What’s Happening with Haplin? Conservative Catholics, Subsidiarity and Gender Relations

Progressivist John Haplin at the Center for American Progress had some provocative things to say about conservative Catholics and Catholicism within a recent chain of leaked emails. In these emails, Haplin said that conservative Catholics like to “throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.” Haplin also said that Catholicism has “severely backward” gender relations.

Here I briefly explain the principle of subsidiarity so that Haplin and other people can understand what we crazy Catholics are talking about. I’ll also rant about gender relations.

The principle of subsidiarity is just that, as a matter or justice and right order, governance and decision-making should occur with the lowest level possible (say, individuals, families and communities) rather than more centralized, higher level institutions or persons. Some motivation behind this principle is that it helps secure the natural rights of individuals, families and communities to rightly order their own lives without subsuming tyranny from higher level entities. Within Catholicism’s history, this principle has been applied to resist Soviet communism as well as some cradle-to-grave welfare states that prefer or insist upon government control and oversight, diminishing the role and importance of the family and community (see paragraph 79; see here, paragraph 73 and here, paragraph 48). Some arguable violations of the principle of subsidiarity might be in those cases where the state acts as the primary educator of children, not the parents. Other examples might occur with some national childcare initiatives, Obama’s contraceptive mandates, Obamacare, and so forth.

Now, contrary to what some people might say, there is no guarantee that those aforementioned examples violate the principle of subsidiarity, it’s only arguable, because higher level involvement, direction and interjection is not prohibited per se. Indeed, the principle of subsidiarity is not itself a principle for just-stay-out-of-my-way libertarianism or small government, for the state is obliged to actively help attain the common good and it can morally interject within the relations of lower level institutions if those institutions fail to function properly toward the common good.  But again, these interjections subsist only if they’re necessary—the goal, if possible, will always be the restoration of lower level control and the restoration of natural rights to individuals, families and communities (see paragraph 188).

And that’s the principle of subsidiarity, briefly put. So what’s up with Haplin’s snark about conservative Catholics and subsidiarity? If I had to guess, I’d say that Haplin encourages a big, central government, one to meddle in affairs rightly ordered for lower level institutions. But, sadly, for his ambition, the principle of subsidiarity continuously demands that such meddling justifies itself, always pushing, if at all possible, for the restoration of those lower level institutions and their natural rights. Hence, the principle of subsidiarity is a shackle or an obstacle to Haplin’s ideal of a more subsuming state. That’s likely the source of his snark–he wants people to be content and complacent with the state’s subsumption, but the principle demands otherwise. So, with that said, let’s move on: I want to start my rant about gender relations.

Haplin says that Catholics have “severely backwards” gender relations. But the way I see it, Catholicism’s ideas on sex and its relations are beautiful and ideal. For on Catholicism, both man and woman are divinely created, in His image, for each other. Our created natures are thus complementary and good. And by the necessity of our created nature, no one sex is greater than the other. Instead, each sex has different roles, those predicated on real sexual difference and legitimized by God Himself. On Catholicism, then, our sexual being and difference is objective, good and intended, and our relations are properly ordered by nature, imprinted with the hand of God. So what then is our task in as men and women? Part of our task is to be mothers and fathers, not just in the genealogical sense, but in the spiritual sense, bringing ourselves, others and our progeny closer to God.

Now, compare Catholicism to the secular and liberal progressivism so prevalent in the West. The most plausible secular anthropology is that we’re an unintended result of (near?) blind evolutionary processes. Our lives, though valuable to us, are of no consequence to anything or anyone else in the known universe. Men and women are not created for each other, but, instead, have evolved to exist in ways beneficial to survival. Our sexuality, in these progressivist times, has no proper object—homosexuality is thus just a variation of sexuality, not a deviation. Sex is divorced from its marital context, leading to babies born out of wedlock, too often without a father (that creates problems). Sex is also divorced from its procreative and robustly unitive end, leading to recreational sex, the mass commodification of sex (e.g., the Internet porn industry) and the thingification of women, particularly from men. Divorce rates have skyrocketed. STDs are commonplace, and so are teen pregnancies. And if all of that weren’t enough, we don’t even know what women and men are anymore. Our ideas on sex and gender are so muddled that a person who has fathered 3 children with a woman from the natural sex act can win awards for the “woman” of the year. You couldn’t make this stuff up–it’s like its own reductio ad absurdum. It’s madness, I tell you. Madness. And so the recent history in the West is thus a history of mad rebellion. Its battle cry: I will not serve (non serviam).

So how did we get to this point? Here is how I see it. With our slow departure from God, we lost objective grounding and standard, but we can’t live that way, so we anchored ourselves in human nature and reason. But the rise of empiricism, naïve nominalism, scientism, and the demise of metaphysics led to the abandonment of natures. Hence, the refuge for grounding and standard then became the individual, his freedom and will—the only thing left that most of us have in common. But here, then, the individual’s sovereign will is the grounding and standard, we thus become like gods. So what follows? Liberty becomes license. Societal norms oppress of individuality. Private virtue replaces public virtue. Bodies become obstacles to the will (transgenderism, transhumanism, etc). Personal offence becomes blasphemy (PC culture).  The list goes on and on—autonomy has gone wild. But, of course, these ideas have consequences, many of which I described above. These sorts of consequences happen when we unchain the earth from the sunThat‘s how we got to this point.

Thus, readers will have to excuse me if I balk at Haplin calling Catholic gender relations “backwards”. Consider the source.

*end rant*

17 Comments

  1. As we put subsidiarity in our about page, “maximal respect for natural rights will almost always involve minimal intrusion, and most matters should be handled at the level of the closest appropriate authoritative body.” Application: disputes between siblings should be handled by the parents. Disputes between families should be handled by the town. Disputes between town should be handled by the county. Between counties, states; between states, the federal government. Etc.

    Here’s an argument for subsidiarity, in rough outline: Disputes should be settled justly. Accurate knowledge of the dispute is required for them to be settled justly. When parties of a dispute can’t settle it justly themselves, it is most just that a third party settle it. Third parties who are closest to the disputants are more likely to have accurate knowledge of the details than third parties who are further removed from the disputants. So, third parties who are closest to the disputants are more likely to settle disputes justly than third parties further removed, and the further removed from the dispute a third party gets, the less likely they are to be able to settle it justly.

  2. If I could, I’d like to make several objections, and you can pick up and run with them as you see fit.

    First, I’d like to start off and posit that your conception of the sexes is deeply rooted in God’s design of what those roles are and how sexual difference is constituted. As you state here,

    “…the way I see it, Catholicism’s ideas on sex and its relations are beautiful and ideal. For on Catholicism, both man and woman are divinely created, in His image, for each other. Our created natures are thus complementary and good. And by the necessity of our created nature, no one sex is greater than the other. Instead, each sex has different roles, those predicated on real sexual difference and legitimized by God Himself. On Catholicism, then, our sexual being and difference is objective, good and intended, and our relations are properly ordered by nature, imprinted with the hand of God. So what then is our task in as men and women? Part of our task is to be mothers and fathers, not just in the genealogical sense, but in the spiritual sense, bringing ourselves, others and our progeny closer to God.”

    You’ve made sexual identity into an essence. Sexual difference for you is grounded on “our created natures” and it’s from this position you include that they are complementary and good, invoking the unitive and procreative aspects of JP2’s theology of the body. However, what this does is draw a distinction of our created natures that is a cultural product of wedding normativity to a teleological universe in which created natures must serve their natural/ proper function (the roles we are meant to play). Such reasoning is metaphysically too robust to judge right and wrong. In fact, it forces an essentialism of natures upon people who are radically free. In this case, it is rather that existence precedes essence, not the fact that essences precede existence.

    Second, if you are appealing to something like teleology and ordered natures for the sexes, then it’s certainly the case that such a conception of nature suffers from explanatory incompleteness. One problem with JP2 as well as its Thomistic roots is that the philosophical anthropology of the view did not have a developed account of sexuality that took into account zoology (and here I think comparative primatology). Here, the faulted view is rooted in the pseudo-science of “On the Generation of Animals”. I am not dismissing this thought because it is old. Let me be clear. The charge is rather that there’s no explanatory power in the philosophical anthropology underlying the view since homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon in many species, and on naturalistic grounds, that has implications for viewing nature and ourselves—even if we are theists! If God created nature as we understand it scientifically, then God intended in his creation homosexuality and since they are products of God’s creation and anything God creates is good, they are good. If we reject theism completely, we’re still left with the fact that homosexuality naturally occurs in animals and we are an extension of animal life.

    Third, I find it difficult to accept your reasoning as reasoning that applies to me, or should apply to anyone, let alone be a basis of public reasoning of the state. The fact that right and wrong are assessments of human rationality is a theoretical advantage, not a drawback. Act utilitarianism or Kantian deontology serve as attempts to offer philosophical visions of morality that depend on what everyone possesses—our shared rationality. In your universe, the Canadian or American government may continually fail to violate teachings about sexuality that remove us from God, but the question remains should those views about God even be a basis to judge rightness and wrongness in the first place? Absolutely not. Should my Buddhist kids recite the pledge of allegiance with the mention of the Christian “God”? Absolutely not. Should your Christian God serve as the basis of my Muslim’s friend’s life? Absolutely not. Should it govern mine? No, because I am a process theist, not a traditional theist. In the end, I ultimately feel a lot of what this blog forgets is just how interesting human beings are philosophically and culturally. This blog has become a site to complain that the universe is not like you want it to be and so you post blog entries when someone on the left demeans you, complaining on and on. Rather, you should really be doing the work that some wonderful conservatives have done philosophically. Let me ask you: Why do the advocates of small time government often invoke the want for special treatment and privilege of their own religion and its views in light of the larger culture (usually Christianity) at the expense of how many religions are in the United States and Canada?

    The best forms of conservatism serve as an ultimate check against liberal populism. I grant that. However, there comes a time where you (meaning all conservatives) have to see that the same absolutist values and the same abuses of power rests with religious institutions just as much as the state can abuse power. We can come up with reasonable conditions at the political level to ensure that all three of us can coexist (as the bumper sticker says). Yet, some embrace of diversity must happen rather than this knee jerk Catholic/Christian overreacting that tends to happen. One way to do that is to attempt to understand homosexuality scientifically. Science appeals to our rationality just as much as any form of secular ethics do. That’s at least in principle better than these views that insulate rightness and wrongness as Catholic Hulk’s post does here.

    Thank you for reading me.

    Jim

    • I’m sure Catholic Hulk is more than capable of defending himself and is more versed in natural law than me, but I’ll step up to the place first. With that written…

      Jim,

      First of all, Catholic Hulk was explicating the Catholic positions on subsidiarity and gender relations and put forth a brief argument why such views aren’t backwards compared to secular progressivism. That’s the thesis. You’re free to disagree — which evidenced by your comment, you do indeed do so — but as it stands, your objections are all over the place, and it’s hard to divine what you’re actually arguing. Criticizing natural law theory is fine, but it’s not directly pertinent to the main argument of the post which is here are two Catholic positions and when compared to contrasting secular views on similar matters, can they really be deemed so intellectually weak as to be described as “backwards.”

      I find it ironic that you purport, or at least strong imply, that we’re only whining about losing our cultural/religious hegemony in this country to scientifically and secularly informed reason. It’s this prejudice against socially or culturally conservative views qua socially or culturally conservative views as being de facto unreasonable, irrational and untenable that Catholic Hulk is trying to rebuff here. In other words, any position held by religious or conservative individuals on homosexuality, for example, is out of the gate considered and dismissed as mere bronze age superstition, religious dogma and motivated by irrational bigotry aimed at theocracy, while the actual content of those views remain addressed. So the fact that conservatives of all stripes have to constantly fight the stigma that our views are beyond the pale for reasonable discussion — as Catholic Hull does here — escapes you.

      In fact, underlying your comment is that same self-serving assumption that relegates social conservatism to the realm of nonreason, while you represent the Enlightened reasonable folks sitting at the adult table. Let that sink in: We have to overcome the uncharitably placed burden to even get our views in the place to be considered views that could be true or accurate. What at least partly explains this sociological fact? A hegemonic echo chamber in the academy.

      So, your comment and its criticism is indeed noted. While it extols the reasonable philosophical attempts of act utilitarianism and Kantian deontology, it betrays a profound ignorance of Thomism and natural law theory, erroneously implying that the view is neither philosophical nor an attempt based in reason. Thomas Aquinas recognized that the natural law could be known by reason alone and largely without reference to divine command. That’s because the metaethics of the view are derived from the metaphysics developed by that devout Catholic born three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle, not Jesus or a Pauline epistle.

      Accordingly, under AT natural law theory, sexual identity is not the essence of humanity. Humanity, on the other hand, is a zoon politikon, a rational animal with certain ordered ends flowing from that nature. As such, being that we have an animal side, one of our animalistic ends is reproduction. And an animal can be considered good insofar as it conducts itself toward the fulfillment of that end, i.e. reproduction. But given that we are also rational, we can recognize what the natural law requires in this and other regards and thereby are moral agents. Intellect precedes the will, as the Doctor Angelicus famously maintained. So, to do good, I believe under AT natural law theory, is to will what the intellect recognizes as good, viz. our ends determined by our nature.

      Now, it’s fine that you reject natural law theory as a persuasive normative ethical account, but from best that I can tell, given your reasoning, your rejection is unjustified. Pointing out that homosexuality occurs in the natural world, i.e. primates, dolphins, whatever, is irrelevant. As noted above, animals are not rational in the way we are and are not moral agents, according to the Thomist. Likewise, the sense in which you’re using natural or nature world is not the same sense Thomist natural lawyers use it. The former is scientific, the latter metaphysical. Thus appealing to science is missing the point. Science is not in the business of ethics, and the nature it explores is not the nature or essence that interested Aristotle, Aquinas or Thomists in this regard.

      Also ineffective is discarding natural law on the grounds it’s a “cultural product,” whatever that means. Isn’t every theory a “cultural product”? To identify natural law theory as such is a trivial truth. It, by no means, renders the account more or less true. Only weighing its theoretical and explanatory merits or lack thereof is relevant to its viability and tenability. Intimating that Catholics largely hold this view — if that is indeed what you’re implying — is somehow a mark against it does you no good. You reference Sartrean’s notions of radical freedom and existence precedes essence. But consider, this too is just a “cultural product” of mid-20th century French existentialism, and by your own reasoning, can be dismissed as flippantly as you dismiss JP2’s and Catholic Hulk’s Thomism.

      • A little cleanup for clarity.

        It’s this prejudice against socially or culturally conservative views that deems them as de facto irrational and untenable solely because they’re socially and culturally conservative. That attitude is what Catholic Hulk is rebuffing here. (para. 2, lines 3 and 4).

        * remain unaddressed (para. 2, lines 8 and 9)

    • Oh, and one more note on whether or not this applies to you and has space in public square. If natural law theory is correct, viz. humans have an objective nature that determines our ethical ends and can be known via reason without direct reference to God, it has profound implications for such political discussions. It implies that our institutions ought to reflect this given understanding of human nature rather than the postmodern and relativistic orthodoxies whose practitioners demand absolute compliance. If this indeed is the case, then it should be clear you’re litany of examples, e.g. Buddhist kids saying the Pledge of Allegiance, vague and inflammatory references to the Christian God dominating the lives of non-Christians, all become non-issues. Politics becomes for focused on pursuing truth, justice and the good and not the utopian egalitarianism, the divisive, acrimonious and petty tribalism and the totalitarianism needed to to enforce both that dominate today’s public discourse. An improvement all-around, if you ask me.

      • Speaking precisely to the claims above Jan. The objective human nature is such a flimsy concept. That it is more or less an extension of one’s group’s preferences that express in-group to out-group relations. I put to you that when you raise your kids to be Buddhist you keep the fact that there is no deep, objective metaphysical core of being human. There is no deep personal identity, but a relational ontology of who they are at that moment and how their current state is non-essential to who they are. You teach them to be mindful of how their current wants and desires may compete with others, even hurt others, and in the end the compassionate lovingkindness Buddhism tries to inculcate in its very practice is driven to transform the ego to appreciate why egalitarianism is more wanted in a world. It’s in direct competition with anyone that thinks the way you just responded to me. It’s also the reason I left the Church so long ago.

      • Jim,

        “The objective human nature is such a flimsy concept.”

        Flimsy in what way? How is it more flimsy than the relational ontology in dharma-based, samsara-referencing religions like the Buddhism you apparently sympathize with?

        “…You teach them to be mindful of how their current wants and desires may compete with others, even hurt others, and in the end the compassionate lovingkindness.”

        And this is directly incompatible or opposed to Christian parents informed by Christian doctrine how? Christianity doesn’t try to inculcate in its followers an awareness of their inner selfish nature and desires which are just temporary weaknesses of the imperfect flesh? And in spite of this depravity, we’re supposed to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

        “That it is more or less an extension of one’s group’s preferences that express in-group to out-group relations.”

        Really? How do you know this? None of the above claims have any sort of argument for them.

        “It’s in direct competition with anyone that thinks the way you just responded to me. It’s also the reason I left the Church so long ago.”

        Sure, Buddhism’s underlying truth claims differ from Christianity’s and I guess are in competition in that sense. It’s clear you’re a fan of egalitarianism but not everything in this world is equal: Some worldviews are true, some are false. Some are clearly more false and less conducive to human flourishing than others. So why should the ones that are clearly less true and false — and I’m not ruling out Buddhism as true or false here — as a matter of politics and public policy, be treated as no different morally to other, clearly better worldviews? Why is equality the supreme value over truth as principle upon to build a system of secular government? From your comments, I don’t detect any reason or argument why, perhaps, other than you feel emotionally it does.

  3. You ignored the central philosophical claim. I made a claim about explanatory completeness concerning the gender relations view purported by Catholic Hulk.That’s not how to start a conversation, and I do not think these views are intellectually weak. I never said that. If I was dismissive it was because there’s a philosophical reason to call into doubt the argument above. Respect in philosophy, as far as I practice it, is to acknowledge a view and consider it, chew on it, and even if it doesn’t hold, you hold yourself accountable when engaging those ideas. You offer arguments against it out of respect. Strange thing…what I’m doing here. My claim of explanatory incompleteness concerns how homosexuality occurs in the natural world. This means that the teleological assumption animating the Catholic view is wrong. Should I have developed a thorough argument that denies teleology in nature? I can, though I would think that if there are purposes or causes in nature they often look like teleology, so if anything, I’d argue for the naturalizing of some elements of proper functions.

    If you want a historic claim, then here’s a working philosophical claim: Positing reproduction as the end of all animal life is but one function that Thomists and Aristotle assumed about nature, but certainly not the only function to how sexuality manifests in human beings and animals (which we learn about the world with our developing and revisable scientific beliefs).

    Of course, a parallel implicit belief might be just how much of a difference there should be concerning metaphysics and the natural world. You rightly insist upon a difference, but I would think that science must on some level inform the metaphysical ideas we hold. No? By isolating metaphysics from what we learn about the natural world might invite further explanatory incompleteness.

    • Hi Jim,

      “The charge is rather that there’s no explanatory power in the philosophical anthropology underlying the view since homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon in many species, and on naturalistic grounds, that has implications for viewing nature and ourselves—even if we are theists! If God created nature as we understand it scientifically, then God intended in his creation homosexuality and since they are products of God’s creation and anything God creates is good, they are good. If we reject theism completely, we’re still left with the fact that homosexuality naturally occurs in animals and we are an extension of animal life.”

      What you say here confuses what is meant by “natural”. God could very well purposefully create someone with a defect for some greater good or other reasons, but it still would not make those defects “natural” in the required sense. Not to mention, science cannot refute or question principles that are not scientific, of the strict modern kind, in nature, so it really does not matter what science strictly says on the matter. Science can definitely help us obtain what is good for us, given our natures, but it can not tell us what our natural goods actually are.

      This may help a little: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/whose-nature-which-law.html

    • “You ignored the central philosophical claim. I made a claim about explanatory completeness concerning the gender relations view purported by Catholic Hulk.”

      But I did in noting that’s you’ve equivocated on “natural.” Billy also point it out too. Nature in science is not the “nature” natural lawyers talk about. Moreover, I’m not sure why you assume scientific nature must be included to update teleological anthropology. I don’t see how it better explains homosexuality — the practice of which is subject to moral scrutiny — when science is not in the business determining what is good and what is bad when natural law is. The only way that it does is when you erroneously muddle metaphysics with it to inform a different understanding on human nature. Best as I can tell, that’s what you’re doing by insisting that Thomism is an incomplete explanation when it comes to homosexuality. But once again, science is epistemologically limited to the natural, physical world, not ethics, while metaphysics and teleology do have ethical implications. I think you have it exactly backwards: metaphysics is prior to science. After all, science can’t be done without metaphysical assumptions about there being an external physical world and such.

      “My claim of explanatory incompleteness concerns how homosexuality occurs in the natural world. This means that the teleological assumption animating the Catholic view is wrong.”

      And how exactly does homosexuality occur in the natural world? Like how it occurs among humans? I think to consider they’re analogous is an unsubstantiated connection to make. Consider, for example, that in the fjords around British Columbia, male killer whales from different pods rub their erect penises on one another. Scientists admit they don’t understand what this behavior signifies — whether it somehow shows amorous intent or is some sort contest to determine fitness for breeding with females. It’s difficult to say, so I would say it’s unjustified to impute our modern understanding of homosexuality among humans with with behavior of cetaceans or primates as somehow in any way similar in the relevant ethical concerns to how homosexuals couple.

      Moreover, in no way does it rebut the teleology underlying Catholicism’s view on sexuality. Animals aren’t rational in the say way human are rational in the sense Thomists intend it as. Under this view, animals aren’t moral agents.

      “Positing reproduction as the end of all animal life is but one function that Thomists and Aristotle assumed about nature, but certainly not the only function to how sexuality manifests in human beings.”

      Aquinas was aware of this. Edward Feser expounds on it in these posts:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/07/liberalism-and-five-natural-inclinations.html

      “…As always, we must keep in mind that by “inclinations” Aquinas does not primarily have in mind the conscious desires we happen to have, but rather the deeper level of natural teleology or final causality which exists below the level of consciousness. To be sure, our conscious desires generally track that deeper level; we usually do consciously want to preserve [inclination toward self-preservation] ourselves. But as with everything else in the world of changeable, material things, imperfections and disorders are bound to occur, and our conscious desires sometimes come apart from the natural teleology of our various faculties.

      That is certainly true of the third natural inclination, toward sexual intercourse and the child-rearing that is its natural sequel. In general, people want to have sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex, and also want to have children. But of course, there are exceptions — people with homosexual desires, people who lack any interest in sex, people who don’t want children, and so on. That is not counterevidence to Aquinas’s claim, because, again, he isn’t in the first place making a claim about what people all consciously desire, but rather a claim about the natural ends of our faculties. As with suicidal people, conscious desires in this case too can come apart from natural teleology.”

  4. Bill,

    I put to you that if a morally perfect being created people with defects to instruct others how they ought to be, then someone suffers so that others may be taught. In the strictly Catholic sense here, God would create others — in the case under discussion homosexuals, but in so creating them, they would to go to hell. That makes God into a kid with a magnifying glass burning ants.

    While science cannot on its own refute metaphysics (if we were to keep to natural law theory), I very much suspect it must answer why it is that homosexuality occurs in non-human species. Moreover, there must be a purpose to it as part of nature in our own species. The science, I would think, invites us to question why the moral order of the first and second century Biblical authors is given so much weight of revelation when in fact that they can be wrong about what God might require given a more complete understanding of what is natural. I’m not looking to maintain fidelity to the likes of Feser; I’m calling them into question.

    Of course, the fact that you don’t want to take up relating metaphysics to our current science gives many pause to consider the weakness of these views in this thread on this alone.

    • I don’t think he “creates” the disorder, but only allows for it. No one goes to hell for being a homosexual person (if by that we mean orientation), but perhaps one could go to hell for unrepentant homosexual acts with guilty conscience, but that decision is not mine to make.

      I hesitate to speak about science refuting metaphysics, since science will always, and necessarily, depend upon metaphysics. If science were to answer why homosexuality “occurs”, then it would do so using its own metaphysics.

      On the note of science and metaphysics, I find it refreshing to see someone talk about science finding purpose in nature, for purpose is one of the things modern science has tried so hard to dispel. For a good starter, I’d encourage you to ask if there is purpose to the male and female sexual organs.

  5. There are a number of threads I am connected to right now, and perhaps that’s my fault as I went intellectually crazy trying to talk to so many. For now, I’d like to come back to the central claim I’ve put on the table: the natural law view of homosexuality (and the subsequent teaching of the Church) is explanatorily incomplete. The following is not a logical argument as much as it is heuristic to get the ball rolling. I’m thinking something like this:

    1. A theory is explanatorily incomplete if and only if the theory cannot adequately provide a coherent and sufficient explanation for why X is causally related to Y.
    2. Stipulate that parts of nature are purposive for the natural law theorists and that heteronormative accounts reflect what we might call theistic purposiveness in nature (evinced by appeals to what the male and female sex organs are above)
    3. Causal relations reflect the purposiveness to which God has established for them (theistic purposiveness).
    4. Even granting (2), the fact that God “allows for” homosexuality in humans and non-human species indicates that there is a gap in explaining this purposiveness between its occurrence in animal and humans species as part of the natural order and the claim that homosexuality does not serve a purpose to which human sex organs are designed.
    5. Since there can be no natural part of the world not intended in God’s creation, homosexuality must have some type of unstated purpose and this reasoning finds conceptual tension with (2) and (4).
    6. Given the conceptual tension, one logical possibility is to think that natural law theory is explanatorily incomplete as described in (1) above even if we concede theism to the theist.

    Now somewhere along the way, the objection is raised that I equivocate with my usage of “nature.” Here, I think nature is that which manifests in space-time. I won’t use the term any other way. Next, I also admit that I’m using a less stronger wording of “conceptual tension”, and that invites there might be other possibilities other than 6.

    • I don’t think it is appropriate to say that homosexuality (again, the orientation) is part of the natural world. The point is just that it is unnatural and disordered from the way in which human sexuality is supposed to be. It is a privation of sexuality, not some variation or component of sexuality. You might ask what is the purpose in God allowing the disorder to “occur”, but not about its natural purpose, for the point made by natural law philosophers is just that it is unnatural.

  6. Jim writes:

    “Now somewhere along the way, the objection is raised that I equivocate with my usage of “nature.” Here, I think nature is that which manifests in space-time. I won’t use the term any other way. Next, I also admit that I’m using a less stronger wording of “conceptual tension”, and that invites there might be other possibilities other than 6.”

    Well this makes it dead easy, then. Your notion of what is “natural” is different from that deployed by the NL theorist. Consequently none of your arguments for explanatory incompleteness get off the ground because you are insisting upon a conception of the natural that is entirely different from the one utilized by the NL theorist. If that’s your conception of “natural” then of course there will be no normative significance attached to the “natural” and none of the rest of your points are even necessary. Simply insisting that you won’t use the term any other way isn’t an argument or a rational response- it’s just dialectical obstinacy.

    I suggest you give us an argument for why your preferred use of the term “nature” is the one we should adopt, that might be more productive than the line you are pursuing.

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