Monday, August 29, 2011

Killing a public conscience

Today we observe in memorial the beheading of St. John the Baptist. For what was he beheaded? Well, the proximate cause was Herodias’ daughter, Salome, whose dance at Herod’s birthday feast was so … um, enchanting that he rashly promised her anything she wanted (Mk 6:17-29; cf. Mt 14:3-12).

But the final cause was Herodias’ desire to shut St. John up forever. Why? Because he pointed out loudly and publicly that her adulterous relationship with Herod (she was married to his brother Philip) was sinful. At her prompting, Herod had already imprisoned the Baptist; nevertheless, apparently he was still a goad to either Herod’s or her conscience.

Every now and again, this determination to squash one’s personal Jiminy Cricket gets played out on the world stage. Especially notorious are the deaths of Ss. Thomas Becket and Thomas More, both done in by kings who had been personal friends but who couldn’t stand public opposition on moral grounds. But we also have more recent examples in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and — with some qualification — Harvey Milk.

Stacy Trasancos — scientist, theologian-in-training, wife, mother of five and author of the increasingly popular blog Accepting Abundance — is undergoing a kind of martyrdom right now. So far it hasn’t led to her death (quod Deus avertat!), but it has led to death threats. Why? Because she had the temerity to express her indignation with gay PDAs.


Now, obviously, anyone who blogs on a sensitive topic has got to expect some opposition. Ideally, the opposition is thoughtful, polite and lucid. Alas, the stealth afforded by the Internet allows people to barf their loathing all over your combox without so much as a pseudonym.

Not that people have to hide their identities to fill the Web with their ludicrous, hate-filled diatribes. Amanda Marcotte, for example, can’t write a single blog post for the Slate without subtracting from the civility of the abortion debate, embarrassing her fellow feminists, or revealing her lunatic hostility towards the Catholic Church. (But then again, given the kind of posts they publish, The Slate’s “The XX Factor” should be subtitled, “What Bulls*** College Feminists Are Still Teaching Their Students to Think That Should Have Gone Out with Bell-Bottom Jeans and Eight-Track Tapes”.)

And then these people have the chutzpah to accuse orthodox Catholics of hatred, intolerance and bigotry!?

As far as public displays of affection go, I have to admit I’m less bothered by openly gay hand-holding, elbow-rubbing or back-stroking than Stacy is. I draw the line, however, at slipping tongues even with straight couples. And frankly, straight or gay, there’s no need to have your hand on your partner’s buttock when you’re walking down the street in each other’s arm. There’s a definite difference between the affectionate and the (homo)erotic, and a definite time and place for each.

However, I’m not a parent. And I can understand how parents can get upset or offended by the in-your-face tactics of people who not only have disordered sexual appetites but who revel in them and feel the need to rub your nose in their licentiousness. The time was when I could laugh at the T-shirt a young co-worker of mine once wore which said PORN STAR IN TRAINING; now I can only feel sorry for her and what the slogan expressed about her jaded naïveté.

Homosexuality is a disordered appetite. This position is defensible not only from orthodox Christian morality but also from psychological and sociological evidence, as well as a strictly Darwinian biological perspective. Homosexuality tends not only towards risky sexual behaviors but is also connected with other risky, even self-destructive behaviors far beyond the ability of discrimination to explain.

Catholic moral teaching doesn’t ask, far less require, that homosexuals be locked up in prisons or mental hospitals. It doesn’t ask that gay people be denied jobs or positions of authority and trust, or living accommodations, or access to goods and services such as health care — or even chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-a. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church §2358 specifically states homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”, and that “[every] sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (yes, there is such a thing as “just discrimination”, else all law as such would be impossible).

However, because homosexuality is a “warning flag”, if you will, alerting us to potentially greater problems, it ought to be treated as such; because it’s a disordered appetite, it’s not a virtue to be celebrated but a cross to be carried. Unfortunately, as people on both sides of the fence are beginning to admit, the social science data is being heavily influenced by politics; it’s now a case of “my scientist can beat up your scientist”.

All this is pretty much irrelevant to the political left now. It’s no longer enough that you show no partiality in your public transactions; you must, must, MUST parrot the party line even as part of your “private” convictions or be driven from society to starve on the margins. No KKK Grand Dragon was ever pursued with so much vigor or vengeance for his racism as Christians have for daring to oppose gay marriage.

Yes, vengeance. For, when challenged on their hypocritical cant of “tolerance”, the screamers reply, “Well, we were being discriminated against not so very long ago. Payback’s a bitch, huh.” Funny … when the (mostly misunderstood and exaggerated) Inquisition was working for the Church, it was an evil institution; now that it’s working for the political left, it’s gaining some respectability.

All that’s missing is the auto-da-fé.

But actually, it’s not. For auto-da-fé is Portuguese for “act of faith”, and refers back to the persecution suffered by heretics and apostates. Stacy at one time was a feminist and an atheist, who might very well have embraced the gay-rights movement had she continued in her spiritual wreckage. Her persecution is her penance for having apostatized from the political left.

Her witness is her act of faith. And it has pricked the conscience of the left. For that she must be put to silence.