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Lance wrote a brilliant post - An alien anthropologist disusses marriage with the Pope - which reminded me of an old (April 24, 2005) post of mine, which, perhaps, stood teh test of time after all...... [Read More]

» Pope. Who? from A Blog Around The Clock
Lance wrote a brilliant post - An alien anthropologist discusses marriage with the Pope - which reminded me of an old (April 24, 2005) post of mine, which, perhaps, stood the test of time after all...... [Read More]

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grasshopper

My parents are devout, die-hard Catholics, who sent me to Catholic school until ninth grade when the principal suggested they not waste the tuition on me.
In sixth grade, my teachers were ex-nuns preparing for life in South America. What they taught me, which I still believe, is no one can claim he or she possesses Faith without experiencing Doubt. No Hope without Despair; No Love without Indifference. Hate, they described as a passion that could not go far before verging upon Love. For them,loving one's enemy was inevitable. Heart-to-heart hatred did not dehumanize us, but rather callous indifference. Indifference allowed us to wreak devastation on others. Indifference caused cruelty. An inability to question inherited beliefs, so as to accept and/or reject what one was presently thinking and feeling, implied a distrust of one's own soul, rendering any possibility of spiritual experience impossible.

Kate Marie

Lance,

I love ya, man, but this one is all over the place. I'll mention just a few things that struck me at random:

1) Valuing celibacy in the priesthood is not *necessarily* a matter of privileging celibacy over marriage (just as Paul does not necessarily fit the caricature you've constructed -- see Elaine Pagels, "Adam, Eve, and the Serpent"). There are arguments for celibacy that you haven't given their due, just as their are arguments for Catholic theology that go beyond the armchair psychologizing about the motives of "perverts" in skirts and frustrated old men that you've engaged in throughout much of this post. You're welcome to dismiss all of Catholic theology (which is both intellectually and morally serious) as "raving" and to replace it with "values" that just by coincidence happen to fit your particular worldview, but if you want to persuade anyone other than the choir members in your particular church, you'll have to engage the best arguments and positions of the "other side."

2. Is there any evidence that more progressive churches (in the U.S. or elsewhere) are *gaining* adherents?

3. I think there's an argument to be made for allowing priests to marry -- or at least to choose between celibate and non-celibate orders -- but I wish that the debate could take place in a context that acknowledged the value of both celibacy and marriage, since I think the problem is as much that secular society doesn't value celibacy as that the Catholic priesthood doesn't value marriage. Anyway, I'd prefer, first, to argue that women should be able to become priests and go from there.

Linkmeister

Very well said. It's all about power, but His Holiness doesn't care to admit it. It's been about power for the past 2000 years.

Rana

It's interesting to transfer these observations to the American context, where it's not so much Catholics driving the push to define marriage restrictively, but Christian evangelicals.

My issue with this has long been that it's not simply a matter of fairness to gays and lesbians (which it is, of course) but also a matter of keeping the lines dividing church and state clear.

As in matters like school prayer, the agencies of the government have two choices: either recognize all religious systems equally (including the absence of religiousity), or recognize none of them.

What troubles me about these marriage-defining legislations is the way they want to have the cake and eat it too: "we" want government recognition of a religious state, and yet "we" don't want the government to recognize the religious state of others' religions.

I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and my church holds the marriages of gays and lesbians to be sacrally identical to the marriages of heterosexuals: it's marriage, regardless of the two adults involved. So, I find myself asking, why is the Christian marriage given all the legal and civil benefits by the state and federal governments, and my church's is not?

Increasingly, I'm wondering if, since the government can't bear to grant equal rights to all marriages, religious and secular, that perhaps it should not be granting them to anyone.

Let couples or groups of people (sisters as well as romantic couples, two mothers and an uncle, three lovers... whatever) be allowed to draw up domestic contracts spelling out things like child care, tax privileges, legal obligations, and so on, and leave the sacred unions to the churches and the people who want them.

Kate Marie

"Increasingly, I'm wondering if, since the government can't bear to grant equal rights to all marriages, religious and secular, that perhaps it should not be granting them to anyone."

-- Are you including polygamy in that "all marriages, religious and secular"?

"Let couples or groups of people (sisters as well as romantic couples, two mothers and an uncle, three lovers... whatever) be allowed to draw up domestic contracts spelling out things like child care, tax privileges, legal obligations, and so on"

-- I'm not a legal scholar, but are groups of people not currently allowed to draw up such contracts? I'm assuming that your view of granting equality to all marriages, religious and secular, ecompasses such arrangements as you've described here (romantic couples, two mothers and an uncle, three lovers), since that's what is required to make the "equal rights" or "civil rights" argument consistent. In that case, though, the Pope and others are essentially right, since if a marriage is defined solely by the individuals who choose to enter into a marriage, it ceases to exist as a cultural norm. If, however, gay marriage is a way to make a certain cultural norm more inclusive, as people like Dale Carpenter have argued -- that is, if it's a better way of thinking about what is in the best interests of society -- then the Pope and other gay marriage opponents have every right to enter into the debate, in which they have to put their arguments up against other arguments about what's best for society.

SV

I'm about as Catholic as they come - 16 years Catholic school, 2 years as Church council secretary, aunts in the convent and a missionary Jesuit cousin.

I read through Lance's list and agreed with every point - I share his anger. In fact, I can probably add to the list:
- the weird and vaguely disturbing obsession with Mary's sex life (or lack thereof)
- the disgusting and dishonest disinformation campaign against condoms as a means of AIDS prevention
- the encouragement of a tendency towards cultism (cf. Opus Dei) as opposed to the watchful discouragement of it
- The goddam coverup by the goddam hierarchy for those goddam pedophiles (I know Lance already mentioned it, but it's unforgiveable and needs to be repeated as often as possible.)

I'm a Catholic because I believe in Catholic theology: Original Sin (the tendency towards sin that must be overcome, which is a big distinction with Eastern churches), faith justified by works (the big tomato/tomahto of Catholic vs Protestantism), and the recognition of tradition as a source of theology in addition to Biblical interpretation and/or literalism. I'm also partial to the rituals in recognition of their psychological value in expressing things that purely intellectual reflection can't.

Mostly I'm a Catholic because I believe in God (even if I can't define him), I aspire to the values of the Sermon on the Mount (even if I don't always follow them), and I think it's more important to concentrate on the community than the likelihood of my own individual salvation.

And I refuse to let the old men in skirts chase me out.

SV

Sorry - I got so caught up writing the earlier comment that I missed getting to the point: It's because I'm a (sane) Catholic that I don't have any problem, whatever, in gay marriage.

All my life, I was taught that some marriages are "recognized" by the Church, while others (involving divorced people) aren't. I had first-hand knowledge of marriages that were perfectly valid in a legal sense, that existed between people who loved and respected each other, that were supportive of their children and valuable to their communities - everything, in fact, except some apparently vital detail: an Okey-Dokey by The Priests.

It was a valuable lesson in the necessity of the separation of Church and state, and how no religion should ever have a monopoly on defining what the rest of the culture may do.

burritoboy


Lance,

This primitive anti-clericalism really doesn't become you. I'm Jewish, and I still admire the faint vestiges of the nobility of Catholicism that I glimpsed for just a second when I was in Catholic school (yes, a Jewish boy liking Catholic school. Interesting, no?). A place of refuge from my own "religion", which has turned into an absurd dead-end sideshow of tasteless hyperbolic consumerism, mind-rotting worship of American capitalism and infantile fetishization of Israel.

"allowing priests to get married, making the rectories homes for real adults and their families instead of hideouts for creeps and villains"

Wait a minute........first you decry the Church's heteronormativity and then impose an even more vicious heteronormativity on celibacy? So, if you're not fucking, you're a weirdo? And, let's be more honest: where is your idea of "family" coming from? Answer: precisely the same dead-end concept of the Romantic family a la Rousseau.

And, let's be even more honest again: There's now no such thing as love. It's over and done with - an empty joke from the eighteenth century. There's only capitalism and the commoditization of fucking. You want to challenge that? Show me the last great novel of love or great poetry of love. You won't find any from the last 80 or more years ----- because it simply doesn't exist in our world. Instead, our world is a landscape of screwing (or, more precisely, screwing as capitalism organizes and profits from it).

So, to me, celibacy is as valid a protest against our nowhere world of endless capitalism as any other protest. Perhaps not the most effective protest, but protest against our tyranny of spending is so rare that any act of it should be praised.

burritoboy

"It's been about power for the past 2000 years."

Why is that a bad thing? Someone must rule (and yes, even, in our oh-so-glorious "democracy", we have rulers - indeed, increasingly more tyrannical and insane rulers as time goes on). Are our rulers so evidently superior becuase of our elections? Restricting our vision to Italy: Would we prefer that Berlusconi rule? Or perhaps the colorless, rudderless and aimless "liberals" like Prodi? Faced with "choices" like this, the Church doesn't look quite that bad.

sfmike

Kate Marie asks, "I'm not a legal scholar, but are groups of people not currently allowed to draw up such contracts?" Well, no, Kate Marie, because would-be chaste priestesses like yourself insist that the relationships of homos and lesbos be considered second-class vis a vis those of a "normal" family.

I've had too many friends over the last 20 years who have lost money, real estate, sometimes their minds, and occasionally their lives when religiously self-righteous family have swooped in on them during the bereavement of a lover.

Having said that, I'm totally in agreement with Lance's feelings that marriage should be in a church, well, just because. And I abhor "gay marriage" ceremonies because they strike me as an absurd parody of a traditional male-and-female ceremony. It's time for something new.

And Kate Marie, if one of your "best arguments and positions of the other side" is to bring up the polygamy trope, then you really shouldn't be chiding Lance for his lack of rigor. My relationship with my buddy, partner, friend, and bedmate should be taken a bit more seriously by society at large than a Mormon heterosexual cult or your bizarre obsession with chastity. As for the moralizing, hypocritical Catholic Church, Lance said it better than I ever could.

Lance

burritoboy: This primitive anti-clericalism really doesn't become you.

bb, what anti-clericalism? I'm making the case that the Church needs more priests.

And you're defending celibacy as if the ideal has been the reality. The celibate rectories were never full of saints. For centuries, they used to be home for a different class of hypocrites, men with mistresses or male lovers, and a form of prison for other unhappy men who drowned their libidos in booze or sublimated them into activities that were far from priestly---gambling, politics, golf, status seeking, building for the sake of building, bossing people around. When the unhappy men moved out, the pederasts moved in. That's the reality.

Allowing priests to marry won't guarantee that the rectories will fill up or fill up with normal, decent men. The Protestant ministry has its share of hypocrites and weirdos and perverts. But it increases the odds.

There are lots of good arguments for a celibate priesthood, all of them have been made for centuries. None of them has produced a truly celibate priesthood. What they've finally produced is a dying priesthood and a scandal that has possibly fatally crippled the Church.

Rana

Thanks, sfmike, for speaking pithily for the defense! :)

(I will take issue with your describing same-sex marriages as "absurd parody" - as I said, in my church this ceremony is not a copy, nor a second-rate version of straight marriage. It is the SAME ceremony, carrying the IDENTICAL spiritual weight.)

Kate Marie,

(1) those legal contracts do not exist, except in a rough patch-worky way. If a family of people sets up a bunch of legal obligations and support network, it requires a lot of work, multiple documents, and can be easily challenged by blood relatives opposed to the arrangement, and it is rarely if ever transferable to another state. A legal marriage, on the other hand, requires one piece of paper (in some countries, not even that) and is recognizable in all 50 states, all territories, and in most of the countries of the world. The two situations are NOT analogous.

(2) I honestly don't care about the "specter" of polygamy, or polygyny, or nonsexual couples being in a legal civil union. Really, is it ANY of my farkin' business? Or yours? Am I, or you, personally, harmed by what legal arrangements a group of people you don't even know decides to make with regards to their personal lives?

No. I don't want random Jane Smith and random John Doe to tell me with whom and how I may legally and emotionally entwine myself; the cost of that freedom is that I have to grant them the same freedom of association. No one's making THEM abide by my religious and moral beliefs, so why do they (and you?) feel like they have the right to force theirs on me or anyone else? It's bad enough that that disapproval is present in the nosiness of busybodies; it's obscene that some want it enshrined in law so as to preferentially elevate their beliefs over others'.

Kate Marie

SFMike,

"Well, no, Kate Marie, because would-be chaste priestesses like yourself insist that the relationships of homos and lesbos be considered second-class vis a vis those of a "normal" family."

-- Um, no, in fact, I haven't insisted that, SFMike. I simply think there are good arguments against those who do and not so good ones.

-- "Chaste priestesses?" No, married with kids, but I always appreciate snide name-calling in place of substance.

" if one of your "best arguments and positions of the other side" is to bring up the polygamy trope, then you really shouldn't be chiding Lance for his lack of rigor. My relationship with my buddy, partner, friend, and bedmate should be taken a bit more seriously by society at large than a Mormon heterosexual cult or your bizarre obsession with chastity."

-- Here you actually make my point neatly, SFMike, which you seem to have missed. I brought up polygamy as a response to Rana, not to Lance -- because it's an entirely legitimate question when one is dealing with an absolutist "civil rights" or "equal rights" argument for gay marriage (as Rana's reply has demonstrated). Once you insist, however, that your relationship should be taking more seriously by society at large than other kinds of relationships (some of which are permitted by other religions, as in Islam), you and the Pope are essentially making the same assumption -- that some relationships are more deserving of legal recognition than others. You and he can fight it out -- or debate it out -- on that basis. [I haven't entered the debate here, but for what it's worth I support gay marriage -- tentatively, admittedly (which befits my conservative leanings), but I like the arguments of Dale Carpenter and Jonathan Rauch.]

Rana's assumptions (that we have no business defining marriage AT ALL) prove one of the Pope's points -- that a certain way of thinking about marriage will mean that marriage ceases to exist altogether, in which case privatization seems the only logical course. And I don't think privatization is in the best interests of society.

Kate Marie

"The celibate rectories were never full of saints. For centuries, they used to be home for a different class of hypocrites, men with mistresses or male lovers, and a form of prison for other unhappy men who drowned their libidos in booze or sublimated them into activities that were far from priestly---gambling, politics, golf, status seeking, building for the sake of building, bossing people around. When the unhappy men moved out, the pederasts moved in. That's the reality."

-- Lance, maybe I'm way off base about this, but is there any evidence that this litany of dysfunction is more apt as a description of celibate priests than as a description of men in heterosexual marriages?

"There are lots of good arguments for a celibate priesthood, all of them have been made for centuries. None of them has produced a truly celibate priesthood."

-- I could say there are lots of arguments for [fidelity in marriage, honesty, humility, etc.] but none of them has produced a truly [faithful, honest, humble] people. How do you know that chastity/celibacy is honored in the breach any more than marital fidelity or other kinds of ideals? As I said, there may be some evidence here that I'm unaware of, but what is it?

burritoboy

"What they've finally produced is a dying priesthood "

What's not dying? The only thing not dying right now is the volume of shares trading on the stock exchange. I'm not exactly sure I'd even want the Church to be flourishing in this historical moment - look at the vicious nihilistic "religions" that are flourishing today - revulsion is too good an emotion to be spent on them.

Deep Thought

Lance,
If you were to actually use the reasons the Church has, any of their actual definitions, or the arguments really resented, and refuted *them*, this might be interesting. as it is, its the worst (and laziest!) of strawmen - you don't really understand what the Church is teaching, you don't bother to learn the church's position, you haven't taken the time to even copy their arguments. All you know is that, based upon your primitive understanding of what you think the Church's position is, you don't like it. Ergo, all thinking people must agree with you.

I mean, seriously! You don't even understand the concept of 'does the church acknowledge marriage outside of the Church as sacramental?'! This isn't even wrong.

Lance

This is from DeepThought's abouthimself page on his blog:

"Hello, and thanks for reading. I am a thirty-something American who was born and raised in the Mid-West. I was in the Army for eight years and am a veteran of Desert Shield/Storm. I am married with 4 kids at home. I am a convert to the Catholic Church and regularly attend a Latin Mass parish near my home in the suburbs of Atlanta. My wife, Deeper Thought, is a stay-at-home mother who homeschools our children, known collectively here as the Airborne Philosophy Squad (Aristotlean).

I have a degree in Theology. Of course, to expand on that, I am a thomist and an aristotlianist. That makes me a moral objectivist, philosophical realist, empiricist, and adherent of free will. I think history has proven Communism to be an utter and abject failure and Socialism to be Communism’s weak, and similarly-doomed, sister. I support Distributist economic and social principles. I oppose abortion and birth control, no-fault divorce, public education as a concept for units larger than a municipality, and laissez-faire capitalism as a moral agent. I support caring for the poor, the fatherless, the widowed, and the sick - but as a community, not as a function of government. I think the Patriarchy, when controlled by Judeo-Christian morality, is a protector of and advocate for women."

Kate Marie

Lance,

What's your point about the Deep Thought blog? Forgive me if I'm wrong, but your point seems to be, "Heh, heh, Deep Thought defends patriarchy . . . feel free to point, laugh, and ignore him."

That doesn't strike me as, . . . . well, it doesn't strike me as quite fair -- since it doesn't address the comment Deep Thought actually made in response to your post.

I did take a look at the blog, since you linked to it, and I found a couple of thoughtful posts about homeschooling, among other things.

Lance

Kate,

Actually, I meant to introduce Deep Thought's bio by saying, "Ladies and gentleman, Pope Benedict's ideal Catholic."

I didn't post it because I think his views are funny. I think they're appalling.

As for addressing his comment, essentially all he did was call me an ignoramus, and short of reciting the entire catechism there's not much I can to refute that. But unless I haven't heard about it, the Church hasn't changed its views recently on birth control, abortion, "natural family planning," artificial insemination and test tube babies, homosexuality, divorce, celibacy, and the role of women in marriage and in the church. And Benedict is still the Pope and old men like him still run the show, which means that sexual repression, guilt, reaction, hypocrisy, and patriarchal authoritarianism are still the orders of the day.

Deep Thought

Lance,
Thanks for pointing out that I do, indeed, have a degree in Catholic Theology meaning that I am, actually, qualified to tell you that you don't know what you are talking about (although my specialty is systematic theology and economic theory, I do know about things like marriage). While I find it akin to a supporter of intelligent design pointing out that his critic has a degree in evolutionary biology, I do appreciate your honesty.
I am more than willing to openly discuss what the Church and Pope Benedict *actually* believe and *actually* teach and how you may disagree with them - here or at my blog. Your choice.
I have no problem with you disagreeing with, well, anything - my issue is that what you are portraying as Church teaching is anything but.

Deep Thought

Katie Marie,
I am glad you liked my stuff on homeschooling. Thank you for the kind words.

Kate Marie

Lance,

I know you're sick today, and I hope you feel better, and I don't want to pick on you when you're feeling down, but . . .

I simply think you're wrong about Deep Thought's comment. The main point seemed to me to be that that your characterization of the Catholic church was a caricature and a straw man. And, with all due respect, I must say I agree.

Here's your most recent comment about the church:

"But unless I haven't heard about it, the Church hasn't changed its views recently on birth control, abortion, 'natural family planning,' artificial insemination and test tube babies, homosexuality, divorce, celibacy, and the role of women in marriage and in the church. And Benedict is still the Pope and old men like him still run the show, which means that sexual repression, guilt, reaction, hypocrisy, and patriarchal authoritarianism are still the orders of the day."

You can get away with stuff like this because almost everybody who comments here agrees with you, and because -- forgive me if I'm making assumptions that aren't true -- probably very few of the commenters here are well-versed in Catholic theology, which, as I pointed out before, is both intellectually and morally serious and has a long and, yes, renowned intellectual history that can't really be dismissed with a rote recitation of anti-Catholic boilerplate. Frankly, it's like you're fingering the beads of the anti-Catholic rosary.

Don't get me wrong. Praying the rosary is a wonderful thing, but it's not really an intellectual exercise. If I had been asked to defend Catholicism and had responded by reciting the "Hail Mary" over and over again, you all would have laughed me out of the joint. But your recitation of the anti-Catholic litany is essentially the same thing. Hypocrisy? Amen. Sexual repression? Amen. Guilt? Amen. Bitter old men in skirts? Amen.

If Deep Thought's beliefs -- and mine, for that matter -- are "appalling," tell us why you think that is, but you have to begin by actually engaging the beliefs. What *is* the Catholic position on abortion, for instance? I mean the actual theological position, not your psychological theory about why you think that position exists (to enslave women, to turn women into mere baby-makers, yada yada yada).

If you think my beliefs are "appalling," I can return the compliment by saying that it's absurd to suggest that one of the world's great religions is all wrong in *exactly* the places where it fails to fit your progressive ideology, and it's doubly absurd to suggest such a thing based, not on a real engagement with serious Catholic theology, but on a cardboard cut-out -- that you made yourself -- of a man in "skirts" and a funny hat that you seem to want to congratulate yourself for beating up on.

Ahem. Yes, I got a little riled there, but I really disagree with you on this one (obviously).

I do hope you feel better.

LowLife

How would the demise of families be different than now? How does it work? Would kids have more fast food with friends than they have family dinners? Would they play more Halo? Who would pay for their college (maybe that's not an issue in Italy)?

I know I'm just a lapsed Episcopalian (what level of Hell is reserved for that?) but I swear to the non-existant God that no matter how Italy comes down on the union of unmarrieds I will continue to gripe about the kids not doing enough around the house and to suck up to my wife (sure it makes me look like a spineless jellyfish but its the way I won her).

Let everybody join together to proclaim - Long Live The Family! (and please, please pick up your shoes before someone trips over them).

Bill B

Lance,
I'm late to the party but I wanted to compliment you on the post, which I read as a cri de coeur in the form of a riff. I share your background and you express the pain and frustration that a lot of folks feel when they see that the teachings and behavior of their childhood church seem to depart from what life teaches them about compassion and justice. There's a lot of pain out there. And it's interesting that the commenters who appear to be loyal catholics choose to engage you on the level of debate - you're all over the place, you don't know enough to talk about this, define your terms, etc. It's a good way to shut somebody up but it certainly doesn't touch the heart. As an out queer and recovering drunk I've found another path up the mountain (out of necessity), but it does seem odd that the defenders of the faith don't reach out to a likely prospect like yourself (you seem pretty mainstream, decent, thoughtful - and straight) with a little more heart.

Kate Marie

"There's a lot of pain out there. And it's interesting that the commenters who appear to be loyal catholics choose to engage you on the level of debate - you're all over the place, you don't know enough to talk about this, define your terms, etc. It's a good way to shut somebody up but it certainly doesn't touch the heart."

-- Bill B., why couldn't it be argued that it is precisely Lance's caricature of Catholicism and Catholic theology that tends to shut down debate or discussion? I actually enjoy Lance's blog, though I disagree with most of his political positions, and I'm all for feeling Lance's (and your) pain. But I think it's fair to expect Lance, who has elsewhere suggested that conservatism isn't interested in facts or reasonable debate, to be -- how shall I put it? -- a little more nuanced in his discussion of a subject which has a long and logically coherent intellectual tradition.

I don't know you personally, obviously, but I certainly wish the best for you and for Lance. My comments here are meant neither to shut people up nor to be heartless, but I do find it somewhat ironic that I am being accused of lacking heart when it was Lance's original post that showed disdain for "orthodox" Catholics, at best, and downright contempt for believing Catholics, at worst.

For what it's worth, I am as outraged as anyone about the child molestation scandals in the church, but it is as wrongheaded to blame Cathoic theology and the belief in a celibate priesthood as it is to blame the liberal and progressive views of many of the child-molestation-enablers (see the head of my particular diocese, Roger Mahoney).

Chris the Cop

Jeremy Brett was of course, The Sherlock Holmes, but the one in The Seven Percent Solution (An Attenborough, maybe?) was still pretty good.

Robert Duvall as Watson was pretty gd inspired, as well; lets you know just how good understated acting can be.

BJ

Hi! I thought you and your readers might be interested in some post-Easter news about Pope Benedict XVI...
The Pope's car is being auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity:
www.buyacarvideos.com/popecar.htm
The bidding is already more than $200,000! Personally, I think this is a really fun and creative way to raise
money. The auction goes until April 14th if you and your readers want to check it out.

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