Thursday, May 9, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "Homosexuals Cannot Marry Any More Than Triangles Can Claim to Be Four-Sided"

At the Commonweal blog, Dominic Preziosi is featuring a dialogue between Peter Steinfels, David Blankenhorn, and Amy Ziettlow about whether liberals can save the institution of marriage. The discussion was sponsored by the Institute for American Values.

Jim McCrea points out that one very simple way to save the institution of marriage is to permit same-sex couples who want to marry to do so (i.e., Jim proposes drawing the circle of marriage wider). 

Catholic moral theologian (and contributor to First Things) John M. Grondelski replies to Jim:

Ersatz marriage is not marriage: homosexuals cannot marry any more than triangles can claim, in the name of “geometric equality,” to be four-sided . . . .

This is an increasingly popular conservative Catholic response to marriage equality: black is white, and you can't redefine black to turn it into white, for Pete's sake. What new world to pray into being? We only have this one, whose rules are absolutely black and white, absolutely clear.

A woman can no more be made a priestess than a dog can be made to sing. Can't be done. Two men "marrying"? There is no such thing as a four-sided triangle!

These "arguments" aren't, of course, arguments at all: they're apodictic barks by people who have long taken for granted that the power to define resides unilaterally on their side. They're minatory growls whose purpose is to bully into submission anyone who dares to raise questions about issues that the Definers consider themselves already to have defined.

Such apodictic barks and minatory growls have been used over and over again throughout history to try (usually ineffectually, in the long run) to stop the movement of the moral arc of history in the direction of greater justice--when women marched for the right to vote, when people of color organized to strike down color lines, when people who loved each other across lines of color considered hard and fast asked for the right to marry.

Barking is, in my experience, far less convincing as an argument where serious moral issues (and matters of love, justice, and mercy) are under consideration than is respectful dialogue. I'm sorry that Mr. Grondelski appears not yet to have recognized this, as a moral theologian, just as I'm sorry that the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to prefer barking and growling rather than respectful dialogue (and love and affirmation and inclusion of those who are gay).

This does not bode well for these men's "moral" argument against marriage equality.

No comments: