On Unequal and Unjust Demands for Equality

Aristotle, that common sense fellow, defined justice as giving to each his due.  That definition admits of equality in inequality, in obvious ways.  The indulgence we allow a child we deny to a grown man; the familiarity with which we treat the paperboy might offend the elderly woman in church.  Each person is equally deserving of his due; and that will differ according to persons and circumstances.

But our contemporaries are held in fascination by a word, “equality,” as a little bird with the brain of a chickpea flutters helplessly before the cobra.  We do not distinguish between equality and justice, nor do we see that enforcing equality in one respect may imply massive inequality in another.

Suppose we were recruiting players for a football team.  Suppose also that there’s a group of men with some striking physical characteristics, some of whom also want to play.  Call them the Petites.

The Petites are, on average, five to six inches shorter than the typical American man.  But they don’t have the fireplug body, either.  They’re not built low to the ground, like a Marshall Faulk, with a barrel chest and broad shoulders.  Their shoulders are narrow, their bones are light, and their hands are small.

“But maybe the Petites are agile and fast,” you suggest.  No, neither.  Though the Petite men have narrow shoulders, they don’t have narrow hips.  They have wide hips; for their height, noticeably wide.  For running, these more than cancel out any modest advantage they might have in being light.  They also make injuries more common, since the angle between the thigh and the calf is pronounced.

Now, some of the Petite men are pretty fast, and a very few of them are pretty thick-shouldered.  But the combination is never to be found.  Those who are fast (but never among the fastest on the field) pay for it in slightness, and the few who are thick-shouldered (but still weaker than almost everybody else on the field) are slow of foot.

If you scattered the Petite men among an ordinary squad of men trying out for the football team, you would notice them instantly.  They would look silly, like children wearing gear five sizes too big for them.  A single ordinary tackle or block, made by a 250 pound player, would likely crack one of their bones.

What they lack in size and speed and strength and practical dexterity (for their hands are too small to throw the football), do they make up in intangibles, like leadership?  Not at all.  For the men look down on them a little, even while some of them try to protect them, in a gallant display of friendship.  The Petites also have thin high-pitched voices, making them sound a little too childlike for real football.

But the Petites want to play.  So the Powers that Be declare that there must be a certain number of Petites on the squad.  Practice requirements will be adjusted accordingly.  The typical recruit may have to do twenty pull-ups; the Petites will be allowed to hang on the bar for a minute.  The typical recruit may have to do a hundred push-ups, from the toes; the Petite men will do twenty five, and only from the knees.  Each team will have to purchase two different kinds of blocking tackles, one for the ordinary players, and one for the Petites.  The Powers that Be say, “We will find some role for the Petites!”  Most of the Petites, then, are assigned to be third-string cornerbacks and safeties, where their weaknesses will be less exposed.  Indeed, they will still be exposed there, but at least it will mitigate the chance that a Petite will end up crippled or dead.  The Petite safety who trails the wide receiver by ten yards is not going to get pummeled, even if he does give up the touchdown.

Why do the Petites want to join the team?  Who knows?  Money, prestige, self-esteem; does it matter?  That’s their choice, and choice is sovereign.

The Petites demand to be treated equally, and that can be interpreted in several ways.  There should be the same number of Petites as of others on the team.  The number of Petites should reflect exactly their proportion in the population.  An equal percentage of Petites trying out for the team should make the team, as others.  Preparation for the game and the rules of the game should be adjusted so as to allow the coaches cover for selecting Petites, to meet the requirements of one of those other demands for equality.  The definition of a “win” or a “loss” should be altered to reflect the new makeup of the squads.  Special searches around the country should be made, at considerable expense, to find rare Petites who could do something on the field without embarrassing themselves.

It won’t do, simply to say, “We have the wrong equality here.  The Petites should have an equal opportunity to show they can do the job.  They shouldn’t be discriminated against, just because they are Petites.”  That’s nonsense.  The Petite stature is not incidental, like skin color, or irrelevant, like a taste in Italian food.  It is of the essence, given the task.  There’s no point wasting a moment or a cent on it.  We don’t have endless time and a bottomless pit of money and an infinite number of recruiters to examine the Petites who want to try out.

For the Petite, then, to demand equality in any meaningful sense is flatly unjust.  One glance is enough for any sensible recruiter or coach to dismiss him.  If the Petite requires more than that glance, he would be demanding something to which he is not due.  He would be declaring his wishes to be more important than any other consideration—the wishes of the fans, the time of the coaches, the common good of the team, and the desire of the man whose place he would supplant.  In order to secure what he wants, he’d have to establish a tremendous inequality in power, because only a big gun can coerce people to act against their common sense judgments, their natural and obvious good, and their own just claims.

It is unjust to treat people differently when the difference between them is inconsequential or irrelevant.  In a lawsuit between a rich man and a poor man, the poverty of the latter is irrelevant to the matter at hand; the law is not, in that sense, a respecter of persons.  To the poor man, equally as to the rich man, is due a fair treatment under the law.  But the converse may also be true.  When the difference is consequential, even essential, then it may well be unjust to treat people the same.  The person who says, “You must treat me the same way you treated him,” must not end with that claim to equality.  He must show that the claim is just, by showing that in fact the difference between him and the other is inconsequential.  The child cannot claim the reverence due to the old man.  The fireman enters the house to save the child, but not the dog.

Let’s suppose that a man and woman wish to marry, for the tax benefits.  They’re not living together.  They are not even romantically involved.  But they are close friends, and they want to do what they want to do.  They see other men and women getting married, and they want to be treated equally.  They are a bachelor brother and sister.

But this claim to equal treatment is unjust.  It is inequitable; and its enforcement would require the hammer-hand of the state.  Even people who believe the impossible, that a man can marry a man, would say, “This is not what we mean at all!”  Something is missing, something of the essence.  What is that thing?

It’s obvious to me what’s missing.  It’s the same thing missing in the case of a Joe and a Steve.  But that’s not my point, here.  I am making two points.  The first is to demand “equality” in one respect is often to allow tremendous inequality in other respects; the second is that “equality” is not coterminous with justice.  We must not treat A and B indifferently, unless A and B really merit that indifference.  The demand for equality must rest upon a definition of the essence of the things declared equal, and this definition must reflect objective reality.  It can never be the sole property of the declarers, who would then be plaintiff and judge at once.  Nor can it be the property of the State, unless we abandon all notions of justice altogether, and concede that might makes right.  The State must bow to both equalities and inequalities, and so must the individual citizen.  We must give to each his due.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Ford Oxaal

    Glad to see an illustration of the absurdity of the ever present, mindless mantra of “equality”. We are created equal with respect to dignity, but not ability. People are not ants. A similar distinction exists between “freedom” and “liberty”. Freedom is what you *can* do, liberty is what you *may* do. Liberty actually constrains freedom. It constrains it within justice (you can think of liberty as *reciprocal* freedom). Rights / equality have to do with liberty. Transgression of liberty is license. Liberty and true equality degenerate into license and injustice.

    • supineny

      English often has two words for the same thing, one from the latin root, one from the old english root. ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ is an example. they mean the same thing — absence of constraint.

      the difference between ‘can’ and ‘may’ seems closer to what you’re talking about.

      But i would fault your argument for being a ‘slippery slope’ argument. You claim something is bad when what you really mean is that an excess of something is bad. And the two aren’t the same. The difference between a cure and a poison is the dose. Authority can be very good and useful, too much authority can be very bad and destructive. Ditto freedom. So why not define instead what constitutes ‘bad’? Like if you think that ‘injustice’ is bad, attempt to describe what justice is, rather then decry ‘liberty’ because it can possibly (though not inevitably) lead to injustice?

      And to say that ‘liberty’ leads to ‘license’ seems to be a bit of a tautology, no? Like you’re saying ‘freedom to act’ leads to ‘permission to do what you wish’ or something like that. Not sure i see the distinction.

      But how can you make a judgement about the mere possibility of acting freely? The resulting action could be good, bad or indifferent, there’s no intrinsic moral quality to a freely made decision, anymore than an obligatory action is necessarily good, bad or indifferent. What matters is what the action is, n’est pas?

      • Ford Oxaal

        Thanks for your reply, but not sure you get what I was trying to say — probably my fault. Freedom is ability (in my special parlance I am using here). Say I enjoy watching people die, and I have the ability to kill you. If society had not yet discovered that it is mutually beneficial not to kill another, then I could exercise my freedom (without worrying about the law coming after me). But a society with greater liberty (a more advanced society) would come to the realization that it is mutually beneficial (reciprocal) to restrict the freedom / ability to kill for pleasure. That society trades off freedom for liberty — it recognizes only those freedoms which are reciprocal — go both ways — the same for everyone. The purpose of government is to discover the greatest scope of liberty (and not let it degenerate into license).

        • supineny

          Well, I think you are distinguishing between freedoms in the absolute sense and freedom according to the law.

          And I think you’re getting into the issue of ‘freedom for who?’ If you’re free to park in front of my house, then unfortunately I’m not free to park there any time I want. Really the same issue as your example with murder — if you’re free to murder me, I’m not free to walk around safely. But that’s what civilizations and laws are all about — resolving conflicting interests by dispensing privileges and limitations. No one is completely free. It’s like that line, “Your freedom ends the instant you say, ‘I love you.'” And that’s kind of a colorful example, but in a sense ir’s right — as soon as you start circumscribing your actions to benefit someone else, you are giving up, perhaps happily and voluntarily (perhaps not!), some freedom.

          There are few (or maybe no) instances in a society where everyone is absolutely free. Civilization is about forging the compromises that allow us to get along. Laws are about making clearer what the compromises are so that can avoid disputes and conflicts.

          not to unduly harry you, but what, then, is ‘license’? I’ve got one for my car, it is the permission of an authority for me to do something.

          • Ford Oxaal

            License in the sense I was using the term means “lack of due restraint — excessive freedom” (American Heritage Dictionary).

            • supineny

              i see.

        • musicacre

          Wow! that was really good! My kids should read this!:)

          • Ford Oxaal

            THanks! Maybe they should try the whole philosophy: if you go on google play, and search on “common sense shaw” a book with a black cover comes up — I published this recently to google play — this is by G. B. Shaw’s GG nephew. I can’t understand how well the google play thing works, but there it seems to be!

  • supineny

    Well, I think I’m starting to see patterns here at Crisismagazine.

    One is that Aristotle gets mentioned fairly frequently. A secular figure, perhaps he is meant to address the secular world with something it might respect? Very progressive. What next? Sartre? Foucault? Maybe not so much, but oh yeah, Aristotle. Wasn’t it by his primitive (and later recognized as baseless) theories of physics that ‘transubstantiation’ was defended as reality, not symbol? I guess the church has never ceased to be grateful to this ancient sage for some secular nonsense they could use to defend their theological insistence.

    The other pattern is the way simplistic screeds that would otherwise play well on right wing talk radio are spiced with words that advertise their erudition. I recently spied “wraith” and “brigandage” elsewhere on the site. This story doesn’t have it too bad. But for an article that compares “contemporaries” to “a
    little bird with the brain of a chickpea” (zinger!), the author does reach into his effeteness sack and lob “coterminous” at us when the needs to shame us from our garbanzo-like notion that “equality” has something to do with “justice”.

    Perhaps it’s a bit William F. Buckley Jr.-ish. The most entertaining way to reply to egalitarianism is with snobbery.

    Finally, there is the categorical mockery of those who demand change. All the major civil rights movements of the last few decades are treated as misguided silliness and/or insolence.

    Who are the ‘Petites’ in this long-winded and single-minded allegory? They are, presumably all those who are currently fighting for what they see as their rightful place in society — a place where they have considerably more options than they used to have. What do we have for them? Mockery. How dare they? It’s all simple as night and day. Square peg? We’ve got a square hole for you, and you’ll note that it was the same square hole we kept you in for the last couple millenia. Didn’t like it? But what do you expect, bird-brains? A round hole? Why it’s as silly a notion as allowing sickly, mentally retarded midgets into the army just because the midgets think they’re equal. Ha ha ha.

    Well, now that we understand, I guess we can all just slink back happily into our former roles and be reasonable. Women to the kitchens and nurseries, gay people to the shadows. Strong Christian men to the head of the table. The first shall be first and the last shall be last.

    • Phil

      Catholicism has very little do with with this site’s ideology. I wonder if Catholics in, say, France or Italy would agree with these Americans that the death penalty and gun rights are really Catholic doctrine.

      • Jeff

        Sadly this is a “theocon” rather than a truly Catholic site. Every effort is made to manipulate, to the extreme of misrepresenting, Catholic doctrine to support an extremely conservative and US-centric view. The treatment of Leo XIII’s thoughtful writings was particularly disappointing in this respect.

        • Augustus

          It really is unfortunate that this site doesn’t serve to reinforce your long-held delusions about Catholic teaching. We wouldn’t want you to suffer from accidental thinking. That might lead to learning something new and we know that truly Catholic countries like France and Italy don’t allow that.

          • Jeff

            Augustus, I suggest you read John Paul II’s “Laborem Exercens” and what recent popes have said about the death penalty, gun control, and the Iraq war. It’s very difficult to fit those teachings into the “theocon” approach taken by this magazine. Even if Crisis restricted itself to contraception, homosexuality, and abortion, I would still be uncomfortable with the lack of charity behind its arguments.

            • Ann Roth

              Jeff, the writings or teaching you refer to on the death penalty, gun control and war are not doctrines. Catholics are not bound to agree or follow these teachings. These are things upon which a faithful Catholic can disagree. The sin of homosexual actions is not debatable. They are objectively sinful. You are misrepresenting Catholic teachings.

    • anon

      You did not answer the piece at all. The author presented a good case as to why Americans ought not worship faux equality as a god. The post modern mind sees perceived inequality as the only unforgivable sin. One that must be excised.

      And then all the “gay” apologists come out to chime in. How dare some Catholic actually speak the truth. Does he not know “gays” demand everyone bow to their inclinations?

      • supineny

        “worships faux equality as god”.

        i’m calling the metaphor police.

        • anon

          Call the politically correct police too.

  • dch

    Why the hypothetical?

    The FACT is that gays are already getting married in nine and that will likely expand to eleven states by the end of 2013.

    There is no need for a hypothetical argument when the facts and condition already exist.

  • 1. A man cannot marry another man. It is a physical impossibility. The state cannot mandate a physical impossibility. It can only compel us to be parties to a lie.
    2. It is really strange to see somebody objecting to my citing Aristotle, on the grounds that Aristotle wasn’t perfect. By those standards, I should cite nobody at all. I like Aristotle’s definition of justice because it is common sense, and it is substantive rather than merely procedural.
    3. The main point is that a demand for equality must be backed up with an argument that the things in question are in fact equal, with respect to what is being considered. Otherwise, equal treatment might demand massive inequities.

    • Phil

      The laws of physics hold no barriers to marriage between two men. All they have to do is hold hands and have words spoken to them by some other person. It’s possible to think that such a marriage would be invalid, but that’s an intellectual issue.

      • buckyinky

        Asserting that you, Phil, are only a figment of my imagination is also an issue of the intellect. It’s possible for me to treat as valid the assertion that you don’t exist, but it doesn’t make it true or a reality. You will have to do better than proceed with “If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist” if you want to be convincing.

        • Dorothy

          Buckyinky, in many places, the laws of the state do not prevent marriage between two men. My own state is one of them. These are legally-recognized marriages. To paraphrase your response to Phil: You may assert that these marriages don’t exist, but that doesn’t make your assertion true. You will have to do better than proceed with “If I think it doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t” if you want to be convincing.

          • buckyinky

            Different situation Dorothy, different analogy. What you are laying out here is akin to saying a cat is a dog. One can call the animal a dog all one wants, but that does not change the fact that it is a cat. One can also call a certain transaction between two men a marriage, but that does not make it a marriage.

            • dch

              As far as the state is concerned they are married. AND if all of these gay married people are not “really married” because right wing Catholics don’t approve then why do you even care what they do? You can all leave the gay people alone now.

              • buckyinky

                So, dch, if the state calls a cat a dog, does that make it a dog?

                As for how it affects me, isn’t it important that a society (this includes the state) recognize things for what they are? I’d much rather not live in a society that insists on calling a cat a dog, or that insists on calling not-marriage, marriage. The cat/dog analogy seems absurd, and rather harmless, but if the state actually is operating with this sort of thinking, which is what things are tending toward, the results will be anything but harmless.

              • anon

                We care because their deviant behavior hurts children. Why must children be exposed to such things?

                • Dorothy

                  Buckyinky, a cat is a cat, and a dog is a dog, and both are mammals. SSM is different in some ways from “traditional marriage” (in its current incarnation), but both are “marriage.”

                  If you prefer not living in a society that calls SSM “marriage,” then may I suggest Pakistan? Have you seen the viral map of “world homosexuality laws?” You’ll find it in the February 8 post on thebentangle dot wordpress dot com. Notice where the harshest laws are (Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Iran) and where the most liberal (progressive) laws are (Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, the U.S., South Africa).

                  • buckyinky

                    Buckyinky, a cat is a cat, and a dog is a dog, and both are mammals. SSM is different in some ways from “traditional marriage” (in its current incarnation), but both are “marriage.”

                    Because you say so?

                • Dorothy

                  Anon: Homosexual behavior hurts children? What homosexual behavior are you talking about? Sex between two men? Between two women? In what way are these things harmful to children?

                  • anon

                    Many ways. Adoption by homosexual persons as one example. They deprive the child of a authentic mother and father and substitute two homosexuals pretending to be mother and father. Just typing this is absurd.

    • Jeff

      I don’t really understand the sense of persecution by “the state”. Nobody is compelled to be a “party to a lie.” If you don’t want to marry another man, nobody is compelling you to do so. Eating meat is legal. For ethical reasons, I don’t eat meat. How is the state compelling me to “be a party to a lie” by not making meat-eating illegal? If all that stands between me eating meat or you marrying another man is “the state” (presented in terms of a bogeyman), would that not reflect poorly on the integrity of our own choices? We CHOOSE to make certain decisions. In a land where the state is kept in its proper place, we have FREEDOM to make decisions other people might not agree with. And shouldn’t a “demand for equality” be met with a refutation of the demand — one that shows the inequality is valid? All should be considered equal unless there is a good reason to consider otherwise. The football analogy you use cannot be carried over into the same sex marriage situation. NFL football is one of the most meritocratic institutions in the world. If you don’t make the grade, you’re out on your hiney. In a marriage, by contrast, one accepts one’s spouses shortcomings with patience and love. We don’t get divorced when our spouses get fat, while the NFL has no compunction about benching a player who is slowing down. Let’s not get utilitarian about relationships.

      • Ford Oxaal

        That’s just it. In modern society, we do divorce our spouses when it’s time to find a new sex-mate. No-fault divorce is the invention of the sex revolution. It has decimated families on a massive scale.

      • marlin

        Nobody is compelled to be a “party to a lie.”

        Does that mean if a person does not treat the partners in a same-sex marriage the same as they treat the partners in a heterosexual marriage the same in all contexts and situations, private and public, they don’t need to fear being contacted by the couple’s lawyer on a discrimination charge? They won’t be “compelled”?

    • anon

      Thanks Mr. Esolen. I read the replies here and think that we have lost the country. Moral reasoning no longer applies to a huge segment of the society. Relativism is our god.

      • supineny

        No, anon, we have found the country, and it includes a lot of good people who were pushed to the shadows before. Moral reasoning, always in short supply, can be found if you look for it in the right places. Relativism is not anyone’s god, but things in the world are indeed relative to one another, are seen in context.

        If you’d like to dispute any of that, I’d be glad to hear the specifics. Otherwise it seems like you’re just dropping buzzwords and glowering prophetically.

        • anon

          If you think homosexual “marriage” is moral then my words apply nicely. As for “good” people being in the shadows I would ask how is one “good” if one acts immorally?

          • Dorothy

            Who is acting immorally?

          • supineny

            How is one ‘good’ if one acts immorally? Well, some people are really good in bed.

            I jest.

            seriously, there’s no paradox, you’re just comparing my view with yours
            and are pointing out the the two views are mutually exclusive. Fair
            enough, but it begs the question, which one of us is right? how would
            you illuminate your case? How does one know what’s ‘good’ or ‘immoral’?
            Is there a standard we can use as a guide?

            • anon

              Common sense, right reason, thousands of years of tradition, the teaching of Jesus.

              • supineny

                Hm. Well, ‘common sense’ or ‘right reason’ are not much help. Everyone thinks they’ve got them, no one can agree what they are. Tradition? Well, traditions evolve. Jesus’ teaching certainly seems to challenge tradition.

  • Dorothy

    Why did I know this article was going to be about same-sex marriage the minute I saw the title?

    First, I was tremendously impressed with everything “Supineny” wrote in response to it. And how unsurprised I was that the author, Anthony Esolen, is a (presumably) straight, white male. I’ll just add the following:

    Esolen’s analogy characterizes married homosexuals as weak, ineffectual, and both psychologically and physically inferior to their married heterosexual counterparts. Why does this remind me of Nazi-era posters of “Der Jude,” showing a rat-faced man with a long nose, beady eyes and a beard? And how can Esolen not see what he has done in setting up this analogy?

    Esolen analogizes marriage to a game of football. How utterly absurd. Football is a highly competitive sport in which two teams of men are trying to possess an object that cannot be shared. Marriage is not a football. It is an unlimited good, like friendship or filial love. My having it does not deprive another of it.

    As “DCH” pointed out, same-sex marriage is a reality in large parts of the civilized world. Heterosexuals don’t “own” it any more, and there is simply no question of gays not being “up to the task.” They’re in there. They’re doing it, already. What if it should turn out that gays are better at it than heterosexuals? What would we do then? Ban straight marriage?

    Esolen drags in the old spectre of incestuous marriage, as though it were the equivalent of same-sex marriage. Where the equality argument works for the latter, it does not for the former, because the state has a compelling interest in not allowing incestuous marriages. That compelling interest overrides the equality argument. The state has no such compelling interest in banning SSM.

    False premise: Married homosexuals are missing the *essence* of marriage. That depends entirely on how you define the essence of marriage. Twelve states, and as many countries do not hold to your definition. Voilà.

    • anon

      Ahh, the beauty of moral relativism.

    • Ford Oxaal

      The institution of marriage had all its teeth knocked out over the last several decades as no-fault divorce swept like a disease through the land. The next generation has been decimated as a result — of course, none of the following will mean much to those whose hearts have waxed cold and whose reason has been dulled by pleasure seeking and purely selfish pursuits: (a) broken families — the heartbreak for little children seeing Mommy and Daddy part ways and shack up with someone else (b) poverty — look up the stats on children from broken versus intact families (c) ignorance — education cannot take root no matter how much money is thrown at it (d) the mass killing in the womb as a form of birth control — this is killing for the sake of pleasure, wickedness at its most intense in numbers that are staggering to the non-vicious — the next generation is missing 55,000,000 souls (e) child pornography — this is a direct extension of society’s decision to revere pornography as protected “free speech” — and so on and so forth. So the same sex marriage thing is just a silly tap dance on the corpse of the real marriage institution, which came with the responsibilities that comprise the ESSENCE of marriage: creating, nurturing, caring for and educating the next generation.

    • Theorist

      “Esolen’s analogy characterizes married homosexuals as weak, ineffectual,
      and both psychologically and physically inferior to their married
      heterosexual counterparts. Why does this remind me of Nazi-era posters
      of “Der Jude,” showing a rat-faced man with a long nose, beady eyes and a
      beard? And how can Esolen not see what he has done in setting up this

      Godwin’s Law.

      And if they were inferior, is anyone in this article or anywhere else, planning on killing them en masse? Hardly. Indeed, homosexual sex, seems to be doing that better than we could.

      • Who is this “Godwin” that I should bow down to worship him or obey his “laws”? lol

      • Dorothy

        Theorist, have you not heard of the “Kill the Gays” bill now under consideration in the Ugandan parliament? The Ugandans were egged on by certain prominent American evangelicals, include some who attend the annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington. It wasn’t for nothing that the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Family Research Council as a “hate group.” Before you start up a knee-jerk defense of the FRC, take the time to investigate some of their official statements about homosexuality.

        • Theorist

          Ah. Well in that case I suppose homosexuals in Uganda have a problem. Though, in Uganda’s defense, I would argue that the killing of the homosexual could be defensible under certain circumstances -after all if God does away with them under certain conditions, then I suppose it would be okay if man were to do so as well. However, man is not God, so then such a stance is problematic (after all, the state should not punish every bad thing, plus I’m not sure how “forgiveness” fits in).

          Of course, this is just my opinion, and I certainly am not saying that gay people should be killed just because they are gay.

          • Dorothy

            Theorist, I think you just proved my point. In spite of your half-hearted two-line disclaimer at the end, you spent six lines defending Uganda’s policy. At the very least, it seems you could easily be tipped into supporting such an eliminationist policy.

            And I noted the phrasing of your disclaimer. You didn’t say that gay people “shouldn’t be killed,” only that you would not say “they should be killed.” Big difference there.

            This kind of eliminationist rhetoric is so alarming that I think you should be banned from this site. At the very least, I intend to see that your remarks receive some publicity. It would of course be helpful if you could drop the alias and identify yourself, but of course people who say such things rarely do. It’s a form of cowardice.

            • Theorist

              Just giving a defense of a controversial policy. Not promoting it, nor claiming that my defense is true.

              As for the cowardice issue, freedom of thought plus the very freedom and notion of dialectical arguments, are sufficient strongholds for me not to seek protection through cowardice.

              Which is more than what I can say for you and your threat to ban me.

              As usual. If you want to have the frankest discussion of these issues than have them. If you don’t, then your arguing here is worse than unconvincing but positively divisive.

    • anon

      Esolen’s analogy characterizes married homosexuals as weak, ineffectual,
      and both psychologically and physically inferior to their married
      heterosexual counterparts.

      And why is that incorrect?

      • Because it’s incorrect? Just by looking at married homosexuals, it can be seen that they’re no different than married heterosexuals.

        And the physically inferior part is amusing. In fact, a significant proportion of homosexuals appear to be far more fit than the rest of the heterosexual population.

        • dorothy

          Indeed. That is very true, Sterling, and this is another reason I found Esolen’s analogy ridiculous.

    • Keith Parkinson

      “False premise: Married homosexuals are missing the *essence* of marriage. That depends entirely on how you define the essence of marriage. Twelve states, and as many countries do not hold to your definition. Voilà.”

      What if they’re wrong?

      I think people of the same sex can have a powerful love for one another, even an erotic one. And I think it’s obvious that there is a segment of human persons who are not primarily oriented toward the opposite sex, and cannot be.

      But it is a long way from recognizing these things, — which I consider undeniable — to concluding that homosexual unions should be *normative* in society, and should be given the same civil status that conventional marriages are given.

      Esolen’s idea of the essence of marriage is based on biological (only man + woman can procreate) and social (it’s usually better to have two parents than one) facts, which he then draws to their logical conclusion. What these facts *suggest* is that the human race is, as a rule, heterosexual, and normative heterosexuality, encouraged by whatever authorities and norms, are its future. Even when it’s done badly, like it is now, that doesn’t mean we can up and just try something else, because that something else may not correspond with *human nature*.

      Does this mean that everyone should be really mean to those who don’t fit into that norm? Or that those who don’t fit in that norm should force themselves into it? Hardly. We as a race owe so much to people whose natures simply were not of the conventional “be heterosexually driven, and marry, and raise a bunch of kids” type. We’re nothing without those who fall outside that particular norm. Catholicism, for that matter, owes a huge debt to centuries of great men who were celibate, a sizable chunk of whom were probably people we’d consider to be “gay” now. Do you think the monks who for centuries copied and recopied the classic literature and philosophy of the west that is our great inheritance were heterosexuals? I highly doubt it. Everyone needs to be valued and respected because everyone has something to offer.

      But how does it follow that those who aren’t oriented towards the opposite sex should have a “gay lifestyle”? Where was this argument made? I have not seen it. The only argument I have seen is, “they want to.” Fine — they can. But I have not seen the argument, “this sexual union in particular is a social good, and therefore the society should grant it not just the right to exist unmolested, but official favor.” I suspect people don’t think they have to offer such an argument, since what is a social good anyway. Do what you want.

      I have a sexual orientation towards one out of every three females I meet who are my age. Does that mean I should act on that? Maybe I have a fling with a girl, and maybe I feel the shock of love from it; does that automatically mean ours is a union from which I am to embark on a lifetime of service to her and to society? Hardly. It’s far from obvious which urges correspond to good actions and which are deceptive and the seeds of our unhappiness and cultural dissolution. I think if we though this through a bit more rigorously and were honest with ourselves, this gay marriage thing simply wouldn’t be able to gather the energy to get off the ground. Maybe that’s why the movement discourages any thought more complicated and sound than a twelve year old’s: “Because I want to do these things, you shouldn’t be able to stop me from doing them.” And why they use the kind of argumentation you’d use on a twelve year old: “Do you like ice cream? Well, then you like gay marriage.”

      • Dorothy

        Keith, Esolen’s idea of marriage is consistent with Catholic doctrine, and that’s about the best I can say about it. The secular state does not require a biological component for marriage, and it does not require every child to have a mother and a father in an intact marriage. So there is no justification for denying homosexuals the right to marry each other and, if they qualify, to adopt.

        What do you think “human nature” is? You invoke it as though you and everyone else already agreed what it is.

        I am glad that you recognize the invaluable contributions of gay individuals over the centuries. You might also include some of the great artists, composers, actors, film directors, and writers of the past century or so. Esolen sees homosexuals as weak and deficient. But can he dance as well as Nureyev, compose as well as Bernstein, act as well as James Dean, direct films as well as Merchant and Ivory, and write poetry as well as Gertrude Stein or novels as well as Gore Vidal? I don’t think so.

        You haven’t seen the argument that homosexuals unions are a social good? Then you haven’t been looking. Read Jonathan Rauch, Michelangelo Signorile, or Andrew Sullivan just for starters. Then come back and I’ll give you more.

    • Jeff

      Esolen doesn’t make any sort of logical case at all. The football analogy is a red herring. His bottom line is that he thinks SSM is wrong and that the state should enforce HIS view over the view that has now become the majority (all the while suggesting that the state is overly intrusive and controlling.) And why does he believe SSM to be wrong? He doesn’t explain except to claim SSM is physically impossible when it’s happening all around us. My advice here to those who want to discourage SSM: Embrace what you love rather than pouring scorn on what you hate. Write something beautiful about the glories of love between a man and a woman. As Dorothy points out, negative stereotyping is a big turnoff. One’s sympathies automatically go out to the reviled.

      • Keith Parkinson

        If in fact, Esolen’s view of the reality of marriage is correct, which nobody’s convincingly argued against, then the “truth behind the appearances” of homosexual marital unions is that they’re not wrong, or less, or worse; they just aren’t. They’re fornication. For the state to equate such fornication with “real” marriage by giving it the same privileged status would be an unjust imposition that is bad for everyone.

        Now that’s not to say he’s right. Who knows? Maybe the concrete undeniable realities about the way our species is constructed were just there to get us to the point where he don’t need sex at all any more, and the future is a population bred out of a test tube with people coupling on the basis of feelings of love, or not, whatever they want? That could be. (And I’m not even being cutting or sarcastic here; it could.) The problem is the more thinking you do, and the more you consider facts to mean something and to entail consequences, the more it starts looking like we’re forcing ourselves to turn off our brains just because we’re really unwilling to say No to a minority group because we have a cultural memory of Jim Crow. It’s totally irrational.

        If someone can link me to a pro-gay marriage *argument* that isn’t just, “c’mon, they get to marry who THEY want,” I’d love to read it. But they’re mostly just appeals to civil rights that center around a category error. (Equating a pattern of behavior, which theoretically could be good or bad, with the color of your skin, which obviously cannot.)

        • Dorothy

          Keith, the only two things I found in your response were a slur (gay marriages are fornication) and an “argumentum ad absurdum” having something to do with out-of-control sexuality. If you really want to familiarize yourself with pro-marriage-equality arguments, you will do so, and you will find much more than you expect.

      • anon

        When vice sits next to virtue it corrupts virtue.

        Why is SSM wrong? That such a question is even asked proves as a culture we are doomed?

    • anon

      The essence cannot be misdefined and then still be authentic. Homosexuals cannot “marry” each other anymore than than two sisters can marry each other. What is so amazing is that we need to show proof of what is obvious to any innocent child.

      • Dorothy

        Anon, you’ll never be able to show proof that something is impossible when it’s not. Same-sex marriage is an established fact in large parts of the civilized word. I think it’s just time to get past these absurd claims that it doesn’t exist, or that it’s impossible. You are only expressing your astonishment or your denial.

  • Very intelligently written article Mr. Esolen. Thank you.

  • Actually Read the Catechism

    Respect, compassion, and sensitivity
    Fails badly on all three counts.
    This is not how Catholics are called to present their arguments to the world.
    It does a disservice to the Church itself.

    • anon

      It only fails if you redefine those three words to match out mistaken cultural propaganda.

      • Actually Read the Catechism

        No, no, I’m pretty sure I’m using the dictionary definitions of all three.

        You don’t stereotype people you respect. If you or I were stereotyped as flagrantly and overwhelmingly as this article stereotyped people with homosexual inclinations, I’m sure we would both agree that it would be highly disrespectful. Terrible “jokes” about priests molesting children, for instance.

        It’s not compassionate to go on angry tirades. I can’t see how anyone can view a rant as compassion in any circumstances whatsoever. Telling people they are simply inferior and have no place in public life because no one wants to deal with them is not compassion. Helping them is compassion. Demonizing them simply drives the sheep from the flock where they can no longer receive the help they need.

        It’s not sensitivity to make up hypothetical reasons why someone is motivated to do something (that just happen to conveniently make them easier to demonize) when you could actually ask them and find out the real reasons easily enough. Sensitivity means understanding how your words will impact others. It means having enough compassion for someone that you do not want to accidentally drive them away from the one thing that can save them. We are all flawed, after all. We all make mistakes. Sensitivity is about simply trying to not accidentally hurt someone. Treat them how you would want to be treated. Speak to them as you would want to be spoken to.
        The Golden Rule does come from the Bible, after all.

        Using propaganda techniques against what you view as propaganda techniques is not respect, compassion, or sensitivity, it’s simply holding oneself to the same low standard that one complains about others not going above and beyond.
        If someone uses propaganda against you, show respect, compassion, and sensitivity in response (and not just to people with homosexual inclinations, either). Turn the other cheek. Put them in a position where they have to acknowledge you or make themselves look foolish and undermine their own position.

        Rants and stereotyping simply make you look like an oppressor to society as a whole and thus reinforces the stereotype others have that the Church hates certain kinds of people.
        We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

        • Dear Catechism reader: You have jumped to a very hasty and strange conclusion. I’d have thought that anybody with common sense and ordinary powers of observation would have known immediately that I wasn’t stereotyping anybody, but merely describing the physical properties of ordinary women — our sisters. Then you launch into an ad hominem attack, based upon your hasty conclusion. For that, I dare say, you owe an apology. You stereotyped me, and you went on a rant. The argument was not aimed at homosexual people, but at people in general — everybody, because we all use the word “equality,” but we do not do so carefully, as I see it.

          • Dorothy

            Tony, your response is unimpressive. The best you could do was turn ARC’s rebukes back on her, but I fail to see either ranting or stereotyping in anything she wrote. What she said is true: your characterization of homosexuals through a very transparent analogy does no service to your faith. How you feel about homosexuals is no secret; many of us have read other articles as well as many blog comments by you. I’ve seen in your words an animus that begs for analysis.

            • Ford Oxaal

              That is ridiculous! Read it again. Just because you are a homosexual and are getting way more attention than you deserve of late does not mean all comments are secretly directed at your proclivities.

          • Actually Read the Catechism

            Mr. Esolen,

            You were talking about a group that you were referring to as men and describing them as having uniformly effeminate traits in an article about homosexuality. If you don’t see how that would be taken as stereotyping people with homosexual orientation, then you must not be making any real attempt at understanding how your words will come across to others, which is part of the requirement of Sensitivity that the catechism says we must follow.

            I did not make any ad hominem attack. I suggested that you might not be internalizing a particular command from the Catechism, but that was a conclusion I reached, not presented as a reason why you are wrong.

            In fact, I never actually said you were wrong, except in the *manner* in which you present your argument. You’re doing your argument a disservice by packaging it in such an inflammatory manner.

            Furthermore, I made no stereotype about you. I never called you a “homophobe” or anything of the sort. I never even said the actual core of the argument you presented was wrong. I am simply stating that the article you wrote fails very badly at showing respect, compassion, and sensitivity to those who are struggling with a homosexual inclination.

            The Catechism states that we must treat them with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. It’s not optional and it’s not conditional. It may be hard, especially if they are being disrespectful, but as I said before, We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

            And actually, even a married heterosexual friend of mine felt deeply personally offended by your article because he happens to be shorter, skinnier, and less athletic than average, and it seemed to him that the article was saying he doesn’t deserve the same due process and equal rights under the law as everyone else just because he isn’t as “macho” as most men. So my statements about the lack of respect, compassion, and sensitivity apply to people in general just as much as your article does, I simply specified those with homosexual orientation since a) that was one of the primary subjects of the article, and b) the Catechism very specifically says we are to treat them with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

  • This article went back and forth so many times that my head is spinning. Trying to relate body type in joining a sports team to things like marriage is wacky and unrelated enough, without the fact that the author contradicted himself.

    Anthony, near the end of your article, you specifically discuss a man and a woman that get married for the tax benefits, but they don’t actually love each other romantically and aren’t involved in that way. You imply without actually stating that this is wrong and inappropriate. This is a viewpoint that I can understand and potentially agree with.

    But then you suddenly jump to a man marrying a man, mention something about essence (???), and then go off in a tangent about equality and inequality again.

    I’m confused, wouldn’t a homosexual loving, romantically involved couple be fundamentally better than that tax benefits man and woman couple you mentioned prior?

  • megalass

    Funny how we jump to our own conclusions. Due to the links that lead me to this article, I initially thought it was about women in combat. Then came the SSM angle. The author’s logic applies to both…and more. Back in the Navy, I saw physically and emotionally ill-prepared fellow females literally slaughtered on the altar of equality and I watched the ethos of service give way to a careerist zeal for “opportunities for advancement.” I think it was Voltaire who said, “Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities.” Hetrosexual marriage is an institution that a brave and dogged few were trying to rescue from the ravages of equality-driven No-fault divorce laws and the “It’s just a piece of paper.” mentality, when suddenly, gays decided that marriage just had to be redefined to their liking. Well excuse me if I smell a rat. Real people…be they women or the unfortunate children who get caught up in our adult-centric fantasy lives…suffer when we deny reality. Professor Esolen’s analogy is brilliant and judging by the hissy-fits I’m seeing in this comment section, it is painfully, obviously true.

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  • Diane

    heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equal…one is rightly ordered, the other is not…therefore, equal treatment is illogical. Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination.
    Also, homosexual couples can not duplicate the unique attributes that mom and dad bring to the parent-child relatinship…2 loving dads can’t provide a mom and vice versa. People! men and women are complimentary…not interchangeable!

  • Tony

    Oh brother — stick to the point, please. Megalass down below has nailed it.
    The point is, if equality is to be demanded, the demander is under a burden of proof, to show that the things for which equality is demanded are actually equal — that is, that the differences are indifferent. But you all assume that my Petites were analogies of homosexuals — that is very strange. Have you all lost the ability to indentify the point of an argument? The point here is one that applies broadly to all kinds of human endeavor.

  • The comments below reinforce a suspicion I’ve long had. Most people in America are so far removed from difficult physical labor that it never occurs to them that their wonderful standard of living rests on the backs and arms of guys in mines and quarries, on fishing boats, in fields, on scaffolding, and so forth — so that my OBVIOUS analogy, using the Petites, flies right past them — as if mothers could play on their sons’ high school freshman football teams and not get hurt badly. Honestly, people, do you not use your eyes? What group of people around do you know of, who are about five inches shorter on average than their brothers? Who have narrower shoulders and lighter bones than their brothers? Who have broader hips than their brothers? Whose power-speed combination is nothing comparable to that of their brothers? Who have smallish hands? And high pitched voices?
    Again, I make two points here. One: those who demand equality must show that the equality is just, because for the purposes of the matter at hand, the differences between two people or two groups of people or two kinds of actions are inconsequential. Two: the demand to enforce equality in one respect can often require massive inequality in another respect. Stick to the points, people.
    As to the particular side-issue, my opponents must show that, despite the obvious biological difference between sodomy and sexual intercourse (coitus — the intercourse of the sexes as such), there are no anthropological, social, or moral differences or consequences, and (for Christians) no theological differences. That is their task. The burden of proof rests upon the innovator. May I suggest that they attempt to address the questions, and not simply invoke the word “equality” as a talisman?

    • crakpot

      I would go further – The burden of proof, along with other due process protections, rests not simply on “innovators” proposing some “new” truth of either science or conscience or both, but on those using this theory to seek the power of government to disparage or deny someone’s God-given rights. The left portrays themselves as the ones denied their “gay rights,” but there can be no such thing as a God-given right to do a wrong, and our right to liberty, as John Paul II said, is only the freedom to do as one ought. What are commonly missed in this debate are family rights. The left is using the theory that homosexuality is nature, not sinful behavior, to seek the power of government to disparage family rights, so the burden of proof is indeed on them, and the fact that this theory is easily disproved in both science and conscience is an absolute defense.

    • Greg

      Why would it be a revelation that the Petites are women? The suggestion wasn’t exactly subtle. Your contempt and dislike for women is clear. You speak wistfully of broad shoulders, barrel chests, angels of thigh and calf, but disdainfully of small hands and high voices. To you, women are inferior men. This has nothing to do with SSM!

  • crakpot

    Something that doesn’t sit well is that in these examples we are asking some powerful people for our due. What gave them the power to distribute justice? How does that become their “due?”

    In the football analogy, one can see that ultimately who gets chosen for the team is decided by the voluntary transaction of fans buying tickets. They want to see their team win, and the coaches are but mechanics hired to execute those wishes. Also, if a very capable player pulls too many fouls, he is kicked out of the game by the rules. Even off the field, if he gets caught with prostitutes or drugs, good fans will stop bringing their children to see him. One’s “due” can be lost by his own actions, and it is the free market that distributes resources “to each according to his abilities,” as God wishes it (The Parable of the Talents). It is critical, however, that the free market be one of good people in order that these resources be taken away when not developed in the service of the Lord, as they were from the “wicked and lazy slave.”

    In the case of government, no one is righteously due any power over anyone else. The only way powers can be “just,” as Jefferson said, is if they are derived from the consent of the governed (a supermajority Constitution executed by mechanics hired and fired in elections), and if they are used only to help secure a few of our God-given rights.

  • Robert

    Obviously some people have certain special talents or traits that distinguish them from others. This is why equality is meaningless.

  • Proteios

    Like the football analogy, but one could take it further..
    Because the players abilities have changed, the game must also change to accommodate this. So no more hard hits. The petite players want to play with the other players, but no hitting, no trash talking or you will get kicked off the team. No contact as it could be interpreted as hitting. And obviously no tackling. The ball is representative of the patriarchy (football equivalent for the analogy) so that must be changed. We need to force petite coaches to further enforce these values and rules to penalize those who don’t go along. Lets also not y ‘hike’ as that mocks the pretties. What are we left with here….basketball?