Sherif Girgis

In the way of review, the Witherspoon Institute is an ultra-conservative Catholic organization headed by an Opus Dei numerary (a secular celibate) who is also on the board of National Organization for Marriage. Witherspoon was co-founded by our old friend, Princeton prof Robby George, founder and chairman emeritus of NOM. Girgis (along with Ryan T. Anderson) was one of Robby’s co-authors of a book released last spring that was intended to influence the Supreme Court towards marriage discrimination.

Girgis is currently a student at Yale Law while pursuing a Ph.D. at Princeton. Robby George is like a vampire. He sucks the critical thinking out of these otherwise bright Catholic kids.

Girgis’ piece on Witherspoon’s pseudo-intellectual blog is titled “Reason and Revelation: Why Christians Need Philosophy.” That sounds harmless enough.  Yet it begins:

You can’t call them opportunists. Starting just before the Supreme Court heard arguments calling them bigots—and ever since the Court’s DOMA ruling turned that libel into law—religious conservatives have been busy arguing about the worth of their own arguments.

Many, in particular, have questioned the value of rational defenses of marriage, and, indeed, all moral philosophy. …

If you think that first paragraph makes no sense, you are not alone. Oddly enough I do not recall any argument (presumably in United States v. Windsor) that referred to anyone as a bigot. “Libel” means written defamation. Defamation generally requires the intentional perpetration of a falsehood. What really happened is that George, Anderson and Girgis authored an amicus brief (in addition to their book) that failed to be persuasive. The Supreme Court disagreed with them with respect to the federal recognition of same-sex marriage. They lost not only their case but, seemingly, their minds as well. Clearly Mr. Girgis is wasting his time at Yale.

Personally, I would call Mr. Girgis a bigot. He is trying to impose the anti-gay teachings of the Catholic Church on everyone by force of law. Ironically, he routinely defames gay people. But I digress.

From there, Girgis goes on —and on —and on (2,121 words to be precise) about scripture, natural law and “procreative” marriage. He assures us that Mr. Anderson and Mr. George concur with his expressions. It all seems oddly familiar to anyone who has read any of this spew over the last couple of years. The simple fact is that this is someone who does not believe that gay people even exist. We are just persons who sometimes experience same-sex attractions. Mr. Gigris also believes that recreational sex is a grievous sin.

Today, Mr. Gigris contributes another 2,200 meaningless words with the promise of even more to come tomorrow.  Therein he actually calls us mere mortals “philosophical illiterates.” I guess that is because most of us disagree with Girgis, Anderson and George. These folks read some Thomas Aquinas and believe that they are instantly erudite. In the thirteenth century it was Aquinas who started the natural theology movement that makes its presence quite prominent 800 years later in Girgis’ essays. Just think how little Aquinas knew about the natural world at that time. Nevertheless I was intrigued by this bit of sophistry about “defending” marriage:

After all, it  [the defense of marriage] requires belief in moral values beyond consent. It requires thinking that some human goods (like marriage) can’t just take whatever shape we wish to give them. And it assumes that human acts (like sexual intercourse) can have natural ends (like reproduction).

Before I go on, I should clarify. My (coauthors’) argument for marriage in no way assumes that it’s generally wrong to frustrate the body’s natural ends. But it does entail that there are natural ends. For it shows that marriage is a comprehensive union of persons, which includes a bodily union, and that what makes for bodily union is coordination toward a single bodily end.

This is what is at the core of 5,000 words (with more to come). We have seen it all before. According to Girgis the sole purpose of, and for, marriage (and sex) is to make children.

“Defending marriage” is an intellectually dishonest construct. This is really about banning gay marriage. Banning gay marriage is a legal enterprise because defining marriage is about shaping public policy and defining family law at the state and federal levels. Even if we accept Girgis’ arguments he is asking us to take that a step further and impose them on civil law. To do so insults the First Amendment.

Yet it is the omissions that render this polemic purposeless and vacuous.

It is the omissions that make all of this unpersuasive in forming public policy. There is no mention of the fact that many gay couples are raising children. Nor, for that matter, does Girgis seem to note the importance of forming a marital estate which helps to insure financial stability for the family if one spouse dies or leaves the union. Moreover, Girgis fails to address the many legal benefits and obligations of marriage and why a devoted gay couple should forfeit those. Does the Catholic Church have to approve of a union before a spouse can be recognized as a spouse?

In Girgis’ world the answer to that question is actually “yes.” According to the Pope Emeritus (then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) there can be no legal recognition, whatsoever, of “homosexual unions.” According to Ratzinger we “do violence” to a child whenever he or she is raised by a gay couple. It is Ratzinger who first made many of Girgis’ arguments so there is nothing very original in the current treatise.

Ultimately, Sherif Girgis is nothing more than a transmitter.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.