I love Leah Libresco…

I love Leah Libresco… January 29, 2013

…even when she’s wrong. Here she is, being wrong about civil unions.

Why do I think she’s wrong? Well, when the Pope’s agin it, the bishops are agin it, and the logic of what the word “marriage” means is agin, I’m agin it.  For me, the insuperable question is “What is marriage?” and the answer given by advocates of gay “marriage” eventually boils down to “Marriage is whatever we say it is.”  Draining the word “marriage” of all meaning seems to me to empty gay “marriage” of all meaning too.  What it comes down to is not mutual self-donating love resulting in union and fruitfulness (which is what “marriage” means) but “Everybody has to affirm our relationship”.  It stops being about giving and starts being about a narcissistic demand for affirmation.  And very soon (beginning with things like military chaplaincies and soon rippling out to the rest of the culture) it’s going to be about legal punishments for failing to join this charade.  It’s well-meaning, as such things usually are.  But it’s going to be a classic “What could it hurt?/How was I supposed to know?” two step.

“So I bet you feel like a real fool thinking Leah Libresco is a Real Catholic now, doncha Shea?”

Well, actually, I’ve known that Leah thought this since forever, just as I’ve known that Leah did not magically get rid of her bisexual orientation when she came to faith in Christ. Indeed, we spoke about it at the time and I warned her that the Combox Inquisitors would be out in force looking for blood and asking “What? How come you are still bisexual and have problems with some of the Church’s teaching after you’ve been baptized? CINO! Fifth columnist? Infiltrator! Subversive! Celebrity convertses!  We hates it forever!”

Here’s the thing: baptism is grace, not magic. Things that trouble us about the Church’s teaching before baptism can still trouble us about the Church’s teaching after baptism. For me, it was the Mary stuff, which took me a long time to sort out. For Leah, it’s some of the Church’sexual ethos (as it is for a gazillion other people). The way to approach such things is, as far as I can see, to hash it out, think it through and work through one’s difficulties, not to accuse somebody of bad faith when it’s really pretty obvious they are somebody of good faith who are trying to think with the Church but having trouble doing it.

I think Terry Nelson over at Abbey Roads has the best approach to this

She’s not making laws or changing Church teaching.

She personally thinks civil unions are okay.  Did she say marriage?  Civil marriage maybe, but she differentiates from sacramental marriage.  That’s kind of big for a new Catholic.  There are bishops and priests who think the same way.  People make mistakes.

I’m against it.  The Church is against it.  The Pope is against it.  When head of the CDF, the Pope wrote against it.
Leah Libresco has a personal opinion on a popular social issue, a POV, contrary to what the CDF teaches.  So?


So anyway, a former atheist chick naively states she thinks secular civil unions might work for gay couples.  She’s 23 years old.  So what?  She’s not formulating Catholic teaching.  She’s not even teaching.

The young lady is a new convert/new Catholic… sort of unequally yoked.  Though they were wrong to make a celebrity out of her, a little celebrity goes a long way…

Wait and see where it ends up.

Leah is a good person, trying to think with the Church on a matter she finds difficult, all while on a unicycle on a high wire, with people shouting at her and calling her both a fool for ever becoming Catholic in the first place and a traitor for not buying it all instantly.  I’m with Terry.  She’s a new convert thinking things through.  Instead of reading her out of the Church for expressing an opinion she may yet change, perhaps a little kindness might be a good thing?  Prayer and reasoned argument, rather than bulls of excommunication seem to be a sensible approach.  Particularly since since state involvement in marriage at all is a fairly recent development and the relationship of civil marriage to sacramental marriage is fraught with complexities.  Such figures as Tom Woods and George Weigel have argued that the Church should disassociate itself from civil unions altogether.  That’s not too far from Leah’s position.  So it seems reasonable to me that somebody as bright as Leah should want to puzzle the matter out.  I think her wrong (so far). But I think her obviously honorable too.

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  • Wonderful article. I found it only after posting my own this morning: http://www.cfmpl.org/blog/2013/01/29/leah-libresco-is-wrong-about-gay-marriage-but-hopefully-close/

    I’ll have to plug yours as well.

  • Timothy

    “The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone.” – GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, The Suicide of Thought

  • Bob_the_other

    I am with you on this one. I had a whole list of issues, from women’s ordination to the inquisition to contraception. By God’s grace, they dissolved by the time of confirmation, but I can entirely sympathize with people working things out in their own (and God’s) time.

    • Pattie, RN

      Bob, I think that the problem is that unformed or error-filled Catholics can express their thoughts through the web, therby wounding or mis-leading others who are Catholic or thinking about it.

      I am not suggesting a return to horse-and-buggy and telegraphs, but such ideas were previously only discussed in person, or in a letter to another human. Now, words and thoughts can be spread almost instantly to the four winds, like feather in a tornado.

      • Bob_the_other

        Yes. After I posted the above, it occurred to me that I was blessed in not having a blog at that stage (a) in that I didn’t give a massive degree of scandal, and (b) I could have embarrassed myself and worse if I had. But on the other hand, God has mercifully turned such of my sins and disagreement with the Church before my becoming Catholic into occasions of preaching as well. As in I am able to say “I believed that and even said xyz, but little did I know…”

        • Rosemarie


          Same here, Bob.

          When I first returned to the Church, I also found it hard to accept the teachings on contraception and the male priesthood. It took a while for me to be able to accept them.

          On the one hand, I’m glad I never encountered back then the folks in the combox inquisition who are so ready to write her off as not truly Catholic. On the other, I’m also glad that I didn’t have a blog back then (I didn’t even have an Internet connection at the time!) where I could have posted all sorts of stuff that I no longer believe. Yet I understand that sometimes there is a process for converts and God is much more patient with us than some orthodox Catholics are. I pray Leah receives the grace to weather this storm and come to terms with Church teaching like I eventually did; I know very well that it’s not always easy.

  • All true, but always true for all. Fact is, there is no magical point in which Catholics must be spot on because now they should be perfect. For all we know, anyone is just working things out about anything. If we choose to focus on ‘wrong, but…’ in one case, then we should use that approach across the board. It’s not for us to say ‘this person is wrong, but it’s OK because…’ and then take someone else to the woodshed. Who’s to say who is where in their faith walk? I’m all for ‘wrong, but…’ approaches. But it should be applied evenly. For all we know, those rascally Combox Inquisitors are simply people in various stages of their faith, needing the same ‘wrong, but…’ consideration. An even approach is the best approach.

    FWIW, my advice to a new believer, especially someone in the spotlight, would be to *not* work the touchy things out in the blogosphere. Stick to other issues and let the difficult ones be done in private, with close friends and family and priests. But that’s just me.

  • Harry Piper

    It’s not a completely unheard of position – Archbishop Vincent Nichols, of Great Britain, was in favor of civil unions for a little while (I think he’s changed his views now). He may not be the best example – he has been criticized in the past for being too liberal, and for once these complaints are justified – but he wasn’t instantly excommunicated for it.

  • deiseach

    I could be convinced about civil unions (not marriage, which is a completely different thing) since we straight people demand the rights and privileges of cohabitation outside of marriage and divorce once married. So we’ve done quite sufficient to damage, downgrade and generally bash marriage about without blaming gay people. Therefore why shouldn’t Joe and Bob or Sally and Jill be able to get a piece of paper from the local council saying “These two have entered into a civil contract, dissoluble at will by either or both, and children are an optional extra if they feel like it” just like Tom and Susie can do?

    I can appreciate the argument being made that that giving same-sex attracted people the opportunity to have a recognised formal relationship might work towards stability and teaching the proper place of sex within our lives through the good that is marriage. However, I remain unconvinced that, if your country introduced nation-wide same-sex civil marriage in the morning, such groups as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (or the mindset they represent) would slink away into the shadows and disband. So that argument doesn’t work for me.

    And of course the big problem here is the confusion of terms that makes civil unions = civil marriage = same thing as traditional marriage. Nevertheless, I do think that Catholics can legitimately have disparate opinions on state civil unions (though not on marriage) without suddenly revealing the cloven hoof of apostasy 🙂

    • Kenneth

      So you recognize gays have a right to civil rights under civil law, but you’re going to withhold that unless and until their culture somehow purges itself of all extremists who make you uncomfortable. I have to assume if gays ever win decisive political power that it will be ok to invalidate or deny Christian marriage until the lot of you get Westboro Baptist and like groups to “slink away in the shadows and disband?” Is there a new edition of Catholic just war theory going around that says collective punishment is cool?

      The confusion of terms of which you speak is not something new promulgated by gays. Civil marriage has never, ever been anything more than a civil union. Christians have in their own mind overlaid their templates of traditional sacramental marriage on it and now claim to hold exclusive licensing rights over civil contract law.

      • Quibble:
        “Civil marriage has never, ever been anything more than a civil union. ”
        IIRC, I think it had some pretty religious aspects under Roman law, since paganism was kind of like an ancient version of modern Japan’s State Shinto.

        • Kenneth

          Our nation was not organized under Pax Romani or the gods of Rome or the emperor’s divine mandate. We’re based on pluralism and separation of church and state.

          • deiseach

            This comment thread is turning into “War and Peace”, but to take what you said about civil unions and civil law, Kenneth, I’d like to give an example from Irish history.

            The Cáin Lánamna , or “The Law of Couples”, is an Old Irish legal text dated to c. 700 A.D. The text describes all the recognized marriages and unions and provides information regarding the allocation of property in the event of a divorce. It’s based on Brehon Law, which is the pre-Christian law of Ireland, and although redacted during the centuries under Christian influence, it still – as civil law – recognised a variety of states that we would not call marriage. It addresses taking secondary wives (the Christian influence shows in that the term used is “adultress”) into a marriage, what about property division during divorce, and the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

            If we’re talking about varieties of marriage available, the question posed and answered is “Question: how many couples of cohabitation and procreation are there in Irish law? Answer: ten”. Yes, not just one or two, but ten. This site gives a brief rundown of them: a woman could be a chief wife under three different marriage contracts, six other types of sexual union were recognised, and a man might have concubines or mistresses, especially if he wanted many sons. There was no status of illegitimacy and sons of both kinds of union had equal rights.

            Oh, and the grounds for divorce were: “A husband had grounds for divorce if his wife was unfaithful, a thief, attempted abortion, brought shame on his honour, smothered her child or was ‘without milk through sickness.’ A wife had grounds for divorce if her husband was unfaithful, failed to provide support, spread false stories about her, was impotent, obese, homosexual, sterile, gravely indiscreet about the marriage or in holy orders. In case of infertility, both spouses might ‘go away’ to ‘seek a child’.”

            And yet, in this relic of pagan civil jurisprudence, when there is provision for “union through rape” and “union of mockery”, there is nothing about two men or two women forming a marriage – not even “This used to be a legal union but we don’t do that anymore”.

          • Kenneth,
            So when you wrote
            “Civil marriage has never, ever been anything more than a civil union. ”
            what you meant was:
            “Civil marriage [in the United States] has never, ever been anything more than a civil union. ”?

            If so, I withdraw the quibble.

            • Kenneth

              Yes, I’m not making some sweeping statement about historical precedence of what various forms of civil law had to say about marriage. My point is limited to the assertion that United States law and custom from the beginning has been secular in nature. That means laws have to have some rational and compelling reason beyond “my god says so.”

              • Not really. If religiously motivated voters elect religiously motivated politicians to pass otherwise constitutional laws that happen to be religiously motivated but not directly related to religion, that’s consistent with American law and history. E.g., if a candidate ran for President on a platform of getting God to bless us by our aiding Israel, and then got the Senate to declare war on Iran, that would be flabbergastingly stupid, but totally Constitutional. Lots of voters are religious. Lots of religiously motivated policy preferences are light years from being an establishment of religion. For an atheist, that’s annoying, I’m sure. But that’s life in a philosophically diverse continental multiculture for you. You don’t get to banish us theists from the public square by fiat. You have to make and win arguments with your fellow citizens as democratic peers.

                • President Bush’s excellent African AIDS relief effort, PEPFAR, was a product of evangelical lobbying, to give a less fanciful example of uncontroversially constitutional yet religiously motivated policy.

                  BTW: There are lots of secular anti-SSM arguments rooted in studies about kids flourishing best with a mom and a dad. You might think those studies are bunk. Fine. Nut it’s moving the goalposts to switch from “All arguments must be secular” to “All arguments must be secular and persuade me.”

              • Al

                Kenneth the u.s also was organized in a way to greatly limit government power…if by “secular” you mean government powers, secularism as government religion and government mandates…lcount me out sweetly…our founders thumbed there noses at that crap

  • Bob

    Or maybe Leah is actually just, you know, not wrong. Here’s the thing about her: she may be young. She may be new to Catholocism. But she’s also smarter than roughly 99.5 percent of all humans. And not by just a little. That doesn’t make her right, of course. But her point is simply that civil marriage does not equal sacramental marriage, which is nothing more or less than a legal framework designed to protect the individuals within the union and any future young ‘uns who happen along. The church has no business trying to dictate to Caesar how those legal strictures should be set up than Caesar does dictating how the church should determine whom to marry sacramentally.
    The interesting thing is that when Leah (reluctantly, because being smarter than us she’s really sort of bored by this whole discussion), makes these sensible points, her critics all want to report her to the Vatican or give her a pat on the head and say, “awww, those KIDS today!” What they don’t do is offer a cohesive argument for why the elements of sacramental marriage should define civil marriage.

    • victor

      “But she’s also smarter than roughly 99.5 percent of all humans. And not by just a little.”

      Hmmm… Careful. You know what they say about cults of personality.

    • If universals are more knowable than particulars (which is an incontrovertible fact, obviously), then in identifying Leah as a genius, it follows that Bob must also be smarter than at least 99.5 percent of all humans, as well. After all, he grasps the essence of being “smarter than roughly 99.5 percent of all humans,” which seems to demand participation in the class.

      Thus, I expected a little more awareness on the topic of why sacramentally recognized dimensions of marriage should color its application in the civil setting.

      • Bob

        Actually, I find her blog to be a bit too esoteric for my taste most of the time. I read it occasionally. So I don’t think I’m elevating her to cult status.
        And while the 99.5 percent remark was a bit hyperbole to make a point, I do think her intellect is fairly obvious, and one needn’t have an equal-sized brain to appreciate that. I make no claims to such a mind.
        Regardless, I think most of us on the pro gay marriage side are aware of the arguments against it. It’s just that we find them irrelevant to civil law.

    • Connie

      Intelligence and wisdom are not the same thing.

      • victor

        That’s exactly right.

    • Jon W

      Would these “civil unions” involve children? Because that is the point of marriage and the reason for its acknowledgment by the state as a relationship deserving of special dignity and rights.

      If by “civil unions” all you mean is that certain rights pertaining only to the individuals themselves (rights of inheritance or hospital visitations, etc) are recognized by the state, then I don’t think a civil union in that sense would necessarily be a bad thing.

      But if we’re involving children, then, no. Marriage is unique in its character as the kind of relationship that naturally results in children who get c0-raised by the partners in the relationship, and we do not get to deliberately experiment with how many or what kind of parents a human being gets. We evolved for millions of years as animals having a mother and a father, the joining of two genetic lineages and two distinct families. The physical and psychological presence of a male and a female individual who can be recognized by the child as “their mother” or “their father” is not something we can just decide to dispense with at our pleasure.

      (Please note this is different than dealing with a situation that is unintentionally sub-optimal. Of course kids have to deal with losing – or never having had – a parent. This is about choosing, as a matter of policy, to deprive a child of a mother or a father and take away his or her ability to identify with a particular individual as their mother or their father.)

  • Chris M

    Really good article and discussion on the subject here http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/05/two-questions-about-marriage-and-the-civil-law/

    Leah’s post is briefly touched on in the last few comments.

    • Great article. Thanks for sharing the link!

      • Chris M

        Glad you liked it! I get a lot out of the discussions and articles there.

  • SteveP

    Rats, Mark, I think I fall short of your description of a combox inquisitor. I’ll work harder.

    Leah’s post drew some interesting comments; I’m still not sure folks understand what they are asking for when they demand “equal protection.”

  • Elaine S.

    “Such figures as Tom Woods and George Weigel have argued that the Church should disassociate itself from civil unions altogether.”
    I personally would not mind if the Church simply got out of the business of performing civil marriages, since the time is probably coming when Church marriages will no longer be recognized by the State anyway because they “discriminate” against gays. If this happened, we would simply be in the same boat as Catholics in other countries where they have to have both civil and religious wedding ceremonies. And hasn’t the Church argued for decades, perhaps centuries, that marriage was a divine institution the State had no business regulating anyway? (I remember seeing that in the books on Catholic marriage that my parents had back in the ’50s.) So why even let the State regulate it, any more than we would let the State regulate baptisms, first Communions, confirmations, etc.?
    Although C.S. Lewis was an Anglican he made a similar argument in “Mere Christianity” way back during World War II — he said there should be two completely different kinds of marriage, civil and religious, with different sets of rules and expectations. He did not believe Christians were obliged to “make divorce difficult for everyone”.
    Another possibility: since secular/civil marriage no longer has any of the elements that the Church teaches are essential to marriage (permanence, fidelity, openness to life) then why not just institute civil unions for everyone and not even call the civil institution “marriage” anymore?

    • Bob_the_other

      There are problems with such a stance, although your premise is correct that secular marriage does not fulfil the criteria for “marriage.” The most important one is the rights of such a couple to adopt and even beget (via IVF/surrogacy*) children. Even if the Church were to get out of the business of civil marriage, this would still remain to be resolved. I think similarly and for similar reasons that Christians could have and still should make a determined attack on no-fault divorce. We do have positive obligations towards future generations.

      * Of course, these are in themselves grave evils, and that there is a problem with anyone resorting to them. But in case of homosexual couples, one can envisage them becoming normative ways of conceiving which is worse than the current situation.

    • The initial reasons for the state approval of marriages was that since children are created during the marital union, the state has a vested interest in having a say in who can and cannot be married, since if the parents fail to do their duty to those children it falls to the state to pick up the slack. This is why blood tests are often required of couples seeking a marriage license – to ensure that both parties are healthy and disease free. This is also why most marriage licenses require the two parties to certify that they are not directly blood related, generally requiring them to be no closer in relationship than first cousins and in some case second cousins to ensure the minimum risk of passing on a genetically inherited disease. Children are also the reason that marriage came with special state provided benefits, to help parents raise healthier children who were more likely to be a benefit to the future of the State.

  • If we’re gonna take this whole New Evangelization thing seriously, especially with young people, then we’re going to have to tolerate a lot of folks like Leah who are going to struggle with the Church’s teachings on sexuality. In fact, gay “marriage” may be the greatest mental hurdle future generations will have to clear when making their way into the Church — it’s ingrained in the culture and many will have perfectly happy and well-adjusted GLBT friends. Making a compelling case — with love and patience — will be our task.

    • “In fact, gay “marriage” may be the greatest mental hurdle future generations will have to clear when making their way into the Church.”
      That tracks with my own re-conversion experience. It’s also one of the most common objections to Catholicism among my non-Catholic friends.

      • Pattie, RN

        Exactly….since “everyone knows” that people are BORN gay, it wouldn’t be “fair” to judge them, since God is the One who “made them that way”. No different than eye color or height–just genetics! Getting this ‘FACT’ into the heads of everyone under thirty-five was step one in the process of normalising homosexual behavior.

        • Ismael

          “”Exactly….since “everyone knows” that people are BORN gay, it wouldn’t be “fair” to judge them, since God is the One who “made them that way”. No different than eye color or height–just genetics! “”

          Well even if we would accept that as a fact, i.e. “being born that way”, it has little meaning. That’s a fallacy ‘ad naturam’ as I believed as it is called, i.e. just because it is found in nature it should be supported or found ‘normal’.

          Of course homosexuals are NOT evil in any way, nor intrinsically sinful. A person in a condition where he has no choice (i.e. like being born homosexual) commits no fault, since sin follows from voluntary acts, not tendencies or state of being.

          The REAL FACT is that “abnormalities” DO occur in nature (i.e. deviations from the norm, not necessarily horrible deformities. Albinos are ‘genetic deviations’ but they are not deformed at all, nor ugly or bad in any way, just to make an example… some abnormalities are more taxing, like down syndrome or being born blind, of course). Kids who are born blind, for example have (sometimes) a genetic and ‘natural’ (in the sense that it occurs in nature)… but it is hardly ‘normal’, since blind people are lacking compared to normal people, since they lack the capacity to see.

          In that sense blindness “diminishes human nature”.
          Of course a born-blind person is not responsible for his blindness. Blind people should be treated like normal people, with respect and dignity, without excessive pity (which is un-dignifying for them).
          Also, even if someone has a debilitating physical or mental handicap it does not mean he or she is less than a person or a person with less dignity.
          At the same time blind people cannot always have the same rights as people who see. A blind person cannot be a bus driver or a pilot for Ryanair.
          Of course blind people have other rights that people who are not blind do not have. For example a blind person deserves pension or welfare, since his lack of vision might severely impair his chance to find a good job (most of which require to being able to see what you are doing…) and it is only just and fair blind people have such rights.

          I suppose by now, the most acute would have got my point: “being born a certain way” does not immediately imply that such way is the ‘good way’ of human nature, since there are things that we are born with that might diminish us (like blindness), nor that people “born that way” are evil or wicked (like blind people are not evil or wicked because of their blindness).
          At the same time a person with a certain ‘condition’ should be treated with respect and dignity, but this does not always mean that this person has always the same rights as people who do not share his condition.

          In the end, however, dialogue and respect are paramount.
          I have a few friends who are both gay and faithful Catholics who live according to the Magisterium’s teachings… and I do really admire their spiritual strength, something I can really learn from.

    • LittleAnn

      You are SO right on. So much truth to your comment.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes! Very astute! The main difficulty with a lot of arch-conservative Catholicism is that it fundamentally sees the Church as a beseiged fortress desperately fending off attackers and subversives and not as a missionary Church engaging a huge number of questions and doubts with the confidence that they can be met.

      • Chad H

        Can I say—as a celibate gay Catholic who is incredibly sympathetic to Leah’s post—this is spot on, and I hope it is the main takeaway from this discussion. Christians have acted as though secular marriage licenses are a sacred institution when it comes to LGBT people, yet an outside observer can easily see that there is nothing sacred in its application to heterosexual couples (cf. Kim Kardashian et al.). This double-standard is understandably perceived by LGBT people as nothing less than irrational homophobia, and it has done as much to drive them away from the Church as anything I can think of. It is a HUGE problem for the New Evangelization, and I would like to see more people addressing this issue instead of piling on Miss Libresco.

        • That’s always been my concern, too. The people storming the barricades to block same sex civil unions/”marriages” just don’t appear to be as concerned about, e.g., the rampant, un-Catholic divorce culture. Britney Spears was married to that one guy for, what, a week? The fact that such a mockery of marriage has been possible under our civil law for decades is a grave scandal in itself. Now, many of the people concerned about gay civil unions/”marriages” probably ARE doing great work against the divorce culture, too. But just like how those in the pro-life movement who are also deeply involved in social justice issues get ignored by the media, the media certainly makes it *appear* that all SSM opponents care about is “ick, teh gay,” instead of *all* the assaults on marriage embodied in our civil law. So whether we’re dealing with real hypocrisy, the media-fueled appearance of hypocrisy, or some combination, the fact remains that it makes us look anti-gay folks rather than pro-marriage to non-Catholic observers. Which has got to be hurtful in the extreme for gay observers, Catholic or not. That’s a staggeringly important problem.

          • Incidentally, I diagnose a lot of this problem, both in terms of our own thinking and much more in terms of the optics of Catholic opposition to SSM, as coming from the common political front in the culture wars forged (and rightly so) with our Protestant brethren as part of the politics of abortion. Because Protestants don’t generally have a problem with either divorce or contraception since the great disastrous Lambeth apostasy, their non-natural law-based, supposedly “Biblical,” fideist opposition to abortion and SSM really is rather abitrary, since it is divorced (ahem) from the necessary context of Sacred Tradition.

            Catholic opposition to SSM *and* divorce is part of a “seamless garment” on marriage issues rooted in natural law; it doesn’t doesn’t unduly emphasize same sex attraction issues. Protestant opposition, to the contrary, really does often seem to have an arbitrary “ick, teh gay” aspect that is open to snark about not obeying all the rules in Leviticus or whatever, because they don’t have any good grounding in Tradition for taking some parts of the Bible literally (e.g., St. Paul on sodomy) and others not (e.g., St. Paul on speaking in church)–they’re just winging it. I think there’s a lot of good voices in St. Blog’s trying to distance the Catholic, natural law arguments about SSM from the fideistic “culture war” arguments of our Protestant brethren. May such efforts flourish.

            • *(St. Paul on women speaking in church.) Too much typing, too fast.

            • Julia

              This! Exactly this!

          • I find myself agreeing with you yet again, Irenist. The problems with marriage as an institution go far, far deeper than whether same-sex civil marriage should be legal. Given that only a small portion of the population is gay, and only a portion of them even want to get married, I find it hard to get worked up about the issue. What does bother me is the normalization of “starter marriages,” a commercial and social focus on the wedding rather than the marriage, absurd notions of romance and romantic love, double standards, and the prevalence of divorce for non-serious reasons.

            What if we took all the energy we expend on gay civil marriage, and put it instead towards addressing those issues?

            • Well, we’re a mutual admiration society, then, since I agree with your thoughts as well–as usual.
              Glad you mentioned weddings, btw. I read somewhere that the modern emphasis on huge, glitzy weddings is overcompensation for the fact that the modern “marriage” barely means anything anymore. Back when two virgins were making a lifelong commitment to each other, they could get married in a minister’s living room or the bride’s apartment (like happens in old black & white movies) and it was plenty–because their lives were about to change forever, in a major way. Just today, I heard about a couple planning to get divorced, because she really wants to buy a house, and he wasn’t ready for that commitment. Apparently, marriage isn’t a “commitment,” but co-signing a mortgage–well, in America today, that still means something!

        • You are quite right. The casual treatment of marriage in general is just as serious as homosexual unions, but is often overlooked and goes unaddressed by those who should be speaking up. When we begin to take marriage seriously, I suspect that the issue of homosexual unions will begin to resolve itself.

          • Kenneth

            So when can we expect your movement to propose and advance some legislation to refuse civil marriage to heterosexual couples who don’t conform to traditional marriage ideals? Or is state intervention only an appropriate tool for gays?

            • I think what it comes down to is the sense that we have already lost the battles against divorce and contraception and licentiousness in general in Western culture. The battle against specifically homosexual unchastity is merely in the process of being lost. The strategy, if I understand it correctly, is to win the current battle, and then push back onto the ground you’ve previously lost.

              I can see the appeal of this strategy – I have kids, and a culture that’s hostile to Church teaching makes it harder to raise them right – but if you’re saying it’s a losing strategy, I think you’re right. Actually, a focus on culture rather than individual souls may be the biggest impediment to the true mission of the Church Militant.

    • Al

      John I hate to be the bearer of bad news…and I sympathize with your statement but there is an elephant in the room….the natural law, the teleology of male and female bodies, the design in the male and female reproduction system as it relates to the sexual act, material reality and statistics from the CDC and the efforts of science, medical and drug technologies desperately trying to keep up in bandaiding the emeging health problems associated with violations of the natural law…would well…say otherwise about your well adjusted statement…..it is a plank in the culture of death…I sympathize with pople suffering from ssa…but no more thn my daily sufferings attributable to non monogamous thoughts in my head…sexuality is not equivalent to material identity….male, black, 230 pounds and “likes to copulate with skippy peanut butter are not equivalent…….you could also add that children need to identify with fathers and mothers and those roles should hold a special place in society.

  • Brandon Jaloway

    “What it comes down to is not mutual self-donating love resulting in union and fruitfulness (which is what “marriage” means)…”

    I would just like to point out that marriage is a NATURAL institution. When we go to define a common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), we look at the thing itself in nature. We don’t make up our own definition. This is an imperfect analogy, but we should similarly not make up our own definition of marriage. The fact that marriage is NATURAL seems to have been lost in this debate. Everyone should recognize that marriage natural institution where a man and a woman pair off, become exclusive, are responsible for raising their children, and are recognized by the society around them. It has existed in every human society and it will continue to exist in every human society till the end of time.

    • keddaw

      “It has existed in every human society”

      Ah, apart from most of them, you mean?

      • Dave Pawlak

        Ancient polygamy was still a case of “one man, one woman”, in that the man was married to each woman, but the women were not married to each other.

        • keddaw

          Which part of “marriage [is a] natural institution where a man and a woman pair off, become exclusive” did you fail to read?

      • Dan

        There’s a common misconception that polygamy was the same as an “open marriage.” It wasn’t and isn’t. Instead, it’s more like legally-sanctioned bigamy, in which one man can be married to several women simultaneously, or one woman to several brothers.
        Sociology has shown that societies that practice sanctioned bigamy tend to revert to monogamous marriage when economic circumstances change. For polyandry, when the men become well-off enough to marry their own wives; for polygamy, when the majority of excluded men become powerful enough to insist that they be allowed to marry, too.

        • keddaw

          Indeed – absolutely none of which validates or backs up the false claim that Brandon originally made.

          • Dan

            How not? Man/woman pairings are “natural” in both the Aristo-Thomist and modern sense of the words: they occur everywhere, always, and they serve an important biological purpose. Polyandry occurs only when economic conditions are very poor indeed, and then only between brothers and in the context of extensive female infanticide; polygyny is a naked power play. Neither is the norm.

            • I think the fact that the correct definition of marriage is “natural” in the Aristotelian-Thomistic sense is plenty. Catholic commenters’ efforts to demonstrate that natural law has been always and everywhere followed in historical societies always seem to me to be directed at a hill not worth dying for. Take another example. Natural law tells us that infanticide is wrong. Yet it’s been practiced by the ancient Greeks and Carthaginians, the Hebrews’ ancient neighbors, and lots of other groups. Still wrong. So even if historical arguments favor keddaw’s interpretation–how is it to the point? I’d prefer to stick to the A-T arguments, myself.

              • Al

                Irene natural law does not automatically mean thst all that is found in nature let alone practiced by societies or cultures is therefore natural and therefore attributable to natural law thory. .

                • Agreed. Natural in the A-T “conducive to fulfilling one’s telos” sense has little to do with other uses of the word “natural.”

            • keddaw

              I don’t know how long you think humans have been around, but let me assure you that for the vast, vast majority of that time “economic conditions are very poor indeed” was a fact of life.

              You can take the Thomist argument and that’s a whole other discussion, but Brandon was rather clear and rather factually incorrect. The idea that recent abundance in western societies is in any way normal is simply another example of the way people constantly (mis-)interpret the Bible according to current standards throughout history. Also how they formulate some crazy just-so stories (so beloved of evo-psych) to believe that how they feel today is exactly what peoples throughout history must have felt.

              • Dan Berger

                Actually, hunter-gatherers were a fair bit better off economically than peasant farmers. And polyandry is AFAIK only practiced among the most marginal peasant-farmer communities, and rapidly disappears when conditions improve even a little.

  • gwm

    Leah is wrong because her definition of civil marriage is too weak; however, it is perfectly understandable she has that definition. At 23 years old what else would she know?

    As a culture we have worked hard for the last century or so to degrade marriage. We’ve succeeded. What’s left is not marriage. It’s serial monogamy at best. As a culture we’ve lost the moral authority to call for anything better. Given what’s left of civil marriage, i.e. a bag of goodies handed out by the state, why shouldn’t persons in same sex relationships demand their relationships be given equal treatment?

    Leah is correct to say that civil marriage != sacramental marriage, but she never explains why that means Catholics should be silent about what civil marriage is and ought to be.

    Leah is wrong because Catholics cannot just take our sacramental view of marriage and walk away from the culture to let it rot. The culture’s degraded definition of “marriage” is wrong. It is failing our citizenry. The harm done by the degraded view of marriage falls most heavily on the least. It falls on the poor and on the children. Indeed, the degraded view of marriage has created and is rapidly expanding a cadre of poor single mothers.

    Catholics should at all times and in all places be highly concerned for the preservation of the institutions that facilitate human flourishing. Catholics have much to say to our culture about what marriage and how it furthers human flourishing. What’s more, we need not equate all marriage with sacramental marriage to do so.

  • Is the Church’s teaching against same-sex civil unions something that is considered infallibly taught?

    • ivan_the_mad

      It’s something that follows from Her teachings on marriage and sexuality.

    • Not sure. But *especially* since I instinctively disagree with this Church teaching, I am very wary of looking for “loopholes” in it, instead of looking for ways to convince myself that the Church is right (as usual) and I am wrong (as usual?!). It seems to me we should be striving to think with the mind of the Church as much as possible, rather than trying to scrape into Heaven with the minimum amount of fidelity to the Magisterium.

  • Andy

    The most important part of Leah’s struggle with “gay marriage” is not her belief – it is her struggle. We are called practicing Catholics and that is because we all fall short of acting how the church teaches. It is in the struggle to understand, to follow and accept what the church teaches that we move closer to Christ. I read the comments directed at her and was appalled. The “professional Catholics” who think she and all like her should be thrown out of the church disgust me, the “non-professional Catholics” who said they agreed wholeheartedly disturb me. Neither side seemed to recognize the struggle to reconcile what seems logical (gay civil unions) with what is spiritual. It is that struggle that we become practicing Catholics, you know the sorts of people who fill the pews who believe in the real presence, who do believe in the Creed, and who struggle with their own demons.
    It is fine to think that Leah is wrong, it is another to think of her as not Catholic and not honorable. If the church is to survive it must find a way to not only embrace Leah (my daughter by the way agrees with Leah), but to also help her see why the teaching of the church is correct. Merely saying to today’s internet generation I said so, or it is natural law or any of a host of other please to authority will not convince. The church must provide a sound reasoned argument. I do not think by the way that saying “gay marriage” will destroy the institution of marriage works. Heterosexuals have done a more than thorough job of destroying it ourselves, so that claim does not ring true. We do need a new evangelization – one based on understanding where today’s youth are coming from – not to attack it, but to show how it is incompatible with following Christ.

    • deiseach

      Exactly. Leah is not saying “The Church is wrong on marriage” or calling for divorce and re-marriage in church like Call to Action or those other progressive groups. She was quite upfront that she didn’t see the point of various doctrines before her conversion. But the important thing is that she’s willing to accept and abide by those teachings.

      Now, I do think civil marriage is important and that the Church has a role in instructing society about the ends of the institution (and that it’s not about personal growth, emotional fulfilment, and What Can It Do For Me). But I think we’re getting to a point (if we haven’t got there already) when marriage as a social element is just about as degraded as it was in pre-Christian Classical societies, and it may be that we will need once more to go through the long struggle to raise marriage back up to its natural dignity and place.

      So recognising that various states can and do make rules and laws about what they do and do not recognise as domestic partnerships, outside the state of sacramental marriage, is not a huge leap towards calling for the subordination of Christianity to the Spirit of the Age.

      Where I think Leah is wrong is speaking of such arrangements as marriage, but like you say – she’s young. She doesn’t come from a background that had any notion of sacramental marriage. So we’re asking her to react instinctively about a situation that she is still absorbing intellectually. It takes time for the culture of Catholicism to soak in and become part of the fabric. Give her that time! And until she comes flat out with “The Pope is wrong”, lay off the excommunication pronouncements (though I note that most of those “So you’re not a real Catholic then, huh? Couldn’t swallow it all blindly!” comments at her place were in the nature of “gotchas!” from those arguing against religious belief in general and Catholicism in particular).

  • The Deuce

    Prayers for the young lady. I think it’s obvious that she’s approaching these matters in good faith. Even a cursory glance at her writing and her transition makes that clear.

    For me, the insuperable question is “What is marriage?” and the answer given by advocates of gay “marriage” eventually boils down to “Marriage is whatever we say it is.”

    And at the same time, they claim that everyone has an intrinsic right to marriage, and that this right is being denied to homosexuals. IOW, they are making the nonsensical claim that everyone has an intrinsic right to something that has no intrinsic definition or reality. They might as well say that everyone has an intrinsic right to gagglemorphs, where “gagglemorph” means whatever you want it to mean.

    • Pattie, RN


    • Bob

      If having a “gagglemorph” means you get preferential treatment in tax law; protections concerning the custody of your children should your partner leave you; access to a host of government benefits that others take for granted, the knowledge that your partner will have power of attorney in medical decision-making should it come to that; as well as dozens and dozens of other legal protections and preferences, then I would like one.
      This phrase — “they are making the nonsensical claim that everyone has an intrinsic right to something that has no intrinsic definition” — is particularly maddening because it begins with a definition that automatically excludes them, then chastises them for being “nonsensical” when they complain that this exclusion costs them thousands of dollars a year that straight people don’t have to pay, in additional taxation, lawyer’s fees, you name it.
      In civil law, we made a decision long ago that “marriage is whatever we say it is,” long before the gays wanted to get in on the action.

      • “In civil law, we made a decision long ago that “marriage is whatever we say it is,” long before the gays wanted to get in on the action.”
        ^This. Civil “marriage” in our no-fault divorce culture is an un-Catholic morass of consensual self-actualization for adults falsely flying under the flag of the ancient institution for the rearing of children.

  • Mike

    Good post. I was one of those who got swept off my feet let’s just say demanding she make her positions clear. She’s a very BRAVE and courageous women; let’s not forget she actually joined the RCC publicly. I am too embarassed to admit to going to Church at a party never mind on-line.

    • No, she isn’t necessarily a brave and courageous woman. Honest, goodhearted, and open yes. And perhaps she is a brave and courageous woman, but not because of this. People who risk life and limb, face death, and live under the terror of persecution and oppression because of their faith, and yet continue to live their faith boldly – they are brave and courage in terms of their faith. That Leah has chosen to work these things out publicly is her choice. With it will come all the usual things that come with discussing topics on the Internet. It’s not as if she is unaware of that. It’s her choice to do so. My advice would be keep the really tough struggles in private, but my advice is typically worth as much as an air conditioner in an igloo. But it is not brave or courageous to post things on the Internet. Annoying perhaps. It can occasionally sting, but only in written form, and by people who don’t know you or are a thousand miles from you anyway. So while I think all who say she is doing this in good faith are spot on correct, I wouldn’t call it brave or courageous.

  • Dave Pawlak

    I personally think the solution is civil partnerships to any two consenting adults, including siblings or cousins, a single parent and a particular child, two business partners, or two close friends. Why limit it to individuals involved in a sexual relationship?

    • gwm

      Why limit it to two?

      • Maiki

        So we can have a “cohabitation/roommate/commune agreement” for any group of people in a “permanent for the forseeable future” commonwealth agreement.

        I would quibble on the “why limit to two” as a caveat: I think if such an agreement is made, any number of participants (within reason, there is a limit to how many can reasonably cohabit in a normal household) can enter it simultaneously, but the number cannot be amended post-facto. Why? Because people in the agreement are in a situation of diminished consent, being financially dependent on each other. The agreement would have to be terminated and renewed, subject to any penalties or disputes similar to divorce in case of disagreement.

        Then again, I find it hard to believe most people would want such an arrangement outside of the context of raising children. And I can’t imagine why the state or companies would desire to confer benefits to communes of people other than *for* raising children. I can’t imagine undergoing divorce proceedings with a roommate. Why bother? And DINK situations are rarely tax advantageous. The only other advantage is for a way to own communal property and loans, and that is why condo associations exist.

        • Maiki

          The alternative answer to the “why limit to two” is that every pair in the group should form their own personal agreement that can be entered and dissolved independently, but the “exclusivity” clause yes/no needs to be signed at entrance into the contract.

        • Maiki

          Err, this is not to be taken as an endorsement of that sort of state of affairs. But it is a sort of “anti-polygamy” statement at best: people in a permanent economic union are often in a position of compromised consent. Extra participants might be an economic drain or even a time resource drain, but other participants might be reliant on the existing resources and can’t object or withdraw. This is why it almost universally hurts women, since women are more often bearing and raising children and thus on average more dependent.

    • Kate

      Yep. 🙂 Anything else is discrimination based on genital activity. Why should the state stick it’s nose in the bedrooms of the nation?

    • Jon W

      Because one kind of relationship makes little people. All others do not.

  • Bad MF

    I am betting that Leah will host more marriage discussions on her blog. She has been pretty creative at finding ways to “get at” the truth. That post just drew the emotional reactions out of people and the reactions to the reactions. Perhaps we should collect ourselves, “steel man” our arguments, maybe do some LARPing, and plan for another attack . She has a really great readership, among them many atheists of varying stripes. And as we try to convince her, remember there are many others who God is calling. It’s a huge opportunity. It’s hard to find places to talk about this in a civil manner.

    • leahlibresco

      If references to my favorite argument techniques were a drinking game, this comment would have put me under the table. 🙂

  • Will

    Polls show that the young are more tolerant of civil unions, gay marriage, and the like. The young will either change or these thngs will be accepted in a few years.

    • Sus

      That’s true Will. Many schools throughout the United States have instituted “No Bullying” programs. The kids are going through these programs which basically teach tolerance towards people who are different from you.

      Kids are confused when their church isn’t doesn’t support all people. They aren’t buying “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

      • Sus

        I forgot to say this. I don’t think the school’s agenda is to make kids accept gay people. It’s just a side effect that’s happened with the schools trying to prevent unkindness that goes on.

        • No, it’s the agenda to make them accept homosexuality. The various ways in which it has been done have made it clear: you can be wrong thinking, or you can accept the truth. And I’ll leave you to figure what the schools consider wrong thinking, and which the they consider the truth.

          • Sus

            This isn’t true in the schools my kids attend. The “No Bullying” programs do not mention homosexuality in any way. The programs are designed to teach kids that everyone is different and that’s okay.

            The programs were introduced to our schools as a result of the information that came out about Columbine.

            • In the schools my boys attended until a few weeks ago, homosexuality and pro-homosexual tolerance days were school-wide. There was an LGBT group openly endorsed and promoted by the school, teachers were encourage to display ‘LGBT Safe Zone’ signs in their classrooms (though not all did), special days emphasizing tolerance of people with varying non-heterosexual attraction were sponsored. And, of course, the bullying was 90% focused on bullying revolving around that one issue (though other reasons for bullying were addressed). That was our experience. That’s one reason why it’s my boys’ ‘former’ school.

              • Sus

                Our school does have a straight/gay alliance club but it has nothing to do with the “no bullying” programs. There aren’t “gay days” though.

                I think it’s good for kids to tolerate differences. Lots of adults need the same programs.

                • Tolerate differences is fine. But that’s not what was happening. Last year the school sponsored a special day in which students were supposed to wear certain colors to declare their support for LGBT Pride. It created a stir because some kids (art types I suppose) took the colors on the opposite side of the color wheel and encouraged kids to wear those instead out of protest. Which brought the school into it and forced the school to break up problems where none would have been.

  • Misty

    There’s a few of us same-sex attracted folks that are in sacremental marriages with the opposite sex that lived in kind of a bubble of shame and waged a SILENT fight with ourselves to follow the Church. It’s a battle worth waging but folks like Leah and Eve Tushnet sure do make you feel less isolated. I for one am very thankful for them, having wrestled this monster my whole life. It is comforting to see light being shown in the dark places. Intellect is a huge stumbling block to faith, when wisdom wins there is much more peace to be had. I hope more frank, loving discussions continue.

    • Wow. May God bless you in your struggle, Misty.

    • Alypius

      I second what Irenist said!

      • Misty

        Thanks to both of you! I’ll take all the blessings I can!

  • Scott W.

    The “get out of the marriage business” is a libertarian punt. The problem with this is, one has to pretend there is a neutral position out there when there isn’t. The very phrase “allowing gays to marry” is obfuscation. To toss a Zippy grenade into the mix:

    –This willful blindness manifests itself in the language used under libertarian auspices. How often do we hear the issue of enforcing contracts between sodomites-qua-sodomites phrased as “allowing gays to marry?” The passive libertarian language of “allowing” deliberately conceals the reality; for what is advocated is not mere passivity. What is advocated at the most basic level is for society to enforce certain kinds of legal contracts, even though those legal contracts are grossly immoral. The passive language “allow gays to marry” is a lie. Enforcing contracts is an activity of government (not a passivity), and it is impossible to decide what to actively enforce and what not to actively enforce without making substantive judgements about the good. Substantive judgements about the good will necessarily discriminate: every function of governance, including contract enforcement, is an authoritative discrimination of some kind resting on some substantive concept of the good. What makes liberalism (including libertarianism) different from other political views is that liberalism has to make authoritative discriminations resting in a substantive conception of the good while at the same time denying that it is doing so. What makes liberalism different is that it has to lie about itself in order to invoke its own justifying principles, that is, nondiscrimination (equality of rights) and freedom from substantive discriminating authority.

    We don’t “allow” – that is, actively enforce with police, courts, and jails – just any sort of contract whatsoever, and we shouldn’t. We also shouldn’t allow language to abused that way, because active enforcement of contracts is anything but the live-and-let-live passivity implied by the lying word “allow”.

    • Will

      I did not know that liberalism itself was wrong. Then, I did not know that liberalism and libertarianism are related. After that (or maybe before that), you lost me.

      • Dan

        Of course libertarianism is a form of liberalism; perhaps the most consistent form. Just because it aligns itself with the political right doesn’t mean it’s not liberal; as Alidair MacIntyre observed, we have right-wing liberals, centrist liberals and left-wing liberals, but only the last are called “liberal” in the popular press.
        If you look at the Republicrat and Demublican parties, each has areas in which they agree with the libertarians; they are simply not the same areas. Me, I’m a Christian Democrat in the European sense; sort of an anti-libertarian.

        • I’ve always wanted to do a version of the Nolan Chart where the “authoritarian” square is relabeled “Christian Democracy” and the Libertarian square is relabeled “Selfishness.” Turnabout’s fair play.

      • Will, around the time of the French Revolution, conservatives were in favor of throne and altar, and liberals were in favor of modern republics and middle-class commercial capitalism. Today’s “conservatives,” “liberals,” and “libertarians” are all just different sects stemming from the “liberal” side of the political battles of the eighteenth century. They all tend to agree on things like, e.g., disestablishmentarianism and anti-feudalism, that were quite “liberal” in the eighteenth century. Scott W., like a lot of Catholic traditionalists often do, is using “liberal” in the broader, more historical sense. Hope that helps. Will, around the time of the French Revolution, conservatives were in favor of throne and altar, and liberals were in favor of modern republics. Today’s “conservatives,”

    • Jon W

      Scott W’s comment is correct. This isn’t about “allowing”. We “allow” people to do whatever the heck they want to. This is about particular positive things we as a society do to and for a peculiar type of relationship.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Here’s an argument for which I have no good answer. I’d be interested in reading yours.

    We Catholics affirm that marriage is a sacrament. Is it the duty of the State to enforce the sacraments? Why stop at marriage and not enforce baptism and confession? If we don’t want the government legalizing baptism or confession, why are we so up in arms that the state enforce our definition of marriage?

    I absolutely affirm the Catholic definition of the sacrament of marriage. I’m just not sure it’s the job of the state to enforce it.

    Your thoughts … ?

    • Chris M

      Mark, see the article I posted above. It answers that argument pretty well I think.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I would say that yes, Catholics affirm that marriage is a sacrament, but it is not limited to its sacramental nature. It is the one sacrament that pre-dates the life of Christ.

      Is it the duty of the State to enforce the sacraments? </i?

      It is the law's duty to reflect the truth. In this case, your wording is slightly off. The state, in this case, is not "enforcing" the Catholic definition of marriage. It's not illegal for people to engage in same-sex relationships; that would be the enforcement of Catholic marriage.

    • gwm

      My thoughts…

      I’m absolutely certain it’s not the job of the state to enforce a Catholic view of sacramental marriage. Any arguments I make in the Public Square as to what the definition of marriage is and ought to be no more rely on the the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church than do my arguments about why abortion is wrong. If my arguments aren’t accessible and persuasive to an atheist or a buddhist etc. then they should be dismissed.

      • Kate

        Fortunately, you don’t need to reference faith at all to discuss the role of the state in sanctioning and enforcing marriage contracts, what ends that has served and serves now, and what is to be gained or lost if marriage is to be redefined. The most cogent voices in the debate in france over gay marriage have not referenced faith at all, but talked about the purpose of marriage to protect children by creating lasting families for them.

    • Brandon Jaloway

      Mark S. (not for Shea), thank you for bringing this up! This is a very important point. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is first a natural institution. So, even outside of the Catholic Church anyone could (should?) see the nature of marriage, without the help of the Church or Revelation.

      As I mentioned above, when we go to define a common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), we look at the thing itself in nature. We don’t make up our own definition. This is an imperfect analogy, but we should similarly not make up our own definition of marriage. The fact that marriage is NATURAL seems to have been lost in this debate. Everyone should recognize that marriage natural institution where a man and a woman pair off, become exclusive, are responsible for raising their children, and are recognized by the society around them. It has existed in every human society and it will continue to exist in every human society till the end of time.
      Marriage is, first of all, a HUMAN institution. It is not, first, a state institution. It is not, first, a religious institution. Talking about the religious aspect of marriage is like talking about the religious aspect of a priest. You cannot have a “religious” marriage without a “natural”, human marriage first any more than you can have a “religious” priest without having a “natural”, human man first. The religious institutions elevate (in the eyes of the Church) the marriage to a sacrament but the religious institution does not create the marriage. The state regulates the marriage but the state does not create the marriage. The marriage would exist without the religion or the state. It is a natural institution that exists in all human cultures. It is a community that is created within a community.
      Another important aspect of marriage is that the community recognizes it. Now there are and have been a myriad of human communities on earth and each community knows of marriage. The couple and their children make a small community and the larger community recognizes it. Even if they move to a new community their marriage will still be recognized as a marriage. Imagine, in the time of cavemen, a migrating couple moving from Asia across the land/ice bridge between Siberia and Alaska and meeting up with a new community in the New World. Most likely, the first thing the Native Americans would ask would be “Is this your woman?” and “Is this your husband.” And if the answers are in the affirmative, the new community would probably (unless under the sway of a corrupt leader who wanted to take the woman) respect the marriage. Even if there were such a corrupt leader, he would at least have to give some excuse for taking the woman and he would have probably have to kill her husband first before he could have her. Because every human community knows what marriage is.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        “Everyone should recognize that marriage natural institution where a man and a woman pair off, become exclusive, are responsible for raising their children, and are recognized by the society around them. It has existed in every human society and it will continue to exist in every human society till the end of time.”

        But that isn’t true.

        One could rightly say that marriage has always been between male and female in human history, but not that it has always been between one man and one woman for life. That understanding is a very recent development in human history. Many cultures have very fluid marriage contracts, concubinage, multiple spouses, etc. Quite a lot of variance. Even in the Old Testament, marriage was not seen as between one man and one woman. It is only with the Divine Revelation within the Church that we have come to understand marriage as being an unbreakable and holy bond between one man and one woman. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I’m just not sure it’s the job of the State to enforce that.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        “Most likely, the first thing the Native Americans would ask would be “Is this your woman?” and “Is this your husband.” And if the answers are in the affirmative, the new community would probably (unless under the sway of a corrupt leader who wanted to take the woman) respect the marriage. Even if there were such a corrupt leader, he would at least have to give some excuse for taking the woman and he would have probably have to kill her husband first before he could have her. Because every human community knows what marriage is.”

        And again, not entirely true in all cases. Tribes throughout the world in history have had very different understandings of marriage. There are many accounts of American explorers in the 1800s where the head of local tribes would share one of his many wives with the explorers as an expression of hospitality. Other tribes had marriage customs that would make the New England Puritans seem like libertines. There was a lot of variance amongst tribes — and this was only a little over 150 years ago.

    • Kenneth

      I’m absolutely sure it’s not the job of the state to enforce any religious sacrament or doctrine at any time, ever. People have not advanced a single plausible argument against civil marriage that does not derive directly from their sectarian religious beliefs. They have tried to repackage it a thousand different ways and raised the volume on their sales pitch, but people aren’t buying it.

      The only reason our society was willing to deny gay people so many things for so long was out of a misguided (and cynically reinforced) belief that gay people and their orientation was pathological. Most of us (and virtually ALL of Leah’s generation, are past that. That change came not by clever conspiracies by gay psychologists, or Maoist style school reeducation camps or flouride in the drinking water. It happened because gays had the courage to demand we see them as just people, and bit by bit, we let our guard and prejudices down enough to do so.

      • Kenneth

        So this puts us where we are today. Christians have every right to believe what they wish, but no right to enforce their doctrine in civil law. There is no proper secular reason to deny gays civil marriage. That leaves exactly one way to cling to the old regime of discrimination – to reverse public attitudes toward gays to what they were a generation ago. That ain’t happening, unless the over 50 crowd figures out how to clone themselves in large numbers and stop aging. Even the Boy Scouts are abandoning official and universal intolerance of gays. That’s as sure a sign as any that that thinking is done, and more than ready to come off the barbie.

        • Kate

          Umm, how is pointing out that the ONLY conceivable public interest to be gained by enforcing marriage contracts is to create stability and protection for the children that may result from sexual union (particularly the unintended children)….how is that religiously motivated again? I’ll wait while you find a way to twist that.

          For what it’s worth, I’m of the “the state should get out of the marriage business altogether since they are FAILING MISERABLY at all the intended end sof state sanctioned marriage” school of thought.

        • Dave Pawlak


          What do you think of the idea of civil partnerships which are not based on sexual relationship (siblings/cousins, parent/child, business partners, platonic friends)?

          • Kenneth

            I think it’s a sleazy and cynical ploy to try to destroy civil marriage by diluting it into meaninglessness in order to prevent gays from enjoying any of the benefits of legal recognition of a form of partnership that is fundamentally different from the casual and sibling relationships you mention. It is also beyond absurd in the practical aspects. Civil partnerships styled at all after marriage would bar compelling testimony from any of these so-called “partners”. Corporate criminals (and the violent kind) would love this. It would also cost tens to hundreds of billions in tax benefits at a time when our nation is flirting with default.

            • Dave Pawlak

              So why does a partnership have to depend on a sexual relationship, if the traditional reasons for marriage no longer apply?

              • Kenneth

                Marriage partners, whether gay or straight, share a type of intimacy and vulnerability and partnership ambitions that are qualitatively and radically different from those shared by guys who like to play online war games together or cousins who like to split rent. Marriage has protected and recognized that intimacy and vulnerability for hetero couples regardless of whether they choose or are able to reproduce, and for the many decades most people nowadays live beyond their child-bearing years. Marriage, and the stability it helps confer, has demonstrable benefits to society beyond and independently of reproduction. People in marriages tend to be healthier. They tend to be more financially stable. They tend to put down long term roots and invest themselves in the local community and maintaining property values etc. Men, at least, tend to engage in far fewer risky and antisocial and criminal endeavors then their single counterparts, at least at certain ages.

                • Jon W

                  All those side-benefits to marriage are definitely true, but that’s not why marriage is given special social recognition. Marriage is given special social recognition because raising virtuous children is hard and absolutely necessary to the continuation of society.

                  Marriage and its privileges are about children, and a man and a woman in a sexual relationship is the only kind of relationship that naturally and normally produces children. True, some marriages are sterile. But A. the reason for sterility (including whether it is temporary or permanent) is not the state’s business: laws are made for the usual case and it is not worth the state’s time to investigate each situation, and B. a man and a woman are still the kind of relationship that produces and raises children, and adopted children could still have a mother and a father to identify with.

                  That’s why second marriages between 80 year-olds are tolerated (since they’re the kind of relationship that produces children) but everyone knows that they’re kind of … cute.

                  • Kenneth

                    So the protections of civil marriage are only really privileges to be conferred upon people for playing a presumptive role of being a breeding pair of livestock for the state’s benefit. If they’re straight people and just don’t feel like living up to that duty (and deliberately render themselves sterile) , well, that’s none of anyone’s business. Since gay people are easy to police that way, it’s a legitimate intrusion from the state. I get it now.

                    • Jon W

                      Your description of human parents (and, by extension, my parents and even your own) as a “breeding pair of livestock” is incredibly offensive. Where on earth does that come from? In healthy societies they see the continuation of that society in the reproduction of the next generation as a healthy, necessary, and vital part of the activity of society, not something to be merely tolerated and disparaged by comparison with brutes.

                      As far as “policing” people who make themselves sterile, you don’t have to police gay couples for sterility. They’re sterile by definition. That’s the whole point.

                    • Kenneth

                      “Your description of human parents (and, by extension, my parents and even your own) as a “breeding pair of livestock” is incredibly offensive……”

                      Yeah, it kinda is, but it’s also the core concept many of you are promoting,. What many of you are saying, repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, is that the civil protections of marriage are a privilege to be doled out at the pleasure of the state based solely on your reproductive capacity.

                      If you don’t have that breeding potential, you’re not deserving of any protections under the law because you and your relationship have no use to the state. Apart from reproductive capacity, marriage has no other deeper or transcendent nature to it than two drinking buddies or siblings who want to split rent.

                      No matter how it’s dressed up or spun, that’s what your argument boils down to, and it very much treats people as livestock. You’re saying that legal rights and protections derive only from your utility to the state, and that utility arises from your biology.

                    • Jon W

                      But here’s the thing. Your reduction of family life and raising children to a “core” concept of “breeding potential” is false. Family life is so much better and fuller than that. Society’s interest is not just in a “breeding pair” but in a breeding pair who are also committed and loving and able to raise their children in a stable, intact, and loving home. The purpose of state support of permanent heterosexual coupling is to enable these kinds of households to be established and to survive. If we don’t, we end up with a rootless, unstable generation of kids who lack proper socialization. The place to accomplish that socialization is in an intact biological family centered on the father and the mother who had the children. So that’s what we actively promote.

                      I’m not saying that marriage has no deeper or transcendent nature to it, but I am saying that that deeper or transcendent nature is there to serve the potentially fertile relationship. That’s why the relationship exists in the first place. If we had evolved as super-bacteria who reproduce asexually then there wouldn’t be that particular kind of relationship (i.e. permanent heterosexual coupling) to have any deeper or transcendent aspects.

                      But none of this is to say that normal friendships can’t have deeper and transcendent aspects, nor involve permanence and even the establishment of mutual rights when the parties deem it necessary. But none of these involve having babies, so society has no compelling reason to regulate them and promote them in the same way.

                    • Kenneth

                      Your argument ignores the reality that gay people are having kids. LOTS of them. Many are adopted, some of whom would never have permanent parents otherwise. Some were conceived naturally with hetero partners before they figured out or admitted they were gay. Many others are conceived with IVF/surrogacy etc.

                      Whether you approve of those methods or not, these kids are here, and they will continue to come into the world through and with gay parents who take their relationships every bit as seriously as a lifetime partnership as you and your wife (if you have one) presumably do.

                      Do these kids not deserve the stability you ascribe to marriage? Do you seriously suppose that hetero people are hetero because the state grants some sort of incentive in the form of marriage? Will they suddenly develop same sex attraction and abandon child raising in droves because the state no longer mandates a natural breeding relationship in its licensing procedures? Do you think for one second that gay people will stop being gay, or stop having kids if the state withholds its approval by denying them marriage? Your position only makes sense if you have some long term plans to remove children from gay parents OR if we ignore their existence.

                    • Jon W

                      You do not have to advocate removing children from gay parents (an almost certainly disruptive and unkind thing to do) to advocate stopping any further adoptions by gay couples.

                      Do you seriously suppose that hetero people are hetero because the state grants some sort of incentive in the form of marriage?

                      Of course not. But hetero people form stable parenting relationships because the state grants them an incentive in the form of marriage. That’s why marriage has taken such a hit since we stopped giving it much of its former protection and incentives.

                      But homosexual relationships are not the same kind of relationships, and so the state has no compelling interest in interfering with them in the same way. You want to argue that any “loving couple” form just as legitimate a parental couple as any other, and this just isn’t true. We evolved for millions of years as creatures who have a mother and a father. Human psychology is not infinitely malleable, and no matter how a child is conceived, it is the kind of animal, homo sapiens, that naturally has one mother and one father. A child without one will experience a lack, even if he or she is unaware of the lack or is told that a second mother or second father is “just as good”.

                      And it is one thing to deal with tragic situations (death or rape or totally unfit parents) that occur outside of our control as a society and quite another to create these tragic situations as a matter of policy, and that is what adoption by gay parents is doing and will do. What we’re saying, as a society, by that policy, is that there is no right on the part of the child to have one mother and one father. In fact, we’re saying that the child has no right to any particular parenting situation at all.

                      (You can try to argue for limiting parental relationships to two, but the only reason for that is its superficial similarity to heterosexual parenthood. Outside of the specific biological inheritance I’ve described, there’s no compelling reason for a child whose genetic material has been created by a random combination of the DNA of five people of whatever gender and inserted into an egg through nuclear transference to have any particular number of parents. Surrogacy and sperm donorship already involve third parties, so all we await is the abandonment of “irrational” taboos and further technological development. Heather has two mommies. Why not a daddy as well? Why not three mommies? Why not four?)

                • Dave Pawlak


                  Why does sex need special protection? If marriage has all those benefits, why do we have a high divorce rate? Haven’t you known siblings or platonic friends who were very close, did practically everything together all their lives, and could have benefited from something like a civil partnership? I have. And yes, there would be those who would abuse the partnership, but abusus non tollit usum, just as Anna Nicole Smith or Madonna are not reasons to never get married.

                  • Kenneth

                    By the same token, sex is one of the smallest portions of what constitutes marital intimacy, inasmuch as it’s a very small slice of what we all do in day-to-day living (except for those of us IN the sex business, I suppose). So let’s remove that from the picture for the time being and evaluate marital partnership versus siblings or platonic relationships and see how they stack up.

                    • Kenneth

                      How many platonic friends would, say, walk away from their dream job to follow their buddy across the country or to a foreign country to help them advance their dream? How many would impoverish themselves to help their besty get through med school? How many of them will be willing to spend their days and nights caring for you for a decade if you become demented and incontinent?
                      How many platonic friends do you know would swear off involvement in any other friendships because of you (if they do, they’re stalkers, not friends). By the same token, how many siblings do you know who would avoid spending the night with another relative or having a private conversation with them because it just wouldn’t look right? How many of your casual buddies would you lock into a 30-year mortgage with, or put on your checking and credit card accounts? How many brother-sister pairs do you know who want to adopt a kid together and do the whole PTA thing as a couple?

                      We don’t extend marriage contracts to these sorts of “couples” because their relationships are nothing at all like those of married people. If they are, that doesn’t argue for domestic partnership contracts. It argues for an intervention by Dr. Phil.
                      This talking point by the anti-SSM movement is transparently not a good faith serious proposal to create a social good for platonic friends and family members. It is never raised in any serious way outside of the context of the gay marriage debate or by people outside of the partisan “save marriage” ranks. It is transparently a tactic to stick it to gay people while trying to appear eminently reasonable and compassionate. It’s a distraction tactic, the forensics equivalent of the kid who pulls a fire alarm to dodge a test he has no real answers for. It’s about that clever.

                  • Kenneth

                    (first part of this string, the spam filter was a nightmare tonight)
                    Sex does not need special protection, because it is not dependent on marital intimacy nor is marital partnership defined by that alone, or even at all in many cases. Physical intimacy itself in no way necessarily means personal intimacy in our culture. There are plenty of people who never learn (or remember) their partner’s real names or anything about them. It is often the lowest level of investment one person can make in another.

                    • Dave Pawlak

                      I’ve known friends who would go the distance for each other in a variety of ways, and have. I’ve known brothers who have purchased a house together, and a family in which the older siblings helped the younger ones through college. And, in the old days, flexible adoption arrangements were not unknown – Anne of Green Gables in real life, you could say.

                      On the flip side, I’ve known some married couples who keep most of their finances separate from each other. They either contribute to one common account for shared expenses, or divide things up like roommates.

                      My point is this: government has no interest in marriage as it has been traditionally defined. Therefore, it is best that government gets out of the marriage business together, and allow exclusive civil partnerships for any two consenting adults. If a heterosexual or homosexual couple wishes to define themselves as “partners” , “committed” or “married”, that is their business. Tax laws regarding this can be changed (more towards the doing away thereof, as far as I’m concerned). This is not a way to “prevent gays from enjoying the benefits of legal recognition” – gay couples would be as free to form and dissolve partnerships as anyone else. Would there be abuses? Sure. But marriage has endured its share of abuses over the millenia.

      • Mr. X

        “I’m absolutely sure it’s not the job of the state to enforce any religious sacrament or doctrine at any time, ever. People have not advanced a single plausible argument against civil marriage that does not derive directly from their sectarian religious beliefs.”

        I love the way gay marriage advocates keep claiming that the view of marriage held by a good 99% of human societies throughout history is clearly based on narrow sectarian dogma, whereas they themselves are just restoring marriage to its natural state uncorrupted by any prejudices or cultural conditioning. The amount of special pleading and projection required to sustain this view must be enormous.

        “The only reason our society was willing to deny gay people so many things for so long was out of a misguided (and cynically reinforced) belief that gay people and their orientation was pathological.”

        That’s odd, because I don’t remember reading any Ancient Greeks or Romans going “eew, homosexuality is ick!” Nor do I remember them having gay marriage. It’s almost as if marriage was defined as being between a man and a woman for reasons other than homophobia.

        • Kenneth

          The ancients also had neat traditions like slavery, no-prisoner warfare, revocation of civil status for rape victims and some seriously mistaken notions of medicine, physics and astronomy. The fact that a practice or thought system has long provenance doesn’t mean there’s a great infallible reason behind it. Inferring that the ancients must have been smarter than us because they happened to follow one particular practice you admire is hardly a convincing argument for public policy. I have said this for years: If there is a compelling, evidence-based, SECULAR reason sufficient to require barring civil marriage for gays, let’s hear it. We’ve been waiting a long time.

          • Jon W

            No one’s “barring” anyone from anything. All the state’s doing is choosing to recognize the kind of relationship that naturally produces children as one deserving special help, consideration, and honor from the society. People who are in other kinds of relationships don’t get that recognition because their relationships don’t produce children, so the state leaves them alone to do what they want.

          • Mr. X

            “The ancients also had neat traditions like slavery, no-prisoner warfare, revocation of civil status for rape victims and some seriously mistaken notions of medicine, physics and astronomy. The fact that a practice or thought system has long provenance doesn’t mean there’s a great infallible reason behind it. Inferring that the ancients must have been smarter than us because they happened to follow one particular practice you admire is hardly a convincing argument for public policy.”

            Straw man alert.

            ” I have said this for years: If there is a compelling, evidence-based, SECULAR reason sufficient to require barring civil marriage for gays, let’s hear it. We’ve been waiting a long time.”

            The state isn’t “barring” gays from doing anything. If two gay people want to live together and say they’re married, the state isn’t going to stop them. It’s not going to give them any special privileges either, but there’s a difference between “banning behaviour X” and “not actively rewarding behaviour X”.

    • Brandon Jaloway

      So, the Church is only asking the state to recognize and protect an important natural institution from errors (like polygamy). The Church sees how good this is for the individuals involved and for the health of the society generally. That is why she asks the state to protect it and regulate it.
      Also, you can see some of the consequences of the Church’s thinking on this when you see that marriages between non-Catholics are considered “valid” by the Church (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=141378) and even sacramental if the two non-Catholics were baptized (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=66894).

    • Brandon Jaloway

      The Church is only asking the state to recognize and protect an important natural institution from errors (like polygamy). The Church sees how good this is for the individuals involved and for the health of the society generally. That is why she asks the state to protect it and regulate it.
      Also, you can see some of the consequences of the Church’s thinking on this when you see that marriages between non-Catholics are considered “valid” by the Church (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=141378) and even sacramental if the two non-Catholics were baptized (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=66894).

    • Brandon Jaloway

      The Church is only asking the state to recognize and protect an important natural institution from errors (like polygamy). The Church sees how good this is for the individuals involved and for the health of the society generally. That is why she asks the state to protect it and regulate it.
      Also, you can see some of the consequences of the Church’s thinking on this when you see that marriages between non-Catholics are considered “valid” by the Church (Catholic Answers Forum thread 141378) and even sacramental if the two non-Catholics were baptized (Catholic Answers Forum thread 66894).

  • Thanks Mark.

    When I was 23 and recently returned to the Church/sacraments – I knew nothing about birth and babies. I wasn’t interested in women and I accepted female friends who insisted that contraception and abortion was none of my business. In fact I thought an abortion simply removed a glob of tissue and that babies were babies only when they were born. There I was – a devout, traditional Catholic revert, daily Mass goer, always found at any church that had adoration, and if anyone would have asked me, I was pro-choice. Later after a confessor told me I was in error, I became pro-life, although still not understanding what it was all about. Then in the 1980’s I watched a Swedish film on conception and birth. It actually showed the man inside the body of the woman – it followed the growth of the child from the point the sperm met the egg, the development of the child unto birth. I finally got it! I totally understood how and why artificial contraception and abortion is wrong, that it is evil, it is a sin. The moral teaching of the Church came together for me – all at once. I was in my 30’s.

    Leah is a new, young Catholic.

  • The other Will

    It is not clear to me whether the lambasting is indeed coming from “combox inquisitors”, or the atheists saying “See? We TOLD her she was CRAZY joining THEM!”

    • Mark Shea

      It’s both. Deacon JR is doing his bit to read her out of the Church.

      • Brandon Jaloway

        I hope and pray (literally) that Leah can handle Deacon JR. He does seem harsh. Also, he does not seem to understand that the Church sees marriage as a NATURAL institution. Perhaps in this case more learning and less preaching might be in order.
        However, this quote does seem important:
        The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.
        …..The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003
        So I hope and pray that soon Leah will feel herself so much a part of the Church that she feels she “cannot fail to defend these values.” I expect it won’t be long.

      • DeaconJR seems to me like his heart is very much in the right place, even if he keeps accidentally giving all Leah’s atheist readers grist for their stereotypes. The atheist “gotcha!” squad, OTOH, that keeps looking for reasons to give Leah a hard time about not becoming an Episcopalian or a Quaker instead, saddens me. Lots of them seem honestly perplexed, but a few just seem to be in it for the theist-trolling.

  • Your points would be more valid, Mark, if Miss Libresco were only entertaining slight intellectual difficulties over Church teachings on whether Christ’s Body was subject to decay or some other obscure point of doctrine. That’s not at all what this is. She said:

    “I live just over the DC-Maryland border, so I didn’t get to vote in the marriage referendum this November. But, even though I get no personal credit for the outcome, you can bet I had an Election Night dance party anyway….So, in the meanwhile, I plan to keep phonebanking for civil gay marriage and throwing rice. ”

    We’re not talking about a befuddled teenager here or an ivory tower academic cogitating over theological mysteries. This is an activist–and worse, a celebrity convert activist. To compare her situation to your own, it would be as if you came out after your conversion and announced publicly that the Blessed Virgin had lots of other children, that the Immaculate Conception was hokum, and that you were actively working to promote those viewpoints within society. Surely, Miss Libresco can not be unaware that Benedict XVI called homosexual marriage (along with abortion) “the most insidious and dangerous challenges that today confront the common good.”

    My concern is that Miss Libresco will turn out to be more of an Anne Rice Convert/Unvert who used her conversion story as a mechanism to gin up interest in her writing, cleverly keeping her Catholic friends dangling on the end of an “oh-look-I-may-change-my-mind” thread. I truly hope that is not the case for as you are well aware, celebrity converts/reverts/unverts tend to scandalize large numbers of faithful but uninformed Catholics when they turn around and attack the Church.

    And BTW, if you read her combox you will quickly see that the ones most joyously pointing out the obvious incongruities between her homosexual “marriage” stance and her putative Catholic faith are the pro-homosexual posters. The discussion over there is a confusing mass of dismay and schadenfreude. Truly disheartening.

    • Mark Shea

      And so Catholics should help kick her out the door? sheesh.

      • Leslie Fain

        No, she just needs to meet Eve Tushnet and Melinda Selmys.

        • victor

          This reply is better than mine, below. Carry on!

        • leahlibresco

          Eve’s a personal friend (she’s an alumna of my debate group).

          • Leslie Fain

            I read she is against same-sex marriage in the NYT, and maybe wrongly assumed that extended to same-sex civil unions. If she does have a different take than you do on same-sex civil unions, I think a debate between the two of you on your blog would be very interesting!

      • victor

        I think Catholics have an obligation to correct her, but correction is a two-way street.

      • No one said “Catholics should just kick her out the door.” Where do you get that?

        What we shouldn’t do is pretend that what she said is no big deal and blow it off as merely part of her growing process. That excuse can only be used once or twice before it wears thin. If she persists in proclaiming this belief publicly and trying to convince others of it, how ought we to respond, Mark?

    • Quibble:
      ” the pro-homosexual posters.”
      The Good News of chastity is the most “pro-homosexual,” liberating doctrine out there for our same-sex-attracted brethren. The Church isn’t pro-sodomy, but it’s certainly “pro-homosexual” just like it’s pro- every other child of God.

  • Leslie Fain

    One thing people who are in favor of civil unions need to consider: even in progressive Scandanavian countries where gay civil unions have been the norm for awhile, those couples are not allowed to adopt, or use technologies or surrogates to bring children into their unions and the world. Why? Because even these countries recognize that marriage is about children. My husband is an attorney, and I got this information from a legal article off Lexus/Nexus he loaned me to read. I can ask him to find it, if anyone is interested. Of course, things may have changed since this article was written. I have yet to hear a civil union advocate in the U.S. argue for it in those terms, i.e., no children. Like Mark, though, I’m agin’ it.

    • Kenneth

      Your information is way out of date. In Sweden at least, gay couples in registered partnerships/marriage are allowed to adopt, since 2003. They’ve had the same rights to artificial insemination since 2005. You will hear no civil union advocate argue for no children because it is absurd and inhuman and has no basis in any legitimate public policy concern. Gay adoption has been recognized for a long time in this country, even in some of the most conservative states.

  • Leslie Fain

    I appreciate the correction, along with the updated information. With all due respect, though, I do not believe thinking about the best interest of children is absurd or inhuman.

  • Javier

    I’m from Argentina. But these debates follow more or less the same lines in all of the western world. Western societies are no longer Christian. They have deliberately rejected Christianity. They are post-christian. Maybe Neopagan. My question is: why should we catholics be having a discussion about the civil laws of a neopagan society at all?. We wouldn’t be having this discussion in Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Israel for that matter, because we would be aware that the in those places civil legislation is alien the catholic worldview. Well, civil legislation in our neopagan societies is just as alien. Our position is a lot like that of the first christians in the Roman Empire. We could do as they did: try to save our souls, pray for all the people and their conversion, and try to be good citizens and obey the law when it doesn’t lead us into sin.

    • Kenneth

      Yes. Live and let live and keep the government out of religious disputes entirely. That just could work. That’s an idea so brilliant it’s worthy of founding a country upon! 🙂

  • ED

    [My advice would be keep the really tough struggles in private, but my advice is typically worth as much as an air conditioner in an igloo. But it is not brave or courageous to post things on the Internet.

    *Please* don’t sell your advice (or yourself) so short my friend.

    Dave G… IMO, many of your comments here @ CAEI have reflected a *very* mature, charitable, thoughtful, and reasonable Catholic approach to many difficult questions and situations.

    I’m *certain* that many young readers have benefited by your comments.

    Keep up the good work young man!

  • BobRN

    I’m sorry you’ve received so many comments attacking your support of Ms. Libresco. I don’t think such attacks are warrented. I just read through the combox on Ms. Libresco’s blog (which I’ve not read before except for maybe one article) and was happy to see it relatively free of those sort of comments, with one exception that I wasn’t sure was serious or joking.
    I do wonder about the wisdom of Ms. Libresco taking such a public position on such a heated topic on which the bishop’s have clearly taught. Whether she likes it or not, Ms. Libresco is seen as a “public Catholic” or a Catholic with a public voice (some more cynical use the term “professional Catholic”). Given that, she’s in a position, as are you, to influence people, including Catholics who are torn over or struggling with fidelity to the Church’s teaching. New Catholic or not, 23 years old or not, her assuming a public forum as a Catholic puts her in the position of influencing people. She can either influence them toward greater fidelity to Church teaching, or away from such, but she can’t pretend not to have that position in the minds of at least some, any more than Charles Barkley could famously reject the idea that he was a role model for young men. I think it more prudent for Ms. Libresco, and all Catholics who are in a position similar to hers, to defer to the Church and to keep those areas where they do not stand with the Church, even if in sincere conscience, out of a public forum, lest they, even inadvertently, lead others astray.

    • Sus

      Bob, I understand what you are saying. The flip side is that there are people who are struggling with this issue in the Catholic Church and those wanting to join the Church. Not talking about it doesn’t make the struggle go away.

      • BobRN

        Sue, thanks for your response. I didn’t intend my comment to mean “don’t talk about it.” The fact is, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and gay marriage isn’t going to be changing. So, when we talk about it, we need to be up front about that, and talk about it with the understanding that this is established teaching, and not with the false notion that, if we somehow continue to talk about it, then the Church’s teaching might change, or why I think the Church’s teaching might change, or ought to change. We need to talk about it with the understanding that the Church’s teaching will not be changing, so how can we best respond to that in a fully Catholic way. Ms. Libresco’s post talks about why she has not problem with civil unions (in other words, why she does have a problem with the Church’s teaching). This certainly isn’t going to encourage those struggling in the Church or those interested in joining the Church to consider how they can be reconciled with a teaching of the Church that isn’t going to be changing. If anything, it encourages those who think that they can disagree or dissent from Church teaching and not have to worry about it (I think so, in spite of Ms. Libresco’s stated intent to continue to consider the matter).