I’ve read many of the responses to Jody Bottum’s article and many of them are very good. But I wanted to add a few thoughts that I haven’t seen addressed just yet.
It seems that Jody is saying instead of protecting the definition and meaning of marriage, the Church should evangelize the culture and care for the poor. To me this sounds awfully similar to what the Catholic Left has been telling pro-lifers for decades. I’m not sure if, or how, you would refrain from applying his argument to abortion, except maybe that he doesn’t see the life issue as being a lost cause.
But it is also hard for me to think of someone looking at the abortion situation in the 1990s and remaining optimistic — and that same person being a pessimist on the marriage issue today. Heck, Commonweal elevated its abortion pessimism to new heights in 2012. And yet not one state bans abortion. But 2/3rds of states define marriage correctly.
If surrender is good advice on marriage I don’t see how it isn’t also good advice on life. And that potentially raises the question whether the Church should have a social teaching at all.
I don’t see how resignation on the definition of marriage wouldn’t also lead someone to resign on the protection of the preborn. The same voices calling for the former have been seeking surrender on the latter also for years, their calls to abandon the preborn have increased recently, they offer similar reasons for both, and they point to evidence of defeat that they consider equally strong on both issues. I disagree with them, but Jody too seems to be remaining strong in protection of life. I don’t see a significant strategic reason to abandon either fight.
Finally, I am not saying we should stand strong just because it’s the right thing to do, as if we knew we would lose anyway. I think we can actually succeed in preserving life and marriage. Marriage fundamentally creates and nourishes life, and its breakdown fuels the abortion culture. Wild optimism or pessimism on either of these issues seems short sighted.