Friday, December 30, 2011

So, hey:

I'm getting married today.

My thanks to those who offered their congratulations (thank you Fr. Thomas and Chris!)

I love you, Laura, my bride. I will serve you and protect you the rest of my days.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Response to a liberal Catholic

In the comments of

 Tim MacGeorge writes,
With all due respect, I think that your posts, to varying degrees, represent what so many Catholics suffer from, and that is what one seminary professor of mine referred to as a "4th grade education" when it comes to things religious and theological. To take selected scripture passages out of context in order to "prove" a point is an illegitimate use of scripture. Practically every scripture scholar agrees that neither the Hebrew nor Christian scriptures address what we today call "same-sex attraction." Old testament passages often cited against homosexuality use the same word to describe such acts as they do to describe the eating of shellfish and the wearing of clothes of mixed fibers -- yet for some reason the bishops don't condemn wearing cotton-blend clothes with the same ferocity. I wonder why? As to the claim that no Catholic in good conscience can support gay marriage, well this is simply false. There are thousands and thousands of good Catholics - including many theologians and clergy -- with very well-formed consciences, who firmly believe that the "official" position of the current bishops is simply incorrect. Just as the "teaching" of the church as "developed" over time as it relates to other moral issues (e.g. slavery, usury to name but two), so too will this teaching. Best wishes to both of you and I pray that the Lord of Light whose birth we celebrate might continue to enlighten us all on our journey from darkness into the Light of His Love and Truth.
I have an education in things religious and theological that surpasses the 4th grade somewhat, so allow me to (helpfully) point to some rhetorical wrinkles in your post. First, your statement about Scripture appears to ignore the Letter to the Romans, which if it isn't about same sex attraction, must have been written metaphorically. Perhaps you can reveal the true meaning. Moreover, I'm curious about which scripture scholars are so persuaded that the Bible is a great friend of same sex attraction.

Second, I believe there is a intellectual dishonesty in likening Deuteronomy's proscription against sodomy to its dietary laws. You know as well as I do that the Catholic Church's own position on gay sex is founded less on minutiae of Hebrew religious law than it is on sober theological reflection on the human body as a beloved creation. Sexual matters have earned special attention in Catholic teaching through the centuries because they are, after all, at the heart of human origins, and thus also our identity and dignity.

Third, as to what "good Catholics" can or cannot believe, let's be precise in our language, please. Most American Catholics dissent from Catholic teaching in this or that issue. Dissent is materially wrong, sometimes seriously so, but normally it is borne out of misunderstanding rather than malice. I think it's unfortunate that Catholics are not trained better in desiring and seeking a deeper understanding of the truths behind Catholic teaching.

Only God can know hearts, and thus who the "good Catholics" really are. To be a Catholic in good standing with the Church (a more objective descriptor), one ought not publicly teach against Catholic doctrine in any matter of faith and morals, by word or example. Anybody can mark "Catholic" on the census forms, but at no time has the Church given a smile and wink to the idea that the contents of the Catechism are mostly fair-game for dissent. So there are likely many millions of Catholics who are not objectively in good standing with the Church. They may be good people. So might I. God only knows.

Also, no need to use scare quotes for the phrase "'official' position". It really is the official position. And it is not likely to change. This is because impossibility of gay marriage actually has the same ideological root as one of the other positions you mentioned: the prohibition of slavery. Both of these positions are founded on the inviolable dignity of the human individual in body, mind, and spirit. Gay sex and slavery both represent a misappropriation and distortion of the meaning of the human body.

Any development of doctrine (and I agree that doctrine does develop) is going to more powerfully honor that principle--not contradict it. So while liberals are expecting Catholic thought to move inevitably leftward (as you seem to be), those thinking with the Church see it moving, in fits and starts, ever Christward. Leftward and Christward are not opposites but they are emphatically not the same. Liberals are doomed to be disappointed with doctrinal development.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Political thoughts - inequality

Running a country is hard.

Every day I am increasingly convinced that the Republican Party views the bottom 50% of earners in the US as "the problem" rather than as Americans with dreams, stories, and challenges.

The GOP probably feels that the US would be a much nicer place if that 50% simply went away. And they seem to be turning the US economy into a "hunger game", a sieve that dispatches the losers (many, many losers) into a trash heap of invisibility.

But the problem of economic inequality is not an easy one to solve. I wish it was as easy as the Democrats propose. End the Bush tax cuts, get that revenue, reignite essential government services, put more money into the hands of the middle class, and get the country back on track.

And that scenario might work, somewhat, for a little bit. But its benefits would be neither as long-lived nor as powerful as hoped.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is globalization. The second is government pillaging. Each of these represents the excesses of self-seeking both on the right and the left, which have crippled the sustainability of the state.

Money abhors a vacuum, and so a populace as fiscally top-heavy as the United States will never be able to keep its money here. The rationales for big money-makers to make their money in the US and keep it here (or transfer it here) is dwindling, while their opportunities and ease of access to foreign money is only increasing.

See, here's the basic economic/political dilemma of the age: when government is more powerful (the Democrat ideal), corporate abuse can be fought, human rights defended, and the middle and lower classes better served. But as a corollary, businesses flee and take their jobs and tax revenue with them, resulting in increased public debt and unemployment.

When the government is less powerful (the Republican ideal), businesses come back and there may well be more jobs. But they will be lower-paying jobs, with fewer if any benefits, and private debt will soar as people become indentured servants, making never-ending payments on medical and student loans.

So, I am not exactly describing a balanced picture here. But why should I? The Republicans are wrong, even if the Democrats need to work on a more global understanding of the problem.