Joseph Bottum Writes “The Long Goodbye” UPDATES

Or is it “Farewell My Lovely?” Those are the titles that came to my mind as I read his essay today over at Commonweal.

No disrespect to Raymond Chandler intended for thinking of his titles, but I will never get back the hour I lost reading Bottums’ essay, where  he makes his personal case for coming out in favor of Same Sex Marriage, or of not fighting it anymore.

When I got to the end, it felt like I had endured the wandering in the Sinai for forty years, while learning that I was still not getting to the Promised Land.

A bad trade, that.

Go read it here if you’d like, but it all boils down to a lost friendship and one paragraph,

“The answer is that we can’t predict the effects of same-sex marriage. I think some good will come, I hope some good will come, but I cannot say with certainty that all must go well with this social change. Still, as the church turns to other and far more pressing ways to re-enchant the world, we’ll have time to find out. And when we are ready to start rebuilding the thick natural law that recognizes the created world as a stage on which the wondrous drama of God’s love is played, we will have the information we need to decide where same-sex marriage belongs in a metaphysically rich, spiritually alive moral order.”

At which point I was thinking, that’s it? We have to go from the thin gruel of weak natural law arguments, to no supper at all, in the hopes of eventually landing a thick steak? I’d rather just keep eating the steak, thanks.

There also seemed to be a lot of “America” this, and “America” that, in the essay, and strike your colors thoughts like,

We are now at the point where, I believe, American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans.

At which point I was thinking, really? So we should bag the idea of defending what the Church holds as true, both because it is philosophically true, and morally true,  and knuckle under to the pressure of the animal spirits of the zeitgeist, and just throw in the towel? All because we are afraid of the potential white martyrdom of being called bigots?

John Paul Jones is not amused. Neither is Blessed Pope John Paul II, for that matter.

Almost immediately, the New York Times ran an interview piece about  Bottum and the essay, and the “Enlightened Conservative Catholic Writer Finally Uses Own Brain and Supports Gay Marriage” headline wasn’t used, but it could have been. Golly, it’s almost like this was all planned in advance, or something. There must be some conservatives in the Republican Party getting nervous in the service thinking, “we may never win another election.”

A couple of hours later, Matthew Franck at First Things summed up the essay (in a piece titled Joseph Bottum, Weary and Wearisome ) as follows,

At one point in this bloated, interminable essay, meandering hither and yon, Bottum allows as how the authors of the Manhattan Declaration were chiefly thinkers and not writers. Never was it more obvious that the reverse is true of Bottum.

Pretty harsh words, those. I won’t go that far, as I respect Mr. Bottum and appreciate him writing about his stuggles with the Magisterium’s position on this matter. That said, a quote from G.K. Chesterton on politicians (which Mr. Bottum was at one time too) seems to fit his conversion.

“Politicians, who are the very reverse of democrats, will go on boasting that they make the world safe for democracy. The world will never be safe for democracy, or for any other noble human ideal. For noble ideals are never safe.”

Noble ideas are never safe. Don’t we know it? Bottum knows it, for sure.

…if heterosexual monogamy so lacks the old, enchanted metaphysical foundation that it can end in quick and painless divorce, then what principle allows a refusal of marriage to gays on the grounds of a metaphysical notion like the difference between men and women?

Divorce may be quick nowadays, but painless? And what other  metaphysical notions and noble ideals have we offered up and sacrificed upon the altar of the Erogenous Zone?

And, of course, not only did marital relations become a value-free zone in the sexual revolution, but non-marital relations did as well. The seal of virginity, the procreative purpose, the mystical analogy of marriage to Christ’s espousal of his church, the divinely witnessed vow, the sexual body as a temple, the moral significance of chastity: all that old metaphysical stuff got swept away. And regardless of whether the metaphysics was right or wrong, without it there is simply no reasoning that could possibly outweigh the valid claims of fairness and equality. Same-sex marriage advocates don’t just have better public relations than their opponents. They have better logic, given the premises available to the culture.

There you have it. Pursuit of pleasure trumps Truth. Why fight it?

Because noble ideals must be defended. And in order to be defended, they must be lived. And they must be lived because they are true. And since they are true, they lead us to true happiness, and on to our ultimate destiny, which is Life Himself.

UPDATE 8/27/2013

Joseph Bottum’s radio interview with Al Kresta: “There are a couple things that I regret in the article.”

Ed Peters: First thoughts on Jody Bottum’s second thoughts.


Jesus, Jody Bottum, and the Re-Enchantment of Reality Program.

Bottum, Zmirak and the battle of Verdun.

“Inconceivable!” or Why I Agree with Joseph Bottum.

What Bottum Got Right.

From the Bottum Up: The Pathos of Joseph Bottum.

Jody Bottum: God’s Good Servant, but the King’s First.

Bottum’s response to critics this morning.

Professional Christians, Pragmatic Jesus and Finishing the Race.

Frank Capra responds to Jody Bottum.

What Jody Bottum Gets Right, And What He Gets Wrong.


What living the Christian Faith is like, in a nutshell.

Dark Joy, Inclusion, Mad Men, Conceit, Accommodation and the American Church.

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11 Responses to Joseph Bottum Writes “The Long Goodbye” UPDATES

  1. ThinkingOutLoudNow says:

    Best article of yours I’ve read. Thank you.


  2. Voto Católico Colombia says:

    Pelagians, Pelagians everywhere.


  3. RelapsedCatholic says:

    Anyone that thinks the marriage equality movement is simply about pleasure hasn’t been married. It’s about acknowledging love and honoring commitment. It’s about expanding our definition of fertility and family to bring more beautiful families within our church. I don’t like everything the gentleman wrote, but he is correct that any effort to re-enchant the world is going to need to pay attention to fairness and equality.


  4. $21221057 says:

    So let me get this straight: Jody Bottum says things are so bad that we should just agree to hop into the handbasket headed to hell because it is pointless to fight now? Uhh, no thanks. Mr. Bottum should examine his conscience.


  5. Guest says:

    And all the bored did shrink
    P’lagians, P’lagians every where
    Nor yet they stop to think


  6. Elizabeth K. says:

    I really don;t feel like reading it–so can someone tell me what this “effort to reenchant the world” thing is? It sounds like the Church is engaged in sprinkiling pixie dust a la Thomas Moore’s (not Thomas More’s) Reenchantment of everyday Life.


  7. enness says:

    “Expanding” it so far that it no longer makes any sense?

    Isn’t love supposed to bring the beloved closer to God — not farther away? I’d reexamine your notion of love. Start with the crucifix.


  8. Manny says:

    I have no idea who Joseph Bottums is. His name sounds like it could come out of a Dickens novel…lol. I did see his argument when Deacon Greg posted it yesterday and frankly found it trivial. Now I did not go and read and digest his article so I’m basing this off the highlights presented. If he’s trying to argue that natural law should no longer apply to SSM or homosexuality in general, then he doesn’t understand natural law. Natural law is universal; it doesn’t shift with prevailing attitudes. There is no way one can see how people with the same genitalia can by natural design engage in sexual intercourse. Second, what does he mean we or the Catholic Church should now “accept” state recognized SSM? I dont like many laws of the state, including the despicable law that allows to kill children developing in the womb. However, abortion is the law of the land and I accept it and I’m certain the Church accepts it too. What is meant by not accepting SSM? Does he expect that we are to take armed resistance and fight those trying to enforce it? Do we go to abortion mills and launch mortars at the building? It seems to me his whole logic is nonsense. No one is not accepting the laws of the land. By our very consent to the social contract by which we live we are accepting them. We may not like them and we may be engaged in an attempt to persuade our fellow citizens that the law should be changed, but by all means we accept the laws of the land.


  9. Dennis Neylon says:

    “expand our definition of fertility”

    So know, along with throwing morality and tradition out the window, we should throw science out the window as well? We can’t make up our own definitions to suit our needs, or we’ll have anarchy.


  10. RelapsedCatholic says:

    ya, that Jesus guy. The one that acknowledged the dignity of humanity of those on the margins. The ones that everyone else left behind and never considered. I did start there.

    There are many things that don’t make sense. Requiring people to deny the love & committment they feel in their hearts. Firing people from their jobs for being honest. Banning beautiful families from fully being members of our church. None of that makes sense to me.


  11. Frank McManus says:

    Your response to Bottum suggests you didn’t understand his argument. If you’re not able to understand it, maybe you could respond instead to the summary of the argument in the NY Times piece, which is (surprisingly) fairly accurate.

    But then, based on what you’ve written here, I doubt you’d understand the summary either.


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