold and Michael from "The Boys in the Band"

Harold and Michael from “The Boys in the Band”

Jesus said, “I come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.”  I wonder how many people try to wrestle those words into an eternal context that robs them of any immediate meaning. If what he said is true, then the search for that abundance must begin here and now, and nowhere else. And it must begin with complete honesty. Where else could it begin? If you believe that your life truly begins when you die, beyond the senses that you associate with life, then what is the purpose of a life lived in exclusion of the principle promised in such a hopeful sounding declaration of Jesus? How can you “get” life if you don’t already have it? What’s the purpose of being born at all, if our life is a mere substitute for something we cannot partake of unless it’s beyond the grave? How can we have “abundance” if we must deny everything we are as a means of getting everything we hope to be? Why long for a harvest if there’s no seed corn? “…I come that you might have life later…some other time and some other place, that doesn’t involve you having a human personality, human needs, or human desires?”  Or,  “…I come that you might deny who you are perpetually, so that you not be disappointed to discover what you never were?”

Homosexuals who deny who and what they are for the sake of fitting in to a religiously intolerant world view that condemns their presence, are being compelled against their will to deny the abundance that was promised for them in this world by a savior whom they often learn to despise because of the actions of those who claim to know him best.  An abundance framed in love, commitment, loyalty, sharing and genuine fulfillment in the arms of true love. If we don’t model that love here, with those we’ve seen and adored, how can it be bestowed on us as a reward by someone we have not seen? And how can we adore him if he denies us what we need for a sane and fruitful life?  If that abundance doesn’t start here and now, then no future in which it’s promised can be anything but a lie.