Archive for the ‘Sexual Revolution’ Category

Why Not Polygamy?

April 10, 2013

polygamyBy John Witte, Jr., The Washington Post, 11/09/12  (excerpt)

Western writers have long argued, and modern studies now document, that polygamy is unjust to women and children – a violation of their fundamental rights and dignity, we now say. Young women are harmed because they are often coerced into early marriages with older men. Once pushed aside for a rival co-wife, women are reduced to rival slaves within the household. They are then exploited periodically for sex and procreation by emotionally detached husbands. They are forced to make do for themselves and their children with dwindling resources as still other women and children are added to the household against their wishes. If they protest their plight, if they resort to self-help, if they lose their youthful figure and vigor, they are often cast out of their homes — impoverished, undereducated, and often incapable of survival without serious help from others.

Children are harmed because they are often set in perennial rivalry with other children and mothers for the affection and attention of the family patriarch. They are deprived of healthy models of authority and liberty, equality and charity, marital love and fidelity, which are essential to their development as future spouses, citizens, and community leaders. And they are harmed by too few resources to support their nurture, education, care, and preparation for a full and healthy life as an adult.

Men, too, are harmed by polygamy. Polygamy promotes marriage by the richest not necessarily the fittest men in body, mind, or virtue. In isolated communities, polygamy often leads to ostracism of rival younger men. Polygamy inflames a man’s lust, for once he adds a second wife, he will inevitably desire more, even the wife of another. And polygamy deprives men of that essential organic bond of exclusive marital companionship, which ancients and moderns alike say is critical to most men’s physical, psychological, moral, and even spiritual health.

Read the entire article here.

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?

Marriage Equality Opponent SHOCKED by Gay Pride Parades

January 2, 2013
Seattle Pride Parade

These people are gay.

Kevin McCormick writes:

It is a bit strange for the homosexual community to put these activities on display publicly in their annual “sexual freedom” rallies in San Francisco and elsewhere and then expect the rest of the world not to assume that this is the norm. One would have to conclude that the homosexual community is accepting of such activities and guess that the percentage of those that participate in them are vastly higher than the non-homosexual population.

I felt compelled to respond:

Kevin, there were approximately 128 contingents in last year’s Seattle Pride Parade. Most of them were just people walking together and carrying banners of support. Here are some of the names you’ll recognize or can figure out:

Boeing Employees Credit Union, Esurance, Group Health, Microsoft, Verizon WIreless, Expedia, Macy’s, Amazon, YMCA, Wells Fargo, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Orbitz, Alaska Airlines, PCC Natural Markets, Starbucks, Cupcake Royal, Best Buy, Seattle Men’s Chorus, Hands of Kali Bellydance, Tom Douglas Restaurants, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Port of Seattle, Wallingford United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Churches of Greater Puget Sound, Seafair, City of Seattle, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Teatro Zinzanni, Washington Federation of State Employees, Bellevue College, [+ regional community colleges], King County Metro (transportation), King County Library System, Seattle First Baptist Church, Metropolitan Community Churches, United Churches of Christ, Lakeridge Lutheran Church, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Many of these, like Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon, are probaby companies that you patronize.

As usual at our parade, there were also elaborate floats with near-naked bodies gyrating to deafening rock music, and there were drag queens and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, etc. And there were the Dykes on Bikes. Big deal.

On a different summer weekend in Seattle we have another huge parade, the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade, which mostly represents the “default” sexual orientation. Now, in that parade you will see literally hundreds of totally naked bodies—more with every passing year, it seems. There are the famous nude bicyclists—probably over a hundred of them by now—and women in every state of undress. There are also floats with near-naked bodies gyrating to deafening rock music.

You want to see for yourself? Just Google “Fremont Parade photos” and get a look.

Then come back and tell me that the heterosexual community is not accepting of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and public displays of  “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Haven’t you ever been to Mardi Gras? Or been to the movies lately? Or checked out the magazine racks?

What you wrote just confirms the old adage that “we see what we expect to see.”

These people are straight.

These people are straight.

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.

Catholic Media Begin Piling on Sister Farley’s “Just Love.”

June 11, 2012

Sister Margaret Farley

Robert Royal, editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, doesn’t care much for Sr. Margaret Farley’s new book, though he admits (in “The Real Taboos,” June 11, 2012) that he has only dipped into it here and there. Farley’s Just Love, which has catapulted from 142,982 to 16 in Amazon’s rankings due entirely to the Vatican’s recent censure of the work, approaches masturbation, homosexuality, and divorce from an ethical perspective that does not perfectly match the Vatican’s own.

Royal characterizes the book, which he hasn’t read, as “utterly tired,” and “not Catholic” (though she disclaims any intent to channel Catholic moral teachings), and he dismisses her positions as “essentially congruent with the untroubled assumptions of the Zeitgeist.” What Royal fails to do, however, is address any of her arguments. Maybe that’s because, not having read her book, he doesn’t know what they are.

He concludes,

But the advocates of new approaches aren’t really interested in [fresh, alternative voices] and instead dedicate themselves to defending ideas and currents that over the past half-century have wrecked families, harmed children, and made the proper taming of erotic impulses – a task every civilization prior to ours has known is crucial to human happiness and calls for great wisdom – one of the real, not imagined, taboos in American society.

Mary E. Hunt, herself a Catholic a regular contributor to Religion Dispatches, hits the nail on the head when she writes apropos of Sister Farley’s comments about masturbation: “Sexual power is power, and more and more women have it. Apparently the struggle to wrest it back is high on the agenda of those who live on the 110 acres called the Vatican.”

Indeed, the Vatican’s teachings about sexuality seem intended for one purpose only: to uphold a patriarchal system of power over people’s very bodies and the most intimate aspects of their lives. And those teachings are consistently out of step with current medical knowledge about sexual and reproductive health. The Church’s sorry record in dealing with clergy sex abuse and with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is only matched by its obstinacy in challenging the entire medical community over homosexuality and reproductive health.

It’s one thing to deplore or dismiss “new approaches” to these issues. It’s quite another to demonstrate their inefficacy, and this is where Royal’s critique falls short.

“A Constitutional Canard for Those Who Oppose Contraception”

June 8, 2012

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum is touting an article by George Wesolek in Catholic San Francisco, June 6, 2012, entitled “On Religious Liberty and a Confused Media.” The article begins,

Is it that the media doesn’t understand the issue of religious liberty and the Catholic Church, or do they refuse to report it for reasons of their own?

When the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate was promulgated by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius early this year, it forced Catholic institutions – in social services, health care and education – to offer all employees, free of charge, contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. These services are considered immoral by the church and so, naturally, the U.S. bishops objected and asked for a conscience exemption. Conscience objections have been given over the years in the interplay between state and church over a variety of issues and were considered commonplace.

But this case was different. Hidden away in the multitude of regulations accompanying the mandate was a new definition of what was to be considered “religious activity.” This new definition limited “religious activity” to houses of worship and its congregants. An exemption, therefore, would be given only to a religious entity that serves and teaches its own faithful. Serving others not of our faith, as do our social services, health care and education, does not qualify as a “religious activity.”

In essence, this new definition redefines what it is to be Catholic.

My response to Gil Bailie:

Wesolek’s position is facially nonsensical, and I cannot believe anyone is buying it. Or, rather, yes I can, because a lot of folks on the right have been imbibing the “Kool-Aid” ladled out by Paul Ryan and the anti-contraception crowd.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia concluded many years ago that religious organizations could never have absolute freedom to do as they choose. “It would be courting anarchy,” he wrote, to let a few do what is illegal for everyone else.

Here is the opinion he wrote for a majority decision in 1990: “We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law … On the contrary, the record of more than a century of free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.”

In that opinion, Scalia cited the Reynolds case from 1879, which held that “Laws … cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may [interfere] with practices … Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious beliefs superior to the law of the land.”

Get that: Believe what you like, but don’t expect to do everything your beliefs require of you. A very sound principle, indeed.

Honestly ask yourself how you would react if other religions—Sikhs, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and Mormons—were demanding the measure of religious freedom that the Catholic hierarchy wants for the Church.

For at least the past 133 years, U.S. courts have been requiring individuals to transgress their religious beliefs by getting vaccinations, paying minimum wage, paying into Social Security, serving in the military, settling for monogamous over polygamous marriages, not wearing yarmulkes in the military, not carrying swords into class (Sikh men are required to carry them at all times), not ingesting peyote, and a host of other concessions.

Why Jehovah’s Witnesses are still allowed to withhold medical treatment from their sick children, I don’t know, but I assume you would probably support their right to practice their faith, whatever the cost?

And you would also support Quakers who want to withhold tax payments because they object to war?

From “Justice Scalia and Religious Freedom,” by Mark Mellman in The Hill, 2/21/12:

The courts have [required religious groups and individuals to violate the tenets of their faith] because, in former Chief Justice Warren Burger’s words, “The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest.” Burger’s definition of “overriding government interest” included programs that were national in scope and served a positive public purpose — and by any standard, the government has an interest in ensuring that women receive preventive healthcare services.

He concludes, “The religious freedom argument is nothing more than a constitutional canard for those who oppose contraception.”

Another Round Over Marriage Equality at the Cornerstone Forum

June 7, 2012

ImageOkay, okay. Gil Bailie and I will never see eye-to-eye about same-sex marriage. He’ll never convince me because he doesn’t offer empirical evidence for his claims—you know, trend lines, data sets, surveys, even anecdotes. And I’ll never convince him because, well, I can only offer those things (interlaced with generous dollops of opinion, of course).

Nevertheless, these discussions have value—both historical and topical—for those interested in the momentous cultural transformations happening all around us. When looked at longitudinally, they reveal subtle but significant shifts, fissures, and patterns in belief and practice.

I decided to copy many of the discussions from Gil’s Cornerstone Forum Facebook page to this site because I saw that Gil does not value them—or rather, he values only his own part in them. His recent purges on The Cornerstone Forum left gaping holes in vibrant conversations, recalling those Stalinist-era photos where ousted Politburo members were airbrushed out.

Additionally, Facebook is a less-than-ideal host for those discussions. Its archiving and search tools are minimal, and its comments feature hampers both expression and reading.

So, here is the latest round on marriage equality brought over from the Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page:

Gil Bailie:

The first miracle in John’s Gospel is the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, where water was turned into wine. The primacy of this miracle in the Johannine tradition should not be lost on us. Marriage is as natural as water itself. It is a natural institution, defined by sexual complementarity and reproductive potential. And yet the Church, faithful to the miracle of Cana, elevates this natural institution to sacramental status. The water of nature is turned into the wine of “one flesh” nuptiality. It begins, however, with the water of nature.

Today we know better. Why start with something as passé as water or nature? Why not wave the wand of political correctness over the spiked Kool-Aid of the sexual revolution just to see if it works? The result is neither fresh spring water nor a nuptial wine capable of aging well. It would be bad enough if our reckless experimentation amounted to nothing more than a reversal of the historical transition from the pagan to the Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality. It certainly is that, but it’s even more reckless. For, even in the reasonably rare cases where homosexuality was formally tolerated in the pagan world, it was never regarded as indistinguishable from – or in any remote way comparable to – the marriage of a man and a woman.

Our homosexual friends and relatives deserve our love as much as anyone else. We should acknowledge the love they legitimately feel for one another, and sympathize with their struggle and their desire for happiness. But it is not an act of unkindness or insensitivity to recognize that there is grave cultural, moral and spiritual damage in pretending that something is what it is not. Those who think this issue is simply one of equality are not foreseeing its certain consequences: the suppression and eventual criminalization of any public demonstration of one’s fidelity to the moral traditions long held and universally espoused by Jews and Christians. Signs of this intolerance abound, and those who think it will recede once same-sex marriage becomes law are deluding themselves.

One of the key elements in that delusion is a common category mistake: namely, the mistake of regarding the push for same-sex marriage as analogous to the civil rights movement. The real comparison is with another of the sexual revolution’s monumental moral and anthropological blunders: the invention – out of thin air – of the “right” to abortion on demand. This latest insult to commonsense, to moral and legal tradition, and to any reasonable understanding of nature, will fail to achieve long term normativity just as has the Roe v Wade abortion regime. The longer it takes us to realize this, the greater the cultural wreckage, and the more we will run the risk of falling into a new intolerance or back into an old one. Let’s be sensible and settle for tolerance.

Leo M. Walker:

Exactly. If marriage were nothing more than a big, sentimental sugar plum to plop down on a fervid romance to add the perfectly calculated touch of poignancy and gravitas, then sure, allow anybody to marry in any way they like. But marriage is no such thing, and no amount of contrivance , posturing or petulant demand will make is so.

Doughlas Remy:

ImageOnce again, Gil, your dire auguries about the effects of same-sex marriage are contradicted by demonstrable reality. Even Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in a recent interview with Michelangelo Signorile, admitted that her claims—by strange coincidence identical to yours—were unsupported by evidence. How to explain, for example, that the state of Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage five years ago and its divorce rate is still the lowest in the country? How to explain that states where support for same-sex marriage (SSM) is highest have lower rates of divorce and teen pregnancies than those where that support is lowest?

If the Cornerstone Forum and the National Organization “for” Marriage are really committed to strengthening the institution of marriage, then let them study the successes of the blue states.

(more…)

Vatican Criticizes Nuns’ Stance on Social Issues

April 22, 2012

Sister Margaret McBride

National Public Radio, All Things Considered, April 19, 2012.

Listen to the audio interview here.

Read a related post by Andrew Sullivan on The Daily Dish, here.

Revolt in the Catholic Pews Over the HHS Mandate

April 3, 2012

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the Catholic Church’s position on the HHS Mandate requiring Catholic institutions (other than churches) to include contraception in health insurance plans offered to employees:

LOPEZ: “What about the fact that so many Catholics — however many — use contraception and are advocates of legal abortion in their political lives?”

CHAPUT: “That’s the wrong question. Plenty of self-described Catholics also commit adultery and cheat on their taxes. That doesn’t make them right, and it doesn’t make their behaviors ‘Catholic.’ The central issue in the HHS-mandate debate isn’t contraception. Casting the struggle as a birth-control fight is just a shrewd form of dishonesty. The central issue in the HHS debate is religious liberty. The government doesn’t have the right to force religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions. But that’s exactly what the White House is doing.”

Catholics who advocate contraception and legal abortion shouldn’t be compared to Catholics who commit adultery and dodge taxes. The former affirm a moral position held by many fellow Catholics and the latter violate a moral position held by virtually all Catholics. Pro-choice Catholics are not doing anything unethical, but the adulterers and tax-dodgers are. Catholics who advocate family planning will vote their consciences and try to persuade other Catholics to join them. They are a force to be reckoned with, while the adulterers and tax-dodgers will never unite to advocate cheating, and so they are powerless.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan

These are critical differences. What the U.S. Catholic bishops are facing is a revolt from the pews, and they know it. Timothy Cardinal Dolan admitted as much in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly last month:

It’s a tough battle because of [the fact that most Catholics reject the Church’s teachings against contraception] and our opponents are very shrewd because they’ve chosen an issue that they know we don’t — we’re not very popular on.” “[E]ven our — even — even very faithful Catholics, Bill, don’t like their bishops or priests telling them how to vote, a person or even on a particular issue.

Furthermore, Archbishop Chaput is mistaken in thinking the government “doesn’t have the right to religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions.” It does so all the time, and the legal precedents for doing so go back to the mid-nineteenth century and are very robust. Even Antonin Scalia has supported this principle.

Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? Mary Eberstadt Says No.

March 31, 2012

Mary Eberstadt, author of  “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution,” managed to get a plug for her book in the Wall Street Journal. Her article’s title is, “Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? No.”

The “No” puts Eberstadt’s conclusion right up front, as if to head off any plans the reader might have to ponder the question. But how has she arrived at such a conclusion? She read a paper entitled “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” written by two Wharton School economists, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. Their paper is an analysis of data from a 40-year longitudinal study done by the General Social Survey. Their findings were that female happiness had in fact declined somewhat since 1970.

Stevenson and Wolfers did not propose an explanation for this decline. Instead, they discussed several possible causes. (For more details, see my earlier article about Eberstadt and her book.)

Eberstadt’s agenda is obvious. Her reading of Stevenson’s and Wolfers’ paper is a “mining operation” whose aim is to find support for her a priori conclusion that sex, severed from procreation, makes women less happy. Such an approach is highly unscientific because (1) we form our conclusions after analyzing the data, not before, and (2) there is no data to support her conclusion. What is more, the authors of “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” would be unlikely to endorse her conclusion, if their own caveats are to be believed. Their only conclusion was that female happiness had declined, and they provided no data to support any conclusion whatsoever about the causes of the decline.

Eberstadt acknowledges that Stevenson and Wolfers “were careful not to draw conclusions (about causes) from their data.” But, as the “No” in her title demonstrates, she is not quite so scrupulous as they, and she is willing to negotiate if necessary: “Is it not reasonable,” she writes, “to think that at least some of that discontent comes from the feeling that the grass is greener elsewhere—a feeling made plausible by the sexual revolution?”

Before recommending a roll-back of the sexual revolution, Mary Eberstadt should conduct some peer-reviewed research to support her thesis. Until then, the cure she advances for feminine malaise is quintessential agenda-driven speculation.

For an informed and non-agenda-driven discussion of the many possible causes of unhappiness, see the  “World Happiness Report” edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs.