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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: Wednesday, November 14, 2018
by Gerald Korson at Legatus.org on November 1, 2018.
“The Sexual Revolution has never been a grassroots movement,” writes Jennifer Roback Morse in her latest book. Rather, it was manufactured by liberal elites “justifying their preferred lifestyles, imposing their new morality” by harnessing “the coercive power of the State.” As a result, millions have suffered the effects of this revolution. In her compelling indictment, Morse identifies the Contraceptive Ideology, the Divorce Ideology, and the Gender Ideology as the three fronts that built the Sexual State — and the three fronts the Church and social conservatives must focus our own defense and attacks upon if we are ever to restore love, marriage, and family to their rightful dignity.
Posted on: Monday, November 12, 2018
by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was published November 12, 2018 at National Catholic Register.
COMMENTARY: Church leadership won’t solve this current crisis unless it confronts homosexual practice among the clergy and especially the networks of homosexually oriented clergy operating to protect each other.
I hesitate to wade into areas in which I have no direct information. But I feel compelled to point out the illogic of continuing to claim that the current clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandal is unrelated to homosexual activity among Catholic priests.
At this late date, too much circumstantial evidence has emerged to ignore: This crisis would not exist, but for homosexual practice among the clergy and especially the networks of homosexually oriented clergy operating to protect each other.
The most recent denial of the obvious comes to us from longtime Vaticanista and editor of La Stampa, Andrea Tornielli. In an under-reported article from Sept. 14, he asks: “Is the root, the origin of the problem of abuse really to be found in the homosexuality of priests?” He replies:
Even for McCarrick’s case, in fact, the problem is clericalism, the abuse of power and conscience, which comes before sexual abuse and is committed by people — priests or bishops — who can never be considered equal to their victims, on whom they exert an influence and often a subtle or obvious form of blackmail. … No, McCarrick did not have homosexual relations. He harassed and abused seminarians in the name of his episcopal power, making them understand that going to the beach house with him and submitting to his attention was an obligatory step to be better known to him and to land a priestly ordination.
This statement is remarkable on multiple levels. First, he claims that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick did not have homosexual relations. I do not know how Tornielli knows this. Second, Tornielli argues against a position that no serious person holds. No one denies that Archbishop McCarrick and others abused their power and authority. I oppose this corruption, as does everyone I know or associate with.
The important unanswered question, hiding in plain sight like Edgar Allen Poe’s purloined letter, is this: To what purpose did McCarrick abuse his power?
His goal was evidently, at least in part, the pursuit of illicit sexual stimulation. Perhaps he enjoyed having people under his thumb and within his power: That is often part of the profile of an abuser. But we have no basis at all for claiming that sexual activity itself was of no interest to him or had no casual role in his decadeslong pattern of behavior.
Tornielli asks, “Are those who today are whizzing around minimizing child abuse — as if it were a secondary problem — right to focus it all on homosexuality?”
Data from the John Jay Reports in 2004 and 2011, from the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and from the recent report on German clergy sex abuse all conclude that at least 80% of the cases involved teenaged boys, not girls, not prepubescent children. Let me turn Tornielli’s question around: How long are we going to avoid confronting that 80% figure?
We now have two additional pieces of evidence to show the significance of homosexual behavior in the priesthood. The first is the new study conducted by Father Paul Sullins, Ph.D., and published by my organization, the Ruth Institute. In that study, summarized in this two-page backgrounder, Father Sullins finds that the incidence of clergy sexual abuse is strongly correlated with both the number of priests claiming a homosexual orientation and the percentage of priests claiming that a “homosexual subculture” existed in their seminaries.
Even more troubling, the study indicates that the incidence of clergy sexual abuse has increased since 2002 and is now comparable to levels in the 1970s.
The second piece of important evidence comes from testimony of Father Boniface Ramsey in Commonweal. Father Ramsey reports that during his tenure as a faculty member at Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey, he persuaded the faculty to expel a seminarian. He reports:
When I returned to the seminary to begin the next academic year, the rector told me that McCarrick knew that I was largely responsible for the expulsion of the seminarian in question, and that in consequence he had removed me from the voting faculty. I have come to realize, in retrospect, that McCarrick must have learned this from another member of the voting faculty who was present, and that this was a breach of confidence. …
When he described this situation to another cleric, he received a surprising response:
I recall what he said — that “we all know” that McCarrick had “picked up” someone at an airport. From what I understand, McCarrick had met a good-looking flight attendant and invited him to become a seminarian then and there. (I’ve been told this was not the only such spontaneous invitation.) Whether this person shared McCarrick’s bed at the beach house or anywhere else, I don’t know, but he was clearly significant enough in McCarrick’s eyes for McCarrick to fire me when I led the charge to have him expelled.
Let us concede that Archbishop McCarrick abused his power and authority, on multiple levels, in this situation. But to what end? Let’s review:
You can believe what you want to believe. I’ll believe what I want to believe. I believe then-Archbishop McCarrick’s patterns of sexual preference and behavior were relevant. I also believe he had a “network” of people who were morally compromised in one way or another, who helped him accomplish his abuses of power.
No one is minimizing the harm to little girls and boys or to teenaged girls. We want to get to the bottom of this crisis. We want to root out the abusers and the structures that allowed their abuse to continue. We can’t accomplish this unless we confront the 80% figure squarely in the face.
Posted on: Tuesday, November 06, 2018
Catholic World News
November 02, 2018, at Catholic Culture.
A new study from the Ruth Institute has demonstrated a high correlation between the proportion of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood and the incidence of sexual abuse by the clergy.
The study conducted by Father Paul Sullins, a Catholic University sociologist, found that the percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood has risen sharply. The study also found a disturbing increase in the number of sexual-misconduct reports lodged against priests since 2010, “amidst signs of complacency by Church leaders.” The incidence of new charges (as opposed to charges involving alleged misconduct in past years) is now nearly as high as in the 1970s.
An earlier study by the John Jay College, commissioned by the US bishops’ conference, had denied a connection between homosexuality and clerical abuse. But the John Jay study had not examined the change in the number of homosexuals entering the priesthood. Father Sullins, using data from the same report, shows a very strong statistical correlation between a rise in the proportion of homosexuals in the priesthood and the number of abuse charges.
The rise in the proportion of homosexual priests has been striking, the Ruth Institute study found. In the 1950s, the homosexual presence within the American Catholic priesthood was estimated to be roughly twice that of the overall population; by the 1980s, it was eight times the level of the overall population. To buttress this estimate, the study notes that the number of young priests who reported encountering a homosexual subculture in the seminary doubled between the 1960s and 1980s.
Father Sullins estimates that if the proportion of homosexual priests had remained that the level of the 1950s, the surge in abuse might not have occurred and “at least 12,000 fewer children, mostly boys, would have suffered abuse.” In an interview with the National Catholic Register, the priest-sociologist acknowledged that his report will be criticized as hostile to homosexuals. But he said: “I would say that if it’s a choice between being called homophobic and allowing more young boys to be abused, I would choose to be at risk for being called homophobic.”
Posted on: Monday, November 05, 2018
Our Ruth Institute report, published at an Italian website,
November 4, 2018.
Un nuovo studio del Ruth Institute tende a dimostrare un'elevato tasso di correlazione tra la percentuale di omosessuali nel sacerdozio cattolico e l'incidenza degli abusi sessuali da parte del clero. La percentuale di uomini omosessuali nel sacerdozio è aumentata drasticamente accanto a segnalazioni di cattiva condotta presentate contro i preti dal 2010.
Un nuovo studio del Ruth Institute tende a dimostrare un'elevato tasso di correlazione tra la percentuale di omosessuali nel sacerdozio cattolico e l'incidenza degli abusi sessuali da parte del clero. Lo studio condotto da padre Paul Sullins, un sociologo dell'Università Cattolica, ha rilevato che la percentuale di uomini omosessuali nel sacerdozio è aumentata drasticamente. Lo studio ha anche riscontrato un preoccupante aumento del numero di segnalazioni di cattiva condotta presentate contro i preti dal 2010, "Tra i segni di compiacimento dei dirigenti della Chiesa". L'incidenza di nuove accuse (al contrario di accuse di presunta cattiva condotta negli anni passati) è ora quasi all'altezza degli anni '70.
Un precedente studio del John Jay College, commissionato dalla conferenza episcopale degli Stati Uniti, aveva negato una connessione tra omosessualità e abuso del clero; anche se le cifre in realtà dimostravano che nell’80 per cento dei casi i colpevoli erano omosessuali. La discrepanza fra l’affermazione della ricercatrice e le cifre avevano fatto pensare a un timore di andare contro il “politically correct” del momento. Inoltre lo studio del John Jay College non aveva preso in esame il cambiamento nel numero di omosessuali che entravano nel sacerdozio. Padre Sullins, utilizzando i dati dello stesso rapporto, mostra una correlazione statistica molto forte tra un aumento della percentuale di omosessuali nel sacerdozio e il numero di accuse di abuso.
Dice padre Sullins: “Negli anni '50, circa il 3% dei preti aveva un orientamento omosessuale, secondo le relazioni. Negli anni '80 era salito a oltre il 16%. Quindi abbiamo una sorta di aumento di cinque volte della percentuale di preti omosessuali, in una linea piuttosto lineare dagli anni '50 agli anni '80. E abbiamo un aumento molto simile di episodi di abuso nello stesso periodo, e non conosciamo l'orientamento sessuale di alcun particolare aggressore. Quindi stiamo deducendo dall'associazione di queste due correlazioni che c'è una certa influenza di una sull'altra. Quindi la mia conclusione deve essere l'opposto di quella del rapporto John Jay”.
L'aumento della proporzione di preti omosessuali è stata sorprendente secondo lo studio del Ruth Institute. Negli anni '50, la presenza omosessuale all'interno del sacerdozio cattolico americano era stimata all'incirca il doppio di quella della popolazione complessiva; negli anni '80, la percentuale era otto volte il livello di omosessuali riscontrato nella popolazione complessiva. Fra gli elementi usati per confermare la validità di questa stima, lo studio si basa su un elemento, e cioè che il numero di giovani sacerdoti che hanno riferito di incontrare una sottocultura omosessuale nel seminario è raddoppiato tra gli anni '60 e '80.
Padre Sullins stima che se la proporzione di preti omosessuali fosse rimasta eguale a quella riscontrata negli anni '50, la drammatica crescita negli abusi sessuali da parte di esponenti del clero avrebbe potuto essere evitata e “almeno dodicimila minori in meno, per lo più maschi, avrebbero subito abusi". In un'intervista al National Catholic Register, il sacerdote-sociologo ha riconosciuto che il suo rapporto sarà criticato e attaccato come ostile agli omosessuali. Ma ha detto: "Direi che se è una scelta tra l'essere chiamato omofobico e permettere ad altri ragazzi di essere abusati, sceglierei di essere a rischio di essere chiamato omofobico".
Padre Sullins ha affermato che “vi è una diffusa negazione di ogni possibile effetto negativo dell'attività omosessuale o di qualsiasi scoperta che potrebbe non essere benigna per le persone omosessuali nel regno degli studiosi. E penso che, in una certa misura, questo sia vero per il lavoro accademico che è stato fatto sugli abusi sessuali del clero cattolico. Non c'è stata la volontà di confrontare le prove su questo argomento”. Secondo il sacerdote-sociologo
“Abbiamo dei chierici che semplicemente non vogliono vedere o non vogliono sapere che potremmo aver incorporato attività omosessuali tra preti che stanno creando enormi danni alla Chiesa in qualche modo? Potrebbe essere il caso. Negli ultimi sei mesi abbiamo scoperto che esiste la possibilità che i vescovi non abbiano approfondito la conoscenza di questo argomento”.
Se sia stata una copertura, o meno, il sacerdote ha detto: “Alcuni l'hanno definito cover-up. Ci sono prove che ci sia una mancanza di energia o interesse a scoprire la relazione dell'omosessualità con questo tipo di attività. Non so se lo definirei un insabbiamento. Potrei aver usato la parola "cover-up" solo per uniformarmi al termine comune”; ma potrebbe essere una forma di copertura, o di non collaborazione anche per quanto riguarda i dati sugli abusi. Per esempio gli elementi forniti al John Jay College non indicavano in quali diocesi fossero stati commessi gli abusi. “Potrebbe essere che i vescovi, alcuni vescovi, non volevano sapere, non volevano far sapere alla gente quali diocesi erano migliori e quali diocesi erano peggiori? Non lo so”.
Naturalmente padre Sullins verrà accusato di omofobia. Risponde così al National Catholic Register: “Non penso che questi risultati in alcun modo implichino che le persone omosessuali siano di natura o interiormente portate a commettere abusi a un tasso maggiore delle persone eterosessuali….Ma guardo all'influenza di queste sottoculture omosessuali nei seminari, che incoraggiano e promuoveno gli abusi. E trovo che ciò spieghi circa la metà dell'alta correlazione dell'abuso con la percentuale di preti omosessuali. Quindi qualcosa andava al di là del semplice orientamento sessuale per incoraggiare questa orribile attività immorale che ha causato un tale danno a così tante vittime. La mia esperienza nello studio degli omosessuali è stata questa: per le persone che odiano la verità, la verità sembra l'odio”.
Come molti cattolici anche per padre Sullins “la questione in gioco è la credibilità dei vescovi”. Afferma che il suo vscovo, il card. Donald Wuerl, ha fatto più di quanto sia noto in questo campo. “Ma credo che in generale, i vescovi, come gruppo, non possano essere ritenuti degni di fiucia per risolvere questo problema a questo punto, e che altri potrebbero essere più affidabili e più chiari su ciò che c’è da fare”.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Exclusive: Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse slams 'fantasy ideology,' ugly fallout of Sexual Revolution
This article was first published October 23, 2018, at wnd.com.
by Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. But I doubt the mainstream media will even mention one easily-avoidable lifestyle choice that has been implicated as a risk factor in numerous studies around the world: abortion.
In my book, “The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along ,” I noted: “The link between abortion and breast cancer has been confirmed in numerous studies around the world, including Iran, China, Turkey, Armenia, India, and Bangladesh.” More recently, Drs. Angela Lanfranchi, Joel Brind and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 20 studies of South Asian women, showing a correlation between breast cancer and abortion. Yet even the possibility of a connection between abortion and breast cancer will not be part of the month-long publicity campaign. Why?
The Sexual Revolution has created the Grand Sex Positive Narrative, to convince people that sexual activity is an entitlement for anyone capable of giving meaningful consent:
It’s as if they’re saying: “Oh, sure, casual sex used to present problems like risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But we modern, enlightened, technologically advance people have overcome all that. We have antibiotics to treat any stray microbes that manage to make it through the condom barriers we all use 100% of the time. We have pills and IUDs and long-acting reversible hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. And of course, we have safe, legal abortions to clean up any stray fetuses that manage to get conceived.”
The possible link between abortion and breast cancer presents a problem to the Grand Sex Positive Narrative. If abortion presents significant downsides, risks or problems, viewing casual sex as an entitlement would no longer make sense. Therefore, Sexual Revolutionaries have tried hard to convince people that abortion is no more psychologically traumatic or medically risky than removing an appendix or pulling a tooth.
Notice how strong this claim is. It can be refuted with a single counter-example. I don’t need to show that every woman everywhere regrets her abortion or was seriously harmed by it. All I need to show is that some women are harmed in some way. Once the idea of harmless abortion is dislodged from the public mind, then every woman must consider whether she could be one of the women likely to be harmed. Responsible medicine would require all health care personnel to take these risks seriously and provide full information.
Being overweight or having a family history of breast cancer are risk factors for breast cancer. Women in these situations might want to avoid abortion.
Taking these questions seriously threatens the whole sexual revolutionary ideological structure. “Maybe I should not sleep with a guy who would be a lousy father. Maybe I should not sleep with anyone at all if I am not ready to be a mother. In fact, if abortion might be painful for me, and contraception might fail, I’d better be careful about my sexual choices.”
The Sexual Revolution is a fantasy ideology. We cannot build an entire society around the idea that sex and babies are completely disconnected. Yet many of our most intelligent, highly educated members of society are committed to precisely this goal. They can scarcely even consider evidence that some abortions are harmful to some women: it is just too upsetting, too disruptive to the Official Sex Positive Narrative.
That is why you have not heard anything about the connection between breast cancer and abortion, even during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I’m not only willing to talk about it. I insist on it. Women’s health is too important to be threatened by political correctness.
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Thank you, Deacon Brian, and thank you everyone for coming.
First, it allows people to listen here today, who may be out of range of the speakers.
Second, it allows people to join us in our wonderful prayer event from anywhere in the world.
To listen to the live stream, please go to the Ruth Institute Facebook page, and click on the appropriate place.
When people think of the Catholic Church, they often picture a crowd of cardinals, processing into St. Peter’s.But this too, is the Catholic Church, thousands of lay people, coming together to praise God, do good, and welcome anyone who wants to join them.
Thank you all for making this wonderful day possible.
Posted on: Monday, October 22, 2018
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published October 5, 2018, at Catholic Vote.
Sunday, October 7 is Feast of the Holy Rosary. This is the day where, 437 years ago, Christian forces used the Rosary to overcome the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto.
In 2018, it’s the day when thousands of American Catholics will unite in prayer for healing in the world and the Church. The battle today is against lust for sex and power, and in favor of justice and healing for the sexually abused.
Father Richard Heilman’s Rosary Coast to Coast takes its inspiration not only from those who fought nearly a half-millennium ago, but also from when the people of Poland stood on their nation’s borders last year to pray for their country and the world.
At last count, there were over over 1,000 sites registered in the United States and 39 countries. Prayer will begin at 4:00 Eastern Standard Time, including at a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
What can you do?
St. Paul noted that each of us has strengths that support and complement the rest of the Church. The Ruth Institute is primarily a scientific and educational institute that aims to uphold Truth on sexual ethics. But Father Heilman’s spiritual gift for organizing inspired us to reach beyond our comfort zone and organize for the spiritual battle — unseen, but more obvious every day.
Our Rosary Around the Lake has Bishop Glen John Provost of the Lake Charles, Louisiana Diocese leading the Apostles’ Creed, and a projected 1,000 local people — from Catholic clergy to non-Catholics!
You can also get involved. Use whatever gifts God has given you to support this international day of prayer. Share your local event on social media. (You can find the site closest to you here.) Encourage your friends and family to participate. If you’re unable to directly participate due to physical disability, pray the Rosary from home, or volunteer to babysit others’ children. Pray your own Rosary with the children!
Taking the Rosary past October 7
Hopefully, this great day of prayer will inspire you to keep working for the Kingdom. As a longtime defender of the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, I encourage all laity to make two important contributions to the Church.
First, we must work for justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Cut out the excuses. “But other churches and public schools have as much abuse as we do.” Perhaps true, but not relevant. The only relevant factor is getting our own house in order. That includes: justice for the victims, punishment for the perpetrators, and protection for innocent clergy.
Second, we must proclaim the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality in our own spheres of influence. If the clergy had lived up to Church teaching, including the Sixth Commandment and their vows of celibacy, none of the abuse would have happened. And too many of the clergy are too morally compromised to offer a full-throated defense of Church teaching. We lay people must deliver that message ourselves.
Look at the current Supreme Court nomination mess. The Kavanaugh / Ford debacle clearly illustrates: many lives have been ruined by both genuine sexual assault and by false accusations. We need to challenge the entire sexual revolution, not just the little corner of it that happens to be bothering us right now.
No one can really do that but Catholics. Only the Ancient Catholic teachings on marriage, family, and human sexuality provide a humane and intellectually coherent alternative to the sexual brokenness we see around us.
I have no doubt at all that the Mother of God and her Divine Son will be delighted to help us proclaim these timeless truths.
See you on October 7!
Posted on: Monday, October 22, 2018
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted at Crisis Magazine on September 11, 2018.
Miami police arrested two priests for “lewd and lascivious behavior.” One of them was also charged with “indecent exposure.” The two priests were in a parked car in a public place, performing a “sex act.” As the policeman noted, “there were no tints on the windows.” Let’s talk about these two men, and what this incident means for our (non-stop) public conversation about sex.
First off, let me state for the record: I will never say “all gay men are….” I once wrote an article called “Fifty Shades of Gay.” I’m not about to draw rash conclusions about “gay men” from the behavior of a few.
However, this incident certainly casts doubt on what I will call the Grand Gay Narrative. The Gay Marketing Men and their allies who promote the Sexual Revolution have gone to a lot of trouble to create the following impressions in the public mind:
The incident of two priests having oral sex in public undermines the plausibility of the Grand Gay Narrative. Let us consider these points one by one:
The most logical conclusion is that these two men are not in command of themselves. They are either grossly immature or they have some kind of obsessive-compulsive “issues,” as the euphemism goes. In other words, this is not normal behavior—at all.
One might reply that these two men are not typical of gay men, and that their behavior is not an intrinsic part of being gay. OK. Let’s say these two guys are not necessarily typical. They are atypical, out-of-control whack jobs.
In fact, I will go one step further: I won’t refer to them as “gay” at all. If you notice, I have not yet referred to them as “gay.” I plan not to do so. Perhaps you did not know that distinguished psychologist and expert on gender, Dr. Lisa Diamond, has stated: “There is currently no scientific or popular consensus on the exact constellation of experiences that definitively ‘qualify’ a person as lesbian, gay or bisexual, rather than curious, confused or maladjusted.”
Instead of the scientifically ambiguous and contested term “gay,” let me use a more precise term. The community of public health and medical researchers generally use the term, “men who have sex with men,” or MSM. Is the behavior of 39-year-old Fr. Diego Berrio and 30-year-old Fr. Edwin Giraldo Cortez in any way typical of other men who have sex with men? Looking at the Centers for Disease Control’s reports on rates of sexually transmitted diseases gives us some insight into this question.
Syphilis: the CDC reports that “MSM continued to account for the majority of Primary & Secondary syphilis cases in 2016 (Figures 35 and 36). Of 27,814 reported P&S syphilis cases in 2016, 16,155 (58.1 percent) were among MSM, including 14,553 (52.3 percent) cases among men who had sex with men only and 1,602 (5.8 percent) cases among men who had sex with both men and women (Figure 36).”
HIV: This CDC report states:
Sexually transmitted diseases are the result of a combination of having sex with multiple partners, and not using condoms consistently. Some might argue that lots of people have the urge to have multiple sex partners. In that sense, we could say they are all “born that way.” But we expect people to control that urge. And most people successfully do.
What can we conclude from the much higher rates of STDs among men who have sex with men compared with everyone else? We can, I think, reasonably conclude that MSM are less likely to be in command of themselves than others, more likely to have multiple partners, and less likely to take steps that reduce risk.
These two particular men are certainly not in command of themselves. Do you really want Fr. Diego Berrio or Fr. Edwin Giraldo Cortez running the youth group at your parish, or deciding whether your marriage is null? Is there really a safe or appropriate placement for someone who can’t control himself?
Whatever your answer to those questions might be, I think we can agree on one thing: this incident seriously tarnishes the carefully crafted image created
by the Gay Marketing Men.
Posted on: Thursday, October 18, 2018
New York Times’ executive director, Dean Baquet, exposed a profound contradiction when he said of journalists from major media outlets: “We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.” His assessment, of course, reflects not only the perceptions of journalists, but many cultural elites for whom religion is often seen as a relic of the past or a source of irrational, bigoted thought. Yet, ironically, more than at any other time, scientific research today provides evidence for the profoundly positive influence of religion in individual lives, families, and communities.
Church attendance and human flourishing
Harvard School of Public Health professor Tyler Vander Weele recently released an analysis summarizing decades of research evaluating the connection between religion and individual wellbeing. He concluded: “Participation in religious services is associated with numerous aspects of human flourishing, including happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships.” Frequent church attendance and religious commitment were specifically associated with a 25-35 percent reduction in mortality, a three to six-fold reduction in the likelihood of suicide, and a 30 percent reduction in the incidence of depression.
His report came on the heels of a University of Pennsylvania review of 800 studies confirming a robust relationship between religious commitment and better physical and emotional health including a substantial increase in the longevity, regardless of sex, race, education or health history.
Protecting youth and families
For adolescents, studies repeatedly demonstrate a host of positive outcomes related to church attendance: higher self-esteem, positive outlook, stronger family and adult relationships, moral reasoning and behavior, community participation, better school behavior and outcomes, less risky or dangerous behaviors, lower levels of substance abuse and alcohol use, and less crime and violence. Most recently, Chen and VanderWeele’s sophisticated, longitudinal analysis of 5,000 youth confirmed that having a religious upbringing itself “contributes to a wide range of health and well-being outcomes later in life.” Specifically, youth from religious families were better protected from the “big three dangers of adolescence” – depression, substance abuse, and risky behaviors – while also reporting more happiness, volunteering, having a sense of mission and forgiveness.
A look at the relationship between religious involvement and family wellbeing reveals similarly robust findings. Religious attendance is linked to marital satisfaction, stronger inclinations toward marrying, and a 30-50 percent reduction in the likelihood of divorce. For women, the happiest marriages were those in which both spouses shared a strong commitment to marriage and attended church together. For men, religious activity was associated with stronger relationships and greater investment in their relationships with their children. Fathers who attended church weekly were the most active and emotionally engaged, and their wives reported feeling more appreciated, and more satisfied with the affection, love and understanding they felt from their husbands.
The basis of strong communities
These findings help explain why religious commitment is not only significant to individual and family flourishing, but why it plays such a role in the strength of communities as well. Religious principles including truth, virtue, trust, the common good, dignity of the human person, and sanctity of human life, provide the foundation for democratic governments. Further, religion’s emphasis on hard work, self-reliance, and strong families is foundational to developing the principles and structures needed for thriving capitalist economies.
Income mobility, for example, defined as the proportion of individuals able to move from low to high socioeconomic levels, is consistently higher in more religiously active communities. This is due to several factors positively related to religious commitment and church attendance: an environment of strong family relationships, reduced divorce rates, reduced non-marital child bearing, and the network of social support available to lower income individuals. Religious communities are often “key sources of neighborhood developmental resources,” playing a significant role in “orienting youth toward a positive future,” reinforcing messages “about working hard and staying out of trouble,” and building a “skill set of commitments and routines” that facilitate academic achievement and success.
Religion and freedom – a solemn partnership
Long before scientific research had the sophistication to confirm the significant, positive influence of religion on society, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville concluded in 1831, that the key to America’s liberty lay in the profound influence of religious belief and participation. His observations led him to conclude, “Liberty regards religion as its companion…It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom.” Without the influence of religion, he warned, Americans would undermine the conditions of their own freedom.
New York Times’ executive director, Dean Baquet’s acknowledgement of a lack of understanding about the profound role of religion in people’s lives sheds light on the dramatically increased risk for suppression of religious speech and expression in today’s culture. These risks have become a reality for some, including CEOs, newscasters, teachers, doctors, professors, and police officers who have lost jobs or leadership positions for expressing their religious beliefs; adoption agencies that have been forced out of offering services because of their religious beliefs; business owners and professionals losing licenses or being fined for refusing to provide services contrary to their religious beliefs; faith-based clubs on college campuses being forced to disband unless they allow anyone including those who oppose their religious beliefs to become members and officers; parents being unable to exempt their children from public education curricula that is contrary to their religious beliefs; and on. Greater threats to larger groups of religious adherents seeking to live out their beliefs continue to loom.
In a nation with citizens of varying religious beliefs, the right to free religious expression is bounded by the need for governments to protect the health and safety of all. But that appropriate balance is only possible when cultures and governments recognize the inalienable right of individuals to hold and express their religious beliefs publicly and privately, as well as the special, unique contribution of religion to the flourishing of individuals, families, and communities. As Dean Baquet revealed, educating others about the specific positive effects of religious commitment will be central to rebuilding an appreciation for the importance of religious beliefs and communities, and why they deserve special protection. The evidence is there. It just needs to be shared.
Posted on: Monday, October 15, 2018
Just remember: Pray. Learn. Speak Out. Repeat.
This article was first published October 15, 2018, at NCRegister.com.
Faithful Catholics are understandably distressed over the scandalous revelations about our church. Sexual abuse of minors, sexual harassment of seminarians, cover-ups by bishops are all part of the mix, not to mention financial malfeasance for good measure. People may wonder, “What can I do about all this?”
I offer my Three and a Half-Step plan for reforming the Church.
This plan is NOT for people who have specific vocational expertise to offer. If you are a canon lawyer, investigative journalist or retired FBI investigator, I won’t presume to tell you how to do your job. My plan is for ordinary people, without such specialized knowledge.
And yes, you read it right: It is a Three and a Half-Step Plan. Here are the three full steps:
Let me explain each one in turn.
Step 1: Pray.
You better believe we need to pray. The recently revealed sexual and financial corruption is far too deep to address through natural means alone. Yes, of course, we need to use all of our skills and knowledge. But these problems have a supernatural dimension to them. Don’t be stupid: We can’t get this done on our own.
During the worldwide Rosary Coast to Coast Oct. 7, the Ruth Institute’s contribution drew more than 800 people to Lake Charles, Louisiana. In all, the Rosary Coast to Coast comprised more than 1,000 participating locations in the U.S. and an additional 57 around the world. I have no doubt that some of those people were praying for healing for our Church.
Prayer allows us to tell God we are sorry for any ways in which we have enabled or participated in the current mess. There have been many sins of commission related to the scandals within the Church. But for most of us, sins of indifference and omission are more likely the issue. Prayer also reminds us that we are the creatures and God is the Creator. We owe him everything.
When we pray, we can listen to what God wants to tell us. I have found that sometimes when I am trying to figure out what to do or not do, an answer “just comes to me,” during prayer. We can get guidance about what specific actions we should take or not take. Given the huge range of issues that deserve the attention of faithful thoughtful Catholics, receiving direction toward one or another is no small blessing.
Step 2: Learn.
I’m sure most people reading this column in the Register know roughly what is going on in the Church right now. But you may feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problems. We really need to know what we are talking about, or we will discredit ourselves and our cause.
Faithful Catholics need to be informed about the current situation. For instance, the Ruth Institute prepared this backgrounder that addresses the disproportionate number of male victims. This is a manageable amount of information to absorb.
We also need to proclaim the Church’s teachings about marriage, family and human sexuality. Be prepared to explain what the Church teaches about divorce and premarital sex and contraception. Learn about the evidence that shows the Church has been right all along: if we lived these teachings, we would have better lives.
And we would not have sex scandals involving priests preying on young men. So yes, we need to be prepared to explain what the Church teaches about homosexual activity and homosexual identity.
Step 3: Speak Out.
People inside and outside the Church need to know that faithful Catholics want transparency. We want the truth to come out. We are not interested in protecting the Church’s reputation at the expense of innocent victims.
Another advantage of speaking out is that we will embolden the clergy or Church employees who have information about abuse and cover-up but who have been afraid to speak up. We will comfort the victims, some of whom have been seeking justice for years.
Speaking out could include: signing a petition, sharing information on social media, writing to people in authority, including bishops, priest, or governors or congresspeople. Speaking out could also include talking with your friends and neighbors. Whatever you do, keep in mind these two points that we absolutely must convey:
Step 3½: Repeat!
I count it as a “half-step” because you don’t really have anything extra to remember.
I’m dead serious about this. The “Repeat” step is very important. Let’s say you’ve done one round of Pray, Learn, Speak Out. I absolutely promise you: You will not get it all correct and complete on the first pass! You might stumble on your words. Someone might ask you a question you can’t answer. Maybe you make a mistake. Maybe someone gets mad at you. Maybe you get mad.
Your next move is the crucial move: You MUST NOT QUIT!!!!
Go back to Step 1 and Pray. “Lord, what did that person really want to know? What were they thinking? What was I thinking?” Or, if everything went well, you could say, “Thank you, Jesus! That was fun! What do you want me to do next!?”
I’ve been preaching Church teaching since roughly 2001. Trust me on this. You are going to make mistakes. The only way to improve is to keep reflecting on your encounters with people. You might as well do your reflecting in front of the Blessed Sacrament or with a Rosary in your hand.
Repeat the “Learn” step. Go ask someone for advice. Look up the answers on the internet. We’ve got a bunch of stuff (and I do mean a BIG bunch of stuff) at the Ruth Institute website.
And then, by all means, Speak Out again. You will improve. And you will make a difference.
Just remember: Pray. Learn. Speak Out. Repeat.
Together we can reform our beloved Church.