The authority of reason in defense of marriage, pt 3 Print
Heroes for Life
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Heroes for Life by Lillian Quinones

This article is the third in a four-part series offered as a primer for Catholics on the authority of reason in the defense of marriage. The series is based on author Lillian Quinones’ interviews with Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University.

Author’s note: The need for knowledgeable and articulate Catholics to defend the family as the foundation of society is dire. I am honored to feature Robert P. George, who is hailed by the New York Times as the “country’s most influential Christian thinker.” His clear and concise arguments motivate us to defend traditional marriage courageously and confidently for, as he demonstrates in this article, reason is our strongest weapon.

— Lillian Quinones is a 2013 graduate of St. Ambrose Academy in Madison. She is a freshman at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich.

Robert P. George
Robert P. George
Meet Professor Robert P. George
A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, he also received a master’s degree in theology from Harvard and a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford University. He is the author of Conscience and Its Enemies, In Defense of Natural Law, Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, and The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion and Morality in Crisis, and is the co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics, and What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. His scholarly articles and reviews have appeared in many journals. Professor George is a drafter of the “Manhattan Declaration,” a manifesto signed by Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical believers that “promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research, or same-sex marriage.” Professor Robert P. George, a devout Catholic, holds Princeton University’s celebrated McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and is the chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is the founding director of the James Madison Program at Princeton and has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award.

What has occurred in society in recent years has been shocking to moral conservatives. I am referring to the recent escalation of the expectation that we normalize and remove the reality of disorder from the homosexual, bisexual, transgender orientation. What societal factors have brought us here?

We are facing this crisis of rewriting the traditional definition of marriage because of the emergence of the ideology of expressive individualism and the associated rise of secularism, which has reduced religion itself to the level of feeling.

The generation of the 1960s and the early 1970s called itself the “me” generation. Its slogan was “if it feels good, do it.” That basic idea has continued to impact people’s thinking.

Redefining moral limits: Sanger, Kinsey, Hefner

There are some key points along the way that we can put our finger on both in intellectual terms and in social historical terms.

Margaret Sanger’s very aggressive campaign for birth control and the loosening of sexual morals in the 20th century was a very important moment. (Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood.)

Another key moment came in the 1940s when Alfred Kinsey publicized his pseudo-scientific work in “sexology.” For Kinsey, it mattered less who was having sex with whom, than that sex was being had. He stated, though falsely, that all sorts of activities that were traditionally regarded as perversions were much more widely practiced than people believed.

Kinsey’s barely concealed goal was ideological, not scientific. He wanted to establish that these activities were not perversions at all, but rather represented the wide variations in normal sexual behaviors. His ideas undermined people’s faith in the traditional norms of sexual morality.

Another defining event occurred in the 1950s when Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, launched his very successful and lucrative campaign to make so-called “soft-core” pornography socially acceptable. That again sent the message that sex was just a matter of entertainment and self-satisfaction. It wasn’t something serious and bounded by moral norms that would bear on integrity and character.

Finally, the impact of the cultural revolution of the 1960s — the rise of the “me” generation and its philosophy of “if it feels good, do it” — launched attacks on traditional authority of all types in American society.

Child to parent: ‘Mom, can I be a girl if I want to?’

How should parents approach their teenage children about society’s constant message that you are at liberty to choose your sexual orientation?

Parents should draw on all the resources available, from philosophy, religion, psychology, and other fields, to teach their children what we human beings actually know about sexuality and marriage.

You have to read in a critical way and identify reliable sources of information in the various fields. Of course in the age of the internet there are lots of good organizations that are willing to assist parents in getting in touch with the best work that’s been done by ethical scholars.

For example, on questions of so-called gender identity, people should read the work of Dr. Paul McHugh. Dr. McHugh is the former chairman of the Psychiatry Department at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. He is a very distinguished psychiatrist who has been in the forefront of fighting the idea that the way to deal with gender identity disorders is to perform so-called “sex change operations” or “gender reassignment surgeries.”

Dr. McHugh makes the elementary point that performing these cosmetic procedures is not treating the psychological disorder; it is just trying to mask it and escape responsibility for dealing with it.

What needs to be done is the work of psychology, the work of psychiatry, to heal the person who is experiencing, no doubt through no fault of his or her own, the identity disorder.

Catholics and others need to know about Dr. McHugh and his work. He is controversial because the forces of sexual liberation hate a guy like that. He is a great scholar with a prestigious appointment contradicting their fundamental ideas. He is a great resource available for parents.

Another resource is the Catholic organization called Courage. It helps anybody — whether one is Catholic or not — who is experiencing same-sex attraction and wants to be free of that or at least wants to be able to conduct themselves in a morally upright way and not act on same-sex desires.

There are many organizations that are doing great work and, as I say, in the age of the internet you can actually find them.


Next is the conclusion of the series: Education, prayer, and political activism.