Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Tolerance is not enough" Update

You're an evangelical Christian with ties to Focus on the Family. You establish a dating service (online, as it happens, but that's hardly essential) with the goal of matching people according to marriage-compatibility rather hookup-hotness.

Even your business is not safe from the gay-rights busybodies. You must conform. EHarmony is being sued for not providing a homosexual service.
The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.
Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.
There's some slippery language in there. Miss Carlson was not denied access to eHarmony because she is gay. EHarmony simply doesn't provide the service she wants, which is her problem and doesn't give her the right to demand a different service. You might as well go to a Porsche dealer and demand a Subaru Outback; to a rec football league and demand to play softball. Indeed there's one chunk of material that sets off my bovine-scatology meter:
According to the lawsuit, Carlson, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, tried to use the site's dating services in February 2007. When she was denied access, she wrote to eHarmony saying that its anti-gay policy was discriminatory under California law but the company refused to change it.
I wonder what "tried to use the site's dating service ... [but] was denied access" means -- exactly. I smell an activist looking for a cause. Just right now, I went to eHarmony to see if I could use their service, which involves filling out forms to determine personality and interests, and get matches. And despite my SSA, which is of a degree that the thought of sex with a woman is an active turnoff, I could answer the entire questionnaire truthfully.¹ Only 2 questions among the 200 or so could be seen as problems for person like myself: "I greatly appreciate the physical beauty of the opposite sex" and "I like to look at people of the opposite sex." But in both cases, I just answered "very uninterested" (or something to that effect ... I forget exactly how the choices were worded), which could just as easily have meant I was past the age of interest in sex and wanted a Josephite match, for companionship.

EHarmony makes the sensible point that same-sex unions are different and they cannot offer the service.
"The research that eHarmony has developed, through years of research, to match couples has been based on traits and personality patterns of successful heterosexual marriages," it said in a statement.
"Nothing precludes us from providing same-sex matching in the future. It's just not a service we offer now based upon the research we have conducted," eHarmony added.
Of course, the causemongering shyster lawyer says upfront that this lawsuit is entirely about social engineering and "making a statement.
Carlson's lawyer Todd Schneider said the lawsuit was "about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love."
Rocky Mountain oysters. Yes, people have a right and desire to meet others and fall in love -- but y'know, nobody is prevented from doing that now. And God also created bars, clubs, discos, workplaces, the street, Craig's List and gay.com. You have a right to meet others, but not the right to use someone else's facility to help you. No ... this lawsuit is purely a spiteful effort to force a business to provide a service and punish them for not doing so in the past. Stamping out diversity, and making every dating service provide the same range of services.

This is what the gay-rights movement of today is all about and why it should be absolutely resisted and discredited at every opportunity. It's not about social tolerance or having the right to be let alone in their private lives (even the homophobic CM, at least, treasures that and would not want to return to the bad-old pre-Stonewall days).

When a homosex advocate says he has no intention of persecuting or punishing people who morally object to homosexuality, or making you approve of his behavior, he is either lying or being disingenuous. "Gay rights" today is all about forcing other people to conform their private behavior to what homosexuals think it ought to be and what will benefit them. In other words, it has become the authoritarian.
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¹ Actually, I did get dissed. I got the following message, which they say they give out frequently:
eHarmony is based upon a complex matching system developed through extensive research with married couples. One of the requirements for successful matching is that participants fall within certain defined profiles. If we find that we will not be able to match a user using these profiles, we feel it is only fair to inform them early in the process.
We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches to help people establish happy, lasting relationships that we sometimes choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match.
Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched. This occurs for about 20% of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply will not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand, and we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time.
So the chicks of Washington didn't even get their hopes falsely raised. But I knew any dating service would have trouble matching me based on my moods -- depression and frequent melancholia, swinging into bouts of recklessness.

Match Game 07

I noticed on the blog of Sean Bugg (editor of one of Washington's gay weeklies but eminently reasonable and worth reading)¹, that Charles Nelson Reilly died a few days ago. And when he showed up at the gates, God said, "why are you still carrying your (blank)?"

Sorry ... I couldn't resist that, even in death. Seeing Charles and Brett bicker at one another, while Gene, Richard and Fannie were playing lewd instigator was one of the highlights of my youth. I don't know how much older Mr. Bugg is than I (yob: 1966), but I loved game shows too and it never registered on me that Charles or Paul Lynde were "big, flaming homosexuals," Probably because the very concept of homosexuality was alien. I just took them to be funny guys who acted a bit sissy as part of their "act" or "role."

A couple of times, I also saw, in reruns obviously, Charles Nelson Reilly on the old "What's My Line?" in black-and-white with John Charles Daly in the early/mid-60s when CNR was still best known as a Tony-winning Broadway actor. And unfortunately, he was awful. He has all his what Mr. Bugg called "the big flaming" mannerisms -- but is holding them back, wearing the same dinner suit as Bennet Cerf, and desperately and unsuccessfully trying to fit into a show that is so "straight" (unfortunate word choice in this context, but unavoidable). There's probably a lot of symbolic metaphor in there. Understand, I love "What's My Line?" -- it's the greatest game show of its era. But Charles Nelson Reilly on it ... ugh ... looks like Nixon trying to disco.

RIP, Charles.
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¹ For example, while Mr. Bugg had a very different reaction than I to the gay march in Moscow, natch, the post also indicates a real sense of perspective about anti-gay sentiment in this country.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bad stuff is happening in the US too

DePaul University remains on the cutting edge of societal devolution, hosting the second "Out There" Conference, whose full title is "the Conference of Scholars and Student Affairs Personnel Involved in “LGBTQ” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer) issues on Catholic Campuses." It's set for October and being organized though DePaul's Department of (what else?) Women’s and Gender Studies (maybe attendance will count as credit for DePaul's LGBTQ Program).
Defending the decision to hold the 2005 conference, Santa Clara University told Catholic News Agency that hosting a two-day long conference “on how to promote opportunities for gays and lesbians at Catholic colleges is the Catholic way to act.” The 2005 conference chose not to highlight Catholic teaching on the intrinsic immorality or medical dangers of homosexual activity or offer assistance to homosexuals to leave their lifestyle.
Why is this "the Catholic way to act"? Particularly since "not ... highlight[ing] Catholic teaching on the intrinsic immorality ... of homosexual activity" has been specifically denounced at the highest levels of the Church as "neither caring nor pastoral." I'm of half-a-mind to submit or rework/update a grad school paper I did on homosexuality just to see if I could get it in.

I noted below the Russian reaction to a gay pride parade. My thoughts are not unalloyed about such tactics obviously. But the Russian Orthodox Church would really know how to handle DePavel Universitetskiya. It was recently faced with a priest performing a homosexual "marriage." First the priest who took a bribe to perform the ceremony was defrocked. Then the church where the ceremony took place, having been defiled, was demolished. Maybe I should join Rod Dreher and swim the Bosporus.

Will Jerry Falwell never die?

I don't mean that question literally, obviously. But will one of the lies about him never rest -- namely that stupid meme about Tinky-Winky, which is now finding its way elsewhere and has the usual suspects sniggering up their sleeves.

A Polish cabinet office official, whose party recently called for laws against the propagation of homosexuality in the schools, said the office of children's rights was investigating "The Teletubbies" and Tinky-Winky. And, sure enough there was even "background matter" on Falwell at the end of this Agence France-Presse article, the top of which read:
Poland's child rights ombudsman said on Monday she was investigating whether "The Teletubbies," the British television show for infants, promotes homosexuality.
"It would be good for a group of psychologists to talk to children about this. We need to examine this. If inappropriate attitudes have been promoted, we need to react," said Ewa Sowinska. ... "I have heard that this could be a hidden homosexual insinuation."
Sowinska later backed off the comments, but not before it was noted in the world press. And set off the predictable reaction in those quarters of the gay blogosphere to notice it were predictable (as were the repetitions of the smear against Falwell)
The late Jerry Falwell would be thrilled to know that his suspicions about the gay leanings of Tinky Winky of Teletubbies fame, are now shared by some concerned Poles. ... A spokesperson for children's rights, Ewa Sowinska, has finally cottoned onto the fact that Tinky Winky is a boy, but horror-of-horrors ... a boy who carries a handbag. Technically you could argue that Tinky Winky is an "it", but such fine distinctions are liable to escape Ms Sowinska.
Oh those wacky Polish children's rights watchers .... always a day behind and a dollar short. Remeber back in 1999 when Jerry Falwell deemed Teletubbie Tinky Winky a homo because he carried a purse (TW is the purple one)? Now Ewa Sowinski [sic] is on the same bandwagon.
Maybe Ewa Sowinska, Poland’s children’s rights watchdog, was tipped off by all the Jerry Falwell eulogies when she announced that she was going to see what exactly was in Tinky Winky’s purse. I’d caution Ms. Sowinska however that if she’s not careful, she may single-handedly revive the whole 1970’s-era genre of Polish jokes, something none of us around here would like to see anytime soon.
If there was one thing I hated reading in all the Falwell obits, it was the snickering references to the Tinky-Winky episode, which has falsified by revisionist repetition of lies worthy of 1984's Ministry of Truth. But Ann Coulter once said that liberals do not realize the problems that Lexis-Nexis poses to their incessant lying.

It is a documentable fact that long before Jerry Falwell breathed his first word about Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubbie was being appropriated as a gay icon, by people who thought that this was a good thing ("teach kids about tolerance, respecting difference, celebrating diversity and all that") or a good leering joke. I will turn you over to La Ann, in her column about Falwell. It doesn't matter who she is, "faggot" and rehab, or anything else. She is citing documented fact for anyone with a Lexis-Nexis account.
Beginning in early 1998, the news was bristling with stories about a children's cartoon PBS was importing from Britain that featured a gay cartoon character, Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubbie with a male voice and a red handbag.
People magazine gleefully reported that Teletubbies was "aimed at Telebabies as young as 1 year. But teenage club kids love the products' kitsch value, and gay men have made the purse-toting Tinky Winky a camp icon."
In the Nexis archives for 1998 alone, there are dozens and dozens of mentions of Tinky Winky being gay — in periodicals such as Newsweek, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post (twice!), The New York Times and Time magazine (also twice).
In its Jan. 8, 1999, issue, USA Today accused The Washington Post of "outing" Tinky Winky, with a "recent Washington Post In/Out list putting T.W. opposite Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, essentially 'outing' the kids' show character."
Michael Musto of The Village Voice boasted that Tinky Winky was "out and proud," noting that it was "a great message to kids — not only that it's OK to be gay, but the importance of being well accessorized."
All this appeared before Falwell made his first mention of Tinky Winky.
After one year of the mainstream media laughing at having put one over on stupid bourgeois Americans by promoting a gay cartoon character in a TV show for children, when Falwell criticized the cartoon in February 1999, that same mainstream media howled with derision that Falwell thought a cartoon character could be gay.

Too sexy for this march

Didn't we all want to see this ... so bad ... back in the early 90s?

Right Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass was one the gay-rights marchers attacked in Moscow at the weekend (video is here) and bloodied up by Orthodox and nationalist counterprotesters ("so sexy, it huuuuurts" ... yeah, it really does now). Police reportedly arrested from 20 to 30 gay-rights marchers, and about 10 were hospitalized.

All jokes aside about getting bloodied for making crap records (you're next, Michael Bolton), my response initially was sympathetic toward the pro-gay marchers. But when you read the guts of the news stories, you find it is a bit more complicated.

First of all, the march itself was illegal. They applied for a permit to the mayor of Moscow and he turned them down on the grounds that the march was "satanic." Supposedly, this was a march for the right to march, which is silly legerdemain. The pro-gay marchers were breaking the law. Period. At the very least, the official acts of the arrests and breaking up the parade were entirely legitimate. And big boys know that some rough justice is likely in such cases.

Second, homosexuality is not illegal in Russia. The article I linked to says that "Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 but tolerance is not widespread." Understand that we're not talking about a legally persecuted group, which changes everything in my view. As I implied above, you can break an unjust law for good and proportionate reasons, and legal persecution would be one of them. But that's not what the demonstrators wanted here -- they want an annual parade to celebrate sin and scandalize the nation -- which is not such a good reason. Pride parades are part of the landscape here already. That's regrettable, but it is a fact. But I don't blame the Russians one bit for not wanting their country to go down that road, turning it into a really big and cold San Francisco. (The large number of non-Russian celebrities among the marchers surely is relevant.) And acting to prevent it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yellworthy

When I got my Yahoo News Alert the other day, one item from the Irish gay site gcn.ie (warning: potential triggers), by its editor Brian Finnegan, had this excerpt as the teaser:
But the Catholic Church believes that gay people, despite the fact that God made them gay, must be denied love and sex.
I don't know why I lost it as I did. But I let loose with a volley of obscenities at my computer screen. How can a human being be so ill-informed (or mendacious) as to write that while being thought smart enough to get it published (and even edit a publication)? As a sentence, separate from any discussion of the morality of homosexual acts, that is descriptively inaccurate on so many fronts, it's hard to keep score, but it's worth unpacking because Finnegan's mistakes and misconceptions are so widespread.

First of all, there is nary a shred of evidence that "God makes people gay" (even assuming we must use that lingo). So to say "the fact that" is simply false. Oh ... there's some evidence that heredity and/or physical-body structures play a partial role in "making people gay." But if there were no element of choice or environment, then every set of identical twins in the world would be all-gay or all-straight, just as they are all both blue-eyed or brown-eyed or whatever. We know that not to be the case, even in the studies the gay activists trumpet, so anybody who says "God makes people gay"¹ is telling a falsehood.

Even apart from that, it is also not true that the Catholic Church teaches that "God makes people gay. And while that's a logically separate claim from whether He does, it's also a point essential for the very stale contradiction Finnegan thinks he has caught the Church in. In the previous graf, before reaching the "God made" conclusion, he writes, clearly thinking it leads to that conclusion:
There is a big contradiction at the heart of the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality. The Catholic Church believes that being homosexual is not a sin, but engaging in homosexual sex is. In saying that homosexuality itself is not a sin, the Church is telling us that homosexuality is in inherent to humanity, not a chosen sexual orientation or a mental disorder, but something some of us are born with.
Some terminological imprecision aside ("being homosexual") that can bear ugly fruit later, the sentence in blue is fine. On a pass-fail test, in itself, that's a "pass."

But with the red clause, you start to see the train going off the tracks. Original sin is also inherent to humanity (in the sense of "normal" and "universal") but is obviously, well, sin. Finnegan also cannot really mean "homosexuality is inherent to humanity," because almost all of humanity is not gay. He must mean something like "homosexuality is a prevalent, recurring feature in human groups." But that has nothing to do with homosexuality's not being a sin (all sins are prevalent at some level). And it's not being a sin doesn't make it morally-neutral or good; there is the whole category of "natural evil," e.g., diseases and disasters, that this leap elides.

Which brings us to the green clause and by now we are well and truly off the rails. Saying that something is not a sin doesn't mean that something is not a mental disorder, or, as I said, a natural evil, like a disease. In fact, "mental disorder" is one of the commonest categories of "things that make a sin in the ordinary case not a sin," in this case because it robs a person of culpability," like, say, a person with Tourette's cursing.² And while nobody says that "sexual orientation" is chosen, that doesn't speak to our behavior, which is.

By the purple clause, we have the peak of a house of cards built upside-down. In quicksand. To start with, again, the Church does not teach that homosexuality is inborn ... neither in the Catechism (2357: "It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained") nor its teaching documents (e.g., as cited here). Also, there is no way that Finnegan can infer that conclusion from the mere fact of a homosexual orientation's non-sinfulness. Even if homosexuality were, in fact, something as inborn as eye-color, the fact that eye-color isn't a sin is neither the reason it's inborn nor evidence that it's inborn. Liking NASCAR or Univision telenovelas aren't sins (though they should be IMHO), but that fact hardly makes either inborn. Whether a condition is inborn or acquired (how) or chosen is a scientific matter (assuming science be properly understood). Period.

Aside ... I also love how gay-activists have such a narrow and presentist (and thus narcissistic) understanding of Providence that gayness is the only place where it's acknowledged. God doesn't confect the Host, God doesn't issue Commandments, God doesn't establish a Church, God doesn't condemn to Hell, God basically does nothing ... except make people gay.

But believe it or not, that's not the worst of the Literary Crimes of Brian Finnegan. No, he thinks he's proven a contradiction based on this choice bit of nonsense.
the Catholic Church believes that gay people ... must be denied love...
Newt Gingrich once said, "if all I knew about me was what the Mainstream Media reported, I'd hate me too." Same here. If all I knew about the Catholic Church is ignorant burbling flatulence like that column (and its ilk can be found in every issue of every gay publication worldwide) -- I'd hate the Catholic Church too.

Where do gay activists pick up that kind of shit (CQ)? Where does the Church say that gay people must be denied love? Where? The Church does say that people shouldn't engage in same-sex sex. But since Finnegan's next two words, which I ellided, are "and sex" (note the disjunctive), he must recognize at some level that love and sex aren't the same thing. Someone who does recognize this fact hasn't even got the feeble excuse of a sex-obsessed culture that conflates love with fucking. At every Courage meeting, we recite the Five Goals, at least two of which (3 and 4) explicitly acknowledge that homosexual persons need love like anyone else -- though the terms are "fellowship" and "friendship." My confessor has chided me for sometimes thinking and acting as if otherwise, like love were a luxury good. Dare I even mention in this context the Sacraments as instruments of love or the Atonement as an image of love ... nah ... too theologic-mysticistical.

Actually, though, that is the problem with Finnegan and most gay activist types -- they think that life without sex is life without love, which is only tenable if sex is the only form of love. I said recently at Mark Shea's combox that the worst thing the modern homosex movement has done (the sin of sodomy itself long predates Stonewall) is to impoverish our culture's understanding of love by always turning any hint of same-sex love (David and Jonathan, Cosmos and Damian, Batman and Robin, etc.) by seeing same-sex sex everywhere there is same-sex love. Comments like "the Church says gay people must live without love" are simple utter drivel that gay activists and the modern gay-lifestyle practitioner so adore because, lie or not, repeating it convinces themselves and feeds their sense of martyrdom. And convinces them that love without fucking is inconceivable.
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¹ This is a different question, of course, from "are same-sex attractions chosen" and "are same-sex attractions, however caused, reversible," questions to which the answers are far more dicey. But "God makes people gay"? Not even worth discussing.
² I'm not for now endorsing any of these metaphors or ways of looking at same-sex attraction or definitive homosexuality. Merely pointing out that you cannot intellectually make the leaps this writer does.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

¡Viva España!

Total coincidence in my Inbox this evening, two items about Spain:

First, a gay bridal shop is going to open in Barcelona next week.
Porrero said gay couples in his shop will be able to buy from a set collection or have a tailor-made suit, all envisioned for their wedding, from daylight to night ceremonies, in the city or at the countryside or even on the beach.
Second, Spain's divorce rate is now the EU's highest.
Three in every four Spanish marriages now end in divorce, the investigation by the Family Policy Institute (IPF), based on Spanish legal records found. ... The country also has one of the world's lowest birthrates.
Move along people, no connection here.

Well, strictly speaking, I guess that's true. There's no reason gay "marriage" in itself should raise the divorce rate. But that's to crudify the notion of causality, to reduce it to nothing more than identifiable isolated cause and identifiable isolated effect, like one of Hume's billiard balls crashing into another. But as an understanding of the organic society, of human behavior, of the self-conscious actor ... that model is worthless.

No, Adam and Steve making the weekend jaunt to Massachusetts (and that is hardly happening any more) is not going to "make" Adam and Eve divorce. Rather, a society that views sex and marriage in a certain way is going to have both gay "marriage" and a high divorce rate, each being the logical consequence of viewing sex as a form of recreation and marriage as a self-regarding lifestyle choice. Said society will be indifferent to Adam and Eve staying together and make it easy as possible for them to split, forget the kids (if any). Said society will not be able to think of any reason why Adam and Steve cannot or should not "marry."

If today's reigning philosophy of sex is a flu germ, then gay "marriage" is merely the runny nose and high divorce is the cough (and so on ... falling birthrates can be the sinus congestion, VD rates the sneezing, etc). Runny noses don't technically cause coughs. But they are both symptoms of the same disease.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Satan's Plan B

... and it's not emergency contraception.

Right now as I type in this post, I should have a man in my apartment, in my bed. Not in the first, moral sense of "should," of course -- in the second, predictive sense. The time and place were set, for right now tonight, and general preferences on the details were agreed on. But I backed out a bit beforehand. Not for any specially heroic reason. I met a Catholic cyberfriend for the first time that afternoon during his Washington visit, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company to the point that I couldn't have faced him the next day as planned if I had gone ahead with my other plans in the interim. But beyond that, backing out was simply the latest manifestation of something very obvious about me -- that I have never been (and probably never will be) able to engage in gay sex with a good conscience; I have backed out of more set-up liaisons than I've gone through with. Both my confessor and stranger-priests in confession have said "thanks be to God" for my chronic cold feet, and I obviously don't disagree.

Why am I saying this? Because I'm determined to make myself write about this and what I need to do (I have no idea where this post will end as I write it), and to do so without getting down about it. Here's the deal as I put it in a message to my confessor a little bit ago:
Satan had the upper hand for a while ... not long enuf to make good on his promises before I let God right things just now. I'm trying not to fall now, not in re self-abuse but the morbid guilt that has been Satan's very successful Plan B (with me) in the past.
Last year, on the Monday after Palm Sunday at Adoration, I came across for the first time St. Josemaria's "Christ Is Passing By" and I read his Palm Sunday sermon (oh wow ... Steeleye Span's recording of "Gaudete" just came up on my basically-all-pop iTunes; I'll put it on "repeat" until I finish), and it was one of the most uplifting things I've ever read. I frantically wrote down whole chunks of it on the back of bank receipts and other scraps of paper I had in my wallet. I bought a copy of the book later. The Palm Sunday sermon was about interior struggle, and the ways we can fall into sin, including one most relevant here -- pride. St. Josemaria says this:
However, a powerful enemy is lying in wait for us, an enemy which counters our desire to incarnate Christ's doctrine in our lives. This enemy is pride, which grows if we do not reach out for the helping and merciful hand of God after each failure and defeat. In that case the soul remains in the shadows, in an unhappy darkness, and thinks it is lost. Its imagination creates all sorts of obstacles which have no basis in fact, which would disappear if it just looked at them with a little humility. Prompted by pride and a wild imagination, the soul sometimes creates painful calvaries for itself. But Christ is not on these calvaries, for joy and peace always accompany our Lord even when the soul is nervous and surrounded by darkness.
When we stumble, as we will, pride produces morbid guilt, what St. Josemaria calls "the painful calvaries." Or at least it does in me. I do not easily want to "reach out for the helping and merciful hand of God," because dammitall, I'm not a wimp. And I never want to be treated as one (for an example of the same character trait in a different context, I once left Adoration in tears, and a man followed me outside and asked if anything was wrong, and I told him "no" and walked away). Getting depressed over every wank is my perverse mental proof of how good I am and how seriously I take things. This is what I mean by referring to my pride as "Satan's Plan B." The physical act of gay sex may be Plan A, but I'm OK at resisting that. Eventually. What I'm not so good at, and thus is the Evil One's fallback, is keeping this stumble in perspective and not succumbing to despair. I've contemplated and acted toward both physical suicide and spiritual suicide (i.e., leaving the Church) at the apparent hopelessness of living a chaste life. And each bout of depression becomes the justification for the next stumble, as needed medication ... which quickly sinks my soul deeper. But St. Josemaria says otherwise:
In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of penance contrite and resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behaviour reports. Jesus Christ our Lord was moved as much by Peter's repentance after his fall as by John's innocence and faithfulness. ... Jesus Christ is always waiting for us to return to him; he knows our weakness.
I have no weaknesses as only wimps have weaknesses. What it is, I realize, is that I want to be God, at least the god of myself, since that would make me perfect, omniscient, omnipotent and all the rest. And I have no interest whatever, given my Cartmanesque detestation of hippies, in the all-affirming, all-luvving New Age god. If I'm gonna be god of myself, it'll be a Jonathan Edwards god.

But this time, it will be different. I'm not gonna cry over this one. I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I committed a solicitation. End of story. God doesn't tut-tut at me and rubs his hands at how many more years in purgatory he can impose on me, etc. But He still wants me back (the Steeleye Span song I mentioned above does not have the title "Tristis"). God cares more that I let Him, through my conscience and the providence of my friend's visit, back in time to prevent further and greater wrong. St. Josemaria says this :
I know that the moment we talk about fighting we recall our weakness and we foresee falls and mistakes. God takes this into account. As we walk along it is inevitable that we will raise dust; we are creatures and full of defects. I would almost say that we will always need defects. They are the shadow which shows up the light of God's grace and our resolve to respond to God's kindness. And this chiaroscuro will make us human, humble, understanding and generous.
Let's not deceive ourselves: in our life we will find vigour and victory and depression and defeat. This has always been true of the earthly pilgrimage of Christians, even of those we venerate on the altars. Don't you remember Peter, Augustine, Francis? I have never liked biographies of saints which naively — but also with a lack of sound doctrine — present their deeds as if they had been confirmed in grace from birth. No. The true life stories of christian heroes resemble our own experience: they fought and won; they fought and lost. And then, repentant, they returned to the fray.
We should not be surprised to find ourselves defeated relatively often, usually or even always in things of little importance which we tend to take seriously. If we love God and are humble, if we persevere relentlessly in our struggle, the defeats will never be very important. There will also be abundant victories which bring joy to God's eyes. There is no such thing as failure if you act with a right intention, wanting to fulfill God's will and counting always on his grace and your own nothingness.
My confessor once said to me "we conservatives sometimes mock and roll our eyes at Scripture's mentions of unconditional love and boundless forgiveness. But we need it as much as anyone else." And he has said it comes exactly from what St. Josemaria talks about -- recognizing the greatness of God's grace compared to our nothingness.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Continuing the foreign theme

British Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly will swim the Tiber and join the rest of his family. Once he is no longer prime minister that is; being a Catholic in Britain and having political power apparently is a bit of a sticky wicket.

Am I too cynical to complain that it seems awfully convenient for Blair to convert now, when his political career is over? Particularly since, according to the article
(Blair) has regularly attended Catholic services in recent years, both with his family and alone ... Mr Blair has not been seen in a church of his professed Anglican faith except on official occasions.
I wish I could display the appropriate appreciation due to all new converts. But that timing ...

But I know that complaining about the reporting in this article requires no cynicism whatsoever. Two priceless gems. First:
While opposition leader in the mid-1990s Mr Blair often took communion with his wife and children at a Catholic church in Islington in London, which is seen as a signal he is totally loyal to the faith.
Whaaaat?

If you are not a Catholic, you are not "in communion" at a Catholic Mass and so you cannot (it's not especially a matter of legalistic rules) "take Communion." The Church's teachings and rules here are plain as day. The very next paragraph of the story even notes that he stopped receiving the Host "in public" (but in private, might we infer?) upon the instructions of Britain's top Catholic bishop.

The wisdom of the Church's inter-communion rules aren't even an issue with respect to the Ever-Falling Religious IQ of the Media because the unnamed Evening Standard author cited the fact of a Protestant taking Communion at a Catholic Mass (which occurs every day, for better or worse) as "a signal he is totally loyal to the faith." That is ... Bonkers. Batshit. Bedlam. (Those are just the B's, and I'm not even getting into objective b-matters like blasphemy).

You broke the Church's rules before you were even a part of it. Whatever else might be said, how is that evidence of being "totally loyal"? You don't even have to be a Catholic to absorb and agree with the Church's teaching on inter-communion. You might be right to be an outsider because Rome teaches a false theory of justification or inserted the filioque or overstates Petrine primacy or whatever ... but the non-Catholic is objectively an outsider, knows it, and should act accordingly, even on his own terms.

Second, we get the greatest "bury the lead" of all time. The revelation that the Catholic Church has repudiated the Nicene Creed, a blockbuster story that is not mentioned until the 4th- and 3rd-to-last paragraphs.
If Mr Blair is to convert formally, he will have to undergo a course of instruction, which is likely to be conducted by Father Seed.
To be received officially into the Church, he will be expected to take part in a service of baptism, followed by confirmation and Holy Communion.
"We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins"? I guess not.

All the important Christian churches acknowledge one another's baptisms as valid (one would think a religion writer would be good for knowing such a thing). If Blair is an Anglican in good standing, he will not be rebaptized, period. I suppose it's theoretically possible that Blair was never baptized or only baptized in a church that isn't Nicene-compliant (like the Mormons, say). But given Blair's life history and his current public profession of the Church of England, I extremely seriously doubt either of those possibilities.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Today South Africa, tomorrow ...

Homosexualist pushers of gay "marriage" and gay rights have said they simply want civic equality. This should never have fooled anyone, but here's more evidence, from South Africa, that what they want is much more -- the erasure of all critical opinion from earth, including the changing of church teachings and/or the undermining of church authority. Gay "marriage" and hate-crime laws, desirable though they may be in themselves (to them), are not the end of the matter, but means to that end. It is not enough to be tolerant, you must approve.

Keep in mind as you read the article and my commentary that we are talking about a nation that already has gay "marriage" as a civil fact. And that gay-rights advocates in this country, where we mostly don't have gay "marriage" (yet), repeatedly assure their opponents in public that gay "marriage" won't require the church to do anything.
Six months after gay marriages were legalised, at least four leading denominations are refusing to conduct same-sex unions.
The national leadership of the Anglican Church, as well as the provincial offices of the Catholic Church, Baptist Church and Presbyterian Church, all confirmed their clergy were not allowed to officiate at or bless gay marriages.
The Methodist Church - which has been embroiled in a row with 19 of its ministers over whether to conduct civil unions - has an interim policy that prohibits gay marriages in its churches.
According to the Civil Union Act, if a religious institution does not wish to conduct civil unions, it must submit a letter to Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula explaining why.
In execution, there is little wrong with the story on journalistic matters: editorializing language is avoided, both sides are adequately covered, the article doesn't "lead with the reaction" (in this case, something like: "Gay rights supporters are critical of the six churches that do not perform gay marriages...").

But what I find interesting is the fact that the story exists at all. If the "churches don't have to act contrary to their teachings" provision and its implicit privatization of religious marriage was the spoonful of sugar that made the medicine of secular gay-"marriage" go down, what is the matter of public interest now for the Cape Argus newspaper on this matter. Shouldn't that "trade" have ended public debate, as the Massachusetts poo-bahs say they want "and end to this debate"? The newspaper indicates by its coverage decision that it sees gay "marriage" laws are simply one front in a war and that it opened up new fronts, i.e., questioning which churches won't perform gay "marriages" and why. Like the new black, this new front then becomes the hot topic, the next frontier of gay-rights activism.

The homosexual activists quoted at the end makes it quite clear that they don't intend for this law to be the end.
South Africa's largest activist group for gay and lesbian rights, the Triangle Project, said it was aware of the stance many churches had taken on same-sex unions.
On the eve of the International Day against Homophobia today, spokesman Vista Kalipa said the group had received a number of calls from disappointed couples who had resorted to marrying at Home Affairs after they were turned away by their churches.
"Technically, religious institutions do have the right not to conduct civil unions," he said.
But the stance of the churches against homosexuality went back "a long way".
"It's not just a gay rights issue any more, it has become a human rights issue," he said.
HRC head Jody Kollapen said the government and churches should consider allowing individual ministers to register under the Civil Union Act.
"That way, people have the option of marrying in association with their religious institution."
So much to unpack. So little time.

First of all, I love the use of "technically," as though the Triangle Project views the free exercise of religion like Archie Bunker or Dirty Harry view Miranda rights. This was not some obscure subpoint. Whether and how to exempt churches has been a major feature, if not at the very center, of every debate about gay-rights legislation. The provision was written into South Africa's gay "marriage" law pursuant to that discussion, along with procedures ("must submit a letter to Home Affairs Minister") to implement it. Calling it a "technicality" bespeaks a certain ... unwillingness to see the church exemption as an important part of the gay "marriage" law South Africa passed. And realize that granting civil gay "marriage" will not "end this debate."

Second, look at how the spokesman says that gay marriage is now NOT a matter of gay rights, but of "human rights." But "human rights" is a term of the art in international law, and one that binds all nations. If not allowing gay marriage is a violation of "human rights," there could be at least a prima facie cause for action against a country or its laws under international law. And once a case can get heard, it's very much a matter of getting the right judge (which one can shop for, and thus always find, under new theories of international law such as universal jurisdiction). The World Court ordering the US to redefine marriage is probably unlikely, but would in principle become possible.

Third, as a matter of both domestic legal precedent and the realities of current US political culture, if something is a human right, then the church cannot deny it to an individual. In some cases, as a legal matter (Christian Scientists and child medical care, say), and in all cases as a matter of support in public opinion. A religious doctrine that is constructed in the public eye as a human-rights violation, as something really wrong ... will be swept aside. I made roughly this point before:
The US isn't quite this "advanced," but this sort of law, trampling on how the Church can conduct its business, augurs what is to come, because it is very much the result of the internal logic of the normalization of homosexuality and gay non-discrimination laws. If the view that homosexual acts are immoral and ought not to be encouraged or normalized (i.e., the teaching of the Church, and the entire Christian tradition until the day before yesterday) is some kind of irrational prejudice analogous to racism, then these kinds of laws are, in fact, good and should pass. Calling racism a religion does not hold up under current law and social praxis, and there is no reason to think "homophobia" will either.
Someone saying that churches not performing gay "marriages" is really a "human-rights" matter is, intentionally or not, doing the spadework for stripping religions of their doctrinal freedom, right to preach, the whole panoply of what rubes call "free exercise of religion." As with Christian Science and child-abuse laws.

Fourth, consider Kollapen's suggestion that one way to "solve" this "problem" of people not being able to marry in the faith community tradition church they want to is for the state to provide for individual ministers registering as "gay-marriage-willing" under the Civil Union Act. First of all, it would go back on an explicit provision in South Africa's original gay "marriage" law and thus be another reason to believe that gay activists didn't make the compromise in good faith, as a way to "end to this issue," but rather that they saw it as simply moving the football until the next play. Separately, it also matters that at least two of the churches cited in the article -- Catholic and Anglican -- are hierarchies with episcopal structures. Thus for the state to give individual ministers in those denominations the right to perform gay "marriages" contrary to the teachings of their respective hierarchies, would be outrageous. Undermining church authority by enabling and incentivizing attacks designed to bring down the Church hierarchy, which is nothing more than Caesar interfering with the churches' independence and right to govern their own structures. And since it's in the name of individual rights (of the gay-friendly pastor, struggling against The Big Bad Hiearchy even) -- we know it'll be pursued to the hilt. The individual rights of the supposed marginalized is the great controlling god in our rights-obsessed selfish culture, and all must bend the knee before it.

Fifth, I simply do not give a rat's petootie about people wanting "the option of marrying in association with their religious institution" or "disappointed couples who had resorted to marrying at Home Affairs." Not if those people don't want to live according to the church's rules, one of which is "no marrying the same sex." Why do they care about having the blessing of "their religious institution," if they're so unwilling to live according to its precepts? What is the point of a church in the first place, if it can never say "no"? At some point (we can debate where that point is; but its existence in fact we cannot), you must decide whether your loyalty is to God/gods/Buddha/whatever or to your lifestyle.

If you are not willing to even try to change your lifestyle, then your religion matters so little to you that not having the option of marrying within it (not "not having the option of marrying at all") can be of no great import to you. And if changing your lifestyle constitutes an unreasonable demand in itself from the church, then your lifestyle is what you worship anyway and it's better to be open about that than live a lie. If you want to live the gay lifestyle ... go do so. At some level, I can't stop you in this life, and it'll be in God's hands after that. But don't go pissing in other people's pools (as baptismal fonts, as the case might be). Camille Paglia has long complained about gay groups that try to change Church teaching, dismissing them for what they are -- cowards* who want parental approval.** Be the freethinker you imagine yourself as. Leave the Church.
-------------------------------------------------
* "The bisexual ex-Catholic said that she didn't understand why gays didn't have the courage -- her word -- to leave the Catholic Church. She believes the Catholic Church, which she has rejected, should not be expected to change its teachings to suit gays, or anybody else."

** "The [Presbyterian] report is so eager to ignore away the inconvenient facts of Christian morality about sex that one has to ask the committee members, Why remain Christian at all? Why not leave Judeo-Christianity for our other great Western tradition, the Greco-Roman, in which philosophic discourse about ethics is possible without reference to a transcendental deity? As a lapsed Catholic of wavering sexual orientation, I have never understood the pressure for ordination of gay clergy or even the creation of gay Catholic groups. They seem to me to indicate a need for parental approval, an inability to take personal responsibility for one's own identity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Niech żyje Polska!

First Pope John Paul II, now this.
Poland's education minister on Wednesday called for a ban on the "propagation of homosexuality" in the country's schools, a plan that he argues would protect traditional family values.
Amendments to the education law would require school directors to scrap or ban any activities that promote "homosexuality, pornography or other phenomena violating moral norms," said Education Minister Roman Giertych. ...
However, the minister — who leads the ultraconservative League of Polish Families, a junior partner in Poland's governing coalition — insisted Wednesday that his proposals "do not discriminate against anyone."
"It is only to protect youth from the propagation of views that threaten marriage, threaten family, and threaten the duties of school, which are to prepare one to fulfill family duties and the duties of a citizen," he said.
The proposal is vague on what exactly would constitute propagating homosexuality.
Giertych defined it as "every action that is dependent on the public presentation of a certain belief with the intention of convincing others to that viewpoint."

Maybe "promotion of homosexuality" means stuff like this and this and this.

More on Falwell-hatred

Actually, reading through this Falwell-hate post I linked to below, written by Washington Blade managing editor Kevin Naff (also available at the Blade site here), there's something in it that seems worth unpacking. It's not simply that he despises Jerry Falwell and toasts his death; it's that he indicates himself to be completely impervious to the possibility that he may be wrong to do so.

Naff begins by noting the tributes to Falwell coming in, and two of them stand out to me -- the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner.

Jackson described Falwell as having a “heart of gold,” even though Falwell was a rabid racist during the civil rights movement.
...
Even Tammy Faye Messner appeared by phone in an interview with CNN’s Larry King, telling him that she “broke into tears” upon hearing the news of Falwell’s death, despite years of animosity between them that began when Falwell stole the ministry founded by Tammy and Jim Bakker.
Now I am no fan of Reverend Jackson. But say everything what you want about overhyping his past glories, or his selling out of the unborn, or Hymietown, or his corruption, or his shakedown schtick, or the mistresses on the payroll -- it remains the case that Jackson saw King assassinated and he was at Selma. And even apart from those seminal moments, all black men of Jackson's age know hate from hate. Jackson has absolute legitimacy on the matter of the heart of a segregationist and Naff simply has no standing. It isn't rebutted by the fact of Falwell's having been a segregationist (which Falwell has both always admitted and always regretted since before founding the Moral Majority). And if a black man of Jesse Jackson's age and biography can find it in his soul to forgive Falwell for having been a segregationist and praise him as having "a heart of gold," then frankly who is Kevin Naff to say otherwise on those grounds, that he knows better?

I am more of a fan of Tammy Faye (see below), but some of the same points apply. Here's another part of her Larry King appearance last night.

KING: Jerry -- the surprise -- I mean, Tammy Faye, the surprising thing about that is you had some harsh things to say about Jerry Falwell. You were angry with him when he took over "The PTL Club." You have said things on this program not very nice about him. Why did his death hit you so hard?
MESSNER: I think I wish we could have cleared everything up. I wanted to talk to him and settle him -- and settle things with him. And I tried to do it many times and I tried to do it nicely. And I wanted just so badly to just give him a hug and say, hey, you know, it's all right. It's OK.
We're all human. We all make mistakes. Let's just start over again and -- and go forward from here.
Yesterday is yesterday. Today is today.
In both cases, Naff holds grudges against Falwell on grounds that the aggrieved parties themselves -- Jackson and Messner -- have put behind them and say do not matter now. If Tammy Faye can say she wanted to put the PTL brouhaha to rest, I fail to see why Naff gets to hold it against Falwell. Keep in mind who we're talking about here, in Tammy Faye. We're talking about not simply a camp icon, but a woman who has been at a half-dozen Washington Pride Parades, and a woman who said the following to Washington's gay weekly about male homosexuals:

I love them and they love me. It's just unbelievable. I've never felt such warmth in a group of people. That's the truth. ...
I feel like I'm a mom or a sister to most of those guys, I really do. They treat me like I'm family and that means more to me than anything could ever possibly mean. ...
[Y]ou've got to remember that PTL was one of the very first [Christian television shows] to help the gays. And I was probably one of the first ever to have a gay man on my show. ... We didn't turn anyone away. And I think the gays appreciated that. We accepted the gay community when most religious elements did not.
and this

MW: What would you say to the parent who does not want to accept their child as gay?
TAMMY FAYE: If they don't accept it I would say shame on them. When you're a parent you accept your child as he or she is. ... Your child is not you. ... I would tell that parent, love your child just exactly the way he or she is.
MW: What happens to the parent who won't acknowledge their child?
TAMMY FAYE: The parent loses.
You can fault Tammy Faye's lack of theological intellect, but she is about as pro-gay as a religious figure gets. Yet this gay newsman breezily blows off what she says about Falwell to indulge in his own Two Minutes of Hate.

I'm not saying that Naff or any other homosexual is somehow obliged to agree with Tammy Faye or Jackson. But one would nevertheless hope that an adult intellect would at least give a sign or two of thinking or having thought along the lines of "hmm ... maybe if Messner and Jackson are both paying tribute to Falwell despite their justified personal issues with him, I might reassess my own." In the best of circumstances, perhaps it could even occur to Naff (and I know he's not alone in having the kind of reaction he did) that Messner and Jackson are both Christians, both minister-evangelists, and yet one is a gay icon and the other has an impeccable record of progressive politics. Maybe there might be more to Christianity than right-wing "homophobia." And maybe the fact that forgiveness came to them despite the wrongs committed against them means there's more to the world that a Christian can see but I can't.

After all, it's not surprising that Naff wouldn't listen to Falwell (or me, probably), but if Jackson and Messner cannot make him reconsider his bile in the light of their contrary example and clear legitimacy ... who ever could? I know one should never write off anyone as irredeemably lost, but ...

Maybe something else Tammy Faye said in her Metro Weekly interview needs to be absorbed:

MW: So you’ve forgiven him [referring to Jim Bakker].
TAMMY FAYE: Oh, I forgave him long ago. I forgave Jim the day that our divorce became final. I forgave him for everything and went on with my life.
MW: How does one come to a state of forgiveness?
TAMMY FAYE: It's a choice. You ask God to help you and then you just make the choice. It's not worth living in unforgiveness. I have a saying that forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. And I gave myself that gift of forgiveness with the help of God. I forgave everyone that hurt me. Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, I forgave all those people.
MW: But can gays people forgive a man like Falwell who has persecuted us so vehemently?
TAMMY FAYE: It's a choice, that's all it is. Forgiveness is a choice. And it's a choice you ask God to help you keep. It doesn't happen overnight. Forgiveness is an ongoing battle. And sometimes when I see Jerry Falwell my heart hurts. But then I say to God, “God I forgave him, I gave Jerry Falwell to you, you take care of him,” and then I'm okay again. So he's in God's hands, he's not in Tammy Faye's hands.
MW: Clearly forgiveness is an important component of your life.
TAMMY FAYE: Yes. It's the only way you can have true happiness because unforgiveness eats you up inside. It's like an acid and it will truly make you sick. I think unforgiveness has been more people's problem than anything in the world. Because when you see somebody you are angry at, your tummy tenses up, your blood pressure goes up, your fists clench, you go into a different mode. And that's not good for the body. So people should forgive just to save themselves.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

I knew it wouldn't take long for the left and the homosexualists start gleefully picking Jerry Falwell's bones and wishing hell and damnation upon him -- Carpetbagger, Pandagon, Huffington Post (though that was actually not as depraved as I thought it would be), Bilerico. Conservative sites have roundups here, here and here.

But Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon (aka Myrna Minkoff) has to be the "winner," with this headline:
The gates of hell swing open and Satan welcomes his beloved son.
I will never cease to be amazed how so many who quite proudly hold Christianity in contempt and mockery will suddenly, when faced with the death of someone hated, become an Angry God holding the Sinner in Her Hands who would make Jonathan Edwards blanche. I mean ... if the Virgin Birth and the "hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit" are just some post-hoc "misogyny-justifying ancient mythology," then what ... uh ... the hell are Satan and the gates of hell? Haven't liberal secularists gone beyond such childish tales? Obviously not.

And never forget ... this was John Edwards's would-be blogger-in-chief. Remember, anybody considering voting for Edwards. This is the sort of person he hires. You know the world is an interesting place when scumbag pornographer Larry Flynt displays more class than the leading lights of the liberal blogosphere and the gay establishment -- the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Truth Wins Out, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (which even calls on the media to produce more attack obits), and the Southern Voice ("There are no tears in my house tonight. Only Champagne. Good riddance, Jerry Falwell.")

On the occasion of the death of a political rival, you don't need to pretend he wasn't one, and Flynt doesn't. But a death statement should not read like the text of a political attack ad -- period. No matter how baleful one thinks a public figure may be. Flynt mentions what became a friendship with Falwell (sorta like Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson did later in life). There's a Podcast here (scroll down a bit) from one of their joint appearances, a discussion on the First Amendment where "they discussed a variety of issues, including the friendship that had developed between them in the years since the Court’s decision." In his statement upon Falwell's death, Flynt makes the obvious point that getting to know a person qua person puts him in a different light than knowing a political rival. I'm confident Falwell would have said something similar had Providence been different and Flynt died before he did.

But reading Marcotte and the rest of the liberal netroots on Falwell, it becomes clear that the less one believes in God, the more psychological need there becomes to do the damning yourself. Or to put the same thought another way, if you believe in a providential God and an afterlife¹, you will handle with equanimity and maturity the unjust person (let us stipulate) dying happily. Knowing that it is ultimately all in God's hands can do that; in death, there is no political enmity.

As for Falwell's teachings on homosexuality, they were far more nuanced than they're being portrayed as. He clearly (and rightly) taught that the homosexual lifestyle was sinful. He was able to maintain a dialogue with Mel White of Soulforce and got rather the better of it IMHO, and let him attend Thomas Road Baptist Church on occasion. But he also said from that pulpit the following (scroll to page 2), which sums up the Catholic teaching on homosexuality as well as anything:
There has to be repentance. Homosexuality is no more sinful than adultery or fornication, but is as sinful. But if we were to stop sinners from attending our church, this place would be a lumberyard.
RIP, Reverend.
------------------------------------------------¹ Not even necessarily the Christian God and heaven/hell. For the purposes of the narrow point I'm making, Hinduism/Buddhism and karma will quite suffice.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The people don't rule ... we do

The Massachusetts Attorney General has said "to hell with the law." How? By telling a gay group that the state would fight a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, in the event that Massachusetts voters should pass it. Here is the Boston Globe:
Attorney General Martha Coakley said last night that if Massachusetts voters were to approve a ban on same-sex marriages, she would back any efforts to challenge the measure on constitutional grounds.
A constitutional ban could go on the ballot in November 2008 if it receives a second vote of approval from the Legislature.
"I think we can easily anticipate that if the proposed amendment was successful, there would be protracted, hard-fought litigation about the constitutionality of such a provision," she said in a speech at the annual dinner of the Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association. "If that battle is necessary, you have my support."
She said she has asked lawyers in her office's civil rights division to be ready to respond, if necessary.
What the colorful could that possibly mean? What legal ground could there be for the executive of the state to battle against a state constitutional amendment once duly-passed? (as distinct from their being politicians, who obviously will line up on the merits while it's being debated).

Does self-government exist if a state court can strike down state constitutional amendments? If it can, what recourse do the people have, short of violent revolution, against runaway courts. I know High School Civics 101 is rather naive, but I distinctly remember it being said that you could always amend a constitution if you don't like what it says, but now Martha Coakley is saying the people don't even have THAT option. Or at least THOSE kinds of people don't. Nor is she the only Massachusetts official to have this kind of contempt for democracy. According to Domenico Bettinelli -- Gov. Deval Patrick warned of a "circus" that would prevent supposed-real issues from being addressed if there's a marriage amendment on the ballot. Instead, he says, the state's elites should just declare the issue "settled" (in the direction they like, of course; issues are never "settled" in the direction they don't like).
Rather than turn Massachusetts into a political circus for a national debate over something which is largely settled here, my own view is that we ought to resolve this on the merits so that it stays off the ballot...
Of course the very fact that there's a petition for a constitutional amendment rather suggests that this issue is not settled. A court decision is only "settled" to the extent Dred Scott "settled" slavery and Roe settled abortion. There's a similar admonition from Coakley too at the end of the article on her -- "we want to try and ensure that when the Legislature reconvenes, it rejects this antigay, antimarriage amendment. It can and should do it on the merits and end this debate once and for all."

But back to the absurd legal claims of Martha Coakley -- her job as attorney general is to uphold the state law, including constitutional amendments once passed, even if she doesn't like them. REPEAT IN RED LETTERS: Even if she doesn't like them. "Attorney General Martha Coakley" has no other legal quiddity or existence; she doesn't derive her power from her private morality, rather she is a creature of the law. In the paraphrased words of Mr. McAllister -- "Who does she think she is?" Diversity Director-General or Attorney General? She is betraying herself (and I know I'm stealing this line, but I can't remember from whom) as the sort of person for whom liberalism is a religion whose First Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Discriminate" and the law only has force to the extent that it conforms thereto.

On what possible grounds could, in Coakley's words, "the constitutionality of such a provision" be challenged (assuming that we're talking about the state constitution)? What can it possibly mean to say that a constitutional amendment is unconstitutional? Certainly amendments contradict existing or previous provisions. But that's why it's called "amending" the constitution. To change its text and thus meaning.

To pick an easy example, if you passed a constitutional amendment reimposing slavery (and good luck doing that ... or not, actually), the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery would thus become null and void. Ordinary statutory construction and plain common sense would tell you that the framers, legislators and/or populaces passing this hypothetical 28th Amendment knew what they were doing in passing an amendment that directly contradicts another amendment. The voters of Massachusetts want to repeal that part of their constitution/laws that their supreme court says currently mandate gay "marriage." That's what a constitution having provisions for being amended is for.

We don't have to go into hypotheticals. Certainly, nobody thought to challenge the 21st Amendment (repealing Prohibition) on the grounds that it was unconstitutional under the 18th Amendment (which had established Prohibition in the first place). Same thing here. Only it's even more a no-brainer because gay "marriage" isn't even an explicit amendment like slavery or prohibition, but rather the application of an amendment. Nothing in the Massachusetts laws or constitution says "gays shall have the right to marry the same sex," but rather there are general provisions -- privacy, equal protection, sex discrimination, sexuality discrimination; the exact grounds don't matter -- that the court says imply a right to gay marriage. So we aren't even talking about repealing an amendment or law, merely an interpretation in a given matter.

The whole point of constitutional amendments is to be a law beyond the law, to take things off the table, to override "regular" laws, and to clarify the application of earlier amendments. On this last point, there are at least two US constitutional amendments (the 11th and 25th) were intended to correct unintended technical errors in the text of the Constitution. Practically all of them in some way or another, reverse substantive or structural judgments (DC having no presidential vote; legislative appointment of senators; the aforementioned prohibition) that were already present in the text.

But once passed, those earlier judgments are overridden by the new amendment. What is the point of having an amendment otherwise? Whatever grounds for the Massachusetts supreme court may have thought it had in the first instance, whether persuasive or not, it would HAVE to be trumped by this amendment. Even state laws that say "gays shall not be discriminated against" would be overridden by a state constitutional amendment; the law would then have to be constructed either as "marriage law does not discriminate against gays" (this is, in fact, the case most seriously-thought-through conservatives would make) or "you cannot discriminate against gays, except under the provisions of this amendment" (which would be the controlling law in the matter of marriage).

There's one other quote from this Martha Coakley person worth noting and commenting. She says that Massachusetts has had gay marriage for a couple of years and the world hasn't ended.
In her speech, Coakley said that despite warnings by opponents of the decision, "the sky has not fallen, life goes on."
Well, of course, nobody predicted that the sky would exactly fall. And who said life wouldn't go on? The sky would not fall and life would go on if we reinstituted slavery, but that is not exactly an argument for slavery.

Somewhat less literally but far more importantly, Coakley betrays that she completely misunderstands what moral collapse is and how it comes about. Social-moral disintegration is a much more subtle process than the sky falling. In the words of Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment" -- "man grows used to everything — the beast." All societies are at least somewhat functional, simply because they have to be (they wouldn't *be* societies lest). It's all a matter of what we get used to and how we adjust our expectations and norms in order to stay functional (society) or sane (the individual). Daniel Patrick Moynihan called one symptom of this need to keep society functional "defining deviancy down." Social norms don't exactly die, in the "kaput" sense that people die -- what happens is that norms get redefined into unrecognizability and pale shadows of their former selves.

The family has been under mostly successful assault from modernity for about 250 years, but as long as human beings are around, we have to have *some* understanding of family. We can never *say* we've killed the family, so like Freud's tribe who could never admit they'd killed the patriarch, we domesticate our definitions and keep the thing around like a stuffed animal from the taxidermist that we insist on thinking is a real tiger. Now, in order to avoid having to admit we've destroyed marriage in the name of abortion, contraception, free-love, fornication and homosexuality, we've redefined "marriage" to mean "(any number of) persons who (say they) love each other (for now) (whatever they understand "love" to mean)." Or in one phrase: man is smart enough and creative enough to always be able to redefine happiness so as to avoid calling what he has created "misery."

Yes, life will go on. But on what terms, set by whom? That is the question for social policy (gay marriage, slavery, prohibition, whatever) and it's an irreducibly moral one, not an experiential one.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fasting and mortification

Last night, after work, I was invited by a coworker to go to a bar on Capitol Hill. I hadn't eaten dinner -- so I was eager to have some grub. The problem was that I also had been fasting all day, drinking nothing but water. I went anyway and had conventional bar food (buffalo wings and then a cheeseburger). And water. Naturally, this raised my friend's eyebrows, and I said I was fasting from all drink except water ("even soda," I told him). When I saddled up to bar later and asked the bartender for a refill of ice water, I felt constrained to say that I had dinner, i.e., I wasn't a cheap moocher.

One of the things the stranger priest told me at last week's gobsmacking Confession is that I have to fast daily. "It doesn't need to be anything big," Father said, and one of the three or so examples Father provided was not putting sugar in your coffee (a memorably amusing thing to say, to me, since I detest coffee). But he said "you have to do it daily, as a constant reminder." A constant reminder. That's really the point of fasting, and why it's best when daily. It's not that giving up meat or sugar or whatever is good for you, in any physical sense -- that's called "dieting." I don't want to overstate or indulge a taste for paradox or perversity, but in some ways I think fasting's worth is precisely in its worthlessness. Giving up something bad or indifferent because of a tangible secular benefit is not doing something for love of God, but for love of self or other. It is also the little things, the apparent irrelevancies, that matter. We also acknowledge this fact about our character in other senses when we define character as "what we do when nobody is looking," or "how we treat our social inferiors, who have no power over us." St. Josemaria Escriva speaks of internal struggle in a similar way:
There is another hypocritical enemy of our sanctification: the idea that this interior struggle has to be against extraordinary obstacles, against fire-belching dragons. This is another sign of pride. We are ready to fight, but we want to do it noisily, with the clamour of trumpets and the waving of standards. We must convince ourselves that the worst enemy of a rock is not a pickaxe or any other such implement, no matter how sharp it is. No, its worst enemy is the constant flow of water which drop by drop enters the crevices until it ruins the rock's structure. The greatest danger for a Christian is to underestimate the importance of fighting skirmishes. The refusal to fight the little battles can, little by little, leave him soft, weak and indifferent, insensitive to the accents of God's voice.
I don't know if St. Josemaria would like this analogy, but later tonight I plan to go to a drafthouse/theater to watch a movie I was eager to see but missed on first-run. But it's Friday, so -- no meat. Just because. No chicken wings or fingers. No burger. No steak. My body will not get what it wants. For no "reason" other than to deny the flesh for the sake of a devotion made in God's name. And at the same time, the beer that I couldn't have last night will be made more present to me as the gift of God that worldly things can be.

At last week's confession, Father Who-Knows also told me to wear something on my person at all times.¹ I told him I already wear a brown scapular. He said: "well ... add something more." I asked if he meant "obtrusive" and he said he did. Despite my citing St. Josemaria above and having several of his books, I don't have cilices lying around my apartment. So I went to my confessor and asked him if he had a suggestion. He gave me a Cord of St. Joseph, which, as well as a mortification, is also a sign of chastity. Father told me to tie the knots into the cord myself, saying they represented the Seven Joys and Seven Sorrows of St. Joseph:
  1. The doubt of Saint Joseph (Matthew 1:19) and the Message of the Angel (Matthew 1:20)
  2. The poverty of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:7) and the Birth itself (Luke 2:7)
  3. The Circumcision (Luke 2:21) and the Holy Name of Jesus (Matthew 1:25)
  4. The prophecy of Simeon that many would be lost (Luke 2:34) and his prophecy that many would rise (Luke 2:34)
  5. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:14) and the Overthrow of idols (Isaias 19:1)
  6. The return from Egypt (Matthew 2:22) and Life with Mary and Jesus (Luke 2:39)
  7. The loss of the Child Jesus (Luke 2:45) and Finding Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:46)
The thing struck me as I was meditating on these Seven Joys and Sorrows is that each of the joys grows out of the previous sorrows. In fact, each sorrow was the logical prerequisite for the corresponding joy -- the grounding, if you will. That Joseph heard his betrothed Mary was with child (sorrow) but learned this was the Holy Spirit's work and the child would be the Messiah (joy). That Joseph had to flee to Egypt (sorrow) but he saw the destruction of the idols (joy). That the child Jesus was lost to Joseph (sorrow) but he saw Him preach at the temple (joy). No joy without sorrow, but God's Providence is such that sorrow begets joy.

And that seeming paradox reminded me of something our Courage chaplain had said at this week's meeting.² Father read to us the Third Beatitude:
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted
Father pointed out a couple of things, but the most relevant one here is that the first several Beatitudes are all paradoxical; "mourning" being generally thought of as the opposite of "comfort." He pointed out that Our Lord mourned and wept when he went to the home of the dead Lazarus. But what prompted His mourning was not Lazarus (who was in Good Hands) but the reaction of the crowd and Lazarus's family. Who would soon be comforted. We all suffer, and thus mourn, Father said. But part of the virtue of courage is seeing beyond ourselves and our immediate situation -- which distinguishes between a mourning that will not be comforted ("grimness," and he told an anecdote from his seminarian days about that) and one in which Our Lord is present and acknowledged. In the latter, comfort is possible and the seeming contradictions of the Beatitudes cease to be so. St. Joseph's mournful sorrows became his comfort and joy. And maybe smaller sufferings, like dietary restrictions, or bigger smaller sufferings, like unwanted passions, can lead us to God also. Here's St. Josemaria again:
Christ gives us his risen life, he rises in us, if we become sharers in his cross and his death. We should love the cross, self-sacrifice and mortification. Christian optimism is not something sugary, nor is it a human optimism that things will "work out well." No, its deep roots are awareness of freedom and faith in grace. It is an optimism which makes us be demanding with ourselves. It gets us to make a real effort to respond to God's call.
Not so much despite our wretchedness but in some way through it, through our life as men of flesh and blood and dust, Christ is shown forth: in our effort to be better, to have a love which wants to be pure, to overcome our selfishness, to give ourselves fully to others — to turn our existence into a continuous service.
So the next day, my confessor blesses my St. Joseph's Cord, while I kneel before the statue of St. Joseph at Father's parish. I've worn it tied around my waist ever since, except while bathing. It cuts a little, but not dangerously or seriously so. It's not magic, nor a "cure" for my desires, in the sense that aspirin is a cure for a headache. But it's a constant reminder and taking it off would be a task or something needing explanation. Because it's worn under my clothes, it isn't ostentatious (I didn't mentioned my fast at the bar last night beyond what my co-worker asked, nor did I mention my scapular or my cord at all). Again, it's a simple devotional means to not putting myself first. The kitschy sacramentals are not just kitsch; they may be that, but Godly kitsch still makes God's presence a felt reality, not an abstract proposition. And ... ("knock wood," "famous last words," every other cliche you can think of) ... the cord and the Beatitudes and the St. Josemaria book I've obviously been reading (called "Christ Is Passing By," not coincidentally) have helped my chastity, prayer and general devotion enormously. The last word to St. Josemaria:
The Christian vocation is one of sacrifice, penance, expiation. ... We must try to imitate Christ, "always carrying about in our body the dying of Christ," his abnegation, his suffering on the cross, "so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies." Our way is one of immolation and, in this denial, we find gaudium cum pace, both joy and peace.
We do not look upon the world with a frown. Some biographers of saints have in the past been interested only in highlighting extraordinary things in the lives of God's servants, from even their earliest days in the cradle. They have, unintentionally perhaps, done a disservice to Christian truth. They even said of some of them that as babies they did not cry, nor drink their mother's milk on Fridays, out of a spirit of penance. You and I came into this world crying our heads off, and we most assuredly drank our milk in total disregard for fasts and ember days.
Now, we have learned to discover, with the help of God, in the succession of apparently similar days, a time for true penance, and in these moments we resolve to improve our life. This is the way to ready ourselves for the grace and inspirations of the Holy Spirit in our soul. And with that grace, I repeat, comes gaudium cum pace: joy, peace and perseverance in our struggle.
Mortification is the seasoning of our life. And the best mortification is that which overcomes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life in little things throughout the day. Ours should be mortifications that do not mortify others, and which give us more finesse, more understanding and more openness in our dealings with everybody.
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¹ This is tougher for men than for women because of our culture's differing rules about adornment.
² Details are from my memory, but recounted only with and because of Father's permission. Courage meetings are always confidential.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This week

Friends, Romanists, Open-Book-readers (thanks, Amy).

First, I appreciate everybody who e-mailed me and assured they'd meet my prayer request from Tuesday. Though one such man is now in much more urgent need than I.

I have had a couple of people express private concern to me, since I mention "crossing a line" in the request and the two posts since have both been about spiritual strength in dying people.¹ It isn't important exactly what I meant by "crossing a line," but nobody should fear anything like that about me. I have no health problems, no reason to think my death is imminent. Nor have I done anything that has those consequences down the road.²

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¹ I also have made allusion here to my past episodes of sexual risk-taking and an HIV scare; people whom I know also have more knowledge of details, putting the worst closer to the front of their heads.
² See Note 1.