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More Like Ross, Don’t Douthat

Pope Francis held forth on the state of Catholic marriage last week and, as it turns out, social conservatives seem to appreciate having their own marriages criticized far less than they appreciate criticizing everybody else’s. But before we get into that, here is what Pope Francis said:

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say “yes, for the rest of my life!” but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

Pope Francis’s apparent point was that people do not fully understand what they are doing when the commit to each other for a lifetime. This seems reasonable. He also implied that the idea of a lifetime commitment might not be understood in the way that it once was, assuming that it is even being accepted at all. This also seems reasonable. But because Pope Francis aimed his critique squarely at Catholic marriages – ostensibly, the marriages one would assume he would be the most fond of – socially conservative Catholics lost their minds.\

Rather than addressing each and every single one of those hissy-fits though, perhaps it makes the most sense to address Ross Douthat. Ross is the New York Times’ social conservative of record, a long-time opponent of gay marriage who sees traditional religious believers as victims. To him, a bully deprived off the ability to bully is the one who is truly suffering, the broader project of equality be damned. That bullying though needs to be reserved only for anything less than Douthat’s preferred ideal.

douthat-profileBut let’s hit the pause button on Douthat, briefly.

One of the better arguments made in favor of gay marriage asked its opponents to show their work. If they really were so worried about the state of marriage, as they insisted at literally every imaginable opportunity, why were they not arguing for policies that in any imaginable way limited their own access to the institution? There were always policy options available to marriage’s self-appointed defenders: divorce could be forbidden, second marriages could be banned, various behaviors (abuse, infidelity, etc) could strip individuals of the right to marry, etc. Yet social conservatives who insisted that their only motivation was a defense of the institution itself could never bring themselves to loudly advocate for any law that would in anyway hurt themselves. Yes, they might criticize straight activity allegedly injurious to the institution, but it never went further than that. The obvious conclusion was that social conservatives were never actually concerned about the institution of marriage, at least as far as their own lives were concerned; they were only seeking to punish gays for the alleged crime of being gay. Withholding access to the institution was a particularly effective way of hurting those who were not themselves.

Back to Douthat. To his thinking, gays ought to be excluded from the institution because they are incapable of achieving his ideal: biological parents raising biological children in a committed monogamous relationship sanctified by a religious institution (preferably his own, probably). Perhaps it is worth noting that Douthat has achieved his own ideal in that he is married and has children and was married in his church. Gays, to say nothing of any other family arrangements that stray from the one he voluntarily pursued for himself, are thus necessarily less than he is because they cannot do what he did. To his mind, this apparently makes him immune to gentle Papal criticism. Douthat is not alone in this; social conservatism routinely presents itself as being utterly beyond reproach, mostly because it is a movement that either immediately forgives or conveniently ignores those who have strayed (and strayed, and strayed, and strayed, as in the cases of Kim Davis and Josh Duggar and, on a far grander and more painful scale, Douthat’s own Catholic Church under the leadership of Popes John Paul and Benedict).

This presumed immunity was on full display as Douthat responded to the Pope’s marital criticism, which, it should be noted, amounted to nothing more than making the very reasonable observation that the commitment of marriage is not fully understood at its outset. But Francis’s words were just that: words. No marriages were dissolved because of them. Nobody’s families were torn asunder because of them. No hospital denied a husband access to a dying spouse because of them.

But to Douthat, even this mildest of rebukes was positively unimaginable. His immediate meltdown started here and ended with this, his 17th tweet in a series designed to explain why the Pope was wrong to even consider noting that modern couples do not fully understand the commitment that they are making when they first make it. And if that wasn’t enough Douthat’s flourish was as follows:

Ross Douthat On Marriage

Got that? He affords himself the authority to judge other marriages – that “(well, mostly)” is as dickish a comment as you will ever see – with total impunity. It would almost  appear as if it has never crossed his mind not to judge other marriages. But then, within the same tweet, he balks at the idea that anybody anywhere could judge his own marriage or any of the marriages of his Catholic friends, even a little bit, even in a way that has no substantive effect upon his own life, even if that judge is literally the Pope himself. Douthat is off-limits, in other words. Everybody else is not so lucky. 

Douthat is a man at once impossibly vicious and remarkably weak, one whose capacity to dish it out is matched only by his utter inability to take it. But that 17th tweet goes miles in explaining how it is that he can perceive a bully prevented from bullying as a bigger problem than the bullying itself. Speaking of bullying, there is a long-debate about whether its occurrence is motivated by too little self-esteem or too much. Those who believe that it is motivated by too much self-esteem believe that bullies think that they are the world’s superiors, owed everything immediately, denied nothing ever, and always at the expense of anybody who thinks otherwise. That is an abstract and distant idea. Douthat is real and as illustrative of the theory as has ever existed.


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197 thoughts on “More Like Ross, Don’t Douthat

  1. I loved Popehat’s response, “Gosh, I hope it’s not annoying to have strangers attack the validity of your marriage based on their religious doctrine.”

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  2. It is evidence of the Holy Father’s fidelity to the pacifist teachings of Jesus, that he didn’t respond to Douthat’s tweets with one of his own:

    Christ, what an asshole.”

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  3. I don’t give Ross much credence, but I read Rod Dreher regularly.

    My conclusion. which reaffirms itself every day, is that Social Conservatives main concern is the Message.

    In their minds they have this pretty Message (in the case of Rod mainly dealing with sexual purity of every imaginable type), and their only concern is to spread the Message, and fight those that doubt the Message.

    You can see Rod (because he is a cultured, intelligent, person that would be a proud Leftist if it wasn’t for the Message) wrestle internally with homosexuality. His mind starts pushing him to accept that gays and lesbians (and even transgenders) are people deserving of every consideration, and in the last minute he walks back all of that because he has to affirm the Message load and clear: that LGBT people are immoral (*) and nothing can be done about it.

    You see similar discussions about issues like sex education. If you teach sex education in schools you are going against the Message that sex should not be engaged into except in certain specific circumstances. Transgenderism. If you allow someone to present as transgender yo are going against the Message that sexual complementarity is the Mandate of God. It’s a pity that blacks are disproportionally killed by the police but the cause is of course that black men do not marry black women and stay at home (which would be good btw) and to suggest police violence or institutional racism has anything to do distracts from the Message And so on.

    If you ask him what’s his proposal to accommodate LGBT people or black people or Muslims (which he claims he wants to do) you hear crickets. Any proposal would go against the message so he is stuck in this strange place.

    He claims he’s moved by his Christianity (ver 3.0 or later please). But he has developed his own theology about why gay sex (opposition to) is a condensed symbol of Christianity (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/burnt-by-the-sol-gay-rights-christianity-condensed-symbol/ ). In this theology the differences between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, like the nature of Christ, are unimportant, because they all subscribe to the important condensed symbol, that sex outside of a male-female marriage is VERY BAD (the fact that more than 70% of Jewish congregations -including Conservative ones- in the USA accept SSM is unimportant either.

    Whenever you read Dreher, or Douthat, or First Things, talking about the Pope, the word Message won’t be far. They accuse him of veering off-Message, of muddling the Message, of confusing the Message for the followers. In this particular case, the problem is that the Pope is planting doubts, not about Douthat’s particular marriage, but about the Message that Douthat’s marriage IS THE REAL THING. That’s his big problem with the Pope. That he doesn’t follow with the Message

    (*) perhaps Eve Tushnet isn’t, but the jury is still out there on her – if she only stopped saying she is a chaste lesbian and went for a chaste person that is not currently looking to get married, it will be better

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    • The thing about Dreher is that he’s so eager, so desperately eager, to see the gays coming after Christians that it’s disconcerting. He jumps on every morsel and crumb indicating that gays may do to the religious what the religious did to gays*. There’s some serious psychology there.

      *Which isn’t to say that gays won’t, though I certainly hope we don’t try.

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      • Yeah, this. Dreher’s view is pretty black and white in that any recognition of the validity of same-sex marriage is perforce anti-Christian. I’ve had to stop reading his posts on SSM and transgender issues because they’re so overwrought. His tirade against cross-crapping annoys the bejeezus out of me.

        While I’m sure there are some gay folks out there who’d be happy to visit the same kind of wrath on fundamentalist Christians as said Christians visited on them, most of the gay folks we know are as boring and middle-aged as we are and jumped at the chance to marry their longterm partners.

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        • Yeah but Dreher’s need for it is *queue armchair psychologist* pathological. If the gays don’t persecute the Christians the way the Christians persecuted the gays then that’d make the gays more virtuous than the Christians. Arguable more Christian than Christians*.

          *Even though, let’s face it, the real reason gays don’t want to persecute the Christians is a whole lot of “Why bother” rather than “Two wrongs don’t make a right” sentiment.

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    • Rod is an utter delight to read, if you’re looking for someone completely split in two between his desires and his fears.

      He desperately wants to be rich, travel well and enjoy the good life. But like a germophobe, he’s also terribly afraid of being contaminated by the world beyond his doorstep. So he has found a home in a religion so microscopic that no one can tell him that he’s living his faith incorrectly, and then spends his time (when he’s not thinking about good food) lecturing the rest of the world about how wrong they’re living their lives.

      The last few months he’s utterly obsessed about the trans movement. Now I know nothing about how trans kids actually handle school or the impact of the Administration’s letter on accommodations. But from reading RD you’d think that there is an enormous hidden community of MTF trans wannabes just waiting to shower in girls’ locker rooms and stare at their naked bodies. Pointing out that the trans community is tiny and that reasonable accommodation rules have been around for a while has no impact.

      It’s crystal clear that he’s so embittered by losing the SSM issue that he needs the next new target on which to focus his desire to rage about the corruption in the world.

      One final note: The cure for all this corruption is the Benedict Option — living a rich thick Christian life that’s so much better that our current secular life. There’s a line in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore that fits. The cops are singing about going off to be heros and die, and the Major General points out: “Dammit you don’t go.” It’s like the people going Galt after the election of Obama — they didn’t.

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        • Of course. The American Conservative is the pet project of some aging billionaire. It would close in a heartbeat without his funding. RD knows full well that his job is to monger the Fear the way his paymaster wants.

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  4. On a separate, but related issue

    During the last conclave, all conservative Catholics and allies (Dreher) were prayng for the Holy Ghost to bring forth a Pope from the Third World, which they expected would be very much a social conservative and anti gay (see the Anglican and Catholic churches in Africa) At that time I made some comments in Rod’s blog warning that social conservatives were completely ignorant about the Third world Church. They might be above average antigay when the subject comes up (probably more in Africa, less so in Lat Am), but the subject really doesn’t come up that much back home. What they all are is very much socioeconomic liberals, concerned about poverty, inequality, anti authoritarianism and almost Bernie supporters (if Bernie ever got to run in Africa). They would hate every minute of a Third World Pope, because he would care little for the pelvic issues and a lot about Social Justice. An African Pope might have been slightly more anti gay, but definitely not an inch less pro Social Justice

    God answered their prayers, and delivered both what they wanted AND what they needed, even if they didn’t really want what they needed.

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  5. 11/ Judaism + much of Protestantism more accepting of divorce, yet the church presumes the validity of Jewish + Protestant marriages.

    To which we respond “Who gives a shit?”

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    • Anyone seeking to later marry in a Catholic Church. The Episcopal Church also has to come to the determination of the validity of outside marriages. There is more flexibility in the Episcopal Church, but some pastors won’t do remarriages during Lent, or at all, on the basis that the previous marriage is considered valid. If it’s not considered valid for some reason, they’ll do it on the basis that it’s not a remarriage. It’s also possible, though I’ve never seen it, that a couple be asked to marry one another again (in a non-legal ceremony) on account of their legal marriage not being valid.

      From what I gather of the Pope, it’s mostly a matter of whether there are or are not grounds for annulment.

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      • some pastors won’t do remarriages during Lent

        …I can’t quite determine how any earth logic would result in *that*.

        Like remarriage is a sin, but it’s in the category of *really trivial* sins that the Church will normally help you with (?) but not during Lent? (?!)

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        • Episcopalians.

          I don’t know the specificities because pastors can be really weird about this stuff, but I think it has to do with the notion that Lent should be a time of forbearance, and that some people (like those divorced) need to learn that better than others.

          Some churches will let you get married in Lent, but the church can’t be decorated for the wedding. It just varies.

          Because it’s not Catholicism with it’s direct line to holiness, and because they want to prevent the church from coming apart at the seams, there is more variety in customs.

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          • I don’t know the specificities because pastors can be really weird about this stuff, but I think it has to do with the notion that Lent should be a time of forbearance, and that some people (like those divorced) need to learn that better than others.

            Which would make sense if getting married was something they decided to do that day, and they had to put it off until after Lent…but doesn’t really make a lot of sense with how marriages actually work, in that they are planned longer in advance than the entire length of Lent anyway.

            This attempt at ‘forbearance’ might, in fact, be that people might often get married *earlier*, before Lent starts!

            Some churches will let you get married in Lent, but the church can’t be decorated for the wedding.

            Well, obviously, they should get married during Lent, but should put off decorating the church for their wedding until *after* Lent. Like, come in some Saturday and put up decorations, then take them back down.

            It just makes sense!

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      • Fair enough. If I later wanted to marry in the Church, I’d care about the Church’s opinion of my previous marriage. Though in that case I’d be better off if the Church considered all non-Catholic marriages to be invalid heathen nonsense, right?

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        • Practically speaking, yeah. Psychologically maybe not. I mean, I want the Catholic Church to respect my marriage as valid for the same reason that I want society to see it as valid. Because I believe it is. If some Catholic Priest insisted on calling my wife my mistress because we were married by a judge and/or not Catholic, that’d irk me a bit. On the other hand, if I leave my wife for a Catholic who wants to get married in the church, I absolutely want them to see my previous marriage as invalid.

          But this is really what the hubbub is all about. The Church has always been more flexible with non-Catholic marriages than Catholic ones. With Catholic marriages, though, you’re supposed to have a really good reason for the marriage to be invalid in order for it to be annulled. Along comes Pope Francis saying “Actually, maybe a ton of church weddings are invalid right out of the gate…”

          Which has Douthat/Dougherty/etc rather irritated. As Becket Adams said, “Annulment here, annulment there, annulment everywhere!” The presumption of validity – outside the church, but definitely inside of it, has important practical implications. At least in theory. So they want more marriages seen as valid at least in part because they want to see unbinding becoming less rather than more common.

          Which leaves us in the position where they’re saying “Will’s marriage to Clancy is totally valid!” which has me saying “Yay!” but in hypothetical circumstances would have me saying “C’mon, why you being so hard on me?”

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          • Except that the Pope wasn’t planning to invalidate hundreds of thousands of marriages. He was making a critical point about how little the commitment of a lifetime to one another is properly understood. It seems to me that maybe this was never understood (how could it be?) but that the options for escape were less than they are now. Douthat reacted as if he was about to be forcibly divorced, rather than slapped on the hand with a feather.

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            • Douthat reacted as if he was about to be forcibly divorced

              Not really. He acted as though the Pope laid a theological groundwork for more flexible interpretations of the permanence of marriage. Maybe the more flexible interpretations they fear will not come to pass, but that is almost certainly the fear. I don’t believe Douthat’s fear was related to his own marriage. I think it was along the same lines as Adams (and as discussed in a number of conversations that unfolded following the Pope’s words).

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            • The reality in the ground is that before the 1920s the possibility of a civil divorce, even if allowed by law (divorce was quite restricted) had such social and economic costs that almost no one had the, again, social and financial, resources to face it.

              So for the 99.99% divorce as not really available. It was indeed forever.

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          • The statistics I found show that over 95% of annulment processes that go full board in the USA are granted. There’s arguments that the percentage of those granted over those introduced is about 80%, but the difference is rejections via procedural matters and people desisting of the process (some, but not the majority, remaining married). The USA is an outlier but world average is about 85%. (I’ve rounded the numbers since I’ve seen different sources).

            If 90% plus of the processes that are completed result in finding that there was indeed a defect in the consent, and that the marriage never really took place, why would you think that the case is not the same everywhere, even in the case those that never get divorced.

            That’s all the Pope said. If 90% of the people that ask find themselves never married, what’s the status of the ones thT never ask? Aren’t they likely in the same situation?

            The fact that Will and Clancy love each other very much and don’t want to ever be apart doesn’t mean that, when they got married, their consent wasnt vitiated by the pesky idea, in the back of their minds, that, if Will/Clancy somehow, against all odds, is really a jerk, I could get a divorce.

            So Will, I’m sorry, if you ever though divorce was a possibility, you are probably not married. Take it with the Pope.

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          • With Catholic marriages, though, you’re supposed to have a really good reason for the marriage to be invalid in order for it to be annulled.

            Like, better than, “I need to have an heir so that when I die the civil wars don’t start up all over again and cost England thousands of lives.”

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        • Well, that’s fine. You’ve identified as a member of a group, and you’re speaking based on that. That information makes your comment seem less like a hissy fit. Now, Douthat was clearly speaking about what the Roman Catholic Church believes, and it’s his right to do so – but somehow Sam considered his series of tweets to be a hissy fit. Douthat explained his understanding of Church teaching, and his comment #11 cited the example of the Church’s view of Jewish marriages. It hardly matters whether you give a ****. It’s immature to see an explanation of someone’s thinking and say that you don’t give a **** about line #11. Do you ever read mathematical proofs, and when you see X = y(A,B), say that you don’t give a ****? You do understand why someone who observes that would think you’ve got some kind of mental or personality problem, right? The fact that you put it in the royal “we” on a site that generally thinks in lockstep made it seem even worse. Douthat didn’t do that; he responded to a theologian’s argument with his understanding of Church teaching. He began what Sam calls a “meltdown” with this:

          One argues with Professor George at one’s peril, but I think he is very wrong here.

          Think about how much less strident that statement is than anything Sam said.

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          • The statement was about the Church’s opinion of non-Catholic marriages, and my response was “No one outside the Church cares.” Given the tendency of Christian self-professed defenders of public morality to tell other people how to act and think, that’s not a hissy fit — it’s a useful corrective.

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            • No, that’s not what you said. You said, “To which we respond ‘Who gives a shit?'” I’m sure that you remember that statement as being a well-reasoned, useful corrective, but it was no such thing. The entire premise of the OA was that Sam has the right to tell Catholics what constitutes a reasonable way for them to think about their faith. When you responded in agreement, with the magisterial “we”, I felt the need to make a useful correction.

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              • “Who gives a shit?” is a rhetorical-question version of “no one cares”. Which

                1. Remains true.
                2. Is a comment on Douthat’s tweet, not on the OP.

                Given 2, it should be quite clear who the “we” that don’t give a shit are.

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          • I largely agree with the content of your comment, but really you should learn to read the room. The OP was just red meat for Team Blue, not an invitation to a rational discussion of opposing points of view. The way it played out was ideal — all the participants agree that social conservatives really suck, there’s no oxygen for the fire and so everyone starts talking about role-playing systems.

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                  • Speaking as a big ol’ queer, I celebrate the broad social failure of the American right wing. Feel free to explain, using reasoned argument, why I am wrong to feel this way.

                    I bet you cannot without saying something bluntly transpobic, and so it goes.

                    May the right fail, and may they fail more. Hear my prayer.

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                    • You guys are so funny. I have no interest in trying to change your mind on anything — the entirety of my argument was that it was pointless to try. If you wanted to disagree with me on that, you’d need to demonstrate somehow that you are in fact open-minded. Challenging me to convince you of something when you obviously don’t think I can is merely confirming my point.

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                      • — What do you want to convince me of? I mean, name it. Own it.

                        I remember fondly when Andrew Sullivan wrote Virtually Normal, when he thought the right might kinda accept us. They did not. Unambiguously. They choose hate, 100%.

                        You agree, yes? Explain.

                        Explain. Don’t be a flim flam man. Let’s talk about it, as it really is. The right wing is is where homophobic bigots thrive. Own that. Then we can talk.

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                        • KenB – There you go: there’s your challenge. Convince Veronica D that she’s wrong without being transphobic. By the way, Veronica D defines transphobic as the belief that she’s wrong.

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                        • I’m at a real keyboard now, instead of typing on my phone. So I’d like to expand on this.

                          The whole “there is nothing I say that could convince you” thing, sure, sometimes it is true. There are things of which it would be very difficult to convince me. But so what? I’m not likely to believe bad ideas, or hurtful ideas, or ideas without good arguments, or ideas where the arguments have already been hashed out ad nauseam, etc. So coming on to this thread all butt-hurt that “we won’t listen” is just passive-aggressive nonsense.

                          The question is, do you have anything to say, that is not hateful garbage, that has not been said before?

                          Probably not, and whose fault is that?

                          If you have terrible ideas, don’t complain cuz no one wants to hear them. Of course we don’t. Duh.

                          Do you have any good ideas?

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                      • Please let know when you find any evidence of anybody proposing to do to Douthat’s coupling what he and his ilk have ROUTINELY proposed (and actually done) to other couplings. It is open-minded to say, “Hey, there are lots of ways to be married and we’re going to allow for them…” as compared to Rosa’s “Do it like I do it or suffer” formulation.

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                        • “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” – Captain, Cool Hand Luke.

                          “I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.” – Tom Lehrer.

                          I shall now take his advice.

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                        • The Church’s opinion about non-members’ marriages iis relevant to Catholics, who Douthat’s arguments were targeted at. He was responding to a theologian. Maybe you can tell me why his opinions about marriage are so important to you.

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                          • The Church’s opinion about non-members’ marriages is relevant to Catholics, who Douthat’s arguments were targeted at

                            Why? Don’t they have enough problems of their own?

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                              • That’s how it matters on a practical level. But, if we’re being honest, don’t we actually sort of care on a social level as well? Like, we not only demand that religious people extent the proper formal benefits to SSM, but we would actually really prefer that they respect those marriages as real?

                                As I say elsewhere, on a practical level it could be to my benefit if the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize my marriage as legitimate, but I kind of sort of would vaguely prefer they do anyway. Or, at least, if I was volunteering at a church and they insisted on referring to my wife as my mistress, I’d probably find another church to volunteer for.

                                And if I was Catholic, as Douthat is, I would actually kind of care about such things. It would be, at the least, worthy of discussion. For the same reason it’s of interest to me what the Episcopal Church thinks about SSM, even though my own marriage in the eyes of the church is unaffected. (Which is why I don’t think Douthat’s tweets were really as defensive as they came across to some.)

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                                • Private disrespect is fine. Public (and allegedly principled!) disrespect should be able to withstand scrutiny, and yet here we are, with a man who is five with a pope who bushes everybody else’s marriages, but blows a gasket when a pope judges his own.

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                                  • As stated, I think you overestimate the personal defensiveness in Douthat’s tweets. Nothing in there really indicates to me that he’s worried the Pope disapproves of his marriage. It really comes across more to me like he’s worried the Pope is letting married people off the hook and relieving them of the actual responsibilities of being married.

                                    The disconnect between his thoughts on this and his thoughts on gay marriage are definitely interesting, though. I’m with you on that.

                                    It actually touches on how easily my support for SSM and my conservative-ish views on marriage intersect in a way that they don’t for a lot of conservatives. For me, as much as anything, it’s always been about the right to take on the moral responsibilities Douthat seems concerned that the Pope is relieving people of. When it comes to heterosexual marriages, it makes me conservative. On same-sex marriages, it makes me liberal.

                                    Such is life.

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                                    • 1. I meant “fine” above, not “five.”

                                      2. I am baffled at reading that tweetstorm and not seeing Douthat’s anger, especially in that final tweet. To me, he might as well have written, “We’re the only ones doing it right! It’s everybody else who is wrong!” Obviously, I might be wrong about that, but damned if I can see it.

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                                      • I am baffled at reading that tweetstorm and not seeing Douthat’s anger, especially in that final tweet. To me, he might as well have written, “We’re the only ones doing it right! It’s everybody else who is wrong!” Obviously, I might be wrong about that, but damned if I can see it.

                                        I think the reason is that Twitter is a blunt instrument. It’s hard to read a tweet or even those seemingly neverending “twitter essays” without seeing it as somehow glib, defensive, or what have you., especially if you’re on the team opposed to the one the tweeter is one, it’s even easier to see their output that way.

                                        It takes an act of will (or an act of Will) to read the tweets charitably. By saying that, I’m not saying you’re wrong (or that Will is wrong) in your reading of Douthat’s tweets. In fact, I’ve read only the tweet from the OP and the one that Mr. Schilling has brought up, so I have only a small sample (and my dislike of Douthat (and my dislike of twitter as a medium)) to go on.

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                                        • and my dislike of Douthat

                                          Interesting — to me, Douthat seems like a reasonable person who’s also a Catholic conservative, and so when I see people reacting negatively to him, I assume he’s just serving as their punching bag on behalf of all social conservatives. But you’re a reasonable person too — are there specific things you dislike about Douthat that don’t apply to social conservative commentators as a whole?

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                                          • I guess I should fess up and say I’ve read only a smattering of him. What little I’ve read makes him seem, to me, a lot like the David Brooks style of commentator. But to be honest, I should read him more if I want to go on saying I dislike him. So in this case, I guess I am treating him like a punching bag (the way others treat Megan McCardle) and I probably shouldn’t be doing that without reading him more.

                                            tl:dr; hanks for calling me reasonable, but on this point, I’m probably less reasonable than I ought to be.

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                                • That’s how it matters on a practical level. But, if we’re being honest, don’t we actually sort of care on a social level as well?

                                  Speaking just for myself, there are few things in the world I care less about than the approval of the Church. [1] As far as SSM goes, the ideal attitude for people with religious objections to SSM is that they be able to distinguish religious marriage from legal marriage, and understand that their sectarian beliefs have no relevance to the latter. Approval is wholly optional.

                                  1. Though its no longer encouraging the persecution of me and mine is of course welcome.

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                            • (I’m responding to Sam, but I’m not sure whether Sam was responding to me. I hate what this site does with super-nesting.)

                              If you’re trying to analyze the Church’s traditional position about valid marriages, it’s reasonable to discuss non-church marriages. I don’t know if you’re the same Sam who wrote this article, but really you’re barging into a random room and telling the occupants that you don’t agree with them. Well, why should you? And what’s it to them? Douthat was discussing a fine point of Church teaching.

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  6. There are people who play D&D in their basement who say that people who play GURPS aren’t *REALLY* role playing.

    Personally, I think that they should spend a little more time playing D&D and a little less critiquing D&D players.

    Of course, here I am critiquing them…

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        • Plate’s always heavy armor, and chain is medium for a reason. Plate turns bleeding wounds into bruises, nearly 100% of the time. It’s good for a long fight, or for you don’t got a healer present.

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          • I’m just quibbling with the historical accuracy. My understanding is that plate distributes the weight of the armor across the body, while chain hangs from the shoulders and waist, which makes plate much easier to move around in.

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            • Plate is much, much heavier than chain, to my understanding, as chain is mostly holes. So, um, yeah, pound for pound, I can see plate being easier to move around in — so long as you’re still standing. It’s clearly not what you want if you’re jumping around trees or doing acrobatics.

              I trust Rolemaster to have come up with the appropriate stamina loss for heavy and medium armor, as those people really do accuracy to 11 (If there’s ever something you want to learn about, like poisons or pricing of lace in different eras, you could do a lot worse than looking at Rolemaster’s notes).

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              • Here’s the thing to remember about plate in a real sense. Plate is heavier in an absolute sense but chain is heavier in a practical sense. Plate armor is solid, connected together and braced against itself so its weight is distributed around and against various parts of your body.
                Chain has no structure, it hangs off your shoulders.
                So, ironically enough, plate is heavier but the weight is applied to different parts of your body while 100% of chain’s weight is applied to one place: your shoulders. So while plate is heavier than chain objectively, chain is harder to wear and move in.

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                • Hmph. Okay. So don’t fall flat on your back in plate, because you’ll have a hard time getting up (had this happen in a campaign, I kid you not.). And doing acrobatics in either is probably a mistake.

                  But the stamina penalties should really be lighter for plate than for chain, balance be damned.

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                  • Part of a knight’s training would be to do gymnastics in full plate. The armour is built to let you move freely in quite easily.

                    Similar concept, albeit not quite as heavy as metal plate, I can perform acrobatic feats in full ice hockey goaltending equiptment quite easily once I’ve adjusted to it. The full kit is quite heavy and difficult to lift while in a bag, but once its sitting around your entire body you don’t notice the weight much in commiting any individual action.

                    What the weight costs you isn’t in bursts of activity, but in endurance. Each action is proportionately more strenous and that wears you down quicker than you would without it (which is why hot weather was historically a factor in wearing full armour).

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                  • I just watched a bunch of videos of people walking, running, rolling around, turning cartwheels, in plate mail.

                    One thing we know for sure – nobody’s sneaking up on anybody in plait mail. Just one person walking slowly makes a terrible racket.

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                • At the risk of being a dick, none of this discussion comes across to me as coming from people who have ever worn either. It reminds me of the raging discussion in the RPG world c. 1980 over aimed blows. The Gygax-approved argument is that in the heat of battle such things were impossible, and this is why the D&D system adopted its ablative skin combat system. This tended to bemuse anyone who had ever done any sort of (mock) combat. I mean sure, SCA fighting has some severe limitations as a model of actual combat, but it is amply sufficient to show that sword fighting doesn’t consist of the combatants squeezing their eyes shut tight and flailing about blindly with their swords.

                  As for armor, chain is actually pretty comfortable, if you are young and in shape. The weight is distributed much like a backpack with a hip belt. Discussions about plate are tricky. This is a lot of bullshit. Those gorgeous suits of armor you see in museums usually weren’t made for actual battlefields. They were either for tournaments or, worse, looking pretty on parade. SCA armor (or rather, SCA armor back when I was paying attention) had some different priorities. It puts a lot of emphasis, for example, on knee protection, while actual medieval battlefield armor usually left the knees to their own devices. My guess is that back in the day, if you have a chain shirt, a breast and back plate, and a good helmet, you were in business for most purposes.

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            • Once you get to that level of detail, though, you find yourself drawn to the siren’s call of issues regarding chain mail being nigh-useless against bludgeoning weapons but pretty good against piercing weapons and plate being pretty good against bludgeons but nigh-useless against piercing.

              And *THEN* you have to deal with issues of how the DM always seems to bring out the truncheons when you’re wearing chain and arrows when you’re wearing plate and, seriously, that’s a bullshit move.

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              • Or you could find a GM who tends to write thousands of pages of backstory for his campaigns (and steal supercomputer time to do weather analysis…). When you’ve got over a hundred different factions (and an interstellar war that is only 6 66’s away…), well, you get attacked by what you mess with.

                (He remains a far better GM than the one who dropped a horse, out of an airplane, onto a PC…)

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              • chain mail being nigh-useless against bludgeoning weapons but pretty good against piercing weapons and plate being pretty good against bludgeons but nigh-useless against piercing.

                Eh? This isn’t right. Or rather, it isn’t entirely right. Chain is pretty crappy against points, if the points are designed for chain. Use a long, thin blade. It catches nicely in the holes. Then give it s good shove. You have the mechanical advantage to pop the links open, allowing the blade to penetrate. As an exercise for the student, replace that stiletto with a crossbow bolt. Or better yet, an arrow from a Mongol reflex bow. What chain is good for is stopped edged weapons.

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                • People seem to have conveniently forgotten about slashing, edged weapons. Points were rarely used with real armor (the whole fencing thing was done with light armor) — standard swords aren’t designed to focus pressure on a tiny point like a stiletto heel would.

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                • There are plenty of weapons that are, at the end of the day, pretty useful against unarmored humans. Blunt object, slashing objects, puncturing objects, all kinds of stuff.

                  Ask “well, what would be a good defense against X?” and you find that stuff that works awesomely against X isn’t *THAT* effective against Y.

                  Once you start playing the “what would be a good offense against a good defense against X” game, you’re no longer playing a tabletop role playing game.

                  You may be playing a game that is more fun than any given tabletop role playing game and I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t be playing that game, though.

                  But do that long enough and you’ve got yourself a six-page “types of pole weapons” section in the weapons chapter of the book and noticing that they put a *LOT* of effort into making distinctions between the 40 different ways to do 1d10 points of damage that all require the exact same 1d10 to be thrown after the exact same “I hit him with my (pole weapon)” phrasing.

                  Which is, of course, where we are today.

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      • “Those people generally play Rolemaster, actually.”

        Ha ha, I rolled a 100 on my “D”-severity lightning critical! Suck it and die, superconductor boy!

        It’s also possible to punch someone so hard that their skeleton disintegrates.

        And to kill someone so good that you get a bonus on your next attack.

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        • I love rolemaster.

          These things make a lot more sense when you know someone who routinely rolls criticals (good and bad). [Get Netflix to fund your tax scam! … Profit! (crunchy bonus points if you can name it)]

          And killing someone in an awesome way should give you a temporary confidence boost — in plenty of “story based” ones, the GM would simply give it to you if you described it awesomely enough.

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    • It’s odd, around my environs everyone thinks the d20 system simply dominates rping and is incredulous at the idea of another system doing it better. They think Pathfinder is the natural evolution of RPG’s which I’m sympathetic too.

      I do not, however, like D&D’s system of spells at all. I don’t have another I like better but ugh, the laundry list of stuff…

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      • But FATE is so much better!

        (Well, depends on what you mean by “better”).

        I once played MERPS. It was GURPS for Middle Earth, and the word “hilarious” was thrown around — and not in a good way. It did contain my absolute favorite magical artifact of all time. The Boots of Orc Running. It let you run across the tops of orcs like it was solid ground.

        This was a real thing and acquiring one was my character’s lifelong goal. I was accused of not taking the game seriously. I would have back-stabbed a party member for those boots. Sounded pretty serious to me.

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        • Well, You weren’t the character that walked an entire continent looking for a unicorn horn to masturbate with it (did find it, and did manage to cure the VD).

          [It wasn’t me either. I’ve only talked with her the once. but I do know the GM quite well]

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          • Look, you don’t tell me Boots of Orc Running exist and then don’t let me have it.

            There was a literal rainbow of Boots of Running. I mean most were boring “tree” and “water” and “wall” stuff. Oh look at me tree hopping like a Naruto Ninja. Boring.

            I want enough boots to run across packed masses of all potential foes. I want Boots of Crowd running.

            Interestingly enough, we did find a sword of Elf-Slaying. We kept it mostly to turn in later to Elves for a reward, figuring we were unlikely to fight elves but very likely to badger them for help. Of course, we ended up using it because our fighter broke two stupid weapons in three rounds (Ah, GURPS crit tables). Then he fumbled again and sent it slinging across the clearing to hit the only Elf in the group.

            Managed to critical with THAT and since it was Elf-Slaying it boosted the critical higher.

            If I recall correctly, the poor Elf took so much damage the DM decided he’d actually exploded, showering us with Elf bits.

            That fight really summed up the campaign. Much later we had most of the party fighting Wyverns (we’d really stopped caring about Tolkien and just made it crazy artifact world) — quite successfuly — while our magic-user (Lore-mastery. Is there anything you can do?) was gradually being killed by a pair of rats in the Wyvern nest.

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      • I’ve not played a lot of systems, but I like the D10 system used in White Wolf games more. I played some diceless stuff too, which forced you to *really* roleplay, and was quite fun.

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        • White Wolf was so broken (fire does more damage to werewolves than a NUCLEAR WEAPON) that my GM invoked “sentient AI sucks you into its world — and then spits you into a different one” in order to switch to Rolemaster

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        • Try FATE. I’ve liked Red Hat’s specific FATE versions (Spirit of the Century, Dresden Files), but they’re designed around role-playing.

          Highly streamlined, designed for actual play, and built to encourage players to play in character (you get cookies), has a mechanism to take the sting out of the occasional bit of GM-enforced roleplay (more cookies!. But seriously, if you’re gonna play a guy with a temper, sometimes you’re going to blow up at inconvienent moments), and options for being super awesome (you give the GM a cookie).

          SoTC is 30s pulp adventure, Dresden Files is based on the series but boils down to modern urban fantasy.

          I just ran some friends through a Dresden Files module with pre-gens that was, I kid you not, teenagers in a haunted house trying to stay the whole night. Tons of fun, especially as I’d told them to prep ghost stories to tell each other. (Mental combat!).

          They actually did deal with the real ghost later, although two of them fled the house from terror. One from just the ghost stories.

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  7. There are a handful of decent points that could be made in service to discussion of the benefits of traditional marriage. Hell, even with assuming a handful of things that the Catholics assume about birth control.

    A couple of the more decent Catholic thinkers have published some of them.

    The problem is that the points that these guys have made very rarely end up in these arguments.

    Instead we’re stuck with flaky and flimsy simulacra… and, more importantly, surrounded by people getting divorced out of what appeared at one time to be “real” marriages but also ended up being flaky and flimsy simulacra.

    I honestly think that the socons will make zero headway in their arguments until they can do a good job of demonstrating that they have a better way to do it… and after watching half the Boomers get divorced as part of their journeys of self-discovery in numbers that were unchanged whether they were churched or unchurched, they’ve got a lot of ground to make up.

    There is honestly no reason to believe that the Socons have anything better than the mindful partnerships forged by the Soprogs.

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      • There are cultural lagoons successfully resist but they’re mostly pre-existing and strictly police their own. Hasidic Jews for example. They’re also largely closed off from the larger society around them. Herein lies Rod’s dilemma. He wants to create countercultural communities that both resist the tide and at the same time partake of enough of the rest of the society to influence it. Were he simply interested in avoiding the plague of modernity, it might be feasible. But he’s too much of an evangelist.

        I’ve gotten bored with the Ben Op stuff because I don’t particularly care if orthodox Christianity survives and because a lot of it seems old hat to me. Two of his favorites sources, Alisdair MacIntyre and Philip Rieff, were de riguer back in the 1980s when I was in graduate school, as was the whole communitarian movement. While it appealed to me then, it’s hard to convert academic theory into practice. It isn’t that easy to build community; much of the process is organic. Also, a lot of people who idolize the kind of close-knot communities of shared values Rod seems to want would have a tough time living in them.

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        • Rod’s BenOp has the same problems as most of his writing. The tension between the Message and the facts.

          One repeated question he never answers is, for instance, what you should do if your child rejects a basic tenet of the BenOp (*)? Do you kick him out, Amish style? do you accommodate him? Do you all move away?

          I might even buy the book because I’m curious about all the mental gymnastics to accommodate an intentional community joined only by we don’t like gay people around but we also won’t beat the hell out of them.

          (*)which apparently are reduced to no gay sex and obey established authority, but let’s wait for the book next February)

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          • If I bother to read it, I think I’ll check it out from the library. I too prefer Rod’s Christian romanticism to the in-your-faceness of the religious right. Still, I liked him a lot better when he was writing about Dante.

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        • I’m only a (very) infrequent reader of Dreher because he tends to be so….intellectually dishonest. So I don’t know a lot about the BenOp. But I do wonder–heck, I do more than “wonder,” I speculate–that the BenOp goes against a very central tenet of how I see evangelicalism. The idea, it seems to me, is to live the life of Christ in the world–with the world’s contradictions and all the difficulty that entails of dealing with them–not try to define the bounds of the world and forbid contamination.

          To me, the BenOp (what little I know of it) strikes me as a gross manifestation of pride, the belief that one is god when one is not god, that mere self-segregating from all the motes is enough to balance out the beams. What I mean is, the BenOp is the exact opposite of Christianity as I understand evangelicals understand their religion.

          Maybe there’s something I’m missing. Maybe, because I no longer (to the extent I used to) identify as evangelical, I’m falling into the trap of telling other people what they do and don’t believe. That’s a real possibility. But if I could talk with supporters of the BenOp, I’d ask how they account for the BenOp’s seeming departure from the admonition to go ye unto the world and preach the good news.

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          • You’re missing it to a degree ; Dreher’s Benedict option, as I understand it, is not a call for monastic disengagement with the world but rather a call for greater engagement with things that until recently Christians thought they could take for granted. Basically instead of assuming that public television, or public schools, or general culture will be compatible with Christian teachings Dreher is calling on parents to, as a default position, assume those forces are hostile and seek to create their own smaller communities within the larger culture that will support Christian ethos and aid with forming children into responsible Christian adults.

            To a degree it’s a sympathetic goal. It’s basically waving a white flag on the culture wars, saying “we’ve lost, we need to stop trying to drive the larger culture and focus on making our own personal communities something that is wholesome by our standards and can stand as an example to others”. Now how Dreher proposes to thread the needle between being to permissive and getting sucked into the metaculture and being too restricting and ending up just another pitiable insular Christian cult is something that no one will probably know until he cranks out his book.

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              • Oh hell yes, it has a bajillion problems as a concept BUT (and this is a big but) if the Benopers did take over the socialcon movement that would be a huge improvement for all us Non-Christians and homos alike.

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                • I don’t see how. I think the same pressures that bubble within the evangelical echo chamber will bubble here. They might create their alternative culture — but the evangelicals have already done that — and their kids (some of them) will hate it. The kids will see the other kids, pretty and cool and having sex, and they will want those things. Plus teh gay! Their weird son (but maybe not a son) will femme-up, and they will go batshit. They’ll abuse the kid. They’ll blame the culture. Inside their little walls, the haters will hate. The anger will stew. The preacher will pound his fist. It cannot work.

                  We can give it a name, Leelah Alcorn.

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                  • For sure, but as compared to the current (crumbling) situation where they did all that AND also presumed to do it for other peoples kids and other adults and tried to claim the reins of power so they could employ the state to do it? Compared to what they used to strive for reining it back to simply striving to do it for themselves is a huge improvement. You and I, of course, would prefer they not do it at all but every human on the planet would prefer it if every other human adopted their own belief systems. Ain’t happening and we of all people should know better than to try and make it happen. It’s not like liberalized churches have been doing well (in fact they’re doing much worse) so we don’t even have that going for us.

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                    • Yep. This is not surprising, of course. It is simply, their beliefs are falling away, and the smaller the subculture, the harder it becomes to maintain, and thus the increased militancy.

                      I guess the Amish do that thing where they send their kids off for a year to “live in the world” (or whatever). If they come back, yay! If not, then that is that. They have chosen.

                      (They do that, right? I read it somewhere. I don’t know if it is universal in those cultures. But anyway.)

                      It is a model that works, but dammit it is hard to make work, particularly when you want a normal professional job in the professional world, and a normal house in a normal neighborhood, where kids play outside.

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                      • Yeah the Rumspringa is real and the Amish do it in one variation or another and that’s their answer to the challenge you laid out. If you can’t live their life they won’t make you. It’s hard as hell, hard even to imagine, but it is philosophically consistent with their beliefs. Rod, I presume, wants something similar to that but considerably weaker and more touchy feely.

                        And yeah I’m right with you about your skepticism for their ability to actually accomplish what they’re talking about. The Rumspringa is hard as nails (if you choose to leave you don’t just leave, you’re -gone- as a person to them. They don’t have anything to do with you anymore) but if you adopt a softer version of that then every kid who opts out would be feeding the prevailing culture mainline right back into your enclave and from those cracks the whole project could fall apart.

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  8. “It would almost appear as if it has never crossed his mind not to judge other marriages. But then, within the same tweet, he balks at the idea that anybody anywhere could judge his own marriage or any of the marriages of his Catholic friends, even a little bit, even in a way that has no substantive effect upon his own life, even if that judge is literally the Pope himself. ”

    As much as conversations about privilege can be tiresome (particularly white privilege, very particularly white male privilege)…

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  9. I’ve found young Douthat to be a pompous, unsufferable twit since I first came across him years ago, shortly after he published his whiny book about elitism at Harvard. I suppose that since Buckley’s Man and God at Yale, it’s now the duty of every aspiring young conservative political commentator to critique the privileged twits of the Ivy League while enjoying all the fruits of said privilege. Nothing he’s written since then has disabused me of this opinion.

    When I read the Pope’s comments, I didn’t find them to be particularly earth-shattering. Even if you take those comments to mean that a lot of people enter into marriage thinking they can get divorced if things don’t work out, I don’t see why that would be controversial.

    The problem for socons is that their view of traditional marriage, based on natural law and fairly rigid gender roles, hasn’t been the norm for quite some time, and it’s not likely that we’re going to return to that structure. That’s why most of their arguments against same-sex marriage lacked resonance. If marriages are viewed as primarily a commitment between the couple, and second as an institution for raising children, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny marriage to non-hetero couples who share the same kind of commitment.

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    • The problem for socons is that their view of traditional marriage, based on natural law and fairly rigid gender roles

      And splitting up being prohibitively expensive, and people dying before they get too tired of each other.

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  10. This is probably a bit of a dickish comment in its own right, but, Lordy, I could not care less about any part of this controversy.

    The idea that you should care that the Pope is concerned about the state of marriage – either because it’s novel (uh…) or because it’s annoying… obviously doesn’t make much sense. But Douthat does. Okay… That’s soooooo bad… why? This much outrage is generated by one snide parenthetical? Wow. I’m glad I just don’t care about a lot of things like I used to (but not ever this much about much of anything, and certainly nothing like this).

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  11. Periodically, there’s a scandal when someone discovers, as if they were the first to discover, the fact that Mormons baptize people in absentia.

    Not just Mormons who might have somehow gotten undunked, either. Methodists. Catholics. Jews.

    There’s this little tempest in a teapot where people yell at the Mormons saying “QUIT BAPTIZING MY ANCESTORS, YOU GHOULS!” There’s apologies all around and then everybody goes back to politely ignoring each other until, yep, another fresh-faced journo discovers, hey! They’re baptizing us in absentia! and we all start over again.

    It’s time for one of those stories to resurface, don’t you think?

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  12. I am neither interested in the Church’s traditional position on “valid” marriages nor interested in it. Because to my mind, Douthat is only interested in that position in such a way as to wield it against other people that he plainly doesn’t like. This includes both gays (who cannot achieve his own ideal form of marriage) and straights (who choose, for whatever reason, not achieve his own ideal form of marriage). If it was simply a matter of his opinions about those marriages, fine, but he has long advocated for the state to represent HIS beliefs in settled law and, upon not getting his way, insisted that it was really he and his ilk who were the true victims here, what with their inability to punish gays specifically.

    However, we can know that his commitment to marriage is limited incredibly when it comes to anything pertaining to his own marriage. The Pope says, “Hey, I don’t think a lot of Catholics understand the idea of committing for life at the time that they do it…” – an incredibly innocuous observation that I think we would all be willing to sign onto – and Douthat’s response, “No way am I doing any consideration at all about myself. This is only about other people.”

    It is simultaneous absurdity and a revelation about his true motivation. He isn’t concerned about marriage generally. He is concerned about very specific other people who are (allegedly) doing it wrong. That is the point of the criticism.

    If you’re trying to analyze the Church’s traditional position about valid marriages, it’s reasonable to discuss non-church marriages. I don’t know if you’re the same Sam who wrote this article, but really you’re barging into a random room and telling the occupants that you don’t agree with them. Well, why should you? And what’s it to them? Douthat was discussing a fine point of Church teaching.

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    • If the Church didn’t exist outside Douthat’s mind, you’d have a decent argument. But Douthat is commenting on a set of rules that have existed for centuries. The fact that they might approve of some marriages and disapprove of some others can’t be blamed on Douthat. If someone writes an article about whether or not Japanese people should drive on the left, I’m not going to respond to it by accusing the author of hypocrisy and bitterness. The facts are the facts. Even if you believe that the rules of marriage are as subjective as which side of the road people drive on, you’ve got to recognize that there’s a historical right and wrong answer for a certain group of people. Two people who care about the issue can debate the issue in-depth without ever considering your perspective.

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      • Except that, as per usual, Douthat’s concern was not limited to an internal church dispute in which a Pope had questioned Catholic marriages. Douthat took the opportunity double-down upon the idea that he is uniquely positioned to judge marriages. You can see it in the 17th tweet, in he declares that all Catholic marriages, but only some non-Catholic marriages, are real. Nobody forced him to do that.

        But even absent that self-inflicted wound, there is Douthat’s refusal to consider the Pope’s critique. His immediate response is, “No!” as if he is off-limits to precisely what he is willing to inflict upon everybody, and particularly non-Catholics.

        That’s before getting into the broader issue of whether it is simply enough to privately disapprove of some marriages without loudly reminding everybody constantly that you exist over there under a rock, judging. Douthat can have his tiered system of marriage, wherein his counts but others don’t, without using a megaphone to insist that those others know it. Because look what happens whenever anybody does the same thing to him, even that person is his own (voluntarily) religious authority.

        As for caring about my perspective: what do you think this is exactly? Me imploring Douthat to care about MY perspective? Because I can assure you that isn’t my goal in even the slightest.

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        • OK, I’m sure I’m breaking some copyright law or other by doing this, but let’s see what Douthat wrote:

          “One argues with Professor George at one’s peril, but I think he is very wrong here. The RC Church has never taught that you need a comprehensive theological understanding of the nature of marriage to enter into one. What you need are valid consent, an intention of permanence and fidelity, and an openness to children. Does post-sexual revolution culture create impediments to these intentions? Yes. Are more marriages invalid than in the past? Very possibly. (Though of course many marriages in the past were arguably deficient in full consent, by an exacting standard, given parental power etc.)

          “But idea that modern issues make *most* marriages invalid implies a WAY higher standard of “true” marriage than the church ever proposed. Most secular people of my acquaintance who marry intend monogamy, permanence, kids. Approval of adultery has *fallen* since the ’70s. And that’s secular people! The people who go to the trouble of marrying in a Catholic church are more likely to have those intentions. Yes, they may also have ideas about marriage – acceptance of second marriages, SSM, etc. – that don’t comport w/church teaching. But so have many cultures throughout history. Islam accepts polygamy, yet the church presumes the validity of (1st) Muslim marriages. Judaism and much of Protestantism more accepting of divorce, yet the church presumes the validity of Jewish and Protestant marriages. Why? Because the church presumes — rightly! — that most Jews and Protestants and Muslims who marry meet criteria for a legit marriage. And those criteria are not: “Have accepted complex philosophical/theological arguments for the traditional/conjugal view of marriage.” They are much more basic and universally human. Which is why they can be met, and *are* met, even in the post-sexual revolution West.

          “From a Catholic perspective, the West’s obvious problem is too few marriages, not too many invalid ones. And responding to this problem by arguing that the marriages we *do* have are mostly null is a weird and un-Catholic counsel of despair. My secular friends’ marriages are (well, mostly) real. My Catholic friends’ marriages are real. I’m sorry the Holy Father disagrees.”

          You see this as a hissy-fit, a meltdown? It seems reasonable to me. He starts off politely, grants the merits of George’s arguments, then explains why he thinks George is wrong, citing some examples.

          There’s an old rule that people usually lead with their strongest argument. Yours appears to be an objection to the word “mostly”. But I don’t see the problem here. Douthat is saying that his Catholic friends fulfill the three conditions he stated, as do most secular people. Is he claiming to be uniquely able to judge marriages? No. Is he claiming that all Catholic marriages are valid? Nope. Is he claiming that only a person who has met those three conditions can judge the validity of marriages? No.

          He’s following the standard teachings of the Catholic Church. He’s not “loudly” proclaiming anything, except to the extent that Twitter is open. He’s not “inflicting” anything.

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          • My secular friends’ marriages are (well, mostly) real. My Catholic friends’ marriages are real. I’m sorry the Holy Father disagrees.”

            Here he’s clearly referring to a marriage that is “impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.” (Catechism II.2.3.7.3.1625)

            The most common impediment to ecclesiastical law is a prior existing marriage.

            So, some number of Douthat’s acquaintances are married to two people and therefore not in a “real” {he should have stuck with Valid} second “marriage.”

            So, he’s not “judging” whether or not they are happy or glad, simply that they are in an “invalid” second marriage.

            It is possible that you are reading “(well, mostly)” to imply that Douthat is “judging” a particular marriage as “mostly real”… but like the argument we had in another post about the term “for good” here the parenthetical should be read, “(well, most of them).” There’s no sort of “judgey” this one is real (because I like them and they seem happy), and this one isn’t (because they are mean and ugly)… just a poorly stated fact that some (rather most!) are in valid, while some are in invalid marriages.

            Further, the specifics of his argument against Prof. George is real Catholic “inside-baseball” in that he’s staving off an orthodox revolt of scrupulosity against current marriage practices. So, he’s really defending a broad definition of Marriage, even if it isn’t broad enough for your interests.

            I’ve no doubt this won’t convince you of anything, but I do think you’re just not reading Douthat correctly with regards his argument and his intentions.

            Regarding your dislike of his positions, well, nothing in his tweet storm alters or augments them because they are not intended to do the thing you think they are doing. He’s still guilty of the charge of being against SSM, but he’s not guilty of the hypocrisy charge you seem to be leveling in this post.

            *There’s more Catholic subtext to the argument he’s {unwisely} putting out in 140 char tweets, but for the objective here, this should at least be sufficient.

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            • Yeah, it’s odd. Sam seems to be accusing Douthat of hypocrisy on the basis of Douthat’s consistency – judging the validity of marriages on the standards of his Church, whose rules Douthat follows.

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                • Yeah, I’m not on twitter… but whenever I see posts here that connect to anything that starts: “1/27 blah blah blab” I know we’re in for a mess.

                  {Unless they are lawyer jokes, then hilarity ensues}

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              • He’s hypocritical for two reasons: for proposing that church consideration of marriage be enacted into law as it would affect gay citizens but not straight citizens, and for allowing himself the leeway to criticize marriages that he does not approve of while not allowing for even the Pope himself to gently nudge Ross’s marriage.

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            • I find somebody saying, “I am in a position to judge the validity of marriages that are not my own, but even the Pope himself is not in a position to criticize, even very weakly, the validity of my own marriage” to be engaged in a rank bit of hypocrisy. This is true even if the framework for the judgement is very inside baseball. You disagree. My guess is that we are unlikely to find a common ground here.

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              • Fair enough, I won’t belabor the matter. Other than to note that the issue (if there is an issue) is that the canon laws of validity are not opaque… Douthat is applying the rules (rather discreetly in fact) and warning orthodox Catholics that marriages are presumed valid (even in today’s age). The Pope’s statement (which *had* to be walked back from Most to Some) would have been – if he had actually thought through his off-the-cuff-remark – transformative not of Ross’s marriage, but of the Church’s entire understanding of marriage validity.

                Even the secular state has rules about the validity of marriage… it has to. There are still today circumstances where it tells two (or more) people that no matter how much they love each other, there are impediments to their marrying. The ways to remove the impediments are legislated and regulated and codified into law. If we simply presume that marriages in Texas are invalid because … Texas. There would be issues. And Burt is perfectly able to sit in his cedar rocking chair in a valley in California and tell you that Marriage A under these circumstances is valid and Marriage B under these circumstances is not.

                Ok, maybe belabor a little. Apologies.

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          • My objection is to the entire thing – which is Ross blanching at the idea that anybody anywhere should express anything other than outright admiration and respect for HIS marriage – while at the same time finishing with the same old tired criticism of other marriages. It is of the willingness to dole it out while refusing to even consider the possibility of taking it.

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