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May 25, 2005


Jonathan Dresner

Well, I never thought I'd see the phrase "weasel word" written by a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church.

Anyway, I think his conflation of "private moral belief" with "gut reaction" is grossly unfair to those of us who believe (as you yourself did, Hugo, in your Anabaptist moments) in the spiritual autonomy of the individual and who have spent good portions of our lives developing a personal moral sense which is neither Scriptual nor Doctrinal nor any kind of Orthodoxy but which is nonetheless consistent and clear and entirely satisfactory.

The fact that liberal tolerance is mostly experienced as tolerance of sexual/gender differences (that isn't what it mostly is, just how it manifests in these discussions) is a function of two things, I think: first, because sexuality and control is of such concern to .... non-liberal folks, we end up talking about it more than we do issues of economic justice, redemption (if you need it), etc; second, most of the other axes of tolerance (race, social standing, etc) are no longer enshrined in law and as such are largely not issues where social action is relevant.

La Lubu

OK Stephen. I admit my sensitivity to the issue. I'm sincerely tired of going to Mass with my daughter in hand, and getting the Evil Eye for it. I'm tired of having to be Supermama just to get the average break routinely handed out to married folk. And I'm beyone tired of the incredibly obvious double standard offered up not just between married parents vs. single parents, but between single male parents and single female parents. My nerves are rubbed all the way raw on this issue, so forgive my shortness.

Point being, that if all you know of a person is that they've had unmarried sex, then you really don't know enough to judge whether that fact had or is having any impact on the rest of us, and it's a ludicrous assumption that it's the sex that has the impact, rather than other decisions that person has made. Like in Hugo's example up above; I would argue that the problem with adultery isn't the sex per se, but the duplicity, the lying, the taking of one's partner for granted, etc. The sex is just how that person's basic selfishness manifested. It could have manifested in another way, that is more apt to get a "pass" from society at large.


La Lubu:

We live in a "sin soaked" world and all going to Mass should turn their eye inward. I do love Chesterton's retort when asked what he believed to be wrong with the world -- "I am." Would that those who scowl and grimace at you hear this . . .

I don't envy you the task of trying to raise your children alone. I know women who do it well -- Herculean effort comes to mind, as does un-sung saints -- Blessings on you and yours.



From the words you quoted, I cannot disagree with the Cardinal's observation that tolerance, as he describes it, is of limited use.

However, as others have noted, I think his analysis is based on a caricature of the "liberal" position. To be sure, I think that many liberals, when espousing views on the topics he named, bring it on themselves.

As a gay Christian, I ultimately seek much more than "tolerance". But, tolerance, while not an end unto itself, can be a rest stop and an appropriate posture to assume while the Church, society, etc. sorts through these issues. I think liberals should work mightily to clarify what they mean when they advocate tolerance and individual liberty. They shouldn't be ends unto themselves. They are rather positions we value out of a recognition that majorities have the power to dictate to minorities, but holding a position that is held by the majority is not an indicator of its accuracy or its relationship to the Truth. It seems that loving our neighbor or following the Golden Rule are related articulations of the respect and dignity we owe others. Therefore, unbridled individualism should not be the goal of tolerance and respect for conscience. Quite the contrary; they are necessary values so that we can live as community and more fully approach the Truth.

Conscience, therefore, is NOT the first thing that pops into our mind, but should be reasonable, humble dissent from the majority position. I mean, is there ever room for dissent? Or a minority position? Minority positions have informed and changed majority positions in the past.

There are, of course, details to be worked out in application (e.g., I would submit that those who are opposed to abortion have a much better claim for infringing on individual conscience and dissent than those who oppose gay marriage based on the underlying understanding of the harm that would result from error).

Finally, John is right. It is my desire to participate fully in society and the community that motivates me to seek truthful and proper recognition of my gay relationship. Of course, I would gain from the community, but, I honestly believe, the community would gain from me and others like me by affirming and accepting me. If all I get/you give is tolerance, then we've fallen far short of the optimum.


Robert, I really liked this:

"Therefore, unbridled individualism should not be the goal of tolerance and respect for conscience. Quite the contrary; they are necessary values so that we can live as community and more fully approach the Truth."


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