Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just in Time for Christmas...

The Pope has released another in a series of misguided statements about gender and sexual orientation, this time attacking gender theory.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7796663.stm

See also:
http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=14067&size=A

It isn't at all clear to me what the Pope means by gender theory. If he means that gender is entirely a social construct a la post modernism then he is quite correct from my biological perspective. But I think he means to reenforce the standard gender binary.He says for instance:

"It is not "out-of-date metaphysics" to "speak of human nature as 'man' or woman'"

Well, yes it is outdated metaphysics because his statement is based on the assumption that there is some sort of metaphysical essence that distinguishes us from other animals and that this essence is somehow reflected in the gender binary. What is sad is that the Pope has lots of good things to say on many levels about the dignity of people-including in this address- but saying good things but based on faulty medival premises ultimately does more harm than good.

That said, the Pope is rightfully concerned about human nature and its manipulation: He notes (quoted from Asia Times) that:

“We should re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae starting from such a perspective. In it Pope Paul VI’s intention was to defend love against a utilitarian view of sexuality, the future against the exclusive claim of the present, and man’s nature against its manipulation.”

and here he is a on target just as he is generally on target when it comes to issues of human dignity. But it seems he clings to outmoded typological thinking because it provides clear rules whose descendent, by the way, is the 1960's slogan "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem". We are moral animals, and moral animals capable of looking beyond the short term-taking an ethical progression outward from ourselves and immediate familiy to all of creation and taking it forwards in time to contemplate what we want our species to become.

Just because the Pope's essentialist assumption is flawed doesn't make his concerns any less valid-but again some of his conclusions, drawn from wrong premises (that creation implies an essential nature) can lead to great harm, something I really don't think he really intends inspite of his bullheadness about gender and sexual identity.

I really don't think he means for me to feel less than human because I don't fit his notions of male and female very well. He probably thinks a bit like Rick Warren who said well gee I have gay friends, I have been to gay people's houses. The essentalist stance leads to a debasing of human dignity, there very things that the Pope and Warren claim to be defending.
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