Sed Contra


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Monday, June 30, 2003

Conjugal love is possible only between a man and a woman
One the clearest books about love that differentiates between its many different faces and characters is Dietrich Von Hildebrand's Marriage: the mystery of faithful love.

Von Hildebrand was a philosopher, spiritual writer and anti-Nazi crusader who fled first to Austria and then to Switzerland to escape the Nazis, the latter escape merely hours before the arrival of assassins acting on orders from Heinrich Himmler.

Von Hildebrand wrote on a wide variety of subjects but returned often to the topics of the human person, the person's interior ethical and affective life and the relations between the person and the world. One of shortest, yet deepest, works is this small volume on the topic of conjugal love and I recommend it highly. The Sophia Institute has published it, but it is not long, and it can be found online at the link I provided above.

In this small section Von Hildebrand touches on the reality that men and women are more than just ghosts in machines or the sum of their biological parts. In conjugal love the deeper reality of human existence comes into play; men and women are not men and women because of the genitalia they have, men and women have the genitalia they do because they are men and women.

Here begins the segment:

The special character of conjugal love is, furthermore, marked by the fact that this [conjugal - DCM] love can only come into being, between men and women and not between persons of the same sex, as is the case with friendship, parental love, or filial love.

It would be quite wrong, however, to reduce this characteristic to the sexual sphere and to say that conjugal love is just friendship plus sexual relations, presupposing a difference of sex. It would be incredibly superficial to consider as a mere biological difference the distinction between man and woman, which really shows us two complementary types of the spiritual person of the human species.

Certainly, man and woman have ultimately but one task, "to be reborn in Christ," and to glorify God by their sanctity. Yet man and woman represent two different types of mankind, both having their respective significance according to the divine plan, and their special value quite apart from their procreative function.

Let us take the example of the male and female saints and consider how they, each in his or her special way, realized the unum necessarium, and how at the same time they fulfilled ideally the meaning of their respective natures as men and women. Raising our glance to the Blessed Virgin, we see that she, who of all creatures is most like to Christ, could not possibly be imagined as anything but a woman, and that she, Queen of all Saints, is womanly in the highest and most sublime sense of the word.

No: the difference between man and woman is a metaphysical one. A long time ago the Pythagoreans divined this when they placed male and female among the Categories, although in this, of course, they were not right. The medieval theologians, too, were thinking of this when they raised the question as to whether or not the angels were divided into male and female.

At any rate, for the human species this difference represents two manifestations of the person, analogous - if this comparison be admissible - to the various religious orders, which although they are identical in their aim, represent different ways in the imitation of Christ. These two types, man and woman, have a unique capacity for complementing each other. Their meaning for one another is something quite unique. They are made one for the other in a special way, and they can, purely as spiritual persons, form a unity in which they reciprocally complement one another. Marital love - involving the gift of one's own person, whose decisive character is that the partners form a couple, an I-thou communion, in which the whole personality of the beloved is grasped mysteriously as a unity in spite of all outer obstacles - can exist only between two types of the spiritual person, the male and the female, as only between them can this complementary character be found.

Same Sex Marriage a symptom, not a cause
David Frum, writing the conservative weekly National Review for July 14 (sorry, I couldn't find it online to provide a link) observes that social changes in the Canadian understanding of marriage were what was behind the move to endorse Same Sex Marriage in the Great White North (one of my old editor's terms for Canada).

He writes:

The background to the triumph in same sex marriage in Canada is collapse of marriage in the general population. Between 1995 and 2001, the number of couples living common-law rose by 20 percent, to nearly 1.2 million couples; the number of married couples increased by just 3 percent, to 6.4 million. Some 500,000 Canadian children now live in cohabitating households.

The spread of cohabitation seems to have taught Canadians to think about family life in new ways. They are increasingly willing to think of family as a revolving door arrangement (the average cohabitation lasts only five years), in which parents move in and out of the lives of their own and other people's children.

If you think coupledom as an ad hoc partnership that may or may not involve children, or if you have become accustomed to the idea that the children in a home will often have a biological relationship with one adult but not necessarily the other, the you will not find same sex marriage a very exotic idea; indeed, you will be ready to believe that prejudice and hatred are the only possible reasons that somebody might oppose same sex marriage.

The hard truth is that demand for same sex marriage is a symptom of the crisis in marriage much, much more than it is a cause of that crisis. To oppose same sex marriage effectively, you have to believe that marriage is more than a contract between two consenting adults, more than a claim on employers and the government for economic benefits. You have to believe that children need mothers and fathers, their own mothers and fathers. You have to believe that unmarried cohabitation is wrong, even when heterosexuals do it.

Lose those beliefs and the case for marriage has been lost. It has been lost in Canada. It has been lost in Scandanavia and the Netherlands and France. It will be lost very soon in the United Kingdom. Will it lose in the United States?It is difficult to be very optimistic.

Some thoughts here. I think, if Frum's numbers are correct, then Canada (and ourselves if we follow) face a hugely destructive and expensive price for these social trends, a price that is being alluded to in populations, like the black underclass (and no, I am not picking on the black underclass) where the lack of marriage has been endemic for years.

It has been my observation and experience that kids really do need their parents, both a male and female parent, that seeing masculinity and femininity modeled in a healthy and good way are part of what kids need to grow into emotionally healthy and stable men and women. I think that sociological research has shown that when those things are not present all sorts of self-destructive and anti-social behaviors can and do occur.

Got WMD?
Father Jim Tucker, over at Dappled Things explains why his position that the war against Iraq was unjustified has not changed. While I never firmly came down that the war was unjustified, I did have questions about it up until the day it started, and those questions are still there.

One of the questions I asked my friends before the war is what would happen if the American forces were not any better at finding weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Saddam than the U.N. inspectors were? They assured me that this was not a possibility, that the U.S. was sure to find the WMD. Well, its been some months now, and we still have not and there are no WMD on the horizon.

Various reasons have been floated to explain why, everything from Saddam's
skill in hiding them to shipping them to Syria to having a stripped down production program that, essentially, would have let Saddam produce them on an "as needed" basis but which would not have left much of a footprint.

Well, I don't find any of those explanations terribly compelling. It seems harder and harder not to suspect that the Bush Administration either misunderstood the intelligence about Iraq's WMD or misinterpreted it or, worse, misrepresented it to the American people and the world.

But does it really matter? Haven't the mass graves proven that Saddam was a bad guy that everyone is better off without? Yes, they have - but yes it still matters.

It still matters because, as a child of the 1970's, I can remember how much damage was done by the revelations that parts of the Federal government under President Nixon were turned into fabrication factories.

It matters because the allegation that Iraq had WMD that it could presumably sell or give to terrorist groups who would then smuggle them into U.S. cities to kill tens of thousands of people was one reason Americans backed sending their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives into harm's way halfway across the globe. Its true that Saddam was a bad guy, but I am not sure Americans would have gone for the war had the Administration said the reason we should is because Saddam is a bad guy.

Finally, it matters because the U.S. might have to do it again. It is not impossible that we might once again find ourselves facing a state which backs terrorists and which dabbles in WMD. If it turns out that the U.S. government cried wolf about Iraq, will Americans or other people of good will around the world be willing to back the effort to do what is right?

There are indications afoot, essayists writing in various papers and journals of opinion, who seem to hope the question of whether Iraq had WMD before we went in would go away. I just don't think it can.

Consenting Adults File Post #3
Is there a limit to what's private in the Hamptons?

Neighbors to several traditional "sex among the dunes" sites in the trendy hamptons are hopping mad about the private, constitutionally protected, as American as apple pie activity that has been going on near their posh homes and fancy beach umbrellas.

A resident who requested anonymity said the situation is so bad, "there are used condoms strewn everywhere in the morning when you walk down the beach with your kids.

"People cruise here all night for sex. And we're not just talking about a few people," the resident said.

Police have arrested several men at the beach sites recently, after the police department sent 300 warnings about the practice to the East End Gay Organization, which welcomed the police's working with the group - obviously to less than perfect compliance but at least their not homophobic about it the spokesman said.

The spokesman said estimated that there are a handful of people who need to get a room, but I am really not sure why. After all, its a beach, its after dark, nobody else is there who doesn't want to be there, right? And condoms, heck pack them out afterwards. After all, this is a constitutionally protected activity now! Nine judges on the Supreme Court have said so! I think those anti-American neighbors up in the Hamptons need to show a little respect for constitutionally protected sexual liaisons.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Consenting Adults File Post #2
The scope of what is considered "private" keeps widening.

The prosecutor in Columbia, Missouri, has announced that he is dropping charges against six men arrested in a raid on an adult theater where they were allegedly having sex.

Attorney General Jay Nixon said in a statement the ruling "appears to call into question" Missouri's law making gay sex a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Legal analysts and gay-rights activists didn't hesitate to declare the Missouri law nullified by the ruling in the case of two Texas men charged with having sex in a private home.

The ruling "has the effect of invalidating Missouri's law," said Denise Lieberman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

"This was a pretty sweeping Supreme Court ruling that recognized all people have a fundamental right to intimate association that cannot be infringed by the state," Lieberman said from St. Louis.

Later Thursday, Lieberman shouted to a crowd of 100 celebrating the victory during a rally at a St. Louis coffeehouse. "I have a message for the gay community. Your love is no longer a crime."

No disrespect meant, Ms. Lieberman, but it seems to me that whatever was going on in that theater that night had nothing, or next to nothing, to do with "love."

Of course, based on the data provided in recent studies, I am sure that the all the activities that were going on in the theater were "safe" and that none of the men left the theater to have "unsafe" sex with anyone else. None. How silly to even worry about that. Besides, the Supreme Court says its unconstitutional to even let such concerns motivate our legislation.

Maestro, please, The Band!

Consenting Adults File Post #1
Item 1

Police in Des Moines, Iowa, have arrested five men who have been videotaped using picnic shelters during lunch time on weekdays for sex. The picnic shelters in one instance are within clear view of playground and bike trails. Police said that in one video a child could be seen in the background riding a bicycle.

Police said they took the action after custodians at the sight found used condoms and pornography at the site, and parents complained about sexual activity increasing at the park. The site had been advertised in "underground communication channels" the police said.

It's not our intent to police people's morals, said Captain Doug Phillips of the sheriff's office. This type of activity wouldn't be tolerated if it was heterosexual, either. I wouldn't want my child coming off the bike trail seeing this.

I dunno. Picnic shelter, nobody around, sounds mighty private to me. Somebody call the American Civil Liberties Union.

Item 2.

A number of different studies have been released recently to indicate that a growing number of men who have sex with men are not doing so "safely."

According to one national study, published in the June 2003 American Journal of Public Health, 4,295 HIV-negative gay men reported having anal sex within the past year. The men were recruited from 1999 to 2001 in six cities -- Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle.

The men reported having an average of seven sex partners over the past six months; 25 percent reported 18 or more. About half said they had a primary sex partner (such as a boyfriend), but 20 percent didn't know the partner's HIV status.

More than 54 percent of the men reported having unprotected insertive anal sex over the past six months. (In other words, they were "tops.") And 48 percent said they had unprotected receptive anal sex (or were "bottoms") over the same time period.

More than 45 percent of the men said they'd performed oral sex to ejaculation on other men without protection.

Meanwhile, a study in the June 1 Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes found that so called "unsafe" sex appeared to rise among the more than 10,000 men who had sex with men in San Francisco interviewed for the study.

In one part of the study, researchers looked at how many gay men had risked HIV transmission by not asking about their partner's HIV status, not disclosing their own HIV-positive status to a potentially HIV-negative partner, or both.

In 2001, 16.7 percent of the men surveyed reported that they'd recently risked the transmission of HIV during unprotected anal sex with at least two men. The rate was just 12.7 percent two years earlier.

In the third study, which also appeared in the same issue of the same Journal, researchers found that 15% of the men who have sex with other men interviewed for the study carried antibodies to the HIV virus.

Forty-five percent said they'd had unprotected anal sex within the past 12 months, and nearly one-third had done so with at least one casual sex partner. Fifteen percent of the men tested positive for the AIDS virus.

But, fortunately, since the Supreme Court has decided that communities have no legitimate interest in what happens in private between consenting adults, none of this wave of increased infection need concern the broader community.

Let the Band Play On!

Taking Names: group in trouble for insisting Church hold to teaching
Catholic Parents Online, a group based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, has been getting in a lot of trouble lately because they have worked to bring to the Archdiocese' attention the fact that Catholic parishes have not been faithful to the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality and other issues.

This is an article about the group and the controversy that seems to be more or less on target (at least to an outsider) and I think there are a couple of things worth commenting on in the story.

First, against the advice of the organization, the Church gave communion to the members of the so-called Rainbow Sash movement while they wore their sashes. In Australia, where the group began, the sashes signified that its wearer not only advocated the Church bless gay sex, but had taken part in gay sex and, presumably, not sought confession for that. If that is the case giving communion to a person in such a state is not an act of kindness, but manifest uncharity. The analogy would be seeing a drowning person and, far from throwing him or her a life-ring, throwing them a weight instead.

Second, one of the group's critics is quoted as saying I happen to be straight, but some of my friends are gay, and I think the church is doing a great disservice to people, telling them they can't be in loving relationships.

Sorry, the Church does not say that, and has never said that. My former lover and now best friend and I have lived in an extremely loving relationship for 17 years, the last ten of them completely chastely. Here is a bulletin to the "modern mind." You don't have to have sex to be loving! In fact, having sex is no guarantee of love being present - in fact, living chastely is, in most cases, the more loving thing to do.

I suspect that what this quoted person has done has been to confuse love, which is often something as terrible as it is powerful and grand, requiring self-discipline and sacrifice and hard choices, with convenience and self-indulgence. After all, as my friend used to get quite often from gay friends, well, if you are not not sleeping with him, why stay? Love is a lot of things. It has never, in my experience so far, when I was sexually active and when I have been chaste, easy or convenient.
Canadian Archbishop Reaffirms Catholic teaching!
And Thank God.

A leading Canadian Roman Catholic, Marcel Gervais – Archbishop of Ottawa has warned priests operating within Ontario that they will be suspended if they take part in any kind of gay marriage.

"In the Catholic Church, an attempted marriage of two of the same sex would not be recognised and the person officiating would be suspended from their sacred duties," he said.

He went on to say that the church would only recognise marriage as "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."

All this of course is according to a gay news website which takes a dim view of the archbishop actually insisting that priests tell the truth, not only with their lips but also in their actions. Believing that the Church is somehow above both the court and Parliament the website sniffed, the archbishop said that a decision from either of those institutions would not be recognised by the Catholic Church.

And well it shouldn't. No matter how many American Christians have lamented and sometimes even cursed the separation of Church and State in this country, it is at times like this, when States begin to more and more go astray, that we can be grateful that Church doctrines and actions are not set by legislation.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Found Magazine
What can you tell about a society or community from what they throw away? That is part of what Found Magazine seeks to answer. The organizers of the magazine regularly publish the snippets, lists and photos, the flotsam and jetsam of our lives; bits and pieces which tease my imagination and invite me to spin stories to explain them. Some examples.

gs pelley found the following scrawled on the back of a rather greasy and dirty envelope in Raleigh, North Carolina: "I am a sweet gherkin layered with cream cheese and rolled in hard salami. Eat Me!"

Was this a wierd culinary come on? A possible slogan for a delly board advertisement? Something meant to be endearing in someone's lunch?

mark pricskett found the following on a scrap of school book lined paper while he waited for the police to arrive after his car had been struck in a traffic accident: "Are you off punishment yet. If not when are you getting off. When are you going to come over. When are we going to the movies? Can I have my CD player back? When you come over you can get your CD. And I love you."

If I had been Mark and I had found this at the same place, I would have concluded that I was likely not off punishment and that getting off punishment remained too far in the future to be seen.

A page from a pad of paper with EASTDIL at the top of it begs. "Blind me, please. And bring cookies!"

To the festival of visual disability? A strange party where the participants blindfold one another in some sort of trust exercise?

This was found in a parking lot in Fairbanks, Alaska. "You get one more shot at this Blane. You ever hang up on me again and you will never see me again. Be a man."

Blane, let her go man, she sounds like a b*tch on wheels.

And, as the guy in the very peculiar time of my life that I find myself, I felt a rush of empathy for this one, also written on school lined paper, from new hampshire:

"Dear Jessica.

I have a couple of questions.

1) Would it be too early to start holding hands?

2) Am I at the "honey point" yet?

3) Let me know if I am rushing you, ok?*

Thank you for saying yes. The usual answers I get are no ways, are you stupid? No I already have a boyfriend. Or sometimes I am too damn shy to ask a girl out.

* I haven't had too many girl friends yet but just teach me what to do and what not to do! Please!"

A long time ago, or what feels like a long time ago, one of my more brilliant teachers used to walk into class sometimes and just put in front of us a blown up picture of something. Once it was a couple clearly arguing on the floor of what looked like a dance contest. Another it was a dog sitting patiently beside a person laying on their back. Another it was a picture of a man being led away by some very nasty looking guards. And each time we had to use the class period to come up with a dialogue inspired by this picture, or a scene, or a context for what we saw. Found magazine strikes me as much the same, the parts of life that the magazine finds and publishes are like little pieces of windows from the cathedrals of other people, inviting us into someone else's reality and letting us, however briefly and at whatever distance, to meld our lives with theirs.

Morality v. Legality
A number of folks have written asking me what I thought, if anything, about the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Texas', and by extension all 13, of the States remaining anti-sodomy laws.

Well, I guess I think I a number of things.

First, I am not sure that its terribly wise to apparently lay down a presumption that anything consenting adults can think to do in space they define as private should not be the business of the broader society. It appears in the wake of the decision that anything done in "private" should not be scrutinized or, heaven forefend, censured in any way unless the proponents of such scrutiny or legal censure provide compelling evidence for it. If we take John Donne's observation about no man, or woman, being an "island" then we also need to acknowledge that very, very few things in our lives are really, truly, entirely, "private" (as in having an impact on our lives alone).

Second, I also have to disagree with the notion that local communities don't have the right to express opinions in their own laws about the morality of things done "privately." Whether or not you agree with a law against bestiality, homosexual activity, adultery, or anything else, I think a local community in this society has the right to express its opinion about whether or not that activity is a moral or good thing, or not, and to do so in its laws. If you don't like the law, go ahead and organize and work to overturn it through legislative means and by building political consensus, as is your right. But I think that right on the part of communities to legislate against activities they find repugnant still exists, regardless of the Supreme Court's legal manipulations.

Third, there has been a fair amount of discussion in the coverage I have seen over how these laws, even though they were not widely enforced, allegedly "criminalized" homosexuals. I find this as ridiculous and lamentable as it is predictable. In the minds of reporters, there is the presumption that every man living with a degree of SSA is having sex and thus must be made a "criminal" by these statutes. Sorry, but that's just foolish, and insulting to to boot. I have lived for years, as a man with a degree of Same Sex Attraction, in a State that had an anti-sodomy statute. I have never particularly felt a criminal - at least not for a presumed interest in sodomy! Of course, such a view has been helped along by gay and lesbian activists who have had a strong and persistent interest in blurring the distinctions between inclinations actions and person, but still its lamentable.

Fourth, there has also been in the coverage some sort of suggestion that because the Supreme Court has said that communities in this country do not have a right to legislate based on their opinion of private homosexual activity, that somehow that activity has been made more moral. This also seems to me to be ridiculous. There has been a long and sordid history of this country sheltering immoral, and even grievously evil, activity behind the shield of law. Abortion is the most contemporary example, but the pages of history are replete with other issues such as the infamous 3/5 compromise (enshrined in the Constitution), slavery, Jim crow laws, and others. Just because the Supreme Court has said that a community cannot say that a given activity is wrong, that doesn't make the activity moral or right.

Finally, in the end the decision doesn't make any difference. Men who were out hunting sex with other men last weekend in the States where it used to be illegal, will still do so this weekend. They will still find Mr. Right every bit as elusive as he was before. Men and women, regardless of their sexual or other temptations or inclinations, will still have to hear Christ ask "who do you say that I am," and still have to answer Him. The Gospel will remain open and available, and we will still have the choice whether to accept His invitation or not.
What have I been doing?
Actually, the "professional ex-fag" (as one of my commentators has dubbed me - very funny actually!)has been having plenty of life - which has made it hard to have a cyberlife. Some things that have been going on since late March.

Two weeks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My first two week vacation as a healthier person, 90 pounds lighter than this time last year. Got very brown and did all sorts of great stuff like learn to windsurf.

My best friend (former "lover") has been in the hospital for a week, having been taken ill by having his appendix start acting up and needing to have it removed, along with other surgical concerns. God willing he is back home today.

Had my first actual boyfriend relationship with a woman, a very cool Catholic woman from Buffalo, New York, who would be a find for any Catholic guy in her area. There was a lot very positive about it, a lot that helped me grow and learn. Unfortunately, one of the negative things about it was the distance (geographic) between us :(, so I ended up not being able to sustain it as a "relationship."

I guess one of the things I learned is that I will actually need to live at least sort of close to a woman with whom I might be involved.

Anyway, there's the thumbnail.

Yes, still here....
Yes, I am still here. Busier than ever - but also feeling pulled to restart blogging despite the it begin a sink-hole for time! Anyway, more to come today.