Thursday, May 10, 2012

Politics, and a Sexologist's Preferred Reality

These are two of my favorite quotes:
"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so."
(attr. humorists Mark Twain,11 Artemus Ward, Kin Hubbard, and Will Rogers; inventor Charles Kettering; pianist Eubie Blake; baseball player Yogi Berra, Al Gore (once))

"There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church - which is, of course, quite a different thing."
(Bishop Fulton Sheen,12 Foreword to Radio Replies Vol. 1, (1938) page ix, via Wikiquote)
I decided to post some of my take on this week's news today. Some of what's going on involves 'what folks know, that just ain't so' about the Catholic Church. As I've said before, I've got the teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." I'm very certain that I'm right about these points, though:

Politics and Crazy Ideas

'The establishment' in America, the folks in positions of power and influence, isn't what it was in my youth. In some ways. On the other hand, the folks in this lot seem to have been reading their own stories for decades. It's like the professor who's such a big expert, that he'll only read books he wrote. I get the impression that some of America's 'better sort' don't make a distinction between how they'd like the world to be: and what the world really is.

Change is Here

I think believing your own propaganda is not a good thing. Worse, from folks who like the status quo, too many of the rest of us have caught on to what's real and what's not.

Change isn't coming. Change is here.
  1. Santorum, Romney, and Preferred Realities
  2. Boys, Girls, and Dealing With Reality

Updated (May 11, 2012)

The rest of my take on this week's news:

1. Santorum, Romney, and Preferred Realities

"Santorum endorses Romney after meeting on key issues"
Michelle Bauman CNA/EWTN News (May 10, 2012)

"Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has formally endorsed Mitt Romney for president, voicing confidence in Romney's stance on key issues such as marriage and family.

"Santorum said it's clear Romney 'understands that having pro-family initiatives are not only the morally and economically right thing to do, but that the family is the basic building block of our society and must be preserved.'

"The endorsement was announced on May 8, shortly after the two men, who were previously rivals vying for the Republican nomination, met to discuss the future of the GOP campaign.

"Santorum had surprised political analysts with several key successes during the primary season, despite having limited funding and needing to cancel several events when his youngest daughter, Bella, was hospitalized twice during the campaign...."
I was a bit surprised, too, when Santorum did as well as he did in the 2012 campaign. Particularly since he's a Catholic who knows what being Catholic means, and takes it seriously.

Maybe I'm not as surprised as the "political analysts," though. I've noticed that quite a few folks in America have long since gotten fed up with the establishment's preferred reality.

I'm also old enough to remember the last time when America's establishment lost its grip, and I've been over this before:
(Back to the list of headings)

2. Boys, Girls, and Dealing With Reality

"Are Intersex Children Boys or Girls?" (May 9, 2012)
"What to Do When Ontological Identity Isn't Clear"

"Here is a continued discussion of a question on bioethics answered by the fellows of the Culture of Life Foundation.

"By E. Christian Brugger

"In my last column titled "The New Pangenderism" I mentioned a condition called 'intersex,' in which the sex of a child, because of the anomalous formation of physical characteristics that ordinarily distinguish a male from a female, can be very difficult to determine....
E. Christian Brugger's article runs a little over 1,300 words, and isn't particularly easy reading. I recommend reading it, anyway. You'll get a pretty good look at what the intersex condition really is. Or, rather, are.

Particularly since there's an election coming up, I think it's important for Americans to learn what's real about rare aspects of human sexuality. Quite a bit of fashionable nonsense has been repeated so often, that bizarre assumptions often get accepted as 'facts.'

I'm inclined to take Brugger seriously, partly because he's a Senior Fellow of Ethics and director of the Fellows Program at the Culture of Life Foundation; and the J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. Also because what he says lines up with what I've read in Vatican documents; and in serious, informed, science articles.

(Back to the list of headings)

Intersex Condition(s): Rare, but Real

"...Formerly referred to as "hermaphroditism" (from the names of the Greek deities Hermes and Aphrodite, the male and female gods of sexuality), intersex is actually a group of conditions under the larger category of disorders of sex development. Because of genetic and/or anatomical abnormalities, a child may possess both male and female biological characteristics. ... The discrepancy between the external genitals (penis, vagina) and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries) may be coupled with chromosomal anomalies. ... The condition is quite rare; conservative estimates put the number at about 1 in 4,500 births (others say as many as 1 in 2,000), roughly as prevalent as cystic fibrosis....
(E. Christian Brugger)
I'll get to one of the reasons we didn't hear much about intersex conditions until fairly recently. First, though, I'd better repeat what I've said before.

The Catholic Church isn't one of those little churches with "God Hates You" signs. "Be like me, or be damned" simply isn't an acceptable position, and isn't what the Church has been teaching for two millennia. One more thing: as a practicing Catholic, I'm not allowed to hate people. I've been over this before. (May 7, 2012, October 12, 2011, December 9, 2010)

(Back to the list of headings)

"Gender Identity" and Brushing My Teeth

I've been aware of the notion that "genital sex" is an icky biological thing, and "gender identity" is what human beings decide to be. On paper, "gender identity" can be made to look good. In practice? Not so much.

Thinking that I would have been a woman if my atavistic parents had encouraged me to explore my feminine side? That never made much sense to me. Partly, I think, because of what I saw in the mirror each time I brushed my teeth.

Happily, my parents weren't all that 'liberated.' Not everybody has it so good.

Back in 1966, a famous Johns Hopkins "sexologist" named John Money got his hands on a boy whose circumcision had gone wrong. Surgeons sliced and diced David Reimer, psychologists told him he was a woman now, and David killed himself in 2004.

(Back to the list of headings)

"Consensual Pedophilia?!"

You may have heard of John Money. He's quite 'intelligent,' by establishment standards:
"...The brazen sexologist was celebrated as a far-sighted harbinger of sexual liberation (including open marriages, pornography and consensual pedophilia) until Milton Diamond exposed the truth about the Reimer case in the late 1990s...."
(E. Christian Brugger)
"consensual pedophilia?!" I am not making that up, folks. I put a longer excerpt from Brugger's article at the end of this post.1 And yes, I've heard about the pedophile priests.

I think part of what makes John Money special isn't that his preferred reality seems to have been that children want to have sex with adults; and that anybody should be free to have sex with anybody (anything?) they want. John Money deserves credit for convincing a remarkable number of other folks that his preferred reality was, in fact, real.

Blaming 'Those People'

After someone had the effrontery to connect David Reimer's case with John Money, Money maintained that criticism of his work is due to right-wing media bias and "the antifeminist movement."

In a way, I'm surprised that Milton Diamond wasn't blamed for David Reimer's death. Maybe he was.

(Back to the list of headings)

Suicide, Responsibility, Hope, and Prayer

About suicide, the Catholic Church says:
  • Suicide is wrong
    Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2280-2282)
  • Psychological factors may diminish responsibility
    • But it's still wrong
    (Catechism, 2282)
  • Despair is not an option
    • God provides salutary repentance
      • We don't know how
    • The Church prays for folks who killed themselves
    (Catechism, 2283)
Suicide is a rather personal topic for me, and I've posted about that before, too. (January 28, 2009)

(Back to the list of headings)

Fear, Embarrassment, and Catholic Teaching

Brugger says that he's not aware of any Catholic teaching that addresses what that Johns Hopkins sexologist has been promoting. I don't, either: and I'm not terribly surprised.

The Catholic Church doesn't, as far as I can tell, rush through decision-making processes. I'm an American, so I like things done fast, but I'm also savvy enough to know that hasty judgment isn't always good judgment.

Besides, the sort of anomalies that folks call "intersex condition" these days are quite rare. My guess is that many parents whose baby did fit that description didn't want others to know. Understandably, I think, in view of the sort of malignant virtue that some 'normal' folks exhibit.

I'm not at all surprised that a rare condition, which folks had good reason to keep secret, simply wouldn't be on the radar for the Vatican. A person has to know that a situation exists, before forming an opinion about it.
"...Having said this, any rush-to-judgment as to the question of the child's sex and hence any simplistic surgical assignment of sexual identity would be gravely immoral because it would be unfair to the child. A parent's discomfort at his or her child's condition, fear of embarrassment -- 'it's just not normal' -- is not in itself a reason to surgically assign a sex in the absence of clear evidence. And clear evidence may be elusive. ..."
(E. Christian Brugger)
Brugger has some practical advice, which I think seems to be consistent with what the Catholic Church does teach about what we can and can't do with the brains God gave us. My opinion.

Links to the two articles in this series posted so far:
Again, Brugger is Senior Fellow of Ethics and director of the Fellows Program at the Culture of Life Foundation:
(Back to the list of headings)

Related posts:
1 Excerpt from
"...In the past, doctors routinely responded to an intersex birth by recommending genital surgery, more often than not, the construction of female genitals since vaginas were easier to make than penises. This was the case whether or not the sex of the child was a settled fact. The trend was partially due to the bogus theories on sex and gender of the infamous Johns Hopkins psychologist and "sexologist" John Money (1921-2006). Money drove a wedge between the concepts of 'genital sex,' a crude function of biology, he thought, and 'gender identity,' which he believed was more basic to personal identity and was the product of how a child was raised (i.e., was "socially constructed").

"When Money came across the boy David Reimer in 1966, victim of a botched circumcision that burned off most of his penis, the reckless doctor recommended that physicians 'reassign' the boy as a female by amputating his testicles, surgically constructing a vagina, pumping him full of female hormones to 'feminize' him and raising him as a girl (David was given the name 'Brenda'). The vicious experiment was a total failure. David lived a tortured life of confused identity, later rejecting his imposed female identity and finally shooting himself in the head in 2004 at the age of 38 (see the excellent but horrifying story of David Reimer in John Colapinto's, "As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl").

"The brazen sexologist was celebrated as a far-sighted harbinger of sexual liberation (including open marriages, pornography and consensual pedophilia) until Milton Diamond exposed the truth about the Reimer case in the late 1990s. The unrepentant Money insisted to the end that the negative response to the exposé was a product of right-wing media bias and 'the antifeminist movement,' complaining that '(his opponents) say masculinity and femininity are built into the genes so women should get back to the mattress and the kitchen.' So much for David Reimer...."
E. Christian Brugger


Brigid said...

Missing a letter: "my take on this week's new today."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Oops, fixed, and thanks!

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