Had to happen, half their priests are gay

The tide is turning in the United States over marriage equality…so much so that some conservative catholics are becoming vocal. Joseph Bottum is one such catholic, conservative, moral crusader who has changed his tune.

Which is why “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage,” an essay by Joseph Bottum, published Friday on the Web site of Commonweal magazine, is something new in this debate.

Mr. Bottum, 54, is a serious Christian. He attended Roman Catholic high school, college and graduate school. His erudite writing for conservative magazines like National Review and The Weekly Standard is laced with references to church history and theology and to Christian writers like G. K. Chesterton and W. H. Auden. He fiercely opposes abortion, and for five years, until 2010, he was editor in chief of First Things, a key opinion journal for religious conservatives.

In his large Victorian house here 50 miles from Mount Rushmore, a crucifix hangs in the hallway. At lunch, he crossed himself before we sat down. Mr. Bottum is the kind of man who, when he casually says “Thomas,” you know that he means Aquinas, the 13th-century Catholic philosopher.

Not five years ago, he condemned backers of gay marriage as amoral. Yet in his new long and challenging essay, Mr. Bottum argues, in effect, that he was wrong and that fellow conservative Catholics are misinterpreting their tradition, in particular Aquinas’s “natural law” theology.

Aquinas considered heterosexual, monogamous union the highest form of marriage, but Mr. Bottum believes that he was actually less interested in strict legal precepts than in an enchanted vision of the world — a vision that, Mr. Bottum now says, is better served by supporting same-sex marriage.

So Mr. Bottum’s change of heart is noteworthy. He makes several arguments. The first is pragmatic.  

It takes a gracious man to admit when he is wrong.

Basic democratic premises like fairness, equal rights and majority rule suggest that the time for same-sex marriage has come, he says. We can agree, Mr. Bottum argues, that Americans are turning in favor of same-sex marriage, and there “is no coherent jurisprudential against it — no principled legal view that can resist it.” Furthermore, the bishops’ campaigns against same-sex marriage “are hurting the church.” Especially for the young, Catholicism is coming to symbolize repression.

So this fight would only be worth fighting, for Catholics, if their theology required such a fight. Mr. Bottum now believes — here’s where the essay will really outrage fellow churchmen — that Catholics are mistaken to think that natural law requires them to oppose same-sex marriage.

Natural law, as systematically explained by Aquinas in his treatise Summa Theologica, is the will of God as understood by people using their reason. Aquinas extrapolates many principles of natural law, including those of marriage. But Mr. Bottum contends that these rules are not the point.

Natural law, Mr. Bottum writes, depends for its force on a sense of the mystery of creation, the enchantment of everyday objects, the sacredness of sex. In the West, that climate of belief has been upended: by science, modernism, a Protestant turn away from mysticism, and, most recently, the sexual revolution. The strictures of natural law were meant to structure an enchanted world — but if the enchantment is gone, the law becomes a pointless artifact of a defunct Christian culture.

“And if,” Mr. Bottum writes, “heterosexual monogamy so lacks the old, enchanted metaphysical foundation that it can end in quick and painless divorce, then what principle allows a refusal of marriage to gays on the grounds of a metaphysical notion like the difference between men and women?”

Traditional-marriage activists would counter that we can at least begin a Christian renaissance by upholding marriage’s last connections to its Christian past. But Mr. Bottum says that’s the wrong starting point. “There are much better ways than opposing same-sex marriage for teaching the essential God-hauntedness, the enchantment, of the world,” he writes.


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  • middleagedwhiteguy


    Sorry, sometimes my inner 13 year old rears it’s spotty head……

  • Andrei

    «В последнее время мы сталкиваемся с огромными искушениями, когда в ряде стран выбор в пользу греха утверждается и оправдывается законом, а те, кто, поступая по совести, борется с такими навязанными меньшинством законами, подвергаются репрессиям.

    Это очень опасный апокалиптический симптом, и мы должны делать все для того, чтобы на пространствах Святой Руси грех никогда не утверждался законом государства, потому что это означает, что народ вступает на путь самоуничтожения».

    In recent times we have been subject to enormous temptations where many Nations have chosen to approve sin and justify it by law and those who in good conscience struggle with such laws imposed by a minority are repressed

    This is a very dangerous symptom of Apocalypse – we must ensure that in the lands of Holy Rus sin is never sanctioned by the law of the State because it will mean the Nation is embarking on the path of self destruction

    • Democ Kot

      Ah Patriarch Kirill as a man of God wears a US$30,000.00 Breguet watch and tried to hide the fact: http://newsru.com/religy/04apr2012/uhr.html (russian only sorry)
      and tools around in a Bentley and the church controls alcohol and cigarette import business:http://www.eastwestreport.org/articles/ew05108.htm
      I think there are many other earthly things for the church to worry about like distributing some wealth around.
      Nobody is without sin it would appear!!!!

  • Graeme A

    Jesus is quite clear on marriage,

    And He answered and said
    to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and
    said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to
    his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two
    but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    • Bea

      That’s not clear at all – not as a reason against homosexual marriage anyway.. It suggests that a man shouldn’t be torn away from his wife – ie don’t interfere in that man’s relationship. It doesn’t suggest that a man who doesn’t choose to marry a woman in the first place should be forced only to marry a woman.

      • Graeme A

        It is very clear in the Christian context. These are the words of Jesus and expressly says for a man to be joined with his wife. If your agnostic or an atheist or from any other religion then fill your boots and do what you want but if you are a Christian then I think that this verse is going to be very challenging to your faith if your define yourself as gay.

  • snakebit

    Gay marriage will eventually mean children growing up without both thier mum and dad. I except this already happens with broken hetrosexual unions but that does nothing to make it less wrong. A man a wife and children together as a family unit is the corner stone of a great civilization…is it fair to gays? It wont seem so to them but life is not about what is fair…fairness has nothing to do with it.

  • Kopua Cowboy

    You’re all wrong. This marriage debate should have no input from a christian point of view- marriage is far older than christianity, and any attempt by christians to make out marriage is solely church governed is fraudulent, in my view.

  • blairmulholland

    What a ridiculous argument. He is saying that because the West has lost touch with the mystical elements of Christianity, we may as well give it all up and embrace gay marriage?! Wave the white flag as it were?

    Forgive me for being naive, but I thought theology was about knowing the Will of God, not giving in to the winds of fad and fashion because of some supposed “culture war” that is “lost”.

    I am of the view that yes, Catholics will eventually buckle on this issue, because their foundation is based on the magisterium of men, rather than the Holy Tradition of the Spirit of God. That’s fine. There will still be an Orthodox Church.