Bottum's Up on Same Sex Marriage

The blogosphere has been all abuzz with reactions to Catholic intellectual Joseph Bottum's recent meandering piece on same sex marriage. The Sexual Revolutionaries consider Bottum's support of redefining marriage a coup, while supporters of natural marriage are naturally disappointed. But I think this article provides important clues to the way the Sexual Revolution has proceeded and succeeded. And far from persuading me to change my views, Mr. Bottum has convinced me more than ever that natural marriage is the right side of history.

At the bottom of the essay is this note: "Funding for this essay was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation." Well now. The rich people in our country want to redefine marriage. They have wanted the entire Sexual Revolution. The Sexual Revolution has been good for the rich. For the poor, not so much. But never mind. (If there are any rich people who would like to support the Sexual Counter-Revolution, donations to the Ruth Institute will be gratefully accepted.)

The Sexual Revolutionaries have, once again, seduced a Catholic intellectual with money and flattery. They did it with contraception. (See Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control by E. Michael Jones.) They did it with abortion. (See The Politics of Abortion by Anne Hendershott.) The Revolutionaries intuit that the Catholic Church is their most serious institutional and intellectual opponent. They have had a consistent strategy of creating division inside the Church, and "turning" prominent Catholics. Bottum's essay fits within this pattern of Rockefeller money supporting pro-contraception conferences at Notre Dame.

The content of this 9300-word essay purportedly on marriage, is more remarkable for what it excludes than for what it includes. Mr. Bottum manages to overlook the question of whether there are any objective differences between men and women that deserve protection or even notice, in the law. And he fails to even mention children, what they need, and whether they have any just entitlements that marriage might somehow be involved in protecting.

In this respect, Bottum has stepped right into line with the rhetorical strategy of the marriage redefiners, straight and gay alike. They insist that this debate is about whether we like gay people. No other questions can be discussed or even admitted as relevant. This is the way to manufacture a consensus. Only permit one set of voices to be heard. Marginalize, stigmatize and ignore anyone who disagrees, not only with the answer to the question, but to the framing of the question itself. The only message anyone will hear is the "Consensus View," because the public square has been artificially purged of all dissent.

Finally, it is truly astonishing that Jody Bottum suggests that somehow the Catholic Church has lost its moral authority to oppose the redefinition of marriage, because we have allowed divorce and contraception to slide. (I typically hesitate to use tentative words like "suggests" and "seems" as they are usually weasel words. But in my defense, I must say, Bottum's essay has trouble coming to the point.) Bottum seems to say that because these practices are widely accepted in the culture, it would be unfair not to allow this new practice of de-gendered marriage to be accepted as well.

This is astonishing for two reasons. First, the Catholic Church famously has opposed both divorce and contraception from the beginning and continues to oppose both. At great material cost to herself, I might add. Whatever slippage there may be in applying the doctrine in practice, however unsuccessful the Church's opposition in the public square, one cannot claim with a straight face that the Church has been soft on these questions.

Second, the Church has been proven correct on both points. I don't mean to take on the theological arguments in this particular forum. I only mean to say that both divorce and contraception have had widespread harmful effects on society, and that this should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention. (See Adam, Eve and the Pill, by Mary Eberstadt.) Very few people predicted this. Very few people will admit it now. The Catholic Church was in the forefront of those who predicted that these things would end badly.

While society has lurched from one social disaster to another, the Catholic Church has never wavered in its opposition to both divorce and contraception. It is foolish to say that the Church is on the "wrong side of history," in the face of this accurate counter-cultural prediction. The Church has profound moral authority, more than any other institution, really, to speak out against the redefinition of marriage.

Divorce and contraception were empty promises. I personally predict that de-gendering marriage is also an empty promise that will end badly. Thanks for the advice Jody. But I prefer to stick with the winning team.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the President of the Ruth Institute.

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