We Ignore Sex at Our Peril

facts of life Norman Rockwell

Sex is too central to human life to avoid as an issue or to stand outside and describe objectively, and it touches us too closely for people to discuss calmly. Those qualities make it an ideal issue to settle through authoritative traditions. Functional societies do so and life goes on.

If such traditions are lacking, or their authority is rejected, then sex becomes an ideal topic for disputes that go on endlessly and lead to nothing but rancor. That is why people today try to pretend it doesn’t make any difference, or each can make up its meaning for himself.

That has become pretty much the official view. Ignore sex, or at least the functional aspects that make it important, and maybe we won’t have to worry about it. It’ll become an amusement, or maybe a wonderful, rewarding something-or-other. The one thing it won’t be allowed to be is an issue, because if it’s an issue it’s one that current ways of thinking can’t deal with sensibly.

Still, it’s hard to get people to ignore something so basic, so gay marriage and women priests are big issues in Church and State just now. The view that now seems official tells us that both are unproblematic. Why, in the analysis of National Catholic Reporter, should anatomy matter so much? And why, in the words of Jimmy Carter, shouldn’t we take to heart “the admonition of the Apostle Paul [!] that Christians should not be divided over seemingly important, but tangential issues, including sexual preferences and the role of women in the church”?

I’ll agree with those prominent commentators that such issues shouldn’t divide us, but not because sex doesn’t matter. The reason they shouldn’t be issues is that the official view is absurdly misconceived, and gay marriage and women priests are evidently impossible.

The official view has nothing to do with general patterns of human life, and everything to do with the imperialism of institutions like global markets and neutral expert bureaucracies. Such institutions have nothing intelligent to say about a variety of basic human concerns, including sex, so they’d rather they all just disappeared. Get rid of sex, family, religion, nationality, particular culture, and so on, and there would be nothing in human life that falls outside the jurisdiction of bureaucrats, managers, marketers, and the half-educated. What could be better, if you’re a J-school, B-school, or law school graduate, and you want to get on in the world?

The Case of Same-Sex Marriage
Marriage is worth arguing about because it’s important. The reason it’s important is that it’s a natural institution that fits basic human needs. It’s an enduring physical, personal, and social union of man and woman that by the identity and natural functioning of the parties is ordered toward the creation and sustenance of new life. Nothing can replace it in that role, so by the constitution of human life it has a status and authority that precede and limit that of the state.

If a relationship between two men can constitute a marriage, then none of that’s true any more. Marriage becomes a self-defined arrangement of self-help and mutual support. But if that’s what it is, why should anyone other than the parties have anything to say about it? Under such circumstances, the claim that social recognition of marriage is a basic right would no longer make sense. What would the recognition consist in, and how could the recognition of something so nebulous become a basic right? Hence the view that the state should get out of the marriage business, which is the natural outcome of the view of marriage that makes gay marriage seem possible. The dispute over abortion gave us the view that the state has no business defining human life, and the dispute over marriage has given us the same with regard to marriage. As always, liberal progress means that the state becomes unable or unwilling to recognize the most basic human realities.

Naturally, given the interests at stake, there’s a whole industry constructing arguments to show that there’s nothing natural about marriage. Some people are sterile, for example, and they can get married, so it’s said that marriage can’t really have an essential relation to the possibility of having children.

That’s a good argument for technocrats, but most people don’t think of human relations as technology. Marriage, like other close human connections, is a matter of identity and orientation—who the parties are and the nature of their connection—rather than factual consequences in particular cases. Friends help each other, and that’s a basic feature of friendship, but the relationship is not a technique for bringing about practical benefits. As long as the proper dispositions are there, it can exist even if the parties are unable to offer each other assistance because of some chance event like distance or illness. What applies to friendship and help applies equally to marriage and children. If the basic nature or orientation of the parties eliminates the connection between their relationship and new life, it’s not marriage. The case is otherwise when a secondary factor like physical defect prevents the union of man and woman from attaining its characteristic outcome.

The Case of Women Priests
So much for gay marriage. As to women priests, the obvious reason women can’t be priests is that the priest’s most important function is sacramental. He serves as a symbolic figure in the ritual drama whereby God becomes concretely present among us. But male and female just don’t work the same way symbolically and dramatically. Putting on a production of Julia Caesar or switching the roles of Mr. and Mrs. MacBeth might result in an interesting variation on Shakespeare, but the plays would be quite different. In the case of the mass, though, a different play means a different religion, and that’s just what has happened among those groups that have accepted female priests.

There are, of course, other considerations. In addition to their sacramental role, the clergy teach and rule. The problem is that a group of men, a group of women, and a mixed group don’t act or view things the same way. Men are more interested in theory, function, and structure, women in personal relationships and concrete experience. So if you want clerics and the hierarchy to maintain a definite position that they mostly don’t overstep, and you want that position to reflect doctrine that’s stable and authoritative but limited in what it says, you’re much more likely to get it if it’s a group of men who are involved. For evidence, consider the effect of women’s suffrage on the growth of the state, and of women’s ordination (where that has occurred) on the definition, stability, and authority of doctrine.

It is, of course, heretical to say such things in an age that wants all human beings to become interchangeable careerists and consumers for the global economy, so there’s another subsidized industry producing and propagating arguments to the contrary. Women can in fact rule and teach, many have pointed out, and some women do so better than most men. The statements are true, but they prove less than is thought. Some laymen are wiser, holier, and more learned than most clerics, and some fortunetellers give better advice than most psychologists. So if we want to abolish distinctions because they don’t attain their goals perfectly we have a lot of abolishing to do. We need institutions, though, so in the real world it makes sense to ask what works best overall and act accordingly. Why not do that in this case?

James Kalb

By

James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, exposed the fallacy very well, by shifting attention to the vertical dimension of marriage.

    “Even though it has not taken the modern form familiar in our civil legislation, there has always been a means of handing things down from generation to generation, which is the very basis of continuity and stability in a society. This transmission between generations is primarily effected by the family. It is the legal framework of family life that structures the transmission of life and shapes the future of society.”

  • Amy

    Bob dodd ‘s links are PORN . Please remove him !!!!!

  • Prof_Override

    That is THE best traditionalist piece on this subject that I’ve read. I don’t often agree with Mr. Kalb on much, but depth of his thought processes is undeniable and in this case he even got (forced) a libertarian leaning, post-post modernist to rethink/review his thoughts on these subjects. Bravo, great article.

  • Alecto

    Do you actually believe that, “Men are more interested in theory, function, and structure, women in personal relationships and concrete experience.”? But that isn’t enough, you take the insult further, “For evidence, consider the effect of women’s suffrage on the growth of the state, and of women’s ordination (where that has occurred) on the definition, stability, and authority of doctrine.” You offer your opinion as fact. I object on behalf of all women. Yours is one view. It is of course a flawed and illogical one. Another is that men have succeeded in bankrupting the country by instituting a series of entitlement programs which began with Wilson’s push for the progressive agenda. Representation in Congress has not only been overwhelmingly male, but white and male. The “evidence” does not exculpate men, Kalb, on the contrary, it indicts them!

    The 16th Amendment, which led to the income tax, was passed long before women got the vote in 1920. Can I remind you that the income tax is the chief redistributive mechanism in society which has allowed the federal government to create and expand its role into every private sphere? Surely you of all people understand the difference between correlation and causation? Women gaining the vote had as much effect on the growth of the State as men voting had on the growth of the State!

    The predominant membership (I use that term loosely) in TEA party groups is female. More women are active in conservative politics than men. Who stayed home in the last election? White men who identify as Republican or conservative. Thanks for giving Obama a second term, men! I’m a great admirer of Maggie Thatcher. She certainly must have been thinking of the entitled, whining, American male when she said, “If you want something said, get a man. If you want something done, get a woman.”

    Until you actually view women as individuals, you will never, ever understand that they are just as different as men. That is why so many of us are involved in the daily struggle to preserve our rights against a bunch of white liberal men and male Republicrats. This is perhaps the most unconvincing article I have ever read on Crisis, which is sad, because gay marriage poses a serious threat not only to society, but to women in general, as female ordination does to Catholicism. This is a missed opportunity to state a positive case for Catholic doctrine and the rights of all believers to set their own rules absent interference from the State. Badly done.

    • Ford Oxaal

      I might not have used a pragmatic argument against female ordination, but out of curiosity, how would you have argued it?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        There is one very obvious argument.

        The Church was founded, grew and developed in a world where priestesses were very common.

        The most revered shrine of the Ancient World was the temple of Phœbus Apollo at Delphi, where the oracle was uttered by the Pythian Priestess. Plato refers to the priestesses of Dordona, a shrine of Zeus. In Latin, the word, “sacerdos” is common gender. At Rome, the Law of the XII Tables forbad women to offer sacrifice by night, except when celebrating the rites of the Good Goddess. Why, if they could not offer sacrifice at all? Gaius, a very careful jurist of the 2nd century declares that the Vestal Virgins were priestesses. It would be a cheap display of very trite learning to multiply examples.

        Obviously any argument based on the social rôle of women in the 1st and 2nd centuries is untenable, suggesting a dogmatic basis for their exclusion

        • Ford Oxaal

          Most interesting. And besides, the greatest creature is a woman, Mary. Men are below Mary. Even priests who attain heaven are below Mary. Even Christ submitted to Mary. Mary is not a priest. St. John had to bring her communion. It seems a bit rook-birdish for women to desire to become priestesses.

          • Alecto

            And, where would women generally fall in that hierarchy of yours? Somewhere below men and priests?

            • Bob

              Christ was as counter cultural as they come for His day. He forgave the prostitutes sins that was about to be stoned. He sat and spoke with the Samaritan woman at the very publicly visible well, a definite cultural no-no. He had many women disciples. He listened and obeyed His mother and turned water iin to wine. Christ died a horrible death in large part due to His push back against the culture. But He consciously only chose twelve men to be the founders of His Church. The most important moment of Christ’s life, Holy Thursday and the night before He was to die horribly, He only sat those same men down at table to institute the most sacred sacrament of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood. His beloved mother was there, Mary Magdelene was there, but they were not at the table? Why not? Was Jesus being a chauvinist or was afraid to pushback against norms of Jewish society? No. Jesus only had men at the table that night because that was His conscious intention. And fully knowing that in approximately 20 hours He was to die a horrible death, His actions that night were extremely important. Christ intended only men for the priesthood. God’s ways are not our ways. Like all peeling away of the layers of the Christos onion over the centuries, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we understand sacramentally why.

              My question for you Alecto is, have you thoroughly studied the Church’s 2000 year reasons and teachings why only a male priesthood? I believe you haven’t, but you still feel inclined to be an “expert” on the subject.

              • Alecto

                Bob, I’m making no argument for female ordination. If you want to argue one side of a one-sided argument, please proceed!

            • Ford Oxaal

              I believe the next creature below Mary is open to speculation. Some say choirs of Angels. Some say St. Joseph. Some might say St. John the Baptist. Perhaps consecrated virgins are next. But we do know who is at the top.

      • Patriot Steve

        The pragmatic argument against female ordination is simple: where women lead, men refuse to show up. Look at the year over year, decade over decade attendance rates of sects who allow women pastors/priests. I would be surprised if any such sect would show less than a loss of 10%/decade–and most are far worse.

        • Ford Oxaal

          And I can think of many more arguments. I would venture to say that men are more prone to lustful thoughts, and women perhaps more prone to vain thoughts. So attractive priestesses are more problematic that attractive priests.

    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

      Where is the insult? People think about things and do things differently. In the case of men and women, they even think about them using different regions of their brains. That seems to me a good thing, on the whole, even though it means lots of mutual incomprehension.

      You note that groups of men often do things they shouldn’t, and women often act very well. Perfectly true, and the reverse is also true.

      Is it your view that a group of men, group of women, and a mixed group act the same way? Your comments suggest you believe the contrary. If you do believe there are differences, are they relevant to the governance of the Church?

      • Alecto

        You do not see that your assessment of the chief difference between women and men as emotional versus logical possibly reinforcing a mythical stereotype of women that has been used to discriminate against them for decades? You honestly did not consider the impact of your statement? That is interesting.

        Clearly there are gender differences. They are not relevant to the governance of the Catholic church.

        • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

          That’s not my assessment. An interest in “personal relationships and concrete experience” includes emotion but it’s not emotionalism. It’s at least half the human mind and more than half the human world. “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” (G. K. Chesterton)

          I hope my views on the sexes align more or less with what most people have mostly thought. Otherwise, what hope would I have that they were correct?

          • Alecto

            Stating opinions that align with the majority opinion in society is not a sound basis for their being “correct”. There was a time most people mostly thought blacks were inferior, that the developmentally challenged were possessed, or that ulcers were the result of too much stomach acid. Did that make them correct? You’re provocative views about women’s suffrage is typical of the kind of misogynistic attitude that has fueled feminism.

            • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

              It’s misogynistic to say that women voting has meant more social programs? You can look at some interesting studies if you Google “women’s suffrage growth of state.” (That was the original link in the article, I don’t know why they changed it.)

              You say “Clearly there are gender differences.” I am confident that an ill-disposed person could describe your views on the subject as a manifestation of hatred of men or (if he preferred) hatred of women. He could do that no matter what view you hold, since any view of a group of people can be spun as hatred if the will is there.

              • Alecto

                The hypothesis that somehow women’s suffrage caused the growth of the state is myopic, incomplete and yes, biased. It is historical fact that government, all government, has a tendency to grow over time. That has
                happened in every republic in history regardless of the voting rights of women.

                If women do support expanded government programs, then it is due in large part to their lack of ownership and control over private property, assets and income. Without that, women clearly become dependent on whatever institution exists to provide support: government, church, marriage, etc…. A woman who is forced to choose to sustain herself is a slave to whatever master she serves: state, church, husband. I believe policies which further the ownership of property by women are good. However, you and your brethren seem content to keep women slaves – just not on the state. If all the Catholic church can offer women is a dependence that is different from the one offered by government, it’s no wonder many women find themselves at odds with the Church. Perhaps the voting laws ought to be rewritten so that man or woman, no citizen without title to property gets the vote? That to me seems the obvious and fair solution.

                I disagree with the liberal feminist perspective that the chief concern of women is “reproductive freedom’ or that evidence of women’s progress is measured by the number of free birth control choices. They ought to concentrate their efforts on women and property.

                • buckyinky

                  You still haven’t address Mr. Kalb’s question, however, of how he has insulted all women with his comments, at least not to my satisfaction. Your position seems to beg the question by starting with the assumption that the ways of men are better than the ways of women, something that Mr. Kalb never stated or even implied. You took Mr. Kalb’s statement, “Men are more interested in theory, function, and structure, women in personal relationships and concrete experience” as an insult, but this can only be because you consider having an interest in “relationships and concrete experience” an inferior thing to having an interest in “theory, function, and structure.”

                  I don’t fault you for your preferences, but it seems that you ought to accuse yourself of what you have termed discrimination before Mr. Kalb, who at least here has not expressed the preference of one disposition over the other, but has only observed that women tend to have one, and men tend to have the other.

                  • JD Salyer

                    “Clearly there are gender differences.” Does Alecto really mean gender differences, or does he mean sex differences? Does he even grasp the debate about feminism well enough to know the difference?

                  • Alecto

                    It perpetuates a view which precludes individuality among women. It has often been used as a way to marginalize women and discount their opinions by asserting their cognitive processes are based on subjective, unreliable criteria to the preferably objective “theory, structure and function” of men. How is Mr. Kalb to be the judge of what and how women think? And, how overreaching is that theory to state that billions of women are alike in this one respect? I would state that both men and women are evolving and the jury is out on this issue. It’s insulting because it reduces women to a stereotype that we have worked and are working to defeat.

                    A man who attributes the growth of the state to women’s suffrage IS insulting women by singling them out for blame. The idea that in 90 years of voting women not only are responsible for this gargantuan mess, but that men aren’t equally or more culpable is absurd. Perhaps the problem is that women have, by and large, voted for men? Or, maybe, that is why legal scholars like Carol Rose put forth theories on women and property, which to my mind has great impact on women and their voting patterns?

                    • buckyinky

                      “A man who attributes the growth of the state to women’s suffrage IS insulting women by singling them out for blame.”

                      It certainly need not be taken as an insult, and it is a way of thinking that diverges from what seems natural, to do so. Whether Mr. Kalb is correct or incorrect in his assessment of women’s voting patterns, he is merely relaying his observations. You’ve hinted that his observations are shortsighted in your estimation. Why not follow this line and demonstrate it more fully rather than suggesting that his observations are indecent, something that is not at all apparent to me simply by your asserting it? Should we not even be allowed to consider whether women’s suffrage was prudent or not, or should we only be allowed to observe those things that cause us to conclude that it was?

                      Furthermore, if I follow your manner, why shouldn’t I conclude the greater insult to be to men, members of whose sex in exclusivity were responsible for granting women the vote in the first place? Your thinking follows that of the feminists, though, who see behind every corner of history to the present, slights against women, oppression against women, women pushed to the margins, women ignored, women belittled. My impression of such assessments (those of the feminists) is that at best they are unlikely to be true, and they obscure what might otherwise be good arguments by making it difficult to discern what to take seriously and what not to.

                    • Alecto

                      An insult can derive from short-sightedness, i.e., ignorance, or it can derive from malicious intent. The former is more easily forgiven as it is obvious that Mr. Kalb meant no insult. I believe he, like most of the writers on Crisis, is ignorant of women.

                      As to your suggestion that we consider whether women’s suffrage was prudent or not: the black helicopters and thought police are at bay for the time being. You may consider, debate, discuss, or postulate anything you want. Please run your relevant theories about women and suffrage by your wife/girlfriend/mother/sister. If you survive that debate unscathed, carry on.

                      Instead of another historical survey, look around the world today: women are certainly being oppressed. What is oppression? It’s the denial of fundamental rights. If women are allowed to own property, rather than being treated as chattel, they are free. My interest is in getting the same women who voted for Democrats and Leftist politicians to understand that they only hurt themselves by shifting their dependencies from civil institutions to government which will ultimately enslave them. I believe the error Crisis writers often make is concluding liberal feminists want “independence”. They most certainly do not. They have never once postulated anything to bring that about for women. They focus on birth control or equal pay: dead-ends (literally!) They should focus on preparing women to be self-sufficient and realizing their productive potential. Their rhetoric more closely resembles a free-for-all, or redefined, a “free-to-me”. It’s very bizarre to me. Suffrage is a condition precedent to taking one’s rightful place in a society where we have duties and responsibilities as well as rights. You blame women’s suffrage and I blame the Progressive movement.

                      Finally, making the leap from what I believe about society and the government and extending that to what I believe about Catholicism doesn’t work. I recognize that a religious institution is not democratic. That is where liberal feminists go off the rails. I’m not trying to change the Catholic church. It is what it is and offers benefits that cannot be calculated with the same arithmetic used to measure things like equality, opportunity, or oppression in the society.

                    • buckyinky

                      “As to your suggestion that we consider whether women’s suffrage was prudent or not: the black helicopters and thought police are at bay for the time being.”

                      But apparently not at bay is the charge of indecency for bringing up the subject, which actually serves the function of a thought police. Above you write, “Do you actually believe that, “Men are more interested in theory, function, and structure, women in personal relationships and concrete experience.”? But that isn’t enough, you take the insult further…” You express incredulity that anyone could draw such conclusions as Mr. Kalb. In order to carry on a serious discussion, one has to resist your charge that he is doing something indecent, i.e., one needs to resist the charge brought up by you that decent people don’t even hold such positions, let alone discuss them.

                      You suggest I bring the subject up to my wife, but in fact we often discuss these matters, with no injuries resulting to either party. We are both open to the idea that women’s suffrage was not a prudent move, though neither of us have concluded for certain that it wasn’t. I lean toward the idea that it wasn’t, and I think my wife does also (though I’ve never asked for a definite summary of her position). This doesn’t mean I also think women are closer to chattel than are men, but then I also don’t attach the idea of suffrage with the concept of fundamental human dignity. For what it’s worth, I believe an ideal society would probably be one in which I (and men like me) don’t have a vote in the government either. However, the fact that you don’t seem to be able to picture a husband and wife engaging in discussion on these topics with the husband coming out unscathed makes me question just how much you know about women.

            • Crisiseditor

              Alecto: The bad link has been fixed. Two studies addressing the connection between women’s suffrage and the growth of the state are now linked. Given how single women voted this past November, I think you would be hard pressed to claim that most women vote libertarian. Your quarrel is not with Mr. Kalb but with women who want the state to take care of them. That was precisely the message conveyed by the Julia cartoon produced by the Obama campaign. If you want to accuse someone one misogyny, direct your ire at the president and his feminist accomplices.

    • Patriot Steve

      Do you actually believe that, “Men are more interested in theory,
      function, and structure, women in personal relationships and concrete
      experience.”? But that isn’t enough, you take the insult further, “For
      evidence, consider the effect of women’s suffrage on the growth of the
      state, and of women’s ordination (where that has occurred) on the
      definition, stability, and authority of doctrine.”

      I suppose it would also be insulting to note that men are taller than women as well. And I suppose you would accept the insult “on behalf of all women”–presumably because you happen to know some tall women. Jim could have pointed out that women have difficulty separating the collective from the individual as well. But he didn’t need to.

      The 16th Amendment, which led to the income tax, was passed long before women got the vote in 1920.

      Define “long”.

      Until you actually view women as individuals, you will never, ever understand that they are just as different as men.

      … and you will never be able to find an average of disparate groups, never be able to discuss the relative merits of giving the franchise to those groups, and never be able to predict, based on that average, what will happen if large numbers of women are allowed to vote. Math is so sexist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carol-Leeda-Crawford/631144224 Carol Leeda Crawford

    I have met many women Religious and Catholic lay women who support a women priesthood. ALL of them supported pro-choice views on abortion and acceptance of same sex relationships as equal to marriage between and man and woman. Unfortunately, today there are many priests and even bishops who are either in support or indifferent to these and other moral issues which are clearly defined by the Magisterium as grave matter. Scripture is so clear on moral issues. In the words of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, He will reject anyone who does evil Matthew 7, and Our Lord was very clear in defining marriage. Again, in Matthew’s Gospel in response to the question on divorce He mentioned hardness of heart as the reason Moses gave a certificate of divorce. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is calling all of us to remain faithful to the truth.

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  • Bill Russell

    Alecto – How can you be blind to your own contradiction? You say: “I object on behalf of all women.” and then you say that Kalb’s position is just “one view.” Besides that fact that speaking “on behalf of all women” is amusingly pompous (I know a great many, perhaps most, for whom you do not speak) – why do you assume that you speak for all women and think Kalb’s position is just one opinion? To relieve yourself of the burden of speaking for “all women” – you might recall the famous appeal of the Three Tailors of Tooley Street – that was a popular image in a more literate and rational age.

    • Alecto

      I’m not speaking, I’m objecting to the implication in his statement. You did not fathom the subtle, implied insult. However, I am very relieved to read of your acquaintance with “a great many” women. Perhaps, in these cases, numbers are no substitute for quality?

  • hombre111

    In about a hundred years, the Church will officially recognize women priests and gay marriage, with these immortal words repeated before in similar circumstances, “As the Church has always taught and believed….”

    • cestusdei

      No, it won’t. But we will by the end of a hundred years have suffered thousands of martyrdoms perpetrated by people who think as you do.

  • supineny

    “Marriage becomes a self-defined arrangement of self-help and mutual support. But if that’s what it is, why should anyone other than the parties have anything to say about it? ”

    Because legal marriages convey to couples all sorts of legal benefits that are desirable. It affects hospital visitation rights, taxes, inheritances, leases. If there is a divorce, it gives the relationship legal standing and if there are disputes over property, visitation rights, child support and so on, the legal system is available to them.

    These issues seem willfully ignored by every writer on the topic of gay marriage on this site. Are they really news to you?

    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

      If marriage is a self-defined arrangement of self-help and mutual support, why should it have any of those effects?

      • supineny

        that doesn’t really compute — you’re kind of saying ‘why should a state accord benefits to marriages, if marriages are self-defined’. But i don’t think “self-defined” or “not-self defined” has much to do with how or why states recognize marriages.

        in any case, when a government recognizes a couple as married, that marriage is now subject to government regulation and in that sense is cannot be said to merely ‘self-defined.’

        I reiterate my claim that people here will do anything but acknowledge the legal benefits of marriage.

        • Carl

          Absolutely false…Except for Social Security, for now, all these benefits you are talking about are available through legal arrangements set up between any two individuals regardless of sexual involvement.

          Homosexual marriage is all about changing the culture and silencing critics telling the truth.

          • supineny

            True, it’s also about changing the culture. But that doesn’t mean that the things aren’t desirable. And some things only come with marriage.

            And they manifestly haven’t silenced you, so what are you talking about? There’s a bit of the cult of the victim here.

            • supineny

              if I may add – it’s also cheaper and more convenient to get married and
              automatically have all those legal things apply. To arrange all the
              things that might come up in a marriage, legally, without marriage —
              sure, a lot of it is possible, but you have to hire a lawyer, you have
              to file a lot of paperwork, you have to see them all through one by one.

            • Dave_M_001

              Well I have been silenced. I wouldn’t dare to make a comment criticizing gay marriage in some setting where my full identity could be seen, such as Facebook. The consequences, both social and career-wise, would be too great. Furthermore, some are already facing penalties through legal means, such as adoption agencies that are no longer allowed to operate if they do not place children with homosexual couples. And we are just getting started. In time, more and more of our freedoms will be eroded because they threaten the “freedom” of others to consider themselves married. As Kalb points out, we are not really increasing freedoms, but just replacing traditional, inherited authorities with a new more arbitrary authority; that being bureaucrats who represent the ever shifting sands of elite conventional wisdom.

        • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

          The state recognizes marriage because it’s an absolutely basic social institutions, more basic than the state itself. It’s like the state recognizing private property or language. See the first paragraph after the heading “The Case of Same-Sex Marriage.”

          If “gay marriage” is marriage, though, then the reasons for thinking it so aren’t there any more. See the next paragraph. The basis for giving it a special status then disappear, and if someone wants a special arrangement with regard to someone else he should contract into it.

          If it’s unjust to distinguish gay marriage from marriage marriage, then the rational conclusion is that it’s silly to have a separate category “marriage” in the law. There are just people with various sorts of connections to other people, all equally valid.

          • supineny

            What state is limited to making law about things only if they’re ‘absolutely basic social institutions’? that is a spindly argument.

            even so, love and coupling are rather basic, and it seems that gay
            couples are performing well understood roles in their families– again a
            point that you are at pains not to acknowledge. Gay people — they
            raise children, live together, share property, take care of aging
            parents and all that stuff that comes with being alive.

            you say “if gay marriage” is marriage, though, then the reasons for thinking marriage so basic aren’t there any more.” Gay marriage doesn’t end, discourage or in any way change the practice of traditional marriages, so in what sense do those marriages ‘lose value’?

            • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

              If the state makes a special law about something it helps if it’s a specific sort of thing. Love and coupling come in all sorts of permutations, so I don’t think it makes sense to have a special law or legal classification for those things as such. You say the things gay people do are simply the things people do who are alive. If so, what’s the point of a defined legal status? Why not individual rights and obligations plus contract?

              On your last question, read the two paragraphs I already referred you to. It can make sense to have a special classification with a special status if the situation has special well-defined features. Otherwise it doesn’t,, and if the classification is changed so it includes other quite different situations it’s inevitable that the status will change.

              E.g., it may make sense to have a special status for “military veteran.” If that status were extended to everyone who considered himself dutiful and patriotic it would soon lose significance.

              • supineny

                well, i feel like we’ve been discussing your points from those paragraphs all along. If I may sum up our differences, you contend that gay marriage is so different from a heterosexual marriage that the term ‘marriage’ can not be used. I say it’s so similar that it is legitimate. I don’t suppose we will convince each other.

                I would say that you base your conclusions on premises that have more to do with the traditional Catholic view of marriage, and not on the legal definition of marriage. So your conclusions about what a state should or should not do don’t seem to follow from the considerations of the state.

                What nation claims that “marriage” is “ordered toward the creation and sustenance of new life”? That’s a traditionalist Catholic view, and as much as the Church might wish that were the view of nations and states, it is not the case. If that were so, couples failing to conceive and raise children would lose their legal “married status”. Why not? That’s how the law works in other areas.

                And another disjunction we encounter when discussing it occurs when I point out the legal benefits of marriage and you brush them aside, unable to deny that they are beneficial or desireable, but because you reject the idea of using the term marriage to decribe those legal unions. (“why not individual rights and obligations plus contract?”) Well, if we call it “marriage,” it seems like people understand it better, not worse. They understand the similarities between a loving long term gay couple and are hardly confused about the details of conception. But it seems like you’re fighting tooth and nail for exclusivity of the word ‘marriage’. Well, the horse is out of the barn.

                And, as I’ve pointed out, you also brush aside without comment (!) the idea that gay couples provide many of the same benefits to society as their heterosexual brothers’ and sisters’ marriages — they bring stability, they raise children, etc. Having ignored these points you shrug and can’t imagine why society would or should see fit to give these couples support.

                After all is it enough to be ‘simply alive’ or engage in any of the ‘profusion’ of relationships — why expect anyone to care? And the implication is that people should not care. You do not care. But evidently a lot of people do care, which is why gay marriage has gone from a marginal issue to a mainstream one in so many nations. It is not, as some on this discussion board would have it, that gay people have put a gun to the head of society. How could they? They’re a tiny minority and always will be. But they’ve reached far because so many of their heterosexual brothers and sisters are sympathetic to their cause.

                • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

                  I’m considering marriage from the standpoint of its basic role in human life, as an institution that precedes (and is therefore able to limit) the state. That’s not a specifically Catholic perspective, although in a technocracy Catholics are likely to be among the few who take it.

                  You seem to conceive of marriage as a purely positive legal arrangement established by the state as a piece of social technology. Hence your comment on the status of sterile marriages, an issue I deal with in the article.

                  Naturally there is more to all this than the usage of the word “marriage.” It all relates to the broader issue of the role of sex and the sexes and the attitudes and arrangements that are most likely to enable those features of human life, and human life itself, to function in the best and most fulfilling way. I can’t cover everything in a 1200 word piece, though, so I limited myself to arguing that if “gay marriage” is legitimate then there’s no good reason to recognize marriage as a special category. (For some people that argument would function as a reductio ad adsurdum of gay marriage, so it seemed worth making.)

                  On that broader issue it seems likely that you believe that people should work out their own arrangements, based on the patterns of attraction and aspiration they find within themselves, and law and public attitudes should facilitate that, for example by recognizing gay adoptions and marriages. If so, we’ve had enough experience since the 60s to know the “write your own ticket” approach doesn’t work. But then I can’t speak for you.

                  • supineny

                    if the traditional model worked for everyone, there wouldn’t have been much wind in the sails of women’s movement and a gay rights movement. evidently there was a lot of discontent. so to devalue the ‘self-ticketed’ relationship relative to trad marriage, you have to overlook all the people who did not consider the formula to be ‘working’.

                    re: “writing your own ticket” — freedom is valued in this country and elsewhere, and freedom would be a fairly useless concept if all it meant was the docility to heed the authorities who claim to know what’s best. Yes, by leaving the beaten path you might end up going off a cliff. But you might go somewhere highly worthwhile you’d have missed if you were on the guided tour.

                    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

                      You have to look at the overall situation, those benefited and those who feel that the shoe pinches. That applies to every possible social standard, the rules against brigandage for example. There are some people for whom they just don’t work.

                      There are always authorities. Get rid of the authority of traditional arrangements and you get bureaucrats and people with money running everything. That’s another point the piece alludes to. So it’s not a matter of the oppressed rising up. It’s much more a matter of people who run things deciding to ally themselves with dissidents who oppose competing authorities and ways of doing things.

                      Whether the result is greater freedom is a question worth asking, but answering it would require developing a whole concept of what a good life is. To me it seems that people today feel harried, powerless, and boxed in.

                    • supineny

                      you seem to disregard the possibility that social upheaval can be based on legitimate grievances. (perhaps that is a liability of Traditionalism as well? by definition that which asks for change is the enemy of continuity and predictability.) for you its just something to be exploited by competing powers, therefore suspect. it’s hard to see the women’s movement, the black civil rights movement or gay lib that way. none had obvious incentives for the “bureaucrats and money people”. they seem fairly straightforward examples of democratic action. you seem to be suggesting something like a conspiracy. perhaps an ascendant Brigands Lib movement would cause me to reconsider.

        • Bono95

          “Gay marriage” is a contradiction in terms because no matter what any law says, it simply isn’t possible. In a true, heterosexual marriage, the man and the woman become 1 flesh, inseparable until death. This cannot happen with 2 men or 2 women. Marriage is like a magnet. The opposite poles attract and stick to one another. Like poles do not. Further, the purpose of marriage is to be open to the possibility of conception and the attendant duties of caring for and raising any and all children conceived in that marriage. Gay couples cannot accomplish this purpose because 2 men or 2 women can’t conceive, so even if they raise adopted children and oppose contraception and abortion, they are still not fully open to life/conception. Heterosexual marriages are also much better for everyone, husband, wife, child/children, and all the rest of society. Children need to learn and receive care from both a mother and father, who’s methods of nurturing are decidedly different, but both vital for a child’s full healthy development. Children raised by gay couples, however nice the couple is, very often suffer from psychological problems from childhood and often well into adulthood. And really, there would be no children for gay couples to adopt if there were no heterosexual couples to conceive and give birth to the children. Further, the legal benefits of marriage for gay couples are greatly offset the many grave problems that a homosexual lifestyle causes. Relatively few gay couples actually get “married”, even in places where it is legal, and infidelity is disturbingly common. Homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to do drugs, get arrested, and/or commit suicide, not to mention far more likely to develop AIDS. The average life span of a homosexual man is just 39.5 years (I’m not sure what it is for gay women), a person can have the virus in his body for years before it ever becomes malignant, and he can pass it on to anyone he has intercourse with. And once the AIDS virus does become active, it deteriorates the immune system, causing a slow, painful death that may be accentuated by another infection, and there is no known medical cure for this tragic disease. Gay “marriage” is a lie that is not good for anybody, and no law can make it good.

    • Ford Oxaal

      A true marriage contract is “until death do us part”. If the state supported a true marriage contract, the concept of gay marriage would never have come to the fore.

  • George

    There are numerous donominations that would welcome you as a member; why disturb the Church of old? This Church, as you knew when you entered it, has a method of development which you do not endorse.

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