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Just in time for Pride

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="SFPD Chief Greg Suhr and other SFPD officers in the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade. Photo credit: Bill Wilson"]SFPD Chief Greg Suhr and other SFPD officers in the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade. Photo credit: Bill Wilson[/caption]The NYTimes last week published this op-ed by David Blankenhorn, a notable opponent of same-sex marriage, Here's more about Blankenhorn's switch. It's a thoughtful op-ed, listing the reasons for his change of heart. One sobering note:

In the mind of todays public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.

And then a call to collaboration:

Instead of fighting gay marriage, Id like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same. For example, once we accept gay marriage, might we also agree that marrying before having children is a vital cultural value that all of us should do more to embrace? Can we agree that, for all lovers who want their love to last, marriage is preferable to cohabitation? Can we discuss whether both gays and straight people should think twice before denying children born through artificial reproductive technology the right to know and be known by their biological parents?

You may agree or disagree with his agenda, but it marks a major shift for Blankenhorn and those who will join him. This agenda also reveals what Andrew Sullivan has been saying for decades--the push for legal recognition of same-sex marriage is a profoundly conservative move, not a radical or liberal one. Or at least it fits well within the conservative (and not only conservative!) paradigm that values marriage as a fundamentally important social institution. Pride weekend, of course, is timed to commemorate the June 27, 1969 (actually early a.m., June 28,) riot at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in NYC. It began as a routine raid, when something extraordinary happened--the crowd said "no" to this kind of harrassment. Here's Michael Fader's reflection on the riots:

We all had a collective feeling like we'd had enough of this kind of s***. It wasn't anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration....All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. ...And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren't going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us aroundit's like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that's what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we're going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren't going to go away. And we didn't.

What a change in 43 years! In 1969, the gay community was largely marginalized, a sub-culture that the majority felt free to mock, subject to legal sanction, and, too often, violently abuse. This was a time when castration, hypnosis, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were used by psychiatrists to attempt to "cure" homosexuals. Now gay "reparative" therapy has been revealed as the scam it is. Once police were perceived as the enemy of the gay community--now they march in the Pride parades. Gay men and lesbians serve openly in the military now, too. A majority of Americans, and a majority of Catholics, approve of some recognition of same-sex unions. The mainstreaming of gay culture is accelerating every day, thanks to the courage of those who said "no more!" at Stonewall, and, no less, to those countless gay men and lesbians who had the courage to come out to family, friends and co-workers. It's not over. Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project is a response to the ongoing abuse of queer kids and kids perceived to be queer by their peers, abuse which is too often tolerated by adults. "Fag" is still a derisive term in many circles. The magisterium, among whom homosexuals far outnumber the proportion of gay men in society generally, (unless leaders skew far more straight than priests generally, which seems unlikely,) still refers to same-sex love as "intrinsically evil," and to same-sex attraction as "objectively disordered." But times are changing. In the end, it will be love, and the dignity of every person's striving to love as well as we can, that wins the day. Happy Pride, everybody.

About the Author

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).



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I am heterosexual, but WE have come so far. WE now know that WE have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, business associates and friends who are gay, and big surprise for us, they are just like us. They want friends and family, just like us. Yes Stonewall removed the obstacles to coming out, but those very brave men and women were still ostracized, but the tide started to turn.For my gay friends and family, Happy Pride......hold your heads with pride.

Thank you, Lisa and Michael.Yes, sometimes those of us who are lesbians or gay men forget that so much of what we have now is because of the love, support and actions on the part of those who know and love us.Thank you all from the city which is the Grandparent of Gay Pride Day. There are expected to be 1 million (!!!) in attendance at the festivities in San Francisco which happened yesterday and are continuing even as we speak today.It's also Gay Pride Sunday in .... gasp .... Rome! Mi piacerebbe essere una mosca sulle pareti del Vaticano oggi.

I am not very familiar with NAMBLA, or its mission statement, except of their existence. In that context, do the words"In the end, it will be love, and the dignity of every persons striving to love as well as we can, that wins the day."sweet sounding as they are, have any meaning? Is there, at root, no moral law that binds us, one to another? Do we really want to see the world where it's every man for himself, where each man is an island and humanity just one extended archipelago?

What the hell are you babbling on about? NAMBLA? Archipelagos? What? You couldn't figure out how to work peninsulas or atolls into your goofy metaphor?

Gay marriage is a conservative cause, I agree.So is there now a break between gay marriage and LGBT issues? Because I don't believe that many will see bisexuality, for example, as something needing to be addressed at all. And what about transgendered people and their struggles? Instead of joining the establishment as married couples, the BT in LGBT challenge our ideas of sexuality much more than gay marriage, I believe.

Mark: What is your problem? What a noxious comment. You whine about imagined bullying in thread after thread, yet that's exactly what you're engaging in here. Except this is actual. Pathetic.

Grant--Please, stop the attempts at bullying. If you have a point to make, make it.

Mark Proska, your arguments never seem to rise above the grade school level of "I know you are but what am I?" I wonder what kick it is that trolls like you get out of blogs.

David Gibson--From the Commonweal commenting ground rules:"Your comment will likely be edited or deleted if it includes ad hominem attacks..."

Touchy touchy. What was ad hominem?

Trolls are oftentimes simply internet brownshirts interested only in derailing and disrupting conversations. They have no interest in contributing to the thread and the dotCommonweal moderators ought to have no qualms in censoring their trolling since they're not interested in speech. In fact, they're goal is to stifle speech on the issue at hand.

Dear Mark --Yeah, everyone is picking on you, me included. But it's so hard to see why you deny even the possibility tht a pair of gay people might have a profound, selfless love for each other which advances their love of the Lord and fellow humans.OK, so man-boy love is a rotten idea which, though it might possibly be real in some rare, isolated cases, generally takes terrible advantage of boys who are too immature to understand what it is all about. Nobody here, except Fr. O'Leary, is defending it. So, as Grant asks, just what's your problem?

From Newsmax:"Former Vice President Dick Cheney has expressed his delight that his lesbian daughter Mary married her longtime partner Heather Poe on Friday.Mary and Heather have been in a committed relationship for many years, and we are delighted that they were able to take advantage of the opportunity to have that relationship recognized, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, said in a statement."Yes, things have changed.

@Irene: Yes things have changed, but for the Cheneys they changed quite some time ago. Notwithstanding anything you might feel about their politics, their epiphany occurred when the daughter they loved turned out to be a lesbian. They had a choice, and they made theirs based on their unconditional love of her.It is amazing what parenthood can teach -- lessons not available to our learned clergy.

What Brian said.

The vast majority of states have either enacted laws or approved constitutional amendments protecting the traditional definition of marriage. In other words, most voters have tried to say as clearly and as politely as we can, that we do not want to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.Most people are not all that political, and I would say that for most folks, it is like this:If our children happen to turn out gay, we will still love them of course; to us that is a very private matter. Frankly, we do not want our kids to be gay.We would prefer that the school teachers whose salaries we pay not lecture students about the gay lifestyle.We would prefer gay folks stop intruding into our lives with their rhetoric and general nonsense.We are trying to pay the bills in a rough economy, and raise our kids with some decent values and morals, and why gay activists keep trying to pry their way into the business of mainstream society is beyond most of us.

What I found interesting about Blankenhorn's op-ed is that part of his change is linked to his efforts to make marriage stronger, especially given the economic disaster (among others) that divorce is, especially among lower middle class families. This story suggests we have a long way to go in that regard:

" ---why gay activists keep trying to pry their way into the business of mainstream society is beyond most of us."Solution: reactivate the WWII concentration camps for those intrusive gay activists! The "us" at the time were quite willing to do that - how about now?Tic, toc. Tic, toc.

Ken, You are correct that the majority of states that have put gay marriage to a general vote have turned it down. You are not correct, however, in assuming this means that the majority of voters disapprove of gay marriage. In fact, in poll after pool, the plurality of respondents supported gay marriage. This seems like a paradox, but it is reflective of polling on a highly emotional issue, where people may say one thing and vote another. The trend, however is clear. Gay marriage will eventually be accepted in more and more states, and, eventually, by the Federal government. This will in no way, though, require the Catholic Church to perform gay marriages, nor to allow Anglican Priests who are married to other men enter the RC priesthood -- that's reserved for heterosexual unions of our brothers who come over to our side.You may feel your world is being intruded upon, but you are on the wrong side of history.

Ann--First, I do not think an earnest and civil request to explain one's thinking is picking on someone, though I do tend to push back when I see what I consider bullying, the goal being to improve everyone's blogging experience (including my own), and to encourage those who resort to name calling, or other irritable mental gestures, to try reasoned argument instead. Granted, I'm not always successful.Now, to your question. My problem with the line of reasoning offered in the quote I cited is this: When someone from the organization you think rotten (or mostly rotten) claims, "This is simply my attempt to love as well as I can", what can the response be except, "ok, that wins the day"?

Hi Mark,I'd invoke that old laxist, St. Augustine, who said "Love, and do as you will." Or another notorious Law-breaker, Jesus, who willfully flouted the received religious norms of his time in favor of a new commandment: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (Jn. 13:34-5.) Now to respond more fully: Jesus surely didn't intend that there be no other criteria for action than love. As your example of NAMBLA shows, people are more than capable of self-delusion that what they're doing is loving. However, in a Christian context, love must always be the first word and the last word. Love is the first and essential criterion for Christian action, and all other norms are measured against it.Love isn't merely an emotion, of course. In its core, it is to wish the true and lasting good of another (and oneself with the other--love is never unidirectional.) No reasonable moral assessment understands, e.g., slavery, spousal battery, or sexual abuse as consistent with the true and lasting good of the other, even if Catholic tradition affirmed the first and tolerated the second and third. So no--NAMBLA is not love, since sexual abuse of boys is harmful to them, as can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of any reasonable person. It is also not the reality of same-sex committed relationships. This is why Blankenhorn's observation is important--in his view, opposition to same-sex marriage arises too often from hatred of gay people. If it starts in hate and fear, and ends in social condemnation which justifies a worsening spiral of hate and fear, does it pass the basic Christian test of "is this consistent with love?"As disciples of Jesus, aren't we called first to love as well as we can (we all fall short, get up, and try again,) and also we are called to become better and better discerners of love, of what demands love makes upon us? This discernment is, I submit, the matter of moral theology, itself semper reformanda as we as a Christian people strive to be better discerners and practitioners of love.

Mark, you're a troll, and only someone with the metal capacity of a rusted-shut toolbox will try to use polite, reasoned argument with somebody like you. The better option is to make like the 3rd Billy-Goat Gruff and whomp you.

Mark P. --You have completely misread what I said. I didn't say you were picking on other people -- I said that other people, including me, were picking on you.As for NAMBLA, true, they really can't do any better than trying to love as best they can -- but the problem is that what they *think* is the best they can love really takes advantage of the children, (If the Pope wants to reflect on a mystery, there's a real one for him.) From what I've read about the subject, pederasty is a mental illness. Pederasts seem to be psychologically unable to sympathize with their targets. They do not understand that the children in fact do not want their attention, affection, or sexual "favors", and it requires a great deal of psychiatric works to even get them to begin to realize that they are not wanted by the children. The sex scandal has made it abundantly clear that the boys do not want such relationships, and in fact they fear and loathe them.So what should our attitude be toward these sick people? I'd say we should sympathize with their pain, but not approve of their behavior any more than we'd approve of an adulterer giving in to his inclinations. They are mentally ill. And, by the way, this is why the behavior of apparently normal people as Msgr. Lynn is particularly wrong -- he *knew* that the victims suffered, while the crazy pederasts typically couldn't understand that. (No, I am not, not, not saying that all of the abusers were pederasts. But some were, znd that's what we're talking about at the moment.) Do you think that most homosexual men approve of "man-boy love"? If you do, you are profoundly mistaken. According to one of my gay friends, homosexual men usually despise such behavior because as children they were themselves the targets of pederasts, and they particularly scorn such abusers. Your children, therefore, are in fact particularly safe with such gays. Some people undoubtedly find this hard to believe. But this is one reason why it has been so useful for most of us to get to know some normal homosexuals -- we come to see that, hey, Jack just isn't that sort of fellow, in fact he's just the opposite.And God bless Dick Cheney. Darth Vadar ain't *all* bad :-).

This study casts real doubt on the "there is no difference" line of thinking regarding gay relationships other words, the gay relationship that Bill and Bruce (for example) might have is quite different from Ward and June's (for example) nomal marriage.

Ken, Leaving aside the organizations involved in this study, and they clearly have a point of view, the study concludes as follows:Do children need a married mother and father to turn out well as adults? No, if we observe the many anecdotal accounts with which all Americans are familiar. Moreover, there are many cases in the NFSS where respondents have proven resilient and prevailed as adults in spite of numerous transitions, be they death, divorce, additional or diverse romantic partners, or remarriage. But the NFSS also clearly reveals that children appear most apt to succeed well as adultson multiple counts and across a variety of domainswhen they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day. Insofar as the share of intact, biological mother/father families continues to shrink in the United States, as it has, this portends growing challenges within families, but also heightened dependence on public health organizations, federal and state public assistance, psychotherapeutic resources, substance use programs, and the criminal justice system.That's hardly a surprise, and not really a finding against gay marriage per se.

The notion that the push for gay marriage is really conservative is something its proponents like to trumpet, but it doesn't withstand scrutiny. No society has ever before recognized gay marriage, and Christianity has always regarded homosexual acts as sinful. Saying that something that no society has ever before recognized and that our society has always regarded as sinful must now be protected by law is not conservative. In fact, the push for gay marriage is profoundly radical and actually represents the latest step in the sexual revolution. The whole point of the sexual revolution is to displace traditional Christian morality, which condemns fornication, adultery, divorce, and contraception, all of which (with the possible exception of adultery) proponents of the sexual revolution regard as "human rights," just as they now claim that gay marriage is a "human right." (With respect to adultery, some sexual revolutionaries voice some disapproval, but the disapproval is not serious, since the remedy for adultery is seen as divorce and remarriage, since no one should be condemned to a "loveless marriage.")If anyone wants to see how a true conservative regarded sexual morality, just read "Brideshead Revisited." If that masterpiece were to be rewritten by the proponets of the sexual revolution, Sebastian would marry one of his gay lovers and Charles and Julia would marry each other, perhaps after Charles has married and divorced Sebastian. Of course, in that rewrite, the whole point of the book would be lost. The world of the sexual revolution is one where a book like "Brideshead" is impossible to conceive, and where its author must be condemned as evil.

Ken, that Regnerus study to which you linked has lots of problems. As propoganda to feed those who want their beliefs (or fears) confirmed, it is great. But it is a patently dishonest study that largely draws its children of homosexual parents from families broken by divorce and infidelity. I am not going to try to change your mind about what you believe, but appealing to your sense of honesty, I would ask you to read this rebuttal: Sullivan also had some good links that highlight all the problems with that Regnerus study. These are an internet search away as well.

Thorin ---As an old English major who sort of keeps up on these things, I have never ever seen Evelyn Waugh referred to as "evil", and Brideshead so far as I can see is still recognized by critics of all different stripes as a masterpiece of a novel.I'm prejudiced, of course. I've always thought that the great novelists are the people who know human nature best, not the social scientists or even the theologians or philosophers. Now there's an interesting topic for a thread (who understands us best?), but I have no idea how a reliable answer could be reached. Who would judge the novelists -- the social scientists? Who would judge the theologians -- the novelists? Etc., etc.

As I pointed out on MOJ awhile back, an article on The Daily Beast says: "Regneruss same-sex-parenting study was funded, at a price tag of three-quarters of a million dollarsan enormous sum in social scienceby two socially conservative groups: the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation."It has been pointed out in several articles on the Regnerus study that Robert George, who is a fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, also has close ties to the National Organization for Marriage. (He is Chairman Emeritus.) NOM, of course, devotes a great deal of its energies and resources to battling same-sex marriage. Another commenter summed it up quite well:

The study was not about the children of same-sex couples. It was about children who reported that one or both of their biological parents had a same-sex romantic relationship. The vast majority of them were the product of different-sex relationships, that presumably later broke apart; the vast majority of them never lived for any length of time with their biological parent and his or her same-sex partner. It is not really a study about "same-sex parenting" at all.

As I recall, fewer than two percent of those in the study had actually spent their entire childhoods with same-sex parents. Now, if this had been a study that began with children conceived or adopted by same-sex couples, and only a tiny number of those couples stayed together long enough to raise the child to adulthood, that would be one thing. But this study looked at adults who answered yes to the question of whether either of their parents had ever had a same-sex romantic relationship.

Jimmy Mac has officially "come out" as the new improved poster.

"In other words, the gay relationship that Bill and Bruce (for example) might have is quite different from Ward and Junes (for example) nomal marriage."1. So?2. My parents' marriage was quite different from Ward and June's "normal marriage."3. So?Tic, toc. Tic, toc.

Hello Jim! What warrants us the pleasure of your introducing yourself?

Lisa Fulklam wrote:"Love isnt merely an emotion, of course. In its core, it is to wish the true and lasting good of another"Very well said. I agree completely. Now, do we also agree that wishing the lasting good of another (including eternal life) includes preserving him of her from any form of sexual impurity?

Good point Carlo. Also, the common good of society as a whole mainly families and children is at issue.Treating gay folks decently and fairly is good, one of our obligations as Christians. However we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater, and the fact is that in the thousands of years of civilization, no successful or decent society has ever embraced same-sex marriage as some would have us do now.That would be risky to say the least.

Claire: it is the result of overcoming inertia at the ripe old age of 71.Pride month is as good a time as any to do so. Besides, many people who post here already know me by the name my opposite sex parents gave me.Way back in the dark ages of the 1980s when I reverted to Catholicism, I was taken by the Martha and the Vandellas' song: "Jimmy Mack". I didn't care for the "k" and dropped it. But the lyrics: Jimmy Mack, when are you coming back? sort of fit my situation and I kept my "nom de plume" for 3 decades.For you whippershappers in the crowd:

Regarding the Regenerus "Study":1. The study does not actually compare children raised by same-sex couples with those raised by different-sex couples. The criterion it uses is whether a parent "ever ha[d] a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex." Only a small proportion of its sample spent more than a few years living in a household headed by a same-sex couple. The study acknowledges that what it's really comparing with heterosexual families is not families headed by a same-sex couple, but households in which parents broke up. "A failed heterosexual union," Regnerus writes in the study, "is clearly the modal method" the most common characteristic for the group that he lumps in with same-sex-headed households.2. Regnerus acknowledged that the sample size of respondents whose parents report a same-sex relationship is substantial but not large enough to explore some of the more fine-grained distinctions that may well be present. ( This entire $785,000 study only looked at *two* children who were raised entirely by same-sex couples, and doesnt say how those two turned out.4. The study was funded in part by the Witherspoon and Bradley Foundations, both conservative groups with an anti-same sex marriage agenda.

LisaThank you for your polite and reasoned response. Rest assured, I do not consider that evidence that you have the metal [sic] capacity of a rusted-shut toolbox. I think we may have clashed before and I hope my responses were as measured and polite (apologies if they were not).You have asked me two questions. My responses are, in order, absolutely not and absolutely. I am pretty sure those are the same answers you would give, so we have found some common ground, which is not nothing. I would venture to say that we also agree that the love NAMBLA espouses is intrinsically evil and objectively disordered. That is more than not nothing.Now, I dont think weve gotten quite to the nub of things, and there we probably strongly disagree, so that can be saved for another day.

Ann--No, I understood exactly what you meant. When I replied, I do not think an earnest and civil request to explain ones thinking is picking on someone I meant that since you made an earnest and civil request, I did not think you were picking on me.You have asked me a question, to which my response is, I have no ideamy thoughts on that have nothing to do with my main point on this thread. I think your comment, both in tone and substance, is very close to Lisas, which Ive already responded to.Now, can someone explain to me why the hysterical responses came from the men and the reasoned responses came from the women? Is someone trying to mess with my head?

"So noNAMBLA is not love, since sexual abuse of boys is harmful to them, as can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of any reasonable person."Perhaps it should be noted here that until about four decades ago the harmfulness of homosexuality could be "demonstrated to the satisfaction of any reasonable person" -- those who weren't satisfied, including homosexuals themselves, being defined ipso facto as unreasonable by the media and the medical establishment. "Everyone here agrees about this, so let's not waste our time looking for reasons to justify a taboo that only a pedophile would question" is not a good argument -- is not an argument at all, in fact. Moreover, it is the sort of non-argument that would have been equally available to those who, not very long ago, considered homosexuals to be insane. So long as they persist, social taboos are self-reinforcing: in a society where activity A is taboo, activity A will be damaging just because it is shameful (though of course it may be truly damaging for other reasons too). And, paradoxically, one will be damaged by the shame even if one is considered an innocent victim of the activity. This isn't an argument against taboos in general -- no society has ever functioned without them -- but it is a reason to be especially careful about the reasons we give in defense of our taboos.So the fact that we all disagree with NAMBLA does not relieve us of the burden of saying exactly why what is supposed to be obviously wrong is wrong. It disgusts us? So what? Homosexuality still disgusts a lot of people, and that disgust, by itself, is not a moral argument. The intuition that children are essentially nonsexual human beings, or that their sexuality is incommensurate with that of adults, is not something that modern psychology or moral philosophy has "demonstrated" conclusively; it is a shared intuition originally based on an essentially (though not simply) procreative view of sexuality. Now that this view can no longer be taken for granted, those who reject it will need other ways to justify their intuition that pedophilia is an abomination.One of the questions here is what counts as harm. Another is whether sex is a necessary feature of intimacy and companionship. Another still is whether we have a right to the satisfaction of any desire that cannot be "demonstrated" to harm someone (and so long as we can find someone willing to satisfy it: not much is said in the culture wars about the frustrated sexual desires of those who, for one reason or another, are not themselves sexually desirable to anyone. There is no law on this side of heaven that will rid us of frustrated desire.)Despite what many people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate suggest, none of these questions is easy to answer. But, whatever you think of the traditional Christian teachings about sex and marriage, they have an inner coherence that much advocacy of same-sex marriage lacks. If there is to be no sex outside of marriage and marriage is fundamentally about procreation, then all the rest follows. If not, what follows isn't obvious; not yet, anyway.Needless to say, this does not mean that advocates of same-sex marriage cannot find good reasons to reject pedophilia, but I think it does mean one should not be impatient toward those who ask about these reasons. No doubt some who ask are simply trying to give their opponents a shove down their favorite slippery slope, but others may be doing what moral philosophy ought to do: asking radical questions about our intuitions, not stopping at disgust.

Matthew --My first argument against NAMBLA's ethics is that the targets of the priests' sexual abuse with perhaps an ;isolted exception hated their experiences and consider themselves victims. Their reactions, I think are most germane to the discussion. Second, homosexuals generally reject it as predatory. Is their opinion also a matter of prejudice?

Ann,Homosexuals have good reason to be impatient with the still-common and totally ungrounded assumption that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to be pedophiles. But if their opinions about pedophilia are not a matter of prejudice, it isn't because they are homosexuals. Racial minorities in this country have tended to be more critical, or less tolerant, of homosexuality than the average white person. Is that an argument against it? Of course not. The targets of bigotry are not automatically cured of questionable prejudices -- and all prejudices are questionable, even when they turn out to be right.

A similar argument is going on in the UK and there, though the Church of England's hierarchy has sent the government a message that same-sex marriage is against church policy, many within the church, including some bishops, have spoken up for same-sex marriage ... sadly, something I doubt any Catholic bishops will ever have the courage to do.

re: pedophilia. isn't "consent" also in play? Children- and young adults- don't have the capacity to consent to a lot of things- including sex; that's why we have statutory rape laws.Marriage being fundamentally about procreation: I can actually understand civil marriages having some emphasis on procreation, some of it's about who owns/inherits family property. But with paternity testing, etc, a lot of that's also out the window now. I think procreation is less important in sacramental marriage; if it were, we would not permit two 70 year olds to marry- what would be the point?

Irene,Did your parish celebrate the Nativity of John the Baptist on Sunday? Perhaps there is a point in that celebration that the Church upholds when it permits "barren" women like Elizabeth to be married?

Getting away from the Nambla comment, I have some musings.I would find Andrew Sullivan's conservative argument for gay marriage more convincing if he didn't also believe that gay men can't be expected to be monogomous. Of course, his response is that heterosexual men aren't that monogomous, but at least that is the expectation. What's the point of marriage without that expectation?Marriage developed as it has over a long period of time across the world for social, biological and economic reasons. Perhaps a polyamorous, clan type of stable institution would have developed over time for gay men if they were a larger group in society. Although maybe not, since there wouldn't be children, so there's less need for an institution.

Marriage developed as it has over a long period of time across the world for social, biological and economic reasons.JC,You speak of marriage as if it were one "thing," easily defined, with its meaning being identical to everyone. But that is just not so. Some of the greatest men in the Bible were polygamists, and for a married man in ancient Israel, sex with an unmarried woman wasn't adultery. Polygamy is still legal in many countries. Catholics (and people of other religions, and other cultures) may have an concept of marriage that to them is an ideal, but there is no "platonic ideal" of marriage somewhere to which we can compare real marriages and judge them. If you enjoy the phenomenon of people tying themselves in knots coming to grips with something, just read anthropologists attempting to define marriage.Monogamy is not an expected quality of marriage in the United States today. I think most of us would expect spouses to be faithful within their current marriage, but when most people cohabit before marriage and half of marriages end in divorce, we're not talking about monogamy. We're talking about fidelity in marriage. Also, when we talk of "family," we mean the nuclear family of a husband and wife and their children. The (nuclear) family as the "building block of society" is more of a conservative slogan than a reality, and it only goes back a few hundred years (and only in industrialized societies).

Matthew==If a gay man despises sexual predators because he has been taught to and only because of that, then you have a point. But the point of my gay friend was that gay men's aversion to pederasts is due to their own experiences with them. That is not a prejudice.

A few starting points regarding pedophilia:1. As mentioned above, consent is impossible2. Long term and short term psychological harm is documented. It is not merely a matter of disgust. I refer you to organizations like SNAP for references and details of the harmfulness of child rape. Victims can heal--but that doesn't mean they weren't victimized.3. In some, but not all, cases physical trauma is inflicted as well. 4. Abusers themselves are frequently psychologically damaged in some way. Enough, I think, on why pedophilia is wrong.As to homosexuality, a quick response to some of your questions. As you say, it's a big question, not really subsumable to a blog post. But here goes1. Is sex necessary for intimacy? Surely not. I'd argue the reverse--that a mature and fulfilling sexual relationship requires intimacy. Intimacy is requisite for (good, grown-up) sexual relationships. Anybody can have sex as a momentary transactional encounter--but a truly human sexual relationship builds intimacy. There are kinds of relationships in our lives that DO tend toward sexual intimacy--and these include marriage. In those relationships, I think we'd do well to value sex more than our tradition has, as a way of expressing and cultivating the kind of bonded relationships of life partners. Sex isn't the only thing in marriage, and it's not the MOST important thing, but it is important. Often, but not always, those intimate relationships are procreative. The good of those relationships, however, is not summed up in procreation. 2. What do you mean, a "right to satisfy any desire...?" We're talking about the loving committed relationships of adults sharing life. Unless you that we should re-criminalize certain sex acts, (like sodomy, including oral sex, which laws would reasonably apply to anyone, right?) the question here is different. Knowing what we know about sexual orientation, straight and gay, and knowing that there is a powerful social good to be found in marriage, do we deny social recognition of marriage to some? This social good is a matter demonstrable in social scientific terms, not merely romance. "Frustrated desire"? Sure--I'd say anyone in a long-term sexual relationship sometimes doesn't get their immediate desires met. "Love is patient..." The question isn't about libertinism, but about marriage, loving, committed life partnership. 3. What if marriage isn't fundamentally about procreation? There's a history here in our tradition. Augustine said marriage has three goods, including procreation. But he said marriage itself is an instrumental good, a good that serves the greater good of the friendship of spouses (and of their children). Aquinas' thought changed profoundly over his career, starting with "marriage is for procreation" but winding up with the notion that marriage is essentially a bond of spouses that can be a friendship of virtue, not merely of pleasure (sex and procreation) or utility (running a household, raising kids together.) Procreation is a great good, to be sure. But you cannot reduce marriage to procreation. And of course lots and lots of gay couples procreate, either by having kids themselves or by adopting them. If marriage is for the good of kids (and kids do in fact do better in stable households,) then we should encourage marriage wherever there are kids--this was one of Blankenhorn's points.4. And a theological note--as many have noted, why do we so often define marriage in merely biological terms like procreation, when as Christians we are called first and last to love? What makes marriage human isn't only its biology, but the personal and spiritual resonance of lives faithfully shared, love offered and accepted. Just as Jesus relativized biological kinship when he asked "who is my mother and my brothers and sisters?" and pointed to the community gathered around him, Christians should look first to love, to grace perfecting nature.

David Nickol,I agree with all your points. And, yes, I tend to collapse marital fidelity and monogamy. Not without reason, since it seems that men find a new sexual partner first and then the marriage ends.I was working in the framework of Blankenhorn and Sullivan that we can work together to support marriage in general, that is, life-long, faithful marriage. If we are to support gay marriage (and I find myself headed that direction), what of Sullivan's claim that gay men don't need or won't follow (I can't remember exactly what he wrote) fidelity in marriage.Long time, no chat!

Just as Jesus relativized biological kinship when he asked who is my mother and my brothers and sisters? and pointed to the community gathered around him, Christians should look first to love, to grace perfecting nature.This will probably come off sounding irreverent, but it is not meant to (exactly). The model family (the Holy Family) for Catholics consisted of a husband and wife who never had sex and a child whose mother's husband was not his biological father. So much for the right of every child to be raised by his biological mother and father! (I believe it is the opinion of Pope Benedict XVI that it was not necessary for Jesus not to have two human parents in order to be God Incarnate.) St. Joseph, patron of (among many things) fathers, raised a foster child.

David N. said: Also, when we talk of family, we mean the nuclear family of a husband and wife and their children. The (nuclear) family as the building block of society is more of a conservative slogan than a reality, and it only goes back a few hundred years (and only in industrialized societies).To expand on what David said, from this 2009 book review in Commonweal: For Better & for Worse: The Marriage-Go-Round. The State of Marriage and Family in America Today, by Andrew J. Cherlin ( .. American marriage culture displays a fierce individualism that celebrates self-expression and personal growth. Americans may marry more, but their relationships are more fragile. Over the course of a lifespan they will divorce and remarry more than people in other Western countries. Americans have found a curious way of wedding their penchant for divorce to their love of marriage. Marriage is highly valued and prized, but it is no longer the only relationship option. Other relationship models such as cohabitation are increasingly accepted as respectable alternatives. Finally, American children are more at risk of seeing their families break up than children in any other Western society. . No other Western country has witnessed such fierce conflicts over the question of gay marriage. Gay and lesbian communities have become established and accepted features of European society; however, the marriage question has not been on the front burner of social and political debate. Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands have all legalized same-sex marriage. The majority of European countries have worked out other types of arrangements with their gay and lesbian communities, arrangements that would be denounced as second-class by American proponents of gay marriage. Cherlin argues that the placid nature of European debates on these issues is due to the fact that gays and lesbians, along with most Europeans, dont share Americas particular fixation with marriage. . When the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared it was extending marriage to gays and lesbians, it did so with high praise for marriage, declaring that it is a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Without marriage, the judges warned ominously, one is excluded from the full range of human experience. On this view, extending marriage to everyone is about acknowledging its universal significance.

Folks, this may come as a surprise, but Andrew Sullivan has not been hired by the Vaticanes nor the LGBT communities as anyone's official spokesperson nor PR flack.

Lisa Fullam:"What makes marriage human isnt only its biology, but the personal and spiritual resonance of lives faithfully shared, love offered and accepted."Are you familiar with the English word "friendship"? Obviously a marriage should also be a deep friendship. However, I faithfully share my life, love offered and accepted, with many friends without claiming that I am "married" to them.Ultimately, what you are defending is a Gnostic idea of married love, as some kind of spiritual union. You have things exactly reversed: of all human friendships marriage is the most carnal because it only exists because of sex. If we where sexless creatures there could be lots of preferential friendships but no "marriage." Indeed, there is no reason why a preferential friendship should involve two people of the opposite sex, and be binding in any way.Since like most contemporaries you are probably unaware of the Gnostic ideas of love you subscribe to , I recommend that you read (or re-read) Denis De Rougemont's classic "Love and the West." You will discover that the whole gay marriage idea is a perfet expression og Gnosticism.

" --- marriage is the most carnal because it only exists because of sex."And where exactly did you come up with that idea? That must mean that people who don't practice sex in their relationship (and that applies to more than a few) are not married.Thank God that my partner and I are NOT looking for any Catholic marriage! And you are really talking about matrimony, anyway, not marriage. Stop conflating the two.

"That must mean that people who dont practice sex in their relationship (and that applies to more than a few) are not married."Yes, if I recall correctly in Catholic moral theology if you never consummated your marriage you are not married.As for conflating (civil) marriage with matrimony, that is seems to be a well-established habit on your side of the argument (like when people claim that "gay marriage is illegal")

I must ask Ms Ann Olivier once again to curb her libelous tongue. I am appalled that she so casually throws out false accusations. Also Commonweal should not allow itself to broadcast libel of this debased and indeed somewhat wacky kind.

I wrote to Ann Olivier more than a year ago correcting her misconceptions. Obviously, as usual, she prefers to stick to her misconceptions than to practice justice or charity.

Contrary to Ann Olivier's unscrupulous remarks, I strongly disapprove of adults having sex with minors, and I abhor the crime of sexual abuse of children.I deplore the witch-hunting myths surrounding these issues by the overnight crop of instant experts who made many false assertions. I call for fuller understanding of all aspects, in light of psychology, psychoanalysis, literature, and a tempered moral reasoning.The Supreme Court's decision on the health bill gives me hope that the US may after all be turning in the direction of reason, and that the age of exacerbated culture-wars hysteria may be passing.

"if you never consummated your marriage you are not married." I think the idea was rather that the marriage is valid but not indissoluble. "Josephite marriages" were not regarded as invalid. Other categories of valid but not indissoluble marriages include all marriages in which neither partner is baptized, and all the cases covered by the Petrine and Pauline privileges.In short the Church administers divorce in these instances (and annulments in many others where a consummated marriage between baptised Catholics is found to be defective in some way).

worth a read, suggest that a state is the locus of new definitions of rights is a very dangerous precedent: we have seen in the past how state definitions of rights can change radically ..., and so the history of philosophical reflection suggests that rights must be located not in the legislative or judicial decisions of states, but rather in the thoughtful consideration of reality accessible through the application of reason over history. Aristotle, the Stoics, Christian scholastics, Muslim philosophers, and Enlightenment political theorists all held to this view of what came to be known as Natural Law. It is an imperfect doctrine because of the imperfection of human reason, but it is far superior to the vagaries of intra-state politics, because it locates rights not in a group vote but in a careful discernment of an unchanging reality about the human person. And because history teaches us that biases can pervade even for a generation or two, it is important to carefully consider the judgments of generations now far removed from our own. The claim to a "right" to gay marriage is suspect precisely because this right has no history.Second, marriage. States have an interest in promoting all sorts of love relationships: between parents and children, among extended families, between friends, and so on, for love relationships promote social harmony and can be of themselves good, true, and beautiful. Yet in the main, only marriage between husbands and wives has, over history and around the world, been accorded legal recognition, because only those marriages involve overcoming the alienation between the two halves of the human family, and the procreation and rearing of children. States have an interest in reconciling the sexes, keeping fathers involved in families, and helping mothers through pregnancy, childbirth, and nurturing. The state's promotion of marriage invites adults to roles of particular social responsibility.

The study was not about the children of same-sex couples. It was about children who reported that one or both of their biological parents had a same-sex romantic relationship.Of course, this statement sets up a biological impossibility. There are no, and can never be, children of same-sex couples. These children always have a biological mother and father and they are not living with at least one or maybe both of their parents. But here again, we humans have the ability to over-think any situation, like 'gay marriage', and come up with obviously erroneous conclusions.

Breeding is far from parenting. Children are the result of the former but are loved, supported and raised by the latter.Any darned fool can breed - and a lot of them do.

Commonweal have let a scurrilous libel from Ann Olivier stand uncorrected for weeks now. Commonweal is not a libelous and anonymous website like kreuz-net, which took a North American address to escape European libel laws. Rather Commonweal is one of the most distinguished Catholic populations with a known name and address. The administration of such a prestigious site should not be left in the hands of juvenile delinquents but should be vigilantly overseen.To explain again to Grant Gallicho and Ann Olivier: I distinguish between three discourses on sexual transgressions: the psychological-phenomenological which is the one that most interests me as a student of literature; the moral; and the legal.For example, Peru is now trying to change its law that threatens under 18s who have sex with one another with 30 years in jail. The bishops are opposed, saying that this would promote promiscuity. I would say that the law is (1) psychologically damaging to adolescents, Romeo and Juliet may be in an abusive relationship, but (3) threatening them with jail is not the kind of help they need; the law is even damaging to their human rights; but (2) this does not mean that I morally approve of the relationships targeted by the law.Another example. I admire the new German movie, Tabu, about the incestuous passion between the great poet Trakl and his sister, which led both to suicide in their twenties. As a phenomenological and psychological portrait it wins the viewer's sympathy (1). But this does not mean that I morally approve of or defend incest (2). On the other hand I agree with the recent legal decisions that incest should not be treated as a criminal offense (3).Do you understand these distinctions, Ms Olivier and Mr Gallicho?

Grant Gallicho, who do I complain to about the criminal libel posted above, and which you have let stand despite my repeated requests? I must say the Commonweal website is displaying an extraordinary degree of unethical and illegal behavior.

Fr. O'Leary: Why don't you have a look at our commenting guidelines before you go throwing around legal terminology you don't really understand?"All comments on this site are the sole responsibility of the comment writer, not Commonweal magazine, its editors, or its contributors. By submitting a comment, you agree to these guidelines, and you agree that its content is your own, and to hold Commonweal and all subsidiaries and representatives harmless from any and all repercussions, damages, or liability."Also, let's cut the crap: You have said that we ought to "meditate" on Kinsey's assertion that "crackdowns" on pedophiles can harm victims more than the abuse itself. You have said: "I suppose groups like NAMBLA or researchers like Kinsey do provide some valid empirical observations." People who fret that "crackdowns" on pedophilia do more harm to victims than the pedophilia itself shouldn't be surprised when other people wonder about their moral compass. You have not been libeled. Defend yourself.

Interesting observation: There are some behaviours we all agree are objectively disordered, inherently evil. Apparently, even if consensual.

Nice to see that Commonweal arrogates to itself the right to publish libel. Wonder would it stand up in court?I do not need to "defend myself" against the projections of hysterical queens. I have never said that sex with minors is morally defensible. I have indeed been libeled by Ann Olivier adn yourself, since you are not mature enough to discuss the matters rationally and with deep understanding.I have said, as you rightly remark, that we should meditate on the phenomenological data provided by Kinsey, Kincaid, and others. THe is level (1) in my distinction above. I also think that the witchhunt against "pedophiles" probable has terrible side effects, for instance, adolescent suicide of young gays who in the past might have been reassured by older men -- who would now be terrified of any such communication. TV campaigns of the "It Gets Better" sort are a pathetic and ineffective substitute.

Fr. O'Leary, you have not been libeled. You have, perhaps, been misunderstood, and you have had the opportunity to correct the misrepresentation of your views. I would recommend dropping the matter.

"But here again, we humans have the ability to over-think any situation, like gay marriage, and come up with obviously erroneous conclusions."Or, as this remark illustrates, the ability to under-think or not to think at all, rejecting the empirical insight and witness of the countless same-sex couples who live out all the virtues of marriage in a way that puts many heterosexual couples to shame.

I just read the postings previous to Ann Olivier's wild allegation, and I agree with them mostly. I would remind Lisa Fullam that NAMBLA used to be welcome at Gay Pride parades. I query whether their subsequent rejection by parade organizers is due to growing moral insight or just to political opportuneness. It hardly seems necessary to produce moral arguments against sex between adults and children. However, inaccurate claims should not be propagated. Morally and legally, yes, "consent is impossible," but there are many adults today who talk of their eagerness for sex with adults when they were teenagers. "Long term and short term psychological harm is documented," yes, but as Ann Olivier herself notes, this is not always the case. My observations are not meant to lessen the moral gravity of adults taking advantage of minors sexually, nor do they lessen it. But they do provide some perspective that can alleviate the demonizing rhetorical of the witch hunters.

Meanwhile, I found on the Verdicts site an uncritical glorification of one of the most questionable episodes in Joyce's great novel, which portrays a young handicapped teenager being ogled by a 38 year old man as he masturbates; she is portrayed as leading him on exhibitionistically. The writing may be brilliant, but I have never been able to repress a sense of moral disgust in reading this chapter.

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