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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2010There is more to this story from the UK than may first meet the eye. British religious schools receive some taxpayer funding. Therefore, this program will apply to all schools, including religious schools that have a very different view of human sexuality, and of the relationship between children, parents and the state.
Britain’s House of Commons is set to vote on legislation this week that would introduce a program of sex education to primary school children from as young as 5 years of age. The "Children, Schools and Families Bill" also contains many other clauses which, critics say, is not so much a denial of Catholic teaching “as a whole uprooting of the natural law relationship between parents, children and the state.”That is, Catholic teaching is very clear that parents are the primary educators of their children, that there are limits on morally acceptable sexual behavior and that teaching about sexuality should be done in the home, not in a public place like a school.
Critics say schools would be forced to teach SRE according to principles of "equality," "diversity" and "rights," which are interpreted by the government to include abortion, birth control, homosexuality and "a wide range of sexual practices." They may also have to prove their SRE programs accord with the bill's principles and that they had "regard" for the government’s sex education program. The government insists faith schools are entitled to protect their ethos, but it remains unclear how much the government will mandate faith schools to accept its sexual health agenda. Advocacy groups such as the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) say that even though schools may adapt "the way things are taught," the government will nevertheless insist that all aspects of SRE will have to be delivered in all schools. “There can be no doubt the government will use the bill, if passed, to promote abortion in schools,” said John Smeaton, SPUC’s director. “The bill's principles will be used to ensure that pro-abortion propaganda dominates the content of sex education.”Once again, the modern state sees fit to take over the proper functions of civil society and the family.
Posted on: Friday, February 12, 2010Further response to the Good As You readers: I suspect the issue that bothers you the most is why won’t the Church recognize a same sex union as a valid marriage? The answer is that we believe that we do not have the authority or power to redefine marriage. Some things can be defined and redefined by society. We can decide whether we will drive on the left or the right side of the road. We can decide whether the retirement age will be 63 or 68 or some other number. Other things have an actual substance that exists apart from our thoughts, desires or feelings about them. We have neither the right nor the actual ability to change the definition of things that have a real existence, apart from our thoughts. If you try to change the definition of something that has a substantial reality to it, you will cause yourself endless problems. We cannot change the value of “pi” from 3.141 to 3, just because we think it would be more convenient. Marriage is more like “pi” than like traffic rules. Marriage has a substantial reality to it. It is a fact that our species is a gendered species. It is a fact that reproduction requires one male and one female. It is a fact that our offspring are born helpless and have a long period of dependency. It is a fact that attachments between biological parent and child are profound, deep and go beyond the merely rational. Absent this constellation of facts, we would not need a social institution like marriage. But the facts are what they are. And every known society has developed something like marriage. Your side often tries to dismiss the reproduction argument by observing that not all marriages have children. True, but all children have parents. The social purpose of marriage is to attach children to their mothers and fathers and fathers and mothers to one another. This is the essential purpose of marriage in the sense that without this purpose, we wouldn’t need marriage at all. Health insurance and social affirmation are incidental side-benefits of marriage. These benefits can be obtained in a variety of different ways. But there is no serious contender for the job of attaching children to parents and parents to one another. Yes, there are exceptional situations, such as adoption. But adoption provides for exceptional situations, without undermining the general rule that biology determines parenthood. You can’t dismiss the reproduction argument, without undermining the social purpose of marriage in the first place. We believe that it is not possible to remove the basic features of the structure of marriage, including the dual gender requirement, without doing damage to marriage and its ability to perform its social function. The best we can hope for is that the institution of marriage will become a formless blob, with no capacity to provide structure to social life. And it should be said, that some advocates of same sex marriage want exactly that outcome. The Beyond Same Sex Marriage crowd likes the idea of marriage becoming an empty shell that we can fill up with whatever we want. People with these views believe that structure in social life is oppressive, and we would be well rid of it. This is the least bad outcome we can expect from redefining marriage: there will be nothing left of marriage but the name. But the worst we can expect is that marriage will become corrupted, and will enable people to do things they should not be doing. And before you get your backs up, please note that it won’t just be same sex couples: genderless marriage will induce men and women, straight and gay, to do destructive and anti-social things. Redefining marriage will redefine parenthood, and will do so for everyone. The new definition of marriage will undermine biology as the basis of parenthood, rather than supporting the biological basis of parenthood. Instead of marriage being the vehicle for attaching children to their parents, it will become the vehicle for separating children from their parents. The pressure for triple parenting will become irresistible. Rather than being a social institution that unites sexual activity, spousal love and childbearing, marriage will become the vehicle for separating sex from love from childbearing. Instead of being an institution that rises spontaneously from the society, the new version of marriage will become an artificial creation of the state. There will no longer be natural parents. There will only be legal parents. Many advocates of same sex marriage seem to find it funny to ridicule the ordinary people who worry about slippery slopes. The plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case, their attorneys and their supporters in the gallery had a field day. But these unsophisticated folk without advanced degrees from exclusive universities have intuited that removing the essential form of marriage will eliminate marriage’s ability to provide structure to social life. They sense that eliminating the form of marriage will unhinge many aspects of social life, with outcomes that are not easily predicted or controlled. Their fears are grounded in something real. And let me close with a word to Good As You readers: I have no doubt that you are as good as me. That is not the issue. If you look at my writings, you will be hard pressed to find me saying negative things about gays and lesbians. This debate isn’t about your worthiness. It isn’t about you at all. The debate is about marriage. Let me put it as simply as I can: your side believes that marriage is whatever we say it is. Our side believes that marriage is something, something particular, which exists apart from our desires. We have no more power to change the essential features of marriage than we have to redefine “pi” to be equal to 3, so that math phobic people won’t have to deal with all the pesky decimal places. You are asking us to do something that is simply not possible.
Posted on: Friday, February 12, 2010To readers from the Good As You blog, thanks for dropping in. I am responding to this post about Bishop Cordileone, originally posted over there. I thought this was a little much for the “comments” section. So thanks for coming over. In the first place: Bishop Cordileone has as much right to participate in the political process and public discussion of the definition of marriage as anyone else. You seem to think you have uncovered some deep dark secret that a Catholic bishop believes what the Catholic Church believes, and teaches what the Catholic Church teaches. Catholics lay and clergy alike, have the same right to express their opinion in the public square as anyone else. We have the same responsibility as anyone else to convince our fellow citizens to join with our views. In the second place: Proposition 8 was not a referendum on Catholic canon law. If it had been, of course, it would never have made it on the ballot. Nor was Proposition 8 a referendum on some point unique to Orthodox Jewish marriage law, such as forbidding sex with a menstruating woman. If it had been, of course, it would have lost. Proposition 8 was not a referendum on some point of Latter Day Saint theology of marriage, such as whether marriages are eternal. No, Prop 8 was not about anything idiosyncratic to one religion or another. Proposition 8 was a referendum on a point that is common to all the major faith traditions, and to those of no faith at all, including Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Judaism, Islamic, LDS. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. All these traditions are united on the dual gender requirement for marriage. This fact is what allowed us to work together, and ultimately, to win the referendum. We all consider it a great blessing to have met one another and become friends around this issue. But I digress. In the third place: Proposition 8 did not win by a “bare majority.” It won by a comfortable margin of nearly 53% to 47%. This is the same percentage by which Barack Obama was anointed the Messiah. Evidently, the coalition of faith traditions and non-religious interested citizens was more successful at convincing their fellow citizens of their views, than your coalition was. In the fourth place: The radio show you referred to in your post was a call-in show on Catholic Answers Live. That episode was called “Ask a Canon Lawyer,” and people could call in with whatever they wanted to talk about. (This is what gave it the rambling quality mentioned in the original post.) Some of the callers wanted to know whether they were free to marry in the Catholic Church. As you may know, the Church’s rule is roughly speaking, “one man, one woman, for life.” Remarriage while one’s spouse is alive, is forbidden in the Catholic Church. If a person is in a valid marriage, they are not free to end that marriage and remarry. A person is only free to marry if that original union was not a valid union for some reason, or if their spouse has died. There must be an investigation to discover whether that marriage was in fact valid. If the marriage was valid, the individuals are not free to remarry within the Catholic Church, no matter what the civil law might say, no matter what our divorce-prone culture might say. If there is a ‘finding of nullity,” that means there was never a valid marriage in the first place, and the parties are free to marry. The questions on the radio show were about this topic. In this context, the Bishop said, the Catholic Church recognizes as valid, any marriage between non-Catholics that is recognized in civil law. If a non-Catholic got married by a judge or by a Protestant minister, the Church presumes the validity of that marriage. A person in that situation would have to get the marriage annulled before they were free to marry in a Catholic Church. Mind you, no one has to get married in the Catholic Church. The only people who are bound by canon law in this matter are people who want to be part of the Church and her sacramental system. The Church knows perfectly well that she has no jurisdiction over people outside her fold. But she is quite willing to apply the label “married” to a man and a woman who have given their consent to be married in accordance with legally accepted norms. I think that what bothers you is that the Church is not willing to accept a union of two men and two women as a marriage. I will explain in a future post.
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010Hi everyone. Let me introduce a friend, who will be posting on the ruthblog from time to time. Actually, I'll let him introduce himself. Here is Arlemagne1, in his own words:
Born in Rockland County, a suburb of New York City, I am now an attorney and author residing in South Florida. I attended SUNY Binghamton for Undergraduate and University of Miami Law School for my professional training. After law school, I practiced criminal law for eight years in Miami. During law school, at the age of 21, I moved closer to my religious roots and went from being a mostly secular Jew to being an Orthodox Jew. My fellow Orthodox Jews would call me a ba'al teshuvah, a returnee to the faith. Also during law school, I met and married my lovely wife Samantha. When we got married, Samantha was a sophomore in college. She graduated college and went to Medical School at Nova Southeastern University. When she finished her schooling and her internship, we moved to New York for three years for her to complete her residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. We have been married for eleven years. When we moved to New York, I devoted my time to taking care of our two young children so my wife could finish her medical training. During the time I had free when I was taking care of my children, I used my time to teach myself Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew using a computer program called Super-Memo. I also wrote an upcoming novel called Bias Incident: The World's Most Politically Incorrect Novel. I am currently looking for a publisher.I just want to say to my readers that Arlemagne1 has been sending me interesting material for about a year. And we have been chatting on facebook. I finally decided to invite him to post himself!
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010One of my facebook friends is now a Real (not virtual) Friend: he came to Socrates in the City last night, and I got to actually shake his hand! Anyhow, he wrote me this thoughtful letter after the event. I thought I would share it with Ruth Readers, as it will give you an idea of what I talked about. Feel free to chime in with your ideas!
I had a few thoughts as you were speaking: 1) I thought that the woman who asked you about the biblical foundations of marriage as procreative wasn’t much of a Bible reader. As a Catholic, I teach my students that one of the most fundamental, but most overlooked dogmas of the Church is the Trinity. People know what Easter Sunday celebrates. They know Christmas. They have an idea of Pentecost. They think they know what the Immaculate Conception celebrates (most don’t), but Trinity Sunday leaves them dry. That’s too bad. It tells us about the fundamental nature of Gad and what that means for man. God is One and God is Three. Since before the beginning of time, God has been in relationship. God was never been solitary. That tells us that mankind, created in the image and likeness of God, is called to relationship. The relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit is so complete, so intense, so effusive, that it creates. The world was not created as a plaything for God, as it was for the Greek and Roman gods. Instead, it is the natural result of the love of Father, Son and Spirit. The joy that a married couple experiences is effusive. We all share their joy. We like to be around a happily married couple. That joy is contagious. In the most intimate way, it creates another human life. As you said, it is a self donation that creates something beyond the two persons. In this way, a married couple enters into the godlike activities of love and creation. What a marvelous thing! 2) As a teacher, I try to impart the importance of education. I tell my students that the purpose of education is to show you that someone else has invented the wheel, and you should be thankful. You don’t need to start from scratch. I have a computer to type without having to invent and then build the computer. My job is to take the repository of knowledge and take it further. In our current time we have no past. As you wrote, we send our elderly to Florida. We think that, like Athena, we sprang up, fully grown, from Zeus’ skull. There is nothing we can learn from the past, since it is full of slave owners and racists. No other society has been as enlightened as ours, so why look at others? I remember when I was in college, one student in class said that he didn’t understand why we had to study St. Augustine. What could he say to today’s college students? I almost fell out of my chair. A young man who wouldn’t go to church with his mother and rebelled against his mother. A young man who hung out with his cool friends and thought that they knew more that his dull parent. A young man who was so impulsive that he fathered a child. Then, a man who found it all so empty. I think every college student could learn a lot from his life , if we weren’t so darned stubborn. There’s a poster that says, “You’re unique, just like everyone else.” Ultimately, that’s a comfort. There is no experience that we will have that someone hasn’t had before, so there is always someone to learn from. A quick look at history says that we mess with family structures to our own peril. These experiments in marriage are at our own peril. 3) A few years ago, my debaters studied feminism for a debate tournament. It was quite enlightening. During the 70’s there was a rejection of gender differences. Women could do everything men could. Do you remember Marlo Thomas’ record Free to Be You and Me? In the 90’s all that changed. Feminists such as Katherine McKinnon said that there are inherent differences between men and women. Why aren’t there more female CEO’s? Because success in the business world is measured by who is more aggressive and competitive. These are masculine traits, so men will display them more. If we were to measure success by nurturing and caring, women would win. But, of course, measuring is competition, so men decide that we need to measure. If we removed measurements, women would do well, because women are more into inclusivity than exclusivity. Of course, if women were in charge, there would be no CEO’s because that that implies a hierarchy. And if women were in charge, there would be no one in charge because being in charge implies masculine traits of power. And it goes on in an infinite regression. In the 70’s if you said that there were inherent gender differences, you were branded a male chauvinist pig. Now, if you deny these differences, you’re a sexist. Go figure. Of course, the best example of this is the book, As Nature Made Him, about the tragic story of David Reimer, who was raised as a girl after a botched circumcision. The tragedy was that his doctor, John Money (nomen est omen) covered up the truth. David was never comfortable as Brenda. Although Brenda did not know her story, she never felt that she was a girl. She was hardwired in the brain to be a male. We ignore gender differences at our own peril. 4) Your mention of utopianism and Gnosticism together was fascinating. I have always taught that most heresies are a form of Gnosticism. The work of salvation is hard. Not hard to learn, just hard. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Go to Church. Couldn’t we find an easier way? That’s Gnosticism! Just like learning a musical instrument, there is no easy way. Any method that promises an easier way is a false promise. This week, in Latin class, we are discussing virtues. There are 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit to counter the 7 Deadly Sins. The Deadly Sins are not actions, but propensities in each person that incline us to do evil. As long as I breathe, I will be under the influence of the 7 Deadly Sins. Marx, as you said, was looking for a utopia. He believed that to get utopia, the state needed to get rid of greed. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid if greed is to get rid of greedy people. That’s everyone! And of course, we can see how Stalin carried that one out. Utopians cause more destruction that anyone else, because the only way to get rid of sin is to get rid of sinners. I have always said that I would much rather fall into the hands of the “big, bad, authoritarian” Catholic Church than into the hands of a liberal. The Church understands the sinful nature of man. The utopian will try to reeducate the 7 Deadly Sins out of me. 5) I am moved by your understanding of marriage as more about the children than about self fulfillment. The primacy of the family is so important. As you write, society has tried to weaken those links, especially utopian societies. Families cause problems in the smooth running of society. Those damn people have greater loyalty to their parents than to the State. Get rid of the family and people will move their loyalties to where they belong. You mention in your books the underlying purpose of China’s one child policy. No aunts, no uncles, no cousins. Loyalty is transferred to the State. In such regimes, children are praised for turning in their parents for disloyalty to the State. In the US, we have laws that protect the sanctity of the family. For example, spouses cannot be compelled to testify against spouses. This law clearly places the interests of the family against the interests of the State. We need to keep families strong as a guard against creeping statism. 6) You statement about the fluidity of sexual orientation is controversial but so true. Nowadays, it’s chic to be gay. I worry about what that means for our kids, especially boys. In the past, young men may have engaged in gay sexual encounters, not because of any proclivities, but because it was available. Boys are looking for sex; girls for relationships. If girls were as ready for sex as boys, there would be no dating, just a quick hop in the sack. Two hormone-driven teenage boys may engage in an encounter because they’re both looking for sex. In the past, it was secret and a source of embarrassment. Now, it’s a lifestyle choice. Once it is mainstream, I think you will see more gay men, because it is easy for two gay men to find sex. These encounters will not, however, provide maturity. I have always said that the sexual revolution promised happiness once we removed sexual inhibitions. Isn’t our society just jumping for joy?!? Please keep up your excellent work. We need married Catholics like you explaining marriage and sexuality.You can purchase CD's of the talk here.
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010Last night, I had a very successful event, lecturing at Socrates in the City. The event was very well attended, and we had a lively discussion after my talk. My talk was called, "Can We Talk? Why the Same Sex Marriage debate has become so toxic." Regular Ruth Readers will be familiar with some of this material, but there was some new stuff, too. Stuff about how ssm has become a symbolic issue, that doesn't broach disucssion. Stuff about how so many of the modern ideological movments are utopian gnostic movements, that are completely unrealisitc. Given that they are unrealistic, it is actually important to keep people from asking too many questions. Hence, the chant that we are all just bigots, shuts down disussion. I belive it is desgined to do so. Anyhow, CDs of the talk are already available.
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010My trip to NYC has been very successful, which I will tell about in a future post. However, for now, I have to tell you this: I'm stuck in the blizzard! I was supposed to leave early this morning, fly to St. Louis for an EWTN taping, and then fly home. Instead, I will be lucky to get out of NYC by Friday, and home by Saturday!
Posted on: Monday, February 08, 2010listen to my podcast from last week!! Come to think of it, looking at Washington DC, maybe Hell has frozen over!
Posted on: Monday, February 08, 2010Regular Ruth readers already know about Pat Fagan's article about the pernicious effects of pornography. Now, Legionary Father John Flynn summarizes his report.
The impact on wives increases when the husbands become addicted to porn. One study cited by Fagan revealed that 40% of such sex addicts lose their spouses. There has not been a lot of research on the relationship between pornography and divorce, but he reported that one study of reports by divorce lawyers found that 68% of divorce cases involved one party meeting a new love interest over the Internet, and 56% involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic Web sites. ...
Fagan described how the viewing of pornography by teenagers disorients them during the developmental phase when they are learning how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values. One study of adolescents found that sexually explicit Internet material significantly increased their uncertainties about sexuality. Another study found that adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography had lower levels of sexual self-esteem. There is also a significant relationship between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depression. High adolescent consumption of pornography is linked to significantly increased sexual intercourse with non-romantic friends and can be a significant factor in teenage pregnancy.Our students have shared stories about the negative impact of pornography on their lives. They corroborate Dr. Fagan's report. Read the whole story here.
Posted on: Monday, February 08, 2010I just saw the (a?) Tim Tebow ad on the SuperBowl. What the heck is teh big deal? There was nothing there about abortion. You would have to know the back-=story to have a clue that that's what they were talking about. NOW needs to get a life. But then, they have needed a life for some time...