Friday, April 22, 2016

penny-wise & pound-foolish

Thomas Williams writes at Crux about the recent conflict over bathroom access.  Should transgendered persons--born biologically as one sex but identify (and usually dress) as another sex or androgynous--have access to the bathroom of their choice, not their biology?  Willams sees a longer game at work here.

In his recent letter on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia(“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis said that sex education should teach “respect and appreciation” for sexual differences, including self-acceptance and learning to embrace the body with which one is born, rather than playing with fictional identities that deny reality.
“The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,” he wrote. Thinking that we enjoy “absolute power over our own bodies,” Francis warned, leads to the delusion that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
This could turn out to be the most unpopular stance the pope took in the entire letter.
Scott Eric Alt and a few others have lately had to fend off the rad-trad crowd, Dien Bien Phu style, over Amoris Laetitia.  This blog has covered those here and here.  Williams, though, brings up a crucial point perhaps missed in that first onslaught:  Pope Francis reiterates the principle common in Catholic circles:  human freedom arrogantly assumes complete control of nature when only God possesses such power.  We are part of the creation, not the actual creators.  Every undergraduate student writes that note in a college classroom (or at least they should), but it takes somebody like Pope Francis to apply that idea to reality. The results, Williams notes, can cause significant discomfort.  Williams notes a recent video wherein college students demonstrate the problem generating the current bathroom access issues:  nobody wants to say anything negative about somebody's assertion of self-identification.  Age, gender, and ethnicity are all social constructs in which we decide to participate.  The only limitation recognized, apparently, is height;  the videographer could not get any of the interviewed to agree with his assertion of being six foot five inches tall (he's much shorter).  One of the students interviewed, Williams notes, responded:

Another summed up her opinion by saying: “I feel like it’s not my place, as like another human, to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.”

So as long as you don't identify as tall or short--physical realities we're apparently forced to accept--you can identify as male, female, trans, Asian, African, African-American, white, Irish, whatever. Your self-assertion creates your reality.  Thus Williams:

Twenty-five years ago, Saint John Paul II argued that allowing the will dominance over reason and reality will end up leading society over a cliff.
In his 1991 encyclical letter Centesimus Annus, John Paul wrote that in the political organization of the state, the only alternative to reason is will. If things are not based on what is, they must be based on what we want them to be.
The “we” in question here is always the strongest, whether expressed as a majority or simply as the most powerful interest group.

Williams is quite right, and his use of St. John Paul II is exactly on target.  Williams traces John Paul's career of survival through both National Socialism and Marxist Communism.  In both cases, the totalitarian system in power determined reality based on the perception of those in power, not reality itself.  (Not surprisingly, the influence of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, "the sacred monster of Thomism", can be see here, especially Book 4 of his Reality.).  Williams sees the past as prologue, except now the totalitarianism in power is democracy.  Williams:

As a society, we’ve now passed seamlessly from defining people by their sexual “orientation” to defining them by their subjective belief of who they are, regardless of what biology or genetics says, and all in less than a generation.
Where this will ultimately lead is anybody’s guess, but if the opinions of the millennial generation are to be believed, the trend has not yet nearly run its course.
And if St. John Paul is to be believed, it will not end in the flourishing of democracy, but in its demise.

Scary but probably to prove true.  The Church does not seek to persecute the transgendered. If anything those individuals need help and support--spiritual, psychological, and physical.  That being said, our care for the marginalized cannot lead us to deny reality itself.  Unlike those college students, we need to be able to say to others "I understand you feel that way, but that's not the reality you face."  After all, Bishop Barron makes a similar point about the nation's now-recognized problem with pornography.  Freud told us that liberating the libido would liberate us.  Like the college students, the nation doesn't want to be seen as restricting the expressive freedom of others--even it's becoming clearer and clearer that such expressions suppress life itself.  Where will this short-sightedness lead us?

Read all of Williams's article here.
Read Bishop Barron's column here.

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