Scalia Protest at Princeton Raises an Important Question

When does it become impermissable for a self-governing people to pass laws that will ensure the survival of the things they love?  When they no longer command a majority of the electorate?  Is that the standard?  Certainly among people of democratic disposition, it is a constitutional given that any time a plurality of voters take charge, they are more or less at liberty to set aside whatever arrangements were in place before they assumed control.

In other words, that massive tectonic shift in the culture we’ve been witnessing over these past fifty years, is about to be given formal and official sanction from the political process.  All the awfulness of the culture, as it were, will sooner or later be codified into law.

Isn’t this what the debate over Gay Rights is finally about?  It is not a civil liberties issue; the proponents of gay marriage are not preoccupied with matters of fairness.  What they are determined on is nothing less than the destruction of the traditional family, which is an institution whose very survival depends on the maintenance of marriage as men and women have practiced it for thousands of years.   Now that the popular culture is no longer on board with this, it is seen as a burden that increasingly nobody wants to bear.

Oh, sure, they’ll pay lip service to it and people will continue in large numbers to avail themselves of the experience.  But tucked away under all that froth and enthusiasm for two people of disparate flesh joining their lives forever together, is a notion of marriage so etiolated, so utterly flattened out, as to be almost unrecognizable.   If you ask young people, for instance, who are the ones destined not only to inherit the future but are in fact giving it shape by the attitudes and tastes which define them at this present moment, about two-thirds will happily tell you that we no longer need to shoulder that particular burden.  The very idea of marriage, they insist, has evolved sufficiently to embrace any number of combinations of consenting adults.  The tyranny of tolerance trumps everything else; and it will have its way over all of us.

 

Indeed, if the Youth Brigade were not convincing enough to document the vastness of the sea change we’ve undergone, there are now nine states and the District of Columbia on record as actually having repealed the very meaning of marriage; as an historic institution, that is, rooted in both nature and the God of nature.  How long do you suppose it will be before the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to take up the matter, decides to extend across-the-board constitutional protection?  To protect what?   The practice of sodomy, that’s what. That which, until fairly recently, had been widely, universally even, regarded with civilized scorn as an unnatural perversion could, before long, be solemnly enshrined into law from sea to shining sea.

Leaving us still, however, with the question of how to preserve the things we love.  If a nation to be loved, as Burke once said, must be lovely, where does that leave those of us who look upon same sex marriage with abhorrence?   At what point does cultural approval, followed by juridical vindication from the highest court in the land, so diminish the loveliness of our country that to withdraw one’s love and loyalty from it becomes the only tenable course to take?

And can we seriously defend what for large and increasing numbers of people has become indefensible?  Here I think of poor Justice Scalia, who found himself the other day accosted by six hundred or so students at Princeton University, many of them positively ferocious on the subject of gay marriage, who had come out in protest of his atavistic views.  An eighteen year old, self-professed homosexual spearheaded the assault, calling the Justice to account for a comparison he’d earlier made between laws prohibiting sodomy and those directed against such atrocities as murder and bestiality.  That apparently was the warhead.  And did Scalia strike an irenical tone before his student critics?  Did he try and defuse the bomb?  No, he did not.  Digging his heels in, he put to the students the following question, which goes right to the heart of the matter:  “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality,” he pointedly asked, “can we have them against murder?  Can we have it against other things?”

In other words, what are we to do with this sense of instinctive revulsion some of us continue to feel when faced with sexual perversion?  Is it healthy and natural to feel this way?  Or must we move actively to suppress it on the grounds that, enlightened opinion having educated us to view all forms of sexual expression as equally valid and good, only rank bigotry can explain the persistence of the outrage we nevertheless feel?  And if that is the case, then what on earth do we do about other expressions of disgust and revulsion that seem to well up spontaneously from within?   If it is no longer permissible to be revolted by the one, how do we justify the other?  Is it plausible that aversion to homosexual behavior can safely be pronounced as old fashioned, vestigial, and thus no longer a matter of moral importance, but not, say, homicidal behavior, aversion to which we need to preserve and even to stoke up now and again lest our appetite for justice weaken?  Can we really have it both ways?  Or is it an all or nothing proposition?

We’re going to have to face this question pretty soon.  Either that or we simply resign ourselves to being lost souls, stranded on sandbanks of sentimentality, for whom the compass of nature (not to mention the God of nature) is no longer reason’s guide.  In the meantime, to quote a line from Chesterton, “We don’t know what we’re doing, because we don’t know what we’re undoing.”

Regis Martin

By

Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar's Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, also published by Emmaus Road, is called Witness to Wonder: The World of Catholic Sacrament. He resides in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and ten children.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)
MENU