emotivismIn a recent case in North Carolina, a sweet faced and intellectually accomplished nun came to a Catholic high school to address the students about human sexuality. We don’t have the text of sister’s talk, but from the outrage expressed she not only criticized homosexual actions, but was down on divorce and sexual sin.

The mother of one student reported her son’s comments, “We had the worst assembly today, we tried to leave but were made to sit down. There are students in this school who are openly gay and some who are not out yet. Obviously, they felt bullied.” A petition organized by students stated, “We resent the fact that a school wide assembly became a stage to blast the issue of homosexuality after Pope Francis said in an interview this past fall that ‘we can not insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives methods.'” Other students and parents were “outraged” and “in tears.” A meeting between parents and school administrators was held in which the wild emotions over the issue continued.

While high emotion often accompanies hot topics like sex in schools what we are seeing in the current moral debate in America is more than a typical emotional reaction to sex education. Instead of this being an emotional element in a heated debate, the debate seemed to consist of nothing but heated emotions. This is not emotion about morality this is emotion instead of morality, and there is a philosophical term for it: Boo-hurrah morality.

Another term for Boo-hurrah morality is emotivism. Emotivism is a gut level theory of the origin of ethics which suggests that moral judgements are no more than emotional reactions expressed forcibly to change someone else’s attitudes and actions. If you think this is all made up academic hocus pocus you would be correct. It was first proposed by the logical positivist A. J. Ayer in his 1936 book Language, Truth and Logica book which should have been titled, There’s No Such Thing As Language, Truth and Logic. 

Emotivists contend that words which suggest an objective morality like “good,” “bad,” “right,” “wrong,” “should,” “ought” have no basis in reality. They are merely the emotional expressions of the speaker and that he uses these words to bully someone else to do what he wants. It’s called “boo-hurrah” morality because the morality consists of nothing more than one person saying, “Hurrah! to this” or “Boo! to that.” Morality is thus reduced to “It is right because I said so loudly” or “It’s wrong because I objected loudly.” Emotivism excludes social, historical, cultural, spiritual, and religious considerations from the discussion of morality.

Emotivism is moral judgment as exclamation. Thus if Sister Laurel says, “Divorce is bad” she is only saying “I do not like divorce.” If the students of Charlotte Catholic say “Fornication is okay” they mean “I like fornication.”

I am not suggesting that American high school students and their parents are students of A.J. Ayer or that they are consciously aware that their “meta-ethical conclusion is emotivism.” Instead I am observing that emotivism describes the moral morass of our society.

Pope Benedict XVI coined the phrase “the dictatorship of relativism” and the rise of boo-hurrah morality illustrates the tyrannical nature of the current moral climate. Two kinds of emotion alternate in this tyranny. First is the emotion of the passive victim. When something displeases we get the firestorm of emotions: trauma, tears, tantrums, and irrational rage.

This tsunami of emotion disorients anyone who supposes there is a rational or authoritative foundation for morality, and immediately puts them on the defensive. Along with the turbulent emotions is a sense of victimhood. The opposition is put off balance. No one wants to be a meanie. No one wants to be seen to be the aggressor. The emotional blackmail works like a charm. The one who asserted or even so much as suggested an objective moral standard is put in the position of the comforter, the apologizer. He is the bumbling parent confronted with the tantrum throwing child or the befuddled bridegroom confounded and confused by the suddenly weeping wife.

Once the enemy goes to defend the wounded, weeping victim smells blood and is on the attack. The petitions are circulated. The lawyers are contacted. The lawsuits are launched. Apologies are demanded and resignations are forced. The emotivist army marches forth bristling with righteous indignation. They are no longer the wounded victims. They are the rampaging and righteous champions of the underdogs, the mistreated, and the misunderstood. They do not care about the majority vote for they are the brave pioneers who are destined to overturn the oppressive majority. They do not care for the process of law or democracy. Their cause is greater than all that. The surge in their hearts tells them so.

Why has the moral debate in America descended to emotivism? Because where there is no objective truth there can be no intelligent debate. If there is no such thing as right and wrong, then it is pointless trying to have a discussion on what is right and wrong. All that remains is your opinion against my opinion and therefore the one who best uses the tools of emotional blackmail and bullying will prevail.

Nor will their prevalence stop at bullying their foes into silence. What began as emotional blackmail will continue into active use of force. They will move from emotivism to activism. The lawsuits will be followed with other forms of financial, legal, and finally physical force. In the face of emotive violence the government takes over and decides what is legal, and what is legal is not necessarily moral, for any idea of morality has long since disappeared. When the only morality that remains is that which is legal, then those who make the laws determine what can be done or not done. At that point what is legal will inevitably be that which pleases those who make the laws, and when the law is made by those who benefit from the law, the triumph of emotive totalitarianism begins.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
34 replies to this post
  1. I think the clergy are susceptible to this sort of blackmail more than other professions because we stress the centrality of love in ethics.

    This turns many a cleric into a chump. The blackmail often consists of the manipulation of the cleric’s image–i.e., “If you don’t give me what I want I will make you look like an ogre.” and makes him vulnerable to the charge of hard-hearted hypocrisy.

    There is a subtle form of self-righteousness in victimhood, and these people are pharisaical. They need to be confronted like Pharisees–but it must be done carefully, if the cleric is not in full possession of his own emotions–in this case anger–he will be hurt by the emotivists.

    • Excellent points. Because I was not in full possession of my own emotions (anger) as a young cleric–I was hurt by the emotivists. It basically ruined my career. I was not prepared for the modern world of relative and boo- hurrah morality.

    • I think clergy are also susceptible to this sort of blackmail because that central element of ‘love’ is frequently not conveyed charitably enough, or conveyed effectively enough, to an audience that is very different from an audience of forty or fifty years ago. In this case, as the article indicates, there are students who are openly gay, who come from divorced and “remarried” homes, whose parents may use birth control. It is much more difficult to convey ‘love’ to the gay 17 year old sitting openly with his boyfriend, when the lecture covers the intrinsic evil and contrary to nature aspects of homosexuality, that are germane to the innate and immutable character, of that boy’s sexual being. It will sound very different to that boy’s mates sitting with him, who know and love him, as they hear it. It’s a “tough row to hoe”, for the lecturer, but just pointing that out, not disagreeing with the premise.

  2. Emotivists are children–people who have not had to make a difficult decision–or who have failed to do so and comforted themselves by blaming others for their troubles.

    Usually they are sheltered in some way–either by large institutions or by people.

    When you are a pastor you deal with this a lot. There are techniques for dealing with emotivist blackmail. Here are a few of mine:

    1. Don’t blink. Just like with other forms of blackmail, when you give in the first time you only encourage more blackmail.

    2. Never lose your cool. When you do you only give the victim-manipulator something to use to elicit sympathy.

    3. Accept the fact that since you are the person with authority people will always sympathize with the manipulator at the start and not with you. Act accordingly.

    4. Let the manipulator run the course. When the victim-manipulator doesn’t get what she wants from you she will turn to others for sympathy. She will get it–but she will also overreach and in time this person will store up judgment for the day of wrath.

    5. When the day of wrath comes intervene to protect a target of manipulation. Relief will follow and your authority will be seen as a blessing.

    This whole process rests on two things–your moral standing in the community (you can’t pull this off if no one believes in you), and your capacity to endure the pain of false accusation. In other words you need to be a blend of a hard-ass and a softie.

  3. Forget the secular humanists, the sexual hedonists won the Culture Wars. Because the humanists appealed to intellect, and the hedonists to sensation. (And the secular theists — what the churches devolved into — have only thin gruel and watered down spirituality for the former believers.) Not to worry, it is an edifice with no foundation, and whatever arises on the shards of the Old Society will surely be as religions as Sumner of Egyptus.

    • First of all, you never “punch back.” You take this persecution as a sign of Christ’s prophesy being fulfilled and as your chance to become a martyr.

      Just keep teaching the truth and welcome the persecution.

      Dive into Christ’s teachings and learn His ways, so that you will be able to teach His ways, and not your ways (the ways of man).

      Read NABRE at http://usccb.org/bible/

      And CCC http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm


      Matthew chapter 5

      The Beatitudes

      9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

      10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

      11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.

      12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

      The Similes of Salt and Light.

      13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

      14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

      15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

      16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

      Teaching about the Law.

      17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

      18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.

      19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

      20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

  4. A tremendous article followed by two equally great replies. I cannot eloquently reply but I know the truth when I hear it because I was one of the great emotivists in my youth. Each fork in the road deviating from the narrow path slowly but surely places one in the forest to the point that the narrow road is totally obscured and movement back to the narrow road only leads one deeper into the thickets. My return took years and the great help of wise and caring people such as yourselves. It seems the world is populated by good people who are bad parents. I can only pray that those parents and students may one day open their hearts and minds to the truth. In my case it started with the mind; the realization that objective truth is the foundation of all things mental and physical. God bless the three of you.

  5. That this reaction happened at a supposedly Catholic high school says the administration of said school is not Catholic at all. Pope Francis should remove the bishop responsible for this and banish him to some virulently secular society, like China. Again and again we see this. The Catholic church is its own worst enemy.

  6. As I begin another round of persuasive speeches with my university students, I will think of this piece, and wish I’d had it to distribute before the emoting begins. All of the logic and rhetorical forms in the world could wash straight through the grey matter between their ears, and come out the other side unscathed.

  7. I’ve been reading commentary on this event for over a week now. I’ve seen nothing written by anyone who was there, except for the priest/chaplain who had invited the Sister to speak. He said he had heard her presentation a few times previously, and thought highly of it, and found that it had been of benefit to the students. He said that the talk she gave was not the same as the one he had heard before. The sister had warned him that it was a different version of her presentation, and he gave her the the go-ahead without vetting it. He said that, of itself, it was a good talk that she gave, but that had he done due dilligence and vetted it, he would have suggested that it was more appropriate for smaller discussion groups than for a assembly-type address. She had given the first version of the talk twice before at this school, as I recall, without incident.

    Among the many comments I’ve read there were some by people who had heard the first version, in other contexts, and were scandalized that it would cause so much fuss in a Catholic institution. These commentors, like like so many others, had little good to say of the students and parents who were so upset. I did find one comment by someone who said he/she had attended the version of the talk that Sister gave, in another setting. That writer spoke of the Sisters scientific and sociological critique of homosexuality, saying that she offered various statistics that painted a bleak and horrifying portrait of homosexual life. My impression, for whatever it may be worth, is that the Sister got in trouble over that portion of her talk.

    The statistics she used to make her case are often cited by critics of homosexuality, particularly those relating to promiscuity, as they seem unequivocally to illustrate the moral bankruptcy of sodomy. The problem, as I see it, is that the statistics are not particularly sound, and that they are being uncritically employed for ideological ends. An unbiased examination of promiscuity rates would look at rates for all men, for instance, and would set the rates of homosexual men besides those of heterosexual men for comparison. In doing so, one finds that across 70% or so of the male population, rates of homosexual and heterosexual promiscuity are within a few points of each other. The numbers diverge at the more promiscuous end of the spectrum, where some homosexual men do indeed have hundreds and even thousands of partners in their lifetimes, while the heterosexual men at the promiscuous extreme, though presumably trying their best, do not come close. Which is not to say that 20% to 25% of heterosexual men are anything but grievously promiscuous.

    I don’t doubt that the Sister, and others who embrace these statistics, are sincere. However, even granting the goodness of the struggle against homosexuality, there is more than a whiff of slander ind distortion in promulgating them as fact. To castigate an entire population based on the behavior of a minority is unjust. To say a minority is distinct, and characterized by its practices, when those practices actually are much the same as the majority is also unjust. The correlative that comes to mind, naturally, is the Catholic clergy and sexual abuse. There, it is proper and important to express outrage when the many are judged by the behaviors of a few, and an apologist quite naturally goes to statistical comparisons between the pool of priests and the pool of men in other professions. The quality of those statistics is debated, but it seems that priests are within a few percentage points of the generality of men.

    Just because one regards homosexuality as evil does not mean that it cannot be libeled. If it is as serious a matter as people say, then it is owed a much higher standard of study and truth than it is generally given. Homosexual acts may be bad in themselves, but the indications are that men go about them in much the same way as heterosexual men go about their business.

    hen critics of homosexuality generalize fro extreme examples, a couple of things happen. First, it is unlikely that an audience, such as that in a Catholic school, will be intimately acquainted with many individuals who correspond to that extreme. They are more likely, statistically and demographically, to know, to be related to, or to themselves be, homosexuals who are more in step with the generality of men. And so the vehemence of the attack, based on personal experience, will seem to seem unjust. As it is. Also, though probably in a more quiet register, they will be acquainted with more heterosexual men who display sad failures of sexual morality. It is unlikely that any of the girls and women present in the audience will have been harassed, molested, or raped by homosexual men, but we must assume that too many of them share those experiences at the hands of heterosexual men.

    The assertion that homosexual men are massively promiscuous is about the same as the assertion that priests are pederasts. These assertions are made by people with unreasoning animosity to the populations in question, and it is hardly surprising when they elicit howls of disapproval. Based on what I have read, I can’t fault the students and parents of that school for vocally rejecting the Sister’s teaching. She strayed a long way from the Bible-based argument that homosexual behavior is wrong because it deviates from the divinely ordained, procreative purpose of sexuality, and tried to promulgate information that was not true, and was not just. I believe her motivations were good, but she was in serious error.

    • Hank, thank you so much for the first comments I have read about Sr. Jane Laurel that are rational. She went beyond her scope of expertise with her new talk. There has been so much emotion from people on the right , like the above article, showing anger towards the kids and parents who protested the talk without looking at the actual facts. She used bad science to explain the causes of homosexuality, but so many want to overlook this piece.

      • Thanks, Mary. Confirmation bias seems to be a powerful and innate human tendency. It’s worth reading about, if only on wikipidia. I try to take it to heart, to know that I will always be filtering and adjusting what I see and hear, looking for support for the deeper truths I take on faith. The truth I see about homosexuals, for example, is that they are men, and that they share the same propensities for virtue and sin as all men. A homosexual man will be in better shape spiritually, I think, if he has a lively relationship with the virtues of chastity, fidelity, and so on, as will the rest of us. And while the exact numbers are in dispute, ( and subject to change, as they are for the rest of us) it should be clear that some of them do cherish and cultivate these virtues. And, therefore, homosexuality, in itself, is not alien to these virtues.

        There are those that seem to think the virtues of chastity, temperance, fidelity, and so on, have a sexual orientation. Even the most dubious of polls, deployed in the most partisan manner, will show that they do not, that here are exceptions. Further, anecdotal rebuttal, (as in, “I personally know, or am a part of, a life-long, loving and monogamous gay couple,”) is, actually, a valid form of refutation of the premise that homosexuality is in its nature alien to such virtues. Homosexual acts may be wrong, biblically, but to suggest or assert that those who engage in them are necessarily estranged from any particular virtue is to suggest that they are less than human, and that cannot be right, biblically or otherwise.

      • An additional observation: It is unsurprising, and perhaps admirable, that people respond emotionally to the implication of certain teachings that homosexuals are by nature estranged from vital human virtues, and therefore are not fully human.

        Any argument that goes, “As for X percentage of this population, so for all,” is going to run into serious logical and moral difficulties.

    • I have been looking at the same statistics, but I see different results. There were studies done about 30 years ago that showed that about 75% or so of gay men had numerous – and I mean numerous – numbers of sexual partners. Then, as gays and their political supporters in the social science community started doing the studies in more recent times, the reported numbers came down a bit, down to about 60%. I think a few came down even further to maybe 40 or 50%. But that rate was contrasted with a heterosexual rate of 15% of married men seeking sex outside of marriage. Those are the numbers I have found, you may have found something different.

      Also, a psychologist in LA was interviewed for an article recently, her estimate was 75%. The NYT reported on a couple of Lesbians, and how “play” (cheating) was part of their “marriage”, and the article indicated this is true for many. Dan Savage, the noted gay speaker, says that he and his partner found it impossible to be monogamous. Another article indicated that as part of many gay marriages, therapists were helping the partners develop rules for when they could cheat and when they could not.

      I think it’s a bigger problem than 25%

      Also An enormous problem arises because we are now in the age of politically motivated social science. We simply can’t trust the more recent research because of the heavy political taint. This especially applies to anything controversial, like gay marriage studies.

      The New York Times reported on this social science bias:

      ““Dr. Haidt (pronounced height) told the audience that he had been corresponding with a couple of non-liberal graduate students in social psychology whose experiences reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s. He quoted — anonymously — from their e-mails describing how they hid their feelings when colleagues made political small talk and jokes predicated on the assumption that everyone was a liberal.

      “I consider myself very middle-of-the-road politically: a social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work,” one student wrote. “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

      ““If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.



      “He says that over the course of several years, he has been asking for a show of hands from his audience, which are comprised of social scientists, asking if they lean left, to the middle or the right. His numbers suggest that more social scientists are far left than had been previously thought, and because of that, it’s likely that the reports these social scientists create for their clients more often than not reflect that bias, which he says, might make them not worth much.

      As just one such example, Haidt notes that social scientists are regularly hired by Congress to help identify whether women or minorities are being treated unfairly, or are underrepresented by other polling agencies, such as those that are used for normal fact finding missions. He says such reports, written consistently by left leaning liberals (like himself, he notes) tend to identify problems that conservatives might not, and thus, are too biased to be of any real value.

      It’s no secret that the arts and social sciences are not only more populated with people who describe themselves as liberal, and that there are far more women in this sector than there are men. What is, or has been a secret is how these numbers might be skewing federal or even corporate policy.”

      • Gelbertin, Thanks for your thoughtful and informed response. I have to agree that in a conflict being waged with statistics, the numbers being deployed by partisans on either side are best viewed… cautiously, if not with a measure of skepticism. And I don’t doubt that you and your sources are right, regarding the political leanings of social scientists etc. Your concern about recent research is, in general, probably warranted. At the same time, there are some limitations on the older research. The participants of many of those studies, (or so I have read) were often drawn from the most visible and available groups of men. A survey on the chastity of women conducted in college dorms, night-clubs and STD clinics is likely to yield different results than if it were conducted across a wider range of venues. Of course, it is easier to find groups of women to poll. Where does one look for groups of gay men? Especially in the ‘eighties. It’s not unreasonable to imagine that the softening of the numbers may be, in part, due to a wider variety of homosexual men becoming more easily countable, as times and attitudes change.

        I think it is also relevant, and possibly of ethical importance, that one notes the historical moment in which this discussion is happening. There is a tendency to regard homosexuality as some sort of particular, static thing, with innate characteristics. An assumption that if we understand homosexual behavior as it is today, regarding promiscuity, wild parades and so on, that we will understand it as it has always been and will always be. I think this tendency erases the impact and damage done by historical and wide-spread persecution, at the hands of church, state, and the general populace. The line about hating the sin, but not the sinner is spiritually sound, but the fact is that this particular sort of sinner has been treated with hatred, fear, and contempt for a very long time. I would find it unsurprising if a significant number of homosexuals responded to the decrease in social animosity and the decriminalization of their relationships with various excesses. That seems like a natural and human response. I think of the rise of Afrocentricism, its flourishing during the civil rights movement. Or the state of Israel. Or adolescents entering adulthood, for that matter, emancipated from the many constraints of childhood, and often using their unfamiliar liberty in unwholesome ways.

        This is a very complicated moment. It may be unfair that voices, such as the Sister’s, that are raised against Same Sex Marriage and related issues are lumped in with those that have had an historical share in the mistreatment of homosexuals. But if that is a mistake, it is surely an easy mistake to make. The doctrine of loving the sinner while hating the sin is a good attempt at negotiating that complexity, but so much of the discourse tends to the view that, actually, the sinner and the sin are indivisible. That homosexuals are in their nature promiscuous, for instance. That seems to be the premise at stake in the statistical debate. I find it more likely to suppose that all men are tempted. I view homosexuals as belonging to the group, “all men.” I note that their temptations are occurring in a particular historical moment, when there have been obvious, greater, and and more diverse reasons for them to yield to temptation than there are for the generality of men. And of course the generality of men are themselves far from spotless in sexual matters, even at the best of times.

        In my remarks, I was largely working off a piece by one Tim Fisher, “A response to David Glesne, regarding promiscuity statistics in the context of his book, Understanding Homosexuality.” (Sorry I’m not competent to provide the link, but it will turn up in a search, if you are interested.) Fisher talks about the various deficiencies of a number of surveys I have often seen cited, and tries to find a more accurate view of what’s going on with promiscuity by drawing on a wider range of surveys. I liked his writing, and the general tone of his inquiry, which, on its face, seemed primarily about the challenges of looking for truth/accuracy in numbers. I was also sympathetic to his assessment, (obviously, no doubt) because it rather corresponded to my personal experience. I am sadly susceptible to confirmation bias, though I try to be on guard.

        I am well aware that my conjectures may be wrong, but I do hope that some of the points I’ve tried to raise are at least worth reflection.

  8. Clerics did this to me when I complained about rampant homosexuality; the grass is always greener, yet it really isn’t. How many vocations have clerics fist the church with this same despicable behavior? Honestly, the seminaries and rectors are no different in these juvenile behaviors and lack of respect for those who won’t support their lies.

  9. @Hank: you’ve taken some things under assumption that may or may not be true. Sister might have clearly stated that only a small minority of homosexuals are extremely promiscuous. Or she might not have said anything remotely about it. We don’t know. As you pointed out: the text of her talk is not available to us. So all we have are the presumably biased opinions of those who disagreed with her – those who felt “bullied”.

    I’ve known some who “feel bullied” just by the words: “love the sinner, hate the sin”. They don’t want to acknowledge that there is any sin, and they want to silence any who would shatter the false reality they’ve built for themselves. And no amount of scientific data will ever make them budge an inch, because they are emotivists. Period. But they are readily quoted by the ever-compliant press, giving us a distorted view of what really took place.

    Furthermore, I think the comparison to the priest abuse scandal is inappropriate. I’m not saying that you don’t have a valid point about the rate of promiscuity. But you can use absolutely any sociological data to show that those at one end or the other of the bell-shaped curve are not representative of the whole group. Put simply: extremists are extreme.

    Should those who teach the Catholic faith to impressionable teenagers use some scary numbers to drive home a point? Maybe. Maybe not. Of course, they should never deliberately lie. But how do you reach the iPhone/Twitter generation in a way that they’ll sit up and take notice? Sister clearly got the attention of a few. And they got the attention of the press. And that’s really all we know, isn’t it? The rest is all speculation. I hope no one ever crucifies me for something they assume I said.

    • Hi Mary. You are right about the risk of making assumptions here. I might not have weighed in at all, as the whole situation is a bit opaque, but the man that booked Sister to give the talk said it wasn’t the version he was expecting, and that he probably wouldn’t have had her give it in the context she did — he said it might good for smaller discussion groups, but not as an address to a general assembly. If I recall, it was the science material that was new. And then, I encountered a comment from someone who said he/she had heard the longer version of Sister’s talk in another venue, and that person referred to its expanded scientific and statistical component. With approval, if I remember correctly.

      Yes, that’s all a bit attenuated, and nothing anyone is obliged to credit. Much of the outrage, expressed here and elsewhere, seems based on the premise that she is being persecuted for teaching Gospel at a Catholic high school, but in our current ignorance, that assumption seems shakier than my suggestion that it was in the realm of Social Sciences that she encountered turbulence. Of course, opinions may vary. The other thing steering me towards my hypothesis is that there are some very popular and alarming statistics that recur in discussions of this topic, and it would be unsurprising to me if Sister was using them, uncritically. Many people do.

      Sorry about the Priest example. Any instance where the behavior of a portion of a population is used to judge all members of that population, is morally and logically dubious. It seemed obviously wrong to do so in the case of priests.

      As for using alarming numbers to teach virtue to children, (if that is what happened) it seems that in this instance it was not a very successful strategy.

      • “not a very successful strategy” ? You may be right… but what would be a successful strategy, then?

        We teach kids not to cross the street without checking for traffic by telling them what might happen: they might get killed. We tell them not to do drugs, because look at what happens to those who do, esp meth addicts. So, teaching kids not to engage in homosex because it has inherent dangers (including disease due to the promiscuity of some) seems sensible to me. Indeed, withholding that info would be very much like the cigarette companies’ sales efforts early on.

        If you have some other ideas on how to steer kids in the right direction, I’m all ears. But it seems to me that those who’ve already decided that gay is OK won’t listen to anything, anyway. They’ve learned how successful an emotivism response can be to silence anyone trying to teach virtue. Very sad. How can we combat that??

        • Well, I think the dangers inherent in homosex are largely the same as those inherent in heterosex, with the exception of pregnancy. The more people you have sex with, and the more people your partners have sex with, the greater your chances of getting an STD. By singling out homosex, as especially dangerous, you can only give comfort to those kids having lots of heterosex. Like, “sure, I get drunk every weekend, just like my dad, but at least I’m not one of those deranged homicidal meth-heads. My dad and I hate those guys. They should all be locked up.” The fact is, it’s really bed for kids to use drugs, and while Meth is the truly terrible drug du jour, alcohol abuse has been with us forever, and its consequences are awful. How many people have been justified in there drink, by abstaining from less acceptable substances?

          When I think about virtue and sexuality, the first thing that comes to mind is rape. Too many men do terrible things to other people, particularly girls and women. These sexual crimes do immeasurable damage to individuals, families, and society. It is true that men and boys are also victimized by these crimes, and that women sometimes commit them, but the vast majority are perpetrated by heterosexual men against females.

          And so, it confuses me, that such emphasis is placed on the consensual sex lives of very promiscuous gay men, (and however large the precise number, we understand it to be some fraction of 3% of the male population) when so many women will be the victim of sexual assault. (What is it? One in ten?) It’s as though the scandal of consensual sex was more important than the harm done by coercion. I can’t see how that is so.

          When I think about threats to the family, and sexual morality, it’s hard not to reflect on the fact that my wife lost her fertility to an infection that was the consequence of being raped in high school, by another student. I wish that student had learned more about respecting others, and particularly women, as persons. Probably he understood homosexuality was wrong, (this was the good old days, when most people did) but that understanding certainly didn’t help him to stay in God’s good grace that afternoon.

          I’m in favor of any curricula that actually inculcates self respect, teaches respect and love for all our fellow human beings, as God’s beloved children, and deepens our practice of the golden rule. All of us need such teaching, simply because we are human. And the way we teach this is first and foremost by doing it, to the best of our poor ability, and always striving to do it better.

          And so, I worry that there is more than a little concern over the mote in our neighbors eye, when it comes to heterosexual critiques of homosexuality like those reflected in this article.

  10. Does no one else see what is right around the corner? Same sex marriage has changed so fast from being oppressed to be acceptable. It has made my head spin! This and the HH1 mandate will be what takes down the Catholic Church in America. The target is being focused and ready to be fired. Once the SCOTUS finally decides that same sex is constitutional in the whole USA, you will see the marriages lining up to get married in The Catholic Church and then of course the law suites. Just as you have seen with the individual companies. Just as one Bishop said just recently, ‘I will die peacefully in my bed, my predecessor will die in prison and his will be executed. ‘. Comfortable Catholicism is a thing of the past people. Start teaching your children to be ready to stand up for their faith.

  11. Well, as I always somewhat vulgarly like to say whenever the matter of emotional/moral blackmail is brought up amongst friends:

    When Jesus said “turn the other cheek”, He didn’t mean turning your butt cheek to get kicked in the ass all the time.

    Being a Christian does not mean you have a moral duty to let people push you around. Emotovism is the result of a society that first annihilated Faith, and then Reason. CS Lewis already warned us of this in the Screwtape Letters: Remember how Screwtape tells Wormwood to stop trying to argue his patient into Atheism with reason – he notes that in the Middle Ages, people actually believed that if you made a logical argument about some truth, then this warranted changing how you lived your life, but no longer. Now what people think is disconnected from what they do, and thinking itself is just the possession of correct opinions. It’s very hard to get through to people of the kind noted in this article. Certainly no one should ever have a guilty conscience about making someone “feel bad” because you happened to share a bit of rational thought with them.

  12. The reason this has become the norm today is that it has been used in the education system, including Catholic Schools, for a generation now. Take a look at “Intellectual Affirmative Action”, “Intellectual Diversity”, “Teaching for Social Justice”, and the newest term, “Culturally Responsive Teaching”. “Secular Reason” is being used to undermine truth and is ushering in the “dictatorship of relativism”.

    Here is an outstanding address given by Javier Martínez Archbishop of Granada in 2004, “Beyond Secular Reason” – http://www.secondspring.co.uk/articles/martinez.htm

    He says, “it is (a) danger that could prove worse than communism, because it masks itself, it remains hidden, and for that reason it does not create resistances.”

  13. Syndicated columnist Larry Pitts recently wrote a column stating that Christianity and its moral values were in a steady decline. He wrote as if this were a good thing. Unfortunately, no where did he suggest what one might replace Christian values and morality. I shudder at the thought of the society we are leaving our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

  14. One point to be added: all liberalism is based on emotive reactions. Truth is not the basis of their intellectual foundation. But feelings of so called fairness, diversity, but not competence. Thus values based on the Judeo-Christian standard in both Testaments and the guidance of the Holy Spirit if one is in Christ, are immediately ignored. After all, who is to judge . That is the foundation of amorality and it is sweeping our nation, Europe and the Western world. Islam will be its replacement unless people decide to be soldiers of the Cross once more.

  15. There is such a standard as “right” and “wrong”. God has given us principles, largely in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka the “Old Testament”).
    Jesus came to save us and forgive our sins by His sacrifice on the cross; but in no place does He say “Keep doing what you are doing, whatever!” Rather, after forgiving someone for a sin, He says “You may go. But from now on, avoid this sin!”
    So we are being totally foolish to take on the world’s shifting standards of what is “right” (Whatever feels good!) and wrong (Someone else being judgmental about my behavior!) as a substitute for standards that are biblically based. If I am Hitler, it may feel good to throw Jews in a gas oven, and who are you to judge?
    But I am NOT Hitler, and I hold that his actions were morally hideous, as are the actions of abortionists.
    The sinner may repent of his/her sin and be forgiven; but true repentance includes a decision to try to avoid the sin in the future.
    The Old Testament and the letters of Paul, inter alia, are clear that homosexual behavior is to be avoided.

  16. As I have written for many columns, the evil foundation of all emotive non-factual reasoning and policies is liberalism. The liberal left is the deciding factor in all of this ideological mess that either intellectual, religious, social, cultural or governmental progressives believe. All are not based on foundations which have an ethical, spiritual, or Christian foundation. No wonder it is told of them in the Psalms, Why do the heathen rage????

  17. There’s even a new debate style that’s gaining a foothold in colleges that’s based on “Boo-Horrah.” It discards argumentation based on so-called “facts” and relies on feelings. This is a good thing, we are told, because the old debate style was based on and supported “white privilege” :

    “Many of their arguments, based on personal memoir and rap music, completely ignored the stated resolution, and instead asserted that the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students.

    Indeed, to prevail using the new approach, students don’t necessarily have to develop high-level research skills or marshal evidence from published scholarship. They also might not need to have the intellectual acuity required for arguing both sides of a resolution.

    Liberal law professors have been making this point for decades. “Various procedures—regardless of whether we’re talking about debate formats or law—have the ability to hide the subjective experiences that shape these seemingly ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ rules,” said UC Hastings Law School professor Osagie Obasogie, who teaches critical race theory. “This is the power of racial subordination: making the viewpoint of the dominant group seem like the only true reality.””


    • Thanks for sharing the link – wow. That is downright scary. “…the only true reality”? As if there can be multiple “true realities”? And they can force their choice of “true” “reality” on others? Yikes!

      The end of that article was stunning: Debater Korey Johnson said: “No matter how people feel about my argument, they have to listen to me for all of my speeches, everything I have to say, they can’t make me stop speaking.” – Ah, but they can silence us now, can’t they? Because we don’t agree with their dogma. It isn’t a debate if opposing views are disallowed.

      Wow. Just: wow.

  18. My first visit here and an impressive site. To keep my comments short I will only point out the corruption of a true tolerance has occurred over quite a few years, has occurred while view points and opinions have been affected and shaped by a media and political culture totally unmoored from the past. In this ahistorical vacuum the rot of relativism has managed to further degenerate to a politics of centralized power and an underlying nihilistic morality. In that nihilism the seed of various perversities both moral and political have festered and grown, why not, are they not both connected by necessity? We look to the State, not to the past,, the bounds of self control and temperance dissolve, materialism, eroticism. and ignorance, rule. A mindless media pushes the herd along, they the guardians of belief.
    Pathetically the federal government is the new locus of the Good.. Twisted & sad but true..

  19. Best part bears repeating: Because where there is no objective truth there can be no intelligent debate. If there is no such thing as right and wrong, then it is pointless trying to have a discussion on what is right and wrong. Amen.

  20. I love this site ! I just wanted to say a few things:
    (1) I attended Sister Jane’s talk the week before at a church and it was very good. She did list some statistics on homosexual behaviors that were extreme and if those were shared , I can see how persons could be offended. I can’t recall if she said a percentage when discussing promiscuity, and I was not at the CCHS talk . But I can see how people can genuinely be offended by that .However the majority of the talk I attended was sound and logical and she stressed compassion, but not at the expense of objective morality. Our culture no longer has that , so I understand how people could be upset by the potentially misleading statistic not only because it paints homosexual persons in a bad light , but because it even suggests that the behavior is wrong.
    (2) with emotivism, persons can fight dirty ! Let’s say she gave 1/10 stats that were wrong or explained poorly..why hail down on her like she is a hateful bully, if Infact she had many good points and her overall energy was not hateful ? I observe this amongst minorities who get offended by a racially or culturally innapropoate comment, thus assuming the person speaking has no merit or clue . This is not always the case . Sometimes a person can have a correct assertion but use some wrong or biased results or viewpoints . We have to put emotions aside and correct what is wrong , but see the persons intentions and respond in that context .
    (3) I attended CCHS and observed that it was catholic but not really. Great education and I learned about my faith , but the secular attitude prevailed amongst students. many nominal Catholic or non catholic families attend the school still from what I have heard . This can explain the uproar. It was not just about the stats. People seemed upset by the comments on divorce and unmarried couples cohabitating. Perhaps many parents are in that camp and don’t like the idea of their life choices being highlighted by a catholic nun …in a catholic school . Ha! Honestly ,i was a liber pro- choice nominal catholic so I would have been offended by her talk a few months ago!! Even if outlandish stats were not given …
    (3) the chaplain of the school is an amazing priest . He is like a light in this dark world. Open, loving and faithful to the objective truths of our beautiful faith. If you listen to this man talk , you will be on fire for your faith and your intellect will be sharpened as well. He and sister jane are true martyrs . And he is one of my
    Priests!! He is a victim of this reality we live …where even the institutions of our faith are victimized by the aggressive emotovism discussed in this article.
    (4) I am a black female , first born American in my family and identified as a democratic liberal. Acceptance , love and supporting those who were not lucky enough to be privelered was my thing.As I have returned to my faith , I realized I could NOT be that liberal..it’s literally contrary to my faith. The majority of liberals I know are pro abortion , some degree of pro gay marriage, and buy into the idea that all people should have a right to love and live how they want . This is a good intention but the principles guiding these beliefs arenot Christian and many times selfish. Also defiant . The ” who are you to tell me ?!!!” Mentality strengthen by righteous indignation .I now see the potholes in many of the arguments . The conservative ideals on family life are IMO correct . I have felt that I can not become a conservative though, because I found and find their views on race and economic inequality to sometimes be overly unaware and insensitive to the reality that institutionalized discrimination did and does affect education , incarceration and access to many other things . The idea Of”it’s unfair but life is unfair and why should I pay taxes or anything for an issue I did not create ” is not good enough IMO. Many people who benefit from former inequality or who have profited from the American dream sometimes become individualistic in their financial and institutional views and that bothers me . I am aware that I am generalizing so much so please forgive me!!!! I will say that I think many people of color are mislead into thinking they have to be liberals, since liberals heavily supported their needs. And since there are very few conservative voices they know of who understand the history and value and Truth of things like “affirmative action ” …..But rights for black/ Hispanics et al are inappropriately being compared with and lumped into gay and abortion rights and that is wrong! I think many people realize this but don’t want to seem like hypocrites by saying ” I want to be respected and have rights but you can’t . The emotivism and sensationalism employed by many liberals is disturbing and incredibly effective !!!I used to be one of them and I genuinely felt that I cared and was being fair and reasonable . !!! Emotions never are reasonable . So standing on the other side of thought has been eye opening.
    Done tangenting 🙂 once again sorry for the generalizations , but they represent my experiences and perceptions on liberals , conservatives etc.

    • Thank you, Brenda!! Your perspective is invaluable to those of us who haven’t lived that life. Thank you!!!!

      Now, how do we “convert” the rest of the emotivists?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: