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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Friday, June 11, 2021
This article was originally published in the National Catholic Register
A few weeks ago, we had a flash food in Lake Charles. Going through (yet another) natural disaster brought to mind many parallels with childhood sexual abuse.
Natural disasters and childhood sexual abuse are both life-threatening events. People respond to trauma in understandable ways, regardless of the specific circumstances of that trauma. And people with no direct experience of trauma tend to misunderstand the traumatized. I think I’m learning some things that may be of help to the Church in our quest to deal with the tragic legacy of sexual abuse.
May 17 started as a normal rainy day. Adults went to work and kids went to school as usual. Sometime around 11:30am, the situation didn’t look so normal. We watched the water overflowing the drainage ditches. We watched our yard turn into a lake. We started to think the water might come into our house. “Honey, there’s water coming in the front door!” Within 20 minutes, the entire house was filled with at least three inches of water, more in some places.
(Just to recap our Apocalypse Pre-Game Warm-up Show we’ve had in Lake Charles: Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27, 2020, Hurricane Delta on Oct. 8, the Southern
winter cold freeze in February 2021, and now a flood on May 17.)
Going through a natural disaster is a life-threatening experience. A flood can kill you. So can 150 mph hurricane winds. So can a fast-moving California wildfire.
I have learned a bit about trauma in the course of my study of childhood sexual abuse. People’s minds go into “survival mode.” Our attention becomes narrowly focused on the most immediate issues of life and death.
During the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, I noticed myself zooming in on very basic survival needs. Do we have water to drink? Can I get to the bathroom? Oh, wait. We can’t flush the toilet. Is the food in the refrigerator fit to eat? How are we going to prepare it, without electrical power?
Not to mention that everyone is hot, sticky, crabby and scared.
I had also learned, in the abstract, that people need to talk about their experiences in order to process them. My dear friend Sue Ellen Browder wrote and spoke about this here, starting about the 22-minute mark. She relates how her husband’s older brother had abused him. He only revealed this to her after 38 years of marriage and their conversion to Catholicism. She recounts how her husband finally confided in a sympathetic priest.
Father Bruce said to me: “Sue, here’s what I want you to do: I want you to ask Walter to tell you what happened when he was 7 years old. He may not want to talk about it. If he doesn’t volunteer to talk about it every two or three days, I want you to ask him about it. Just listen. Get all the details. But don’t get all emotional. Remember Joe Friday on Dragnet? I want you to be like that: ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’”
Eventually, Walter experienced a profound healing from this simple process.
During the aftermath of Laura, I experienced this aspect of trauma. I felt myself and my family members trying to process the situation by talking about it. I felt the urge to recount my hurricane story again and again. Every time I spoke about it, I felt a little bit better. I even recorded a video of myself during the early days of Laura-recovery, so I wouldn’t forget it.
People who haven’t been through a comparable trauma, don’t really understand what you’re going through. They may try. But honestly, they don’t get it. “You only had three inches of water in your house.” But when you’re watching the water rise, and it’s still raining, you don’t know that it is going to be “only” three inches. During that waiting period, people perceive their lives to be at risk, because they are.
Likewise, well-meaning people will sometimes say to childhood sex abuse survivors: “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” “Do we really have to keep talking about this?” “Can’t you just forgive and forget and move on with your life?” Well, no, actually, they can’t exactly move on, until they truly deal with it.
Where I live, chatting about natural disasters has become a standard topic of conversation. People ask, “How did your house do?” And then they listen respectfully to the answer, pretty much as long as the other person wants to talk. People don’t get uncomfortable and try to end the conversation, the way they might when someone can’t stop talking about their latest surgery.
I had very similar conversations with the produce manager at the supermarket, with my friends after church, and with nurses in New Orleans who survived Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago. Everyone instinctively gives their fellow survivors a whole lot of space, and time, and attention. I guess we intuit that these conversations are necessary and constructive, not self-absorbed and destructive.
All of which brings me back to childhood sexual abuse. My colleague Father Paul Sullins did a thorough study of clergy sex abuse, including the first-ever statistical analysis of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. On page 13, he reveals that the average length of time between the time of the abuse and the person’s first revelation of it to anyone was 28.7 years.
When I first read this number back in 2018, it was a mere abstraction. Today, it breaks my heart. I think of those children, going through a life-threatening, psyche-threatening event, and keeping it to themselves for decades.
What my neighbors and I have gone through is minor compared to what these children went through. I can talk about my natural disaster trauma. The typical victim of childhood sexual trauma has no one to talk to.
What would their lives have been like if they could have talked about it sooner? How much less drug addiction and depression and loss of faith might there have been? Even if no laws or Church policies changed, I can’t help but think these kids would have benefited from a socially acceptable context in which to tell their stories. It is powerful medicine to have someone say, “Tell me what happened to you,” and then listen.
Traumatized people really do need to talk. I needed it. Everyone in my town needs it. Maybe, someone near you needs it, too.
Posted on: Tuesday, December 15, 2020
In response to a December 9 NBC News story alleging the Ruth Institute is a “hate group,” the Institute’s President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse Ph.D., called the charge “an outrage.”
“The Ruth Institute is a global, non-profit organization leading an international, interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love,” Morse said. “If fighting sex abuse, pornography, and divorce makes us a hate group, so be it.
“The Ruth Institute has done two thorough statistical analyses of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church, pulling no punches, sparing no sacred cows. Meanwhile, NBC News has a terrible record on sexual abuse. Ronan Farrow credibly claims that they ordered him to stop investigating the Harvey Weinstein story.”
The NBC story that provoked Morse’s comments concerned the Paycheck Protections Program, designed to provide relief to small businesses affected by the coronavirus lockdowns. NBC reported that 14 organizations – designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center – got a total of $4.3 million in disaster relief administered by the Small Business Administration.
“NBC relies on the Southern Poverty Law Center for the ‘hate group’ designation. This just means the Ruth Institute is a group the SPLC hates. Big deal. They raise a lot of money with their hate-mongering tactics. In 2018, their net assets were a half billion dollars,” Morse said.
Like NBC, the SPLC has its own credibility problems on sexual issues. According to PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil, author of the book, Making Hate Pay, SPLC: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC Founder Morris Dees has been accused of harassment and creating a difficult environment for female employees.
The NBC story also quoted “experts” who are “troubled” by these “extremist groups” receiving federal stimulus money.
Morse noted: “The NBC article is a thinly veiled call for more government oversight of these loans. The reporters sought experts who would muse aloud about whether the government should forgive Paycheck Protection Program loans to these groups subjectively designated as ‘hate groups.’ The Ruth Institute received roughly $30,000 through the Paycheck Protection Program. That’s a fraction of the funding received by Planned Parenthood affiliates.”
Additionally, according to Reuters, dozens of strip clubs qualified for between $11.5 million and $27.95 million in COVID disaster relief. “We fight the idea that women are merchandise. They promote it,” Morse said.
She concluded: “The Ruth Institute has done as much as anyone to keep the issue of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the public eye. In addition to our statistical analyses, we have given a platform to victims of clergy sexual abuse. Both the SPLC and NBC are morally compromised on sexual issues. Those creeps have a lot of nerve going after us.”
Jennifer Roback Morse is the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives.
The Ruth Institute is a global, non-profit organization leading an international, interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love.
To schedule an interview with Dr. Morse, contact email@example.com.
Posted on: Friday, November 20, 2020
On today’s Dr. J Show, veteran journalist, now editor of Catholic World News, Philip Lawler shares his insights on the newly released McCarrick Report, the Pope’s comments on same-sex marriage, the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops congratulating Joe Biden on the election, and the status of the Church in China. The show’s host is Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., Ruth Institute Founder and President.
Of Pope Francis’s comments on homosexual marriage, Lawler observed: “The Pope wasn’t changing Church doctrine on marriage. He can’t do that. Unfortunately, his remarks provided an opportunity for journalists to misrepresent Church doctrine.”
Lawler agreed with a November 10th Ruth Institute release questioning the propriety of Archbishop Jose Gomez, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulating Biden before the votes are fully counted and certified.
Lawler said: “There was no need for Gomez to say anything. He wanted to curry favor with the man who will likely be the next president.” Morse added: “Biden promises soft-persecution of the Catholic Church and abortion under all circumstances, paid for by taxpayers.”
Regarding the report on ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse, Lawler noted that the report is silent on important questions, including: “How did he rise through the ranks?” and “Who helped him?” Lawler said the only member of the hierarchy who comes off badly in the report, ironically, was Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States who blew the whistle on McCarrick.
McCarrick helped to negotiate the Vatican/China deal, whose details have yet to be made public. Morse charged, “It’s believed that the Pope will now select Chinese bishops from a list submitted by the communist regime. This comes at a time when the Church – both underground and official—faces increased persecution.”
The Dr. J Show is a weekly interview that features experts on issues relating to marriage, family and human sexuality. New episodes release every Friday.
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization leading an international interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love.
To schedule an interview with Dr. Morse, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: Thursday, November 12, 2020
COMMENTARY: Scripture, sacred Tradition and our Catechism all agree: Sexual activity must be confined to a lawfully married husband and
Many of our friends from a variety of faith traditions have contacted the Ruth Institute regarding the recent statements attributed to Pope Francis regarding the Church’s position on civil unions for same-sex couples. I have one statement and two messages.
The statement is very simple: Pope Francis has not changed the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church.
My messages are very simple, too:
1. Do not be diverted.
2. Do not be demoralized.
Let me explain.
I can tell you with 100% confidence that Pope Francis has not changed the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church on the immorality of homosexual acts or on the true nature of marriage being the life-giving union between a man and a woman or anything else. How can I be so sure? Because he does not have the authority to change the teaching.
Every Catholic schoolchild is taught that the pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. As a child, I was taught, as many of you were, that the pope can be wrong if he predicts who is going to win the World Series. As an adult, I extended that simple thought: When the pope makes personnel appointments or does foreign policy, he can be wrong, sometimes disastrously so. And, when he gives interviews to journalists with agendas, he certainly can be wrong.
In fact, there are levels of “magisterial-ness,” if you want to call it that. Some writings of the pope carry more weight than others. Look closely at this resource, which explains various levels of doctrinal authority. You will not see “random papal statements to tendentious journalists who cut and paste the pope’s words to his own liking” anywhere on the list.
But what did Pope Francis really mean to say? I have no idea. I don’t think it is productive to try to “explain” or “explain away” his latest confusing statements. I do have some thoughts about what he and those around him may be trying to accomplish.
I believe the Pope and his advisers are well aware that he does not have the authority to change the teaching. The Vatican has in effect, suggested that the teaching has changed. The Vatican held a reception honoring the filmmaker. The Vatican Press office initially ordered silence about the controversy. The following week, the Vatican Secretary of State issued a “clarification” that the average person most likely neither heard nor understood. The net result: people continue to hold the incorrect impression that the Church’s teaching has “progressed” on the matter of homosexuality.
I can think of two possible explanations for why they might do this. First, they are positioning themselves as heroes to the gay-friendly world media, by appearing to move the mean old, nasty, out-of-touch Catholic Church out of the darkness and into the Modern Sunlight. You could think of this as a bright shiny object that attracts everyone’s attention.
Meanwhile, they divert attention from the clergy sexual abuse cover-up, including the newly-released but long-delayed McCarrick Report. While the release of this report is an important step, many questions remain. It focuses on how people above McCarrick in the ecclesial ladder missed the numerous red flags. But so far absent is the all-important question of the networks of people below McCarrick. People who owe their careers and other benefits to McCarrick may still have secrets, still be causing problems, and may still be flying under the radar. I do not know how to get to the bottom of something like this. But that makes it all the more important that we remain vigilant.
This is why my first message to faithful Catholics is: Do not be diverted. Take every opportunity to steer the conversation back to our insistence that the Vatican continue becoming more transparent. Do not allow another confusing papal statement to change the subject away from this important topic.
The second possible explanation for this latest episode of Vatican-induced doctrinal confusion is to demoralize the remaining faithful Catholics who love the Church’s teachings and are trying to defend them. The sexual revolutionaries would love to completely take over the Catholic Church and put an end to our resistance to their ideology. As we all know, the Church’s ancient teaching is one of the last remaining bulwarks against the continued crimes of the Sexual Revolution.
This brings me to my second message: Do not be demoralized.
Demoralizing one’s opponents is an important aspect of psychological warfare. Do not give them the satisfaction of being discouraged or upset. Do you have a right to be angry? You bet. Is it in your interest to be discouraged? Absolutely not.
Catholics who wholly embrace Catholic teaching may find it painful to realize that the Church, the bride of Christ, has been corrupted by the worst sort of sexual revolutionaries. I agree. It is painful. It is also a fact. However, we are not alone. Pretty much every profession and every sector of society, and yes, pretty much every church, has been corrupted by the Sexual Revolution.
The Church’s teaching is good and true. Scripture, sacred Tradition and our Catechism all agree. Sexual activity must be confined to a lawfully married husband and wife. This teaching belongs to all of us. The Pope has a responsibility to defend it. So does every bishop and every priest. And so, dear friends, do we as baptized Catholics. We have every right and responsibility to defend the teaching. If the hierarchy refuses to defend the teaching, it is all the more important that we do so.
Remember: Pope Francis does not have the authority to change Church teaching. He knows this. The media’s barely-concealed glee that the Catholic Church is ‘progressing’ is a distraction. We should work together to get the conversation back where it belongs, which is that the Vatican needs to be fully transparent about clergy sex abuse and harassment, and the role that homosexuality among the clergy plays in this.
Everything else is a distraction. In the immortal words of the late great Pope St. John Paul II: Be not afraid!
Posted on: Tuesday, October 27, 2020
“Pope Francis does not have the authority to change Church teaching. He knows this. The media’s barely-concealed glee that the Catholic Church is ‘progressing’ is a distraction. We should put the emphasis where it belongs: on the continued cover-up of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s homosexual predation,” said Ruth Inst. President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. “Why is the Vatican suppressing a report on his crimes?”
In an interview with a Mexican reporter in 2017, Pope Francis seemed to endorse same-sex unions. However, as Ruth Inst. Senior Research Associate Fr. Paul Sullins explains: “a personal, spontaneous statement by the pope in an interview has no doctrinal authority.
“The most recent authoritative statement on the matter declares, ‘The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions,’” Sullins noted.
“We need to get the conversation back where it belongs,” Morse said, “which is the Vatican covering up massive crimes of homosexual predation. Trying to convince people that they are more ‘gay friendly’ than the supposedly outdated Church is changing the subject. According to the Catholic News Agency, the Vatican opened its investigation of McCarrick two years ago. Rumors have circulated for months that the report is completed – a report that names who knew about McCarrick’s crimes, when they knew, and why they covered up for him.”
An August 11 editorial in the National Catholic Reporter explains, “Theodore McCarrick was promoted through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy for decades, despite multiple, then-secret reports of his sexual misconduct with seminarians.” He was made archbishop of Washington, D.C. in 2000 and a cardinal in 2001, while he was abusing young men in the Church.
“We insist that the McCarrick report be released immediately,” Morse said. “It’s been more than a year since Pope Francis ordered it. We understand that the report has been completed. It should have been released. That it hasn’t is a scandal. What are they hiding?”
Fr. Sullins, retired professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America and now Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute, has authored two definitive reports on the correlation between homosexuality among Catholic priests and clerical sexual abuse, including “Report on Clergy Sex Abuse.”