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An Interview with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Recently, I had the occasion to ask Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse some questions about her work – really, her ministry – promoting the dignity of human life, encouraging society to reflect God’s plan for marriage and the family, clarifying the Catholic Church’s teachings on chastity in light of sexual ethics, and defending the rights of children around the globe. As an introductorily relevant aside, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently made the unconscionably woeful decision to add Dr. Morse’s organization, the Ruth Institute, to its list of “Active Hate Groups,” an issue that presents an unjust dilemma that I addressed in my first piece for the National Catholic Register back on September 7. For decades, Dr. Morse, who heads the Ruth Institute (whose goal constitutes “Inspiring the Survivors of the Sexual Revolution”), has been at the forefront of the opposition to the ill effects of the Sexual Revolution that has raged in the West since the 1960s. The following is the transcript of that interview.
1) What role does faith play in your ministerial endeavors?
Faith is the glue that holds my life together, and gives meaning to all the parts. We used to try to be strictly non-religious, in an attempt to appeal to the largest number of people, many of whom are, of course, not religious. Around 2012, I came to the conclusion that we were leaving our best player, Jesus, on the bench. This makes no sense. Yes, I keep using the scientific arguments and the evidence of experience. But I also talk about Jesus, his holy Mother, and the Church whenever I can do so.
2) In the wake of the Sexual Revolution that has ravaged the West for approximately five decades at this point, why is the work and mission of the Ruth Institute significant in light of the cultural elements inherent to today’s society?
Young people have never lived in a world in which divorce was an anomaly, contraception was scarce, and pornography was considered shameful. Family breakdown is a fact of life for the vast majority of young people. Those of us who knew that another way of life is possible are rapidly dying off. I feel an urgency to convey to people that we must never take these injustices for granted.
3) What do the terms “pro-life,” “pro-family,” and “pro-marriage” mean to you in a Catholic context?
I see myself as creating a new form of the “Seamless Garment.” In my case, I believe you cannot effectively defend the unborn without challenging the assumptions of the Sexual Revolution. No, we do not have an unlimited right to all the sex we want without a live baby ever resulting. The first job of the State is not to eliminate all the inconveniences associated with sex. No: You won’t die if you don’t have sex. And so on.
4) We may take the phrase “children’s rights” for granted, but why is it vital to protect children in a global context?
Children’s rights is a peculiar term. In the hands of the UN, it has come to mean the rights of children to have sex without any interference from their parents. What I mean by the term is: Children have a right to a relationship with their own parents. Children have a right to know their genetic identity and cultural heritage. These rights of children place limitations on the behavior of adults. If you start from this view of children’s rights, and reason outward from there, you will end up with traditional Christian sexual morality. Only have sex with the person you are married to. Neither contraception nor abortion bails you out from your obligations to children. (The hope that they do is the fuel for the contraceptive ideology.) Unless someone does something really egregious, stay married. Don’t attempt to “re-marry.” And be nice to your spouse. Stop the nagging and cheating and lying and fussing. Pretty simple really. That is why you will not see sexual revolutionaries talk about the rights of children to their parents. The revolutionaries will only talk about the “rights” of children that reinforce their ideas of what adults are entitled to do.
5) I typically ask this question during interviews: What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?
“In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
6) In various realms of morality, we occasionally tend to consider things negatively, or even pessimistically or cynically. However, what are some signs of hope that you, as an experienced economist and extensive traveler, have discovered when examining certain socioeconomic situations both within the United States and around the world?
I see a lot of people who are fed up with the Sexual Revolution. The defenses of the revolutionaries are getting thinner and just plain lame. The whole point of “political correctness” is to avoid an honest debate. That is not the position of a person who is sure of the rightness of his or her ideas. I also see a lot of willingness to work together, across religious lines, and to some extent, even racial lines. This gives me great hope for reconciliation of all kinds. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit is at work in this great effort to restore and re-stabilize the family.
Justin, his wife Bernadette, and their three children (John-Paul, Mary Christine, and Thérèse) live in Bowie, Maryland. Justin has taught theology and Spanish at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, since 2006. He has degrees from the University of Maryland – College Park, the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), and Staffordshire University (England), and he has studied philosophy and theology at Seton Hall University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame’s Satellite Theological Education Program. Justin has written for Ave Maria Press, Aleteia, EpicPew, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic365, Church Life, and various other publications. He is on Twitter (@McClainJustin).
image: By Stap (de.wikipedia.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons