- For Survivors
- Resource Center
- Make a Difference
- Book Clubs
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: Monday, August 12, 2019
The clergy sex-abuse scandal has irrevocably changed Catholic culture. Ordinary Catholics are comfortable today doing and saying things that would have been unthinkable to them just a few short years ago. And this is a good thing.
More than changes to Church governance, the policies and procedures, changes in what ordinary Catholics expect of themselves have the potential to improve the health of the Church. We have the potential to help the victims find healing and justice. And our new sense of what is acceptable behavior has the potential to pressure the clergy themselves into better behavior.
The ongoing drama in the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, illustrates these points. Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone has come under fire for covering up clergy sexual abuse. The diocese released a list of 42 credibly accused priests. However, the local TV station found more than 100 names. The FBI is investigating the diocese. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed two retired judges who are overseeing a diocesan program to compensate abuse victims. The usual mess.
In a slightly new and different twist, the diocese recently placed several priests on administrative leave for issues not directly related to sexual abuse of minors.
A local news source reports:
“According to the diocese, ‘unsuitable, inappropriate and insensitive conversations’ took place during a social gathering of seminarians and priests on April 11 that some seminarians found to be offensive.”
Five priests and 14 seminarians were present at this pizza party at a local rectory. Three priests were placed on administrative leave. The other two priests were reprimanded for not doing enough to stop the inappropriate conversation.
Of the 14 seminarians present, five have been interviewed as of this writing. They tell a mutually consistent story of (very) crude conversation that most Catholics would regard as (really) inappropriate for clergy.
To say that the diocese has “trust issues” would be an understatement. Many local Catholics don’t trust anything that comes out of the chancery or Christ the King Seminary. This cloud of suspicion is a basic fact of our current Catholic culture, and it affects how people respond.
When the pizza-party story broke, I saw people defending one of the priests on Facebook. They were sure Bishop Malone was trying to get rid of this priest, whom they regarded as good and orthodox. Eventually, more evidence came out confirming the seminarians’ story that the priest in fact made the inappropriate comments. But the original reaction shows how little trust people have in the Catholic establishment in Buffalo.
I also saw people connecting the dots between priests’ sexually explicit talk in the presence of seminarians, a priest having a “romantic interest” in a seminarian and clergy sexual abuse of minors. In the public mind, tolerance of one issue leads to tolerance of the other issues and to an environment of clergy covering for each other.
Do we, as members of the general public, have all the facts? No, of course not.
In the nature of things, we cannot have all the facts about a private gathering. This is obviously not the healthiest environment for getting to the truth of important matters. But the diocese has only itself to blame. Its pattern of nontransparency induces people to project the worst possible interpretation onto uncertain situations.
This a noteworthy change in Catholic culture. Once upon a time in post-World War II America, Catholics revered their priests. Bing Crosby’s Father Charles O’Malley would never harm anyone or tell a lie. Catholics and non-Catholics alike trusted Bishop Fulton Sheen. Even in the post-Vatican II theological free-for-all, dissenting and faithful Catholics alike would have been uneasy with the assumption that a bishop was lying to them.
Those days are long gone. Questioning clergy and their motives is no longer a marker for disrespect, dissent or anti-Catholicism. We are light-years away even from the scandals of 2002. Back then, some of the best investigative reporting was done by news outlets that also pushed for heterodox changes in Church teaching. Back then, people who loved the Church’s magisterium tried to minimize the scandals. But now, in the post-McCarrick era, Catholic laity across the theological board believe it is socially acceptable, and even praiseworthy, to blow the whistle.
Bishop Malone’s personal secretary, Siobhan O’Connor, was fond of him. Yet she was the person who released incriminating documents. Why? She listened to the victims. She was never the same afterward. She concluded that standing with the victims was serving Christ and his bride, the Church.
A local news reporter, Charlie Specht, has conducted extensive, relentless investigations of the diocese. (Type his name into the search bar of WKBW News along with “clergy sex abuse” and you’ll see what I mean.) Unlike the crew of lapsed Catholics and atheists at The Boston Globe who revealed Cardinal Bernard Law’s malfeasance, Specht is a devout practicing Catholic. He loves and respects the Church. He wants her to be what she ought to be.
One more, unambiguously good sign: The seminarians did not cower. They spoke out. They may get kicked around by their formators. We don’t really know what is going on internally. But these men knew that they would have support from the Catholic community and the general public.
I don’t know if the Pope or the U.S. bishops are going to come up with changes to canon law or new policies and procedures. Personally, I think the old policy was good. Obey the Ten Commandments, especially Nos. 6 (Do not commit adultery) and 8 (Do not bear false witness.) As Buffalo whistleblower O’Connor said, “There’s nothing wrong with the code of conduct. It needs to be enforced.”
Catholic culture is changing. Clergy, priests and bishops, you’re on notice: We are watching. We aren’t leaving the Church. Neither are we staying and going back to “business as usual.” Deal with it, gentlemen. This is the new reality of Catholic culture.
And ordinary practicing Catholics, take heart. Your vigilance is making a difference.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 18, 2019
This article was first posted at NCRegister.com June 11, 2019.
By Edward Pentin
ROME — In comments sent via email to The Washington Post, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has accused Pope Francis of “deliberately concealing” evidence on Theodore McCarrick, “blatantly lying” to cover up his own actions and doing “absolutely nothing” to expose cover-up and wrongdoing because it would be “disastrous for the current papacy.”
But in his first lengthy interview since his testimony last year, the former nuncio to the United States told the newspaper June 10 that nothing would make him “happier” than for Francis to “acknowledge and end the coverups” over McCarrick and other abuse cases and to “reconcile himself with God.”
“I am grateful to the Lord because He has protected me from having any sentiments of anger or resentment against Pope Francis, or any desire for revenge,” he said. “I pray for his conversion every day.”
The retired Holy See diplomat also said he is “not fighting against Pope Francis, nor have I offended him” but “simply spoken the truth.” The Holy Father, he said, “needs to reconcile himself with God.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the former nuncio called for McCarrick to be excommunicated to help bring him to repentance, said he believes McCarrick’s laicization was timed “to manipulate public opinion,” and reiterated his belief that a largely homosexual “mafia” is primarily responsible for this “truly dark moment for the universal Church.”
Archbishop Viganò also admitted his own mistakes, saying “in retrospect” that “certain points” of his own testimony, such as his call on the Pope to resign, “could have been better stated” and made dependent on the Pope not admitting his errors and asking for forgiveness.
The Washington Post interview began with an assessment of the four-day Vatican summit in February on protection of minors in the Church. Archbishop Viganò said he was “praying intensely” for its success but that it turned out to be “pure ostentation” as he did not see any “genuine willingness” to deal with the “real causes of the present crisis.”
He criticized the choice of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago as the event leader, especially in light of the U.S. cardinal’s earlier comments that the Pope had a “bigger agenda” to address. Archbishop Viganò also said the summit press conferences were “discouraging” and that an “especially serious problem” was that the summit focused on exclusively on abuse of minors and did not include abuse of young adults and seminarians. Nor did it “properly” address the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood, he said.
Archbishop Viganò spoke of “truly ominous” signs, saying he believes the Pope is doing “close to nothing” to punish abuses and “absolutely nothing” to expose and bring abusers to justice. He pointed out that Francis praised Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., for his “nobility” when he resigned last fall, even though Cardinal Wuerl had, according to Archbishop Viganò, “covered up the abuses” of McCarrick for “decades.”.
McCarrick’s laicization in February, shortly before the Vatican summit began, was “as far as it goes, a just punishment,” Archbishop Viganò told The Post, but he said the procedures and timing were “designed to manipulate public opinion” and give the appearance the Pope was “determined to fight” against clerical sex abuse.
Also, by the Pope making the laicization “definitive,” the Holy Father was able to rule out any “further investigation” that could have exposed the guilt of others, the archbishop said. “The bottom line is this,” he said. “Pope Francis is deliberately concealing the McCarrick evidence.”
He added that from the “far more important spiritual dimension,” laicization is “completely inadequate” as it fails to consider the “salvation of McCarrick’s soul.” He said he thought he was not alone in thinking that excommunication would be appropriate as it would “induce him to take responsibility for his sins,” repent and be reconciled with God.
Asked about the Vatican’s intervention at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting last November, stopping bishops from voting on measures to hold bishops more responsible on overseeing abuse cases, Archbishop Viganò said such a measure was “wholly unjustified.” Without that intervention, he believes unquestionably episcopal corruption, abuse and other misconduct would have been examined that would “intolerably implicate and embarrass the Holy See.”
Pleading the Fifth?
Turning to his own earlier testimony from August 2018, Archbishop Viganò told the Post that “no one has plausibly denied the facts,” some of which “have been independently confirmed.” He also said the prelates he named in his testimony as being involved in, or having knowledge about the McCarrick mishandling are lying low, and he wondered why journalists are “letting them get away with this.”
On the Pope’s response to remain silent, he said: “Is it not what you Americans call ‘taking the fifth’? By responding as he did, the Pope is essentially admitting that he is unwilling to be transparent.”
Francis knew of McCarrick’s crimes, “yet rehabilitated him” and made him a trusted adviser, he added, but by not discussing this the Pope was showing “contempt” for both victims and those wanting an end to cover-ups, he said. Archbishop Viganò said later in the Post interview that he believes the Vatican’s archival investigation into McCarrick, announced last October, was an “empty promise.”
Referring to the Pope’s most recent interview, in which Francis said he’d replied “many times” about the McCarrick affair, knew nothing about McCarrick’s abuses, and couldn’t recall a 2013 conversation with Archbishop Viganò about McCarrick, the former nuncio asked: “How may these claims be affirmed and sustained together at the same time? All these three are blatant lies.”
In particular, he repeated his allegation that Francis asked him specifically about McCarrick during that conversation, and that he told the newly elected Pope about the existence of a “huge dossier” on McCarrick’s abuses. “How could anybody, especially a pope, forget this?”
“We are in a truly dark moment for the universal Church,” the archbishop added. “The Supreme Pontiff is now blatantly lying to the whole world to cover up his wicked deeds! But the truth will eventually come out, about McCarrick and all the other coverups, as it already has in the case of Cardinal Wuerl.”
Archbishop Viganò, who said he has been receiving an “incredible outpouring of support,” rejected the accusation, made in an open letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet last October, that he was motivated by bitterness from thwarted ambition. In any case, he said, “motivation is not the point,” but “whether my testimony is true.” He said those who “impugn my motives” have been unwilling to “conduct open and thorough investigations.”
He went on to say he was “saddened” that news media are not insisting that the Holy Father and other prelates “answer my charges” and believes it is because they favor Francis’ “more liberal agenda.” He asked why no media have searched the archives themselves, interviewing victims, following money trails, and investigating corrupt networks.
As one of “so many cases to go after,” he referred to a new book by Martha Alegria Reichmann about the “misdeeds” of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Alegria discussed the contents of her book with Register in April). “Have you thought of interviewing her? Of investigating her claims?” he asked the Post.
Turning to homosexuality, and drawing on a recent studies including by Father Paul Sullins of the Ruth Institute, he said it is “mind-boggling” how the Vatican has avoided bringing it up at the February summit and recent synods, when the evidence of its preponderance in sexual abuse is “overwhelming.”
He said a “gay mafia” is bound together not by “shared sexual intimacy” but through protection and advancement, the “homosexual cliques” Benedict XVI mentioned in his “notes” compiled for the Vatican abuse summit. The archbishop then reproduced relevant passages on homosexuality from the Catechism.
Archbishop Viganò told the Post he regretted not publicly speaking up earlier about McCarrick, but thought the Church “could reform itself from within.” He said when it became clear the Pope was one of those covering up the crimes, “I had no doubt the Lord was calling me to speak up, as I have done and will continue to do.”
He said he believes a formal schism is unlikely, but that a “de facto schism based on acceptance or rejection of the sexual revolution” already exists.
He also admitted his testimony could have been handled better. “I am far from perfect,” he said, and would have reworded his initial statement to urge the Holy Father to “face up to his commitments,” pointed out St. Peter’s denials of Christ and subsequent repentance, and call on the Pope to resign only if he failed to imitate St. Peter by refusing to repent.
Asked how he feels in his conscience, Archbishop Viganò said he did what he believed needed to be done, knowing he would soon meet the “Good Judge.” He also did not want falsehoods to go unchallenged and “harm my soul and the souls of others.” His conscience “has always been clear,” he said, and that the “truth makes us free.”
Referring to how he was pushed out of his curial position in 2011 because he was uncovering corruption, Archbishop Viganò said, “Little did they know that the Lord was using them to put me in a position to speak out about the McCarrick scandal.”
He hinted that he is holding relevant documentation but said “the time has not yet come for me to release anything,” and suggested journalists ask the Pope and the prelates he mentioned in his testimony to “release the relevant documentation, some of which is quite incriminating, assuming they have not yet destroyed it.”
He concluded by observing that this crisis “is causing an institutional paralysis that is immensely demoralizing for the faithful,” but “we should be neither entirely surprised nor overly disturbed by this desperate state of affairs, given the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s promise to come again and establish his definitive kingdom.”
Archbishop Viganò, who began the interview by saying the Church is “going through one of the most turbulent moments in her history,” ended it by quoting paragraph 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The paragraph states the Church must pass through a “final trial that will shake the faith of many believers” and that the persecution that “accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”
Posted on: Tuesday, June 18, 2019
This article was first published on The Washington Post June 10, 2019. In the article, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò quotes the Ruth Institute's special report by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D. The report is called "Receding Waves: Child Sex Abuse and Homosexual Priests since 2000" and can be found here.
The part of the article where Fr. Sullins' report is quoted is here: (The WP reporter's question is in bold.)
Let’s keep two arenas distinct: (1) crimes of sexual abuse and (2) criminal coverup of crimes of sexual abuse. In most cases in the Church today, both have a homosexual component — usually downplayed — that is key to the crisis.
As to the first, heterosexual men obviously do not choose boys and young men as sexual partners of preference, and approximately 80 percent of the victims are males, the vast majority of which are post-pubescent males. Statistics from many different countries regarding sexual abuses committed by clergy leave no doubt. Horrific as the cases of abuse by true pedophiles are, the percentage is far smaller. It is not pedophiles but gay priests preying on post-pubertal boys who have bankrupted the U.S. dioceses. One of the most recent and reliable studies, “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests,” was conducted by Father Paul Sullins, PhD, of the Ruth Institute. In its executive summary, the Sullins study reports, among other things, the following:
● “The share of homosexual men in the priesthood rose from twice that of the general population in the 1950s to eight times the general population in the 1980s. This trend was strongly correlated with increasing child sex abuse.”
● “Estimates from these findings predict that, had the proportion of homosexual priests remained at the 1950s level, at least 12,000 fewer children, mostly boys, would have suffered abuse.”
The preponderance of these cases of abuse is overwhelming. I do not think anyone can dispute this. That homosexuality is a major cause of the sexual abuse crisis has also been stated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his recent essay, “The Church and the scandal of sexual abuse.” From his long experience as president of the CDF, he recalls how “in various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries.”
Posted on: Thursday, June 13, 2019
Jennifer Roback Morse to Appear on EWTN This Evening, June 13, 2019
In a June 10 interview with The Washington Post, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, (Apostolic Nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016) cited the Ruth Institute study, “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests”.
Archbishop Vigano called the Institute’s report, conducted by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., “One of the most recent and reliable studies.”
The Archbishop said that in the report’s executive summary, Fr. Sullins noted: “The share of homosexual men in the priesthood rose from twice that of the general population in the 1950s to eight times the general population in the 1980s. This trend was strongly correlated with increasing child sex abuse.”
Such recognition in one of the most prominent liberal newspapers in America, but one influential in the nation’s capital, was most welcome.
An interview with Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse Ph.D. will be broadcast on “The World Over” with Raymond Arroyo on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) this evening at 8 pm ET. The interview will focus on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore, where clergy sexual abuse is expected to be discussed.
Click here for the Washington Post interview.
Posted on: Friday, May 31, 2019
Press Conference on Latest Report from Fr. Paul Sullins: “Child Sex Abuse and Homosexual Priests Since 2000”
May 31, 2019 For Immediate Release
For More Information, Contact: Rachel Golden email@example.com
On June 6, The Ruth Institute will hold an exclusive online press conference to release a new report by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D. The new report, Receding Waves: Child Sex Abuse and Homosexual Priests since 2000 , finds that male victimization and homosexual priests rose together through the 1980s. They have also fallen together more recently. The report also shows that the proportion of female victims has risen.
However, overall, Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., warns: “There has been a disturbing rise of the sexual abuse of children by priests after reaching an all-time low just after 2002.”
Morse continued, “The good news is that since 2000, only a small fraction of overall cases of abuse (11%), has been perpetrated by newly ordained priests (those who have been priests less than 10 years), while 52% has been perpetrated by priests ordained 30 years ago or longer.”
Among its recommendations, the report urged, “Catholics must remain vigilant in protecting all minors against clerical sexual abuse.” Further, “The Church or interested lay organizations should increase educational programs on authentic Church teachings on human sexuality.” An Executive Summary of the Report can be found here.
The press conference will take place on June 6, at noon EST. More information, including log-in instructions can be found here.
Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., is a retired Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America and is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Ruth Institute.
For more information on Fr. Sullins’ earlier report on clergy sex abuse, please visit: http://www.ruthinstitute.org/
Ruth Institute President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, is the author of “The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along,” and has spent decades working with survivors of the Sexual Revolution
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization equipping Christians to defend the family in the public arena. On April 26-27, the Institute held a Summit for Survivors of Sexual Revolution in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Summit included discussions of the long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse.
Find more information on the Ruth Institute here.
Posted on: Friday, May 17, 2019
by Doug Mainwaring
This article was first posted April 30, 2019, at Life Site News.
LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana, April 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A sociologist said that when it comes to children’s welfare, homosexual “marriage” accomplishes the exact opposite of conjugal marriage, placing children at four times the risk of emotional distress.
Fr. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and former sociology professor at the Catholic University of America, made his comments in a presentation on “the impact of same-sex parenting on children” at a “Survivors Summit,” hosted by the Ruth Institute, where Sullins now serves as senior researcher.
“There is a war on marriage today,” began Sullins, quoting Pope Francis. “It’s not a physical war of weapons, but a war of ideas. An ideological colonization that is trying to destroy the family by efforts to redefine the very institution of marriage.”
“This attack on the family is based on a demonic gender ideology that denies the order of creation, expressed in the complementarity of men and women,” he added.
Sullins spoke of the Catholic notion of marriage, which is in harmony with nature.
Marriage is between one man and one woman, who “engage in a natural, conjugal sexual relationship, ordered by a covenant designed to insure their own mutual good and the procreation and education of their offspring.”
“They give themselves to one another wholly, exclusively, and permanently,” he said.
On the other side of this demonic ideological war is this new idea of marriage as a “committed relationship.”
Evan Wolfson, one of the early central figures in the homosexual “marriage” movement, published what was considered to be a groundbreaking book in 2003, Why Marriage Matters, in which he defined marriage not as the Catholic Church does, or as nature has revealed it, but as “a relationship of emotional and financial interdependence between two people legitimized by a public commitment.”
Sullins noted that this is the exact language used in the 2008 California ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage” in that state, and later in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing homosexual “marriage” nationwide.
There are major differences between these two definitions, especially from the perspective of children.
“Conjugal marriage asks the desires of adults to take second place to the needs of children,” said Sullins, while “committed relationship (CR) marriage asks the needs of children to take second place to the desires of adults.”
“The possibility of children is built into a conjugal relationship,” said Sullins, “but in a CR relationship, children are external. They are an add-on if you want them.”
“Same-sex couples never conceive children and only a fraction of them have children in the home, said Sullins. He further noted that only about one quarter
of lesbian couples and no more than 13% of gay male couples ever have children present in their households.
“The absence of sexual difference in same-sex couples creates an environment that is not conducive to the full human development of children,” said Sullins.
“In God’s plan, each child should have the care of the very two persons of whose conjugal love that child is the expression,” noted Sullins, who quoted Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia: “Both the child’s mother and father are necessary for his or her integral and harmonious development.”
Using the best research available, Sullins used a graph to depict the vast difference in the presence of child emotional difficulties for kids raised by man+woman parents versus those raised by gay or lesbian parents. The differences in outcomes are striking.
Stepping down from natural design
Sullins explained that as society moves away from households with both biological mother and father present and “We move to separated, recombined, unstable or single heterosexual parents,” all of of these are “less consistent with the natural or Godly design.”
“Same-sex parents are the least natural of all the family forms on offer,” he added. It is a move from the most natural to the most unnatural.
A child’s well-being is reduced the farther away a child is removed from his own married biological parents. It drops to the lowest point with same-sex couple households — lower than any of the other possible family forms.
The reason same-sex parents don’t have better outcomes for their children is simply that none of them can ever be in the “both bio parents” category. About three fourths are in the “one bio parent” category and a fourth in the “no bio parents” category.
So for children, homosexual “marriage” accomplishes the exact opposite of conjugal marriage. Conjugal marriage assures for a child, as much as possible, the secure care of both his or her biological parents. Homosexual “marriage” assures that a child will never have the care of both biological parents.
The “Survivors Summit,” held April 26–27, is the brainchild of Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute.
“Divorce and the LGBT subculture have changed the face of America in ways that cry out for thoughtful examination,” said Morse. The Summit’s aim is to help and inspire the many victims of the Sexual Revolution to become survivors and ultimately advocates for positive change.
Dr. Paul Sullins is a leader in the field of research on same-sex parenting and its implications for child development. He has written four books and over 100 journal articles, research reports, and essays on issues of family, faith, and culture. Formerly Episcopalian, Dr. Sullins is a married Catholic priest. He earned a Ph.D. at Catholic University in 1997 and taught there from 1998 until his retirement. He and his wife, Patricia, have an inter-racial family of three children, two adopted.
Posted on: Friday, May 17, 2019
by Fr. Paul Sullins
This article first appeared on May 12, 2019, at The Public Discourse.
Social scientists who conduct research on the politically charged question of the wellbeing of children in the care of same-sex parents have emphatically asserted unqualified and universal support for the finding of “no differences.” In his meticulously researched new book, Professor Walter Schumm turns this scenario on its head. Through a detailed review of virtually all extant research, Schumm demonstrates decisively that contrary evidence not only exists, it is abundant and methodologically strong.
In our day, the alleged personal liberation of the sexual revolution is becoming progressively socialized in institutions and norms. As a result, we have moved beyond the cultural condition in which scientific research into the related social behaviors (hormonal contraceptive use, premarital sex, abortion, homosexual relations, gender transformation) is deployed for political ends, into a state in which the process of deciding scientific truth has itself become irretrievably politicized. In this new situation, the end does not merely justify the means, it becomes the means. What advances the desired political agenda becomes the new criterion of truth.
Thus, social scientists who present evidence that the behaviors of sexual liberation are not harmful—in same-sex parenting research, this is couched as “no differences” from heterosexual parents in child well-being—do not merely claim that their conclusions are strong while contrary findings are weak. Instead, they claim that their conclusions are the only permissible ones, while contrary findings are necessarily unscientific. In their minds, contrary evidence either does not exist, or it must reflect pseudo-scientific bias.
In his meticulously researched new book, Same-Sex Parenting Research: A Critical Assessment, Walter Schumm, Professor of Family Studies at Kansas State University, turns this scenario on its head. In research on the politically charged question of the well-being of children in the care of same-sex parents, social scientists and their associations have emphatically asserted unqualified and universal support for the finding of “no differences.” Research that does not find this conclusion, they assert, simply cannot be credible or methodologically sound. Some deny the contrary research even exists. “It has not been unusual,” Schumm writes, “for at least some scholars in this area to make statements such as, ‘Not a single study has ever found any results that indicated children of same-sex parents to be any different from children of heterosexual parents in any way.’” These “absolute claims were made in an attempt to impress courts with the utter harmlessness (no ‘difference’ = no harm) of gay and lesbian parenting in order to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage.”
And yet, as Schumm proceeds to show, by the traditional canons of scientific reason and inference, such claims are manifestly false.
Science vs. Dogma
The bulk of the book consists of chapters examining the specific areas in which “no difference” is claimed. These include family stability, sexual abuse and other negative behaviors among parent couples, and child outcomes relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender roles, and mental health. Through a detailed review of virtually all extant research in each area, Schumm demonstrates decisively that contrary evidence not only exists, it is abundant and methodologically strong.
Almost none of the studies claiming to find “no differences” actually does so.
Moreover, he shows, almost none of the studies claiming to find “no differences” actually does so. Most violate or ignore basic requirements of scientific evidence, such as using a random sample, not letting participants know the political implications of the study, and accounting for mothers’ desire to make their children look good (“social desirability bias,” in sociology-speak). Many of the politically correct studies that report “no differences” actually do find differences. These are often buried deep in their data tables or technical analysis, but they do not escape Schumm’s gimlet-eyed scrutiny.
Schumm’s strategy for exposing the weaknesses of the “no differences” research is old-fashioned scholarship: he has simply read more studies, and digested their contents better, than most of the authors whose work he examines. The typical “no differences” review in this field includes about eighty studies. In this book, Schumm includes over 330 studies. The bibliography alone is over thirty pages. Not content to accept results reported by the authors, he reanalyzes the data distributions from the tables of reported statistics found in most studies, to verify—or undermine—the claimed findings of a study. The results are compelling.
For example, in response to an influential, politically correct review of the literature that concluded there were no differences for same-sex-parented children in gender-role behavior (the tendency for boys to do masculine things, or for girls to do feminine things), Schumm notes that the author cited only thirteen papers; he then proceeds to cite nine more on the topic, including three by the author of the review, that contradict the review’s conclusion. On the question of child sexual orientation (whether same-sex-parented children are more likely to develop homosexual attractions or adopt a homosexual identity than children in the general population), Schumm cites thirteen papers that contradict the review’s claim that there are no differences on this front, including two by the author of the review, which were not among the twelve papers the review did cite. He writes:
This type of situation should serve as a warning to the public, to the courts, to scholars, and to students everywhere that just because a famous author publishes a literature review in a major, comprehensive handbook does not imply that it should be automatically accepted as accurate or comprehensive.
Point by point, as Schumm patiently critiques the several hundred studies reviewed in the book, the conviction gradually becomes inescapable that the entire research thesis of “no differences,” trumpeted as an unassailable consensus by some of our society’s most respected arbiters of scientific credibility, is nothing more than a tissue of fabrications and contradictions under color of science. Schumm’s conclusion does not mince words: “The research presented in this book has shredded any pretense that the dogma of ‘no differences’ is factually correct.” He concludes that the “no differences” thesis is not a scientific theory at all, but a dogma. “If dozens of scholarly results won’t convince you otherwise,” he asks, “will anything?”
A Non-Partisan Critique
Consistent with the book’s subtitle (“A Critical Assessment”), Schumm does not compile his devastating critiques of the particular claims that support homosexual marriage into any sort of general case against that idea. For him, the problem with the “no differences” claim is not that it led to gay marriage but that it jettisoned the standards of science. “I am not necessarily saying that courts have made bad decisions,” he writes, “but that they were certainly fed ‘bad’ science, no matter how correct their decisions might have been in the end.”
Indeed, Schumm’s skeptical critique of the research is decidedly non-partisan. He does not hesitate to point out the flaws and limitations in studies, such as those by Mark Regnerus and me, that have reported substantial negative differences for children with same-sex parents. One of his most prominent critical exchanges, outside of this book, has been with Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute, regarding the latter’s research that is critical of same-sex parents. A reasonable assessment would be that his conclusion in favor of such contrary research, despite his lack of sympathy with its legal and social implications, would lend credibility to his conclusion as one of rare integrity.
For Schumm, it is all part of being an honest scientist. “[A]n honest scientist,” he tell us, “has to be willing to see at least some of his or her most cherished scientific (even religious) theories or beliefs (or other assumptions) be falsified through careful research.” The book concludes with a fervent appeal for more such honesty:
My fondest hope [for the book’s effect] is not that same-sex marriage be declared illegal or same-sex adoption be banned . . . but that perhaps a few persons here and there will have been challenged to think more carefully about scientific research in areas of political controversy and be a little less eager to jump to conclusions that may not in fact be warranted after a careful, detailed, systematic review of the research literature.
In this hope, Schumm has not, I think, fully considered the implications of his findings. If the newly legal social arrangements regarding homosexual relations are not warranted by the research, why would an honest scientist support their continuance?
Political and Scientific Implications
Given the book’s publication by a British traditional marriage advocacy group, I suspect that Schumm may be less troubled than he suggests (perhaps to forestall accusations of bias) by the prospect of repealing gay marriage or adoption laws. Schumm’s progressive critics appear to think so, too. In appendices, he relates the extensive attempts to discredit him, including shunning at professional conferences, difficulty publishing in mainstream journals, and calls for him to be fired because of his views. “Some very Christian scholars,” he reports in the prologue, “have gone out of their way to avoid any association with this book because of the stigma or discrimination they fear.” These cautionary accounts contrast sharply with Schumm’s hope for more fair-minded consideration of the evidence, and ironically confirm his conclusion about the dogmatic nature of the belief in “no differences.”
More importantly, Schumm’s reluctance to follow the political implications of the science in his own research threatens not only the policies involved but also the science. If, as I argue, political expediency is becoming the new criterion of scientific truth for issues of sexual liberation, Schumm’s brilliant analyses are not likely to be accepted by those he critiques, precisely because his appeal to evidence is so strong and fair-minded. This is particularly true when the political ideology being critiqued is that of sexual liberation. While both supporters and deniers of natural law can be blind to contrary evidence or distort science for political ends, those who advocate a sexual ethic unconstrained by the limitations of the body are particularly unlikely to be deterred by a commitment to truth constrained by the limitations of the senses. Those who reject religious or philosophical dissent from the dogma of gay marriage as irrational bigotry are not likely to accept scientific dissent as reasonable and fair-minded.
To concede same-sex marriage in the face of contrary scientific evidence is to concede science itself.
Today, those with religious or conscientious reservations about gay marriage must assert them or risk losing their freedom to make any religious assertion at all. In the same way, those with scientific or evidential reservations must assert them in order to preserve the ability to practice honest science at all. To concede same-sex marriage in the face of contrary scientific evidence is to concede science itself.
For those who are unwilling to make that concession, and are convinced on grounds of science, faith, or principle that the defense of natural marriage is worth making, this book offers an immensely valuable array of evidence and arguments.
The Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., is Research Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America and Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute. Formerly Episcopalian, Fr. Sullins is a married Catholic priest with an inter-racial family of three children, two adopted.