Our Misguided and Dangerous Platonic Guardian Ruler

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.

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11 Responses to “Our Misguided and Dangerous Platonic Guardian Ruler”

  1. Peter Rox says:

    I am sorry to see that so many Catholics are discussing the totally wrong issues about marriage. Look at the facts. As reported in America Magazine in March, in 1970 there were 420,000 Catholic marriages performed, while in 2014, only 154,000 Catholic marriages were performed. This is despite the fact that the Catholic population has greatly increased in this time period, especially with the very large migration of many Catholics from Central and South America to the United States. (Statistics assemble by CARA at Georgetown University).

    The fact is that a great many baptized Catholics are choosing civil marriages, or marriages performed by another religious denomination, or in a great number of cases, NO marriage ceremony, but simply cohabitation. The shrill war waged against gays by the US Bishops and NOM (National Organization for Marriage), allegedly to “save marriage” is grossly misinformed about what the facts are in society. Gays are not destroying marriage, they are joining the institution, almost 400,000 same sex couples have married since legal in various states, and many Catholic. Additionally, gays account for a disproportionately large portion of the “hard to place” adoptions in many cities in the US, such as handicapped children or older children, or ethnically or racially mixed children, the adoption “leftovers” that heterosexual couples generally passover.

    The Catholic Church may have contributed to “destroying marriage” by holding for generations that it alone “owned” the institution. A great many of us recall the extremes that the Church went to in order to claim exclusive ownership of marriage. Non-Catholic ceremonies (civil or religious) were not recognized. We frequently heard from the pulpits that these people “were not married in the eyes of the Church or of God”. In marriages in which one party was Catholic and the other of another faith, for most of the 20th century ( I don’t know about before!) the Catholic ceremony for such couples was not allowed in a church building, but rather these occurred in the rectories. We can’t allow those Protestants inside a Catholic Church ! What if some even dared receive communion ! (we were also taught that we could not attend a friend’s funeral if held in a Protestant Church. Remember??? Conotes toleration of their religion !
    I know many who have one parent divorced and remarried. The history of Catholic annulments in the 20th century is one of shame for our hierarchy. Parsimoniously dispensed, costly and humiliating to obtain, and most helpful when there was a political connection in the Church to move it along. , time consuming, Many sons and daughters of such couples rightfully resent what the institutional Church did to their parents in such cases, and they themselves wanted no part of Catholic wedding ceremonies for themselves. Let’s face it, we all know of the well-known US politician, on his third marriage, who converted to the Catholic faith and had no trouble getting his Catholic wedding, since the previous two were “non-existent” in the Church’s eyes, despite children ! The average person in the pews won’t tolerate such hypocrisy any more.

    Finally, many young couples disapprove of Catholic marriage preparation courses supervised by an institution that has no credibility on sexual matters after the draconian positions on contraception and administered by a clergy and hierarchy that has tolerated the sex abuse crises for way to long. Look how long it is taking to get rid of any bishops including those who are convicted of criminality, as the one in the US.

    So, in summation, the Catholic Church, in my opinion, has done a lot to weaken marriage in modern America. It has promulgated rules and ‘doctrine” that do not conform to human nature.
    The Church leaders need strong doses of humility to admit their contributions to the current troubled state of marriage, and to listen to he Pope’s call for mercy. Most young couples do not believe that elderly men wrapped in red and gold and lace have much to inform them about concerning the subject of marriage.

    As for the US Supreme Court, I do not like to see attacks on the judiciary. The American system established three co-equal branches of government. Elected representatives are only one branch. The US Supreme Court has historically been the guardian of protecting marginalized groups in America, people who are all created equal to the potentially oppressing majority.

  2. DottieDay says:

    After reading this article about the two Catholic lawyers arguing for opposing sides (http://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/catholic-battle-at-supreme-court) and listening to the oral arguments, it seems to me that we are seeing, in Justice Kennedy, in Mary B., the effects of full-blown erosion of Catholic teaching over the past 50 years. The Church has lost clarity and obedience to its Magisterium in the public square.
    And it is a lot worse than that. There is almost a Biblical blindness as to what is coming to a wedding chapel near you. Same sex marriage, its Constitutionality, rights, dignity (a copycat term stolen from the pro-life message, by the way) re-defined marriage, whatever you call it, is a smokescreen. Behind the smokescreen is what is the homosexual activists themselves call “queering”. Each element of marriage will be on the chopping block in order to effect a true redefinition, this time by homosexuals. I’ve seen it written on a law school gender blog that perhaps the first brick to come out will be that old, tired, [heterosexual and traditional] brick – till death do us part.
    So here we go. If this decision goes the way of redefining marriage, our society be at the bottom of one very slippery slope with shovels in our hands. And many catholics, digging away at the muddy bottom.

  3. Peter Rox says:

    Yesterday in his remarks to the throngs in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, for the weekly Angelus, Pope Francis stated his strong support of “equal pay for equal work”, and denounced sexism in the workplace. Our Lord Himself is said to have said at the Last Supper that mayn mysteries will be revealed in the future to His Church, through the Spirit, which were not then apparent. Perhaps equality of all human beings is just one of those mysteries. Ater all, even slavery was not denounced in the Bible. As for “Biblical marriage”, Abraham had two wives, as did some of the Kings of Israel. This practice changed over time. Many a Catholic marriage used to be arranged. Now, most modern people try to marry for love. Our understanding of humans has evolved, as do institutions involving human beings.

  4. Chris the Catholic says:

    The fact that men and women are intrinsically different is as obvious to same-sex couples — men who prefer men, or women who prefer women — as it is to heterosexual couples. The resultant fact that a relationship between a man and a woman is therefore intrinsically different than a relationship between two men or two women should be equally obvious. Marriage is, and had always been throughout human history, the name of the relationship between a man and a woman. A relationship between two men or two women? Whatever it is, it isn’t marriage.

  5. Ed Mechmann says:

    Re: the notion that my criticism amounts to an “attack on the Court”, consider this from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, in which he referenced the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case:

    “… the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.”

  6. Ronnie says:

    Whether the Catholic Church has contributed to the failure of marriage is irrevant to this case. Two people of the same sex with gender identity confusion marrying will only escalate the damage already done by the indifference of some in the Church.

    Pope Francis: “The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a ‘deceptive mercy’ binds the wounds without first curing them and ‘treating’ them”…
    Same-sex marriage runs counter to nature. It is a counterfeit disordered union which will only lead to other abnormal practices and do violence to the development of children raised in these confused unions.

  7. Peter Rox says:

    By the way, several US religious denominations filed a “friend of the Court” or amicus brief, with the US Supreme Court, urging the Court to rule in favor finding a constitutional right to same sex marriage. Among those filing this brief were the Episcopal Bishops of the United States, and many other Christian and Jewish groups, and a Moslem organization. Over 1500 theologians also individually signed the brief. As far as the Catholic Church’s understanding of humanity evolving over time is concerned, the Church once had disputes as to whether or not the indigenous peoples of the Americas and black persons had souls.

  8. Ronnie says:

    Many so-called religious denominations are as confused (or more so) as those promoting this gender identity confusion. Race is innate, sexual preferences are not as those in the ex-gay movement can attest to. I can change my sexual preference tonight if I wanted to but I can’t change my color.

  9. Joe says:

    Really Ronnie?! You can change your sexual orientation tonight?! I want to see that! Maybe I should invite you over! And actually you can change the color of your skin. Skin conditions such as vitiligo can do that, so can chemical treatments on skin. I think you are referring to racial background, not color.

    Many in the former ex-gay movements experienced indoctrination and brainwashing. I’m not aware of how they attempt to change sexual orientation today. And for you to say that a person’s attraction to another person can be changed because of such a program is truly disgusting. Many gay people, including myself have dealt with confusion, and trying to pray the attractions away. Suicide is a looming thought. Eventually, most come to the realization that they cannot change who they are attracted to. Regardless, the Church does not even promote “reparative therapy”, not sure why you would advocate for that. Also questioning why no one would question Ronnie……Ed?

  10. Ed Mechmann says:

    @Joe

    My general policy is to let people comment, and not specifically respond. In this case, I know little about “reparative therapy” or what it entails, and no Catholic organization that I know of promotes it.

    I don’t know if a person can change their sexual feelings through therapy. But I do believe that people can regulate their conduct to conform more closely to God’s will, both through therapy and through grace.

  11. Peter Rox says:

    The Catholic Bishops of Germany have decided to allow employees to hold church and church-related jobs, whether or not they divorce and remarry, and if they are in “out” gay relationships or in a gay civil union. The vote was not even close, with these policies adopted nationally and supported by more than 2/3 of the country’s bishops.