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Tag Archive: Children

Same-sex marriage violates the right of the family to protection by society and the state

Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2012 (4:23 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Thursday, January 5th, 2012.

Douglas Farrow, from an outstanding piece in the new (and terrific-looking) issue of Touchstone, entitled Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage? Nail-head, meet hammer:

[W]e should observe also that when a family of some description is founded by a same-sex couple, it is always founded by violating the natural parent-child bond that marriage is intended to nurture and protect. It deprives the child, whether in the same way that divorce does or in some more innovative technological way, of its prima facie right to its own father and mother. But we should notice something else as well, and not merely parenthetically—something too little noticed either by the detractors or by the champions of marriage. Same-sex marriage violates the natural parent-child bond in every family, and the right of the family to protection by society and the state.

How so?

In Rerum Novarum Pope Leo XIII rightly described the family as “a society very small . . . but none the less a true society, and one older than any State,” with “rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.” This society, “founded more immediately in nature,” is what the Universal Declaration has in mind when it speaks in article 16 of the family. The family’s status as “natural”—that controversial adjective is deployed only in this one specific article—allows it a certain priority over civil society and the state. The latter share an obligation to protect the family, but the family is not at their disposal.

Same-sex marriage dispenses with all of that, however. By excising sexual difference, with its generative power, it deprives itself of any direct connection to nature. The unit it creates rests on human choice, as does that created by marriage. But whether monogamous, polygamous, or polyamorous, it is a closed unit that reduces to human choice, rather than engaging choice with nature; and its lack of a generative dimension means that it cannot be construed as a fundamental building block.

Institutionally, then, it is nothing more than a legal construct. Its roots run no deeper than positive law. It therefore cannot present itself to the state as the bearer of independent rights and responsibilities, as older or more basic than the state itself. Indeed, it is a creature of the state, generated by the state’s assumption of the power of invention or re-definition. Which changes everything.

I have little to add except that I can happily cross “write a short but cogent defense of marriage from an anthropological perspective” off my to-do list – I can simply point people to Farrow’s article, which is far better than anything I would have come up with. Next time some sneering cynic asks you “How is your marriage ‘damaged’ by same-sex marriage?”, share this link. Marriage matters like nothing else matters in human society, and Farrow knows why. And he knows why contraception lies at the root of the breath-taking collapse of the institution over the past century – and especially the past half-century. Required reading for any morally serious person.

Good Riddance, 2011

Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 (8:03 pm), by John W Gillis


This year sucked. It began with my little sister’s funeral, and ended with a malaise lingering on from my mother’s funeral.

For my sister, Mary, death came quickly, and then it came slowly. She was very busy living a vibrant life, when she was suddenly smitten with a terminal cancer. Then she spent a year and a half dying. She tried to keep up the appearances of optimism, but everyone around her knew how the dance was going to end; we just didn’t know quite when. When it came, death came slowly, bleeding her life away as her ministering aunt and other loved ones waited in vigil for the end, which came in the third watch of the night after Christmas Day. She was 49, and left no children to carry her line forward on the Earth.

For my mother, Edna, death came slowly, and then it came quickly. Dying at 79, she had lived a good and full life, touching the lives of many, and leaving a legacy of kindness that, pray God, will redound to her name for generations, even when she herself is forgotten. Having been born with a collapsed lung, her breathing organ was never quite right, and she’d been living with a progressive case of acute Pulmonary Fibrosis for some time, before she up and died on us. Of course, we knew it was coming sooner or later, and she had gotten “old” recently, but still it seemed to come almost out of the blue. True, she had given us a scare the day before, and the family spent Sunday afternoon in the emergency room, wondering if she’d perhaps had a stroke, but she seemed fine by afternoon, had checked out OK medically, and was sent home in the evening. On Monday morning, she died. Just like that. It was October 3rd, the original feast day of St Therese of Lisieux, the saint credited by the family with saving Mom’s life as a newborn, and whose name she was thus given in tribute.

Whatever else may have happened this year seems almost lost in the shadows of these two bookends of death & grief. I’ve looked upon the sorrowful , resigned faces of yet a couple more friends who have had their verdicts of terminal cancer pronounced to them. I’ve watched dozens of co-workers jettisoned from their source of material well-being, as the business world atrophies under corporate & government mismanagement and corruption. I’ve seen the U.S. government run up a debt of unprecedented magnitude – one poised to crush the commonweal of my children and their peers – for the sake of a filched political placidity, while the ruling party successfully smeared the opposition as extremist and non-cooperative for the sin of (futilely) demanding a roadmap to fiscal sanity as the price for complicity in the mortgaging of the futures of those we have a moral duty to protect & defend. Shameful.

As for myself, I can’t get out of my own way: I had targeted early December for completion of my prerequisite course work at Franciscan University, but have been scuffling badly since mid-October, and don’t even know how to get back on track at this point.

On the bright side, this was the year that Joyce leveraged her imposed unemployment into an opportunity to pursue her long-time desire to get into professional dog grooming. The Boston Bruins are suddenly the best hockey team in the world for the first time since I could sing alto, and last spring they gave us one of the greatest hockey games I’ve ever seen (Game 7 of the Conference Finals against Tampa Bay).

Furthermore, as of yet at least, no crowd of self-entitled, self-righteous, unemployed ne’er-do-wells have converged to “occupy” my backyard, demanding that I succor them by paying off their insane student loans for stupidly bloated college tuitions I could never afford for either myself or my own kids (we found other ways to achieve what we needed to achieve). That’s a plus. And I still have my own job; my kids are all healthy and safe; we’re coming up on a leap-year – which means a “real” anniversary for Joyce and I on Feb 29th; Congress reversed the moronic ban on incandescent light bulbs; and Rick Santorum actually appears to have an outside shot at winning the Iowa caucuses, putting the only candidate I actually like from the Republican field in a position to at least temporarily receive some media attention before the big-money candidates get around to burying him under a torrent of glitzy drivel (OK, I also really like and admire Michelle Bachmann, but I’m afraid she would be almost as out-of-her-league in that job as Obama is, speaking of torrents of glitzy drivel from big-money candidates…).

And, lastly, the garage ceiling light bulb is still burning faithfully, almost 40 years after being installed. Yes, the very same light bulb that greeted my mother and father the first time they illuminated their new garage with electricity in June of 1972 continues to shine its light every time I flip the switch. To me, it’s become a symbol of faithfulness and perseverance, and it reminds me unfailingly of my dad. Would that we all could be relied upon so faithfully, as that bulb, to shine forth the light entrusted to us for the sake of others’ seeing their way in the world! I dread the day that bulb blows; I pray it’s not in 2012.

Happy New Year, planet Earth. Choose carefully; choose well. Peace, from here.

It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states

Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 (3:10 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, September 14th, 2011:

Mary Rose Somarriba, writing yesterday at Public Discourse, on the recent anti-bullying legislation recently enacted in New Jersey (hewing closely to Obama administration policies), in an article called “A Bully-Free World?”:

Why, one might ask, would the president lead a conference on preventing something like bullying, which is ultimately impossible to prevent? It could be, perhaps, because bullying is something that everyone agrees is wrong, and it is something that everyone can relate to, because everyone has been bullied at some point.

But sadly, bullying is like any unfortunate human conflict and will exist as long as humans do. This does not mean it is okay to bully; it means it is problematic to imagine that we can create a world in which conflict doesn’t exist. It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states—the likes of which only belong in films like Minority Report or Adjustment Bureau—where kids could be criminally charged for hurting each other’s feelings, “different” kids could be targeted as “likely to be bullied,” and so on. But that is exactly what this boils down to: a child’s version of hate crimes.

In reality, laws like New Jersey’s risk worsening the problems of bullying. There is reason to believe that hotlines where kids can anonymously text-message tips to incriminate bullies are yet another technology that kids will abuse for the purposes of bullying. Further, bullying prevention is arguably the wrong goal altogether. It would be better to focus on conflict resolution than on conflict prevention. Devoting all effort to preventing the inevitable is not only wasteful policy; it is a failure to do what actually might lessen the damage of real-life conflicts.

One of my kids – probably the youngest one – mentioned something during dinner the other night about the latest anti-bullying campaign at her school, and I was too tired and cranky to resist letting out a snort. The kids were a little flabbergasted when I said I thought the current anti-bullying hysteria is moronic. Of course, they assumed that anyone who didn’t “like” anti-bullying must therefore “like” bullying – that’s the way these things are framed society-wide, the way immature minds tend to work naturally, and certainly fits the Facebook zeitgeist we and they inhabit. I pointed out the hypocrisy of adults shoving anti-bullying propaganda down the throats of helpless populations of schoolchildren, and made some references to the long stream of social do-goodism in the schools, of which anti-bullying is not merely the latest fashion, but an almost inevitable consequence of previous efforts by the same kinds of “progressive” people to coddle school children, eliminate discipline, abandon authority, and eradicate the stain of “judgmentalism”.

I don’t think I did a very good job of explaining myself, and fortunately, Somarriba does a pretty good job in this article of explaining at least why the anti-bullying agenda is impractical. But I really dislike the agenda for reasons she comes close to, but doesn’t address. She suggests that perhaps President Obama wants to get out in front of this because everybody agrees that bullying is wrong, and she’s dead right about that: it’s a convenient platform for cheesy moralism. You won’t lose any votes by thundering denunciations against bullies, after all. And that’s the real problem here: it’s symptomatic of a culture that feels the need to find something phony with which to fill a glaring void, a void where genuine morality deserves to be found, but cannot be allowed expression lest it upset the libertarian apple cart of mutually assured disregard of vice.

We have children because love overflows

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2011 (8:55 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Sunday, January 30th, 2011:

Timothy Dalrymple, writing at Patheos.com, on Why We Have Children:

At the thought of fathering a daughter, waves of joy rolled through me. I loved my little girl long before I met her. I read her stories in the womb, sang to her, prayed for her. It wouldn’t matter what she looked like or what her personality was. She was mine—mine to nurture and protect, mine to train and guide, and mine to love with all my might.

We have children because love overflows. I believe as a Christian that I am created in the image of a God who is Love, a God whose love so desired an object that it brought us into being. Although the wisdom and power of love within us is clouded and twisted by sin, still the image of Love is there. We have children because love is essentially creative, and because our souls long for other souls we can love lavishly and forever.

I’ve been less than impressed with most of my infrequent visits over to the Patheos site, but this piece by Dalrymple really struck me. It struck me that, with all the noisome, tiresome tumult that the so-called culture wars generate, it really comes down to the gentle, magnificent truth that we have children because love overflows. This is a very personal essay that will surely vindicate the few minutes it will take to read it.

Wait, it’s my kids

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 (8:36 pm), by John W Gillis


A few days before Christmas, I was coming home late after being out attending to some delicate family matters, and I stopped at my favorite local Chinese restaurant for some food to bring home for supper. After placing my order with the manager, I decided to sit at the bar and wait for my order.

There were two young professional women, perhaps into their early thirties, sitting in conversation near the south end of the small bar, so I walked to the north end, sat down on the corner where I’d have a view of the door leading to the kitchen, and ordered myself a beer.

After several minutes, a cell phone began to go off raucously, and one of the women turned, reached into her bag, and eyeballed the noisy phone. She glanced at her friend, and said: “Wait, it’s my kids…”

“Hi buddy… uh-huh… I’ll be home at like 9:40. I know… I know… Is Dad home? Probably not, huh… OK…Listen, it’s only 40 minutes… it’s really only 37 minutes… Is Sarah in bed yet? Good. You be in bed by 9:30, OK? I know… I know… look, it’s only 36 minutes now. You be a good boy now; I gotta go. See you soon.”

As they refreshed their cocktails, the women rekindled their conversation, now loudly enough that I couldn’t but hear them in the otherwise quiet room. The second woman, who had had her back to me, turned toward the bar to stir her drink, so I could now see her in profile. She was heavily made-up, wearing silly and ostentatious jewelry, and an expensive-looking blouse that fit like a nice driving glove should. She held her drink between both hands on the bar, and delved back into a saga already half-told:

“He was telling me about all the things I used to do to piss him off, like ‘All those things I  did in my room’… and I’m like ‘What things?’ He goes, ‘Like how it was all black, and how I was doing that witchcraft and stuff’…”

The first woman – the one with the attention-seeking cell phone and interrupting children – snorted, and quipped:

“So, did you like tell him that this is the 2010s? Get real…”

“Can I brag for a minute? That was my son Toby, you know? The big fella brought home his first real report card yesterday. He had two A’s, 4 or 5 B’s, and 2 C’s. And the C’s were, like, not even fair. I was so proud of him. He works unbelievably hard, especially for a little guy. And his father is, like, No. Help. At. All!”

I spotted the manager coming out of the kitchen holding my dinner, so I quickly drained what was left of my beer, pushed a tip toward the bartender and thanked him, and intercepted the manager as he came around the corner of the front desk.

As I took the food and turned toward the door, I glanced back at the women at the bar, shook my head slightly in sorrow, and counted my blessings. And then I said a prayer for Toby and Sarah. I suppose I also should have said a prayer for those two young women, and the one’s husband, and the other’s father. But at the time, I just couldn’t see past the kids. Thank God for his grace in my life…

One of the Deadliest Enemies to Liberty that Has Ever Been Devised

Posted: Monday, November 22, 2010 (4:30 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Monday, Nov. 22nd, 2010:

A double-quote day.

First, in honor of John F. Kennedy on the 47th anniversary of his assassination:

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Second, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) testifying before the joint Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and House Committee on Education, February 25, 1926, on the proposed establishment of a Department of Education, specifically here addressing the alleged benefits of national educational standardization that would result from such an establishment:

I believe that in the sphere of the mind we should have absolutely unlimited competition. There are certain spheres where competition may have to be checked, but not when it comes to the sphere of the mind; and it seems to me that we ought to have this state of affairs: That every State should be faced by the unlimited competition in this sphere of other States; that each one should try to provide the best for its children that it possibly can; and, above all, that all public education should be kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free competition of private schools and church schools. A public education that is faced by such competition is a beneficent result of modern life; but a public education that is not faced by such competition of private schools is one of the deadliest enemies to liberty that has ever been devised.

[…]

As I say, I think that when it comes to the training of human beings, you have to be a great deal more careful than you do in other spheres about preservation of the right of individual liberty and the principle of individual responsibility; and I think we ought to be plain about this — that unless we preserve the principles of liberty in this department there is no use in trying to preserve them anywhere else. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else as well.

Given the mock horror and contemptuous sneers with which the political & media establishment greeted Sharon Angle’s suggestion during the latest election cycle to dismantle the Department of Education, what do you suppose they would have made of this guy? Of course, he was a New Testament scholar, which probably would have disqualified him from addressing the Congress under 1st Amendment principles in our day. The whole (fairly brief) testimony is worthwhile reading; I’m not sure how stable the link will turn out to be…

My 10-Year Old Wants an iPod…

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2008 (9:43 pm), by John W Gillis


My Abby wants an iPod for her 10th birthday next week. I guess they’re all the rage within 4th grade. But I’m just not comfortable with it. I feel a collision coming, and it’s not unexpected. The collision will be between my sensibilities and the cultural norms (dare I say: fads) which shape the environment my young children are discovering as they grow up.

Having the girls attend a parochial school, a decision which was primarily based on the desire to provide them a learning environment with at least one foot solidly planted in Catholic values, could only delay the inevitable collision. My fear now is that I have done poorly in preparing for this conflict.

I don’t have a problem with iPods – I own one myself, and use it frequently. Even within the house, my CD player was replaced by an MP3 player 5 or 6 years ago. One of the very few features I required when I recently went shopping for a new car was an auxiliary jack for the audio system, so I could plug in my iPod. My problem is not with the technology, but in the potential for it to be utilized in ways that are destructive, in my lack of confidence in Abby’s readiness to properly discern appropriate from inappropriate uses of the device, and, given Abby’s vulnerability, in my complete lack of control over how it would shape Abby’s attitudes toward the world once it was in her hands.

The problem has two heads, but I think one is a shadow of the other. Some parents complain that iPods, like many other similar and not-so-similar devices, become means of withdrawal and seclusion for their children – that children use them to isolate themselves from the rest of the family, disrupting communication and hardening relationships. This is no doubt the case, but I suspect the devices themselves contribute only in fairly small ways to the developing of the attitude that seeks isolation and disintegration, whereas the content borne by the devices can and will have decisive influence on the minds and hearts of the children who encounter it.

For the most part, the content delivered by these devices carries a message of disintegration, turning their hearts away from the good. It doesn’t need to be that way, and the world has much of real worth to offer – in terms of music, or other art forms that have come to be dominated by commercial self-interest and shallow trendiness.

The challenge is in differentiating – a challenge not always easy for an adult, and pretty much impossible for a 10-year old. What is crucial, from my vantage point, is to be able to communicate to my children what good music is, what music is for, how it can be perverted for bad ends… But how does one convey this to a 10-year old? And what would it mean to send the girl out into the consumer music jungle without any adequate guide? That just strikes me as irresponsible.

This is not going to be easy to think through.

[Note: the string of follow-up posts to this can be found under the Interiorizing Culture tag]