Monday, August 26, 2013

A Blip of Reality

...in the Joseph Bottum controversy, from Calah Alexander:

Our society is obviously not properly ordered. It’s so far from being properly ordered, in fact, that I doubt Aquinas or Aristotle would even believe such a society could exist. Nearly half of us were raised in broken homes. More than half of us, if we get married, will get divorced. A single parent home is as common as a dual-parent home. Sex is everywhere, on magazine covers at the grocery store, on the internet, on TV. Nothing is sacred. Furthermore, nature, insofar as it exists in modern city and suburban life, is manicured and transplanted and sprayed with pesticides. Most of us don’t even know what the created Earth looks like. How can we honestly expect anyone, even Christians raised in Christian homes, to really understand natural law and the way it is ordered toward the good when the only “common” that we’ve ever known is such a warped and manipulated image of creation? I’d argue that our understanding of natural law is primarily through the use of speculative reason now. Nature has become unrecognizable, and so it has been relegated to the realm of theory.
All this is not to say that I think we should all immediately go gay and get married. All this is not to say that I actively support the legalization of gay civil marriage. All this is not to say that I reject the teachings of the Church in any way. There is truth in the Church, and wisdom beyond measure. She has been entrusted to safeguard the teachings of God himself. Even the teachings I don’t understand (of which there are plenty), I still submit to. That’s what it means to be a Catholic.
I just also happen to agree with Joseph Bottum, that the fight over gay civil marriage is not the good fight we should be fighting.
This exactly. And the run-up to this excerpt about Aquinas' understanding of natural law is a welcome correction to a common misreckoning. Catholics have an incarnational faith and we're called to robustly live out the truth we encounter in our experience. Discerning the natural law isn't meant to be a process severed from our own or anyone else's lived experience, but you wouldn't know that from typical anti-gay marriage propaganda.




[W]e try as far as possible to impose the burden of the whole onto each individual, to squeeze as much as possible into the narrow confines of the individual. This cannot be done, and as a result the content becomes abstract and theoretical, no longer touching our lives, let alone shaping them. In practice, all we do is taste and try a little of this and a little of that, at random. This explains the increasing evident flatness, the insipid and forced character of the individual Christian life, the worrying preponderance of programs and requirements. There is no longer any participation at the root level; everything has to be done and intended deliberately, everything has to be justified, discussed and decided upon. No wonder that nowadays the pedagogic element--not in the purest sense, but strongly tending toward propaganda--predominates in religious matters, imitating the successful methods of secular advertising, with its gimmicks, slogans and clich├ęs, its mass-distribution from some central office. The individual's personal significance has become tiny. (Ida Gorres)


At the very least there's room in the Church for discussion and debate. I remember reading something from Pope John XXXIII along the lines that it's healthy for the Church to host disagreement. Wish I could find that quote, but it was something along the lines of clashing iron bars making a spark.

This, keeping in mind that Bottum (heh) isn't saying that gay marriage is really A-OK and Catholic understanding of sexuality is lacking. He's just saying that our priorities have long been out of order in the public sphere. And I would add that to focus 99% of our collective voice in opposition to something that is much more complex, intimate, psychologically and spiritually challenging, than the propaganda used against it admits - that's a folly almost as foolish as not talking about the substance of marriage at all.

Make sure to read the rest of Calah's post here.