Column: Catching Air
The Napa Catholic Conference last month included a presentation on very practical ways to defend the Church’s moral teachings in a world that too often just doesn’t hear the truth.
Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., President of the Magis Center for Faith and Reason, and President of the Napa Institute, started with some disturbing facts:
- Fewer than 10% of young Catholics and 21% of adult Catholics turn to the Church for moral guidance. (Pew Research Survey 2016)
- The majority of young Catholics disagree with the Church’s moral teachings on homosexuality, transgenderism, premarital cohabitation and sex, artificial birth control and abortion (56% – 2019 Pew Research Survey).
- Most young Catholics are embarrassed by Church teaching on gay lifestyles and transgenderism because they have been told it is “intolerant” or “hateful.” This causes them to lose faith in the Church itself.
- Most high school and catechetical teachers (including those who agree strongly with Church teaching) do not know how to present the Church’s teachings in a positive way that does not turn people off by seeming judgmental.
With all due respect to Father Spitzer, he probably should have added a fifth disturbing fact, which is that far too many priests do not preach on these moral issues, failing to properly form the consciences of young Catholics over the past couple of generations.
Father Spitzer’s solution includes several key elements:
- We should explain to people the harmful effects of immoral lifestyles, not only on spiritual well-being, but on emotional health, marriage and family
- We should avoid personal attacks against individuals or groups, which can be counterproductive. Only God can judge individual consciences.
- ily relationships, and mental and physical health and safety. It can be demonstrated quite easily from modern scientific research and secular statistical studies that Catholic morality enhances temporal well-being, including emotional, relational, and marital health.
- In order to avoid accusations of religious bias, we can use secular statistical studies whenever possible instead of moral lecturing.
- Teachers (including our priests), should not feel embarrassed in presenting secular statistical studies out of a concern and love for others. This is information the world needs to hear, not to be hidden from people it might help.
Father Spitzer offered a detailed “fact sheet” that can be obtained from his office at the Magis Center (magiscenter.com
.) Some of the “lifestyles” he talked about, and their health consequences, included homosexuality, transgenderism, premarital sex and cohabitation, pornography, artificial birth control, abortion and post-abortion syndrome. Here are some examples…
According to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the homosexual lifestyle can be shown to coincide with 7 times more suicidal contemplation than the general population, 3 times higher rates of major depression, 5 times higher rates of panic disorder and 3.5 times higher rates of substance abuse.
Based on a 2016 Johns Hopkins study, there is no genetic cause of cross-gender confusion. Hence, no genetic cause of a woman being “trapped in a man’s body” or vice versa. Individuals who have sexual reassignment surgery are 5 times more likely than the general population to contemplate suicide and 19 times more likely to die from it.
Premarital sex and cohabitation
With respect to premarital sex and cohabitation, based on 2015 and 2018 studies, the greater the number of premarital partners the greater the likelihood of later divorce. The longer the time of premarital cohabitation, the higher the divorce rate and the lower the level of marital satisfaction. Father Spitzer talked about what he calls “gender asymmetry” in cohabitation. He noted that women often cohabitate in expectation that it will promote marriage while men cohabitate for the opposite reason, in order to delay marriage. If and when marriage eventually occurs, many men secretly resent it, bringing that resentment into the marriage with some very harmful effects.
Pornography is the fastest growing addiction in the US, affecting 10% of the population compared to 5% each for alcohol and drugs. Negative effects include significant increases in job loss, financial struggles, higher divorce rates and legal problems. Habitual pornography users (5x per week) experience double the divorce rate due to a loss of emotional intimacy, loss of respect between spouses, and less engagement with children. Users of pornography experience a statistically steep decline in religious practice (prayer, bible, church) and increased rates of depression. Pornography is also found to constrain emotional maturity in children and adolescents, resulting in less respect for women, much higher rates of teen pregnancy, inability to deepen emotional intimacy in adulthood, increased rapes, and a trajectory toward addictions and risky sexual behaviors.
Artificial birth control for married couples
Artificial birth control for married couples coincides with much higher divorce rates compared to couples using natural family planning. There are many reasons for this but a lot of it has to do with the spouses’ respect for the sacredness of the marital act, the value of children in their marriage, and a mutual respect for the each other’s bodies and God’s plan in their marriage.
Myth of overpopulation
Of course, a lot of the birth control mentality comes from the persistent false myth of overpopulation. A 2020 study in The Lancet reported that with current demographics and an aging population, world population is set to max out in 2064, with a dramatic, escalating population implosion beginning after that. This will have severe economic effects on developed nations, requiring much higher taxes on the decreasing young population. The only real solution for this is for people to have more children, something our society has conditioned them against for decades.
We would do well to learn from China’s escalating population crisis. After years of its “one child policy” seeking to reduce its population, China finally now realizes its error and is trying desperately to convince its people to have more children… too late to avoid a coming crisis where young men cannot find brides and old people are left with nobody to support or care for them.
Modern biological science tells us unambiguously that abortion is the killing of an unborn person. The single cell human zygote at the moment of conception is a full, unique, specifically human genome capable of producing every cell in a human body throughout its lifetime. Embryological textbooks today identify the presence of a new, unique human being at fertilization. Even the human soul is being confirmed more and more by modern science, including peer-reviewed medical studies on near-death experiences and terminal lucidity.
Finally, there are detailed studies on the reality and effects of post-abortion syndrome. According to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Psychiatry and a 2018 study at Cambridge University involving 3/4 million women, women who have had abortions have a 4.1 times increase in suicide rates, 2.5 times increased occurrence of suicidal behaviors, 2.1 times greater chance of alcohol abuse and 1.4 times increased depression. These numbers indicate a significant increase in stress levels with dangerous implications for women’s lives.
Again, Father Spitzer emphasized that all of this is based on facts and statistics from secular studies, not religious moralizing.
While our world is desperately in need of God, it does not take a supernatural faith to see what makes for a happy and healthy life. Of course, for those of us with faith, none of this should come as a surprise since we know God wants the best for us and His law is designed specifically for our good.
David G. Bjornstrom is a retired Santa Rosa, CA-based attorney at law with 38 years specializing in business, estate and tax law. He may be reached... MORE »