One Reason for Fatherlessness, Family Breakdowns, Mayhem, and Social Injustice

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Three news items to consider.

Movie executive Harvey Weinstein is blanketing social media, as accusations of his sexual harassment and assaults multiply with every report. The fact that he’s from the “Hollywood elite” and was a huge Democratic Party fund raiser makes him an easy target for conservative commentators (although Fox News, with its recent sexual harassment troubles, can hardly throw stones).

Meanwhile, a website that facilitates marriage infidelity is on the rise again, according to a story in the New York Post. The Ashley Madison Agency – motto: “Life is short. Have an affair” – claims to be adding 400,000 new users a month. Two years ago, when the site was hacked, causing all kinds of deserved embarrassment, the agency claimed to have 39 million users.

And, finally, studies show the rate of children born to unmarried women is around 40 percent. Factor in divorce, and the result is a stunning number of children being raised without a committed father. The breakdown of the traditional family affects children. For example, fatherless children are twice as likely to be incarcerated. (A recent story after the horrific Las Vegas shooting mentions the murderer had one similar trait of other mass-killers – an absent father.)

Three news items and a lot of problems …

How did it get this way? I know one of the causes.

Are you ready to roll your eyes?

One reason for the troubles listed above is birth control.

Go ahead, commence eye-rolls and snickering.

The Catholic Church, that out-of-date institution which keeps chugging along, despite a lack of democratic process, is against artificial birth control.

In 1968, when the sexual revolution was gathering steam, Pope Paul VI wrote a letter titled Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). It reinforced the Church’s ban on contraceptives. 

Pope Paul was not as popular as the smiling, selfie-posing Pope Francis of today, and Humanae Vitae certainly was not generally accepted. Many people hoped for a change in church teaching, thinking the Church would keep up with the times.

But the Church believes sex is sacred, and not solely for pleasure (you’re rolling your eyes again, aren’t you?). Pope Paul predicted consequences of widespread use of “artificial means.”

Among them:  Increased marital infidelity, a lowering of moral standards, and a decline in the respect for women – or, as the Pope put it, “[Man] may forget the reverence due to a woman … reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires.”

Sounds so old-fashioned, I know. Thank goodness, we’ve progressed. We are such a better society with the Ashley Madison Agency, a collapse of the family structure, and generous men like Harvey Weinstein and Fox news executives.

Birth control is in the news since the Trump Administration announced the end of the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate, which required employers to provide free contraception through health insurance plans.

(Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is suing the Trump Administration, as she is apt to do, but her legal grounding seems shaky).

What we do know is that most people see nothing wrong with contraceptives. The Pew Research Center reported that only 4 percent of adults in the United States believe contraception is immoral. And among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, only 13 percent agreed with the Church (45 percent said contraceptives were O.K., and 42 percent were fence-sitters).

But that silly Church does not base its teaching on the latest polls. Its members are not perfect (oh, please), but the teaching searches for truth, not trends.

And Pope Paul’s Humanae Vitae may produce eyerolls, but contraceptives have helped fuel the sexual revolution. Critics say the Church focuses too much on “pelvic issues” and not enough on social justice, but I would argue marriage infidelity, broken homes, fatherless children, and a lack of respect for each other are social justice issues, with consequences.

One of the princes of the revolution, Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner, recently died, and he was lauded for his progressive thinking. A Los Angeles Times editorial included this Heffner quote:

“Much of my life has been an adolescent dream of an adult life.”

In other words, don’t grow up.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel, in his book Guyland, speaks of this, describing what guys (no longer men) want in a female:

“Guys love girls … It’s women they can’t stand … Women demand responsibility and respectability, the antitheses of Guyland. Girls are fun and sexy … and when girls are allowed in, they have to play by guy rules.”

The new rules of our culture include an abundance of pornography and hooking up … play along or be left out. That sentiment is not a phenomenon. Remember the musical Grease, where wholesome Sandy transforms from good girl to bad girl in order to get her guy?

Fornication is the word. Celebrate it, right? That’s what the kids do.

“Our college campuses are in the grip of a ‘rape culture’,” writes Professor Anthony Esolen. “I call to witness those who run orientation sessions for freshmen, who invariably must discuss what is and what is not ‘consent,’ but who never speak of love, and who pass out baskets of condoms, but never valentines.”

Esolen continues:

“Where vice reigns, a sick pleasure like a fever rages, and leaves in its wake exhaustion, disillusionment, resentment and loneliness.”

Esolen’s article is titled “The Pleasures of Virtue.” You should read it.

Virtue and vice are two destinations. The choices we make set us on the path to one of them.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.