Archive for the ‘Same-Sex “Marriage”’ Category

Our Misguided and Dangerous Platonic Guardian Ruler

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

The Supreme Court has now heard oral arguments on the marriage redefinition cases.  I was already pessimistic about the eventual outcome of this case but, based on the arguments, I am even more concerned about what it will mean.

Conventional wisdom holds that Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the crucial “swing” vote in this case, as he has been in many others.  In fact, his role as the ultimate, sole decider of momentous constitutional questions makes me wonder about the notion of “one man, one vote”, on which our nation has relied for so long.  What kind of democracy are we, if one Supreme Court justice is the “one man” and his vote is the only “one vote” that matters?  That is why I often refer to the Supreme Court, and particularly Justice Kennedy, as “our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Court”.

If the oral argument revealed anything, it certainly showed how deeply confused Justice Kennedy is about the role of government in our society.  In many of Justice Kennedy’s decisions on moral issues, he places a great deal of emphasis on the notion of “dignity” as a principle of constitutional law.  Needless to say, the Constitution contains no mention of the word “dignity” — it speaks of equal protection, due process, many specific rights, but not “dignity”.  Nor can anyone determine how it became grafted onto the basic law of our polity.

That doesn’t stop the fertile imagination of Justice Kennedy.  In Windsor v. United States, the first Supreme Court marriage redefinition fiasco, Justice Kennedy had this to say about state laws surrounding marriage: “The State’s decision to give this class of persons [i.e., men and women] the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import.”  He went on to describe these laws as an  “interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages”.

Note the use of that one key word — “conferred”.  This is crucial to understand the real significance of Justice Kennedy’s muddled Constitutional theories, which become clear in the oral arguments yesterday, in this strange exchange between Justice Kennedy and the attorney for Michigan, who was defending the traditional understanding of marriage:

Mr. Bursch (Counsel for Michigan): … what they are asking you to do is to take an institution, which was never intended to be dignitary bestowing, and make it dignitary bestowing.

Justice Kennedy:  I don’t understand this not dignity bestowing.  I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage.  It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage… It’s dignity bestowing, and these parties say they want to have that same ennoblement…  I think many states would be surprised, with reference to traditional marriages, they are not enhancing the dignity of both the parties.

One can only wonder where he got this idea from.  The “whole purpose of marriage” is to bestow dignity or to grant “ennoblement”?  Who ever heard of such an idea?  These concepts have absolutely no foundation in the Constitution or in rationality.

What is truly breath-taking is the assumption the government has the authority and mandate to bestow dignity or “ennoblement” upon a person.  A government that can do that, is truly unlimited in its power — it is indeed Hobbes’ Leviathan, absolute and without any final restraint.

This is dangerous nonsense — our dignity comes from our Creator, and is intrinsic to us as human beings.  No government can add or detract from it, and it is not conditional upon any principle of law, decision of a court, or the desires of others.  The government has nothing to do with dignity, and even less to do with nobility.  If we grant that kind of power to a government, then we have ceased to be free people, and we are all in trouble.

We who are likely to be on the losing side of the marriage definition case need to consider this — what the government can bestow, it can also revoke or withhold.  If we are branded as “bigots” for holding to the true meaning of marriage, what will the government do to our legal rights, under the rubric of upholding the dignity of others?

There is indeed much at stake here, and the confused and dangerous ideas of Justice Kennedy give no cause for optimism about the results of this case, and the future of ordered liberty in America.

Approaching a Dangerous Threshold

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Many years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States took up a case involving people who did not wish to conform to a law that they considered to be an imposition on their religious beliefs.  The government, backed by strong public opinion sought to enforce the law, and to compel this religious group to comply.

But they persisted in defending their civil rights, particularly their freedom of religion.  It was a time when it was widely understood that freedom of religion was actually a civil right, essential to well-ordered liberty.   People recalled that the freedom of religion was so important that it was explicitly enshrined in the United States Constitution in two separate places — in the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment, and in the ban on religious tests for public office.  It was a time when freedom of religion was under attack around the world, with people of some faiths being openly and brutally persecuted.

But it was also a time when unpopular religions still faced legal obstacles in the United States.  Some faiths were considered to be out of step with American values, out of the mainstream of acceptable opinion, and were widely criticized and even derided in the popular media.

The group in that case was the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the law required their children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  They took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, in hopes that the highest court of our land would defend their right to live in keeping with their faith, and would grant them an exemption from the law.  The Supreme Court agreed with them, and reversed an earlier decision that gave their religious interests little respect.  In doing so, the Supreme Court, in the words of Justice Jackson, said something very significant about the nature of our government, and the importance of respecting dissent:

[F]reedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.  If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.  (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943)

We are now at a point in American history where this foundational principle is under direct attack, and it is not clear whether it will survive.  The long-standing conflict between the Christian faith and the forces of sexual liberation and radical egalitarianism is approaching a threshold that will be very dangerous to cross.

The battle right now is being conducted over religious freedom restoration statutes (“RFRA’s”) that have been enacted in twenty states (and which are the law by judicial decision in eleven others).  Those laws reflect the values expressed by the Supreme Court in the Jehovah’s Witness case.  RFRA laws recognize the civil rights of religious people to an exemption from certain general laws.  They would only get an exemption if they can prove that the law imposes a substantial burden on their religious beliefs.  However, they would still have to obey the law if the government has a compelling interest in enforcing it and there are no reasonable alternatives.  A RFRA law essentially creates a balancing test that courts would have to apply to a fact-based situation.  It does not grant a  blanket or automatic exemption to religious people.

The real dispute is, of course, whether Christians can be compelled to recognize same-sex “marriages” and to provide direct services to ceremonies that purport to create such unions.  A reasonable argument can be held about this question.  But that’s not what’s happening, and that’s precisely why we are in such a dangerous moment.

There has been an amazing amount of hysterical, ill-informed opposition to these RFRA laws that fail to take into account their true, limited nature.  But what really concerns me is the dismissive attitude that’s being displayed about religious freedom and the freedom to dissent.  People are speaking as if the category of “civil rights” didn’t even include freedom of religion, and that it must always be suppressed in favor of the supposed right to same-sex “marriage”.  One of our major political parties, most of the mainstream media, many of our courts, and a number of large corporations have already crossed the line into official intolerance towards religious liberty.   Public opinion polls show a shrinking number of people (albeit still a majority) who respect the right to dissent based on religion.  Gone are the days when dissent was considered a legitimate form of patriotism.

Basic respect for the right to dissent from official orthodoxy is under threat, and may not survive much longer.  When, as I expect, the Supreme Court invents the imaginary “right” to a same-sex “marriage”, this conflict will grow even more intense, and the danger to dissent based on religious beliefs will be even more acute.

On the other side of this threshold is real persecution, like that shown to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the old days.  People are already being forced to recognize same-sex “marriages”, or face crippling fines and loss of businesses.  Institutions that resist will be punished by loss of public funding, access to public programs, and tax exemptions.  Individuals who dissent will be shunned and excluded from certain professions, and even from public office.

The right to dissent is essential to American liberty.  The Supreme Court saw that in the Jehovah’s Witness case.  Will our nation continue to see that now?

Engagement and Resistance

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Reflecting on my pessimistic take on the Supreme Court’s decision to make a final ruling on the marriage redefinition cases, I had an interesting email exchange with my friend and colleague Alexis Carra. She wrote to me:

Inevitably, the government/legislature/court will no longer recognize true religious liberty, amongst other things. This is an unfortunate consequence of a metaphysical and anthropological revolution/decline that has swept society; a phenomenon in which people no longer have a proper understand of human nature, reality, and our relationship to God.

1) So in this “post-human” age, how do we go about testifying and defending the Truth in the public sphere, especially when our court system will inevitably be against us? Is it time to change methods? If so, what should our new method(s) be?

(2) Similarly, in this “post-human” age, how do we go about testifying and defending the Truth in the private sphere? How should we engage our children, our friends, and our communities, especially when they are often hostile towards our message?

I replied, in part:

I wish I had answers to your questions. I have believed for many years that the time is rapidly approaching when Catholics may no longer be able to give their consent to the Constitutional morass that our judicial oligarchy has now imposed on us. This is a regime where truth and morality are denied and are instead branded as invidious bigotry, while laws that violate fundamental human rights are foisted upon us and we are compelled to cooperate with them. The Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage case may put us in a position where we can no longer recognize the legitimacy of the current regime.

Alexis’ response gets right to the heart of the matter, and adds some important distinctions:

It’s going to be even harder to live as authentic Catholics within the American system or as you say, “the current regime.” We will be forced to cooperate with evil under duress or become martyrs.

However, I actually do have some hope. I think the distinction must be made between “engaging with the public system” and “utilizing the public system.” I think — for most cases – we will be unable to utilize the system in order to uphold our religious liberties, etc. Yet this does not mean that we completely retreat from the system. Instead, we must continue to engage with the system; we must become the gadfly to the system (thinking of Socrates here). And this is a very important role that cannot be underestimated.

I still think there is something to be said for public engagement. I think the gay marriage debate has been largely a disastrous failure, but the same cannot be said for abortion. I think progress has made been made particularly because many young people rightly perceive abortion as the murdering of innocent life.

Overall, I think we are called to live as counter-cultural witnesses in an active sense; most of us are not called to completely separate ourselves from society.

I think that she is precisely correct. I too am pessimistic but not hopeless. There are many who advocate for disengagement from society, similar to the Amish. I refuse to do so. Engagement is clearly the proper course, but as a form of resistance to the dictatorship of relativism — where we continually proclaim the truth with love, and steadfastly refuse to conform to the lies. My model for this is Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless.

Nothing can erase the human desire for, and recognition of, the truth. Even under all the lies, the vast majority of people will try to live in truth. We are always called by our faith to be witnesses to the truth, even when that truth may be a “sign of contradiction”.

Pessimism about Marriage and the Supreme Court

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

The Supreme Court has now agreed to decide one of the marriage redefinition cases. The oral argument will be held at the end of April, and a decision will come down at the end of June.

In my opinion, this is not good news. The conventional wisdom is that the Court takes cases in order to reverse lower courts, and the statistics bear that out (in revious terms, they’ve reversed about 75% of the cases they take). So it’s very significant that the Court took the case from the Sixth Circuit — the only Circuit Court to have upheld real marriage.

We also have to bear in mind that in the Windsor case, the majority of the Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, on the theory that it violated Equal Protection because the law was enacted specifically with “animus” towards homosexuals. In the case the Court just accepted, each of the state laws involved (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee) would be vulnerable to that same argument, since they adopted constitutional amendments specifically to rule out the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

So I think there’s every reason to anticipate that the Court will rule the wrong way. It’s clear that there is a solid 4-vote bloc that will vote to recognize same-sex “marriage” (Sotomayor, Kagen, Breyer, and Ginsberg), and a 4-vote bloc that will likely vote against it (Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and probably Roberts). Given Justice Kennedy’s past record on homosexual rights cases — he has always voted in favor of them and has written some terrible majority opinions centered on the issue of alleged “animus” (see the Lawrence, Romer, and Windsor cases) — it seems virtually certain that he will follow his own reasoning in his Windsor majority opinion, and rule that the secret messages, written in invisible ink but that he manages to discern in the Constitution, somehow require the recognition of same-sex “marriage”.

In other words, the Court will likely decide that the Equal Protection Clause requires that we must abandon logic, and say that inherently different things are actually the same.  Welcome to the Humpty-Dumpty world of justice, where words mean whatever the people in power wish them to mean.

I am innately pessimistic about Court rulings, but I just can’t see any path to a good outcome here. Not only will a marriage re-definition ruling flout the will of the people as expressed in the democratic process, it will contradict the fundamental truths about marriage contained in the natural law and in the nature of the human person. It will also increase pressure on religious people to conform, and will test our ability to live in keeping with our faith in an increasingly hostile nation.

 

The Supreme Court Surrenders on Marriage

Monday, October 6th, 2014

This morning, to the surprise of just about every observer, the Supreme Court declined to review seven lower-court rulings that had re-defined marriage. For all intents and purposes, this non-decision really gives the green light to lower courts to strike down every democratically-enacted state law that defines marriage in the traditional way.

To understand how significant this surrender is, some basic background information is necessary.

Since the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, there has been a virtually-unbroken string of lower-court decisions invalidating state marriage laws.  Three of the federal Circuit Courts of Appeals had already struck down laws in several states.  Four other Circuit Courts have similar cases before them but haven’t issued decisions yet.  When you take all these cases into account, the laws of as many as sixteen states were at issue.

Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court in which all the parties to the seven lower-court decisions — both the defenders of the marriage laws and those seeking to overturn them — had asked the Court to make a final ruling on the issue.   For the Court to agree to hear a case, only four Justices need to assent to the petition (technically called a petition for a “writ of certiorari”).

Rule 10 of the Supreme Court’s rules states:

Review on a writ of certiorari is not a matter of right, but of judicial discretion. A petition for a writ of certiorari will be granted only for compelling reasons. The following, although neither controlling nor fully measuring the Court’s discretion, indicate the character of the reasons the Court considers… (c)  a state court or a United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court.

You also have to understand something of the self-image of the Supreme Court, who seem to believe that they have been appointed to be Platonic Guardians over our society.   Recall this gaseous emanation from the penumbras of the Supreme Court’s collective consciousness, in the plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:

Where, in the performance of its judicial duties, the Court decides a case in such a way as to resolve the sort of intensely divisive controversy reflected in Roe and those rare, comparable cases, its decision has a dimension that the resolution of the normal case does not carry. It is the dimension present whenever the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution calls the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.

Now, it’s hard to imagine a more contentious controversy than the debate over the definition of marriage, or a more “important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court”.   The argument has raged since the late 1990’s, and it has been fought out in a series of state ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments, legislative battles, court cases, and political campaigns.  The Supreme Court itself created the current legal chaos and uncertainty with its decision in the Windsor case, which was mis-used by federal judges to strike down state marriage laws.  One would have thought that now was the time for this matter to be addressed by the Court itself, in its self-anointed role to”call[] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution”.

Yet the Court declined even to consider the cases.  No briefs to be filed.  No oral arguments.  No further discussion among the Justices.  There weren’t even four Justices who thought it was ripe for decision — not even the vaunted supposedly-conservative wing of the court (Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito).  Even though anyone can foresee the consequences of not taking the cases — namely, sending a signal to the lower courts that it was open season on state marriage laws.  We can now expect more lower courts to follow the Supreme Court’s lead, and the dominoes will continue to fall.

The most disappointing part of this non-decision is that not a single Justice thought it was worth writing a dissenting opinion.  Perhaps they should just raise a white flag over the Supreme Court building today.

So, by not agreeing to decide any of these cases, the Supreme Court actually issued a momentous decision, and effectively re-defined marriage in the entire United States, without giving the defenders of marriage their day in Court.  This is how democracy no longer works around here.  Thus is marriage redefined in the United States, not with a bang but with a whimper.

 

What’s Next for Marriage and for Us

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

I was asked yesterday to contribute to an online symposium at National Review Online about the implications of the Supreme Court decisions on marriage.  Here’s my contribution:

From a legal standpoint, the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA is extraordinary and far-reaching. Our entire legal history and tradition regarding marriage continues to be dismantled. Nobody can know what will come from redefining thousands of federal statutes and regulations — wherever the words “marriage” or “spouse” appear. It will take decades to know the ultimate legal consequences.

But there is a deeper meaning. We have been engaged in a great struggle for the soul of our society, and the souls of individuals. The battleground has been over the nature and significance of marriage, and why people should choose marriage as the centerpiece of their lives. We have long been contending against a hostile culture.

This task will go on, regardless of whatever the law might be. Families, schools, and churches will all continue to teach the authentic meaning of marriage — one man, one woman, lifelong, faithful, and inherently oriented to having children. But the terms of engagement have dramatically changed. The Court’s ruling will make our mission more difficult, by branding the real meaning of marriage as mere bigotry, hatred, and irrationality.

In a way, though, this may enable us to become more effective teachers. The big lie at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision — that same-sex relationships are the same as real marriages — cannot ultimately gain sway over the hearts of people. It is false, and deep in our hearts we know it. And it will only highlight the contrast between the false values of a corrupted society and legal system, and the true virtues of authentic, loving married couples.

The law is a great teacher, and this Supreme Court decision teaches a lie. But the truth about marriage will continue to be attractive to people, who always prefer truth to lies.

Many of the other contributors took a “it’s not as bad as it could have been” approach.  I’m not convinced.  The expansive, dismissive language of the majority opinion — claiming that bigotry alone supports laws defending real marriage — will certainly be used by future litigants to attack the laws of the states that have not yet gone over the edge.  Same-sex “marriage” advocates have already begun predicting that it will only be a matter of five years before they will succeed in overturning all those state laws.

The language of the decision will also be used in the public square to shape the debate, by branding us as the equivalent of racists.  Soon, the media won’t even try to obtain and present our side of the story.  There won’t be much of a debate, if only one side is allowed to show up.

The Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act will also shape the implementation of a wide range of federal laws, which reach far into every recess of American life.  Think only of ERISA (which governs employee benefit plans and pension plans) and the Affordable Care Act (which governs health insurance plans), and you can see how significant will be the redefinition of “marriage” and “spouse” under federal law — every benefit plan, and every health insurance plan, will likely have to cover benefits for same-sex “spouses”.

The potential for conflict with religious liberty and conscience rights will be just as severe as with the HHS mandate.

Likewise, we can easily see a time when the IRS will play a role.  When it scrutinizes the policies of organizations that seek (or already have) tax exempt status, what will happen when it finds that an organization “discriminates” against same-sex couples in employment, benefits or services?  Will “discriminatory” churches be denied tax exempt status, or have it stripped from them? Remember, the old saying, “the power to tax is the power to destroy”.

While I continue to be optimistic that people will see through the lie in the Supreme Court’s decision, as an attorney I’m pessimistic.  People will still choose authentic marriage, and we will continue to teach about it, and call people to it.  But from a lawyer’s perspective, it’s very difficult to see a future that is free of continuing legal and social pressure and conflict, all designed to make us conform to the new view of marriage, and punishing us if we fail to do so.

The Supreme Court Casts Us Beyond the Pale

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Our black-robed Platonic guardian rulers on the United States Supreme Court have now decreed that the federal government — the democratically-elected Congress and the President, that is — may not define the word “marriage” to mean what it always has meant, and always been understood to mean.  Our entire legal history and tradition, dating back to its roots in Roman and English law, has now, at the stroke of a pen of five unelected judges, been swept into the dust heap.

The Court’s specific ruling was to strike down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by wide majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.  This provision stated that for the purposes of federal law, “marriage” could only mean a union of one man and one woman.  Until ten years ago, that provision of law would have been completely unremarkable, indeed, unnecessary.  After all, until a decade ago, nobody would have considered it possible that any person would consider “marriage” to mean anything different.

But now, in the post-modern world of ethical, moral, and rational relativism, words no longer mean what they have always meant.  And “democracy” certainly no longer means government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

Instead, five Justices (including one who graduated from my own alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School) have decided that anyone who believes that “marriage” means “one man, one woman”, is irrational, motivated solely by hatred and a desire to stigmatize and insult homosexual persons.  Yes, the Supreme Court has now said that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the vast majority of Protestant communities, Orthodox Jews, virtually all Muslims, and many others of no faith, are mere bigots.  We have been cast out of polite society.

This may sound like “sour grapes” or hyperbole.  So don’t just take my word for it, consider this section from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the Court’s judgment:

But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions…  In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

The Court’s calumny of our position is, of course, utter nonsense.  There are an abundance of rational reasons to defend the authentic definition of marriage.   Just consider the scholarly arguments made in the recent book What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense by Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Gergis.  Or, you could watch this video of a presentation I gave to a parish meeting to explain the many reasons that support the real definition of marriage.

It is a sad day when millions of Americans have been slandered by the Supreme Court.  It is sad when reason, history and tradition are traduced so casually.  And it is even sadder when one of the highest institutions of our government gravely wounds the fundamental  structure of society.

The Holy Father Gets to the Heart of the Matter

Friday, January 4th, 2013

In the comments box of one of my recent posts about the redefinition of marriage, I had an interesting discussion with a homosexual gentleman about the nature of sexuality.

In that discussion, our essential disagreement came down to a fundamental point about what it is to be human.  As I framed the question (I’ve cut and pasted from separate comments to boil this down to its clearest expression),

The whole idea of “gender” reflected in your posts is that it’s just a bundle of attributes that are largely socially determined, and that can be revised according to the subjective desires of the individual… Our position rests on the notion that sexual difference can’t be assumed away. The complementary (i.e., different, equal, and necessarily interdependent) nature of male and female sexuality is a constitutive element of what it is to be a human being.

The Holy Father has now addressed this point directly and powerfully, in his annual address to the Curia — what you might call his “State of the Church and the World Address”.  His comments, which come in the context of a discussion of the threats to the family, are worth quoting at length (my emphasis is added in bold):

[T]he question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society.

The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves.

Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed.

But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.

The Holy Father thus gets to the precise center of the question — the debate about marriage and family is, at its heart, about the nature of the human person.  It is in the end a question about “who created me”.  The modernist approach is to create myself in my own image and likeness, making myself into my own little god, answerable to no objective or higher truth.  We’ve already seen how that false and destructive approach works (see Genesis 3, and the entire history of the Twentieth Century).

The Holy Father has pointed to us the way out of this problem — to embrace the truth of our nature and the truth of our origin, and to defend the social expressions of those truths in marriage and the family.

The Eclipse of Reason About Marriage

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

For quite some time, I have been discussing and debating the question of same-sex “marriage”.  I regularly defend the authentic conjugal definition of marriage that has been enshrined in our social and legal tradition — a life-long, exclusive union of one man and one women dedicated to their good and for the procreation and upbringing of children.

This debate has been going on for years now.  What continues to astonish me is how vapid are the arguments offered by those who would re-define marriage to leave gender and children out.  Examples of this weak attempt to overturn the immemorial definition of marriage can be found in this op-ed, or this one.

The arguments typically do not embody reasoned attempts to persuade through logic.  Instead, they are are emotionally-driven appeals to rectify hard cases, calls for “equality” without understanding that different things should be treated differently, demands for a laundry list of legal rights typical of special interest pleading, and, frequently, naked attempts to exclude religious people from the public debate.  They don’t engage questions of the effect of redefining marriage on the common good or future generations.  They ignore the incongruity of redefining marriage for everyone, to satisfy the interests of a statistically tiny number of people who want same-sex unions.  When all else fails, polling data is trotted out, as if a transitory snapshot of public opinion is infallible in its wisdom.  When even that fails, defenders of marriage are simply called “mean” (as I was, recently, in a college classroom).

In contrast, the arguments we offer in the defense of real marriage are multiple and philosophically sophisticated.  This argument relies on the nature of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality.  It also relies on the lessons of common sense, experience, and social science about the best outcomes for adults and children.  The concern expressed consistently is the effect of redefining marriage on the public messages that the law sends to men and women, particularly about the importance of marriage for children and for society as a whole.  We can offer ready logical answers to the common objections to the conjugal definition of marriage, such as the false comparison to interracial marriage.

Our approach is to appeal to the obligation to make public policy for the common good, to pay attention to all consequences of law-making (especially the long-term and secondary effects), and not to make law based on the particular desires of small interest groups.

A perfect example of this argument can be found in this op-ed by Robert George, Ryan Anderson and Sherif Gergis, or Michael Hannon’s on-line essay.

In so many ways, this debate is coming to resemble the debate about abortion.  Science and logic (not to mention tradition) all establish the humanity of the unborn, but these don’t seem to matter to our courts and legislatures.  Likewise, in the ongoing debate about marriage, reason and the common good of adults and children — and future generations — continues to be brushed aside by emotion and special interest politics.

Circular Evolution Away from Reason

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The president has now announced what everyone already knew — he favors the radical redefinition of marriage.

He claimed that this was the result of an “evolution” in his thinking, but it was actually just a public statement of a position that he has held since the mid-1990’s, when he was an obscure State Senator in Illinois.  The non-surprise announcement came at the end of a week when his Vice President and several Cabinet secretaries announced that they supported redefining marriage.  And by all accounts it was the result of a political/financial calculation aimed at shoring up support in a very generous constituency.  Of course, the President tries to have it both ways, claiming that he favors allowing states to maintain the authentic definition of marriage — while his Justice Department undermines that freedom, and while he has actually advocated against it.

Any wonder why so many people are cynical about politics?

In terms of actual policies, it’s hard to see how this announcement will make any difference. The administration has already abdicated its obligation to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, and has even advocated for courts to overturn it — a remarkable position for a president who swore to faithfully execute the laws and the Constitution.  It has assiduously advanced a consistent “gay rights” agenda both at home and abroad.

Regardless of any political calculations, this announcement should fill defenders of marriage with trepidation. The president has an enormous capacity for influencing public opinion. Will he show respect for those who defend authentic marriage, or will this lead to our being further stigmatized as “bigots”? There is no question that the leaders of the effort to redefine marriage wish to equate our position to that of the racist segregationists. Will the President, who claimed to be interested in uniting Americans and moving past the politics of personal destruction, fall in line with that polarizing rhetoric?  His track record is not encouraging.

The federal government also has frightful authority to enforce laws against “discrimination.” Interestingly, the president invoked his personal faith in making this announcement. But will he — and his army of lawyers — show respect for the liberty of churches, organizations, and individuals who disagree with him based on their own religious beliefs? The track record again is not encouraging.

It is a dangerous moment when the president rejects the foundation of our society. It may be a risky future for those of us who dissent.