Panel Discussion on Marriage at Notre Dame March 17

GrottoI will be joining Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, and Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, coauthors, with Robert P. George, of the book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense for a panel discussion on the role of the Catholic Church in the cultural and political debate about marriage.

The discussion, “Marriage, the Church and the Common Good,” is sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture and several student groups and will take place at 7 p.m. Monday (March 17) in DeBartolo Hall, Room 101, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

According to Michael Bradley, a Notre Dame senior student who organized the event, “no cultural, legal or philosophical issues are gripping the nation as firmly as are the questions that comprise the marriage debate. What is marriage? Why does it matter? How should public policy reflect sound answers to these questions? What role, if any, should the Catholic Church play in the development of this discussion? Having four of the most articulate Catholic voices in the marriage debate gathered here to discuss these and other questions should be an unparalleled occasion to explore them in harmony with the Catholic tradition.”

The discussion is free and open to the public.

LGBT Rights and the UN: What the Church Does Not Teach

Dome of St. Peter'sA lot of information (and misinformation) has been swirling around concerning a recent report by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child which criticizes the Catholic Church. Among the claims that keep being repeated is that the UN has called on the Church to “change its teaching” on homosexuality. It’s a claim repeated gloatingly by some in the media (“see, we told Catholics they were wrong, now the UN says so”), and with outrage by Catholic commentators (“how dare those liberal desk-drivers at the UN tell the Church what to do!”). But is it actually true? And, either way, what difference does it make to our efforts to reach out to the LGBT community?

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Martin Luther King on the Natural Law

One of the minor injustices of Martin Luther King’s legacy is that he was such a good speaker that he is often remembered more for moments of soaring oratory, (“I have a dream, today!”) than for the quality of his mind and the clarity of his arguments. The following excerpt from his April 16, 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” illustrates that he was not only a powerful speaker: he is also a first-rate thinker. Indeed, a case could be made (though I do not make it here) that King is the most significant figure in twentieth century American discourse about the Natural Law.

The central point of King’s argument, which he takes from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, is that there is a law higher than human law, and that any human law which is at odds with this higher law is unjust. All human beings are bound to obey the higher law, and thus are bound to obey human laws which are in harmony with this higher law; but, for the same reason, they are bound to disobey laws which conflict with the higher law.

The letter was written in response to a “A Call for Unity” published April 12, 1963 by a group of white Birmingham clergy, criticizing the protests led by Rev. King and local African American leaders. 

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They’re Doing It Wrong

Suppose that a prominent secular gay organization, hoping to better understand and respond to pro-family Christian groups, sent a reporter to interview Heidi Fleiss, the former Hollywood Madam, in order to get her perspective on why men and women want to marry and start families, and to gain insight on why some of them try to make marriage and family policy a major political issue.

I would think that most of us would recognize this as one of the least intelligent strategies available for understanding what motivates pro-family Christian groups—something more worthy of an article in The Onion or a Saturday Night Live skit than a serious article by activists who hope to affect social policy.

However, on Wednesday, Life Site News published an interview with Joseph Sciambra, a former gay porn actor, escort, sadomasochist, and Satanist. The interviewer, Peter Baklinski, asked Joseph:

Your experience with homosexuality is absolutely terrifying, especially when you relate the kind of sexual acts that were forced upon you and that you forced upon others. What you related of your experience seems quite alien from anything having to do with the political push for gay “marriage”. From your experience on the gay scene for ten years in the 90’s, what do you think is really behind the push for gay “marriage”?

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 5: Sins of the Heart

Scripture clearly teaches that sin comes from the heart. For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus teaches that the sins that defile a person come from inside a person’s heart, rather than from outside. In order to truly address our own sins, including the sins described in the previous two posts, we must address the condition of our hearts. The gospel is not really about behavior modification, but about inner transformation. Therefore, in this post, I will discuss some of the attitudes of the heart that contribute to sins against sexual minority people. Despite the fact that I’m not straight, these sins in particular are ones that I have often had to address in my own life, and that I have not completely overcome. However, I believe it will be edifying to bring them to light.

A very common sin, and one that Jesus addressed repeatedly during his earthly ministry, is that of self-righteousness. I think that a lot of straight Christians see themselves as fundamentally better people than most sexual minority people. This is not a truly Christian attitude, because we are all sinners who rely on God for salvation and sanctification. We have done nothing to earn a better place in God’s eyes through our own actions.

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Prejudice? Or Defending Marriage?

I think I was in middle school when the pastor of the little Southern Baptist Church I grew up in preached about Jesus’ words on the subject of divorce for the last time. Afterward, he received a great deal of criticism from many in the congregation—including a number of Sunday School teachers and other influential members—who were divorced and remarried.

After that, he did not preach any more sermons condemning divorce.

On the other hand, when there were sermons that denounced the homosexual agenda, or called for reinstating the biblical death penalty for homosexuals, the pastor’s call was met with a resounding “amen,” and there were no protests from the congregation. So those sermons continued throughout my youth, and were still occurring from time to time when I left for college.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 1: Introduction

In Christian discussions about sexual identity issues, the notions of “sin” and “morality” often come up. Typically, gay sex is in focus. There are often complaints about how the gay community is promoting particular sins or forms of sexual immorality. As someone who holds to a traditional understanding of sexual ethics, I agree with some of these concerns.

However, I think this is a far too limited way to view sin and morality. Christian morality cannot be reduced to sexual ethics; other issues are critically important as well. Furthermore, many complaints by Christians demonstrate much greater concern about certain sins committed by sexual minorities than about sins committed against sexual minorities, if sins against sexual minorities are acknowledged at all. Sins against sexual minority people are in fact serious and common, and as Matt Jones discusses in “What Is Love?,” true concern for sexual minorities requires us to acknowledge and fight these sins.

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Reflections on Russia

Vladimir Mother of God IconI grew up in the Eastern Orthodox Church and continue to call her home so whenever I see her handling the topic of homosexuality poorly it grieves me. This has never been so true as with the continued debate in Russia over the rights of its LGBT citizens. I feel very strongly that there must be a better way to discuss family values and uphold the basic rights and safety of a country’s citizens than Russia has been demonstrating. The Russian Orthodox Church’s involvement in the current debate only adds additional hurt and only legitimizes the Russian government’s persecution of LGBT people.

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