AH-NULD!

I interrupt my break to say simply: Yay! A pro-gay, pro-choice, hard-ass Republican! An Eagle has landed. Now let him soar.

SO LONG

I feel very conflicted about taking my annual blog hiatus this August. But I’m going to do my best to take a break. If some catastrophe occurs, I’ll be back. But blogging each day, sometimes thousands of words a day, is a wonderful but grueling way to write. I think bloggers do well to take time out. We can lose perspective, stop thinking in longer form, and also get exhausted. Obviously, my emotions right now are also wrung out from the barrage of backlash we are now experiencing, and it may be sensible to take a deep breath and a break. I wish at times I could be immune to this – and not get wounded or angry. But this debate is not an abstract one for me or for many others. Our very integrity as human beings and equality as citizens is being weighed in the balance by others with enormous power over us. That’s enough to work anyone’s last nerve. But I also need some time and space for spiritual reasons. It’s hard to describe the agony gay Catholics are now in; and I’m facing a pretty major life-decision. In this, you need quiet to listen to God and pray sincerely for his help in the struggle to maintain a good conscience and lead a moral life. From your emails, I know I am not in this alone, and I’ll be praying hard for all of us in this storm, pro and con, to find God’s will for us, whatever it is.

SUMMER READING: Still, I also feel a responsibility to keep in the public square on this and other subjects. So if you’re still interested in this debate, I hope you can take the time to read some of my previous long-form work on the subject, which tries to answer all the many questions we have been discussing these past few months. Indeed, it’s been a little frustrating to be conducting insta-responses to insta-points without resorting to a real and solid piece of work. But I wrote those some years back, perhaps a little too long ago. Virtually Normal is a political argument; Love Undetectable is a spiritual memoir. Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con is an anthology of materials from all sides on the issue – historical, theological, legal and cultural. I’m not going to plug them any more, except to say they were and are my best attempts at rational persuasion. (If I have persuaded you, or if you still believe in gay marriage despite my arguments, then I also hope you’ll add your name to an Internet petition for equal marriage rights.) I’ll also post whatever columns I write in the next month on the site, so check in every now and again. When I dish here next, I’ll also be over forty, an age I once thought I’d probably not reach. A celebration is in order. Until then, have a wonderful August. And thanks for sticking around so loyally and cantankerously for so long. See you the day after Labor Day. Meanwhile, don’t forget …

… DEAN AND DA LOSER? Okay, it’s not such a great pun. I should be a good candidate for supporting Howard Dean: he’s fiscally conservative (unlike the president); he believes in gay equality (unlike the president). But, of course, he loses me on national security issues. His frustrating promise is explored opposite. These days, what’s an eagle to do?

DA BEARS: They’re the Homer Simpsons of the gay world. But with more back hair. Why I love them, posted opposite.

ORTHODOXY AND DIVORCE: A fascinating email on the position of the Eastern Orthodox church on divorce. They really do seem saner out east:

The Orthodox Archbishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware explains the Orthodox position on divorce:

“Certainly Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as in principle lifelong and indissoluble, and it sees the breakdown of marriage as a tragedy due to human weakness and sin. But while condemning the sin, the Church still desires to help suffering humans and to allow them a second chance. When, therefore, a marriage has entirely ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church does not insist on the preservation of a legal fiction. Divorce is seen as an exceptional but unavoidable concession to our human brokenness, living as we do in a fallen world . . . the Orthodox Church knows that a second alliance cannot have exactly the same character as the first; and so in the service for a second marriage several of the joyful ceremonies are omitted, and replaced by penitential prayers. In practice, however, this second marriage service is scarcely ever used. (The Orthodox Church, NY: Penguin Books, 1993 edition, p. 295).”

I.e. – the Eastern Orthodox Christian churchs, recognized as fully apostolic and valid churchs by Rome (in schism only over papal infallibility and the filoque), not only condones the dissolution of the first marriage, but accepts up to 2 more marriages after it. Why the “concession” to straight couples? Bishop Ware explains that is it due to “tragedy due to human weakness and sin. But while condemning the sin, the Church still desires to help suffering humans and to allow them a second chance.” And third.
Where is the Christian response to the situation of the homosexual? Where is the response born out of charity for “tragedy due to human weakness and sin.” Where is the “exceptional but unavoidable concession to our human brokenness” acknowledging “living as we do in a fallen world” that for homosexuals too “it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Cor. 7:9)?

The answer, I think, is that many powerful Christians still don’t think of the homosexual person as fully human. If they did, they would exercise compassion and fairness. Instead homosexuals are seen as either sick or so disordered as not to be capable of genuine affection and love. I can see no other reason why so many compassionate exceptions are made for heterosexuals in sexual ethics (the infertile, the divorced, annulments, etc.) but none – zero – for gay people.

EMAIL OF THE DAY II

From a Catholic priest urging me to hang in there:

I know…
Times are terrible…
The church says gay people are not permitted to get married, ordained, or adopt children. All prohibitions. Not one statement of moral guidance or recognition. Negation only.
I don’t know what to say or think myself.
I wish I could be more encouraging.
I take refuge in conscience (which the tradition treats with utmost respect), and in my belief that the church is larger and older and wiser than one segment, no matter how powerful and officially sanctioned its self-defined role. The Church cannot be contained or proscribed as the narrow experience of what the magisterium teaches. It is all of us. It is the communion of saints. It is the holy spirit alive in the world. And, I suppose, I am just stubborn enough not to let them reduce my church to this…

I am so grateful to all of you who have reached out these past few days. It’s been amazing. I’ve just spent four hours reading your missives. Somuch extraordinary support, compassion, intellect, encouragement. Sometimes, this blog feels like a family. I’m awed and buoyed.

ALL YOU DON’T NEED IS LOVE

Rick Santorum reveals Vatican I Catholicism by saying the following:

Why? Because — principally because of children. I mean, it’s — it is the reason for marriage. It’s not to affirm the love of two people. I mean, that’s not what marriage is about. I mean, if that were the case, then lots of different people and lots of different combinations could be, quote, “married.”
Marriage is not about affirming somebody’s love for somebody else. It’s about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society.

I hope this view of Santorum’s gets a wider hearing. Memo to all you straight married couples out there who view your marriage as fundamentally about love. Today’s Republicans are out to get you too. Santorum then says the following: “I’m not that familiar with civil union laws.” Huh? When Brit Hume presses him on whether he would support any benefits for gay couples, he demurs. This is a U.S. senator who has put himself into the forefront of the gay debate who doesn’t even know what civil unions are. You know what? I believe him. He hasn’t thought for a second about the good of homosexual citizens. And why should he? And in this he’s not alone. I still don’t know, for example, whether National Review would officially approve of any benefits for gay couples at all. I don’t know what Stanley Kurtz would support short of marriage. Or Maggie Gallagher. Or David Frum. Or president Bush. What does he favor for gay couples if not marriage? This is odd. Wouldn’t these people be far more persuasive if they offered an alternative to marriage? It would certainly make them seem far less homophobic. They could take the position that they’d be happy to have civil unions but draw the line at marriage – and they’d get a lot of support. So why don’t they? Could it be that their real agenda is not simply keeping marriage exclusively heterosexual but keeping gays as marginalized and stigmatized as possible? Let’s see if they step up to the plate and tell us what they actually propose for gay citizens, rather than what they oppose.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: “I just completed 30 years working for the Department of Defense, the last 14 years spent in ensuring our missile defense systems are properly tested.xa0Yet, as I look forward to retirement eligibility in 1047 days, I know that I cannot include my husband on my health insurance policies or as a benficiary for my pension, as can my straight married co-workers.xa0 This grinds on me daily.xa0 We spent several thousand dollars last year redoing wills, forming revocable trusts, establishing various powers of attorney, etc.xa0That helps, but nothingxa0short of full marriage will allow the health and pension benefits that I believe we deserve just as much asxa0my collegues who take them for granted.xa0Of course, my family doesn’t matter,xa0as our opponents say; we’re just in it for the sex.xa0 (I think I remember what that is.)xa0No matter that my husband’s bedridden, Alzheimer’s afflicted mother has lived in our house for the last 2 years; we’re just in it for the sex.xa0(Try changing the diaper of a 120 pound, uncooperative woman; babies are nothing in comparison.)xa0If the Constitutional Amendment codifying discrimination into our Constitution for the first time goes forth and is approved, I will be voting with my feet and leaving this once great country for a freer country such as Canada. I cannot say the Pledge of Allegiance any longer, as the words “Liberty and Justice for All” rings so hollow in my ears. These words, along with Equality, have been long forgotten by our society and our leaders, particularly the Republicans.”

CATHOLICISM AND SLAVERY: The best summary I can get is from the Catholic Encyclopedia. From that, it’s clear that, from St Paul onwards, slavery was not condemned as in itself immoral or against the natural law for the vast majority of the existence of the Catholic Church:

From the beginning the Christian moralist did not condemn slavery as in se, or essentially, against the natural law or natural justice. The fact that slavery, tempered with many humane restrictions, was permitted under the Mosaic law would have sufficed to prevent the institution from being condemned by Christian teachers as absolutely immoral. They, following the example of St. Paul, implicitly accept slavery as not in itself incompatible with the Christian Law. The apostle counsels slaves to obey their masters, and to bear with their condition patiently. This estimate of slavery continued to prevail till it became fixed in the systematized ethical teaching of the schools; and so it remained without any conspicuous modification till towards the end of the eighteenth century. We may take as representative de Lugo’s statement of the chief argument offered in proof of the thesis that slavery, apart from all abuses, is not in itself contrary to the natural law.

Aquinas followed Aristotle in defending slavery as “natural.” Remember that Aquinas is also the prime author of the Church’s doctrines on same-sex love. It also appears that the 1866 limited defense of slavery was and is genuine. This is not to say that the Church always condoned slavery. Several popes condemned it outright, some eloquently; and the Church has much to be proud of in its record on this. But the hierarchs simply never declared slavery to be illicit under natural law. So homosexual relationships are and were morally worse than slavery for the Church. Having a gay relationship is still, under Catholic doctrine, more profoundly evil than owning a slave. That helps shed light on how deeply the hierarchy feels about this. If they really consider a gay relationship more evil than owning a slave, no wonder they are so adamant about preventing it from happening.

ANOTHER CHURCH LETTER

A reader sends this piece of information in, which, to tell you the truth, shocks me. Maybe it’s not true. But it seems to check out. Maybe other readers can help cast light on it. In 1866, America was in the middle of another, far deeper, conflagration in part over the role of a minority. The Vatican weighed in on the debate with the following observation:

“Slavery itself… is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law… The purchaser [of the slave] should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave.”

Somehow, it comforts me to know that this inerrant institution, held up today as a moral arbiter, compromised on something as fundamental as human slavery. It makes dissent today easier.

JUSTICE THOMAS VERSUS THE FEDS

“We have said that Congress may regulate not only “Commerce… among the several states,” U.S. Const., Art. I, 8, cl. 3, but also anything that has a “substantial effect” on such commerce… [I]t seems to me that the power to regulate “commerce” can by no means encompass authority over mere gun possession, any more than it empowers the Federal Government to regulate marriage, littering, or cruelty to animals, throughout the 50 States. Our Constitution quite properly leaves such matters to the individual States, notwithstanding these activities’ effects on interstate commerce. Any interpretation of the Commerce Clause that even suggests that Congress could regulate such matters is in need of reexamination.” – from the Lopez case. Thomas’ reiteration of the fact that the federal government has no constitutional role in deciding civil marriage is a statement of clear conservative principles. But the theocrats and social conservatives don’t give a damn if federalism ends up with results they don’t like. That’s why they passed the Defense of Marriage Act. They suspect that’s unconstitutional. So what to do? Change the constitution!

KERRY FIGHTS BACK

The Senator rightly objects to the way in which the Catholic Church is directly intervening in American politics and instructing politicians what they can and cannot support on matters of public policy. I’m amazed that the Church can lobby politically and still maintain its tax-free status. It isn’t just upholding moral values here; it’s instructing a secular politician in a secular Constitution how to vote on purely dogmatic grounds. It’s one more step back from the Second Council, but then we knew that that document is now essentially a dead letter in the current Vatican. I must say that my admiration for Kerry just went up a big notch. What a country. Only one party seems intent on combating the violent theocracy threatening our freedoms from abroad. But they’re the very party appeasing theocrats at home.