A novel notion of justice

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Affirming the right to same sex marriage makes about as much sense as promoting the goodness of smoking cancer-inducing cigarettes.

The extent to which people will go to advance their rationalizations for sexual misbehavior grows ever more amusing and ambitious, with consequences, however, that are less jolly. The ultimate level of absurdity has now been reached by the claim that justice requires the legalization of same-sex marriage. Consider the following two protestations.

Celebrating the recent passage of such a law in New York, Washington Postcolumnist Richard Cohen wrote: “I am the brother of a woman in a longtime same-sex relationship… This is a cause whose justness has long been apparent to me. The opponents have no case other than ignorance and misconception and prejudice.”

And when Edwin O’Brien, the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore, attempted to remonstrate with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, over his sponsorship of a same sex marriage bill, the Governor responded that: “When shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice.”

So now it is no longer tolerance, but the demands of justice that seem to require legally equating homosexual marriage with heterosexual marriage, something no other civilization in recorded history has done.

But before justice can be enlisted on behalf of this cause, we should ask ourselves: what is justice? The classical answer to this question is that justice is giving to things what is their due according to what they are. In other words, to act justly, one must first know what things are. When one knows what something is, one then understands what it is for. The purpose of the thing then determines whether our actions toward it are a use or an abuse. This is where the matter of justice comes in.

One does not get to make up what things are. If that were the case, then justice could be anything that one said it was. That is what tyrants do. This would be arbitrary, and what is arbitrary is by definition tyrannical. It is based upon pure will, unguided by reason. Those who wish to base their freedom upon the supposed purposelessness of things should face the consequences of this view. What seems unmitigated freedom is, in fact, the foundation of tyranny.

Unfortunately, this solipsistic view of reality has reached high places. In the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey ruling, the Supreme Court opined that, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Well, actually not. The universe is already here. It has already been defined for us; otherwise, it would not be in existence. Our choice is not to make up the meaning of the universe, but to discern its meaning and then either conform ourselves to it, or revolt against it. The choice today is revolt. Igor Stravinsky once wrote, “The old original sin was one of knowledge, the new original sin is one of non-acknowledgment.” It is the refusal to acknowledge anything outside the operation of the human will — most especially “the good” toward which the soul is ordered. “The good” is what ultimately informs human justice.

The modern premise, so evident in the campaign for same-sex marriage, is that any pre-existing rational end constitutes a limitation on human freedom. Therefore, “freedom” requires the denial that rational ends inhere in things. Things are tabula rasa, blank slates upon which we can write anything we desire. Things, being purposeless themselves, only have the ends we give them by our will and choice. They serve whatever purpose we wish. This is a very dangerous teaching, especially as it affects the issue of justice.

As mentioned earlier, it is necessary to apprehend things as they are in order to act justly. A simple example suffices. If one does not know the difference between a man and a dog, one may end up treating a man as if he were a dog. This would be acting unjustly. Justice in no way pertains to how we feel about things but rather to what they are. In our anthropomorphic enthusiasm, we may feel that our pet dog is human. However, it would be absurd to pass legislation requiring the dog’s consent to its owner’s rule, because the dog is not human and is incapable of giving its consent. Dogs do not have free will. It is therefore just for men to rule over dogs.

Likewise, no feeling can justify the enslavement of another human being, because a human being has the inalienable right to consent in his or her rule. This, of course, was the problem with slavery. Only the understanding of what a human being is allows one to make this vital distinction between the human and the nonhuman. It is something one knows, or does not (or refuses to acknowledge), with huge consequences. It is precisely the loss of this distinction upon which the practice of abortion is based.

Once we know what something is, we can know what it is for. Its purpose is within it. How does this pertain to the issue of the justice of same-sex marriage? It has to do with the procreative and unitive powers of our sexual organs. What are they for? Today, we seem to know what every other part of our body is for, except our genitals. This is a case of selective epistemological amnesia.

Sex has a natural purpose

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.