The Anchoress comes to the defense of Joseph Bottum

Our society is obviously not properly ordered. It’s so far from being properly ordered, in fact, that I doubt Aquinas or Aristotle would even believe such a society could exist. Nearly half of us were raised in broken homes. More than half of us, if we get married, will get divorced. A single parent home is as common as a dual-parent home. Sex is everywhere, on magazine covers at the grocery store, on the internet, on TV. Nothing is sacred. Furthermore, nature, insofar as it exists in modern city and suburban life, is manicured and transplanted and sprayed with pesticides. Most of us don’t even know what the created Earth looks like. How can we honestly expect anyone, even Christians raised in Christian homes, to really understand natural law and the way it is ordered toward the good when the only “common” that we’ve ever known is such a warped and manipulated image of creation? I’d argue that our understanding of natural law is primarily through the use of speculative reason now. Nature has become unrecognizable, and so it has been relegated to the realm of theory.

All this is not to say that I think we should all immediately go gay and get married. All this is not to say that I actively support the legalization of gay civil marriage. All this is not to say that I reject the teachings of the Church in any way. There is truth in the Church, and wisdom beyond measure. She has been entrusted to safeguard the teachings of God himself. Even the teachings I don’t understand (of which there are plenty), I still submit to. That’s what it means to be a Catholic.

I just also happen to agree with Joseph Bottum, that the fight over gay civil marriage is not the good fight we should be fighting. If it ever comes down to the state pressing the Church to perform such marriages as sacraments, that will be the good fight, the fight we must have, the fight we must not back down from.

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11 Responses to The Anchoress comes to the defense of Joseph Bottum

  1. The essence here, is not just so-called “natural law” (some theological Catholics should try and crack Karl Barth’s “nein” to Natural Theology!). The real subject here is God’s Word and Revelation! And here there can only be that great statement of ‘abomination’, which from the Hebrew means unclean to begin with, but moves to disgusting, idolatrous, detestable and a moral stench! Indeed homosexual sin was considered a great “Abomination” before God in the OT and the Hebrew people! (Lev. 18: 22) And surely this was a great Gentile sin, which Paul notes in Romans chapter 1: 18-32, and Jews and Christians simply cannot allow or practice it, (1 Cor. 6: 9-11 ; 13-18, etc.)

    The grave problem today is our so-called acceptance of modernity & postmodernity, which in reality attacks the very centre of our understanding of God’s own reality of ontology and nature of being!

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Fr. Robert,

      You wrote: The essence here, is not just so-called “natural law” (some theological Catholics should try and crack Karl Barth’s “nein” to Natural Theology!). The real subject here is God’s Word and Revelation!

      No, I don’t agree. In a pluralistic free republic or parliamentary state, it is absolutely vital that our citizens, and especially our parishioners, understand the distinction between theological doctrine based on divine revelation, which compels only believers, and moral doctrine of Natural Law, deduced from the order of the universe by reason alone, which compels the whole human race. This distinction plays out in several ways.

      >> 1. Those who are not Christian argue that we should not impose our religious beliefs and laws upon them, for they are not Christian — and rightly so, just as we would not want those who adhere to another religion to impose their religious beliefs and laws upon us. Respect for the other’s religion, even if that religion be Atheism or Agnosticism, is a two way street.

      >> 2. Christians who do not understand the distinction between religious doctrine and moral doctrine are prone to assume that all doctrine taught by their church or ecclesial communion is religious in nature, and thus that it is not a proper basis for voting or for legislation by our secular government. The result is that, in their ignorance, they wrongly vote against candidates who stand for fundamental moral principals and against laws that are necessary for the moral order of a just society.

      The consequence is just what we see in many western nations today — an abandonment of just laws based on fundamental moral principles that are universal, under the misunderstanding that these laws are somehow religious in nature.

      Having said that, I should also point out that the belief in a Creator carries the direct immediate logical consequence that whatever is inherent in the order of the universe is a manifestation of that creator’s will and a revelation thereof. In other words, the universe itself is ultimately part of divine revelation, and Natural Law, correctly discerned and understood, is itself the manifest will of the Creator. This means that Natural Law cannot contradict anything else in the body of divine revelation, composed of scripture and tradition from a Catholic and Orthodox perspective. Rather, the direct consequence is that whatever is contrary to Natural Law, and thus immoral and intrinsically evil, also is contrary to the will of the Creator and thus constitutes sin. Conversely, however, something can be contrary to the Creator’s will, and thus be sin, either objectively or subjectively, without being immoral and thus evil.

      You wrote: The grave problem today is our so-called acceptance of modernity & postmodernity, which in reality attacks the very centre of our understanding of God’s own reality of ontology and nature of being!

      Rather, the grave problem today is the omission of classical philosophy from the curricula of our primary and secondary educational systems. With this omission, our schools fail to provide essential context for the study of the natural sciences and the humanities, resulting in a population living in ignorance. Until we fix this, the downward spiral will continue.


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  3. EPMS says:

    I think the Anchoress is expressing my point, from another angle. From a Natural Law perspective homosexuality is on a par with all other forms of sexual activity which are not potentially reproductive, virtually all of which (except masturbation, as far as I know) were formerly illegal. Should we re-criminalise them? And if there is no appetite for that, why is it so important to resist gay (civil) marriage, a fight which, as the Anchoress points out, has already been lost legally and in the court of public opinion? It is too easy to assume that the energy for this fight comes from the residue of prejudice and fear surrounding homosexuals. In previous discussions a number of posters claimed to have never heard a sermon about the evil of contraception, never seen a petition on the subject or heard a Church leader speaking out about it. Yet even a casual attender has heard gay marriage denounced from the pulpit or been asked to rally against it in some way. Why is this? I think the whole thing accomplishes nothing except reinforcement of anti-Catholic stereotypes.

    • Foolishness says:

      Interesting points on where one draws the line between what the Church might deem immoral behavior and what should be illegal. I am more inclined to have the government not legislate morality but that includes not having the government engage in indoctrination of the new sexual dogma of gender identity etc. Less is more when it comes to government intrusion because now we are seeing terrible intrusion into families because of the government’s adherence to the new doctrine of political correctness.

      Interestingly, some of the best arguments against gay marriage have been made by McGill University professor of Christian Thought Douglas Farrow who wrote about the way same-sex marriage would make us all a “Nation of Bastards” by obliterating in law the natural, biological foundation of the family and eliminating such terms as mother and father and replacing them with a social construct. Marriage existed prior to the state, but with redefinition, the state is determining who gets to be a parent irrespective of any biological relationship. There is a totalitarian impulse behind it.

      Some people such as Iain Benson were arguing before Canada even entered the marriage debate that the state should get out of the marriage business precisely because he foresaw the religious freedom implications of the state’s redefining marriage. That was my biggest objection to the move and my fears have proven to be real.

      Funny, one might never have considered the religious freedom implications of seemingly a private matter such as contraception until the Obama administration make paying for everyone else’s contraception and abortifacients and sterilizations mandatory.

      Maybe I’m jaded, but I really don’t care all that much if a gay friend wants to have a ceremony and call it a marriage. I do care, however, if the state forces me to call it a marriage or to indoctrinate my children or grandchildren into a certain Marxist critique of gender identity or makes it illegal to preach continence and chastity outside of marriage, which is rapidly becoming the case.

      I would like to see a genuine pluralist society with room for real diversity, not state power being used to enforce conformity to whatever the dogma-du-jour is.

      • Foolishness says:

        Misspoke. Of course I want the government to legislate certain kinds of morality—-stealing, fraud, abortion—but not to have government cracking down on everything that goes on between consenting adults, including whether they eat fatty foods and drink sugary sodas.

      • Surely what the culture does (today), is simply not what the Church does or allows, most especially on moral ethics. But in this day and age, it appears the culture is most certainly affecting the Church, rather than the Church affecting the culture! And there is a real difference between true freedom and godly or natural nature, verses simply “pluralism”. I don’t see the Judeo-Christian God as some kind of “pluralist”! Indeed moral right and wrong has undergone a huge shift today! Just what is our standard these days? It seems very clear that the sexual nature and desire was to be met and somewhat conquered as ‘In Christ’, in Judeo-Christianity! This certainly is the position of St. Paul. There is no perfection here, but there is certainly absolute lines drawn! And this is based on the Creational lines of God Himself!

        And this is not a question of any criminal code (in the NT), but the moral law of God! As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11) WE cannot miss the person and power of the Triune God here!

        @EPMS: If your gay, or oriented there, just come out and say so! There is a whole sub-culture of Catholic Gays in the RCC. And this btw really should concern Roman Catholics, for we already know they exist in the priesthood, and who knows how high up this sub-culture goes? Especially in a dominant all male hierarchy! I am just being real here! How many of us have known a gay priest or priests? I know I have, and several actually. And I am not just speaking negative here, but from the simple reality! And note of course I am not gay myself. But were not speaking about just where people are at today, but where the Church “Catholic” should both teach and reside!

  4. EPMS says:

    Meaty points. The state has, of course, “forced” you to consider people married who have other living spouses to whom they are validly married in the eyes of the Church. Does it put a crimp in your day to call someone in this position Mrs Whatever?

  5. Desiderius Beneventanensis says:

    Many of the remarks emanate from the culture of a “post-christian” society. They are sad. Going backwards means going forwards. ..

    • Rev22:17 says:


      You wrote: Many of the remarks emanate from the culture of a “post-christian” society. They are sad.


      You wrote: Going backwards means going forwards.

      No, we cannot go backward. Rather, the challenge is to find a way to present the gospel — and here I do mean the fullness of it — so that it is relevant in the current day and thus that will enable society to move forward to a new era of authentic Christian faith.

      And indeed, this is the intent of the “New Evangelism” and the present “Year of Faith.”


    • EPMS says:

      Do you mean that a return to a society in which one group’s definition of Christian values was the law of the land would be a good thing? Or that current society thinks it is making progress but is actually morally regressing?

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