Thursday, January 15, 2009

Staying classy

Upon the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus, the always charitable Andrew Sullivan wrote, now that the man cannot provide us with his version of this encounter:
I met Richard John Neuhaus only a couple of times, but he took the second occasion to tell me to my face, with his clerical collar on, that I was "objectively disordered." I remember this rather well because we were in an elevator at the time and I didn't quite know where to look.
I'll go out on a limb though and say, whatever Sullivan says now he remembers rather well, that this is not accurate. I posted Father Scalia's talk below and he goes to excruciating length to tease out what "intrinsically disordered" or "objectively disordered" do in fact mean, and what they refer to. They can never refer to a person. Ever. No Church document has ever said either of those things about persons, and I have read all of those that touch on this topic.

There are four explanations (just speaking the logical possibilities)
  1. Sullivan is flat-out lying and made the story up from whole cloth
  2. Sullivan misheard or misunderstood an actual conversation
  3. Father Neuhaus doesn't understand Church teaching as well as I and/or Father Scalia do
  4. Father Neuhaus spoke imprecisely in an impromptu oral conversation
Simple charity requires me to exclude (1) and simple humility requires me to exclude (3).

Now (4) is a possibility -- even the best of us slip into imprecision or speak casually or forget certain philosophical distinctions that we acknowledge. But it strikes me as unlikely in this case. I've heard Father Neuhaus speak and give interviews, and he's not orally inarticulate or imprecise. And generally, homosexuality has become in recent years such a hot-button issue for the Church and its teaching so often distorted, willfully or otherwise, that any decently-formed priest or Catholic with intellectual pretensions will have the philosophical p's and q's in the front of his head, not the back, when speaking with a homosexual person. (I know I do.)

And it's not as though there isn't a public record of Sullivan doing (2). Read practically anything he's ever written on homosexuality and the Church, and you'll see the same basic misunderstanding -- the identification of the person with the act and/or the feeling. And from the very beginning: I'll post an extensive discussion of his mistake in "Virtually Normal" when I can get done with it.

So, I would bet New York to a donut that Neuhaus said something like the following, all of which are perfectly congruent with Church teaching, and none of which mean what Sullivan hears:
  • "Your orientation or feelings are objectively disordered"
  • "Homosexuality is objectively disordered"
  • "It is unfortunate that you identify with an objective disorder"
Obviously, those choices aren't exhaustive of all the things that could have been said that use the term "objective disorder." But as I said ... it sure was classy for Sully to repeat this anecdote now that Father Neuhaus is in no position to dispute it to the world.

Offer it up

A priest mentioned to me recently a couple of important things about the theology of "offering it up," something that many people in my situation do.
  • "Offering it up" doesn't make "it" go away.
  • "Offering it up" doesn't make "it" not painful.
It is the most natural thing in the world to think these things, but they are incompatible with why one "offers it up." The point of offering it up is to transvalue or sanctify suffering by joining our sufferings to the Cross. Our Lord accepted the Cross, not chucked it aside, i.e., made it go away. And He didn't accept the pain because it was something he was impervious to, like a deaf man standing in front of a bullhorn.

The point of offering up suffering is to transcend it, not end it.

Father Scalia does ToT

Last week, our Courage chaplain spoke at the Arlington Diocese's Theology on Tap program, on "The True Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality."

The Podcast of Father Scalia's talk is here. It's an MP3 file, but it doesn't automatically download the file, just opens a browser window and plays the file, so it's quite safe. And here's the page that links to Podcasts of all the ToT speakers, plus the schedule for Monday nights at Pat Troy's Ireland's Own in Old Town Alexandria.

I believe I was the only person from our chapter; I certainly saw no others and neither did Father, though I can't exclude the possibility that some in the audience were struggling with this issue but have not come forward. Father begins with the overall Church teaching on sex as having meaning, and goes from there. Here's several of the key points.
  • "The Church does not have two different standards for chastity -- one for homosexuals and one for heterosexuals."
  • "Notice that both these groups (gay activists and Fred Phelps) make the same error. They collapse the person into the sexual attractions. They believe that sexual attractions define the person. The Church's view of the person is much deeper and broader than that. That sexual attractions are an aspect of the human person, an aspect of human sexuality, but they do not define the person."
  • "First [the Catechism talks about] homosexual acts, which the church teaches are 'intrinsically disordered' ... The church does not teach that persons are intrinsically disordered, it has never taught that. Second, the Catechism talks about homosexual attractions. Homosexual attractions the Catechism describes as 'objectively disordered.' They are not immoral in themselves ... feelings in and of themselves cannot be morally good or morally bad; they're simply feelings. They become morally charged when we act on them. But there are certain feelings lead us to the wrong things and certain feelings lead us to the right things."
  • "This is one of the boldest paragraphs in the Catechism. It calls those with same-sex attractions to holiness, not just to physical continence -- it's not just saying, 'OK, you've just gotta control yourself and that's it.' No, 'you have a particular weakness, an attraction that is not right, but you're called to holiness.' And as is true for everyone, it is the struggle against our sinful inclinations that makes us holy. We don't become holy despite the struggle -- 'gosh, if I just got over my human weakness, then I could be holy.' No, it is by struggling with our human weakness and availing ourselves of every opportunity for God's grace that we become holy. And that's the Church's message to those with same-sex attractions." And then a joke about the nature of Confession; I admit tearing up a bit at this point.
And he goes on to make a point I never tire of making, immediately and in the Q-and-A -- that the homosexual movement is simply applying the morality of the sexual revolution, which was mostly the fruit of heterosexual sins, most prominently contraception and divorce. (Stonewall came after the Summer of Love, not before. Or in Father's words "given that's the way [most heterosexual couple today] live marriage -- we can do that.")

The questions afterwards were sometimes pointed but always respectful. No ranting "WHY DO YOU HATE ME!!!!" types. My favorite Q-and-A moment was when one person asked something about "how does one rebut 'Gay Argument X'," and Father called that "playing defense" and said he was more interested in playing offense (I winced at where this metaphor could go) and explain the Church's teaching on sexuality, and the beauty of it and what's good about it. The Church is not the Ravens, who can win by relying on a great defense.¹

After the speech, owner Pat Troy said that night's audience was the most people ever to attend a ToT, even outdrawing one by Bishop Loverde (don't get a big head, Padre. I'm thinking that the fact the word "sex" was in the title may have had something to do with it).

But it'd be hard to imagine anyone ever topping it, at least in that venue. The bar was completely packed, and I would be stunned if there was no fire-code violations -- people were standing the aisles two-deep and the waiters and waitresses had to struggle to walk around.
¹ The fact Father said the Ravens, not the Redskins is proof of bona fides -- only a football fan could have said that. Though this Steelers fan hopes the Ravens defense, great though it is, comes up short this weekend against another team that plays great defense.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rule #1 -- If you make a threat, carry it out

You must carry out threats, if for no better reason than to preserve your ability to threaten something the next time. This basic rule applies to much more than, say, Israel and Hamas. Like to Britain and Catholic adoption agencies.

The BBC is reporting that half of the Catholic adoption agencies are wussing out on threats to shut down rather than comply with a British law requiring all groups providing public services, even religious groups effective Jan. 1, to accede to state morality on homosexuality.

Actually, if you read through to the end of the story, it's worse than 5 of 11 agencies complying with Caesar's unjust law. It's actually 5 of the 8 that the BBC could determine; in three of the 11 cases, it wasn't known what the agency was doing. Even among the three agencies that are not complying with the law, only one has actually closed down; the other two are seeking reclassification as agencies whose mission caters specifically to married couples and singles (I am not holding my breath that Caesar will buy this legerdemain in my opinion).

Now please tell me ... why should the British government, in its threat to force approval of the gay lifestyle on everybody in the Scepter'd Isle, believe Church warnings in the future?

There's a lesson in this case for American bishops in the Age of Obama. Though actual, formal, gauntlet-throwing threats have been rare so far, the Freedom of Choice Act, which Obama has promised to sign, is causing some rumblings among our bishops.

Some bishops have hinted that if FOCA passes, they will close Catholic hospitals (i.e., about 15 percent of the national total, depending on how you measure) rather than perform abortions or dispense contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. Others (e.g., my bishop, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, at right) have said they would keep the hospitals open, ignore the law and let Caesar arrest the bishop if he dare.

Either option would be fine. But anybody who's ever been in a bar, a playground or any athletic contest knows this much: "never let your mouth write a check your ass can't cash"

Thursday, January 01, 2009

CM at others' comboxes -- 5

I spent much of New Year's Eve -- when I was supposed to be working, natch -- arguing over gay "marriage" at the Culture11 blog Confabulum, answering a Twitter call from C11's Joe Carter for more SoCon support (kinda like Commissioner Gordon shining the Bat-Signal).

The thread is here -- as I type, there's 107 comments, a healthy share from Yours Truly. I cannot reach Culture11 from my home computer (stupid porn filter), though I can read but not post from my iPhone.

Anyhow, only two minor things since my last comment from my work computer last night seem worthy of comment, and they're more in the "throw up my hands" genre. Frankly, every day the arguments and conduct of gay, pro-homosex and pro-SSM activists, particularly since the passage of Proposition 8 in California, provide more evidence for the libel that homosexuality is a form of arrested development.

First, I love [sic] how one can be accused of saying something (post 94 ... that I was "comparing my friends' happy relationships to 'bestiality or whatever' ") that one has quite specifically said he doesn't believe (post 68 ... that there is no necessary link between a person's homosexual desire and behavior and that person's wanting the other forms of unions -- polygamy, bestiality, etc. -- that the arguments for gay marriage will legitimate). Particularly when someone else had noted earlier that much I was about the arguments for SSM than SSM itself.

Second and relatedly in Post 94, there's another example of the same tiresome trope -- bigot ("ignorant prejudice"). Laughably, the person even defends his own rationality with "others of us -- certainly myself -- do see opposition to SSM as rooted in bigotry but are still willing to discuss and explain why." Does one laugh or cry? "Bigot" is not an argument or even an objective description -- it's an attempt to delegitimize the person and end the discussion. You do not, in fact cannot, disuss matters with a bigot, because a bigot by definition does not hold a position for rational reasons. The only thing a pro-SSM person need do in such a "discussion" [sic] is make pronunciamentos that arguments X, Y, Z are "bigotry" and issue the appropriate "anathema sit"s of the bigot.

In fact, a certain gay activist once wrote the following warning, regarding what he called the "Prohibitionist" view of homosexuality that is very relevant to this, even though he himself has not only fallen off this-here wagon, but isn't even interested in getting back on.
Perhaps the most depressing and fruitless feature of the current debate about homosexuality is to treat all version of this argument as the equivalent of bigotry. They are not. In an appeal to "nature," the most persuasive form of this argument is rooted in one of the oldest traditions of thought in the West, a tradition that still carries a great deal of intuitive sense. ... And at its most serious, it is not a phobia; it is an argument. And as arguments go, it has a rich literature, an extensive history, a complex philosophical core, and a view of humanity that tells a coherent and at times beautiful story of the meaning of our natural selves.
Andrew Sullivan,
Virtually Normal, pp 21-23
Remember when Sullivan pretended to take arguments seriously. That was awesome.