Conservative Catholic Illogic and The Question of Gay Marriage

These comments are now here very late, in repsonse to a post from September. Backlogs are like that.

I’ve been reading the blog Katolik Shinja, by a Catholic fellow named Joshua who, like me, is living in Korea. Well, he’s often writing about all kinds of Catholic topics and I think he’s the most conservative Catholic I’ve ever come across, save one substitute teacher I met in high school.

Well, recently he posted about gay marriage and “the Catholic perspective”, and I commented on his post and some of the comments he added to the post in response to some Wiccan blogstalker who commented first.

Well, he responded, too, as you’ll see if you scroll down from my comments, and I decided that this is worth responding to in the form of a whole post.

As far as I can find it, here are the Catholic arguments and the problems with them:

Homosexual marriage is non-reproductive. Yes, and so are a whole host of other lifestyles, such as people who use contraceptives, people who sterilize themselves, people who undergo abortions… and the clergy. Why bring up the clergy? Joshua’s always going on about how Malthus was wrong and how reproduction and maintenance of the human population is crucial to a society.

From where I stand, there are plenty too many people in the world. Western civilization achieved amazing things way before the big population boom that we’re living in now: incredible art, science, architecture, literature, and so on. Western society is not, as he would like to think, collapsing. In fact, with the (unfortunate, but unavoidable at this point) monopoly that the developed world will have on stem-cell research and biotech, people will be living longer and longer, meaning that our rates of reproduction will have to slow and thin.

Anyway, back to the question of reproduction, it’s insensible to insist that all people should reproduce, which is the hidden (and inconsistent) argument in Joshua’s screed. It’s bad for any person with a sex life not to reproduce? There’s nothing in any of the words of Christ that declare that, as far as I know.

And if reproduction is such a necessity, why shouldn’t priests also marry and have children? After all, everyone who knows even a smidgin of history knows that priestly celibacy was introduced in order to prevent fathers passing on priestly mantles to sons. And if you think this doesn’t happen now, look at Korea. Presbyterian churches and pastorhood are routinely passed on to sons when they are viable and profitable businesses. I’ve never heard of that in Canada, though, and would be willing to say whether this happens is now a question of local culture rather than institutional restriction.

No, it’s okay for priests not to reproduce because they fulfill a social role. As if gays obviously, immediately can be declared not to do so? Look at a history of Western literature and art and you’ll find loads of gay people. People who don’t have families have more time to devote to art, creativity, criticism, activism, and all kinds of things. Sure, most gays won’t get into this stuff, just as most heterosexual couples do a botch job of raising their children. The point is that we live in a complex society in which a number of social niches exist. Not everyone is needed (or, in Christian terms, “called”) to parenthood. And though people with children seem often to want to have everyone else also have kids too, I can assure you that one couple’s not having children in no way impedes others from having children. In fact, in a world where there is any significant faction who refuse to use contraception, we should be grateful for any minority who is non-reproductive.

Legalizing gay marriage promotes homosexuality and simultaneously erodes the definition of marriage. No, it doesn’t do either thing. I don’t know about you, but having gay friends, being told in my youth that gay people ought to have equal rights to straight people, never ever made me want to try out gay sex. I’ve never felt the urge, never even be curious about it. Maybe a vast number of men do have such urges and would never admit it… maybe this kind of claim is less hypocritical than I imagine from m own experience. I seriously doubt that exposure to “gay propaganda” would have made me turn out gay. What’s the evidence? Gay people, exposed all their lives to massive amounts of straight propaganda, don’t turn out straight.

Perhaps it’s true there are more latent gays in our society and that in the future, as bigotry against homosexuality lessens and acceptance of non-straight relationships increases, more relations will defy the “straight” definition that shapes our expectations and understandings of love. But this would only happen if natural tendencies which are now in certain percentage of people were to be less repressed. Maybe many more people would be open to relationships with people of either sex — absent of “roles” like gay and straight — but I suspect that, for evolutionary reasons, we’re got species-wide a huge predisposition to have straight sex and reproduce. That’s why we have not just survived so long, but become endemic to the earth.

So how does legalizing gay marriage promote homosexuality? It promotes homosexuals from being second-class citizens, but then again I don’t think that is ever a bad thing, to remove that kind of burden from peoples’ shoulders.

As for it eroding the definition of marriage: well, no more than divorce does. In fact, far, far less than does divorce. So why aren’t conservative Christians pushing for laws against divorce in America? If anything has eroded the common practice of the Christian definition of marriage, it has been divorce. Clearly, people don’t honestly much care about that part of the definition of divorce being eroded, though it has in fact affected far more human beings than gay marriage ever will.

And besides, Christians need to be reminded that their model of marriage isn’t the only one in the world. Sure, concubinage has died out in the world for a good reason, and polygamy is growing rare on earth. But at the same time, Christians didn’t invent marriage. There’s no reason, in a non-theocratic Western nation, that all people should be expected to follow the marriage customs of one specific religion or group of religions.

Social acceptance of homosexuality is a symptom of social decline. Or maybe it’s a sign of us finally clawing our way out of the Dark Ages once again. The idea that this or that thing signals a repetition in some historical event is first of all very questionable, and second of all should cause Americans a great deal of worry: while people do question Edward Gibbon’s logic, it is at least arguable that the rise of Christianity as the Imperial Faith of the Roman Empire also contributed to the fall of that Empire.

Opposing gay marriage isn’t theocratic, it’s just following “natural law”. No it’s not. It’s selectively following natural law. All kinds of sexual behaviour deemed “deviant” or even outright (and rightfully) criminal among humans, has been observed among mammals in the wild. Monkeys, dolphins, dogs, and all kinds of mammals engage in all kinds of sex with would make the average conservative Christian’s stomach turn, with all kinds of varieties and frequencies related to all kinds of external circumstances and environmental factors. So what natural law is it that you’re talking about? Invoking natural law is the Aristotelian shortcut to claiming you’re right, but any behaviour among humans can be found in nature—obviously, as we’re humans, but also outside of the human species. Whereas, unlike all other animals, we converse, go to church, dance, and so on. Maybe we should stop doing all those things as they violate “natural law”?

It’s wrong for “gay brownshirts” to attack people who are simply saying “the truth about homosexuality”. I’ve addressed this on the Katolik Shinja website, but I’ll simply point out that critics who are arrogant enough to claim to know “the truth about ____” are thinking mightly highly of themselves. Such pride is a dangerous temptation to the adherent of a faith; anyone can imagine he knows his god’s will. Few are those who are humble enough to say, against their worst instincts and intolerances and lack of love, that they are fallible and merely human, ignorant of their god’s true will and that for all they know God may think completely different than they imagine.

As for the “brownshirts” thing, I’ve said why I think that term is wrong so many times I don’t want to rehash it here, so I’ll merely mention two things: first, politically correct mavens are rarely as violent as the real brownshirts of Nazi Germany were, while the intolerant thugs in philosophical agreement with them, those who bash gays in the street, much more resemble brownshirts. And secondly, the invocation of Nazi Germany is usually enough to end any web discussion as it’s descended into irrationality.

I don’t think I have any more comments and someone else needs to use the PC, so off I go. I really, really need a PC on my desk.

4 thoughts on “Conservative Catholic Illogic and The Question of Gay Marriage

  1. Hello Gord,

    [Please let me let your readers know that I, or the Catholic Church, do not hate homosexuals. We differentiate between homosexual inclinations, and homosexual acts.]
    First of all, thanks for the compliment about being the most conservative Catholic you’ve ever come across. If you click on some of the blogs I’ve linked to on my side-bar, you’ll find some that are much, much more conservative than me.

    I was not always this conservative. (I prefer the word “traditionalist.”) I used to be quite radical politically, a bit to the left of you. (I always deplored abortion, though, seeing it as part of the selfish, disposible, throw-away, consumer society I despised and continue to dispise.)

    In my radical days, as a student in Chile, I once discussed the homosexual issue with a Chilean friend. I said what you have said above, “There are gay dogs. There are gay monkeys. Homosexuality is natural.” My Chilean friend responded simply, “We’re not animals.”

    It took me about ten years to understand the profundity of that argument. Chileans, like other non-Anglo-Saxons, have not had their entire worldview thrown upside-down by Darwinism. (And here, I’m not questiong the Theory of Evolution, which may or may not be true, but the materialistic Darwinist worldview.) My friend saw humans as far above animals and above their drives and instincts. In short, my friend believed in free-will. The Anglo-Saxon world tends to believe in determinism of one sort or another: biological, economic, etc. These, of course, have their influence, but at the end of the day, we call the shots.

    Nature is fallen, like a bent finger that should be straight, to use C.S. Lewis’ analogy. This extends to the animal world as well. The Natural Law argument goes deeper than just looking at nature as a model. We try to discern what we were created to be before the Fall.

    Malthus was simply wrong. (The same Chilean friend also told me this when I tried to make a pro-vegetarian argument based on land consumption of vegetable vs. live-stock agriculture. Cross-cultural exchanges are great for exposing the biases we grow up with.) Malthus’ theory was only ever popular among non-economists. The earth can sustain about 33 billion people. All 6 billion of us today could live in Texas. Even Chomsky says that the problem is distibution.

    (This is a bit off topic, but it’s scary where these Darwinist and Malthusian arguments lead. There’s a reason abortion clinics are disproportionately found in Black neighborhoods. That great liberal icon, Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood, Inc., was a racist eugenicist who was awarded a medal by Hitler. It is not conservatives who argue that the Third World poor should be nuked or left to starve.)

    The Nations of Europe are disappearing, as are South Korea and Japan. Nations need workers, so as these countries grow old, they are importing workers and exploting them. These new immigrants will replace the old folks they work for. It was a tragedy that the Indian nations of the US and Canada were wiped out. It’s also a tragedy that these nations are deciding to wipe themselves out.

    Muslims, who still believe in family and in themselves, God bless them, are replacing their Europeans hosts. Europe will be completely remade. We are luckier in the United States. Our immigrants, legal and illegal, are mostly from Catholic Latin America, and will enhance, not remake, our culture.

    You are right that not everyone should feel required to reproduce. Celibacy is a beautiful option not only for priests and religious, but for lay people as well, like the members of the Courage Apostolate, which “ministers to those with same-sex attractions and their loved ones.”

    While I concede that the “brownshirt” thing was a bit over the top, folks are being intimidated for believing that homosexuality is sinful. Just ask Rocco Buttiglione of Italy or Ake Green of Sweden.

    I haven’t addressed all your points, but we covered this ground before. Anyway, I hope you keep reading my blog. I read yours everyday.


    Well said, Gord. I’d post my own comments there, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

    And WTF is it with “Silly Sally”? Did someone forget her meds?

  3. Joshua,

    You claim thatneither you nor the Church hates homosexuals, and that you “differentiate between homosexual inclinations, and homosexual acts.” If that’s the case, then why would it be correct or right to state, as you do in your comment, that “homosexuality is sinful”? Homosexuality, as you may know if you have any homosexual friends, is more than sexual practice in our society; it’s an identity, it’s a political position (of sorts, at times, but nonetheless…). Gays aren’t just people who have gay sex acts. Is being a member of a gay community wrong too? Is fighting for political rights of gays (regardless of whether they practice or not) wrong too?

    Secondly, all of that has NOTHING to do with secular politics. Your church’s concept of sin ought to have everything to do with your personal practice, of course — that’s your freedom — and NOTHING to do with any nation’s laws (except perhaps the Vatican’s). That, you see, is everyone else’s freedom. You’re free to consider the rest of us immoral, bad, sinful: the Puritans thought that of the rest of Europe, poor nutters, too. So do lots of other religions in every country. But you have no right to seek your theology enforced on others as law.

    You thanked me:

    First of all, thanks for the compliment about being the most conservative Catholic you’ve ever come across.

    I’m amused that you find it so complimentary. For me, it was kind of an expression of wonder, as I find most people can’t maintain such conservativism. It requires too much investment of faith in this or that “official” authority figure to be correct on a number of issues. Given what we know of human fallibility, the whole idea surprises me, official claims of infallibility or not.

    But of course, as you’ve alluded to, and now explicitly discussed, you once were a “radical”. You know, now I can see why you went so conservative. Many people who style themselves very radical in their youth end up highly conservative when they “grow up”. Why?

    Well, I’ve heard a lot of theories, and the one I figure is right is that people who are “radicals” tend to seize upon simplistic models, and understand them as total principles, as “the answer” to question X, or even, sometimes, questions A-Z.

    Let me give you an example:

    You argued that instinct was behind homosexual acts. You noted that there are gay acts in nature, like with dogs, monkeys, dolphins, and dogs. Therefore, you noted, humans’ occasional homosexual instincts are probably natural.

    This, you seem to view in retrospect, was a case of Darwinism setting your worldview on its ear: you understand human “base instincts” (such as sexual instincts) as natural.

    To this I would say, you did not understand Darwin nearly well enough, and your worldview was not nearly enough set on its ear. For a deeper understanding of Darwinism would have shown you that not only do human sexual practices, but all human practices reflect the set of instincts and cognitive equipment we’re born with.

    Language, for example, is a human universal. Not only that, but generally the parts of speech. I believe that no human language exists that does not have a verb. Or a preposition. Or a subject, verb, and object structure (even if the subject or object is often implied, as in Korean). Adjectives and adverbs are universal.

    Why’s that?

    Nothing to do with the Tower of Babel, I’m afraid, but rather to do with the structure of our brains and the way language evolved, and we in response to its development evolved with it in us. Which in turn has to do with development of identity, which has to do with brain mass, which has to do with us having opposable thumbs.

    The way we smile at one another has roots in our hominid ancestry. The way we use our eyes to communicate. The way we show aggressive intentions, or respond to violence. The way we express joy. A wide range of facial expressions are hardwired into us, and though culturally we learn to use them in different ways (as, in Korea, smiling, ie. showing amusement) seems like mockery to older people, the expressions themselves are all there, like preexistent variables ready to be subjective values.

    Everything that it means to be human, you see, from a Darwinist point of view is undergirded by this vast set of evolved traits, tendencies.

    Does this justify all human behaviours? Do I think that it’s right when men follow the commonly acknowledged male polygamous instinct?

    As a being of culture, I say no. Most beings of culture say no, of course, and yet millions of people — including those who say no — cheat on their spouses or lovers. Yet, as a being of culture, with values learned in my culture, I say no, and most cultures have developed some kinds of values with regard to this.

    But as a Darwinist, the question of right and wrong doesn’t enter into it. My “no” is not absolute truth, not an eternal value. I can imagine a society — and they have existed in the past, generally at times when women have been more empowered, which explains why divorce and feminism came along at the same time — that might allow temporary marriages, trial marriages, and the like.

    As a Darwinist, when I look at the (let me remind you, commonly acknowledged) male polygamous instinct, I can see that it makes sense, physiologically for this kind of thing to exist. Historically, male humans who had the urge to mate with multiple women would have, in most cases, had a better chance of leaving more progeny around; and they’d have passed on their male instinct to a fair amount of their male offspring; those instincts being selected for over the course of millions of years, a few thousand years of human culture has not undone this — and given the fact that children of divorced adulterers are not executed, those same instincts are still being passed on.

    As a being of culture, I say, of course, we have a choice. And as a being of culture, I say that most men are idiots because they cannot seem to get over that particular urge for the sake of a good relationship with one woman. But as a Darwinist, I’m also not surprised that so many men do that, and I explain their urge to do so rather readily and easily. It’s not, as you imagine, determinism, any more than Catholic understanding of God having created humans with free will and a weak, sinful nature but the capacity to embrace Him for help and forgiveness is deterministic.

    It took me about ten years to understand the profundity of that argument. Chileans, like other non-Anglo-Saxons, have not had their entire worldview thrown upside-down by Darwinism. (And here, I’m not questiong the Theory of Evolution, which may or may not be true, but the materialistic Darwinist worldview.) My friend saw humans as far above animals and above their drives and instincts. In short, my friend believed in free-will. The Anglo-Saxon world tends to believe in determinism of one sort or another: biological, economic, etc. These, of course, have their influence, but at the end of the day, we call the shots.

    So to your friend, I would say, “We’re different from other animals, you’re right, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t animals. We are hairless, talking apes. Our cultures are unique, but they’re not unnatural. They’re not “above” animality.”

    But of course, your friend has a simplistic view of nature which humans are somehow removed from. This, as any Darwinist knows, is one of the prime fallacies that stops people from understanding the world as it is, and understand why human nature is as it is.

    Thinking that Darwinism is determinist reflects a weak understanding of Darwinism.

    Thinking that humans are “above” animals or separate from nature reflects a weak understanding of Darwinism.

    Thinking that humans are above their desires and instincts reflects a weak understanding of Darwinism.

    All of the sum of human cultures reflects our desires and our instincts: the ways we make friends and enemies; the ways we speak to older and younger people; the ways we regard sex and sexuality; the ways in which we use or respond to use of power. We are surrounded by culture, and culture is all of it born from our nature, which is of course the way it is because of evolution. Our art reflects our way of looking at and understanding the world. Our music reflects a preponderant interest in patterns and rhythms (and mathematically, simple, easily-calculated fractions). Not just who you want to have sex with, but everything in your world reflects human instinct, human nature, humans’ ongoing legacy from evolution.

    By the way, there are no “gay dogs”. “Gay” is a social role, an identity associated with practicing homosexuality, but not the same as practicing homosexuality. (In a world where both homo- and hetero-sexuality were normative, there’d be no special “gay” identity as radically different from “straight”, I’d wager, just as being Catholic or Protestant in my hometown is much less identity-forming than it is, in, say, contemporary Ireland.) As a cultured being I recognize social roles that “straight” and “gay” people take on. But as a Darwinist I think those social roles are concretized roles that solidify not out of nature (gayness or straightness) but around the received dialectic of a given kind of practice. Meaning, there are people who have primarily urges to sleep with others of the same sex, and others (a majority) who primarily want sex with the opposite sex. Probably there’s also a number of people who have varying degrees of both — at least, that’s what I’ve been led to believe by a number of people who self-identify as straight, gay, and bisexual.

    Another way of looking at it is this: as a cultured person I know what people mean when they say “black person” or “Asian person” but as a Darwinist, the idea of race is a poor explanation of what humans really are. Someone with black-looking features can be mostly of descent from people who have genes from Cree Indians, but has one black ancestor whose heritable traits are dominant and express more notably. Likewise, I “self-identify” as white but suspect some part of my heritage might include Iroquios or Mohawk blood since my mother’s family was resident in Quebec for a long time.

    As for nature being “fallen”, I don’t get how that works. How is proof of the authorship of God all around, and yet nature at the same time is all out of joint. It seems to me one of those things people can chuck out to deplore something without asking themselves how it came to be that way. But evolution is eminently logical, in the sense that every development happens for a simple and clear reason. An effusive claim of “this is fallen” is, in my opinion, a cop-out. And since none of us can know nature before the mythological fall, while there are tons of fossils and tons of reasonably sensible theories about us — ways of sensibly seeing the effects of evolution’s work upon even ourselves — I see no reason to retreat into theorizing about what nature was like “before the Fall”… unless, of course, you can show me some fossils from before the fall.

    As for Malthus being wrong, maybe. But would you want to live on an Earth supporting 33 billion people? I mean, really. Look at Korea: highrises everywhere, traffic jams. If everyone on Earth lived in Texas, homicide would be rampant, regardless of how religious or medicated everyone was. Maybe we can keep 33 billion people alive on earth for a while. Why the hell would we want to?

    By the way, it’s the equally poor understanding of Darwin that leads to fascist, racist eugenics. To someone who really understands Darwin’s Ideas, the idea of race falls away as a cultural concept, one that has very limited use in scientific discussions. And yeah, there are more abortion clinics in Black neighborhoods. I bet there’d be fewer if more Blacks had education as good as the Whites in America, including sex ed classes, clubs and hobby groups, and prospects for the future in which they could invest themselves. Hell, if they were economically better off in general, unwanted pregnancies would occur less. All of those problems are linked, and if you ask me generalized poverty in one race (which leads to many bad effects) is more of a problem than the single isolated symptom of their having more abortion clinics (and perhaps more abortions) than the average white neighborhood.

    And as far as I know, it’s certainly not Darwinists who argue that the Third World should be nuked or starve.

    And by the way: I also don’t self-identify as “liberal” or “conservative” in the sense you mean. Those political terms are now basically meaningless. I am for the future. I am for the people. I am against concentrated wealth and power. I am against ecological stupidity. I think I run counter to both liberal and conservative (in American parlance) on these counts.

    As for the tragic disappearance of South Korea and Japan, it’s not a tragedy if you ask me. Cultures historically have always been permeable membranes, and the influx of new ideas and energies can do much to awaken and revitalize cultures. I’m fascinated to see how cultures will change during my lifetime. But then I don’t believe in the monolithic myth of “Culture X”: there is no one Korean culture. There’s millions of them, one living inside each Korean and fragments of it in non-Koreans who live here or know Koreans.

    Your religious views dictate the only way not to reproduce is to be celibate. This is a dated method, and has been shown historically to be ineffective. Even in the times when various sexually-transmitted diseases ravaged Europe, almost everyone was having sex. (Thus the wig fashions.) Humans are ver sexual beings, for evolutionary reasons. Your Church’s demand that they deny that for a lifetime is just unreasonable and untenable. It’s just plain crazy, especially in this day and age when sex need not lead to reproduction.

    If the Church had adopted a different approach, demanding the children of clergy be adopted by non-clergy relatives and raised as a layperson, you’d be arguing something altogether different now. So how is your claim tenable? It’s an appeal to an authority I don’t even recognize.

    And how such an appeal should be recognized in the making of legislation governing the secular concept of marriage is beyond me. I don’t know why you think we should even care about your religion’s rules — let alone use them when formulating our laws in Western countries — when most of us don’t even believe in your religion (here I speak of Catholicism).

    I’m not reading your blog daily but then I don’t read anyone’s blog daily. I have to rely on occasional catch-ups, because of my schedule and other things I do. But I do check out your page occasionally, even if I disagree with a lot of your views.

  4. And Adam: I find it amusing that the thing we’d all agree on, I am guessing Joshua included, is that Silly Sally does seem to be off her meds in a bad way. Or did, anyway, in September.

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