The Catholic Thing
Dysfunctional Nation Print E-mail
By Patrick Fagan   
Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The recently released Index of Family Belonging and Rejection gives the best read (using Bureau of the Census data) so far of the strength and weaknesses of the American family. Rather than concentrating on out of wedlock births or divorces, it zeroes in on the key data: what proportion of our children have grown up with their mother and father married? What proportion who enter adulthood have experienced family as a place where the parents belong to each other and to their children? Or how many had parents who rejected each other and said: “I want you out of my life, forever.”

The news, not surprisingly, is grim: only 45 percent of American children have lived with their married biological parents throughout their childhood. If you think this is bad, keep in mind that when the above children were born (fifteen to seventeen years ago) the out-of-wedlock birth rate was 28 percent. Last year it was 41 percent. As Brad Wilcox’s report on marriage makes clear, marriage rates have also dropped precipitously since then. Given this, probably only 30 percent of U.S. children will have grown up in an intact family by the time this year’s newborns reach the age of seventeen.

In this year’s Index, Black Americans emerge as most disadvantaged: only 17 percent with intact families. Asian Americans are most advantaged (62 percent). American Indians and Alaskan Natives suffer greatly (24 percent), while Hispanics are in the middle of the ethnic group ranking (42 percent). Only 54 percent of White Americans grow up in an intact family.

Utah is the highest ranked state (59 percent); New Hampshire is second (58 percent). Mississippi is the lowest (31 percent), though the District of Columbia is in even worse shape (16 percent).

The list goes on but the main point is clear: America is now sexually dysfunctional. Most of us cannot stand a spouse long enough to raise the children we have brought into the world (the fundamental purpose of the conjugal act). 

Sexual taboos, those societal and cultural defense mechanisms – most easily seen in more “primitive” societies – serve crucial roles in social stability. Small tribes could not afford untrammeled sexuality by their youth, which sows chaos within; their enemies could then easily overcome them. Our “enlightenment elite” have spent two centuries tearing down our taboos. Now we pay the price in broken families, lower educational performance, more poverty, less revenue for government programs coupled with more demand for such programs from needy mothers and children. States and cities are on a collision course with fiscal realities: the fewer married people, the less revenue states will collect. The British are learning the same lesson and have put better cost numbers on this phenomenon than we have.

      The Holy Family by Raphael (1483-1520)

This problem has deep ramifications for the survival of our republic because the first government is the marriage between fathers and mothers: they are the democratic government of the fundamental society, the family. As that government collapses, there is no way a democratic republic can sustain itself. That sort of government necessitates a virtuous citizenship, in private and public. Unless we reverse this trend, kiss the Constitution goodbye.  

Which is what Planned Parenthood got the Supreme Court to do in Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 – giving legal protection (rather than negative sanction) to the sexual act outside of marriage. Since then we have had a gradual unraveling that has affected every essential institution – family, church, school, marketplace, and government. 

The sexual act is the prime energy of human creation; from it all else springs. Nothing human comes to be without it. It is more powerful than nuclear energy. As with that technology, there are natural ways necessary to contain it and maintain safety. Just as there are artificial ways to decouple the nucleus from its atomic subcomponents resulting in massive destructive energy so too there are artificial ways to decouple the sperm from the egg and in the process release massive destructive energy. How far do we have to go before we get truly alarmed? Can a nation that permits this social weakness internally have the strength to protect weak nations externally?  

Who benefits? Poverty experts and activists; porn pushers; contraceptive manufacturers, medical specialists in the diseases contracted; antibiotic manufacturers; crime specialists and jail builders; education rehabilitation specialists and addiction experts; rape crisis experts and services; child abuse and neglect service providers. Now, every single one of these is going to cry “foul” if we seek to protect marriage, but none of their professional organizations cry foul over the breakdown in marriage and its debilitating effects on children. Not one. 

The rot is so deep that even a major section of the Tea Party Reform Movement, its more radically libertarian end, sees no reason to protect marriage, and on occasion makes the case for sexual license (in the name of freedom).

It seems to me at moments that we are so far gone socially that we are beyond political reform. Only one reform offers hope: the most fundamental reform: conversion. And nowhere is that conversion more needed (sociologically speaking) than in the black church. When only 17 percent of black children are raised with mother and father together, there is something wrong – glaringly wrong, especially at a time when discrimination is lessening. 

But where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. It is time for the black church to embrace celibacy as the necessary guardian to marriage. It is time for young black men and women to consider embracing the words of Christ and living a life, not just of chastity but of celibacy. The early Christians embraced this when called. It is intimately connected to the protection of marriage. It is time for black Christians to wake up from their stupor (and then wake up the rest of us).

Whither comes the reform? We all know: He approaches soon in Bethlehem. 

Patrick Fagan is director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council whose project, Mapping America, charts these outcomes regularly.

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Comments (9)Add Comment
written by Bill, December 22, 2010
This is a well researched piece, Dr. Fagan, reflecting the work you do every day. I was with you most of the way until I remembered the response of Justice Ginsburg when she was asked what her first understanding of Roe v. Wade was. She responded that she thought this was a process to limit "undesirable populations". Her PR people later backed off this position but she did say it. (Google it.) That attempt by this government to solve a serious problem, as it is perceived, has rippled out to the population at large.
written by Yezhov, December 22, 2010
If Ginsburg, indeed, did say she understood that Rowe v Wade was designed to limit "undesirable populations", she need not scroll back too far in history to observe what happened when the Nazis perfected the machininery for eliminating what they deemd to be "undesirable populations". But our American abattoir, in contrast to the SS', is, in the words of John Senior, an "air-conditioned holocaust".
written by Joe, December 22, 2010
Arguably, the first nail in the coffin came in Griswold v. Connecticut seven years before Baird.

Any notion that the Constitution can "save" us from falling into the abyss is flawed because the document itself is flawed. Were it not so it would speak clearly rather than be subject to constant interpretation and re-interpretation.

Take the Fourth Amendment, for example, which is supposed to guarantee to citizens the right against unreasonable search and seizure. This right is violated at every U.S. airport and by every "tele-screen" (see 1984) that invades the privacy of all without "probable cause".

Does anyone really believe that the First Amendment, guaranteeing the right of free speech, is not replete with flaws because of the countless exceptions made?

A final point, which is not to impugn the latest "study" purporting to show the decline of the American family -- a fact that has been clearly evident to anyone over the age of, say, 50.

Forty years ago, novelist Taylor Caldwell wrote in her foreward to "Great Lion of God":

The Roman empire was declining in the days of Saul of Tarshish as the American Republic is declining today--and for the very same reasons: Permissiveness in society, immorality, the Welfare State, endless wars, confiscatory taxation, the brutal destruction of the middle-class, cynical disregard of the established human virtues and principles and ethics, the pursuit of materialistic wealth, the abandonment of religion, venal politicians who cater to the masses for votes, inflation, deterioration of the monetary system, bribes, criminality, riots, incendiarisms, street demonstrations, the release of criminals on the public in order to create chaos and terror, leading to a dictatorship "in the name of emergency," the loss of masculine sturdiness and the feminization of the people, scandals in public office, plundering of the treasury, debt, the attitude that "anything goes," the toleration of injustice and exploitation, bureaucracies and bureaucrats issuing civil "regulations" almost every week, the centralization of government, the public contempt for good and honorable men, and above all, the philosophy that "God is dead," and that man is supreme.

So, it is, that the "modern" world 2,000 years ago remains today, and that nothing has changed and paradoxically everything has changed with the Birth of a Baby Boy in Bethlehem, Who is the only One who can change the human heart.
written by Ray Hunkins, December 22, 2010
I wasn't going to comment on your fine piece Mr Fagan but I have just watched the signing ceremony of the bill repealing "Don't ask, don't tell". This celebration of the aberrant and the abhorrent was confirmation of our "Dysfunctional Nation". Displayed most prominently behind our President was the flag of the United States Marine Corps, the only service which publicly resisted the call for repeal. This "in your face display", the functional equivalent of the middle finger, does not bode well for the conversion of those who are responsible for bringing the dysfunction this far. We have a lot of work to do!
written by Grump, December 22, 2010
Ray, I never thought I'd see the day when the President of the United States would sanction sodomy, surrounded by applauding politicians and mass media.

Obama's support was predictable -- a political payoff to part of his shrinking base -- but the 65-31 Senate vote in favor of repeal included 8 Republicans. So much for the "party of no."

Coming three days before Christmas, this sorry episode is yet another sign of the depravity and decline of America. I am 68 years old, an ex-Navy man and never in my life have I been more ashamed of my country.

written by Achilles, December 22, 2010
Dearest Grump, flee from the consolations of this flesh world and seek the consolations of the City of God. God is his strongest in our weakness. If you consider, or can even begin to fathom, the abject arrogance, the hubris, growing like a devil weed, cultivated by the great accuser himself, and the radical individualism that springs from our growing deafness to God, drowned out by the crescendo of the white noise of technilogical progress, then the real miracle is that we are still as strong as we are.

I was greatly disheartened by your misunderstanding of Mr. Miner's beautiful story. If you have it handy, read John Henry Cardinal Newman's 4th sermon "secret faults". It may clue you into some of the pitfalls in the atmosphere of your generation.
Repent with me, "for the kingdom of God is at hand!"
Please pray for me Grump, Merry Christmas, Achilles
written by Gil Bailie, December 22, 2010
Great work, Pat. Merry Christmas.
written by Robert, December 22, 2010
Ray, don't you mean United States Marine "Corpse"? We have today a president for this country who doesn't even know how to pronounce the name of the forces of which he is the commander-in-chief.

Well, maybe commander-in-chief. The court has refused to make public whether he is because according to the court the results made public to the citizens of this country regarding specifically the question of his eligibility would be "embarrassing" for Obama. Our military forces are being jailed as we speak for holding to their oath to the Constitution, and very few seem to care. I believe the collapse of the United States as well as that of most of the western world is closer than expected. I think the pope feels this as well and is why he has been speaking more pointedly recently uncharacteristically.
written by Constance Lalonde, January 20, 2014
In view of the intended from the beginning of time the support of slavery and doctrine that catholism support. I wouldn't understand why any level headed black American would embrace such a catalyst of demonic proportion of rules made up by a evil force of nature

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