Mirror of Justice: I . . . and she . . . and they . . . told you so

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Source: Mirror of Justice.
by Robert George

Masha Gessen is a talented writer. Her widely praised (and sharply critical) biography of Vladimir Putin is only the most recent of her books across a range of subjects from Russian history, to mathematics, to the social implications of modern genetics.  On top of her exertions as an author, she has served as Director of the Russian service of the U.S. government funded Radio Liberty.  She is a self-identified lesbian and a leading activist in the U.S. and Russia.  (She holds citizenship in both countries.) Although she is anything but a fringe figure within the movement, she is notable for her candor in discussing its beliefs and goals. At last year’s meeting of the Sydney Writers Festival (audio here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/why-get-married/4058506 ) she spoke plainly:

It’s a no-brainer that (homosexuals) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. . . . Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago.

I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally. . . . I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three. . . . And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.

Just imagine the uproar had, say, Rick Santorum said “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what [they] are going to do with marriage when [they] get there — because [they] lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.”  But, of course, you don’t have to take it from Rick Santorum or other defenders of marriage as a conjugal union. Masha Gessen will tell you the same thing.

Although Gessen’s willingness to put the matter in terms of “lying” is startlingly frank, it is no longer uncommon for advocates of redefining marriage to acknowledge that the effect—for them an entirely desirable effect—of redefinition will be the radical transformation of the institution. The objective is not merely to expand the pool of people eligible to participate in it, as was long claimed. In conceding (and celebrating the fact) that redefining marriage will fundamentally alter the institution, transform its social role and meaning, and undermine its structuring norms of monogamy, exclusivity, etc., Gessen is far from out of step with other leading figures in the movement. She joins influential NYU sociologist Judith Stacey, Arizona State University professor Elizabeth Brake, “It Gets Better” founder Dan Savage, writer Victoria Brownworth, journalist E.J. Graff, activist Michelangelo Signorile, and countless other important scholars and activists.

Moreover, there seem to be very few prominent scholars and activists in the movement to redefine marriage who are criticizing Masha Gessen, Judith Stacey, Elizabeth Brake, and the others, and speaking out for the norms of monogamy and fidelity and other traditional marital and familial ideals. Many are quiet, but few actually deny that the abandonment of the conjugal understanding of marriage will have the transformative institutional and social effects that Gessen, Stacey, Brake and the others (approvingly) say it will have.

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The Proposition 8 Case and the Equality Argument

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Robert John Araujo, S.J., the John Courtney Murray, S.J. University Professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law has an interesting essay on the California Proposition 8 case currently before the US Supreme Court (you can read it here). Here are some excerpts:

Yesterday’s oral arguments on the California Proposition 8 case disclosed many interesting thoughts about the meaning of marriage not only in California but everywhere else. Today’s oral arguments which should be underway by now will likely do the same. The scope of my posting today is limited to the very first remarks made by Theodore Olson arguing on behalf of the Respondents (those seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in California, and elsewhere) and the Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. who argued in support of the Respondents’ position. Mr. Olson opened his argument with this:

[Proposition 8] walls-off gays and lesbians from marriage, the most important relation in life, according to this Court, thus stigmatizing a class of Californians based upon their status and labeling their most cherished relationships as second-rate, different, unequal, and not okay.

In his opening words, General Verrilli said this:

Proposition 8 denies gay and lesbian persons the equal protection of the laws.

Both of these opening remarks are important and expected claims; however, both of them are untrue. Proposition 8 does not deny equality to anyone. Rather, it levels the playing field so that any person is treated the same when it comes to marriage. No one is stigmatized. No one is second rate. No one is unequal. All persons—heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, etc.—are in the same boat under Proposition 8; therefore, all are treated equally. There is no denial of equality; there is no instantiation of inequality by Proposition 8’s operation.

Knowing that I am entering a topic that bears great sensitivity, I want to express clearly that it is not my intention to insult, demean, or marginalize anyone and the dignity that is inherent to everyone. I think that there must be equal access to the claim of dignity which does not imply or require the further conclusion that all persons are equal in all respects nor must their ideas and positions be judged equal in all respects. To disagree with someone with different views on any subject—including same-sex marriage—is precisely that, to disagree—a disagreement that is based on intelligence comprehending and intelligible world. The nature of disagreement is to enter a debate with reasoned analysis and objective commentary supported by factual analyses. To disagree is not to demean; to debate is not to insult; to contradict with objective reasoning is not to marginalize or unjustly discriminate.

By insisting through legislation or adjudication that one thing is equal to something else does not in fact make it so (our human intelligence and our understanding of the intelligible world lead us to this conclusion)—for there must be some foundation based on facts and reason that can justify the equality claim (once again, our human intelligence and our understanding of the intelligible world inexorably lead us to this second conclusion). If this factual-rational foundation is lacking, the equality claim must necessarily fail unless the legal mechanism considering the claim is a purely positivist one. This is patent when the physical differences of male and female and their biological complementarity essential to the continuation of the human race are taken into account. The promotion of “legal argument” that attempts to justify same-sex unions as being the equal of opposite-sex marriage is a contradiction of reason and fact which destabilizes the integrity of a legal system and the substantive law that undergirds it. Reliance on an “equality” argument to advance legal schemes to recognize same sex-marriage does not make relations between two men or two women the same as the complementary relation between a man and a women when reason and fact state that they are equal in certain ways but not in other ways that are crucial to the institution of marriage. While the sexual relations between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples may both generate physical pleasures through sexual intimacy, these two kinds of sexual relations are substantively different in that the latter exemplifies the procreative capacity that is the foundation of the human race based on the ontological reality of the nuclear family (the fundamental unit of society) whereas the former is sterile from its beginning and cannot achieve this objective.

But let us assume for the moment that I am in error on other pertinent issues regarding same-sex unions and that the relationship between two persons of the same sex is the equal of the marriage between a man and a woman. What conclusions do we then reach as further considerations surrounding the marital context are pursued? These considerations include: equality claims made for other relationships in which proponents argue that these relationships can also be marriages if the relationship of same-sex couples can become a marriage; moreover, by denying the marital status to the partners of these other relationships is there also a violation of equality? A list of such affiliations might include these: a collective of men or women—or a mixture of both sexes—who claim the right to be equal and therefore married in a polygamous context; a sexual affiliation of someone in age-minority and someone in age-majority who claim the right to be equal and therefore married in spite of current prohibitions on age limitations; a sexual relationship of closely related persons who, in spite of legal prohibitions due to degrees of consanguinity, claim the equal right to marriage; or any combinations of human beings who wish to associate with other biological entities who (at least the humans) insist that their relation is or should be considered the equal of a marriage between a man and a woman.

The equality argument supporting same-sex marriage runs into difficulty when one considers that the heterosexual marriage partners, because of their biological nature, are typically capable of reproducing with one another but the homosexual partners are not. It is absolutely essential to take stock of the indisputable about the physical nature of the human being and its bearing on marriage. A homosexual man and a heterosexual man are presumed equally capable of inseminating any woman, and a lesbian and a heterosexual woman are presumed equally capable of being inseminated by any man. Why? Because intelligence and the intelligible world demonstrate this conclusion to be true. But no man, heterosexual or homosexual, can inseminate any other man. Nor can any woman, heterosexual or homosexual, inseminate another woman without the assistance of artificial means. Neither judicial nor legislative fiat can alter this biological reality of human nature. Any man can deposit his semen and sperm in another man, but this does not lead to fertilization of human eggs and procreation. No woman can produce sperm-bearing semen and inject it into another woman thereby leading to the fertilization of the second woman’s egg. The procreation argument against same-sex unions works not because of legal fiction or artifice but because of biological reality that is inextricably a part of human nature that has been a part of the traditional definition of marriage that the majority in Goodridge could not dispute. Again, human intelligence and the intelligible world are working in tandem when these conclusions are reached. Put simply, the Goodridge majority and others making similar claims ignore these crucial points about reality, and ignoring reality does not make for wise and sound law except for the steadfast positivist whose will typically overcomes the intellect. The only way to overcome this obstacle to the same-sex marriage campaign is to put aside the natural and historical definition of marriage and manufacture a new one that suits the needs of same-sex marriage advocates.

The final point I’ll offer today is this: heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered, and sexually questioning persons share the same position under Proposition 8 which treats all alike. No heterosexual man can marry another man regardless of his orientation. No homosexual man can marry another man regardless of his orientation. No heterosexual woman can marry another woman regardless of her orientation. No homosexual woman can marry another woman regardless of her orientation.

This is not inequality; rather it is equality pure and simple. This is another reason why Mr. Olson’s and General Verrilli’s assertions are without merit.

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Kolakowski On Natural Law

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Source: Mirror of Justice.

From Leszek Kolakowski‘s 2001 essay “On Natural Law” (included in the recently released collection of essays entitled Is
God Happy?
),:

“…Moral intuition is also a kind of experience, different from sense perception – and neither of them infallible.

Our belief in natural law is not impaired by the fact that the results of this intuition are not necessarily identical in everyone’s mind, always and everywhere, nor by the fact that centuries were needed before people recognized the good and evil of their various actions and institutions – before they admitted, for example, that torture is evil and equality before the law good.  This has also been the case with many discoveries in empirical science: it took centuries before people realized that their ordinary intuitions were wrong: that the sun does not revolve around the earth, or that a force is not necessary to cause movement, or that events are never absolutely simultaneous.  All these erroneous beliefs were natural and understandable.  So why should we not accept that the principles and norms of natural law reveal themselves to us
gradually: that we must go through a process of growth before we understand certain moral truths and laws and recognize them as such?  (Although it should be said that since antiquity there have been people who preached those principles and norms with full conviction – without, however, gaining universal approval.)

******

There is no reason to accept the nihilistic doctrine that because various contradictory norms have been accepted and applied at various times and in various places, they are all, in terms of Reason, equally justified, which is to say equally groundless.  While belief in natural law does not – I repeat – require belief in the existence of God as a necessary premise, it does require the belief in something that one might call the moral (in addition to the physical) constitution of Being – a constitution that converges with the rule of Reason in the universe.

All the evils of the human world, its endless stupidity and suffering, cannot
impair our belief in natural law in this sense.  Two other realms of
intuition – perception and mathematics – also require suppositions that cannot be proved but are indispensable for the knowledge we acquire by these intuitions.  Our life as rational creatures occurs in a realm that is
constructed with the aid of various non-empirical but fundamental courts of
appeal, among them truth and goodness.  Nor need our belief in natural law
be impaired by the fact that it is not universally observed.  This fact
was well known to Seneca and Cicero, to Gratian and Suarez, to Grotius and
Kant, but it did not weaken their conviction that the rules of natural law are
valid, no matter how often they are violated.

 

 

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Martyrdom’s threat to the state

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Source: Mirror of Justice.

From Paul Kahn‘s “Putting Liberalism in Its Place” (link):

The Western state actually exists under the very real threat of Christian martyrdom:  a threat to expose the state and its claim to power as nothing at all.  In the end, sacrifice is always stronger than murder.  The martyr wields a power to defeat his murderer, which cannot be answered on the field of battle.

 

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Our Nation’s Crushing Debt as a Moral Hazard

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Stewardship is not only about giving money away, but about making wise use of the resources to which we are entrusted.  And an essential part of that stewardship is to preserve resources for use by the next generation.  As a nation, we are failing that responsibility — and failing miserably.

National-debt-burden-606Each person in America today — every man, woman, and child — owes more than $30,000 in national debt.  And it will only get worse, rising above $100,000 per person over the next two decades.

If nothing is changed — indeed if there is not dramatic change — the next generation will drown beneath a sea of the debt.

Simply put, America faces no greater danger today than the crushing national debt.  No greater threat to a secure safety net for all Americans exists than the uncontrolled growth in entitlements, which eventually will crowd out all other discretionary spending and, in any event, is itself unsustainable.  No greater obstacle to prosperity for the next generation of Americans is before us than leaving them with the bill for out-of-control federal spending.

Greg Sisk, Mirror of Justice

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Are Secular Democracy & Symphonia At Odds?

Marc DeGirolami at Mirror of Justice writes that “Constitutions serve several functions, but …, I’m interested in one in particular: to entrench the idea that there is a law above the state’s law — a law that cannot be changed by ordinary legislation.” He then asks “Could one say this about established religions in constitutional states?”

If I’ve understood his argument, the First Amendment’s prohibition against an established religion is less about religion or the relationship between church and state and more an acknowledgment of the limits of the State. An established Church–as for example the Anglican Church in England or the Orthodox Church in Greece or Russia–makes a far reaching claim about the power of the State, specifically that the State is sacred and that through its legislators or executive it has the right to pass judgment on the truth claims of religion. Or as DeGirolami puts it “Establishments of religion sacralize the state.”

But a sacred State is also a State, again as DeGirolami argues, that claims that it is “above its ordinary law, and … thereby control and restrain (the reach of) ordinary law.”

The First Amendment of the US Constitution, however, makes a radically different claim. “It enshrines limits on the ordinary power of government, and … even subordinate the ordinary acts of government to higher law.” While DeGirolami is concerned in his post with religion, his argument is I think equally applicable to the other rights enumerated in the amendment: “the freedom of speech, … of the press; … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In each of these rights an argument is being made that there are vast areas of human society which, like religion, are “remove[d] from the purview of ordinary law.”

The American Experiment, as I said yesterday (here), is based on certain anthropological presuppositions chief of which is that the human person is a creature and so is necessarily a religious being. But while persons are religious, governments are not. There is a higher law to which event a secular government is accountable. On this point, I think, the American Experiment and the Orthodox notion of the symphonia of Church and Empire are in anthropological agreement even if they diverge practically.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Catholic schools and the “New Evangelization”

In light of my earlier post, here’s an interesting observation by Detroit’s Archbishop Vigneron (see the whole thing here). Here’s the part that caught my eye:

I also believe that in order to re-launch Catholic school education, fulfilling the mission Our Lord is calling us to fulfill through our schools, we need to become agents of a fundamental renewal of our Catholic schools.  Here I look to the great scholar Alcuin, who was the schoolmaster of Charlemagne and a very significant reformer of Catholic education around the turn of the 9th Century and one of the leading lights of the Carolingian Renaissance.  Alcuin’s efforts at launching a new education project bore great fruit, reshaping Christian culture over 1000 years ago.

Today,  we’re Alcuin.  Christ is calling us “(to) put out into deep water” (Lk 5:4) in the work of renewal.  We must be “deep” in our selfexamination, “deep” in the changes we are willing to make for the sake of our mission, and “deep” in the boldness with which we will launch out into a new way of educating our children.  Half-measures will not be sufficient to do the job.  Our schools need our commitment, our self-investment, and our resolve if they are to become the instruments of the New Evangelization Christ wants them to be.  Our children need what we have to offer in our schools, which is to say they need Jesus, and woe to us if we fail them.  Jesus himself expects this of us, and we cannot disappoint him.  I am resolved to spend the rest of my time as Archbishop of Detroit working to strengthen our schools.  I know that you join me in that resolve, because we know that nothing less than our children’s salvation is at stake.

h/t: Mirror of Justice.

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