Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit”

Let’s start off this weekend on a high-minded note: Ryan Harkins’ mega-defense of the Catholic Church.

You better get readin! Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit”…

(I may be back at the end.)

I want to begin with a brief discussion on Catholic doctrine on sexual morality. In its essence, Catholic doctrine says that sex has two united purposes: procreation, and bonding together a husband and wife and any children they produce. To take human sexuality out of that context is harmful to both the participants who engage in disordered acts, and it is harmful to society for the precedent and scandal such activity creates. Just as eating has a specific purpose, namely fueling the body, when it is taken outside its context, it creates disorders. Enjoying the food you eat is fine; but eating solely for the enjoyment leads to bodily harm, such as obesity and diabetes. So sex, when taken beyond the context of its purposes, leads to disorders.

The problem with sexually abusive priests, the problem with sexual harassment in practically every enterprise out there, the problem with broken families and absent fathers, all trace some, if not all, their origins to sexual disorder. Making the pleasurable aspects of sex the primary goal of sexual activity leads to the use and abuse and discarding of other people as objects to be consumed. I have experienced this myself, and part of the reason I feel so strongly on this topic is because I have introduced a great amount of dysfunction into my marriage and other relationships by years of self-serving pleasure-seeking.

There’s yet a deeper aspect of human sexuality in the context of the Catholic faith, namely, the concept of man being created in the image and likeness of God, based in the text from Gensis which says, “So God created man in his image. In the divine image he create him. Male and female he created them.” Catholics note that both individually and as family, man images God. As an individual, every human has intellect and will, and in that each human is an image of God. But the Christian faith has revealed God as Trinity — God the Father, The Son who proceeds from the intellect of God (God knows God), and the Spirit, that proceeds from the will of God (God loves God). So an individual images God because an individual can perceive himself, and can love himself. But the family images God, as well, because (following Genesis), there is man, and the woman who proceeded from man, and the child that proceeds from the love of man and woman. Continue reading

The Ethicist Apparently Endorses Discrimination As Ethical

, the New York Times Magazine’s ethics columnist, just opened a can of metaphorical worms, and I’m going to spread them around a little. It may get messy.

A woman—actually, now that I re-read the post, we don’t know it’s a woman— wrote to be reassured that he or she wasn’t a bad person for wanting to dump a man she had engaged in a nascent romantic relationship after discovering that he had Crohn’s Disease. “I know I’m being selfish, but is it unethical to not date him because of it?” she wrote. ” I don’t know what to do to support him, and I am worried about the future. He said it’s very likely his intestinal issues could get worse, and his life expectancy may be shorter. I want to shield myself from the pain, but I also feel like a terrible person for even thinking about it.”

Hey, don’t feel bad,  sayeth “The Ethicist”:

“Once someone is truly a friend or a lover, you have all kinds of responsibilities to them that you didn’t have before. So for example, it would be deplorable to abandon a spouse because he or she has become seriously ill. That’s part of what’s meant by saying a marriage is to endure “in sickness and in health.” Of course, this can turn out to be a promise someone can’t keep. But precisely because a partnership is for the long term, you can appropriately consider what your lives together would be like before you enter into one. When a potential partner is already seriously ill, committing to this person may be committing to a life as a caregiver. (The specific condition you mention has a wide range of severity; it can be mild and well controlled or genuinely debilitating.) You don’t owe it to anyone to accept that burden; indeed, if you think you don’t want such a life, you have a good reason not to enter into the relationship. It doesn’t make you a terrible person to think about the issue. The terrible thing would be to make the commitment and then to be unable to keep it.”

Oddly for “The Ethicist,” he ducked the main question that was asked, and instead answered what he thought was an easier one.   The questions he answered were ” Is it wrong to reject a commitment to someone because that commitment may be too burdensome?,” and “Is it wrong to think about the issue?” (It isn’t wrong to think about anything, regardless of what Black Lives Matter says. They should see what I think about them.)

What the inquirer was asking, however, is whether she should end a casual relationship—she had only known the guy through Zoom, after all—because he had Crone’s Disease, before she could form an attachment to him and might decide that he was worth the trouble…make that  potential trouble.

I see no distinction between what she wants to do and invidious discrimination in any other relationship, like employment. Discrimination is when you treat someone worse than someone else because of who they are and  features they have no control over, rather than what they do, have done, or “the content of their character.” It is also discrimination to make judgments about someone based on assumptions about people “like” them—profiling, essentially. “I don’t want to date him, even though I really like him, because he has a handicap” is,  as I see it, indistinguishable from saying, “I don’t want to hire her because she has a handicap/ is likely to become pregnant/ is old/ is black.”

That’s discrimination, and that’s wrong. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit

Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

However, somehow the word got to the Detroit Archdiocese, where it was deemed that her same-sex marriage made her morally unfit to keep her job. On June 12  she received an email reading,  “The Archdiocese is choosing to activate its morality clause to terminate your employment.”

The blow came  just three days before the Supreme Court ruled that employers couldn’t fire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether the ruling will apply to religious organizations is the subject of other cases before the Court, which heard oral arguments last month in Our Lady of Guadalupe School vs Morrissey-Berru, a case about whether teachers at private, religious schools are subject to the exception in the Civil Rights Act.

Gonda says that her Catholic mentors and employers always modeled Pope Francis’s compassionate and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. She was never shunned for being gay, nor after her 2011 marriage to  Kirsti Reeve, 51. (That’s Kristi on the left, Terry on the right.) Terry told an interviewer that she is certain the Church believes “they’re doing the right thing — they’re trying to protect the church.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Let’s Stop Moping Around! Get Up! Get Out! Attack The Day! [Now With Leonard Bernstein!]

 

Update: I decided we needed a less pokey version, so now we have Leonard Bernstein’s, and the whole thing. THAT should cheer you up…

Boy, am I sick of everyone telling me how depressed they are.

1. Translation: “I’m an idiot.”  Now Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is saying  that the city will close the so-called “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” It turned out to be exactly what anyone with any sense predicted it would be, with three shootings so far and a rape, along with a leader ( war lord?) who had the gall to complain when the Seattle EMTs didn’t immediately respond when shots rang out. The mayor  had said that the anarchist outpost would lead to a “summer of love,” marking her as a Sixties-romanticizing dolt, but now she says she was obviously joking-–yes, the Joke Excuse. She never said it was “in jest” before the completely predictable violence broke out.

I apologize for not highlighting her as an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, but she was competing with Bill De Blasio.

2. Fearmongering. It should be apparent by now that the news media does not want the country to re-open, does not want the economy to begin recovering before the election, and is pushing its anti-reopening goal through fearmongering, in part by focusing on isolated cases of individuals getting hit by the Wuhan virus particularly hard.

This morning HLN kept repeating a long feature about a thirtyish Broadway star who has been disabled by the virus for 80 days, and another man not in a high-risk group who has been suffering for 100 days. The Times and the Washington Post are full of apocalyptic reports about the number of cases rising. Another news outlet said, “The U.S. reported more than 33,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday – the highest total since May 1 – while the surge of infections in several states is outpacing growth in coronavirus testing.”  ARRRGH! We;re DOOOMED!

One commentator called this “needless” frightening the public. Wrong. It is  needed because it is a part of the ongoing effort to defeat President Trump.

The Centers for Disease Control predicted that cases would increase as the country reopened, not that it has much credibility at this point. Remember? The lock down was never intended to stop the spread of the disease, but to slow it down,  flatten the curve, stock up on supplies, fix the CDC’s testing botch, and find treatments. That was mostly accomplished. The nation cannot continue to let the economy deteriorate: depressions kill people too.

Meanwhile, the death rate is declining even as the number of cases spike, and there’s a reason for that. In all outbreaks, a disease claims the most vulnerable first. This is known as Farr’s Law, named after William Farr,  a British epidemiologist and early statistician  who recognized the importance of death statistics and identifying causation. Not only has the current epidemic claimed many of the most vulnerable in the U.S., thanks in great part to the catastrophic decision of states like New York to send infected seniors to nursing homes, millions of Americans have antibodies.

The combination means that even if there are lots of new cases going forward, the death toll is likely to be far less severe than it has been. Do not hold your breath waiting for the media to explain this.

Just for fun,  check and see how many news organizations have mentioned Farr’s Law. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13….”

JP, a minister, has another Comment of the Day, this one inspired by his own recent  experience and  item #1 of the post, “Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13…..” That note concerned the meltdown of the National Book Critics Circle over the refusal of one member to endorse the group’s proposed statement on the George Floyd Freakout. Unfortunately, JP encountered something similar…

You have spent some time on the first issue. Like with all the Covid-19 type pandering. I mostly just roll my eyes when I see it and move forward. After all, I don’t really put much stock in it. I am a firm believer that I be defined by my actions, not by my words. Words are cheap and can change at the drop of a hat. So when all these things started happening, I thought it was a good time to address it to my congregation. I’ll spare you the details, but it seemed to go over quite well. Then we get to Monday.

On Monday I get an email from a local group of ministers (from different denominations) in my town.Once a month we get together to talk about how we as a group can help the community. On their last meeting they wanted to put out some kind of public statement. This is what they decided:

“Micah 6:8 What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” God’s love embraces all and our Christian faith requires of us that same love for others. We confess our sin of racism that continues to plague our nation. May we be people of God’s justice and God’s peace!”

I think my nine year old could have easily picked this apart. But I wanted to help, so I wrote the following reply:

I have three problems with the statement as it is.

First: I have no clue why you’re writing this other than to…grandstand? Virtue signal? It is what is going on in the world? If you have a purpose what is it?

Second. You make racism sound like original sin. This actually creates the third problem. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny”

In today’s Warm-Up, I expressed my problems with Mark Tapscott’s blog post, titled “He Is Risen! Eight Reasons To Believe.”

To summarize the thrust of my criticism as I reiterated it in my replies to his comment and others, Mark argues persuasively that the authors of the Gospels were, at least in this case, trying to tell the story as they heard it, and were not trying to embellish or distort it in the telling to make it more credible in its time. Good. That does not mean, however, that the story they heard is in fact true. The post was also aimed in part at debunking conspiracy theories about the Resurrection being a hoax. Taking Mark’s argument as that, and that alone, it is also persuasive. However, proving something was not intentionally false does not prove it is true.

I will do this however: at the end of my discussion, I said that I regarded Mark’s argument as a tautology, where a controversial document is cited to prove the accuracy of the document itself, and that I regarded that device as intellectually dishonest. Mark’s response persuades me that my  assessment was unduly harsh and unfair, and I both retract and apologize to him for it.

Moreover, the fact that he chose to respond in person so quickly reaffirms my original favorable assessment of his professionalism and character.

Here is Mark Tapscott’s Comment of the Day on Item #4 in the post, “Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny”:

First, thank you for your kind words regarding my secular writing. I hope that my work in that area continues to merit your approbation. We are, as I believe Confucius is reputed to have said, “cursed to live in interesting times.”

Unfortunately, my reaction is not nearly so positive regarding your critique of my post on eight reasons to believe Jesus was literally resurrected from the dead three days after His crucifixion, just as He said He would be.

“Intellectually dishonest” and tautological? With all due respect, your readers deserve more candor than that from you. You accuse me of these two errors because: “All of his reasons are based on New Testament text. If one believes that the New Testament text is true and accurate, then you don’t need any more reasons. His is a self-ratifying argument.”

If my post was simply arguing for the credibility and historical accuracy of the New Testament, your statement might well more accurately represent what I wrote. I did indeed assume the accuracy of the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, but the eight reasons I offered concerned characteristics of the scriptural accounts and events that point a reasonable reader to their credibility. Continue reading

Easter Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/12/2020: Missing The Easter Bunny

Happy Easter!

That’s my favorite Arthur Sullivan Easter hymn…

Our family always celebrated Easter twice, at least when Greek Easter fell on a different date, which is usually the case.On traditional Easter, until my sister and I were well into high school, my parents hid two dozen colored eggs that we had decorated the day before all over the house for us to hunt for Easter morning. If there had been a pandemic then, my mother would have still hidden the eggs, because she knew even she, with her incredible talent for making BS credible, would not have been able to convince us that the Easter Bunny was “social distancing.”

How my parents loved family celebrations of holidays! I miss them so much, and days like this just makes not having them in our lives harder.

1. Can’t do this. I had been recommending the usually reliable website Ars Technica to my friends for updates on the virus so that they wouldn’t be battered hither and yon like skiffs made of paper on the ocean of hype and disinformation. I also relied on it myself. The site promised daily updates at 3 pm every day, along with a useful set of information, also updated as needed. Then, on April 6, the updates just stopped; no explanation, and nothing since. Unethical. If you promise a service for those in need of it, you can’t just stop it without warning or explanation. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. You have created reliance and  dependency. If you can’t be sure that you will carry through on your commitment, then don’t make it.

I headed a small professional theater for 20 years at great personal sacrifice on that principle.

2. Welcome to my world...Since so many were forthcoming in their reactions to my quarrel with one ex-commenter, here’s another one. Unsolicited, I received a book about two weeks ago from an Ethics Alarms follower. It was by L.Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, and the topic was ethics. I was and am grateful, for all ideas about ethics are interesting to me, and most come in handy eventually. A few days ago, I received a long, handwritten letter from the same source, who told me that he was no longer following the blog. He then excoriated my for insulting him by posting, so soon after receiving the book, this post, which in item #3 I  made some uncomplimentary comments about Ron’s “church” (it’s a cult and probably a criminal enterprise), its current leader, and his whacked-out message to the flock about the pandemic, which he called “planetary bullbait.”

My critic thought it was mean and rude of me to respond to his kind gift by deriding his faith and his friend, the Church’s  Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige.

I immediately wrote back in part, Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/11/2020: Law School Indoctrination, The Surgeon General, And One More Mainstream Media Bias Smoking Gun

Not depressed or crazy yet!

This translated (by Mort Shuman) Jacques Brel song made my mother depressed and crazy, yet she insisted on playing it. She was like that. You know…Greek. I’m really glad that she didn’t live to see this particular ordeal through, because I would have made my folks live with us for the duration, and I would definitely be crazy by now.

I did not know John Denver recorded this; as with everything else he sung, he does a masterful job. He fought depression his whole life, which astounded me, given his public demeanor, when I first learned that. That was before I learned how common and pervasive this terrible illness is. They are not being hyperbolic when they say that a protected lockdown will eventually cause a lot of suicides.

1. One more from “Social Q’s. In the same column that triggered me regarding this issue, there was another interesting query :

Like millions, I am working from home and spending lots of time videoconferencing with co-workers and clients. My boss conferences in from his home office, where, behind his smiling face, hangs a painting of a cyclone tearing through a city. He may be so used to it that he’s oblivious to the bad message it sends. He’s not a friend, but we have a cordial relationship. Should I point out that the painting may upset people?

I am less interested in this question for its ethical issue, which is not worth discussing–“No, you idiot, you do NOT have any business telling someone forced to participate in a video conference that he has an obligation to decorate his home to please other participants  and to avoid “upsetting” the hypersensitive!”—than I am curious about how anyone would get the idea that such an obligation exists. It’s not as if he has a swastika or a Confederate flag hanging behind him, or erotic art, or a historical photograph that could fairly be called unduly provocative.

I find this to be a nascent totalitarian mindset, requiring conformity in all things, and it scares me to death, frankly.

2. The indoctrination problem. I just got the latest copy of the Georgetown University Law Center alumni magazine, and was impressed by how large, slick and professional it has become in the decades since I put together the first issue when I was the GULC Director of Development under Dean David McCarthy. Oh, they changed the name a few years ago: the Dean and I had called it “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which should come as no surprise to any regular readers here. The real revelation, however, is what a pure progressive and partisan indoctrination factory the school has become. Justice Ginsburg welcomed the incoming class. Nancy Pelosi and Henry Louis Gates ( of Beer Summit fame) addressed  the graduating third year students. New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood successfully  sued the Trump Foundation, so she was worthy of an honorary degree.

The featured interview in the issue: Justice Elena Kagan. A new Workers Rights Institute has been launched.  Invited to serve on a panel about “Challenges to the Rule of Law,” was George Conway. The school just dedicated its “green spaces” to Democratic D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. There is a major article about our obligation to guarantee the health of “migrants,” the current cover-word of choice meaning “Illegal immigrants.” Of course, there’s a climate change activist piece, an anti-nationalism piece, and a pro-diversity piece. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Update, 4/8/2020: It’s A Wonderful Day To Think About Ethics!

—even if so many people are not.

And can’t.

Today is my wife’s birthday. All we can do to celebrate is to be together, and be grateful that we found each other, and are still together, a miracle of chaos theory in so many ways. She is, and will always be  my inspiration, my rock, my balance, the one who constantly keeps me from spinning out of control, and the love of my life.

1.  Pandemic ethics and religion. It’s unfortunate when religions misbehave during catastrophes:

  • The Pope made the fatuous comment in an interview that the pandemic offers an opportunity to slow down the rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. “We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods?” the Pope said. “I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”

Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Maybe it sounds better in Italian.

  • Yesterday, I turned on the TV only to see a live broadcast from one of the evangelical mega-churches, packed to the rafters, nobody wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Irresponsible and infuriating.

About 44 percent of likely voters in the United States see the coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown as either a wake-up call to faith, a sign of God’s coming judgment or both, according to a poll commissioned by the Joshua Fund, an evangelical group run by Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes about the end of the world, and conducted last week by McLaughlin & Associates, pollsters for President Trump and other Republicans.

David Jeremiah, a pastor who has been one of President Trump’s informal evangelical advisers, asked in a sermon recently if the coronavirus was biblical prophecy, and called the pandemic “the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us.”

No, it’s really not. This “end of days” stuff is either hysteria from the ignorant whose knowledge of world and U.S. history begins in 2008, or it’s worse, deliberate scare-mongering by church leaders to goose membership. Yes, I know a recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple so hard that the golden trumpet fell from the angel Moroni’s right hand. That is exactly as significant a portent of the Apocalypse as Chris Sale having Tommy John surgery.

In other words, incredibly significant.

After I get this post up, I think I’ll go watch “The Omen”—the good one, with Gregory Peck. Continue reading

Some Time Of Day Ethics Warm-Up, As All Temporal Distinctions Blur Into A Single Gray Miasma…

Wait…where the hell did she get that mask????

Oh, what’s the point?

1. When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring Dept. Frannie Skardon of the University of Virginia Law School Class of 2022 serves in the New York National Guard.  When it  was called up by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 17,  UVA was offering its course online courses and her unit allotted her six hours a day to commit to law school studies. But, as she explained in an online petition she has posted,

To my surprise, the [UVA] administration  stated that I am in violation of Academic Policy I.H., which deals with employment while attending Law School. This policy states that “students may not engage in employment in excess of what is compatible with a full-time commitment to the study of law.” As a result of my unit’s activation, the administration has determined that I cannot complete the remainder of the semester.

The school refused to  issue a waiver because Skardon is being paid by the Army while activated, and said she would have to retake all of her classes in Spring 2021. Not only was this spectacularly dumb from a public relations perspective, it was also contrary to what other law schools have done in similar situations. However, after Skardon’s petition was flooded with signatures, and various web sites and, of course, social media excoriated the school, it reversed its decision.

Skardon informed the public in a letter to the editor of Virginia Law Weekly, saying:

“I would like to thank every person who signed my petition, wrote a letter, or shared my story. I am very moved at the outpouring of support and cannot thank each one of you enough. In less than a day, I received over 140 emails and 5,700 signatures.”

Unfortunately, there is a material difference between behaving ethically from the outset and only doing so after being metaphorically pummeled for a wrongful decision and reversing it out of self-interest. Continue reading