Exceptionless Moral Norms: No Tradeoffs.

JRM Blue jacket Mary SweetenedDr J’s Chats. Week 2, Episode 1. 

Last time, we talked about tradeoffs. Tradeoffs are inevitable, and unavoidable. We are constantly making decisions that pit some good things against others. We want to spend time with our families: a good thing. We also want to earn a living, so we can support our families. Also a good thing. We often face decisions where we must trade off two good things.

Or, we may have to decide about risks. There is a risk of getting into a car accident, every time I get into a car. There is some risk of catching an illness from another person. Yet we drive our cars and come into contact with strangers every day. We consider those risks acceptable, all things considered, under most circumstances.

But I cannot leave you with the impression that there are always tradeoffs. There is such a thing as a moral absolute. Some moral norms have no exceptions, no tradeoffs. Take the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

“Thou shalt not kill” does not mean you cannot step on a bug. Nor does it mean that you cannot defend yourself from a person who poses an immediate mortal danger to you. The prohibition “Thou shalt not kill” prohibits the deliberate taking of an innocent human life.  Understood in that way, the commandment is an absolute moral norm. No excuses. No exceptions.

So here is what seems to have happened to us, as a culture. We have people with enormous amounts of power and influence who have stood things on their heads. We hear Andrew Cuomo telling pro-life supporters they have no place in New York. We see the state of New York light up the One World Trade Center to celebrate the extension of legal permission to kill preborn persons, the most innocent imaginable, right up until the moment of birth.

Yet in the effort to stem the spread of a virus, health officials are targeting activities with a relatively modest probability of harming anyone. Gatherings for worship. Going to the beach. And the government is willing to use its police powers to shut down synagogues, fine people, arrest them and even jail them.

Overall, we have absolutized things that should be relative: namely imposing risks on yourself or others. And we have relativized things that should be absolute, like no killing innocent people.

So while there certainly are tradeoffs in many situations, there are also some things that are always and everywhere morally forbidden.

And honestly, those constraints are not nearly such a burden. I mean, most people can go through their entire lives and never deliberately take the life of an innocent person. Normal people never deliberately withhold information that protects felons. Most people go their entire lives without ever sexually assaulting a child. Normal people never perjure themselves in a court of law.

All of which brings to mind:

Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself. See you next time.

This is the text of the video posted on the Ruth Institute Facebook page, May 4, 2020. Dr J’s Chats. Week 2, Episode 1. 

Tradeoffs are unavoidable. You be the statesman.  

Episode 5: Dr J’s Daily Chats 

This is the text of the video I just made on the Ruth Institute Facebook page and posted on May 1, 2020.

The Wuhan virus is presenting us with questions that may never have exact answers. I hope I convinced you earlier that we cannot just “leave it to the experts.” One set of experts contradicts another.

And that is under the best-case scenario where we trust everyone to be telling us the complete unvarnished truth. We are a long way from the best-case scenario. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. Continue reading “Tradeoffs are unavoidable. You be the statesman.  “

The Human Person is Meant for Love.

JRM Blue jacket Mary SweetenedEpisode 4: of Dr. J’s Daily Chats. I made a short video, posted on the Ruth Institute Facebook page on April 30. Here is the text. This will be the part of a series on the subject of truth. Speaking of truth, Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself.

Last time, we talked about the problem with experts. They know what they are talking about. But they only know about their own field. Their opinion on any other area of endeavor may be no better than anyone else’s.

Under the influence of infectious disease specialists, governments around the world are requiring extreme “social distancing” measures.

I’ve heard some heartbreaking stories the costs of these mandates. Elderly people living in nursing homes cannot have their loved ones come and see them. One elderly mother was inside the nursing home, with her son looking inside the window. She was crying for him to come in and hug her. She couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t come in. Some elderly people in this situation become depressed and stop eating. They are not allowed to hug their grandchildren.

I bet we can find a geriatrics specialist who will explain that this is not a healthy situation for the elderly.

Speaking of hugs: Babies need to be held. Babies need to bond, preferably with their own parents. We could easily find child development specialists who can explain to us that the failure to thrive syndrome is a real thing. These are babies who have no identifiable illness, who are fed, clothed, and properly medicated. But they do not grow or thrive and sometimes even die.

In fact, what child development experts now call “failure to thrive” was originally called “hospitalism.” The failure to thrive syndrome was discovered in hospitals in the early twentieth century. The staff was trying to keep the children free of germs.

The child development experts will tell you that keeping a baby free of germs by no one ever touching the baby is a “cure” far worse than most diseases.

What do the elderly and the new-born babies have in common? They are unavoidably dependent on others. In our modern age, we tend to think there is something wrong with people being dependent. We think independence is the natural state of human life. But the fact that babies can die without human contact shows us that human contact is not optional.

It is a basic fact: absolutely every single person comes into life as a helpless baby. Everyone is dependent on others, at some point in their lives. It is the only truly universal human experience.

In fact, I would go further and say this: the human person is meant for love. As Pope St. John Paul II once said, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own.”  As far as I know, every branch of Christianity agrees with this.

That is why we cannot blindly accept the absolute priority of avoiding the spread of germs. We can’t go on like this. We are social creatures, meant to love and be loved.

We need some way of balancing our competing needs, and the competing forms of expertise. I will tell you more about that next time.

By the way, guys like Jeffrey Epstein know nothing of love. And he did not kill himself.

See you next time.

Why Experts aren’t enough.

Dr. J’s Chats, Episode 3: Why Experts aren’t enough.  

I made this short video posted on the Ruth Institute Facebook page on April 29. Here is the text.

 When a new infectious disease is discovered, our information about it is necessarily incomplete. We have to collect the important data. We have to analyze it accurately, which includes classifying cases in a sensible manner. The average person has no expertise at all in this area. Neither does the average politician or journalist. All of us must rely on experts to do their jobs competently and honestly.

We need accurate information. Yet what we actually have is expert opinion, as filtered through the news media and political jockeying. No wonder people are upset. We don’t know what to believe. We are facing unknowable risks. We are being asked to make unprecedented sacrifices and disruptions. Continue reading “Why Experts aren’t enough.”

Wuhan Virus Intimately Connected with the Sexual Revolution

Educate Icon(Originally published at the National Catholic Register, April 27, 2020.) 

COMMENTARY: The pandemic raises serious questions about our modern approach to marriage, family and human sexuality.

When the COVID-19 crisis first hit the news, I thought to myself, “Oh boy, nobody is going to want to talk about the family anymore. It is going to be all COVID, all the time.”

I was wrong. The issues the Ruth Institute deals with are just as important as ever. That’s because pandemics don’t exist in a vacuum. We can easily see that the political and economic system in which a new disease takes hold plays a part in how that country copes with that pandemic. We can now see that the culture surrounding the family makes a difference in how the United States and other developed countries are dealing with the new coronavirus. And the pandemic raises serious questions about our modern approach to marriage, family and human sexuality.

Top of the list: The pandemic highlights the absurdity of the hyper-sexualized society in which we live. At the opening of the crisis, a pornography industry lobbying group called on those who make so-called adult entertainment to voluntarily cease operations for two weeks. (This was before it was obvious that everyone was going to shut down.) The industry congratulated itself, for its undying love of humanity. Really? A two-week hiatus by a $16.9 billion industry is a great sacrifice?

In fact, the move was a public relations gimmick by an industry that daily wrecks people’s lives. Pornography is strongly correlated with infidelity, divorce and marital dissatisfaction. It’s also an affront to human dignity. This harm will barely be impacted by a two-week break. And the consumption of porn has increased during the near-global lockdown. Just Google “lockdown on pornography” and you’ll see what I mean.

Meanwhile, New York City’s Department of Public Health issued guidelines which helpfully note that “masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) for at least 20 seconds before and after.” Beyond that, it recommends avoiding intimate relations with strangers and group sex.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, couldn’t bring himself to tell people to avoid sex with strangers. In response to a question about people using casual sex/dating apps like Tinder or Grinder, Fauci said, “If you’re willing to take a risk — and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks — you could figure out if you want to meet somebody. And it depends on the level of the interaction that you want to have. If you’re looking for a friend, sit in a room and put a mask on, and you know, chat a bit. If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk.”

Sensible people don’t need to be told to abstain from risky conduct, like casual sex and orgies, even without a pandemic. The public health establishment appears to assume that sex with strangers is so natural that we can’t ask people to give it up. If you think you’ll die by abstaining from sex, you’re probably a sex addict. All of which raises the question: Are we ruled by sex addicts?

Both the U.S. surgeon general and the Centers for Disease Control have advised health care facilities to reschedule non-urgent appointments and elective procedures. A number of pro-life and pro-family groups, including the Ruth Institute, have asked state attorneys general to enforce CDC guidelines by ordering abortion businesses to close down for the duration. For decades, abortion proponents have told us that a woman has a “right to choose.” That makes abortion elective, by definition.

But Planned Parenthood says abortion is a time-sensitive essential service. Abortion facilities use masks, gloves and other personal protection equipment. (At least, I hope they do.) Why are these scarce medical resources not being reallocated for coronavirus patients?

Likewise, so-called sex-change operations or “gender affirmation” surgeries are elective surgeries. These procedures alter the physical appearance, not the sex, of the subject. The biological sex they had at the beginning of their life they will have throughout their life.

The Ruth Institute has partnered with Life Petitions on a petition calling on governors to stop these procedures, for at least the duration of the shutdown. No one will be harmed by this, and it will give the gender-confused time to rethink what could be a life-altering decision.

The petition also asks governors to lift bans on counseling to help the gender-confused embrace reality. These bans are currently so broadly written that therapists often fear speaking frankly to their clients. “Your surgery cannot be scheduled for the foreseeable future. You will be okay. Let’s talk about how you can live comfortably in your body, as it is right now.” Is that forbidden speech? Right now, therapists in some states are unsure.

Finally, the coronavirus pandemic highlights the role of declining birth rates. In mid-March, Italy had the second-highest number of confirmed COVID cases. Not coincidentally, it also has one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe: 1.33 children per woman, far below the replacement level of 2.1.

That has given the nation a rapidly aging population and pension costs that dominate public-sector budgets. Both have put a strain on Italy’s health care system, making it unable to respond effectively to a medical crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Some of us in the pro-family movement have been predicting this sort of problem for a long time. Perhaps now, people will be inclined to listen.

The sexual revolutionary establishment thinks the answer to lots of people dying (i.e., the pandemic) is to kill people (i.e., abortion.) In the face of the spread of a novel contagious disease, the sexual revolutionary establishment cannot manage to advise people to keep their pants on. I guess there is still plenty of work for the pro-family movement!

Continue reading “Wuhan Virus Intimately Connected with the Sexual Revolution”

We Need Truth

I just made a short video, posted on the Ruth Institute Facebook page. Here is the text. This will be the first in a series on the subject of truth. Speaking of truth, Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself.JRM Blue jacket Mary Sweetened

Episode 1: We need truth.

Dealing with the new virus and the global shutdown has clearly taught us one point: we need truth.  Lives depend on determining the truth. How contagious and deadly is the virus really? Are the mass quarantines and lockdowns really necessary?  Some uncertainty is unavoidable. We are facing a new disease. We Continue reading “We Need Truth”

About Alana Newman

I have known Alana Newman since 2013. I was her sponsor when she entered the Catholic Church in 2014. My family moved to Lake Charles to be near her and her family in 2015. I know the family well.

My husband and I observed two ordinary people, with ordinary character flaws, in an ordinary marriage, with ordinary problems.

On June 29, 2018, Alana left her husband and took their three small children out of state. Her husband filed for divorce as the only way to induce her to bring the children back to Louisiana.

It has come to my attention that she is telling people she left “an abusive situation.”

Let me share one verifiable fact: the family court granted her domiciliary custody, with her husband having two weekends with the children per month. Yet she regularly leaves the children with him, unsupervised, while she leaves Lake Charles on overnight trips, sometimes for over a week at a time.

I ask you: Is this the behavior of a mother who left an “abusive situation?”

Her actions and explanations do not make sense to me. It is my considered opinion, that she is no longer a reliable spokeswoman for the cause of lifelong married love, and Catholic teaching on marriage and family life.

Preemptive Strike: Potential push-back on the Clergy Sex Abuse Study

A writer for the National Catholic Reporter took a swipe at the Ruth Institute’s study on Clergy Sex Abuse.

“McCarrick may have preyed on seminarians, but San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone preyed on some people’s homophobia in calling attention to a study — I use the term loosely — by Fr. Paul Sullins, who used to teach at Catholic University of America, that claimed to demonstrate a link between homosexuality in the clergy and clergy sex abuse. The study is bunk.

Previously, I had only heard Sullins distort Catholic social teaching, but apparently he is willing to cherry pick data to make a tendentious sociological case — and construct an easy scapegoat. Cordileone bought it.”

That’s it. That’s all he had to say.

Paul Sullins SociologyTaken – 10/15/08 – 1:20:58 PMphoto by Ed PfuellerSullins_Paul_003.JPG

We aren’t going to respond. As you can see for yourself, there is nothing here to which a reasonable response can be made.

So far, we have not heard any serious critique of the study. We are prepared to dialogue with anyone who has something reasonable to say. We are making the study, and the data on which it is based, available to anyone who wants it.

I predict one of two possible moves: either people who disagree with us will ignore the study and hope it goes away. Or, they will launch some personal attack on me or Fr. Sullins or both.

I’m saying this now, as a preemptive strike. Continue reading “Preemptive Strike: Potential push-back on the Clergy Sex Abuse Study”

Our Clergy Sex Abuse study covered in Germany

Can anyone read German? Here is a article in German on our Clergy Sex Abuse Study. The headline means, “Stop Denying.”
According to the Google translator function:

(Fr. Paul) Sullins’ proposal for resolution looks like this: To deal with the homosexual subcultures in the seminars, “the first thing that needs to be done is to stop denial.” You have to realize that there is a problem. This includes admitting that there may be a connection between “homosexual behavior in seminaries or in the priesthood and this kind of mischief,” the abuse. The impulse “that we do not want to say anything that could stigmatize homosexuals is understandable. But this must be weighed against the damage potential for the victims. How many times do we want to repeat that and continue to deny what is becoming more and more obvious? “When do we take action to address it?

Please keeping sharing the study. People need to have the courage to face this issue directly.

Clergy abuse victim Mark Gallegos shows the scars on his wrist from failed suicide attempts during press conference outside the courthouse in Los Angeles, California USA, 16 July 2007. A 660 million dollar settlement for some 500 victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was approved in LA courtroom this morning. EPA/PAUL BUCK +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++ |

This is the homepage for the study.

Here is where you can download the report and/or request the data on which the study is based.

Here is the Ruth Institute’s press release announcing the availability of the study.

Here is the Backgrounder on the study.

Here is a printer-friendly 2-page download of the Backgrounder.

(This photo, originally from the LA Times, accompanied the German article.)

Trying to catch up…

I have not been keeping up with this blog very well. Between Rosary Around the Lake, and now our new report on homosexuality and the Catholic priesthood, I have been running around like crazy.

I’m going to take some time to add in the articles I have written, along with the articles that have been written about the Ruth Institute’s new report. The backlog is pretty intense….

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