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Cornerstone Forum Dissenters Welcome Here

Submitting a comment in response to Gil Bailie’s posts on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page is chancy. Unless you agree with Mr. Bailie’s worldview, you may find yourself “defriended.” All your thoughtful comments may suddenly vanish, because TCF is a place for genuflection, not robust dialog.

Those concerned about wasting their efforts at TCF may now submit their comments here.

Please use this post’s comments feature for your remarks. Identify the TCF post you are responding to. I don’t mind your pasting TCF’s entire post into the comments field if you think it’s necessary. Just preface it with “Gil Bailie writes/cites… ” and then add your response.

Doughlas Remy / TCF Samizdat

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Is Same-Sex Marriage Eroding Religious Liberties?

Lesbian weddingby Doughlas Remy

In a continuation of his ongoing “Tolerance Vigilantes” series, Gil Bailie takes us to the National Review Online, where Kathryn Jean Lopez (“Will Religious Liberty Survive Same-Sex Marriage?” 8/23/13) opines about the demise of religious liberty in a recent ruling by Justice Richard C. Bosson of New Mexico’s Supreme Court. Citing New Mexico’s anti-discrimination laws, Justice Bosson denied Elane Photography the right to refuse services to a lesbian couple who were about to have a commitment ceremony.

Justice Bosson wrote the following opinion:

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins [owners of Elane Photography] have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship. I therefore concur.

Mr. Bailie quotes Jim Campbell, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund:

The idea that free people can be compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives as the price of citizenship is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom.

Mr. Bailie deleted the following comment from Timothy Brock not long after it was posted:

Timothy Brock:

Thanks for posting this. The NM case is similar to ones in five other states, and I think they give us an opportunity to reflect again on whether the state should ever impose any restrictions on religious liberty.

“Religious liberty” sounds like a wholesome concept that everyone should support, and in fact it goes more or less unquestioned until one person’s expression of it rubs against another’s or impinges on our basic civil rights. Then, there is a variety of possible responses, including (a) “Freedom for me but not for thee” (my religion trumps both your religion and your civil rights), and (b) the kind of compromise that Justice Bosson sees as necessary to “lubricate the varied moving parts of us as a people.”

I think Justice Bosson has it exactly right, and he expressed his position very eloquently.

So the answer to the author’s question—”Will religious liberty survive same-sex marriage” is unquestionably “yes,” but that liberty will not be absolute. It never was, at least not in this country.

Randall Jennings responds:

This article goes through some of the more prominent legal entrails of the decision. I come to the opposite conclusion from that of the author. Most interesting for me is the fact that one legal precedent is conflating the idea of a ‘practice’ with one’s person. I suppose some of these individual ‘practices’ are deemed more worthy of legal protection than others.

“Brubaker5” responds to Ms. Lopez’s article with the much-worn “halal butcher” argument: 

ImageI wonder, would a halal butcher be required to carry pork because customers demanded it? It’s a butcher shop. They sell meat. The only reason they don’t sell pork is their beliefs. Should that Islamic butcher be compelled to serve couples who are openly homosexual? Should Islamic beliefs be dismissed like Christian beliefs?

The only rational response would be to repect the beliefs of atheist, Muslim, Chistian and Jew alike. What actual public good is served by using the force of law to coerce people into selling a product or service which their beliefs would prevent them selling? To do so, as in this case, is quite simply and transparently vindictive.

My response to Brubaker5:

Just think about it. A photographer running a photography studio sells photography, not sculpture. A halal butcher sells beef and chicken and lamb, but not pork.

Neither the photographer nor the butcher is required by law to sell other products. However, neither is allowed to discriminate against any of their customers on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

So the Halal butcher serves anyone who enters his shop, and the photographer serves anyone who enters her studio.

If a customer says to the photographer, “I want sculpture, not photography,” then the photographer refers that customer to an art gallery. She does not do so because she disapproves of the customer’s preferences, but because she is in the business of photography.

But to say, “I only do photography for heterosexuals” is undisguised discrimination, and there is no other way to construe it.

Brubaker5:

That’s an interesting line of reasoning, but it sidesteps the essence of my point:

The halal butcher sells a variety of meat, but doesn’t sell pork—because of his religious beliefs. The photographers sell photographs, but not for homosexuals—because of their religious beliefs.

Despite your attempt to rationalize different treatment, each business is making a business decision regarding which products or services they will provide, and they are doing so based on their religious beliefs.

Bottom line: The first time that I see a Muslim successfully prosecuted or sued for exercising their religious beliefs, I’ll get on board for forcing Christians to violate their beliefs.

My response to Brubaker5: 

While it is true that both the halal butcher and the NM photographer are motivated by religious belief, their intentions are not equivalent. The butcher has a niche market for customers who want meat slaughtered in a particular way, and pork is not on the menu. His intention, much like that of a vegan restaurateur, is to serve a specialized clientele. He obviously has no intention of excluding anyone, and if a Christian omnivore enters his shop to buy meat, he will serve them. This is no more discriminatory than opening a coffee stand without putting beer on the menu.

The NM photographer, however, is clearly offering her services to everyone EXCEPT homosexual couples. Whereas the butcher will sell his meat to anyone, the photographer is excluding certain customers because of their sexual orientation. Such discriminatory treatment frays the social fabric and sooner or later creates an underclass of people who can only find goods and services within their own communities, which are known as “ghettos.”

Regarding your comment about Muslims: Why do you think that they are not constrained by U.S. law? Stoning adulteresses is just fine under Sharia law, and it is practiced in Saudi Arabia, but we don’t find it happening in the U.S. Neither do we find female genital mutilation among Muslims in this country except where it is practiced secretly and outside the law.

So my response to your comment about Muslims is a challenge:

If the Muslims can bend to the laws of our country, why can’t Christians?

Responses to Gil Bailie’s TCF Posts For August-September 2013

Submitting a comment in response to Gil Bailie’s posts on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page is chancy. Unless you agree with Mr. Bailie’s worldview, you may find yourself “defriended.” All your thoughtful comments may suddenly vanish, because TCF is a place for genuflection, not robust dialog.

Those concerned about wasting their efforts at TCF may now submit their comments here. Every two months, TCF Samizdat will offer a  safe repository like this one, duly dated and permanently floating on the front page for easy access.

Please use this post’s comments feature for your remarks. Identify the TCF post you are responding to. I don’t mind your pasting TCF’s entire post into the comments field if you think it’s necessary. Just preface it with “Gil Bailie writes/cites… ” and then add your response.

Doughlas Remy / TCF Samizdat

Critics Take Gil Bailie to Task (Part 1)

SlanderThe following is a transcription of a discussion that occurred beginning 6/16/13 on Gil Bailie’s The Cornerstone Forum Facebook Page:

The Cornerstone Forum (Gil Bailie)

A friend alerted me to this. It apparently comes from Bill O’Reilly’s message board. It’s about the last presidential election, and the figures appear to be accurate.

As each state reported their final election details, the evidence of voter fraud is astounding. Massive voter fraud has been reported in areas of OH and FL, with PA, WI and VA, all are deploying personnel to investigate election results.

Here are just a few examples of what has surfaced with much more to come.

  • In 59 voting districts in the Philadelphia region, Obama received 100% of the votes with not even a single vote recorded for Romney. (A mathematical and statistical impossibility).
  • In 21 districts in Wood County Ohio, Obama received 100% of the votes where GOP inspectors were illegally removed from their polling locations – and not one single vote was recorded for Romney. (Another statistical impossibility).
  • In Wood County Ohio, 106,258 voted in a county with only 98,213 eligible voters.
  • In St. Lucie County, FL, there were 175,574 registered eligible voters but 247,713 votes were cast.
  • The National SEAL Museum, a polling location in St. Lucie County, FL had a 158% voter turnout.
  • Palm Beach County, FL had a 141% voter turnout.
  • In Ohio County, Obama won by 108% of the total number of eligible voters.

NOTE: Obama won in every state that did not require a Photo ID and lost in every state that did require a Photo ID in order to vote.

Jim Daly responds:

I love and respect you, Gil, but it really makes you look bad when you post scurrilous rumors. It tends to discredit the many other true and helpful things you post. I have no idea why you say that the figures are accurate. In fact, just a little fact checking shows them to be false. Here is a link to the snopes.com page that refutes these claims.

The Cornerstone Forum: 

statue1Jim, thanks for passing this along. Everyone is welcome to take a look and come to a decision. If I had more confidence in this administration, I would have been less
credulous. I remain skeptical. But, everyone is welcome to take a look and come to his or her on conclusion.

Sophie Sommers:

Gil, one way to avoid propagating scurrilous rumors is to do some careful fact checking before you post anything of this sort. Stories like the one above do unjustified damage to people’s reputations, and that is wrong by any moral standard. Your distrust of Obama and your faith in people like Bill O’Reilly could lead you down some dangerous paths. Please give everyone the benefit of the doubt and speak no evil of anyone without really solid evidence of wrongdoing. You know as well as I do that the Internet is full of false reporting about everything that’s going on in government and society. There are a number of fact-checking resources. Jim Daly mentioned Snopes.com. There are others, all mostly reliable. (Just avoid the ones that are funded by groups with ideological agendas.)

Jim Daly:

Trust meGil, when you say that you remain “skeptical,” do you mean that you doubt Snopes.com’s debunking of these ludicrous claims? Could you explain why? Is it simply because your dislike of so many of the Obama administration’s policies inclines you to believe the worst about the President? That’s understandable. But recognizing your biases should give you the incentive to be extra diligent about verifying the things you post, so you don’t end up committing the sin of slandering your neighbor and discrediting the many true and helpful things you post.

The Cornerstone Forum:

My skepticism of the present administration and the Chicago politics it represents is such that I find stories like the one my friend highlighted believable. Whatever the validity of the article in question, my skepticism remains.

Jim Swenson:

scandal2There are clearly a lot of people in this country who will believe anything about Obama and his policies as long as it is bad. This is very unhealthy for our democracy, because we are seeing unprecedented infusions of misinformation into the media to satisfy these people’s need for scandal. Willfully passing along false and libelous information is, according to the Catholic catechism, a very serious sin for which penance is required. It’s so serious, in fact, that it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

To make responsible decisions, citizens need accurate information. Responsible citizens will do their part to ensure that the media don’t contaminate and distort the political process. When we put up Facebook pages and blog sites, the “Media ‘R’ Us.” Let’s keep it clean!

Jim Daly:

TruthPerhaps you found it “believable,” in the sense of being at least plausible, but that doesn’t make it true. And since we as Christians have an overriding responsibility to the truth, especially when what’s at stake is the reputation of our neighbors who may be innocent of the accusations brought against them, don’t we have a responsibility to check our facts before we post something that turns out to be a scurrilous fabrication? You’ve rightly complained about the decline of journalistic integrity, as journalists sacrifice their traditional commitment to the truth and allow themselves to be used as mouthpieces to promote an ideological agenda. But your credibility on this and many other points vanishes if you do the very same thing you complain about when it’s done by others. That’s what your concerned friends on this thread are trying to help you see.

The Cornerstone Forum:

For what it’s worth, I find Bill O’Reilly to be insufferable. The things I quoted from his message board seemed to me plausible, for reasons that most people might recognize. I’m done with this post. Carry on if it seems worth your while.

Ben Boyce:

So that proves it! Not only is Obama not a citizen, but five million votes were manufactured to install the Anti-Christ as president. (That’s the problem with the right-wing Republicans; they not only have their own opinions but they make their own facts). It has come to this. It must be hard to breathe in that bubble, what with all the noxious fumes being emitted.

Jim Daly:

Shame2I do understand why you found the figures to be plausible, despite their untrustworthy source. But plausible doesn’t mean true and, when what’s at stake is the possibility of unjustly sullying the reputations of so many dedicated poll workers, it’s morally imperative to verify your claims to avoid promulgating the sort of falsehoods found in your post. Earlier today, you posted a beautiful sentiment about how heavenly it would be to have the opportunity to seek forgiveness from all those whom we have wronged. But, of course, before we can seek forgiveness, there must first be an admission of wrongdoing. That may actually be the hardest part, because our desire to get right with God and our neighbor meets all kinds of resistance from that proud part of ourselves that is loath to admit our mistakes. That’s why the person who can admit error is so deserving of our respect. It would be wonderful if you could stop hiding behind the excuse that it’s alright to spread calumny as long as it strikes our biased ears as initially “plausible.” There is no shame in admitting a mistake. To the contrary! The shame lies in refusing to do so.

Critics Take Gil Bailie to Task (Part 2)

Image6/18/13: Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum posts the following:

THE NEW MORAL CAUSE: Freedom from Moral Constraints

What does the average man of today expect when he cries out for freedom and liberation? Approximately what Marx gave as a vision of full freedom: ‘hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon … and criticizing as suits my pleasure after dinner.’ By ‘freedom’ one generally understands today the possibility of doing everything one wants and of doing only what one would like. Thus understood, freedom is arbitrariness. … According to this vision, freedom would be complete if there were no longer any rule or any obligation to other persons or things, but only the unlimited arbitrariness of each individual who has everything he wants at his disposal and who can do everything he likes. In this view, liberation consists in throwing off all obligations. Every obligation appears as a fetter that restricts freedom; every obligation one eliminates means progress in freedom.— Joseph Ratzinger

Alas, however, where does one who has fallen for this trivialized anthropology look for help in freeing his shoulders from unwanted obligations? He looks to the state. If enough of his contemporaries can be coaxed into adopting his liberationist anthropology—for this purpose, the ideological takeover of educational institutions will be necessary—many of the obligations once associated with family, faith, church and community can be transferred to the state, even as the state can be made the arbiter of new lifestyle rights, and the enforcer these rights, when necessary, at the expense of rights traditionally understood—religious freedom, conscience, and so on. Thus the adolescent interpretation of freedom eventually requires the paternalistic, authoritarian state as its enabler and champion. Perpetual childhood in a walled prison.

Timothy Brock responds:

Certainly, “throwing off all obligations” can only lead to toxic levels of “liberation.” At such levels, we find only sociopaths.

People who are considered “healthy” in their outlook and habits usually know how to manage their obligations. This means not taking on too many, or too few, but it also means selecting them carefully. “Liberation,” then, might just mean having the freedom to manage one’s own obligations to an optimal degree under given sets of circumstances.

Why shouldn’t we look to the state for help in doing this? I don’t regard the “state” as something completely alien to myself. Ideally, it empowers me to join with others in deciding what our mutual obligations are, and it is an arena of negotiation. Where else would you want to conduct these negotiations? Sectarian institutions are too narrow, and they lack the power to make and enforce binding laws. Family is sometimes too constrictive, imposing obligations that we may properly deem unreasonable. Faith may deprive us of the autonomy that we need for the work of managing our obligations.

Family, faith, church, and community are important, even essential, in getting our balance right. But anthropologically, they are at the level of the tribe, which has long since been superseded by the nation state, and—now—the community of nations. We don’t abandon the tribe just because the tribe has been folded into the state, but we get strength and meaning from each of them. There’s no going back to life in the little duchy bounded by mountains and lakes, impervious to events outside its borders. We are all connected, and no tribe is ever going to expand to fill the space occupied by the secular state. It’s just not going to happen, at least not here.

Authoritarianism is a separate issue. There’s no reason why the secular state should be authoritarian. It may be democratic and constitutional. On the other hand, church, community, and family may be highly authoritarian. The Catholic hierarchy is not exactly a democracy, you know…

Ben Boyce:

Well said, Timothy! There is an unsettling insurrectionist tone in American conservatives, now that they do not control all the branches of government. The Southern accent that is the tone of the Republican Party tells me that the Civil War never really ended. That, coupled with the worship of the gun in their sub-culture, is cause for concern.

Criticism isThe Cornerstone Forum:

Ben and Timothy, you may want to get into email communication. This page will not long be a posting board for rants against the Church, etc.

Sophie Sommers:

Easy, Gil. This is an interesting discussion. You got it started. Now just listen.

Implicit in the idea of a “transfer” to the state of “obligations once associated with family, faith, church, and community” is the notion that the state is somehow antithetical to family, faith, etc. But is it really? Or must it be? Maybe the state is—or can be—an expression and an extension of community values.

If the state is the “arbiter” of rights, perhaps it is well suited for that role. What other entity can match the impartiality of the state or its accountability to all stakeholders? What other entity can balance competing claims of religious liberty and conscience?

The state’s enforcement of rights should not be confused with authoritarianism. The rights of Americans have been elaborated over the past two centuries through legislation and judicial decision. This is the antithesis of authoritarianism, which establishes rights and obligations through edict.

Jim Daly:

I’m also interested in hearing the discussion, Gil. I think it’s an important topic. And, as far as I can tell, no one is engaging in a rant against the Church. Ben said nothing about the Church and Timothy merely noted that the Church hierarchy is not democratic, which is an indisputable fact. I think you would agree that the Church ought not to be a democratic institution. In this respect, it’s unlike the state, which needs to be democratic in order to ensure that the interests and rights of everyone are protected, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of same. The Church has a different responsibility: to safeguard and promulgate the deposit of faith. To fulfill this obligation, the Church counts on the continued protection of its rights by the liberal state. Viewed in this way, rights and obligations aren’t at odds with each other. They’re mutually supportive.

Ben Boyce:

Just to be clear, I’m not “ranting.” Nor am I taking the Catholic Church to task. What I am reacting to is the conflation of the Catholic Church with right-wing American politics. This is not an academic issue, because I experience it in parish life. I find it alarming that anyone who is associated with progressive politics is openly questioned as a “real Catholic.” This was demonstrated vividly for me when a member of my parish told a friend that he had a hard time “hearing the Word of God from a socialist,” after my turn as a lector, apparently in reference to a monthly column I write for the Sonoma Sun, entitled “Progressive Majority Coalition”, which makes the case for what I believe to be a social justice perspective that seems more compatible with the Gospel concern with lifting up the poor and fashioning a society that asks for mutual responsibility from all classes, including the wealthy and powerful. I never use theological justifications for my positions, because that would seem presumptuous, even though I do believe that my Christian social democratic views are closer to the spirit of Christ than the mean spirited social darwinism that is the core of contemporary American conservatism.

Sophie Sommers:

Jim, a lot of the anti-statism that we’re hearing is from entities that would like to override and supplant the powers of the democratic state. These entities are mostly corporations and religious institutions that want unfettered power for themselves. Anti-statist religious groups have made provisional alliances that would not survive long after the disappearance of the state, if that were ever to happen. Then it would again be Catholics against Protestants, Jews against Christians, Christians against Muslims, Baptists against Methodists, and so on down the line. The state holds all these forces in tension and, far from starving it, as Grover Norquist would like to do, I think we need to cultivate it.

Ben Boyce:

Dead-EndAdditionally, the reason that you are provoking these kinds of responses is that you keep throwing out highly politicized positions that reflect the views of the American Religious Right as if they represented the Magisterium of the Church. I feel as though I have the right to comment on this page based on my having listened to every tape and CD you produced from the beginning of your career until around 2008. I have been dismayed to see how you have thrown in your lot with the intellectually and morally bankrupt enterprise of the right-wing forces, who seem so seized with their own conviction, based on a very narrow bandwidth of moral issues, that they really do believe that God is on their side and any other orientation is not just a political difference but an affront to God and the Church. The lesson for me is to avoid the logic of orthodoxy, which can lead even intelligent and educated people like yourself into an intellectual dead-end which squeezes out mercy and charity for the sake of rigid conformity to a hard-line doctrine. The attempt to impose hard and fast categories on the messy fluidity of the human experience is yet another road to tyranny, as history can attest. We can be grounded in the absolute revealed truth of Christ and still retain a sense of humility about our limits as flawed humans. I don’t object to you expressing your personal views on culture and politics (since I do it all the time myself!) but I do resist your implicit assertion that your views are cloaked in the majesty of the teachings of the Church.

Ben Boyce:

Finally, since this will be my last chance to address this concern in a public forum, I would ask you to rethink how you use your Facebook page as a means of communicating your mission. You can choose to continue along the same trajectory and ruthlessly edit out unflattering comments by banning individual users and quickly removing content that does not reflect well on your message, or you can re-evaluate whether the mission of the Forum is served by taking so many nakedly partisan positions on political issues. I am not interested in having one-to-one e-mail exchanges on your public positions, because that does not accomplish the goal of getting your audience to look at alternative perspectives. I don’t think that I have been a pernicious poster, although I have started to mock some of the more outrageous claims as a way of waking you up to just how it sounds to folks outside of the conservative media bubble. I do hope that you will examine the role that you have adopted in the last few years, because it is distracting from a very deep core message that should be heard by the culture. OK, fini!

Sophie Sommers

The Emperor's New ClothesIn memoriam: Dorothy Jospin, Thomas Hostomsky, Frank Lozera, Ernest Karam, George Dunn, and several others whose names I cannot recall. [Editor’s Note: These are the names of the “fallen,” i.e., those who have been thrown off The Cornerstone Forum Facebook Page for taking issue with Gil Bailie’s positions.]

Jim Daly:

Reading Gil Bailie’s book, Violence Unveiled, was a turning point in my spiritual and intellectual development. Since then, I’ve listened to many of Gil’s recorded lectures (I hope it’s okay for me to use your first name, Gil), which have been a rich resource for me in reflecting on the meaning of the gospel. In short, I hold Gil Bailie in very high esteem. This is why I’m also disappointed and concerned about how Gil has been letting his partisan loyalties get in the way of what is of truly enduring value, his brilliant interpretation of the revelation given to us in Jesus Christ. It seems that these partisan loyalties are even preventing Gil from dealing in a truly ethical and Christian way, that is, both charitably and fairly, with those with whom he disagrees. A particularly troubling case in point is his repost of false information about the election, taken from Bill Reilly’s website, though there are other examples I could give.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, let me explain that politically, I’m neither a doctrinaire liberal nor a doctrinaire conservative. I hold views that are strongly pro-life, but I’m also concerned about the poor and other social justices issues more traditionally associated with the left. My social justice concerns, however, don’t mean that I necessarily support every initiative put forward by those calling themselves “progressives.” Sadly, many programs intended to help the least well off have backfired or generated new, unanticipated problems. What we need is both wisdom and compassion, a combination rarely encountered these days anywhere on the political spectrum.

I only bring up my own politics so no one will think that my criticisms of Gil stem from a doctrinaire allegiance to the political positions he sometimes excoriates. I’d like to think that my politics are informed by my understanding of the gospel and, as I’ve already said, I owe much of that understanding to the brilliant insights of Gil Bailie. That’s why it saddens me so to see Gil deal with others in ways that seem to me to be so antithetical to the spirit of Christ.

Gil Bailie responds to all:

There are, and will always be, disagreements between and among those who share our basic premises, and we welcome an opportunity to learn from people who share our basic principles, but who may have a different understanding of their implications. But there are visitors to our Page who have fundamental disagreements with us on first principles and on many of the cultural, theological, and moral issues of our time. Our clear and unapologetic intention is to be useful as we can be to those who share our fidelity to the Church and to the moral realism rooted in the Catholic anthropology. There are countless people who disagree with us on these and other matters. We wish them well, but we will not let the comments box of this Page be turned into a soapbox for carping about the Catholic Church or the moral tradition it represents. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience required to respond to those with whom an incessant exchange of opinion would accomplish precisely nothing except to turn this Page into both a full-time job and a shouting match.

There are literally millions of venues for the airing of views antithetical to the ones for which we stand, but this Facebook Page isn’t one of them. This Page is not a bulletin board or a blog or campus kiosk for the posting of angry disquisitions at odds with the three simple principles mentioned above. With no ill feeling, we encourage those who want to champion causes incompatible with our own to find other venues for doing so.

Rick Boone:

Your position is elegantly and graciously stated. Anyone who has a problem with it (and I wasn’t aware there might be those about who did) reveals himself morally and intellectually unworthy to participate in the Forum.

Jim Daly:

Gil, I honestly think you’re misinterpreting many of the responses on this page. I haven’t read anything that would constitute carping, angry or otherwise, against the Catholic Church. You also seem to have deliberately chosen words that denigrate the contributions of those who express views with which you may not agree. Impugning Christian brothers and sisters in this way is neither fair nor charitable.

Mind made upFar from “carping” against the Church, several participants in this forum who share your commitment to the Christian faith have expressed concerns about whether you may be letting your partisan political loyalties get in the way of effectively representing and advancing the mission of the Cornerstone Forum. An example of this is your readiness to post scurrilous attacks on poll workers that two minutes of research would have shown to be malicious fabrications. That someone as bright and well-intentioned as you could fall prey to such a sin only underscores how important it is for even the best of us to have friends who will alert us when we go astray and help us to overcome our powerful predilections for self-deception. It is through your writings and those of Girard that I have come to understand how robust and insidious the human capacity for self-deception really is.

Again, to voice these concerns isn’t the same as criticizing the Church or its moral traditions. To the contrary, they are a reminder of how prone we all are to confuse fidelity to the gospel with blind allegiance to some partisan political cause of the moment. We all need to guard against this tendency, lest it lead us inadvertently to betray the gospel in both our words and our deeds.

Jim Swenson:

Mr. Bailie (as I now know you prefer to be called), I just caught up with these discussions, or should I say “shock waves,” starting with the flap over your handling of the Bill O’Reilly slanders and rippling through a couple of other posts. Frankly, I am just aghast, but I also feel privileged to have witnessed what has happened here, because it is so emblematic of the crisis in the Church. This crisis amounts to a schism of historic proportions, one that will probably continue unfolding for many years to come. In intellectual history, or “anthropologically speaking,” as you would be fond of saying, everything that is said or written in these pages holds clues that can lead us to the truth.

Mr. Bailie, you are in some sense the face of modern hard-line conservative Catholicism, which brooks no criticism and makes no apologies for its bad behavior. It is so persuaded of its rightness, its absolute God-given mission, and its unassailable moral rectitude that it has no remaining scruples about silencing critics, trampling inquiry, and expelling anyone who dares, however meekly, to raise an objection.

How can you possibly denounce authoritarianism? You are authoritarian to the core. How can you possibly critique scapegoating when you have so thoroughly mastered and deployed its techniques? And how can you throw around the word “anthropology,” when you haven’t a clue how scientists think?

You are a fraud and a phony who would like nothing better than to attract a loyal following of sycophants who hang on your every word. You don’t want to worship God. You want to BE worshipped, and so you have become the false prophet “par excellence.”

Your shabby behavior when you were confronted with your slanders is key to understanding your character. Instead of admitting your error, you looked for some little infraction of your rules that would justify warning everyone to be silent. To shut up. And then you pretended that Ben Boyce’s exposure of you had nothing to do with your fit of pique.

Just so you know, the Cornerstone Forum has a shadow site, operated by one of those unfortunate individuals who made the mistake of thinking you were some kind of intellectual force, only to be thrown off for actually trying to converse with you without at the same time genuflecting. The shadow site is called “The Cornerstone Forum Samizdat,” and it is at https://thecornerstoneforumsamizdat.wordpress.com/.

Cheers, and farewell.

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Sophie Sommers:

Uh, oh, time for another purge. This time, I’m putting my bets on Jim Swenson, Ben Boyce, Jim Daly, Tim Brock, and, of course, myself. But I will pass the flame onto someone else.

Editor:

Within a couple of hours of Sophie’s final comment, three of the individuals she listed had “disappeared” from The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. Only Jim Daly and Tim Brock remained.

Requiescant in pace.

“Unconditional redemption” means no price to pay

Gil Bailie quotes Benedict XVI:

“God is love. But love can also be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic “good feeling.” Redemption is not “wellness,” it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary, it is a liberation from imprisonment in self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross. The prophecy of light and that of the Cross belong together.”

Dean Hansen responds:

“God is love…..BUT love can be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves.” Is that what love is doing? Then what was Christ’s crucifixion for? (God is love, but by the time we get through explaining what it is, you won’t want it).  So let’s see if I’ve got this straight: Up is down, but a strong draft can push you in the other direction if you flap your wings. Freedom is slavery, (but by implication) work brings freedom. Truth is truth, but the opposite of truth is a different kind of truth that can kill you. Maxims can take you to hell but a series of worthless platitudes are somehow praiseworthy.

It’s interesting how redemption ends up being defined by the Pope in a way that makes it appear synonymous with the welcoming fiction printed on the entrance to Auschwitz!  Redemption is the clearing of a debt. Without freedom as the goal, the purchase is meaningless. Even the Catholic definition says as much: “The restoration of man from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the children of God through the satisfactions and merits of Christ.” Grace by its very definition is unmerited favor granted through the cross on our behalf. It can’t be earned, won, or deserved through personal self-recrimination or a struggle against “indulgence” because it’s free. It can’t be merited, only accepted. “Transcending ourselves” has nothing to do with it. The fact that it’s free means it’s unconditional. There are no hidden strings. You can’t be liberated from imprisonment by returning to your cage, rattling the bars and trying to impress the warden with your behavior. If it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free,” he has also set us free from second guessing what he has set us free from. If the anguish of the Cross proves anything, it’s that the accomplishment of Christ cannot be repeated with the express intention of accomplishing twice what has been achieved once and for all through him. Any attempt to repeat it is a repudiation rather than an embrace of the love that brought it about. That’s where the real self-absorption takes over. And it is anything but a romantic feeling.

12/14/12: Going off the anthropological cliff

David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron

Today, the day of the Newtown, CT school shootings, Gil Bailie finds much to lament in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s support of same-sex marriage. “The consequences of going off this cliff are orders of magnitude greater than those associated with our fiscal irresponsibility,” he writes, and he would have us read (1) a letter from Rt. Rev. Philip A. Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, and (2) an article by Brendan O’Neill in The Telegraph. There is remarkable overlap between their three viewpoints about this matter.

Smother

Smother

The Bishop, apparently unable to think of anything new and interesting to say about same-sex marriage, reminds us that it undermines the very nature, meaning, and purpose of marriage. He doesn’t explain how this happens, but he feels certain that it does.

The changes Cameron is proposing, he claims, are of “immense significance,” and will “smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and in time strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.”

Strangle

Strangle

In other words, he doesn’t like the proposed changes.

Brendan O’Neill sees in gay marriage the triumph of selfishness, expressed in the notion that marriage is about “two people” and nothing more. “That’s it,” he writes. “It’s about you and your lover, nobody else.” And he really resents being called a dinosaur for holding this view.

Selfishness

Selfishness

Well, I hasten to point out that, in civil society, couples seeking to marry have never been required either to have children or to attempt to do so. Women who are past child-bearing age get married all the time, as do busy professionals who need intimacy, companionship, and love, but not 24-7-365 commitments to child care. So the bottom line is that marriage may or may not be about the raising and socializing of children, depending on a couple’s own private values and priorities. Gay marriage doesn’t change that one iota. Many gay couples, in fact, are crazy about kids and make wonderful parents. So what’s the beef?

Dinosaur

Dinosaur

Two adult individuals may marry for a variety of reasons, and it may be a matter of total indifference to them whether or not the Catholic Church approves. Considering the levels of church attendance in Britain, I wouldn’t imagine that too many Brits give a hoot.

12/10/12: The Tolerance Vigilantes Again…

Gil Bailie writes on 12/10/12:

Let’s say a man with same-sex attraction—having reviewed the dismal physical and mental health statistics associated with a sexually active homosexual lifestyle—decides to try to avoid these dangers with the help of psychotherapy. If he lives in California, and if a law recently passed by the state legislature is upheld, he will be out of luck. For therapists would be violating the law if they consent to a request to counsel someone wanting to overcome his same-sex attraction.

How’s that for diversity and tolerance? If you want to change your sexual orientation from straight to gay, heaven (religious scruples) and earth (anthropological reality) will be moved in order to make it happen. But changing one’s sexual orientation in the other direction is so ideologically unthinkable that laws must be passed to prevent it. It’s just one more indication of the totalitarian mentality of the sexual Left now that its goals seem within reach.

My initial reaction to this was a protracted groan that caused my sleeping cat to look up at me in alarm. Once again, Mr. Bailie has shamelessly exhibited a level of cluelessness that can only take one’s breath away, considering the ready availability of accurate information on the Internet. His lack of diligence barely conceals an underlying malice toward homosexuals and an eagerness to denigrate them at any opportunity. For not only does Mr. Bailie persist in claiming that homosexuality causes physical and mental health problems—in spite of all the evidence to the contrary—but he appears to believe that the “sexual Left” is bent on converting straight people to gayety. In all my years of following gay political culture, I’ve never heard of such a project. Nevertheless, to be fair, I decided to investigate. You can do it, too. Try googling “straight-to-gay conversion therapies” and see what you come up with. Make sure you type “straight-to-gay,” not “gay-to-straight.”

See what I mean? All you get is the opposite of what you searched for. Google thinks you made a mistake. Yes! You must have been thinking of “gay-to-straight.”

I actually have never known a gay person who thought that heterosexuals should (or could!) become gay. I have never heard of children being taunted by their classmates for being straight. I have never read a news story about a man who committed suicide after his friends and family rejected him because was straight! I have never heard of a religion that teaches the sinfulness of heterosexuality and encourages straight people to live lives of abstinence.

Mr. Bailie’s grotesque misconceptions, which verge on the hallucinatory, are symptomatic of a severe mimetic capitulation to the Groupthink of the religious right. Time for a reality check, and here it is:

First, some background. The new California law that Mr. Bailie is referring to is known as the ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, or SOCE (SB1172). The law was challenged in two separate cases: Welch v. Brown and Pickup v. Brown.

In the first of these, the plaintiffs were two mental health professionals, Mr. Donald Welch and Dr. Anthony Duk. Mr. Welch is a licensed marriage and family therapist and an ordained minister. Dr. Duk is a medical doctor and board certified psychiatrist. Both men stated that their views about homosexuality were based on their religious beliefs (remarkably enough, not on science!) and that the SOCE ban violated their first amendment rights. On 12/3/12, the judge in this case, William Shubb, blocked SB1172 temporarily, but only for these two plaintiffs.

In the second case, Pickup v. Brown, the judge concluded that the law did not violate the plaintiff’s first amendment rights because it did not prohibit them from mentioning SOCE or referring patients to out-of-state conversion therapists. Furthermore, he found that the law imposes a reasonable restriction on what sorts of treatments mental health professionals may provide. The purpose of such restrictions is to protect the public from damaging or ineffective therapies.

So, are conversion therapies actually damaging and or ineffective? Yes, say this country’s medical and social care associations. Homosexuality is not a mental illness. It is not a disorder. Many of what Mr. Bailie calls the “dismal physical and mental health statistics associated with a sexually active homosexual lifestyle” are the effects of stigmatization by churches such as his own Catholic Church, whose catechism describes homosexuality as “objectively disordered” in spite of a broad-based scientific consensus that says otherwise.

Mr. Bailie finds SB1172 to be an expression of the “totalitarian mentality of the sexual Left.” But Mr. Bailie sees totalitarianism everywhere, even where it’s not. (More about that another time.) SB1172 is simply California’s effort to protect its citizens from costly-but-ineffective therapies that are often damaging to patients. There’s nothing sinister here, unless you take the view that all government decisions are by definition sinister. (I am currently working on the hypothesis that Mr. Bailie does indeed think this.)

To paraphrase Mr. Bailie, let’s say that an unusually tall young man, attending school in California, is constantly taunted and ridiculed for his height—so much so that he decides to seek professional help. Let’s say that his “mental health professional” turns out to be an unrepentant quack whose religious beliefs take precedence over his scientific training and whose religion tells him that abnormal height is a sign of a satanic spell that can only be broken by surgically shortening the legs. What if he persuades his young patient that this will solve his problem? Should the state of California tolerate such therapies? (See the illustration in the next post, above.)

I cannot elaborate on this more persuasively than Truth Wins Out, which issued the following statement concerning Judge Schubb’s ruling:

We are disappointed, but not deterred by the initial ruling by judge William Shubb. This is the beginning of a process that we feel confident will end in our favor. We have a powerful and incontrovertible case that reparative therapy is a dangerous practice that brazenly stands in direct opposition to standard mental health guidelines and procedures. It erroneously portrays homosexuality as a mental illness, gay people as mentally ill, and is consumer fraud by definition because its practitioners offer false hope and empty promises to their clients for a fee.

The idea that SB1172 is a violation of First Amendment rights is unfounded and wrongheaded. Medical and mental health professionals are held accountable for their speech and simply can’t say whatever they want if the results bring harm to their clients. For example, a doctor can’t tell a patient who is recovering from a recent heart attack to run a marathon. To do so would be to engage in speech that leads to malpractice. Similarly, a reparative therapist should not be able tell a 14 year old client that he or she is suffering from a mental illness and needs psychiatric care to transform from gay to straight. Therapists in clinical settings have always been expected to uphold professional standards and are held accountable for dangerous advice or deceptive practices that harm clients, or have the clients harm themselves.

Reparative therapy is social engineering with no medical basis and operates in an alternative reality. It was founded and solely based on the anti-gay prejudices of primarily deeply religious therapists who cruelly project their unscientific views onto vulnerable clients at a considerable financial price, as well as a significant cost to mental health. Rather than do what is in the best interest of their clients, such unethical ‘therapists’ routinely treat their clients as guinea pigs and have them in engage in bizarre treatment regimens that would be laughable if they weren’t so psychologically harmful.

For these reasons, we view the temporary ruling as a speed bump in the inevitable process of protecting LGBT youth and their families from quacks. We look forward to the next round. The simple fact is, the more people learn about what reparative therapy truly is and what such therapists actually do in the clinic, the less they support it.

Finally, here, not to be missed, is Stephen Colbert’s take on the recent ruling.