Strange title, I'll grant.
I was just reading the latest issue of 'Dialogue' - the journal of the Canadian Philosophical Association. It includes an article by Scott Woodcock entitled, "Five Reasons why Margaret Somerville is Wrong about Same-Sex Marriage and the Rights of Children." I decided to read it because it proposed to be a reasoned critique of Somerville's 'secular' argument against same-sex 'marriage.' So, one secular versus another. I needed an update on worldly thinking.
I was impressed by the cleanliness of Woodcock's argument, meaning, no ad hominems, no bitterness, very little appeal to pathos. Too much of that in this area of study. And, although, of course, I cannot agree with his 'pro' position, basing myself solely upon Woodcock's presentation of her argument, I was not very impressed by a great portion of Somerville's argument.
Can I agree that there is a secular justification for being against SSM? Catholics are always in a funny position when we are asked whether there is a purely philosophical justification for some ethical position. Our doctrine of Natural Law is a resource but also a bit of a burden. A Protestant can just appeal to revelation and say to hell with human reasoning! Yet there is something faulty in that. There is a law in nature and we see it working in how with good things are generally associated overall positive outcomes, and evil things negative outcomes. Is marriage good? Surely just look at its overall effects to make that decision. Is SSM good? Again, look at the overall results. Now, as Woodcock is quick to point out, there is no philosophical justification for thinking that SSM (i.e. same-sex 'marriage') is bad while marriage is good. Just examine all the spousal abuse, child abuse, divorce, abortion, contraception, adultery associated with marriage. And I agree, let's not make preemptive conclusions. A great deal of argument is helpful here to strengthen and rarify our thinking on this matter.
Now, since neither side in this debate wanted to talk about natural law, they argued around a clumsy phrase - "the institution's inherently procreative function." There is more here, I suspect, than meets the eye. I think that Somerville, who seems to have coined the phrase, means that marriage (you will have noted by now that by marriage I always mean the opposite of SSM) is by nature procreative and that, because of this, marriage is a social good because it makes children good. SSM is bad not only because it doesn't, it is bad because it interferes with the good that marriage does for children and society as a whole by dividing resources and rights (referred to in this article as "social acknowledgement").
It is so interesting, though, how Woodcock dismantles Somerville's argument. It runs something like this - forgive the crudity! There are bad marriages, there are (at least hypothetically) good SSMs. The appeal of his position lies in this: failing short of proof, how can you make an argument based upon the prima facie assertion that SSM is always, usually, often, or generally bad, or at least significantly worse than marriage? You cannot. Unless, that is, you are a Protestant, or a bigot (they are not the same thing!!!).
The strength of his argument lies in the fact that marriage is statistically in bad shape these days; parenting is in bad shape these days. The conclusion is why do you think SSM would end up with worse results? I don't think every SSM family would be worse than every marriage-family. Clearly not. But what is, for instance, the Church's actual view on marriage? It doesn't admit of any of the things that Woodcock uses to diminish the difference between marriage and SSM. But 'the state' does. Our state approves of divorce, common-law, contraception, pre- and extra-marital marriage, sexuality and conception - so how can a state approve of all of these things, and yet not SSM? It can't. Somerville seems to be on weak ground.
I think SSA (same-sex attraction) is the result of one or several different psychological conditions. Should the presence of this or these automatically rule out one's eligibiligity for adopting? I'm not sure. In an absolute sense I want children only to be adopted by saintly Catholic families. Falling away from this I would say looks like this: next, good Catholic families, good Protestant families, good Jewish families, good Muslim families, good secular families, and so on. Couples with mental illnesses need to be evaluated. Homosexuality is just one kind and it admits of many types, likely. What about other illnesses? Diabetes, depression, heart disease, thyroid conditions, etc. Homosexuality is a problem, no doubt. Is it the most significant problem? No. Is it significant enough? I'm not sure, but I am apt to think yes. I am apt to think homosexuality, no matter what its precise shape (again, I think there are types), is significant enough to make adoption a bad idea.
But the real reason why I wanted to read this article was to make sure I wasn't missing anything in the debate, since I really don't read much secular stuff. No, I must admit I didn't really see much here that was new to me or that forced a significant reconsideration.
A Concluding Postscript on My Broken Heart - Cardinal Schonborn.
Related to the above discussion, LifeSiteNews is carrying the depressing account of Schonborn's heriticalizing (solecism - I like it!)
I have loved you, dear Cardinal, but you broke my heart. You who were once so great an apostle against creationism (i.e. the reason why LifeSite doesn't like him anyway - haha!), filled me with hope that the Church might find another great teacher to lead us away from the errors of creationism... But alas, you are just a man, and no god. What is going on with this guy? Now, I will admit that I have not seen the context for his remarks, but I cannot imagine any possible justification for them - although what I can imagine does not include all things.