At Catholic philosopher Edward Feser’s blog, a poster in the threads wrote the following: “If I start with a conclusion, then perhaps I can manufacture a theory (or modify an existing theory) to arrive at my desired conclusion, but that is hardly philosophy.”
Exactly. And that’s what Thomism does again and again, pretending to use the intellect to hit a target it already has drawn a circle around with Church doctrine. I’m starting to agree with Bertrand Russell’s estimate of Aquinas, that in the end he is less of a philosopher and more an apologist.
In other words, when the use of philosophy suits the Thomist, the philosophy is emphasized. But when the philosophy fails of its own accord to reach the doctrines of the Church, it gets hijacked to those purposes. Thomism is a handmaiden of the Church.
Thus in the case of essentialism and gay marriage, the Thomist pretends that only the INTELLECT and not the WILL are engaged in appraising what marriage really is most essentially, when in reality the traditional and conservative WILL is driving the INTELLECT exactly in the way that Feser claims liberals are guilty of.
Gay people believe that they are born gay, that there is something sui generis and essential about their condition. Science supports this conclusion.
Gay marriage, therefore, could be oriented to Thomistic essentialism if Thomists wanted this to happen. But they don’t. They’re temperamentally conservative people using philosophy to arrive at temperamentally conservative (and in this case, Church oriented) conclusions.
Opposition to gay marriage is an expression of the conservative will, not the philosophical intellect.
But here is all a Thomist would have to do to approve gay marriage (in and outside of the Church):
(1) Admit that it’s okay to change one’s mind. One needn’t be King Creon in Sophocles’ Antigone, rigidly holding to a position out of fear of losing “authority.” As Robert F. Kennedy said, reflecting on the unbending Creon, “The only sin is pride.”
(2) Define marriage, in its essential nature, more broadly than just surrounding reproduction, the rearing of children, and promoting the heterosexual family. This could be done by placing its essential aim at love between partners setting out to build a life together (with or without children). The light of love and human bonding could thus be treated as what is most essential to marriage.
(3) Acknowledge the fact that Thomas himself did not reason in a vacuum, and that history and culture influenced his premises and conclusions, one of which was putting reproduction front and center in family life at a time when maintaining population was a serious issue. This is no longer a problem.
(4) Acknowledge the fact that when God gave humans big brains, this changed the equations surrounding what organs are “essentially for.”
(5) Affirm that the treatment of homosexuals throughout the millenia has been cruel, humiliating, murderous, and evil–a historic, inter-generational crime–and that humans now mean to remedy it by removing the stigma surrounding homosexuality. There is nothing disordered or otherwise wrong surrounding homosexual desire or commitment within gay marriage. Nothing. Society can incorporate a broader and essential definition of marriage.