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.”
Also by way of introduction, Dr Roback Morse spoke of the mission of the Ruth Institute, of which she is founder and president, to equip people with the scientific resources to counter the false narrative of the sexual revolution and so to defend the family from the deconstruction pursued by its proponents. Among the Ruth Institute’s programmes is the Ask a survivor series, in which a clergy abuse survivor, Faith Hakesley answers questions from other abuse survivors searching for help and healing.
“Unlike some other people who talk about these issues, at the Ruth Institute, we are 100 percent committed to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family and human sexuality. We’re not the kind of people who are going to say that the solution to this is to get rid of celibacy or the solution to this is to lighten up about homosexuality. That’s not where we’re operating at all. Anyway, we have a pretty serious footprint in this area and I think that this gives us a credibility that other people don’t necessarily have in this area.”
The link between homosexual clergy and abuse cases in the Catholic Church was discussed with reference to the findings of the groundbreaking 2018 report by Fr Paul Sullins, Dr Roback Morse’s colleague at the Ruth Institute. The link between homosexuality and child abuse in society more broadly was admirably dealt with by Dr Roback Morse in the Q&A which concluded the webinar. The perspective in her presentation, however, remained that of the “survivors of the sexual revolution”. With reference to a pamphlet published by the Ruth Institute around 2013, Dr Roback Morse explained how working with “survivors” led her to take seriously the daunting subject at hand:
“Post abortive women, refugees from the hook-up culture, children of divorce, heartbroken career women… we had lots of ideas of who the victims were… there is nothing [in the pamphlet] about harassment and childhood sexual revolution… I thought, ‘That’s been around forever, it’s not fair to blame that on the sexual revolution.’
“Well, after a while, I came to the conclusion that… in fact the sexual revolution had and has a very important part to play in making childhood sexual abuse as common as it actually is. This was around 2018, when all these scandals were coming to light. I finally had to admit to myself that this was related to the sexual revolution, and the fact that I didn’t put it in that original pamphlet — basically, I just didn’t want to deal with it…
“But the fact is that the sexual revolution has created an ideology, and a whole set of social structures and ways of thinking, that provide cover for predators and also disarm victims. We’re all supposed to be ‘sex-positive’; we’re not supposed to be anxious or uptight about sex. Everybody’s entitled to sex in some way, so the sex revolution ideology and structures are actually gravely implicated in the whole sequence of this.”
Manifesting the Ruth Institute’s “serious commitment to understanding what is going on with sex abuse — generally and in the Catholic Church particularly”, Dr Roback Morse divided the main body of her talk into three parts, showing, firstly, that sexual abuse is pervasive among the global ruling class and is not unique to the Catholic Church; secondly, that the early proponents of the sexual revolution advocated for precocious sexual activity in children; and thirdly, that the ideology of the sexual revolutionaries required them to redefine the very concept of childhood.
Speaking firstly of the pervasiveness of paedophilia among the global elite, Dr Roback Morse focused strongly on the United Nations, whose official, Peter Newell, was co-author of the UN document, The rights of children, was himself charged for abusing children. “And he was saying that the international community must do everything possible to defend children’s right to have sex…” She also referred to a disturbing UN document, published this year, of which principle 16 on “consensual sexual conduct”, she reasoned with characteristic sobriety and balance, is “not legalising” but “softening the ground for legalising paedophilia”. She concluded that:
“…when the United Nations talk about children’s rights, they think that means having sex without parents knowing it. The Ruth Institute thinks children have a right to a relationship with their parents, they have a right to know who their parents are. That’s what we mean when we talk about children’s rights.”
In the second part, Dr Roback Morse proceeded to discuss the theories of three key figures in the sexual revolution — Wilhelm Reich, Arthur Kinsey and Shulamith Firestone — giving a realistic overview of their ideas, ultimately discerning that:
“What these three people have in common are (1) they are all influenced by Sigmund Freud, (2) they believe that sexual repression was a bad thing, (3) they were more worried about sexual repression than about sexual abuse and that the taboos were harmful to individuals and society, and (4) they all had objectives other than deconstructing the family: Firestone wanted equality for women, Kinsey wanted free love and so did Reich.
“So if the family fell apart as part of the result of that, that was okay with them… because they had a big vision, and in order for that big vision to take place, the family had to be in some way neutralised. So what they came up with is that children should be allowed to have sex without shame or apology, each with their different reasons…”
The importance of the freudo-marxist ideology of Wilhelm Reich and the Frankfurt School in the sexual revolution is explored in greater deal lesson 6 of the Family and Life Academy course on abortion, in which John Smeaton explored the key figures in the history of legalised abortion. Dr Roback Morse added instructively to this discussion in the Q&A, responding to a question about the victims of the sexual revolution who cannot be counted among the survivors. In the final part of the presentation, however, she turned to “the essence and the most important aspect of this talk: the way in which they have, all along, without telling anyone, been redefining childhood”.
“Roughly speaking, they wanted to say to adults… ‘You get to do whatever you want sexually and nothing bad will happen. The only bad thing is when people get upset about it, when people judge you, and even kids aren’t really that bothered, it’s just their parents getting upset. If you wouldn’t get upset, it wouldn’t be a problem.’ This is the vision they have, and in order for that vision to work, you need to have a vision of what it is to be a child and that’s what I want to spell out a little bit here.”
She proceeded to share her own personal experiences of adopting a child from a minimum-care orphanage in Romania, raising a birth-child, being a foster parent, and how the formative years of the lives of children radically impacts their character. She also revealed her motivation for writing her 2001 book, Love and Economics, to help mothers who are told that they should not be at home raising their children but in career jobs. It is worth watching the webinar just for her insight into the importance of the mother-child bond in the in the first 18 months after birth, and her consideration of how apparently negative “taboos” in sexuality are often safeguards for preserving goods which would otherwise, and indeed have already to a great extent been lost. She also spoke further on her friendships and collaboration with victims:
“I’ve now talked to many people who have been survivors of different childhood sex abuse. I have yet to hear somebody say… ‘the only problem was that the grown-ups were upset about it; everyone around me thought it was fine and therefore I thought it was fine.’ I’ve never heard anybody say that. Now, maybe somebody’s out there like that but I don’t think so. And what’s happening is the children who do survive this have all kinds of mental health problems, they feel doubly abused because nobody will listen to them when they try to talk about it… we’re really not rallying around them in the way that we should be and taking seriously their complaints.
“What I find in this, and a number of other areas, is that sometimes people will be alarmed and say, ‘We need to do this and that!’ but they’ll never go to the core of the sexual revolution; they always want to protect that core idea that adults are allowed to have whatever sex they want, including access to pornography and access to contraception. We’re allowed to have all that but somehow we have to put a stop to those ‘non-consensual’ things. And the idea of consent is being asked to carry way more weight than it can actually carry.”
She concludes with an encouraging appeal to Catholics in particular, whose membership in the one true Church has no analogy with that of secular institutions embroiled in similar scandal:
“We have a coherent theory to counteract the revolutionary sexual ideology… We have an emphasis on self-command. We have an emphasis on asceticism and being in control of oneself. We have traditions that allow us to develop, to protect people from these kinds of compromising situations. And most of all, we have a group of people who love the Church. We love the Church enough to do what is necessary to reform it. I don’t think the United Nations, or the public schools, or the political parties, or Hollywood, or any of the other groups have anything quite like that. And so, it’s my considered opinion that if we’re going to ever deal with the problem of childhood sexual abuse… it will be people like us who deal with it.
“You have a choice. You can take the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a coherent document which has stood the test of time, or you can look at the United Nations’ Rights of the child, which tells kids that they get to have sex without their parents knowing it. That’s the choice that we face right now. In my opinion, we have no right to leave the Church over these problems. We have an obligation to defend the deposit of the faith…”
The webinar is available to watch any time on the Family and Life Academy website. Dr Jennifer Roback Morse has also kindly made her PowerPoint presentation, containing extensive links and resources, available for download in the “Further reading” section.