Tuesday, December 23, 2003

WHAT ABOUT INFERTILE COUPLES
Jennifer Roback Morse has an interesting answer to that question.

Which leads to another thought -- it always bothered me a bit how proponents of same sex marriage would use infertile couples as a talisman to make their point. As if they had chosen this infertility, and were desirous of being a pawn in this political game.

I guess I could see it as the dehumanizing part of the movement. People don't exist to be people, to live in freedom and love that God created them for; they exist for my benefit. So, if some couples are not able to conceive children, I can use that as a rhetorical point in order to get what I want.

I sincerely doubt that anyone who invokes infetile married couples in arguing for same sex marriages gives a damn about them as people, or is really that concerned that the mean purtianical Christians will consider them "less married." They're just tools.

As if they weren't suffering enough.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I'M LISTENING
One of the things I think we've become very good at recently is finding reasons not to listen to people.

This discussion is in an interesting exhibit of that. Gays think they don't have to listen to the Church because it uses words like "intrinsically disordered" to describe their behavior. Priests write a letter showing how this presents a pastoral problem, and commenters say we shouldn't listen to their concerns, because they use words like "vile an toxic." Cardinal George responds with pretty much, "let's talk," and some commenters say he should have been more forceful. Those disagreeing say Cdl George's was a "prudent" response. This is another hot button word, since many see it as a sign of excuse making for bishops.

Maybe it's because we're so bombarded with images and messages that we have to filter things somehow. It's true that certain words are tip-offs that the commentor is coming from a personal malice rather than principals. If someone refers to President Bush as "Dumbya", chances are I'm not going to find what she has to say interesting.

But I think there's something else going on here, and it's that people just want o find reasons to not listen to things they want to hear.

Again, I think Cdl. Martino's comments last week are illustratative of this. Some reasons to dismiss Martino have been floated around the past week including:
  • He wasn't speaking for the Vatican.
  • He supports the UN, and the UN supports birth control (nicely debunked by Kevin Miller here)
  • He wasn't nearly critical enough of Saddam.

All these things are side issues to the real question Martino's comments present, "Was televising the examination an affront the dignity God had put in Saddam that can never be taken away?"

That's a hard question, and an affirmative answer leaves us with some unpleasant implications.

Going back to the original point, there is a difficult question, which is how do we take the Church's teaching on homosexuality to a hostile culture? That's another hard question. And brushing it aside by questioning the motives of the questioner doesn't do us much good.
WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?
Usually, I deplore this type of thinking. It's a cheap way to disredit those who, for example, oppose the death penalty or think that we ought to respect prisoner's dignity.

But reading this article I couldn't help thinking about it. Why does Ricky Clemons, a man given an athletic scholarship despite not owning a high school diploma, and convicted sexual abuser, given all this special attention from the university president's family? Why not focus on healing the victims, and reforming the athletic department so they don't introduce any more menaces to the campus.

One of the reasons I usually reject this type of reasoning is it presents a false choice. One can have compassion for victims and still respect the dignity and humanity of perpetrators.

But in this case, it seems pretty clear that Clemons is being given attention and support at the expense of the victims of his crimes, with the wishing she would just shut up, and implying that her acusation comes from a sterotypical trait of white women.

Maybe the university's efforts with Clemons really do come from someone seeing a spark in him and trying to channel him to be a great human being. I'd be interested to see if non-athletic students who get themselves into trouble receive similar support.
SIGN OF A GOOD COMMENT WAR
You can always tell a discussion in a Catholic blog has reached the "talking past each other" stage when either Jesus preventing the stoning of the prostitute or Jesus driving the money chagers from the Temple is invoked.

If both are invoked by opposite sides, then you've got a real humdinger.

Bonus points if the invocation of the prostitute story is answered with "Yes, but Jesus told her to sin no more!"

Friday, December 19, 2003

UNCAREFUL CRITICISM
Mark Steyn writes of Howard Dean:

American courts, unlike the international ones, would have the option of the death penalty. But Gov. Dean couldn't have been less interested. So how about Saddam? The Hague "suits me fine," he said, the very model of ennui. Saddam? Osama? Whatever, dude.
...
And that's our pugnacious little Democrat. On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.

I think this is reading a little too much into these things.

I'm expecting my first child in March (stay tuned for cool 4-D ultrasound pics!). If you asked me if I wanted to be a boy a girl, I would honestly say it doesn't matter to me, so long as the baby is healthy.

To follow Steyn's pattern of rehetoric, I could thus be accused of "not caring" about my own child, which could not be further from the truth.

I think Dean's attitude is likewise. Where Saddam is tried is incidental so long as he is brought to justice. To Steyn, that means he must be put to death. I'm not so sure, and maybe Dean isn't either.

I guess this is a turnaround of liberal's accusation that conservatives "don't care" about the poor, etc. Now it's conservatives turn, in this example, and the rehotirc in the the Catholic blog comment boxes about how Cdl. Martino's statements show that the Vatican "doesn't care" about Saddam's victims.

Either way, it seems like a dirty trick to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

THE ROOT OF THE DIFFERENCE
I think the basic difference between how I see things and how Mr. Drehere sees things, is that I think the hierarchy is a neccesary ally in the culture war, while Mr. Dreher sees it as a hindrance.

So, when Cardinal Martino makes a statement like that, his instinct is to distance himself (and American Catholics) from it, since it makes us look foolish. It's an oppurtunity for a "Sister Souldiah moment", so to speak. My instict is to defend the kernel of moral truth in the statement so that the hierarchy will suffer (greater) loss of credibility.

Why do we see things this way? If I can engage in some armchair psychology, I think it might be because Mr. Dreher arrived at the Catholic positions on life issues without the hierarchy's help, whereas I had to bend my will in the the face of the hierarchy's teachings. So, I see the hierarchy as a valuable instrument of teaching, and Mr. Dreher just sees it getting in the way.

Mr. Dreher was also privy to more details of the abuse scandals than I was, so that probably led to a dimmer view of the hierarchy.
ONE MORE THING
As I've noted before, I despise this habit we Americans have of reacting to reminders of our own injustice with cries of, "Well, where were you when this other injustice was being carried on by these thugs?"

If we're not willing to be held to a higher standard than Saddam, then what the hell are we doing over there?

It's moral escapism at its worst.
ON THE MARTINO STATEMENT
Below is my response to Rod Dreher's rheroric is response to Mark Shea's post on Cardinal Martino's statement concerining the US's treatement of Saddam:

Mr. Dreher has long been crying out for "leadership" from the hierarchy.

But then, when a Vatican official says something counter-cultural, something to trouble American consciences, Mr. Dreher and others jump all over him, distort what he said, read malice or indifference into lack of statements on other matters, and dredge up ugly incidences from the recent past.

This is not the we should act when in disagreement with a loved one, especially when we say we want that loved one to excercise bold leadership.

Do you really think this type of reaction will embolden our shepherds to confront our culture on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception?

Do you think this will make us more receptive when the US bishops challenge politicians, or will it make it easier for them to brush it aside?

If we are going to cry out for leadership, we should at least display some semblance of willingness to be led.

But that's not what I'm seeing. I'm seeing us cry out for leadership on matters we agree with, and hoping the hierarchy would shut up when they don't agree with us.

I can accept agrument's like Mark's that Martino's statement was imprudent, or that it stressed the wrong things.

What I will not accept is the notion that the hierarchy is disqualified from defending Saddam's dignity because it didn't release enough statements about victims of sexual abuse, or didn't condemn Saddam's regime enough.

This is the way to silencing the hierarchy, and with it the Church on all issues.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

YOU KNOW...
It's good that Mel Gibson made a movie about the Passion, and tried to be true to the Gospel, but some of the rhetoric around it makes it seem like the release of the movie is analogous to the Second Coming of Christ.

It's not. It's a movie release. If the movie is good, and moves people, it will do well. If not, it will not do well. I don't feel particularly called to ensure its success before I know whether it's any good or not.
*SIGH*
I'd be a lot more eager to get behind the efforts to get bishops to hold pro-choice poiliticians' feet to the fire if I were convinced it was truly about concern for the unborn, rather than personal dislike and jealousy directed towards these politicians.

Reading some things out there, I sometimes get the idea that these people would be disappointed if, say, Jennifer Granholm, were to wake up tomorrow and spurn her pro-choice record and vow to sign a partial-birth abortion ban if it came to her desk. Then, we'd actually have to get off our butts and work instead of just pointing at her.

I think we have to get off our butts and work, regardless.

Monday, December 08, 2003

BCS BS
Nout much to say about it. It seems like USC ought ot be in the title game, and that Oklahoma gave up its chance, but what do I know?

I have a larger point -- why does there have to be a "National Championship Game" anyway? And why can't college foot ball games end in ties? Why do they need this carnival-like overtime to settle things?

I guess I don't understand why USC, if it beats Michigan, can't just celebrate a great one-loss season with a conference championship. Why the emphasis on being #1, on being better than every other team in the country? Yes, I know every game is about being better than the other team on that day, and that's fine. But why doe we need to crown a "national champion" in college football?

Some suggest adding a playoff, which would do to the concept of "student-athlete" what same sex marriage would do to marriage being a lifelong, faithfil commitment for the transmission of life.

And does a playoff game really settle things? I love a good playoff game. But raise your hand if you really think the Florida Marlins were the best baseball team last year. Syracuse the best basketball team? Anaheim the second best hockey team? They got hot at the right time, and rode a hot player to the title. Nothing wrong with that, but don't tell me it settles the question of who the best team is.

Friday, December 05, 2003

AH, POST HOC REASONING
We know we're right; we just need to dig up a couple quotes to prove it.

Um, shouldn't we be studying the saints and Church fathers first, and then consider wheter or not to picket in the light of that wisdom instead of deciding to picket first, and then scouring for justification?

Thursday, December 04, 2003

GET SOME CRUCIFIXES, STAT!
and give them to those commenters who think who think there are some who think that there are circumstance under which it would be proper for a ruler to commit a mortal sin.

One perversion of this is the thought, "Well, Christianity is about self-sacrifice, and what greater sacrifice could there be than to jeopardize one's eternal soul for the life of the world!"

Luckily, Jesus has an answer for that -- "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. " I never thought I would see this used as a limitation on what we are called to give but there it is. We aren't called to give up our eternal lives, our mortal lives are all we can offer.

To commit a mortal sin and thinking we're performing a "greater love" is quite clearly incorrect.
STATING THE RIGHTS
This conversation brings up one of the arguments in the public sphere that I'm most uncomfortable with, basically, "There should be no appeals to federal courts from the conservative point of view, since conservatives favor states' rights, and appealing to the federal courts reveals the hypocrisy."

The first thing I dislike about this is that it invokes a somewhat monolithic view of coservatives. Some conservatives believe that the governement should not discriminate based on religion. Conservatives tend to prefer that state legislatures handle difficult questions rather than federal courts. Thus, it's hypocritical to appeal to the Supreme Court to stop this discrimination. Well, not quite. The two positions are not at all contradictory.

As for this particular case, I disagree that revoking the scholarship based on the declaration of major is a denial of his right to education. I tend to agree with Dahlia Lithwick that this case falls in the middle ground -- states can or cannot choose to fund education. It's not unconstitutional for them to do so, and it's not unconstitutional for the m to not do so. Though I disagree with he conclusion that this is the only way to "prevent a theocracy" for reasons Eugene Volokh outlines. I'd rather see the amendment repealed through the democratically appointed legislature.

Monday, December 01, 2003

ON THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE LOT
Reading some of the arguments for same sex marriage, I get the feeling of a car salesman trying to sell me a car with no turn signals.

ME: That certainly is a nice car, but it doesn't have turn signals, which doesn't seem too safe to me.

SALESMAN: What do you mean? Do you think driving is all about signaling?? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! Driving is about going and stopping and turning, not about signaling! The very first cars didn't have turn signals, and people signalled with their hands, would you say those weren't valid cars? [Loud voice] This guy thinks driving is all about using turn signals!!

ME: I'm not saying that driving is all about signalling. I am saying that signalling is an important part of driving, and your car makes that impossible.

SALESMAN: Well, there's lots of drivers out on the road who don't use turn signals all the time. Why aren't you stopping them? Why don't you tell them they're not valid drivers? Seems like that's what you should be worrying about, instead of stopping people from enjoying this fabulous new car!

ME: Well, it seems to me that if you put a new car out there without turn signals, it will create an environment where people will be less inclined to use the signals they have, and that would make the situation worse.

SALESMAN: How can you be so paranoid? [Loud voice] This guy STILL thinks driving is all about signalling!

ME: I give up.


There's just so much strawman bashing out there.

We who oppose same sex marriage don't think that marriage is "all about procreation," but do believe that openness to procreation is a vital aspect to marriage. And while contraception, divorce and adultery in existing heterosexual marriages pull marriage away from its ideal, calling something marriage that is from the beginning explicitly and publicly closed to procreation is only going to make this worse, and is worth the effort to oppose it.

Believe me, I wish I could just say "whatever floats your boat" and move on, but the stakes are too high.
QUESTION
If, as Andrew Sullivan suggests, the connection between sex and marriage is a peculiar obsession of the right, and that same sex marriage advocates are all enlightened individuals who recognize that marriage is about more than sexual attraction, then why is the restriction against same sex marriages onerous at all? If marriage isn't about sexual attraction, then it seems like gay folks ought to be able to form these "friendships" with members of the opposite sex.

Looks like someone is trying to have his cake and eat it too.