Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Reader Writes: "Married People Contribute Many Goods to Society in Addition to Procreating . . . and the Provision of These Goods Is Not Gender-Dependent"

Yesterday, I blogged about the story of Father James Melnick, who was removed from ministry in my home state of Arkansas this past weekend, after our local Catholic bishop, Anthony Taylor, informed the public that he had received credible allegations of "multiple acts of sexual misconduct [by Melnick] with multiple adult victims during the period of less than a year." As I also noted, Melnick is a champion of the "new evangelization" ideology of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and a graduate of the Pontifical North American College and has studied at the John Paul II Institute.

At both institutions, Melnick apparently focused on the study of "marriage and family." In fact, the John Paul II Institute (which is housed at Catholic University of America) is a pontifical institute advertising itself as an institute precisely focused on the study of marriage and family, and promoting the program of "new evangelization."

I pointed readers to a blog maintained by Melnick which advertises itself as a blog encouraging the "new evangelization." As I noted, at this blog site and elsewhere, Melnick has published articles showcasing his new-evangelization-oriented understanding of marriage, which make the claim that there can be no marriage without gender complementarity, since "real" marriage involves two different sets of genitals engaging in sexual acts that are not complete without those two different sets of genitalia — even when though those sexual acts may well not be procreative. 

Not procreative as a condition for marrying, that is, since our society obviously permits infertile heterosexual couples to marry, after all . . . . And churches including the Catholic church approve of such marriages, while seeking to bar the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage on the ground that same-sex couples cannot procreate.

Or, as Father Melnick puts the point elsewhere, citing Pope John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, the body expresses feminity for masculinity and masculinity for feminity. And: "Masculinity-femininity – namely, sex – is the original sign of a creative donation and at the same time the sign of a gift that man, male-female, becomes aware of as a gift lived so to speak in an original way."

Which Father Melnick translates to mean the following:

At times, the way men and women approach life, solve problems, think, and express love are extremely different. Nevertheless, this difference allows for a more ultimate giving of self to one another, body and soul.

By contrast, here's a sharp, insightful comment by a reader of yesterday's posting about these same issues, from a radically different (and, I'd propose, sane) viewpoint: mhc1960 writes,

There is one aspect of societal good that comes from the marriage bond that defenders of traditional marriage consistently overlook: the caregiving roles that spouses provide for each other in cases of illness, disability, and old age. 
I know all about this, having been the caregiver for my husband for six years after he suffered a traumatic brain injury, until his death. We didn't have any children, but even though our sex life was non-procreative, it contributed to the pair-bonding that kept us together, and that motivated me to attend to his most intimate needs even when sex was no longer part of the picture. 
Married people contribute many goods to society in addition to procreating and raising children, and the provision of these goods is not gender-dependent, but is very much dependent on a life-long bond.

Married people contribute many goods to society in addition to procreating and raising children, and the provision of these goods is not gender-dependent: it strikes me that this statement stands up to careful empirical scrutiny in a way in which the magical-mystical nonsense of the theology of the body does not withstand empirical scrutiny. All around us, in the world in which we live, most of us know married couples, both same-sex couples and opposite-sex ones, whose contributions to the social groups of which they are part are radically generative in ways that go far beyond the procreation of children.

We all know couples — they're all around us — who contribute to churches, workplaces, schools, society at large in multiple generative, creative ways that transcend biological procreation of children. And it is clear to most of us, when we're not wearing occluding ideological blinders that require us to refract everything through the optic of gender (that is, of male domination and female subordination) that these generative contributions are every bit as pro-creative as is the procreating of children.

And every bit as necessary to the sustenance of any healthy, vibrant social networks in which we live as are the marriages of heterosexual couples bearing children . . . . It strikes most of us, in fact, that this pro-creative generativity of many childless couples, both gay and straight, has nothing at all to do with gender and gender complementarity, with, as hrc1960 puts the point in a subsequent comment, "who puts what where," that strange physical fixation of Catholic magisterial teaching about gender and human sexuality. 

All of us know heterosexual couples like my wonderful elderly friends (now gone to their eternal reward) Kathleen and Abner, whose marriage involved Abner doing the meal-planning, grocery-shopping, cooking, dish-washing, and kitchen-cleaning, since Kathleen despised those (female) chores, while Kathleen did the bill-paying and budgeting, since she had the (masculine) ability to figure and plan which Abner lacked. We all know heterosexual couples (and same-sex ones, too) in which those bright, shining, hard and fast lines of gender outlined by Pope John Paul II in his theology of the body are simply not there: they're blurred, because both partners are a mix of "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics.

In fact, most of us don't know any married couples, whether male or female, that are not a jumble of the gender characteristics that Pope John Paul II and Father James Melnick so confidently and glibly (and wrongly) sort out as male and female, with no intermixing — a sorting which implies that the divine Creator hands out "masculine" characterics to people born with penises, and "feminine" characteristics to people born with vaginas, and how dare the former imagine they can emote freely, or the latter imagine they have the capability to do math and science and lead corporations?

At its core, the theology of the body is a desperate attempt of the Catholic magisterium at this point in history to stop the women's movement in its tracks by inscribing biological gender chracteristics in stone, suggesting that God has ordained that men be the reasoners and doers and women the emoters and the done-to, and that we are in rebellion against the divine plan when we question this neat arrangement of things according to biological gender. At its core, the theology of the body is an assertion that the male "right" to dominate the female is inscribed in stone by the Creator Himself. 

The theology of the body requires absurd mental gymnastics about gender complementarity and genitals fitting in the right place and how marriage between two people of the same gender is an impossibility because the theology of the body is designed, at its very core, to keep women from breaching the wall of male domination and female subordination built for them by the all-male leaders of the Catholic church. Who do not intend to see that wall breached, ever, and who are deterimined to oppose the marriage of same-sex couples on the ludicrous tautological ground that same-sex couples are not opposite-sex couples. The many successful, pro-creative, generative marriages of same-sex couples now on display in many places in the world for anyone with eyes to see are a serious threat to the gender ideology of the men running the Catholic church, and their obvious success makes mincemeat of the argument that everything in marriage hinges on two opposite sets of genitalia engaging in sexual "acts" that cannot be complete otherwise.

And this is why the U.S. Catholic bishops are so determined to stop marriage equality in its tracks — the U.S. bishops, including my own bishop, Anthony Taylor, who has prepared an amicus brief urging our state Supreme Court to strike down a judicial ruling that permits same-sex marriage, which uses the very same arguments used by Father Melnick in his statements attacking same-ses marriage.

For previous statements I've made about these issues, please see the following:

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