Friday, November 6, 2009

Love and tolerance in the Pine Tree State

Maine Proposition 1 should have lost, by many people’s reckoning. Its opponents had clear advantages in funding and media support, as well as the same legal targeting that their coevals in California used during the Prop 8 fight there. (They lost there, as well. Isn’t insanity defined as “doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result”?) And Maine has been a “blue” state as long as such a color has been used to tag liberal/Democrat-leaning states.

Instead, it won. By a six-point margin. Not a landslide, by any means, but certainly enough of a margin to stun those who confidently expected gay marriage to remain legal.

Of course, the gay lobby immediately blamed the Catholic Church. “It is time to acknowledge that the Catholic church hierarchy can no longer pretend that it isn't the active enemy of gay people and our families,” Andrew Sullivan thundered. “That this church hierarchy—especially in its more conservative wing—is disproportionately gay itself and waging war against their fellow gays through the cowardly veil of the closet, is not new.” [Yeah, as lies and wishful thinking go, this particular charge is pretty old.] “But it is, as we flinch with the sting of defeat, harder to take than ever. It is time to demand that gay priests who are actively fighting against the dignity of gay people own their enmeshment in injustice, stigmatization and cruelty. It is time to reveal them in this respect as the enemies of the Gospels, not the champions.”

Then we have Joe Sudbury of AmericaBlog: “And, then, there’s Maine where hate prevailed. The Bishop of Maine, Richard Malone, must be quite pleased with himself. He ran a campaign of lies, hate and distortions—and convinced enough Maine voters to vote with him. It’s going to take me a couple days (or more) to get my head around this one. But, for now, suffice it so say: HATE was the winner in Maine. Hate and the Catholic Bishop. But, this isn’t over. Time and justice really are on our side.”

This seems to be standard operating procedure now. Somewhere along the way, the Pride crowd decided that intimidation, legal harassment and Catholic-bashing would be acceptable tactics for spreading the message of tolerance and love. These tactics found their way into the Prop 8 fight in California, according to the Heritage Foundation’s report “The Price of Prop 8”, and they weren’t absent in the Prop 1 battle in Maine. For instance, Geoffrey Farrow, a suspended priest now an activist for homosexual causes, is demanding that pastors force the Knights of Columbus out of their parishes and misuse their insurance policies. As I’ve said before, when a Catholic steps off the reservation and starts to oppose the magisterium of the Church, s/he can still be Catholic in a technical sense. In truth, though, people like Geoff Farrow are Protestants who like the Catholic look and feel.

The problem is not—I repeat, NOT—that gay people are being denied any fundamental human right. They too can marry … as long as their intendeds are of the opposite sex. What’s being asked is that “marriage” be redefined to include couples of the same sex. What’s wrong with that?

A gay friend of mine once said, “I don’t get marriage.” The statement was remarkable, considering that she had been married and was at the time in a partnership. I have to conclude that not many people do … and those who don’t include many people who are or have been married at least once. (That can be the only reason why there was only a six-point margin in the Prop 1 fight.) This is most certainly because sex is taught to us by our culture as a game, a form of recreation. While many people associate it with love—indeed, it’s at its best when love is present—love need not be involved for people to copulate. Forsooth, names need not be known. As for reproduction … well, is it a coincidence that gay marriage is promoted by people who also support Planned Parenthood, who tell us that motherhood is slavery? Heck, these people have been trying to dissociate reproduction from sex for years!

You can redefine the word, but you can’t rewrite fundamental human truths. Marriage is, at its very core, about children: their creation and birth, their raising and educating, and most of all their protection until they join the ranks of adults. (Yes, I know that’s not all it’s about, but this is where it starts.) While the State has a health-and-civil-peace interest in fostering long-term commitments between sexual partners, the State’s interest in fostering strong, healthy families as the cribs for strong, healthy future citizens and leaders is even more compelling. Despite the claims of gay-rights advocates, the evidence for opposite-sex parent sets as being on average better for children than same-sex parent sets is mounting over time. People can be companions, roommates and even bedmates without any need to solemnize the arrangement with vows; but the needs and demands of offspring require not only permanence and legal rights over each other but also balance in role models. An effeminate man is not an effective woman; a masculine woman is not the same as a man.

What does the Catholic Church really teach about homosexuality?

… Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10), tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona humana 8). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination … constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. —— Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357-2359
This isn’t hatred. Not all the intellectual bullies in academia can turn this into homophobia. Bishop Richard Malone of Portland stressed, in his own victory remarks, “Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy — indeed, it is a teaching of the Church.” And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement made the same point: “The Church stands for the basic rights of all people, including homosexual persons. She decries any unjust discrimination against persons who experience same-sex attraction. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman has nothing to do with denying basic rights to anyone, though it is often framed in such terms.” (Check this document for further understanding of the Catholic teaching.)

Yet to read and listen to nuts like Sullivan (who claims to be Catholic but may as well declare himself a de facto Protestant), you’d think Cardinal Ximenez and Torquemada were waiting just offshore to begin the auto-da-fé. No counting the Evangelical/fundamentalist Protestants out among the voters in Maine; apparently there are only mainline Protestants, secularists and Catholics in the Pine Tree State. And we outnumber the former two by 6%. (And we all vote the same because we’re intellectually enslaved by the hierarchy, don’t you know.)

People like Sullivan and Sudbury aren’t interested in what’s true except so far as it helps them get their way; if not, then a convenient lie will serve as well. In Sullivan’s rewrite of the Gospels, Jesus not only keeps the crowd from stoning the adulteress, he gives a fiery speech in defense of her escapades with married men. In Sullivan’s “Gospel”, people get to opt out of picking up their crosses (Mt 10:38) in the name of love and tolerance.

The next time the issue comes up somewhere, perhaps we need to invite the United Nations in to monitor the elections. The backers of the gay-marriage movement are beginning to act like Sandinistas, by resorting to terrorism in service of their movement, while those who oppose it are “on the wrong side of history”. It seems to me Marx and Engels tried to make history into a set of inevitabilities too. The wrong side of history belongs to people who didn’t learn from it.

Nov. 8 Addendum

I found a couple more essays on this topic that are worth considering. First, an article witten by a couple of non-Catholics, one of whom is gay, for the Catholic Education Resource Center is worth reading. But this article in Touchstone's online magazine by Christopher Oleson argues that the real, full meaning of marriage has been lost; modern culture's idea of marriage—Oleson calls it "formalized couplehood"—can offer no rational basis for opposition to same-sex marriage because it's a child-optional revocable contract. While attempts to legalize same-sex marriages have failed wherever they've been brought to a popular referendum, it's arguable that such losses have occurred not because Americans clearly know what a marriage really is, but because they have a somewhat foggy notion of what marriage isn't. And, as the American Catholic sadly notes, that's not cause for long-run optimism.