What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Same-Sex Marriage and the Failure of Justificatory Liberalism

That is the title of a piece I published this morning as the Daily Article in First Thing's On the Square. Here is an excerpt:

There is a certain irony in seeing those who speak so often of tolerance and understanding using the occasion of a political loss to unleash a torrid of vitriol that no one would ever confuse with tolerance and understanding if the perpetrators were burning crosses or Dixie Chick CDs. And yet the perpetrators in this instance, the losers in the Prop 8 election, do not see it that way. They see the absence of same-sex marriage from our legal regime as a grave injustice that must be remedied by any means necessary. For them, tolerance does not extend to injustice.

But then the initial argument, offered to the general public several decades ago--the call for the wider society to be tolerant of homosexuality--was something of a ruse. Many of us were under the impression that the requirement of tolerance entailed that citizens were in fact permitted to offer negative or positive judgments about the objects of their toleration, and in some instances shape policy consistent with those judgments. After all, one does not tolerate that with which one agrees; one embraces it. One can only tolerate that with which one disagrees. This is why the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles is misnamed. One ought not to be merely tolerant of one's fellow human beings; one ought to embrace them as persons with intrinsic dignity made in the image of God. Of course, what these persons believe and practice for a variety of subjects--including religion and human sexuality--are the proper objects of tolerance.

You can read the rest here.

(Cross-posted)

Comments (12)

Liberals never seem to acknowledge, or even recognize, that they are hoist by their own petard, hence the appeal of Rortean disregard for contradiction and incoherence: This is our conversation, and we are entitled to set its groundrules, even if they make no sense.

Exactly what contradiction are you referring to, Max? The supposed contradiction of tolerance, or the failure of justificatory liberalism?

Beckwith actually makes a good point about that failure, but there's a lot in that article untied to that one good point. For example, in the second to last paragraph, he comments on gays rejecting the state's denial of marriage rights because that denial is based on a view of sexuality the gays reject. What now, the state is supposed to have a particular view of sexuality? How specific should that view be (given that this is a catholic blog, I'll bet there are at least a few eyebrow raising kinks present, AMIRIGHT?)? Or is this meant to be connected to the argument that the state should simply leave marriage to the church (an idea I support)?

Actually, the contradiction of liberalism to which I refer is the one Frank mentions in his concluding paragraph, to the effect that, while liberals insist upon some construction of public reason - that religious believers must not advance arguments which assume sectarian premises; or to state it conversely, that religious believers must articulate arguments on the basis of premises their interlocutors would accept - liberalism itself fails the test of public reason, inasmuch as many people simply do not accept its premises and authorities. Simply applied, then, the state cannot but have a view of sexuality; if marriage is privatized in the sense that it becomes a matter of sectarian preference simply, then that view is that anything goes, marriage is but a private contract bearing a private meaning. Certainly heterosexuals have already established this marital orthodoxy de facto, and homosexuals want in on the game, what few of the formalities and rituals remain, but it is still a view of marriage and sexuality, just as is my view that it is a load of twaddle.

...given that this is a catholic blog...

Mike,

I should state in all fairness to this website's contributors, administration & ancillary personnel as well as for the benefit of their guests, that this is NOT a catholic blog.

In fact, the only Catholic amongst its contributors is Zippy.

Kindly do take note for the future out of respect for the aforementioned individuals' Christian affiliations.

Thanks.

Well, Zippy and the guy who just wrote a book and his conversion to Catholicism.

But, ok, not a catholic blog.

liberalism itself fails the test of public reason, inasmuch as many people simply do not accept its premises and authorities.

Only if you so narrowly define liberalism as to leave out a large portion of self-identified liberals. There is a substantial amount of American political discussion from both the left and the right that finds common ground in a civil religion; sure, they disagree on the interpretation of the premises, but they still agree with them. For example, only a small minority of American leftists would insist on a complete abandonment of the free market.

Alex, I'll take "Catholic Converts for $1000."

"[T]he guy who just wrote a book and his conversion to Catholicism."

Who is a contributor to What's Wrong with the World.

I'm sorry, Mike, that's not quite specific enough.

:-)

There is a substantial amount of American political discussion from both the left and the right that finds common ground in a civil religion; sure, they disagree on the interpretation of the premises, but they still agree with them.

Of course. But what you're saying, in essence, is that left-liberals are entitled to their contradictions, but right-liberals are not, and will have to get with the program established by the left-liberals.

Speaking as a non-Catholic contributor, I say quite heartily that the government certainly should have a "view of sexuality" because sexuality is an irreducible and crucial aspect of human society that impinges upon numerous areas of relevance to the state's activities. This includes not only granting that recognition to human sexual relations which we call "marriage" (and which special recognition homosexual couples now want for themselves to make them feel mainstream and to change the culture in the direction they prefer) but also issues of child custody and more. It therefore becomes important that the government have at least in broad outlines a correct view of human sexuality. Otherwise, we have a mess. And it doesn't, increasingly, so we do, increasingly, have a mess. All the more so as the homosexual agenda includes imposing their incorrect view of human sexuality on the rest of us. The notion of government neutrality on the nature of human sexuality is a myth and one that I suspect is often offered in bad faith. The jack-booted techniques of the left in trying to impose first a feminist agenda and now a homosexual one on private persons, employers, businessmen, and even parents, simply makes that bad faith clear.

Well, Zippy and the guy who just wrote a book and his conversion to Catholicism.

Mike,

Thanks. Correction duly noted (for some reason, I continue to think of Beckwith as a guest contributor).

I just thought it unfair to our hosts/hostess to designate what is more aptly an ecumenical blog as a catholic one.

...in essence, is that left-liberals are entitled to their contradictions, but right-liberals are not,..

Right-liberals accept the premises (autonomous individuals entering a social contract) and terms of the left-liberal. They consented to the ground-rules, so it seems absurd, at this stage of the game, to complain about the umpire and the results. No one should honsestly expect the managerial Left to re-write the rules, or be restrained in their application of State power. Libertarians, neo-cons and mainstream conservatives helped build the scaffold. Can't complain now, about its usage or the tightness of the noose.

Those who have a Eucharistic understanding of man will place the human person at the center of our concerns and social constructs and resist the incoming, but passing tide with Grace.

Ed Feser is also Catholic. I'm pretty sure.

Quite right. We have to keep up with our (relatively) new colleagues.

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