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Can People With Dementia Have a Sex Life?

Jeff Heinz/The Globe Gazette

Jeff Heinz/The Globe Gazette

Let’s ask John Corvino! (Ahem.) At The New York Times’ “Room for Debate,” I team up with my buddy Ron Belgau to defend, among other things, the sanctity of marriage. From the exchange:

[T]he argument in the present case is not that Mr. Rayhons physically or emotionally harmed his wife, but rather that he violated her consent merely by having sex. I don’t see how that argument wouldn’t apply equally to his brushing her hair — which would indeed be wrong, and a violation of consent, if he did it to some random dementia patient who was not his wife. The marriage matters, as do other intentions the patient expressed prior to her dementia.

Read the full exchange here.

Just My Opinion?

fact opinion

The Philosopher’s Magazine has finally posted my piece on the fact/opinion distinction.

Why worry about the fact/opinion distinction? One reason is that precise thinking is valuable for its own sake. But there’s another, more pragmatic reason. Despite its unclear meaning, the claim “That’s just your opinion” has a clear use: It is a conversation-stopper. It’s a way of diminishing a claim, reducing it to a mere matter of taste which lies beyond dispute.

Read the full article here.

Against Obsessive Celibacy

Celibacy

John replies to Michael Hannon’s startling response to “Thinking Straight” at Commonweal:

You don’t have to be a “libertine” to recognize that what the young boy is experiencing is not just a really, really, really strong desire for friendship. More important, you don’t have to be a libertine to acknowledge that willful blindness to what the boy is actually experiencing can do serious, lasting damage.

Read full article here.

“Thinking Straight?” at Commonweal

QueerTheory

At Commonweal, John explains how a little queer theory (misunderstood and misapplied) can be a dangerous thing:

What social conservatives want is nothing less than to dismantle the very vocabulary by which we express and realize our inchoate longings for intimacy. They want to push us back to a time when homosexuality was not merely the “love that dare not speak its name,” but the love that could not speak it. They want to restore a regime where the boy with the funny feeling might—if he’s lucky—grow up to have a good-enough heterosexual marriage, but he might just as easily grow up to have a lonely life of furtive, dangerous same-sex encounters.

Read the full article here. Also check out Hannon’s reply and John’s rejoinder.

John on Polygamy in NYT “Room for Debate”

Corvino meme

In a New York Times “Room for Debate” discussion on plural marriage, John rebuts the slippery slope:

Polygamy raises a number of public-policy concerns that same-sex marriage does not. That said, the gay-rights movement has bolstered the polygamist-rights movement in one key way: by insisting that finding a practice weird or icky or religiously anathema is not sufficient reason to make it illegal.

Read his full post, and watch the accompanying video, here.

John at NYT “Room for Debate” on Gay/Trans Connection

 

At the New York Times “Room for Debate,” John argues that gay rights and transgender rights are related but distinct:

Each group has distinctive needs and challenges. By jumbling them all together into one alphabet soup — L.G.B.T.Q.I.T.S.L.F.A.A., anyone? — we run the risk of covering or erasing people’s experiences, especially those who are already most marginalized.

Read the full article here. And check out this video, which explains some of the distinctions:

 

John in The Philosophers’ Magazine

TPM

In a recent issue of The Philosophers’ Magazine, John dismantles the “Definitional Objection” to same-sex marriage offered by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson, among others. From the article:

How did we end up in such a spot? Part of the problem is that ‘comprehensive union’ is a rather vague and slippery notion: suitable for greeting-card poetry, perhaps, but not the sort of thing on which to build a marriage theory.

Read the full piece here.

Response to Providence College’s “Rescheduling” of My Event

Yesterday evening I was informed that Providence College had “rescheduled” my event there—this time in the form of a debate with Sherif Girgis. The announcement was made in a statement from the provost.

The events of the last several days have been dizzying, and I would like to clear up the record on several matters.

First, on academic freedom, a concept that is easily distorted: I believe that a Catholic college—indeed, any college—has the right to choose speakers who comport with its mission. Obviously, academic freedom does not mean that I may speak wherever I want: I have to be invited.

I was invited to Providence College. On February 16 of this year Professor Christopher Arroyo, with the support of multiple departments, invited me to give a lecture on same-sex marriage, and we set a date for September 26. Last Saturday Provost Hugh Lena abruptly cancelled the lecture. So the concern here is not my academic freedom, but that of the nine Providence College department or program heads who were suddenly overruled by the provost, on the basis of a policy that he has since admitted is written nowhere. Moreover, Provost Lena decided that one of his own faculty members, Professor Dana Dillon, was unsuitable as a respondent for me. As Professor Fred Drogula, President of the Faculty Senate, pointedly asks, “Is the Administration henceforth to rule on whether and when each of us is prepared to speak in our areas of expertise?” (Drogula’s letter, which has been posted to Facebook, is worth reading in full.)

Second, notwithstanding the current spin from the Providence College administration, my event is not being rescheduled. It is being replaced with a different event.

In February I agreed that I would come to Providence to give a lecture, which would be followed by a Q&A period. Although Professor Arroyo and I had previously (last Fall) discussed the possibility of a debate, that idea was dropped for budgetary reasons. Then, just last week, I agreed to change the format so that I would have a lecture with an official respondent. Now, finally, I am being invited for a debate. These are three different kinds of academic events, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I have plenty of experience with all three, and (as I’ve long said) I’d be happy to do a debate at Providence College. What I’m not happy to do is to aid the administration in the pretense that “the September 26 event was merely being postponed, not cancelled, until we could be sure that it went forward in the format in which it was originally proposed,” as Provost Lena’s statement said yesterday.

While it is possible that what was proposed to me and what was proposed to the administration were entirely different events, Professor Arroyo assures me that this is not the case.

Last, but certainly not least, there is the personal side to all this.

In his “rescheduling” statement yesterday, Provost Lena (quite rightly) apologizes to Professor Arroyo and Professor Dillon. As for me, he simply says that the decision to cancel “had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino.” But of course, I am the person whose visit he abruptly canceled, in an e-mail sent on Saturday to faculty. In two decades of public speaking, at over 200 college campuses, I have never felt quite so bounced around.

Yesterday a friend asked me how I was doing, and I responded that the media attention was exhausting. “Yes,” he pressed, “But how are you doing? You were uninvited to speak. That seems hurtful, even if not intentionally personal.”

The truth is that it’s difficult not to feel as if the Providence College administration regards me as a sort of virus, which might infect students if not blocked by some administration-approved surgical mask. This feeling is sadly familiar, to me and to any gay person. It is the malaise of the closet, the notion that some features of oneself are unspeakable. I am the Other. And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how young gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Providence College students must feel. It is for them that I remain most concerned.

That’s where “damage control” should be focused right now: the personal harm to LGBT Providence College students, not to mention faculty, staff, and alumni. Pope Francis has called for a “new balance” in the Church’s pastoral ministry, and there is an opportunity—yet unrealized—to implement that balance here.

Paula Deen and DOMA

My take on lessons from Paula Deen and DOMA, at HuffPost:

Just as you don’t have to be throwing around the “n-word” to exhibit racism, you don’t have to be calling gays “faggots” in order to signal that they, and their love, and their families, are less worthy than others.

Read the full column here.

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