Being Catholic and Gay Shouldn’t be Weird

I discovered a new blog today called Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine, Thanks by Steve Gershom. I highly recommend you check it out. Here’s an example of a man who’s gay, but he’s a practicing Catholic (gasp), a conservative (Gasp) and celibate (Gasp?!); in my experience the liberal left and pro-gay marriage crowd abhor people like Steve, either blasting them with hate speech for being a traitor to the cause or dousing them with floods of pity. Steve gives one example of such an encounter here:

I like arguing. The more I’m surrounded by liberals, the more conservative I start talking. The converse is also true. I don’t, for example, have any great love for the Novus Ordo Mass in particular, but surround me with traddies and you’d think I came straight from Steubenville.1

This isn’t a great character trait. I’d like to think it’s because I’m perfectly balanced on every issue, but it’s probably just because I want to look brave and outspoken. Or something. There is something about parties in particular that makes me want to say exactly the wrong thing, just because everyone is trying so hard to do the opposite.

This is especially true at liberal parties, where so many points of view are verboten. I remember a party last Hallowe’en where I met an Oberlin alumna dressed as Dorothy. The only thing I knew about Oberlin was something about rainbow couches and gender studies, so I proffered the diplomatic remark (I had had a few beers, certainly) that Oberlin was destroying western civilization.

For some reason this struck her as offensive, but she also took it in the spirit in which it was offered — namely, a kind of beery sparring. So we sparred, beerily, for a while. Eventually, ineluctably, we came to the twin topics of abortion and homosexuality.2 Turned out she was bisexual, so my views there didn’t give me any points in her book either. I actually think I kept my cool pretty well all through being called a closed-minded, sheeplike bigot.

At some point in the discussion I thought it would be a good idea to play my trump card: as in, You think I oppose gay marriage because I’m insensitive to gay people, Well, what would you say if I WAS ONE?

Well, it wasn’t a great idea. It did defuse the situation a bit. She seemed to stop regarding me as some kind of evil authoritarian swine and and start pitying me for a medievalist self-flagellator. Sigh. We got friendlier after that, but I wasn’t able to make her understand that my life is not one of constant, tortured internal conflict. Some people imagine that, if you’re not having sex at LEAST once a week, you must be in TERRIBLE pain (whether spiritual or just pelvic), and must have to supplement yourself with various, hm, practices.3

Anyway. We parted amicably enough, and saw each other once or twice more. I stopped hanging out with her when, after inviting me and her gay friend C. out to a movie, she admitted that she had been trying to play matchmaker. To rescue me from the prison of my celibacy. This, after hearing that I would regard a homosexual relationship as a betrayal of the things I believed in most deeply.

Sheesh. Thanks, Dorothy. Dude wasn’t my type anyway.4

I’d draw a point from all this, but I have to go get ready for Mass.

“A homosexual relationship as a betrayal of the things I believed in most deeply.” Indeed, whether gay or straight we all struggle with temptations to be unchaste, but the rewards of the truth and fullness of the church dwarf any transient satisfaction that may come with giving in to our impulses. So, liberals, don’t pity Steve or others like him. Instead, ask yourself how men and women like him can be so at home in a place designated their worst enemy by the left? Perhaps, there’s reasons that the Catholic Church teaches the things that it does that have nothing to do with homophobia. Maybe, from the church’s perspective, this was never about straights vs. gays at all, but about all members of humanity discovering and experiencing the love of Christ.


Preemptive War Still Contradicts Just War Doctrine

Mark Shea over at the National Catholic Register addresses the erroneous mental gymnastics Catholics in favor of preemptive war must pull to rationalize militarist politics:

The point is this: just war doctrine has been formulated by the Church, not to give us a trigger mechanism so that we can roll up our sleeves and commence slaughter with a song in our hearts, but in order to make it as hard as possible to go to war—because war kills innocent people.  The point of just war doctrine, in other words, is to set up a series of roadblocks to slow down and restrain the human appetite for mayhem, vengeance, murder and destruction which sinfully yearns for an excuse to be unleashed.  Just war doctrine is formulated in such a way that you have to fulfill all the requirements of just war teaching, not just one or two, in order to fight a just war.  The first requirement is that all just war must be an act of defense against an actual aggressor, not a preventative act of aggression against somebody you fear might be an aggressor one of these days.  Similarly, one of the criteria which must be fulfilled is that war must be a last, not a first, resort.  Therefore, pre-emptive war is necessarily unjust war—because war is not something you “get” to do.  War is something you tragically are forced to do as a last resort: like amputating your own leg.  Pre-emptive war, being neither a response to an actual act of aggression nor a last resort is, itself, an act of aggression.  It should be as morally desirable to Catholics as the thought of amputating one’s own healthy leg because you fear that in five years you might step on a nail and get gangrene.  Not too eager to do that?  Neither should any Catholic be eager to cut corners on just war doctrine—because war mean innocents will die, women will be made widows and children will be made orphans. That is why Joaquin Navarro-Valls, speaking on behalf of Pope John Paul II, said, “He who decides that all pacific means provided by the international law are exhausted, assumes a grave responsibility in front of God, in front of his own conscience and in front of history!”

In short, the argument that the silence of the Catechism on pre-emptive war is an argument in *favor* of it is like the argument that the silence of the Catechism on the subject of ritual cannibalism means that cooking and eating human beings in religious ceremonies is not “always wrong”.

Yes.  It is.  And so is pre-emptive war.  That’s why it’s not in the Catechism.

Its actually pretty simple. Church doctrine isn’t about mere rules and regulations, it is a way of life and, when an individual stops asking, “how can I act in such a way as to always respect human life and dignity?” and instead approaches church teaching with the mindset of, “okay, how close can I toe the line and still get away without sinning?” Then you’ve already abandoned the spirit of the law. We don’t “get” to go to war. We are forced to engage in war only when it is necessary for our own defense, all other options have been exhausted and and we can do so without causing disproportionate or indiscriminate destruction. Going to war because our enemies might have WMDs is a violation of just war doctrine; going to war to “bring them democracy” is a violation of just war doctrine; going to war because a country we’re on bad terms with could be developing a nuclear weapon is a violation of just war doctrine. Period. End of story.

The Dichotomy of American Exceptionalism and the Catholic Church

Non Sequitariat talks about America’s anti-Catholic history and how prominent Catholic politicians like Rick Santorum conform to this sentimentality that persists even today in politics. My favorite excerpt illustrates the opposing creeds of American exceptionalism and the global universality of the Roman Catholic Church:

the Republican Party, pushing the more severe form of American exceptionalism, favors the Christian sect that matured in America. The historic Catholic faith must seem too alien—born at an empty tomb outside Jerusalem, seated in Rome, developed throughout the Mediterranean, and practiced the world over.

Pope Benedict XVI recently highlighted American hostility towards Catholicism when he stated, “It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” American Catholics must shed themselves of the naive idea that American exceptionalism is congruent with Catholicism. The idea that America has all the best ideas, the best culture, the best government and that every other culture and nation is therefore inferior to the United States is directly opposed to Catholic thought. We must accept that American Catholics represents only a small minority of the Catholics of the world and that to find true solidarity with our Catholic brothers and sisters worldwide we need to put our shared faith first and recognize our loyalty to the United States, a country that would so quickly demand we disregard our values (here, here, and here for example), as secondary.

NARAL Defends Birth-Control Mandate in its Entirety Despite Violations to Religious Freedoms

In an email Tuesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan rallied supporters to combat the surge of opposition by “birth-control opponents” to what many have called an unprecedented challenge to the freedom of Christians who oppose abortion and birth control.

“Anti-choice lawmakers are so hostile to birth control that one representative called the new coverage policy ‘unrelated to the basic needs of health care.’ How is birth control not basic health care when 99 percent of women use it at some point in the lives?” wrote Keenan. Keenan was criticizing a bill to block the mandate introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who decried the order as “a bailout for Planned Parenthood.”

Unfortunately for Keenan’s argument the health benefits of a drug don’t negate the illegitimacy of the HHS mandate resulting from the absence of a conscience-clause protecting the constitutional rights of individuals to freedom of religion and the free practice thereof. Furthermore, not only is Keenan’s argument wrong but its incoherent. Keenan states that 99 percent of women have used birth-control. However, this statistic is misleading as according to the Guttmacher Institute – a research arm of Planned Parenthood – states that 62% of women of roughly child-bearing age currently use some form of birth control method.  Additionally, no matter how popular a drug is it cannot qualify as “basic health care” on this premise alone. The vast majority of birth-control use is for regulation of fertility in relation to sexual activity – a voluntary behavior. The morality of contraceptive use can be debated but to assert that birth-control is a medical necessity in more than just a small minority of cases leads to a logical conclusion that female sexual behavior isn’t a free choice of the will but an animalistic instinct that woman are too stupid to control. Obviously this train of thought is blatantly false and reeks of the misogynistic pseudo-science that should only exist in the history books. Now I don’t think that Keenan is a misogynist but when you follow her argument to its logical end then it should become crystal clear that she is being intellectually dishonest  – and dishonesty never leads to true justice.

Free Contraceptives More Important than Freedom of Religion?

Whether or not you believe that contraceptives are a legitimate part of reproductive health the HHS’s recent birth control mandate’s lack of a conscience clause should come as a shock to you. The mandate demands that all insurance plans include complete coverage of contraceptives without co-pay, without exception. Since contraceptives are contrary to the Catholic faith this poses a huge obstacle to Catholic employers who, in good conscience, cannot cooperate with this mandate. According to Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik the mandate “undermines the democratic process itself.” He continues, “Could Catholics be insulted any more, suggesting that we have no concern for women’s health issues? The Catholic Church and the Catholic people have erected health care facilities that are recognized worldwide for their compassionate care for everyone regardless of their creed, their economic circumstances and, most certainly, their gender. In so many parts of the globe – the United States included – the Church is health care.”

In defense of religious freedom I ask that you sign a petition demanding a conscience clause be added to the birth control mandate so that Americans won’t have to make the odious decision of choosing between their faith and their job.

The War on Drugs and Catholic Charity

The War on Drugs is a tricky issue. On the one hand, drug abuse is dangerous and wrong just as murder or assault is wrong and therefore it makes sense for our government to intervene. However, some people such as Congressman Ron Paul and the late economist Milton Friedman argue that the War on Drugs does far more damage than good and therefore must be repealed and drugs legalized. As a senior nursing student I am well aware of the adverse health effects of drug abuse and have witnessed their effects first-hand in some of my patients. However, I also believe that Ron Paul and Milton Friedman make a strong case in favor of legalization so I would like to present their argument and how, as I Catholic, I think this dire issue can be resolved.

First, its important to establish that the War on Drugs, like any government intervention, has unintended consequences. Since drug prohibition is likened to a war I would first like to compare it to Catholic just war doctrine to ensure that this really is a just war. The principle of proportionality states, “The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.” Therefore, if the harm created is disproportionate to the sum of harm prevention and good brought about than the war is unjust. Sure enough Milton Friedman does argue that, indeed, the unintended consequences of the War on Drugs far outweigh any good that it may have done. I’m being somewhat facetious of course; just war doctrine doesn’t really apply to drug prohibition but my point is illustrated.

Friedman argues that drug prohibition is hardly any different than the prohibition of alcohol that was repealed in 1933. Alcohol was readily available during prohibition and bootlegging was common – just as illicit drugs are readily available today. Worse, however, prohibition of alcohol fueled organized crime leading to Al Capone and the mafia and an era of hijacking and gang wars – ultimately, prohibition was a bad deal that lead to more harm than good.

Criminalization of drugs has had the same effects today. Interdiction essentially drives people from mild drugs to strong drugs. The reason being that mild drugs like Marijuana are bulky, difficult to smuggle and easy to interdict. More potent drugs, however, are less bulky, easier to smuggle and thus more profitable (and, additionally, far more dangerous). Marijuana was made more expensive which creates an economic drive to make more potent marijuana and a drive to market more potent drugs like heroin or cocaine. In fact, Friedman argues, crack never would have existed except for drug prohibition which made cocaine more expensive thus necessitating a more potent version.

Friedman continues by offering his expertise in economics by predicting that legalization of drugs would result in half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, 10,000 fewer homicides annually, inner cities in which there’s a chance for poor people to live without fear for their lives, the assurance of quality of drugs (illicit drug use kills less than 1,000 people a year – compared to 40,000/year from alcohol – but with higher quality drugs that number may drop even lower), and no criminalization of otherwise respectable citizens. Also note that the 10,000 fewer homicides Friedman mentions is within US borders. Legalizing drugs in the states would bring drug cartels in Mexico to their knees, a huge blow to the Mexican drug wars, drastically reducing violence outside US borders as well. Also not mentioned, legalization of drugs would drastically reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

So, lets take a closer look at some of Friedman’s claims. Most arrests are of possession by casual users (often marijuana) – these people are imprisoned where they are exposed to inmates convicted of violent crimes and these people who were, prior to imprisonment, respectable citizens come out and are much more likely to become violent criminals themselves. According to Friedman, criminalization of drugs helps drug cartels by making the business excessively costly. Only massive drug cartels have the capital to run an effective business model. In turn this leads to drug wars between cartels – competing illicit businesses each fitted with essentially their own private armies. As with any war, there is collateral damage and it is in no way uncommon that the neighbor kid minding his own business down the street gets shot. Additionally, by keeping goods out and arresting local growers authorities keep costs high in the favor of the drug cartels – what more could a monopolist want?

The only possible negative feature to drug legalization that Friedman notes, is that there might be additional drug addicts. However, despite the prohibition, more than 40 percent of Americans over age 12 have tried marijuana and were subsequently willing to say so on a survey – so its hard to argue that the War on Drugs is even reducing drug use now. Additionally, Friedman points out, a drug addict is not an innocent victim – it is immoral, he argues, to inflict hefty costs on society – costs in lives in addition to capital – in order to protect people from their own choices. This is not an economic problem but a moral problem – the economics is only tertiary. Its about the harm that the government is doing by enabling drug cartels, causing an additional 10,000 homicides a year and making criminals out of otherwise respectable citizens. Fundamentally, the case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong as the case for legislating overeating – except that overeating causes more deaths per year than all drugs combined. Ron Paul had this to say on the War on Drugs:

On the issue of drugs, we have spent nearly five hundred billion dollars on the War on Drugs, since the 1970s. Total failure. Some day, we have to admit it. Today, we have the federal government going into states that have legal medical marijuana, arresting people–undermining state laws–arresting people who use marijuana when they’re dying with cancer and AIDS, and it’s done with, as a compassionate conservative. And it doesn’t work.

What it does, it removes the ability to states to do their things, and also introduces the idea that it’s the federal government that will get to decide whether we get to take vitamins, and alternative medical care, or whatever. Most of our history, believe it or not, had no drug laws. Prohibition has been an absolute failure for alcohol. Drug addiction is a medical problem. It’s not a problem of the law.

However, while legalizing drugs would save lives, reduce the cost of our justice system and law enforcement agency, and create an additional estimated 75 billion dollars in government revenue there is one issue that Milton Friedman does not address, although I think Ron Paul hints at it. As Catholics we have an obligation to promote the common good within our society which means that, while drug abusers are not innocent victims, we have a responsibility to reduce drug abuse and help those who abuse drugs. Drug abuse is a disease and can be debilitating and even deadly. So, how can we avoid the terrible consequences of the War on Drugs and actually help those suffering from addiction? Instead of inflicting draconian punishments on drug users we can save money and lives AND help people overcome addiction by instead offering these people community support and medical intervention (according to one report, jail sentences do nothing to help addicts while treatment is the most effect way to reduce drug use). The War on Drugs has proved to be a direct obstacle to people getting help and this needs to change. By removing harsh prison sentences and redirecting the additional revenue from drug legalization to rehabilitation and prevention of the disease of addiction we can promote the common good without having to sacrifice thousands of lives and billions of dollars to do so.

Daniel Wolfe, director of OSI’s International Harm Reduction Development Program stated that “the global war on drugs has devolved into a war on individual drug users and their communities. While the drug trade continues to thrive, families across the globe are being torn apart by HIV, draconian prison sentences, and wholesale police abuses.” The War on Drugs does not care about public health issues, its job is not to promote the common good. The job of the War on Drugs is to wage war on individuals, arbitrarily selecting them from other criminals. We as Catholics are not called, however, to wage war against our fellow man. We’re called to promote the common good for all our brothers and sisters in Christ to benefit and that means that, in the context of drug use and abuse, we help these people seek treatment, not accelerate their journey down the path of ruin and vice.