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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.

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