The battle for America’s unborn

This year, the Family and Life Academy webinars have been exploring the foundations of the defence of children from physical and spiritual destruction in today’s world. In May, Dr Pat Fagan presented compelling social science data showing the incomparable benefit of intact marriage and weekly religious worship for children and society as a whole. Then at the beginning of June, Dr Jennifer Roback Morse exposed the sexual revolution’s systematic destruction of safeguards protecting children from sexual predation. Finally, on Saturday 24 June, Thomas McKenna and Paul Jonna discussed children’s right to life in light of the overturning of Roe v Wade, and reflected on the future of the battle against legalised abortion in the United States.

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The sexual revolution: softening the ground for legalising paedophilia

Following Professor Roberto de Mattei’s exploration of attacks against the family in revolutionary history, and Dr Pat Fagan’s revealing insight into social science data on the benefits of marriage and religious worship for children and society, Dr Jennifer Roback Morse has made a further contribution to the Family and Life Academy’s catalogue of webinars unpacking the contemporary crisis. Dr Roback Morse joined John Smeaton on 2 June 2023 for a webinar entitled, Baked in from the beginning: paedophilia and the sexual revolution. She was careful to qualify “the somewhat shocking title”, right at the outset:

“You’re not going to hear me tell you that all the founders of the sexual revolution were themselves paedophiles. That’s not what we’re going to talk about. In fact, what I have to say is in its own way even more alarming… the way in which the sexual revolution presented itself, and the goals that it aspired to, required people to redefine what they meant by childhood… duties of parents to children, of society to children… So, in effect, without themselves being paedophiles, what they did is create a set of structures that weakened the protections for children and, at the same time, most likely attract people who actually are paedophiles. So my message is going to be a little more subtle than you may have thought but it is at the same time all the more disturbing.”

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Intact marriage and weekly worship make children thrive 

On Friday 12 May, Dr Pat Fagan presented a webinar at the Family and Life Academy. Dr Fagan is the founder and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute. In his five decades as a clinical therapist and social scientist, Dr Fagan has specialised in marriage, family and child therapy, and the study of marriage and religious practice, in which fields he has authored and commissioned scores of synthesis papers and original research projects, and advised President George Herbert Bush and Senator Dan Coats. In the webinar, Dr Fagan presented an overview of his research focusing on intact marriage and weekly worship, which in his own words, “cause — and I underline that word, cause — society to thrive or, in their absence, to wilt”.

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Against vain and worldly learning



SON, be not moved with the fine and subtle sayings of men for the Kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power (1 Cor 4:20).

Attend to my words which inflame the heart and enlighten the mind, which excite to compunction and afford manifold consolations.

Never read anything that thou mayest appear more learned or more wise.

Study rather to mortify thy vices, for this will avail thee more than the being able to answer many hard questions thou must always return to one beginning.

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Grace perfects the natural primacy of parents

Last Saturday, Dr Alan Fimister began the third lesson of his course on parents as primary educators with a concise review of the vast and complex plan of the first two lessons. In its broadest terms, the mission to educate begins with the family in the natural order, is perfected by the Church in the supernatural order — without violating the natural primacy of parents — and is supported by the state in all things natural which the family cannot necessarily provide on its own. This plan corresponds in every point to the principles of natural law and the deposit of the faith. As the course breaks until the new year, participants can take this opportunity to consolidate their understanding of the premises established so far, before the course concludes with an in-depth look at the praxis of Christian education today, in some of the most hostile historical conditions that the family has ever encountered.

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How divine law differs from natural law

Those who have followed the Family and Life Academy’s course on natural law and gone straight on to the course on divine law cannot but notice the difference between the disciplines. Having traced the natural law tradition from the Acropolis of Athens to the present day, covering the key theses, antitheses and syntheses of its development and ill-fated abandonment by western thinkers, and the case for its revival in the twenty-first century, we now graduate to the subject of divine law. Having come so far and attained a more or less firm grasp of the relevant philosophical tools, the layman must be humbly disposed to find himself further back than he began — not at the Acropolis, but in Eden — with a whole new set of theological tools to get to grips with, and even more subtle tasks to tackle

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The defence of the family and the reconquest of its values

In last Friday’s webinar, Attacks against the family: a historical overview, Professor Roberto de Mattei elucidated exactly what is at stake in the battle between opposing conceptions of the family — that conceived by the philosophical realism of St Thomas Aquinas and those conceived by the succession of subjective philosophies which have arisen since the sixteenth century. 

“Luther denied that matrimony is a sacrament, and, consistent with this position, denied its indissolubility. He affirmed that matrimony could be dissolved ipso facto by infidelity on the part of one of the spouses… Divorce spread widely in the following centuries in Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican countries, but civil divorce was officially introduced in public institutions only after the French Revolution.”

Even more than the Protestant Revolt, it was the spirit of 1789 which would become the mother and model of all subsequent attacks on the family. Nowhere is this more evident that in the “philosophy” of one of the French Revolution’s most influential children, the Marquis de Sade (1740–1814).

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Latin grammar

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this, not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labour and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least fifty per cent. It is the key to the vocabulary and structure of all the Romance languages and to the structure of all the Teutonic languages, as well as to the technical vocabulary of all the sciences and to the literature of the entire Mediterranean civilisation, together with all its historical documents.

Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning (Paper read at a Vacation Course in Education Oxford, 1947)

How to approach the issue of abortion

So far, in the Family and Life Academy’s course on abortion, Dr Greg Pike has presented data from some of the best scientific studies in recent decades, John Smeaton has explored the universal principles of natural and divine law in relation to the contemporary crisis, and Ann Farmer has delved into the historical records of the authors of the “pro-choice” narrative themselves. The course’s multifaceted approach makes the most of each teacher’s expertise to tackle the most controverted human rights issue in the world today — the right to life from its very beginning. Three lessons into the course, all the teachers have had the opportunity to contribute and have acquitted themselves of the task with uncommon clarity, depth of focus and an essential cohesion between their different disciplines — scientific, moral and historical. The result is a synthesis of substantial insights that provides a solid foundation for anyone looking to build a better understanding of the issue of abortion.

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