Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Same-Sex Marriage: a Marxist-Leninist perspective

Columnist Paul Varnell recently wrote something about gay marriage that had great resonance for me:

Once the affectional bond became the central element of marriage, the rational for limiting it to pairs who would procreate lost its force. Gays want nothing more than to participate in “traditional marriage” thus understood — marriage for the benefit of the marrying partners: meshing a person’s life with someone they love.

You see, very nearly the same thing had been said by the great German historian Oswald Spengler some eighty years earlier:

When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard ‘having children’ as a question of pro’s and con’s the great turning-point has come … a man’s choice of the woman who is to be, not the mother of his children as amongst peasants and primitives, but his own ‘companion for life,’ becomes a problem of mentalities … When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable. Instead of children, [the modern woman] as soul-conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of ‘mutual understanding.’ … At the last, only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of it’s strongest and most promising elements.

Please note, that this is the same vision of “companionate marriage,” there is no disagreement between the meaning, only the significance. To Varnell, contragenic marriage allows freedom and autonomy, to Spengler it is death, not only for the race but for the soul as well, yet they are agreed: the modern impulse is irreversibly toward contragenic marriage. The gulf between is both insuperable and it is the gulf that splits the West today. Whether he conceives of himself as such, Varnell is secular, traditionless, and his consciousness is utterly devoid of the pulse of life. While Spengler saw and identified the Varnell type before the end of the Great War (as well as his companion, the "Ibsen woman"), Varnell is unable to perceive Spengler’s deeply mystical understanding, thus we can only talk to Varnell on his terms.

There is a saying among communists, “You can only fight the Moor (Marx) with the Moor.” The idea here was that any argument that wasn’t Marxist was ipso facto invalid. Thus, were I to attack same-sex marriage from a Marxist perspective, it would be impermissible to bring in Christian morality, traditional values, or natural law. I could, however, attack monogamy itself, pointing up that it was merely “petty-bourgeois exclusivity.” Or I could accuse gays who wished to get married of “aping the oppressor” and thus perpetuated their own oppression. Or I could attack the family as a counter-revolutionary artifact within society. A communist could argue for virtually any position, so long as the argument were put correctly. For instance, one could support gay marriage because, by “aping the oppressor” we can make a mockery of monogamy, thus undermining the whole reactionary concept of “family.” See how it works? Because there are no fixed points in the Marxist moral universe, we can work it both ways as long as we use a Marxist argument.

I bring this up because we can only fight the secular with secular arguments. Bourgeois liberals are no more inclined to accept arguments based upon Christian morality, traditional values, or natural law than communists and it is foolishness even to bring this up in public debate. Certainly, homosexual unions are immoral, alien to Western traditions, contragenic and thus unnatural, but none of this counts in a secular debate. We must attack same-sex unions for practical reasons if we wish to score a practical victory. We live in a society that plays the game of politics by secular rules and we can only win if we fight on secular ground.

Let us begin by taking the Homosexualists at their word and concede that “the government has no business regulating what I do in my bedroom.” But let us take this further and insist that the state has no compelling interest in promoting “stable relationships” either. It makes no difference to society if homosexual couples are monogamous or not, since there is no complicating issue of children involved. To those that point out that promiscuity spreads disease, we can only answer that allowing marriage to reduce promiscuity is a classic case of “pushing on a string.” After all, heterosexuals still get syphilis even though they have always been able to marry. Let us assert dogmatically: the state has no interest in people’s sex lives unless this coupling has the potential to produce children.

Let us insist that it is self-evident that the only justification for the financial and social benefits of marriage is that married couples are raising the next generation of citizens. Plainly then, same-sex unions would pose a burden upon our social resources with no corresponding societal gain. Let us put aside the issue of sacramental marriage (as there will always be some church who will marry queers) and get to the real issue of the tangible benefits of marriage. There are tax breaks, inheritance accommodations, insurance policies, and pension rights at stake here and these represent real social costs that should be reserved for a group producing a real social good, not just any two people who like to sleep together. Let us defuze the “fairness” issue by stressing the social cost/benefit analysis: is it “fair” to impose this burden upon society?

In this fight homosexuals say they are after dignity and sanction for their relationships when it is really the monetary benefits that they crave. Churches have performed “commitment ceremonies” for years now (some have even gone so far as to call these “marriages”), and no one is proposing that the government bring these farces to a halt. Let us simply ignore this issue, let them call themselves married if they wish, while we hammer away at the social cost.

Let’s also make sure this issue is not framed as a “right.” By stressing that rights come with responsibilities and, since a contragenic relationship carries with it no responsibilities, we can deny that it merits any rights. Such “rights” are no more than the privilege to indulge in social benefits without corresponding social contributions.

I can hear objections now: “What about lesbian couples — they can have children!” No they can’t. When a lesbian couple has a child only one of them is really the mother and the other is just — the sex partner of the mother, not the father. I have children and I know that the physical and spiritual bond between a mother and the child she carries, births, and nurses exceeds that of any other human bond. I love my kids, and I made them, but I did not make them or love them in the same way or degree that their mother did and to say that some woman, who did not make a child but is only the mother’s bed mate, could love that child as much as I love the ones I made is preposterous. And to say that woman should have the same rights over that child as the actual birth-mother is contrary to all human experience. Lesbian couples break up, just like all couples these days, and to grant parental rights to the non-generating “parent” is to make a mockery of the whole concept of parenthood.

What about the right to be “next of kin?” I have read newspaper items, as I am sure you have, of some poor lesbian in a coma whose parents won’t allow her “soul mate” to visit her in the hospital and that is tragic. This is, after all, a free country and people should be able to make and live their own lives. I know that before I got married, my father was, legally, my “next of kin” even though we had been estranged for some five years. If I were conscious and in a hospital I would not have let him see me, and it horrifies me that he could have been making life-or-death decisions about me if I were incapacitated. The whole idea of “next of kin” should probably be, for adults, an entirely discretionary decision. Who but the most hard-hearted would deny anyone the right to say that their best beloved is their “next of kin”? Let us take this off the table and make it a matter of free choice, a matter of getting a simple form notarized, not contracting a marriage.

I got married in 1985. Probably half-a-dozen of my friends were married that year and now none of them are still married. None of those couples had any kids either. But I’m still married and I have three kids and it’s not easy. It takes money to raise kids but, more than that, it takes time. Many was the time when my little Pumpkin came to me asking “Read to me, please?” when I was too tired to read to myself; yet I read to her. Now she's at Vassar and shows every sign of becoming a fine woman who will contribute much to society. And, though we have produced this wonderful little citizen, we have received scant few benefits from being married. We have taken care of our children ourselves, so we have no “day care” costs to write off on our taxes. Though our property taxes are high, they still do not fund the schools adequately and we have had to buy books and materials and volunteer countless hours of time. The personal exemptions on our taxes are a joke. We are in the trenches every day fighting the real battle of marriage, which is staying together and raising kids, and we feel like we are on our own. The benefits of marriage are so few now — yet would we be so capricious as to extend them to a group that contributes nothing to producing the next generation?

In this fight we must keep it secular. We must not speak of sacraments, or natural law, or Christian morality. Let us hit them in the bread-basket! They are after the goodies of marriage and, if we concede such things as “ceremonial marriage” and next-of-kin status, we can successfully deny them the tangible benefits that belong to fruitful relationships without being caught in the “fairness” issue. Let us be big, and let us fight fair, but let us fight the Moor with the Moor!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Just How Conservative are Latin Mass Catholics?

A few Sundays ago I had a chance to talk to Terry, one of the choir directors at our Latin Mass parish, about something that was on my mind. Recently, I had been listening to a series of lectures on tape about the history of music, and this had clarified my thinking a good deal about liturgical music. So I put it to Terry:

Dutchman: Don’t you think that modern music is too worldly for liturgical use?

Terry: How do you mean?

Dutchman: Well, liturgical music should keep you focused on the meaning of the Mass, shouldn’t it? I mean, when you start noticing the nuances of the music, when composers start introducing novelties that draw attention to themselves, when you find yourself impressed by the virtuosity of the performance — well then you’ve been distracted from real participation in the sacrifice of the mass.

Terry: I guess, but that all depends on what you mean by modern ...

Dutchman: Well, this Ars Nova of course!

Terry: Oh I see exactly what you mean! Those isorhythms are just too cosmopolitan and worldly for use in the mass!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How to Stay Young.

Martin Niemöller was born in Westphalia in 1892 and joined the Imperial German Navy as a cadet and entered the U-boat service in 1915, becoming the commander of UC67 in 1918 and compiling an heroic war record. Unwilling to serve in a republican navy, Niemöller resigned his commission in 1918, entered a seminary, and was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1924.

Even though Niemöller was a staunch German nationalist who had voted for the Nazis in every election, almost as soon as Hitler came to power Niemöller began to oppose him for undermining the Christian faith in Germany. Shocked at the Nazi attempt to insert an “Aryan Paragraph” into the creed of the German Evangelical [Lutheran] Church, Niemöller formed the Pastors’ Emergency League in 1933 and later the independent German Confessing Church. Though under Gestapo surveillance from the beginning of 1934, Niemöller was a popular figure and the Nazis held off on arresting him until 1937. Though a court found him guilty of “malicious gossip,” he was sentenced only to the time he had already served and released. Instead of being allowed to go free, however, Niemöller was immediately re-arrested as “the Führer’s personal prisoner” and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

During his imprisonment, Niemöller went through a crisis of faith and considered becoming a Catholic. Seeing a potential conversion to Catholicism as effectively “decapitating” the German Confessing Church, in 1941 Niemöller was transferred to Dachau where he was housed with Catholic priests. Rather than push Niemöller into conversion, this experience had the opposite effect, both strengthening his commitment to Protestantism and making him a life-long advocate of the ecumenical moment.

At war’s end, Niemöller was liberated by American troops. With the re-constitution of the German Evangelical Church after the war, Niemöller became one of the authors of the Stuttgart Confession of Guilt which admitted the church’s failure in the face of the moral challenge of Nazi tyranny. Niemöller wrote:

For long years we may have fought in the name of Jesus Christ against the spirit that found its terrible expression in the National Socialist rule of violence; yet we accuse ourselves for not speaking out more courageously, praying more faithfully, believing more gladly and loving more ardently.

In subsequent years Niemöller served as president of the Hessian regional church, opposed German re-armament, worked for greater understanding with the Soviets, and championed the causes of disarmament and world peace. He died at Wiesbaden in 1984.

Recently I found another perspective on him in Albert Speer’s memoir, “Inside the Third Reich.” Speer had first been Hitler’s architect and later Armaments Minister. Of all defendants at the Nürnberg war crimes trials, only Speer admitted any guilt for the crimes of the Nazi regime. Speer wrote of Niemöller:

A few days later a large bus drew up on the prison yard. A whole bus-load of “tourists” was quartered with us, among them [former Reichs Bank President, Hjalmar] Schacht and General [Georg] Thomas, the former chief of the Armaments Office. Also among the bus passengers were prominent prisoners from German concentration camps who had been liberated by the American in South Tyrol, taken to Capri, and then transferred to our camp. Word went around that Pastor Niemöller was among them. We did not know him personally, but among the new arrivals was a frail old man, white-haired and wearing a black suit. The [aircraft] designer [ and engineer, Anton] Flettner, [aircraft designer, Ernst] Heinkel and I agreed it must be Niemöller. We felt great sympathy for this man so visibly marked by many years of concentration camp. Flettner took it upon himself to go over to the broken man and express our sympathy. But he had no sooner addressed him than he was corrected: “Thyssen! My name is Thyssen. Niemöller is standing over there.” And there he stood, looking youthful and self-possessed, smoking a pipe — an extraordinary example of how the pressures of long imprisonment can be withstood.

I think this is a wonderful example of how God gives us the strength to persevere when we see His plan for us and do the right thing. It seems to me that if we have but a fraction of Niemöller’s bravery and trust in God then we can withstand anything the world can throw at us. It is also good to keep in mind the advice of Saint Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney, the Curé d’Ars: “God commands you to pray, but he forbids you to worry.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What Year is it Anyway?

There are numerous calendars in use, or available for use, today. Among the most important are the Islamic Calendar, in which it is now the year 1428 A.H. (A.H. being the initials of the Latin anno Hegirae or "in the year of the Hijra"), the Hebrew Calendar in which it is 5767 A.M. (anno mundi or "in the year of the world"), the Chinese Calendar in which it is the year 4703, or the Hindu Calendar in which it is the 5107th Hindu year. The Copts in Ethiopia begin their era with the Christian persecutions and number the year 1723 E.D. (“Era since Diocletian). The Japanese number the years beginning with the installation of a new emperor; this is the nineteenth year of the Heisei Era. In more obscure calendars it is the year 5108 in the Kaliyuga Calendar, the year 2551 in the Buddha Nirvana Calendar, the year 2064 in the Bikram Samvat Calendar, the year 1929 in the Saka Calendar, the year 1183 in the Kolla Varsham Calendar, the year 1414 in the Bengali Calendar, and the 1928th five year cycle of the Vedanga Jyotisa Calendar.

Do any of these dates mean anything to you? Probably not.

How about the year 2760 A.U.C.?

A.U.C. stands for ab urbe condita, Latin for "from the founding of the City (Rome)," and it was the way that many ancient writers dated events using the Roman Calendar. The original calendar of Romulus, the first Roman king, appears to have been lunar, with ten months. It was replaced by the second king, Numa Pompilius, with one more like that of the Greeks, a solar calendar consisting of ten months. This was primarily a lunar (monthly) calendar that rectified itself to the movement of the sun by inserting a mensis intercalaris (“intercalary month”) every second or fourth year. The magistrate who was given legal control of the calendar by Numa was the Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Collegium Pontificum, the religious advisors to the king. After the fall of the kings and their replacement with a republic, this office was confirmed on the Twelve Tablets, the basic law of Rome

Somewhat later, the era of the later Roman Calendar was fixed by the historian Marcus Terentius Varro at the founding of the city some 2760 years ago and dates were noted as being ab urbe condita (A.U.C.). Varro made this calculation late in the seventh century A.U.C,.

Under the late Republic, holders of the office of Pontifex Maximus began to abuse their privileges, adding an intercalary month when their political allies held the annual office of Consul, and shortening the year when it served their purposes. Thus, by 707 A.U.C., when Gaius Julius Caesar became not only Consul but also Pontifex Maximus, the calendar was three months out of sync with the seasons and he resolved to correct it permanently. He introduced a calendar based on a more accurate Babylonian model, adding two months, changing them, from thirty days each to varying lengths, and adding an intercalary day every forth year, or "leap year", to bring the total number of days in the year to 365 and one-quarter, a very near approximation of the actual solar year. Every successive Emperor of Rome, from Augustus to Gratian, held the title of Pontifex Maximus and maintained Caesar’s system intact.

In 1135 A.U.C., at the request of Bishop Saint Ambrose of Milan, the now Christian emperor Gratian removed the pagan altars from the imperial capital and permanently relaxed the office of Pontifex Maximus to the Bishops of Rome. Ever since, the successors to Saint Peter as Pope of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, have been invested with the authority of this legal office.

In 1278 A.U.C., a new system of enumerating the era was developed by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus, as an outcome of his work on calculating the date of Easter. Starting from incarnatione Domini (the birth of Christ), Exiguus re-numbered the years and called them Anno Domini, or "in the year of our Lord." Thus, 1278 A.U.C. was re-numbered 525 A.D,. This system was immediately adopted by the legal authority, the Pope, and became universal throughout the Christian West.

Subsequently, the era preceding the birth of Jesus was designated "before Christ" (B.C.) by Saint Bede, a monk working in the eighth century of the Christian Era. Scholars began using this notation immediately, though legal adoption by the Pope came only some time later. (In this system of enumeration there is no "year zero," but rather two eras that butt up against each other.)

Though the Julian Calendar was a fine system, after the passage of some centuries it was found to be inaccurate by three days every four hundred years. In 1582 A.D., the reigning Pontifex Maximus, Pope Gregory XIII, made necessary corrections, dropping three leap years every four hundred years. Probably because this Gregorian Calendar is accurate to within two minutes every five-thousand years, it has been adopted by every government throughout the world as their primary callendar.

Eastern Prelates have never accepted it however, and Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches still use the Julian Calendar to this day. Dates after 1582 A.D. that are reckoned with the Julian Calendar are noted O.S. (“old style”). The most famous instance of this is date of the Russian Revolution, which took place on 7 November 1917 A.D., was dated by the Julian Calendar as 26 October 1917 O.S., hence it is called the “October Revolution.” Though Orthodox Churches still use the Julian Calendar, it is no longer in use by any government since Greece dropped its use in 1923.

The problem of calendrics remains, however. A number of anti-Christian fanatics wish to keep the dating system they are familiar with, yet they chafe at the legal possession of the calendar by the office of the Pontifex Maximus. They are trying to call the dates C.E., for "common era," and B.C.E., for "before common era."

But the fact remains.

From Numa to Benedict XVI regulation of the calendar has been the legal domain of the Pontifex Maximus.

To call the year 2007 C.E. is not only a shameful denial of our Christian heritage, it is the theft of intellectual property. And I, for one, think that the Quaestors should take action!