Natural law

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.   Read more »