Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Is the Cafeteria "Open"?

Is Gerald Augustinus' cafeteria "open"?

I'm not going to make a judgment on that. But neither am I willing to condemn Gerald as others commenting at his blog have done. I believe Gerald does a great deal of good with his blog, even where I disagree with him (such as on this particular issue and on immigration reform, for example); and the sort of pronouncements of "heresy" and threats to report him to the Catholic League that are taking place at his blog are unwarranted hyperbole. (Let's hope Bill Donohue has bigger fish to fry than what someone has written at his blog.)

Suffice it to say that I think Gerald may be somewhat misguided by an admirable desire to defend the downtrodden and marginalized, but at the expense of the Natural Law and the age-old teachings of Holy Mother Church. And I am troubled by his willingness to give short shrift to how public policy should be guided by Natural Law (i.e. generally applicable) principles, as well as by his seeming dismissal of the Church's call for the "recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role" in favor of egalitarian and/or libertarian aims.

And, if what has happened in Canada and the U.K. (and some parts of the U.S. - see, e.g., Catholic Charities adoption services in Boston and San Francisco) are any indication, I'm also concerned that it ignores the prospect of marginalizing the Church that could accrue from the government's recognizing certain relationships as equal to marriage in the law.

This is definitely a topic that demands, above all, charity and a willingness to listen to what other people are actually saying, and not engaging in homophobia, the distortion of others' points of views, or the creation of strawmen. And, as Christians, we are called to give others the benefit of the doubt and not engage in namecalling or ex parte excommunications. For examples of charitable discussion reflecting the Church's position, see the responses to Gerald's post by Fr. RP, "Rick", and the always thoughtful Christopher Blosser.

I'm posting this because I think it is an interesting discussion. But any comments that I believe cross the line of charitable dialogue will be deleted, and may lead to my closing off comments to this post altogether.

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At 4/02/2008 3:21 PM, Anonymous m.z. said...

I never cease to be amazed by the number of people willing to drop their trousers and take a dump in someone else's forum. I give Gerald credit for tolerating it, regardless of my views on any of his positions. Going a bit broader, the Catholic blogosphere needs to decide what kind of obligations it wishes to place upon bloggers. He has the most popular Catholic blog, passing even Ms. Welborn. I think it is obvious that his concern is real here.

I don't have any pat answers here. There is something to be said for keeping your difficulties private. There is also something to be said for those who point out that this is just a guy in California who has been given no office or faculty by the Church, so caveat emptor. I don't think Mr. Augustinus wants to be the voice for all things Catholic. Let wiser minds contemplate these questions.

At 4/02/2008 3:42 PM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

I share a lot of Gerald's sympathies on the issue. I wrote a post a couple of weeks back grappling with the extent to which government should interfere in what are social matters. Like him, I'm a somewhat libertarian social conservative, so I am more hesitant than some other social conservatives to use the government to interfere in social issues - though I am far from being an absolute libertarian by any means.

I'll have to read his main blog post again, because I kind of got sucked into the comments, but where I believe Gerald got into trouble was his insistence on playing up the choice between monogomous homosexual couples and those that are more sexually active. Sure, I guess if homosexuals are going to refuse to be celibate, it's better for them to not sleep around. But that's not really what we need to be pushing. He downplayed the role of Catholic teaching to a degree that places too much emphasis on the secular nature of our pluralistic society.

I happen to agree with him that sodomy should not be illegal - though I also think that Lawrence was an abomination - but that's about as far as I go. It seemed that Gerald was going beyond legal toleration of sinful behavior to almost a sort of societal encouragement of it. That's where he lost me.

It really is a tough issue, and that discussion was very interesting. Unfortunately you get the two extremes: those that think that anybody not completely willing to buy into the entirety of the homosexual agenda are caveman bigots, and then those that seem to think homosexuals should be burned at the stake. I'd like to think we can move past those extremes.

And I'd just add that I agree with m.z. Gerald puts up with a lot in his comments section, and as I once wrote, I'd be curious to read the messages that don't make it past the moderation filter.

At 4/02/2008 4:13 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"... I'd be curious to read the messages that don't make it past the moderation filter."

I don't think I have the stomach to read whatever filth might be spewed at Gerald that was more extreme than what he does allow into comments.

He's a better man than me in that regard. I don't have a comments filter; but then, Gerald gets more hits and comments in one day than I probably get over a span of a few months. And I delete any personal nonsense thrown my way.

At 4/02/2008 6:28 PM, Blogger CourageMan said...

Wow ...

I obviously have some sympathy for Gerald. This topic does seem to bring out the worst in some "rightist" Catholics. It's obvious when reading between the lines that Gerald has some close family member(s) in the lifestyle and that this has de-demonized gays in his eyes (or "raised his consciousness" if you like) and he's struggling with what that means with respect to the public sphere. I happen to be aided in this struggle by having not a single drop of libertarian blood in me. But the more such blood one has, the harder it is, no question.

Of course, I ultimately think Gerald is wrong, but yelling "heretic," "cafeteria" and "dissident" are not only ineffective, but actually counterproductive in these cases. Trust me.

At 4/02/2008 7:31 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

My last and final comment on that thread clarified my concerns about Gerald's position.

Insofar as he framed this debate as a defense of "personal privacy" vs. "those who support jack-booted home invasions to criminalize what takes place behind closed doors", he's going after a straw man (and I think Gerald knows this).

Insofar as he's framed this debate as a defense of freedom against "religious rule", he neglects (ignores) the question of natural law (which I think is why legal scholar Robert P. George's books come in handy, in navigating these waters).

As has been pointed out time and time again, this involves the clash of rival conceptions of sexuality and marriage and the institutions of our present civilization. The demand is not only for "respect for privacy" and what occurs behind closed doors, but for the public sanction-via-legitimization (in school curriculums, in the institution of marriage, et al.)


I still think it would be helpful for Gerald to match his arguments against the latter half of the CDF's doctrinal note, (insofar as it critiques his position).

Also reading John Paul II's theology of the body -- which puts some positive clothing on Gerald's rather "skeletal" understanding of Catholic teaching on sexuality (not simply a matter of 'thou shalt not's').

That said, I think many of Gerald's critics generated "more heat than light" on this subject. It's hard to carry on a civil exchange when everybody else is itching to tar n' feather . . .

At 4/03/2008 12:16 AM, Blogger Gerald Augustinus said...

Apart from my wife and gay friends and in-laws, the extreme hatred towards gays shown by many commenters over the years has actually contributed to my views. Also, reading libertarian books :)

At 4/03/2008 12:30 AM, Blogger Tito said...


I've cringed at times when Gerald goes a bit over the line in his promotion of homosexual rights, though I bite my tongue only becuase the overwhelming amount of posts he does have I agree with and enjoy the comments that are posted by practicing Catholics and the Vox Nova type crowd (pretty humorous stuff). That is the genius of Gerald to show both sides.


Caveat emptor is right. I don't want a policing force out there, but we certainly could raise some sort of 'voluntary' standards for the Catholic blogosphere in general.


I too am a libertarian in many aspects, but be careful by accusing practicing Catholics of social engineering, when it is the homosexual lobby that is wanting to redefine marriage and impose it on society.


Your points highlight what I was attempting to say to Paul. Thank you for your articulate comments.


I couldn't agree with you more. Name calling doesn't contribute to the debate at all.


Keep blogging. I would also add that prayer has helped me tremendously on many difficult Catholic teachings. Of course I'm talking to the choir on prayer, but it's just a charitable reminder.


I detest the word 'homophobia'. To me it smacks of censorship on the part of the person who is promoting/defending homosexuals when they have run out of plausible debating points.


At 4/03/2008 6:38 AM, Blogger Donald R. McClarey said...

I was going to comment, but after reading Christopher's post, I will merely join in his comment, since I agree with him on all points.

At 4/03/2008 8:19 AM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

but be careful by accusing practicing Catholics of social engineering, when it is the homosexual lobby that is wanting to redefine marriage and impose it on society.

I'm not accusing Catholics of social engineering per se, and I'm completely in agreement with you that it's not our side looking to change the rules of the game. I was commenting more broadly about social issues and trying to find the line between knowing when to let the government interfere and when the government should stay neutral. I'm not always 100% sure myself on that score.

At 4/03/2008 6:36 PM, Blogger Tito said...


I to have trouble finding or defining that fine line.

Thanks for the reply.

It's always a pleasure to engage in discussion on this blog.


At 4/06/2008 2:19 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

With (not too much) suprise and great disappointment to read this in the combox of Vox Nova:

Gerald Augustinus, circa. 2006, taking issue with Fr. Richard McBrien's support of homosexual adoptions: "Hey Padre, ever heard of Roma locuta, causa finita?"

Gerald Augustinus, circa 2008:

I took the Cafeteria tag out of my logo, btw, so spare me the umpteenth dig re: that. When I put it up, I a) meant it as a bon mot and b) had no idea that bishops would, eg, actively campaign against civil unions for homosexuals. Since I came out in favor of that and defended gay adoption (based on my wife’s prior work in the field and from the example of friends), too, my position as a ‘Cafeteria Catholic’ is firmly established and need not be brought up at every turn, as if it were a new insight. I freely admit it. The far-right and whatever you could be described as are correct in saying so.

(At this point, I recommend prayer; because appeals to rational argument thus far have been in vain).

At 5/11/2008 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

want a look at what you are supporting?
Read this:

Got Morals? You're Sub-Human.
A Washington Post video cartoon uses Nazi propaganda techniques to define and enforce the new American apartheid
Bulletin from the Underground - Jan 19, 2007
It was Blacks. Then it was Jews. Then babies waiting silently in their mothers' wombs. Now, if you believe there's a moral code in the universe that the elites don't get to tinker with, it's your turn. You're officially sub-human, unless you wake up and see things our way.
Fascist hate propaganda always uses the same techniques: scorn, dehumanize and scapegoat the targets to unify the conformist masses against them. As long as their cash flow continues, most of the scapegoats' "leaders" will respond defensively -- or cower silently under their beds. Some will defect to the new regime, like Quisling, Petain, Herod -- meticulously cultivating the appearance of not having changed sides at all. Money, vanity and perks caused most of them to forget long ago how to fight, what to fight for and what exactly fighting means.
Professor Kenneth Clarke observed in the BBC series Civilisation that small enclaves of normalcy persisted surprisingly long after the fall of Roman Empire. The chattering "conservative" and "pro-family" elites no longer have the faintest hope of rescuing civilization. None. Not one glimmer.

After all, they've been bartering it away for several decades. But they can't tell you that. They need your trust and your money to set up their enclaves. And, too, there's the little problem of their own denial. There are a thousand and one ways to rationalize selling out. "Realism" is the favorite excuse.
Meanwhile, the New Fascism is out of the closet, proud... and extremely fashionable. It is bursting with irrational hatred. Dangerous hatred that is building to some unknown culmination. Its target is morality of any recognizable kind and faith in any Deity that objects to the reduction of humanity to animal debauchery. Sexual morality -- or even the innocent asking of common-sense questions about the personal or cultural consequences of sexual deviance -- must be viciously mocked, criminalized and eliminated from American life.
There will be no fencing the dogma off into one sector or another. Acquiescence -- at a minimum -- to the new anti-moral Stalinism is now a prerequisite for advancement or even survival in many corporate or government jobs. Your church is next, if it hasn't already surrendered. And, as always with modern totalitarianism, it's really your children's and grandchildren's minds they want.
The schools are rapidly joining the entertainment and news media in executing within the current generation an indoctrination program no less revolutionary than those of Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Tens of millions of children will reject the morality and common sense of their own parents.
Yet the placebo "leadership" of social conservatism and even traditional orthodox religion are in deep denial. They cling to their prestige, perks, access to the media and power or, of course, their precious cash flow, now consumed entirely by organizations and individuals who are part of the problem. As with any movement living off the memories of heroes and giants of the past, criticism from within "the ranks" is heresy. Like the pre-revolutionary elites of 1789 France and 1917 Russia, they will take everything down with them rather than yield their place of privilege.
And the foundations of civilization, family and faith will be torn down with the simplest of devices: mockery. This Washington Post video cartoon merely one manifestation. Sheer terror of that weapon or warfare has locked the placebo "conservative" establishment into three decades of relentless surrender on the moral issues that define every society.
There is a rapidly growing consensus that what we thought of as the "conservative movement" is now dead, except as a pyramid scheme defrauding the trusting peasants of their money and time. Moral cowardice and unchecked fondness for money, prestige and access to power have turned the "conservative" elites into the reluctant, pragmatic, realist enforcers of the new Stalinism.
The Orwellian force of the video propaganda at the link below is in this unspoken question: If Mike Huckabee is subhuman, then what are you?
Well, that entirely depends. If you follow the National Review, the celebrities selling their pseudo-conservative opium at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the paycheck "conservative" elites... if, for example, you join Jay Sekulow and Ann Coulter in ignoring the plain English in the Massachusetts Constitution and pretend Mitt Romney resisted sodomy-based "marriage," sodomy-based adoption and $50-dollar abortions... well, you're still human. For now. But that's just the beginning.
They may believe they are still "social conservatives." And constitutionalists. And patriots, and heroes. But for "pragmatic" conservatives who have surrendered the boundaries of morality and constitutions, "conservatism" is last year's liberalism. If that's fine with you, keep on donating, take their word as gospel and buy their books, And when they're finished with you, you too will be a liberal that thinks he is a conservative. In other words, you will have lost your soul.
Obsessive, materialistic conformism has emasculated what we delusionally think is our "conservatism" and "Christianity." No threat of violence or martyrdom is necessary to vanquish a civilization that worships at the shopping mall and the home entertainment center.
The sheer terror of being laughed at will do it. Before clicking on the link below to see a particularly pungent example of the snickering bigotry that has the paycheck conservative elites so terrified, register in your mind the Orwellian-fascist hypocrisy of the Washington Post.

So it's official. Stubbornly clinging to Biblical morality? You're an ape.
Dominic | 04.03.08 - 9:00 pm | #


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