I was quite surprised by the unusually poorly argued post by Edward Peters at his blog on canon law. Typically his posts are well thought and thoroughly researched, particularly when it comes to issues specific to canon law. However, the article on domestic partnerships was oddly poorly argued. Let me walk through some of the notable divergences from reason:
To be sure, Catholics can, of course, disagree with my views here (that domestic partnership legislation could be considered), chiefly by arguing that recognition of even domestic partnerships between persons of the same sex has the effect of indirectly encouraging objectively immoral behavior. And they are right. It does.
My question is, so?
A thousand, no, make that a million, things allowed under law have the effect of encouraging immoral behavior. This is so obvious that I don’t think it needs demonstration. (emphasis mine)
I have no strong opinion about domestic partnership as such at the moment, though I’ll get to the prudential aspect later. Here I would note that Peters fails to distinguish between what the law tolerates and what the law enforces. Currently, the law tolerates but does not enforce or protect any number of people shacking up and engaging in whatever private affairs they please. In this sense is how I take Peter’s comment.
Domestic partnerships are not of this sort. They are contracts with particular rights and authority enforced and protected by the state, with a particular emphasis on being a similitude of the authority in marriage without the name. In such, it could be argued the state does not simply allow or tolerate immoral behavior but empowers it and participates in scandal, for starters.
The answer to the “so?” then is, the state may not be “allowing,” but enforcing and protecting or empowering something which is arguably intrinsically disordered and evil, which by its nature would be contrary to the common good.
The real question is, whether the activity allowed under law is itself (a) objectively [read: intrinsically] immoral (which would be a deal-breaker) … The first question here, then, is one of morality and I hold that domestic partnerships are not per se immoral. I need only demonstrate the goodness of one domestic partnership to carry that point and I can think of a dozen. (emphasis mine)
This comment is deeply problematic. The question is whether domestic partnerships are immoral per se and this goes to the nature of domestic partnerships. The fact that Peters knows of domestic partnerships that are “good” in some vague sense proves nothing. The goodness of bombing Nagasaki can be demonstrated. The goodness of abortion can be demonstrate. The goodness of robbery, adultery, sodomy and any intrinsically evil act can be demonstrated in some sense. However, this referenced good is always accidental. We are talking about the goodness of the thing itself, that is per se, intrinsically, by its very nature. No number of good-ish examples can suffice to prove that something is not in itself evil.
Without quoting the several paragraphs regarding St. Thomas More, the situation is manifestly different. By affirming King Henry’s heirs, St. Thomas is not empowering Henry’s adultery nor encouraging it. He is recognizing the authoritative act to name the heirs of the king by an authority to which he is subject.
Finally, a few thoughts further. I suspect domestic partnerships are intrinsically immoral and thus not open to debate. They are by their very nature ordered to the intimacy and authority of marriage and family life, while being explicitly being open to dissolution, independent if they are for some grouping of men, women or a mix. They appear to be by their very nature a perversion and profanation of marriage.
As a matter of prudence, I think that given the historical facts and progressive agenda of liberalism, it is absurd and evil to approve of domestic partnerships. Historically, they were a stepping stone toward “gay marriage” Domestic partnerships were the “What could it hurt?” stage, after which the “Separate but Equal!” brigade came out in full force, insisting exactly as intended that they were the same except in name and only the Low Man cared about the difference in name since everyone already accepted the essence of the program.