November 7, 2008

Lying Bishops

On the previous post, a Roman Catholic priest commented with some apparent pleasure that he actively supported Proposition 8 in California, saying he distributed educational materials from the California Conference of Catholic Bishops. I went to the Conference of Bishops website, and found one flier available in several languages. It is indicative of the kind of deceitful misdirection I have grown accustomed to from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It was a one page flier, available at the Conference website.

It begins, and I quote,

This is the complete text of Proposition 8. There is no fine print:

“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Compare that with the actual text of Proposition 8 from the Voters Guide produced by the state:

This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution.

This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.

SECTION 1. Title

This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act.”

SECTION 2. Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:

SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Now, you may well argue that this is a trivial distinction. However, the lack of anything on the flier to indicate that this is not simply a new law, but a Constitutional Amendment is, to my mind, a very serious omission. Some might have taken the issue more seriously were they reminded this was a Constitutional matter.

At the very least, however, the statement, “This is the complete text,” is patently untrue, and, as I suggest, misleading as well. The Spanish language version of the flier is even worse, truth be told. Instead of saying “There is no fine print” it says, “No hay mas de esto.”


Tobias Haller BSG


toujoursdan said...

This was posted on another website. As a Christian, I am at a loss as to how to respond, given that often, I think the same way:

The heterosexual dictatorship strikes again...

But I have to ask the Christians here: Has it ever occurred to you that your God is just too incompetent to worship?

Think about it: He creates us with a sinful nature which none of us can help but which dooms us to eternal torment, but then sends us a "saviour" who spends his whole life telling Jewish leaders that their religion is too domineering, legalistic, self absorbed, self righteous, obsessed with purity, apathetic about justice and narcissistic and gets killed for it. But his followers then take domination, legalism, being self absorbed, being self righteous, being obsessed with purity, apathy about justice and narcissism to a whole new level. I only wish Christians were like the Pharisees. At least they left non-Jews alone!

If God knows us better than we know ourselves shouldn't he have realized that putting Jesus on earth was going to make things worse for people rather than better?

And for those Christians who didn't get to meet Jesus, your God gave you two things. One is a "holy" book that is written in three dead languages and is so vague, contradictory and confusing that it gives rise to hundreds of bodies fighting and sometimes killing with each other over who interprets the book most correctly.

The other is an institution, the Roman Catholic Church, which is arguably the most pervasive malevolent body in human history. On its better days it stood by and did nothing, nothing, while Jews and native peoples around the world were being enslaved, exterminated or had their culture stripped away from them by Catholics. On its worse days, it actively participated in these things. It has supported evil regimes from Franco to Pinochet, who committed atrocities against others as well. If the Catholic Church were a human being it would have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder and locked in an institution. Yes, I understand that it does some good things with charities and hospitals but so do non-Christians and atheists so there is no net gain there.

Can any Christian tell me how Jesus made the world a better place? Is there anything that Christians do that is done better than non Christians? I see lots of non-Christians doing good deeds, so Christians don't have a lock on that. Does a relationship with Jesus really change anyone?

Most of his followers scare the crap out of me. I understand that there are some good Christians, but the vast majority aren't. There must be something wrong with the belief system to make this so.

This God, if he exists at all, is way too incompetent to worship. He can't get anything right. Through no fault of our own, we are created too flawed to go to heaven, but God Himself is too flawed to effectively communicate with us, "save" us or even to make us better people.

I want one Christian explain to me how Jesus makes the world a better place. He may have been a nice and wise guy, but if he is God incarnate then God is a failure because it just shows that God doesn't know us very well at all. I already know how to love someone as myself without Jesus. All Jesus did was give us followers who use him to twist Christian love into hate.

I can't wait until the U.S. becomes like Scandinavia and religion is exiled from public life. When I see newspaper articles that discuss dropping attendance in the RCC, I cheer!

Somehow the comment that "my church isn't like that" feels very hollow.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


That poster makes some good points, but I think misses that whole "free will" thing. God created people capable of love, but if that love was to be free, there also had to be the capacity to not-love. And Jesus doesn't take away the capacity to err us but shows us how it is done and (one hopes) empowers us to do it. The fact that many if not most of his followers, particularly when they form groups and subdivisions, don't actually do as he said and demonstrated for us is tragic. But if we are to be truly free, then there will be those who must remain free to choose wrongly.

I think all churches tend to have their blind spots, including my own. I can only hope and pray and work for improvement. Scales do fall from eyes from time to time. Look how long it took the Dutch Reformed to come to their senses about apartheid.

The problem I find with the RCC -- manifest in this simple flier -- is that the culture of duplicity is so deeply ingrained that they lie even when they don't have to. Part of this, I think, goes back to the simultaneous requirement of celibacy and the actual presence of a good number of priests and religious who flout the rule while giving it lip-service. The culture of internalized homophobia is destructive, and it drives much of the working out of the RCC -- and, might I add, the C of E, which has a similar culture of "don't ask, don't tell." This lack of authenticity is infectious and destructive.

As the ethicists say, it produces a "habitus of vice" where lying takes place even when it adds nothing to the advantage of the liar. In this flier, for example, it was just about completely pointless to use the false introductory phrase. They could have been truthful, and had the same effect, by saying, "This is what Proposition 8 will enact." I find the habitual mendacity as distressing as the lies themselves. It is the sign of a vicious institution.

toujoursdan said...

I agree with the missing of the "free will" thing. I think the point the commenter may be trying to make is that non-religious people often seem to follow the example of Jesus better than followers of Jesus.

This may be a matter of selective perception, or it may be the fact that non-religious people tend not to come together and form institutions that give rise to the kind of duplicitous culture you mention.

In any case, while I am with you on free will, acts like church support of Prop 8 tend to drive people away from the church rather than toward it.

I tend to post often on political sites where you see a rising intolerance of religious belief and religious people and it's becoming more and more difficult to respond.

rick allen said...

Looks like it's deja vu all over again:

"Truth, for its own sake had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not to be; that cunning is the weapon which Heaven has given to the saints wherewith to withstand the brute male force of the wicked world which marries and is given in marriage. Whether his notion be doctrinally correct or not, it is at least historically so."

Doorman-Priest said...

What wonderful disciples!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

TJ, I think you are correct about the fate of churches that continue to embrace bigotry. They may do well for a time, but as the world changes it will be hard for them to adapt. TEC's own past history of not condemning slavery in the ante-bellum and bellicose era, and its persistent racism in ordination and formation of parishes harmed it greatly with African-Americans for decades to come. The churches as a whole, on the glbt issue are probably losing a full generation of possible adherents. That goes, in spite of some advances, for TEC as well.

It isn't that the church need buy into the culture, but it ought to learn how to apply its best thinking to things, and realize that new discoveries have to have some impact on old teachings, when the reasons supporting the old arguments come to be seen to be false. This is particularly true in the sexuality debates -- the philosophical bases of the anti-glbt position are no longer rationally tenable, and people in the rising generations can see that.

Rick, Newman is, to a large extent, a tragic figure, full of his own inner contradictions. For a while -- applying this principle -- he tried to squeeze the 39 Articles (to which he was bound by Vow) into the straitjacket of a "catholic" understanding; and exercise in self-deception that could not but lead to inner dissonance. Unfortunately, he found the same problems in Rome. A melancholy situation. I also recall Shakespeare's indictment of the Jesuit "equivocator" in The Scottish Play. There is indeed a long heritage of quibbling about what "is" is, in that tradition. This can only lead to malaise among those who are honestly seeking Truth, and the best minds of many generations will suffer. How tragic! Kyrie eleison.

rick allen said...

"Rick, Newman is, to a large extent, a tragic figure."

Depends, I suppose, on whether you judge his life to have had a happy ending. :)

Have a good weekend.

Rev. Kurt Huber said...

Living in CT after the State Supreme Court's ruling to end discrimination, the RC Church here went on the offensive:

"Connecticut Catholic Conference, on behalf of the Catholic bishops, clergy, religious, and laity of the State of Connecticut, condemns today’s Connecticut Supreme Court decision on same-sex “marriage”; calls for a “Yes” vote on a Constitutional Convention."

You can read it here:

Their ads on TV said nothing about the same sex ruling but giving the citizens a voice. In CT, they hid their motives from the public.

James said...

And we haven't even touched on Jesuit theology!

The problem I find with the RCC -- manifest in this simple flier -- is that the culture of duplicity is so deeply ingrained that they lie even when they don't have to.

I don't think you've ever said anything that I agree with more.

Anonymous said...

The personal lies are one thing, we all do that to some extent,
The deception of their flocks, well what was said about stumbling blocks?
People of good faith made the wrong choice because they were told by self titled christians, leaders and lay that there would be consequences to allowing justice to continue.
on the comment about people missing the free will argument, Is it really for non christians to understand us? or our theology? I think the message of Christ is not one of understand me please, but rather, let me understand you.
just a thought

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the additional perspectives.

Rick, I suppose I wasn't thinking in Aristotelian terms. Then again, I rarely do. I suppose one could echo the thought, "Count no man happy until he is dead, and his remains are allowed to remain where he wanted them..." ;-)

In the long run I don't think it is about understanding, and I do think it sad that so many Christians are so ignorant of other faith traditions. I ran into this recently when a friend was planning a community Thanksgiving celebration, and suggested to the local clergy group (with reps from a number of traditions) that they might have a prayer time that included Jews and Muslims. The group responded, "We can't have them praying to their gods at the same time we are praying." Sheesh. But, of course, this is another topic for another time...

Anonymous said...

With a Mass to prepare for, don't have time to get much further into the mix right now, but here is the page with the fliers provided to the parish:

I just noticed for the first time that Prop 8 being a constitutional amendment wasn't mentioned in the advocacy literature. However, that (I assume inadvertant) omission is hardly a sign of mendacity. Prop 8 being a constitutional amendment wasn't something we pro-8 people were hiding, it is something we were proud of and quite vocal about. There was a lot of disenchantment among conservatives given the ease with which the CA Supreme Court overturned the Knight Initiative. To combat this lethargy, advocates had been clear from the get-go that this had to get into the state constitution. From the petition drive to get 8 on the ballot to advocacy from the pulpit to face-to-face conversations, Prop 8's nature as a constitutional amendment beyond the Court's ability to overturn was a selling point. We are proud that the pseudo-legislators who form a majority on the Supreme Court have been shut out with the passage of 8.

If same-sex marriage is to become legal in this state, it will be done by the vote of the citizens of California, not to the decree of four underqualified social engineers wearing black robes.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr Michael,

Thank you for this link. As I say, When I searched the site the other day I could only find the one flier. Please note that what I find offensive is not principally the lack of reference to the Constitutional issue, which is also missing, for example, from this bulletin insert from the page you sent, but the deliberate inaccuracy of saying, "This is the full text of the Proposition; there is no fine print" a statement that, whether or not you find it significant, is clearly false, as I demonstrated. Why the lie? Unless it is just that habit of mendacity and double-mindedness that afflicts an objectively disordered institution. The mendacity does not lie in the mere omission, but in the statement contrary to fact.

I regret you may not be aware that the Court may still overturn this action, as it may well be seen as a more fundamental amendment to the Constitution than can be made via a ballot initiative. You seem to have no respect for our system of government, which includes courts as well as legislatures, courts whose members, far from being underqualified social engineers, are jurists expert in the law and the rights it is designed to protect. Even when I disagree with them I think it good to hold them in respect. If it comes to people wearing black robes, I'd rather have justices than priests in the leadership, at least as far as the law is concerned.

I remain confident that this appalling referendum will be overturned either in the courts (which it is their task to do, as minorities' rights must, it seems, be protected from bigotry and religious zeal when they threaten them) or in a later cycle of voting.

Anonymous said...

For Pete's sake, it is a flier as you yourself admit. And they have captured the key proposition in a form that lets voters see how their vote will count.

Argue on the material issue and you will gather more respect. As it is, this just seems like a misplaced snit and an excuse for you to cry "Liar."

JOHN 2007

Anonymous said...

The problem I find with the RCC -- manifest in this simple flier -- is that the culture of duplicity is so deeply ingrained that they lie even when they don't have to.

I've become a fan this past season, of the TV series Mad Men. Something the show so usefully illuminates, is how completely intrinsic duplicity is to patriarchy. On the basis of male-dominated (if not outright controlled) systems of power, an entire society is permeated with lies (men lying to women being only the most obvious example).

The RCC is probably the most notable (and widespread---though much of Islam is contesting, worldwide, for the top spot! While here in the USA, we have high #s of Mormons) perpetuater (and perpetrator!) of patriarchy today.

Patriarchy, lies, misogyny and homophobia: one big interconnected and demonic mess. In the Name of Jesus Christ, to HELL with it!

Anonymous said...

May I comment to Fr. Michael?

The United States is NOT a democracy, it was never meant to be a democracy.
We are a Democratic Republic, our structure of government is one meant to have checks and balances to ensure, or at least help ensure that no one structure, the president, congress, the house are able to deny the rights of any citizen of this land. The courts are there to be unbiased, thoughtful, interpreters of actions unbeholden (sp) to any one group or person. The high courts are set up to be the final arbiters on questions and interpretations of law and constitution. For the people to overturn the courts is a very dangerous and damaging action to the fundamental rights and continuation of this experiment that is the government of the United States of America.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks Bruno. The whole conservative dislike of the courts is perhaps the most frightening thing about that movement.

John 2007; that is my point exactly: if it is such a small thing, why deliberately go out of their way to lie? Why not just say, "This is the substance of Prop 8" or "This is all that Prop 8 will add to our Constitution" -- equally short and to the point, and with the virtue of being true.

Those who cannot be trusted in small things do not deserve trust in greater things. How do you think the sexual misconduct in the Roman Catholic Church were enabled for so long -- lots of little lies, minor deceptions, half-truths, leading to self-deception and criminality. Duplicity at any level is morally poisonous.

toujoursdan said...

To quote from the U.S. State Department's Principles of Democracy pamphlet:

On the surface, the principles of majority rule and the protection of individual and minority rights would seem contradictory. In fact, however, these principles are twin pillars holding up the very foundation of what we mean by democratic government.

# Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual.

# Minorities -- whether as a result of ethnic background, religious belief, geographic location, income level, or simply as the losers in elections or political debate -- enjoy guaranteed basic human rights that no government, and no majority, elected or not, should remove.

# Minorities need to trust that the government will protect their rights and self-identity. Once this is accomplished, such groups can participate in, and contribute to their country's democratic institutions.

# Among the basic human rights that any democratic government must protect are freedom of speech and expression; freedom of religion and belief; due process and equal protection under the law; and freedom to organize, speak out, dissent, and participate fully in the public life of their society.

# Democracies understand that protecting the rights of minorities to uphold cultural identity, social practices, individual consciences, and religious activities is one of their primary tasks.

# Acceptance of ethnic and cultural groups that seem strange if not alien to the majority can represent one of the greatest challenges that any democratic government can face. But democracies recognize that diversity can be an enormous asset. They treat these differences in identity, culture, and values as a challenge that can strengthen and enrich them, not as a threat.

A democracy is not mob rule. They do not have the right to grant and take away rights at whim. Doing so ultimately undermines everyone's trust in the democratic process. Today it is an easy target like gay couples, but tomorrow it could be religious bodies.

One of the blessings of living here in Canada is our Charters of Rights and Freedoms, which has a "progressive" or "expansive" interpretation of rights built in. No one can use mod rule to take away someone else's equality rights. We don't have propositions on our ballots because they are used by special interests groups to do an end round of the legislative process and make a mockery of the republic.

Fran said...

Oh I am late to this and have so many things to say.

It may sound off topic but is not- I was in DC all weekend at a meeting of Americans United, which is a church/state separation activist group. This is mentioned for context.

As a Catholic I have been deeply saddened by the vicious glee expressed by so many of my faith, including and espcially many priests.

Anyone who knows me knows that I remain deeply committed to my church and faith, despite all the issues around it. For the time I remain in and try to agitate from that position.

The reality is that the RC church lacks the real moral authority to speak out on any matters of sexual morality. I mean really - who is kidding who here?

I commented about this on a post at Fr. Geoff Farrow's blog, regarding some bishop concern troll behavior concerning gay marriage and children.

What horse manure - I mean can the RC church really discuss the children in such terms?

I do believe that the church can teach what it wishes. It needs to not preach what to do or how to vote about those teachings.

And frankly, there are many RC priests and bishops who are so woefully misguided in the teachings.

You were also well advised Tobias - was it here or in the related post - to bring up lies and duplicity. It is a joke at best and criminal at worst.

I should shut up now - this comment is already too long and rambling.

My commitment is deep but I must say that this has been my most challenging week as an a Catholic.

rick allen said...

"The high courts are set up to be the final arbiters on questions and interpretations of law and constitution. For the people to overturn the courts is a very dangerous and damaging action..."

This is a surprising statement. Most modern governments, our own included, rest on a notion that the people as a whole constitute the sovereign. It is true that courts are the highest institutional arbiters of the meaning of law, but all constitutions I know of make provision for amendment by the people.

California strikes me as unusual, and perhaps a bit imprudent, in allowing constitutional amendment by referendum. But if that's the system set up in the constitution itself, that is how those state rights are in fact defined.

There is, of course, the theory that fundamental rights derive, not from the will of the people, but from nature and nature's God. It is an idea obviously alluded to in the Declaration of Independence. But, as has often been noted, constitutions tend not to mention God, and in the absence of some religion-neutral way of ascertaining God's will in this matter I don't see that we have any choice but to fall back on the will of the people, fallible as they (we) may be.

Anonymous said...

In 1947 four activist judges in CA ruled against anti-miscegentation laws in Perez vs. Sharp and marriage in CA was no longer restricted by race.

Let's hear it too for activist judges in Brown vs Board of Education and Loving vs Virgina, in the 1960s, who went against the majority of the electorate to protect the civil rights of unloved minorities.

Fr Michael's bigotry is very clear, and wears the same cloak that opponents of Perez. draped themselves in 60 years ago.

it hasn't worn well.


Anonymous said...

In giving so much material support for the passage of Prop 8 without giving pause to reflect on the astonishing elevation of the right to marrry as a basic human right amd subject to the close scrunity level of protection of the equal protection clause, the catholic leadership has participatied in a divisive undermining of the authority of the Court and in imposing as a tyranny of the majority that eviserates the equal protection clause for all Californians. It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court will allow the yes on 8 majority to vote away their rights, which of course is not possible.

Pope Benedict said “The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions,”
The pope also spoke of the inalienable rights of the traditional family, “founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, to be the natural cradle of human life”.

What was so interesting in the California Supreme Court’s reasoning is its defense of the familial aspect of same sex marriages. If the Pope and the US Conference of Bishops want to conflate Catholic theology and secular law, they would be wise to read the Court’s concern for the families of same sex unions. The cradle for adopted, neglected or abandonned children,is found in all unions, including same sex and is more in keeping with sacramental theology where all, through Christ, become the adopted children of God.
Ironic that a secular Court has so much to teach the Church in this regard , which is increasingly identifying itself as the last refuge of bigotry.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I really must learn to re-read my comments before posting!

Thanks to all for the additional comments.

Fran, I do understand the dilemma and tension -- much as I do when I find my church taking a stand I find to be less than good. I by no means wish to impugn the motives or ethics of all Roman Catholics because of my concerns about the behavior of some in leadership, who have, I think, been corrupted to some extent by a hierarchical system that lacks an effective internal mechanism for self-critique and correction.

Thanks TJ for the comments on the role of the courts and the limitations on the power of majorities. Rick, I think that answers your concern to some extent. In the US system it is the "whole" that is sovereign, which includes the courts as the kind of self-critique mechanism that is so essential to the preservation of rights, even in the face of majority demands.

Seamus, thanks very much for reminding us of the logical incongruity and misplaced idealism of the RC position. If the welfare of children is primary, that should include all children, including those in families with same-sex parents. It seems more and more that the RC hierarchy is dominated by a kind of Orwellian (I'm thinking Animal Farm more than 1984, though both apply to some extent) mindset based in gnostic idealism rather than existent reality. The "change in the definition of marriage" is not an abstract effort to change the world by editorial invention, but to clarify the definition to actually meet the reality.

In spite of frequent asking, I've never received a non-trivial response (that is, a response that is not at base a tautology) to the most important question: "What distinguishes a sterile mixed-sex marriage from a same-sex marriage." And that goes for biology, society, and ethics.

June Butler said...

"Count no man happy until he is dead, and his remains are allowed to remain where he wanted them..."

And whose joke on whom when Newman wasn't there to move? Ah, that was sweet.

Anonymous said...

And the number is not insignificant. Of the 18000 same sex unions 13000 children are affected by this separate status.
When, as I believe the court will grant a stay, the deliberations could take years which in such time more marriages with chidren will come into being creating a 'fait accompli" which the court will have to deal with. Already in the electorate there is a sense of buyer's remorse as the actions and distortions of the unholy alliance of the Mormons and the bishops comes out.

With revelations by the San Franciscan Chronicle, we now see with cruel irony, in the stronghold of gay and lesbian liberalism, a lover of Mozart and stamp collecting orchestrates the repeal of basic human rights in inviting collusion with other reactionary religious forces. Where have we've seen this before"? Such stealthy work by the chief pastor of San Franciscan gay and lesbian Catholics
It is beyond embarassing so self evident the lie in the attempt by Bishop Blaire and Archbishop Mahoney to characterize this undermining of the equal protection clause of the Constitution as not directed at same sex couples and the presently 13000 children of those unions. It is equally fatuous of them to insist that the opposition play nice and accept the tyranny of the majority and its injustice. And it is in utter contempt of the truth for the bishop of Sacramento to label as bigots those protesting the churches that acted as political agents of reaction, when far from being the aggrieved party he and they are the oppressor.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese stated clearly the bishops agenda in a manner that in previous times struck fear in Jews and Hugenots, in the following statement.
"I am grateful to the Catholic Community of Los Angeles for your commitment to the institution of marriage as fashioned by God and to work with such energy to enshrine this divine plan into our state's Constitution,"
Makes you think.

rick allen said...

"What distinguishes a sterile mixed-sex marriage from a same-sex marriage."

The same thing that distinguishes a sterile woman from a man. That is, if you think that there is any difference.

Toby, you are my brother-in-Christ, but, to put it kind of dryly, you and I (and by extention, those who think like you and those who think like me) have very, very different anthropologies. So, for instance, I don't think that when a woman reaches an age at which she will in all likelihood no longer conceive she for all intents and purposes becomes a man.

It seems to me as clear as the light of day that "paternal" is not a synonym for "maternal," that male and female are two ways of being human. The distinction obviously arises out of the biological fashion in which we reproduce, but it does not apply only to our animal inheritance.

If there is one item which forever discredits the Gospel of Thomas for me, it is that notorious last saying, that women may enter the Kingdom of God once they are made male. Nor, would I say, does a woman's essential status change to male, if she becomes incapble of conception.

One other observation about "what is the difference?": The question is asked as if we can actually say that a couple cannot have children. But from our religious literature (Abraham and Sarah) to the silliest of our popular culture (Baby Mama comes to mind), there is a constant reminder that life often finds a way. Most of us know some couple that despaired of having a child, and adopted, and then found that the happy adoptee had a little sibling unexpectedly on the way.

Now it's true that most of us, at some point in time, cease being capable of bringing anyone new into the world. That doesn't, I think, mean that older wives become men. Nature, or God, was wise enough to understand that procreation is just the first step in a multi-year process of nurturing, educating, and civilizing the next generation. So that even women who have never had a child, when they step into a new marriage where a child exists, take up that maternal role, as men doing the same take up the paternal. I know that you equate what I call the "natural" here with prejudice, but it seems to me that the natural pattern imposes itself here. As Chesterton put it, IIRC, the child is the explanation of the mother and the father.

So, yes, I think that there is a significant difference. And I would imagine many other people feel that way, without necessarily hating anyone, or without in any way so thinking as a result of religious dogma.

Erika Baker said...

I don't think anyone claims that women could or should become men.

The question is what the goods of marriage are and whether they are exclusively to be had by men-women pairings.

We have established that the one obvious and often mentioned difference, the ability to procreate, is not necessary to marriage. That's why it is possible for sterile couples to marry - and I mean truly sterile, not the Sarah and Abraham couples, but women without wombs and men made sterile by bone marrow transplants etc.

And whether men are paternal and women maternal (even if such a firm distinction could be made), is beside the point. I don’t presume you argue that women should be tested for maternal attributes before they are allowed to marry, or that effeminate heterosexual men may not become fathers.

So if you leave the purely biological focus on procreation out of it, you no longer have anything that cannot be represented by same sex couples too.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Rick. You put your case clearly and succinctly. You believe there is an "essential" difference between men and women (or between an individual man and an individual woman).

Although I would quibble with "essential" on philosophical grounds when applied to "the human," when it comes to individuals I think you are on firm ground. I would phrase it differently, perhaps to say that a man is male, a woman female. So far, I take it we are in agreement. This is true even of those incapable of procreation. Sterile men are still male, infertile women female.

This is, though, rather still tautological, as it answers the question with a restatement of the question. Rather like answering the question, "What is the difference between an apple and a pear?" by saying, "Well, one is an apple, and the other is a pear." Patently true, but a tautology.

The real problem doesn't lie in the tautology, but comes with the unstated premise which supports your next step in the argument: that only males can be "paternal" (apart from procreation) and only females "maternal" (apart from procreation); or as in the case in point, only such can marry. What do "paternal" and "maternal" mean apart from the ability to father or to mother -- literally? If it simply means "playing the role of a father / mother" then what prevents a male from doing both, or a female? If it is no longer about the testes, the womb, and the breasts, what is the actual limitation of parenthood on the part of either a man or a woman. Surely you are aware of the rich imagery of church leadership as "maternal" in a figurative sense!

Isn't it the case, once you get beyond the actual begetting and bearing of children, that "paternal" and "maternal" become more or less cultural constructs, based in part on adaptations to the reality that women have breasts and nurse their children? -- the one secondary sexual characteristic that undeniably gives women a special role once a child is born.

But there are cultures in which the biological mother does not in fact "mother" beyond giving birth -- hence the institution of the nurse, and nurseries. And a father can be "maternal" as well as being "paternal" -- once we get into the nitty-gritty of what cultures stereotypically assign to these roles, beyond any biologically determined functions -- not all of them based on prejudice, but certainly on culture -- once you get beyond the base biology of procreation.

So what I challenge is the step that moves from A to B: that the maleness and femaleness of persons -- once we get beyond actual procreation for which male and female are required -- necessarily limit the roles that a man or a woman may play in a relationship with other men or women; or children. It is not that women become men or men women, but that both are human, and capable of taking roles stereotypically but not necessarily assigned in culture to "paternal" or "maternal" or even "fraternal" relationships.

There is, in short, no necessary limitation, only a customary one. This can be based on religious dogma or on cultural habit -- or both. But it doesn't stand up to a challenge from reason. This isn't only about sex, of course, but about the full range of human relationships and activities. It may be a prejudice, or it may merely be a lack of imagination, or a cultural sticking-point.

To take an analogy: there is no doubt that Africans are biologically different from Swedes as far as the melanin-producing genes are concerned. This is an objective, biological difference that could be determined by examining genes as well as skin. It is only when skin color (based on a biological or genetic reality) is used as a basis for limiting the scope of action as a human being that we drift over to a problem, move from A to B, which can range from mild intolerance to outright racism. All people are to be treated equally, regardless of race. There was a time in this country when persons of different races could not marry. Those laws were overturned. The "rational basis" was really a cultural construct, not a biological reality, which used the biological reality as a pretext for its action. But the action was wrong, the movement from A to B.

And the same thing goes for the marriage of persons of the same sex, who are obviously capable of the same level of commitment, care and conjugal love as a sterile mixed sex couple; including the upbringing of children.

It is in your movement from A to B that the problem, and the circular reasoning, comes in: Men and women are different, therefore only men and women can marry, because only those who are different can marry. The burden of the argument from the RCC falls back on "it is God's will" or "if we do that we will teach it to children" -- and if that isn't religious dogma and prejudice (another form of circular reasoning "if we allow this people will think it is o.k. and it isn't o.k.").

So, while you have shown what is different between a same-sex and a sterile mixed-sex couple, you have not offered an answer to the underlying question: why should they not be a couple, and allowed to marry?

rick allen said...

"the underlying question: why should they not be a couple, and allowed to marry?"

The couples are of course already there, and many have custody of children from prior heterosexual relationships. So there undoubtedly need to be social institutions and structures to address the reality.

The great question is whether we should shoehorn these relationships under the rubric of marriage, or, if there is indeed something distinctive about them, whether we should create new structures to address newly-recognized realities.

It seems to me that the "civil union" is an innovation whose more open and evolving nature may more flexibly address questions of how gays and lesbians see these relationships.

For instance, though the concept has practically disappeared from law, both religion and social morality take note of what used to be called "fornication." It's a concept grounded in the notion, not only that sexuality has a place in marriage, but that sexuality belongs only in marriage. Is that notion, that couples living together, not only may get married, but should get married, one that should be imported into all relationships? I don't argue; I only ask the question. The idea of marriage is a large one, with far-reaching implications for behavior in the net of interrelated ideas--not only fornication, but incest, adultery, divorce, annument, separation short of divorce, marriage by estoppel, sexual fidelity, exclusivity, and duration. Legal marriage is much more a set of restrictions and responsibilities than rights, and its legally enumerated contours don't even begin to address unwritten social and religious norms. I only ask the question: Are they really desired?

One distinctive characteristic of homosexual couples is that, if one or both has custody of children, there is always a "third," whether divorced or deceased or in prison, whether an active outside parent or a sperm donor, or anything in between, there is always someone of the opposite sex somewhere in the background. How to deal with that inevitable "third man" or "third woman"? I don't know. But it seems a matter that might possibly be better addressed in the context of civil unions than in importing the norms of divorce and custody from our current marriage law, where such is the exception, not the norm, and only comes up in the context of a breakdown of marriage.

I don't expect you to agree, but as there seems to be a growing faction promoting the notion that the "civil union" is some kind of concentration camp of the sexual haters, I thought a word or two in its defense might be helpful.

rick allen said...

Just another note, due to undoubted excessive access to blogs on a non-work day.....

I don't comment on the MadPriest blog, having been told some time ago to get lost and not come back, but I do continue to read it, and, in a discussion with one MP's typically-provocative titles, G-- Hates F---, the blogger called merseymike, with whom I have never had much of anything in common, makes an argument which I think is remarkably similar to the one I make above (though we come to it from radically different perspectives), i.e. that the legal and political concept of marriage is so tangled up with religious and moral ideas that gays and lesbians may well be more pleased with "civil unions," which are much more a "blank slate" for the working out of their particular concerns, wholly cordoned off from fears by the majority that an overarching conception of "marriage" may be being monkeyed with.

Perhaps I misunderstand him. But clearly he is not championing the practical utility of civil unions from a standpoint of homophobia.

Anonymous said...

The California Supreme Court has addressed the shortcomings of civil unions vis a vis marriage and has found it a concept that creates an unconstitutional separate and unequal status.

The third party sperm donor in any sense is present in all adoption/divorce scenarios either same sex or opposite sex and family law does not require a separate classification to accommodate adoptions/custody issues.

I do not believe this is merely a matter of semantics, if so it could be addressed as dispassionately as the TEC bishops have where rather than enshrining "marriage " in the constitution; remove it and put in its place civil unions, to be blessed or not according to the various religions as they see fit. Similar to going to the DMV to get a drivers licence and having a rain dance performed over it.(I'm kidding)

But of course, the RCC bishops do not see the separation of church and state in this matter and the Florida amendment (A literal reading of the amendment provides only one marriage between a man and a woman, who as of yet have not been named, thereby rendering all other marriages invalid in the state of Florida) makes clear in its elimination of the possibility of civil unions that the only purpose is to discriminate and diminish the relationships and families of same sex couples.

MarkBrunson said...

Given the - ahem - fluid nature of heterosexual marriage today, perhaps it would be a very good idea to petition the government to recognize only civil unions, with mutual accountability and clear restrictions on liability in case of breakup (to curb the lucrative divorce law industry and encourage the stability of those "basic units of society"). "Marriage" would then be an entirely religious term, and the churches themselves restricted from interference in the civil union while enjoying absolute freedom in whom they bestow "marriage" upon.

Erika Baker said...

"I only ask the question: Are they really desired?"

Yes, of course, we've been saying that for years.
Especially if you insist that all sex outside marriage is fornication, it is not helpful to forbid marriage to same sex couples, because that still defines us as immoral.
So much for equal but different!

"How to deal with that inevitable "third man" or "third woman"? "

In exactly the same way heterosexual couples deal with death, divorce, remarriage, adoption and sperm donation.
Why would it be different?

Erika Baker said...

Merseymike does not believe that same sex activity is sinful and that therefore marriage is not to be extended to same sex couples.

To him, the two are simply different names for exactly the same thing, a view I don't believe you share.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the additional comments.

Rick, as the topic has shifted somewhat, I will respond at greater length in a separate post. Seamus and Erika and Mark have addressed some of your concerns, and I thank them for the terseness of expression I am often unable to match!

It seems you think that a law should apply to all whom it covers; but then you admit the marriage laws do not do so, yet at the same time want a separate but equal law that will cover all SSMs or SSCUs. Why not just the one law (whether it is "M" or "CU" to cover all while recognizing that not all will need to avail themselves of all provisions, a common truth in most law.

(Let me add that all that civil marriage does is constitute a civil union, as the RC Church teaches, no less!)

To reiterate, there is no difference between an adoptive mixed-sex couple and an adoptive same-sex couple apart from the gender of the parties: and under the equal protection provision, to treat such couples differently on the basis of sex is a constitutional violation. As the courts will eventually rule.

Fr Michael, I have in the past found you to be insufficiently aware of the breadth of the Christian tradition, even in the Catholic Church, let alone in the Fathers. You seem to be unaware of the rich strand of thought on universal salvation in the tradition. It is quite true that Rome, following the lead of Augustine of Hippo, has led the opposition to this optimistic theological notion, but it was a lively element in the teaching of Alexandria and Antioch. It is true that the Council of Constantinople apparently anathematized it in its Origenist form, but various modifications continue to exist in the Christian tradition. Personally, I think it spiritually best to see it as a hope rather than a certainty; and I have great difficulty seeing why anyone would want the contrary to be true, especially in the extreme form in which beholding the punishment of the wicked is among the joys of the elect. See the article on Apokatastasis in the old Catholic Encyclopedia, to refresh you awareness of the history of this teaching among the Fathers.

As I say, we have strayed rather far afield from the original topic, which was why the Conference of Bishops should make use of misleading or false statements in their efforts to oppose Proposition 8.

Anonymous said...

I am flabberghasted and deeply insulted by Rick's comment Legal marriage is much more a set of restrictions and responsibilities than rights, and its legally enumerated contours don't even begin to address unwritten social and religious norms. I only ask the question: Are they really desired?

But the comment that really takes the bacon is the jaw-dropping It seems to me that the "civil union" is an innovation whose more open and evolving nature may more flexibly address questions of how gays and lesbians see these relationships.?

Do you hear my profanity here, Rick? HOW DARE YOU imply that we want anything less than THE REAL THING. We emphatically do NOT want marriage lite, and I am outraged that you presume to speak for what gays and lesbians want or how we "see these relationships".

HOW DARE YOU decide unilaterally-- you! what I know, think, or believe about marriage.

HOW DARE YOU imply that I am too stupid or too naive or too foolish to know exactly what marriage is.

I married my wife in October in the most amazing day of my life with every fiber of my existence embracing the entire concept of "better, worse....till death do us part". Indeed, our many straight friends felt it was one of, if not the most, spiritually moving and deeply felt weddings they have ever attended. Maybe you should read my reflections .

And while the bigots (who clearly include you) attempt to forcibly invalidate my marriage and make it something less i nlaw than what it truly is to us, perhaps you should think about what it means for a relationship to endure for years, even decades, in the midst of hatred and lies.

I warrant that my marriage, even its state of legal peril, is a great deal stronger than 90% of straight marriages.

And, as long as you allow Britney Spears to do a one-day wonder in Vegas, how dare you tell couples who have endured decades of discrimination that somehow they are not worth of the real thing.

You don't know us. You merely presume.

How dare you.

Erika Baker said...

Thank you, IT.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, IT, for your righteous indignation. I would suggest that further comment move to the new post, which addresses the broader issue.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I think it spiritually best to see it as a hope rather than a certainty; and I have great difficulty seeing why anyone would want the contrary to be true, especially in the extreme form in which beholding the punishment of the wicked is among the joys of the elect."

It's not a matter of me wanting univeral salvation to be true or not, it is a matter of the Apostolic Tradition (which is hardly conflicted about the subject outside the Origenist strain which was anathematized) and Our Lord's repeated warnings about the reality of Hell. That is what I'm interested in. If the Lord had taught universal salvation, I would pray that God would have allowed me to adhere to that with the theological virtue of faith. But that's not what the Gospels recorded, nor the Epistles, nor the great majority of the Fathers who addressed the issue.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr Michael,
I have neither the time nor interest to debate universalism with you, or the reading of the Scripture you believe renders such a reading impossible. There is ample support for a universalist understanding in the Gospels ('until you pay the last penny') and the Pauline writing ('the re-ingrafting of Israel, 'even as in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive'). The anathemas at Constantinople II were directed primarily at Origen's other teachings, and his going too far in saying the demons would eventually be saved. (One wonders what point the Incarnation could have for purely spiritual beings!) To say nothing of Gregory of Nyssa. You are, of course, part of a distinctly Western and Augustinian tradition; Anglicans, particularly in TEC via Scotland, have a far more Eastward-looking theology of salvation, in spite of the Augustinianism of Cranmer et al.

Universal salvation remains a hope, in keeping with the Gospel and Paul, rather than a doctrine positively to be taught.

In any case, as I say this has wandered far from the topic, and I do not wish to continue this particular discussion here. I may exercise my right to restrict comments that drift too far from the topic.

Anonymous said...

Tobias, did my post of last night (i.e., approx. 24 hours ago---I'm a Night Owl!) fall afoul your restriction? Because it's not here. :-/

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I'm not sure. TJ's missing post turned up many hours late, and the problem I was having popped up again yesterday afternoon. So if you were trying to comment at that moment, that could be it, and it will show up eventually.
The other possibility is that it was a comment to one of the other posts on this subject. I'm hoping all future comments can go with the latest post...