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The Preemptive Surrender of Jody Bottum Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Sunday, 25 August 2013

Joseph Bottum, sometime friend of several of us at TCT, published a painfully long, painfully rambling article Friday in the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal saying that the Church is wasting its time – is even harming itself – opposing gay marriage. He was fired as editor-in-chief of First Things three years ago, years in which he has mostly been living in his native South Dakota, where one hoped he was growing in wisdom and grace. But that is not our subject today.

The subject involves the fact that the liberal Luce Foundation provided the money for the writing of the Commonweal article, whose release included an announcement of the publication of Jody’s book, An Anxious Age (scheduled for in February), and coincided with a large story in The New York Times Saturday. A cynic might think that this shows less an argument about Church policy than a PR campaign, as in “former First Things editor turns.”

But let’s start by getting the record straight: if you take his argument seriously, which I mostly do not, Jody is not saying that he “supports” gay marriage, which the New York Times headline, as is its wont in matters Catholic, gets wrong.

He is saying that the Church cannot win this cultural battle, indeed is being harmed by it, given the forces arrayed against Her. Our bishops should not waste time on it and instead focus on the deep “re-enchantment of the world,” which is what it will take to get people to see the real point of the Church’s richer notions of Creation – and sexuality.

In a way, true enough, and many people, myself included, have been saying that – minus the surrender on same-sex marriage – for decades. But I personally don’t have a large investment in the “beauty will save the world” argument, which tends to work some of the same veins as “re-enchantment.” The Beautiful is one of the transcendentals, but only one, a lot of bad can happen while we’re waiting for it to kick in.

There are hundreds of art galleries all over the world filled with first-rate Christian painting and sculpture. Religious music is regularly performed. Christian literature is abundant and still being produced. There are beautiful liturgies in many churches. People I admire write brilliantly about the deep significance of such things. I don’t see that any of this has prevented, slowed, much less reversed, our sharp cultural decline.

Bottum’s argument is the equivalent of saying: fighting terrorism will not establish the peace that passeth all understanding, so we shouldn’t bother with such skirmishes. Leave aside that a large and sophisticated entity like the Catholic Church can walk and chew gum at the same time. Walking away from this fight will not gain the Church friends or placate her enemies.

The proof will be in the people who rally to his cause. The National Catholic Reporter, Planned Parenthood, Catholics for a Free Choice, most Catholic universities, and the most secular in the secular world. Be ready for the public wave of support for Church efforts to “re-enchant” the world – along with greater time spent on social justice and inclusiveness. I’m sure Luce Foundation funding can be found for those campaigns.

In other words, they will all be happy to send Catholics off on a wild goose chase that threatens nothing in our desert of a culture: “Have a nice trip. Here are a few Euros to tip the waiters. See you guys the day after the Second Coming.”

That would be a best-case scenario. Actually, once the Church gives up the legal and cultural pushback, it won’t appease gay activists and their many more or less passive supporters. They know it means weakness. We’ll see an increase in attacks on the Church to simply shut up, and maybe even get onboard about homosexuality.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George just got a letter signed by eight Catholic lawmakers in Illinois chiding him for cutting archdiocesan funding to a pro-immigrant group that decided to endorse gay marriage.(*See Correction Note below.) Imagine, a Cardinal of the Catholic Church defunds a non-profit group that goes out of its way to take a non-Catholic position inessential to its mission – and, for his trouble, reaps a stinging rebuke from Catholic pols.

The Cardinal is famous for saying that he expects to die in his bed, his successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr. The Cardinal is 76, but he’s in pretty good health, and with the highest respect, may be entirely too optimistic.

Jody asserts that there’s no coherent, principled legal argument against gay marriage and that we should simply accept it “as Americans.” I leave the legal niceties to the lawyers and legal beagles, but an awful lot of them seem to think otherwise.

And that notwithstanding, there’s a very coherent and principled – if outrageous – legal effort to extend alleged “hate crimes” further and further. One hears that Cardinal George has already been threatened by groups saying that they have eyes and ears on him. And he’s not the only one.

Jody cited G. K. Chesterton on enchantment and St. Thomas Aquinas on tolerating certain evils in making his case. The implausibility and formlessness of this argument – about which he’s already published some defensive reflections – show his own nervous ambivalence. Take one step back from the controversy. Can you imagine either of these men retreating from this battle? I can’t.

In 1976, Henry Kissinger, “the smartest man in the world,” told Admiral Elmo Zumwalt: “The day of the United States is past and today is the day of the Soviet Union. My job as Secretary of State is to negotiate the most acceptable second-best position available.” The Soviets had only thirteen years left.

The gay surge in the West may seem much less likely to be reversed. There are days we all feel that way. And it may be so. But there’s only one way to find out. And it’s not pre-emptive surrender.

(*A person knowledgeable about the situation says the Cardinal pulled out of the immigration coalition - it was not a matter of withdrawing funding. The point of this episode, in any event, remains the same. - RR) 

 
Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.
 
 
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Comments (46)Add Comment
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written by Kevin in Massachusetts, August 25, 2013
This is a trenchant and charitable response to a rather amorphous "defense" of "so-called" same-sex marriage, Mr. Royal. As I read through (most of) Bottum's piece in Commonweal, I couldn't help but sense a disingenuous tone to his weak arguments, a half-heartedness that smacked of knowing that he wasn't constructing any sort of solid arguments because indeed even he didn't buy into his purported thesis. Bottum asserted points time and again but failed to support them with any facts, most especially in claiming that natural law arguments against gay marriage are "thin," while he claims he would support "thicker" natural law arguments. Methinks you've hit the nail on the head in your analysis, Mr. Royal--Bottum has written a rambling, turgid and half-hearted defense of a thesis he himself refuses to buy into because he recognizes its inherent emotionalism and weakness.

It's a sad thing to observe someone with the intellectual bona fides necessary to make a solid defense of Catholic teaching--in a purportedly Catholic magazine, no less--simply throw in the towel and join those misguided or even culpably ignorant Catholics who decide that it just "feels better" to go along with the zeitgeist and thus fail to perform a spiritual work of mercy in the process.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, August 25, 2013
As for the legal argument, what is the rôle of marriage as an institution in society. Why, we should ask, does the state impose mandatory civil marriage? How does marriage differ from unregulated cohabitation or civil unions? In Europe, many opposite-sex couples are opting for civil unions. So, what is the difference?

In most countries, the civil code contains no formal definition of marriage, but generations of jurists have found a functional definition in the rule that that a child conceived or born during the marriage has the husband for its father. This rule goes back at least to the Roman jurist Paulus - "is est pater quem nuptiae demonstrant” (marriage point out the father) [Dig. 2, 4, 5; 1]

In the first country to introduce mandatory civil marriage, France, which did so on 9 November 1791, the four most authoritative commentators on the Civil Code, Demolombe (1804–1887), Guillouard (1845-1925), Gaudemet (1908-2001) and Carbonnier (1908–2003) all held this view, long before the question of same-sex marriage was agitated. It is this that defines the specificity of marriage, not only among other forms of life for couples, but as the foundational institution of the family. Carbonnier went so far as to declare that “The heart of marriage is not the couple, but the presumption of paternity.”

Establishing the juridical bond between fathers and their children is central to the state’s concern for the upbringing and welfare of the child, for protecting rights and enforcing obligations between family members and to the orderly succession to property. This is the justification for mandatory civil marriage and for it is irrelevant to same-sex couples.
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written by Grump, August 25, 2013
Robert, this article could have been titled "The Curious Case of Joseph Bottum" as a rough parody of the film depicting a man who ages in reverse and winds up infantile and eventually vanishes into nothingness.

What is even more curiouser -- which you did not touch upon in an otherwise excellent essay -- is that besides the Catholic Church, a staunch ally defending traditional sexual morality comes from Russia, of all places -- long considered a an atheistic bastion.

Kudos to Vladimir Putin, in sharp contrast to our pro-homosexual/abortion leader, who leaned on the Russian parliament to enact a new law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors."

In typical knee-jerk style, the leftist American MSM has reacted with predictable concern. Here, for example, a CNN story out of Moscow, which leads with:

"An international backlash against Russia's anti-gay propaganda law is gathering speed, from calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia to gay bars in Los Angeles planning 'vodka-dumping' protests.

"A number of bars worldwide have also stopped serving Russian vodka to protest Russia's stance on homosexuality."

Labeling it a "furor," "of great concern," CNN, no doubt led by the network's gay poster boy Anderson Cooper, quotes Stolichnaya's CEO who reportedly condemned the recent laws and reaffirmed the "brand's commitment to the LGBT community."

I'd like to propose a toast to Putin and his comrades for upholding virtue but be assured my glass would be filled with anything but Stoli.
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written by Mack Hall, August 25, 2013
Mr. Bottum is unfocused; Mr. Royal is not.

Brilliant! Thank you!
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written by James Swetnam, August 25, 2013
What it all comes down to is a reasonable, faith-filled defense of the dignity of the human person. On this no compromise is possible if the Church is to remain loyal to its Founder.
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written by Howard Kainz, August 25, 2013
Whatever the reason Joseph Bottum was fired from the editorship of First Things, his position is fully in line with the trend of articles lambasting natural law in FT during the last few years. FT has published letters in various issues from myself and others, objecting to this trend; but to no avail.
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written by Manfred, August 25, 2013
Thank you for an excellent and quick response to Mr.Bottum's piece of Friday, Dr. Royal.
Another quisling has identified himself. He will be henceforth known as "Judy", in lieu of Jody, as he is a judas-goat who took thirty pieces of Luce silver to lead other goats and sheep to their destruction. He joins many other laymen, priests and bishops who have sought accommodation with this latest secular novelty. In the US, we ask why bakers, photographers, and innkeepers should be forced to provide services to sodomite/lesbian couples who desire their services for their "weddings". The people of France, including many Catholics, take a more deep position in opposing these abominations-they are concerned about the CHILDREN these "couples" may adopt or bring by IVF.
And Bottum can suggest we merely throw in the towel? I cannot tell you how much the bright, committed Catholic laity despises what passes for a "Catholic" elite, whether ordained or lay, in my experience.
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written by maineman, August 25, 2013
I've come to accept, indeed embrace, the deviants, cowards, narrow minded, and malcontents that infest the church as glaring proof that Christ must surely be at the wheel, else the entire enterprise would have crumbled within a couple of generations.

Meanwhile, is it not high time that we begin to reframe this debate, emphasizing, for instance, that it is really just the same old push to encourage the acting out of sexual impulses?

Who could fail to acknowledge the remarkable and obsessive preoccupation with homosexuality that we are seeing?

And who could deny the destructiveness to our children and our culture of the loosening of moral standards that has occurred over the past 50 years?

Marriage, schmarriage. This is simply what paganism looks like.
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written by Sue, August 25, 2013
Stalin and Hitler both had their "faux-right" periods as well.
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written by Stanley Anderson, August 25, 2013
Robert Royal wrote, “Leave aside that a large and sophisticated entity like the Catholic Church can walk and chew gum at the same time”.

In lighthearted, but perfectly serious imitation, I hope it is not too uncharitable for me to suggest that he could have written, about Bottum’s article, “…the Catholic Church can walk and eschew dumb ideas at the same time.”

And more to the point, as Royal’s article suggests overall, even simultaneous “walking” and “chewing gum” as an analogy for the Church’s ability to multi-task, as it were, is rather pointless. Their “independence” from each other, as though one could effectively choose to do one and not the other belies the unity and integration of the Catholic Faith.

Better, though certainly less metaphorically concise, might be, say, the superfluous observation that one is able to breathe and absorb oxygen into the blood stream at the same time, along with the corollary that trying to do one without the other would be somewhat disastrous for the body in general.
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written by Rich in MN, August 25, 2013
I wonder, if Joseph Bottum were to become Surgeon General, would he take the warning labels off cigarette packages if enough people complained and he thought he was just wasting ink in a useless cause? If he wants to cite Chesterton, he might consider: "Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it." Or Mr. Bottum might want to reflect on words from an earlier speaker whom I hear both Chesterton AND Aquinas held in some regard: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt 5:14-16). Proclaiming the Truth is a vital component of living the Truth. Therefore, it is, itself, a good deed (mitzvah) that Jesus has called us to do.

Regarding our current situation on gay 'marriage,' we may be somewhere between a war of attrition and siege warfare. We must pray for strength and guidance. Bottum may think that opening up the gates of Masada is a prudent thing to do; I think it is spiritual suicide. Nothing makes the devil happier than the confusion of truth and lies (whether through commission or omission) by the Church.
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written by Louise, August 25, 2013
There is a psychological ops game going on in the marriage issue which is as old as man. The pro-redefine marriage side is trying to win converts by scaring them into support by telling them how stupid they will look when gay "marriage" is everywhere and universally accepted.
However, this is no different than the approach taken by the deceptive tailors in the fairy tale, The Emperor's New Clothes"... it's actually the same scenario!

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written by William, August 25, 2013
I have read both pieces. I was only vaguely familiar with both writers prior to doing so. I am Catholic and find the obsession with gays to be fascinating. For me personally, Mr. Bottum made coherent and logical points surrounded by context and depth. Regardless of agreement or ascent to his conclusion, I came away feeling more knowledgeable about the issues from reading his words. Mr. Royal's response left me feeling as if I was witnessing a political attack ad rather than an actual response. I received many reasons not to trust Mr. Bottum. Reasons why he and others are to be considered enemies. I also found that the war on terrorism is to be supported. All of these may be quite true in the secular realm, but they are not the Gospel. Nor is the response Gospel based. Too much judgement and superiority for a site based on Catholic and Christian foundations.

That critique aside, Bottum actually gave me reason to ponder my position on gay marriage. While Royal left me feeling as if there was reason to judge and separate myself from scores within the Body of Christ. Usually that is a good indicator of the path of truth in my experience.
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written by Randall, August 25, 2013
And I was planning to purchase Joseph Bottum's The Christmas Plains for my Christmas reading this year. I guess I'll direct my cash elsewhere.
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written by Brad Minerl, August 25, 2013
@ William: With due respect, sir . . . First, congratulations on enduring Mr. Bottum's 9000-word apostasy. Second, give Dr. Royal credit for accomplishing what he did in 1/10 the space.
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written by Sue, August 25, 2013
"Establishing the juridical bond between fathers and their children is central to the state’s concern for the upbringing and welfare of the child, for protecting rights and enforcing obligations between family members and to the orderly succession to property. " Yes, and this is exactly why the Marxists pump gay marriage, as it lets the air out of the tires of paternal presumption, and therefore the primacy of the family, and instead inflates the State.

Kissinger, bought man of the CFR, knew whereof he spoke. Don't look at that distraction of a Berlin wall, look instead at the shards and droppings of civilization in our own country and tell me we haven't comfortably merged with the Soviet Union. Putin's putative prolifeness is only kabuki theater, commissioned also by the globalists, who indeed financed the Soviet Union and Comintern in the first place. (And, Comintern, I might add, also through the KGB, lit and fueled the fuse of Islamism in the 20th century).

Much too much more than meets the eye here. The Soviet Union indeed lives on, despite the Putin prattle and misdirection.
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written by Robert Royal, August 25, 2013
William, I heard these words at Mass today:

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

They make me tremble because if God is not merciful, who of us can stand? But on questions of separations with the Body, this passage seems to take a different position than yours.
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written by Pay, August 25, 2013
William,

I find the neglect if this serious issue by so many fascinating. They fail to see the enormous gravity if the State codifying deviant desires and acts as a true marriage and then exposing children to such depravity.

Mr. Bottoms took too many words to defend what any innocent child knows is absurd.
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written by Robert, August 25, 2013
Michael PS and Sue: hear! hear!
The whole goal of the redefinition of marriage has nothing to do with "rights" or "equality," which are so many obfuscations: it is to make not the natural father (and, heaven forbid, our heavenly Father!) but the State the "father" of us all.
That people seem to be falling into this totalitarian deception so sheepishly is disturbing indeed.
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written by William, August 25, 2013
Mr. Royal, Thank you for taking the time to write back to me. While my comments may not have indicated such, I have respect for those working to find the truth within God's world. The journey is never a straight line for any of us. Me especially.

I believe I may be more sensitive to these hot button issues because all of my life I was quick to condemn others for their sins. There were always a few "hotter" sins that made this condemnation easier and frankly a tinge sweeter. I would tell myself - of I may fail often, but at least I'm not some deviant sexual sinner - gays, prostitutes, so forth. I could wrap myself in the purity laws and know on the hierarchy of sin, I was winning. Then I turned 40 and that wonderful blessing of midlife set in. That point in life where you either seek deeper meaning or entrench yourself in justification, anger, and ego. Fortunately I found St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas Merton, and the contemplatives of the Church. What I found separated the Saints from everyone else was that they Knew the depth of their sin without any window dressing, comparison, hierarchy, or superiority games. When I re-read the Gospels, I found that what I had been doing to my brothers and sisters was the same thing Jesus was preaching against in his time. It is why he nearly exclusively criticized his fellow Jews who did everything by the law. He healed, ate, and surrounded Himself with those the world found "deviant" and impure. Ultimately the argument could be made we killed Him for these very associations.

The scales were removed from my eyes. There is no competition regarding sin. We all are fallen and separated from God. What we so often call sin is usually just a consequence of that separation. At the end of the day, we are all separated and have our own individual consequential "sins". It is why the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor (no qualifications on who that neighbor is) as ourselves. I understand you and your readers can give me a 1000 theological explanations of what "love" really means. Yet, in our quiet internal moments with God, none of us can believe what we think, do, and say about gays is the love taught by Jesus.

You shared what you heard today at Mass. I'll share what our last Pope stated. I respectfully ask we all read it as a message to us individually -- rather than a means to be applied to others. Take care of our "planks" before moving onto the "specks":

What is meant by this “narrow gate”? Why is it that many people do not succeed in entering through it? Is it perhaps a passage that is reserved only for a few elect? When we consider it, in effect, the way of reasoning of Jesus’ interlocutors is always with us: the temptation to think of religious practice as a source of privileges and certainties is always waiting in ambush for us. In truth, Christ’s message goes in exactly the opposite direction: Everyone can enter into life, but the gate is “narrow” for everyone. There is no privileged group. The way to eternal life is open to all, but it is “narrow” because it is demanding, it requires commitment, self-denial and mortification of one’s own egoism.

…[T]he Gospel invites us to consider the future that awaits us and for which we must prepare during our pilgrimage on earth. The salvation that Jesus worked through his death and resurrection is universal. He is the only Redeemer and he invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life. But with one and the same condition: that of making the effort to follow him and imitate him, taking up one’s cross, as he did, and dedicating one’s life to the service of our brothers. One and universal, therefore, is this condition for entering into the life of heaven.

On the last day -- Jesus observes in the Gospel -- we will not be judged on the basis of presumed privileges, but by our works. The “workers of iniquity” will find themselves excluded, while those who have done good and sought justice, at the cost of sacrifice, will be welcomed. For this reason it will not be enough to declare oneself a “friend” of Christ, bragging about false merits: “We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets” (Luke 13:26).

True friendship with Christ is expressed by one's way of life: it is expressed by goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love of justice and truth, sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the "I.D. card" that qualifies us as authentic "friends"; this is the "passport" that permits us to enter into eternal life.

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written by Terese, August 25, 2013
Such a good article. Helps me keep the faith. Thank you.
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written by E Waugh Ok, August 25, 2013
Bottum as Editor was the reason I dropped my First Things subscription. Also David Goldman left their editorial board. It's gotten a little better at FT since that nadir, but still, when one reads the "Our Challenges" by present editor R. Reno (Aug/Sept, 2013), one may hear a faint, uncertain trumpet of "preemptive surrender". Reno consuls in one part of his editorial that "it’s important to resist the temptation to fight old battles," and in another that the "definition of human rights is almost entirely controlled by secular elites who are antagonistic to the role and influence of religion in public life, and who increasingly think in terms of “reproductive rights” and sexual diversity ... " He doesn't put these together himself, but a less circumspect writer might connect these dots, and come up with Jody Bottum's flabby, shabby conclusions.

FT itself needs to realize that intellectual battles are never totally won. And the old errors and moral evils come back again and again, in variant guises. Rather than chase the “re-enchant the world" will-o-the-wisp, they must return to what Fr. Neuhaus emphasized throughout his tenure as Founding Editor: the unchanging First Things.
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written by Rich in MN, August 26, 2013
E Waugh Ok, I know I have already cited GK Chesterton in my first comment but your comment above reminds me of another Chesterton observation:
"Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes. The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves. The truth about the Catholic attitude towards heresy, or as some would say, towards liberty, can best be expressed perhaps by the metaphor of a map. The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is in fact a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel" (From "Why I Am a Catholic").
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written by BobN, August 26, 2013
OMG, a rebuke? The Cardinal was attacked with a rebuke?

A martyr is born!
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written by pay, August 26, 2013
William,

It is not about condemning others. That really is part of the problem though. The Gay Lobby uses that line of argument all the time as a means to deflect the issue at hand.

The issue is re-ordering all of society. The most basic unit of civilization is the family. Once that is destroyed we have gone over the edge. Children deserve much better. They have rights. In this debate I never hear about the children. What a shame that we are so bound up in considering the open homosexual agitator and their demands that we never think about how this affects the children. Do we really care?
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written by Robert Kraynak, August 26, 2013
Dear Jody,
Sorry to hear that you have given up defending true marriage. You have forgotten that the temporary push for redefining marriage is too unnatural to last very long. It is another case of ideology vs. human nature, like communism which lasted for about 50-70 years. People, especially intellectuals, thought that private property and captialism were doomed; but human nature reasserted itslef. The deconsruction of marriage by moral relativism and false ideologies of equality will pass sooner than people think as populations decline and cultural chaos ensues. Don't panic, think about the long term. Your children or grandchildren will become Mormons or Muslims -- or Catholics in reaction as the cultlural forces and human nature push back against current trends.
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written by Brian, August 26, 2013
It may be a failure of imagination on my part, but I have a hard time seeing how extending the notion of civil marriage to gay couples threatens either family or sacramental marriage.

Ever since divorce became widely accepted, we Catholics have had to deal with the differences between civil marriage and sacramental marriage. Marriage as a civil arrangement is governed by secular law, applicable to citizens of all faiths and no faith. Mr. Bottum said in his essay that he had not seen any convincing, principled arguments for denying this civil arrangement to gays who want to marry, and I agree with him.

Sacramental marriage, though, is governed by the Church, and ultimately, by Divine law. The Church will never, can never, alter its teachings on marriage. If, as some more excitable Catholics predict, the government tries (in violation of the First Amendment) to induce the Church to change, it will of course refuse. If this costs us our tax exemptions, so be it. Man does not live by tax exemptions alone. If, per impossible, we are threatened with martyrdom if we don't change, well, we'll just have to accept it.

But I think that notion is a bit, shall we say, hysterical.
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written by Brian English, August 26, 2013
"It may be a failure of imagination on my part, but I have a hard time seeing how extending the notion of civil marriage to gay couples threatens either family or sacramental marriage."

You don't see how the wide-spread acceptance of a theory that depicts the Church as the equivalent of the Klan as being a threat to the a Church, and through the Church a threat to the family and sacramental marriage?

"If this costs us our tax exemptions, so be it."

How did so many Catholics arrive at this idiotic idea that losing tax exemptions would not be a big deal? I see it on more than just this topic, and I am always shocked when I see it. The power to tax is the power to destroy. That is more true now than it was 200 years ago.
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written by Alecto, August 26, 2013
When Allan Bloom published "The Closing of the American Mind" in 1987, I am certain he could not have foreseen how far Americans would have fallen from any objective intellectual or moral standard. The Weak/Disabled American Mind is now incapable of reasoning through anything, reacting to same sex marriage as an "equality" issue. Since when are two apples equal to an apple and a pear? I guess it's the new math at work.

All I needed to know about same sex marriage and the horrors it produces, I learned from the Russians and the case of Mark Newton and Peter Truong. Under no circumstances should ANYONE be allowed to forget those 2 names, or their facilitators in the media. Same sex marriage is an abomination, and since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they recruit. They WILL use in vitro to do so. Whatever anyone says or thinks, two homosexuals or lesbians engaged in unnatural sexual practices breeds more depravity, and Newton/Truong are only the tip of the iceberg. The Russians and the Orthodox Church have this one right.
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written by Eduardo, August 26, 2013
At age 57, I am amazed - AMAZED - that I now in many ways have a higher opinion of the Russians in general and of Putin in particular that my own country and my own President of the US. America not only is not a blessed country any more, but is in fact becoming wicked (see Marriage, Gay). I think the moral decline started with Roe v. Wade and has accelerated since then. Apropos of decline, I happened to walk through the living room when the "MTV Awards" were on last night. This is not entertainment; this is what decadence looks like. This is socially sick. We as a country and as a culture are truly walking straight into Hell. Thank God I've still got His Church to stand fast with.
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written by Gail Finke, August 26, 2013
William: Please let me know what Mr. Bottum said that made you reconsider your view of gay marriage, because I slogged through that long, incoherent thing (and no, that's not an attack, it's judgement -- beside being an avid reader, I'm a professional editor) and did not find any Catholic arguments for SSM in it.

Brian: It is a failure of imagination on your part. Catholics divorce at the same rate as everyone else. Accepting divorce has led to the weakening (and in many cases abandonment) of marriage throughout our society, the misery and impoverishment of millions of children, and the wreck of many lives. To think that the redefinition of marriage to make the term meaningless would not further hurt the family and sacramental marriage -- both already gravely damaged -- is naive at best.
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written by pay, August 27, 2013
Brian,

The idea two men can be a mom and dad is absurd. You think that will not affect children and society? I mean that I even must ask such an obvious question is troubling.
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written by William, August 27, 2013
I believe it is a conversation we need to have. Why is the Church placing so much weight on homosexuality? I'm told its because of the erosion it will have on society. Yet, is it not reasonable for all to agree that poverty, war, violence, economics all have a much greater influence on society? All of these issues are discussed at great length by Popes, Bishops, and the Catechism. Yet look back at your posts and all important thinkers within our Catholic circles. The issue of homosexuality comes up at a far greater rate. Why?

I think by contemplating that question we will learn a lot about ourselves, our individual egos, and our collective egos. There are times when the act of fighting "sin" can become more sinful.
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written by Brian, August 27, 2013
My comments generated several responses, all of which appear to be genuine and heartfelt, and which deserve answers, even if I don't agree with them.

Gail talked about the damage that the acceptance of divorce has done to marriage. Agreed--in fact, widespread acceptance of divorce has done far more damage to marriage than gay marriage will or can do. (This raises another point, about the widespread granting of annulments by the Church, which arguably has gone too far and actually endangers sacramental marriage. But that's another conversation altogether.) But I never said I agreed with accepting divorce. My point was that the prevalence of divorce, unfortunate as it is, has made it very clear that civil marriage and civil divorce are not the same thing as sacramental marriage. The civil authority does not witness a sacramental marriage, nor can it dissolve one. Thus my reference to gay marriage--the existence vel non of civil marriages for gay people doesn't change the Church's teachings on sacramental marriage a bit.

Alecto talks about the "horrors" gay marriage can create. No doubt this is true, although anyone who reads the papers or watches the news has seen that there are some pretty horrible straight marriages as well. That said, Alecto's observation entirely misses the point. I never said that homosexuality was not objectively grave matter, or that I wanted the Church to change its teachings on sexual morality. What I said was that we live in a secular, pluralistic society, and it follows from this that we have to have a reason other than repugnance for denying an important set of civil benefits or rights to a group.

Brian English said: "You don't see how the wide-spread acceptance of a theory that depicts the Church as the equivalent of the Klan as being a threat to the a Church, and through the Church a threat to the family and sacramental marriage?" I don't think I ever discussed any such theory, and obviously I would strongly dispute it. But the fact that some supporters of gay marriage entertain such an image of the Church, though unfortunate, does not affect the argument over whether the civil authorities should allow gays to marry. The Church might be more successful in refuting that theory if it tried harder to reach out to such people in the spirit of charity, whether or not it follows my suggestions on downplaying or dropping their its opposition to civil gay marriage.

Mr. English also said "How did so many Catholics arrive at this idiotic idea that losing tax exemptions would not be a big deal? I see it on more than just this topic, and I am always shocked when I see it. The power to tax is the power to destroy. That is more true now than it was 200 years ago."

My original post responded to a lot of comments that the trend in recognition of gay rights in America (among other such trends) might put the Church on a collision course with the civil authorities. The most dramatic expression of this view is Cardinal George's, who was quoted as saying that his successor would die in jail, and that prelate's successor would be executed (which would be even worse than being subjected to taxation). I have great respect for Cardinal George, but I consider this line of thinking to be almost ridiculously melodramatic. But I could be wrong, of course, and if it ever comes to pass that the Church has to pay a price for holding to its teachings in the face of social or governmental opposition, then we must do so. It wouldn't be the first time.

My basic point, however, was that however real or fanciful that danger is, recognition of civil gay marriage is not going to create that kind of problem. We are not called upon to change our teaching on the nature of sacramental marriage in order to accommodate civil marriages for gays.

A last word--I would never fall into the trap of asserting that we can't legislate morality. Of course we can, and we do it all the time. Laws against murder, and rape, and theft are all issues of morality, which obviously entails a lot more than sexual conduct. Nor do I believe that morality is determined by majority vote. Oppressing Jews might have garnered the majority of votes in a German plebiscite in 1940, but that wouldn't make it right.

All that said, we still have to recognize that taking a position on the morality of an issue does not always translate into seeking to legislate on that topic in a secular, pluralistic society. At one time, it was a crime as well as a sin to commit adultery or fornication. Now I think even most bishops and theologians would oppose criminalizing such acts. Although the line between what is immoral and should be illegal, like murder, and what is immoral but should not be illegal, like fornication, is sometimes blurry, I would suggest that gay marriage is one of the things which should fall on the "not illegal" side of the line.

As an addendum, I was sorry to see some ad hominem comments about Mr. Bottum, and the fact that he and some others were somehow less entitled to an opinion on this topic because they were not married and raising children. I will therefore mention that I was married in the Church 40 years ago, and remain happily married, and my wife and I have raised three children in the Church. My marriage is not threatened at all by whether Adam and Steve can get married in the eyes of the state.
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written by pay, August 27, 2013
William,
No, I do not think so. I think if we contemplate why we minimize such a dramatic evil like "gay" marriage we will see where we really stand. It is not that other issues are not important, but to redefine the basic unit of civilization and not address it head on is, well, crazy.
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written by pay, August 27, 2013
Brian,

Do you think children have rights? It is nice you mention your kids, but what about all others? You think divorce is a problem, well guess what? That is nothing compared to two men acting as a mother and father. What is so startling to many is that so many others fail to see the grave evil that is here and growing faster.
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written by Brian English, August 27, 2013
"But the fact that some supporters of gay marriage entertain such an image of the Church, though unfortunate, does not affect the argument over whether the civil authorities should allow gays to marry."

It is not just some. Loving v. Virginia is always raised in these discussions; gay rights advocates are constantly presented as the heirs to the Civil Rights Movement; civil unions are dismissed as creating a separate but equal system. Who do you think plays the part of the foaming at the mouth racists in these little morality plays?

"But I could be wrong, of course, and if it ever comes to pass that the Church has to pay a price for holding to its teachings in the face of social or governmental opposition, then we must do so."

But you and Mr. Bottum want to run up the white flag in the hope that gay rights advocates will be nice to us. They won't be. They hate us for what we believe. They will use the Bob Jones case to go after the Church's tax exemption. Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to shut their doors. They are already using anti-discrimination statutes, even in states that have not yet enacted gay marriage, to try to force Christians out of certain professions. If you think gay rights advocates are just looking to get the right to marry and then will settle down in little houses with white picket fences, you are going to be very sadly mistaken.

"All that said, we still have to recognize that taking a position on the morality of an issue does not always translate into seeking to legislate on that topic in a secular, pluralistic society."

True, but you are missing a major difference between more traditional moral issues and the one we currently face. Many people look at the Church's teachings on abortion, fornication, contraception, etc., and think we are silly and/or ignorant. Gay rights advocates look at us and think we are evil for believing what we believe with regard to homosexuality.
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written by Sue, August 27, 2013
To accept "gay" marriage is to accept Brave New World. One follows from the other. (Like "Obamacare", "Brave New World" is a deceptively pleasant sounding phrase, unlike the reality of those ideas). Just like the congressmen should have read the Obamacare bill before voting on it, noone should advocate "gay" marriage without reading Brave New World. The book spells out how our typical natural family WILL be wiped out by test-tube reproduction.
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written by Graham Combs, August 28, 2013
What so many in the Church refuse to acknowledge -- and sadly, this seems to be the case with Jody Bottum (a writer I admire) -- is that the Left simply brooks no opposition. In the nearly decade I spent in New York publishing, there was no tolerance for conservative editors and truly orthodox Christians. The specificity of Christian morality -- on sex, marriage, contraception, abortion -- enrages the leftist culture that dominates the "intellectual" and culture industry. Maybe Jody just got tired. I know the feeling. The Catholic Church in particular is in a bad place and refuses to acknowledge it. Episcopal leadership is weak, even hostile in some cases. Same sex marriage will be a disaster as will be the Church's welcome, not of individual gay men and women, but of the gay demographic and the gay rights movement. This is what is happening here in the Archdiocese of Detroit and it has nearly driven me from the Faith. If Mr. Bottum is being published by a major New York publisher, then he is already compromised in some way. I worked at the old Image Books -- once the pride of Catholic publishing -- and its decline and compromise have been dramatic. Thankfully Ignatius Press has stepped into the breach. Mr. Bottum probably thinks that something like a functional tolerance will be maintained. I disagree. Wherever there is religious intolerance there is violence and death. We read about it every day. Will no one speak up in defense of what is happening in the American military? It was all so predictable because those advocating the changes knew what they were on the way to accomplishing. Like the Scouts (boy and girl) in the military there will be no end of lawsuits until full subservience to the secularist values takes place. The dominance of faith in the military has again enraged the left. See a Harpers Magazine hatchet job of some years ago portraying evangelicals in the military as extremists and "religious nuts" etc.

In the end we have lost the culture war. The question now is will the Church offer a home to those of us who are its victims and casualties? It hasn't really been my experience for the most part.

As for the New York Times, the monsignor at my former parish may have cancelled in subscription but he continues to read the unreadable that is written increasingly by the unspeakable.

Compromise and capitulation are everywhere. But then I was inevitably drifing away from First Things after Fr. Neuhaus died. As far as I'm concerned, the magazine died with him. And perhaps that's the way it should be.
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written by Chris in Maryland, August 29, 2013
Homophobia = the fear of losing your standing in "pop-culture" if you say that homosexuality contradicts God's purpose for marriage.

The power centers of the west and the USA have no culture, they only have a "pop-culture."
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written by Patrick, August 29, 2013
Robert Royal and I noticed some of the same things in Jody Bottum's essay. My take is now up at American Spectator: "Preemptive Surrender to Same-Sex Marriage"
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written by Charles Lewis, August 29, 2013
The shame of this is that we really needed Joseph to help explain to the world that our opposition to gay marriage is not a form of hate or even homophobia. Eventually those who support his move will one day ask him about embryonic stem cell research, invitro, abortion and other issues that annoy secular culture and cause that culture to mistrust the Church. What then? He may not be taken seriously by Catholics or non-Catholics. I once interviewed my friend Michael Coren for a story in the National Post. And I pressed him on how he could say he has close gay friends and oppose gay marriage. Here's what he said:
Q: Let’s talk about homosexuality a bit more. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts represents “grave depravity” and “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered … and under no circumstances can they be approved.” It also says gay people should be loved and respected. You say you have gay friends. Wouldn’t most gay people be insulted by being told their behaviour is “intrinsically disordered?”
A: If someone calls me a homophobe because I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, then I would rejoice in that. But frankly, with gay friends, I try to avoid the subject. They know I am opposed to gay marriage and they also know I’m fond of them as people and would defend them against personal attack. But let me be clear, anyone who hates gay people is a moral criminal."
Michael took the harder road to say he loves his Church and its teachings and he also loves his gay friends. He did both without compromise.
I really wish Joseph worked out his discomfort but come down on the side his Church.
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written by Ozzie , August 30, 2013
William - I was moved by your thoughtful remarks and I was hoping that you were still "weighing in" and might comment on my notes. No doubt I invite the ire of others here, but I would appreciate hearing from all - on what I'm sure will be considered, at bare minimum, misguided thinking.
As a Catholic educated in the Thomistic tradition of natural law, I have for years, reconciled same sex relationships through the understanding that being gay simply represented an inversion rather than perversion for the human's object of sexual desire. This understanding is supported in anthropology, and ethology (a substudy within zoology). It occurs naturally and has been observed for decades in more than 250 animal species, including humans, though never in large numbers. It is part of natural diversity in the animal kingdom. As Thomas' arguments were molded by his understanding of science in his day, I've never understood why it could not expand as our understanding of the science of the nature of things expanded. Thomas was wrongly accused of supporting abortion because of his purported belief that the fetus represented "lower" animal life (because of its tail like structure) during early gestation and then maturing nearer to birth of the "higher" order of humans. I'm not certain of the veracity of this claim, but 13th century science was certainly limited in what it could explain about the developing child. Ensoulment was more the concern than abortion.

So, as we gain in our understanding of what constitutes the full breadth of the human condition, we need to be willing to go where the "natural" sciences take us, especially over time. That said, it certainly doesn't mean the Church should embrace sacramental unions of any variety. Sacraments are defined and limited, for convention and at this time in salvation history to seven in number (though that has not always been the case). The Church has every right to define its sacraments, rites, sacramentals, and devotions. Civil and sacramental unions between a woman and man may be defined as Marriage within the church, blessed by a priest and witnessed by the couple's attendants. If the state or civil society wants to add other unions,so be it. Those additions do not diminish my solemn vow, taken both legally and spiritually within my community of faith as defined by that faith community and recorded by civil court. The acceptance in society of commitments by same sex couples to support each other and live together and share in all the benefits that results in committed relationships - especially in an aging society, may be recognized by civil and legal entities but they pose no threat and will not destroy the Sacrament of Matrimony that I share with my spouse. So for the sake of compassion and our search for Truth let us embrace diversity and stop trying to legislate morality to the masses - especially those who have no intention of ever wanting anything to do with the sacrament. We all learned a long time ago that Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by CHRIST to give grace. Ain't no "state" mentioned anywhere in that definition. If the state wants to let my wife and I to seal the deal with a legal document in addition to sharing in the Sacrament, then hey, let's take the twofer and let those that want the marriage with a small "m" have it. We already know that kids do better in two parent households simply because there are more resources - human and financial. Divorce is what destroys marriage, not same sex couples wanting to be married.
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written by jane, August 31, 2013
So much to say in so little time. I'll let God straighten us all out in His due time. In the mean time, I found myself unable to read Jody's little piece in the Weekly Standard. And it wasn't even about sex. His very name now turns me off, and I don't mean that sexually.

William, there is such a thing as complicity. And we do have an obligation to help each other in the miserable little clod of earth which we occupy with one another. Some of us even want all of us to experience the mysterious love which some of us have found. So Godspeed to each and all on the quest.
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written by Mike Ortiz, September 14, 2013
The whole thing is sad, really. Jody could have written a piece about Christian marriage, its enchantment, its trials, its joys, its importance, its Divine origin, its sacramental elevation, its role in the life of society, its joy, its ecstacies, its dark nights of the soul that teach one to love with the Heart of Christ. No. Instead we get surrender to the devotees of Sodom. How terribly sad.
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written by Nancy D., December 14, 2013
As the mother of a daughter who developed a same-sex sexual attraction as the result of the perfect storm, it is because I alive my daughter as I Love all my children, that I desire she learn to develop healthy and Holy relationships that are grounded in authentic Love. As a mother, I desire that all my children learn to overcome their disordered inclinations, whatever they might be, so that they are not led into temptation, but rather, become transformed through God's Grace and Mercy as they mature into the young men and women God desires them to be.

The fact is, men and women have been designed by God in such a way that it is physically impossible to engage in same-sex sexual acts without demeaning the inherent personal and relational Dignity of those persons engaging in same-sex sexual acts. I grieve for my daughter because I know that same-sex sexual acts can never be acts of Love.

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