The Truth Does Not Hurt

Doug McManaman
July 30, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

One day this year a student of mine brought two of her friends to see me during my prep period in order to argue with me about same-sex marriage. Like many students, the one had dyed hair and wore piercings and had the appearance of a rebel, the other not. But both were eager to know why I opposed the legal recognition of homosexual marriage. I asked them why they favor it, and so began a long discussion that was intellectually invigorating and thoroughly enjoyable.

We covered a lot of ground in eighty minutes. We talked about the nature of rights, the difference between sensible goods and intelligible human goods, the meaning of marriage, the relationship between the mind and the real nature of a thing that is expressed in a definition, how happiness is related to virtue, and more. And these two students put forth the strongest points that the pro same-sex marriage side has to offer. But eventually time ran out, the bell was about to ring, and we had to prepare to move to our next class.

But even though I opposed their arguments every step of the way and we parted company as divided on the issue as when we began, the two students were noticeably happy to have had the discussion. Moreover, they were most emphatic in their insistence that they be in my class the following year. I still don't quite understand why - for I think I'm rather boring and my voice is so soothing that it has the effect of quickly lulling some students to a deep sleep - , but every time I see them in the halls they remind me that I must be their teacher in the coming year.

Why I find this particularly striking is that later on, just before this year's graduation ceremony, my student who brought these two friends of hers to see me informed me that both of them are full fledged, bona fide, genuine, active homosexuals. I was surprised, because I hadn't picked that up. One of them is even a regular participant in the annual Pride Parade.

The reason I find this striking is that looking back, I realize that I hadn't compromised the truth even slightly, and they opposed me every step of the way and left still in disagreement with me, and yet they went away evidently not offended, not hurt, happy to have had the discussion, visibly rejuvenated, not lacking in words of praise for the person who spent eighty minutes exposing the flaws in their reasoning, and determined to be in his class the following year.

What does this mean? It means that with irrefutable logic we can conclude that truth does not hurt and that it is not insensitive to explain to others the basic principles of the natural moral law and their implications in the area of sex. It means that it is not necessarily the case that clearly expounding the basic truths of sexual morality as the Church has understood and defended it for two thousand years will make those who are not living up to it feel bad about themselves, ashamed of themselves, or feel that they are unloved by God and unlovable. Indeed, human persons can be offensive, but truth, in and of itself, is not offensive.

Perhaps what made these two students feel so good was that they were treated as intelligent persons capable of understanding the complexities of ethics. Quite possibly, they were happy to learn something that contemporary popular culture denies them, namely that the subconscious and gnawing despair resulting from the emptiness of sexual indulgence is not the final word, and that the human person is destined to and called to aspire towards something much higher than his genital organs. In short, that there is much more to life than an orgasm. This almost universal call to be silent on such basic moral issues in the name of tolerance and sensitivity might actually be a curse under the guise of a blessing. Love is not willing to leave anyone in the darkness of despair; rather, the most loving thing we can do for others is to tell them the truth.