Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Orientation change?

One part of the Bishops' doc sure to cause controversy is this one about the possibility of "changing" sexual "orientation." Its cautious wording is important:
A considerable number of people who experience same-sex attraction experience it as an inclination that they did not choose. Many of these speak of their homosexual attractions as an unwanted burden. This raises the question of whether or not a homosexual inclination can be changed with the help of some kind of therapeutic intervention.
There is currently no scientific consensus on the cause of the homosexual inclination. There is no consensus on therapy. Some have found therapy helpful. Catholics who experience homosexual tendencies and who wish to explore therapy should seek out the counsel and assistance of a qualified professional who has preparation and competence in psychological counseling and who understands and supports the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. They should also seek out the guidance of a confessor and spiritual director who will support their quest to live a chaste life.
This strikes every note. There is no scientific consensus on the question of change, properly understood, because there is no scientific consensus on the cause of homosexuality beyond the obvious -- that the cause is complex and the result of the interaction of a bunch of factors, which is only a little better than "we have no frickin idea." (This lack of consensus should not be conflated with a 1984-like conformity among professional groups on bad questions informed by false ideology.)¹

The church leaves open the possibility of "changing," and makes the noncommitally bland statement "some have found [it] helpful." That "change" is *possible* is something all but rigidly blinded ideologues know upon reflection (though it does require getting beyond the whole "gay-straight" discourse). But the USCCB doesn't hold out too much hope (as it shouldn't in fact, and would be beyond its competence in any event).

But as a general indication of priorities, understand that this section, called "Therapy for Homosexual Inclinations?" (note the question mark) constitutes 142 words -- my quote above is its entirety. In contrast, "Homosexual Inclination Is Not Itself a Sin" (note the lack of a question mark) has 618 words; "The Necessity for Training in Virtue" (ditto, plus the term "Necessity") has 733 words; "The Necessity of Friendship and Community" (double ditto) has 396 words. Word-counts are an imperfect measure, sure, but given those noted differences in tone, this is clearly just an aside for the US bishops.

Which inevitably leads to the endorsement of Courage in Note 44. And as someone at Beliefnet asked me earlier tonight (My response in the subsequent paragraphs is adapted from two different notes, with a couple of minor edits for clarity and missed nuance):
Can you explain why the focus is allegedly on being chaste, yet there are links throughout the Courage website to NARTH, Exodus, PFOX and other reversion therapy advocates?
Because some of our members pursue this path. But it is not a requirement or an official goal of the organization. Here are the five goals of Courage, said at every meeting, and orientation change is not one of them (#1 pretty strongly implies otherwise). Here are the description of the apostolate and the article on the Website linked to what is chastity. Neither contain any reference to orientation change. So anyone whose primary description of Courage is "an attempt to change orientation" simply doesn't know what he's talking about.

Now that isn't to say that some members don't pursue this and as the FAQs say, they are at liberty to do so but it is not any kind of requirement. Nor does it mean that Courage discourages their doing so. Or that the central office, or individual chapters and pastors, or Web sites must not provide information on where and how. The group is officially agnostic on the subject (which isn't to say that some of its members aren't). But the goal is Christ not getting hard or damp from the opposite sex.

It is true that at the Courage Web site you will find links to the mentioned groups (plus about 5 others to ex-gay or conversion ministries) among the 50 or so links on the Related Websites page. The "Books, Tapes and Videos" section also has some material that comes from that perspective -- again, among much else. But after spending about a half-hour skimming around the Web site (not exhaustive, sure, but it's not a very elaborate site), that was pretty much all I could find.

Both the amount and the segregated presentation seem about right to me. Their availability is made known for those interested. But it is not in the same place as our own material -- the mission statement, the FAQs, the conference and event listings, the solicits, the Web sites, etc. It's a well-established Internet convention by now that the mere offering of a link doesn't entail endorsement of everything at that site -- merely a general nod that "this is a site of potential common interest, but not our voice per se." This is also true of Beliefnet, the Democratic National Committee site and Instapundit.

So if the question is "does Courage have any link or relationships to these groups whatsoever?" The answer to that is clearly "yes, by a very broad definition of 'relationship' that also would prove that Courage has a relationship to Islam (StraightWay is on the links page)." And there is sufficient common ground that people who advocate reparative therapy have spoken at our conferences, and we don't treat them as ritually unclean pariahs. But that's pretty small potatoes, and linking from the site doesn't prove otherwise.² The USCCB document, which I think could have been written by a well-formed Courage member, pretty clearly indicates from space and rhetoric that "orientation change" is a small part of the Church teaching and not a big priority compared with a much broader orientation change that all need. In fact, here is how it transitions into the next segment after its "Therapy for Homosexual Inclinations?" segment.
There is another kind of “therapy” or healing of which we all stand in need, regardless of whether one is attracted to the same or the opposite sex: Every person needs training in the virtues.
Which is the "The Necessity for Training in Virtue" segment. In fact, I wish I could say I influenced the following segment ...
To acquire a virtue—to become temperate, brave, just, or prudent—we must repeatedly perform acts that embody that virtue, acts that we accomplish with the help of the Holy Spirit and with the guidance and encouragement of our teachers in virtue. ... The acquisition of virtues requires a sustained effort and repeated actions. As the ancient philosophers recognized, the more one repeats good actions, the more one’s passions (such as love, anger, and fear) become shaped in accord with good action.
Which sound suspiciously like this post (OK, fairly unremarkable, but I'll take my synchronicity or Providence where I can)

To wax personal: I'm pretty much a "Kinsey 6" (or maybe a 7), have been for as long as it's meaningful to call me a sexual being, and don't expect this to change any time soon. Being attracted to women is something that I hope for only in the sense that one hopes to win the lottery. My confessor knows all this and has never told me I have to "become straight" or marry. He did strongly encourage me to see a therapist, but about issues relating to my homosexuality and how I act out on it, not for the thing-in-itself. But to get all Matrix-y, if I were offered (1) a blue pill that would prevent me from ever having a sexual thought about a man or acting therein, but didn't change my complete lack of interest in women, or (2) a red pill that would give me normal response to women, but make me a compulsive womanizer, I'd take the blue pill without a second's hesitation.
¹ Aside: I've never really understood why pro-gay groups think that they should push the genetic-inborn theory. Well ... I do understand its short-term appeal (publicly, it seems to clinch the analogy of "sexuality" to race and sex; privately, it salves/deadens the conscience). But does anybody imagine that if we find a "gay gene" or a definitive cause based in hormones or amniotic-fluid or the like, that a pre-natal test for these factors disposing to homosexuality will be far behind? And like with girls in China and India, that the abortion rates will ... adjust.
² I will caveat the following: Some members do in fact pursue the "orientation-change" attempt. So, human group dynamics being what they are, it wouldn't surprise me if in some chapters, there might be more (or less) de-facto "peer pressure" or "groupthink" to do this.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The USCCB releases its document

Available here as a PDF file (thanks Amy).

I must say I haven't been this encouraged by a Church document in a while. Frankly, it brought tears to me eyes in a couple of places (and I am not really referring to the approving mention of Courage and Encourage in Footnote 44. Yeah, it might have been better to have been in the text, but I can't quarrel with such a relatively-empty formalism).

No, what brought tears to my eyes was this on page 6:

It is crucially important to understand that saying a person has a particular inclination that is disordered is not to say that the person as a whole is disordered. Nor does it mean that one has been rejected by God or the Church. Sometimes the Church is misinterpreted or misrepresented as teaching that persons with homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered, as if everything about them were disordered or rendered morally defective by this inclination. Rather, the disorder is in that particular inclination, which is not ordered toward the fulfillment of the natural ends of human sexuality. Because of this, acting in accord with such an inclination simply cannot contribute to the true good of the human person. Nevertheless, while the particular inclination to homosexual acts is disordered, the person retains his or her intrinsic human dignity and value.

I can't tell you how annoying it is to listen to pro-gay folks ignorantly (on this subject, that's an objective fact) saying "the church says I am intrinsically evil" or "I'm not objectively disordered," etc. No. It. Doesn't. The distinction is right there. Reject it if you like, but don't lie about what the Church teaches in order to boost up your Right-to-a-Hissy-Fit quotient.

And there was this on pp 6-7:

Many in our culture have difficulty understanding Catholic moral teaching because they do not understand that morality has an objective basis. Some hold that moral norms are nothing more than guidelines for behavior that happen to be widely accepted by people of a particular culture at a particular time. Catholic tradition, however, holds that the basis of morality is found in the natural order established by the Creator, an order that is not destroyed but rather elevated by the transforming power of the grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ.

And finally, this on pp 10-11:

One way in which the Church can aid persons with a homosexual inclination is by nurturing the bonds of friendship among people. In their analysis of human nature, the ancient philosophers recognized that friendship is absolutely essential for the good life, for true happiness. Friendships of various kinds are necessary for a full human life, and they are likewise necessary for those attempting to live chastely in the world. There can be little hope of living a healthy, chaste life without nurturing human bonds. Living in isolation can ultimately exacerbate one’s disordered tendencies and undermine the practice of chastity. It would not be wise for persons with a homosexual inclination to seek friendship exclusively among persons with the same inclination. They should seek to form stable friendships among both homosexuals and heterosexuals. . . . A homosexual person can have an abiding relationship with another homosexual without genital sexual expression. Indeed the deeper need of any human is for friendship rather than genital expression.

If you love someone of the same sex, nobody is saying that you cannot or should cease to love them. In fact, you can love them without sex (more authentically the Church teaches, but set that aside for now). If the gay-rights folks refuse to give up sex, it's an indication that sex is what they truly love. Functionally-speaking, it is their god. But they'll define it as the sine qua non of their loving relationships and saying "you can't criticize our sex without criticizing our love." It's the equivalent of Hezbollah, Al-Qaida or Hamas terrorists hiding behind Arab civilian populations, leaving Israel or the US the choice of not striking or putting civilians at risk. But it's based on a false understanding of Church teaching. The Church simply does not object if Adam and Steve live together in friendship, even if they might have same-sex attractions. What She objects to is Adam and Steve having sex; nothing more.

Would that every Church document be this concise, clear, on-point and comprehensive.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"The Bitch is Back"

In the latest display of gay tolerance, Sir Elton suggests, stone cold sober as a matter of fact, that all religion should be banned. According to the BBC:
his solution would be to "ban religion completely, even though there are some wonderful things about it."
Not "religion should change its teachings." Not "Religion X should be banned." Not "religion is foolish and stupid." But "ban religion completely." That's not ambiguous. And sure enough, like music's answer to Andrew Sullivan, it is all about The Great Glory That Is The Gay Lifestyle:
"I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people," he said. "Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays."
It's sad, so sad. It's a sad, sad situation. Homosexuals are becoming increasingly totalitarian, and this interview drips with. He thinks religion turns people into "hateful lemmings," not realizing that to call human beings "lemmings" is itself "hateful." Or that plenty of non-religious societies have persecuted homosexuals quite vigorously. No ... it's the same childish rant. Y'know I never would have thought that Sir Elton really did think he was justified when he was five, to judge by the approximate maturity of some of the theological thoughts. I mean, how does one respond to:
[Sir Elton] also said that the problems experienced by many gays in former nations of the Soviet bloc, such as Poland, Latvia and Russia were caused by the church supporting anti-gay movements.
Well, that's so awful for those countries. For governments, maybe they'll get a replacement and go back to their previous regimes, which were a bit closer to Sir Elton's notion that all religion should be banned (however imperfectly realized, they were at one with Sir Elton in principle). And for the record, those regimes and every other actual Socialist regime would never have met the standards of the City of San Francisco Human Rights Commission -- homosexuality is a selfish, decadent product of capitalism, doncha know. And homosexuals in the Soviet Union could only dream of him, never see the letters that he writes, and had to look up through the wire to count the stars at night.

That latter might seem like a small point, but it indicates the ahistoricity of gay-rights floggers -- oh they can bitch, they can bitch because (they think) they're better than you, but to listen to them describe the status quo, whether in the Church or the broader society, you would never get the sense that homosexuality has never been freer or less-disapproved (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing). Butterflies are definitely free to fly, here.

Then there's this sheer, utter idiocy:
[Sir Elton] called on the leaders of major religions to hold a "conclave" to discuss the fate of the world - which he said was "near escalating to World War Three".
"I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts," he said. "It's all got to be dialogue - that's the only way. Get everybody from each religion together and say 'Listen, this can't go on. Why do we have all this hatred?'
"We are all God's people; we have to get along and the [religious leaders] have to lead the way. If they don't do it, who else is going to do it? They're not going to do it and it's left to musicians or to someone else to deal with it."
I haven't seen that face for a while, but it's definitely still the same spoiled child. What makes it sheer and utter idiocy (as opposed to simply Kumbaya dreaming, which'd obviously be bad enough) is that this is coming from someone who says religion should be banned. Well, how are these "absolutely banned" religions supposed to even exist, much less meet, much less wield influence. Even if you think there's some distinction between "organized religion" and something else "disorganized religion[?]," without the "organized" part, there's no way for any religion to have a "leader" for this meeting Sir Elton pins such great hopes on.

I could go on forever in this vein, but metaphors involving fish, barrels and the use of Second-Amendment-protected devices would come to mind. And there's plenty like him to be found. I first saw this at the site of Dale Price, who asked in shocking language to which I would never stoop: "who gives a crap what entertainers think?"

I disagree with Dale ... entertainers do matter. In and of themselves, Sir Elton's remarks don't matter, either in the sense that George Bush's or Condi Rice's or Vladimir Putin's do (holding formal power), or in the sense that Alasdair MacIntyre's or Irving Kristol's or Michael Lerner's (intellectuals). They ARE just the dumb bloviations of a pop star.

But in a perverse way, that's what makes them important. There's the obvious Shelley aphorism about "the unacknowledged legislators of the world." (CM shudders). But even beyond that, the specific example breaks a bit of kulturkampf ground. They're important not as a furnace (the cause of a thing -- heat), but as a thermometer (the measure of that thing). Sir Elton HASN'T thought these topics through (which isn't particularly damnable in itself), and this is what comes out of a him. Most people, and all non-intellectuals, DON'T think things through -- they absorb what the world around them thinks or tells them they should think, thoughtlessly or with minimal thought. The thoughtless man is a better barometer of his society than the thoughtful man for that very reason. I think a serious persecution of Christians is coming, because sentiments like these are becoming much more commonly expressed as natural and normal than before. While there has always been The Village Atheist around, he has been an exception. Sir Elton indicates TVA might be becoming the norm.

On a somewhat lighter note, Kathy Shaidle, discussing the same topic, came up with a list of reasons the Pope is better than Elton John:
  • He's got his own hair and has never filed for bankruptcy
  • Valerie Bertinelli never dressed up as Cardinal Ratzinger on One Day at a Time
  • Had nothing to do with Tommy²
  • Doesn't call photographers "rude, vile pigs"
  • Not a dwarf
To which I add:
  • About the role of Husserl and phenomenology in Karol Wojtyla's personalist philosophy -- Elton John don't know shit
  • The Pope never wrote a song to the World Team Tennis league
  • The Pope has the stronger fashion sense, with more modest hats and better Prada shoes
  • Everyone knows the pope's born name
  • "Deus Caritas Est" is in a real dead language, unlike "Solar Prestige a Gammon"³ And a bit meatier than "Believe"⁴
  • Pope doesn't depend on Bernie Taupin to write words for him
  • Pope hasn't had a career trajectory that started with Kiki Dee as a duet partner and went on to RuPaul and (on another song) George Michael
¹And Dale ... that other fellow would probably say "Don't drink? Don't smoke? What DO you do?" Which actually pretty much sums up modern morality on matters sexual -- "there's always something inside."
² C'mon, Kathy. That's a bit unfair. "Tommy" may not be to everyone's taste (it's garishly over-the-top) and Sir Dwight is obviously wrong to sing "Pinball Wizard." But how can a movie with Ann-Margaret in a roomful of baked beans, Roger Daltrey singing "See Me, Feel Me" or a vamping Tina Turner as the Acid Queen be something shameful.
³ An obscure album cut from "Caribou." Lyrics here.
Which rivals "Imagine" as the Dreamy-Dumbest Pop Hit of all-time. Lyrics here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One more election post-mortem

Only this one will be narrowly focused -- gay "marriage." Backers of marriage lost for the first time yesterday before a state's voters. And it wasn't in Massachusetts or Rhode Island — it was Arizona whose voters became the first to reject a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Homosexual-rights campaigners took heart from another factor beyond their first victory after 27 straight defeats:
“Two years ago we had 11 of these on the ballot, and in only two of them did we do better than 40 percent. This year there were eight and in at least five of them we did better than 40 percent.”
Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Obviously, he's not making stuff up, but I think there's less of a general shift here than meets the eye. Foreman isn't just spinning, but there is spin involved, which you can see when you unpack the numbers.

Here are the percentages of voters who voted against the measures in 2006:
Arizona: 51.4%
Colorado: 44.3%
Idaho: 36.7%
South Carolina: 22.0%
South Dakota: 48.2%
Tennessee: 18.7%
Virginia: 42.9%
Wisconsin: 40.6%
An average of 38.1%

Here were the same figures from 2004:
Arkansas: 25%
Georgia: 24%
Kentucky: 25%
Michigan: 41%
Mississippi: 14%
Montana: 33%
North Dakota: 27%
Ohio: 38%
Oklahoma: 24%
Oregon: 43%
Utah: 34%
An average of 29.8%

Now that's a "gain" of more than 8 percentage points. And obviously, a victory is a victory.

But much of the "average" gain has a great deal to do with the mix of states represented. But comparing like-with-like, there wasn't much change in most of the country. In the 2004 votes, the pro-gay vote in the Bible-belt South hovered around 20 percent -- just as in 2006 (Virginia being the solitary exception). The votes that took place in the "Big 10" Midwest were virtually the same in 2004 — 38 and 41 — as in 2006 — 40.6.

Only in the more libertarian regions of the Plains Midwest and West did pro-gay advocates make much headway, and these states were where most of yesterday's votes were. But they were already averaging the 30-something neighborhood in 2004, while they broke into the 40+ region in 2006. Getting 37 percent in Idaho isn't that much better than 34 percent in Utah.

I cherry-picked two those last states of course, but to prove that the tectonic plates haven't shifted dramatically on the issue. The pro-gay forces made some headway certainly (boooo). But I suspect local factors, like other things on the ballot, had more to do with the results in South Dakota, Virginia and Arizona, which are outliers.

Going back even more, in 2000, when Proposition 22 was on the California ballot, this very-blue state voted to protect marriage by 61.4 percent to 38.6 percent (the same year, California voters rejected a school-voucher amendment by 71-29 and backed Al Gore by 12 points, so we are definitely dealing with a time when the Religious Right had become anathema there). Point being: "gay-marriage" pushers always have been able to get around 40 percent in the right states and circumstances.

I think the reason opponents of homosexual "marriage" may have lost a little momentum was that liberals also backed off a bit. Remember, those 2004 votes came in the immediate wake of both the 2003 Massachusetts court decision and an open campaign of civil disobedience by government officials, led by the mayor of San Francisco, to issue marriage licenses on their own will, trying to impose gay "marriage" on the country as a fait accompli.

But that changed a bit in the past year. The Massachusetts court didn't allow homosexuals from outside to come in simply for "marriage's" sake, turning their state into Reno East. Courts in California, New York and Washington state -- all of whom liberals hoped would either mimic Massachusetts or go one step further by imposing out-of-state "marriages," declined even to do the first, instead deferring to their legislatures. Just a week before the election, the New Jersey high court, which earlier has unanimously tried to impose homosexual leaders on the Boy Scouts, took up the issue. Its id clearly wanted to create gay "marriage" but backed off, instead ordering the Legislature to pass either gay "marriage" or a system of civil-unions (three of the seven members of the panel went ahead and did what felt good). If these Jersey Girls had pulled a Massachusetts a week before the election ... who knows?

Obviously, none of that affects the rights and wrongs of the matter, but most voters aren't philosophers. A sense of immediacy and threat does matter. It's not everything, but certainly urgency is worth a few points (if it weren't, campaign ads wouldn't be as they are). The NGLTF's Foreman pretty much says as much:
What we're seeing is that fear-mongering around same-sex marriage is fizzling out.
He says to-MAY-to ("fear-mongering," "fizzling out"); I say to-MAH-to ("urgency ... worth a few points"). But it's the same thing -- the notion that we'll wake up one day to find liberal judges imposing gay marriage looks less-credible and imminent in 2006 than it did in 2003-4. The night after Bush won, I raised a toast "to the MVPs of Bush's victory -- the Massachusetts Supreme Court and the mayor of San Francisco." Nobody to toast this time around.

For now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Since I'm in Aristotle mood

Here's the man, a pagan, whom St. Thomas called The Philosopher:
Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.
And gay by performing gay actions. Because, as The Philosopher says:
Or, in one word, the habits are produced from the acts of working like to them ... whether we are accustomed this way or that straight from childhood ... I would say it makes all the difference.

Against personal interest

Over at Rod Dreher's blog, some people are crassly assuming that Ted Haggard is gay (thanks for the link, Dale). But Rod links to the most important reaction, that of Gayle Haggard. Here's the best quote:
What I want you to know is that I love my husband, Ted Haggard, with all my heart. I am committed to him until death "do us part." We started this journey together and with the grace of God, we will finish together.
Now, I'm sure the right-thinking will dismiss this as some big-heared bimbo (start Hillary imitation) "standing by her man like Tammy Wynette." Because by staying beside her husband and not making this out to be a worse betrayal than an affair with the secretary, and saying that a marriage vow is for life and "for better or worse," she's powerfully denying the cental claims of the gay-rights pushers. She's showing that homosexuality doesn't define the world, doesn't define a person, doesn't define the right thing to do. The Haggards have five children, who need two parents, preferably those who begat them, and that's the most important thing. I'll be praying for the Haggards tonight at Adoration. Dunno what they'd think of such Papist idol-worship of a bowing before a cracker ... but there it is.

Another good link I found at Rod's was to a National Review piece by David Frum (ironically linked by a hostile combox-er). Here's the money quote:
Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.
One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.
The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution.
Which man is leading the more moral life?
Exactly. In fact, the contrary answer is the direct result of considering hypocrisy to be the sin of sins (which is the direct consequence of considering "authenticity" to be a virtue). In my exaggerated moments, I've said "liberals are immune to charges of hypocrisy because they champion immorality." Obviously that's exaggerated in some details, but I think it still essentially true. Only if hypocrisy is acceptable is public morality possible in a fallen world. In fact I would write a book called "In Defense of Hypocrisy," except that it has already been written (Master Jeremy was a PK as a boy, and I reread his chapter on religious figures over the weekend).

And the great walk-off is from Aristotle:
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.
Back to Frum: He also makes the sensible point that:
In every other avenue of life, we praise people who rise above selfish personal wishes to champion higher principles and the public good. We admire the white southerners who in the days of segregation spoke out for racial equality. We admire the leader of a distressed industry who refuses to ask for trade protections and government handouts. We admire the Arthur Vandenbergs and (someday) the Joe Liebermans who can reach past party feeling to support a president of the opposing party for the sake of the national interest.
And he rhetorically asks why not the same for homosexuality. In other words, if a person has homosexual attractions but decides (for whatever reason) that these attractions are temptations to be resisted and/or averted, why should he favor every loosening of the public sphere on homosexuality? Why isn't favoring restrictions on "himself" an example of "intellectual firmness and moral integrity" rather than, as the homosex-pushers assert, an act of self-loathing? Or is every claim in the public sphere just a rationalization for biography and self-interest?

In fact, this very matter came up between myself and my confessor a few months ago -- the relation between opposing homosexual "marriage" and men with same-sex attraction like myself. I reprint our exchange below, with Father's permission, which he gave with the following elaboration:
I don't know if I made the analogy, but I think it can be compared to an alcoholic forbidding alcohol in the house. He knows his weakness and he doesn't want the temptation. Or again, similar to almost any man opposing easier access to pornography: he knows it's a temptation and he doesn't it want it near him.
I have bracketed over a few specific details with generalities for the sake of discretion, both my own and that of others.

Here's the lead on a story I just read (the whole story is after I sign off):
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Mayor James E. West, a Republican foe of gay rights, was accused in a newspaper story Thursday of molesting two boys decades ago and was caught by the paper using the trappings of his office to try to court a young man on a gay Web site.
West on Thursday denied the molestation allegations, but acknowledged he "had relations with adult men."
Stories like this one paralyze me with fear. Who knows where I might be at 54. And even if I live like The Blessed Virgin Mary Herself for the next 15 years, some reporter already has his lead written -- "[My Name], a Republican foe of gay rights, was accused in a newspaper story Thursday of [short list of my past misdeeds] decades ago..."

In all honesty, Padre (though I'm not blaming this for [recent event] ), the drumbeat of stories in this genre (and the apparent fact they'll never end) is one reason I think I'm so prone to fits of depression and despair. I see that headline in my future and it's hard to keep my eyes disciplined and dry. The world is completely unforgiving, and there's a significant movement afoot that would positively revel in my public humiliation, as a good in itself (not simply a regrettable but necessary side-effect, breaking a few eggs to make an omelette and all of that).

I know I shouldn't care about the world (if God is with us, who can be against us). But I do. I'm afraid of martyrdom.
To which Father responded:
I understand your fear, and I wish there were a way of removing it entirely. A simple "Oh, don't worry about it" wouldn't really suffice.

What strikes me is the reasonableness of a man with SSA opposing the gay rights agenda. [Name of famous right-wing intellectual] once commented that the reason he opposes pornography is because of his own weaknesses! Not because he looks down his nose at others. He opposes it for his own sake. I must say, that is a lot of what lurks behind my opposition to TV. I know that it is the worst thing for me, that I will settle on the most mindless show or movie (usually featuring Adam Sandler) and fritter away hours that I will have to make up in after school detention (purgatory). It is not my strength or superior virtue that makes me bash TV - it's my weakness. Mutatis mutandis, I think you can say the same.

But let me point out the obvious. You are taking a possibility and making it a certainty, adding water so that it grows, fertilizing it, giving it steroids, and then collapsing under the weight of it.

You know, increasingly I turn back to basics. Dedicate yourself more to cultivating a PERSONAL relationship with Christ. You seem to be living according to fears about a possible future instead of according to the certainty of the present Lord.

It's a hackneyed prayer at this point, but one I pray every day and from which I derive great peace:

God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Against sexual orientation

Despite the appearances in my earlier post, I do have a lot of sympathy for Ted Haggard. I really do. I hope he stays with his family, if for no other reason than to give a thumb in the eye of the gay-activist/prostitute crowd who'd like nothing better than to humiliate and hound him to the ends of the earth for the sin of opposing gay "marriage." And they are such immature brats to deal with.

There is no reason this should end the Haggards' marriage, or be worse than a series of dalliances with a female prostitute. After all, love between persons presumably involves more than sex (as the gay-"marriage" pushers constantly tell us when they protest "reducing our love to anal sex").

But the greater problem is the whole language of "sexual orientation," which Haggard's behavior powerfully gives the lie to. I think the term should be junked, as it presupposes something false -- that human beings are definitively (or at least teleologically) "typed" on the basis of the sex of their beloveds. That some behavior is "authentic" and other "inauthentic." Once gay always gay. And therefore, once straight always straight (or so you would think, but it doesn't turn out that way at all, because we aren't talking about the serious study of sexuality, but a political agenda to rope people in).

This rigid "gay-straight" typology keeps being disproven over and over and over, while the typology itself keeps us from seeing this. It's a pitch-perfect example of the wish substituting for the thought. From Cyndi Lauper in one direction to Anne Heche in the other; from the Athenians in one circumstance to prison inmates in another; from Balzac for one reason to Thomas Mann for another -- there can be no reasonably dispute that people are *capable* (prescinding for the moment from the question of whether they should) of either changing their sexual behavior or of not succumbing to a temptation to do something sexual they don't want to.

What's so aggravating about gay activists' writing about cases like Haggard is that there's a gross double standard. They crow that Haggard is really gay (and self-loathing and all the rest of the carnival of smears). As commenter "thomas tucker" put it at Amy Welborn's Open Book:
Andrew Sullivan is saying that his guy is gay and has been in the closet. Yet, Sullivan and others in the gay lobby always say that reparative therapy doesn't work and "gay" men who decide to become heterosexually involved are fooling themselves and others. In other words, if you dabble in gay sex, you're gay and if you dabble in straight sex, you're gay. They want it both ways.
Exactly. What is the "B" in "LGBT" supposed to stand for? It's obvious, if we must use contemporary typology, that Haggard is bi -- he has five children; that doesn't happen from picking blackberries. And why is it assumed that a "bi" person is making a despicable or self-loathing or self-deceiving choice by marrying the opposite sex and living the breeder lifestyle. Or is gay sex is the psychological equivalent of "negro blood," which was such powerful stuff that one drop made you black (ask Homer Plessy)? Anyone who has ever had a sexual thought toward the same sex (or acts on it) is really gay and cannot be anything other than that? If stating this doesn't suffice to refute it, I am at a loss.

Loathesomeness (i.e., sin) all around

Quelle coïncidence! All around.

Just a few days before Colorado votes on a gay "marriage" amendment, a homosexual prostitute says one of his clients was Ted Haggard, head of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder of one of the nation's largest mega-churches. The prostitute said:
It made me angry that here's someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex.
Heaven forfend that prostitutes should deal with people "going behind the scenes," as if a prostitute ever deals with someone not seeking to fulfill some sexual or other need on the QT. Nor was Haggard all that anti-gay for a Christian pastor, as Get Religion documents. Sorry, but I refuse to listen to lectures about sexual morality from someone who fucks for money.

The timing of this latest "Out A Politically Incorrect Homo" is so patent that I can't imagine that it'll have any effect on the referendum. Christians won't be turned off (if anything the opposite) and the crass timing of the whole spectacle (like the Bush DUI "October Surprise" in 2000) will be seen through by anyone else.

That said, Haggard's actions have been pathetic -- a Clinton-worthy drip-drip-dripping, trimming his story to minimally conform to what he knows can be proven. The backtracking detailed in a nutshell by Denver TV station KUSA.

The first clip says he doesn't know the prostitute's name (and yes, some prostitutes go by other names). Which we now know is a lie, from tapes and his own admissions. We also got this:
I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.
And the minute I read that denial, I knew there was something rotten in Denmark. The wording was so technically precise -- "I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver" -- as to invite Clintonian parsing to see if it can be telling the truth while making-believe a lie. Obviously, on multiple counts. To mention only the one being borne out (I can think of about three others without breaking any brain sweat): Purchasing a prostitute for an hour once a month is not by any stretch of the imagination a "relationship."

Then there was the fact that he immediately resigned. Which, give the devil his due, a gay activist and champion "outer" noted -- "I don’t know a lot of people who step down from those positions if there’s not something behind that smoking gun."

Then we got this admission from the church to unspecified indiscretions (at the bottom of the article):
There has been some admission of indiscretion, not an admission to all of the material that has been discussed, but there is an admission of some guilt.
Then Haggard said he bought drugs from the guy but never used them:
I was buying it for me, but I never used it. I never kept it very long because it was wrong. I was tempted. I bought it. But I never used it.
Coincidentally, this admission came after the prostitute played tapes for a Denver TV station of the man he says was Haggard. And the TV station had a voice authenticator analyse it, saying it was authentic. Here's a sample ... the very vaguenesses and unclear referents make it clear that there's a familiarity here (the listener would know how to fill in the gaps):
Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I'll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever.
Coincidence that *now* he admits this? And when real evidence beyond "he said, he said" comes out that you bought crystal meth (the gay party-drug of choice), it's just all-too-convenient to believe when you change your story to "buying, but not using."

This is Classic Clinton -- "I smoked but didn't inhale." Admitting to one sexual encounter with Gennifer Flowers (not realizing that to have sex with someone merely once is in fact the rudest, ugliest thing of all to do). Or admitting an "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinsky only once the DNA tests on the blue dress came back. I mean ... buy meth out of curiosity and then not use it? Please. More sail-trimming. Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. Just don't.

The same interview had this claim, from KUSA:
According to Haggard, he met with Jones in a Denver hotel room after receiving a referral from the hotel in which he was staying.
When asked how he knew Jones would sell him meth, Haggard said he had told him about it.
"I went there for a massage," Haggard said.
When asked which hotel gave him the referral, Haggard said: "I've stayed at a lot of hotels in Denver because I write in Denver."
Oh yeah. I go to masseurs all the time, as referred to me by a hotel. And every masseur I go to, I happen to ask him how to score some crystal meth. And that onetime purchase of crystal-meth I made was such a specifically memorable event that I remember throwing it away, but also such a banally forgettable event that I don't remember what hotel it was for a reporter to confirm whether they give referrals to masseurs with ads like this one (warning: kinda explicit).

Puh-frickin-leeze. I can't even drive by some of the places where I've committed sins of this sort without being reminded of them. This guy's a smoothie trying to weasel his way out. Nothing more.

It's the massage thing that tore it for me. If you want or need a legitimate massage, there are professional and legitimate masseurs and masseuses. And there's reputable gyms and saunas and spas, where you can do business openly and freely. A hotel might refer you to them. But you don't hire a prostitute from whom you also get the gay party-drug of choice. Indeed, many gay prostitutes (like this one) advertise themselves as offering "massages," with the term either standing alone or sometimes with winking terms like "massage and other services."

New Life Church finally decided it had had enough after two days of this and fired him outright.

Still, this won't change (and shouldn't change) anybody's mind about homosexual "marriage," as the prostitute acknowledged he hoped to do. People are smarter than that. And Christians too. As one New Life member put it:
The farther up you are, the more you are a target for Satan.
And the gay activist crowd.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

USCCB statement

... on ministry to homosexual persons is on the Web site. It's available here (Thanks, Amy).

More comment to come, but my immediate reaction is: this hits all the right notes. The devil will obviously be in the details ... how it will be implemented on the ground, etc. But it's what you'd want from a general Bishops' Conference. Plus it hacks off Dignity, which is just about infallible as an indicator of virtue.

UPDATE: Having had more time to read the USCCB release and think about it, my initial reaction largely stands. At the level of reiterating the Church's whole teaching on homosexuality and how it plays out in particular matters.

Still, I can't help but thinking that more specifics would have been even better. Maybe they'll be in the Document itself when it's released at next month's meeting. For example, I do think the church needs to say that Group X is an example of a good ministry to homosexual persons (hint, hint) and/or Group Y is an example of a bad one, while giving reasons A, B, C for these judgments, so that Group Y could reform.

From the archives

On the gay cowboy movie from last year. This was an e-mail I sent my friend Rod Dreher upon seeing Brokeback Mountain:
"Brokeback Mountain" expressed better than any film I've ever seen the tragedy of having "deep-seated homosexual attractions" and being unable to act on them with a good conscience. Acting them out has its own moral, spiritual and other problems, of course. But for a man cursed with the gift of faith, acting out is at one and the same time both only a theoretical option (your conscience won't let you) and one that will always look attractive (the grass is always greener). You can accept that Jack and Ennis were victims of a society that gave them no way to understand what they did and how they felt about it (which in some sense is clearly true, both of the movie and of the "real-life world" that it depicts). Because if the Church teaching on grace, and all three paragraphs of the catechism mean anything, it is that a social response of mere disapproval may be worse than nothing.

No man with homosexual attractions forgets the first time he ever had a serious love-crush on a male friend in a disapproving environment -- disapproval being either internal (morality) or external (society). There's a strange mix of terror and lust, and a need for SOME sort of same-sex approval that I cannot imagine having absolutely any equivalent in the straight world. It's a whirlpool of attraction and revulsion. You know that what you most want, what your body is telling you (and male bodies can't be fooled), is wrong and/or that acting according to it would ruin you in the eyes of the other, the one you love (in some sense). And in the eyes of the Other Who loves you. And in some sense yourself. If you know/believe (rightly or wrongly) that homosexual acts are wrong, there is simply no secular way out. Only the acceptance of tragedy, the embracing of the Cross, and seeking to die to self.

I think that's why I've always had a taste for romantic tragedy and can't watch "Brief Encounter" (which is about two adulterous spouses) without crying. And why once you understand that "Brokeback Mountain" is a tragedy, you don't have to take the implications from it that the secular liberal reviewers want you to -- "so why couldn't they just marry. Bad society, bad society. (Whack society on the nose with a newspaper.)" The essence of romantic tragedy is that it...can' for whatever reason. And to ask for reasons is to reject the world of tragedy, or presuppose a world in which tragedy is impossible. One where you ask "Why didn't Miss Julie and Jean go their separate ways?" Or "Why couldn't Anna Karenina just get over it?" "Couldn't Madame Bovary have joined her church's women's group or taken a yoga class?" "Othello and Desdemona needed to go to a marriage counselor to work on the trust issues."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One always wonders ...

... when the MainStream Media (MSM) reports on the Church and anything having to do with the loins. But this article by Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press (as run here in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) about "rules for ministry to gays" has some quite fundamental problems. (I can't find the initiative mentioned on the USCCB Web site, so I'm alsoreliant on the article as truthful.)

I mean, do you laugh or cry at the start of the third paragraph?
But the authors repeatedly state that any such ministries must be led by people who uphold church teaching on sexuality ...
Damn tyrants -- insisting that people involved in church ministry uphold the Church's teaching on that subject. What happened to freethought and freespeech? Did we learn nothing from the lynching of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick. I know it's just three characters, but there is a whole worldview and a universe of presuppositions contained in the word "but." It implies that this is something unexpected or surprising in what the article takes pains to tell us the bishops "repeatedly state" (not just "state" mind you -- the damn tyrants MEAN IT!!!).

The problems actually start with Zoll's lead, which conflates two issues — (1) ministry to homosexual persons, which is an internal Church matter, and primarily a pastoral one to individual souls; and (2) the issues of marriage and adoption, which are public matters of the common good, and therefore not wholly about the Church, but also about the polity and populace. While there is certainly a moral dimension to both matters, strictly speaking they are unrelated. What does marriage have to do with a pastoral outreach?

Then we get to the end, and these priceless reaction paragraphs:
Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, which represents gay and lesbian Catholics, said it was clear the document was prepared "by none of us for whom it is intended."
"They speak in willful ignorance about people in same-gender families. They speak in willful ignorance about homosexuality - sexuality in general," Sinnett said. "They are continuing to discriminate against us."
Ya think Mr. Sinnett should ... well ... calm the hell down? But one expects no better from Dignity, who claim They already know everything and so the Church has nothing to tell them (hence it being a problem that Dignity didn't get to prepare the proposal since it was "us for whom it is intended).

Actually far more telling is Ms. Zoll's word choice, saying that "DignityUSA represents gay and lesbian Catholics," which is ... not to put too fine a point on it ... a pile of crap. To the extent Dignity speaks for anyone, those people are dissenters, as five minutes poking around the Dignity Web site will tell you (I didn't know Mary Daly had found a new post -- I presume she doesn't have to deal with males at this one, while calling for a Catholic Stonewall).

Perhaps less seriously, the AP writer also apparently couldn't find (or didn't think to find or didn't know she could find) any homosexual persons or groups who believe what the Church teaches. So there's only negative reaction from homosexual persons to the bishops' proposal, whatever it might be. Which tells us by omission that the story is really the bad old homophobic Church "cracking down" on the poor innocent LGBT Community. Ms. Zoll, if you read this ... my e-mail is to the right. And if my unwillingness to be a "public homo" is too much, I have some friends in various cities, a chaplain of my own group, and a group with an office, all of whom might be willing to talk about this and other matters.

The despicable outers

Liberals are all about tolerance. Not. Senator Craig has issued a formal denial on the "trust me" charges made by the scumbag gay activist Mike Rogers. Mary Katherine Ham at Town Hall notes how flimsy the "evidence "is.
Ooh, and I heard that Kathy and David did the deed under the bleachers at Friday's football game. For real. Would I lie to you?
Andrew Sullivan says what needs to be said:
If the gay left thinks it will advance gay dignity by using tactics that depend on homophobia to work, that violate privacy, that demonizes gay people, then all I can say is: they are wrong. They will regret it. It will come back to haunt them. And they should cut it out. The fact that their motives might be good is no excuse. Everybody on a witchhunt believes their motives are good. But the toxins such a witchhunt exposes, the cruelty it requires, and the fanaticism of its adherents are always dangerous to civilized discourse. What you're seeing right now is an alliance of the intolerant: the intolerant on the gay left and the intolerant on the religious right.
Gay Patriot (great minds thinking alike, as this article I put up last night shows) said that in that short blurb he "discovered the old Andrew Sullivan whose blog I once very much enjoyed." And then he notes where the new Andrew Sullivan sneaks in and gets it wrong. "What you're seeing right now is an alliance of the intolerant: the intolerant on the gay left and the intolerant on the religious right." Actually, Gay Patriot notes, there is no such alliance, instead characterizing the dynamic as ...
the intolerant gay left ... trying to use the intolerance of those social conservatives to split the GOP.
... which isn't really an alliance. But I would also reword Gay Patriot's statement with the added phrase in italics to make it perfect:
the intolerant gay left is trying to use what it sees as the intolerance of those social conservatives to split the GOP.
And that's why this outing craze will not only not work but actually backfire. "The intolerance of the social conservatives" is a myth. Or at least grossly exaggerated in ways that eventually shrink to zero in this case because of how the outers and their liberal-left enablers and friends simply don't understand social conservatives.

Let's start with a few names: Phyllis Schlafly. Alan Keyes. Dick Cheney. Sonny Bono. Every one of them, conservative icons all, has a homosexual child. (There are undoubtedly others; these are just the ones I could think of where the family matter became public.) Besides family situations, practically every conservative knows or "knows" about some colleague -- at work, at church, across the street, etc. At some level of detail and intimacy, homosexuality and homosexual persons are now part of the ordinary fabric of daily experience for just about everyone. Homosexuality is no longer "the unspeakable vice of the Greeks" or "the love that dare not speak its name." Whether this be a good or bad thing about life today, it is nevertheless a fact about it. This normality (no other word for it) makes a certain primitive repugnance toward "butt-fucking faggots" a lot harder to maintain. This is indeed, the very logic of "Coming Out Days" -- to make people more "tolerant" of homosexuals by showing them persons rather than concepts. Religious conservatives simply are not what they used to be. I won't deny there are some outright haters. But they have become more and more marginal with time. And the Catholic Church teaching on the homosexual persons has developed considerably in the last 30 years (see next above post for the latest example).

To wax personal, never have my homosexual attractions been a problem with any of the approximately 40-50 other Christians (half of them other Courage members) who know about them. True, I have to a certain extent cherry-picked, but more often in the name of discretion than fear per se. The dance of disclosure is different for every person, every relationship, every occasion. I don't fear being outed myself because I seriously think I would show up at work (I work for a well-known conservative institution) or at Church the next day and be lynched by the righteous. Rather because, as Sullivan has written:
Properly understood, outing is not a resolution of something, a final act. It’s when the intricate steering of self-disclosure, with which every homosexual is intimately familiar, is suddenly seized by someone else, when one’s ability to describe oneself, one’s freedom to say who one is, is peremptorily taken away.
But every person who knows about my homosexual attractions outside the specific (and rather unique) context of Courage knew me as a person first. Knew "John." And so a certain amount of love and trust already existed, making me free to say things about myself. The persons in question — all conservative or religious, and most both — have never treated me badly. I can truthfully say I have never been the object of hostility or contempt from a Christian over my homosexuality. Or even certain homosexual sins. Ever. (OTOH, I have been the object of contempt and hatred from gay activists.)

More generally, Christians tend to be rather forgiving people -- something about which gay activists, because they are not such, always miscalculate. For someone else say that Sen. Craig is a sinner will and should surprise no Christian, whatever shape the universal fact of sin might take in his particular case. And this is also why many religious conservatives have no problem with people who preach against homosexuality in public or oppose the gay activists in public life, while having stumbles with it himself in private. We recognize that people are sinners, and that the dynamic of sin. Sin often means, as St. Paul said, doing what we know to be wrong. To "not do what I want, but do what I hate." For the "spirit to be willing but the flesh weak." This isn't to say there isn't such a thing as an unnatural obsession with certain sins. But still, because Christians acknowledge we are sinners, we tend not to be perturbed by the mere fact of hypocrisy or a gap between one's morality and one's conduct. Upon reflection, hypocrisy even becomes socially necessary since without it, all public morality goes into the shitcan because it can only ever be upheld by the sinless. Which is to say, by nobody.

This isn't to say there never might have to be temporal consequences. With Mark Foley, the e-mails were just too explicit and the conduct also involved minors. And if there's explicit e-mails or video or, as with Schrock, audio of Sen. Craig and some man, he (or any congressman) would be well advised to get out of Congress. But this won't cause religious conservatives to rethink either their morals or their political allegiance. In fact, quite the contrary. What "outing" does is transform the narrative. It pushes the spotlight from some (hypothetical) lawmaker's bathroom-hookups or whatever to someone else's gossip and reveals the true depth of the outers's politically-motivated hatred. Making a similar point is libertarian Ann Althouse:
I would like to see Republicans abandon social conservatism, and I'm not cheering on these slimy outings. But, honestly, I think these creepy, gleeful efforts at outing will only make social conservatives more conservative, and they will continue to look to the Republican party to serve their needs.
Exactly. Add to this how the outers cut such unattractive and transparent figures — clumsily trying to game us, to use our morals (which they proudly hate) against us. And for nothing but naked political gain, even at the cost of their own self-defined goals (privacy, dignity for homosexual persons, sexual freedom — two of which actually are real goods). Or as Gay Patriot put it:
That there are those on the left who would attempt to play into the prejudices of the most anti-gay forces in our society in order to help defeat the GOP shows that they are more interested in advancing their own partisan agenda than in respecting the private lives — and personal choices — of individual gay men and women. For them, it’s all politics. (I’ve said this before. As have countless others.) While they may express noble sentiments about helping gay people, they could care less about gay individuals who happen to be Republican.
I can no longer count how many times those on the left have wondered how I could support a political party which has contempt for gay people. And yet while I don’t always agree with my party — or the attitudes of some of its members — I have never encountered the level of hate or vitriol that those involved in the outing campaign have directed against closeted gay Republicans.
The outers are exactly what they profess to hate. In fact, this parody from Iowahawk isn't really that much of an exaggeration. Titled "it's the homos, stupid," it ends thus:
In less than three weeks you will be asked to make a stark choice. You can choose the GOP's same old Washington "backroom insider games" -- ewwwwww -- or choose a fresh start with a new team dedicated to rooting out and exposing the Republicans' culture of man-love. ... With your support, our team will make sure that you will no longer be at risk from tax cuts tainted with gay Republican AIDS cooties, and that your children trapped in the military will no longer be taking orders from the Butt-Commando-in-Chief.
But if, for whatever reason, you can't vote for us, why not stay at home and sit this one out? Let's face it, polls prove the GOP is doomed, and your traditional mindless loyalty to them has brought you nothing but heartache, disappointment, and a legislature full of sodomist and negros. The GOP came into power promising you a return to traditional values; instead, they were a Trojan Horse full of purse-swinging black Greek sailors who have turned Washington into Sodom on the Potomac, and Capitol Hill into the Love Shack on Brokeback Mountain.
While you're thinking it over, remember to register for the DNC's nationwide all-day Bible Study church lock-in on Tuesday November 7. Free chewing tabacky for the first 10 million enrollees!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Lavender Moonbats strike again

According to Daily Kos, outer Michael Rogers has declared that Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is a closeted homosexual. Craig has three children and nine grandchildren, but that doesn't matter to the likes of Rogers. Anything to humiliate a Republican, true or not. According to the Kos item, Rogers said his sources are men who say Craig had sex with them and he will go to jail to protect their anonymity. From Rogers' initial post, available at Kos [I won't link to Rogers on principle], the sex encounters were of the anonymous-pickup at bathroom stalls genre. So there's no way to verify this -- just straight up one person's word. In the words of this cri de couer:
I was asked to confirm a story presented anonymously ... Why should I answer? I waited for someone with an actual name to come forward and accuse me of something with evidence. Nothing. Mere anonymous rumors.
Why should anyone in public life be forced to respond to such things? What, after all, was McCarthyism? In the history books, it is described as a method of political intimidation where someone is accused of something allegedly shameful, not told who his accusers are, and forced to respond.
You would think that the party that made privacy a constitutional right, that says it opposes intrusion in the bedroom, that says there's nothing wrong with homosexual behavior -- that this party would reject this behavior.


It's been a bit more than six hours since the item was put before the Kossacks. As I write this, there are 845 comments. These are some samples from just the first 50 or so:
Good work to out that hypocritical bastard. May he swiftly resign!

You haven't heard about Mehlman.......because he can't get laid.

It was never mentioned that Craig is the Guru of Guns in the Senate. Maybe he does that to look manly.

Gee -- self-flagellation. Do you suppose that's their turn-on?
There's also a Kos poll going on, and just this second, I voted "No" so I could see what the results were to the poll "Do you agree with outing gay Republicans?" Depressingly predictable:
Yes 2,624 votes 70%
No 1,110 votes 29%
I've said before that I hate the Democrats, and here is Exhibit 57700182305. They hate me. Or, to be precise, their voting base considers what Sullivan calls "the high-tech lynching of uppity homos" to be an acceptable, indeed a laudable, endeavour. One of my very favorite Sullivan articles is this one, which I can't find very quickly online. The walk-off line:
The gleam in the eyes of the outers, I have come reluctantly to understand, is not the excess of youth or the passion of the radical. It is the gleam of the authoritarian.
This is now what liberals stand for -- the forced political uniformity of totalitarianism for the selected victim groups that They in Thy Wisdom have designated as needing Thy protection. Whether they asked for it or not. (And this evil arrogant self-righteousness is not confined to homos either.)

Even as a strictly political matter ... wtf? Craig isn't even up for re-election. Nor is Idaho's other Senate seat. What do Rogers and the majority of Kossacks think this will accomplish? The private acceptance of homosexuality is just about an accomplished fact (I have never had a Christian, and I travel in some pretty conservative circles, denounce my behavioral lapses). Indeed, I hope this outing of Craig WILL become better known, because voters need to know what kind of fever swamps liberals inhabit and what kind of actions win approval among those to whom the country may be about to turn over the keys of power.

My heart hopes that those liberals who oppose this kind of thing will denounce the Rogerses of the world with as much vigor as they did Sen. Macaca and disassociate themselves from his works. But my head tells me the Kossacks suggest the likelier result.

But hey, extremism in the defense of political conformity and liberal power is no vice.

No, there's no media bias

Here is the lead of an Associated Press story running tonight:
Former Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress, was married to another man in Massachusetts at the time of his death, but the federal government has refused to pay death benefits to his spouse.
This does the intellectual equivalent of stealing all four bases. The article refers to the other man factually as "his spouse" — a construction and fact that the story simply takes for granted throughout that a man can marry a man as a matter of fact and this man is in fact Studds' spouse. Those are precisely the issues in dispute in the debate over homosexual "marriage." But you wouldn't know this was even an issue from the way this article is written. Here are some of the constructions that betray the way:
after gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts.

Hara, unlike the spouses of other members of Congress who have died

if the marriage were recognized by the federal government
This article by the nation's premier wire service is gonna run in a hundred papers nationwide, probably with minimal editing, under the suggested headline:
Gay Congressman's Spouse Denied Benefits
Here is one TV station that uses the same headline almost word-for-word.
Congressman's Spouse Denied U.S. Death Benefits Because He's Gay

The person in question is not the congressman's "spouse" because the two were not married according to federal law (and the universal understanding of marriage until just the day before yesterday).

At best, one could say that the two men were married in Massachusetts. But then by taking that as normative for the rest of the story, by calling a marriage what is a marriage only in Massachusetts and not in 49 other states, AP is thereby privileging Massachusetts as the norm, and constructing other states' morality as deviant or dubious or "controversial."

Why should anyone trust coverage of an important public issue from a news organization whose very style and choice of descriptors presupposes the rightness of one side of that issue.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Is homosexuality a choice?

This was something I wrote on a friend's site two years ago, during the 2004 presidential campaign. I reprint it simply because it is pretty much my comprehensive take on probably the biggest of questions on Topic H. David initially quoted moderater Bob Schieffer's question to the two presidential candidates.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, let's get back to economic issues, but let's shift to some other questions here. Both of you are opposed to gay marriage. But to understand how you have come to that conclusion, I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
Here's how I would have answered the question:
"Mr. Schieffer, it depends what you mean by homosexuality. In any event, I don't think it's a closed question. If you mean homosexuality as a disposition or temptation, it almost certainly is unchosen. I note, though that this leaves open the question of whether it is genetic-biological trait, like eye color, or an acquired personality trait, like generosity or irascibility or alcoholism or saintliness. But if you mean homosexuality as behavior, then it certainly is chosen, on account of ... well ... all behavior is chosen. I note, though that this leaves open the question of the degree to which one's will or freedom can be clouded by previous habit."
I should note that the evidence for a strong version of the genetic-biological theory (homosexuality as eye color) is actually very skimpy -- not even the twin studies show the almost-100 percent correlation they would have to if homosexuality were purely genetic (and the brain studies -- please). The correlations are high enough, though, to support the acquired personality trait theory -- we're disposed a certain way, but environment and choice determine what we do with those dispositions. Again, the analogy with alcoholism is fairly precise -- scientists have located genes, but they merely raise the correlation rates. You won't become an alcoholic, no matter what your genes, if you live your whole life in Provo or Mecca. You'll become an alcoholic, no matter what your genes, if you drink enough.

I think this debate over choice gets clouded by, among other things, the connotations of the word "choice" -- it implies a fully-conscious act of decision-making at a given moment with all the options before one, with the pros and cons weighed, etc. "Choosy moms choose Jif." Clearly, nobody IN THAT SENSE chooses to be gay.

But that isn't the only sense of "choice," which is why, when I outlined my answer above, I used the word "acquire," which is less ... positivistic and deliberate. You can acquire something you didn't choose or (and this is the key point) are never conscious of having made a choice about. This is most clearly true in the case of one's personality traits, whatever they might be and indifferent to whether they are good or bad traits to have. In a phrase, you become what you do and you do what you become, in a never-ending dialectic. I didn't choose my homosexual dispositions, any more than I chose to be a scholastic pedant. I remember both dispositions from a very early age, prior to both formal education and anything that could be called sexual agency. I could have either confirmed or been confirmed in those dispositions; steered away or been steered away from them. They could have been either nurtured or neglected. (For example, I could have been born Amish, and so ended my schooling in 8th grade.) And the accidents of my environment, including a somewhat Catholic schooling, meant I never had to fully "come out" to myself until I had my first serious love-crush, which was at about 24.

As for the testimony of self-identified gay people, it's not that I believe they're lying. It's a combination of immersion in cultural propaganda (the society constantly TELLS everybody this) and the will to believe the strong-genetic explanation, since it soothes the conscience by seeming to end moral debate about homosexuality (it also short-circuits claims of changeability, which is both of its attraction and why I think it risible). But there's also two other things, neither blameworthy -- (1) the human tendency to describe one's life story in the terms of a teleological narrative ("this is how it was meant to be"); and (2) the existential fact that neither they nor any gay person they know remembers "choosing" to be gay, in the sense above.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley Agonistes

I suppose I'll play the dissenting fool on Mark Foley. To start with, I have no doubt whatever that this story was leaked to ABC by a Democrat because the party wanted an opportunity to pick up another House seat. If that means outing or humiliating a politically-incorrect homo,¹ so be it. As has been done to Schrock and Graham and Taylor -- and that's just the (supposed) ones I can think of off the top of my head at the national level (rinse-and-repeat with the racism Dems will direct at politically-incorrect blacks). As I've said before, I hate the Democrats. This Washington Post article seriously understates matters (hat tip: Jay Anderson). It says:
Foley's creepy behavior might have done him in even if he'd been the most liberal of Democrats. But that's not assured.
Actually, it pretty much would be assured. Two words -- Gerry Studds. The Massachusetts Democrat was censured by Congress for an actual affair (not simply dirty talk) with an at-the-time-of-the-affair current House page (not an ex-page). Those brackets aren't great distinctions, but they're not nothing. And Studds defended it. But when you're a Democrat who commits sexual immorality, you will survive and can count on the support of your party, as it basically stands for sexual immorality. And when voters from the bluest-of-the-blue-states had a chance to vote on Studds, they kept sending him back. As the Wikipedia link notes, Studds acted with contempt toward the censure, and claimed that his acts were morally peachy.
Studds's case [involved] a 1973 relationship with a 17-year-old male congressional page. The relationship was consensual, but violated age of consent laws and presented ethical concerns relating to working relationships with subordinates. ... As the House read their censure of him, Studds turned his back and ignored them. Later, at a press conference with the former page standing beside him, the two stated that what had happened between them was nobody's business but their own.
The non-sequitur in the first part of the quote is remarkable -- it violated "age of consent" laws but was "consensual." What a steaming piece of bovine scatology. The whole point of "age of consent" laws is to take the possibility of consent "off the table." To say that someobody under that age, as this page was, cannot "consent." But hey ... when you're a Democrat, I guess even statutory rape gets a pass if there's consent or you tell her to put a piece of ice on it afterward. And why not? From JFK and Chappaquiddick to gay "marriage" and the Boston-founded NAMBLA, Massachusetts is sexual immorality Ground Zero — Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem for amoral libertines all rolled into one.

Also, there is a very simple reason Hastert et al sat on the first set of e-mails, which were questionable in their forwardness and friendliness, but not smoking guns or anything dirty. No talk of fellatio under the table or using cigars as sex toys. The two sets of IMs are much more problematic, but they weren't in GOP leaders' hands. But take those IMs out of the picture, and what do you have? And then imagine how Democrats and the pro-gay MSM would react to an attempt to discipline or expel Foley. Since it was widely "known" (word deliberately in quotes) in Washington that Foley was a homosexual, and since that round of e-mails at most shows Foley expressing excessive but nonsexual interest in someone of the same sex ... all we'd be hearing about is Republican "homophobia." How Foley was just trying to be a mentor. And how straight congressmen always take an interest in helping the pages' careers. And gay people love like anyone else, and aren't defined by their sex drives, and have families and apprentice relationships too. And it's demeaning to infer sexual interest and on and on. We'd get the petulant "youreallyhateusyoubigot" tantrums. We know the script by heart. As the Wall Street Journal put it:
But in today's politically correct culture, it's easy to understand how senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert's head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys. Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts' decision to ban gay scoutmasters? Where's Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that one?
The other group I have absolute contempt for is the gay-activist crowd. At Beliefnet, Rod Dreher called Foley "a scumbag gay congressman." The whinnying started:
Don't turn this into an anti-gay thing! Most gay men are gay men because they want to be with OTHER ADULT MEN. I NEVER seen a creep who goes after teen girls called a "scumbag straight pedophile." How casually insulting and rude!
Quickly, the MSM reaction story came to remind us "never confuse homosexuality with pedophilia. it is Badthink."
Gays activists cautioned Tuesday - as they have since the scandal broke surrounding sexually explicit Internet communications with teens - that Foley's sexual orientation, in or out of the closet, has nothing to do with improper involvement with minors.
"His sexuality was never a question. Everybody knew. (But) being gay and being interested in teenagers are two different things," said Eric Johnson, who was assistant manager of a Foley campaign for the Florida Legislature in 1991 and 1992. ...
Johnson's view is backed up by science,² said Melodie Moorehead, a psychologist who counsels patients and their families at several South Florida hospitals, including Kindred Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
"Molestation has nothing to do with homosexuality," she said.
I'm willing to accept that homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophilia, if that term is understood clinically, meaning "sex with someone pre-puberty." But by that definition, Foley was not a pedophile. His interest was in post-pubescent teenagers. In other words, males who, speaking biologically in the matters of sex and the secondary sexual characteristics, are adults. Not children.

None of what follows is meant to say that Foley's conduct wasn't immoral or that the legal fictions surrounding "age of consent" matters are unjust. But speaking strictly and clinically about Foley's desires, they were not pedophilic, but homosexual. The fact that he had a taste for youth (rather than, say, a taste for bears or jocks, or being a "leg man" or a "breast man") does not make it different in "sexual orientation," any more than the dirty old man lusting after high-school cheerleaders thereby isn't "straight." This isn't complicated. If attraction for the same sex over the opposite one defines sexual orientation, then a desire for males and not females makes a man a homosexual. Is there any evidence or even whispers Foley was hitting on female pages? After all, if "pedophilia" is a separate orientation having nothing to do with same-sex or opposite-sex attraction, then Foley The Non-homosexual Pedophile should have been doing that too. Where's the evidence of his interest in female pages? Where?

But it's the dirty little secret, that the gay activist crowd will never permit the MSM to note, that gay-male culture has a sexualized fascination with youth. First, it's clear that many men of every sexual persuasion find youth attractive (hence all the lusting after Britney Spears and Anna Kournikova). But the problem with the homosexual culture is that "It's men, without women" -- i.e., there is no natural restraint on the male impulse to sex-as-conquest. Second, the cult of the Beautiful Boy has been part of male homosexuality from the very beginning. No reader of Plato or Kenneth Dover can have any doubt that for the Greeks, homosexuality MEANT a man and a teenage boy. The Renaissance and the Victorian/Edwardian aesthetes, up to Oscar Wilde, took their cues from that, as Camille Paglia has shown. Or consider even any number of "growing up in an English boarding school" novels or films. As for today ... well, "barely legal" "baby-face" "boi" and "twink" are practically genres in gay-porn and personal ads, right alongside and in the same forums as desires for "military," "daddy" and "frat boy" types (i.e., the frankly-stated desire for young males is not marginalized in "mainstream" gay outlets as NAMBLA the self-conscious organization generally is). That a significant, more-than-random (and way more than enough to rule out the "bigotry" card) number of homosexuals express a sexual desire for teenagers, or for adults who are baby-faced enough to pretend they are teens or allow for the fantasy that they are teens, just seems to be the case.

Indeed, when the subject is sex ed, liberals (and gay activists) never seem to forget to patronizingly remind us old-fogies that even pre-pubescent children are sexual beings in some senses and that teenagers are so fully sexual that they need free condoms, with demonstrations on use. Whenever GLSEN wants to set up a high-school chapter, we'll hear all the pious talk about "gay teens." In other words, boys the same age as those Foley was pursuing. But now Nancy Pelosi et al want to get all moral on us? While pretending Foley is not a homosexual? Gimme a break.
¹ And not even that politically-incorrect. Foley was not the most-conservative Republican and had a pretty pro-gay voting record; very much, by GOP standards. Even the Daily Kos noted that, before this blowup.
² Insert Magnus Pike blurting out "Science!" in a Thomas Dolby video.

The dry period

To my friend David Seleb (and the hope that some others might find it useful):

So you've read through The Stranger. I knew you would dig Camus and see yourself in Meursault. But I also knew that it wouldn't "cure" your Angst -- Camus himself would be the first to agree. I don't know that there's anything I, or anyone else, can say that would "cure" you or make it all make sense.

A period of spiritual dryness is one of those things that happen even to the greatest saints (OK, so Mother Teresa isn't a saint yet, as if there's any doubt, but the term "long, dark night of the soul" comes from St. John of the Cross). There's no way around such periods, only through them. I wish I could direct you to Mother Teresa's letters, but as far as I know Il Segreto di Madre Teresa hasn't been translated into English and I doubt your Italian or mine is up to it. Nor is anger at God without precedent. In some sense, it's inevitable among the afflicted. There's Job, of course ("the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be His Holy Name"). A priest in confession once told me that St. Teresa of Avila cursed at God in a moment of distress when her cart got stuck in a stream, saying "if this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few." The much-cruder Martin Luther said "Love God? Sometimes I hate him."

But the Catholic faith is ultimately about truth, not about "enthousiasmos." Truths can be hard to accept, and hurt, in a way that feelings cannot. More to the point, we're both at the age by which most devout Catholic men have become fathers or Fathers. I could make a fairly fruitful analogy with "mid-life crisis," and thus advise you to go buy a Porsche or go do some hot young chick. But I think both those things are beyond our means. Anyway ... now it's hitting us -- and hard -- that this thorn in our flesh is apparently never going to go away (I haven't been able to go to a wedding since I was 28). Thorns in the flesh hurt. There's no way around that. The most I think I can say is to make living with the pain less intolerable. Some of what I'm about to say are thing I myself suck at. They may sound like bromides. But I composed the outline for this letter before the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration last night, and all my intentions were for you.

First of all, you're not lost or gone. The very fact that people, relationships and duty all still matter is still a sign of hope. The very fact that you're terrified by the thought that they might not is still a sign of hope. The very fact that you care about giving scandal and keeping up appearances is still a sign of hope. Next time you ask yourself "why," ask those "why" questions instead. Why DO I care about duty? Why DO I care about giving scandal? The easy, simple skeptical answer is "lifelong habit" or "reflex." Even if true, that begs the question of why have these acts become a lifelong habit, while other acts -- such as contempt for the souls of others in giving scandal -- not become such. After all, it's not as though any of us has never done the latter act or felt it mentally, right? But we knew it was wrong. In other words, it's quite coherent to say that "what we should do" is perfectly clear, even if sometimes the "why should we do it" is not. But the "what" answers the "why" -- because the "what" is who we are and have become. It's now our nature. Is this perfectly motivated love? In that sense, no. But if it's what we can do, for now, the Lord doesn't reject the gifts we can bring him according to the state that we're in at the moment -- The Little Drummer Boy, St. Therese's Little Way and all that.

Second, we both know that the gay lifestyle is not an option, and know that you (and I both) would be no better off or happier living that way. I can kinda-semi-sorta-"understand" leaving the Church for Dupont Circle -- preferring the life of flesh and so convincing oneself that therefore the Church must be wrong, etc. But not to leave the Church for the sake of a drift into the abyss. I know this sounds flip, but one may as well be buried in Angst with Christ than without Him. Particularly since we both acknowledge the Truth and the Church as its custodian, however uninspiring that will be at certain times. Reacting to that fact of its uninspiringness too hard, and going into a kind of depressive withdrawal isn't an option, at least in the long term. The spiritual equivalent of lying on the couch all day, watching soaps and eating bonbons is understandable for a while. I can attest. But I'm happiest when I think of Topic H the least, and most depressed when I dwell on it. And you (and I both) are self-conscious-enough and self-critical-enough and demanding-enough of (y)ourself to know that this only makes one more contemptuous toward (y)ourself. At some point, we always come to realize that we are called to more than that. We always do. As a little boy, my school uniform's badge read "Ad Majorem Natus Sum."

Third, to the extent that Topic H makes itself known to us (and it will, it will) do your best to take some kind of joy in it. This is the hardest thing in the world to do, I admit. And I double-plus-factorial-exponential suck at it. But remember that the most-Catholic symbol is the Crucified Lord, not the highly-effective person using his 7th habit. We *are* called to crucify ourselves also, in a certain sense. Or "die to self" if one prefers. It's one of the ways God calls us to him, and sees us as and makes us more "worthy." If God gave us everything we wanted — and he has cursed both of us with the gift of faith and same-sex attraction — then he'd be nothing more than a cosmic vending machine, with everything costing 0 cents. St. Padre Pio never asked (or maybe he stopped asking, I forget) to be lifted of the stigmata. Sure, this can bleed over into outright masochism, which can lead to unhealthy things, but it need not. Eve Tushnet has written that if she weren't gay, she likely wouldn't be Catholic (she doesn't elaborate on it at that particular post, but as I understand her, she's saying that her attractions made the Church's accounts of the Fall and of Beauty the easiest things in the world to assent to). Dreadnought writes about the homosexual as a sign of contradiction -- and there is no greater contradiction, a defiance of conventional categories of ordinary thought, than the Cross, a god offering himself up to a mocked criminal's death.

As I said, I wrote the outline of this at Adoration. While there, I also thumbed through the bookcase at the St. Agnes adoration chapel and came across St. Thomas Kempis's Imitation of Christ, and there were some things in it I found potentially valuable, in re the last point. I'm sure there's little you haven't heard, but Truth can't be said too often.

Bk. 3, Chapter 18 (in the voice of Christ):
Son, I came down from heaven for your salvation and took upon Myself your miseries, not out of necessity but moved thereto by charity, that you (my disciple) might learn patience and might bear without repining the sufferings of this life. From the hour of My incarnation to My expiring on the cross, I was never without suffering. I underwent great want of temporal things. I frequently heard many complaints against Me. I meekly bore with confusions and reproaches. For My blessings I received ingratitude, for My miracles, blasphemies, and for My heavenly doctrine, scorn.

Bk. 3, Chapter 19 (in the voice of Christ):
He is not truly a patient man who will suffer no more than he thinks good and from whom it pleases him ... But however much and however often any adversity happens to him from anything created, he takes it all with equality of mind, as from the hand of God, with thanksgiving and esteems it a great gain. For nothing, however little, that is suffered for God's sake can pass without merit in the sight of God. ...
(in the responding voice of the disciple)
You know that I can bear but little and that I am quickly cast down by a small adversity. Let all exercises of tribulation become amiable and agreeable to me for the sake of Your name.