At least he’s not here anymore

Here’s to hoping the door hit Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the way out of the Milwaukee diocese–those big, oaken cathedral doors. In the New York Post, he was quoted saying:

We believe that human beings are hard-wired with a sense of right and wrong. It’s sort of in our DNA. And there are certain things that deep down we just know, because nature, and nature’s God has implanted that sense within us. That’s what philosophers, not even Catholic ones, like Aristotle, call natural law. *There’s an in-built code of right and wrong that’s embedded in the human DNA…Hard-wired into us is a dictionary, and the dictionary defines marriage as between one man, one woman for life, please God, leading to the procreation of human life. And if we begin to tamper with the very definition of marriage, then we’re going to be in big trouble. We’re not anti-gay — we’re pro the most basic definition of marriage.”

O, philosophy, Queen of the sciences anti-foundationalist disciplines of the disinterested examination of concepts! Will they ever stop abusing you?

Marriage was not originally understood exclusively as a contract between a man and a woman. Originally, women were her husband’s de facto or de jure property. Men of high-ranking status were permitted multiple wives and many concubines, and monogamy (or castration) was reserved for the lower classes.

Moreover, by saying our sense of right and wrong and the “[singular] definition of marriage” is somehow “hardwired” in human DNA, isn’t Dolan committing himself to a caricature of the caricature of “genetic determinism” actual evolutionary researches devote hundreds and hundreds of pages debunking? (How is that supposed square with centuries of Catholic thought that assume a dualistic libertarian or Molinist account of a “free will”?)

That’s not to say human brain, nothing if not a computational device, is not, in an analogously imperfect sense “hardwired”; but we can only say any given biological/genetic feature statistically predisposes an individual to a behavior. And not all predispositions are pro-social. For example, heterosexual male promiscuity makes a hell of a lot of Darwinian sense; the more partners, the better chance of passing on of those relentless selfish genes; but that doesn’t exonerate the male one iota from the harm incurred by betraying the trust of all his partners (and any partners they might have), and putting them all at risk for STI’s. There is no necessary connextion between “is” and “ought.” The natural is not the good. This cannot be repeated enough.

There’s so much wrong in that statement. Can’t…concievably correct it all in a blog post. My inner sociobiologist weeps.


*No, that’s what Aristoteleans (or rather, Thomists who read Thomism into Aristotle) like Aquinas call “natuarl law.” It’s not clear to what extent Aristotle believed in human nature as opposed to “Greek nature”; it’s reported that he advised Alexander to treat non-Greeks like livestock or crops.


9 Responses

  1. What troubles me most is this: This is the same kind of argument that people used to use to justify Slavery – including Aristotle (who does NOT have a theory of Natural law despite Dolan’s claims) – saying it was “natural” and we “just knew” it was right for darked skin people to serve light skinned ones.

    In fact the same thinking has justified the subjugation of women.

    This does not speak well for either Dolan’s character nor his intellect. Of course we already knew that both of those were weak.

  2. Weak in character? It surprises me to hear you say that. I’d be curious to know how you think so.

    • Certainly. Just as racism is a character flaw (not seeing people as equals) so biogtry against homosexuals is a charater flaw. Dolan is bigoted against homosexuals, therefore he has a character flaw. He has the same weakness of character that caused whites to champion segregation and men to deny women the right to vote. That’s what I mean by a weak character.

  3. I’m not sure I agree with your assessment here, then. I don’t find Dolan bigoted at all. Dolan teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong. He also teaches a love for homosexuals.

    Given the climate of political correctness today, that stance takes quite a bit of character.

  4. I don’t think that takes any Character at all. He is blindly parroting what his Church tells him to believe. That, to me, is not Character but blind obedience.

    As for the “P.C climate.” I don’t buy it. Most Americans oppose gay marriage and think homosexuality is immoral. If they did not, then we could not explain the votes in over 20 states – including California! – to ban gay marriage!!!

    So he is not counter culture, he agrees with most Americans, and he does not have the nerve to disagree with his Church’s hierarchy.

  5. I think that stance takes quite a bit of fear. Unconditional love is what is courageous these days.

  6. Hmmm….

    You know, I find myself sort of agreeing with Katie on this one. I don’t agree with Dolan. I think he’s wrong. Let me make that clear. But don’t think agreeing with the Catholic Church on a particular issue necessarily means that someone is parroting canned statements. Do I think it takes much courage to oppose gay marriage? No. I think it takes far more courage to stand firm in the conviction that homosexuality is not a”deviation” from some preordained natural order–especially for clergy.
    I think it’s quite possible that Dolan firmly believes what he is saying. And if so, then I don’t think this reflects a lack of character, so much as (in my inexpert opinion) theology and biblical interpretation that is blinkered (perhaps moreso than he realizes) by Church tradition. I don’t think this is necessarily a case of “blind obedience”.

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