Saturday, 31 August 2013


Joseph Bottum writes for Commonweal Magazine about The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage.

Kelvin Holdsworth blogs about Atonement theory and the Naughty Step.

The Church Times has a comprehensive review of Greenbelt: Greenbelt 2013 - Life begins…

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 31 August 2013 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

The piece by Joseph Bottum repays careful reading, although it is at a length that will appeal to people who read essays in The New Yorker and then say "you know, they should have given the writer a bit more space".

It portrays the same problem that the CofE has in the UK. Bottum speaks regretfully of the decline of Catholic intellectualism as a force in the USA: no longer do people who disagree with Catholicism at root at least still admire the rigour of its thinking. Because what the catholics are saying about homosexuality is so egregious (they're opposed, for example, to giving gays the right to not be dismissed from employment, which rather kicks "social justice" and "love the sinner, hate the sin" out of court) what they say about anything else is dismissed as well.

That's the CofE's problem in the UK: the days of the CofE being a general force in civil society are gone, because no-one really cares what the church says about morality when its worldview is so horrible. Welby can try to distract attention by talking about debt or justice, but the elephant in the room won't go away.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 31 August 2013 at 3:26pm BST

From the kind of comments that Bottum is receiving on Commonweal, I think it's safe to say that he will not receive another invite to appear on (much more conservative) EWTN.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 1 September 2013 at 4:09am BST

The article by Bottum is well worth reading though as has been said is longer than most articles. It does though come at things from a slightly different angle. Interesting at this late stage in the debate to read something which gives different perspectives on the issue. I hope it can find its way onto Justin Welby's reading list.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 1 September 2013 at 11:50am BST

I suspect Joseph Bottum rather regrets that article.

Posted by: Jill on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 8:05am BST

It is on ++JW's reading list, or so he says.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 10:38am BST

Has Joseph Bottum actually contributed anything to the debate by this article and its subsequent regrets? I think not. I am also saddened that he clings to a 'Natural Law' argument that is so weak when applied to ethics. That way lies the most open road to Nazism, which is thoroughly in accord with Natural Law. - Don't jump down my throat because I mention the N word. But do please give it some genuine thought

Posted by: Commentator on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 5:18pm BST

Bottum is a machiavellian who urged prolifers to join forces with neocons. His late conversion to marriage equality seems based on machiavellian opportunism as well. He says the metaphysical foundations of marriage have vanished. They haven't. Gays are not out to destroy those foundations but to build on them.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Monday, 2 September 2013 at 10:43pm BST

Bottum seems so far out in theoretical land that he's not even wrong. His view from on high can't discern normal human responses in gay people. Marriage to avoid loneliness in old age? A result possibly, but not a first motive. Two people meet, bond, live together, and find that they complete each other.

His promotion of any variety of Natural Law (deep or shallow) confuses Intellectual coherence with internal consistency. I have an old text book, Hall's Dogmatic Theology, that lists the nine orders of angels and the varieties of sin in outline order -- all very neat and consistent. And not related in any way to real life.

If "the moral positions we take have to comport with the whole of the moral universe," they ought more to comport with the actual working of the world. We aren't created male or female -- we develop from a female pattern through the influence of chromosomes, hormones, and nutrition into individuals whose sexuality falls at some point along a continuum. The existence of intersexed people who are physically between genders demonstrates the reality. Some people are attracted to others of the same gender, and that's a fact of life unrefuted by all the armchair reasoning of tradition. Aquinas had a great system, worked out in detail, but, as others here have noted, it was fragile.

Bottum is a disciple of Roman fundamentalism. Nice to see him struggling, but his reenchantment project lacks appeal. There are reasons for the current reigning disenchantment with evidence-rejecting mythology. (If you want to believe without evidence, join the creationists and climate-change deniers.)

Posted by: Murdoch on Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 2:28am BST

Bottum wants a re-enchantment -- a new mythology of wonder through which to view experience. It occurs to me that the re-enchantment has occurred. It was called Science, and offers wonders large and small, galazies and atoms. Although it functions as much on authority and tradition as former worldviews, it has the advantage of being correctable. Evidence can trump authority and tradition.

Posted by: Murdoch on Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 2:10pm BST

Hall's Dogmatic Theology,sounds like a candidate for one of my altered book projects !

I love olde books that can benefit from eing transformed and thus perhaps, given a new lease of (very different) life.

Posted by: Rev'd Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 3:33pm BST

"He says the metaphysical foundations of marriage have vanished. They haven't."

Or, alternatively, they never existed in the first place. Almost all of the discourse of marriage spoken of my soi-disant Christian intellectuals would come as a complete surprise to people who were actually married.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 4:45pm BST

I think St Augustine's metaphysical foundations of marriage make considerable sense (fides proles sacramentum); perhaps not the language of soi-disant Christian intellectuals today or Theology of the Body groupies. I don't agree that science or sociology tells us all we need to know about marriage. Classical Christian thought "enchanted" marriage, and the enchantment has just now reached lgbt folk. I found Bottum's essay unreadable, but we will find lots of bishops completing their education in public in the same embarrassing way in the years ahead.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 11:22pm BST
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