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Two Major Reports on Sex Gone Wrong: Among Parents and Among Priests

abuse, Catholic, Census data, Census Report, church, clergy, MARRI, men, Pat Fagan, Paul Sullins, sex, Uncategorized No comments

Most people will not think of the recent Census data on Parental Raising of Children in Different Family Forms as an illustration of “sex gone wrong”—- but it is.   The child is the product of the sexual intercourse of the parents and the impact on the parents will last till the end of the lives of the parents… much better and benign effects when they “get sex right” in intact marriage, and much more onerous for them (and their children) when they don’t “get it right.”   The chart below shows that the proportion of parents “getting it right” diminishes over time, from 63% at the birth of children,  to 46% by the time the child is 17.

The second report is also about sex going very wrong for a very small, but extraordinarily influential, portion of celibate Catholic clergy.  Fr. Paul Sullins, Research Associate at the Ruth Institute and retired Professor at the Catholic University of America, has reanalyzed the John Jay Institute data, United States Catholic Conference data and Los Angeles Times data to yield the clearest report to date on what happened, its extraordinary decline, and now a possible inching back up again among that few who cause disaster. 

Here are three key charts from within the report for your study and your own conclusions.

The power to procreate is like nuclear physics of the atom: it is massively powerful when released — for good, or for evil.  And as everyman knows, no one is immune from sexual corruption, it is time for us all to reform and turn from “defining deviancy down” on matters sexual, to raising the bar higher again.

Taking Care of the Low IQ Poor

abstinence, caring, Census data, chastity, child well-being, church, culture, economic well-being, family, inequality, Pat Fagan, poverty, Prayer, Uncategorized No comments

Raj Chetty’s work, carried by The New York Times and now The Office of the Census, has made Americans more aware of the proportion who stay stuck at the bottom of the income scale.

From the work of many but especially Charles Murray we know that the bottom 10% is largely composed of those of low IQ… those with an IQ lower than 80.  They are not too bright. And in today’s more and more complex world they are at greater and greater disadvantage through no fault of their own.

The Army refuses to take anyone with an IQ in that category, so that route, effective for many as a first step up and out, is closed off to them.

Many groups help the “mobile” sector of the poor.  But the low IQ group is stuck and with little help and increasing isolation, abuse and crime. This was well depicted in the TV series “Wired”.

The need for community: A place to belong to with close others all around.

In a different era, in different political regimes such as the Middle Ages in Europe, but also in Asia, smaller communities were much more aware of these slower folks.  The good lord of the manor took it as his duty to provide for these — often by support of monasteries, but also by the provision of basic simple (though back-breaking) work. 

 Family and extended family has always been the primary source of support and is so today. But for the poor, family is now fragmented, sometime multiple times (multiple fathers for one set of children by the same mother).  The welfare state aids and abets this arrangement, essentially fostering fragmentation rather than unity and community.  Without marriage, community is virtually impossible and functional community is non-existent.

Those who are less gifted need, more than anyone else, family and community to whom to belong.  But for this they also need leadership capable of building community — of fostering belonging.

Our political order makes such virtually impossible.  Out wealthy and gifted live far away from the poor and the slow of intellect.  They feel no obligation and have absolutely no ties of relationship with or responsibility for them. 

They need help and leadership.

Leadership implies hierarchy.  An acceptable hierarchy is possible only under accepted norms of “the good”, i.e. shared moral norms.  As the good community can only exist upon good family life, a trusted hierarchy for community leadership necessitates a sound set of values, norms or principles around family issues, i.e. sexual issues.

Where can the poor find leadership anchored in a sound set of sexual issues today? In the same place they have always been found: in their places of worship. The worship of God always leads to sexual order —marriage, chaste living, fertility and putting family obligations first: to spouse and to children.  Well it always used to. Today a number of religious groups deny the need for chastity before marriage.

The welfare state does not promote nor address these issues. Our wealthy leaders (Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg), if they believe in these values (and the personal lives of some seem to indicate they at least believe in marriage if not in chastity), are afraid to talk this way in public.

So, our low-I.Q neediest— those who most need leadership and a guiding culture—- have neither.

 But one source still seems probable and, in many areas, provides some of the leadership: the churches.  But, sadly, so many inner-city churches do not lead nor preach marriage for the poor and therefore not capable of developing community for the poor.  While chastity for the poor is unheard of. 

The poor, like everyone else, no matter their income, education or IQ, need marriage and chastity and bear the same consequences as everyone else.  One could say they need it even more.  The joy of a life with a good wife or husband is within reach of every class, rich or poor.  And for the poor man or woman, the greatest joy is their simplest and frequently their only one: helping each other by going through life together even when it is so tough.  Such a poor man with such a wife is really a very rich man.

 May we find it within all the human resources of the richest nation on earth and in history, the people who can lead the way forward for our slower brothers and sisters.

Neither the welfare state nor the elite (including the media which is under the control of the elite) teaches or leads this way.  Good relationships need community and prayer and worship (see Mapping America) much more then they need material goods.

 This richness will be brought to the poor by those who love God and love His poor.  And where it is happening it is almost exclusively through them.

We need a religiously base Peace Corps for our inner city poorest — and least bright…those with an IQ below 80: a good 10% of our population.  We had our past versions of this: religious orders of priests, nuns and brothers and the Salvation Army.  The middle ages had monasteries.  The 21st century needs its own new form of this perennial solution, its own from of dedicated, organized, effective love.

It will come.  Keep an eye out.  

Modernity/Culture

abortion, abstinence, adolescent sexuality, church, McCorvey, Prayer, pro-life, teen pregnancy No comments

Something is going well in America, and the public evidence is that love, prayer, and truth — all combined —are changing America for the good on life/abortion and sexual activity.   Modernity is capable of reform. The drift is not all downward by any means.

  • Teen sexual activity: Prior to pregnancy comes sexual intercourse and on that the data is very encouraging from every perspective. On the sexual side there is good news in the classroom: continued significant decrease in teenage sexual activity, most pronounced among black teenagers who are coming closer to the national norm. We blogged before on Collier County Florida where, through effective abstinence-only education in the public schools, the STD rate plummeted and almost disappeared for some STDs among teenagers, while their teenage birth rate more than halved. This program is spreading throughout the country.
  • The Norma McCorvey story, above, points to the enduring power of love to heal the wounds of hate, rejection, violence, and abuse. The prolife movement has expanded from protest and argument to a much broader and very significant movement of compassion and service to the mother tempted with abortion.
  • Prayer: From myriads of ‘national-sample’ charts we know that the more people pray the more their prayers are answered. Public prayer outside abortion clinics is the face of God and man cooperating in public on this issue; it is the meeting of suffering and compassion. Also, behind this public prayer there is the hidden prayer in homes, in hearts and in churches.
  • The effect of mimetic desire. For a young single woman an unintended pregnancy is a major stumbling block in life, and, as Rene Girard illustrates, when we stumble we desire the easiest way around the obstacle and copy solutions we see others using .   Thus, proximity to abortion clinics correlates with higher incidence of abortion. The absence of abortion clinics removes such mimetic desires and increases the incidence of mothers coping successfully, giving occasion for different desires to awaken, and different models to copy. And, on the issue of teen sexual activity, as reported above, the presence of more and more teens who abstain from sexual intercourse makes it more likely others will desire and copy the same.
  • Sonogram technology makes the baby visible and shows it to be very much alive. Even a poster has had dramatic effects, as the case of Norma McCorvey illustrates.
  • Political action and prayer has led to the closing of a significant number of abortion clinics

So, on the foundational dimension of human behavior, the sexual, teenagers are increasingly going the right direction —- because adults are putting lots of effort into the fundamentals. A new culture is being formed.

The Church and State in Education

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Society has many teachers but the two biggest ones are the state and the church (shorthand for religious practice).  When they are fairly well aligned on moral issues society goes smoothly.

The Church teaches a universal morality (one that holds for all men at all times).  Reflection shows an enormous unanimity across cultures and religions on most of the tenets of morality as C.S. Lewis demonstrated in his essay “Illustrations of The Tao.”  The State teaches a state morality in the laws which forbid specific evils and protect specific goods.  Chaos comes when the state and The Tao are in conflict. Such are the clear lessons of history.

Both teach but in totally different ways.  The State teaches its “government morals” through the force it is prepared to use in arrest, judgment and punishment (from fines all the way to death).  The Church teaches by word but even more by example and most powerfully when both are combined (or most disastrously when word and example contradict each other).   Its most effective teachers are those who are obviously happy, peaceful and kind.

Both institutions have a very close relationship with evil.   The Church, at its best, inspires one to repent. Roman Catholics are quite used to this close encounter with evil in the confessional with their secret revelation and repentance of personal evils ranging from small faults to heinous crimes.  Other religions have their own form of repentance. The state, on the other hand, has a different intimate relationship with evil, in those it condemns to punishment.  For many prison is hell today, not because of the punishment, but because of their close encounter with truly evil people.

In a well-functioning society the church’s core competence is in leading individuals to lives of goodness and virtue, while the state’s core competence is in containing evil.  They both take on other tasks but these are the sine qua non of their roles in society. Thus the saint (the ‘ordinary’ everyday person of wide virtue) is the church’s best product (and its best preacher) while the brave soldier and just policeman is the best embodiment of the state.  By the nature of goodness the saint is very idiosyncratic while the good soldier or policeman are of the same mold. The first is very relational, kind and adaptive, the second are very instrumental and treat us all the (much) same way.

The church’s competence is in growing, the state’s in protecting. Society thrives when they both teach much the same lessons when what needs to be grown is also what is protected. (Hence the deep chaos-causing nature of laws permitting abortion).

How can the two be brought into alignment?  In democracies the only way is conversion of individual minds and hearts.  In dictatorships alignment is achieved by force.  So that leaves the United States with only one way to go: conversion.   We know who the best persuaders are, but are there enough of them?  Are we growing them?

Christian Culture

church, culture, Dating, gender, MARRI, marriage, young adults No comments

By: Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern
      Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern

The “2014 State of Dating in America” study, conducted by ChristianMingle and JDate, examines the dating behavior of Christian young adults. The study’s most ominous finding is the rapidly growing Christian acceptance of sex outside of marriage.  When asked if they would have sex before marriage, 63% of Christian young adults answered yes, and only 13% said no.  When asked how far into the relationship it was acceptable for the couple to move in together, 27% said after six months of dating, 30% said after a year of dating, and only 13% said it was only acceptable after marriage.

This data does not describe the US population at large—this is the state of things within Christendom (or at least the Christendom according to Christian Mingle and JDate). With thoughts like this harbored in Christian minds throughout our land, it makes sense that marriage is falling apart in our country, divorce rates are remarkably high, and the definition of sexuality is in perpetual flux.  Such research should shock and disturb Christians—the church, after all, ought to be the solution, not the problem.  Our biblical roadmap shows us the way to joyously hold out the single answer to how things work. Shouts of solutions, remedies and programs reverberate through our social conversation, but evidence of their success is grim.  As Christians leave the voice of true reason (divine design), they will enter the age of parenting in the midst of moral and ideological chaos. What follows is that our next generation of children will be raised outside God’s paradigm—they will be the first generation, in theory, to have no background of stability.  The current generation is rebelling against a standard they despise—the next generation won’t be rebels so much as followers of the new social norm.

How can we Christians who hope for cultural redemption fight chaotic societal trends when 63% of our own are captivated by the same trends?  Christian leaders are frustrated, saddened, even angered, by the socio-sexual battle cries thundering against any righteous standard they uphold.  The homosexual marriage movement is gaining ground, more children are born out of wedlock, and cohabitation is increasing — all working to undermine the bedrock of society, the family.  We as Christians expect the unbelieving world to choose its own paths, to stray from God’s design.  Throughout the ages, in varied cultural contexts, societies have turned towards sexual disobedience (among other kinds)—and, one by one, have fallen from splendor. We also know that God’s call to His own people is to turn from sexual immorality, to be set apart, and, most shiver-inducing of all: Be holy, for I am Holy. We adhere to His design for the sexual out of obedience to the Creator of sexuality.  We adhere because…it works.  Simply put, His design makes sense.  He created sexuality, and therefore His way works.

And yet even self-proclaimed followers of God are so blind in the sexual arena.  Society’s proposed sexual system only leads to chaos—first within family relationships, leading to breakdowns in the other key institutions.  In what other context does society so energetically encourage actions that blatantly do not work?  The family (and how sexuality is conducted within this framework) is the root of a functioning society, the stream feeding the tree that grows the branches of government, of economy, of education, etc.  The United States will struggle to maintain any coherent identity or global presence if we continue on this road.
The people of God have always been the symbol of hope.  In theory, we know what it is that works. This is where we mourn the most tragic part of our national story—Christians are following the tide. Those entrusted with the beautiful knowledge of how to grow a thriving society are putting such wisdom aside and stepping into chaos with the rest.

Many think that people leave the Faith and then become sexually promiscuous. But as the State of Dating in America study showed, this is simply not the case.  An increasing many are maintaining their Christian title while adopting the cultural standards of their choice.  We should not simply force our adolescents to sit in church pews. We must teach children of relational beauty, young people of sexual wholeness. We must reach out to the young Christian adults facing a sexually chaotic culture, come beside them, and help them discover true sexual order. We must seek to restore faithful zeal, but also to restore sexual clarity and obedience. We must, with care, ask sexuality and religion to lead each other hand-in-hand away from the pit that consumes them. Only then, when our own Christian culture has changed and sex is honored among us, can we have a hope at all of changing the secular culture and thus offering our nation a happy end.

Formative Institutions

children, church, education, family, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
By: Patrick Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
      Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern

Although there are five basic institutions in society, only three of them are what I call “person-forming”.  The marketplace and government function to protect individuals and to provide for goods and services, but they do not function to directly form the individual.  It is the family, the church, and the school that shape character, instill moral principles (which are universal and timeless), and which develop the person as a whole.  Thus these three institutions serve society in this, the most foundational and critical of its long range tasks.  They each play a direct role in the formation of a person as he moves toward adulthood—additionally, the marketplace and government rely on the primacy of these three person-forming institutions in order to have people capable of serving in their economic and citizen roles.

Why are the institutions of family, church, and school able to form an individual while the institutions of marketplace and government are not?  The answer profoundly impacts our national discussion about policies and their implications.  Even more importantly, as we delve deeply into this question, we can see more clearly what it means to be human.

There is something foundational to human life that the institutions of marketplace and government simply cannot provide: it is the intimate relational formation of a person.  People’s deepest need is relational—love, care, affection, and personalized guidance.  In the family, a child finds the nurturing intimacy he needs.  In the church, he finds the relational intimacy with the divine that speaks to his soul’s questions.  In the school, through good relationships with his teachers, he learns how to understand the world in which he will soon act.  The marketplace and the government are the institutions through which he can later exercise who he has become through the shaping of his family, church, and school.  When it comes to directly forming who he is, however, marketplace and government have significantly less direct impact—though, in their proper context, laws can teach a great deal, and services from the dark side of the economy can corrupt (e.g. pornography).

As we will explore in future blog postings, the consequences are grave if we misunderstand the distinct nature of the person-forming institutions.  To return to our farming analogy: it is ignorant and futile for a farmer to expect abundant crops and sustainable returns without first preparing the soil for harvest, planting good seeds, and caring for the land.  Failure to do so results in stunted crop growth and insufficient income for the farmer.

Similarly, we must protect the “three sacred spaces” of family, church and school to permit the harmonizing of the person-forming tasks:  the family, where the child most deeply develops as a relating and belonging person; the church, where he orients himself to life and its big issues; and the school, where he learns about the world around him and how to make sense of it.  As the farming analogy shows, a child’s future productivity and stability depend on the person-forming institutions’ foundational actions.  Giving improper weight to the instrumental institutions—or disconnecting the person-forming ones from each other—will lead to societal destabilization (indeed, this is already happening).  When families are treasured and intact, when those families worship God weekly, and when schools aid the work of parents in teaching children according to their worldviews: children from such families thrive, and a society made of these families grows in well-being.  Such is the task of each generation—of all societies, across the globe.  These are universal truths.