Abortion Antonia Goddard Ink Slingers Respect Life

The Language of Pro-Choice – and How we Can Defeat It

The Language of Pro-Choice and How We Can Defeat It

“Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court, or kill you.” Pope Francis, 2005

The horrors of abortion are making headlines almost daily. Whether it’s the heartbeat bills in the USA or the lately overturned UK court ruling that a disabled woman should be given a forced abortion against her will, many of us will have been drawn into the debate with friends, colleagues, or family. And we as Catholics are called to stand up, to speak out against this holocaust, to defend the unborn at all times. But in this ever-evolving battleground, how can we ever hope to keep up with the changing nature of the debate – and defeat abortion once and for all?

Advancements in science have already helped us win many battles. Enhanced technology has proven time and time again what we already knew – that children unborn are as alive and as precious as each and every one of us. Improved sonogram technology means we can identify the heartbeat earlier than ever, and incredible 3D ultrasounds can show real time pictures of the baby in utero – beautiful and moving images in more detail than we ever thought possible. Advancements in medical care mean that premature babies have better quality care, and better chances of survival, than at any point in history.

In the wake of these incredible advancements, the abortion industry is having to adapt their arguments – and fast. They can no longer claim that the foetus is not human (absurd, since it is hardly going to be anything else) or not alive (disproven, with extensive new technology proving that the foetus has a heartbeat, can feel pain, can hear and recognise voices in utero, among much more). But the language and debates they have moved on to are even more shocking. Current pro-abortion rhetoric states that the unborn child is alive and human, but less worthy of life than the mother – less worthy of life, even, than the mother’s ‘right to choose’. Or in other words, life unworthy of life.

This sickening phrase has been used before.[1] And it changes the nature of the argument utterly. Pro-lifers are no longer fighting for the right of unborn children to be seen as living humans, we are fighting for them to be seen as worthy of life despite the fact that they have been proved to be living humans. It is a tragic fight many of us never thought we would have to face.

Life unworthy of life has terrible, terrifying consequences, and the potential victims are far greater than unborn children. It bears the potential for horrendous damage for the disabled, for ethnic minorities, for young children and the elderly – that someone may be less worthy of life because they are more reliant on others. That someone who is younger and smaller and has made less of an impact on this world has less right to walk in it. That someone who is older and sicker is less worthy of life, because they have less life left to lead.

So how can we defeat abortion – and all other forms of pro-death argument and action – on this new battleground? We need to make it our mission, as pro-life Catholics, to stand up not just for the unborn, but all voiceless lives at risk. The disabled. Single women. Poorer families. Criminals. The sick. Pro-abortion activists like to claim that all we care about is life in the womb, without any compassion for children once they are born. Let’s prove to them this isn’t true. Donate time or money to services that support single mothers, struggling families, or the homeless. Be a listening ear to those in need. Valuing all life, no matter how long, short, large, or small, is what it truly means to be pro-life.

Secondly, we must call out these pro-abortion lies into the open. Help people to see what abortion activists are really saying when they cry that the life of an unborn child is worth less than that of a born one. Let the link between abortion and eugenics be clearly seen. Abortion disguises its horrors with false language: pregnancy is used instead of foetus or unborn child. Women deserve better than abortion – women deserve the truth.

Finally, we must pray. Pray for the victims of abortion, the children killed, the mothers who were duped into believing there was no alternative, for the millions of lives and souls lost since the legalisation of abortion. Let’s pray for abortion to become not just illegal, but unthinkable.

We are winning this battle. Pro-life legislation in the US is a testament to the fact that abortion is being finally revealed for the horror it truly is. And although it may not feel like it, the change in pro-abortion language is evidence that they are running scared. Let’s keep the unborn in our prayers, now more than ever, pray God protects them and all women at risk.




Consecrated Life Current Events Domestic Church Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Marriage Mary Mass Maurisa Motherhood Parenting Pope Prayer Priesthood Single life Sisterhood Vocations

Responding to Crisis

Until recently, I had always thought of myself as a “joyful Catholic”.  Unfortunately, recent events have left me feeling angry, betrayed, heartbroken, and yes, maybe a touch bitter.  I have read with growing revulsion and depression all the latest news coming out about former Cardinal McCarrick, Pennsylvania and most recently the widespread coverup by church hierarchy which now appears to include Pope Francis.  I am devastated.

Our family has somewhat of a personal connection to McCarrick.  He was our archbishop for several years.  He also presided over or attended many of the profession of vows and ordinations of a religious order we have been closely connected to.  In fact, I have many photos that I took in which he posed with the religious sisters after they had made their First Professions.  My stomach churns at the thought. So yes, my initial response to these latest scandals is righteous anger and I firmly feel that is not a wrong emotion to feel at having been so betrayed by Church leadership. I don’t want to remain an angry, bitter Catholic. I must take steps to move on.

I’ve read all sorts of responses to the present plight.  Many are calling for inquests, resignations, withholding of funds, protests of the USCCB at their yearly meeting, etc. One voice I’ve noticed has been largely silent, and that is the voice of the Domestic Church.  As mothers, fathers, and families what can we do to ensure these atrocities against our children and against our Church do not continue?

First of all, we need to move past the emotions of anger and fear.  I’ll honestly say, I still feel pretty insecure about my little guys ever entering seminary.  I know I need to get past that fearfulness.  God willing and with His grace, I know I will.

Right now the Church needs our prayers more than ever.  This crisis has all the hallmarks of a satanic attack on Mother Church. As a family, pray for her.  Pray for her protection. Pray for her healing, Pray for her purity. Pray for justice. As part of this you might choose a penance or sacrifice to make as reparation on behalf of the Church.  

Pray for the victims. I can not even imagine what they have gone through and what pain they must be in. Pray most especially for their healing.

Pray for those who have betrayed the Church and her teachings.  This is a tough one, but we are called to pray for our enemies.  Pray that those who’ve broken faith by ignoring, shuffling, hiding, and lying will finally do what is right and holy and bring light, truth, and healing to the Church.

Pray for your own bishop and priests, that they may remain courageous and faithful to the Church and their vows of celibacy. I still believe most of our priests and bishops are good holy men.  They need our prayers and encouragement more than ever.

Pray for wisdom and fortitude, because we are going to need it when speaking to our children and answering the questions of our non-Catholic family and friends.

How do we discuss such a delicate issue with our children?  As a parent, I have only addressed the scandals with my older children who have either already heard the news or who were likely to hear it.  We need to be honest and let them know we are angry, hurt, and disgusted.  We also need to reassure them that we do not put our faith in men but in Christ.  Popes, cardinals, bishops are not the Church and she will survive this trial as she has survived countless others.  Finally, we should remind our children why we are Catholic in the first place.  The Church is the one true Church, founded by Christ and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.

Just as we need to address the shocking events with our older children, many of us may also need to answer the questions of those outside our faith.  Once again, acknowledge the sinfulness and your own personal ire and disappointment.  Remain firm in defending the Church as a whole and your commitment to remaining Catholic.  Express hope that the Church will address the root causes of the depravity and will make some serious changes that will protect children, teens, and seminarians from now on.

In the future, how do we parents protect our children? 

First of all, we need to be wise and prudent parents.  We should never leave our children in the company of a lone adult who is not immediate family.  I know this sounds extreme, but the one thing I was most taken aback by was that McCarrick and others were so completely trusted by the families of their victims that they thought nothing of allowing their children to be in the abuser’s company alone. This was a tragic and avoidable mistake.

Secondly, listen to your child.  If they come to you with questions or concerns about an adult or other authority figure, hear them out.  Ask questions and take what they tell you seriously.  Many of the victims reached out and were not listened to, which is absolutely heart-breaking.

It’s so important to teach your children appropriate boundaries with adults and authority figures.  Sadly, we need to have these conversations at younger ages than ever before and I, for one, hate that we have to impinge on their innocence in this way but it has become a necessity.  Elizabeth Foss wrote an excellent article addressing this need in light of the recent disgrace.  I highly recommend reading her article and following her sage advice.

Finally, we can turn to the sacraments and pray for the protection of our children’s innocence. As a family, make a practice of frequent confession and try to attend Mass at least one extra day a week. Pray continually for the protection of your children’s innocence, especially imploring the intercession of their guardian angels.  We have been given a very precious and important gift in being parents and it is our responsibility to protect and defend them to the best of our abilities.

A final action item for the Domestic Church relates to our diocesan bishops.  I believe we have a duty to write our bishops, expressing our dismay and concerns regarding the recent news about the immorality of McCarrick, the abuses in Pennsylvania, and the rumors that many in the USCCB and Church hierarchy knew, remained silent, and did nothing.  Ask your bishop how he intends to respond and if he will make it a priority to address the crisis in November at the annual conference.  In closing let him know you are praying for him and all the Church.

For whatever reason, God is allowing this tribulation to come to a head.  We must remain firm and cling to our Faith in this time of trial.  Holy Mother Church will survive.  We have Christ’s word for it.  Pray. Do Penance. Take Courage. Remain in Hope.

Elle Stone Respect Life Testimonials

Visiting the Imprisoned – An Encounter With An Inmate

Visiting the Imprisoned

Disclaimer: This post is about my correspondence with Dahvie Holmes, with whom I run the blog Housewife // Savagelife (  This post for Catholic Sistas has been edited for a general audience, including only a brief description of violence. 

Because Housewife // Savagelife shares Dahvie’s unique voice and experience, the blog contains adult content, including violence, sexual content, drugs, and language.  Discretion is advised if you chose to access Housewife // Savagelife.



I have a friend who’s…different from my other friends. For one, we communicate via letter (basically a medieval undertaking). Second, on the return address where the name should be there’s a number: 20141008200.  Third, when I open this letter, it’s not uncommon to read something like this:

yoooo what’s up Elle? you crazy, man.  I be laughin like a MF whenever I think about this.  I always look at the “other side” (outside of jail) and wonder…how do they think.  How do they kick it?.

My friend’s name is Dahvie Holmes, and he’s an inmate at Cook County Jail.  Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him, attempting to understand his world, and starting a blog with him. Through encountering his experiences and thoughts, I’ve “visited the imprisoned”–which has radically changed my life.

I could get into how we met (a crazy story with a couple of miracles sprinkled in–if you’re curious, you can read it here:  But I want to give Dahvie the stage. 

“I love her to death”

Dahvie doesn’t play pleasantries.  He gives such a raw insight into his life.  He sent me a letter which started with this story:

So I call the house, first my mama was talking to some dcfs (Department of Children and Family Services) agent so she asked me to call back.  That blew me to hear who she was talking to because I already have 2 siblings in foster care.  Well they adopted now but it’s the same thing to me.  They not with they birth family.  I don’t even know them.  Never meet them either.  It’s a sad story.  

Now to hear she talking to the dcfs again while she in custody of my baby sister scares the eff out of me cuz that’s my heart.  I love her to death.  I would never forgive my mother if she loses her.  But the guilt really eats at me because I’m in jail and can’t do a darn thing to help.

It gives me chills to read that.  I can’t help but think about my family.  How heartbreaking would it be to call up your mom and hear that? That your mom was sending one of your siblings into foster care?  And you couldn’t do a thing about it?

A little backstory: Dahvie’s mom is addicted to crack.  She was probably using it while she was pregnant with Dahvie.  Maybe all her kids.  I couldn’t help but to think: wouldn’t foster care be good for his sister to get out of a bad situation?

His response:

My mom isn’t the best parent but at least she has support.  My sister needs to be around family.  Her family not no darn strangers.  SO I believe it isn’t best for her.  But if it was, of course I would want the best then yeah.

The thought of having a sister disappear while your away, into the hands of strangers.  It’s hard to even wrap my head around it. I had reduced Dahvie and his family to equations and statistics.  But in this, I experienced his pain. 

An inmate doesn’t just become a cold representation of his crime. They still encounter devastating heartbreak.  They still encounter brokenness.

“I’m actually numb to it.”

This next letter completely underscored the discrepancy between Dahvie and I.  We live in two completely different worlds. It’s eye-opening and devastating:

To see your homies on the news.  Mama cryin and stuff. It’s a effed up feeling.  I wake up to the deck screamin my name sayin my block on the news.  I jump up to see two brothers was gunned down at the restaurant. Face shots.  Them was my lil bro’s too. Even though we had some differences I still loved them.  It hurt me to found out like this. This war stuff real. 

Another huge emotional knockout.  Knowing those people, and seeing it on the news…I couldn’t imagine.  And I told that to Dahvie, I really could not imagine. I knew exactly zero people who had been shot at. Zero. Zilch.  Nada.

He responded:

It’s everyday life for me.  I’m actually numb to it. It’s weird to me hearin how y’all live.  I believe you know somebody who been shot they just ain’t tell you or embarrassed to admit it.  If you really don’t know someone (besides me) then my life, my cellie life, and everybody around me life really been messed up.  Darn SMH. Darn. That would be so hard to accept.

Dahvie couldn’t even imagine a world where people hadn’t been shot at, where this wasn’t a regular occurrence.  He couldn’t imagine my comfortable suburban life, my violence-free, gang-free existence.

This got me thinking. What if I grew up in a neighborhood where people had been shot at, all my friends had been shot at or were shooters?   How would my life be different? Pope Francis said:

Each one of us is capable of doing the same thing done by that man or woman in jail. All of us are capable of sinning and making the same mistake in life. They are not worse than you and I!

I have not committed a crime which could land me in jail. But I’ve been so guarded from making mistakes like that. Let’s say that I commit sin 30% of the time (I had a tough time coming up with a number so let’s go with that).  That means that three out of ten times I’m turning away from God. 

What if for those mess ups, instead of being in my safe little apartment, I was in a neighborhood like Dahvie’s?  Personal choice is a big part of it, but I personally choose to do all kinds of evils. I haven’t had the same opportunities for evil as Dahvie.

Pope Francis says:

They haven’t had the opportunities that I have had of not doing something stupid and ending up in prison…This makes me cry inside. It is deeply moving.

“I had failed to love that child…”

From the start, Dahvie was vulnerable with me, but I put up walls.  I’m very guarded. It took me months to open up to him, to share with him about my life.  Finally I sent him this:

My period is late.  I think I might be pregnant.  Which, to be honest, I don’t know how I feel about it.  I had a miscarriage a couple of months ago, and that process was tough.  Like, the whole thing from start to finish. 

The pregnancy was a total surprise, and I really struggled to be happy about it.  It just was so not my plan, so much not what I wanted my life to be. I wanted my independence for a little longer.  Which I was ashamed about because I knew that I was being called to love that innocent little life. 

And then, when I had the miscarriage, I was heartbroken, because I had failed to love that child as much as I should have.  I wanted to learn how to love the child (my husband named her “Poppy”), and I lost that shot. Seems like I might have that shot again.

I was in a really broken spot.  I had failed, I was wounded. I needed true rehabilitation in my heart.  Pope Francis underscores the need for rehabilitation, saying some people:

…do this in their own homes and in their own professions. Others, like you, do this in a prison. But all of us, all of us — anyone who says they do not need to go through a process of rehabilitation is a liar.

I needed something that Dahvie knew well.  A process of rehabilitation. A time of focus and change.  I could do this hidden in my home, but he does this behind bars, every day.  Perhaps this is why his response was moving, filled with understanding and care:

I’m confused at your reaction.  I thought you was ready for a football team of kids? Haha you thought you was.  But you was really scared. That’s how it be for everybody who think they ready for a responsibility whole time when the situation present itself we freeze up.  Get nervous. Don’t worry that’s normal. Love always grows so don’t think different. I’m sorry y’all had a miscarriage. God knows best and your chance will come again.

Dahvie gave me something that I had almost given up on.  In my self-loathing and self-pity, I had given up on the chance of change, the chance of things getting better.

Pope Francis says that those in prison: 

…are serving a penalty, a penalty for a mistake committed…But let us not forget that, for punishment to be fruitful, it must have a horizon of hope, otherwise it is enclosed within itself and is only an instrument of torture, it is not fruitful.

God never encloses us in our sin and brokenness.  He always gives us a horizon of hope, a chance at forgiveness and true change.  In the face of Dahvie’s broken world and mistakes, in the face of my miscarriage, Pope Francis says it best:

…the horizon is bigger than the problems, hope goes beyond all the problems…

Quotes from Pope Francis come from: and\

Ink Slingers

Theological Virtues

Did you know that faith, hope, and love are gifts from God?  Our catechism says of these theological virtues, “They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life (#1813).” The word merit causes angst in our separated brethren, but it means simply worthy. We are worthy of eternal life because we accept God’s gifts. Of course, we also have a responsibility once we accept them to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) because we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) since “Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). They are both a gift and a task, and they work in concert.

My favorite philosopher Peter Kreeft illustrates the theological virtues several ways. He calls faith, hope, and love heaven’s actual gate, not just the way to get to the gate. He calls them the glue that attaches us to God and a three-legged stool that supports the whole Christian life. He calls faith the root, hope the stem, and charity the flower. He connects them: faith without charitable works is dead and without hope is impossible; hope without faith is wishful thinking and without love is selfish; love without faith is merely feelings and without hope is desperation. Like a pretzel.

The oft-memorized John 3:16 is a perfect example of the theological virtues moving from God to man: “For God so loved the world (love), He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (faith) in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (hope).” Our belief moves us to act upon these gifts and live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to sir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:22-15).” We are to take these theological virtues and do things: hold fast, help each other, perform good works, meet together. This will transform ourselves and the world; God’s kingdom will come.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you, for our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 2:2-5).” What a wonderful mix of God’s love and faithfulness with his people’s labors of love and hope. Not mere assent, but conviction and action. That is how we can walk as children of light. This is our responsive obligation to God and his kingdom for the theological virtues he pours into us at baptism. This is how we nurture them to maturity as we run the race with perseverance.

And we do not even have to work and run on our own. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, sent to teach, convict, remind, and comfort us on this road that faith opens up for us. Pope Francis concludes
Lumen Fidei  (The Light of Faith) with a reminder that Jesus is the center of it all and a request of Mary to pray for us: “Mother, help our faith! Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, your Son, our Lord” We are also surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, all of us looking to our Lord, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Because these virtues are infused by God, I am humbled and mindful of my smallness near the great I Am who knows me and wants me to be happy with him forever. I am amazed and grateful that the Creator loves me and gives me gifts that will draw me closer to him. I am serious and attentive to the work involved in keeping these gifts supple and useful for the kingdom of God. When creation is fully renewed with a new heaven and new earth, there will be no more need for faith and hope, for we will have Jesus ever with us. But love will go on forever. Maranatha.

Current Events Faith Formation Guest Posts Mark Regnerus Marriage Matrimony Perspective from the Head Pope Sacraments Vocations

5 Ways Amoris Laetitia Encouraged, Challenged, and Aggravated Me

5 Ways Amoris Laetitia Encouraged, Challenged, and Aggravated Me

Amoris Laetitia continues to be featured in a variety of writings, posts, books, and conversations in the wider Catholic world. That’s good. That’s how it’s supposed to work with the faithful—marinating in Church documents over time, letting them age and evaluating them against the shifting spirits. There should be no “media cycle” mentality here—no quick read, sound bytes, then moving on to await the next thing.

Amoris Laetitia is what’s called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which means it was written in response to a synod (or called meeting of a share) of the world’s bishops to discuss a particular matter. In this case it was on marriage. An apostolic exhortation is considered less authoritative than an encyclical or an apostolic constitution, the latter of which have typically concerned theological dogmas, particular practices, and especially organizational forms.

The two synods that prompted Amoris Laetitia were kind of a big deal to those of us who work in the broader marriage business. We prayed, we anticipated, we stared at the list of invitees, we wondered, we tried to figure out best and worst-case scenarios, and then we waited to see what the Holy Father would say. And in early April, he spoke. I remember my first news of it, waking up in a Mexico City hotel to learn what CNN was saying. I gulped hard. I looked around at what else was being said about it, and then went about my business in the confidence that the Church would survive, no matter what. A busy day in front of me, my own examination of it would have to wait. I didn’t think it would wait a few months. But in Catholic Standard Time, a couple months is nothing. Yes, the document isn’t quite what some of us would write on the matter. And it’s not short, at 264 pages and 325 numbered paragraphs or entries. It didn’t need to be that long. But it is, which prolongs the wider digestion of its content.

So here, late but not really, are five ways in which AL encouraged, challenged, and aggravated me. 

First, one of the more noticeable traits of Pope Francis is a very frank style of writing, as if he were sitting in the therapist’s office across from me (on the couch), gently—and sometimes not so gently—coaxing me to sacrifice more, to love better, to reach out. As a scholar who tries to write in a way that is accessible, this is something I can appreciate. And at the same time, it’s a little unsettling to shift gears from JPII’s rich-but- obscure orthodoxy. I consider St John Paul’s going home to the house of the Father the beginning of my search that concluded in our swimming the Tiber. I think his Theology of the Body is dynamic stuff, necessary for the long run. But there’s no denying that Love & Responsibility is tough slogging. (Whenever someone I know claims to have read it, I wince, then privately doubt them, then question my own commitment.) Francis, ever the pastor, has elected a far more plain language—that of the people. Hence when Francis asserts that “…the fact is that only in their forties do some people achieve a maturity that should have come at the end of adolescence,” I appreciate it. Indeed, I needed to hear that one, in all honesty. Ditto for much of the first several chapters of AL. It challenges me to be a better husband and father.

Second, I resonate with the pope’s worry that the Church is perceived as singing only a few tunes about marriage:

(W)e often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation. Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns. At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.

The truth is, of course, that the Church has remarkable richness in its understanding of marriage. It was this that first attracted me back in 2006. But what the Holy Father seems to be saying here is that the Church has been unprepared for the role it needs to take in shepherding marriages in an era wherein no other social institution now esteems or expects people to enter such a comprehensive union. She’s the only one. This is the reality that may haunt the Church for decades yet to come before she comes to the realization that any vibrant marriage subculture in the West is because she has woken up to realize the beggars out there are looking to her for the bread here.

Third, AL hence challenged me to accept greater responsibility for helping build a subculture of marriage in the Church. It would be difficult to find me guilty of doing nothing here, but there is always a temptation to say I’m doing enough, or to presume that any particular effort of mine is meritorious at face value (when it may well not be). As Amoris Laetitia notes, “The situations that concern us are challenges. We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity.” It is time to get creative about changing the narrative around marriage in our midst. It may be too much to hope for, but doing nothing is a far worse idea. Indeed, the Holy Father writes, “…we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness.” Moreover:

We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage (40).

But the clergy need help in findings those new ways. In fact, the “missionary creativity” AL speaks of here will no doubt come from the laity.

Fourth, my primary aggravation with AL is its lack of specificity (at times) and—perhaps most importantly—there are some things that are missing from Amoris Laetitia that ought to be there. Language and word choice is sometimes an attempt to speak in the vernacular. But sometimes it’s a simple absence of content. I’m not one who wishes to punish people with the pen, but the lack of a discourse around adultery—even cohabitation is only named a few times—creates odd moments in Amoris Laetitia. If a cohabiting young adult were to scour this document for justification of their choices—and honestly, that’s not how they roll—he wouldn’t find too much to help his case. But nor would he find a great deal to hurt it, either. AL elects to talk a good deal about “irregular” unions, a legal term that hardly anyone uses. Some of you have personal experience with these. Most faithful Catholics who have now look back on it with a measure of regret, and can recall that at some point they were convicted of their objective guilt, not just subtly signaled that their illicit union was “non-normative.” When the challenges around us are numerous, it behooves the Church to speak frankly consistently.

Fifth and finally, it’s important to remember that despite whatever misgivings you may have about elements of Amoris Laetitia, we have a Holy Father who advocates for marriage and wants the flock to pursue this vocation. I know, I know, there are legitimate beefs here and there that give experts and pastors fits, but if you step back and glimpse the whole, it is a comforting defense of marriage against the assaults of the “culture of the ephemeral,” a consumer approach to relationships, fear of commitment, “an addiction to television,” “the obsession with free time,” and an approach to relationships that is utilitarian. The pope perceives as well the Western surge in gray divorce, “older adults who seek a kind of ‘independence’ and reject the ideal of growing old together, looking after and supporting one another,” (39) and he’ll have none of it:

No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life (52).

What Catholics need how to figure out how to learn what it is the Holy Father is teaching us. No, we don’t just do whatever it is the Pope tells us. (If anything, he writes because we don’t.) That’s not how papal authority works. On the other hand, it’s in poor form to openly, publicly criticize or undermine the Holy Father. He’s not your President. He’s not your boss. He’s not your priest, for that matter. He’s your father. He’s family. We owe him our respect, loyalty, love, and ear.


Deeann & MarkMark Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, a research associate of the university’s POPULATION RESEARCH CENTER, and a senior fellow at the AUSTIN INSTITUTE for the Study of Family and Culture. His areas of research are sexual behavior and family formation. He’s the author of two books (2007 and 2011) on the sexual behavior of teenagers and young adults. 

His new research on the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships was published in the July 2012 issue of SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH, and is available HERE. It’s understandably drawn a great deal of SCRUTINY, and so he wrote a follow-up RESPONSE TO CRITICS and made the data publicly AVAILABLE to other scholars. A dialogue about the study’s findings appeared in Slate and is available HERE. Mark has also written several short essays about DATA COLLECTION on same-sex parenting, POLLING about same-sex marriage, new evidence from CANADA, and THOUGHTFUL ASSERTIONS about how same-sex marriage may shape the wider mating market.