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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 25, 2018
For more information, contact: Elizabeth Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the eve of tomorrow’s Judiciary Committee hearing, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., observed: “Those who say this increasingly contentious nomination isn’t about abortion are dead wrong. Of course, it’s about abortion.”
The head of the Ruth Institute and author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives, explained, “The abortion regime, which seeks a complete disconnect between sex and babies, can’t stand on its own. It needs to be constantly propped up by the Sexual State, in this case, the courts.”
Morse elaborated: “The abortion lobby claims it wants women to be able to ‘control their fertility.’ This claim is disingenuous. What the Abortion Lobby really wants is a world where sex and babies are completely disconnected, and sex without babies is an entitlement.”
“This is not the real world,” Morse continued. “That’s why the State, specifically, the judiciary, is needed. Ordinary people, acting through their legislatures, have enacted numerous common-sense pro-life measures. But the Abortion Lobby cannot abide these regulations, no matter how modest they may be.”
“Abortion supporters are terrified of Roe being ‘repealed piecemeal,’ as they say. That’s why they’re fighting the Kavanaugh nomination so fiercely. They need justices who will support their agenda.”
Morse concluded, “We hope the public will see through the media circus these hearings have become. Most normal people don’t want to live with a government committed to the fantasy that everyone is entitled to unlimited sex without a live baby ever resulting.”
The Sexual State, Morse’s latest book, was released in August by TAN Books. Dr. Morse, who has a passion for helping young people avoid the perils of the Sexual Revolution, is a popular campus speaker.
For more information about The Ruth Institute, visit http://www.ruthinstitute.org/.
For more information about The Sexual State, visit https://thesexualstate.com/.
Posted on: Monday, September 24, 2018
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published August 28, 2018, at Crisis Magazine.
The clergy sex abuse and cover-up stories have created a linguistic challenge for faithful Catholics. Over 80 percent of these clergy abuse cases involve predatory sexual activity between adult men and younger men in less powerful positions. Some Catholic commentators refer to these cases as “gay” to distinguish them from “pedophilia.” Their intention is sound: the “pedophilia” label has frequently been a way to deflect attention away from abusive homosexual conduct. I, however, maintain that we should avoid the word “gay,” and even the word “homosexual.” Former Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s bombshell revelations about sexual abuse and the network of cover-ups raises the stakes. We really must get the terminology right.
[Photo: Pope Francis with Cardinal McCarrick, Vatican Media]
Daniel Mattson wrote an important book, “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay.” He outlines the philosophical, theological, and pastoral problems with the “gay” label. I add to Mattson’ arguments an additional consideration. “Gay” is a losing term for us.
At this moment in history, the word “gay” is loaded with positive associations. The word “gay” means young, fashionable, intelligent, and witty. “Gay” might also mean a weak, victimized, innocent waif, so psychologically vulnerable he might commit suicide. This perception is so prevalent that health care professionals are not supposed to even mention the health risks of “gay sex.”
Speaking of “gay sex,” what exactly do gay men do together? The images we have been presented suggest that all they do is hold hands, cuddle, and kiss. We never imagine “gay sex” to include rectal bleeding or intense pain or rectal incontinence or adult diapers.
In this respect, the “gay” image resembles the other sanitized images created around the Sexual Revolution. No-fault divorce involves two sensible mature people mutually deciding to “move on.” Children of divorce always “get over it.” No woman ever regrets her abortion. And so on.
All these claims are false.
When today’s mainstream journalists hear the word “gay,” they might picture a confused but basically innocent teenager. They might picture this teenager being bullied by classmates or scolded by adults. These benign associations with the word “gay” have been carefully crafted over decades. In fact, this is one place where the word “gay” properly applies. We can accurately describe the people who created these images, as the Gay Marketing Men.
I believe this explains the reluctance of many in the media to address the clergy sex abuse story as forcefully as a story about men preying on women victims. The terms “predator” or “domination” or “exploitation” do not register in connection with “gay.” In the average journalist’s minds, these words are associated with “toxic masculinity” or “conservative Christian.”
Catholic friends, we are not going to be able to dislodge these slanted images, no matter how loudly we yell about it. The protective moat around “gay” is too wide and deep. The Gay Marketing Men have spent millions of dollars and countless hours fashioning this picture and securing it firmly in the public mind.
Some Catholic commentators use the word “homosexual” in an effort to sidestep the term “gay.” I don’t think this strategy avoids the problem. Historically, the term “homosexual” was invented in the nineteenth century to “medicalize” what had previously been considered a moral or behavioral issue. Medicalizing behavior doesn’t help our cause. Besides, the word “homosexual” without qualifiers doesn’t buy us much help from the general public. It just makes us look out of date, like people who still use the word “Negro.”
Does that mean we throw up our hands and give up? Certainly not. I propose a different approach that gives us a better chance of success.
Instead of the word “gay,” use the most descriptively accurate phrase possible in the context of what you are trying to say. Instead of “gay sex scandal,” try this: “male on male sexual predation.” Sometimes, the most appropriate strategy is to use a long, clunky, but highly descriptive phrase like, “a powerful man with deep-seated attractions to males used his position of power to exploit younger men under his authority.” No one could conceivably confuse this word-picture with the teenaged boy who may have feelings he doesn’t understand.
In some cases, “pederasty” could be a good term to use. The Gay Marketing Men have not sanitized this term, and “pederasty” is distinct from pedophilia. (A “pederast” is a man who wants and has sex with adolescent boys. I had to look it up.)
The term “same-sex attraction” proposed by members of Courage, is a particular instance of the general policy I am suggesting. Dan Mattson and David Prosen and others argue that the gay identity is an inaccurate, self-limiting description. These men reject the term “gay” to eliminate a ton of philosophical and theological baggage.
The current torrent of embarrassing sex scandals is actually providential for the long-run health of the Body of Christ. We have the chance to offer authentic Catholic witness of authentic Catholic teaching to a desperate world. To succeed, though, we must be careful with our language. We can’t say or imply, “All gay men are predators,” because it isn’t true. At the same time, we cannot let anyone else say or imply, “All gay men are innocent lambs,” because that is not true either. And we will need at least some help from journalists who don’t necessarily share all of our views.
We can restate Archbishop Viganò’s explosive revelations without ever using the words “gay” or even “homosexual.”
“Men who do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church, nevertheless swore allegiance to the Church, and accepted positions of power, authority, wealth, and influence. They used those positions to indulge themselves sexually, to favor their friends, and to advance their careers. Among their preferred forms of sexual indulgence were the abuse of little boys, the seduction of teenaged-boys and the harassment of young adult male subordinates.”
No one will ever mistake this description for an appealing kid on a TV sitcom. No one would dream of saying these perpetrators were “born that way.”
When we use the word “gay,” we are doing battle on the field chosen by our opponents. By contrast, when we use other terms, we give our listeners a chance to think about what we are saying, without all the noise associated with the terms “gay” or “homosexual.”
“Gay” is a political word, a marketing word, a propaganda word. We don’t need to use it. So let’s quit using it.
Posted on: Saturday, September 22, 2018
Commenting on the recently released report by the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, President of the Ruth Institute and author of The Sexual State, said, “Record rates of sexually transmitted disease are another tragic consequence of the Sexual Revolution.”
The CDC reports that in 2017, there were 2.294 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. This is the 4th consecutive year these numbers have gone up. In 2013, there were 1.75 million cases of these three sexually transmitted diseases. In 2014, the number had grown to 1.8 million. In 2015, the figure was 1.94 million, and in 2016, 2.094 million cases were diagnosed.
Dr. Morse comments: “Each of these figures was the highest ever reported in that particular year. Given the state of society, we can expect them to continue to rise, with no end in sight.
“The answer of the ‘experts’ is more funding for health care and more sex education – as if we haven’t yet reached the saturation point.”
As The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along points out, the culprits include a hook-up culture, and the idea that “everyone is entitled to the sex life they want,” including sex outside marriage, casual sex, sex at an early age, multiple partners, etc.
Morse notes: “There was a time when we understood that the only ‘safe sex’ is abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage. As long as we treat sex unseriously, as long as we try to divorce this most intimate act from morality, sexually transmitted diseases will be a growing disaster.”
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse has a passion for helping young people avoid the perils of the sexual revolution. She is a popular campus speaker.
For More Information, contact: Beth Johnson at email@example.com.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Jennifer Roback Morse sees a whole collection of “social issues” as, in reality, one giant issue: what is the meaning and purpose of human sexuality?
This article was first published August 23, 2018, at Catholic World Report.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is releasing a new book, The Sexual State, published by TAN Books. The theme of the book is summed up by its subtitle, “How elite ideologies are destroying lives and why the Church was right all along.”
Dr. Morse is founder of the Ruth Institute, “dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown.” She is a Catholic author, speaker, and academic; her Institute “has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.” She is married with two children (one adopted from Romania), and regularly speaks at religious and pro-life conferences on the Christian view of marriage and sexuality, and the ill effects of the Sexual Revolution. She lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
She has a doctorate in economics and taught at Yale and George Mason University before leaving academic life to care for her two children. She reflected, “Having my own children changed my perspective. It showed me how much children need their parents.”
She recently spoke to CWR about her new book.
CWR: What prompted you to write The Sexual State, and what do you hope readers will get out of it?
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse: I have been on the front lines of public policy discussions surrounding the definition of marriage, surrogacy, and above all, the impact of the Sexual Revolution on children. I felt it was time to pull all the pieces together in one place. I hope readers will see that what seem to be a whole collection of “social issues” are really one giant issue: what is the meaning and purpose of human sexuality?
CWR: Why did you choose to title the book The Sexual State?
Morse: I am convinced that the Sexual Revolution did not just arise out of nowhere, like a hurricane blowing in from the Gulf. The Sexual Revolution is the creation of rich and powerful ideologues who need the help of the State to achieve their fantasy ideology.
CWR: The subtitle of your book is “Why the Church was right all along.” Is the timing of this subtitle poor, considering that we’ve begun another round of revelations about clergy sex abuse and cover-ups?
Morse: It is a sorry situation, isn’t it? What I meant to say in that subtitle is that the Church’s teachings are correct, and have been all along. I did not mean to imply that every person in the leadership of the Church is doing the right thing. Most reasonable people would agree that if all prelates lived according to Church teaching, we would not be in this mess. We could trust and respect them, as we would really like to be able to do. In that sense, the Church’s teachings are daily being proven correct.
CWR: Who do you think ought to read The Sexual State?
Morse: The Ruth Institute has been developing the concept of victims and survivors of the Sexual Revolution for the past five years. I mostly wrote the book for them, to give them the visibility and affirmation that they deserve and need. I include among the victims children of divorce, reluctantly divorced people, post-abortive women, refugees from the hook-up culture or the gay lifestyle, as well as their family and friends who have been watching in horror from the sidelines.
People such as therapists, teachers, clergy, and others in the helping professions will find insights that will help them assist their clients and patients. Silencing the victims has been a key part of the sexual revolutionary strategy. The Sexual State will help the helping professions see just how pervasive the social “gas-lighting” really is.
I also believe the book should be read by all Christians who hold to the orthodox, ancient teachings of the Church on marriage, family, and human sexuality. The views that are currently considered “Catholic” were once the common beliefs all of branches of Christianity.
And, the book is for all activists for any of the social issues, such as life and marriage issues, who will find clarification and support in this book. This includes anyone who is fed up with being called a bigot, or who refuses to be silenced by sexual radicals.
CWR: Explain what you mean by the ideology of the Sexual Revolution.
Morse: The Sexual Revolution consists of three interlocking ideologies:
The Sexual State devotes a section to each of these ideologies. I give a brief history of how it came to be embedded in law. Above all, I illustrate the extensive propaganda that supports each of these ideologies.
CWR: How did you personally begin to recognize this ideology and devote yourself to combating it?
Morse: This has been cooking in my brain for a long time. I returned to the Church in 1980s after a 12-year lapse. I left the Church over sexual issues at the age of 20. I came back over sexual issues, when I realized the Church was right. I had only a dim idea of just how right the Church was, though.
It was the experience of adopting a two-year-old boy from a Romanian orphanage and giving birth to a little girl in the same year that gave me the key insight of my life: kids need their own parents. All the things we had to do to help our son develop and overcome the losses he experienced just kicked in naturally for our little girl. At that time, I was teaching economics at George Mason University. I realized: holy cow, if kids don’t have the time and attention of their parents, we can’t have a society.
That was the key idea of my first book, Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village. When I wrote that book in 2001, I was worried about divorce and day care and single parenthood. Those problems have not gone away. Instead, the forms of family breakdown and separating children from their parents have grown more intense and permanent, things like third-party reproduction and same-sex parenting.
If children don’t have a right to their parents, no one has a right to anything. I will never stop talking about this.
CWR: What about adoption? You’re an adoptive parent. How can you say kids are entitled to their biological parents?
Morse: Adoption is a wonderful back-up plan if the biological parents can’t be there for their kids for some reason. The fact that adoption works reasonably well most of the time does not give us license as a society to separate children from day-to-day contact with fit parents. This kind of separation routinely takes place in divorced and single-parent households, and we seem to think this is perfectly okay. I will never say it is okay, no matter how often it happens.
We were (and are) good parents to our son. But I could see that for my boy the best thing would have been that none of this had ever happened to him, and that he could have been with his parents. What he went through in that orphanage never should have happened. That is why I say, in the absence of an unavoidable tragedy, kids are entitled to a relationship with their natural, biological parents. And all children, and hence all adults, are entitled to know their identity. That rules out the falsified birth certificates such as some adoptees and all children of anonymous donor conception receive from the State.
CWR: You say that the elite are pushing the ideology of the Sexual Revolution on the broader population. Who are the elites, and what are some of the ways they advance this agenda?
Morse: The “elites,” as I use the term, include the rich, the powerful, and the influential, in any field of endeavor. People like Warren Buffet and George Soros in our time, and John D. Rockefeller III and Katherine McCormick in times past, have financed the spread of the ideologies. Academics produce and promote the research. Entertainment elites like Harvey Weinstein create the propaganda. Their motives are varied but include the fact that some of them are making money, and some of them desire social permission to do what they want sexually without fear of social sanction. And let us not forget: some of them are just plain old-fashioned population controllers.
I also sometimes use the term “Managerial Class” to call attention to how much damage has been done by the college-educated, inflicted on those lower down on the socio-economic ladder. It is a scandal, really.
CWR: You cite the Catholic Church as the one large international organization combating the ideology of the Sexual Revolution. How would you sum up the Church’s view of sex and family life, and how does it contrast with the ideology of the Sexual Revolution?
Morse: Pretty simple, really. Start from the proposition that kids need and deserve their own parents and reason logically from there.
In other words, you end up with traditional Christian sexual morality. There is more to Catholic theology of marriage, of course. But at this moment in history, protecting the basic human right of every child to a relationship with both parents is an achievement worth celebrating.
CWR: What are your thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the release of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which restated the Church’s opposition to the use of artificial contraceptives?
Morse: God bless him a thousand times. We needed that. The contraceptive ideology convinces people that sex is a sterile recreational activity, with reproduction thrown in as an afterthought for people with quirky lifestyle preferences. Without that core belief, the whole Sexual Revolution goes down the drain.
CWR: Does the sexual misbehavior of prominent figures in the Church make it more difficult for the Church to proclaim her teaching on sexuality and family life?
Morse: No kidding. We now know why so many clergy refuse to preach or teach on the sexual issues, and why so many dioceses have a lackluster record in this regard. There are way too many men using their position of authority and respect in the Church to pursue their private sexual purposes.
However, this makes it even more important that faithful Catholics take up the challenge of educating themselves, living the Church’s teaching, and sharing it with others. We can’t wait for the clergy to put their houses in order.
CWR: How do you think the many stories of sexual misbehavior by prominent people that have been coming out recently are related to the ideology of the Sexual Revolution?
Morse: You know, for the longest time, I did not want to deal with sexual abuse. I told myself, “sexual abuse has been around since time immemorial: it is not really fair to blame it on a 20th-century ideology. Besides, I have enough other victims and survivors of the Sexual Revolution to deal with.” And if I’m honest with myself, I have to say that I put off dealing with sexual abuse, because the topic is just upsetting and awful and icky.
But now I see that the Sexual Revolution really is profoundly implicated. The Sexual Revolution provides “cover” for predatory sexual behavior. After all, the bottom line of the ideology is that sex is an entitlement. Who believes that, I mean really believes it? The rapist, that’s who. The already-powerful are further empowered to take what they want sexually, because we are all convinced it is nothing more than a sterile recreational activity with no moral or social significance.
It is actually an astonishing situation. Everyone in society believes they are entitled to sex. No one seems to believe that they might someday become the “prey” rather than the predator. We can now see that “consent” is a pretty flimsy basis for deciding when sexual activity is appropriate. I mean, consent is certainly a necessary condition, but it is not a sufficient condition. The starlet on Harvey Weinstein’s proverbial casting couch may have consented in some sense. But most people can now see that “consent” under such circumstances is nowhere near an adequate standard. Too few people are willing to think through what the alternative standard of “appropriate” sexual conduct would be. That is why the women in the pink pussy hats are not going to get to the root of this problem. They are not willing to let go of the ideology that drives sexual abuse. They don’t want to give up their pills and pornography.
Fortunately, the Church has been thinking about this for a long time, despite the dreadful deeds of some in our hierarchy.
CWR: When will your book be released, and how can people get a copy of it? How can they follow the activities of the Ruth Institute?
People can sign up for our free weekly newsletter. We are talking about these issues regularly, and there is really a lot going on. My colleagues on the Circle of Experts also have a lot of valuable information from a variety of disciplines, which we share on our Ruth Speaks Out blog.
We generally post something funny on our Facebook page in the afternoon. We do that to relieve
some of the grimness associated with this topic. Come over and have a laugh. Stay for the substance of our work.
Posted on: Saturday, September 08, 2018
By Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published September 3, 2018, at National Catholic Register.
COMMENTARY: Faithful Catholics can change some of the incentives the hierarchy has been allowed to operate under.
I know you are upset. I’m upset. The revelations of perverted men using the priesthood for their own purposes has shaken everything we thought we could count on. Most proposals for reform require cooperation from the very same people who have already failed us. These ideas still leave us, the ordinary Catholic in the pew, at the mercies of men we no longer trust.
What can we do for ourselves? I’m going to put on my “economist hat” here: We can change some of the incentives the hierarchy operates under.
One positive development is that more witnesses are coming forward to testify. Just as the #MeToo movement gave courage to people harassed in the private sector, people are telling their stories of abuse in church settings. We are getting a clearer picture of the constraints victims and whistle-blowers are operating under.
Why don’t the innocent priests tell? Why doesn’t the church secretary or housekeeper who sees something amiss tell someone? For that matter, why don’t the victims themselves tell? We are finding out why.
The victims fear no one will believe them. Think of poor “James,” the now 60-year-old man who revealed his story of being abused by Father Theodore McCarrick for 20 years. “James”tried to tell his parents. They did not believe him, against the word of a respected priest. James began getting into trouble, doing alcohol and drugs. The family thought Father McCarrick could straighten him out. They encouraged him to spend more time with their son.
James was 11-years-old when this began. He was a little boy. His entire childhood was spent with no one listening to him.
We also have heard from what we might call indirect victims, including whistle-blowers and innocent clergy. Potential whistleblowers fear retaliation. They maylosetheir church-related jobs. Their reputations may be slung through the mud. The priests are telling their stories, too. We are learning the pressure they face to conform. We’ve heard of whistle-blowing priests who were essentiallybanished. Some good and holy menare living under the thumbs of corrupt superiors, including bishops, seminary rectors or heads of religious orders.
What if these victims, whistleblowers and innocent clergy knew that somebody had their back? What if the church secretary knew someone would give her another job if she got fired after telling what she knew? What if seminarians knew they could call someone who would show up at the seminary and make a stink? What if someone had listened to James instead of scolding him and sending him to his room without dinner?
This is what we can do: Listen to the victims. Even if you cannot do another darn thing for them, at least you have affirmed them that they are not crazy. We have no idea how much that might mean to someone. That is why I wrote up thispetitionfor “James” and other victims of abuse. It just says, “We believe you.” It is not much at this late date. But better late than never. Sign it.
You are now officially an activist. Take the next step. Listen to the whistleblowers and innocent clergy. Be prepared to support them if they need it. I’m not talking about a pat on the head. I’m talking about giving a job to the housekeeper who gets fired. Offer the extra bedroom in your home to the innocent priest whose bishop “sends him away.” Write a letter of reference so the poor guy can get another job.
Recently, I have encountered several seminarians from different dioceses, heading back to school at different seminaries. In each case, I looked the young men straight in the eyes, and handed them my business card. “My personal cell number is written on the back. If there is any hanky-panky in your seminary, I want to hear about it.” In one case, the young man’s mother was present.
Okay, I’m just one person. But what if every seminarian went off to school with a few phone numbers in their pockets? These actions may not sound like a big deal. But a bunch of little things can add up to a big deal indeed.
If abusers thought they would get caught, would they be less likely to abuse? Yes, obviously. If the witnesses who are potential whistleblowers knew they would be supported by faithful Catholics, would they be more likely to blow that whistle? Yes, obviously. If the guys doing damage control thought the whistleblowers had alternative sources of support and employment, would that fact reduce their ability to silence the whistleblower? Yes, of course.
All this points to one thing: Being the backstop, the backup plan, providing the alternative support system means that we are changing the incentives under which the Church operates. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We don’t need a decision from the bishops’ conference or an intervention from our state’s attorney general. We can just make it known that we are ready to help.
The one thing economists know is this: People respond to incentives in a systematic and predictable way. We can’t solve everything. But that is no reason to do nothing. It is a reason to do what we can. We can stand prepared to make nuisances of ourselves. In a nice and respectful way, of course. But a nuisance just the same.
The collective unwillingness of the laity to make a stink has been part of the cultural milieu that has allowed these wounds to fester. I believe this is called “clericalism:” undue deference to the clergy. We can put a stop to that, no matter what the bishops’ conference does.
Maybe you can’t picture yourself stalking a bishop’s home or office, like a dogged journalist should. But surely you can picture yourself listening to someone, supporting someone, reaching out to someone. Start right now. Call that seminarian or former seminarian. Call that person you knew years ago who tried to tell you something that you didn’t want to hear at that time.
Your material support may mean the difference between the person telling what they know or remaining silent. Your willingness to listen may be a psychological lifeline to someone who feels isolated.
Let the chattering classes keep chattering. You and I can become part of the listening, supportive Church. And we will make a difference, no matter what the bishops do or don’t do.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 04, 2018
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published July 11, 2018, at Crisis.
Scott Hahn is a prolific Biblical scholar with a huge fan-base among orthodox Catholics. He doesn’t need my help promoting his new book,
The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of Social Order.
But I need some help from him. I need his help convincing my pro-marriage policy-wonk friends that our defense of marriage needs spiritual and theological
arguments, along with natural law arguments, because what we are doing isn’t working.
Losing the Public Policy Argument
No serious person can deny it: marriage, the institution of one-man-one-woman-for-life, is getting clobbered in public policy debates. I’ve been involved in pro-family debates for a long time and I’ve used plenty of social science data and logical reasoning. I’m convinced the secular world needs more than secular arguments.
We have lost the male-female requirement for marriage. We have lost the presumptions of permanence and sexual exclusivity. And day by day, the natural common-sense constituency for lifelong married love is eroding. People who cheerfully voted in favor of man-woman marriage ten years ago, now refuse to admit it. Have their opinions really changed that much? Are they afraid to say what they really think? For whatever reason, we no longer have the constituency we had even a few short years ago.
We could blame rogue Supreme Court justices for the Obergefell decision, but we can’t blame no-fault divorce on the courts. Legislatures enacted no-fault with nearly no resistance in state after state. Vast bureaucracies have emerged to enforce custody plans and financial settlements. No major religious body has offered any serious challenge.
What are we saying in defense of marriage? I was in the trenches of the Proposition 8 campaign in California. We were not supposed to bring up the Bible. We were not supposed to talk about homosexuality at all, and we certainly were not supposed to bring up gay sex. The campaign organizers encouraged us to say, “kids need a mom and a dad.” But one would look in vain for any official statement from the Prop 8 campaign that “kids need their own mom and their own dad.”
This rhetorical strategy was good enough to win Proposition 8 in California in 2008. By 2012, the proponents of de-gendered marriage had adapted to our arguments. We never adapted to theirs. We started losing and have yet to recover.
We’ve got plenty of people defending religious liberty, but we do not have nearly the institutional support for explaining why our churches believe what they believe. Seldom do we hear even the churches themselves explaining why homosexual practice is wrong, or why man-woman marriage is the only real marriage. Heck, today, we can hardly defend the obvious proposition that men and women are different, and that male and female are genuine categories.
I have come to believe that a big part of our problem has been fear: we are afraid to get into the additional issues that a full-throated defense of the ancient Christian teachings would involve. If we say, “kids need their own mom and dad,” we will have to confront the millions of kids who lose contact with a parent due to divorce or unmarried parenthood. If we say, “third party reproduction is intrinsically immoral,” we will have to confront the non-gay uses of sperm and egg donation and surrogacy. If we say, “men and women are different,” we might have to confront the entire Feminist Establishment. And if we dare to say, “gay sex is wrong,” we might just have to say that there are moral limits on sexual activity, even adult, consensual sexual activity. And once we say that, oh boy, we really have opened the door to a complete confrontation with the entire modern sexual revolutionary structure.
Dr. Hahn is not afraid of any of these issues. He doesn’t talk about all of them in this book, of course; that is not the point of the book. But one can easily surmise that he won’t flinch in the face of tough questions. His theological position, based on Scripture, tradition, and, yes, reason and evidence, is coherent. Many of our non-religious positions are not internally consistent. So, how “practical” does that make us when this is what we put forward?
Losing the Hearts of Married Couples
Even more importantly, Hahn’s analysis shows that the natural law arguments for marriage are not enough to sustain the love of married couples. We can explain the value and benefits of marriage all day long to our non-religious neighbors. And of course, we should. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that rational explanations are enough. Reason alone will not keep our marriages together when the going gets tough.
As Dr. Hahn puts it:
If we only aim for a society built just around natural marriage, denuded of divinity and sacramentality, we might achieve it, but not for long. Even if we all had a perfect (secular) understanding of permanence and exclusivity and openness to life—and even if divorce and artificial contraception were banned by law—we would find the expectations of marriage impossible and intolerable.
Without the healing power of God’s grace, our brokenness would immediately reassert itself, each person’s in its own unique way. The resulting new feedback loop would gut the renascent culture of marriage: the living out of marriage would degrade as people cut corners and ignored strictures, which would in turn degrade the norms we fought so hard to establish (pp. 127-128).
Social science supports his point. Regular religious practice is a “protective factor” against divorce. This is our nerdy way of saying that couples who go to church regularly are less likely to divorce. Regular religious attendance during adolescence is correlated with lower chances of divorce in adulthood. As Dr. Hahn puts it: “Marriage without God is possible in theory, but not in practice.” We do our young people no favor by dodging this point.
Besides, no one wants to hang on to a sinking ship. Young men especially, thrive on living up to a worthy challenge. Dr. Hahn gives them one:
Let’s avoid surrendering essential first principles and compromising the faith for short-term reprieves. We’re probably not going to witness any spectacular mass conversion to sanctity in our lifetimes, so let’s be heroic in accepting short-term humiliation—only an apparent defeat—without compromise (178).
In The First Society, Hahn delivers the theological insight we’ve come to expect from him. In the process, he delivers a practical program for defending the family in our hostile secular world. No more confining ourselves to “scientific” or “natural law” reasons for our beliefs. While there is nothing wrong with those reasons, they are not enough. We have been leaving our best player, Jesus, on the bench for far too long. Dr Hahn says, “Now is the time to speak Catholic truth with clarity and boldness.”
I completely agree.