Friday, March 09, 2007

For a lighter note

Ann Coulter and Bill Maher agree. Let's tone it down.

I don't know if I should blog about this ...

... because to be perfectly honest, I am in a state of spitting rage over Cpl. Matt Sanchez. And there's always the issue of repeating an outing slander. But since the outee himself has acknowledged both the charge and its truth, I think I'm on safe ground.

Long story short: Cpl. Sanchez became a minor celebrity by calling Columbia University over its anti-military bias, some directed specifically and personally at him, and the coddling treatment of leftist barbarians who shut down conservative speeches. He made a couple of appearances on Fox News and, then last week, appeared at CPAC and had his photo taken with Miss Faggot Herself (above).

Well ... that calls for burning-at-the-stake in the ... ahem ... Church of Liberalism. And so several Internet sites proceeded to "out" Sanchez as a man who, before he joined the Marines, made several gay porn films and worked as a gay prostitute. Then the news worked its way up the blogospheric food chain, up to scum like Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground,, AMERICAblog.

Here's the Marine's response. I don't want to link to any of the offending sites -- anyone curious for confirmation can do a Google News search for "Matt Sanchez" (as I write, there's a beefcake illustrative photo. Some of the sites have hard-core stills from the films; consider yourself warned). I won't pretend objectivity. I have made my mistakes and committed my sins in this sphere also. Some of them I paid for, dearly. I spent a night in the emergency room with anal gonorrhea and lived six months expecting an HIV-positive diagnosis because a man lied about his status. I've been careful in a bunch of ways (never acted in a gay porn film ... for more reasons than one). But who knows? So I know the chance that some Sanchez-like fragging may lie in my future.

And this attempt at public humiliation was for what. What was Sanchez's crime? There no evidence that he himself called anyone "faggot" or was even otherwise anti-gay, even by the generous definitions that would make me anti-gay. It is 200 proof McCarthyism (i.e., imputed guilt by pre-crime association) and chemically-pure ideological hate to say that Sanchez committed any crime by being a conservative who appeared on Fox or appearing at CPAC with *others* who may be anti-gay by some stretched definition. I truly, truly hate these people. Hate them. These adolescent, gossiping, bitchy, whiny, subhuman, inhuman, spite-filled homosex activists. So marinated in their own self-righteous, hate-filled, narcissistic circle jerk that they completely obliterated their moral sense in the cesspool of their own sin. They have killed their souls. An example of their wicked Marcotte-like combox viciousness is here (you have also been warned).

As another indication of how completely these homosex activists live in their own intellectual fantasyland, several of the commenters there and elsewhere actually thought that "ohmigawd, the right's gonna SO turn on this guy." They actually believe their own transference, that Christians and the right are filled with gay-haters. That was even the gyst of the closest I saw to an adult reaction from a liberal -- from Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
While it may be delicious to watch our opponents twist and squirm after honoring and embracing a larger-than-life gay porn star, I don’t see any hypocrisy in U.S. Marine reservist Matt Sanchez’s actions. As is his right, he spoke out against what he believed was bad treatment by Columbia’s ‘radical anti-military students’ (Sanchez’s words). Right-wing pundits and organizations pounced on the handsome Latino Marine and showered him with praise and media exposure. Now, they’re scrambling for cover.
Porn — gay or straight — has no ideology. Porn stars and porn consumers are Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, atheists and evangelicals. There’s no inherent contradiction between Matt Sanchez being pro-military and being part of the ‘adult film’ industry. The real hypocrisy expresses itself in two different and important ways. First, the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law requires Matt Sanchez and thousands of other loyal Americans to hide their sexual orientation to serve their country in the military. Second, Ann Coulter and her ilk lift a man to hero and spokesperson status until — gasp! — he is found out to be a ‘faggot’ (Coulter’s word).
I'll set aside #1 for now. I think Foreman is wrong-headed, but at least that's an actual argument. But #2 and the "scrambling for cover" line are simply false and, as I say, indicates how out-of-touch liberals are with actual conservative thought (a theme I never can repeat too often). It's one day later. David Horowitz. Right Wing News. Don Surber. Ace of Spades. Gay Patriot. Hot Air. The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. If there's an important conservative blogger who has mentioned this story in order to do anything other than defend Sanchez, excoriate the gay left or dismiss the "news," I am unaware of it. (Correction invited.)

But unlike Foreman, because I take Catholicism seriously, I knew this would be the reaction when I first heard of this yesterday, assuming merely that it was in Sanchez's past. After all, what is Christianity worth if we can't see the penitent sinner in a case like Sanchez. Would any human being rather that everyone who made a porn film (or several) spend the rest of his life doing that and have no second chance? I've participated in the sexual corruption of enough men in my life that I'm no better than the two thieves crucified alongside Him. But one repented and the other didn't. Secular gays and their left allies will simply never get that. From SeeDubya at the Junkyard blog:
It hasn't worked out quite like they thought. Bryan has more on Sanchez, redemption, and the Christian roots of forgiveness, and a link to Sanchez's own very forthright story in Salon. Do read that, if you haven't already. (So far the comments are admirably supportive of Cpl. Sanchez as well.)
I don't think the Left understands the idea of redemption well, or that they believe anyone believes it. After all, for the cultural left, redemption isn't necessary. Change isn't necessary. Everyone is perfect just the way they are and we have to accept them. I once heard a sermon to this effect in the (Episcopal Church, USA's) National Cathedral in DC. The Suffragan Bishop--which I think is like a vice-bishop--capped off her sermon with a sort of altar call. This was years ago, but I still remember her saying "Come as you are. God wants you just as you are. You don't have to change."
God wants you just as you are, yes. And He loves you just as you are. But He will change you, if you let Him.
Politically-speaking, the best response came from Michelle Malkin and in part because she acknowledged a change in her own opinion.
I said the other day I thought CPAC organizers would be justified in being embarrassed if the rumors about Sanchez’s porn star past 15 years ago turned out to be true. Well, the rumors are true. But it is neither CPAC nor Cpl. Sanchez who should feel embarrassed.
It’s the nasty, gloating liberals who claim to stand for tolerance, privacy, human rights, and compassion. I predicted the other day that left-wing bigotry would rear its ugly head. I was right. The e-mail I’ve received is more disgusting than anything Ann Coulter stupidly said at CPAC. And I can imagine the vitriol Cpl. Sanchez is enduring.
Preach it, sister!! If "hatred" and "bigotry" are defined neutrally by language, tone, argument and usage, rather than by definitional gerrymandering based on political-issue stance or by a-priori decrees that only certain groups commit it, then the secular gay- and other-activist left is easily the most hate-filled and bigoted place in the world. No dispute. No way.

Marriage across cultures

At Beliefnet the other day, I pointed out that marriage has always meant male-female, despite all the ways has otherwise differed. This drew the following rebuttal:
It took me all of five minutes to find this interesting article on same-sex marriage in non-European traditions:

A quote: Woman-woman marriage has been documented in more than 30 African populations, including the Yoruba and Ibo of West Africa, the Nuer of Sudan, the Lovedu, Zulu and Sotho of South Africa, and the Kikuyu and Nandi of East Africa.

No doubt if I were a professional anthropologist and willing to devote hours to research, I could present more evidence, but this seems enough to cast some doubt on your statement.
I decided my response was too long for a combox (plus Rod quickly afterward said the thread had jumped the shark). But here it is:

First of all, as a matter of general background, I am extremely suspicious of accounts of primitive societies that seem to dovetail with current concerns and/or the ideological predilections of the Western intellectual classes. I think it was that Christianist-godbag Nietzsche who warned about how study of the Other or of the past becomes a dig for what you yourself buried (in other words, finding what you're looking for).

There is precedent for this skepticism -- there's the now famously debunked Margaret Mead among the Samoans (and among others). And there's an important example (John Boswell) that I'll go into below. More generally, in his criticism of "feminist science," sociologist Steven Goldberg (The Inevitability of Patriarchy) wrote of how rampant is the misuse of semi-understood ethnography to back the wishes of a contemporary form of liberal activism (feminism).
When its explanations manage to avoid refutation by a cursory logical glance, they invoke bogus empirical evidence whose misrepresentation can be exposed by spending 90 seconds with the source invoked. (I have checked well over a hundred claims -- never made by the ethnographer who actually studied the society in question -- that a specific ethnography describes a nonpatriarchal society; it has never taken over 90 seconds with the invoked ethnography to demonstrate the ludicrousness of the claim. I have never found anyone willing to attempt to back up such a claim once it became clear that I had checked the ethnography that had been invoked.)
If some anthropologist were to have written in, say, 1980 that "Tribe X marries men and men," that's one thing. I'd sit up and pay attention. But such a claim made afresh in 2007 (or any time after, I'd say, about 1990) I just yawn. It should have to be looked at with, not just a grain, but a whole salt lick.

Second, there are severe problems with any attempt to analogize social relationships across societies. As I said when I last broached into this subject, many societies, especially primitive ones, have defined social relationships that may involve persons of the same sex and/or same-sex love in some sense of "love" — sponsorship, adoption, brotherhood and what Boswell tendentiously tries to turn into homosexual marriage — adelphopoiesin. Other societies have long been known to have social relationships that involved same-sex sex acts — Greek pederasty, and rites of passage and periods of testing for manhood, especially.

I quite realize that erotic love as we understand it has not always been the exclusive goal of marriage — as often as not, property and, particularly among the upper class, political-dynastic considerations have been. But there will often be in a society other arrangements between persons of the same sex that also have something to do with property or politics (adelphopoiesin being one, in fact). That doesn't make those arrangements marriages.

Third, we are truly crippled in avoiding presentist eisegesis by the fact that English uses a single word "love" to cover a host of relationships. Thus even a good-willed person can leave the wrong impression (and Boswell does too). But it's not just the language, because Shakespeare could write (Laertes speaking to Hamlet before their deadly duel):
... But till that time,
I do receive your offer'd love like love,
And will not wrong it.
No ... it's more the present-day sexification of everything. We can hardly conceive any more of love that doesn't either involve sex or isn't smirkingly winked at as a denied or repressed form of sex (visit the local U.'s gay-studies department on a day ending in "y" for examples of "queering" everything under the sun). But because sex is in fact a feature of marriage, we thus "read in" sex and so see "marriages" where there are not. People can love one another, actually mean it, and even enter into a formal arrangement of it. That doesn't make it "marriage" any more than it does two college fraternity brothers (who love one another) signing a contract (i.e., a formal arrangement of property) to share their apartment.

With these considerations in mind, I conclude that citations from civilized societies about themselves, ones capable of self-conscious self-presentation from within, count for far, far more than any number of "anthropologist among the primitives" field work. I would also say that whatever classifications might work best in other societies, the relationship cannot meaningfully be called a "marriage" unless
  • it is supposed to involve sex (whatever the relative importance of eros or love may have been)
  • it is supposed to be exclusionary (I don't mean monogamy, but rather whether entering the union precluded someone from marriage, whatever the existing understanding of it)
  • it is supposed to be permanent (I mean it doesn't have built-in impermanence, not whether dissolution was ever possible)
  • it has substantial social approval (people always behave badly; that doesn't make, say, robbery or murder a lifestyle, or a gang of thieves or the Mafia the government)
I say "supposed to" in most of these formulations because practice obviously never perfectly follows understanding. And the one exception is the ultimate "supposed to" -- in fact, it's hard to imagine what a "socially-disapproved marriage" could ever mean (especially to a social constructionist) or what the value of marriage would be except for approval of some other (society or God).

With all that in mind, much of the information here on supposed same-sex "marriages" simply dissolves, even on the brief descriptions given there. Even the one that most-closely resemble marriage was hardly more than a socially-disapproved deviation. After all, the biological argument for the centrality of male-female to family formation is so simple, obvious and universal that it hardly needs stating.

The African "female husband" practices do not center on same-sex sex (the only sex mentioned is opposite-sex) and so have nothing apparent to do with lesbianism. They seem more like family-line/ancestor-worship accommodations of either solitary females in a family or a general male-shortage (the later would be common in a warrior or hunter tribe, as all the there-named groups I know anything about are).

The African and Fujianese male practices are clearly rites of passage or adult-boy sponsorship, analogous to Greek pederasty in our own tradition. The page even says the younger boys married and the older man was expected to pay for his wedding.

The Guangdong Golden Orchid Societies, as presented here, come closest to marriage. But as this source indicates (even while breathing the m-word and saying that erotic pleasure was sometimes involved) they were first and foremost a group arrangement of women who eschewed marriage and lived in community, like nuns or monks. Hence "societies." The ceremonies being referred to occurred within the group (and no doubt some hanky-panky may have gone on, homosexuality as behavior being universal). Further, as McGough and other sources indicate, it was a secret society that was not socially approved.

The American Indians described actually point to the opposite. Having "alternative gender roles" proves nothing about marriage and, in the one specific case cited (the Mohave), actually undercuts any claim that any ceremony with two penises or four breasts was "homosexual." Especially if this is occurring in the context of shamanism or multiple-spirit soulcraft. If a biological male has, for whatever reason, been socialized into female gender role, then his marrying a socialized male proves that even a socially-constructed marriage is "male-female."

So I stand by my statement: I am unaware of any society which we know from their accounts had an approved same-sex sexual relationship conceived as a marriage alternative or parallel for a particular class of persons.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"This is London"

The British government officially released the wording of its planned attack on religious freedom sexual orientation regulations. As expected, no opt-out for church schools or social-service offices. By the end of the month, as I explained below here and here, this law will make Catholicism, any other serious form of Christianity, and Islam all illegal in Britain. As this article from Manchester Evening News puts it bluntly, using a type of business that has always been exempt from discrimination laws in the US (for now):
A ban on [Bed & Breakfast] owners refusing gay couples a double room is set to come into force in mainland Britain next month under new rules published today.
It looks like I was wrong below when I said this was the equivalent of passing a committee; it's more like the committee has finished "markup" of the bill (but the point I was making stands; once the ruling party decides what it wants, it almost always gets it). More disgracefully, the Cabinet's Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, described and this article and many others as a devout Catholic:
I am proud to bring forward practical new protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
There's obviously limits to what a subordinate can say, and Lord knows I detest moralists and should never question anyone else's faith or public standing. But still, the enthusiasm is ... unseemly. Swallow it if you must. Don't be "proud" of it.

No reaction from Britain's bishops that I can tell so far (correction of course welcomed). Still, I found this recent letter from Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley in Scotland (PDF file), which warned of things to come.
We also need to be attentive to the wider issues. We cannot but sense that something sinister is happening. For the first time in the modern era in this country, the Catholic Church is facing the prospect of being forced to act against her faith and against her convictions, or else face legal challenge and possible prosecution. This is a deeply disturbing turn of events and it is not yet clear what kind of precedent this may set for other areas of the pastoral and social activity of the Catholic Church. ...

I am convinced the Church needs to be prepared spiritually to face this new, unexpected and unwelcome threat to our freedom and well-being. ... Our normal and preferred way of working is to cooperate with the authorities for the common good. So we are eprhaps still inclined to deny that government is acting unjustly toward us. ...

Finally, this unfortunate episode may well herald the beginning of a new and uncertain time for the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.
We already know from other fields that religious-discrimination law will give way to pro-gay thought control in practice, as shown by this case where judges are refusing conscience exemptions to British civil servants. It's important in this case to note that Andrew McClintock was not asking to contravene Caesar's gay-adoption law, but only to be excused himself from certain cases, which would then be handled by others. That isn't protecting homosexuals from discrimination (no gay person would have been affected), but discriminating against Christians in the name of forcing them (us) to approve of homosexuality, i.e., deny Christ.

Caesar even had the gall to tell McClintock he didn't suffer religious discrimination. One could (could) say that he did and that's good, or unfortunate-but-necessary. But saying "no religious discrimination" is bonkers. Or rather only makes sense under a conception of religion as completely privatized, and thus marginalized, while Caesar defines all. The LifeSite quote ends with this quote from Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham:
It is simply unacceptable to suggest that the resources of faith communities, whether in schools, adoption agencies, welfare programmes, halls and shelters can work in co-operation with public authorities only if the faith communities accept not simply a legal framework but also the moral standards at present being touted by the Government.
One might call it "a dictatorship of relativism," the first word from Bishop Nichols and the latter from Bishop Tartaglia's letter.

"This is London" too

There's a round of letters in the Tablet on the gay masses in London, both from the a Westminster Diocese spokesman and the author of one of the two original pieces, John Haldane, rebutting the other, by James Alison. It's available online only to subscribers, but a subscriber sent them to me.

Monsignor O'Boyle insists on the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the Mass practices (in which case, they are good). Professor Haldane notes that anthropology simply does not translate quickly and seamlessly into ethics and that the Church's moral tradition is what gives facts their meaning.


Pastoral provision for gays.

In the light of your two articles (3 March) concerning pastoral outreach to Catholic homosexuals, the Diocese of Westminster wishes to emphasise the following points.

The 5pm Mass celebrated at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, Soho, is part of the normal provision for Sunday Mass in that parish and open to all. From now on it will at times have a particular sensitivity to homosexual people who congregate in that area and who have asked for pastoral provision from the Church. The announcement concerning these masses made clear the Church's teaching that sexual intercourse finds its proper place and meaning in marriage alone. The Church does not share the assumption that every adult person needs to be sexually active.

Every person, whether homosexual or heterosexual is called to chastity. They are helped to do this through friendship, prayer and sacramental grace. Homosexual people are rightly given pastoral care within their own parishes. It is the expectation of the Cardinal that all who attend these Masses in Soho wish to live in full communion with the Church and also strive to live by the Church's moral teaching. While the Church continues to uphold objective moral norms, it is also wise, compassionate and understanding of the difficult challenge that many experience in living the kind of chaste life to which the Lord calls us.

(Mgr) Seamus O'Boyle
Vicar General, Diocese of Westminster
London SW1

I read with interest James Alison's essay "On Helping the Faithful Negotiate Confusion" (3 March), which I presume he had been invited to prepare as a response to my own article ["Faith, gays and chastity"] submitted under the title "On Attending to the Faithful in Parts [should read "Matters"] of Chastity". That in turn was intended to echo "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine". These connections are relevant to the matter at hand, namely how to understand the basis and status of Church teaching on sexual ethics. In the editorial introductions, I am described as a "leading philosopher and pontifical consultor", James Alison as "one of the younger generation of Catholic theologians". These terms may suggest a clash between staid Roman orthodoxy and fresh thinking. In fact, however, Fr. Alison and I are of the same generation, and if there is a relevant difference in stances it may be between contrasting modes of philosophical analysis and theological reflection.

Fr. Alison quotes from a 2006 address in which Pope Benedict spoke of "authentic breakthroughs of human knowledge" but also of how "scientific advances have sometimes been so rapid as to make it very difficult to discern whether they are compatible with the truths about man and the world that God has revealed". Preparing to apply this to what he describes as "an emerging anthropological truth" about homosexuality, Alison writes that there is nothing to indicate which advances or breakthroughs are referred to. In fact, however, context and references indicate that the Pope was speaking of the relation between religion and science in such fields as genetics and evolutionary biology.

These bear upon rival metaphysical claims about creation and human origins and they are silent on the matter of sexual ethics. The relation between anthropology and ethics is important but it is not of a form that allows easy derivations from what occurs to what ought to be. Indeed, to evaluate the moral significance of empirical data one needs an ethical theory. Catholicism fashions the latter out of scripture, tradition, and philosophical reasoning. In this connection it would be idle for Fr Alison or me to pit our wits against the settled teachings of the Apostles and the Fathers and Councils of the Church. They, as Newman recognised, are our teachers, not we theirs.

(Professor) John Haldane
University of St Andrews, Fife

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Well ... nobody's perfect

After watching an old movie by Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder, it's easy to say of Hollywood comedies that "they don't make 'em like that any more." Actually, they do, it's just that Paramount has moved downtown, to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where it's producing the long-running "Comedy of Errors." The latest performance was last weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center (for an out-of-town opening, I guess), but given this description of the panel, “Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics: Insights for the Whole Church,” perhaps a better comparison would be "Some Like It Hot." What can one do but laugh? (BTW ... the Curt Jester is awesome. And thanks to the anonymous poster who alerted me to this.)

(I should note a perpetual caveat ... that I'm obviously relying on a secondary source and everything I say comes with the stipulated condition that the reporting is accurate. Correction with primary sources is welcomed.)

Panelist Tom Baudoin, a professor at Santa Clara, says he wants ...
my 20-month old daughter Mimi to grow up to affirm, with the U.S. bishops, that, quote, 'it is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech and in action.'
... which sort of makes you wonder what world the professor is living in. Does anybody seriously think there is any doubt that anybody in the whole Church is likely to lack that insight but for gay and lesbian ministry? Where is this rampant Church lobby group that says that homosexual persons should be the object of violent malice in speech and action? Did I miss the Feast of St. Russell Henderson or the prayers for the canonization of Venerable Aaron McKinney? Where were the demonstrators picketing the last Courage conference (oh ... them)? How did I escape the lynchers waiting outside our last chapter meeting to grab us and take us to the stake for the appropriate Ann-Coulter-approved, no-rehab-here faggot burning?

The account of the conference goes downhill from here:
[Father James Martin, SJ, and of America magazine] drew audience laughter and applause by saying he hoped Beaudoin’s daughter would grow up to become a U.S. bishop.
What does one say but "ick"? How is this not public dissent, given that it's a priest speaking that he hopes the Church will change a teaching that has been constant for its whole history and reiterated as not even open to debate, all appearances and insistence to the contrary, just last decade by the Roman Pontiff himself (i.e., just last week, historically speaking). Maybe "Victor/Victoria" (about a woman who pretends to be a man) would be a better analogy for "Bishop Mimi."

The problem with these sorts of meeting and statements are that things like this are said:
One homosexual gift, said [Father] Martin, is “resilience.” “Emotionally healthy gays and lesbians,” he said, “have successfully emerged from a childhood where they have felt marginalized; a young adulthood where they have felt confused; and an adulthood where they have had to forge a sense of self-acceptance and self-motivation.” This makes them “able to stand without self-pity before the world, confident in the dignity of their God-given humanity, a fundamental attribute of a mature Christian.” “The mature gay person,” said Martin, “brings a unique strength, a special kind of personal resilience, to the role of apostle.”
There's more of the same as you read down. Now, some of this is quite possible, even plausible. It is undoubtedly the case that growing up with knowledge of "that" shapes your personality in ways innumerable, and, since not reducible to the sin of sodomy, can be used by God as all human traits can.

But the devil (literally) is in the details. What does Father Martin mean by "the mature gay person" and "emotionally healthy gays and lesbians." One hardly wishes to make the case for immaturity or emotional sickness (though Kierkegaard might), but my "Code Word Alert" is off-the-meter. Even apart from the semantic issues over whether "gay" always and everywhere implies an embrace of the lifestyle. Does he mean practicing sexually and openly identifying with this practice as part of one's constitutive nature? Certainly that's what Dignity, SoulForce et al would mean (though my experience of the emotional maturity of practicing gays is more like this). Or does maturity or emotional health involve -- well, to use any Christian anthropology whatsoever -- dying to self, the embrace of chaste celibacy, and coming to the Cross to crucify one's bad desires? There's no way to tell, but why am I suspicious about a Catholic priest who publicly hopes for female bishops? And who also says ...
“Gay and lesbian Catholics” have the gift of “suffering” because they “know firsthand the emotional pain that comes from being a misunderstood minority,” said [Father] Martin. Homosexuals “will often experience rejection in the Church ... What does it mean to be called ‘disordered’?
I know that Jebbie-bashing is the leading participant sport at St. Blogs and thus somewhat cheap ... but good gawd, does stuff like this justify it. Remember when the Jesuits used to be known for intellectual precision. Saying that the Church calls homosexuals "disordered" is simply a lie. Yes, a lie. This has been reiterated and reiterated (just four months ago). Going into copy-and-paste mode:
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.
To show how far I'm bending over backwards, I understand that the term "disordered" is Natural Law-speak, and thus modern people without philosophical backgrounds usually misunderstand it. Thus, in pastoral situations in the current context, it generally should be avoided.

But what does it mean for a Jesuit ... one of the men who educated me and millions of other Catholic boys for centuries ... to make the same elementary error, excusable only by philosophical ignorance? Particularly since, by his apparent position of authority and the intellectual cachet that "Jesuit" still has, Father Martin is perpetuating and compounding this gravely-dangerous and objectively-counterwitnessing lie? It's just beyond depressing. If St. Ignatius Loyola were alive, he'd be turning over in his grave.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More about Ann

Earlier tonight, I watched both the O'Reilly Factor, where Michelle Malkin was discussing L'Affaire Ann, and Hannity & Colmes, which had the Blond Diva herself on. (Story here and the link to the tape is there too.) And the whole reaction proves several points about how conservatives react toward homosexual persons.

First of all, Malkin noted a certain double standard:
"Here's the difference between the left and the right. Far more conservatives have condemned Ann Coulter's poor judgment than liberals have condemned not just Bill Maher,¹ but many people who engage in assassination chic, and people like John Edwards who hired those godbag-spewing bloggers. At the time, not a single liberal [protested]."
But there is no rational standard by which using the word "faggot," even in malice, is worse than the Edwards bloggers.
Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?
A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.


One thing I vow here and now–you motherfuckers who want to ban birth control will never sleep. I will fuck without making children day in and out and you will know it and you won’t be able to stop it. Toss and turn, you mean, jealous motherfuckers. I’m not going to be “punished” with babies. Which makes all your efforts a failure. Some non-procreating women escaped. So give up now. You’ll never catch all of us. Give up now.
... which is simply vulgar anti-Catholic hate speech. Yet I can't think of an important liberal who didn't for a time (even Edwards himself) try to change the subject to Bill Donohue of the Catholic League or "the right-wing noise machine" or the "fascist Godbag Patriarchy." In other words, the right is populated with adults, the left by adolescents. Even when we think bad thoughts, we still recognize the p's and q's. It's one thing to say the kind of things Coulter says at the bar over beer with friends, but we have manners for the public. Still, as Dale Price rewrote it (thanks for linking today, BTW), Edwards provided a perfect form of apology:
The tone and the sentiment of some of Ann Coulter's comments personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Ann; she has assured me that it was never her intention to malign anyone's sexuality, and I take her at her word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
The criticism keeps flowing in. Most in St. Blogs who said anything -- Rod Dreher (more here), Mark Shea, Dale, and most everybody in their comboxes, was critical (the strongest defense was to say more-or-less what Malkin did about double standards). Albert Mohler and Marvin Olasky said Coulter had gone too far. A slew of conservative bloggers, including Ace of Spades, Instapundit and Captain's Quarters put up an open letter saying "the Age of Ann has passed," and the host (Sean Hackbarth at the American Mind) said that he had so "underestimated the response" that he probably wouldn't be able to meet his original promise to link to everyone who signed it.

But more importantly, in the matter of homosexual persons, was a clip from earlier in the speech (played by Sean Hannity; go to this page; I can't link direct to the segment clip) in which Coulter says the following:
I'm not antigay. We're against gay marriage. I don't want gays to be discriminated against. We have the progay position, which is anticrime and for tax cuts.
Now you can dismiss this argument as ridiculous or whatever (I don't really buy what she's saying about tax cuts being pro-gay, e.g., though "tough on crime," sure). But what the clip from CPAC proves is that when she said Republicans oppose discriminating against homosexual persons, that the reaction was applause. Not boos or laughter, but applause.

It proves again what I've said it many times before. Conservatives, both religious and political, simply do not look down on or detest homosexual persons, contrary to the self-serving fantasies of the liberal gay establishment or the psychotic leftist nutroots. I have had years of experience as a conservative and a Catholic. We just don't -- too many of us have colleagues or friends whom we know aren't demons but also know or "know" are either like myself or even practice the gay lifestyle. If the question is one of "tolerance" and "social freedom" for homosexual persons rather than "approval" or "social preference" for homosexuality, that battle is over. There is no "other side" any more.
¹ In the context of the Taliban's assassination attempt on Cheney, Maher undisapprovingly cited others regretting its failure and said Cheney's death would be good.

Utah Mass update

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, the anonymous tipster was correct -- the gay Masses in Park City are no more. The article even quotes Father Orthometer. As I've said, I hope and am confident that this is not the end of diocesean ministry to homosexuals. But a couple of points.

(1) Monsignor Robert Bussen says he did not do the gay Masses as a cause celebre -- "If it's to be about me, it can't continue." Now ... I don't mean any of what follows to be construed as implying anything about particular priests being bad or good. But this furor was about him. Or to be precise, it was about his idea of gay ministry.

It seems to me pretty elementary stuff that, apart from all else, you don't want people in ministry to homosexuals, or any definable group, to be men who struggle with that sin themselves (if our Courage chaplain said he did, I'd swear he was lying). Much less doing so semi-publicly as "Father B" was.

There's also the matter of doctrine, which should not dissemble or water-down what the Church teaches or play down the radicalness of Christ's call to die to self. But the SLC Tribune said the monsignor also "attended a meeting of Dignity, a organization of Catholics whose stated mission is to change the church's doctrine on gay marriage. And he joined other religious leaders at an interfaith service during the Winterpride Festival in February." If those aren't alarm bells, nothing is.

And apparently the alarm bells went off. A parishioner recorded the gay Mass and said that while priests are "not supposed to be ambiguous as far as church teachings are concerned" (I cited the Church document below), the sermon left the impression that "it's OK to be a practicing homosexual." "This is not about Father Bob. He's a wonderful, caring man. We just want to be sure that he's representing the views of the church," the man said.

To re-cite then-Cardinal Ratzinger (Section 15 here):
But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, (emphasis mine) in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.
(2) I'm really not sure how public priests who struggle with homosexuality should be. Or rather, I'm certain they should be private and discreet, but don't want to say it should be an absolute secret that should never be broached. I'm pretty open with people who already know me, especially if religious or conservative, but I would never make a public speech.

But those are situational judgments. Monsignor Bossen seems to be trying to have it all ways. On the one hand he says:
"In the Catholic Church, the emphasis should not be on the personality of the priest. It asks us not to make public declarations. There should not be the gay priest and the straight priest. I have never told my parishioners that I am straight or gay. I simply try to be their pastor."
Fair enough. But then there's the following:
He points to a recent survey in which a small percentage of priests said they were straight and an equally small number said they were gay, but the vast majority said they didn't know. They all take vows of celibacy, after all.
Eliminating healthy talk of sexuality is dangerous, even for celibate priests, he says.
"Celibacy does not mean you're not a sexual being. If you suppress your sexuality, it's going to come out somewhere else. It will do violence to you or the people you serve - alcoholism, power-seeking, pornography, workaholism and abuse."
Well ... which is it? Should priests not "suppress [their] sexuality" in the interests of not having it "come out somewhere else"? Or should they have no sexual identity, lest parishioners think of them as the straight priest or the gay priest?

Still ... I wrote the following on Amy Welborn's site a couple of years ago:
In fact, particularly for a young boy struggling with latent homosexuality, a chaste gay priest might be the best friend he could have. If nothing else, such a priest would personify the Church teaching that these inclinations are not the end of the world even if they never go away, and that the boy is still called to serve God somehow and be part of the Church family somehow.
So am I trying to have it both ways, too?

The f-word ... again

Ann Coulter grabbed the headlines at the Conservative Political Action Committee -- again. She said at the weekend that she'd like to talk about John Edwards, but she was at impasse because "it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot'."

Well ... as a (sorta) "faggot" myself, I really resent this vicious slur ... my being compared to John Edwards. Seriously ... I was willing to defend Isaiah Washington (the case to which Coulter was making reference) because his first use was factually disputed, and the second was a usage quotation ("I did not call him a faggot") denying the first, not an actual reference. Predictably, the left howled outrage over Ann's words -- but they don't matter in this.

I genuinely do love Coulter's TV appearances and I have a weekly ritual with a co-worker of reading that week's column at the same time, timing each other's laughs, and reading the choicest soundbytes aloud. I know that Ann was trying to make a joke, but it just came across as an ugly insult, an attempt to one-up herself for publicity's sake. It feeds the worst lie about conservatives -- that they (we) hate homosexuals. I've said it many times -- religious, political and social righties are not the people who have contempt for a man like myself. I think Ann may have just done a Fonzie special involving water skis, a boat, a ramp and a large, carnivorous fish.

Nor is my impression unique. The top 3 Republican candidates criticized her remarks. But far more importantly, the conservative blogosphere appears to have turned on her (it didn't help that the remark was generally seen as witless and that she used the word "raghead" last year -- fueling the charge that she's showboating at everyone else's expense):
  • Cliff Kinkaid of Accuracy in Media called her "the Britney Spears of the Right" and wondered whether she was a liberal agent provocateur;
  • Dan Riehl called her the "insufferable self-indulgent political media equivalent to Anna Nicole," wished death on her and said she should never be invited back to CPAC;
  • Michelle Malkin said Coulter had "sullied the hard work of hundreds of CPAC participants and exhibitors and tarred the collective reputation of thousands of CPAC attendees";
  • Amy Ridenour of CPAC co-sponsor National Center for Public Policy Research said she "pushed her offensiveness up a notch" (and provided links to yet more criticism from such important conservative blogs as Gay Patriot, Right Nation and Captain's Quarters);
  • Bryan Preston at Hot Air summed it all up: "Thanks, Ann."
Yeah, thanks.

p.s. This will probably be the only post in the history of this site to be illustrated with two pictures of women. Straight guys ... enjoy.

Pro-Con in The Tablet

The latest issue of the British Catholic journal The Tablet has a point-counterpoint debate on the Archdiocese of Westminster's gay outreach Mass, which I blogged about down below. I quickly took sides between the participants. Three guesses which. Two don't count.

Here is one of the essays from John Haldane (yay!!!). He takes an even more skeptical view of "gay Masses" than I do, essentially taking for granted that the Soho Masses Pastoral Council is made up of people who "seem to me to be participating in the sacramental life of the Church on their own terms and not in respectful fidelity to its teachings." And thus these Masses would be futile and dangerous. Which, based on the facts on the ground, might be the more reasonable judgment of this case (and I'm not in a particular position to say otherwise).

Besides Haldane's named endorsement of Courage and Encourage (that's both the British equivalent to Courage; and a Courage-partner US ministry to families of SSA Catholics), this seems like the most important part of his essay:
It is said by internal critics of church teaching that there is a diversity of theological reflection on the matter of human sexuality, in particular in relation to sexually expressed same-sex attraction. It is also said that the authority of church teaching depends on its reception and on the sensus fidelium. These claims seem often to be advanced either in ignorance or with the intention of undermining traditional understandings.
From the Council of Jerusalem, the Church has promulgated essentially the same teaching on matters of sexual practice, and there simply is no other body of conciliar, catechetical or magisterial teaching at odds with this (see the historical references to the Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, 1975). Also the sensus and consensus fidelium are not like the responses to a political opinion poll or social survey trend. They presuppose faithful participation in the life of the Church and have to be considered not in one time and place but across all times and all places.
The question, therefore, is not "what do secularised Catholics living in Britain or Western Europe, and deeply immersed in its values, think?" but "what have the faithful over the centuries and across the continents thought and lived?". Some of the recent critical commentary cites the name of Newman as if in support of change, but this only shows their ignorance of what Newman said and wrote (most relevantly in On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine).
The parallels with the Anglican Communion would be almost uncanny were they not essentially the same thing -- some in the rich West (the Establishment in the AC; a few dissenters in the RCC) mistaking their zeitgeist with the sensus fidelium.

And here is the other essay, from James Alison (sssss ... booooo!!!). In an essay riddled with bad arguments, here are the three central ones:
I think this has come about because church authority has become aware that the advent of "matters gay" in recent years may not primarily centre on sexual ethics at all. Rather it concerns an emerging anthropological truth about a regular, normal and non-pathological variant within the human condition.
The problems here are legion.
  • there is, as a category matter, no emerging anthropological truth that could moralize (make moral) sex outside marriage, any more than one could moralize murder, theft or any other sin;
  • the fact of homosexuality is not anything "emerging" -- it was quite well known in the ancient world (hence "greeking");
  • social acceptance of same-sex sex is also not anything "emerging" (ditto the Greeks);
  • the very category "sin" is as much a regular and normal feature of the human condition as anything else is (one might even call it "original"). So on this logic, even sin itself ceases to be sin;
  • it's not clear what "emerging" evidence, especially since the "emergence" of AIDS, shows that same-sex sex is nonpathological. And if all he means is that large numbers have convinced themselves it's loving or psychologically healthy -- well, as I said below, all psychologies become true for those who believe them, so on these grounds, no sin is left invulnerable to worldly rationalization by those who commit it.
Then there's this:
And of course it is proper to the Catholic faith, where Creation and Salvation are never to be completely separated, that it takes very seriously "what is" as informing "what should be" rather than trying to force "what is" to fit into an understanding of "what should be" derived from other sources.
In two words and a symbol: "informing" =/= "determining."

The Church is and should be completely open to the facts on the properly scientific matters in re homosexuality (and any other subject). And these facts may have some implications for certain things about the Church. For example, I would certainly agree that over the past 40 years, Church pastoral practice has changed in re homosexuality to better fit the times. It has acknowledged that there does seem to be some number of persons definitively attracted to the same sex, and has developed ministries and approaches that spell out how they should try to live and love. And theoretically, though I severely doubt it, research into the causes of homosexuality might develop a silver bullet "cure" (the gay activists who get all huffy at the mere use of that word indicate that the notion that "what should be" determines "what is" gets around a bit).

But no "fact" about a sin can make it not a sin. Not if we take seriously the notion of the Church as Teacher, or Revelation as a source of morals. And if sodomy and nonmarital sex is Revealed as a sin and constantly taught such for 2,000 years (and that is the case), no garlanding with the baubles of "relationships" or pretend-"marriages" can change that. There is no precedent in all the Church's history of a scientific discovery making a sin not a sin. Not even the standard examples of usury and slavery.

But how seriously Alison takes the Church can be seen here:
The first time a football player picked up a ball and ran with it, we were clearly talking about a disobedient football player, since it is intrinsic to football that only the goalie under tightly regulated circumstances can handle the ball. But over time it did become possible to talk about the game of rugby as something where the overall purposes of sports playing, shared with football, are faithfully maintained within a different set of practices. My point is that for the referee to blow the whistle on a ball-handler in a football game is very proper. And for as long as it is clear that there is only football, he is right. However, as it becomes clear that there may also be a game called rugby, he must learn to be very careful indeed, since attempting to referee a rugby match as though it were football being played by perverse rule breakers would degenerate into insanity.
The flipness of the analogy absolutely beggars belief. How does one quench the indignation? Is that this man's idea of morality -- as conventional, arbitrary, meaningless and stakes-free as a sporting contest? Yes, rugby developed from soccer ("football" in The Tablet's Britspeak). But it's not as though the entire Judeo-Christian tradition had ever taught that "one shall not pick up the ball as one kicks it, for that is an abomination" or that "those who pick up the ball shall not inherit the Kingdom of God." Or that the Church hadn't always condemned rugby. (Again, his history is simply wrong -- there is no "new game" being developed now that wasn't being played throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.)

With this analogy Alison simply casually fiats away any notion that morality is in any way normative on any subject whatsoever, because rugby and soccer are completely arbitrary preferences. One may prefer one sport to the other, or be better physically equipped to play one or the other. But nobody in his right mind thinks there is any moral content to this, any "should" involved in any of those things. So all you need to do to justify an act is define it as a different game, where the outmoded rules of soccer don't apply. (Try ... just try ... getting away with this argument in re, say, racism or ... gawd forbid ... "homophobia.") Whenever "modernity was a mistake from the getgo"-type Traditionalists (which I am very much not) call our times nihilistic and amoral -- this "reasoning" (sic) is what they have in mind. How cheap. How hollow.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Speaking of waves of visitors ...

Thanks to the several St. Bloggers in the last day who have linked to my article below on the British discrimination law, its application for adoption and schools, and the threat to religious freedom -- Amy Welborn, Rich Leonardi, Jay Anderson, Father Ray Blake (who looks like he may be in line for Tyburn), and "Athos" of the "Three Massketeers" (but no D'Artagnan??).

I also was alerted (via Jay and Father Blake) of another Tyburn-ready British priest, Father Tim Finigan who quotes the clear language of the bill and explains quite bluntly how this law would make Catholicism illegal in Britain (and Islam too, for that matter). This is the key quote from the report:
Applying the Regulations to the curriculum would not prevent pupils from being taught as part of their religious education the fact that certain religions view homosexuality as sinful. In our view there is an important difference between this factual information being imparted in a descriptive way as part of a wide-ranging syllabus about different religions, and a curriculum which teaches a particular religion’s doctrinal beliefs as if they were objectively true. The latter is likely to lead to unjustifiable discrimination against homosexual pupils.

Except that Catholicism does not teach that "Catholicism teaches that homosexual acts are sins and the condition is disordered." Catholicism teaches that "homosexual acts are sins and the condition is disordered." And Father Finigan dots the "i" and crosses the "t":
The people who framed this guidance will not accept our teaching that homosexuality is a disorder nor that homosexual acts are sinful. They have the bit between their teeth. Although the direction in which public policy has been moving is obvious enough, I am a little surprised at the pace it has now picked up. Make no mistake - this proposal will make it illegal for Catholic schools to teach that the Catholic faith is true.

Let me take Father's analysis one step farther. You couldn't even get around this by not mentioning Topic H. The minute you teach that Catholicism (or Islam, for that matter) is true, even in the context of the Real Presence or the Trinity or other sacramental or doctrinal matters, you are necessarily also teaching (at least implicitly) that homosexual acts are wrong, etc. The Church teaches what She does on both the Real Presence and sodomy based, at least in part, on the same claim to authority -- that of being the Church established by Christ to fulfill His mission on Earth in history.

Speaking of Utah

Last year, one of my Courage brothers passed around an article by a psychiatrist named Jeffrey Robinson that he said completely turned his thinking inside out. The article starts here and continues over several Web pages. And here is a print-friendly version. It didn't quite turn my head around as it did my friend's, but I did think it very strong on a variety of fronts. In many respects, my life fits his descriptions of his patients, both in terms of the genesis of their situation and how they [mis]handle it now.

What Dr. Robinson shows is how a homosexual identity and persistent same-sex attractions can be constructed, even in a religious man who would resist it. And the reason this matters so much is that while there is zero actual evidence that homosexuality is a determined genetic fact akin to eye color, the unwantedness of homosexuality, particularly acute in religious men obviously, is often cited as the proof that it is innate.

And obviously, like any psychological-genesis article, Dr. Robinson's piece can also provide valuable indications of "signs" that something may be amiss.

I should note that some of the paper's language is Mormon-specific. Dr. Robinson is a Mormon who deals with Mormons struggling with homosexuality (the article is a transcript of a speech). But it usually requires minimal translation -- "bishop" = "confessor" or "pastor" say, or when he says of SSA Mormons that:
It is not unusual for these men to have had outstanding histories of activity in the Church, to have held positions of responsibility in their Aaronic priesthood quorums or on missions, to have been Assistants to the President
... he is simply putting proper nouns onto a generalizable thought: "many do well in church and social life." There are references to "missions" as marking an adult rite of passage and stuff like that. But nothing in the article depends on or even refers to the eccentric parts of Mormon theology -- becoming a god, baptism of the dead, buried gold tablets or anysuch. Our Courage chaplain (i.e., an orthodox Catholic priest) strongly encouraged us all to read it.

Read The Whole Thing.

The three posts below were initially numbered reaction as part of this post, but I broke them apart because it just made my piece far too unwieldy for blogospheric reading.

Reflections on the Robinson article, Part 1

Dr. Robinson says that virtually all of his SSA patients (his language seems to imply that they are all men) had certain characteristics as boys, and that the absence of those characteristics just about infallibly indicates that they were "seduced," in the fullest sense, into the gay lifestyle.
These are the three characteristics: first, they are unusually emotionally sensitive; ... Second, they are unusually introspective ... of above average intelligence; third and most ironic trait ... is that they have an unusually strong sense of right and wrong, and an unusually strong desire to be right ... very broadly: to be right, to be worthy, to be righteous, to be normal, to be popular, to be liked, to be attractive, to be okay, to be talented, to be good looking.
The first two traits do mimic the traditional qualities that kids have long identified and singled out as proof that certains boys are "sissies" or "pansies," or, often without knowing what the terms meant, as "fags" or "homos."

But the third, what Dr. Robinson calls "the strong sense of right," is something I'd never come across before, but it's practically who I was as a boy. I judged everything as good or bad and I didn't spare myself. If I couldn't do something well, I didn't see the point in doing it at all. Nor did I ever have the slightest hesitation in telling my teachers or other adults that they were wrong if I thought they were. As a result, I gained a reputation as a know-it-all and bitterly resented any ensuing punishments (I can still name at least three such cases, 30 years later).

Reflections on the Robinson article, Part 2

Most importantly, Dr. Robinson rubbishes the notion of sexual orientation. I've expressed my doubts about the very concept in the past, noting the fluidity of behavior and the inability of the language of "orientation" to grasp it, beyond post-hoc rationalization. But he goes to town on it, laying out exactly why it cannot do this -- the very concept is circular. We identify the "orientation" as existing because of the behavior, but then want to say that the orientation is causing the behavior.
Do you see it just goes in a circle? It doesn't really add any information; we do that all the time in our society, in our culture: talk about things, label them, and then describe them as having acted as a result of the label. We do it a lot in the social sciences; take, for example, the concept of self-esteem ... what began as a description of what people were doing--saying or thinking good or bad things about themselves--came to be talked about as though it was the reason they were doing it. ...
Now the same thing is true when it comes to talking about homosexuality. Why is that man sexually attracted to other men? It's because he's homosexual. How do you know he's homosexual? Because he's sexually attracted to other men. What makes him do that? Homosexuality. We have created a condition, a trait, a disease, an orientation called homosexuality and given it power to make people do things.
If I were a Marxist, I would note that Dr. Robinson is describing the process of "reification" (from Wikipedia: "the consideration of an abstraction or an object as if it had living existence and abilities"). If I were a Foucauldian (which I am kinda), I would say that "sexual orientation" is merely a discourse that attempts to categorize and classify for the purposes of repressing the Other (sorry for the pretentious francobabble). These are objective facts: "John" first became fascinated with male bodies at 8. "John" was aroused while wrestling in gym class at 13. "John" first fell in love with a close male friend at 25. "John" first sinned at 28, to a male image. "John" first sinned with another man at 35. Those are all real events, ones powerfully stuck in my memory. But "John discovered he is gay" can never be anything more than an interpretation of those facts. And a pernicious one, because the discourse of sexual orientation, like all discourses, pushes toward a (self-)identification that represses Other behavior (in this case, chastity). The discourse makes that behavior appear as something one cannot do, not one's category, outside the box that the discourse has put you in. After all, if you "are" something, the only thing that will make you happy is to live out that something ("denial" being bad).

This becomes particularly pernicious in the case of the construction of identity, which depends so much on memory, what one did and what one thinks of it now. The last explains why it's important that so many of Dr. Robinson's patients are deeply introspective. He says he tells them:
"There is no difference between us, except this: you can remember how to be sexually aroused by other men because you've done it. I can't remember how to do it because I've never done it" ... But if this is a memory, if this is something I can remember how to do, how do you get rid of a memory? Amnesia?
Then he goes into a hilarious description of word association and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Buffalo." And how (again) someone very scrupulous and introspective would react so badly to saying "Reindeer" that it makes him worse off than in the first place, analogizing to how struggling in quicksand makes you sink faster. We know there is no "gay gene," but we also know that therapy has only limited effectiveness even among the well-motivated, at least with respect to same-sex-attraction itself (as opposed to issues related to it or growing out of it).

In other words, and without citing Aquinas or Aristotle, Dr. Robinson puts homosexuality in the same category as they would have -- a habit (independent of whether it is a good or bad habit to have). Or a learned pattern of behavior that is very difficult to break, particularly since one can only go through adolescence and maturation once. But also a habit that is absolutely impossible to break either among those who think it's a good habit to have and whose corresponding behavior is freed and/or encouraged. Even the APA, contrary to what the gay activists say, acknowledges that homosexuality is "caused" and not innate, though they do say it is fixed by adolescence. Hence the practicing gays who have convinced themselves that "gay is who I am." They are not exactly "wrong." The great paradox of psychology, in my view is that, because identity is constructed, all psychologies become true for those who believe them and all psychologies become false for those who don't believe them. As Dr. Robinson puts it:
Can you see why a young man who is emotionally sensitive, introspective, and wants to be good, gets caught up in that pattern? It is the introspective young man who over-interprets what's happening to him and focuses on it incessantly. It is the young man who wants to be good, who loathes and hates himself because he is not. It is the young man who is emotionally sensitive, who isolates himself because he cannot bear the thought or the pain of anyone else knowing about this problem. And so he shields himself from all kinds of intimate relationships, or from those who might help him.
We become what we do and do what we become. We do what we justify and justify what we do. We become what we have justified and justify what we have become.

Reflections on the Robinson article, Part 3

It seem like a paradox, but given this description of sexuality, it makes sense that the thing to do is to do nothing. Well ... not "nothing," but certainly "not obsessing" over it, battling scrupulosity, accepting that one is a sinner like others (rather than a pervert unlike others), keeping one's expectations low, and ultimately trusting in God. Dr. Robinson describes a metaphor for struggling against homosexuality:
“When people begin this battle, they think it's going to be like this: There's a terrible dragon over here. He has caused untold pain and misery in my life. I must kill him. So I draw my sword and I go to do battle, and he knocks me down, and I knock him down, and we fight and we fight and we fight and it's a terrible battle, but finally, because I'm so valiant and so diligent, I get a couple of good blows in, I drive my sword into his heart, and he goes down, and I collapse in exhaustion, covered with dirt and mud and blood and sweat, but victorious.”
It doesn't work. Those who are successful would describe it this way: there's a terrible dragon over there; he has caused untold pain and misery in my life. I draw my sword, he lunges at me, I hold him back. I back up a little bit, I back up some more, I back up some more and keep backing up and finally I turn and walk from him, and I walk and I walk and I keep walking, and the farther I walk, the smaller he becomes on the horizon until he becomes irrelevant in my life. He just doesn't anymore.
Think also of the end of Jean-Paul Sartre's play "The Flies." How does Orestes slay Zeus at the end? By saying "I am free" and walking away. Or think of Luis Bunuel's film "The Exterminating Angel." The whole comic point is that the dining-room door was always wide open and that the partiers simply convinced themselves they were trapped. But that's not heroic in the usual sense. And it also goes against the grain of the scrupulously devout personalities of Dr. Robinson's patients. They want to fight the dragon, to slay it in God's name. For ever and ever, Amen. This was part of why I am very skeptical of what Ted Haggard's people are saying about him. (It may also have something to do with how the evangelical imagination in other fields is shaped by their soteriology, where Salvation is a once-in-a-lifetime fiat. Before you are damned, now you are saved.)

Again to speak personally, I am happiest when homosexuality is not an issue for me. I made this point about the Courage Conference once -- that I could breathe easily there. This may seem like a paradox -- that going to such a place makes the distinguishing fact a non-issue. But see ... if everyone is "homosexual," then it's also the case that nobody is. I saw a psychiatrist for about six months, and it was not successful because it kept shoving this subject and my failures therein to the front of my consciousness.

Dr. Robinson continues:
Men who struggle with this issue are often men who in their adolescent and early years, are men who understand the part of the gospel that says, “Obey. Keep this commandment. Don't do this, don't do that. Repent. Be good. Be outstanding. Be perfect.” They get that part of the gospel; that just sinks into them, and they get it. It's an important part of the gospel, and boy, they get a hundred percent there. They understand it completely.
But the part of the gospel that talks about redemption, atonement, unconditional love, being born again, the love of the Savior--that confuses them. They don't really understand it. They don't really get it. They could give a great sacrament meeting talk on it, because they're very bright and they know how all the words fit together. But in their hearts, that part of the gospel confuses them.
My confessor has said to me words to this effect more than once -- that my great weakness is in the heart, not the will or the intellect. To put it bluntly, that I can't really accept or make sense of that God loves me to the point that He died for my sins. Oh, I would never deny it as I know that this is what the Church teaches. But I believe it entirely on Her authority (I sometimes thank God for this, because if I had to reason to God's love for me, I probably would not accept it at all). Robinson makes the point that there is a difference between accepting something and "getting" something. At some level, yes, I don't get it (There. I've said it).

A Courage brother who has twice bailed me out of bad situations (the one who alerted us to this article in fact) has said to me that my difficulties with certain compulsive behavior are the result of my not getting that very thing. That "God loves all and wants all to follow Him" actually really does include me. Despite continuing difficulties.
I sometimes say to clients, “If I had a pill in my drawer here that would make this problem go away, I wouldn't give it to you.”
They'll look at me, like, “What? What do you mean?”
And I'll say, “I think our Father in Heaven has a pill like that in his drawer, and I'm guessing you've asked him for it.”
“Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.”
“And I'm guessing the answer was no.”
“Yeah, it was.”
I tell these men our Father in Heaven seems to be stingy with taking this problem away from people, with taking it away, but seems to be magnificently generous in showing them what the very next step is for them, what the very next thing they need to be doing when they humbly and consistently ask.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Welcome ...

... to the dozens of readers drawn here from Father Erik's Richtsteig's blog, Orthometer. He linked to my post on the Utah gay Masses, saying I "said it better than [he] ever could."

[CM gulps ... on hearing that from a priest]

One of the commenters there said "I have it on good authority that the next LGBT Mass in Park City, scheduled for mid-March will be the last." I must say that I have mixed feelings about this, if true. It's obviously better that the Mass (and "gay ministry") be done not at all than that it be done badly. But best of all would be that it be done right. I pray that if Bishop Wester of Salt Lake is indeed (ugh) "cracking down," or any bishop does so in any other case, that he realize that some type of ministry to homosexual persons, which need not exclude Masses, is still essential.

Well ... enough of me telling the Salt Lake Diocese how to run its business. I of course reciprocated by adding Father Richtsteig to my blogroll. Initially my entire blogroll was other religiously orthodox sites/blogs dealing all or in part with homosexuality. But recently, I set up the category "Other Catholic Links" to reciprocate those sites that link back to me. I had been hesitant to do that earlier, because it might imply, as I joked to one of those site-owners (Dale Price, the father of three born-children) that he is one of "us."