YES, Minnesota!

At the beginning of this political season, as our national political conventions were underway in the swing states of the southeast, I paid a visit to my home state of Minnesota, that liberal bastion of the frigid plains, where political passions were swirling like a January blizzard over a ballot initiative to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

I’ve known about the marriage amendment for some time thanks in part to the unsolicited opinions various Minnesotans have shared on that modern day heir to Plato’s Academy and Rome’s Forum—Facebook.  Most of those favoring me with their opinions have supported homosexual “marriage”.  I must say that I’ve been disturbed by many of these comments—not because I disagree with them, nor even because they employ the atrocious grammar that seems to be the common idiom of Facebook, but because of their increasing stridency and self-righteousness.

I can’t, to be sure, entirely fault the supporters of homosexual marriage for their erroneous opinions (or even for the sentence fragments with which they express them).  While the argument for homosexual marriage is deceptively straightforward (it’s equality, stupid), that for defending traditional marriage is rather more complex and has not always been made particularly well.

Contrary to what our opponents often imply, those of us who defend traditional marriage do not do so because we are hateful bigots, nor because we find anal intercourse particularly distasteful, nor for any of the myriad ways our beliefs are commonly distorted.  We do so because we think that privileging traditional marriage is conducive to the common good.

*

Before proceeding further, it’s necessary to press the reset button on a number of wiggle words that get thrown around in this debate, almost entirely unfairly, and make any sort of reasonable discussion on the subject well nigh impossible.  The first is “divisive,” and the second is “tolerance.”

Supporters of traditional marriage are often accused by the mass media of divisiveness, a strange charge since we are only seeking to maintain the status quo.  In fact, I suspect that the sometimes lackluster arguments put forth by supporters of traditional marriage stem from the fact that this is not a debate we have chosen, nor do we harbor any particular animus toward homosexual persons.  If I were to choose a debate our society should be having over marriage, it would have to do with how to make divorce less common.  But this issue has been forced on society by the “gay rights” lobby through lawsuits, legislative initiatives, and more lawsuits.  If anyone should have to answer the charge of divisiveness, shouldn’t it be the side claiming that several millennia of stable social consensus and all of the world’s great religious traditions are nothing more than bigotry?  And if not, perhaps the charge of divisiveness should be left aside altogether.

Not so, however, the idea of tolerance.  I believe that when it comes to homosexuality and the government, tolerance is the golden mean toward which a society such as ours should be striving.

Perhaps, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, we should back up again and clarify a few basic points.  The debate about marriage is a debate about behaviors.  Moreover, it is a debate about sexual behaviors.  It is not a debate about friendship or love, though often those things overlap with sex (if not, perhaps, as often as they should).  It’s a debate made necessary because a certain segment of society wants the state to endorse a certain type of sexual relationship.  Presumably most gay people love their mothers, but they aren’t asking to marry their mothers; they’re asking to marry their sexual partners.

The state is in the business of regulating all sorts of behaviors—economic, social, and, yes, even sexual.  Some behaviors the state prohibits and punishes—such as murder, sexual harassment, and drinking jumbo sodas (though only in New York).  The state encourages other behaviors; the state might encourage using renewable energy through tax credits or bravery on the battlefield through the distribution of medals and honors.  State recognition of marriage is an example of the state encouraging a certain type of behavior.

And here’s where the issue of tolerance comes in.  Every defender of traditional marriage I know would argue that when it comes to homosexual behavior, the state should remain neutral—no punishments, no rewards.  We believe, in other words, in tolerance of homosexual behavior.

The pro-homosexual marriage movement, on the other hand, is demanding more than tolerance; they are, in effect, demanding state and private subsidies for homosexual behavior.  In fact, as the targeting of various charities and private businesses that refuse to endorse homosexual behaviors in recent years has shown, the impetus behind this movement is not live-and-let-live but the drive to enforce a change in social values and beliefs.  Anyone who claims that the redefinition of marriage will not lead to the legal marginalization of churches and other institutions unwilling to endorse homosexual behavior is being either hopelessly naïve or deliberately deceptive.

*

I’m not inclined here to launch into a nuanced discussion of the ethics of homosexual acts because I don’t think the debate demands it.  But I would like those inclined to hurl charges of intolerance against the defenders of traditional marriage to consider an analogous situation that might help them to understand the reaction of the other side.  A woman with a very high-powered job decides relationships are too bothersome but claims that an hour or so of porn each night leaves her satisfied and fulfilled.  Tired of the social stigma long attached to pornography, she demands a certificate from the county clerk and an annual tax break to keep her computer up-to-date.  Uncomfortable?  I hope so.

You would most likely be inclined toward tolerance in that poor woman’s case—not inclined to put her in jail or humiliate her publicly, but not really wanting to encourage her either.  Those of us who support traditional marriage find ourselves in an analogous position.

Our discomfort comes not from any particular repugnance over homosexual acts themselves—we’ve been so bombarded by Hollywood imagery intended to change our sensibilities over the past several years that the sight of three women clothed in cold cuts making out in the midst of various wardrobe malfunctions on television is today rather ho-hum.  Instead, our more fundamental objection to re-jiggering the institution of marriage is that the social goods traditional marriage encourages will be undermined, just as so many of the goods that come from sexual relationships are undermined by the near-miss of pornography.

*

Sorry to again play the role of Captain Obvious, but the single greatest good that marriage provides for society is children.  Ours is a society that likes to talk about how important children are, but we often don’t treat children like a social good.  If we all really thought children were so great, would so many of them grow up without fathers?  Or in poverty?  If children were really so important to the good people of the United States, would our nation annually kill 1.3 million of them in the womb?

The reality is that even though all of us pay lip service to the importance of children, our society also likes a lot of things that children tend to get in the way of—financial advancement, sex, power, career.  In reality, children are often treated as a burden, even—dare I say it?—a punishment.

Both supporters and opponents of homosexual marriage would agree that the debate centers around a fairly fundamental shift in values, though it’s not always clear what we’re shifting from or toward.  Traditional marriage is an institution designed around children.  Marriage redefined is an institution designed around sexual desire.  I support traditional marriage because I believe children are the greater value.

*

A few of the predictable objections might as well be dealt with up front.  Obviously not every heterosexual marriage produces children, but when we’re dealing with marriage in the law we’re talking about institutions, not individual relationships.  It wouldn’t be particularly prudent or productive for the state to investigate each individual human pairing to determine if it is likely to provide sufficient social benefits for recognition.  What we’re talking about is the state endorsing a particular social structure.

And the fact of the matter is that, on the whole, at the level of social structure, the stable union of one man and one woman is the best sort of institution for raising children.  This doesn’t mean that there are not exceptions, nor that those who find themselves—for whatever reason—raising children in some other sort of arrangement are bad people.  But as a society should we do our utmost to ensure that every child has a father and a mother?  Absolutely.

Nor are father and mother simply interchangeable.  Of course, one could construct a scenario where a homosexual couple is better than their heterosexual counterparts (drunken abusive mother and father, compassionate neurosurgeon lesbian partners), but sociological research confirms what common sense has told us all along—children are better off with a mother and a father.

In fact, denigrating the value of the traditional family, suggesting it is somehow interchangeable with any other family structure, is one of the greatest injustices advocates of homosexual marriage commit.  Those fighting for homosexual marriage may be by and large members of the comfortable white elite, but the attitudes and moral sensibilities they advocate have an effect on those in far less fortunate social circumstances, those whose wealth and social positions cannot as well shield them from the consequences of their sexual choices.  In my work on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, I see the consequences of these choices every day.

And this brings me to a final point.  It is worth noting again that none of what I’ve written above should imply any particular animus directed against people who struggle with homosexual attractions.  Nor even that homosexual behaviors should be singled out as particularly harmful.  Heterosexual promiscuity, easy divorce, pornography, and, yes, a contraceptive mentality, have, in my opinion, already done more to damage the institution of marriage than homosexual unions are likely to do; but redefining marriage represents the legal codification of all the worst attitudes of the sexual revolution—the movement away from understanding sexual love as social cement that binds families and societies together and toward seeing it as an arena for individual gratification.

We ought to be sympathetic toward those with homosexual inclinations.  Who among us has not struggled with the temptations of the flesh?  But this does not mean that those who think that children have a right to grow up with a mother and a father are bigots, little more than Klansmen.

In this political season, as candidates put forth proposals and give speeches and announce plans, no politician will ever be able to come up with a social program that does more for the human good than the traditional family.  A mom and a dad can’t be beat.

So vote YES, Minnesota!

AL, SJ

14 Responses to YES, Minnesota!

  1. Christine says:

    Thank you for the post. I appreciate your thoughts. However, I am a Catholic who lives in Minnesota. Prior to several weeks ago, I was on board with the Catholic Church. More recently, the Church’s efforts have gotten to be a bit much, and I decided to vote no (even though I had previously displayed a “vote yes” yard sign).

    For Catholics like me, the issue is not simply the definition of marriage. Although Protestants have the luxury of simply talking about the meaning of marriage or parenting, I think that Catholics such as myself view this as an attempt by the Church to exert power and control over people’s lives. According to the newspapers, the Church has spent at least $600,000 in order to pass this amendment. If this is true, then I am even more annoyed over freezing during Mass at the cathedral due to the lack of heat. In addition, a local news story featured a Catholic woman who indicated that she wrote to the bishop to express her disdain over all the money spent to promote this amendment, and she received a reply that said “Perhaps we’ll be a smaller — yet stronger — Church.” The attitude of “you can leave” or “you’re a lesser Catholic” if you question the Church’s stance has gotten to be too much.

    The Church also sent letters to at least 400,000 Catholic homes. This was a local news story 10 days before I received my letter. The local news said the Church was trying to tell people “what to do, what to think, and how to vote.” I thought the local news was absurd….until I received my letter, which (rather than just focusing on the issues of marriage or parenting) placed heavy emphasis on urging us to vote a particular way.

    Although the letter was offputting, I did not change my stance until after I got deleted multiple times from a Catholic talk radio station’s Facebook page because I raised questions about legal and financial protections for same sex couples. In addition to trying to exert power and control over people’s lives, censorship and an attitude of “this is not up for discussion” (which is the exact phrase that the radio show’s producer used when he emailed me) seem to characterize the Church. The state of Washington has an “everything but marriage domestic partnership law” that provides legal and financial protections for same sex partners. Minnesota has nothing like that. It has no domestic partnership law. I was deleted and banned from that Catholic radio station’s page for posting a link to a group that has drawn attention to 515 laws in Minnesota that provide benefits to married people. If the Church has strong reasons for voting “yes,” then there is no reason to suppress information about the laws that benefit married people. If the Catholic Church was motivated by love and a sense of what’s right (rather than being motivated by protecting and legitimizing the status quo), then economic justice for gays and lesbians would be part of the conversation. Instead, it’s “not up for discussion.” The reality is that although homosexuals tend to be well educated, in general, they’re not well off financially (according to the American Psychological Association).

    I agree with what you said about divorce and all of the other things that damage marriage. I wish that the Church was half as concerned with contraception use among Catholics as it is with same sex marriage among people who do not even practice the Catholic faith.

    Tonight I am attending a debate about same sex marriage at William Mitchell College of Law. Teresa Collett, a Catholic law professor will debate Anthony Weiner, a law professor who advocates for same-sex marriage. I am really looking forward to the debate.

    • Romualdus OSB says:

      Christine, millions of lives are under attack from the moment of conception and can be “mercifully” ended by others. The next great attack on God’s creation is the basic cultural organization of society: the family. Once we get into the sticky mess of saying that contra naturam relationships (since there’s no possible way to procreate in these “marriages”) are not only licit but “marriages,” we’ve already taken a snowball and given it avalanche force. Thus, it is clear to see religious liberty being attacked outright. What will be next?

      You raise a good point about $600,000 going towards an amendment: it is a lot of money. And yet, I would gladly see $6,000,000 go towards any effort by the Church to preserve the foundation of our society, a family that consists of one woman and one man. We are doing one bang up job trying to dissolve the natural order God intended things to be. Were we more together on these issues we could put $600,000 or $6,000,000 towards fixing marriages that are going south or catechizing about the ills of contraception. Today, however, it’s all about ME instead of society, which is not build on the individual but the family. What you seem to be saying about the Church is good: we have a long way to go but it is Christ’s Church that will still be standing at the end of the day. Wrestle with your conscience about this. Is it worth upsetting the foundation of society so that others can claim to be “married?” Let us promote what is Good, and that is marriage as God intended it: between one woman and one man.

      As many a monastery door reminds us, and with this saying I offer you to consider this bitter matter: Pax Inter Spinas (Peace among Thorns).

      God Bless,

      Romualdus, OSB

    • Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

      Christine, some of the issues you bring up are important, and I’m glad you wrote. Also sorry you had such a bad experience with the radio station. The questions you were trying to raise deserve discussion, though I think they can be rather easily answered. As I’ve argued above, it is good that the law should benefit married people because marriage provides society with necessary social goods, chief among them children.

      The rest of what you write, I’m sorry to say, is rather problematic on a whole range of levels, both logical and spiritual. You have been irritated by the political tactics employed by the Church, as reported in the Star Tribune (Am I right about that one? The smear on Archbishop Nienstedt from a few weeks back?) As a result of your irritation, you plan on voting no to get back at the Church. Seems like you are voting no out of spite.

      The Church has campaigned for traditional marriage, you are right, through letters, spending money on campaign ads, and telling people how they should vote on this question. I guess I’m having trouble seeing why this is such a bad thing; it almost seems you think it unfair that Catholic leaders should have the same free speech rights as their opponents. Do you vote against every candidate who employs such devious tactics as sending out letters? And, contrary to what you seem to think, rather a lot of Protestant churches have taken sides in this debate, both for and against. Of course, they haven’t gotten quite the same treatment from the Star Tribune.

      I will remind you that in a number of states, the Church’s charitable ventures have already come under attack because the Church refuses to sanction homosexual relationships. This is not a doomsday prophecy about what might happen; it is the current reality. So investing in this debate (albeit at a fraction of what is being spent by the other side) seems rather prudent to me. You might disagree on the prudence of that investment, but I hardly think it follows from such a disagreement that the traditional family is disposable.

  2. Beau Hammel says:

    Some thoughts on the essay you’ve written —

    If those who support gay marriage are divisive for claiming that “several millennia of stable social consensus and all of the world’s great religious traditions are nothing more than bigotry” then I am proud to be devisive. For that simple act of questioning the status quo has been the driving force for nearly every civil and human right we cherish as a society.

    You also write “The pro-homosexual marriage movement, on the other hand, is demanding more than tolerance; they are, in effect, demanding state and private subsidies for homosexual behavior”. She is correct. Supporters of gay marriage are demanding that the same exact rights be given to homosexual couples that are already given to heterosexual couples. No more. No less.

    Throughout this article you write things such as “people who struggle with homosexual attractions” and “homosexual ‘marriage’ ” implying that homosexuality is in some way less valid or even wrong. You go on to state that homosexual marriage supporters are self-righteous. Doesn’t it seem pretty obvious why those who oppose same sex marriage are being labeled as bigots when many of their arguments are supported by statements that are basically “homosexuality is wrong”?

    This article basically says that homosexual marriage is about nothing other than anal sex and makes an anology that puts it on the same level as the relationship between someone and the computer they use to view pornography. How are people supposed to respond with anything but anger when you write something as offensive as that?

    • Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

      Beau, After carefully scrutinizing your angry, divisive (your words, not mine) little erruption, I can find at best 1 1/2 points worth responding to. First, supporters of homosexual marriage are not demanding equal rights, which they already have. The fact that they choose not to exercise their rights does not mean that they are the victims of discrimination. Because of my own lifestyle choice, I also choose not to exercise the right to marry, but that hardly means I can claim oppression because the state does not call my lifestyle “marriage.”

      And, yes, homosexual acts are wrong. The fact that you, evidently, do not agree does not make me angry or make me think that you are necessarily a bigot. You might well be a bigot, but the fact that we disagree about the morality of a particular action doesn’t prove that you are. Not sure how anything much else follows from what you’re saying. I think polygamy is wrong too — does it follow from this fact that polygamy must be subsidized by the state? Yet that’s the logic you seem to have worked yourself into.

      And if you are interested, though reasoned discussion of this topic does not seem to be tops on your list of priorities, my argument is not in fact that homosexual pairings shouldn’t be recognized because homosexual acts are wrong (though they are), but rather they shouldn’t be recognized because they don’t provide society with the same social goods as marriage.

  3. susantheic says:

    I appreciate this nuanced essay. Thank you.

    I should also say–I am a Catholic in MN and it has been flat out ugly on all sides. I think it has been worse on the NO side but neither side has lifted this up as an example of ideal civic engagement. I am voting yes but the promotional materials to vote yes have been pretty lame. Christine’s example of not getting on the radio to ask reasonable questions seems typical…the lit does not want to answer the harder questions (which is tragic because we have answers!!!). The material is not as bad as the No campaign makes them out to be, but bad enough. Frankly, I am voting yes in spite of the materials.

    But Christine, as for the $600,000, the NO campaign has outspent the YES campaign in dramatic fashion, and has been supported by outside funders (outside MN that is). I know it is a lot of money–12 years of my family income–but in politics, I;m afraid it is not that much. Our campaigning realities are outrageous. Also, I am not positive, but the I think the money is coming from the Knights of Columbus, which is not exactly asking people in the pews to pony up before communion, I don’t know if that helps but I think it is an important distinction.

  4. Kevin M says:

    Tony,

    I’ve long been against the government defining marriage for anyone. I’d like any mention of marriage stripped from the law books. If you as a Catholic priest refuse to marry or recognize the union between two men or two women, that is your choice. But legalizing love, and providing tax incentives and other odd “benefits” for marriage under the law, has always felt strange to me. If you, as a defender of “traditional marriage” believe in the “no punishment/no reward” concept as it applies to gay marriage, the same should be true for any union. Not so in the eyes of the Church, but this government is supposedly based on equality and freedom (note, I said “supposedly,” though we both know better).

    Personally, I consider a marriage to be a union between a man and woman in the eyes of God. In other words, absent a woman and my faith, I would not consider myself married. Having said that, a few years back I attended the wedding of two friends, an atheist and a practicing witch. The fact I do not recognize their marriage doesn’t matter to them in the slightest, nor should it. I have gay friends who are married, and I wish them nothing but love and happiness. My definition of marriage isn’t theirs, and theirs isn’t mine, and in a plural society, that’s how it ought to be. Gay marriage doesn’t need to be rammed down your throat, but “traditional marriage” doesn’t need to be rammed down theirs.

    You feel society will be lessened if a reevaluation of marriage takes place, that churches will be marginalized, I’d contend the role of churches has already shifted as they exist independently to whomever is in charge. Had Romney won, the state religion would not have become Mormon, just as the US didn’t become Catholic under Kennedy. The role of any church in this country is to serve its community of sinners. Adulterers, thieves, blasphemers, and the rest are counting on the church to provide for their bodies, minds, and souls. If you expect any more government support beyond its accepting your views, that isn’t what America is (or ought to be).

    As for “traditional marriage’s” benefits to children, no argument can be made. You are absolutely right, with one proviso: As long as a society exists where other marriages are looked down upon, children who grow up with a mother and father will continue to prosper in comparison. My parents divorced when I was five, and in the ’70s the social stigma of being a latchkey kid was still very much in existence. I’m not blaming that for any hardship I presently face, but the teasing and taunting of others who had both mom and dad certainly made an impact. So, yeah, as long as our society continues to denigrate anything different than what is perceived to be the norm, “traditional marriage” children will have an advantage in life. However, if we remove the stigma attached to single parent households and gay households — if we stop the public bickering about what is “normal,” maybe those who aren’t blessed with mom and dad can better adapt and function in society. But as long as folks continue to press this issue, we will never know, and your argument will remain solid.

  5. I am writing from the UK where the decision regarding marriage of same sex couples is being taken by Parliament with the leaders of all three main parties in favour so we the public have no effective say. If I did have one (I speak as a man married for over 45 years, a practising Catholic with four children) I think on balance I would vote for a change, not for the status quo.
    Your analogy would only be fair if the woman needed a license to look at her porn whereas a married couple did not.
    I agree that marriage is the most stable form for bringing up children; I do not believe that statistics are yet available for the relative stability of same sex couples in civil partnerships, nor for the long term behaviour of children brought up under them, and I think there is a whiff of petitio principii here in your argument. It seems to me likely that children brought up by same sex couples living in civil partnerships might well be in a better situation than those in care: traditional marriage best, same sex couples second and care homes a distant third. At least in this country. You are not a creationist are you? I think words like ‘design’ and ‘purpose’ with respect to marriage are founded on pre-Darwinian thought. The purpose of marriage is not the procreation of children. Sexual urge is the reason for this; the purpose of marriage is to regulate it to the benefit of society and arguments for or against contraception should be argued from this premise rather than on natural law.

  6. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

    Thank you for your responses, Kevin and David. I find your position on total state-neutrality toward marriage consistent and clearly thought out, Kevin. My reluctance to accept it comes only from the fact that the goods of marriage (children and the best institution in which to raise them) are of genuine worth to the state, so I think it is just that the state subsidize them. On the other hand, especially given the religious liberty concerns that come with the homosexual marriage movement, I’m not sure that on balance the benefits of marriage redefined outweigh the costs. The fairest way forward, you might well be right, could be privatizing marriage altogether. (Your comments also raise the point that there are other definitions of marriage that have not yet entered the discussion, such as polygamy, the practitioners of which would seem to have at least as strong a right to state recognition as homosexual couples.)

    Your hypothesis (which David also, sort of, seems to be advancing) that children raised in “non-traditional” arrangements are faced with significant difficulties and negative outcomes solely because of the lack of social acceptance of such arrangements seems to me much, much weaker. I live in a culture (an Indian Reservation) in which non-traditional arrangements are the norm, and yet kids from families with one mother and one father, rare as these cases are, seem to do much, much better all around. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted half a century ago that the decline of the traditional family in the black community was producing catastrophic results in that community it was because family breakdown had become the norm, not because it was the exception. Your hypothesis relies on the assumption that men and women are fundamentally interchangeable, and while gender is a complex, even mysterious, part of our human makeup there will always be a sense in which “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” and children benefit from having both planets in their orbit. I’d also note that, even in those cultures where there is widespread social acceptance of homosexual relationships, such relationships have not proven to be quite so identical with heterosexual relationships as you seem to expect. In Norway and Sweden, for example, gay male relationships are 50% more likely to break up than heterosexual marriages, while lesbian relationships are 167% more likely to break up. (For an interesting article on the state of research into homosexual relationships, see http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/same-sex-science.)

    Ultimately, your hypothesis is untestable, because children being raised by same-sex partners will always be in the minority for the simple reason that those with a homosexual orientation make up such a small percentage of the population. And, for reasons which I probably don’t need to draw a diagram to explain, an even smaller percentage of this population is likely to produce children. So there will always be something a little weird about growing up with two daddies. And I don’t think it fair to the children involved to attempt to prove a tendentious hypothesis to the contrary.

    And David, yes, there are statistics available, those linked in my article and those discussed above, which show that “sociological research confirms what common sense has told us all along”: children are better off with a mom and a dad. I take it “care households” are the British equivalent of “foster families,” but not much follows from the assertion that children in homosexual non-care families are better off than those in heterosexual care families, a point I address in the original article. You are comparing pineapples to bananas here; I never asserted that a homosexual couple provides the worst possible environment in which to raise children. Such an environment is better than being raise by wolves, but that does not mean that such an arrangement is a marriage or should be encouraged by the state.

    And, finally, as to the woman with the stable porn addiction, the analogy was never intended to prove much of anything beyond: there are probably certain types of sexual activities you wouldn’t want to subsidize and that doesn’t make you a bigot. The laws might be different in Britain, but in the United States you don’t need a license either to engage in homosexual acts or to view pornography.

    Finally, in back-to-back sentences you first disavow using the term “purpose” to speak about marriage, and then assert that you have discovered what that purpose is. Perhaps “post-Darwinian thought” allows such blatant logical contradictions? In any case, since I didn’t make a natural law argument in the original post, I won’t make one here.

  7. Kevin M says:

    Tony, our population, both global and national, is increasing to the point where the current group of children will experience a reality where the planet cannot sustain the population. As such, I find fault in your automatic “Captain Obvious” assertion that “the goods of marriage” (children) are of worth to the state. Of course I’m not suggesting kids are bad, but the argument could be made that encouraging more kids into this world at this juncture does more harm than good. The fact that you believe children to be beneficial doesn’t make it so. It is opinion, and it is not an opinion I wish to have my government advance or reject.

    You also dismissed my claim as untestable, but the conditions as they exist now are a part of the problem. Because you cannot create a neutral environment free of discrimination, bullying, and other reactions to having a different style of family doesn’t negate the existence of such prejudices and their effect on children (in fact, it serves as evidence of the problem). You dismiss those with firsthand experience of having been successfully raised by homosexuals as isolated, but you allow your experience on the reservation to be included into the discussion — that’s incongruous. By the way, I don’t believe I said such bullying tactics were the sole cause of problems, but they are a factor.

    As a priest, you can and should have the right to marry whomever (whosoever?) you choose based on your beliefs. But one system of beliefs should not be allowed to infringe on the rights and/or beliefs of others in this instance. That is why the government needn’t be a part of such a decision. That said, I’m glad there are studies which indicate marriage is good, just as there are studies that indicate pot is beneficial and bacon is unhealthy. I just don’t believe we need laws based on such studies. Especially the one about bacon.

    Mmm… bacon.

  8. Thank you very much for your reply and for the blog in general. I enjoy Whosoeverdesires even if I do not always agree with it.
    Two points: ‘In care’ in this country does not include foster families but refers to local authority institutions.
    Secondly, sloppy wording perhaps but I cannot see any contradiction: ‘design’ or ‘purpose’ are frequently used in a pre-Darwinian context which is no longer tenable; post-Darwin the purpose of marriage is rather the regulation of sex and of family life than procreation per se. I did not intend to disavow the use of the words and I do not think I did.
    Civil partnerships have only been in existence in the UK for less than ten years and I am not sure that it is yet possible to have any meaningful statistics about their outcomes.

  9. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

    Thank you, David, and I’m glad you enjoy the blog. The question of whether marriage’s “purpose” is to contribute a healthy new generation to society or to regulate sexual desire is a value judgment, so Darwin has nothing to do with it. And simply changing the definition of the institution in order to accommodate more and more sexual practices seems not a particularly far-sighted method of regulation.

    In any case, contra Kevin, the procreation and upbringing of another generation does seem to be in society’s interests because, well, existence seems to be one of society’s interests. Perhaps not for all. As for the overpopulation concern, many share Kevin’s dire view. As one writer puts it, “Our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly support us.” That was Tertullian, about AD 200. I put more stock in the Mayan calendar than pseudo-scientific fears of overpopulation.

    And, of course, all would abhor bullying and agree as to its negative impact on children. But the difficulties kids face without a father or a mother can hardly be reduced to being ostracized by other children. Nor does legalizing homosexual marriage seem likely to solve even that problem. And, yes, anecdotal evidence has its place; it can help to illustrate and even elucidate broader trends. But when anecdotes take the place of broader statistical analysis, that’s called being misleading. Jim the hose manufacturer may have seen his income double after the Great Chicago Fire, but that doesn’t prove that the fire was good for the Midwest economy.

  10. Darwin enters the argument as follows: I hold the orthodox belief that we have a God-given inborn light called conscience which enables us to distinguish good from evil but for a variety of reasons the light is dimmed. The Church in its teaching should provide a sure guide by which we might inform our consciences. Some of this teaching is undoubtedly based on the concept of natural law which is, it seems to me, founded on pre-evolutionary ideas about a static creation which are simply wrong, particularly regarding sexuality. Much of Humanae Vitae, for all its inspiring rhetoric, relies on this, and whole swathes of the faithful ignore it. The Church has lost its authority and we long for it to re-find it.

    Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that contraception, for example, is good but that I do not find the arguments against it at all convincing and if the Church is to regain its authority it will either have to change its teaching or find a more coherent rationale. Mere pragmatism is not sufficient. Although it is possible that the mass of educated catholics are wrong it is perhaps unlikely.

    The exponential increase in population clearly has to have a limit and overpopulation in many countries already poses very severe problems. It is not sufficient to say “God will provide”. In cases of mass starvation he clearly doesn’t.

    Finally (in today’s instalment!) to say that we, catholic families in general, limit the number of children for purely materialistic reasons is rather patronising; no consideration of wealth or advancement played any part in our limiting our family to four children and I am sure the same is true for very many others.

    • Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

      In the interest of keeping the discussion here manageable, this isn’t the time to re-hash contraception; none of the arguments in the original post rely on Humanae Vitae per se or even natural law.

      Unfortunately for the argument I think you want to make, one Church teaching that is entirely dependent upon the notion of natural law is the teaching on conscience. I linked to my article on the subject a while back; here’s the link to the article:
      http://www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/Logos/archives/volumes/15-2/15-2lusvardi.pdf.

      Read Vatican II’s teaching on conscience (GS 16); when Vatican II (and the rest of the tradition) say “conscience”, they are also saying “natural law.” So I fear you hold a heterodox understanding of conscience…

      … but there’s really no need to let such a fear overwhelm me, because Darwin doesn’t tell us much of anything about morality or what it means to live a good life in right relationship to God and others, which is the domain of the natural law. Unless, of course, you think that Darwin’s theory means a kind of Deism, which, your comments suggest, might be a temptation. But, stay strong, and resist temptation!

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