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God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

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Last week, The Upshot (New York Times) reported that women are having less children than they would like, mainly because of the worries illustrated below.

Despite the fact that we live in the biggest, most prosperous nation ever in history, our women are anxious and fearful about having children. Given their psychological and family experiences this is understandable: Most young women (and men) today come from broken families. They are afraid to take the risk of a “big exploration trip into the unknown” together. Unlike Columbus setting sail into unchartered waters, they stay onshore fearful of probable storms and occasional bad weather.

But those who worship God weekly see life differently. They are more likely to take the risk and to set sail. Though, unlike Columbus, they don’t discover new continents — they make them.

John Mueller of The Ethics and Public Policy Institute found that, globally, across religions and cultures, women who worship weekly have more than twice as many children as those who never worship.

Mueller reasons: “Personal gift of time and resources involved in worship is closely and systematically associated with the personal gift of having children for their own sake rather than for the pleasure and utility of the parents.”

MARRI graphs further illustrate the influence of belief in God on related issues: on the meaning and importance of having children, on happiness, and on fears and anxieties during intercourse.

Those who worship frequently value having children more those who do not practice.

National data shows intact married couples that worship frequently are happiest.

National data indicates that intact families who worship weekly are less anxious and worried during intercourse.

The Upshot team at the New York Times repeatedly does “almost-great” work . Had they included religious worship question and marital status question they would see a dramatically different picture. The national averages would be the same but who is afraid and who is ready to plunge forward would stand out.

 

 

With an eye to the hand that could rock the cradle and give us the world,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of the MARRI Project

Catholic University of America

Every Society Begins with Sex

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If you want to collapse a society burrow down to the sexual and begin the disintegration there. During the 1950’s and 1960’s the Frankfurt School was gradually gaining the insights that would permit this deconstruction (especially in the work of Shulamith Firestone and Kate Millett). This resulted in what can only be described as a diabolical agenda, nowhere made more explicit than in the opening ”litany” of the weekly meetings of the founders of the National Organization of Women. Their bottom line: separate the man, the father, from the family. It took them two generations (50 years), but they have succeeded: 54% of children by age 17 are without their father in their home.

At much the same time another revolution, this time a good one, was going on at the University of Krakow in Poland, where a young professor of philosophy, Karol Wojtyla was building the insights that eventually resulted in the “Theology of the Body”, and along the way was the major contributor to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” laying out the positive path forward as well as prophesying the destruction inherent in the use of contraception.

Though many fathers prevail in marriage, “the pill” has gradually undermined their position in the family, especially as their children mature into active sexual beings. Mark Regnerus’s study, Cheap Sex, summarized in his recent WSJ op-ed, delineates the profound interior moral change in men but also in women, each paying its different half of the price-tag.

In the 1960s we began to perfect the separation of children from sex. This caused great debate across religions and across the globe. Some religious leaders and philosophers disagree with the separation unworn of the evil consequences. But everywhere there was either capitulation or deep divide. Most religions and religious leaders selected capitulation. The most notable holdout though by no means the only holdout, is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. However even there teaching the audible word is never to be heard. All seem to be struck dumb. There are two sacramental vocations in Christianity: the priesthood and marriage. As the second is gutted, the first looks on silently. Though the Little Sisters of the Poor stood up against the brilliant Frankfurt School President Obama, the local parish priest cannot stand up against those in his flock who disagree with the Church, and insist on their “new moral theology” that fuses the reception of Christ into their body in the Eucharist, even as they use that same body of theirs to say “non serviam” to their vocation (their calling from the same God) to be life-givers.

So, the Marxist-Feminist revolution and the life affirming counter-revolution are in a fight to the death for the family, for marriage, for children and for fatherhood.

As long as the sexual intercourse of male and female separates its two key components — mutual orgasmic pleasure of the highest kind in creation (the unitive aspect of sexual intercourse)—from the potential generation of new life (the generative aspect of sexual intercourse that gives mankind the future, the child)—the sidelining of the average male is guaranteed.

The resulting downward slide into a chaos demands holding society together through deep-state anomic regulation, which gradually displaces, then banishes the humanity of the normal health-giving caress of a morally integrated culture, the universal mode of social cohesion of all peoples and civilizations throughout history. Instead we have increasingly the broken family, the broken child, the broken heart, the broken society — all achieved by separating the father from his children. The crowning insult to it all: “patriarchy” (by Marxist-feminist definition, that form of the family where the father is present), is now a forbidden word in the public, politically correct, lexicon.

Consider, however, Rene Girard’s crowning achievement, the lecture, “How does Satan cast out Satan?” (I don’t think I have ever listened to any other lecture more than twice but this I listened to over fifty times — it is so densely rich in insights). Bishop Robert Barron thinks Girard will eventually be a Father (not a Doctor) of the Church. Girard describes Christ’s mission as leading all of humanity back to God the Father, but Satan — his ever-present competitor throughout the Gospels— in darkest envy, works always to become the new “Father” who displaces the Eternal Father: “that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name.” What a crowning achievement for him that today even good folk today are afraid to use the word “patriarch”.

It is time to make the title of patriarch a great vision for young men: That they grow old with their married children around them and their grandchildren happy in the marriages of their parents. That is the normal vocation of every man and woman.

A couple of weeks ago we returned after a hiatus of five or six weeks and I promised an explanation. Steeped in the sociological and demographic data on marriage, family and children I was overwhelmed by the disastrous picture which had been unfolding before me for years and felt the need to figure a way forward out of the mess deliberately created by people bent on the destruction of the family and of religion.

As already stated, the most disastrous of all developments in millennia has been the joining of cultural Marxism (the Frankfurt school and the Gramsci school of thought) with modern feminist (the National Organization of Women and the many allied organizations it has given birth to).

They have been so successful that today their allies even include CEOs of even the biggest corporations in the world: Google, Facebook, Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates. They all contribute massively to movements and programs that dismantle families and marriages (some maybe unwittingly – I think especially of the Gates and the Zukerbergs). Together these movements (cultural Marxism and feminism) quickly gained toeholds that were expanded into dominance in certain schools in Columbia University and the State Department and expanded out from there to gain the control they now have many institutions PARTICULARLY those involved in culturally shaping relationships between people (schools, law schools, judiciaries, journalism schools and major media). These are stark realities, but they fulfil the collapse from within, that Lenin demanded of the Frankfurt school. This is the reality we live in today.

So, what is to be done in this situation? Simple: Go on offense, but quietly, for the opposition is powerful and vindictive. But reality is on the side of patriarchy (again, that form of the family where the father is present, the intact family).

The movements and institutions mentioned are flying in the face of the data, and contradicting universal, observable, realities. The two great loves — of God and neighbor — make the environment in which man has always thrived. In their absence (broken and unformed marriage and falling rates of worship of God) man wilts and breaks down.

The antidotes are myriad but the task is as simple as its animating principle: Grow the good! Grow the wheat, forget about pulling up the weeds. First shore up and give confidence to those who are on the right track: Married fathers (present patriarchs) –who cannot exist without married mothers— then pastors, teachers and doctors. Simultaneously bring back the broken… the constant cry of Pope Francis. These souls know the reality of the suffering caused by the breakdown of marriage and the abandonment of prayer and worship. But many of them feel ashamed, as the recent work of Brad Wilcox and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University is making clear. But such marginalized people have always been fertile ground for revolutions (for good or evil).

Just as men were targeted by these movements, so too men will be significant leaders in rebuilding the good, particularly leading in rebuilding the traditional family, the intact married family, the patriarchal family. Patriarch is a good term…! Abraham was a patriarch. The ultimate patriarch is God the Father, from whom all fatherhood flows. On earth, the patriarchal family is the safest place for women and for children. This is the very opposite to what feminist claim. It is also the place where women and children thrive most — and men also. It is the place of the greatest educational output, the greatest financial output, the greatest contribution to the common good, the greatest likelihood to worship God, and the least troublesome to government, while it is the greatest contributor to the tax base of the whole country. It is that form of the family which most deserves to be protected, preserved and promulgated.

More anon.

For the good of the child, the future of society,

Pat Fagan

Fathers Raising Sons to be Good Fathers

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Fathers give the gift of existence when their sperm penetrates the mother’s egg. While the mother begins nurturing her child immediately, whether the father does so depends on the couple’s “mode of living” up to that point: their own family-of-origin culture and beliefs, moral norms, and their guiding insights and beliefs on life, sexuality, family, the complementarity of the sexes and on marriage.

Let us jump forward fourteen years from this moment, when the baby has just come into existence to the time he has reached puberty and is now biologically capable of becoming a father. His father began to prepare him on matters sexual four years earlier when they had “the talk” introducing him to sex — a task the father denies to anyone else, for that is his and his alone —so that his boy knows how much he owes his existence to his father, and how and why.

Even though he was trained to honor the privacy of his mother and sister — “the talk” began the development of “awe” of females, the father made sure that his mother had her “talk” with him a few weeks ago— to introduce him to the wonders and changes of the female body once the egg accepts the sperm. Having this taught him by his mother changed his idea of girls forever.

His father then began to form his capacity for future marriage: to be an affirmer, a protector and a provider. He had earlier started the formation of affirmation of the women in his life: his mother, and especially his sisters. Now he begins to tutor him in observing and listening carefully so that he gets to know more about who the young women he meets at school and at play and to understand them as much as they permit him to. He teaches him how to be a recognizer of inner beauty. He tutors him in how to listen and how to evaluate — with kindness and understanding when facets become obvious that are not so beautiful or good. He reminds him constantly that every woman is to be honored. By teaching him how to affirm women his father is developing his criteria for selecting a wife.

Having protected him from pornography many years ago — another talk — the boy is used to battling internally with sexual temptation that images that arouse lust (making of a woman an object to be used). The boy has seen its effects on some of his classmates and how their attitude to girls changed mightily. He makes sure his sisters never associate with them. This all led him to a shocking conclusion — that in the adult world he is entering males can be quite predatory.

His father told him how he won this internal battle and still has to win it constantly (how to wipe images away from the mind immediately; what happens when a man does not and how to recover).

But his father also taught him that women too can grow dragons within —slayers of the innocent— and that he had to learn to differentiate between the young women he meets so that he could avoid the trap of a “slayer” in disguise. His son thought this a bit harsh but his father insisted that clear understanding is necessary if he is to be savvy on selecting a wife.

He further instructed him that forgiveness is possible and he tutored him in the need for it — even of the best woman in the world (the one he hoped his son would select) — for her faults and failings will emerge as his future marriage progresses out of the intense romance stage to the long phase of working close together in raising their own children. He will need a wife who will forgive him for his faults too.

He gently advised his son:

“Son, when you are ready we can talk about what your major weaknesses are likely to be so that you will be readier to ask your wife’s forgiveness.”

“When your girlfriend questions you — if she questions you — about your sexual restraint and how you pulled it off — tell her the truth – most of it comes from you and I being close – close enough to have had these conversations over the years. Most young men don’t have that experience so they don’t have the “strength of their father in this area”. You do! It is my gift to you — and to her —– and to your children — my grandchildren.”

“Find the girl who is as close to her mother and father as you are to me and your mother.”

“Choosing who will be your wife and the mother of your children is the most important decision of your life…it will shape the rest of your existence as nothing else will… except your relationship with God. But you know that already even though you are still early in learning about your relationship with Him. There is no severing the connection between sex, egg and sperm, new life and existence and God. Well there is severing but it is disastrous. Just look around and look at the data.”

“Though my guidance is always there for you it is even better that you learn the silence in your heart that is necessary to have conversations with Him so that you get His guidance instead. That will be your strength: Inner certainty arising from inner silence. Without that silence the only voice you hear will be your own —- a bad advisor compared with YOU AND HIM together. That is where I get my deepest affirmation.”

“The other capacity you need to have — being a provider—in some ways it is the easiest part, in others it is the toughest because of the long hours of work. But you have learned to study hard so you already know how to work hard. For hard workers there are loads of job opportunities. But you must learn to save from your very first paycheck… If you can learn to live on 90% of your take-home pay you are doing well. Better still if you learn to do it on 80%… you will never have to worry about money if you learn to live below your means… and you won’t be tempted by money if you do.”

“This will also give you time for conversation in the family that other families will not have. Money and time are interchangeable. As we conquer material nature we seem to have less time — so become rich enough to have the time you need to have many conversations in the family. Protect your wife and children by keeping out the robbers of time – of conversation – of affirmation and understanding of each other.”

“Figure out first what you want: more money or more time. And choose a wife accordingly. If you choose time your children

will thank you. If you choose money they may curse you. They definitely will wish you had chosen time.”

“If you are an Affirmer and a Protector being a Provider comes naturally.”

In turn his son will respond: “But father so few of my friends have families like this!”

How true—that is the great task that confronts the world.

How to change the environment so that every child has such a habitat (a home). Solve this problem and all the others fall in place easily. Solve the other problems first and we will destroy what is left of the environment.

It is time for men to lead where only they can… in being fathers to the full.

A Return to Patriarchy?  

children, culture, family, fathers, intact family, men No comments

“Patriarchy” has become a” dirty word” because of Marxist Feminist political correctness. If one searches for what is meant by patriarchy (or what is included in their definition of patriarch) is the intact married biological family. Marriage is seen as patriarchy! And that has become an evil to be banished. We live in insane times — literally, not metaphorically speaking.

The fullest relationship between male and female occurs in marriage. When they engage in sexual intercourse (at minimum an action at the bodily level) they have the capacity, frequently, to generate the fruit of this physical relationship: a new human being —( the one-celled zygote the first stage of all of the developing human being they have just brought into existence).

This new being is hypersensitive to the relationship between itself and its mother. This latter relationship is more intimate at the physical level than any other physical relationship in human experience.

For nine months the new being grows in harmony with his mother’s body, and its mother’s body adapts to nurture and develop the new human being within her. Once the new human being exits the womb its first experience of external reality normally is (and always ought to be) the warm embrace and the affection, now external to the womb, of the same mother. Thus the mother in those first moments welcomes her new child into the external world of human reality be first letting it experience its first external human relationship as warm, loving, welcoming and nurturing .

By bonding fast and deep and accepting and enveloping it in love and affection way, the new human being feels affirmed warmly in its new external existence. This welcoming by the mother is the most profound experience of its life because it is the first experience of the reality it will inhabit for the rest of its life in this external world. One could say that nothing is more important for this new being than that the mother be prepared and ready to accept and envelop in affection and love and nurturance, her new child so that, right from the beginning, she reassures her child that it is loved, because she knows it is made to be loved, just as she experiencing now for the first time in a most profound way, she also is made to love (as well is to be loved as deeply as this).

This exchange of deepest loves between her and her new baby will be made most possible for her by the loving attention and care of her by her husband at these moments — assuring her by his silent, attentive presence, of his personal dedication to her and their child, even as she totally attends to that child’s needs in those first moments and hours. Her deepest needs being met at this most existential of moments in her life — are made possible by a husband, who at this time has no thoughts whatever of his needs but is fully consumed by his wife’s and his baby’s needs. His reason for existing right then is to sacrifice anything and everything for the needs of these two beings who are his family, even if their existence were to demand his sacrificing his life. All men would expect that of him (even as they wish it did not have to be so at all).

Thus, the human family is a family of deepest relational needs — fulfilled by each other for each other.

In these first moments of the new family a child is affirmed by the mother through her love, care, nursing, affection and attention. At the same time the mother experiences an affirmation of her motherhood in the satisfied response of her child to her care and nurturing. At that moment she is affirmed in her femaleness in a way she has never experienced before in her life. She feels fulfilled in her existence. That feeling of fulfillment is made possible by her having a nurturing environment around her and that environment is her loving, protecting, caring husband.

The process began with the father’s sperm travelling up to her egg – and that first stage ends with the father standing to the side loving, caring, and protecting the two — his spouse and his child. Thus, it is one of the most evil projects on earth, to pry the father apart from the mother of his child and from his child. This is a crime against father mother and child. This is a crime against the human race.

If culture is a tapestry of affirmations of the different relationships that make us human society, of relationships that can be ranked in importance and centrality, then those relationships that begin new life, the next generation of that society and culture, are the most to be treasured and protected.

That protection falls most to the father because his spouse is engaged in the intense around-the-clock nurturance of the new fetus or new child. This protection begins even before they become a family. As he selects his future spouse and as she selects him, though it is not foremost in his mind, it is deepest in his obligations even as he forms and nurtures from potentiality to reality, the relationship between him and his future, hoped-for, spouse. He protects her and their future children, by protecting all of them from those who would pry him from his spouse and his children: those enemies of the family who are set against patriarchy, for patriarchy, as used by these enemies of the family, means the married father with his spouse and his children. To these enemies every married father is a patriarch, is the one to be pried apart from his family.

If the destruction of patriarchy was the strategy of destroying society then the rebuilding of patriarchy is the strategy of rebuilding a family-centered culture.

In such a culture the woman is admired and honored especially for her motherhood.   The man who wants to “have a woman in his life” is also bringing a child into his life, for woman is most made woman in that moment of childbirth, and a man is most man at the same moment: selflessly dedicated to a project of the common good.

All human beings are made male or female for purposes of reproduction – for the purpose of the child, the next generation.   But within these very complementary differences is a common humanity. Humanity’s most common need is to belong or be understood. These are not synonyms in language but they are synonyms in human experience. We belong where we are understood and to whom we belong we most want to be understood. To be understood is the greatest form of affirmation. Thus male and female, husband and wife are most affirmed by each other when they are understood by the other.

But affirming does not come naturally to either male or female: it is an acquired disposition, skill and habit. But it is foundational to the couple and is the essence of culture. And children need their parents to be affirmers of each other.

The wife who has a man who understands her, who provides for her and protects her when she needs it is a well-fulfilled (not perfectly fulfilled but well fulfilled) woman. She will let him know her fears, and he will protect her.

Married women took to contraception because it alleviated one of life’s “dangers”: the “loss of self” in raising many children. However, there is a vast literature (and we at MARRI likely have the biggest collection of findings from that literature) now illustrating the dangers of contraceptives for many women. Frequently, one or more of her bodily functions and systems breaks down under a medication designed to suppress a woman’s fullness of female bodily maturity. A significant number of biological systems are in danger of severe injury and trauma, occasionally life threatening.

A protector husband would not want his wife to be subject to those dangers or suffer the frequent-enough consequences of using them. However, it is clear from the natural family planning research literature, that not many men have enough sexual self-control to abstain from sexual relations during the fertile days of his wife’s fertility cycle. Thus, if she does not use the pill he is a danger to her when she does not want to conceive. She then views her husband, not a protector, but as a big danger.

Thus, if a couple are to use natural family planning the husband has to be trusted by his wife, and known by his wife to be a man quite capable of the required level of sexual self-control that is necessary if natural family planning — working in total harmony with the woman’s biological systems — is to be the method by which couples choose whether to bring their next child into existence at this time in their marriage, or not.

What if their husbands were not only to be trusted but — at one and the same time and by the same level of necessary self-control — were to be the great lovers every woman wishes her man could be. That would quickly change the attitude of many women towards the pill. Both capacities: to abstain and to pleasure well are based on the capacity for self-control. The chaste man has that control in spades. Most modern men do not.

This sort of male is the one who is needed if we are to have a culture-building sexual counter-revolution. This time it must be the men who lead.

Affirmers, providers and protectors of women —men who provide for their wives and children, understand them deeply in a way no one else ever has, which gift of understanding yields the companion gift of unity between them, and to have such sexual self-control they have children when they want to and avoid conception when they are not ready for another child together; and lastly, she has greater sexual satisfaction that most women only dream of (and eventually forget about as unattainable from men).[1]

To achieve this quality a man must learn:

  • To communicate well (to listen deeply so as to understand well, and thus affirm where affiration is most needed);
  • To provide sufficiently (get enough education to work at the job he is prepared to do to bring in the income his wife will be happy with);
  • Become a man of sexual self-control so that the pill is not a temptation for either of them and his capacity to satisfy his wife is what both dream of.

If the culture is to be restored we must learn how to grow men like this.

Most ordinary fathers ensure their sons are capable of being providers. However, on the other two necessary capacities (the capacity to understand and affirm; and the capacity for sexual self-control at the level discussed above) most ordinary fathers do not develop these capacities in their sons, or even broach the topics with them. Thus, it behooves men to begin this change in capacity-development as soon as possible.

The most fundamental skill needed to achieve all three is the first: the capacity and skill to communicate a deep understanding of the other person (and of oneself). This is the key skill to everything else. And this capacity is quite developable!

Men skilled in communicating and affirming can mentor other men in acquiring the same capacities. Overtime a cascading network of mentoring men can have huge effects.

Women will notice the difference. Such men will be so valuable to them and the need for contraception will dissipate.

Pornography

abstinence, adolescent sexuality, child well-being, children, community, culture, D.C., elections, family, fathers, pornography, Technology, youth 1 comment

Recently, for a talk in Chicago to parents of high school boys, I had to update my knowledge based on a 2009 review of the effects of pornography. On this issue the world has changed a lot in less than ten years: the use of pornography has escalated and the effects are alarming.

The most telling effect, I think, is the epidemic of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men.  For all of human history this was mainly an older man’s problem.  As recently as 2002 the rate of ED for men aged 40–80 was about 13% in Europe. By 2011 rates reached 28% for men aged 18–40. As reported above, a 2014 cross-sectional study of active duty, relatively healthy, 21–40 old males in the US military, found that one third (33.2%) suffered from ED.

Unaware of these changes, for the last year or so I had thought that the drop in high school students’ rate of sexual intercourse was good news and that, since 2007, abstinence ideas were winning, but given the above data, all of the causes may not be good news. Increased pornography use among teenage boys, resulting in decreased interest in girls, may be the cause. This also serves to put in context a disturbing experience I had a few weeks ago while driving through a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb during rush hour: I noticed (as must several other drivers waiting for the traffic lights to change) a 12-year-old moving along the sidewalk, intently looking at his smartphone in one hand while his other hand was engaged in self-abuse.  I had not yet reviewed the new research on the prevalence of pornography viewing and was quite taken aback.  No longer.  At age 12 he was already so addicted to porn and had no shame.  The average age of a boy’s first viewing of pornography has dropped to 10 years of age. Fathers be aware.

75 percent of porn-watching is done on smart phones.  25 percent of all internet searches are for pornography.  Tablets and computers make up the rest, computers being the smallest percentage. The average length of stay on a porn site is about 10 minutes. 70 percent of US college students watch porn — alone, with others, or in couples.  45 percent of women now accept it in their relationships.  10 percent of women refuse to view it themselves but accept it in their husbands or partners.

A decade ago women viewed pornography at about one sixth the rate of men.  Today, depending on the country, it varies from only one third the rate of men (US) to one half (the Philippines and Brazil).

Estimates of production range up to 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total sites worldwide) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, worldwide, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).

What are the negative effects for those who become habituated and especially for those who become addicted?  Changes in brain size (diminished); the younger boys start the greater the effects on their brain, and the more difficult to overcome the addiction; men see women as sex objects not as persons, have greater interest in pornography than in the company of women or girlfriends; they suffer increasingly from erectile dysfunction, become more aggressive in their relationships with spouses or partners, are more likely to believe the ‘rape myth’ (that women enjoy being sexually abused), and progress to more and more deviant pornography to attain sexual arousal, leading in turn to greater sexual deviancy;  teenagers will be more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activities. It is no wonder that American young adults and college students are less and less interested in marriage and may be on the way towards the “Japanese disease” of widespread withdrawal from interest in sexual matters among 30-year-olds.

This is a calamity of monumental proportions.  Combined with contraception and abortion, we now have a ‘society-collapsing’ conception and practice of human sexuality.

Given the borderless nature of the internet, pornography is difficult to control.  However, there is not a nation on earth for whom its effects are not massively deleterious.  This is one public health hazard on which the governments of the world should cooperate.  Without that cooperation it cannot be stamped out. And, given the rate at which porn movies are made, the industry would have to be a major source of the sexual exploitation of women, with probable links to sex-trafficking.

In the meantime, savvy parents — and even savvy teenagers — will switch to dumb phones.  Giving a teenage boy a smart phone is installing a porn-shop in his pocket… and a very alluring shop it is too: cheap (free) porn, immediately available, and anonymous. In ten minutes a teenage boy can see more and more beautiful undressed women than the greatest sultan harem-owner in history ever saw in a lifetime. Who could resist?  Not many.

One father, a friend of mine who took great care in introducing his boys into a gradual and full understanding of male sexuality and its foundational role in marriage, came up with a savvy way of helping his boys avoid pornography:  He told them that, if any boy at their school showed porn to them on a smartphone, they had his full permission to grab the phone, smash it on the ground, stomp it into bits, and then tell that classmate to have their father call his father. One can imagine their glee but, so far, they have not had the joy of following through.  Their school now forbids smartphones during school hours on school property.  Maybe the practice will spread. ‘Dumb phones’ work fine for communicating with parents, family, and friends. The world is different when dumb is smart!

Parenting

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Recently, I led a group of young parents in a case study designed to teach them how to handle a three-year-old when he is throwing a temper tantrum.  The parents in the case study were dealing with their first child and made several typical mistakes: one parent spanked in anger and one parent denigrated the other in front of the child.

We dissected the case: what happened, what went wrong, what they needed to do in the future, and how to get there.  Towards the end of the session we gained a bird’s eye view when someone pointed out that the underlying issue was one of trust.  The whole episode came alive again with new energy as we analyzed the case from that perspective.

The case parents were trying to form a habit of restraint in their child so that they could trust him to practice restraint in the future.  When he demonstrates that he can restrain himself their trust in him will grow.  If he does not learn restraint, however, they will trust him less.

Ironically, to achieve this level of formation in their child, they need to be able to trust each other to “do the right thing” when disciplining their child.  Though they agree on what Johnny needs to do they do not yet agree on what each of them needs to do. In this situation they cannot trust each other yet.

This problem will be solved when they can agree: “You can rely on me to do this in this situation.  And I can rely on you to do that in this same situation.”  When they can both look each other in the eye and each say this to each other the ground beneath them has shifted. Not only has trust been restored, but the foundation of their marriage has grown and they have learned how to deepen it.  When they have solved a string of problems in this way they are well on their way to being great parents and a great couple because they have learned how to grow trust.

No matter what way they discipline their child he will turn out strong because they know it is all about trust. “Johnny, you can rely on me to do this for you.  Can I rely on you to do the same for me?”  Johnny learns many good habits but, more importantly, he learns the value of being trustworthy.

Given the massive disruption in trust that the US is experiencing in all its institutions (family, church, school, marketplace, and government) it seems that fellow citizens who are opponents on so many issues need to begin their discourse with: “You can rely on me to treat you with respect in our conversations.  Can I rely on the same from you?”   Without a “yes” there is no point in having the conversation. With a “yes” the ground has shifted— a brick has been laid in the infrastructure we need most: trust.

If we adopt this habit a lot will change. Is there anyone in your orbit with whom you need to practice this?  A spouse?  A child? A relative?  A co-worker? A neighbor?

 

With an eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the MARRI Project
Catholic University of America

Smartphones and Technology

community, depression, family, happiness, Technology, youth No comments

Today’s two findings link the digital world with relational outcomes that no one wants: abortion and unhappiness.  The digital world is a two-edged sword.  We know its benefits, but increasingly we are getting to know it’s down-sides.  Japan, one of the most digitally saturated societies on earth, is experiencing one of technology’s noxious byproducts: hikikomori  they call it, the shut-in lifestyle of young people who have withdrawn from society in fear and isolation to live, not socially, but digitally.

Being human, we are deeply relational from the first moments of our existence and thrive on good relationships throughout our lives. We are brought into existence by the most intimate and desirable of relational activities.  We come into the world to be nursed and cuddled in an intimacy many of us, subconsciously, seek to recreate throughout life, especially if we did not get enough in infancy.  We thrive in families that spend lots of time together, supporting each other in the tasks of life.  This is made even easier for us if we live in a close community.  Add lots of intact marriages and lots of weekly worship (both deeply relational) and life is pretty good for almost all involved.  Children who grow up in these environments are much more likely to thrive in adulthood.

Life in a Jewish Family” by Edith Stein, describes just such a family life in a close-knit Jewish community. It changed how my wife and I raised our children.  Later it led me to frequently suggest to my daughters that, in their turn, they consider living close to each other, if possible, when they married and began their own families because their children would benefit from all the aunts, uncles, and cousins they would have around them.  Better still, if they were anchored in a community of worship, and best of all if they had all this and friends close by.  What gifts for all the children involved!

Charles Murray of AEI in Coming Apart and Robert Putnam of Harvard in Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis tell pretty much the same story: upper-class parents, by and large, understand the relational needs of their children and that their own marriage is foundational to their children’s future.  These parents are well educated and know the research. These upper-class parents also understand and practice the worship of God more than most!

But all this good work can be undone, even for the best of parents, should the digital get a hold on the imagination and habits of their children.

Here too, savvy elites catch on quickly:  A few years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of very wealthy and highly educated married couples. The topic was ‘the benefits to children of the time married parents spend with them’.  One of the couples recounted their smartphone strategy: every family member, including each parent, puts his smartphone into a big ceramic bowl in the foyer when he arrives home.  The phones stay there until after dinner and, on going to bed, are put back there again until after breakfast … which they all have together as their start to the day.  They insisted they knew the value of things and that the most valuable of all is time with the most important people in their lives … each other and their children.

 

With an eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan,
Director, MARRI at CUA

Society

family, role models, social science, society No comments

I have spent a life in the social sciences, psychology and sociology, yet it was not till relatively recently that I dug into the work of René Girard. Within his work one fundamental insight stands out: man is an imitator.  This flies in the face of being an American, being modern and being independent. To imitate is to be dependent on another. Though independent people never want to be seen as dependent, this is a major shortcoming, especially when its power is not constantly taught.

It is extremely powerful.  We imitate those we trust, even in small things and even when we don’t know much about the people we rate as trustworthy: In an art gallery we are more likely to go to paintings looked at by others whose  faces seem trustworthy than to pictures looked at by those whose faces don’t seem trustworthy. This happens without our realizing it. The example of those we trust is powerful. We have yet to harness this power of imitation to mold the human soul.  It phenomenon is worth cultivating.

We could help those in society who are being left behind by teaching them, not what to do, or how to do it (evaluation data shows that does not work) but, instead, whom to copy.

Children from the inner-city have few-to-no examples of children who grew up in their neighborhood and made it to college, or who got married. Without others to imitate they cannot imitate. This is the great poverty. Today, many of our inner-city poor have a material well-being way greater than the middle class of the 1960’s, but their real poverty has grown much deeper. Congress suffers the same poverty  and all the mega-social agencies (HHS, HUD, DOE, DOJ, CDC) spend their behavior-improving-money uselessly (and the data show it so, again and again), because of the absence of an abundance of good examples.

When there are no good examples to imitate how do we break the cycle of bad choices made?

Stories abound of good folk who befriended those in need. But good folk don’t present themselves as examples to be imitated but rather are noticed as quietly go about helping. Those who receive the help and those who see the helping often get more from the example of their well-lived lives than from “the help”. I remember a Maryland pastor telling the story of his wife as a young girl. Her family was totally dysfunctional.  All her siblings were in jail.  She, however, was able to take a different path because of a kind couple who lived a on her street. With her parents’ permission, they took her in every weekend and brought her to church with them on Sunday, dressing her up for weekly worship. Those Saturdays and Sundays spent with that couple opened her eyes and she saw what life could be. The seed was sown and she cultivated it throughout her teens and into adulthood.

So how can the single mother break the cycle of single motherhood for her daughters? One way is to find single mothers who have raised daughters who married successfully and imitate them.  How can the absent-father break the cycle of father-absence for his son? They find single fathers who have raised sons who married successfully and imitate them.

But for the inner-city poor these examples may be so infrequent as not to be noticed (only 9% of African American seventeen-year-olds in SE Washington live with their married biological parents, 91 % have a different example). How do we help them?

Netflix could get creative, could do great good with all the profits they are making. Uplifting human-interest stories are always enjoyable. They can make the careers of scriptwriters and directors. Masterpiece Theatre, if it pulled off something like this would bring a totally new meaning to its name.  Bill and Melinda Gates, concerned that their spending may not be achieving as much good as they hoped, might invest in true stories of bravery and goodness and love giving birth to a stronger generation.

In a way, we all have this task of finding, and making known those hidden people who have achieved the worthiness of being imitated in their family life. We need others to imitate if we are to go forward to our next level of being better.  We all love a good story, especially one of rags to riches (and most especially from family relational rags to family relational riches).

Write Netflix or Masterpiece Theatre or The Gates Foundation.

Womanhood

family, natural family planning, women No comments

Today we come to celebrate the work of Natural Womanhood, whose calling is to tip the world towards the future it needs if it is not to descend into yet more chaos. (A version of this with footnote references may be found on the MARRI site here.)

Every natural family planning method teaches the “how” of going about the marital act but they hide their fundamental purpose: a family built on the unity of wife and husband, and built on the woman’s personal choices. In the world where woman has her full dignity she controls access to sexual intimacy; thus, her desires and her fears take center stage in choosing “how” and when.  But to achieve this she needs her husband’s full cooperation.  With such a husband she has the man every woman dreams of:  one who cooperates with her and honors her at the deepest level – at the level of creating their child together.

One very significant piece of research was conducted on the NFP family but is virtually unknown: Dr. Robert Lerner’s comparison of an opportunity sample of Couple to Couple League graduates with a random national sample of all married couples with children.

Listen to this: On the question of success in raising their families 75 % of the NFP group scored in the “success group” (satisfied, very satisfied and extremely satisfied) while the national average was 6%.  At the other end, the unsuccessful group (dissatisfied, very dissatisfied and extremely dissatisfied), the national average was 69% while the NFP average was only 2%.  Differences such as these are very seldom seen in social science.

The reason, the cause, can be found in another result within the report:

On satisfaction with communication between spouses, 76% of NFP women are Satisfied (Satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied) while only 5% are Dissatisfied (dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, extremely dissatisfied). Seventy six percent versus five percent is virtually an unheard-of difference in the scientific literature, but I am certain of the cause because during my first three years as a therapist I learned the power of unity in marriage. By my third year of practice, I would not see a child until I could see the whole family (including father).   After a few sessions, keeping the focus off the child and on the whole family, I would suggest “Let us leave the children at home next time,” and then start working on the troubles in the marriage that invariably were a significant part of the picture.  When unity between the couple was restored, 95% of the children became symptom-free without “having to be treated”. The child thrives in the love that is unity between parents. This is the secret of success for NFP couples.

This is the great difference Natural Womanhood brings to the world. It offers a superior world, a world all women wish was accessible to them, a world of unity between husband and wife, where communications are great; where confidence in parenting is very high; where children thrive. And it all begins with sex: a choice between two lifestyles, two types of community, two cultures — two civilizations really–where people belong to each other or one where people are lost and reject each other and their children. The conversation about sex determines the way.

With the way of Natural Womanhood everyone wins: The couple, the child, the next generation, the community and the culture.

Why would anyone not accept this way? Because of the false promises, deceptions, easy “truths” that the “Cheap Sex” offered in contraceptive sexual intercourse — cheap because it promises the greatest of pleasures without Nature’s corresponding price of marriage and of children.  Contraception is inherently deceptive and hides — and never, ever acknowledges its costs, the highest often being the rejection, even the elimination of the child, as well as the relationship cost between the couple.   Everyone pays dearly.

Different women pay the price of myriad biological effects that at different rates, in different ways and with increasing visibility, are causing the bodies of women to breakdown in such illnesses as thrombosis, stroke, glaucoma, as well as breast, cervical, and liver cancers. It significantly increases weight gain, and complications with Type 2 diabetics. It changes brain functioning. All the woman’s biological systems are oriented towards attracting, conceiving, birthing, nursing.  Contraception closes these systems down, and different systems for different women crack under the strain. It is not nature’s way.

It has also brought us levels of STDs unknown in recorded history: We now have at least four “constant epidemics” with 20 million new infections per year, yielding a total of 110 million ongoing infections —- causing such damage as ectopic pregnancy, infertility and irregular bleeding.

The woman’s psychological costs include increased depression and anxiety. It even alters her perception of men leading her to choose a husband she never would have chosen were she not on the pill, or to not like her husband when she comes off the pill.

Ironically, it reduces the enjoyment of sexual intercourse for many women.

What a massive deception of women.

The Child (our future) has paid the highest price. Modern levels of child victimization are now so massive it is hard for the mind to grasp, and beyond anything ever experienced in human history — all because of sex gone wrong through contraception, which, without exception has invariably led to massive human deficits — starting with abortion, even in nations where it is outlawed.  Today, across the globe, 60 million new human beings are killed in the womb each year.  This is akin to deliberately repeating the total killings of WWII every year.

For those who live, in the US, by age seventeen, 54% live in a family without their biological mother and father living together — with all the concomitant weaknesses that brings in every major task in life. Most damaging of all is their diminished capacity and likelihood of belonging to a spouse and to their children in their own adult lives.

The biggest price for the man is that he is rejected by his woman (70% of the divorces and most of the cohabitations) after which he has less to live for.  And his father-absent sons, will in turn, become child-absent fathers in their time. These fathers die younger, sadder and lonelier, with addictions leading the way as the immediate cause, and suicide trailing a bit behind.

The community pays in the massive social costs of out of wedlock births, abortions and divorces, and these, not just at increased levels but at “culture shock” levels.  The sexual revolution of the 1960’s, the pill, has given us a severed nation where more than half of seventeen-year-olds now live in families where one of their parents has split.  For African Americans 83% have split.  The cost in the loss of human talent is astronomical, an absence compounded by its replacement by increased crime, poverty, addictions, mental illness, ill heath, educational failure!

Compounded over generations (now multiple generations for many) this is leading to increased victimization of children.

At the global level we see the depopulation of developed Western nations.  Europe is slowly dying, but by history’s timeline, very quickly. Northern Italy is the prime exhibit, where the child now has no brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles or cousins, where the future must belong to foreigner because the inhabitants are disappearing.  The same is playing out in Holland – which is likely to become a majority Moslem nation in your lifetime. God blesses those who give Him children; even God cannot bless those who do not exist!

The price to the body politic is an atmosphere of increased rejection, hostility, disunity and irreconcilable goals and factions.  Scapegoat-seeking is rising quickly: “You are the cause of this set of victims, for it cannot be me. And — if I get to say it first: you are the cause.”  This is the sound of a marriage breaking up. It is also the sound of a body politic breaking apart.

Culture pays the price in the death of romance — and with that the debasement of the arts and entertainment, along with the erosion of worship of God and the unleashing of lust, anger, hatred and violence. All the data show this.  And it all begins with sex gone wrong — with sex gone deceptive — with sex gone contraceptive.

Paraphrasing Longfellow we can say: “The wheels of nature grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.”

Contraception has given us a world into which no sane adult would freely choose and only a diabolical architect would design. The world has been duped and deceived —- by the father of lies. But nobody believes in him anymore, so he continues to win.

Natural Womanhood offers a different world.

There is a trinitarian nature to human relationships — but it all depends on which trinity we put in place: the positive one or the negative one; the other-oriented one or the self-centered one.  The third person every sexually active couple deals with, inviting into or banishing from the conversation, is the child. One triad, the inclusive one, is like a three-atom molecule in stable orbit, the other, the excluding one, is composed of two atoms colliding with the third.  It is unstable and very dangerous as we have just listed.

We know and need not duck the reality that such stable couples are most often, though not exclusively, found among those who worship God regularly.

Though by now virtually every educated person knows that adults and children thrive most in the always-intact-married-family, but virtually no one knows that the same source of data – the US federal survey system — also shows, always, that the adults and children who thrive most also worship God weekly.  The royal road to thriving is the two great loves of marriage and the worship of God.  That NFP couples also often illustrate is thus no wonder.

And here is what they set in motion:

Without realizing it NFP couples openly teach the fundamental likeness of man to God in their conversations about intercourse, for they acknowledge the presence of the child, waiting eagerly on the sidelines, to be called into the ”game of life”, waiting so intensely it takes huge effort to keep him there till beckoned.  But when The Natural Woman and her husband call, that child is welcomed with a love that makes this new trinity on earth an image and likeness of  the Trinity in heaven — at least a beginning likeness.

This is the great reality that Natural Womanhood offers this child just conceived, the one cell zygote being shuttled by follicles down his mother’s fallopian tube to be lodged in her womb, there to grow into the baby that will soon upend her life and her husband’s forever, transforming her into a beautiful mother with a new fierce purpose in life while transforming him into a determined father, provider and protector.

Consider this: This newly conceived infant, at this point not even known to his parents but only to the Trinity, but drawing on the universal experience of the whole human race could say to his parents:

“I need your marriage, your growing unity, to become the person God intends me to be.  He has made me dependent on that love, which also happens to be the path for you to become the mature persons you must become— if I am to become the person I am meant to be.  From here on out, all three of us are dependent on this marriage. From here on we are a trinity.”

And we all are to worship God, at minimum, weekly if we are to become the person we are meant to be.  All human history, in all cultures across the globe, across all times, teaches this lesson. This way, together, we three can become much more the persons He wants us to be, so that we can be together with Him, after we have walked the full length of the path of life.” 

Natural Womanhood has appeared at its appointed time. By now many know about NFP, but barely and inadequately.  However, the deception of “Cheap Sex” is now more unmasked if only because the suffering it brings is more visible.  Furthermore, both social and biological sciences are on your side, because — when well done—they cannot but illustrate the way God made man.

But keep in mind that modern woman’s great conflict is the child.  Deep in her bones she knows the child is the price of happiness, but who can show her the way, and where does she find the man worthy of marrying her?

Because we all are created as imitators we have no choice but the wrong one if we do not have attractive people to imitate. Natural Womanhood is great work and must point to those worth imitating.  You are called to be great storytellers, called to build a new civilization worthy of a future by being worthy of the woman and the child.

I am sure God is with you as you set about your work.  May you experience His presence and His help, and enjoy heaven with those you help get there.

Home Economics

economics, family, marriage, mothers No comments

In his book Redeeming Economics, John Mueller, of The Ethics and Public Policy Center, formerly  an economic forecaster with many Fortune 500 clients, traces the suppression and the loss of the Fourth Law of Economics – the law of distribution.  This law had been well known to economists of the Middle Ages when the study of economics boomed — along with the boom in the European economy   (Adam Smith tried to reduce the laws  to one, failed, and ended up with two, but suppressed two.) Others since have added back the third.  The fourth has yet to be “rediscovered”, if one does not count Mueller’s work.   The distribution of the income of a firm, a family or an individual goes a very long way in adding to the economy of the firm, family or individual.  One basic example is how much spending vs saving vs charitable giving goes on. Some in the family often forego their share to take care of others (the law of the gift — of redistribution, freely undertaken).  Charitable giving at the right moment can make a huge difference to the life of someone in need; saving to send a child to college or to private school is another form of the gift.  There are myriad.  But going to the family level is the mother at home raising her children is involved in multiple gift-giving all the time and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker says makes a greater contribution to the economy than her husband working out in the marketplace.   That mother has a hidden and powerful effect on the money her husband brings home to the family.  She can make it go much further if she is wise.  The husband who has such a wife is much wealthier than the husband with the same income but a wife not as wise or selfless.  With a little thought you can identify women on both sides of this divide.

How large is that mother’s contribution?  We get some idea from the research of a colleague of mine at Catholic University, Dr. Sophia Aguirre.  Drawing on multiple federal economic surveys she demonstrated that when the mother goes out to work she has to reach pretty high levels of income to replace the lost “amplifying redistribution” effect, as well as making  up for the extra costs involved in going to work (clothes, transportation, increased taxes and  child care to name but a few).  Aguirre’s conclusion: “Yet, we also find that for the most part, the net income is [on average] economically insignificant.  Furthermore, the results suggest that the lower the income and the education of the secondary earner, the higher the probability of the net contribution to the total income of the household to be zero, or possibly negative.”

In other words, the net contribution of most mothers to the family income is not great, unless she is very well educated and can command a significant income ($100,000 +, ten years ago when the study was done).  Though this is disappointing news for many, looked at differently it is fantastic news for most:  The mother at home makes enormous economic contributions to her family and multiplies the income her husband brings home – and that does not even address the huge educational, psychological and social benefits of her presence to her children and their future earnings capacity (which was the basis of Gary Becker’s insight of her contribution to the economy being much greater than her husbands.  That conclusion depends on the time frame used to judge her contribution.  In a world of quarterly reports that contribution is totally missed.)

Now back to John Mueller: At a recent conference when he presented on the major insights of “Redeeming Economics” I asked him how much of the economy is hidden by the law of redistribution (the law of the gift, which among other gifts includes  the mother’s contribution at home).  His public answer: “About 50%”.  That is our GDP is twice as big as we think it is.

Mueller’s analysis and Aguirre’s analysis coming from totally different perspectives end up in pretty much the same place.  Mother virtually doubles the family’s economic benefit!

If one were to include the costs to the economy of increases in crime, addiction, school failure, ill health and mental illness — all resulting from “anti-gifts” — the absence of the gift of marriage to the children — with the depletion from the economy (crime, stealing, robbery, fraud, and all costs that would be avoided were all children raised in married families), this changes the picture yet more.

There is a long research road to hoe before this basic insight will be absorbed by the academy, by economists, by professors and their students, by legislators and those interested in wealth (investors and bankers), but the preliminary evidence is very, very big.

It is amazing how learned we can be yet how ignorant at the same time.  No wonder economics is the “dismal science” when it leaves out 50% of its field, all because it leaves out the gift of love in its most basic form: married family life.

Pat Fagan