Monday, May 10, 2010

Does it mater if she is?

Earlier today, Rod Dreher asked the question on his blog: does it matter if Elena Kagan is gay? I had intended to drop in over there and leave a comment, but by the time I got back over there Rod had found it necessary to close the thread (and I can say from my time sub-hosting his old Crunchy Con blog that the comments that get deleted behind the scenes usually drive such a decision; you probably wouldn't believe how ugly people can get when discussing this sort of topic). Since I can't comment over there, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the matter over here.

As a Catholic, I always look to the Catechism for guidance when it comes to questions like these. The Catechism covers the topic of homosexuality in CCC 2357-2359, but the pertinent section for a question like this one, to me, is 2358, which reads as follows:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
How does this relate to the topic of Elena Kagan, and the question as to whether her sexual orientation is pertinent to her qualification to serve on the Supreme Court?

In the first place, it should be noted that Kagan's orientation is not known; she is described as single. If she does suffer from same-sex attraction she has not chosen to embrace or live the active homosexual lifestyle openly. It may be that she is not attracted to her own gender at all, and that suspicions in this regard are unjust or even uncharitable; but if news were to break tomorrow proving that Kagan has (at least at some time) lived such a lifestyle this would not change the fact that she has chosen to keep all such matters private. This is relevant for one reason: while there may be certain jobs which would be better not to be held by people openly living the homosexual lifestyle (jobs in which impressionable young children will be confused about gender identity, for one example) it is much harder to see the justice in doing so when the person in question is not openly living that life, nor speaking about it, etc. As the Catechism reminds us, we have a duty to avoid all unjust discrimination against those attracted to the same sex; and human dignity means that people should be given access to employment, as well as shelter, health care, and other ordinary aspects of life which are necessary for survival.

In the second place, I think that some might object that for a same-sex attracted person to serve on the Supreme Court would automatically mean that this person would take an activist's view of any Constitutional matters pertaining to homosexual issues, such as gay marriage. The truth is, merely being attracted to one's own gender would not necessarily make a Supreme Court justice rule unfairly in favor of the same-sex attracted community; it is possible to imagine a conservative Catholic judge who is secretly attracted to his own gender, but who struggles with that attraction through frequent Confession, Mass and frequent reception of Holy Communion, and positive habits of thought and action. Such a judge would not be inclined to rule unfairly in favor of homosexual activism or to interpret the Constitution in ways that would privilege this group--but the opposite is also true, in that a married heterosexual judge who believes that two men or two women are capable of "marriage" might be more "gay-friendly" than the judge struggling with same-sex attraction. In other words, if Kagan has (as some have demonstrated) shown that her ideas might unfairly privilege homosexual activists, that is one reason to object to her nomination--but her sexual orientation, whatever that might be, is not the same as her ideas, as this example demonstrates.

Which brings us to the third point: there are plenty of reasons to object to Elena Kagan's nomination based on her experience (or lack therof), ideas, and possible judicial activism; I described some of them in my earlier post. Her hypothetical attraction to her own gender, which may not even be true, is not one of them.

Catholics need to witness to the teachings of the Church on homosexuality, including that teaching found in CCC 2358. All unjust discrimination against people who suffer from homosexual tendencies must be avoided. That doesn't mean that there aren't just reasons to object to the homosexual agenda, of course; marriage doesn't have to be redefined, children don't have to have their latency periods disturbed by conflicting messages about gender, society doesn't have to embrace homosexuality as the source and summit of wonderfulness (as Mark Shea sometimes puts it). But I think we should take care to keep from discriminating unjustly against people who might be same-sex attracted, by declaring that on that basis alone (regardless of lifestyle or ideas) they aren't qualified for a specific job in the public sector.


chimakuni said...

Thank you for this post - we have a wonderful opportunity to teach what the Church teaches - and you did a good job in this post on that.

God Bless

David said...

The task before us would be using reason to assess whether such discrimination is just in the first place.

One of my more favorite posts at Mark Shea's blog had to do with the ban on blood from gay men, mostly because of the comment section (although the derisive, contemptuous attitude of Mark that is so endemic with conservative, Catholic bloggers was as charming as ever). One bright commenter pointed out how the justifications for the ban (if you are unaware, if the man had had sex with a man the year it was enacted and abstained to this day, a sum of thirty years, he would be unable to donate blood) seemed to be bely even the Church's...optimistic...expectations for those who are are gay (attracted to the same sex). More power to this observation was the amount of Catholic commenters in the thread lauding the ban. Somewhere reason and compassion is disconnected with reality, since it seems beyond believable that a gay man could abstain.

As to Kagan, I see her possible homosexuality no more an issue than her hair color, whatever the homosexual agenda is claimed to be at the moment (marriage?).

bearing said...

Right on.

It also confuses a lot of people, people who need badly to be shaken up, when we hold policy positions that are consistent with Church teaching.

Many if not most pro-same-sex-marriage people are firmly convinced that the only possible reason for opposing it is pure unalloyed bigotry and hatred of people with same-sex attraction. We must hate them and wish to punish them by withholding societal benefits.

So logically we must also support banning them from the military, allowing employers to fire them at will, voiding legal documents they have created to name their own heirs and medical decisionmakers, and allowing landlords to evict them from housing?

Um, no. Because that premise that "we hate them" is incorrect in the first place.

Like I said. Confuses them.

But demonstrating actual bigotry goes right along with the narrative.

Anonymous said...

I keep coming back to this particular blog to look for something thought-provoking as well as thoughtfully reflective.

Anonymous said...

It matters because, if she is, she's more likely than not to advocate for gay rights at some point in the next 40 years of her career on the bench.

Anonymous said...

What I mean by that is that it seems awfully optimistic to hope that someone who is not known to be devoutly religious will stay in the closet forever. Maybe by reason alone she has figured out what the Catechism teaches. But is it not more likely that she will eventually show some favoritism?

c matt said...

But favoritism can be shown regardless of her orientation.

So does it matter? Maybe a little more than her hair color. But her past writing, speaking, advocating, etc. is a better indicator of her views than her orientation alone.