The Resignation of Mozilla's CEO; Catholics Should Be Worried

"Now is the time for Catholics to express the truth about marriage boldly. Our jobs and our legitimate standing in the public sphere may soon depend on it."

Rome, (Zenit.org) Stephanie Pacheco | 5430 hits

The media storm swirls around Brendan Eich’s April 3 resignation as CEO from Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser. Eich is a talented programmer who invented the JavaScript programming language for the internet and who co-founded the Mozilla company. After fewer than two weeks as the company’s head, he was forced to resign over Silicon Valley furor regarding a $1,000 donation he made back in 2008 to California’s Proposition 8 law, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. To repeat, he was fired for holding unpopular— now socially forbidden—views.

Many news outlets are critical. A lot are supportive. Catholics should be up in arms, for at stake here is the freedom to work in a public capacity and hold orthodox views at the same time.

The Road to Resignation

A former Chief Technology Officer of Mozilla, Eich has been called the usual roster of terms for supporters of marriage: bigot, hateful, homophobic. This follows after a statement by Eich vowing to protect and enshrine the benefits of those who identify as LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer] at Mozilla and to continue to make the environment supportive and inclusive.

Nevertheless, Eich did not recant or apologize for his personal views or past donation and so a myriad of voices in the technology business called for his resignation. One popular dating website, OkCupid, launched a protest urging users not to use the Firefox browser, as Mozilla’s new leader “is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples” and would “seek to deny love.” Many of Mozilla’s own employees took to Twitter and blogs to express disappointment with Eich’s views as well. Not long after, Eich resigned under pressure from the board. This is the first public ouster revolving around the marriage debate, and it sets a harrowing precedent.

The Intimidation Tactics

Owen Thomas, editor of ValleyWag, a Silicon Valley gossip site, issued the following excoriating statement:

You’ve already said that you won’t bring any personal exclusionary beliefs to the workplace. But your actions in 2008 were not personal or private: They were public acts of speech, for which your constituents are rightly holding you accountable now. You did not merely express a personal view on same-sex marriage; you attempted to persuade others to support your point of view. [emphasis added]

This is a shocking reprimand of Eich’s exercise of free speech, which includes political action. While only the government is forbidden to abridge speech rights, Thomas’s vitriol implies that people may think “unacceptable” thoughts and hold such views, but that it is not okay to convince others of these thoughts.

The problem with that assertion is this: we humans hold beliefs because we find them to be reasonable. If we find them the most reasonable and worthy of holding, it is natural that we should want to share our views with others. Of course disagreement is part of life, but sharing our beliefs is part and parcel of holding them in a meaningful way. To forbid persuasion and sharing and convincing and debate is to forbid human thought itself.

Thomas believes he can make a distinction between “expressing” a personal view and attempting to convince others of it. That is absurd. On the most significant questions that carry civil and human implications, a simple difference of opinion — as in which color is the prettiest — is out of the question. That is precisely why these topics, such as the nature of marriage, concern politics and society in the first place. Thomas’s rebuke of Eich for expressing his views through political action is no different from condemning him for holding them at all. Anyone concerned about free thought, and Catholics especially, should be very alarmed now for their freedom to think and express beliefs that are counter-cultural.

Mozilla’s Doublespeak

The Mozilla Corporation issued a few confusing statements in regards to Eich’s resignation. Here is one contradictory message in which they claim to value diversity. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf rightly blasted the irony inherent in their statement:

“Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness,” the statement goes on. “We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.” But the company is plainly taking the position that it won’t employ, in leadership positions, anyone who publicly holds orthodox Christian or Muslim views on gay marriage.

Agree or disagree, they aren’t being welcoming of “everyone.” They should have the courage to say so.

Mozilla’s statements have been little more than an exercise in doublespeak, saying one thing while meaning the opposite. Their commitment to “diversity” clearly implies the new phenomenon of sexual diversity is more important than the other types; “religion” notably shows up last. The Orwellian maxim “some are more equal than others” rings very loudly through this statement. Eich’s firing sends a strong message to Catholics and anyone who would object to the prevailing cultural mindsets on marriage. If we fail to speak up now, the gradual edging out of religious persons from society will likely continue at a faster pace.

The Catholic Understanding of Marriage

With little philosophical discussion, the current has shifted significantly on same-sex attraction. A few years ago, it was little more than a fringe issue. Now it is social orthodoxy complete with social and professional penalties. In response, we need to be able to articulate the value of traditional marriage coherently since the gay-marriage proponents who sealed Eich’s fate do not seem to recognize that a person may oppose gay marriage without any hatred or malice for persons who experience same-sex attraction.

The labels “bigot” and “homophobe” are so effective today that most people support gay marriage out of passion and a genuine desire to be moral and on the “right side of history.” Supporting traditional marriage is lumped in with racism and sexism, though unfairly so.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines marriage as follows:

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. (CCC 1601)

Marriage, teaches the Church, is about the good of the spouses and begetting children. It’s the second part of that definition which has been abandoned in the developed West today.

The essence of marriage that supporters for traditional marriage insist on is that children matter to marriage and that a large part (half) of marriage is about begetting and raising children.

It is uncontroversial that neither two men nor two women can beget a child through the sexual act. Nowadays there are other methods of generating a child, but these are not normative (and are also unacceptable in the Church’s teaching). The sexual act is definitive for marriage. It is the way in which children enter the world and the way in which the bond between the husband and wife is sealed. Only the union of a man and woman realizes the biological reality of what sex is for: it makes babies and joins the couple in the true unity of performing one whole act as one agent.

The importance of sex, not a hatred or fear of it, is why the Church prohibits acts that interrupt or fail to realize the whole good of sexuality. These include all sexual sins from contraception, to masturbation, to homosexual acts.

Nevertheless, while the Church recognizes and denounces sexual sins, She never hates the sinner. Most people fall into sexual sin at different points in life just as every human being sins in general. The Church is a hospital for sinners, a place for all of us to come, repent and be healed. Supporting marriage does not mean hatred of persons with same-sex attraction, just as it does not mean hatred of persons with other sexual sins or other sorts of sins. Indeed, if calling certain actions sinful amounted to hating the person who performed them, then we all would be hated, for we are all sinners.

There is nothing hateful or bigoted about supporting traditional marriage. Now is the time for Catholics to express the truth about marriage boldly. Our jobs and our legitimate standing in the public sphere may soon depend on it. Brendan Eich’s did.

*** 

Stephanie Pacheco is a writer, blogger, and speaker in Northern Virginia. She earned at M.A. in Theological Studies, summa cum laude, from Christendom College and holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia in Religious Studies with a minor in Government and Political Theory. This article has been published by kind permission of Human Life International's Truth and Charity Forum