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Michael Healy

A Problem and a Fear about SSM

May. 29 at 10:43am

In regard to Katie’s question, “To speak or not to speak” about same sex marriage, it does seem to me that we have to speak up despite the delicacies—and crudities—involved.  Otherwise, we abandon the field to the propagandists who are already veritably overrunning us.  As was mentioned in the article, we can hardly shield our children (at least not for very long) from these realities in our culture—and even home-schoolers are part of mass society.  Eventually, by the teen-age years at the least if not before, they will be exposed to all that goes on in America despite restrictions on TV, movies, etc. 

It takes real heroism to speak up against the homosexual lobby.  People who do so and forcefully argue for the classic teaching on marriage as one man-one woman for life are subject to ridicule and vilification, even charges of hate speech, e.g., Robert George and Patrick Lee.  However, if we remain silent in the face of this, will it be construed by our children (and others) as a holy modesty or will it be seen as a cowardice and lack of conviction on our own part?  I fear the latter.  If we really believe these truths, and not just by faith alone but with a foundation in the things themselves available to insight and reason, we have to push back against the flood of doxa--and not just for our own good or the good of society as a whole but also for the good of our opponents who support and live the homosexual lifestyle.  If we love them, we must share sincerely our understanding of the truth about human nature, happiness, and fulfillment, even at the risk of being condemned as judgmental, self-righteous, or hypocritical. 

But it is complicated.  One problem, as Katie mentions, is that the other side of the argument seems so clear and simple.  Why not live and let live?  If homosexuals want to commit their lives to one another in marriage, isn’t this better than free-lancing?  Why hinder them from making a solemn commitment to one another in a long-term relationship?  What harm does that do to anyone?  (Of course, even the way those questions are phrased assumes a great deal.)

And the problem is that the answers given to what seems to be this simple request usually have to involve several steps—and this is where we often lose people.  Many do not want to sit and think about it or be led through a number of foundational points and then draw conclusions; they want simple and direct answers on the level of immediate intuitions.  Now, I believe that such intuitions in fact are available in the context of SSM and homosexual relations, i.e., that there is something unnatural and morally wrong about this kind of sexual act, that this was not what sex was made for, that the human race was made male and female for a reason, but our culture has now pressured us into regarding these immediate insights as despicable prejudices left-over from the “dark ages” of only few years ago.  (Remember, the Defense of Marriage act passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.)  Yet, we have to defend the fact that there is a valid and immediate moral insight here, not just an emotional prejudice.  Then we have to try to explain it. 

For instance, it is a question of fact, not prejudice, that for a marriage to take place a union of minds, hearts, wills, and bodies has to take place.  This is the point about annulment—even if a union of mind, heart, and will is present, the marriage is not there if the bodily union is impossible.  This is the meaning of becoming “one flesh” by the union of the clearly incomplete-by-themselves-and ordained-toward-one-another sexual organs of male and female.  Every other bodily system, meant to regulate and further life, is complete in itself (circulatory, skeletal, nervous system, muscles, skin, etc.) and makes sense in itself, but the sexual system only makes sense in the “in-between” of man and woman, only there does its purpose and end become apparent.  Thus a couple cannot become “one flesh” just by desiring such union and then attempting it through other forms of bodily penetration—mouth, anus, etc.—any more than I can become “one flesh” with you by sucking on your toes or nibbling on your ear lobe.  This is why homosexual and lesbian couples simply cannot attain to marriage. It has an objective component that includes the fullness of our embodied being and intimate union of the sexual organs. 

But my fear is that the “live and let live” argument is really anything but that from the other side.  The homosexual advocates ask us to be more open-minded and allow them the freedom to take marriage vows, but as events have shown, the other side does not intend to let the defenders of traditional marriage continue to live in peace.  Rather, we must be singled out as prejudiced and hate-filled.  Our protestations that what we really want is the true good and true happiness of all concerned and that we have a right and a duty to present our case for consideration, for the salvation of lives and of souls—all this is summarily dismissed as hypocrisy. 

So the homosexual position is not so simple—nor is it so harmless.  There is a serious threat in the homosexual movement to religious and moral freedom, since the intent is to impose on us all an affirmation, not just an allowance, of their approach.  The result will not be far distant from the current attempt on the part of the Obama administration to make religious institutions accept and pay for things they hold to be morally abhorrent—abortifacients disguised as birth control.


 

Katie van Schaijik

Michael, I agree that we need to speak openly about homosexuality.  I titled my earlier post too broadly.  My real question has to do with this point:

It occured to me that another strategy of the SSM lobby is to get everyone thinking and talking about it.  Because to even to think and talk about it affects us—degrades us morally—opens us to what is wrong.

On the one hand, I think "normal people" who think about what's invovled, particularly in male homosexuality, recognize immediately and intuitively that to equate it with the conjugal union is a travesty, almost a blasphemy.  

But, should we think about it?  Doesn't it have an invasive and degrading effect on the moral imagination?  

It does for me.  My question is whether I have to bear with that ugliness as part of what's involved in shining the light of truth.  Or is a warning?  "Don't go there!"--for my own sake and others'.

I'm reminded of an earlier post of Jules about thinking the unthinkable—how some ethical scenarios are so beyond the pale that to raise them as an option in discussion is already to transgress, and to lower our shared moral atmosphere.

"De-sensitizing" works.

#1 - May. 29 at 3:23pm | quote

 

Devra Torres

Katie, it reminded me of Jules' post, too.  It does seem that if we've reached the point of having to explain why killing a baby is wrong, or why a man can't marry a man, then maybe we've also at the point where no amount of explaining could possibly do any good.  

I don't have an answer for how to engage in the conversation (with people who don't already agree) without degrading the moral imagination.  And it sure makes it hard to raise children!

I do, though, see some good coming of being forced to articulate what's wrong with birth control and "gay marriage."  There is some evidence that it's causing more people to rethink their unthinking acceptance of birth control.  And there are a lot more fruitful discussions about same-sex-attracted people's predicament than there were even a few years ago, and that's a good thing for people dealing with it.  

#2 - May. 29 at 8:48pm | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

Speaking for myself, I must admit that being confronted with the stark, ugly facts about homosexual activity has been helpful in bolstering my intuitive grasp on the difference between it and genuine sexuality. The cultural winds are blowing so strongly in the opposite direction that strong measures are needed to hold our ground. So, while I cringe to read some of the lines in Michael's post, I am helped by them. I suspect there are many others like me.

#3 - May. 29 at 11:04pm | quote

Michael Healy

I just responded to Katie and Devra in a new post, too long for the comment section.  Jules addition here fits well with my further reflections. The gifts of truth and of Revelation confirming and deepening it are never more apparent than in dealing with terrible evils defended openly.

#4 - May. 29 at 11:36pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Here's another analogy (I think).  I came across it in a Newman sermon about St. Philip Neri.  Newman contrasts the excellence of St. Philip and his approach to the evils of his day with Savonarola.  Savonarola's approach was evidently sincere and effective.  But it was morally mixed, and hence so were its fruits.  "...his vehemence converted many, but frightened or irritated more."  Philip Neri's purer, gentler approached was unmixed.

I have no doubt that some people would be genuinely helped by, say, a phenomenological analysis of homosexuality, its acts and accompanying dispositions and effects.  My question is whether that approach will be inescapably mixed in result, unlike, say, a phenomenology of love.

I guess there's no getting away from the need for prayer and prudence.

#5 - May. 30 at 2:17pm | quote

 

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