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viewpoint

SCOP president defends panelist

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Editor’s Note: A correction has been made in this article following the review of the transcript of the SCOP panel to reflect the exact words of Bishop Jackson. The direct and correct quote is included.

In April 1963, a group of eight white clergymen penned “A Call for Unity,” which criticized the efforts of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “unwise and untimely.” That letter noted a particular concern about “outsiders” who were disturbing the peace of their community. Rev. King responded to these “men of genuine good will” in his justly famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which explores great themes of justice and law with characteristic charity and eloquence.
In a recent Letter to the Editor, PrismND — whom I assume to be students of genuine good will — has objected to the presence of an outsider on this campus, who has disturbed what they perceive to be the comfortable limits of conversation. Even recognizing the difference in gravity of the situation (and in virtue of the respondent), this is a sad and serious development.
On April 3, Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), a secular organization, hosted a conference to explore the definition and importance of civil marriage. As part of that conference, we invited Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches, to speak to the importance of marriage from the perspective of the African-American community. In the course of a 45-minute session, Bishop Jackson made one comment that, in a form they have altered (unintentionally, I presume), the officers of PrismND find objectionable. Drawing on the experience of his Washington, D.C. community, Bishop Jackson asked, “How many have been hearing that there are all kinds of folks coming out these days…?” He then noted his impression that coming out as gay is “becoming almost, if I can use the phrase, the flavor of the week.” As a supporting example for this claim, he noted that the wife of the current mayor of New York City started her career as a writer identifying as a lesbian.
Bishop Jackson made no disparaging comment about the dignity of any person, same-sex attracted or not. His overriding point was to distinguish the present movement to redefine marriage from the Civil Rights Movement, about which he speaks with some authority. As he noted in his presentation, his father was threatened at gunpoint by local law enforcement in Florida merely for registering African-Americans to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

Now, Bishop Jackson was an invited speaker, not a spokesman for SCOP. We endorse not his every word, but his credibility as a worthwhile contributor to the discussion about marriage. As SCOP noted in the Notre Dame Marriage Petition, “We … affirm the inherent dignity and special vocation of every human being” and we have never understood the definition of a human being to be in any way affected by same-sex attraction. Then again, neither does Bishop Jackson, and we are troubled that PrismND so uncharitably interprets his words. PrismND claims that this Evangelical clergyman has acted contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church, appropriating a recent remark by Pope Francis in support of this view. SCOP does not object to its critics’ use of religious argumentation on principle, but we must ask: Would Pope Francis carelessly misinterpret the words of a fellow Christian as a discussion that “degrades the lives of those who identify as GLBTQ?”
I do not claim to be wise in the ways of the world, but I have lived in Washington, D.C. There, in a city still sharply divided by de facto segregation, I had the privilege of meeting heroic women who had overcome early and persistent sexual abuse and drug addictions with the help and support of Evangelical Christian communities. These good women came from fatherless families and continued the cycle of bearing children out of wedlock into terribly unsafe and unstable circumstances. They would be the first to say that their children deserve a society that promotes the right of every child to be raised by his or her mother and father, a society that makes such a situation possible, even likely.
I do not know Bishop Jackson’s circumstances. I do not share the experiences that lead him to phrase things as he does, but I consider the possibility that he may speak as one from a field hospital trying to stop the bleeding in a society whose marriage culture is decimated, whose children too often go without fathers. This makes me hesitate to suggest — based on one comment in relation to a movement he thinks would exacerbate the problem by redefining marriage — that he does not “keep in mind that behind the issue are GLBTQ-identifying people who hold God-given dignity.”
Moving forward, if we are to conduct any academic discourse at all on this campus, we must realize that to criticize (however well or ineptly) an action, a lifestyle or a concept is not the same as demeaning a person. Easy examples of what the latter looks like were offered by Bishop Jackson in his discussion of the Civil Rights Movement. While one should not intentionally hurt the feelings of another person, one’s primary commitment as a student and a scholar is to pursue the truth, not to accommodate sincerely held views to the dictates of a self-appointed board of censors. If criticisms are equated with deliberate harm, it is difficult to see how the academic life is possible. Come, let us reason together.

Tiernan Kane
Ph.D.  student
president
Students for Child-Oriented Policy
April 7

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • R

    Thank you for this well-written, genuine response to the criticism you and your opinions have endured. As our campus stresses its goal of achieving diversity, it is extremely important to honor every opinion of the members of our Notre Dame family, regardless of the popularity of the view. Respecting everyone’s right to possess and state their unique insights is what will make our University a melting pot and a safe place to express opinions and engage in healthy discourse.

  • none

    “… that to criticize (however well or ineptly) an action, a lifestyle or a concept is not the same as demeaning a person.”

    Here is where you’re wrong though. You think that being gay is nothing more than an “action or lifestyle.” And that is completely and totally false. When you demean the “homosexual lifestyle,” you demean me as a person. There’s no way around it. Go ahead and own that. Saying you’re not intending to demean people does not mean that you are not in fact demeaning people.

    • Matt

      ^ this. Seriously. I keep telling people exactly this, though I don’t have the apparently needed characteristic of being homosexual for the argument to be convincing. This person is absolutely right.

      • none

        Not to mention how gross it is to compare clergymen telling MLK to settle down and back off to gay rights proponents. That’s really the only word I have for it. Gross.

    • Karl

      I think that he was talking about the dichotomy between homosexual actions and homosexual inclinations or orientation, and it seems clear that the author does not think being gay is nothing more than an action. Despite our inclinations (whatever they may be), we do not have to act on them. Engaging in homosexual sex is wrong (just as engaging in any non-marital sex wrong regardless of your orientation), and can be criticized or called into question. This really is not the same as demeaning a person or harming their dignity. We all sin, but that does not mean we don’t have dignity.

      • none

        Sigh.

        Having homosexual sex is not wrong. Now I’m sure arguing about that will get us nowhere, but that is not my point.

        People who believe that homosexual acts are sinful cannot go around flaunting that belief and seeking to restrict our civil rights, and then turn around and say “oh but I’m not trying to demean you!” You say we’re all sinners, but to equate my loving, stable, and romantic relationship to… I don’t know, pick another sin, any sin, is incredibly offensive. And yes, demeaning.

        You cannot have it both ways. If you want to insist that gay people who don’t commit to a life of chastity are sinners, and that the sin is so grave as to move you to deny them full civil (key word there!) equality, then you have to demean them as people.

        It is who I am, it is not what I do.

        • McLovin

          Do you see how you deceptively made your argument sound normative? What is right and wrong is perfectly within the bounds of discussion. However, using arguments to equate the state sponsorship of homosexual unions to a civil right has no grounding in reality other than the tautology which your argument rests on. What makes it a civil right? I’m sure it can be argued, but it is not as definitive as you make it seem to be.

          • none

            The Supreme Court declared marriage to be a fundamental civil right long ago. There has been no secular reason outside of animus to withhold it from gay people presented in any court.

            That’s what makes it a civil right.

            And you could ask your question of literally any other civil right. What makes black people being able to sit at lunch counters a civil right?

          • McLovin

            Yes we can, but bringing out the Supreme Court for your argument is a double-edged sword. We are arguing about the morality of it, and if you claim SCOTUS to be the arbiter of right and wrong then you must also remember that the same people also said that black people were not citizens of the US. (Dred Scott) Also there is no secular function to have gay marriage as an established institution other than to make gay couples happy, heterosexual marriages have served as the basic civil institution to encourage procreation (happiness from marriage in straight couples is a private benefit that is not part of the state’s interest to institute marriage) for millennia.

          • none

            Hah well the Dred Scott decision is no longer good law. So not terribly relevant? I’m not claiming the Supreme Court is and has always been infallible. I’m pointing out the fact that the Supreme Court interprets our laws, and so the law in this country says that marriage is a fundamental civil right.

            And we’re not talking about the subjective morality of it. We’re talking about marriage as a civil right. I don’t care whether you think it’s moral or not, because that’s not the proper barometer. Obviously moral judgments inform laws, but we don’t outlaw all things that Catholics consider sins.

            There has been no reason presented to withhold marriage rights from gay people that is secular. Aside from animus and misplaced fear.

          • McLovin

            Yes, I understand Dred Scott is no longer good law, and all I’m saying is basing your argument that marriage is a civil right on the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t hold weight. As I said, can you see how you cannot define civil right properly without the concept of morality? I just posited a secular argument and you are simply repeating statements you made early that I have specifically answered to about there not being a secular argument. I also never said I was Catholic either. On a side note, thank you for refraining from ad hominem attacks, very rarely do people in debates like these remain civil, I guess it’s the power of a Notre Dame education.

          • none

            Basing my argument on what is legal on the Supreme Court is literally the thing that holds the most possible weight. It is the law of the land.

            And you haven’t provided me with a secular reason to withhold marriage rights from gays. “It’s only to make gay people happy” is not only false but also a pretty strange argument. Yes, people desire equality, and when it comes to them, it makes them happy. How that is a secular argument against gay marriage is something you haven’t explained. Marriage has been the same for millennia is false and also not a valid reason.

            And equality is a necessary end because the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says it is.

          • none

            Oh, and the secular function is to move further toward equality in this country. A pretty important goal, I would say.

          • McLovin

            See how your logic relies on saying gay marriage is necessary for equality, and you posit equality as a necessary end using your own definitions.

          • NDaniels

            Regardless of ancestry, desire, or consent, a man is a man, and a woman is a woman. A sexual desire/orientation is not a person. Ordering and identifying groups of persons according to sexual desire/orientation is not part of The Language of Love. The question is, why is a University that professes to be Catholic, supporting the erroneous claim that God created us and ordered us to live in relationship as objects of sexual desire/orientation in direct violation of God’s own Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery? Why does our Lady’s University desire to put The Word of God to the test? If you truly Love your brothers and sisters, you would desire that they overcome their disordered inclinations, whatever they might be, so that they are not led into temptation, but rather, become transformed, through The Truth of Love, God’s Gift of Grace, and Mercy.

          • Dub

            Define “normative” in this context, wise-guy.

      • NDaniels

        True, we are all sinners. From the moment of our creation at conception, we have been created In The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male or female, Willed by God, worthy of Redemption. God desires that we overcome our disordered inclinations, whatever they may be, so that we are not led into temptation, but become transformed through God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, as we learn to develop healthy and Holy relationships and friendships that are grounded in authentic Love.

        • none

          Bustin’ out the big guns with words like “disordered” now, eh?

          Are you a member of SCOP? Because I think your comments are pretty detrimental to their goal.

          • Patrick Guibert

            Honestly, I don’t know if this guy is serious or if NDaniels is just an anti-SCOP activist who put on a straw-man outfit to make them look bad…

          • ND

            That which is not ordered to Love is disordered; all sinful desires and actions are disordered, this does not mean that human persons are in essence disordered, but rather, our desires and actions are disordered when they are not ordered to authentic Love. Desires and actions are not persons; desires and actions can be transformed.

      • Patrick Guibert

        Karl, there you go again, making a religious argument. The SCOP claims to be secular. So please take your religious argument elsewhere.

      • NDaniels

        Once you claim there is no truth of Love, that Love is not ordered to the personal and relational Dignity of the human person, and that the definition of Love is merely a matter of opinion, anything can become permissible.

    • G

      Whoever said homosexuality is *only* a lifestyle? No one, so why can’t we distinguish between actions and people? I, for one, have no wish to be reduced to my desires. My desires do not define my dignity. Clearly people can criticize my actions without demeaning my person.

      • none

        Luckily for you, your sexual orientation doesn’t lead to you having rights withheld. You could at least try to understand what that is like before getting snarky.

        • ND

          We all have disordered inclinations, some more difficult to overcome than others; God desires we overcome our disordered inclinations, whatever they may be, so that we are not lead into temptation, but rather, through God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, become transformed, as we learn to develop healthy and Holy relationships and friendships that are grounded in authentic Love, and thus respectful of ourselves and others, in private as well as in public.

        • ND

          We all have disordered inclinations, some more difficult to overcome than others; God desires we overcome our disordered inclinations, whatever they may be, so that we are not lead into temptation, but rather, through God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, become transformed, as we learn to develop healthy and Holy relationships and friendships that are grounded in authentic Love, and thus respectful of ourselves and others, in private as well as in public.

    • NDaniels

      Regardless of ancestry, desire, or consent, a man is a man, and a woman is a woman. All persons have the inherent right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public.

      One is not in being their sexual inclinations/desires; a sexual inclination/desire is not a person.

      Identifying oneself or someone else as an object of sexual desire does not change the fact that it is not unjust to discriminate between acts that are respectful of our Dignity as human persons and acts that are not, in fact, in order to Love according to The Word of God, Who ordered us to live our lives in Loving relationship as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and not as objects of sexual orientation/desire, we must be able to witness to The Truth of Love.

      • none

        I’m not Catholic. So none of this means anything to me at all, and it doesn’t mean anything to our legal structure. You really need to understand that.

  • Tim

    Let’s get one thing clear: If SCOP only invites speakers they agree with, that’s not an “academic conference.” That’s just a “pep rally.”

  • Kathryn

    Wait, wait, wait… Are you seriously implying (with no Colbert-like intentional irony meant to skewer your own organization) that children of same-sex couples will be like drug-addicted, sexually abused, women caught in a cycle of unstable family ties? Because I’m pretty sure that’s both crazy, and a better argument *for* same-sex marriage than against (because marriage encourages family stability). And are you seriously some how comparing PrismND to the white clergymen who penned A Call for Unity? Because that’s what it looks like, and it’s just so absurd I can’t even comment.

    • Casey

      Where did the author imply this? You have a serious lack of reading comprehension. At least have cogent critiques.

  • Casey

    This demagoguery brings the level of dialogue to a new low. You are so completely uninformed that you prevent any reasoned discourse.

  • bc

    lol secular

  • Patrick Guibert

    Thank you for your article, Tiernan. Some of the criticism has certainly gone overboard.

    I just have a question about your description of the SCOP as secular. How isn’t the SCOP’s argument, that same-sex marriage is not in the best interest of children, based exclusively on religious premises? What evidence supports this claim?

  • Tiernan Kane

    “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change
    the subject.” Like most great lines, it seems, that one’s attributed to
    Churchill. I worry it may well describe some people on this thread. One point
    on Patrick’s reasonable question, though: a religious argument is one based on
    the authority of a particular revelation or faith tradition. A philosophical
    argument against lying does not become religious because some priests or a holy
    book agree that it is wrong. SCOP makes a philosophical claim–which requires
    defense, like all claims–that a child has a right to the care of his or her
    mother and father. Do our critics think a child can make no reasonable
    criticism of her father for walking out on her, as long as she ends up scoring
    well on standardized testing? Would our critics change their views about redefining marriage if social science found that GDP would increase in a country that uniformly maintained Plutarch’s conception of marriage?

    • It describes you as well, I’m afraid.

      • Guest

        I know you’re probably frustrated, but to characterize the opponents of the SCOP’s policy as “fanatics” isn’t constructive. I would immediately oppose same-sex marriage if there were evidence indicating that children raised by two adoptive mothers or two adoptive fathers were worse off than children raised by two adoptive opposite-sex parents. There are a great number of those like me.

    • Patrick Guibert

      You mentioned that the SCOP’s argument is that “a child has the right to the care of his or her mother or father”. Of course. I completely agree. Children should be raised by their biological father and mother. That’s not just my intuition. Countless studies have shown measurable differences between biological children and adopted children. In an ideal scenario, all children would be raised by their biological parents. But that’s not the issue.

      Unfortunately, some children need to be adopted. So if the biological parents are out of the picture, the argument must examine whether or not two adoptive fathers or two adoptive mothers would be any worse for children than one adoptive mother and one adoptive father. As it stands, I have heard a lot of arguments that children children “deserve a father and a mother,” implying that two fathers or two mothers would be less beneficial for that child. But so many of those arguments remain in the abstract, without indicating what aspect of the child’s well-being would be impacted.

      Just as we can use studies to show that children raised by biological parents tend to have fewer psychological, emotional, and interpersonal, and and academic issues than children adopted by infertile, married couples, we should be able to compare children raised by same-sex couples. If it really would be worse for a child to be raised by same-sex couples than it would be for them to be raised by heterosexual, adoptive parents, as the SCOP argues, then we should be able to see some sort of differences in the data.

      Without that evidence, what is the SCOP’s “philosophical claim” based upon?

    • Patrick Guibert

      I know you’re probably frustrated, but to characterize the opponents of the SCOP’s policy as “fanatics” isn’t constructive. I would immediately oppose same-sex marriage if there were evidence indicating that children raised by two adoptive mothers or two adoptive fathers were worse off than children raised by two adoptive opposite-sex parents. There are a great number of those like me. Thanks.

      • ND

        It is not unjust that a father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister, children, two men, two women, one man and two women, one woman and two men, cannot be married to one another because they cannot exist in relationship as husband and wife.
        Love is ordered to the personal and relational inherent Dignity of the human person. Love does not discriminate against fatherhood or motherhood but recognizes the inherent complementary Dignity of both fathers and mothers.

        • Patrick Guibert

          1) Why are you capitalizing random words? The definition of the word “dignity” is potent enough by itself. It’s not like the Word or the Church, where capitalization changes the meaning. It’s a nice sentiment, though.

          2) Your premise is your conclusion: “Only a man and a woman can be married. Therefore, only a man and a woman can be married.” This argument is a challenge of your premise that only a man and a woman can be married. The SCOP uses the well-being of children as a basis of analyzing the opposing premises. You should try to be more like them and try to make an actual argument.

          • ND

            Patrick, I am capitalizing for emphasis. It is a self-evident truth that only a man and woman can exist in relationship as husband and wife; that only a man can be a father, and a woman, a mother, and that one should not discriminate against fatherhood or motherhood because fatherhood and motherhood serve for the Good of a child.

    • wait what

      It seems like your whole organization is based on the straw man argument that gay marriage supporters want to forcibly remove children from their biological mothers and fathers. No one is suggesting that.

      I think children have a right to their mothers and fathers, but that is such an overly simplistic way of looking at our incredibly complex society. Some mothers and fathers are really bad at being mothers and fathers. Some children aren’t in positions where they have both. Or any. And it is in that context that your organization’s purpose stops making sense. And you haven’t addressed that. Instead, you just call us fanatics for suggesting that the whole endeavor seems misguided at best.

      And it’s great that you want to have a philosophical debate on the subject, but while you’re dealing with that, there are real gay people and real children without parents that the rest of us need to worry about.

      • ND

        Once you make the erroneous claim that in order to be married, it is no longer necessary to exist in relationship as husband and wife, any relationship can be defined as marriage if one so desires, thus invalidating the validity of a valid marriage.

    • ND

      Marriage by its inherent essence is restrictive to begin with because not every couple can exist in relationship as husband and wife. The fact that there are those that do not respect God’s intention for marriage and the family, does not change the fact that marriages should serve for the good of the husband, the good of the wife, and the good of the new family that is created when a man and woman are united as husband and wife.

  • Patrick Guibert

    Kathryn, please. This is a group that hopes to help children. And same-sex marriage isn’t their only concern. There’s a lot of points they have to make about heterosexual marriages, too. So please, disagree with them. I sure as heck do. But use logic, not emotion.

  • NDaniels

    Tim, let’s get one thing clear, as Catholics, we profess that The Word of God Is The Truth of Love and thus academically speaking, if we chose to debate The Truth, every point would be merely straw in light of The Word of God. The Truth Is, Christ Is not a matter of opinion.

    Identifying oneself or someone else as an object of sexual desire/orientation, in direct violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery, does not respect the inherent personal or relational Dignity of the human person. The objectification of the human person, by denying personhood through the act of abortion, or sexual objectification, is consistent with atheistic materialism, not Christianity. Christians recognize that every son or daughter of a human person, from the moment of conception, has the inherent right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public.

    • Patrick Guibert

      NDaniels, I think you missed the part of the article that says the SCOP is secular. If their wish is to be a secular organization, you’re doing them a disservice by using Catholicism to justify their arguments.

      • NDaniels

        Patrick, I am referring to the self-evident truth about the human person, who, regardless of ancestry, desire, or consent, in being is not an object of sexual desire/orientation; we are, and have always been, whether we profess to be Catholic or not, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers.

        • Patrick Guibert

          “the human person… is not an object of sexual desire/orientation”

          It would be hard to find anyone supporting same-sex marriage who would disagree with that. You’re not listening to what anyone is actually saying if you think that we are arguing for sexual objectification.

          • ND

            Identifying someone according to sexual orientation, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay…, is identifying someone as an object of sexual attraction.

  • none

    I repeat:

    I am not Catholic. I do not share your views on human sexuality. I respect your right to have them. I just don’t want you to force them on me via civil law.

    • NDaniels

      One need not be a Catholic to recognized the self-evident truth about the inherent complementary nature of human beings; we are in being, sons, daughters…

  • NDaniels

    As long as there is no consequence for those who profess to be Catholic but deny that God Has Revealed, from The Beginning, that every human person has been created in The Image and Likeness of God, not as an object of sexual desire/ orientation, but rather equal in Dignity while being complementary as a son or daughter, the scandal in Christ’s Church will continue. Intolerance of The Word of God, is intolerance of God; let no one deceive you. You are not in being an object of sexual desire/ orientation, you are, and have always been a beloved son or daughter of God.

  • NDaniels

    Who has standing in regards to those who desire to change the essence of marriage? Once you make the erroneous claim that in order to be married, it is no longer necessary to exist in relationship as husband and wife, you have, in fact, invalidated the validity of a valid marriage.