Friday, September 27, 2013

Are we at war?

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile.  Every time I read another post about how we Catholics are At War With the World, I want to give an answer to that.  But lately Pope Francis has made my response for me -- and been met with anger.

Here's what he said that got everyone so offended:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

He said lots more, but those three paragraphs were the main ones that got people up in arms.

There were lots of reasons for this.  Some people said they'd never heard these homilies about moral imperatives, that all they ever got were touchy-feely Jesus-loves-you sermons (because apparently hearing that Jesus loves you is a bad thing) and they would just love to hear one about abortion once in awhile.  (To which I say, move to the diocese of Arlington -- we almost never get one completely without either abortion, gay marriage, or birth control.  Sometimes we get some where Jesus is barely mentioned, though.)

Some people were angry that the Pope was addressing orthodox Catholics at all.  With two-thirds of Catholics being blatant heretics and apostates (not sure where they came by that figure), wouldn't it be more appropriate to lecture them?  After all, we are the ones working for the Church!  We're the ones who follow the Pope!  We're the embattled minority!  This just gives fuel for outsiders to criticize us and say, "Hey, cool it about abortion, even your own Pope said you've beaten that topic to death."  (My answer to this is, he addresses everybody and has criticized others in the past -- why should any group be left out?  Especially the group that is his real audience, because they actually read what the Pope says.  Christmas-and-Easter Catholics mainly don't.)

Some said it couldn't possibly be directed toward them, because they aren't obsessed with a few moral rules and they always oppose the main evils of the day in context.  (However, this line disturbed me: "Pope Francis is right that in some contexts proclaiming the Gospel is a powerful aid to conversion to moral goodness."  I think they've got it backwards.  Moral goodness, without the Gospel, is a gong clanging in the wilderness.  Not to mention that Catholic moral teaching comes from God and can't be convincingly taught without reference to Him.  To think of using the Gospel as a way to get people to do what we want -- when there isn't another convenient way to do it -- rather sickens me.)  But after all the long disclaimers of how they aren't the group the Pope is talking about and how they don't need that message, they still get offended.  If the shoe doesn't fit, why get upset?  It's not your shoe.

But most took issue with his real message.  The message, as they boil it down -- and as I feel it can be fairly boiled down -- comes to this: "Don't just push your moral view on everybody.  Don't treat this as a battle.  Bring people to the truth because you love them.  And start with Jesus.  He is the source of all truth, and all your other efforts will be meaningless if you don't start there."

And no matter how you explain it, and parse it, and put it in context, that message shows a clear conflict with the attitude of conservative Catholics.  Most conservative Catholics do see it as a battle.  They are not interested in dialogue, or that worried about converting people.  The battle isn't between God and the devil, it's between the "religious right" and the "gay lobby" and/or the culture of death.  So they cheerily post article after article and meme after meme, many of which are extremely offensive to some people.  (In particular, aborted baby photos.  I'm as pro-life as anyone and I find those HIGHLY offensive.)  And then when they get themselves unfriended, they say, "See, it really is a battle.  There is no tolerance for my views.  But I have to keep at it, even if it means martyrdom."

But there's a big difference between being unfriended and being martyred.  The word martyr means witness -- by accepting death rather than deny Jesus, you witness to just how important He is.  But if you're unfriended, the only thing that happens is that this person now lacks your positive witness in his life.  If every time you open your mouth you drive people away, you are not evangelizing anyone.  You'll soon be preaching to the choir with a sense of contentment at how fearless you are, how unafraid of offending anyone.  This will make you feel good, but do no one any good.

I believe in every aspect of the Church's infallible moral teaching.  However, I don't believe, as some do, that people can figure pretty much all of it out without reference to God, and so we can convince people of it simply by talking about the natural law.  If you claim everyone secretly knows the truth in their conscience, you can justify demanding compliance out of everyone, but I have never known of one single person who gave up a life of sin and embraced one of moral rectitude without converting to some religion or other.  Specifically, I've never heard of a homosexual who broke up with their partner and lived in celibacy for the rest of their life simply because a Catholic told them it was the natural law.

If it was all so simple, why has no one figured it out?  Why did no one ever figure it out before Christ?  Why is the Old Testament full of God giving commands and people getting into worse and worse trouble?  We can't know the best way to live without reference to the one who made us.  In fact, the best way to live has to include a relationship with the one who made us.  Our lives will be lacking without that.

If we really love unbelievers, we'll want to bring them into the fullness of the joy that we have, which comes from a relationship with Christ.  We follow the moral law out of our trust we have in God, knowing that he loves us and wouldn't ask us these things to make us unhappy, but rather for our benefit.  Imposing the same rules on other people without bothering to introduce them to the reason is senseless.  The only reason I can think of for it is the desire to avoid having to deal with things we disagree with.  That's hardly a spiritual motive.

And how do we introduce people to Christ?  Is it by lectures, sarcastic memes, and self-righteous rants?  That approach isn't working; it's never worked.  It has to be with kindness, with love, with openness.  It has to come with listening to another person's stories and sharing our own.  The Pope is right -- you can't lead with "you're a sinner."  You have to lead with, "There is such a thing as goodness."

People say "the problem with the world today is that we have lost the sense of sin."  I don't believe it.  We have lost more than that -- the sense that there is any answer at all, that there is any universal standard, anything to which one could appeal.  How do you give someone a sense of sin when they don't know there's anyone they have offended?  You have to lead with God.

Because the fact is, everyone knows the Church is against abortion and birth control and homosexual acts.  What they don't know is that we're not all a load of judgmental jerks who ONLY care about those three issues and no others.  What kind of a conversation is it when you only focus on those issues on which you disagree?  It makes more sense to talk first about common ground: about how Catholics, like other decent people, are opposed to slavery and poverty and injustice and unkindness.  We could talk about how our moral code is based on profound respect for the human individual, that we don't exclude anyone from that respect, regardless of age or ability or color.

Overall I think this conversation is best had one on one; but insofar as Catholics-as-a-group are in dialogue with non-Catholics-as-a-group, the dialogue is going badly.  All you need are to read any of the comments on an article about the Catholic Church in any secular paper.  The Catholics shriek about being persecuted, misunderstood, etc., while condemning everyone else .... and the non-Catholics say that they would like to see Catholicism banned and wiped out entirely because the only things it stands for are judgment, domination, and sex abuse.  This is not a dialogue.  Does it have to be like this?

I read that famous gay-marriage article by Joseph Bottom -- yes, the whole thing, though this post is a good summary -- and I agree absolutely.  Our "this is war, make no compromise" attitude has polarized the conversation to the point where conversation can barely happen at all.  We won't stand for even civil unions because the second we do, it'll be a slippery slope and the next thing you know, the Gay Lobby will be hauling us off to prison for saying in church that we think homosexual activities are sinful.  But they won't let us refuse to bake a cake with two grooms on it, because they know perfectly well that if they let Those Intolerant Christians have their way, next think they know we'll criminalize sodomy again and they'll all be hauled off to prison.  There's no room for discussion in an atmosphere like that.

The narrative inside the Church is that Catholics, having the truth, will be good and those outside won't be as good.  They like to compare, say, Padre Pio with Miley Cyrus and say, "See?  Life in the Church -- Good.  Life outside the Church -- Bad."  But how does that leave room for the others .... that priest who seemed so holy and had such a following and molested all the altar boys?  Or that lesbian couple with six foster children who would give you their last nickel?  There's evidence all over the place that no matter how much you know, you can still act badly, while people with none of the advantages we see ourselves to have are still living out pretty good lives all the same.

But our way of explaining things leaves no room for virtuous atheists.  We imagine we're speaking to an evil world that wants to wipe us out.  How would we speak if we thought we were talking to individuals, individuals who also thought Miley Cyrus' performance was disgusting, who also give money to the poor, who believe in love and truth and goodness and human rights?  Wouldn't we start with our common ground?

I think maybe we should listen very carefully to what Pope Francis is saying.  He isn't saying we should never mention our moral teaching, or try to conceal from new converts what they will have to give up if they are baptized.  He's saying we should be a little less loud and strident about the "difficult issues" and maybe try to meet people where they are a little bit.  And it seems to me that he's been working for the Church for most of his life; he has some wisdom we could benefit from.

But what has been the response?  Loud declamations from Catholics online, or awkward excuses.  When they can't explain it away, they denounce the Pope as "naive" or "misguided" or (my favorite) "crazy Uncle Bergie."  Then, having put the Pope soundly in his place, they turn to gloating about Nancy Pelosi having been excommunicated (she wasn't).  Way to miss the teaching moment!

Maybe it's impossible for the Catholic Church, a religion of unchanging teachings and a strict moral code, to get along even politely with a world that runs on such a different standard.  And yet, if we don't try, we'll never know.  Somehow the early Christians managed to get along all right with pagan Rome, just by being noticeably more loving than anybody else.  That was the main thing anyone noticed about them.  The Romans exposed their infants, but the Christians didn't.  It impressed people that the Christians didn't.  And yet where are the documents of early Christians lambasting the Romans for that?  How many times is abortion mentioned in the New Testament?  They knew these were big problems, but they also knew the only way to address them was to bring people to Christ .... which they did, dramatically.  Maybe we could take a page from their book.

All I know is, as long as we treat this dialogue as a war, we ensure no dialogue will ever take place.  We ensure that people of good will will avoid us like the plague because we do not appear to be open to anyone.  And that, quite simply, seems not at all to be what God would want.

To hear similar things said, but much more eloquently, try a few of these excellent posts:

A Contemporary Reflection on the Becket Controversy
This one's old, but I loved it.  "If we are to die for our faith, let us make sure that it is the Truth of Jesus Christ and his Gospel that is the price of our blood."

Seek God in Every Human Life - Barefoot and Pregnant
"“Speaking the truth in love” does not, I think, mean that speaking the truth is love. Just speaking the truth, that’s not enough. It has to be in love. In a state of love. In an environment of love.... The truth part has to spring out of the love part, or we’re using Christ as a sword."

The Love Comes First - House Unseen
"Do you think it's possible to repent if one doesn't love God and love oneself?  I mean, what harm does sin really do if we don't matter and neither does God?"

Five Reasons to Think Differently About Pope Francis - Catholic Culture
"We have gradually drifted into secularism in ways we do not recognize, and one of those ways is to believe that all significant change is political. One consequence is our fear that if we cannot engage in political battles, on the accepted political terms, then we have failed to do anything at all."


Enbrethiliel said...


The last time I encountered battle imagery in dialogue, the person I was engaging said, "You may not be interested in the war, but the war is interested in you." The implication was that unless you chose your side, you could be chosen, even against your will and without your knowledge, by any of the factions. That was, of course, a completely warped view of things. For the record, he and I were discussing men and women. He truly believed that the sexes are at war and that the argument we were having was a battlefield. And everything going on between us only seemed to support his paradigm.

As for witnessing to the world, I've totally dialed back. I don't like talking about the Faith or even just my own faith with people, be they strangers or my closest friends. I think that I only push people away: my manner is quite acerbic, even when I try to be gentle. And it would break my heart to know that someone left the Church because of something I said.

For instance, you will never know how consoling it was for me when Pope Francis excommunicated someone. I felt at peace for the first time since his election.

Cojuanco said...

Shiela, I agree with almost everything you said. But why would you support Bottum's thesis that we ought to support same-sex marriage? I mean, I'm sick and tired of the idiocy, too, and I'm aware politics should not be the chief arena to convince people to return to Christian marriage, but those lines of Bottum I honestly do not understand, while with Pope Francis, I understand even if he reaches out and shakes me from my comfort zone. I'm more confused by the Commonweal article than anything else.

Sheila said...

E, I don't witness much either, because I feel I'm such a terrible example, with my doubts and confusion and so forth. The one little thing I do is run this blog, and my facebook presence, while being open about my spiritual life. That's harder than it sounds, and I'm not sure it does any good, but on the other hand, confessional blogs help *me* a lot. I figure I may as well be a sincere Catholic on the internet and maybe one or two people will be able to add a Catholic to the list of "people who don't appear to be crazy." I don't know.

Cojuanco, I don't think that's exactly the thesis of Bottum's essay --more that we shouldn't spend our energies and political and social capital on *opposing* it.

If I had my way, I'd replace civil "marriage" with civil union, as an admission that our pluralistic society and secular government have no consensus about what marriage is -- and no real authority to define or re-define it. Marriages would be regulated by churches, if people wanted one. You could choose to get a civil union or not, but it wouldn't affect your reception of the sacrament.

Does that answer your question?

Hannah, Horn, and Hannabert said...

I think that as Catholics, many of us do not "witness" on a regular basis. I think that many see it as a Protestant "thing." I think that the misconstruing of what he said by mainstream media is horrible thoughl

Cojuanco said...

Somewhat, ma'am. I still think there should be some effort put in (after all, the Vatican still asks us to meet it with "active opposition", and politics cannot certainly be excluded from the list of arenas a Christian may find his vocation). However, we should also do what we did with pro-life - seek to convert people person by person, first and foremost. And that approach - the approach of Christian love - has succeeded - IIRC doctors in Italy are refusing to perform abortions in record numbers, and there's of course the successes of the Franciscans in this country.

I think here in America there is this perception that the way to change Injustices is to do so through the political process. And to an extent there is nothing wrong with Christian principles in politics. But we must also, in at least as great a proportion if not greater, achieve this through, as the hymn says, "through kindly words and virtuous life". That is more important. What use is it to pass all the Proposition 8s in the world, to restore marriage law in all Christendom, if we still denigrate marriage anyway, or fail to live our vocations if actually married? That should be the true basis of effective opposition, to which politics should be a mere supplement. We in this country have reversed the order entirely, perhaps out of a fear of failing to speak truth to power.

I'm of the opinion that while daily life is important, we can't withdraw from the political overmuch either, at least corporately.

From a canon law perspective, I'm somewhat skeptical of your legal proposal, though - mostly on the headaches it would cause canonically and to our non-Catholic brothers and sisters(see the Peters treatment here: Of course, I'm more a Christian Democrat of the old school than a libertarian. But this is, I fear, too long for a digression.

Enbrethiliel said...


I once read an interesting critique of American bishops which said that they focus all their energies on things they have no power to influence, like the "same-sex marriage" issue, and ignore the things they do have the power to change, like the annulment scandal. Perhaps the same thing could be said about Philippine bishops, who go on and on about graft and corruption in government, then look the other way when married people (usually the rich) want a "Catholic divorce" that will let them have their cake and save face, too.

Salixbabylonica said...

The idea that the church cannot function in a state in which civil and religious marriages are separate is thoroughly unconvincing, since precisely the situation Sheila envisions already exists in many countries. From what I have read, in most of Europe, and at least parts of South America, couples are required to register their marriages with the civil authorities, and then can have an entirely separate religious ceremony. It's not like this is an experiment that has never been tried before.

Peters's reply is oddly focused on the distinction btw Matrimony and marriage, but that distinction isn't relevant to the suggestion that civil and religious marriages be separate things. As things stand right now, having a previous civil marriage doesn't prevent the couple from seeking church recognition of their union. What would really change if we all had to go to the courthouse and "marry" civilly? In practical terms, nothing. We already have to go to the courthouse to get our marriage registration forms - when my husband and I went in for ours, the clerk offered to marry us right then.

If we are going to focus our political energies on marriage - why don't we focus them on reforming no-fault divorce laws? Divorce is a moral evil that will directly affect many more people than same-sex unions will, so it's a greater threat to souls in my opinion. Focusing so prominently on same-sex issues makes it seem like we're singling them out - and opens us to the charge of "bigotry" and "hate." Of course, the divorce law question is probably a futile fight, but so is same-sex "marriage" on the legal front at this point. We have to assess whether our public voice on the legal front is doing more damage than good to our ability to convince and evangelize on the social/personal front.

Sheila said...

Exactly -- especially on that last sentence. The way to "save the culture" is through interpersonal methods, to which legal battles may be a hindrance.

Cojuanco said...


First, on the no-fault divorce laws. NOTE: what I am about to say is shockingly cynical. Here goes. I agree that that would be more important. But seriously, it has about as much chance as Connecticut restoring its ban on the Pill. Why? Because the only people in support of such a move would be the Catholic Church and perhaps the local Muslim congregations. The Protestants universally would never stand for it. At least on SSM we do not fight alone. The most prominent supporter of reversing the Reagan Laws is being clobbered by the Prods in Virginia. The only reason SSM is such a big issue is that the only true solution is politically infeasible in the face of near universal opposition, much more than that expressed on contraception, say. So we and the Evangelicals and the Muslims go for the low-hanging fruit.

And as for the European solution, of all those countries that do it, most are throughly secular. We should be wary of their cures, given their own problems regarding marriage. It also sends the wrong message to Catholics on the fence, that maybe you don't need a Church wedding. You want the solution that gave us France, or Belgium, or Argentina (our Holy Father notwithstanding)?

Enbrethiliel, on the flip side of that is the fact that until relatively recently, it seems anecdotally that marriage prep was horrifically bad, and that many priests in fact wrote their reservations to the validity of some proposed unions, and celebrated them anyway. In large part the annulment crisis is cleaning up the utter mess left behind from the 70s and 80s. At least here. I'm no longer unfortunately familiar with ecclesiastical politics in the Philippines.

My question is, what is, say, the Catholic legislator, or the Catholic jurist to do? I know what I as a layman must do, and I hope to do it well. But what of those in authority? Or the intellectuals among us? I am a law student - what must I do as an attorney?

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila, something I've been mulling over since you wrote it is the fact that more and more societies are becoming pluralistic. While I agree that your proposal is appropriate for them, I think that every society worth its salt should fight against becoming pluralistic. There are certain lines which should be toed or else a cohesive community splinters into small tribes.

It seems a portent of doom to me that a community can't even agree on what its nuclear unit is. I'm not looking forward to explaining to a child (using appropriate language, of course) that homosexuals belong to another "tribe"--one that our own "tribe" is trying not to be assimilated into. Ironically, I think that those who use battle imagery actually understand this the most.

On the other hand, all things pass away, including communities. There's a sense in which it doesn't matter whether your community thrives or is devastated because our real home is Heaven and it would be repeating the mistakes of Babel to try to create Heaven on earth by our own efforts. But while I'm part of a community, I will do what I can to hold it together, for the greater good.

Cojuanco, I don't see why a Catholic legislator or lawyer shouldn't do what he is already doing. As far as I can tell, the problem is non-legislators and non-lawyers doing what isn't theirs to do. Like that Psychology major I knew in uni whom a girl who was formerly an inmate in a mental hospital told me was acting as if she were already a professional when she hadn't even earned her undergraduate degree yet.

Cojuanco said...

I think part of the problem here is that in America, we're supporsed to be Knowledgeable And Active on the Issues. It's drilled in us in civics classes - or at least it was not so long ago in high school - that if you wanted change, you did it through protests, through the ballot box, etc, through primarily political means (used to be you'd also effect change through extra-parliamentary institutions like the Church, social clubs, ethnic clubs, etc. But since the 1970s, the only institutions worth much is the Church and perhaps a few ethnic associations). So basically, people see the political realm as the only place they can effect change because all the alternatives have broken down.

It becomes even more complicated in cases such as California. In California, if you get enough people to sign onto a proposition, you, too, can become a legislator - that's how Prop 8 got in. Does that make my duties similar to those of a legislator, since I, too, now have the power to legislate? I honestly don't know.

Perhaps the issue is that unlike Sheila, I am by no means a libertarian. I'm too cityfied for that. I'm a Christian democrat like, say, Adenauer or Gasperi, with a Red Tory streak. Which means for me, I have no problem with the welfare state as concept, and I have no problem with legislating morality - that's most of what city politics is. So while I certainly think the main thrust should be in extra-parliamentary means - as in person-to-person interactions - I think there needs to be a strong political backing to it, too - after all, you would not want people antithetical to your beliefs having the power over the men with the weapons, to indulge my inner Hobbes. My objection isn't to the fact that a welfare state which polices morality exists - my objection is that my kind of people aren't in charge, and my morality isn't the code which informs the police power. There's a reason the Church always insisted and still insists on its rightful privileges - it's because take that away, and all the social movements lose the backing of the people in authority.

Enbrethiliel said...


Cojuanco, what you describe of the American approach reveals it as the source of the problem. The current situation came about because people who believed in "equality" in all things organised protests, signed petitions, wrote their congressmen, etc. It makes sense to fight back with the same weapons, but I think it would ultimately be futile because it is the very idea that change should happen in this way that is problem. But if I'm not confident in the methods Sheila recommends instead, that's because I'm not good at them, either.

While you and I have a lot more views in common than I seem to be letting on, I confess that my final reaction to the idea of others having all the weapons and willing to use them to change my mind is: "Well, we've survived one Age of Marytrdom . . ."

This may smack a bit of fatalism and it's certainly not a good civic response, but I've stumbled upon a few conspiracy theory blogs lately and appreciate their point that the end of one civilisation is not the same thing as the end of the world. To allude to another era of Church history, if the world burns around a single faithful and well-stocked monastery, then it won't be a total loss.

PS -- The word in the captcha is "armland," picking up on my own inner Hobbes! ;-)

Sheila said...

Oh dear, see what happens when I forsake the internet for a few days! Didn't realize this conversation was still going.

The answer I keep getting to "why do we fight gay marriage?" always ends up being something like, "Well, we know perfectly well it won't work, but we have to try anyway." And that might be a valid argument IF there were no potential side effects to dying on this hill.

However, it seems to have set up a kind of enmity between "us" and "them" that has led to a polarization of everything. Anti-Catholic hatred is increasing, usually because we are "homophobic bigots," i.e. because we have chosen this hill to die on and are making a tremendous deal about it. And that seems what's bound to happen when one segment of the population -- currently, I believe, a minority -- believes in forcing a law on the whole which they can't even give a convincing explanation of without reference to religion. We look like jerks who are throwing our weight around for no good reason, and our efforts to explain our position in terms of "natural law" (which is something else no one without religion believes in) have pretty much failed.

After all, America IS a pluralist nation, and was founded to be one. The whole point was to start a country where differences of religion wouldn't start wars. The ideal was for different states to have different religions, which I think is awesome: Pennsylvania for the Quakers, Virginia for the Anglicans, Maryland for the Catholics, Massachusetts for the Puritans, Rhode Island for the freethinkers, Jews, and other leftovers. It would then be easy for people to move to a place that shared their values.

But of course the states don't really work that way anymore, more's the pity. (However, as far as gay marriage goes, they still sort of do -- Virginia has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, while other states have accepted it. I wonder if that will last, and if we'll be a Mecca for traditional Catholics and Protestants.)

If I were the queen of a small nation where everyone could easily choose to go or not, I'd have laws that reflect what I wanted. But in a nation this vast, where most people can't just leave, and where there is no consensus on matters of religion, it seems oppressive to make laws that sweeping. I would want to stick with laws that most people could agree on, or at least understand the reasoning for.

And as for how un-Catholic countries with "parallel marriage" are, what's wrong with Argentina? What about Mexico? POLAND, for crying out loud?! Sure, the legal solution arose in times of oppressive governments. However, it doesn't seem to have done the least bit of harm to Catholic marriage in those countries. I'm not sure there is a nation on earth with more healthy Catholic marriages than Poland.

E, that's kind of my fatalistic take ... though in my case it's not so fatalistic. Just like when people say "an electrostatic pulse could send us back to the Dark Ages" I always respond, "What's so bad about the Dark Ages? The Dark Ages were awesome!" .... I say the same about the Church of the Catacombs. When has the Church ever been holier? When did we impress so many with our holiness, and win so many converts? When were so many priests, bishops, and popes canonized, as in the Church of the catacombs?

I'm not campaigning for martyrdom, any more than I'm taking a sledgehammer to my laptop, microwave, and car. But if worse came to worst, I daresay we'd manage just fine.

Belfry Bat said...

Cui mallo?

The civil side of marriage is, fundamentally, about the laws and enforcement of the laws concerning custody of children. It isn't about joint tax returns or corporately-owned property or what to do with things when a corporate life collapses; it's about the right to act as parents. In terms of pretending men can marry men, this means it is about the right of a pair of men in a habit of acting unnaturally being accorded a "right" to adopt infants or very young children, probably a "right" to employ a strange woman to bear and abandon a child into their care, etc.

Adoption used to be about finding a way to amend two sorrows at once: orphaned children on the one hand, and accidentally infertile couples on the other. It can't be about either of these things, anymore, in a state recognizing unnatural "marriage", but of necessity becomes a commerce in children. Adoption might in places already have become de-facto a commerce in children, but it hadn't been necessarily so until this.

That's why unnatural marriage should be fought, always, everywhere. It needn't be everyone who knows better that fights it (unless there's only the one), and it should only ever be the thing itself that is fought, not our opponents' persons. But it is a grave injustice against children, and someone always will have to fight it.

Sheila said...

I would absolutely agree with you, BB, if that were what civil marriage is about.

However, in this country, there is no requirement that adoptive parents be married. In fact, gay couples have been fostering, adopting, IVF-ing, surrogate-ing babies right and left for some time.

If recognizing gay marriage meant that kids would be commodified, I absolutely would oppose it. However, in our current situation, all it means is that some of the people who have already created/adopted children will take on some kind of commitment to stick around for them. And I don't actually see something wrong with that. When the choice is to live with one gay parent who cycles through a neverending merry-go-round of partners, or to live with two parents who are of the same sex but who have made some kind of commitment to stick around, it seems clear to me that the latter is better.

In other countries, like France, where the right to marry is considered a prerequisite to the right to have children, the situation is different.

Belfry Bat said...

Hm... that's one crazy set-up you've got there... or a great crazy portion among fifty set-ups... heck, now I have to see what law is in my bailywick... all I know now is it's crazy somehow...

I can't believe that expansive recognition will improve stability, but that's really a secondary thing.

But, essentially, you're telling me not to try barring this stable because the horses are already stolen. Can we thump the brigands trying to burn it down? (who in this analogy correspond to a bunch of demons and not human creatures... ) Can we go chase the horses, then?

Enbrethiliel said...


While I'm totally opposed to the manufacturing of children through the use of in vitro fertilisation and the hiring of a surrogate, and believe that both should be made illegal and considered shameful, I don't think that there should be laws about who may or may not be a parent in the natural way. That is, if someone in a same-sex couple were to have intercourse with someone of the opposite sex in order to conceive a child for the couple, I would find that horrible . . . but certainly not something we can legislate.

Parenthood is a family matter. People who are not members of the family, or of the immediate community (which should be kept as local as possible), shouldn't be determining that so-and-so are unfit to be parents or that certain situations are "too dangerous" for children. The current state of things isn't a failure of the law, but a failure of the family. And I don't think it's possible to make the family healthy again through the law.

On the other hand, I'm all for more draconian adoption policies. With all due compassion for infertile couples (and single women who say they can't find a man), NO ONE is entitled to a child. "Rich" people who can shell out thousands of dollars in adoption and legal fees would do better if they used that money to sponsor the children's real parents or any real family members whom the child could find a home with. I remember an Indian actress saying in an interview that she didn't appreciate having to prove to a judge that she would be a fit (single) mother--that is, she didn't like being presumed "guilty" until she could show that she was "innocent." I sympathise on principle, but I think that the court was absolutely right to put her through the wringer.

Then there are my thoughts on international adoption . . . I could go on and on about it, but why don't I spare you? ;-)

Note that all this is about the "acquiring" of children, whether through natural methods, technology or adoption. The raising of the children is another matter entirely! Yes, the latter follows the former, but I don't think that this is enough to justify the law stepping in where it has no business being.

Sheila said...

I absolutely agree with you, E. Who's to stop a lesbian couple from getting pregnant via turkey baster (as they do now)? Whereas, banning IVF would be delightful for so many reasons, from the death of "extra" embryos to the commodification of children to the dehumanization of the women and men who take part in it. The danger to the health of the mother, the strain on the marriage, on and on and on.

I get very uncomfortable with the money question in adoption. Anytime money changes hands, it feels like you're selling a child. Why should wealthy couples get to be parents while poor ones can't even support their biological children? I've heard bad things about some international adoptions, as per usual, money drives exploitation. And yet, the thought of orphans or the children of unwilling teen mothers getting a chance at a decent life is hardly something to ignore. If people stopped having abortions and started offering those same babies for adoption, adopting might seem more like an act of charity than like buying a product. As it is there is a surfeit of willing parents and a shortage of adoptable babies. (But lots of unadoptable foster kids, sadly.)

Bat, I'm all for fighting the brigands, but what sort of action would most madden the demons in question? It seems to me that the battle over gay marriage is turning out exactly the way the devil would like. Focusing our attention on something of little importance in order to increase the enmity between the Church and the souls it's meant to serve.

Cojuanco said...

"What's wrong with Argentina?"

Well, in spite of our Holy Father being from there, it's one of the most secular countries in Latin America. If you want an example of a Hispanophone country with a relatively strong legal protection for Catholic families, you'd have to go to Chile and Peru.

I'll give you Poland, but that's because they have a very, very robust Concordat, leading to laws that heavily, heavily discourage divorce if the ceremony is conducted in the Catholic manner. Argentina did, but no-one forsaw that such a threat to Christian marriage would manifest itself, as they did in Poland.

Mexico, unfortunately, is becoming secularized, particularly in Mexico City and its suburbs. The Northern states are different, however, but they are mostly rural or blue-collar states. Abortion is legal in Mexico City, as is SSM, and there is there a strong anticlericalism there. Now it's not as bad as Ireland or Quebec, but it's still bad.

All I'm saying is the kind of jurisdictions that will only recognize a civil service as legally binding tend to be those not exactly models of the Faith as a people. Poland is an exception, as is Hungary, but they're exceptions that prove the rule.

As for it being a bad hill to die on, I kind of agree, but Rome demanded active opposition to this sort of thing, so until the Holy Father or his subordinates says different in clear, authoritative language, should we not obey? Now it may not be entirely political, but surely a Catholic officeholder has to apply this to his work, no? Or a judge, or an attorney, or a notary public? I'm just kind of wary of challenging the Holy Office or the Holy See, even if what they say is untenable politically - I mean, we're not being asked to commit a sin, and the Holy Father has authority and the right to order this, so I don't know how I could get out of their demands.

Cojuanco said...

What I mean to say is that if Pope Francis (long may he reign) should say, at this very moment, that "active opposition" is not necessary in the political sphere, I will gladly give up. But from what I see, not a moment before.

Sheila said...

It's true the CDF said we should oppose it, or rather that lawmakers should oppose it. (I tend to think it's different for private Catholics, who won't give so much scandal, but let's leave that for the moment.) However, I'm not convinced that's within the CDF's authority to order. Their job is dealing with heretical theologians, not setting the political mission for Catholics the world over. After all, the situation is very different in different parts of the world (like we've mentioned, between here where gays already have children and France where gay marriage includes the right to adopt). And politics is usually considered a matter of prudential judgment for the faithful. Popes have thundered for 2000 years or so about what they want the faithful to do politically, but much of the time it was about increasing the power to the papal states and other kings simply ignored the thundering.

In short, I don't see any clear tradition within the Church for the CDF's statement to be authoritative. It's not infallible (oddly, some people think it is) and furthermore I don't think it binds in conscience. I'd be interested to hear any reasoning why it would.

Cojuanco said...

Well, its remit is to "promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way." (John Paul II, Pastor Bonus). I would argue that is has, in fact, the authority to order this based on its remit, as much as it has the remit to enforce disciplinary measures, on say, to use a recently-added example, paedophile priests. In essence, it has this authority because the Holy Father says it does.

Also note that this authority politics wise is very rarely exercised. This is one of them, for better or worse.

You are right that it is not infallible, but I argue that they can bind the conscience.

Cojuanco said...

Of course, I posit the problem being that some Catholics, out of a misplaced zeal, have under the pretense of following the Holy Office, have carried it out in a manner involving certain objectively sinful acts. Say, calumny, or detraction, or a disordered wrath.

Sheila said...

Effective words being faith and morals. Not politics, which is the study of how far to enforce our own morals in a legally binding way.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...