A Nominal Right to Sex
What caught my eye about this article was near the end, when I read, “Since Kaitlyn’s arrest, the case has garnered national attention for what some say is a gay rights issue”. It is considered a “right” to have sexual pleasure with someone too young to offer consent.
This comes from a mistaken notion of rights that arose out of a heretical notion of sin. Originally this mistaken notion came from Ockham (of Ockham’s Razor fame) but was picked up and made more famous by Luther.
The Catholic understanding is that morality is found in our relationship with God and our neighbor — that our human nature is that of communion. In our creation God made us in his image. Therefore the more communion we have with God the more we live up to our nature, and more moral we are. The life we live is a moral life because God is good, and our communion with him means we take on this goodness. As St. Augustine said:
“Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ.”
What a thing to rejoice over! We become Christ so we share in the goodness of God. The more we live out that communion and share in that union through acts which encourage communion and union, the more moral we become. This is not because the acts are morally good, but because we live up to our nature and partake in God’s goodness — our being becomes good.
This contrasts greatly with Ockham’s and Luther’s nominalism, the rejection of universals. In their nominalism there is no universal call to communion to live a moral life, but rather morality is found in following a particular set of rules laid down by God. Goodness isn’t found in being in communion, but in the actions one does.
Let’s see how Catholicism and Nominalism play out in the above article. In Catholicism rights are those freedoms necessary to living out our lives in conformity with our nature. We have to have the freedom to accept communion with God and neighbor and the freedom to live out that communion. Ms. Hunt is in trouble for hurting another (a breakdown of communion). To be sexually active with someone too young to be capable of consent harms our neighborly relationship. Further, by misunderstanding male and female, Ms. Hunt further ruptured proper communion by being sexual with a girl.
In contrast, Nominalism requires the freedom to live in accord with an abstract set of laws. A right is that which guarantees this freedom. Culture and interpretation can change what that set of laws includes. Certainly Luther had a different abstract set of laws than some of the other Protestant reformers, as can be seen in the fact that Zwingli and Calvin both had differing ideas about the law of God in regards to the Eucharist. What this means is that as society shifts, so too does our rights so that our rights can keep up with societies norms. Our society has sexualized young children and in large part approves of homosexuality. Hence the ACLU thinks Ms. Hunt would have a right to be sexually active with a female minor. There is no communion she is required to live up to, but rather only the specifics of how she feels towards the minor child.