The Personalist Project

Accessed on July 10, 2020 - 2:46:09

To speak or not to speak: a dilemma in the debate surrounding SSM

Katie van Schaijik, May 21, 2012

President Obama's announced support of "same-sex marriage" (SSM) has put the issue in the center of public attention.  Articles and blogs on the subject are proliferating all over the internet.  It's become the stuff of casual conversation even among home-schooled teenagers.  It is practially impossible to keep young children from hearing about homosexuality and asking questions.

This raises a serious dilemma for me, and all of us.  On the one hand,  the SSM lobby relies on and takes advantage of a natural reluctance on the part of most to think and talk about what homosexuality is.  They prefer to keep the discussion focussed on subjective feelings and individual rights: "I love my boyfriend just like you love your wife. Why shouldn't I be able to marry the person I love?"  

This is an appealing line of argument, especially for teenagers.  They easily overlook all the underlying assumptions and assertions it entails.

- That gender complementarity is inessential to marriage

- That pro-creativity is inessential to marriage

- That being the natural offspring of their parents' union is unimportant to the wellbeing of children

- That there is no objective meaning and structure to bodily acts

That last one is particularly important.  Consider a kiss and a slap in the face.  A kiss, in itself, is an act of tenderness and self-giving; a slap is an act of violence.  It's possible to lie with kisses--to kiss abusively.  Some people find slapping gratifying.  But this doesn't mean that those things have no objective meaning; it just means that people can be perverse.  

As John Paul II unfolded so beautifully in his Theology of the Body, the intimate link between the body and soul in the human person means that our free bodily acts (and especially our sexual acts) are fraught with meaning and moral significance.  They both express and "determine" our personal subjectivity and the shape of our relations with others.  They have their objective "language" and "logic."

Part of the way, then, of showing that there is no equivalence between marriage and a liaison between two men or two women is to point to the radical difference between "homosex" and the conjugal act, which, in itself, is a life-giving act that unites the two halves of the human whole.  It is, in its very nature and structure, a pro-creative, all-ecompassing, reciprocal and unifying act.  It's framed to express love and form a communion of love, a family.

Homosexual acts are not.  They are not comprehensive, they are not unitive, they are not procreative.  Some of them are—objectively—violent and abusive. They harm the body. They alientate and dis-integrate persons. 

Part of me thinks that it's good and helpful to point this out—to go into it—to challenge those who are sympathetic to the SSM cause to ponder this radical difference and its ethical implications.  But then another part of me remembers verses in St. Paul's letters.  "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."  And: "It is shameful even to mention what the ungodly do in secret."

The other day, in an online debate at a political forum, someone criticized me for using the term "sodomy," because it's a Biblical term and therefore insinuated religion into a public policy discussion.  So I changed it to a more explicit term.  Afterwards, I felt unhappy—disturbed in spirit, and full of doubts about whether I did well to be typing and publishing the words.  I have those doubts now.

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. 

I ask honestly.  Have we reached the limits of democratic civil discourse?  Would we do more to advance our cause by refusing to engage the issue and instead giving silent witness to truth by the purity of our lives?  Is this even possible in the given circumstances?

I've been thinking, by way of analogy, about the theory of "non-violent resistance," which I find convincing.  It's not pacifism.  It doesn't deny the justice of self-defense.  Rather, it proposes that non-violent resistance is a more potent weapon against injustice than violence in self-defense, which, however justified, still has its ugly and damaging effects.

Might it not also be true that we do more to advance purity and chastity by  declining to participate in public discussions about things that have an invasive and degrading effect on the moral imagination?  Or, by declining to talk about it openly and rationally, do we abandon our kids and our culture to the shameless?

Help me decide.