Saturday, July 9, 2011

Response to Maya

Commenter Maya, who I know from a secular message board, left a series of comments on last week's post that really deserve their own post in response due to their length and depth. I've put Maya's comments in green so that it's easier to distinguish her words from my response.

Maya, once again, thank you for being respectful and courteous in your response. Your civility is very much appreciated.
The reason your words provoked outrage is precisely because, to many people, myself included, the term "objectively disordered" is offensive in the extreme. It suggests something is fundamentally wrong with a person, and is often used to describe conditions of great deviancy, such as pedophilia. Surely you can appreciate how, no matter the distinction between sin and sinner, why that phrase in particular would be cause for a great deal of anger and outrage? If you're not calling homosexuals objectively disordered, why use a quote that describes the condition of homosexuality as such?
Straight off the bat, I'm confused. In the same paragraph (by my interpretation), you acknowledge that I have only called homosexuality an objectively disordered inclination, but then you also say that I have called homosexual people objectively disordered. I have done the former, but not the latter.

If this phrase causes anger and outrage, it's because it's not properly understood. All sin is objectively disordered. Adultery is objectively disordered. Premarital sex is objectively disordered. In the same token, all people have disordered inclinations. Something is fundamentally wrong with all of us. It's called sin, and no one is immune from it.  The Catholic term for this is concupiscence. For some people, these inclinations come in the form of same-sex attraction. For others, an inclination to promiscuity or extra-marital sex, or an inclination toward deviant sexuality such as pedophilia and bestiality. For others (like myself) gluttony, anger, sloth, envy and pride. For others, it's a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug abuse.

Saying that homosexuality (or gluttony, or alcoholism) is objectively disordered is a reflection on the disorder itself, not the person who has that disorder. We can't necessarily always help what disordered inclinations we have, but we can control how we act in response to them. Thus, there is the Catholic distinction between homosexual inclinations and homosexual acts. It is not sinful to have a disordered inclination. It is sinful to act upon that inclination.
Furthermore, if you believe that homosexuality is not a choice, then yes, it does become rather more complicated to separate out "hating the sin but loving the sinner" as the two become inextricably linked. Obviously we are never going to agree on the point of whether or not homosexuality is a biological orientation or a choice, but at least try to understand where people's anger and outrage is coming from instead of feigning surprise at their reactions.
I wasn't "feigning surprise" at anyone's reactions. I honestly WAS surprised, and I asked for evidence that my words were, specifically, "hateful, bigoted, and vitrolic" as those were the accusations leveled at me. To me, those terms describe someone like Fred Phelps, who believes that anyone with same-sex attraction should be publicly flogged and executed and attempts to desecrate the funerals of soldiers and Catholic murder victims in order to pontificate his disgusting viewpoints.

Again, I was very surprised that I could post this and have it called hateful, bigoted, and vitrolic:
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
It's hateful to say that violent malice in speech and action against homosexual persons is deplorable? Really? All people have intrinsic dignity and worth. The disordered inclinations that each person may have has no bearing on their intrinsic dignity as a human being.
As to your arguments about incest and pedophilia. Incest doesn't technically harm anyone if the two adults involved are consenting, but there's issues of whether or not that consent can be genuine, for a start. I have my doubts whether it ever can be truly consensual, but aside from issues of consent, there's the fact that closely related biological individuals procreating vastly increases the risk of serious genetic conditions. [note from JoAnna: bolding mine]
Regarding the bolded portion -- one argument of same-sex marriage advocates seems to be that reproduction should have nothing to do with marriage. At least one commenter on the last post asked why infertile or post-menopausal heterosexuals weren't denied marriage, for example. If this is the case, why should the couple's ability to sexual reproduce make any difference to same-sex marriage advocates, whether or not the couple is homosexual or biologically related?

Another issue -- one of the only ways that homosexual couples can have children is via IVF, but the CDC states that children conceived via IVF may have a significantly higher chance of birth defects than children conceived naturally. I'm assuming, however, that these statistics aren't significant enough for you to feel that IVF should be banned.

Either the potential for sexual reproduction has nothing to do with marriage, or it has everything to do with marriage. It can't go one way for homosexual couples and another way for consenting incestuous couples. Would you support marriage for incestuous couples if and only if both were voluntarily sterilized or post-menopausal?
As for pedophilia, really? Pedophiles might be "born that way," but their victims are unable to consent.
 Why is consent the sole criterion of the good? I happen to think that a lot of things that happen between consenting adults is deplorable and immoral. Adultery, for example.
Neither of these conditions holds true in a consensual, adult, homosexual relationship. It's also deeply offensive to me to relate homosexuality to incest and pedophilia, even for the purposes of making an analogy (however poor I think it may be), and many others feel the same.
I'm sure they do, but at the same time there are parallels. It's true that homosexual relationships do not typically involve child abuse, but the fact is that both homosexuals and pedophiles claim they were "born that way" and that their sexual proclivities should be condoned, encouraged, and even celebrated. NAMBLA keeps lobbying to lower the age of consent and present arguments that teenagers, and even young children, CAN consent to sex. (Obviously, I disagree...) Two doctors, in testifying before the Canadian parliament, claimed that pedophilia was a sexual orientation no different than homosexuality or heterosexuality. The line is getting blurry, and that's worrisome.

Saying that homosexual inclinations and pedophiliac inclinations have a similar genesis (in that they both may be genetic in nature) is not saying that homosexuals are no different than pedophiles, but that seems to be the first assumption to which everyone leaps.
In your reply to Hannah above, you say that she has misrepresented or misunderstood your words, and that "gays can't procreate so they don't need marriage." In your earlier entry on the NY vote, however, you wrote this: "As homosexual couples are, by nature and design, unable to naturally procreate, the privileges are unnecessary." I understood privileges in the second part of the sentence to refer to the privilege of marriage, which you referenced earlier. If that sentence is not stating that, since homosexual couples cannot procreate naturally, that they do not need the privileges of marriage, then what were you trying to say?
I was trying to say that it is patently unnecessary to radically change and alter the institution of marriage in order to grant certain legal protections to individuals. To quote from a Vatican document about this issue:
Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society. [emphasis mine]
In your [message board post] and here, you also cited a secular article in defense of your position. However, had you returned to the thread, you would have seen that Halfwright challenged this statement. "The second author has written several books on how government should enforce morality (his morality, of course).
Oh, so the government should enforce her morality instead? I find this argument amusing, frankly. Law is, essentially, the morality of the majority being enforced upon everyone else. In democratic societies, it all depends on who makes the most persuasive case that their morality is the one that should be imposed.
The first author has written (religiously-based) letters to the editor about abortion and wrote his senior thesis on the (moral) dangers of premarital sex. At least two of them are very devout Catholics -- the first page of google turned that up easily -- and write frequently about the issue from a faith-based approach. Religion absolutely informs their views. Though they might not reference religion specifically (and they even try their hardest to stay away from it), I'd argue that religion is front and center in that piece. The vehicle might be secular, but to claim that his religious leanings have no bearing on his opinion is, to me, disingenuous. It is not a wholly secular piece against gay marriage if the author has that kind of publishing background.
I find this viewpoint -- that if one's views are influenced by religion, their arguments are therefore invalid -- extremely bigoted, frankly. In fact, it's very theophobic. You acknowledge that the arguments do not appeal to a religious perspective. Shouldn't those arguments be judged, then, on their own merits as opposed to judged on the basis of the religious background of the persons making them? I personally believe that it is wrong to automatically discount someone's arguments on the sole basis of their religious (or non-religious) background. For example, I don't automatically discount Christopher Hitchens' beliefs on the basis of his atheism: I reject them because I believe they are both uninformed and illogical.
You also assert in your previous post that you do not need to be married to someone to, for instance, be able to will your property to them upon your death. No, you do not, this is true. However, in the event you do not take extra legal steps to specify that you wish this to happen, the state will automatically assume that your property will go to your husband.
Actually, in the U.S., this varies depending on state law. Not all states are community property states. Arizona is a community property state, but my husband and I also have a will (drawn up by a lawyer and duly notarized) specifying that if one of us dies the other one inherits all possessions and property, just in case that ever changes.
Gay couples suffer through countless little slights each day that to me, are unnecessary. Why should they have to fight legally and jump through hoops (or sometimes even be denied the ability to jump through hoops) to obtain the same privileges conferred automatically upon heterosexual couples?
Why should the institution of marriage have to be radically altered -- indeed, redefined -- in order for these rights to be conferred upon two individuals who wish to specify disposition of joint property upon the death of one of them?
To use a real example, in the thread, Jemma mentioned just one way in which the exclusion of considering homosexual couples to be legally wed in Pennsylvania has affected her family. Her wife works at the university her daughter attended, but "My daughter attended that university and, for her first three years, she had to pay tuition, whereas the step-children of straight couples do not. That little example cost my family about $20,000. By her final year, my wife's union had won same-sex benefits. That's just one small example." To me, this is wrong.
Well, here's another example. When I first attended college, I lived with my mother and stepfather. Because I did, my stepfather's income was considered my "household income" when it came to federal financial aid. My mother and father, individually, made very little income; my stepfather's income was significantly more. Because my stepfather's income was considered my household income even though he was not paying for any part of my college tuition, I received very little financial aid from my university and had to take out significant private student loans in order to attend college, a situation that to this day has negatively affected my credit.

Would you support abolishing marriage altogether, or abolishing remarriage after divorce, so that other people in my situation can receive better financial aid packages? I'm guessing no. In my opinion, the answer would have been to change rules of that university should be changed so that step-children of heterosexual employees also have to pay tuition, or go by different criteria altogether, not to radically redefine marriage so that someone can have a better financial situation.
If we as a society hold that the ideal relationship legally is two people, bound to each other by law to the exclusion of all others, then the benefits of that legal relationship should extend to any in a similar situation, regardless of the genders involved.

But that's not what marriage is or why the government is in the business of recognizing marriages. Steven Greydanus just published a series of articles called Redefining Marriage that goes into this in more detail, but this is the excerpt that really sums it up well:
Recently in an online forum a same-sex marriage advocate wrote to me, “I’ve never once had any conservative be able to tell me how the legalization of gay marriage affects, in any measurable way, their relationship with their spouse.”

My response was: “I’ve never once had any same-sex marriage advocate be able to offer a coherent account of what marriage is and is not, and why it is the state should have a bureaucratic apparatus for certifying (and decertifying) sexual partnerships involving two and only two non-related adults in any gender combination.”
And what about when civil unions and domestic partnership laws become discriminatory? Take the case of Joyce and Sybil Burden, two sisters in a platonic relationship (i.e., non-incestuous) who applied for a British civil union in order to get the estate tax benefit, so that if one of them died the other wouldn't lose their family home. However, they were denied, because the final court of appeal essentially ruled that civil unions only applied to women who weren't biologically related. I think this situation is unfair under Britain's current laws, frankly. If they're going to give a civil union to two lesbians, why not to two post-menopausal sisters in a platonic relationship?
I've also never been able to understand, nor received, a satisfactory answer as to what changes when one partner in a homosexual relationship undergoes a sex change, transforming the couple into a heterosexual one. Suddenly, they are allowed to marry, yet they are not able to naturally procreate, so would they also be denied the ability to marry in your worldview? I'm genuinely curious.
In my view, such a couple should be denied marriage, because I believe one cannot "change" into a different sex.  One can have plastic surgery and take hormones so that he or she resembles the opposite sex, but a DNA analysis will still prove that he or she is genetically the sex he or she was at birth. Thus, the union would be a homosexual one, not a heterosexual one, and natural reproduction is impossible by design.
I will return to read your reply, but I don't know that I'll feel compelled to comment again. However, just this once, I decided to give it my best shot at explaining why I feel the way I do, and attempting to get you to see why your remarks would provoke such anger and hostility on the board.
I very much appreciate your willingness to dialogue, and once again I appreciate the civility that you displayed.

3 comments:

  1. I think your response was great Joanna! Very well thought out and argued!

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  2. Did Maya have a chance to read this post? It is excellent, and charitable.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Perhaps. I let her know it was up.

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