Author archives: Christina Hadford

Laudato Si: Pope Francis Calls for a Deeper Love of God and Neighbor

by Christina Hadford

June 23, 2015

Pope Francis’ new encyclical Laudato Si is less controversial than people think. Although Francis heavily treads in an area previously only lightly touched by his predecessors he merely reiterates established Catholic doctrine. Moreover, Pope Francis’ fundamental message transcends climate change or political provocation: it laments the moral deterioration of man and societal institutions, and optimistically rallies for a purposeful revival of humility, selflessness, and love of God.

At the heart of his exhortation, Francis asks: “What kind of world do we want to leave for those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”

In answering this question, Pope Francis addresses a number of environmental issues. But he does so in a context that all Christians share. God put Adam in Eden to till it and keep it (Genesis 2:15); He forbade man from polluting the earth (Numbers 35:33) or stripping it bear (Leviticus 19: 9-10). The Earth is a gift to man from God; it is a glimpse into God’s unfathomable glory and greatness. Any man that destroys the earth robs future generations of witnessing this piece of God’s glory.

Pope Francis seeks to reinvigorate these Biblical values in Christians everywhere. He does not condone the secular environmental movement that divorces human life from environmental improvement, nor does he support specific policies: “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views” (61).

Rather than prescribing policy to improve the ecological environment, Francis focuses on solutions to fix the human environment, the heart of the crisis:

Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. Our openness to others, each of whom is a “thou” capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the “Thou” of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence. (119)

Our environment is indeed in crisis. Mothers kill their own children, children are taught to choose their own gender, families are torn apart, and material wealth stands as the mark of success. Why, then, should we be surprised that man is indifferent to others’ needs? Mankind has been calloused to his neighbor’s suffering.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis shows that there is a simple and expedient solution for our environmental crisis: the love of Jesus Christ. As St. Francis of Assisi said in the encyclical’s namesake, “Laudate e benedicete mi’ Signore et rengratiate,” “Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.”

Abortion Trends in America

by Christina Hadford

June 17, 2015

Although recent AP reports that abortion is on the decline shocked many, past studies have well documented this trend. For instance, last June the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) released its Family and Social Trendlines to consolidate federal data on family issues. A series of charts from this report will help contextualize the AP’s findings.

As Chart 1 shows, abortion procurement peaked in the early 90’s and has declined since. In fact, the number of abortions in 2008 was lower than the number of abortions in 1977.

A closer look at abortion demographics in the past two decades reveals the nature of this decline. Chart 2 breaks down the abortion rate by the age of the mother. Between 1990 and 2008:

  • 15- to 17-year-olds: Abortions decreased from 26.5 to 10.4 abortions per 1,000 women
  • 18- to 19-year-olds: Abortions decreased from 57.9 to 28.6 abortions per 1,000 women
  • 20- to 24-year-olds: Abortions decreased from 56.7 to 38.4 abortions per 1,000 women
  • 25- to 29-year-olds: Abortions decreased from 33.9 to 28.6 abortions per 1,000 women
  • 30- to 34-year-olds: Abortions decreased from 19.7 to 18.4 abortions per 1,000 women
  • 35- to 39-year-olds: Abortions decreased from 10.8 to 10.2 abortions per 1,000 women
  • 40- to 44-year-olds: Abortions increased from 3.2 to 3.4 abortions per 1,000 women

Especially noteworthy is the sharp decline in abortions for teens. For both 15- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 19-year-olds, abortion procurement was cut by more than half. Abortions to 20- to 24-year-olds, the age group obtaining the most abortions, also significantly dropped.

Likewise, the U.S. abortion rate declined for every race/ ethnicity, especially for Blacks and Hispanics (see Chart 3 below). Between 1993 and 2008:

  • The abortion rate among Black unmarried women decreased from 81.2 to 60.9 abortions per 1,000 women.
  • The abortion rate among Hispanic unmarried women decreased from 60.6 to 39.3 abortions per 1,000 women.
  • The total abortion rate among unmarried women decreased from 43.1 to 30.7 abortions per 1,000 women.
  • The abortion rate among White unmarried women decreased from 33.9 to 22.7 abortions per 1,000 women.

A comparison of Charts 4 and 5 provide a core insight into abortion trends. Between 1990 and 2008, the rate of pregnancies, live births, abortions, and miscarriages to married women remained relatively stable. In other words, married women have not significantly affected abortion rates.

However, that is not the case for unmarried women. In fact, in the early 90’s—around the same time abortion numbers began declining—the ratio of women who gave birth to women who had an abortion swapped. By 1993, more women chose to have their baby than women who chose to abort him/ her. This gap has progressively widened since the early 90’s.

Although the surge of unmarried women who decide to carry their pregnancy to term may not be the only factor affecting abortion numbers, it is certainly a vital demographic trend that cannot be ignored. This trend is not entirely surprising. As FRC expert, Arina Grossu, points out, increased technology, medical knowledge, and social support allows traditionally marginalized women—teenagers, minorities, and those with unintended pregnancies—the choice to give birth. This is, indeed, a profound and momentous advancement for women in America.

Freedom is Defined by Virtue, Not Sexual Impulses

by Christina Hadford

February 19, 2015

Freedom is man’s ability to pursue freely God’s plan for him; slavery is man’s self-subjugation to his appetitive soul. Today’s culture has confounded the two, inadvertently defining man and measuring his freedom based on his sexual drive.

Last week Stella Morabito wrote about the plurality of sexual identifications accepted and even promoted today: pedophilia, BDSM (bondage/ domination/ sado-masochism), transgender children, incest, bestiality, group sex, and anonymous sex (to name a few). Like many opponents to gay marriage predicted, re-defining marriage as anything other than a sacred bond between one man and one woman will inevitably lead us down a slippery slope in which all sexual exploits are permissible in the name of freedom.

President Obama’s crass advertisement for women to “vote like your lady parts depend on it” makes this case in point. Supposedly, a girl’s ability to have casual sex with a range of men empowers her; a mother’s decision to kill her unborn child indicates her individual agency; a woman’s choice to sleep with other women means she is an equal member of society. This sentiment has seeped into wider discourse. Now, people identify themselves by their sexual orientation, and interpret their freedom based on whether they can fulfill these desires without limits. This distortion is degrading, debilitating, and downright disgusting.

Defining a person’s freedom in terms of her sexual desires and actions reduces her to an animalistic state. The trademark of humankind—both man and woman—is their logic. Animals experience an urge, and go to all limits to satisfy that urge. Humans share the sensual desires of animals, but are additionally endowed with a sense of reasoning and restraint that should ultimately dictate their appetites. As Aristotle said, “[T]he good for man is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, or if there are more kinds of virtue than one, in accordance with the best and most perfect kind” (Nicomachean Ethics).

In addition to the backwardness of reducing man to an animalistic state, defining freedom in terms of sexual passions is inherently restrictive. Ultimately, we are all constrained by our bodily limits. It is impossible for two men to conjugally unite to produce offspring; it is impossible to have pedophiliac relationships and not profoundly wound an innocent child; it is impossible to have healthy and respectful sado-masochistic relationships. The human body is limited, and defining man in terms of his body inescapably confines him.

Freedom is, however, very achievable as long as it is properly defined. As Aristotle indicated true freedom is the absolute pursuit of highest virtue; specifically, it is the spiritual and corporal surrender to God’s omniscient and benevolent plan for man. Because God is all-powerful, pursuing God’s plan—whether or not it is sensually fulfilling to man—will manifest boundless interior and spiritual freedom. It is high time our society stop accepting any and all sexual desires in the name of freedom. A man with uncontrollable sexual impulses will not achieve freedom by society affirming his actions; rather, he will achieve freedom after he is offered loving and compassionate counsel away from his sexual slavery.

Columbus Day: A Time to Celebrate Religion in America

by Christina Hadford

October 14, 2014

Dedicating his voyage “In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ” and offering himself as an instrument of God, Christopher Columbus set sail into the great unknown on August 3, 1492. Approximately two months later — 522 years from this very week — Columbus’ great ship Santa Maria de Immaculada Concepcion approached the New World. Upon arriving to the shore, he knelt to the ground, raised his eyes to Heaven, and proclaimed, “Blessed be the light of day, and the Holy Cross we say; and the Lord of Verity, and the Holy Trinity. Blessed be the light of day, and He who sends the dark away.”

Christopher Columbus was a deeply pious man who structured his day around prayer and sacrifice. His true joy in discovering the Americas rested in this new opportunity to bring Our Lord’s love to his brothers and sisters across the world. Columbus’ legacy survived many trials and tribulations, and eventually fueled the formation of the great nation we live in today. Centuries later George Washington echoed Columbus’ faith-filled vision, proclaiming, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

Although both men were driven by divine inspiration, they also saw religion’s pragmatic application. Social science data shows that religious practice, especially within an intact married family, is associated with a number of positive societal outcomes.

For example, studies show that religion promotes familial relationships. Religious attendance is the most important predictor of marital stability, and those in intact marriages who worship weekly were most likely to say they felt thrilled and excited during intercourse with their current sexual partner. Parents who attend religious services are more likely to enjoy a better relationship with their children and to be more involved in their children’s education. A father’s religious affiliation and religious attendance are positively associated with his involvement with his children in ways such as interacting one-on-one, having dinner with his family, and volunteering for youth-related activities.

Religious attendance is also associated with better education. Frequent religious attendance correlates with higher grades, lower dropout rates, greater school attachment, and higher educational aspirations. Overall, Students who attend church weekly while growing up have significantly more years of total schooling by their early thirties than peers who do not attend church at all.

Moreover, social science data shows that religious attendance boosts health. Greater longevity is consistently and significantly correlated with higher levels of religious practice and involvement, regardless of the sex, race, education, or health history of those studied. Young people who both attend religious services weekly and rate religion as important in their lives are less likely to engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving, riding with drunk drivers, driving without a seatbelt, or engaging in interpersonal violence. They are also less likely to smoke (tobacco or marijuana) or drink heavily. Not surprisingly, religious affiliation and regular church attendance are among the most common reasons people give to explain their own happiness.

Clearly, religious practice is imperative for a strong and altruistic community. Among those who feel compassion for the disadvantaged, religious respondents are 23 percent more likely to donate to charities at least yearly and 32 percent more likely to donate monthly than are their secular counterparts. Religious people are also more likely to volunteer. They are 34 percent more likely to volunteer at least yearly and 22 percent more likely to volunteer monthly.

Unfortunately, religion, particularly Christianity, is being attacked in America today. Data shows the pressing importance of reinfusing religious practice into society for the sake of the well-being of our nation, no matter what the cost. As Christopher Columbus said, “No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Savior, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.”

Full citations can be found in MARRI’s synthesis paper, “95 Social Science Reason for Religious Worship and Practice.”

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