November 5, 2008

The Sweet and the Bitter

I am very pleased at the results of the Presidential election, in particular its decisiveness. I was also moved both by McCain's and Obama's speeches last night, and believe that there is a way forward as a nation.

However, I am deeply saddened to hear today of the passage of discriminatory propositions and constitutional amendments that will, for a time, close or keep closed the access all adult, unrelated, consenting couples by rights ought to have to contract marriage.

I commend my California friend Richard's comments at his blog. I do not live in one of the states where minds continue to remain firmly closed against this issue, and hope that in New York, with recent changes in the legislature and the Governor's mansion, we may soon see the East Coast continue to lead in realizing the value of recognizing committed same-sex partnerships as beneficial to society. Some day, perhaps only twenty or thirty years from now, people will look back on yesterday's defeats with a shameful blush. For, as Richard says, they are well worth being ashamed of.

Tobias Haller BSG


Anonymous said...

No shameful blush here. I'm glad that Prop 8 is leading-- albeit not won given something like 3 million outstanding ballots to be counted-- and proud to have been part of the Pro-8 movement via the pulpit and educational materials to my parish.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

You are correct, Fr. Michael. You have no shame.

IT said...

I would like to put an amendement on the Constitution. I would like to outlaw Catholics from secular marriage. Because I don't like what they want to teach my children.

Same thing.

You're a bigot, Fr Michael, and a religious bully.


MarkBrunson said...


The Vatican must be so desperate they'll take anything into the priesthood. Well, that's what they get for keeping pedophiles and getting rid of godly gay men.

Anonymous said...

Goebbels was unashamed of his "educational materials" also.

Sometimes it's oh-so-difficult to be a Christian universalist, and FrMichael's posts are invariably those times for me.

[Like the Popoid Father, I do believe in the possibility of purgatory, however. It seems someone may be setting himself up for a lengthy stay---Lord have mercy!]

rick allen said...

"Proposition 8 is a sham and a shame. It enshrines fear and discrimination at the constitutional level in California. It affirms ignorance over compassionate knowledge. It throws a thin veil of abstract morality over bigotry and intolerance. It idolizes gender and sexuality, when true marriage is fundamentally about neither."

This seems to me to be the basic point of dispute, whether "true marriage" is about "gender and sexuality." Apparently those who think that marriage is the social form of the relationship of opposite sexes are now relegated to the status of bigots and haters.

One of the great ironies of this controversy has been the contention that the promotion of the idea of marriage as the relationship of one man and one woman is an attempt to impose Mormonism on the hapless population of California. Joseph
Smith must be spinning in his grave.

As I have suggested elsewhere, just as there is a wrong in treating two things essentially the same as different in law, so there is also serious mischief in treating two things essentially different as the same. If one thinks that sexual relationships between men and women have significantly different social consequences from sexual relationships between people of the same sex, it is certainly appropriate for the law to take account of those differences.

In fact, the only way I can see of getting around that is to take what looks to me like the gnostic route of denying the sexual, gendered, embodied nature of marriage. It's as if we decided one day to declare all intimate friendships "marriages." It's not that such an expansion would somehow "hurt my marriage." It would just mean that we had somehow forgotten what marriage was, and objectors suddenly declared "bigots" and "haters" for thinking that the non-sexual should be "discriminated against" and excluded from marriage.

bls said...

Well, it's yet another case of the backwardness of the church - so what else is new? - and will be, just as you suggest, looked at (or, probably instead, not looked at or acknowledged, as is more typical) from a distance with embarrassment and shame.

But people are people; all are fallen. Our time will come. And it's more proof - as if we needed it - that ecclesial "infallibility" is a laughable notion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


We've been round this issue more times than I think necessary. It always comes back to your assertion that the sex-difference is an essential element of marriage. The problem is that you have no proof for this assertion, which seeks a "definitional" settlement to the argument. Of course, this is what the argument is about, so your response is trivial. As I've pointed out to you time and time again, this is the logical fallacy of "begging the question."

Since it is obvious that some cultures and states actually and in fact do recognize marriage as the union of two adult, unrelated, consenting persons, regardless of their sex, your "argument" amounts to a trivial contradiction. Your very reasonably phrased statement is thus void of substance, and constitutes something more along the lines of "well, it shouldn't be" but with no reason other than the definitional ruse.

Your final paragraph, however, crosses over into the formally irrational. Don't you know that gay and lesbian persons have bodies? There is nothing "gnostic" or disembodied being suggested here -- what is being challenged is the arbitrary limitation of sexual activity to persons of mixed-sex -- another example of begging the question. And I have to say this is the first time I've heard anyone say that same-sex sex is "non-sexual" since the Rabbis determined that lesbian "sex" didn't constitute adultery because "there is no intercourse."

As to whether you are a bigot or not, I think you appear to be a rather well educated bigot: one who bases his bigotry on some logical system he fails to recognize as inherently self-referential and therefore a logical nullity. Most bigotry, as I'm sure you know, is based on one belief system or another; religion and ideology serve to support bigots, and it is not rare to find an appeal to religion or creed in defense of it. If anyone is being "gnostic" I think it is you -- since you keep insisting on an idealized model of marriage as you think it ought to be, rather than as it really is -- which is to say, including same-sex couples, recognized by law as being married. Your argument is not, at base, "This is impossible" but "This ought not be." And that is where your argument collapses, because you are basing your "ought not" on the premise that it "is not."

bls said...

I hate to tell you, Rick, but "gnostics" do have the right to marry. And it's none of your business what their idea of their relationship is, just as it's none of theirs what yours is.

And what does "gnosticism" have to do with public policy, anyway? The simple question is this: by what right are a certain class of taxpaying citizens denied the right all others enjoy to marry the person of their choice? (This question, of course, does not apply to Michael, who does not pay taxes at all.)

Your "argument" is a total dodge. Let's repeat it, for what must be the millionth time now: marriage is not "sacred" in the public square. It's got nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

rick allen said...

"I have to say this is the first time I've heard anyone say that same-sex sex is "non-sexual"."

I obviously didn't make myself clear. "Intimate friendship" was not intended to be a euphemism for same-sex relationships. Non-sexual friendship can be very, very close. My point was simply that whether expanding the definition of marriage hurts existing marriages has little to do with whether such an expansion is desirable or not.

"marriage is not "sacred" in the public square. It's got nothing whatsoever to do with religion."

I didn't think that I offered up any kind of religious explanation, other than suggesting that much of the new thinking on marriage is based on what I would consider an overly-spiritualized conception that ignores biology. Obviously marriage as a relationship of opposite sexes predates Abraham.

But, again, I didn't jump in here so much to argue as to question the seeminlgy universal assumption that half the people of California and the new president-elect and three members of the California Supreme Court and Catholics and Mormons and evangelicals are bigots who hate gay people. I am trying to suggest that, even if you don't buy the notion that there is a distinctness to the relationship of man and woman that requires a distinctive institution, you should at least entertain the possibility that those who accept such a characterization can do so without hating anyone.

June Butler said...

Rick, yes, it's right down the pike that if I love my dog, Diana, I can declare that a marriage, too. Of course, then I would be a polygamist. Oh, the dangers of the slippery slope! One could actually slip down and sustain an injury on one of those things.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

(second attempt to address an incoherent sentence!)


There is a distinction between "bigotry" -- which is an unwillingness to accept that one's point of view may be mistaken, even in the face of evidence -- and hatred. Not all bigots are necessarily hateful. Only some are fully intolerant of the existence of other points of view. Some can say, in good conscience, "Some of my best friends are..." or otherwise adopt what they think of as a neutral position on the enforcement of their views -- so long as those views are in the ascendancy.

I don't know where you stand on the issue of reversal of the right to marry in California. Fr. Michael confesses, with apparent glee, that he worked hard on this ground, so in addition to being a bigot, he is also clearly intolerant. I would love to vet the "educational" materials he used for accuracy and honesty. Much of what the Yes on 8 community spread about was mendacious.

Let me give an example of the kind of behavior I would have hoped to see. I believe Christianity to be the Truth. I think Mormons, to take an example, to be in error. I also think Roman Catholics are in error on a few points of doctrine, too, in some of the developments they have made in teachings on divers matters. But I would not seek to invoke the power of the state to forbid Mormons or Roman Catholics from practicing their religion. On the contrary, I defend their rights to teach as they believe.

To return to the primary issue, you have skated around reasonable argument, as you continue to affirm that there is a "distinctness to the relationship of man and woman" without being able to say what that is apart from the tautological "one is a man and the other a woman." The problem arises in your leap to the next step: "and therefore only a man and a woman should be allowed to marry." As you know from other discussions, procreation is not the issue, since marriage is not forbidden to mixed-sex couples who cannot procreate. So this "notion" that there is some distinctness -- beyond the tautology and apart from the temporary ability to procreate -- is one I don't buy; nor do I accuse all who do buy it of hatefulness. But when they seek to impose this view on those who do not "buy" it, they clearly fall into the class of bigotry --- as the "notion" they support has no logical basis other than its own assertion -- and in some cases they fall into hatefulness.

As I say, I don't see you as a hateful person; but as one wedded to a construct that is neither self-evidently true, nor logically consistent. And I think as I've observed before, it is those who purport that a sterile mixed sex couple are still capable of performing an act that is "reproductive in form" who have over-spiritualized things and gone quite beyond biology!

Anonymous said...

Bigotry can come from hate, fear, or ignorance. At some level it doesn't matter.

Most of my reflections on this are over at the Friends-of-Jake blog. They are raw, and angry, because I have been deeply, deeply injured.

But let me just add that I "worked the lines" for the NO-on-8 campaign, on a streetcorner last weekend. We figured that of those who responded to us, maybe 70% were positive (our county voted about 54% in favor). Of the negatives, the number of Jesus-fish marked cars whose drivers flipped us the bird was impressive. Who knew that the middle finger was such a Christian symbol?

We also heard some amazing invective including one spittle-flecked man who screamed at us from his car window that us we neither have nor deserve any rights as citizens. He was truly terrifying.

Then of course the obligate recitation of bible verses, and one woman who rolled up her windows and yelled at us.

WE had been told to keep positive, not to engage or argue with the opposition. So these reactions were in response to our smiling faces and shouts of "protect equality".

Sure sounds like hate to me.

Rick and his side are seeking excuses and justifications by bringing in religion and the slippery slope. They refuse to engage the central issue, that there is no compelling reason to deny us the civil rite of marriage. Massachusetts is doing fine. So is Denmark. There are more divorces in the Bible belt than in New England.

But bias and bigotry run deep, and it is human nature to want to keep someone ELSE as the loathéd other.

And so we weep, and listen to the callous (at best) and triumphalist (at worst) rhetoric from Rick's side, that is licking its lips at the prospect of ripping up our marriage licenses.

And all we wanted to do was be married, like any other married couple, and feel like part of society.

I am heartbroken.

I am furious.

And in Los Angeles, they are demonstrating in front of the Mormon temple.


Anonymous said...

I share the disappointment at the success of Prop 8, but I have to say (as I did a few weeks ago) that the campaign to defend same-sex marriage was very badly handled. Andrew Sullivan's blog at the The Atlantic explains why: no actual people were used in the TV ads,no couples, no families with children, only abstract rights arguments. To put it another way, it was not an incarnational campaign. Whereas the opposite side was quick to show little kids saying shocking things about reading in school about princes marrying princes.

Also, apparently no one predicted that a large turnout by African-American voters for Obama meant that this (largely) more culturally-conservative group might affect the outcome--as apparently they did.
I have no idea who coordinated the campaign, but a rethink is surely needed.

MarkBrunson said...

I still have a real problem with reducing marriage to mere biology.

As IT has said, if we're talking the public arena, either marriage for everyone in committed romantic relationships, or domestic partnership for everyone in committed relationships, and let the churches "marry" whom they will.

If the "defense of traditional marriage" is that it is a basic unit of the society, then society as a whole has the right to decide who should get married and breed and who shouldn't - indeed, who must marry and breed, despite their own feelings. That's the real slippery slope.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see the materials I distributed to my parishioners, check out the California Conference of Catholic Bishops website and the informational sheets they provided. The only pro-8 materials I used not from that source were the gold "Yes on 8" signs posted in front of the church, but since they were stolen with regularity, they weren't particularly effective.

IT, I have little doubt that same-sex marriage will be approved in this state sometime in the future. It may take years or decades, but I believe it will happen since Biblical morality is not exactly our strong suit in CA. But that day will be delayed because of the constant overreach of the GLBT movement. This is a live-and-let-live state, but since the GLBT movement seems to want acceptance from every facet of society and not simply legal tolerance, there is always going to be a large pushback. Conservative Christianity, in whatever denomination, is not going to fold, even if we are defeated. And the law-and-order-types, still a significant minority in this state, don't appreciate thugs making a mess in SF and LA because they lost an election.

If Prop 8 had been defeated, would there have been GLBT centers under threat of being burned by fanatical Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons? Heck no. Yet now the moonbat faction of the GLBT community apparently airs these threats in chatrooms and in person. I wait with baited breath for the "mainstream" GLBT groups to condemn these nutcases.

jcf-- Christian universalist? IIRC you are a TEC priest. Do you really teach that to your flock in defiance of the Biblical and patristic witness of the reality of divine judgment? Same-sex marriage is a trivial issue compared to that heresy.

bls-- My parish doesn't pay many taxes but I sure do. With the unique way the clergy pay income taxes in this country, between federal and state I'm paying close to a third of my modest income in income tax. Not complaining, since I've more than enough to live on, but Uncle Sam and Sacramento get a good chunk of change from me.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the additional comments. IT, I can only guess at the depth of your anguish. We here in NY are watching the situation closely as we begin to hope, with the change in the state senate, the possibility of change.

Fr. Michael. Well, I did as you suggested and went to the Conference of Bishops website. I was not able to find any materials besides a video (which I did not watch, and t which you do not refer) apart from one flier available in several languages. It is indicative of the kind of misdirection I am describing. It was a one page flier, available at the Conference website.

It says, 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.”

O.K. -- 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 argue that this is a trivial case. 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. At the very least, the statement "This is the complete text" is a blatant falsehood, and, I suggest, misleading as well. The Spanish language is even worse, of course. Instead of saying "There is no fine print" it says, "No hay mas de esto."


Anonymous said...

Now, which pulpit was that, Fr. Michael? I'm putting together a formal complaint to the IRS requesting an investigation of the tax-exempt status of various churches that contributed money and preached explicitly regarding Prop. 8, and I would love to include you in said complaint.

Anyone else interested in exercising their citizenship can get the complaint materials and directions here:

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I neglected to respond to Fr Michael's comment about those picketing or protesting those who supported Prop 8. As long as this stops short of violence, I see no reason to protest it, except under the "no fair fighting back" rule. Perhaps Fr M is unaware that pro-GLBT institutions are regularly firebombed, defaced, and so on. So, yes, I think if Prop 8 had been defeated we would have seen an increase in such protests from RCs, Mormons, and others; probably including violent acts in some cases.

Mary Sue, thanks for bringing this up. It seems to me that while teaching on public issues is well within the rights and responsibilities of a church and its clergy, when this forms a substantial component of the message being delivered it amounts to lobbying, and becomes even more serious if financial support is involved. I think the Code is relatively clear on this, though precisely when the line is crossed can be blurry. As I say, I have no problem with people expressing their opinions (though I'd rather they do so honestly and not duplicitously). I am, for example, supporting a resolution at my upcoming diocesan convention urging NY State to enact legislation for marriage equality based on earlier court decisions and the expressed concerns of the Governor. But this is not a "substantial" portion of the work of the Convention, nor is any financial consideration forthcoming.

MarkBrunson said...

My parish doesn't pay many taxes but I sure do.

So do the individuals who opposed Prop 8 alongside their companies.

The companies pay taxes as well.

So should the RCC. It's become no more than a company using the same dishonest and manipulative techniques to maintain its market share. God may be disappearing from modern culture, but he ain't found in RCC.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Mary Sue,
Let me add that the flier from the Catholic Conference website reveals "Major support" from the Knights of Columbus. That must then be "substantial." If they are 501(c)3 then they are in trouble and should lose their tax exempt status on this. I don't know what the corporate status of the KoC is -- it may be that lobbying is one of their reasons to exist; the Charities division is 501(c)3 aqnd may be incorporated separately for just that purpose, and they are smart enough to keep their lobbying money separate.

Anonymous said...

If Prop 8 had been defeated, would there have been GLBT centers under threat of being burned by fanatical Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons? Heck no.

As if they were waiting for that?! Take your head out of . . . somewhere, and recognize that HATE CRIMES against LGBTs are high, and have been soaring the past few years. As IT attests, if "Christians" (so-called: for our purposes the "fanatical Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons" you mentioned) can simultaneously quote Scripture and raise the middle finger, how much imagination does it take to guess that those who actually DO attack us, and burn our GLBT centers, do so w/ GeeZus' name on their lips, and in their wicked minds?

jcf-- Christian universalist? IIRC you are a TEC priest. Do you really teach that to your flock in defiance of the Biblical and patristic witness of the reality of divine judgment? Same-sex marriage is a trivial issue compared to that heresy.

To be harangued by you about my "heresy", BigDaddyMike, is really rather amusing, but lemme "straighten" you out.

I am an Episcopal layperson, practicing my Catholic faith in fidelity to the Biblical and patristic witness of the reality of Universal Salvation, through the Christ who "was lifted up, to draw ***ALL*** to him".

I'd say more, but I'd probably only lengthen MY stay in Purgatory... ;-/

Anonymous said...

jcf-- I feel a little relieved that as a TEC layman your ability to propagate your error is probably limited. You might want to check out Matthew 25 and Revelation 20 as a reality check.

mary sue-- Did a little math and figured out that over the past three months in which Prop 8 advocacy has taken place, I've spent less than 0.02% of the parish funds on advocacy. Not sure if that counts as substantial in your book. I'll take a little time later today to take a look at how much of my preaching time was used on the proposition.



Anonymous said...

It's not that the Roman Catholic Church doesn't produce fine theologians . . . it's just that Popoids like you, Mikey, keep kicking them out.

Without Fundies (of whatever flavor) preaching at us, how in the world would we ever know how to read our Bibles, huh?

When it comes to the "priests and Pharisees" that Jesus excoriated (who were actually living "error", as opposed to the Good Samaritan who was---maybe---merely "propagating" it), I'll picture you, Mike.

God have mercy upon us all...

Erika Baker said...

Fr Michael

do you know what I find most disturbing about this thread?

Your calm, icy put-down of JCF, who is so cleary deeply and personally hurt by what has happened.

You may not agree with JCF, but that complete lack of empathy and compassion you display is terrifying, especially in a priest.

Anonymous said...

mary sue-- Going through my liturgical schedule since August 1 when the CA bishops started getting serious about promoting Prop 8, I estimate that I have spent about 0.8% of my liturgical preaching on the measure. For some reason it seemed more.

erika baker-- I've never used the blogosphere for pastoral counseling. IMHO it is a remarkably inefficient medium to do so and it seems to bring out the testiness in most of us. I'm of the opinion that online it is best to stick with the exchange of ideas, however tense that may become at times. No doubt jcf has friends and a TEC priest available to him locally if he needs them. Meanwhile, his idea of the Bible and Church Fathers backing the idea of universalism is just wacky and can do grave damage to a Christian's soul if believed, acted upon, and propagated.

If, someday, same-sex marriage gets legalized in this state I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep about it except for the subsequent assault on Christians' right not to play along with the charade. I am far more concerned about the universalist heresy's continued growth in the mainline denominations and even among the more unevangelized and uncatechized Catholics.


Erika Baker said...

Fr Michael

"I've never used the blogosphere for pastoral counseling."

That's not the point.
It is still everyone's duty to be civil to someone who is clearly in distress. That this distress is shown in a public blog in the context of a public conversation is no reason to disregard it.

"If, someday, same-sex marriage gets legalized in this state I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep about it except for the subsequent assault on Christians' right not to play along with the charade"

So why were you so active in the civil political process?
It's quite astonishing to hear that you have lobbied hard for something that has huge emotional impact on a large group of people, when you wouldn't actually lose much sleep over the matter.

And let's at least acknowlege that a growing number of Christians believes gay marriage not to be a charade, but a biblically sound option that should be open to all who seek it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Having two posts on similar themes is getting confusing. I just posted a response, in part, to Fr Michael's comment here about Universalism over at the other post. I am going to open a third post on the topic as well, as the discussion has moved beyond the scope of either of the original posts.

Anonymous said...


"...except for the subsequent assault on Christians' right not to play along with the charade."

That is why I was active in the political process. It is what will follow (and already has, to some extent) after same-sex marriage is recognized that concerns me. Since civil law seems to distinguish between "the church" and church-related bodies in a way that we Catholics do not, much of the Catholic Church is potentially threatened by this. I'm speaking here particularly of Catholic Charities (which has already suffered in CA with domestic unions, adoptions, and the forced offering of contraceptive benefits to employees) and parochial schools. I'm also concerned about individual citizens being forced to accept this: think of the Protestant photographer who found himself sued for refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding. And, of course, the legion of Christian kids in public schools who will be informed that marriage is a consensual union between two unrelated adults.

Erect a strong legal firewall not subject to judges' and legislators' capricious whims that would protect Christians (and others) from these threats and I suppose the energy would be drained quite a bit on our side. But that's far from being the current political and legal landscape.


Erika Baker said...

"Erect a strong legal firewall not subject to judges' and legislators' capricious whims that would protect Christians (and others) from these threats"

Let's just stress again that you are talking about the protection of SOME Christians.

It is really important that you are aware that you are not speaking for all Christians. You do not hold THE Christian position, but A Christian position.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr Michael, your concerns remind me of why I am glad I do not live in Medieval Europe, when the Catholic Church was able to use the secular arm even more effectively than in the passage of Prop 8.

I would like to suggest that further discussion of this issue move to the later post, which addresses the matter more directly.