Thursday, June 16, 2011

You stay classy, Timothy Dolan

The former Archbishop of Milwaukee and current Archbishop of New York is, to put it mildly, an idiot.  I'm sorry.  It might be seen as impolite or worse in some circles to call a man of the cloth names.*  But if the shoe doth fit, then verily must The Most Reverend** Archbishop wear it.  To wit, this is what he wrote on his blog on the website of the Archdiocese of New York regarding impending marriage equality in New York state:
Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea.  In those countries, government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law.  There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.

But, please, not here!  Our country’s founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values – life, home, family, marriage, children, faith – that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence.

Please, not here!  We cherish true freedom, not as the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought; we acknowledge that not every desire, urge, want, or chic cause is automatically a “right.”  And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?

Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people.  The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like.  This is not about denying rights. It is about upholding a truth about the human  condition.  Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits:  It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children.  Please don’t vote to change that.  If you do, you are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so.  This is false, it is wrong, and it defies logic and common sense.
North Korea?  What the hell is this man talking about?  Amy Davidson of The New Yorker explodes on the bit about a right to a mom and dad:
This is, speaking very charitably, a non-sequitur.  There are all sorts of reasons children are raised in families that don't include "a mom and a dad;" Dolan must know that.  Same-sex marriage isn't one of them.  Maybe Dolan believes that divorce, in any circumstance, violates a child’s rights; how about children adopted by gay parents—does he believe that their rights would be protected by lingering in foster care, bounced from non-home to non-home? Would he prefer that those born to gay or lesbian parents had never existed? If so, that is a pretty tangled position for a Catholic (or even for a writer of North Korean communiqués).  Does he think that children should be taken away from gay parents (or single widowed parents, for that matter) who have loved them all their lives to be given to any heterosexual, or even just heterogeneous, couple? And even if he agrees with all of that, what on earth does it have to do with same-sex marriage? Allowing two people who love each other to marry will not stop people who don’t love each other from separating, or from getting married in the first place. Neither marriage nor love is a scarce resource. And yet Dolan talks as though there were thieves in his house.
Dare I say it?  Amen.  Does Dolan not realize the pervasive and delicious irony of men of the cloth, (who are by definition virgins who don't know the first thing about marital love or child-rearing in practice) appointing themselves the arbiters of what is and is not acceptable with respect to marriage and raising children?  How in the world would Dolan know what is or is not good for marriages and children?  I'm pretty sure that chastity-bound clergy are the very last people on Earth whose counsel we should seek on such things.

Moreover, did you notice that Dolan dragged out the old chestnut natural law line about the purpose of marriage being the procreation of children?  Again, I would ask, how would he know?  But beyond making smartass remarks, I do have a serious point to make here: If the ultimate purpose of marriage is to have children, then a whole lot of people who are married now shouldn't have been allowed to get married at all, if you follow that logic.  I guess my wife and I shouldn't have bothered getting married, since it's been four years now and we have no children, and aren't planning on any at this time.  Would Dolan prefer that we'd just shacked up instead?  But what do you expect from a church where premarital sex is a sin, using birth control or a condom is a sin, having sex while married but not intending to get pregnant is a sin (apparently), and basically you're supposed to have one child per sexual encounter?  But don't you dare point out that the people making and enforcing these ridiculous standards of purity can't seem to keep themselves away from small children.  The chutzpah is unbelievable.

What of couples where children are an impossibility due to infertility or other reasons?  They cannot procreate children, and according to the natural law argument, cannot fulfill the ultimate purpose of marriage.  By the way, that would include my own parents, who, after being unable to have children, proceeded to do something truly wonderful and adopt my sister, my brother, and I over a span of 15 years.  I'm sure Dolan would be willing to amend his definition of marriage to include straight couples adopting children,*** but that's not what he wrote, because only by limiting marriage's purpose to the procreation of children can you explicitly write the definition of marriage to exclude gay people.  What nonsense.

The North Korea line still really bothers me, if only because Dolan seems completely blind to how headsplittingly ironic it is that someone implicitly invoking the "because God says so" argument would accuse the other side of being like North Korea.  I'm pretty sure the people in favor of gay marriage aren't appealing to the authority of a celestial Great Leader and his son, the Dear Leader.****  It couldn't possibly be that this cleric is just trying to associate gay marriage with North Korea in a transparent attempt to poison the well.

Maybe they should teach basic logic in seminary.  Add that to the list of required courses right after "Keeping Your Hands Off Children 101" and "Advanced Keeping Your Hands Off Children 220."

In case I haven't made my case plain enough, I really, really don't think a bunch of repressed virgins in Roman collars are qualified to pass judgment on the sexual conduct of others, or to speak on matters of marriage and child-raising.  It's a category error.
*Although men of the cloth, it must be said, have been doing quite a bit to make sure they are called even worse names of late.  I'm pretty sure "pedophile" and "accessory to child rape" trump "idiot."  Just saying.

**Maybe it's the fact that I'm an atheist, but I do find it amusing that styles of address for Roman Catholic clergy get more absurd the higher up you go.  A priest is called "The Reverend Father."  Fine.  Bishops and Archbishops are referred to as "The Most Reverend," "Your Excellency," or "Your Grace."  Getting a little overblown there, but whatever.  Cardinals are "Your Eminence," which almost seems like a step down from "Excellency," but what do I know?  And finally, "His Holiness," is reserved for the Pope, which is really for the best, because at least that way the number of people on Earth who claim to be holy and infallible is only one more than the number who actually are.

***I suspect this is because straight people adopting children has become acceptable and even fashionable of late.  However, I have, on a few isolated occasions, been told by very devoutly religious people that my status as an adopted child means that, 1) my birth parents didn't love me, 2) my adoptive parents can't love me the same way that other people's parents love them (they wouldn't trouble themselves to explain why), and 3) God doesn't love me, because I'm essentially a bastard child, and it says in the Bible that blah blah blah.  My mental response to such blather usually rhymes with "chuck two," but ordinarily I just tell people that if such hideous thoughts are what their religion compels them to believe, perhaps for humanity's sake they ought to consider just what sort of God they're following.

****That line is ripped wholesale from Hitchens, I confess, and is entirely accurate.  Kim Jong Il (the Dear Leader) is not the true head of the North Korean state, but rather is only head of the party and the army.  His long-dead father, Kim Il-Sung (the Great Leader), is legally still the head of the state.  All songs and art must be in praise of the Dear Leader or the Great Leader.  Failure to pay homage is punished severely.  Does this sound familiar?

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