Quodlibets: Ex Ore Insipientis

The reason we have forgotten what it is to be a Christian, Kierkegaard wrote, is that we have forgotten what it is to be a man. Which can be restated thus: the reason we have lost the sense of the supernatural is that we have lost the sense of the natural.

We pride ourselves on the advances of modern science, but one appeals to our supposedly more profound understanding of the natural world at his peril. Natural science seems to have lost sight of natures, of that in things which makes them to be what they are, thanks to which we can tell whether or not a thing is a good instance of its kind.

Of course in their unbuttoned moments the men in the white coats speak of the nature of butterflies and may even say that nature has inscribed in Monarch butterflies the instinct to winter in California among the eucalyptus trees. But the politics of the profession forbids any serious mention of teleology.

A thing’s nature is its share in the divine intelligence, which is why reflection on the things He has made can lead us to knowledge of the invisible things of God. It is bad enough to be confused about the nature of other things, but to be mistaken about our own nature is peculiarly tragic.

The loss of the sense of human nature cannot be ignored. It is brought stridently to our1attention by radical feminists and sexual deviates.

Homosexual politics may seem to be at once an appeal to nature and its denial. On the one hand, we are told that some people, through no fault of their own, are so made that they are attracted to persons of their own sex. It is their nature to be homosexual; God made them that way; they can do no other. On the other hand, such a claim involves a denial of the nature and purpose of the reproductive organs. The whole purpose of gender is set aside and the pleasure associated with sexual activity made the point of sexuality. That pleasure can be obtained in a variety of ways. Homosexual politics would prevent us from calling some of those ways unnatural.

But of course they are unnatural. Homosexuality deviates from the clear point of gender and perverts nature. That is why homosexuals are thought queer, are called deviates and perverts. The common sense of mankind lies behind that usage. In his heart, the homosexual knows this, and this recognition explains his rage. His aim is to gain agreement that sexual organs can be lawfully used in ways which violate their nature and purpose. Such an agreement might make sense in Wonderland, but not in the real world.

It may of course seem that the real world threatens to become Wonderland. But maybe not. The other day I heard a politician refer to the homosexual community and the intravenous drug-using community. My first reaction was derisive laughter. One has become used to talk of the first kind of bogus community, but the intravenous drug user community? Surely this takes the morally noncommittal to absurd extremes. On second thought, this fatuous remark appeared to contain a ray of hope for the return of reason.

When the supine politician refers to the intravenous drug user community, he is attempting to bypass any negative judgment of the practices of this “community.” After all, some of them may survive to the next election and be addled enough to cast their vote for the jackass who sees in them a community. But not even a politician can seriously think of drug use as a morally neutral activity.

For one thing, it is injurious to physical and mental health, meaning it goes against nature, and that is morally and politically a relevant fact. This is why it is good to see addicts thought of as a community in the same way homosexuals are.

Homosexuality, too, is injurious to physical and mental health. Quite apart from AIDS, male homosexuality has been called the number one health problem in the United States. Now that we are invited to think of drug users on an analogy with homosexuals, we can draw some parallel political conclusions.

Children in school must be taught how to use drugs safely.

Since sharing needles with those whose blood is infected with the AIDS virus is the objective link between the two “communities,” needles, like condoms, should be distributed by the government and/or some ministers.

And why not supply the drugs as well? After all, the tyranny of non-drug users in imposing their values on addicts is insupportable in a free society. Children should be permitted to make up their own minds in the matter. Or rather to discover their latent orientation. After all, some people are so made that they are naturally attracted to intravenous drug use.

And so on. The politician may be, as E.E. Cummings said, an arse on which everything has sat except a man, but the obsequious fool who spoke of the intravenous drug users community in the same breath as the homosexual community has done us a service.

Absurdity sufficiently outrageous and inane may provide the shock we need to recover our sense of nature and of physical and moral health.

With this recovery will come the recognition that anyone can lose his physical and moral health. Anyone could become a drug addict, anyone could come to engage in the unnatural practices of the homosexual. Chesterton’s Father Brown was able to find the criminal because he could imagine himself committing any crime. The recovery of nature is thus the recovery of true compassion.

It is not compassion to call a poor despairing devil gay or to suggest that God made him that way.

No more would it be compassionate to laud the user of what used to be called laudanum and say it is his nature to destroy his life.

We might as well speak of the community of tobacco users, and what would the Surgeon General do then, the poor thing.


Ralph McInerny was a popular writer, philosopher, and teacher, as well as the co-founder of Crisis Magazine. He passed away on January 29, 2010.

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