"In the short-run anyway," Bottom said, Catholics should tolerate the civil recognition of same-sex unions. "I also think we need to re-evangelize the culture, but, in the short run … I think we have to accept that the facts on the ground is, it's here, and it's going to be here for some time."
"I was always very careful to, any time I said something affirming of same-sex marriage, I was very careful to put in the word 'civil', 'state recognition of', some kind of qualifying phrase like that."
"I did kind of assume that it would be taken as writ that I'm an orthodox Catholic," Bottom reflected, though adding, "maybe I should have just said it, to pre-empt some old friends from reading the piece as though I was saying, this is sacramental marriage as much as anything else."
The essay is "very long," Bottom admitted, explaining that it is written in a literary style he's been exploring lately, calling it "a style of personal essay that takes two steps forward and one step back, that circles around and circles around, that's more impressionistic than it is argumentative."
"I open for instance with that description of a lost friendship … and immediately afterwards I say, personal anecdote isn't argument, and then I say, we're all Americans, America's got this, we should probably just accept this insofar as we're Americans," he said, reflecting on his writing style.
"And then immediately after, I say that of course the bishops shouldn't be persuaded to take the (popular) cultural position out of some feel-good call for consensus. And the whole essay kind of proceeds by this back and forth method."
He cited the style of Michel de Montaigne, a French essayist of the 16th century renaissance, as an inspiration for the admittedly "complicated" and "impressionistic" voice of his personal essay.
"I set myself up to be misinterpreted, in a way, just by making the conscious literary decision to write an essay in an essayistic style, and it didn't occur to me at the time that it would be quite so open to misinterpretation," Bottum shared.
Saying that he is "not entirely free from blame" for the essay's subtitle, since he discussed it with the editors and consented to it, Bottum said that instead of being a Catholic advocate for same-sex "marriage," "the case that I am making, is a case for Catholics who work in these sorts of fields to recognize that same-sex marriage is something the culture has, and is going to get completely," though "in the civil sense only."
"I certainly didn't intend to undermine the bishops, by making anything more than a prudential argument about their fight over same-sex marriage," Bottum said.
Moreover, he pointed out, "I explicitly said in the piece that they should not be persuaded by purely cultural reasons."
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Bottom said there are two passages that he should have phrased differently, because "they're getting misinterpreted consistently" – one section on the judicial cases made in favor of marriage, and another on natural law.
His intention, he clarified, in speaking about the lack of a "coherent" legal argument in defense of marriage was not "an indictment of all the work of our lawyer friends" who have been defending marriage in court, but was only a recognition that "given the jurisprudence" and the prevailing understanding of the Constitution, "this wasn't a coherent argument" for the Supreme Court.
And in clarifying his comments on natural law, Bottum said that "of course" natural law is true without what he calls "enchantment." His intention was to say that natural law "is not persuasive without enchantment."
In the essay, Bottum did go so far as to suggest that given culture's crisis of confusion around marriage and sexuality, the civil recognition of same-sex "marriage" could possibly "prove a small advance" in terms of "chastity" and "love."
Even while acknowledging that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, Bottum said that "I think I do" hold that, because "we have such a rotten marriage culture right now … an exclusive relationship between two homosexual people, recognized in law, might actually be some small improvement, because the marriage culture is actually below that right now."
"This cannot be a sacramental marriage," Bottum emphasized. Same-sex marriage is "based on a failure to recognize the enchanted, created reality of the body. But in the culture as it actually is, this might be an improvement."