Monday, September 5, 2011

Random Thoughts (since I missed Quick Takes!)

Forgive me, Jen! I can't seem to time my Quick Takes to run every Friday. So, here I go with some thoughts after an interesting week:

1. You've probably already read it, but I have to recommend the following blog post at Bad Catholic for being the best post of all time:

And it's true! My goodness, if a person's gonna relish in and glorify mortal sin, at least do it well! Seriously one of the most refreshing, funny, and original posts ever.

2. In the aftermath of the attacks on Stacy by atheists on her blog, I got a taste of the left's "tolerance" for Catholics who dare speak the unchanging moral truths taught by the Catholic Church and the orthodox of every major world religion. Here's a short and representative excerpt from a lengthy dialogue I had with a gay atheist who emailed me:

[You] cause harm to LGBT families & your children & you don't care.

That makes you an evil person.

And at the end of the day, LGBT will receive full rights, despite your bigotry or your attempts to prevent us from receiving it.

And guess what else, throughout this whole conversation, you've caused me stress & you've hurt my feelings because this is hatred.

You hurt my feelings & you hurt the LGBT community.

You are a bad person. So catholic, indeed.

See, I believe that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual, and by saying so I hurt this man's feelings. I caused him stress. Therefore I am a "hater" and a "bigot", a "bad" and "evil" person. Oh yeah, and he called me a "whore" too, because that makes sense.

Ah, the "tolerance" of the tolerant left! Ya gotta love it!

3. Which leads me to my most oft-quoted quote of the week, from Archbishop Charles Chaput:
We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty -- these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it's never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil.
Let me flesh it out a bit: Virtues are always good. We want always to be charitable, just, merciful, prudent, honest, etc. But tolerance does not fit that mold, because we know that tolerance is not always good. If some Germans tolerated the evil of the Holocaust, was that good? Was that virtuous? Of course not. If a nation tolerates slavery or abortion, is that a good thing? No way. So, tolerance is not an absolute good in that way that a virtue is. In fact, tolerance can become an evil in itself. The virtues never could.

4. So, modern feminists say they love strong women. But how do they feel about this strong, intelligent, beautiful young woman? Anne Marie Dust fought "the man" at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and won. She is a role model for courage and fortitude, and for the sheer joy she exudes. Feminists, do you cheer her on, or do you condemn her as a traitor to your gender? I'm seriously asking.

5. Speaking of the Culture of Death (which we were… didn't you watch the video?), check this out:

Talk about the Culture of Death proving itself! From the article:
A new study of the state of the 2.3 million Episcopal Church in America has found that a third of the 6,825 parishes in the U.S. have an average Sunday attendance of 40 or less and one of the main reasons cited for the decline is the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop in 2003.
It's really no surprise that living by the tenets of the anti-life culture (contraception, abortion, active homosexuality, euthanasia) leads to, well, death. The death of a very liberal denomination in this case. Many bewildered Episcopalians who still believe in the Christian Gospel are coming home to the Catholic Church, and those "progressives" who are left will become indistinguishable from the secular culture, just like the Episcopal Church itself.

6. Speaking of Anglicans (well, we were speaking of their American brethren, the Episcopalians!), I love this quote from Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman:

"Good is never accomplished except at the cost of those who do it, truth never breaks through except through the sacrifice of those who spread it." 

And Newman knew a thing or two about cost and sacrifice. What a humble, holy man and a towering intellect.

7. Speaking of Catholic heroes and saints in Britain (we were, you know!), go right this very minute to your netflix account and put A Man For All Seasons at the top of your queue. In 1966, this astoundingly good movie won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.

In the midst of his charming diatribe, the gay atheist (of #2 above) told me that "the Catholic Church telling King Henry VIII that he couldn't divorce*, causing him to break away from the Catholic Church" was "one of humanity's best moments." And a commenter from Britain called "gayatheist" (who advocates removing children from Catholic homes) opined that radical Islamists "might come after the catholics with any luck... Finish what Henry VIII started. Lol." 

So for those who want to see "one of humanity's best moments" (but not in the way that our atheist friends think) be sure to watch A Man for All Seasons and compare the actions and character of St. Thomas More to those of his former best friend, Henry VIII.


*Henry VIII was actually seeking an annulment, not a divorce. But why let a little thing like a fact interrupt a perfectly good anti-Catholic screed?  ;)


  1. Oh, these were very sad quick takes!

  2. I know Anne Marie!!! She just graduated from Bradley and was a "Newmaner" like me :) She's very well spoken and super passionate about the pro life movement!

  3. But thank you for fighting the good fight against those more tolerant than we.

  4. Thanks for a great post! Mind if I share it? :)

  5. Anne Marie has voiced my thoughts exactly--that this is not political, but about what is best for a person. Only she said it so much better.

  6. Juat re the Episcopal churches closing - there are more othodox branches of episcopalianism/anglicanism out there. My family, for example, are Reformed Episcopalians, and though our service is similar, we are very different than the well known episcopalians. For instance, we are stronly pro life and do not support gay marriage. Contraception is not banned outright as far as I know, but I think the fact that the average family in our church has 5 kids says something. Just FYI, so people dont assume that everyone under the episcopalian umbrella is super liberal and worldly.


  7. Rebecca, excellent point! I know of some high Anglicans here in town who are completely pro-life and pro-family in every way. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. I think it is interesting how you are called an "evil person", whereas I don't think I have ever seen you call any one person evil on this blog - just things that people do evil. This is a big difference.

    For the record, I do not think you are an evil person!

  9. Leila, Great 7 Takes!!! Marc at Bad Catholic is awesome (and he also writes for He said in a recent post about miracles that Elaine, the young artist who draws those touching pictures of Mary and baby Jesus is his girlfriend. Is that sweet or what? Oh, here I had to go find it and link it. Miracles Happen!

  10. Anne Marie is inspiring to me. What a wonderful young woman!

  11. Stacy, the question do we get our kids to turn out like Marc??? I've spent some time pondering this one.

  12. I was a bit startled at # 1 at first, but it turned out to be a great point. Well worth the read. Thanks for sharing that!

  13. O.k. this made me laugh,
    And a commenter from Britain called "gayatheist" (who advocates removing children from Catholic homes) opined that radical Islamists "might come after the catholics with any luck... Finish what Henry VIII started. Lol."

    Right, because we all know how supportive Islam is of the LGBT community.

    So now I will put A Man for all Seasons in my Netflix queue. I hope they have instant for this one.

  14. suburban mom, it's funny you mention that, because I have pointed that out to several of the gay atheists (including at least three in Britain) and they actually all blew it off as funny! They say that Britain is getting more "secular" and there is no problem with Islam. Strange, like an ostrich. Not seeing that while the Brits are letting go of Christianity, the Muslim immigrants (who are having oodles of kids) aren't letting go of their religion. It's so weird, the denial! The left seems to hate Christianity so much, but almost admires Islam. The same Islam that does not, in any way, admire them! LGBT's are in danger of getting their heads lopped off in a Muslim Britain! But this seems strangely lost on them.

  15. I came by from Stacy’s blog to make a comment, and ask a question.

    A comment:

    It looks like no one followed up on the G.K. Chesterton quote you posted on Stacy's blog, which is a little sad, if not terribly surprising. It's a good quote! It's a clever passage exploring a useful principle.

    But in the case of the fence keeping gay couples from getting legally married, I don't think it's very helpful to your cause. Because people who want legal marriage equality aren't, as a group, pushing for that reform just, y'know, 'cuz. We know what the fence is doing there, and we have a pretty good understanding of who built it and why. For one thing, at the very least, it is currently keeping gay couples from receiving the rights and responsibilities conferred on married couples—that's some degree of harm, visited on gay people, their children, and their extended families. Historically, heterosexual marriage also seems to have served to organize society along patrilineal lines, helping concentrate patriarchal power by marginalizing the ability of women to make meaningful decisions about who, when, and in what context we reproduce. In fact, it seems likely that the fence was first built more to keep women and men in their places than it was to keep gay people out—and as LGBT people became more visible and more threatening, this exclusion was seen as a feature, not a bug.

    (The Perry v. Schwarzenegger transcripts are a good survey of researchers in this area discussing their work. They're longish, but good reads, and they have links to various interesting studies and books.)

    So it seems like we actually have a pretty good idea of what the fence is doing. We've thought about it, and we have a pretty good model, and it seems to match historical records and what we see today, more or less. But we can do better than that! We can test it. Because, in fact, we don't have just one fence, and knocking it down isn't a binary decision. We have lots of fences, lots of different ways and places that LGBT people are excluded from society. And when we do that, it doesn't seem like the fence was keeping zombies away or keeping all our farmland from washing into a ditch or somesuch. It looks like it was keeping gay people from being married, and when we knocked it down, it stopped doing that. In that context, I struggle to see why we shouldn't take down the rest of them.

    A question:

    Why does Catholic doctrine hold that sex is in some way “for” procreation?

    Backstory: During a rough period in my life, I reached out towards faith. I read the Bible. And a thing that struck me about the Bible was how little it had to say about sex. And at the time, I wanted guidance on sex, so this relative silence was really irritating! I ended up going to a priest, who wasn’t really able to offer a better explanation, and I eventually got discouraged and decided the Church just wasn’t for me.

    But I would still like to understand this.

  16. Violet, hello!

    I'm a little bit confused by your assertion that marriage was designed to keep gay people marginalized (is that what you are saying)? Before we go on, could you answer a couple of clarifying questions?

    1. What is your definition of marriage.
    2. What is the purpose of marriage. (Related to #1 perhaps, but I'm trying to get clarity on your thoughts.)
    3. What is the purpose of sex?
    4. (And if it's different from #3) What is the biological purpose of sex?

    Also, have you ever read any of John Paul II's Theology of the Body? It's a body of philosophy/theology which is just so beautiful and explosive, addressing the truth and meaning of human sexuality and who we are as men and women made in the image and likeness of God.

    More in a bit, but if you could (briefly) address those?


  17. @ Violet

    Quick Answer: The Church holds that sex is for procreation primarily because the Church doesn't just base its teachings on FAITH of what's said in the bible and Tradition, it also bases it in REASON!!!! Reason shows that our sexual faculties were created for a specific reason, procreation. Anyone who denies this is refusing to acknowledge the reality of what's in front of them.

    To back this up that heterosexual sex, and even monogamy, are not only natural but good, we can look to the effects of both. There are natural negative side effects to non-heterosexual, non monogamous sex that are demonstrable, STDs for one example. I'm not sure we want to get into the physical risks of sodomy as descriptions can be rather explicit, but they are there.

    Futhermore, what's this about children of homosexuals? Only lesbians can actually have children, and that isn't even with one another. Where does this right to have children as long as there are two people agreeing to raise that same child come from? Just curious.

  18. @Leila— There are two ways to read “the use of it,” in the Chesterton quote. One way goes to intent (what was its use meant to be), the other goes to extant effects (what its use is now). The concentration of power into patrilineal houses is the intent (though of course the whole story is quite a bit more complex); the exclusion of gay and lesbian families is a contemporary effect. Both are relevant.

    Quick answers: (1) I'm talking about legal marriage here. Outside of that, the meaning of marriage is intensely personal and varies quite a bit from group to group; I'm not dealing with that now. (2) The legal instrument of marriage gives the state a way to recognize families and confer a package of legal rights and responsibilities on them. (3+4) For us and basically all mammals (certainly all primates), sex has a lot of uses: building social bonds, joy (and the resulting positive mental health effects), and reproduction.

    I have not read Theology of the Body (and admittedly, I am pretty unlikely to do so).

    @Giuseppe— I've heard this argument. Not from the priest, but from an Evangelical friend a couple of years later. It's never made much sense to me. I mean, yes, obviously, one reason humans have sex is to procreate. But we obviously do it for lots of other reasons, too. And it's not at all clear why those reasons—sex as bonding, sex as celebration—should be considered secondary.

    Given how many bad things could happen to a person in their lifetime, I'm reluctant to use practical risk as a strong proxy for ethical goodness (“don't get pregnant! It carries risks, and is therefore unnatural and wrong!”) But in any case I think it's worth mentioning that lesbians have a lower risk of STDs than straight women. (Presumably implying that God prefers lesbian relationships, as written in the Gospel of Wainwright.)

    Also, are you actually saying that adopted children aren't “really” their adoptive parents' children? If not, I'm not sure I understand—I know lots of gay and lesbian couples who have children.

  19. Violet,
    Thanks for your thought-inducing posts. You said: "But in any case I think it's worth mentioning that lesbians have a lower risk of STDs than straight women." I have never heard that this was the case. In fact, I have heard that lesbians are at higher risk for certain STIs. Do you have a citation?

    I am personally on the fence about some of the Catholic doctrine regarding lesbian and gay behaviors, but I will say that I think our culture is totally in denial that sex is, first and foremost, about procreation. I am a biologist, and this is a fact. Yes, there are other, ancillary benefits (such as stress reduction, and conflict resolution), but they are secondary.

  20. Violet, let me ask you this, so I can try to cut to the chase a bit: What is the purpose of eating?

    Also, do you see any merit (even a tiny bit?) in what Barbara says, below?

    I do feel that same sex parents are "playing house", especially when they use extraordinary means to create a child of a surrogate or a sperm donor. They are consciously creating a human being and then alienating that human being from half of his genetic history, half of his background and half of his identity. On top of that they are creating a situation by which that child will either lack a parental figure of the same gender or one of the opposite gender, neither of which is favorable for developing interpersonal skills.

    A gay couple "doctoring" up a child is a kind of "playing house". They are "constructing" a heterosexual family without the opposite sex partner. It's an imitation of heterosexuality and is also parasitic on it. Homosexuals who want children have to get some of the "other guys stuff" in order to make these people.

    The thing is, we have no idea how this is going to affect the children who are being born in these scenarios. How is not having a mother, with a mother's touch and a mother's sensibility going to affect these children? How is not having a father going to affect them? We used to consider it a tragedy when a baby had no Mama to hold him, to nurse him, to sing to him, but now we're purposefully creating it.

    And why? because of some messed up idea of compassion which amounts to little more than squishy emotionalism. Some "Care Bears" philosophy in which "It's aww about wuuv,". Um, no, it's making Social Science experiments out of human lives, and we have no idea what is going to happen when these kids grow up.*

  21. I'm a little short on time, so quick answers:

    @mary— Lesbians are at a considerably lower risk for most STDs, although the risk factors for some STDs are roughly the same. In particular, HIV transmission between women is extremely rare, with the exception of women engaging in blood play or similar risk behaviors in an unprotected setting. Ironically, a significant vector of STD transmission into the lesbian community is women having sexual exposure to men (whether by choice or not). Citations: CDC,

    As regards the “purpose” of sex, why do you mark procreation as primary? Biological determinism, or something else?


    We eat to fuel ourselves; we eat with others to build community and relationships and so forth. It's not an especially good parallel. We absolutely have to eat, preferably several times a day, for our entire lives; most people have sex a bit less often than that, and some people are fine with never having sex at all. Most people eat food when they're hungry enough that their survival will be imperiled if they don't eat right then. By contrast, most people (and a considerable number of primates, at least) have a considerable amount of sex that isn't geared towards procreation.

    I don't think Barbara's quote has any merit, no.

  22. Actually, Violet, sexual intercourse is always ordered toward procreation, even if a baby does not result. The sperm ejaculated into a woman's vagina actually does have a purpose (what are sperm, eggs and uteruses actually for?). And by the way, gay people cannot actually have sexual intercourse, only genital play.

    Sex makes babies Violet. That is its purpose. Love is its meaning. We cannot separate the two artificially or we become impoverished, lose our human dignity, and profane a sacred act.

    You may not see that sex is about procreation, but it's impossible to prove the obvious to those who won't see. I will let it lie.

    As to food, here's the answer: The purpose of eating is to give our bodies the nutrition necessary to stay alive. The rest of what you mention is a wonderful part of it, which gives it meaning. But the pleasure of it is not its purpose. It's only in liberal land that pleasure becomes an end unto itself.

    But let me ask you: Is taking the meaning while thwarting the purpose a moral route to pursue, in your eyes? For example, is bulimia a moral, healthy act? Most would say no. Perhaps you would say yes.

    No merit to Barbara's quote? Okey-dokey then.

    Someday, look outside your narrow worldview, and read Theology of the Body. Just to see what the other side is saying.

    There is a liberal bubble, too, and I challenge you to break out of it.

  23. And undeniably, the purpose of wings and feathers is to fly, right? They're these incredibly complex aerodynamic devices, and they're very good at flying. So the purpose of the peacock's feathers is flight and flight alone. Any other things they do are, somehow, not their “purpose.”

    As I mentioned to Giuseppe, I've heard this argument before from an evangelical friend. It wasn't especially persuasive then, when I really really wanted to be persuaded, and it's not especially persuasive now. Even beyond the basic problems with biological determinism, this view seems to assume that mating in shrimp and rats is identical to mating in humans, as if evolutionary development has nothing at all to do with our capacity or tools for community formation.

    On another note, I feel like you haven't really addressed my original question about the Chesterton piece. We have a good understanding of why marriage currently excludes same-sex couples, and we have compelling evidence that removing that exclusion does not have deleterious effects. So why not legalize it?

  24. we have compelling evidence that removing that exclusion does not have deleterious effects.


    I don't stipulate at all. Marriage has always been intrinsically about sex (which gay couples cannot accomplish) and sex is intrinsically about procreation. To give it another meaning would be to destroy it. It seems you think that marriage is primarily about the "desires" of adults?

    If you are truly interested in an indepth discussion of what marriage is, from a Catholic writer, then go here for an excellent ten-part series:

    As you can see are not even on the same page.

    As for the rest: What is the "other" purpose of a uterus, violet? Or sperm?

    Feathers… actually, feathers can be used for many things, including warmth and decoration. Do we decorate with uteruses? And do you suppose that there is a moral difference between what we do with feathers on a bird vs. what we do with our sexual faculties, which create new human beings?

    Do you think the purpose of sex is simply orgasm? And we must order sex around that belief, not the understanding that children are made when people have sex?

    See, I think you have it very backwards. The pleasure is there to get us to procreate. And to bond with our spouses for the good of both the spouses and the children who will be a fruit of their union.

    Sorry, our worldviews can never meet. Not so long as the almighty orgasm is the goal of your life.

    Sorry if that sounds snarky, but your worldview (sex is for fun and I will do as I please!) has sacrificed over 50 million aborted children (and many more suffering without stable families). I resent that the blood of those children is not enough to make you see that sex makes babies who deserve two married parents. When you base marriage on the adults' whims and pleasures, and when "marriage" means genital play between two same-sex adults, you devalue marriage. And it harms children.

    Sorry, that's how I see it. Sex is a serious, sacred business, because it creates human life. If you don't respect the act that creates human life, you can't respect human life itself.

    It's a bit different from bird feathers.

  25. Violet, will you be the first liberal to tell me what you think of the video, above? Is she a strong woman? Or a traitor to her sex?


  26. Sorry if that sounds snarky, but your worldview (sex is for fun and I will do as I please!) has sacrificed over 50 million aborted children (and many more suffering without stable families).
    Good thing same-sex couples can't accidentally get pregnant, then, huh? :)


  27. Michelle, I almost chuckled but then I remembered that you are totally fine with the 50+ million dead human beings. :(

    Actually, homosexual acts utterly diminish the sacred life-giving act of sexual union, and thus devalue sex itself, marriage in general, and make the concept of casual sex normative and the almighty orgasm the highest good of sexuality.

    All of it is degrading, and all of it is part and parcel of the Culture of Death. Dead bodies, dead sex.

  28. Good thing same-sex couples can't accidentally get pregnant, then, huh? :)

    Sadly, Michelle, that's not true. Just look at this situation:

    Mike Aki and his husband [sic], a Massachusetts couple, confronted this question. The couple planned on having two children. But their two surrogate mothers in India each became pregnant with twins.

    At 12 weeks into the pregnancies, Mr. Aki and his husband decided to abort two of the fetuses, one from each woman.

    They decided to kill two innocent children due to their own selfishness and greed. Pretty tragic.

  29. JoAnna, that makes my stomach turn and my heart ache. What have we become? Lord, have mercy on us.

  30. In fact, it seems likely that the fence was first built more to keep women and men in their places than it was to keep gay people out—and as LGBT people became more visible and more threatening, this exclusion was seen as a feature, not a bug.

    Violet, just needing to get some clarity here, now that I think about it. Are you saying that marriage (which has existed in every age, every culture, ever creed, etc.) was put (even forced?) in place by some nebulous something (who or what could it have been?) to "keep women and men in their places"?

    Could you clarify that statement and explain the actual logistics of how that could have occurred spanning every culture, etc? Because I truly am confused. That makes zero sense to me (in the "common sense" sense).

    And, surely there were gay people "visible" in several other cultures throughout the history of mankind. So, clarify that part, too?


  31. Are you saying that marriage was put in place by some nebulous something to "keep women and men in their places"?

    No. The fence isn't “marriage,” it's “the exclusion of LGBT people from marriage.” I'm saying the exclusion of LGBT people from marriage is probably an extension of gender role policing—“you should be like thus or so, otherwise you won't ever find a man.”

    And, surely there were gay people "visible" in several other cultures throughout the history of mankind.

    More visible—and specifically, more visible in this (near-contemporary, western) cultural context.

    Violet, will you be the first liberal to tell me what you think of the video, above?

    Not a liberal, sorry.

    The pleasure is there to get us to procreate.

    That seems really strange. We seem to eat and breathe just fine, and neither of those things produce orgasms (generally). Conversely, we and other primates have lots and lots of sex that isn't procreative, yet has social meaning.

    Sorry, our worldviews can never meet. Not so long as the almighty orgasm is the goal of your life.

    It's funny to me that I'm standing here, talking about how sex is important in building communities and forming social bonds, and your reply is, “all you care about is lots of orgasms!”

    Obviously that's not true, but I doubt I'm going to come to consensus with someone who somehow believes that gay people can't have sex (but also presumably believes that Bill Clinton really didn't have sex with that woman, so I guess there's that).

    So let's focus on this component:

    I'm not talking about Catholic marriage. Explicitly, in fact! I'm not talking about Catholic marriage or Episcopalian marriage or Hindu marriage or Muslim marriage. The thing I'm concerned with is legal marriage. I understand that you have lots of opinions about what the institution should “mean,” and that one of those opinions is that gay marriage and gay sex are “degrading, and all […] part and parcel of the Culture of Death.” But surely, there should be some evidence of this, right? I mean, ten countries and seven states (several quite populous) have legal marriage equality right now. Surely something terrible should be happening by now? Instead, we have studies coming out about how children do better with lesbian parents, and the abortion and divorce rates are down in MA since marriage equality was enacted.

    Chesterton was making an appeal to evidence-based policy reform. My question is: at what point would the evidence be sufficient for you to yield to his suggestion and reconsider the notion that legal marriage equality is something to oppose? Is there such a point?

  32. Dear Violet,

    "Legal marriage equality" will occur when six men can marry each other, or a man and twelve women, or a mother and a son, or a daughter and a father, or a man and his horse, or two platonic elderly sisters. That will be true marriage equality. When anyone, for any reason, can go to the clerk's office and say, "We want to marry." And when the state gives them the right.

    Before I answer another point of yours from above, please tell me that you are for every kind of "marriage equality" (and not excluding anyone). Because until you reassure me of that, your version of "marriage" is to “the exclusion of (fill in the blank) people from marriage."

    After that, I am happy to dive into your other points. But, unless you really want marriage inclusion, I am calling your bluff, first.



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