Liz Scheier’s memoir tells of navigating the extreme emotional turbulence of life as the child of a dishonest parent. Though she is fascinated by deceit and believes we are naturally drawn to liars, her own story explains how she built a new life based on trust, forgiveness, and enduring love.
Pillar: Sexuality & Family
The second pillar of a decent society is the institution of the family, which is built upon the comprehensive sexual union of man and woman. No other institution can top the family’s ability to transmit what is pivotal—character formation, values, virtues, and enduring love—to each new generation.
A vision of control based on ambition, education, and income has come to dominate professional-class perspectives on having children, but we should reject these mistaken cultural pressures and remember that truly abundant life is achieved through giving and receiving love.
The way out of rushing to surgical interventions lies in acknowledging that transgender identification has deep roots in the psyche and evaluating gender distress through the lens of adverse childhood experiences.
Are Big Tech and social media entirely to blame for the triumphs of the erotic, the therapeutic, and the transgender? Of course not. But there is no question the dominant social media companies have seriously contributed to these trends.
The recent debates surrounding Florida’s anti-grooming bill raise questions not just about education, but about who has the right to direct the moral formation of children. Activist educators believe they should hold this power, regardless of parental concerns. But their agenda is based on the false idea that children can be intrinsically LGBT, and it is therefore necessary to stop educators proselytizing on behalf of such identities.
Righteous anger is often good and necessary. But not all parents are comfortable with confrontation, and even fewer enjoy the option of placing their children in saner institutions or schooling at home. I’m convinced that parents can be very effective in less noisy, more behind-the-scenes ways.
The majority of parents are very angry about everything that has happened—not just the masking, not just the closing schools, but the combination of all of that. And it’s the fact that the people on the school boards, and Democratic politicians, by and large, just refuse to admit that this was wrong, and that it had consequences. And when they refuse to do that, why on earth would anyone vote for them again?
A nation could recover from the loss of scores of men, as the twentieth century’s postwar societies all did. But it has no future without women and children and the moral order of the family and society that these not only represent but constitute. Civilization hinges on women.
While the legal end to abortion will be an important step in the pro-life movement, we also need to shift away from the sexually permissive culture that has resulted in high demand for abortions. Modern feminism’s widespread dissatisfaction with the “anything goes” approach to sex could spell renewed interest in restraint, commitment, and even the good of children—all themes and virtues that the Bible displays with wisdom.
Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex, published last September, explores not only the question of sex and to whom it is owed, but also the rise and corporatization of the modern feminist movement, among other topics. Some of Srinivasan’s arguments sound surprisingly conservative, but others remain mired in the reductive view of politics and power that has plagued feminism for years.
In the face of the uproar with which Pope Francis’s recent message was received, I’d like to offer a brief defense of his address and some words of encouragement to my fellow twenty-somethings who are discerning marriage and parenthood, unpopular though they may be. We are all called to fatherhood or motherhood (adoptive, biological, or spiritual), and suppressing that call diminishes what it means to be fully human.
My generation feels obligated to constrain our footprint in the name of social justice. I reject this. I cannot promise my children perfect comfort or safety in the world. But I can make their world—our home, our lives, our family—a mooring when everything else is guaranteed to be perpetually confused.
The greatest challenge to my teaching is the relativist, anecdote-dominated view of knowledge many of my students have absorbed by the time they enter my classroom. Too many of their teachers embrace the view that relativist, subjectivist, and ultimately personal experiential knowledge is the only kind available to us—or at least that it trumps other kinds of knowledge.
Just imagine if all the male professors and teachers who read and write for this blessed journal, who deeply care about the plight of the fatherless, actively sought to mentor their students in the most important subject: life. Imagine if, at the beginning of every term, you each announced, and then demonstrated, your openness and willingness to help your young, impressionable students navigate this next chapter in their lives.
The question that divides us is how we ought to respond to reproductive asymmetry: the reality that women carry disproportionate burdens due to our special role in human reproduction. What makes one a feminist is the view that this basic inequality at the heart of reproduction is one that deserves, in justice, an affirmative cultural response. We wish not only for maternity to be celebrated for the true privilege it most certainly is, but also for women to be encouraged and supported in other contributions they make. This requires that the burdens of childbearing ought to be shared not only within the family, but also across the wider society too.
“Post-revolutionary men and women are living in ways that are profoundly unnatural for the ineradicably social creatures that we are; and many are suffering as a result, at times without even knowing the name of what ails them. This preoccupation, and the desire to do something about it, continues to shape my work.”
Borrowing a family policy prescription from Helsinki or Budapest is bound to disappoint. A distinctly American family policy platform must be seen as expanding choice, not constraining it, and working with our national character, not trying to reshape it, all while understanding family as the essential institution in society, one that stakes an unavoidable claim on our public resources.
While the average engaged Catholic continues to show signs of making peace with progressive trends in sexuality and relationship behavior, the same is not true among the clergy. The type of man who completes seminary intending ordination is more conservative about matters of sexuality—as well as other markers—than those who enrolled 20, 30, or 40+ years ago.
Today, white-coated professionals tell parents of children with gender dysphoria: affirm your child’s trans identity right away or prepare for suicide. Are those really the only two options? For a movement that decries the binary, its commitment to this false dichotomy is relentless.
The issue of abortion cannot be reduced to the narrow question of the status of the child in the womb. The answers rest upon broader assumptions about what it means to be human. If we are to believe those who defend a right to abortion, it is nothing less than the power to end the life of her unborn child that guarantees a woman her humanity—that is, the autonomy befitting her status as man’s equal. That is a denial of what really makes us human: our natural dependence upon, and obligations towards, one another.
That motherhood and childhood begin in pregnancy is highly embarrassing to liberal anthropology. The physical and genealogical dependence of children on their parents attacks the thesis that we are isolated individuals rather than members of families that precede and survive us.
In light of the vocations issue and concerns about privacy, a policy that significantly intrudes on priests’ privacy should be a last resort. However, given the tremendous damage the earlier sex scandals did to the Church’s credibility, as evidenced by declining attendance and financial support, renewed concerns about priestly celibacy may justify such a resort.
We are in the midst of a technology shift that could revolutionize reproductive healthcare and family planning. Millions of couples are using apps that promise “natural contraception.” It’s time to engage these couples, inviting them to explore a better way, and giving them the support they need to grow closer through the self-restraint demanded by Natural Family Planning.
A 1937 novel by Carol Ryrie Brink offers a feminine version of the popular “kids shipwrecked on an island” plot. The protagonists do not have to spear boars or devise a polis. Rather, they must show that they can live as women, taking care of the four babies shipwrecked with them. Can the girls make the most of the resources available to them, remain cooperative and kind to each other under tremendous strain, and prioritize the well-being of the vulnerable people entrusted to their care?
Today at Public Discourse, we are featuring brief responses to Abigail Favale’s essay, "Feminism's Last Battle," by four writers: Erika Bachiochi, Margaret Harper McCarthy, Leah Libresco Sargeant, and Angela Franks.