The Latest Conservative Defector On Same-Sex Marriage, Ctd

by Brendan James

Walter Olson praises Joseph Bottum’s essay accepting marriage equality:

Those who don’t have patience for the entire [essay] and want more of a political statement might want to skip to the remarkable section where Bottum writes about how he regrets signing and helping draft the Manhattan Declaration (Robby George, Charles Colson, etc.), a manifesto of resistance to the modern liberal polity which attempts to link and in the process deeply confounds the three causes of abortion, religious liberty and same-sex marriage. As critics have already noted, Bottum makes no attempt to take down George’s position on the basis of logic, but then it’s not as logic was the basis of that position in the first place.

Isaac Chotiner, on the other hand, pans Bottum’s piece:

[T]here is nothing in his piece that gay marriage advocates should hold onto; it is a reactionary work that is more concerned with the future of Catholicism and sexual morality than it is with gay rights. Bottum isn’t a fighter for same-sex marriage. No, he is more like a general who realizes a skirmish has been lost and wants to regroup before the big battle.

The theocons, as one might expect, are less than pleased with Bottum’s change of heart. Matthew Franck growls:

Others who really know the author may wish to comment at greater length on an essay that is avowedly very personal. But what I detect in it is the work of someone who was never all that interested in investigating the arguments on either side of the same-sex marriage debate; whose scant interest in it has now been fully exhausted, both intellectually and morally; and whose present conclusions hover in mid-air without anything to support them other than a wistful regret that he has lost a hoedown partner in a gay man who has come fairly unglued over the issue.

Robert Royal declares the essay to be “preemptive surrender”:

He is saying that the Church cannot win this cultural battle, indeed is being harmed by it, given the forces arrayed against Her. Our bishops should not waste time on it and instead focus on the deep “re-enchantment of the world,” which is what it will take to get people to see the real point of the Church’s richer notions of Creation – and sexuality.

And Dreher sees Bottum’s piece as purely a PR move:

Bottum cares a great deal about how the rest of the world sees the Church. In the spring of 2002, he publicly rebuked me, then a Catholic, at a meeting of Catholic journalists for writing so forcefully in criticism of the bishops over the sex abuse scandal. He said that by attacking the Church’s bishops so publicly, I was serving as a “professional Catholic,” a useful idiot for secularist types who hate the Catholic Church, to help them justify their prejudices and deny the Church freedom. I thought that was an unfair and even gutless accusation, one that made being a theocon hack more important than speaking the truth about the failures of our Church. My view then was that it didn’t matter what the world thought of the Church, the scandal and the culture that brought it about had to be confronted openly, and by Catholics. …

It sounds to me like Bottum is still thinking along these lines. He doesn’t argue that same-sex marriage is good, only that it is a very close to a fait accompli, and that the Church harms itself by continuing to resist it.