What would someone have to say to you to get you to break up your family?

What would someone have to say to you to get you to break up your family? August 7, 2012

For your own good at that.

This isn’t a hypothetical question.  There are plenty of examples where we think this kind of intervention is acceptable or even necessary.  In decreasing order of urgency: an abusive spouse, two people who bring out the worst in each other, a couple that’s stayed together out of inertia, the person you’re with at the beginning of a romantic comedy, etc.

But no matter how urgent the need for this conversation, most of us would recognize that this is a really tricky pitch to make to a friend.  You’ve only got a prayer of succeeding if your friend is really confident that you love them.  And you wouldn’t think less of your friend if s/he reacted badly when you brought up the topic.  Giving up love, even if it’s a sickened, unhealthy love, is a wrench.  Now hold on to that hypothetical for a second.

Patheos plays host to a wide range of religious traditions, and all the posts on Chick-fil-a prompted some cross-blog discussion about censorship by sentiment.  (Before we go on, could everyone reread that essay on privilege, s’il vous plait?)  A lot of the conservative bloggers got their hackles up once a queer Christian blogger talks about anti-gay marriage rhetoric as an assault.  Isn’t she pushing about half the country out of a discussion of marriage policy?

I don’t think it’s unreasonable of Kimberly to feel under threat.  There are a lot of out, queer people in relationships, raising children, or hoping very much to wind up in one or both of those categories.   Pro-traditional marriage movements are a threat to their relationships with the people they love most.

A lot of legal strictures have accreted around marriage because it makes the parents and the children safer.  When there are problems, it gives everyone a system with set rules to work within, so you don’t have the added stress of inventing a rulebook as you’re adjudicating your dispute.  (And here’s a tragic example of what happens when you don’t have a third party to keep everyone playing nice).

Conservative writers and friends are sometimes trying to have the “I think you should leave your wife and break up your family” conversation without acknowledging what an unusual thing that is to ask of anyone.  And, anyone who doesn’t acknowledge something is being sacrificed, even if they think the sacrifice is outweighed by the gain of something else, is going to get laughed out of the conversation.

In debate, we’re usually confident the other team is wrong, and then it’s hard to acknowledge how high the stakes feel to the other side.  We know that our high stakes are real and the consequences the other side fears are an illusion, so there’s really no trade-off at all.  That’s not what it feels like from inside. The other side thinks exactly what we do, except with the pronouns switched.  So, if you want to have this argument and think it’s urgently needed for your friend’s good, then I think you have to practice thinking about it with the roles reversed.

Imagine your friend came to you to ask you to dissolve your family.  Think about what kind of evidence they’d need to show you to convince you that your specific marriage was hurting you and your partner, or the kind of philosophical argument they’d need to make to get you to agree that marriages that looked like yours were bad for the people in them, even if the problems weren’t visible in yours yet.

No fair saying, “But my marriage isn’t hurting our family!” because that’s going to be the first line out of your friend’s mouth, too. You both firmly believe that your love strengthens you and helps you express a true and respectful regard for another person.  If you want to be able to convince your friend that she’s wrong, you need to think hard about what grounds your ostensibly right belief and what could unsettle it.

And keep in mind what an upsetting conversation this would be and what an effort it would be to not feel betrayed, even if you knew intellectually that your friend was trying to help.  Think about the tone they’d need to use to keep you from slapping them right across the face for the suggestion.

Sure, at least one of you is wrong, but, as long as there’s disagreement over which one, you need to engage as you would want to be engaged if your were wrong about something so close to your heart and your life.  My usual rule applies: give everything your opponent says the most charitable possible reading, and construct your own arguments so that they come across as well as possible under the least charitable reading.


And I’m really curious if any commenters can think of arguments or approaches that would cause them to seriously doubt the goodness of a successful-feeling relationship.  Try to think of tactics that work better if there’s actually a problem, not just generally disruptive techniques; I don’t need any amateur Iagos here.

"Logismoi (the plural of logismos) are a fairly simple concept; they are whispers from either ..."

Logismoi, Vampires, and Other Intrusive Thoughts
"I imagine I’ll do a lot more reading and pick a lot more fights over ..."

A little about the queer stuff
"You are part of a search and rescue for lost Catholics.Regular updates to the countdown ..."

I’m keynoting at a Con for ..."
"Did Jake actually say something equivalent to "being-a-causal-consequence is a universal property"? He just used ..."

A terrible consequence of consequentialism

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Your usual rule Leah, is the rule we should all be following. Thank you for this most thoughtful post. Today is the first time I am reading your blog and I am glad that Elizabeth pointed me here.

  • Robbie

    A few years ago my roommate was in the “brings out the worst in each other” relationship category (with a girl my other roommate affectionately called “SHB,” for slut-ho-b….), and my friends and I struggled with the best way to approach it. They wanted to continually remind him how evil she was, how she had cheated on him in the past and would do it again, how she will hurt him, etc. I thought we should be supportive of him, since he clearly knew our opinions and hadn’t changed anything; we might as well be non-confrontational and not alienate him. I think he knew deep down that the relationship was flawed, but had to realize it at his own pace, and there really wasn’t much we could say to change his mind until something more negatively concrete happened (which is an unfortunate circumstance when the scenarios are abusive).

    I think it’s hard for a friend to convince someone of breaking up a relationship unless that person knows it a little inside. I couldn’t think of a possible tactic someone could use to convince me to exit a loving queer relationship simply because it is with another man, because in the deepest recesses of my heart and mind, I know that what they are saying has no element of truth.

    I think the outside influence that causes me to question a decision the most is from my parents. They can pull the “we know better,” or “we’ve been in this situation and are now 30 years removed” card, and I have to consider it because they’ve been right so often! Thankfully they’ve never pulled that on me for being gay (because then I don’t think I would ever be able to trust their judgment in the future), but I think they still have the most influence on me. Also, people who have gone through the same experiences have more pull, but I don’t too many queer people will want to convince someone in a same-sex relationship that it is inherently bad.

  • Well said.

  • deiseach

    Oh, boy. What a question. I can only quote from experience: about twenty years ago, one of my cousins announced he was getting married to his then-girlfriend. Family reaction? “Oh, dear”.

    It was pretty unanimous that this was a bad idea because they were unsuited to one another as spouses (the grim joke amongst us at this news was “At least they’re getting married in a registry office so there won’t be any problem about a divorce”). Yes, that was how optimistic we were that it would work out. The attitude was “Well, his parents have given him their opinion, he wants to go ahead, what can you do? They’re legal adults and can go their own way.”

    Needless to say, it didn’t last. He’s on his second marriage and this one has worked out fine. Now, you could say that the negative family attitude helped the breakdown of the first marriage, but that wasn’t it: the family did try and support them, it was just so painfully, clearly obvious from the start that this was a bad idea. But what can you do, once you’ve expressed your reasons for believing this is a bad idea? Only experience teaches.

    • But in this case about 20 is less than 17, no?

      • deiseach

        Could even be more than twenty, because I’m dealing with always having had a bad memory for dates.

        I tell you, nothing makes you feel older faster than hearing a song you know played on the “Golden Oldies” slot and the DJ casually mentions it’s thirty years since it was released 🙂

        • What I meant is your grim joke wouldn’t make sense in Ireland more than 17 years ago. But then the cousin might have been an export anyway.

  • I don’t think a major intervention is wise. If my friend was in a gay relationship raising a child with a live-in partner. If that was apparently working just fine and all were happy. I guess I would start by talking God and about truth. Do you believe in God? Do you believe in timeless truth? Do you think God reveals such truth? Is it revealed through Jesus? Can we trust Him? Is it revealed through the bible? Can we trust it? Is it revealed through the Catholic church? Can we trust her? I would want to see where this friend gets off this train.

    If he or she stays on it then it will lead to the timeless truth that gay sex is gravely immoral. If that is the truth they arrive at then I would encourage them to live it. The actual sex is the only part that would be immoral. Living together. Parenting together. That could still be OK. It might not be OK with my friend’s partner. Lots of details in this hypothetical could go either way.

    My advice would be to narrow the question to the exact step where they leave the church’s line of reasoning. Then I would ask questions. I would try and avoid preaching. I would not come back to the topic very often. Make the church’s wisdom available to him or her but don’t keep repeating it to the point of destroying a friendship. I might try and involve another person. Pray a lot. Try and discern how much to say.

    It is really not that different from many situations I have at work. Can’t say I handle them very well. Still many people don’t live according to Catholic morals. They have sex before marriage. The divorce. They don’t go to mass. I can’t say I confront them very often. I really don’t think it would help if I did. But I do try once on a while. Often enough that people know where I stand. If they feel the pull of the spirit to change their behavior they might talk to me. Or not. I should pray for them more than I do. Not sure why the gay marriage is any different.

    • Brandon B

      Can you think of an approach that doesn’t involve converting their entire worldview?

      • That is hard. If I was to make certain portions of their thinking more Catholic my guess would be it would not be their view of sex. That is short of having a negative experience with sexual sin. Catholic thinking on sex is very counter-cultural. If you don’t see the rightness of it through making mistakes you are unlikely to see it without seeing the source of that teaching as more trustworthy than the culture. But that means converting the entire worldview. Still one could make an appeal based on reason. Something like this:

        1. Love is the highest end of man. It is worth any sacrifice.
        2. The act of raising children together is he greatest act of love. It requires constant and enduring closeness. You don’t know anything about the children you will raise except that they will resemble you and your beloved. It requires huge amounts of time, money, emotional energy, etc. So a marriage that at least desires a large family is the highest goal that most fully gives you life away in love.
        3. Sex and marriage are meant for that goal of love and are not to be used in ways not consistent with that goal. Sex is a holy thing and not a play thing. It penetrates deep into our hearts and gives us pains and pleasures that we do not understand. If we are not careful it can stain our soul and destroy our self worth. If we keep out eyes on the prize of giving ourselves to our spouse and to our children then we will be OK.
        4. This means many things our culture finds OK actually need to be avoided. Premarital sex, pornography, masturbation, contraception, divorce, and gay sex. They are taking the desires that are meant to drive us to spousal love and fill them with something else.

        The trouble is modern man waffles on some of the points. If you wish to avoid the conclusions you can. You don’t need to believe in God but you need some sense of what philosophers call teleology. That is a meaning and purpose to things that is kind of intuitive to us but we have been trained to question it.

  • deiseach

    Okay, my problem is that I don’t see or feel the force of the argument that upholding tratditional marriage is going to break up other families. I don’t see the Morality Police going around to households to check marriage lines and drag one or the other person away if they are (a) cohabiting but not married (b) on their second, third or even greater number marriage (c) both of the same gender – and that last is the one we’re talking about here, isn’t it?

    Now, the nearest to that would be the Proposition 8 thing in California, where as near as I can figure it, same-gender marriage was legalised by a court decision, it was permitted for a very short period, then overturned by popular plebiscite. That was a mess because of how it came about, and although I can have some sympathy for people who married when it was briefly legal and then found themselves unmarried again, that’s the price you pay for activism through the courts when the element being decided upon is broadly unpopular and people feel that their democratic expression of deciding upon the matter by vote or referendum is being denied.

    The thing is, I don’t see in what way this breaks up families; unless the argument is that by not having the same legal rights, protections and things such as tax breaks, a family cannot financially afford to hold together and the partners will split up and have to decide who gets custody of the children, etc. But this argument also holds true for heterosexual cohabiting couples, and given that there are more rights being accorded outside of marriage, I want to know more about this.

    I’m hard-hearted, so appeals to “My emotions are bruised” don’t convince me. I know this is a flaw. I know I need to have my heart of stone broken and replaced by a heart of flesh. But I don’t see why anyone who is living with a lover today is going to be forced to leave their house tomorrow just because the vote on permitting a change that was never there before goes the ‘wrong’ way.

    • Erick

      I agree with deiseach. The idea that families are being asked to break up if the law upholds a traditional definition of marriage is a fallacy.

      The fact is that today, most benefits that people believe you get via marriage are available universally. If you want your non-traditional partner to be your beneficiary/fiduciary/attorney/etc… well, all you need to do is fill out the proper forms. I used to work for an estate law firm that specialized in these things.

    • I might be mistaken, but I don’t even remember “you must move out” being a part of the marriage debate.

  • Ted Seeber

    I am seriously anti-divorce. To the point that I *really* don’t understand why gays want the farce that civil marriage in America has turned into; and they are excluded *by biology* from my Catholic definition of sacramental marriage (I’m sorry, I can’t do anything about your same sex attraction and emotions that are logically inconsistent with my understanding of biology).

    Having said that, I have often said that in the case of spousal abuse, it is the abused’s *duty* towards their spouse and children to commit the abusing spouse to some form of mental institution. That behavior is so outside the pale that it means the person you took vows to support in sickness and in health is so sick that you cannot take care of them on your own, you MUST get help.

    And sometimes that requires running away. Far away. Especially when the abusing spouse is privileged enough to control the court system in your local jurisdiction.

    For that reason I am trying to get my new Knights of Columbus Council to do a few breakfasts in the next year to support Yolanda House in Portland getting an ultrasound machine. Not only do I believe it will prevent abortion, but more importantly it will provide documentary evidence that battered women can use in court to get their abusers put away for treatment, or just put away period (after all, an ultrasound machine does a lot more than just detect pregnancies- a good one can be used for diagnosis of injury).

    I would also support “Love is not love when it is not willing to sacrifice”- and that includes contracepting heterosexual couples as well as homosexual couples. But that’s a far more philosophical and theological viewpoint based on the intent to use another person to satisfy the mortal sin of lust, something that a sacramental marriage is actually supposed to be against.

    • deiseach

      The one good argument for same-sex marriage is that heterosexuals have already hollowed out traditional marriage into a shell of what it was, so how much more harm could be done?

      I’m more or less of the opinion “Civil unions for all!” since I don’t think modern marriage is in any great shape, and recognising that the entity as it currently exists is being pulled asunder piecemeal as people want more rights and less responsibilities is long overdue.

      I do think same-sex marriage is going to come along eventually, though looking at America it will be on a state-by-state basis and some nasty fights, and there will probably be differences between what rights are available in state X as against state Y, until the first few cases go to the Supreme Court and it gets hammered out.

      Over here in Ireland, as I’ve mentioned before, the idea of passing an act to permit same-sex marriage (we already have civil unions) is about as controversial as the “Free Sweets and Ice-Cream for Everybody Act”.

      I’m a cynic; I expect this to happen. I also expect marriage to get even more kicked-about and battered, and I await with grim amusement the first “But how were we to know this would happen?” when the first messy divorces/custody battles happen.

      • Here here! Let’s move the entire mess into contract law and be done with it!

      • Ted Seeber

        I resemble the above remark quite strongly. Civil unions for all would solve the constitutional problem at least. Get your government out of my church!

  • Passerby

    I might consider leaving my partner if
    a) someone gave me evidence they were cheating on me or were violent or planning to be violent towards me or someone else
    b) there was evidence that staying together would damage me or them.

    The evidence would have to be reliable and objective- videos of my partner cheating, violent threats in their handwriting, testamony from many idependent eyewitnesses that didn’t have a previous grudge against my partner or me; that sort of thing.

    The problem with the evidence against gay marriage is that it’s not reliable. It cannot be proven that the bible is the word of God. Many other books or writings make the same claim. The bible itself is scientifically inaccurate. Many of the stories in it, like the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, probably didn’t happen.

    Even if the bible were the word of God, there’s a problem with how to interpret it. I have seen both pro-gay and anti-gay intepretations. Each claimed to read the bible in good faith. Since God never makes his preferences known in any objective manner, how is anyone supposed to choose?

    As for the scientific evidence, it’s mostly shown that gay marriage is not harmful. There’ve been no obvious problems in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden where gay marriage is legal. Certainly there’s no sign that it will kill you or cause serious harm which is the kind of level of threat I imagine gay people would need to be convinced of in order to leave their partners.

    • Ted Seeber

      I am unaware of any psychology I can accept under the rules of skepticism as scientific evidence at all. Psychology is not a hard science, it just isn’t- and bias confirmation affects *everything* psychology has to say on this subject, both pro and con.

      And the Catholic objection to gay marriage doesn’t come from the Bible, but from basic biology in a bi-gendered species, so you can forget about using your arguments against some imaginary interpretation of the Bible with Catholics.

      • Passerby

        If you are unaware then I’d suggest reading a few psychology books. If the findings of psychology are not ‘hard science’ enough for you, I can’t imagine what would be- certainly not Catholicism, which is based on personal feelings and the words of people who claim to have authority but have no way of proving that authority.

        Marriage is a social institution and not a biological one. It is not a necessity, biologically, for anyone to be married, whatever gender they are. Saying that gender should dictate who is allowed to partake in the social institution of marriage and recieve its legal benefits is a value judgement based on a certain interpretation of the bible and/or the Catholic priest caste, neither of which can be shown objectively to be a reliable authority.

        • deiseach

          Then why are we asking the State to recognise or interfere in personal emotional relationships? Much of the arguing I see revolves around things like “I want the same rights as he/she has” , e.g. “I want X to be able to make decisions about my medical care”.

          So why should that be restricted to married couples (gay or straight)? Why shouldn’t I – as an unmarried, childless woman – be able to register a domestic partnership or the likes with one of my siblings so that, for instance, my brother (whose job comes with a good company health insurance plan, not a common thing in Ireland) can get me put on as a dependant and save me having to pay a high premium for a private health insurance plan?

          What I don’t get are the simultaneous arguments about “Keep the state out of our bedrooms!” and “It’s nobody else’s business what I do in my private life!” while at the same time “I want state recognition that me and him/her are in a committed relationship!”

          What is the purpose of marriage? What are its aims? If, as seems to be the case, it has changed from the establishment of a household where labour is divided, services are exchanged, children are born and raised to a personal relationship that is about emotional fulfilment and development (children are not necessarily a part of marriage anymore, no-fault divorce being acceptable for reasons of felt needs not being met or falling in love with another, more appealing partner), then why should the state make any rules or recognition of the particular arrangement two non-blood related persons enter into for sexual and emotional satisfaction (outside of prostitution, and there are arguments over legalising that, too)?

          Until we can disentangle all the wishes, desires, and confusion about what we expect/need/want from marriage, and what role it plays in modern society, messing around with things doesn’t seem to me to be a good idea.

          • Passerby

            The difference would be that you are not in a loving sexual relationship with your brother. Marriage is an opportunity for two people to celebrate their (sexual) love for each other in front of their family and friends, and for the state to witness it. It’s a way for them to make their commitment public.
            Why should the state aknowledge a commitment like that? Because for most people, their spouse becomes the most important relationship in their lives. It is good to have a way to celebrate that, it makes people happy. It’s also a convenient way to get certain rights and responsibilities that the couple have down on paper and recognised legally. Maybe all these rights could be given some other way, but why, when marriage works pretty well?
            But the state must give rights to all people equally. For gay people to be denied the right to marry the one they love and be recognized by the state as married, when heterosexual people have that right, is an injustice.

        • Ted Seeber

          Catholicism has different rules than science, but there is a reason why it took Catholic Europe to develop the scientific method. The assumptions are different, but the rules are the same. Some types of evidence are designated as * definitions fact* (aka dogmas), other types as logical fact (Doctrine), and others as merely mythological stories to teach dogma and doctrine (discipline).

          Marriage is not a social institution, it is specifically a religious institution. And therefore, the obvious way out is *get your government out of my church* and civil unions for all.

          • Passerby

            Actually the roots of the scientific method were laid in pagan greece, chemistry and mathematics began in islamic arabia and many scientific advances were made in protestant England and the secular French republic so I disagree. I’d say the Catholic Church was as much a hiderance as a help to science (see:gallileo) though of course it’s keen to take credit where it can now. You’ll note that science now flourishesin many areas of the world, no matter what the dominant religion.

            Marriage does not belong to any particular religion. People were getting married all over the world before Jesus was even born. It’s a near-universal social institution.

            Your church can define marriage however it wants…for its parishoners. So can the Mosque and the Hindu temple down the road. But the State must be impartial to relgion and extend rights to all citizens equally.

  • Ian

    This is a really interesting way of reframing the debate, but I’m don’t know how far it can advance or hurt either side. Saying “I don’t think the state should recognize, support, subsidize or otherwise treat your adult sexual relationship as a marriage” is certainly not the same as saying “I think the state should prevent you from having your adult sexual relationship.” I suppose there’s more at stake in the 6 states where the definition of marriage has been changed and trying to make a reversal would mean, at least, stripping away legal protections that had been previously granted. But even then, that shouldn’t be the end for the relationship.

    So isn’t the hypothetical situation just about having a moral disagreement with the way a friend or loved one is living his or life? The fact that the disagreement is about a relationship makes it complicated and emotional but shouldn’t actually change the standards for doing moral reasoning about your life. For me, I’d want to hear some variation on “Church teaching makes it clear that the relationship you’re in is not OK” or “the wisdom of the Church makes me think that your choices are imprudent.” And, even if they weren’t able to use those terms, I would hopefully looking for ways to integrate and interpret their approach to match the terms that I find acceptable, e.g. asking “Is this person unwittingly describing the relevance of natural law to my situation in a way that I hadn’t thought of?” With secular friends, I’d try and find some common ground, some shared terms, and start from there, hoping that they’d do the same kind of charitable interpretation and integration work if they have real moral principles to work with. If, that is, it was my place to say anything at all.

    • Emily

      Saying “I don’t think the state should recognize, support, subsidize or otherwise treat your adult sexual relationship as a marriage” is certainly not the same as saying “I think the state should prevent you from having your adult sexual relationship.”

      No, it’s not the same. But if you think of it in terms of Leah’s recommendations you can still see why it’s deeply upsetting.

      I don’t know if you’re married, or want to be. But imagine you are, and your marriage is moral according to your understanding, happy, and fills you with hope for your family’s future. How would you feel if people consistently talked about it as an “adult sexual relationship” rather than in family-oriented terms, even when you would prefer to talk about it as the foundation of your family life? How would you feel if at your parents’ 50th anniversary, everyone got up and toasted Mom and Dad’s “committed adult sexual relationship”?

      Having your family not recognized as such in the law isn’t the same as having your family forcibly broken apart, that’s true. But can you see why the former might feel degrading?

      • And why should someone’s bruised feelings matter in deciding what marriage is or why it should be recognized by the state? By that logic, the patriarch on Sister Wives should have all of his marriages recognized too, so as not to hurt his feelings when it’s pointed out that marriage is only between one man and ONE woman.

        • leahlibresco

          Bruised feelings don’t end the debate, but recognizing how high the stakes are for the other side might lead the pro-trad marriage side to a rhetoric that is kinder and more persuasive. If the state chose to withdraw its recognition of any subtype of marriage, we might decide it was legal (if a bad idea), but it would be strange to argue it had no emotional or practical repercussions for the annulled families.

          • deiseach

            But see, I don’t see how it annuls families, precisely because dammit, your kids are your kids and your parents are your parents regardless of whether they’re married, divorced, separated, or whatever.

            I do recognise how the parents may feel more validated by having their partner recognised as their spouse, but I do not see how “my son/my mother/my father/my daughter” is annulled by saying “Not husband and husband/wife and wife”.

            I would counter with well, what about the cases where beforehand, there are all the tidy arrangements about “you be the sperm donor but we’re the parents and you have nothing to do with the child” (that often end up not so tidy when the baby is born)? That, to me, is more of an annulment of real and existing relationships than whether or not you have a civil union or a marriage ceremony to legally enlist your arrangement for tax purposes etc.

          • deiseach

            It’s really, really important to you that your relationship is a marriage, not just cohabitation, domestic partnership, or civil union? Then to hell with the law! Okay, here’s a form of “do-it-yourself” marriage from Tolkien’s “Laws and Customs of the Eldar” (which is very heavily influenced by Catholic theology as to who are the ministers of the sacrament, what is required, and what is the essence, matter and form of the contract) :

            “But these ceremonies were not rites necessary to marriage; they were only a gracious mode by which the love of the parents was manifested, and the union was recognized which would join not only the betrothed but their two houses together. It was the act of bodily union that achieved marriage, and after which the indissoluble bond was complete. In happy days and times of peace it was held ungracious and contemptuous of kin to forgo the ceremonies, but it was at all times lawful for any of the Eldar, both bein unwed, to marry thus of free consent on to another without ceremony or witness (save blessings exhanged and the naming of the Name); and the union so joined was alike indissoluble. In days of old, in times of trouble, in flight and exile and wandering, such marriages were often made.”

            There you go: if you are both of age, free to marry, and it is mutual consent unforced and not under duress, then stand up (either before witnesses or even on your own), exchange some form of vow, oath or binding contract, give one another rings if you like.

            Use the full resource of what law is in your domicile; if civil union, go for that. Change your names to be either Ms and Ms Smith, or Ms and Ms Smith-Jones, or whatever you like. Heck, even insist on being called, and have all your correspondence in the style of, “Mrs” not “Ms”. Refer to one another as “spouses” and/or “my husband/my wife”. Live, act and behave as married people, even if it’s not legal yet where you live.

            If you are so darn determined to be married, and you need to be, then what is stopping you? Not merely the legal status, because laws do not give rights where they do not exist or take them away where they already exist.

      • Ian

        Sure, I can see how it would feel bad. (And, believe or not, I can sympathize with those feelings.) I just chose those words in order to describe the situation in strictly technical terms without ceding any ground in the language game. I suppose you could call it “courtroom language,” and I don’t think I’d use it in an intimate or emotional conversation. But your point is that even when debating at the highest, most public levels, the language used has an effect on people’s feelings because of their experiences and situations. I’m sure it does, and I agree that being respectful is important. If there’s a term out there that’s as clear and simple as ‘adult sexual relationship’ for describing the kinds of relationships being contested that is somehow nicer but doesn’t add in an element of question-begging, I’d be happy to use it.

        As for the specific examples, I’d say yeah: it’d be pretty darn hard to be completely out of sync with society on one’s understanding of sexuality. Where I live, I actually get to experience that first hand. It’s forbidden to express the belief that marriage is a unique institution that unites the biological, social, and legal needs of children and that it is recognized by the state, not created by it. The social stigma and consequences of being unconvinced by the marriage revisionists are very real and, at times, emotionally difficult and even degrading. Imagine hearing yourself described as a bigot almost every day by people who have no interest in engaging in rational argument about your position!

        But neither example of emotional anguish actually affects the arguments. It’s important context, for sure, but I don’t see it advancing one side or the other except through manipulation or special pleading. And who wants that? (Well, see, I suspect the win-at-any-cost revisionists do, but that’s for another conversation.)

      • deiseach

        But Emily, the custom is coming into being of referring not to spouses but to partners, so as not to offend anyone who may not be married but who is cohabiting. It’s much more likely that you and your spouse (whether same- or opposite-sex) will be addressed as, or referred to, as “your partner” than “your husband/wife”.

        I speak from working in a clerical capacity in local education, where the rule is to address letters home to “parents/guardians” rather than parents alone, and to address the letters with “Ms Murphy” rather than “Mrs Murphy”, even if we know Mrs Murphy is the married or widowed mother of Johnny Murphy – precisely because of protests over hurt feelings about “Why are you saying that me living with my third boyfriend (and who may either be kicked out by me or kick me out next week ) who is not the father of any of my children, and to none of whose fathers I have ever been married, isn’t just the same as that couple who have been married only to each other for the past fifteen years and whose children were all born within wedlock of the same parents? I protest this unfair discrimination!”

        I’ve mentioned the woman who kept changing her children’s surnames depending on who she was living with at the time, and reverting to her maiden name in between, and how confusing that was for us in the office (never mind what effect it would have on her kids). She got highly, vocally, and violently offended if you addressed a letter home with the wrong surname. Experiences like that have hardened me to appeals about “But think how my feelings are hurt!”

  • Tom

    I wouldn’t try to convince them of anything – because that never works. I would: listen to them, ask them questions, and perhaps in the course of explaining everything to me, they would figure out that a certain relationship wasn’t in their best interest. I tried once to tell my best friend that he was making a “rose colored glasses” mistake and I had a million examples to prove my point that she wasn’t good for him. Of course I had made that mistake before too so who was I to point out objective reality (or is that “to judge”). Anyway he became furious and it seriously damaged our friendship even long after they broke up.

    I would like to say that it’s not fair to blur the lines between “what I think a government policy should be to encourage the best interests of society” with “what would you tell your friend who comes out of the closet one day”. I believe as a matter of policy that illegal immigrants are here illegally and that there should be an enforced immigration policy for our Nation. That doesn’t translate too – “I believe people that choose to come to America illegally are inherently evil people that have no reasons for trying to come here and I am unsympathetic to them in every way”. I can at the very least understand their reasons and maybe try to help them – but the doesn’t suddenly mean my stance is “this law makes no sense get rid of it”

  • Interesting. After all this time of trying to challenge my pro-traditional-marriage friends to give me examples of how gay partnerships hurt their personal marriage and family relationships, I’m being asked to believe that support for traditional marriage does damage to the relationships of gay partners and families. I don’t see it either way. In no way does granting all the legal privileges (w/attendant rights and duties) of civil partnership, without granting that partnership the name marriage or according it religious status in traditions that do not do so, mean asking anyone to break up his or her relationship. Whether I want to discuss, on a personal level, my Church’s teachings about sexuality with a friend who is in a relationship that violates them is entirely a matter of (a) how close I am to the friend, (2) whether or not he or she ostensibly shares my faith, and (3) how much I have deluded myself I am responsible for the state of another person’s soul. I suspect I would pray and leave that to my friend and his/her family and God. If gay partnerships were outlawed that would be one thing, but that is not the case and has not been put forward as the case here in the US, where I can do anything about it, so I there is no sense other than the personal (and even that rarely advisable) in which anyone would ask a friend to consider breaking up a relationship. That’s a hypothetical meant to reframe, and unfairly so, a discussion of enlarging a privilege to make it one of refusing a right.

  • Doragoon

    First thing you have to do is convince the person that just becouse something feels good doesn’t mean that it’s good for them. Second, you must convince them that they need to change even though they think their actions arn’t hurting anyone else.
    With my family history, I’m very sensative to the notion of enabling self destructive behavior.

    To get into more specifics i’d need to know more about the relationship. If it’s an abusive relationship that’s unhealthy regardless, so I assume we’re not talking about that. If the relationship is the same as a hetrosexual relationship that means each person has a different gender (but same sex), which means it’s actualy a streight relationship in disguise. If the relationship is non-abusive but different that means it’s different and should be treated as different and not the same as a hetrosexual relationship.

  • @Leah, most of the commenters here seem to assume that this post is about same-sex marriage, and that you are drawing an analogy between opposing same-sex marriage and trying to break up a family/marriage.

    My take on the beginning of your post was more straightforward: what constitutes just cause for an intervention, and what would be a productive way to go about it? But your links to Sindeloke and especially to Kimberly definitely inclined me to think of this in terms of same-sex marriage as a potential excuse (I don’t read you as considering it a valid justification) for intervening in someone else’s relationship.

    I hate arguing with/about/against straw men. Could you please clarify whether you intended to present holding a “you’ve got to break up” intervention as an analogy for opposing same-sex marriage?

    • leahlibresco

      Yes. I was trying to explain why Kimberly reacted so strongly and emphasize that, whether or not the pro-trad marriage folks are right, they need to think in terms of why it’s necessary to break up a family at least some of the time if they want to be convincing.

      • Then I think the best response would be deiseach’s and Erick’s above — the idea that families are being asked to break up if the law upholds a traditional definition of marriage is a fallacy.

        • Ryan

          That isn’t really the best response, because Leah didn’t purport this to be an argument for homosexual marriage. She stated pretty clearly that it is a way for us all to understand why we shouldn’t be surprised at how strong the reactions are to it from one side of the argument. It is a terrible response to treat a non-argument as an argument in itself.
          In brief, you and they are missing the point.

          • She stated pretty clearly that it is a way for us all to understand why we shouldn’t be surprised at how strong the reactions are to it from one side of the argument.

            If that’s the case, then the problem is that – intentionally or not – the defense of traditional marriage has been miscommunicated. If I explained that some people who are against gay marriage get very angry because they think their children will be forced to become homosexual, the proper response isn’t “Oh, well, I can see why they’re so upset then.” It’s, “Wow, well, those people have a pretty poor understanding of what gay marriage advocates are after.”

          • @Crude –

            Actually, I think the response should be *both* “I can see why you’re upset then,” *and* “Your understanding is not correct.” Moreover, “Your understanding is not correct” is not the way a correction should be presented.

            An old Thomistic byword: “Everything is received according to the mode of the receiver,” that is, everyone hears what you or I say based on their experience and understanding, not based on our intention – and that is not something that any of us can change. It is right and proper for each of us to have a unique point of view, even if that means we will always have misunderstandings.

            So, in order to communicate what Catholics (just to speak for myself) mean by “marriage,” I need to understand at least a little bit what others hear when I say “marriage” (and “sex” and “love” and “relationship” and so on). I also need to be very clear about what my assumptions are, and all the nuances of meaning that I am trying to convey.

            At the same time, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask those who disagree with me to examine their own assumptions, and to try to understand also where I am coming from. I think that a mutual attempt (or at least intention) to understand one another is a prerequisite to dialogue – to say nothing of debate. We cannot even disagree if we aren’t yet speaking (at least roughly) the same language. This applies to emotional meanings as well as intellectual ones.

          • Moreover, “Your understanding is not correct” is not the way a correction should be presented.

            Why not?

            An old Thomistic byword: “Everything is received according to the mode of the receiver,” that is, everyone hears what you or I say based on their experience and understanding, not based on our intention – and that is not something that any of us can change.

            I disagree – at least, it’s not so simple. The fact is, this debate – and really, many social or political debates – are marred by quite a lot of intentional obfuscation and exaggeration, or culpable misunderstanding. Sometimes, people caricature their opponents, and seek out and promote those same caricatures. Actually, it’s more than “sometimes”.

            Yes, there’s always the possibility of misunderstanding, but frankly – after years discussing this subject – I no longer automatically assume that, when someone is presenting a caricature of their opponents argument, that this is the stuff of innocent mistake. Really, these positions aren’t all that obscure or difficult to find out about or read up on. Some culpability does come into play when a person makes errors that are easily corrected, or cooks their response with too much spin.

          • Why not? Because my opponent is not likely to be able to hear what I mean through those words. In an ideal world, maybe we could all be blunt as billy clubs and always reach greater understanding. But the fact is that many people have been deeply hurt, harmed even, and that much trust has been broken.

            Our obligation is always to persons, not to principles. I don’t know if you are Catholic or Christian or not, but as a Christian I recall the commandment is to love, not to convince the other person. I cannot control how another understands me, or how they feel about what I say; but I can control what I say, and what I do to back up what I say. I can anticipate that certain words will provoke pain or resentment or misunderstanding, and I can choose to try more accessible ways of making my point. I myself am pretty dense, so I often fail at this. But I’m obliged to do all in my power to present the truth in love, in a way that really communicates respect and care for the person I’m speaking with.

            And if that means being blindsided by someone else’s bad faith or lies now and again, well, I rely on the ancient wisdom that it is better to suffer evil than to commit it. I’d rather lose an argument than lose my soul. (Or, at least, I should rather that.)

          • Why not? Because my opponent is not likely to be able to hear what I mean through those words.

            My opponent needs to be open to those words to begin with – and frankly, many times that’s not the case. Instead it’s a game for people – playing to the crowds. Which is where the intentional obfuscation and misunderstanding comes into play. This is not a hypothetical – this is very real. It happens. Ignoring it is silly.

            Like I said, I’ve just seen this happen too many times to think “well gosh, maybe this person who is very charged up about this issue is honestly misunderstanding me or the opposing side” is the default view.

            But the fact is that many people have been deeply hurt, harmed even, and that much trust has been broken.

            I disagree with the extent and scope of this. I think many people have decided that playing themselves up as victims is the surest way to win support – and at this point they’re almost as populous as the actual victims. And that’s before we really examine what’s meant by “victim” here. It’s complicated.

            I’m leery of any advice which amounts to “moderate your language, and don’t expect anyone else to, because they’re very emotional about this and it’s your duty to act like you’re very sorry for everything”. We live in a country where multiple city officials just threatened to use their power to snuff out a business because they disagreed with said business’ political views. We’re not dealing with pure victims anymore.

            Our obligation is always to persons, not to principles. I don’t know if you are Catholic or Christian or not, but as a Christian I recall the commandment is to love, not to convince the other person.

            No, I’m pretty sure that’s not the whole story. Even in the gospels, persuading people was considered pretty important (naturally, in an ethical way) – love was there too, but the accent is on the “too”. To use a favorite example of mine, Christ didn’t speak with delicate, tender love with everyone, unless it’s possible to do that with a whip. Christ didn’t command His disciples to go forth and love – preaching the gospel was central.

            And this topic goes beyond religious concerns.

            But I’m obliged to do all in my power to present the truth in love, in a way that really communicates respect and care for the person I’m speaking with.

            Even if it means calling them out for a misrepresentation? Or don’t you love them enough to confront them when it’s necessary?

            Would you act with love if it meant someone despising you? Or do you truly think that no one would ever react poorly to an act of love? Or that acts of love are always non-confrontational?

            And if that means being blindsided by someone else’s bad faith or lies now and again, well, I rely on the ancient wisdom that it is better to suffer evil than to commit it.

            You’re going to have to tell me what the ancient wisdom you’re drawing on is, such that firmly but civilly speaking the truth is viewed as committing evil that risks your soul. I’ve heard this too many times, from too many Christians – sometimes it’s valid. Many times, it looks suspiciously like a desire to never make waves, or a fear of looking like the aggressor.

            If you think I’ve been committing evil by merely being direct and to the point, I’m sorry, but we have some very different understandings of the word ‘evil’. By the way – I see you’ll insinuate I’m doing evil. Will you do the same with proponents of gay marriage? With defenders of the more disreputable aspects of gay culture (bath-houses come to mind)? Or do you reserve those insinuations for a very narrow variety of people?

          • You’re going to have to tell me what the ancient wisdom you’re drawing on is, such that firmly but civilly speaking the truth is viewed as committing evil that risks your soul.

            First, sources: I’m referring to a tradition that goes back at least as far as Plato, represented at least in the Gorgias and the Republic. There is some biblical witness to a similar tradition in the Torah/Pentateuch, but it is most clear in the Sermon on the Mount.

            Second, I don’t think that it is evil to be direct and to the point, or to speak firmly and civilly. I think it is evil to speak without regard to how one’s interlocutor receives what one says.

            As I read your reply, I think you and I may be misunderstanding each other. Certainly, when someone misrepresents a point, it is good to correct them. Certainly, instructing the ignorant is a work of mercy. Certainly, it is good to ask others to moderate their language and to be precise in their speech.

            But all this must be done with 1) the presumption of good will on the part of the other until shown otherwise, and 2) an attempt to communicate in a way the other is best able to understand.

            It sounds like your experience has been that 1) can usually be skipped because so many in fact argue in bad faith. I would say that this is no excuse to argue in bad faith oneself (which I hope you’ll agree with), nor even to adopt an overly adversarial role before it is demonstrably warranted (though I think we may disagree on “overly” and “demonstrably”).

            As to 2), it sounds like you think the hearer’s obligation to try to understand what is being said trumps the speaker’s obligation to speak as understandably as possible. Perhaps I misunderstand you? In any case, I can only control what I do; I cannot control whether another misconstrues (deliberately or accidentally) what I say. I can only modify my own speech to make my words more understandable to the other. There are times when hard, blunt words are the only things someone can hear; there are other times when open-ended questions or affirmations of what is good despite other things that are bad are what someone is capable of hearing. The words should be suited, as best we’re able, to the person who we are speaking to.

            Would you act with love if it meant someone despising you? Or do you truly think that no one would ever react poorly to an act of love?

            Of course people react poorly to acts of love. I do it myself more often than I like to admit. That is beyond my control. What I can control is whether, in an act that I think is loving, I ignore the ways my actions could be misunderstood or received as offensive. It is not loving to ignore the way another receives my actions.

            That said, the goal of love is the entire good of another, not just the good feelings. The truth often hurts; but it is wrong to make the truth hurt more than it needs to.

            Finally, for the record, I did not intend to insinuate that you are doing evil, nor that I am suffering it from you. This is a debate about methods of dialogue. What I meant is that it is better to suffer by presuming good faith in an opponent who in fact argues in bad faith, than to fail to presume good faith from the start. It is good to argue for the truth; but it is more important to argue truly than it is to win the argument. Sometimes, speaking truly, honorably, will lead to rejection and even persecution. That’s fine. It is better to be persecuted than to compromise the truth. I think you agree with this.

            I just want to point out that one of the truths we cannot compromise is the inherent dignity of the person we are speaking with – even when they are not acting dignified themselves.

          • First, sources: I’m referring to a tradition that goes back at least as far as Plato, represented at least in the Gorgias and the Republic. There is some biblical witness to a similar tradition in the Torah/Pentateuch, but it is most clear in the Sermon on the Mount.

            Yeah, I think you’re going to have trouble justifying this in detail beyond “well, He said blessed are the meek, so…” I’m not namecalling. I’m not taunting. My big fault here, and the fault you’ve focused on, is “being very direct in a discussion”. I think you’ll have trouble rallying the Sermon on the Mount, the Torah, or Plato to your defense on this one.

            But all this must be done with 1) the presumption of good will on the part of the other until shown otherwise, and 2) an attempt to communicate in a way the other is best able to understand.

            1: Not necessary. In fact, as I’ve said, I reject that. I haven’t accused anyone of lying, I’ve not called any names, etc in these conversations. But I also don’t assume they’re unbiased parties honestly explaining their end of the issues, as opposed to biased parties. I focus on their arguments.

            2: I already do that. But I don’t include ‘trying to put things as gently, nicely, as sweetly as possible, while at the same time engaging in self-effacing behavior’ as helping communication.

            I would say that this is no excuse to argue in bad faith oneself (which I hope you’ll agree with), nor even to adopt an overly adversarial role before it is demonstrably warranted (though I think we may disagree on “overly” and “demonstrably”).

            No, it’s not an excuse to argue in bad faith – and if you suggest I’ve done so, show where. And yes, we’re going to disagree on both ‘overly’ and ‘demonstrably’.

            Finally, for the record, I did not intend to insinuate that you are doing evil, nor that I am suffering it from you.

            Well, this entire sub-discussion was started off because I dared to say someone’s understanding was not correct – that’s pretty faint stuff. But more than that, you and I simply disagree here, and nothing you’re saying is making me reconsider my approach – which is, let’s face it, little more than “stiff”.

            You’re telling me to assume the good faith of people I discuss things with, but frankly, I not only have no need to do so (it’s not like failing to assume that means I insult them or don’t respond to their arguments), but my experience tells me it’s a foolish assumption to make. You tell me to be sensitive because of how people feel, in a world where people use their feelings as weapons.

            Either way, you’ve given me a lot of would-be advice. So let me give you some advice in turn.

            There’s no need to assume the honesty or good intentions of someone you’re discussing anything with, who you’re not already familiar with. You can be neutral on that question. Just present your case honestly, fairly and directly, and react as good sense tells you in the course of a conversation.

            The fact that someone feels really emotional about a topic, or says they do, actually doesn’t matter all that much. It’s not a question of finding the magic combination of words that will calm them down, and in fact they may *enjoy* their feelings for oa number of reasons. But if you stick to the issues, press your points, and act both fair and direct, it provides some strong encouragement to get past their emotions and discuss things rationally. And if they can’t do that, ‘discussing controversial topics with them on the internet’ may actually be a bad idea altogether – in which case the proper response isn’t to find a gentle, soft way to discuss things with them, but to end the conversation altogether.

          • Actually, Robert, I want to go a little further than I just did with you. Because I think you’re sincere, even though we disagree (see? just because I question people’s bias doesn’t mean I’m not open to changing my mind depending on what transpires.)

            You emphasize – I’d say overemphasize – the mental state of the person you’re talking with. You assume something – a lack of bias, even conscious bias – that I do not. More than that, you account (again, I’d say overaccount) for their emotions. You place a premium on trying to put things in a very gentle way. So if they think or act like the only people who oppose them are hateful bigots, you go out of your way to act as if they really think that, quite possibly to act as if they have good reason to think that. After all, how they feel is really important, right?

            Well, let’s talk about a risk of that.

            Let’s say someone accuses you – you personally, Mr. Robert King – of being a hateful bigot. Let’s say they get very emotional about this, they react to you badly. But when I ask them for evidence of your supposed hateful bigotry, all they present is your apparent opposition to gay marriage, stated just as you’ve stated it in this thread. Same tone, same everything. Should I be gentle in my defense of you? Load up with the “Look, I understand why perhaps you feel that way, but from my perspective, I think you maybe misconstrue…” etc, etc?

            Here’s a problem with that move: I’m basically communicating that what they accused you of? That’s actually quite reasonable given the context. It’s just that they’re wrong. It’s a misunderstanding – but a legitimate misunderstanding. So I’m telling them, when I talk like that, that it’s quite acceptable for them to make that accusation of you, and in the process I help to legitimize it. Whereas if I say outright, “You’re wrong. You’re clearly wrong.”? That risk is minimized.

            By the way, it’s not just the person I’m speaking to I have to worry about. What about onlookers? Because frankly, I would much rather have the reputation as a blunt guy who doesn’t moderate himself just because a person claims to be emotionally worked up, than the guy who – like too many theists, sadly – is forever in apology mode for invisible crimes others supposedly have engaged in, and who in the process lends legitimacy to each and every act of intolerance, every smear, or worse directed against theists. If someone called you an anti-gay bigot based on the writings in this thread, I don’t want give a weak-willed, quasi-apologetic response that takes their emotional state into account at the cost of giving any unlooker the impression “Well, huh. Maybe Robert King IS a bigot. I mean, maybe the misunderstanding is on Crude’s end, if he’s hemming and hawing and having to defend the guy with so much delicacy and suggesting the other guy may reasonably come to the conclusion that King’s a bigot.”

      • Thanks, Leah!

      • Ted Seeber

        Ok. Under that interpretation, I want to change my initial answer, though this is a subset of my initial answer:
        When the relationship isn’t based on the type of sacrificial love that it takes to bring in new healthy, happy, and not injured citizens into the State. I am unconvinced that the political pro-homosexual bias that the APA has demonstrated in the DSM since revision III-TR has any bearing on reality whatsoever, and at any rate, homosexuals cannot reproduce without technological intervention.

        The lack of being able to reproduce is so outside the definition and purpose of a marriage for me with respect to the state as to be *utterly wrong*. But then again, abortion, contraception, and divorce among heterosexual couples does not fit my definition of a marriage either.

        So I’ll give you this- either we should separate church and state and give civil unions to any and all who desire them with NO FAULT DIVORCE, or we should limit civil marriage to monogamous heterosexual couples who are sane, non-violent, and fertile and make divorce only permissible in cases of insanity, especially violent insanity.

        Which do you choose? I’m fine with either.

        • Passerby

          So you think a marriage between two people who are too old to reproduce is not really marriage? What about a couple who finds out once they are married that one or both of them are infertile? What about couples who just don’t want children, for whatever reason, but are devoted to each other?

          Many infertile couples find they cannot reproduce without technological intervention. To say their marriage is invalid because of that seems ridiculous and deeply mean-spirited. And what if they choose to adopt? Do couples with adopted children count as ‘really’ married? And if so, why can’t same sex couples adopt and become married? If not, what’s the crucial difference between adoption and conventional pregnancy?

  • MumbleMumble

    @ Leah
    You commented above to say that if pro-traditional marriage folks really recognized what they were asking of same-sex couples, it could lead to a kinder and more persuasive rhetoric. Do you believe that there is a kind and persuasive way to tell someone that their romantic relationship is perverted simply because it involves two people of the same sex?

    • Ted Seeber

      That’s the trouble. It isn’t perverted because it involves two people of the same gender.

      It is perverted because it involves connecting the reproductive system of one individual to the digestive system of another individual, for the purpose of arousal without procreation or intent to stay together for a lifetime.

      It’d be just as perverted if it were two heterosexuals doing it.

      • Niemand

        But you just insisted that gays and lesbians can’t marry and thereby make it more difficult for them to stay together for a lifetime. So it’s really the anti-equality, pro-bigotry movement’s fault if gay couples don’t stay together.

      • Dan

        You are demonstrating a significant lack of understanding of, and ignorance about, the broad swath of human sexuality here. You have just reduced all same sex sexual interaction to ONE, and ONLY ONE form of sexual interaction, that is only available to people with the specific equipment, sufficient bodily health, and inclination to do so. The last, inclination, is key here: NOT all MSM (men who have sex with men) engage in anal intercourse. Some gay and bisexual men (we do exist, those of us who are attracted to more than one gender!) actually agree with your revulsion towards that ONE specific act.

        Also, if your definition of ‘perversion’ is linked to those things that you find repulsive, or not conducive to moral uprightness (orgies, random sex, ‘bathhouses’…which don’t really exist anymore, post-AIDS…seriously, if you’re going to engage in this debate, could you please update your information?), then WSW (women who have sex with women) are perfectly moral, and not perverted. Continuing the argument further, then MSM who engage in the myriad of sexual interactions that are possible for humans to engage in (some of which are even recommended in religious marriage counseling classes) would also not be perverted, and would thus be within a moral ‘green zone’.

        You see, the Catholic argument about actions is specious when applied to the broadest possible range of people. As mentioned multiple times before, even in this thread, if all sexual actions are only meant to be for the purpose of procreation, that eliminates heterosexual sexual interaction for people who are infertile, post-menopause, paralysed, are HIV-positive, etc. If limiting sexual expression within heterosexual marriages (a key component of maintaining a healthy, affirming, bonded relationship, and one that God has given us as a gift for our joy and sanity) is NOT what the Catholic Church desires, then that opens up a much wider range of moral sexual actions. Then, the argument ISN’T about the actions themselves, but about who’s engaging in them: which then eliminates the argument that many Catholics have made that ‘companionship is NOT what we take issue with, but action. Commitment, love, and devotion between two people is a beautiful thing, so long as they don’t engage in sexual activity’…the same sexual activity that is available to other people who are biologically incapable of, or due to virus transmission decide not to pursue, reproduction. That means that, in the end, the issue here is WHO is doing the action, which brings us back to same-sex love. If the Church has an issue w/same-sex love in toto, fine: just be honest and say that, and don’t try to sound compassionate towards people with same-sex attraction. I, for one, was raised Catholic, and became Quaker as fast as I could because I feel completely welcome amongst Quakers, and am not told that simply due to how God made me am I to live a half-life.

        A possible correction, then: the argument is NOT specious, and the Catholic Church really DOES seek to have all sexual interaction ONLY be for the case of reproduction, then be honest there as well: the Magisterium should instruct all Catholics to avoid ANYTHING that smacks of sexuality if it does not immediately lead to a sexual act that could create further life. Sexuality is only permitted during a very small window of a woman’s ovulation cycle, and should ANYTHING sexual happen outside of that window of a few days, then it must be ceased as rapidly as possible, and then confessed to a priest. That would be the only truly intellectually honest, and logically consistent way of applying the ‘all sex must be for the means of procreation’ construct that the Catholic Church so desperately tries to impose on its adherents. Again, if that’s what the Church truly desires, then so be it: just start applying it consistently, to everyone, everywhere.

        And yet, I know that in reality, the Church recognises that it CAN’T do that, both as a logistical impossibility and because it runs contrary to the amazingly beautiful teaching of the Church on the sanctity of love and joy within committed marriage…and also because it would be a pastoral nightmare, and would destroy the Church for the purpose of upholding a logically inconsistent moral code. The beauty of being Quaker, for me, has been that at least Quakers know that we’re inconsistent, and illogical, and make mistakes, and are human, and try to adapt to the person, and situation in front of them when applying the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures. The Catholicism of my youth made me into a sinner every time that my rapidly changing body did something unexpected, and often undesired. Thanks, but no thanks.

      • MumbleMumble

        @ Ted
        You do realize that the reproductive system already shares space with the excretory system, right?

        • Niemand

          Not to mention that if a woman has as many children as Catholic doctrine says she must if she dares to want to have sex and a relationship with a man, then she is likely to have an obsteric fistula, i.e. a tunnel between her vagina and intestines. Thus, the digestive/extretory system and the reproductive system unite by Catholic doctrine. Happens quite a lot in Africa, but by no means unknown in the US and Europe.

  • Jeff

    I’m curious how you respond if I play devil’s advocate with you and turn the tables.

    Suppose somebody is cheating on his wife. Or cheating on YOU. Suppose someone abandons his kid. Or throws them out of the window. Or rapes your friend.

    Suppose slavery becomes accepted again under certain circumstances and your friend takes a slave who wishes to escape.

    Do you EVER feel comfortable, WOULD you ever feel comfortable saying to someone, Shame on you, you should know better?

    What if society goes mad and otherwise good people get caught up in horrible stuff and look at you blankly or with fury if you suggest to them that slavery is a horrid thing?

    What if what you REALLY should be saying–on some level–to your friends and others is, Shame on you, you should know better? but you can’t because they are too far gone in lala land?

    But on the other hand, you don’t want to be cruel or so far out of social bounds that no one can even begin to hear you?

    What if “gay relationships” are a really, really nasty and destructive thing and nothing remotely like a “family”? How do you act?

    • leahlibresco

      I’m not ruling the conversation out of bounds. I’m trying to show how hard a conversation it is. If you want to do it well, think about how someone would have to engage you in order to convince you that a big part of your life was rooted in moral horror. (Hint, you probably wouldn’t open with, “Don’t you realize that your relationship is a really, really nasty and destructive thing and nothing remotely like a ‘family?'”)

      • Doragoon

        But isn’t that exactly what we tell people in self destructive or abusive relationships? I was expecting more of a response to my comparison to how to treat addicts. The issue is NOT if you feel good. The issue is NOT if you’re hurting other people.

        What do you do to get an addict to stop using? Hint, the answer is not to continue to enable them.

        • I’m not sure that addiction (or the “intervention” model that Leah proposes as an analogy) is necessarily the best model for how to engage people on this issue. On the other hand, I don’t have a better model to propose, so I don’t have much to add.

          I know that, when a gay Catholic friend of mine let me know that he and his boyfriend were not keeping strictly to a Catholic notion of chastity, I used the same approach that I used with a heterosexual Catholic friend who was moving in with her boyfriend (and using contraceptives): I said, “I know you know what the Church teaches. I think you know why, but I’d be glad to answer any questions you have. Because I think this is harmful to you (and your boyfriend), I think it’s a bad decision. But I’m your friend no matter what you do, and I will always love you, even if I disagree with what you’re doing.”

          I don’t know if that’s the best approach. Neither of my friends wanted to get into a discussion of morality, nor did either of them change their behavior (to my knowledge). I have no idea how I would talk with a friend who doesn’t share the Catholic faith.

          On the other hand, I consider political discussion and debate – including actions like the whole Chick-fil-A media storm-buycott-kiss in-whatever – to be a different kind of dialogue. I expect people to recognize that public statements are not directed at them personally, and to focus on the public and political issues. It’s important to recognize how some phrases or actions are hurtful or offensive; but I don’t have the responsibility in public debate to worry about my opponent’s feelings. Nor, for that matter, is public debate the proper forum for addressing any individual’s desires or behaviors. In public debate, my responsibility is to be as clear about matters of principle and policy as I can; and I expect debate partners/opponents to make a similar attempt.

          And this is why I’m not sure the “intervention” model is a good analogy: it’s a model for personal relationships, not for public ones. I wonder if (at least part of) Leah’s point is that many people do not separate the two.

      • Jeff

        True enough. I probably wouldn’t.

        But there are different kinds of conversations. And sometimes one shouldn’t have a normal conversation.

        Let me put it this way.

        Advocates for the “gay lifestyle” constantly engage in shaming talk. “Bigot”, “hater”, that sort of thing. IT’S VERY EFFECTIVE. It’s part of what makes a conversation on the question so difficult to have. The moral high ground–or the appearance of moral high ground–has been occupied. We don’t have conversations on whether or not racism is okay. Or Naziism. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

        I’m not sure that most of those you speak about WANT to have a conversation. I think that they want “homophobia” to go away, to be chased into dark holes, into the places where white supremacists hide.

        As you say, from a certain point of view this is understandable.

        The question is, How to react? And it’s very complex.

        But one approach might be simply to refuse to be cowed. Not to expect ‘fair treatment’ and not to expect discussion or debate, but to expect condemnation and shaming language. And simply to state and repeat basic things in stark language and to refuse to back down. Not with harshness or hate, but with deep confidence and the knowledge that in the short term one will inevitably meet with fury and scorn and a refusal to engage.

        Sometimes, when a discussion is impossible, one can only say, I love you: Wake up from your evil dream. And to insist and insist and INSIST–come what may–that it IS an evil dream.

        I guess I am saying–from the “homphobic” perspective–that one should always be open to discussion and try for it but not expect it. But to rather insist to ourselves that we must never allow ourselves to be on the defensive, that we should speak plainly and without rancor but without any compromise at all.

        I remember someone once saying that adultery and fornication were harsh words–harsh words for harsh deeds. Perhaps in the long run we are going to have to get used to using the term sodomy again. Otherwise, the conversation will never be had in realistic terms.

        I don’t pick fights with people. I see people as people, not as “gays”. “Partners” are friends as well as comrades in sin. But when the conversation is forced on me, it doesn’t seem to me that I can be in the supplicating position: Please let me show you why I am not really a bad person, try to understand the reasons why I think as I do.

        I think the only way to a truly constructive discussion has to be to say the harsh, stark thing as calmly and kindly as a harsh harsh thing can be said: You are doing horrible things, you are in an evil dream, wake up!

        I’ve had few such discussions online. No, they don’t work. But I find that I am much more at peace with myself and with my “adversary” when I do.

        • Niemand

          You are haters and sinners for your thoughts and deeds towards people who have done you no harm. At least admit it.

          There is simply no nonreligious case for discrimination against gays. None. There are no psychological problems associated with being gay that can’t be attributed to the stresses of discrimination. There is no reliable evidence that children raised by gay or lesbian couples do worse by any measure than children raised by staight couples. The only damge being done is being done through discrimination that keeps gays from enjoying the legal rights and protections that straights enjoy.

          So, the religious case. Consider three scenarios.

          Scenario 1. There is no God or afterlife. Then you’ve taken every chance of happiness or fulfillment or even life away from a group of people forever for no reason except your perverted fantasies.

          Scenario 2: There is a God or Gods, but it isn’t Yaweh. Maybe it’s Zeus and he’s kind of annoyed at your rejection of one of his favored means of sexual expression and bonding. You’ve certainly done no good to anyone in this scenario by discriminating and done quite a lot of harm.

          Scenario 3: There is a God and it’s roughly the Yahweh of the Bible. In that case, have you finally helped? Probably not. There is, as far as I know, only one writing banning male homosexual behavior in the Bible and that’s extremely ambiguous. There are lots of references to the impropriaty, the sinfulness, of judging your fellow man. Judgement should be left to God, the Bible says, over and over. It is not your business to decide whether a gay couple is sinning and definitely not your business to try to separate them if they feel God has called them to be together.

          In short, repent your hatred and bigotry now, before you do further harm!

  • I agree entirely with deisach on this one. Insofar as people’s over the top reaction to proponents of traditional marriage is being justified on the grounds that “they’re trying to break up families!”, the justification fails. Opposition to changing the definition of marriage simply doesn’t cash out to “you’ll be forbidden by law from your cohabitation” or “we’ll force you and your partner apart” or anything close to that. With that observation alone, the plea being made here fails to go through.

    The blogger was wrong to call arguments against gay marriage “assault” in the sense she apparently did. And it was incorrect to present opposition to gay marriage as a desire to “break up families” or force two people apart.

    I’ve said before in other threads that the focus of the opposition to same sex relationships is with regards to sex and sexual desire. I think if, say, a lesbian couple became convinced that same sex sexual acts were immoral, and decided to end said acts – but continued to live together and raise children they had adopted together – the reaction from most gay marriage opponents would be one of praise.

    Think about the tone they’d need to use to keep you from slapping them right across the face for the suggestion.

    And this is just ridiculous. I would think most mature people are better than this. Would you be sympathetic to someone cracking Peter Singer in the jaw over his views on infanticide? How about cracking Richard Dawkins one over his “religious upbringing as worse than sexual abuse” move?

    I’ll agree that these issues – really, any issue – should be approached with a respectful and measured tone, especially when talking about emotionally charged topics. But trying to justify over the top reactions and claims of assault on the grounds that they feel real strongly about this are insulting, in addition to the aforementioned inaccuracy with what pro-traditional-marriage proponents are claiming.

    A more accurate comparison would be this: “Imagine if someone suggested that you shouldn’t engage in some/any sexual activities with your spouse, and that you shouldn’t consider your relationship a marriage, on both moral grounds and the grounds that it would be a superior family life for your children.” Still a personal charge, no doubt – but a far sight closer to what’s actually being argued for from the Christian/jewish/etc perspective.

    • Ron K

      I wish that was all that was argued from the conservative side. I wish the matter would end up as someone telling me how I should engage in sexual conduct and me telling them (not so politely) to **** off. Were it so simple.

      The argument is much stronger than that. Not only should one not consider a specific relationship to be marriage, the state should not even recognise or register such marriages. That effectively means that nobody, regardless of religious or moral outlook, could see these relationships as marriages. The argument is that the state should deny its services (in this case the marriage registrar) from people, based on the religious or moral outlook of a specific segment of the population. That is what is proposed here — in essence, legislating religious outlook.

      Imagine, if someone suggesthed that, since they are a part of a powerful group, they get to legislate their opinions on you, and regulate your behaviour whether you like it or not.

      • Ron K,

        That effectively means that nobody, regardless of religious or moral outlook, could see these relationships as marriages.

        Not at all. To put this in perspective, please realize that according to what I’d consider the most common traditional Christian/Catholic understanding, gay marriage is literally not possible. The state can pass as many laws as it wishes, and these may have various cultural effects – but there will never be a “gay marriage” because such a thing does not exist.

        What’s stopping you from “seeing the relationship as a marriage? Because, what… it’s not a marriage unless there’s a formal record stating such in state files?

        Imagine, if someone suggesthed that, since they are a part of a powerful group, they get to legislate their opinions on you, and regulate your behaviour whether you like it or not.

        First, I think there are good secular arguments against gay marriage. There are certainly arguments against both gay marriage and various kinds of sexual activity (same sex and hetero) that are derived from natural law, rather than some specific religion.

        Second — my behavior being regulated whether I like it or not, because a powerful group has passed a law? Welcome to just about every law in existence. I have to pay for universal health care even if I’m opposed to it – heck, I’ll be forced to insure myself. I sure would like to play online poker again – I can’t. Maybe I’d like to have two wives – not possible. The list goes on, and on, and on.

        Maybe you have a better way of putting your claim there, but as it stands? It just doesn’t work.

        • Ron K

          1) Yes. For me as a secular person, the only thing the word ‘marriage’ means is a contract with the word ‘marriage’ on it, ratified by the state. No more, no less. It is a service provided by the state, just like registering births and deaths. Legislating against gay marriage is, for me, akin to legislating that a child could only be named in a religious ceremony, or banned to be named a certain way based on religious dogma of someone else.

          2) I didn’t say that your behaviour can’t be regulated by the state — that would indeed be absurd. I just said that descriminating based on a specific religious principle of a specific religious group violates the principle of church-state separation, and the principle of equality before the law. It seems obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: laws are legislated based on legal reasoning. Not religious, moral, or otherwise.

          3) If you accept that from a secular perspective, marriage is nothing but a contract, then I know of no good secular argument against same-sex marriage (or against incestuous marriage between consenting adults, or group marriage, etc..)

          4) There is no such thing as “natural law”. That is just a codeword to accept the naturalistic fallacy.

          • For me as a secular person, the only thing the word ‘marriage’ means is a contract with the word ‘marriage’ on it, ratified by the state.

            You, as a secular person, have a definition of marriage so empty and bland that it’s hard to take seriously. I would love to see this argument advocated more by the pro-gay-marriage side, including your endorsement of group marriage, incestuous marriage, etc.

            Great – you believe that, unless there’s a legal document somewhere that states the name of a child, that child is quite literally nameless. I’d argue against that, but thankfully, you’ve saved me time: it’s a perspective so silly that it refutes itself.

            It seems obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: laws are legislated based on legal reasoning. Not religious, moral, or otherwise.

            Laws are not legislated based on moral reasoning? That’s news to me. It’s news to just about everyone as well. I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a politician in US history who has failed to advocate some law or oppose some other explicitly on moral grounds, at least in part.

            Either way, you’re the one who stated “Imagine, if someone suggesthed that, since they are a part of a powerful group, they get to legislate their opinions on you, and regulate your behaviour whether you like it or not.” I just pointed out that no, this is pretty ridiculous.

            If you accept that from a secular perspective, marriage is nothing but a contract, then I know of no good secular argument against same-sex marriage (or against incestuous marriage between consenting adults, or group marriage, etc..)

            What a coincidence – I don’t accept this.

            4) There is no such thing as “natural law”. That is just a codeword to accept the naturalistic fallacy.

            No, it’s the name of a philosophical and metaphysical worldview and associated arguments. You may reject it – I’m not too concerned about that.

          • Ron K

            1) That is exactly the situation, at least here. People are named through the state and if they wish to change their name, they need to do that through the state, which can in certain cases disallow that.

            So yes, a person that has not been legally named is legally nameless. You may call it whatever you’d like, but come the time you have to interact with outsiders, and to use exact, legal language, you will have to provide a legal name or be in a heap of trouble. When that child goes to a hospital, for example, he or she will forever be John/Jane Doe, until such a time that a legal name is given.

            2) Of course politicians have all sorts of silly reasons to legislate. They’re politicians, after all. They can’t legislate everything, though. There is such a thing known as legal rights — areas in which the government had vowed not to interfere. The US constitution specifically prohibits politicians to legislate a religious outlook, or to hinder the free exercise of religion. It doesn’t matter how moral, good, or just a law is, if it doesn’t pass legal muster it can’t be legislated.

            Regardless of what politicians tell their voters, the fact is that legal arguments trump moral arguments in courts on a daily basis, and for a good reason: the state is not, and cannot be, in the business of judging morality, when people of differing moral outlooks live together.

            3) You say you don’t accept my definition of marriage. Fine. Please provide an alternative definition what *legal, secular* marriage means, which complies with the separation of church and state and the principle of equality before the law.

          • So yes, a person that has not been legally named is legally nameless.

            That’s not what I stated, and frankly, not what you stated. You claimed, “For me as a secular person, the only thing the word ‘marriage’ means is a contract with the word ‘marriage’ on it, ratified by the state.” I reply, that’s pretty ridiculous. You’re welcome to that interpretation if you wish – it will signal the death of the anti-traditionalist-marriage movement.

            What’s more, you seem to have a misunderstanding about what the “secular” is. Sure, if you wish, you can regard only people who have a contract including the word “marriage” in it, as being married. You can also regard people who have had consensual sex five times in the past four months as married. You can use just about whatever standard you want, because “secular” is a lot more broad than meaning “the government was involved”.

            So again, run with your idiosyncratic view of what constitutes a real marriage or not. I just have no reason to be concerned, or to take your view seriously.

            Regardless of what politicians tell their voters, the fact is that legal arguments trump moral arguments in courts on a daily basis, and for a good reason: the state is not, and cannot be, in the business of judging morality, when people of differing moral outlooks live together.

            Complete nonsense on all levels. Judges can and have interpreted the letter of the law with moral guidance in mind. Laws that are passed for moral reasons are not struck down on the grounds that ‘you can’t pass a law for moral reasons’. You can say “the government can’t legislate everything” – but unfortunately for your argument, it doesn’t have to. It just has to be the fact of the matter that many, many, many laws are argued for, passed for, and justified by moral reasons. This is not an argument – it’s a fact. It’s data.

            You say you don’t accept my definition of marriage. Fine. Please provide an alternative definition what *legal, secular* marriage means, which complies with the separation of church and state and the principle of equality before the law.

            Not necessary – even if I argue a secular case, you’ll insist it’s a front for the religious case. You’ll default to an interpretation of “equality before the law” that I disagree with. So why get into a discussion that we both know will go nowhere?

            It’s enough for me to point out that your idiosyncratic definition of marriage is so empty and bland as to be a caricature. I would love to see it become the rallying cry of gay marriage proponents. Honest to God, more power to you on that front.

          • Ron K

            You may find my definition of marriage empty and bland. So what? That is just your opinion, and has no weight whatsoever. If you wanted to change my mind, you either have to accept that this is my definition, and show me using evidence why it is wrong, or provide another definition and convince me it is better. Repeating words such as ‘caricature’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘idiosyncratic’ ad nauseam without any actual logical point to show that it is so is no better than name-calling.

            I agree, that the word ‘secular’ might not have been the best word choice in this matter. What I was referring to when I said secular is the public sphere. Of course that I feel that my marriage *personally* has more meaning *to me* than a piece of paper. The thing is, I don’t claim to have a recipe for a ‘good’ relationship, and do not have the privilege or sheer pretentiousness to try and force the model of the relationship that works for me on everybody else. If I tried that, you would be one of the firsts to dissent.

            In the private sphere, one can feel deeply about their personal marriage. One can even say what sorts of marriages one will never have. The public sphere of legality and policy is different. In a modern multicultural society, it must adapt itself to all worldviews, all religions and all relationship styles. It must have a basis in common law, not in some particular group’s understanding of morality. It should therefore be a thin legal platform, and be as neutral as possible concerning rights and wrongs, in order to let people handle their own private sphere in peace.

            As with regard to laws, some are passed on grounds of moral reasoning. Others, with populist reasoning or with reasoning coming from corporate lobbyists. You seem to disregard the fact that laws legislating a specific religious outlook are unconstitutional.

          • If you wanted to change my mind,

            Well, here’s the problem, Ron: I don’t want to. Rather, that’s not my goal. As I’ve said to others in this thread, I’ve done too much arguing on the internet (man, how much time has been spent) to think that’s a realistic goal. Some people aren’t going to be convinced, no matter what arguments are presented.

            It’s enough to point out that your ‘secular standard’ is arbitrary. You consider it impossible to be married without a piece of paper from the state? Great. But that is, plainly, not the only ‘secular standard’ for marriage – that’s a fact. Sure, I won’t convince you, but I’m more concerned with illustrating the problems with your argument than winning your heart on this. If you change your mind, it’s probably going to have to take place off-line, in the dark, considering things – not online, out in public, where you consider the stakes to be high.

            The thing is, I don’t claim to have a recipe for a ‘good’ relationship, and do not have the privilege or sheer pretentiousness to try and force the model of the relationship that works for me on everybody else.

            I’m not attempting to “force a model of relationship” on anyone. I’m opposing legal recognition, and – given the opportunity – arguing against the recognition and model culturally and socially as well. Nowhere have I said people should be forced to enter into the sort of relationships I think best. In fact, I’ve pointed out that such claims about pro-traditional-marriage views are strawman arguments. No, opposing gay marriage does not mean forcing a relationship to end.

            In a modern multicultural society, it must adapt itself to all worldviews, all religions and all relationship styles.

            No, it does not. There is no “must” in play. That’s just one view of the secular among very many out there.

            It must have a basis in common law, not in some particular group’s understanding of morality.

            A distinction without a difference, because some particular group’s understanding of common law is what determines common law to begin with.

            You seem to disregard the fact that laws legislating a specific religious outlook are unconstitutional.

            And you seem to be swinging at the air. You’re the one who said that laws are not legislated for moral reasons, suggesting that this was illicit, even illegal. I pointed out that that claim is insane. Now you’re talking about a ‘specific religious outlook’ – but that’s a shift of the goalposts. Yes, morality is a driving force in the passage of laws, now as ever. And frankly, there’s a secular, non-religious case against gay marriage as well. Multiple, in fact.

          • Ron K

            Yes. My standards are arbitrary. Your standards are also arbitrary. Until proven otherwise, so are the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Laws are arbitrary, maths are arbitrary. One accepts arbitrary axioms and builds upon them using rules of logic. I accept the equality of individuals before the law as an axiom of a democratic legal system. It seems that you do not. I am fully willing to be shown logically, based on axioms I accept, that gay marriage should not be allowed.

            Arguments from the current state of affairs, or arguments from tradition are both logical fallacies (the naturalistic fallacy and the appeal to tradition, respectively). If you were trying to ‘oppose a legal recognition’ of women as voters, for example, that wouldn’t be making it any less discriminatory against women. If you were trying to preserve the segragation laws in the south because of their longjevity, their traditional value or suitability to that community, you wouldn’t be less of a racist. Opposing change isn’t value neutral — opposing change is supporting the current state of affairs. That is why supporting the current discriminatory state of marriage is EXACTLY favouring one form of relationship over another, one group’s religious definition of marriage over the other, and ultimately straight people over gay people.

            You say that there is a secular case against gay marriage. What is it?

            Let me clarify my position on laws. Laws are created from a variety of reasons, moral and otherwise. They are, however, created as legal language in a legal framework and are subject to legal logic. When discussing law, legal logic supersedes any other kind of logic. It doesn’t matter if someone has committed a terribly immoral act — if the legal facts of the matter are in his favour he should be found not guilty. It doesn’t matter if someone broke the law because they committed an act of incredible love and kindness — they should still be found guilty. That is one of the reasons I find the US jury system frankly bizzare.

          • @Ron K –

            The most concise version of one secular argument against same-sex marriage that I know of is Girgis, George, and Anderson’s paper.

            I understand that you consider Natural Law philosophy to be committing the naturalistic fallacy; but I am not convinced that it actually is. Do you dispute the premise that: “It is good for something to fulfill its nature, and bad for something to contradict its nature.” Or do you dispute the possibility of having/knowing the nature of a thing at all?

            In any case, your statement:

            Laws are arbitrary, maths are arbitrary. One accepts arbitrary axioms and builds upon them using rules of logic.

            makes no sense. The rules of logic would seem to fall under the category of arbitrary things. Ultimately, we need to base our reasoning on something that is not arbitrary. Axioms are not arbitrary; they are unprovable within the bounds of their science, but they are not therefore arbitrary. Some cannot be proven positively at all, perhaps, but they can be proven negatively insofar as denial of them leads to absurdity or obvious falsehood.

            You can dispute axioms, such as those of the Catholic Church which are based on a revelation the you may not accept, or those of Natural Law theory which are based on an understanding of nature that you may not accept. But calling them arbitrary is not accurate.

            @Crude – re: our conversation above, you don’t have to have a reasonable expectation of convincing Ron K (leave that in God’s hands, if you want); but you do have to recognize that he is a real person, and therefore worthy of a straight answer.

          • Robert,

            re: our conversation above, you don’t have to have a reasonable expectation of convincing Ron K (leave that in God’s hands, if you want); but you do have to recognize that he is a real person, and therefore worthy of a straight answer.

            I gave him a straight answer, and yes, thank you – I recognize that he’s a real person. Frankly, Ron needs more than that – he doesn’t understand what secular means, he’s not very clear on the role of axioms or the status of logical arguments based on them.

            But you know what? I’ve already gone several replies with Ron K. I’ve pointed out the flaws in his arguments, and gotten him to grudgingly, quietly admit some of those flaws. But I’m going to turn the wheel over to you entirely. You can find out if you discuss things with him differently than me, and if so, how that impacts anything.

    • leahlibresco

      I didn’t write this post very well, I guess. That last paragraph was the comparison I’m going for (and it is the subtext of the pro-trad marriage position). You’re a much better person than I am, because I would wax a little wroth if someone told me that I should break up my hypothetical family because my relationship was bad for my kids (or, as a good friend did tell me, that I could never get married because I would be bad for kids. I know he spoke out of love, but it was a lot of effort not to get pissed).

      • Leah,

        You’re a much better person than I am, because I would wax a little wroth if someone told me that I should break up my hypothetical family because my relationship was bad for my kids

        Again: this isn’t entailed by being a proponent of traditional marriage. Unless you’re equating “the lack of state recognition of marriage” or “disapproval of same-sex sexual activity (and of course, various kinds of heterosexual activity as well)” with “breaking up your hypothetical family”. And I really doubt you’re doing that, because that would be an extremely shallow vision of a family to begin with.

        Let’s run with a hypothetical situation: Person A and Person B are married. Make them whatever gender you like. Due to an accident, Person A is left unable to engage in sexual relations with Person B. They still love each other. They still live with each other. They still care for each other.

        Are they no longer married? Did their relationship disappear?

        And again: some atheist tells me “if you raise your child in a religion, that’s as bad as or worse than sexual abuse”. Would you consider it justifiable for me to crack him one in the jaw? Or a person a la Singer tells me, “Your infant doesn’t deserve the right to life. It should be legal for you to kill her if you want.” – I punch them. Justified?

        Or how about: “You’re raising your child to believe same-sex sexual activity is wrong? You’re a monster and shouldn’t be allowed to raise a child.” Punch-worthy?

        (or, as a good friend did tell me, that I could never get married because I would be bad for kids. I know he spoke out of love, but it was a lot of effort not to get pissed).

        I do not deny the ability of people, even good friends, to say stupid things, or make stupid judgments. What I am denying here is that being a proponent of traditional marriage means “breaking up families”, or that regarding certain kinds of sexual activity as illicit amounts to the same.

        Bring me someone who argues that people who are in a same-sex sexual relationship should not only refrain from sexual activity, but should never see each other again and split apart because their relationship is entirely foul. I’ll condemn their views and argue against them in front of you, gladly.

        Either way, you say that the last paragraph was the comparison you were going for – I assume you mean the last paragraph I wrote. The problem is, that doesn’t cash out to “breaking up a family”, unless you’re defining family along the lines of how I described above – and I think that would be a bizarre way to describe a family.

  • So can we next expect a post criticizing pro-gay marriage rhetoric? Because if we’re supposed to look at it from the other side, what’s sauce for the goose…

    • Ryan

      There are lots of those… from individuals in oppostition to homosexual marriage. In my experience of rhetoric, the burden of making arguments and criticisms for your opposition’s side generally falls on your opposition, not you.

      • True enough if you limit yourself to making your case. But if you’re asking the other side to look at it from your perspective, as this post does, then it’s reasonable to expect you to demonstrate you are able and willing to reciprocate.

  • With regard to the question itself: in order to convince me to break up my hypothetical family, you would have to convince me that continuing to live within that family would be immoral by my own standards–which would most likely mean convincing hypothetical me to adopt standards that h.m. would not previously have held. E.g.:

    (1) you would have to convince me not only that my relationship was abusive, but that an abusive relationship (a la 50 Shades?) was wrong
    (2) you would have to convince me not only that I had more children than average, but that having additional children was wrong (perhaps via overpopulation concerns)
    (3) you would have to convince me not only that my relationship was homosexual, but that homosexuality was wrong
    (4) etc., etc.

    I think in every one of those cases, the issue is less an empirical or factual one than it is a philosophical one. The “what it would take” for me is a complete change of mind. It’s not as if evidence piles up and piles up and finally overwhelms one’s heart in the matter. The evidence, or rather the argument, would have to finally be presented in such a cogent way that I could not avoid agreeing intellectually, even if the agreement hurt me emotionally, and even if I couldn’t bring myself to act on it–yet. (Augustine of Hippo, anyone? “But not yet!” Who did, incidentally, break up his family …)

    I read all the back story, and I feel for the Christian blogger. But I also ate at Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday, and I didn’t think I was “assaulting” either her or the gay people I know personally. In the end, the only possible answer to folks like her (the answer I would give as an Aristotle-and-Aquinas-loving-RC) is that men and women, even those with same sex attractions, will be happier–define “happiness” carefully here–either by living chastely or by fulfilling traditional gender roles than they would by living a homosexual or otherwise “nontraditional” lifestyle. (Although, since the blogger is married to someone who is (was?) genetically male, I have to wonder a little about how nontraditional their family really is. That’s not an insult, by the way–just an admission of my own ignorance/inability to judge in this particular.)

  • kenneth

    If I was involved in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, I could accept such advice from a friend. If, on the other hand, they were telling me to separate because the arrangement didn’t live up to their own religious conception of relationships, they’d be cut out of my life forever like a malignancy that day.

    People who treat you as marks for a sales pitch or an agenda are not friends. They’re just one of the millions of hustlers and marketers who come at you with an angle every time you leave your front door or answer the phone or receive a spam message. The fact that they may profess love for you while doing it changes nothing. If anything, it makes it even more sleazy and manipulative than the hustlers who are open about their agendas.

  • John

    There would be a difference between a person proposing that I break up my family, versus proposing that I not form a certain kind of family to begin with. There is also a difference between a person proposing that I break up my family, versus proposing that I modify my behavior within my family.

    For example, I hope I would listen to the argument that people should not be conceived in order to be adopted. People should not be conceived into a situation that intentionally deprives them of their biological mother and father. However, this does not mean that all such families should be broken up, after they exist. If I had such a family, I hope I would listen to the argument that my children should have my support if they feel the loss of biological relation and perhaps want to form relationships with their biological family.

    Another example: if I am a faithful Catholic in a “marriage” that the Church deems to be adultery (because of a previous marriage that still exists, even if a secular divorce has been granted), and if I want to receive the Eucharist in good conscience and be in full communion, this does not mean that I need to dissolve the family structure. However, it might mean that I need to stop sleeping with my “spouse” (who is not my spouse at all in the eyes of the Church).

    • John

      …as I continue to think about this, anyone who is going to be persuasive with me is going to have to start from the premise that marriage/family is a given truth about the human condition, and not a construct or convention, and moreover that this truth includes physical components as well as psychological ones. (If anything is about all of being human, it is family, and physicality is part of being human.) They would then have to demonstrate that my marriage/family is damaging to the prevalence of this truth.

      A person who thinks that either psychological or physical characteristics of marriage are mere convention would have pulled the rug out from under themselves at the beginning of their appeal. Why would I modify or disband a family over a mere fad?

      So, I wonder, how would a person go about arguing that the Truth about the human psychosomatic condition is best served by something other than a family formed by a man, a woman and the children born to them as a result of holistic (psychosomatic) intercourse?

      Aren’t challenges to the “traditional” family all challenges to the physical aspect? Aren’t they all seeking to preserve the psychological elements of family without the physical elements? Isn’t it just… Manichean? Is psychology a subject of Truth but matter is a subject only of convention?

      It is no accident that matter = mater = mother and that we are in a post-Protestant secularism that jettisoned the Mother of God (and sacramentality!) from faith. And to think that we call the elimination of the feminine “feminism” ….!

      • John

        …or rather, perhaps it is telling that it is not the elimination of the feminine, but the “control” of the feminine (via convention vs Truth), that characterizes this “feminism.” [play tune] It’s my Matter and I’ll use it how I want to, use it how I want to, use it how I want to….

      • Emily

        No, having a lack of physical attraction to the opposite sex and presence of attraction to the same is physical, not just psychological. Bodies don’t only consist of genitals, but also brains, hormones, and genes, all of which have some (albeit incompletely understood) relationship to orientation. Attempting to ignore this material reality is psychologically difficult because it’s trying to dismiss significant parts of people’s embodied experience based on an ideal version of how those parts should match up with others. It’s similar to how lifelong chastity is challenging for people of any orientation.

        And this is not to say that chastity is bad, or impossible; I’m not even trying to make an argument about marriage here. I’m just trying to say let’s be LESS dualistic about separating the physical and psychological. Truth and Matter (are they somehow different than truth and matter?) are perhaps a little more complicated than they look on the surface.

  • Alexander S. Anderson

    Well, here’s the thing, if I’m already in a valid marriage, I’m not going to break that up for anything. I’m married, it’s done, man cannot break apart what God has put together, whether I made a mistake in marrying the woman I married or not. I guess there could be a possibility of a separation in a sort of extreme situation, but that’s a tragedy no matter what. Prior to the marriage, however, I’d be willing to hear and weigh opinions on who I’m planning on marrying, whether or not we bring out the worst in each other, or what not.

  • Jeff

    I guess part of what I am saying is, Sometimes one has to accept that one will hurt and anger someone and not let that be the center of one’s concern. Sometimes it really is the price of love.

    The challenge is to make sure that one is REALLY doing it out of love and not out of a desire to win or get back or say one’s piece or show off or let off steam or be proud of one’s stubbornness or whatever.

    What’s centrally important here cannot be that people living in depravity who may still be fine people in some important ways will be hurt. Hurting and infuriating them is inevitable. One doesn’t have to seek it. But when it’s thrust on one, one should simply accept it.

    And the great consolation is, It’s not that hard to understand in the end. Sex is fundamentally important; it has a moral dimension; it’s essentially procreative; it bonds two different and complementary kinds of people in a unity which is in principle procreative. Using it in other ways is wrong. Most people really CAN see this if they are given a chance. All you have to do is look at bodies!

  • JeseC

    In all this, does anyone remember that there are gay Christians? Even gay Catholics? Perhaps our first starting point should be to remember that principle of charity – even more so with members of our own faith than with outsiders. What would you say to someone who believes both in Christ and the Church and that their homosexual relationship is their vocation and the best way to show Christ-like love? Could you see making the choice between the sacraments you believe are divine and the family you believe God has given to you to love and care for?

  • Zac

    Your post reminded me of the Archimedes Chrono-thing you linked to previously! Clever!

  • Jubal DiGriz

    I’m going to riff on the beginning of what Leah said in the post- the status of privilege in marriage.

    Like the “Dog and the Lizard” parable linked to, privilege is in some part the “default” position. In the society of the Ohio House, the default position has always been cold. The reasons for the position is sort of irrelevant- it is what it is.

    Obviously the default position of “who can be in a marriage” in Western society is “a man and a woman”. As a way of putting that in perspective, that’s a significantly more inclusive position than has ever been adapted before. 60 years ago it was “a man and a woman of the same skin color”. 150 years ago it was it most places “a man and a woman of the same skin color and, with the man being of equal or greater social standing”. 350 years ago it was “a man and a woman of the same skin color and religion, with the man being of equal or greater social standing”. 2,500 years it was as often as not “a man and as many woman as the man can afford of the same skin color and religion, with the man being of equal or greater social standing to a certain extent.”

    Sometimes the “default” was written into law, sometimes not, but that’s irrelevant to privilege. When a man and a woman get married, they are enjoying the privilege of being able to do legally and without concern of criticism for the act itself. While in some places two men and two women have access to the legal side of that privilege, in very few places to they have access to the cultural side.

    Part of having privilege is not being aware that there is a problem. A heterosexual man or woman is simply unable to understand the manifold issues around marriage that a homosexual man or woman lives with daily. Part of that privilege is being able to only ask “Should I get married”, and not also “Can I get married?”.

    The only sort of marriage privilege I can imagine for a homosexual individual is that in some places the question “Can I get married?” is “yes”, while a person seeking a polygamous marriage or a marriage that transgresses age limitations is always “no”.

    Although there is one caveat. When religion comes into play, those who are non-religious, moderately religious, and who belong to a religion that allows homosexual marriages have the privilege of seeing homosexual marriages as acceptable. Those in a strict, fundamentals, or otherwise traditional religious context do not have that privilege.

    Sorry if this seems rambling, but I felt I had to point all that out in order to comprehensively state this: the primary tension is between those who lack the privilege to marry and those who lack the privilege to accept homosexual marriages.

    In the “Dog and Lizard” parallel, the inequality is that that dog is the one who has all the power over the temperature, and the dog is unable to understand the lizard’s lack of privilege. Today, in a democracy at least, the majority hold all the power, and the inequality is that the majority is unable to understand the lack of privilege that homosexuals have. Just as the dog saying it has thick fur and paws is a part of its privilege, saying that homosexual marriage is immoral, unnatural, and/or unnecessary is a part of heterosexual privilege. Just as it’s actually irrelevant how warm the dogs feels compared to how much heat the lizard needs, it’s actually irrelevant how heterosexual feel about who can marry compared to how much homosexuals need to marry.

    If you’re paying very close attention to all this privilege talk, this does NOT mean that homosexual marriage advocates are right and traditional marriage advocates are wrong.

    • Jubal DiGriz

      I didn’t want my first post to be too long, so this is more of an addendum:

      Now what I think it actually the most interesting thing to talk about in all this, and is the conversation that seems the least had, is discussing the privilege of those who believe homosexual marriage is acceptable. There’s a number of reasons why a person might take that position, but part of THEIR privilege is believing that anyone can and everyone ought to have the same position. Or at least it’s privilege when they’re surrounded by like-minded folk.

  • Joe K.

    I don’t know if my insight will be helpful here. I’m not sure, but I’ll throw it out there. I’m a homosexual man who lives a celibate life. I have been doing so for a number of years now. I’m not sure if this gives me any sort of authority, but it might in some ways. I was “convinced” finally to not live a homosexual lifestyle through philosophical reflection. That’s it. I don’t think it’s an emotional issue. I may fall in love with a man. I may not be able to live without him. It may hurt to even breathe without him around. Okay. It all doesn’t really mean much to me (or I can’t pursue it) if it’s not Actually Good. To me, the way you’re framing it, you’re giving the homosexual the argument that his feelings (or anyone’s) are That Important. And I think this is where the problem begins. But this is kind of how the world works today. We frame things as like “what is important to you! why is it important!” And then people make their own little truths that have nothing to do with objective truth. And when it turns into “what I know to be true” against “what I know to be true,” it’s a complete waste of time.

    To be fair, I do think people try to frame it in these objective terms, but they fail. So in a lot of ways I don’t think I’m really On to something with respect to approach here. But I do think I’m on to something with respect to the people receiving the message (or people in general). People are so childish about how they feel. I don’t mean to sound like this creepy stoic person, but it bugs me a little bit. Even the way you framed this post, Leah. Your argument is basically “how would You feel if someone told you that what you were doing is bad and that the only way to be good is to abandon everything you care about and built your life around?” I would feel bad. I would feel sad. I may even feel a little angry. Okay. So what. If what the person were saying were true, I would either man up and be a good person, or I would be a coward and live in my feelings. Imagine in the context of war or military service. If every man were unwilling to give up everything he’s built up and cares about, the nation would fall. I don’t care if the man throws up at the idea of leaving his wife and children to go fight and likely die. His calling is greater than his feelings toward those people. A honorable person realizes this; a dishonorable one raises hell about how it’s wrong and unfair.

    In other words, I don’t think this debate can go anywhere with the current state of the modern world. I don’t think we ever Really glorify the person who bites the bullet and forsakes expression and happiness for truth and goodness. We do Kind of, but it’s usually in some materialistic way. “He had to sacrifice to get where he is today,” etc. So, in some ways, I don’t think you Can get through to people with this topic. There’s too much at stake, and they would have to give up too much. They never will. Why would they? Especially when heterosexuals don’t have to give up Anything. The fact that a heterosexual might be taken back when hearing the hypothetical you’ve presented here, Leah, is actually a sign to me that there’s Something Wrong with the world.

    I would also like to point out, agreeing with some of the sentiments here, that I don’t think anyone is trying to Break Up homosexual couples. I’ve never really even seen anyone try to do this on a large scale. I mean, I’ve heard of family members or friends pleading with the person to stop, but that’s pretty much it. (I’ve also heard of parents disowning their children for it, which I think is pretty despicable, but different issue.) Homosexuals are committing no social injustice by engaging in sexual acts with one another, even if the acts they commit are gravely immoral for other reasons, so there’s no reason to take Action against them. (Refusing to extend marriage to them is not a positive action Against them, of course.) I also think the whole tone of the article you linked is a little childish. I don’t really care if a person feels offended by my personal moral or philosophical position. There’s not some right to feel unoffended and emotionally safe.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if I did really provide any insight here. I do know what it feels like to sit there and say to myself “okay, if you want to do what’s right, it’s going to hurt” and still jump on in. The question, again, is merely What is right. Everything else, while perhaps important, is secondary to that issue.

    • Tom

      You are not a creepy stoic, and it sounds like you are the type of person that wouldn’t care either way what someone else thinks of you – but here goes: I find myself often struggling with vices that our society not only tolerates but promotes. I could say it is incredibly difficult, but after reading your post I will just say I AM WEAK. realizing this, would I be a homosexual man, I doubt I would be able to do what you are doing giving the current state of our society. As a person mostly affected from outside (I’ll call it being extroverted to try and save some face) I would probably live a chaste homosexual life if the public shaming that existed in the past was still present. But in today’s society where it is celebrated in many powerful circles to “be yourself” I would most certainly succumb to my urges. So here’s to you, my friend – you remind me of Jesus refusing bread and saying “not from bread alone” only Jesus apparently knew he was dealing with the devil – you are dealing with a post-modern western society.

      • Joe K.

        I really, really appreciate this post. Thank you. In my experience, the hardest part about being homosexual is not getting turned on by hot guys (though that can be pretty frustrating sometimes). It’s being pressured by the entire world to “be myself,” “live my life,” etc. You hear constant rhetoric about how “oppressed” people are who can’t have sex with whom they please, how people who don’t are just “living a lie.”

        You’d think most pressure comes from the gay community, and a certain amount of it kind of does, but it’s actually mostly from the straight community. They gay community always reacts kind of “hurt” (like Leah points out here) when you discuss sexual ethics or say I refuse to live that way, etc. It’s like your not doing what they’re doing is the strongest judgment of them that exists. And in a Certain way it is, but it’s not; I don’t talk with gay people that much, and I pretty much stay out of the debates not on the internet. What I find a little interesting is that there’s this certain level on insecurity and guilt about it. I think, in some ways, homosexuals recognize that it’s Not impossible to not live the life they’re living. I think that’s usually the way their lives are justified to themselves: “I can’t Live, it’s Impossible, without this outlet; I Cannot Be Wrong if the alternative is death.”

        The worst, by far, are heterosexuals, who are all about gay rights, though. This may be because they are the majority, but in a certain way I think it’s deeper than that. I think their defending of homosexuals is driven by a couple things. One, it comes from this weird perverted notion that you always have to protect the weak and “not judge” No Matter What. It’s derived, I think, from Christian notions of love, but it has to turned into this terrible monster known as modern liberalism. It’s actually become the case that defending the weak is more important than identifying the truth. This whole idea is rampant, and it’s pretty much suffocating to any real discussion on moral issues. “Don’t judge! What makes your life any better! You’re just filled with hate!” etc. etc. etc. Everyone has to be equal, no matter the stakes, no matter what. If you imply Anything to the contrary, you’re basically Hitler who wants to kill all gay people. And while this push is definitely from the gay community (it’s how they gain their power), it’s most strong (and most despicable) from straight people. It’s despicable because they don’t know what they’re doing. They just bandwagon on someone else’s slave morality to the degradation of everything around them. And worst of all, they’re Zealous about it. They get mad, scary mad about it.

        The second reason heterosexuals provide so much pressure against moral living is similar to the reason gay people do. A person who espouses Any sexual ethics (literally at all), is assaulting their own lifestyle. Because, let’s face it, heterosexuals are just as bad, or worse, about sexual purity than homosexuals. I basically know no people who don’t cohabitate. I basically know no people who haven’t sought relationships Just For The Sex. A friend of mine was asking which girl he should date. He explained their strengths and weaknesses to me. I told him to date the one he thinks he could marry. He laughed, looked at me like I was crazy, and then the conversation got awkward. That’s really the only sentence I said to him; I didn’t push anything, I wasn’t being preachy about it; I honestly thought that was the best, most rational advice. But it wasn’t even on his radar. And he’s a pretty decent person too. No, any talk about sexual ethics is an assault on almost All people. And that’s not cool. It’s way too hard to live your life moral with respect to sex. It’s also way too philosophical. With other things you can see external results more quickly and more clearly. Stealing has clear effects, as does lying. But having sex with your girlfriend? What’s wrong with that.

        Beyond all this, the problem I personally face the most is not having any real outlet for myself. I don’t mean sexual outlet. I mean, societal outlet. Gay people have communities, but I don’t have any interest in those communities. They’re built around a weird lie. And as I’ve noted, straight people are even worse. So I end up sitting on the internet a lot. And this is what bugs me about the whole thing the most. There’s no real place for people like me. The closest is church stuff, but I don’t really like church stuff. I don’t like church “communities.” I like bowing before the presence of Christ, I don’t really like bowling awkwardly with dorky church people who would probably be just as sinful as the secular people I’m avoiding if they were just a little cooler. (I know there are cool people who attend churches; I’m just speaking generally.) And it’s actually a little hard to break into the super conservative groups (the genuine ones, not the goofy Republicany ones). They tend to, even if they respect my life choices, think it’s just a little weird that I find men sexually attractive. At the very least, it’s not something to talk about. But the inevitable question always comes up if you don’t say anything: “Hey, man, why aren’t you married?”

        All that said, I’ve never been happier with my life for what it’s worth, and I really appreciate your praise. And I hope I’ve made it clear that I’m not bitter because I don’t get to have sex. The only thing I’m bitter about, if I am really bitter at all, is the way the world has no place for anyone who doesn’t have an interest in what the world has become. The way you it is definitely correct: the bread the devil offers is just the post-modern western world. There’s that Fiona Apple lyric, “hunger hurts, but starving works,” that might be appropriate here. Heh, I’m not sure she meant it to apply this way.

        • Tom

          “The only thing I’m bitter about, if I am really bitter at all, is the way the world has no place for anyone who doesn’t have an interest in what the world has become.” Powerful statement, and one that I can empathize with. I sometimes feel like a downer but raising a child in this post modern western culture feels like navigating an every changing and increasingly more dangerous mine field. And everyone else is encouraging you to stamp your feet.

          It’s really jarring reading your post, Joe K. Because I feel like my personality lends itself so much to “being liked” and (somewhat more noble) “making everyone comfortable” that I can “fit in” just about anywhere but the cost is that it’s becoming increasingly hard to take myself seriously. I’ve lost so much self-respect along the way – it seems like you live in the opposite world where your sense of self is strong and unwavering and you are finding it difficult to find a comfortable place/group. I wish you were my neighbor – I’ve got beer in the fridge.

          • Joe K.

            Ha, I’m not a huge drinker, but you seem like a good dude; I’d love to hang out. I think about kids sometimes, what it would be like to raise a kid in today’s world. I have no idea what I’d do. Everything would be this terrible trap; it seems so difficult. I have incredible respect for people who do it properly.

            And again, I definitely appreciate the praise. It really means a lot. I don’t really talk about my SSA (same-sex attraction) very much with people because I don’t like to weird them out, so it’s nice to hear these things from strangers. The people who do know about it are always a little intimidated and uncomfortable, even if they are great and genuinely loving. They don’t really know what to do or say about it even though they feel a little bad for me. I think it’s a really difficult issue that’s hard to handle properly, and I’m very sympathetic to that. One time a friend of mine, after I told him, tearfully told me that I could live in his garage apartment after he’s married so I wouldn’t be lonely. That meant a lot to me, even if it wasn’t particularly realistic, heh.

            Anyway, as I said, you sound like a good person. I’m sure you have more self-respect than you give yourself credit for. Just be encouraged, always be encouraged.

  • Niemand

    I’d only intervene in someone’s romantic life under one of two circumstances:
    1. The romantic partner was actively abusive or otherwise dangerous.
    2. The person involved asked my opinion.
    In the other situations mentioned, it’s none of my business. FWIW, several people in my family have spouses that the family didn’t much like when they got married. Some of the relationships have gone down in flames, others have worked out fine. There is some component of self fulfilling proficy to the “X is such a horrible person-don’t marry him/her” statment from family members and friends.

  • Kimberly Knight


    This is a wonderful reflection and honest question that I deeply appreciate you lifting from within your (new) tradition. Being articulated by someone other than myself may perhaps shine a light of perspective that I could not offer. Your generosity and grace is evident in your careful and thoughtful pondering of this conundrum.

    Peace my sister,

  • MumbleMumble

    I am left wondering what the point of this blog entry is. Is it an attempt to refashion the debate between pro-trad and non-trad folks? Or is it trying to show how ridiculous the conversation is to begin with? After initially reading it, I thought this was a case for the latter. I thought the argument was that you need a REALLY extreme reason to try and convince people that the relationship that they are in is unhealthy and damaging to them, and that simply doing gay things doesn’t meet the criteria for an intervention. However, seeing some of the author’s responses in the comments section is making me question my assumption. Particularly, a pair of comments that suggest how pro-trad people might be more convincing in their arguments.
    So what does the author think? Should pro-trad people try to be kinder (and, in so doing, more persuasive) in their arguments? Or should they mind their own business and stop trying to curtail people’s rights and happiness based on their own religious beliefs?

    • leahlibresco

      If you think it’s seriously harming your friend, you should intervene. I try to push people to try interventions that are more likely to fail if you’re wrong and more likely to succeed if you’re right. For two extreme examples: putting a gun to someone’s head and telling them you’ll shoot them if they don’t skip their wedding is a tactic whose efficacy is divorced from its truth. Trying to enumerate the harms and bring the other person around has a better chance if you can list actual harms (and, if your list sounds unpersuasive when you put it that way, you’ve got a better chance of noticing you might be going wrong).

      • MumbleMumble

        But a persuasive argument to someone may mean nothing to the next person.If you tell someone they’re on a land mine and it’s going to go off if they don’t change their ways, that might be a very compelling argument to you – but the person who is standing there sees that the mine is actually a rock and poses no threat to them. If your justification for not being in a same-sex relationship is based on a religion that I do not adhere to, the argument immediately stalls. The problem lies in how people view the premises of their arguments, and this is what people need to focus on.

  • Brandon B

    If the goal is something that will break a relationship if there is something wrong with it, and leave it intact if there isn’t, then it sounds to me like you want a “trial by fire” of some sort. In other words, deliberately stress the relationship in such a way that it will break it if it is unhealthy.

    This makes the “amateur Iago” approach more tempting, which probably means it’s a terrible idea. Besides, I have no clue how to set up something like this. We probably don’t have enough scientific knowledge about romantic relationships to engineer stress-tests for them yet.

  • John

    There’s a difference between on-line arguments and in person conversation… For starters, if one does an intervention one must be a friend not a ‘friendly stranger’. People will not leave relationships (abusive or not) for the sake of some ‘argument’, even if that argument has iron-clad “scientific studies” backing it up, charts, graphs, CDC warnings, etc. but people MAY LEAVE one relationship for ANOTHER.

    This is a sort of “you break it, you buy it” sort of emotional bridge that needs to be established between the person and the friend.

    The Catholic tradition on this process of metanoia springs from Jesus sending out his disciples with two commissions. One was to bring healing of body and liberation from evil spirits to all those who ask for it…. and the second was to then preach them “the good news”.

    Until people feel the healing balm and perhaps also the liberation from something that binds their hearts or darkens their minds (don’t we all remember the rose-colored glasses phenomenon?), they simply won’t be in a place to even listen to “reason”.

    So first a rapport has to be established with that person, an “alternative relationship” of friendship because the real message is: a person will only abandon a person or habit for another person or persons whom they value/love at least as much as the former ‘love’/obession, but whom they trust more than their lover/obession.

    In other words….shame only works if you care about the person to whom you feel ashamed before….shame only works when one loves and thus feels sorrow for letting another person down. If a stranger attempts to ‘shame’ a person for X, all that is accomplished is the creation of a passive-aggressive cycle; people either go silent or they go “kinetic”. This is why LGBTQ? tactics of shaming others as “haters” and “bigots” is actually as counter-productive as those misguided Heterosexuals are who call people with LGBTQ proclivities nasty names. At most all that does is drive the anger underground. They may go passive and silent but they’re not convinced of the error of their ways.

    As for the debate about what to call a same-sex relationship that involves physical intimacy including ‘sex’…. surely we all realize that in the English language and indeed the Western world, there have always been a fairly large variety of perfectly suitable words that describe the variety of couplings that can exist…..and these words have never been co-terminous with “marriage”. Thus there is fornication, hooking up, one-night stands, adultery, polygamy, incest, affairs, concubinage, mistresses, etc. At no time in our civilization’s history was it common to claim that these unions didn’t involve sincere feelings of affection or subjective states of soul whereby the parties felt good about their relationship. And yet at the same time these couplings were not called “marriage”.

    Just as we distinguish between similar but distinct entities in every OTHER walk of life…. a bomber and a fighter jet are both planes. A Frigate and a Battleship are both ships. A truck and a car both have at least 4 wheels…. But while similar, they are in fact distinct and to claim they are “functionally the same and so ought to be legally and socially considered the same thing” is to do violence to reality (and the opinions of everyone else on earth).

    One sees this in the debates about guns where the default Media line is to confuse semi-autos with “machine guns”. I can assure you there is a physical and functional difference between an AR-15 and a M-16. One is a semi-auto and the other is a fully automatic, by design.

    For a small group of people to assert that their sui generis re-definition of the word “marriage” ought to include same-sex couples and that the rest of us are ‘haters’, bigots and evil-doers for denying them this “equal right” of re-defining words, the meaning of has long been previously established is remarkable. Since when has “everyone else”, the heterosexual majority enjoyed the common and routine power of redefining words and imposing these novel definitions on everyone else via the federal bureaucracy?

    That a same-sex couple are in a relationship of friendship and love need not be challenged. But that this relationship must be called “marriage” if they want it so, is akin to claiming that should a mother want her baby, then it’s a baby, but if she doesn’t want it, it’s “merely a fetus”. Our will power is strong but not strong enough to transmogrify reality and anull the past.

    Just because I want something doesn’t mean I’ve a right to it. And just because I demand my actions be called something doesn’t mean that’s the proper word to describe my actions. Insisting that I’m right and everyone else is wrong because I say so…. well, that sort of thing just begs to be asked ‘who the heck do I think I am?”

    Recap: people only leave people for other people. And they only let one person go when they trust another person is there for them…..

    While words have a certain dynamic endurance in cultures, words that describe states of affairs of ancient pedigree naturally resist the ebb of time. Take “nation” for example or “country”. The term and concept has existed for 7,000 years. A county is not a country. To assert that something is so because we want it to be so is one thing – and it’s a two way street. To attempt to use shaming and the power of government coercion to enforce this new definition on a majority whom you attempt to shame… well, that sort of thing doesn’t have a good track record of “working”.

    • MumbleMumble

      “Until people feel the healing balm and perhaps also the liberation from something that binds their hearts or darkens their minds (don’t we all remember the rose-colored glasses phenomenon?), they simply won’t be in a place to even listen to ‘reason’.”
      This statement can be applied to both sides of the conversation. How do you know what is the liberation and what is darkening the mind?

  • John

    Of course it can be applied to both sides! People change their minds/hearts about other people/obsessions or beliefs only when other people whom they trust and love or have reason to at least “like” help them step back from the ‘rose-colored’ phenomenon.

    So how would either or any “side” know what is objective good and what is good “for me”? That is the $64 million dollar question.

    If one has trauma/impairment and/or an addiction that reduces one’s rational faculties, then the preliminary operation, before logical syllogism has to be to heal the wounds or address the obsessions/ideations.

    We all do this when we enter a situation where someone is panicking. We get their attention “calm down!, Look at me, listen!” etc. Or we just hug them while they cry and then let them work through their emotions before attempting to use words.

    Then we make distinctions. The metaphysical, “natural law” approach is precisely to call to mind that distinctions exist and they matter.

    There is a difference between love and lust. Between infatuation and ‘true love’. Between objective compatibility (two are really good for each other) and the all too common phenomenon of two people hooking up because both are seeking something other than the genuine good of the other (like getting into a new relationship on the rebound from a recently failed one).

    Inasmuch as we’re people, and human beings are social creatures, we’ve all had such experiences have we not?

    So we all at least intuitively know that not everything and everyone we have initially FELT was “a good thing for me to have” turned out to actually be “a good thing for me to have”.

    So a healthy doubt in our immediate infallibility is established. Not everything that looks like gold, is gold.

    So how to distinguish? More distinctions. Like the distinction between different orders of “good”. Physical, physiological, psychological, social, moral, spiritual….. all are distinct planes of existence having their own sets of “good things”. Aristotle classifies them pretty well in the Nicomachean ethics.

    Altruistic, self-sacrificial Friendship is a higher order “good” than food. And why do I “know” this? Why isn’t this “merely my opinion”? Because, Phenomenologically, people of all time seem to align with my own experience of heroism when someone sacrifices their own food to save another’s life.

    Whether its convenient or not for me, there does seem to be a categorical distinction between a person who is heroic and one who is self-servingly craven. The difference seems to be in what the two hold as their maximum good.

    The husband who stays faithful to a wife despite plenty of opportunities to ‘cheat’ is regarded not as a chump but as a champeon. Ulyssess chose to risk death at sea to reunite with his wife and son rather than stay on the hedonistic utopia of Calypso’s island where he’d be ageless and have a sea goddess to bed each night forever. Like it or not, Western Civilization “began” right there, with that choice of one good over another. For both are goods.

    So it goes with a friend in a relationship which we think is harmful…. that relationship may very well fill a need of the friend of ours. It may very well feel great. If may very well please them on any number of levels of goodness…. but what if they are called to something greater and that relationship is keeping them down? It’s in relationship that morality springs. Relationship with persons who may have a higher destiny for us than we can even imagine for ourselves.

    The angle is not “oh you’re a waste and so is your little friend here”. The angle is “you are a wonderful person whom I love and you have such great potential for greater loves than this if you’d only wake up and see beyond this current situation”.

    Distinctions are what “reason” is made of…. so we distinguish “a sinner” from “a saint” not by looking to what a person is made of (genetics, proclivities, urges, appetites, etc.) but what that person does in relationship to God, him/herself, and other people. The Catholic Church further distinguishes between sinful actions and the person doing them. It’s entirely possible to do objectively wrong things without being subjectively guilty.

    This is why we can “judge” an action without judging the culpability of the actor. Or claim to ‘love the sinner, not the sin”. It’s because we can in fact distinguish one from the other. This is also why the Catholic Church doesn’t condemn “homosexuals” are utterly oozing with horribleness… but rather condemns only the actions (sodomy). No one declares that same-sex friendship is evil (all of us have friends of our same gender!) Or declares that merely having a proclivity or hunger or desire or temptation makes one a hopelessly evil person.

    The inability to distinguish things though….that is indeed a phenomenological proof that someone is not operating from a healthy physical and perhaps spiritual place. Being unhealthy/wrong is not the same thing as being evil/bad…..

    So…. if I thought a loved one was in a harmful relationship, I would first of all not presume that they’re sinners or damned or hopeless. Indeed they may be innocent of actual sin or malice but still be hurting themselves by omission of greater things and greater loves.

    If Mother Theresa had been tempted to abandon her work with the poor so as to run off with a tourist… and I intervened to call her back to her heroic work for the poor, it wouldn’t necessarily be because a friendship or marriage to some guy would be “bad”. It’s just that I would believe her to be leaving a higher calling.

    • MumbleMumble

      I agree with almost all of what you have said, with one fairly major exception. You cite the Catholic Church as being the authority on determining saint and sinner. If you saw your friend in a relationship that the Church designated as wrong, you would want your friend to not be a sinner, to have a stronger relationship with God, to reach that higher calling that you’re referring to. I understand that you don’t harbor any ill will towards your friend, and, in fact, you are doing what you think is best. But what if you’re wrong? What if the Catholic Church is wrong? This gets back to my original question. How do we know the liberation vs. the chains? Someone can easily make the argument that the Catholic Church is, in fact, darkening the minds of people and preventing them from reaching their potential. None of your previous justifications (which I agreed with), like self sacrifice or faithfulness, necessarily lead to Catholicism. They just mean you’re a person who cares about others, which I believe to be a good mindset to have. But I am not a Catholic. And because I am not Catholic, no justification based solely in Catholic doctrine will convince me of anything. What makes something a sin? Is it only what the Church decides, or is there something more? What makes homosexual actions sinful? Just arguing that they are, by their nature, sinful is not enough to convince me.

  • John

    Oh, good catch.

    How do we know X is true and healthy? Well, what is “health”? To determine what is healthy for a human being you first have to decide or settle in your mind whether the species has a nature or not and how we’d know either way.

    One phenomenological way might be to analyze music in movies…. what makes the sound track for Star Wars universally “workable” for human beings the world over? If there was no single human nature we all share, then wouldn’t we expect certain chords to not “work” in terms of evoking certain emotions? Yes, yes we would.

    So given the universal appreciation for music despite race, culture and class differences…. it would seem all human beings have something in common despite our obvious differences.

    A single human nature would also make other sciences workable such as physics, modern medicine, psychology etc. and international law….if we weren’t of one species with a single human nature to share, we couldn’t logically defend international norms on any rational basis other than the threat of force.

    Having a nature doesn’t mean we’re all perfect – everything argues that none of us are perfect specimens of “homo sapiens” so within a nature there will be variety due to a) defects or b) neutral diversity.

    The rub then is determining what is the harmful defect and what is the harmless variety. Getting freckles is harmless variety. Getting skin cancer is a harmful defect.

    So what of proclivities and appetites involving emotional wellbeing and sex? Given a single human nature (seems like everyone can get HIV…) and given that a huge variety of proclivities, emotive states and habits exist in humanity, how do we determine that this particular proclivity and action is harmful and which one is harmless?

    One way might be to study effects on the body. Another would be to study effects on the mind and will. If I’m right and sodomy is harmful, then it would have a negative impact on mind, body, and soul (or free will/self-control).

    We need not delve into STDs that rise from certain practices – that’s well known. So what of the negatives that occur in the mind (reasoning faculty) and soul ( or free will/self-possession if you don’t believe in a spiritual soul)?

    The habitual inability to make distinctions between someone who disagrees with you and someone who “hates” you might be a tip off to a disfunctional mind. Surely it’s not Spock-like rationality or a sign of a mature, well adjusted and rational human being to simply not understand that a distinction between sin and sinner (or act and actor) exists. Or that an action may be objectively wrong but the actor innocent of guilt. When gay activists routinely and vociferously lump mere disagreement with physical assault and murderous malice aforethought when nothing but words (and calm, soft spoken words at that) were offered….. surely that’s a sign of something amiss.

    Doesn’t mean they’re evil. It probably means they are unhealthy.

    With respect to the soul…. if anyone (hetero or not) has a vice or habit that they cannot cease, overwhich they cannot exercise self-control or to which they feel helpless to control…. do we not all conclude that something unhealthy is going on in their soul or person?

    I’ve known many wonderful alcoholics who are excellent in a great number of areas but whose minds were darkened when it came to the danger of alcohol and who refused to even consider that they were killing themselves…. and all the way to the treatment center they were aggressively antagonistic with loved ones whom they called the worst names because “for them” it was the world that was crazy, not them.

    Then I met some gay activists who exhibited the same signs: wonderful people, capable in many areas of life, high functioning leaders in their respective fields….but who had a noticable inability to make distinctions with people with whom they disagreed and a type of blindness to their obsession. Indeed they’d bring up their orientation and then accuse me of “always talking about sex” after I rebutted their claims.

    Phenomenologically then, it’s possible to diagnose someone as being unhealthy (*at least in one area of life) when you see these two areas of human life impaired: their ability to distinguish and their ability to be self-aware or self-controlled about something. The saints of the Catholic Church weren’t saints because it was easy for them to “keep the rules” but because it was hard. And they’re held up to us as good examples to follow not because they were “always right” but because they were self-aware enough to recognize and distinguish when they failed….

  • John

    So… inasmuch as we must first heal and if needed, liberate before preaching, I’m taking pains to write in a fashion that is as unprovocative as I can – us being strangers and my good will being impossible here to prove.

    But if we were a ‘hated’ and ‘bigot’ of gay people and gay people were a finite % of the global population and I harbored murderous, irrational hatred in my heart for that minority…. would I a) spend time talking with them or b) put all my efforts into encouraging them to do all those things that I know are conducive to their early demise, including pyhrric victories?

    If I hated black people and wanted to wipe them out….would I a) be in favor of school vouchers so they could send their kids to schools of their choice, the 2nd amendment so they could arm themselves and the rule of law so that they could acquire property and opportunity independent of myself and my political control….or b) be in favor of locking them in an ever more comprehensive embrace and dependency on my politically controlled faction such that independent of my faction they stood no chance?

    If I hated gays…. and I had good reason to suspect that social success would lead them to more STDs, self-destructive behavior and socially known identities where I and my ilk could find them….wouldn’t I be in favor of their political agenda?

    Now what if I didn’t hate them as people but instead sincerely believed that it was not they as people that was a problem but their self-destructive actions that were a threat to their full human flourishing? I might still be wrong but would I be a ‘hater’ if I warned them from certain things that I subjectively felt to be grave dangers to them?

  • When I was a high school student obsessed with apologetics, I met a young Scotch Presbyterian lady. Her attitude towards Catholics was as fiery as her vividly red hair. Naturally, we were fast friends, because she wanted an argument and I gave her one.

    I do not know that it was because I was rather clever or because she was not as well catechized as she perhaps should have been; I was certainly boisterous and certainly not humble by any stretch of the term at the time. But the result was that one day I was certain I had, like Death to Cyrano de Bergerac, cut away all her apologetical ribbons; she was left without anything to say when I had answered her point. Naturally, I, being an idiot, asked her very stridently why she wouldn’t just convert already. (With shame, I confess I may have used exactly those words. 15 year old Thomas deserved a swift kick in the pants, far more than Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes ever did.) I will never forget her response. Taken aback, she responded that “my dad is Scotch Presbyterian, my mom is Scotch Presbyterian, my whole family is Scotch Presbyterian; if I became Catholic, they would disown me!”

    Were I either a great saint or a really ruthless jerk, I might have continued right then. But 15 year old Thomas yet had the beginnings of a heart; I was shocked for a second, and lapsed into silence, after which I suggested we go get something to eat. I couldn’t think of anything else to say; I have always had a loving family and to think of the possibility of losing them over an admittedly-real factional issue was too much to bear. I wish I had not lost touch with that girl. If I met her today, I would apologize; she left the school we were at shortly afterwards, and I do not doubt that my aggressive “evangelization” may have had a role in that. And probably, if I met her today, I could tell her what I would have said had I been wiser then, that if a parent or a more distant relative really loves you, it shouldn’t be conditional upon your not dressing Goth or your only liking people of the opposite sex or your being a part of your family’s church. The love must persist. They can disagree with you, of course; they can be hurt by it (one can hardly avoid this) and can express their disapproval (that is their unique privilege in some respects) but they cannot stop loving you; in many cases the above actions are expressions of their love. And love is something you can trust and depend upon; if all else fails, one can remind those Bible-believing Presbyterians of 1 Corinthians. But at the time I was simply not good, smart, wise or clever enough to be able to consider saying these things. I needed to learn from it. In a way (and pardon the vocabulary) God sent me a heretic to teach me fidelity.

    In this case we are quite literally talking directly about family. Many or most participants have a situation like that young lady. So what Leah says has a powerful ring to it; we ought to listen.

  • Kewois


    From a Catholic point of view homosexual behavior is a major sin and a deviant behavior.
    Pope Benedict criticizes homosexual behavior
    Published: Monday, December 22, 2008
    VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
    In his State of the World address, Pope Benedict XVI says gay marriage undermines the family and the dignity of human beings.
    In his State of the World address, Pope Benedict XVI says gay marriage undermines…
    Pope: Gay marriage is a threat to humanity’s future
    Monday, January 09, 2012

    Pope Benedict XVI denounced gay marriage in his annual “State of the World” address Monday, going so far as to say the same-sex nuptials threaten the future of humanity.

    In the speech, the pope, 84, unleashed what some consider being his strongest tirade against gay marriage, saying it is among conventions that “undermine the family” and “threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” Reuters reported.

    “Pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and woman,” the pontiff said.

    Thats all.

    If you are catholic you have to accept it. You cannot refute the Pope.


    • Kewois is technically correct, that one has a duty to obey the teaching authority of the Pope. We are fortunate in that the Holy Father himself likes to provide reasons for what he says instead of simply saying “We, in Our infinite wisdom…” In order to get at these it is helpful to cite and analyze the WHOLE text and not just the part the NYDN finds interesting.

      Here is the relevant section:

      “In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, “openness to life is a sign of openness to the future”.[3] In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.

      More generally, and with particular reference to the West, I am convinced that legislative measures which not only permit but at times even promote abortion for reasons of convenience or for questionable medical motives compromise the education of young people and, as a result, the future of humanity.”

      My own analysis, syllogism by syllogism:

      The family is a setting for education about how to be a human being and in the faith;
      The union between man and woman is not merely societally determined convention but the essential genesis of the family (cf. Evangelium Vitae), the “fundamental cell of society”;
      Policies that undermine the centrality of the union between man and woman to family thus undermine the family, and thus, society.

      In the light of this reasoning we have the explanation of what he says, which is not put in terms of marriage but of family:

      Experimentation and patenting on conceived/germinated embryos undermines the connection between parents (in the union) and child;
      What undermines that connection undermines society;
      Therefore experimentation and patenting on conceived/germinated embryos undermines society.

      And likewise with prenatal sex-selection. Furthermore, he is drawing the conclusion that abortion is a very grave manifestation of the same principle. This is not hard to see; one can read Prof. Oliver O’Donovan’s “Again: Who is a Person?” (he has taught at Oxford, Toronto, Edinburgh) to see the whole reasoning process laid out.


      Anyways, the point is that Pope Benedict employs an argument, which more than insinuates that the peril of gay marriage is that it divorces the cause of the family (marriage) from its intended effect (the family) in a way achieved by BORROWING the effect from an alternate union (the sperm and egg, or the adopted child, have to come from somewhere other than the gay marriage) and declaring that causal union to be merely a social institution instead of the proper genesis of that child.

      In the context of education, the child is not given two parents who collectively present a picture of the whole spectrum of humanity extensively, though each same-sex parent might be a perfectly laudable person in all given respects otherwise. And the two parents the child has are not both the child’s parents. Some can perhaps do something to overcome this, but this requires an extraordinary effort; and I would wonder whether any society could sustain considering it the norm, particularly because it instrumentalizes another person, the heterosexual partner used to produce the union, directly or indirectly. And THESE are some of the considerations that are being brought to bear here.

  • HBanan

    Case 1. “Surprise! Your husband is actually married to another woman; you are his secret second family.” This statement would have to be followed by proofs of bigamy for me to act on it.

    In this scenario, in the eyes of both the Catholic Church and the law, my husband would not have been free to marry. The marriage could be annulled.

    Case 2. “Surprise! Your husband was married and civilly divorced from several other woman, but never had the marriages annulled in the Church. You thought you were his first wife, but you weren’t.”

    In this scenario, my husband was free to marry me in the eyes of the law, but not of the Church. Depending on the circumstances, we might be able to have the first marriage annulled, but if not, then our marriage would be null. Plus, I’d be angry to have married a lying jerk.

    Case 3 “Surprise! Your husband had never been married before he met you, but you were both ignorant about many other things before you were married that were essential to that decision. He is your secret long-lost half-sibling, for instance. I have quite a long list here in my hand, so you’d better sit down.”

    My husband was free to marry under law, but I did not make the decision to marry him knowing important information about him that would have precluded our marriage. In the eyes of both state and Church, we were never free to marry each other.

    What if you take out the “Surprise!” and I went into these marriages knowingly? What if the State approved, but the Church disapproved? What if, at the time of my marriage, I loved the state law and hated the Church law, but now I’ve changed my mind? According to the Church, each of these 3 kinds of marriage would have been invalid and could be annulled.

    The manner of that dissolution, however, would depend on me and my husband and the actual circumstances. The cases I mentioned are not the only cases that would mean my marriage was not entered freely or appropriately, and I haven’t even mentioned the kinds of cases that would lead to me leaving even a valid marriage.

    Obviously, people in gay marriages know they are in them, so I’m not sure how much this exercise helps. But it’s not impossible for a change in people’s moral outlook to actually lead to a change in their lives. I am not running around telling gay couples to break up, I am trying to stop laws from being changed to redefine marriage.

    • rahxephon

      Would you like to compare my life to anything else? You’ve already got incest. How about bestiality? Abortion? Murder?

      And how long do you get to compare my life to such things before I get to take the kid gloves off?

  • joost r

    In my line of work (I’m head nurse of a psychiatric ward in a general hospital) we are all the time confronted with couples (be it spouses, be it parent/child) who are pathological, harmful, “hors norme”. Reading your post I once more understood why it is so difficult to bring people to see the harmfulness of their couple: we are not their friends, it’s just our job.
    I then thought about the role of the team and the differenciation of functions in a team: while the psychologist tries to bring the person to the point where he is able to weigh the positive and negative of a relationship himself; the therapist who sees the couple will helps the two to see the deadend street they are walking in; and then there are those in a team who are very direct and just say what’s wrong.
    All those approaches are needed if you want to bring about change in the way people relate to themselves, to the other (“autrui”) and to the world around them.
    And then I thought about the restraint necessary in such situations: dependance or “bénéfices secondaires” (don’t know how to say that in English) are sometimes necessary for a person not to desintegrate completely (just as is it sometimes wise to leave someone at his hallucinations or delirium which can function as an anxiolytic).

    There’s rust on my English.

    Thank you for your blog which I discovered just recently.

  • Niemand

    It occurs to me that everyone here thinks that Libresco is talking about same sex marriage in her post. What if she’s not? What if the real subtext is about, say, marriages between people of different religions? Maybe she disapproves of such behavior and wants to know how much she should press a friend who is, for example, Catholic and married to a non-Catholic? Or maybe she’s considering the genetic risks of people who are too closely related marrying each other and asking whether one should disallow marriages betwen people of the same race? In short, what if she’s threatening your marriage instead of the marriages of people whose lives you consider expendable? Does your opinion on intervening change when it is you who may be forcibly separated from your spouse or have your children taken away because of your “undesirable” behavior or might lose the right to visit your loved one in the hosptial when she or he is ill?

    • rahxephon

      Or maybe in either case she should mind her own business?

      • Ratzi der Nazi

        Well, you know, you can’t get to heaven unless you shove your xtianity down other people’s throat. Jeebus said to go forth and break up people’s marriages, take away their kids, and put them to the sword if need be. HALLELUJAH!!

      • Niemand

        Well, yeah, but I was hoping for some objections from an anti-equality advocate explaining why breaking up their marriage would be entirely different. Or maybe eve one thinking it through and realizing that it wouldn’t be different at all.

  • John

    No, none of the arguments change if we’re dealing with heterosexual relationships that are harmful for both people. The dynamic is the same: rose colored classes making the friend of ours oblivious to the harm of the situation….which makes our approach to them delicate as we can’t just “say the truth” – we have to first establish or reinforce a bridge of trust and love, because no one will leave one relationship unless for another relationship.

    And no one will doubt love for one person unless they first love another and trust them to have only their good in heart….

    So healing and liberation of whatever clouds their heart and mind always comes first….and only then is the person capable of hearing the truth and free to respond to it (such as in the example above of the Presbyterian girl…. she trusted her Catholic friend enough to argue religion with him…. and their friendship provided a source of healing….but she was not free to listen to his message because as a child in that situation, she couldn’t abandon her guardians/parents yet and it wouldn’t have been honorable to induce her to.

    It’s the “you break it, you bought it” situation: any time we reach out to help a friend in need, we need to purify our own intentions and be prepared to go the whole way for them….. we can’t just tell them the truth and leave it on them. We need to be there for them if they accept the truth.

    This is why the Church has also always taught that we ought to evangelize with love, not force. Why the corporal works of mercy preceed the spiritual.

  • rahxephon

    Yeah…if you’re gonna talk strategy about how to trick the gays with your fanceh anti-gay marriage rhetoric, you probably shouldn’t do it on a blog.

    • rahxephon

      You know, where us Gheys can read the absolute garbage you’re writing.

  • rahxephon

    Question: so, since it’s apparently totes cool with everyone here to take on such tactics, I’d like to know something. I have a family member considering marrying a Catholic, which I find morally intolerable. When can I start working on breaking them up? You know, FOR THEIR OWN GOOD.

    • Ratzi der Nazi

      I’d start right away, because before you know it they’ll be married with eight little proto-Catholics and they’ll probably have held a complete funeral for at least one miscarriage.

  • jason taylor

    “Privilege” is sometimes given for a reason. If you spent decades working on a manuscript, what would someone have to say to you to let them post it on the internet and claim themselves as the writer? If you were grower of expensive French wine what would someone have to say to get you to say that Welches grape juice is equal. Married people work at keeping the rules for marriage. Celibates work at keeping the rules for celibacy. What Leah says is true. But this is also true.

    • jason taylor

      And while we talk of “privilege” I should think that being able to claim criticism as “bigotry” is a substantial privilege. I do not claim that rebukes from the Catholic Church are bigoted. As I am Protestant, the Catholic Church by definition rebukes me for not being a Catholic as well as some of my habits(which I suppose I should have to change should I swim the Tiber). Amish would rebuke me for liking war movies. While we are at it, Mormons would note that I like Coffee, and Muslims would note that I like bacon. But I have never held it against any of those groups; simply because I assumbed having an opinion about peoples behavior is what religions do.

  • Monado

    So, you’ve decided that some class of people doesn’t deserve to be able to marry? How, uh, Christian of you.

    The original stricture in Leviticus could best be translated as “lascivious bed-hopper” not “homosexual” — and it referred to ritual taboos for the priestly class. People didn’t think of homosexuality as a separate orientation — they saw it as excessive sexuality. It’s as logical to extend this to sexual orientation and loving relationships as it is to call throwing out the dishwasher ploughing because it moves some dust.