The Republicans Missed A Chance For Inclusivity- On Purpose

Frank Bruni in today’s New York Times articulates beautifully the guilt and shame purveyed by the Republican party:

America

America (Photo credit: acb)

WHAT the Republicans painstakingly constructed here was meant to look like the biggest of tents. And still they couldn’t spare so much as a sleeping bag’s worth of space for the likes of me.

Women were welcomed. During the prime evening television hours, the convention stage was festooned with them, and when they weren’t at the microphone, they were front and center in men’s remarks. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both gushed about their moms in tributes as tactical as they were teary.

Latinos were plentiful and flexed their Spanish — “En América, todo es posible,” said Susana Martinez, the New Mexico governor — despite an “English First” plank in the party’s regressive platform.

And while one preconvention poll suggested that roughly zero percent of African-Americans support Romney, Republicans found several prominent black leaders to testify for him. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, delivered what will surely be remembered as the convention’s most stirring and substantive remarks, purged of catcalls and devoid of slickly rendered fibs.

But you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.

Read the whole article here.

Another Congressional Candidate For Marriage Equality

Could you imagine this even two years ago? We have two very public videos about marriage equality by Montana Congressional candidates. You’ve probably seen Dave Strohmaier’s video- but here’s another one from Rob Stutz:

Cool.

Guest Post: An Authentic, Catholic History Of Marriage

By Terence Weldon

With British bishops on the attack against proposals for gay marriage claiming that they are defending “traditional” marriage, it is important to remember that their representation of marriage history is misleading. When Mexican bishops made similar false claims about the history of marriage, I responded with a post on the history of marriage, as described by a specialist on the subject – a Catholic, Jesuit professor of history at a Catholic university.

Here follows that post, republished:

In Mexico,  Cardinal Norberto Rivera has attacked the Supreme Court ruling that upheld same sex marriage in Mexico City, calling it “evil”. It is not surprising that a Catholic bishop should oppose marriage equality, and while I sharply disagree with him, I must respect his right to express an opinion.  He also says it is wrong to go against Christian doctrine that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman. Again, barring a quibble or two about the effect of disagreement in conscience, even as we disagree with this, it is clear that this is orthodox Catholic teaching.

However, in invoking Christ himself, he goes way too far.

He called same-sex unions “inherently immoral,” saying they “distort the nature of marriage raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.”

This is sheer garbage.

I am not aware of any Gospel passage that endorses marriage as been between one man and one woman. Can any reader point to me one?  Christ most certainly did not raise marriage to the dignity of a sacrament – not even the institutional church did that, until the twelfth century, after half its history had passed. Exploring this history has proven fascinating.

Compare the first two accounts I found. This is Wikipedia:

…..first-century Christians placed less value on the family but rather saw celibacy and freedom from family ties as a preferable state. Paul had suggested that marriage be used only as a last resort by those Christians that found it too difficult to remain chaste.[2]

Augustine believed that marriage was a sacrament, because it was a symbol used by Paul to express Christ’s love of the Church. Despite this, for the Fathers of the Church with their profound hostility to sex, marriage could not be a true and valuable Christian vocation. Jerome wrote: “It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things if one is good and the other evil” (Letter 22).Tertullian argued that marriage “consists essentially in fornication” (An Exhortation to Chastity“) Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage said that the first commandment given to men was to increase and multiply, but now that the earth was full there was no need to continue this process of multiplication. Augustine was clear that if everybody stopped marrying and having children that would be an admirable thing; it would mean that the Kingdom of God would return all the sooner and the world would come to an end.

This negative view of marriage was reflected in the lack of interest shown by the Church authorities. Although the Church quickly produced liturgies to celebrate Baptismand the Eucharist, no special ceremonial was devised to celebrate Christian marriage, nor was it considered important for couples to have their nuptials blessed by a priest. People could marry by mutual agreement in the presence of witnesses. This system, known as Spousals, persisted after the Reformation. At first the old Roman pagan rite was used by Christians, although modified superficially. The first detailed account of a Christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century and was identical to the old nuptial service of Ancient Rome.[3]

There are obvious difficulties with relying on Wikipedia as a source – but it does at least provide us with references to substantiate its claims. Now look at the Catholic Encyclopedia:

That Christian marriage (i.e. marriage between baptizedpersons) is really a sacrament of the New Law in the strict sense of the word is for all Catholics an indubitable truth. According to the Council of Trent this dogmahas always been taught by the Church, and is thus defined in canon i, Sess. XXIV: “If any one shall say that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the Seven Sacraments of the Evangelical Law, instituted by Christ our Lord, but was invented in the Church by men, and does not confer grace, let him be anathema.”

This can do no more than quote the council of Trent, which claims that the sacramental view of marriage has “always”  been taught – totally disregarding the verdicts of church fathers such as Tertullian, quoted above. On marriage as on so much else, the Vatican likes to refer to a “constant and unchanging tradition”, or to claim that it has “always taught”. These claims are seldom supported by real evidence, and must be received with scepticism.

Then I found an impressive on-line history of marriage , in a lengthy outline by Stephen Schloesser, a Jesuit priest and professor of history, which he submitted to Massachusetts Senator Marian Walsh in 2004, during the turmoil in that state over gay marriage. Here are some extracts  – the introduction, and (mostly) just a summary of the main paragraph headings:

Maybe the most frustrating thing I have heard in the recent debate is this claim that has become a mantra: that we are in the process of changing some allegedly unchanging 3,000-year-old institution called “marriage.”Of course, the decision to grant marriage licenses would be a “change” in marriage practice – but“marriage,” whatever that is, is always in the process of being changed. To pretend that its alteration is somehow a rupture in what is otherwise a three-thousand year continuity is just silly.

It seems helpful to me to recall what traditional marriage is: it is a community’s legal arrangement in order to pass on property. In it, a male acquires (in the sense of owning and having sovereignty over) a female for the sake of reproducing other males who will then inherit property.

In Roman law, the authority of the paterfamilias over his wife and children was absolute, even to the point of death. (Even during the enlightenment), Catholic reactionaries opposed the idea of women and children having independent rights and insisted that puissance paternelle (the absolute power of the father) was rooted in nature.

In Judaism, polygyny is found throughout the Old Testament until the inter-testamental period.In general, a survey of traditional Old Testament marriage makes the reader very grateful that we are not bound to follow its precedents or precepts.

Early Christianity was really not into marriage. St Paul counseled his followers: “It is better not to marry.”Augustine (following St. Paul) counsel ed marriage as a remedy for concupiscence – i.e., satisfying male sexual desire in a non-sinful way.In general, during the early medieval Church, all sex is a problem, and all sex is equally a problem.

Marriage, both in the Roman and the early medieval periods, was the moment that marked the passing of the rights over a woman from her father to her husband. She wasn’t a person under the law.

Serial polygyny was regularly practiced by early medieval kings famous for their Christian piety. Their marital practices did not trouble the Church. Concubinage was also widely practiced among the European elite, and this practice was unproblematic, even in the eleventh century. Divorce was also completely unproblematic until the twelfth century.

In the twelfth century, the idea of marriage as a “sacrament” – i.e., as something fundamentally regulated by the Church – was established along with priestly celibacy and primogeniture.

The simultaneous appearance of these practices shows the way in which the preservation of property suddenly became an issue of great anxiety: celibacy prevented church property from passing on to priests’ wives and children; primogeniture insured that property remain intact as it passed on to only the eldest son; and Church surveillance of marriages made sure that an authority larger than, say, the most powerful warrior / aristocratic families on the block, was overseeing the passing on of dowries – e.g., Eleanor’s region of the Aquitaine. Women became the means of medieval corporate mergers: families consolidated power and property, both by means of dowries as well as by being the producers of male heirs.

Marriage as an “emotional unit” as opposed to an “economic unit” was largely an invention of the early nineteenth century. Bourgeois marriage was a classbound arrangement.

Conversely, for the males, prostitution is seen as an integral part of the new arrangement of marriage.

Divorce, finally legalized again in France in the 1880s, emancipated men but perhaps not women unless they had reserved some independent means. It too was part of the new emotional understanding of marriage, i.e., as something not arranged by parents but rather entered into partly because of emotional desires.

It is hardly coincidental: this is also the period during which the idea of “homosexuality” – and then, later, “heterosexuality” – was invented.

Catholic ideas about marriage and sexuality are in constant conversation with the wider society/culture’s evolving values and needs.

As late as the Code of Canon Law of 1917, the official position continued to be depressingly materialist: the purpose of marriage was considered to be “procreation,” while a secondary end was a “remedy for concupiscence.”

This genuinely two-millennia-old view changed on New Year’s Eve, 1930.(following the Lambeth Conference decision to approve contraception). The papal encyclical Casti Connubii introduced a fairly shocking innovation: one of marriage’s “second ends” was the “unity” between the spouses.The 19th-c. invention of marriage as an “emotional unit” in which two persons came together not merely to procreate but in order to form a sphere of emotional support – a thoroughly modern meaning of marriage – was accepted by the papacy.

On October 29, 1951 came a second important innovation in Catholic views. In one of the most insignificant settings possible – i.e., not an encyclical or synod but rather an address to Italian midwives –Pius XII suggested that couples, as long as they did not use “artificial” contraception, could arrive at a moral decision to be sexually active in a way that did not lead to procreation.

Between the years of approximately 1948 to 1963, the Catholic bishops of New England lobbied furiously against the legalization of contraception. John Ford, a Jesuit moral theologian who was the most aggressive proponent of the anticontraception stance (and taught in Weston, Mass.) admitted letter that the “natural law” argument had failed; if the point of “natural law” arguments was to convince any “rational person” (unlike, e.g., Scripture, which would convince only a religious believer), and if all these rational persons were rejecting the Catholic position, then what did that say about the law’s “natural” aspect? Eventually, the bishops abandoned this fight and made a distinction between public policy and personal religious practice.

To summarize: when one compares the 1917 Catholic view of marriage – “procreation” as a primary end, “a remedy for concupiscence” as a secondary end – with the 1969 view expressed in both the Vatican Council and encoded in canon law – “the community of the whole life” that includes both the “unbreakable compact between persons” as well as the “welfare of the children,” one can see that the change in Catholic doctrine and law has been nothing short of astonishing.

The full piece is the most useful outline of marriage history and the church I have come across.  I have selected here only the bits that refer specifically to the history of Christian marriage. There is much more on marriage in other cultures, and on the church and homosexuality. I strongly urge that you read it in full – or download or bookmark it for future reference, as I have done.

Follow Terence’s amazingly energetic and theologically responsible blog, Queering The Church. Amazing stuff.

Catholics and Gays: Joel Connelly Calls Out The Church

The Seattle PI’s Joel Connelly has an illustrious history of commentary in Seattle. I’ve enjoyed him for years. But in Monday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he makes one of the best cases for the Catholic Church to give up the paranoid same-sex marriage rhetoric- and his seasoned, well-reasoned thoughts beg to be shared. Excerpt:

English: Schwörstadt: Catholic Church Deutsch:...

The bishops see themselves as shepherds, but American Catholics are not sheep.  They think and act independently.  A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly three quarters of Catholics favor letting gays and lesbians marry (43 percent) or form civil unions (31 percent).

“Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall,” the survey concluded.

The church is also hurting itself:  Its social activism, defense of human dignity and witness to peace should make it a beacon for all who seek justice.  Instead, the church is pilloried as an instrument of reaction.

Its wounds are self inflicted, a classic case of clerical error.  As the National Catholic Reporter put it, editorializing after New York legislators approved marriage equality last spring:

“Even if the bishops had a persuasive case to make and the legislative tools at their disposal, their public conduct in recent years — wholesale excommunications, railing at politicians, denial of honorary degrees and speaking platforms at Catholic institutions, using the Eucharist as a political bludgeon, refusing to entertain any questions or dissenting opinions, and engaging in open warfare with the community’s thinkers as well as those, especially women, who have loyally served the church — has resulted in a kind of episcopal caricature, the common scolds of the religion world, the caustic party of ‘no’.”

Connelly is taking a fair and balanced approach, using the Catholic tradition of social justice and charity to argue for the reality of human experience- in this case the reality of same-sex relationships. The very reality of them flies in the face of the “Natural Law‘ argument:

“Jesus befriended those who were marginalized because He knew it was only in the security of loving, unconditional relationships that hearts and lives are healed,” argues writer Justin Cannon, reflecting the Christian faith as taught to us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Not only healed, but enriched.  I’ve witnessed a warm, very traditional moment over the years.  A goofy, dreamy smile crosses the face of a friend, who after years of playing the field announces  “Well, I met this woman (or guy)!”  It signals a readiness to settle down.  My natural reaction is to say,   “You lucky dog!” and to be there, in affection and support, when the knot is tied.

Life together is a natural passage in life.  Yet, according to “natural law” the Catholic church frowns on my friends who fall in love with somebody of their own gender.  It violates nature, according to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement, because such “inherently non-procreative” relationships “cannot be given the status of marriage.”

The church’s positions are, as state Sen. Ed Murray put it Friday night, “hurtful” as well as contradictory.

Out of one side of its mouth, the church condemns “all forms of unjust discrimination, harrassment and abuse” against gays and lesbians. At the same time, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church describes “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.”

As my critical thinking professor at Carroll College taught me, the Church’s argument is flawed. It can’t have it both ways. It either acknowledges the reality of same-sex relationships- the reality of the complexity  of human love as a gift from God- or it becomes the ubiquitous symbol of fantasy, its credibility falling off the edge of its own absurdly flattened earth.

Connelly’s brave, full essay is here.

New Hampshire GOP’s On The Gays

Didn’t watch the New Hampshire Debate?

English: Logo from the television program The ...

Yeah, me neither. I thoroughly enjoyed the Twitterbate, though- the feeds of my Tweeps were hilarious. I was very busy watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. But don’t think me completely irresponsible- I knew there would be some good summaries this morning. Here’s one of them.

Think Progress has compiled all of the candidates statements regarding LGBT persons/issues/paranoid persecution complexes into a single video. Fascinating viewing- especially if you’re a psychologist:

 

 

Hope for MT? : Commonwealth Countries Asked To Decriminalize Gays

Leaders of Commonwealth countries will be asked to decriminalise homosexuality to help to stop the spread of HIV, an Australian official has said.

Forty-one of the 53 Commonwealth countries – including Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana – still criminalise gay sex and HIV campaigners say such laws are seriously hampering safe sex initiatives.

The 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Perth, Australia from 28-30 October.

CHOGM 2011 will bring together more than 50 world leaders representing approximately one-quarter of the world’s countries and one-third of the world’s population. The meetings originated with the of the leaders of the self-governing colonies of the British Empire in 1887- and still has great influence in setting human rights policy throughout the world.

Sodomy laws in the US were invalidated by The U.S. Supreme Court in the ruling of Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003. However, several states- including Montana- still keep these shameful and impotent laws on the books- despite reasonable efforts to remove them– presumably as a slap in the face to the “Uppity Gays”. And yes, I will mention (Again!) that the Official Montana Republican Platform still calls for the criminalization of homosexual acts.

Will this meeting in Australia have an effect in Montana?

Probably not- at least not directly. I suspect this will not be seen as a discussion of human rights, but as a discussion of disease and epidemics- at least at first. And if the last legislative session is any indication, the zenophobes in charge of Montana’s legislative agenda will see it as unimportant (and non-applicable) world politics that don’t apply here.

But any progress is good progress- and this is progress- this discussion has never happened at this world level before- and it eventually filters through. Even to Montana.

I just hope I live to see it.

Himes Rants Against…, well, Everybody

The Missoulian today reports Harris Himes is ranting that gays, pro-abortionists and even State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen probably got him thrown in jail.

Wow. If we gays were that powerful, I can think of a lot of other things we’d probably do first…

Excerpt:

Himes was charged with six felonies in Ravalli County Justice Court Wednesday after turning himself in to authorities. He said he’ll hire an attorney and posted bail of $10,000 shortly after the hearing.

Himes was required to surrender his passport and will next appear in District Court on either Oct. 6 or Oct. 20.

He didn’t keep a low profile after leaving the Ravalli County jail, though.

Peter Christian of KGVO radio’s “Talkback” show mentioned the charges against Himes on Thursday morning and Himes called in to respond. He told Christian he is an attorney, but knows better than to represent himself.

Himes went on to claim that gay and pro-abortion activists may be behind the charges against him and co-defendant James “Jeb” Bryant, another self-proclaimed pastor.

Himes further claimed that State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen may also be behind the charges because of political disagreements they’ve had in the past. Other callers quickly, and forcefully, called him out for making groundless accusations.

This could get interesting. I’ve had a friend say this may prove that he is clinically mental- just as I wondered yesterday. Or maybe he’s playing that card early.

Hmmm.

Full story here.