The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Rebuttal to ‘SCOP stands against hate’

| Monday, November 24, 2014

In “SCOP stands against hate,” Tiernan Kane and Tim Bradley argue that, “what is hateful is to choose an action deliberately aimed at depriving oneself or another of living out the comprehensive sexual union of male and female.” I disagree with this argument on several fronts.

Firstly, I am perplexed as to which actions Kane and Bradley refer.

They specify that remaining celibate or unmarried are not hateful actions, but fail to include examples of what actions do actually deprive people from “living out the comprehensive sexual union.” Possibly because no one is really being deprived. A man and a woman can marry each other in all 50 states. No one is preventing them from entering into sexual union that is “exclusive, permanent [and] procreative.” While marriages that do not fit into SCOP’s specific definition are increasingly legally recognized by the state, this has no effect on the personal relationships of couples that choose to adhere to this strict definition of marriage. (Unless they are extraordinarily preoccupied with regulating other people’s sex lives, which unfortunately is too often the case.)

Secondly, I disagree with Kane and Bradley’s premise that comprehensive sexual union is a good in itself.

Some people find “comprehensive sexual union” to be a good, but others do not. Not everyone ascribes to this definition of sexual union and marriage. Not everyone is able to have children. Not everyone wants to have children. Not everyone wants to get married, or thinks that sex must be for procreation, or is in love with someone of a different gender. If I don’t value comprehensive sexual union as a good, then it is not an act of “self-hate” to “deprive” myself of such a union. Rather, it would be much more damaging to force myself (and a spouse) into a situation where I would be miserable.

I could argue, however, that love is a universal good in itself.

I personally think that being able to marry the person you love, regardless of their gender or the ability to procreate, is a good. Fortunately, men and women can marry each other in all 50 states whether or not they plan on procreation. However, same-sex couples are not legally allowed to marry in 16 states. In fact, there are even groups that actively seek to deprive same-sex couples of this good by advocating against same-sex marriage. Using SCOP’s own definition (“to hate a person is to make it one’s deliberate purpose that the person be deprived of some good”), such groups are being hateful instead of standing against hate.


Michelle McCarthy


Pasquerilla West Hall

Nov. 20

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

About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Letter
  • Tiernan Kane

    Thank you, Michelle, for your critique. If I understand you correctly, you accept our definition of what it means to hate, which was the central focus of our piece. You disagree, however, with our claim that comprehensive sexual union is an intelligible human good. To your first point, I should note that our piece names adultery as an example of deliberately acting against comprehensive sexual union. Your second point is more fundamental, though: you deny that comprehensive sexual union is a good in itself. Am I right, then, to suppose that you deny that adultery, which surely breaks one’s union with one’s spouse, is wrong for that very reason? On your view, if a man no longer feels himself in love with his wife–indeed, if he finds it miserable to be around her–is that sufficient reason to commit adultery with a woman who makes him feel happy? (For the sake of the argument, assume that there are no other issues of justice at stake.) If you don’t find time to respond here, I’ll understand–Thanksgiving and finals are on the way!–but I hope you’ll give further consideration to this important issue.

    • Michelle

      Tiernan, I appreciate you taking the time respond and continue this discourse. To clarify, I am not arguing that comprehensive sexual union is never a good, but that it is not a good universal to all people and therefore should not be used as a barometer of hate or self-hate. Adultery is wrong because it breaks the vows that couples make to each other and (if they’re religious) before God. If on my wedding day, I vowed to the love of my life that I would always be faithful, and I broke that promise, that would be wrong. It would be wrong whether I have entered into comprehensive sexual union with a man, or if I was married to a woman.

      • Tiernan Kane

        It’s good to get after the truth together with you, Michelle.

        In claiming that comprehensive sexual union is not never a good,
        you might have claimed that it is an instrumental rather than an intrinsic
        good. On this view, CSU would not be good in itself but, like money, would be good if put to good use and bad if put to bad use. But this is not your claim. Rather, it seems, you hold that CSU is an intrinsic good for some people but
        not for others.

        This seems problematic to me. If you claim that something is
        intrinsically good–constitutive of flourishing–for some human beings but not so for other human beings, you seem to be suggesting that certain human beings are different in kind from others. Firmly holding that all human beings are possessed of equal dignity, I cannot agree that any basic human good is, in principle, out of reach for any human being.

        Now, as we suggest in our article, there are many human goods
        and countless ways to participate in them. No one can participate in all human goods; instead, we have to choose between goods. It is not the case, then, that by choosing to participate in one human good rather than another, one deliberately, intentionally chooses against some particular good (to deprive oneself of that good, in the precise sense). All human goods are universal–possible, in principle for all human beings–but no one of us, I think, participates in all of them.

  • ND Student

    The author did defend her argument and provide reasons for why a comprehensive sexual union is not a good in and of itself. The author’s last paragraph is a personal thought; she does not try to assert that being able to marry the person you love is a universal good.

    Tiernan and Tim did not provide reasons for what makes something “good.” In their article, they named several things as “good,” yet they didn’t justify a single one of them. You also didn’t name the reasons that their followers give to justify what goodness is. You are being hypocritical.

    • Charlie Ducey

      Ok, but she did not provide REASONS. She just noted that “some people find ‘comprehensive sexual union’ to be a good, and others do not.” Then she made some statements about what other people do and do not agree with/want out of a relationship. But those aren’t REASONS, by which I mean reasons arranged in an argument. She needs to say something more like, “a comprehensive sexual union is not a good because. . .” Saying that people disagree with it does not suffice.

      No, I am not being a hypocrite because I am asking her to provide her reasons for the claim she made. I’m not the one who made the unsupported claim. Now, there are many reasons that people in Tiernan and Tim’s camp have given for why a comprehensive sexual union is good, among which are its openness to procreation and its ability to provide for and rear children. Providing reasons for your claims is part of argumentation. Noting that people disagree with claims does constitute an argument, nor does calling someone hypocritical.

      • Michelle

        Firstly, I’d like to agree with what “ND Student” said. Well put, and thanks for the defense. Charlie, I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me on this issue.

        Secondly, Charlie, I think we might be talking at cross purposes here, so allow me to clarify. I perhaps should have been clearer on the distinction I was drawing between a “good in itself” (something intrinsically and universally good) and just “a good” (something that people value). Like I said to Tiernan below, I am not arguing that comprehensive sexual union is never a good, but that it is not a good universal to all people. My point is that comprehensive sexual union should not be held up as a “good in itself,” as a standard by which we judge whether people engage in hate or self-hate.

        I did not go: “a comprehensive sexual union is not a good because…x,y,z” because that’s not my point. I fully support people who value comprehensive sexual union as a good. I disagree with people who believe that all relationships should be judged by whether or not it meets that standard.

        • Charlie Ducey

          Ok. Now if you add “a comprehensive sexual union is not a good in itself because…” we arrive back at the dilemma. I am simply asking for the argumentation that comes next. The problem remains that you made a claim and then you more or less just explained that not all people want to get married. That is fine. But that doesn’t demonstrate that “a comprehensive sexual union is not a good in itself,” because not every one needs to get married in order for it to be a good in itself (hence, the point about priests and unmarried laypeople in the article). I am questioning both the validity and soundness of your argument here, regardless of the claims being made. Again, argumentation is my concern.

          • Michelle

            I’ve basically already said this, but for the sake of argumentation let’s lay it out again. The world is not only made up of people who participate in comprehensive sexual union, unmarried laypeople, and priests. Not all marriages are heterosexual or procreative. Defining marriage as only for the purposes of comprehensive sexual union is a limiting definition that excludes same-sex couples and people who are unable or unwilling to procreate. Comprehensive sexual union is not a good in itself because it devalues marriages that don’t fit into its strict parameters.

          • Nathan

            Agree, but wrong approach. CSU being a good doesn’t necessarily devalue other forms of marriage, because it being a good doesn’t (on its head at least) stop those other forms of marriage from also being goods.

          • truth

            but if you can marry anyone you love then I should be able to marry my sister, i should also be able to have 5 wives as long as we love each other and are cool with it. if you may gay marriage legal then you need to make polygamy legal

  • Nathan

    I’ll be back with more thoughts later, but first I’d just like to dispute a quick point:

    The banning of certain types of marriages between loving individuals has a precedent. Marriage of siblings and polygamy are both still illegal in all 50 states. We could argue that those are also hateful if we’d like, but if not then we need some explanation on how this isn’t a double standard.