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Kresta in the Afternoon – February 18, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 18, 2015 

4:00 – What You Need to Know About the Physical and Emotional Consequences of Sex Outside of Marriage 

Teens have their whole lives ahead of them, but making poor choices can undermine their hopes for a bright future. Too many young adults look back on decisions they made in the heat of the moment and regret the path they chose—they wish someone had told them how premarital sex could negatively impact their future relationships. Pam Stenzel has written a book to help teens make the right choices, based on actual questions she has received. “Nobody Told Me” is for young men and women who want passionate, long-lasting marriages in the future but haven’t considered how the decisions they make now impact their chances for fulfillment. Pam joins us.

4:20 – Helping our Leaders to Heal

The St. Gregory Recovery Program for priests offers a comprehensive, holistic approach to treatment that combines the best-available treatments for the whole person, biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. Founder Mike Vasquez views substance abuse not as a disease that someone must carry as a life-long burden but rather as the result of choice and free will and as such a behavioral deficiency that can be overcome with the proper, expert guidance. Mike is with us today to talk about his program.

4:40 – 400 Million Lives ‘Prevented’ Through One-Child Policy

In October of last year Chinese Communist Party officials released statistics to point out how many babies have been aborted in the 34 years since the one-child per couple policy was put in place. It boasted that it has prevented 400 million lives through the one child policy. That is a greater number than the entire population of the United States and Canada combined. We talk to Reggie Littlejohn, who has dedicated her life to opposing forced abortion and sexual slavery in China as well as helping the victims.

5:00 – Special Kresta Commentary on Lent

Al kicks off Lent with a review of the origins, meanings and significance of Ash Wednesday and the preparation for Easter.

Fifty Shades of Sham

article-2516386-14E24915000005DC-385_306x423From a cheesy bit of anonymous fan fiction with vapid characters, ludicrous plot and insipid writing, 50 Shades of Grey morphed into a Harry Potter size marketing phenomenon. When the dust settles, however, we’ll discover it was little more than a self-generated, incestuous bit of media marketing foreplay without the grand socio-sexual climax promised by its boosters or prophesied by its critics. The 50 Shades franchise is a marketing windfall but a cultural dud. One can hope that in five years, it will be hard to find anyone who will admit to having read or seen it. For those imagining that 50 Shades is a rush to the barricades for a new sexual revolution, think again. Neither Alfred Kinsey nor Larry Flynt would have ever been considered a candidate for a Valentine Day’s Vermont Teddy Bear like Christian Grey. Fifty Shades is not a revolutionary moment like Stonewall, Fort Sumner, D. H. Lawrence or Vladimir Lenin. It is just business as usual in a declining America.

Mainstreaming BDSM is a crass, cynical exploitation of frustrated, impotent people who are seeking the real intimacy proper to human nature. A few more fur handcuffs and leather paddles may be sold but they will eventually lie in a bureau drawer with discarded eyeglasses, old concert tickets and unredeemed coupons. Why? Because, as with nudists, most people consider Christian Grey’s antics to be silly, pathological and not to be carried out in our house or with our daughter. Yes, more people will be hurt by this book’s example. But the objectification of women has already been achieved in the unstoppable, long established Internet porn revolution that was the precondition for the book’s success. Fifty Shades is a product of that revolution not its opening volley. It is the problem for which St. John Paul II prescribed the theology of the body.

Even the natural modesty of the young actors playing Christian and Ana asserts itself off the set. He admits he needs to take a long shower before he will touch his wife and baby. She kids about not wanting anyone to see the movie including her parents and her brother’s friends who would retch upon seeing her in the role of Ana. This 50 Shades phenomenon is a report on the poverty of American romance not a proud manifesto for sexual liberation.

50-shadesListen to the consumers of 50 Shades. They aren’t social activists or volunteers for humane causes. They aren’t leaders, revolutionaries, or trend-setters. They are often romance novel readers fantasizing about love rather than risking real intimacy. An M.S.U. study reveals that women 18-24 who have read all three of the Fifty Shades books when compared with those who haven’t read them are 75% more likely to have used diet aids in the last 24 hours, 65% more likely to binge drink, 63% more likely to have had five or more intercourse partners in their 18-24 years of life. Twenty five percent have a partner who yelled or swore at them. And 34 percent have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies. Crudely put, “Losers” are more likely to be drawn to read Fifty Shades of Grey. And author E.L. James admits that writing the book was little more than therapy during her two year mid-life crisis. Even in our Facebook era, some things should be kept private.

Thanks to Dave Barry and others we can appreciate the plot’s inanity without having to swim through the sludge. A pretty, but dowdy virgin, Ana wants transformation into her inner goddess. Christian Grey, a powerful, wealthy, businessman, and a self-absorbed lover of perversion, wants Ana. So he stalks Ana, ties her up with rope, handcuffs, shackles, and tape. He wants to gag her, spank her, whip her, flog here, cane her, paddle her, put nipple and genital clamps on her, bite her and pour hot wax on her. Ana, showing her strength, decides to let Christian flog her on the butt. Then her great moment of epiphany. As Dave Barry puts it: “In the dramatic climax to the story, the moment we have been building up to, Anastasia comes to a shocking, life-changing realization, which nobody could have foreseen in a million years: Getting flogged on the butt hurts. Yes! It’s painful! Anastasia does not like it. So she breaks up with him. And then…. And then…. The book is over.” I’m serious, that’s the plot.

The third book closes with Ana no longer a victim of intimate partner violence and Christian purged of BDSM practices. They marry. In the Epilogue, this first family of sadomasochism is living happily ever after.

How sweet and deceptive. Christian’s “redemption” spells danger for Cinderella syndrome women and, conversely, women who fantasize divine powers to change the lost soul of a pervert. Sadly, Ana’s reckless experiment in risky behavior is vindicated and justified. In real life, prudence would have gotten a restraining order, counseling or, at least, a move to South Central LA where rappers might write songs about her bruised bottom.

Bob-Bashara-sentencingChristian’s “salvation” also dangerously defies reality. His deviant sexual tastes demand greater and growing intensity leading to brutal, uncontrollable, irresistible linkage between sex and violence. Ask jailed Grosse Pointe Park murderer Bob Bashara and his dead wife, Jane.

Some justify the perversions of the book by claiming all was consensual. But consent to bondage is no virtue. Remember the old Virginia Slims ad? “You’ve come a long way baby, you’ve got your own cigarette now baby.” Consent to bondage is as silly, and more dangerous, than congratulating women on sucking cancer sticks like a man. Women can now consent to physical, not merely psychological bondage. How enlightened.

What an opportunity for Catholics to question the operative spiritual and relational assumptions of our culture. Redemption is found in the crucifying of Jesus not the spanking of Ana. Consent does not justify all things. What behaviors should set off warning flares? Since God invented sex doesn’t he know best what makes for the most fulfilling sexual experience? Doesn’t the Catholic teaching on male/female complementarity correct Christian and Ana’s perverse relationship? Let’s get more than moral outrage out of this pop culture craze. Go to avemariaradio.net to find a resource page that will equip you to use the Fifty Shades fervor for good and not just complain of the evil.

Fifty Shades Banner

Kresta in the Afternoon – February 17, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 17, 2015

4:00 – Are Faithful Catholics “Checking Out” of the Francis Pontificate? Are Lapsed Catholics “Checking In?”

We’ve previously mentioned the idea of faithful Catholics “checking out” of Pope Francis’ pontificate. We’re also noticing an end to the “liberal honeymoon” with Francis, as progressives realize that he isn’t about to change centuries of Church teaching on marriage and the priesthood. Today we’re discussing both topics with Sam Gregg and we’re also opening up the phone lines to talk to you. Has Francis’ papacy had a positive or negative effect on the number of faithful Catholics? We’d like to hear your thoughts.

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Dare we say Obama is a Christian? 

Yesterday we spoke with historian Gary Smith about the faith of several US presidents, including Barack Obama. Gary said he believes Obama is a serious Christian. This has already generated feedback from people who, very understandably, have trouble believing that Obama is really the Christian he claims to be. Al gives some comments on the facts and the fantasies of Obama’s faith life.

5:20 – Are Americans Fed Up with Divorce?

“Rabbi Accused of Running Divorce Kidnap Team Heads to Trial” “48 Hour Divorce Offers Affordable, Less Stressful Option for Speedy Divorce” “Valentine’s Day: Perfect…for Divorce?” Those are just a few of the top results when you search the news headlines for divorce. The topic has become mainstream and is often regarded as not a huge deal because the marriage “just didn’t work out.” But what happens when divorce is not an option? We sit down with Dr. Greg Popcak to ask this and other questions.



We were recently called out for complaining about Fifty Shades of Grey and encouraged to share alternative books and movies. This idea started here: erinmccolecupp.com/2015/02/16/are-you-in-showusyourlist/

First, let’s clear something up. Here at Ave Maria Radio we are not simply complaining about Fifty Shades of Grey. We are providing resources to aid faithful Christians in talking intelligently about it. Please see yesterday’s blog post, where I go into greater detail: https://avemariaradio.net/?p=43720

That being said, providing alternatives to Fifty Shades of Grey is an excellent idea. Please see my recommendations below.

Gran_Torino_posterClint Eastwood’s Gran Torino because it is a feature film that deserves more attention from Catholics than it got.  Unlike Fifty Shades, it has plot, characters and wholesome, if unlikely, relationships. I loved Eastwood portrayal of a man’s late in life ability to renew his approach to relationships. The chasteness of his relationship with a young Hmong woman and her family is fetching. His mentoring of her brother is redemptive. A young priest shows courage but also learns from Eastwood’s character’s actions. Probably best for 12 years old and above.

Another movie is the documentary Unreal Dreams: The Michael Morton Story about a false murder conviction, 25 years in prison and a divine private revelation that leads to the crime’s real perpetrator and Morton’s release. One thing you get out of this story is that God exists, he is wise and he loves you. Surprisingly, I believe this is an HBO production which I first saw on CNN. Will wonders ever cease?

For a book let me suggest Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. This memoir will do more to open our eyes to the current problems in our criminal justice and penal institutions. Some of these books leave one without hope. Not this one. It is filled with faith and hope, and for a book dealing with lawyers, love. Stephenson is to my left politically but the story isn’t left or right, it’s just disturbingly true. He’s also an outstanding communicator which helps transcend partisan categories. Novelist John Grisham wrote that “Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South.” Atticus Finch and To Kill a Mockingbird was fiction. Just Mercy is all too factual.

Obama’s Faith

FaithOn President’s Day I interviewed Dr. Gary Scott Smith of Grove City College whose book, Faith and the Presidency from George Washington to George W. Bush looks at eleven U.S. presidents and their attitude towards God, Christ, Scripture, Church, etc. It is considered the best survey of presidential attitudes on faith and public life in English.  Smith wasn’t testing for orthodoxy or spiritual depth. He was examining each presidents’ own self-designation based on their writings, speeches, letters, range of concerns, etc.   Smith tried to apply his criteria evenhandedly and, according to that criteria, both President Obama and President Kennedy qualify as Christians.

This flies in the face of many Christians’ judgments of the men.  Kennedy seems to many to be a secular humanist rather than a Catholic. He had many extra-marital dalliances and showed little interest in spiritual growth. On the other hand, he was regular in Mass attendance and his bishop, Cardinal Cushing, went to bat for him and even published a book of Kennedy’s favorite prayers and Scripture passages.

Obama seems to many to be a secular liberal who is a champion of abortion and even supported forms of infanticide.  He changed his position on same sex so-called marriage and David Axelrod, a former advisor, is clear that Obama lied during the 2008 campaign when he said he thought marriage was strictly between a man and a woman.  

 On the other hand, when Obama was questioned about his faith by Christianity Today magazine in 2008, he confessed that he held to traditional Christian beliefs like the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, etc.  His former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in a lengthy interview, said he didn’t think Michelle had much interest in the faith and he wasn’t willing to vouch for Barak’s Christian faith. This was after Obama had thrown him under the bus for his “God damn America” remarks. ‘ President Obama has spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast. While I adamantly disagree with his feeble, clumsy effort to draw a moral equivalence between ISIS and the Crusades, he did speak clearly a common “sinful tendency.”  “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith… and so as people of faith we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion, any religion for their own nihilistic ends.” Who can disagree with this message even if we don’t care for the messenger.

One listener wrote complaining that Smith “conveniently failed to recall the ’John McCain has not raised my Muslim faith’ statement by Obama to George Stephanopoulos. George had to attempt to hide that statement – with ‘my Christian faith.’”  I’m not sure why the listener thought it was a convenient omission. Nothing in Smith’s overall work at Grove City College or his Center for Vision and Values suggests a desire to whitewash President Obama’s record. The listener also added that “Obama’s pastor’s statements: ‘Not God Bless America, but God damn America’ does not sound Christian to me.”

First, most observers regard the “my Muslim faith” statement as a slip of the tongue. He was dealing with the suspicion that he was a Muslim and I think it likely he just made a mistake.

Second, his pastor’s “God damn America” statement was blown way out of proportion because the critics were clueless as to its context. It is an example of a common preaching style in black liberal churches. Preachers of this sort adopt a prophetic tone toward America similar to that of the Old Testament prophets towards Israel or the nations, in particular Babylon. Materialistic, world dominant America is seen as a type of Babylon trusting in its riches and military might. By its injustice to the weak and poor, it is under the curse of God, justly deserving the damnation of God. These preachers don’t feel obligated to protect our patriotic feelings any more than Amos or Malachi. Patriotism and Christian faith shouldn’t be confused. We may not like it but that’s the way they see it. It may be bad preaching, bad theology, and bad politics but it doesn’t demonstrate that they aren’t Christians. If anything, their preoccupation with justice to the poor and God’s judgment on America show a commitment to some type of Christianity.

US President Barack Obama bows his headAny conscientious pastor, in fact any fellow Christian, should have confronted both Kennedy and Obama for their striking inconsistencies as Christians. Perhaps Cardinal Cushing and Jeremiah Wright did challenge them. Ultimately, however, we must be content to let God judge.  When I returned to the Catholic Church, I stopped trying to judge whether people had been really, really, really “born again” or not.  If they had been baptized and professed faith in Christ, I would receive them as brothers or sisters. Baptism and profession of faith are objective indicators that don’t require me to try and weigh the sincerity of their faith. As a brother in Christ then, I have an obligation to love them, encourage them, pray for them, bear their burdens and admonish, exhort or confront them.  If I think they are not walking in the light as Christ is in the light, I am obligated to lovingly confront them and do what I can, not to punish them, but to restore them to full fellowship with Christ.  As St. Paul writes: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal 6:1).

 Gary Smith applied the same criteria to Obama as he did to Kennedy or Reagan or Lincoln.  He wasn’t arguing for Obama’s Christian consistency or depth of faith. The two incidents that you present don’t go very far towards disproving Smith’s contention.



Kresta in the Afternoon – 2/16/15

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 16, 2015

4:00 – Kresta Comments: 50 Shades of Sham

Fifty Shades of Grey premiered this weekend and grossed more than $85 million, the fourth-highest premiere for an R-rated movie in history. Despite the financial success, the film has received negative reviews from most critics. The review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes calculates that only 26% of critics have given the film a positive review. Al recaps several critics’ reviews and has some thoughts on why the film has received such a low score.

4:20 – Are You Ready for Lent?

We’re talking again with Sr. John Dominic of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist about using a Lenten journal to track spiritual progress and enrich the Lenten experience. We also hear from Matthew Kelly about Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever program. Both our guests are here with advice on how to get the most out of this Lent.

4:40 – ISIS Beheads 21 Coptic Christians

It’s almost too horrific to believe. ISIS has released yet another execution video and is killing and torturing faster than we can respond. Western leaders have responded according to the script: condemn the actions, call the killers evil, vow to bring justice…and completely disregard any underlying religious motivations or connotations. ISIS claims their latest round of executions were retaliation for Christian violence against Muslims. Raymond Ibrahim joins us with his analysis.

5:00 – Faith and the Presidency 

In honor of Presidents’ Day, Gary Scott Smith joins us to discuss the faiths of presidents throughout history. Gary, who has written extensively on the faiths of the presidents dating back to Washington, focuses on several presidents from distinct periods of US history and discusses their specific faith and how it shaped their presidency.

Promoting Fifty Shades of Grey?


A listener emailed me last night complaining that our website, avemariaradio.net and our Fifty Shades of Grey resource page is promoting the movie. I figured maybe some others are likewise confused so let me explain:

I’m a bit surprised anyone would think we are promoting 50 Shades of Grey. Both the movie and the book are morally corrupt. But we are urging Catholics to do more than show moral outrage over the movie. Since this is one of the largest hyped marketing campaigns since the Harry Potter hoopla, it is a perfect opportunity to share our faith in Christ and his Church. This opens doors to discuss God’s purpose for human sexuality, authentic redemption in Christ, St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and I could go on. Some people will be able to share how they have been converted from the “Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son” to quote St. Paul.

 We are no more promoting 50 Shades of Grey than St. Paul was promoting paganism or Greek philosophy when he went to Mars Hill in Athens and offered commentary on the various gods of Greece including one he called “the unknown God.”  While there he quoted from various Stoic and Epicurean philosophers and poets to make his point about the coming judgement and the resurrection of Jesus. I see our work as imitating his.

 I hope this helps clear up the confusion and don’t hesitate to write with comments or questions in the future.



50 Shades of Grey – Resource Page from Ave Maria Radio Production Team


This Fifty Shades of Grey resource page, put together by the Ave Maria Radio production team, is designed to educate and inform our listeners on the dangers of this film and BDSM activity in general. These resources will aid you in speaking intelligently with your friends and family who are interested in the film, the books and the BDSM lifestyle in general, as well as provide you resources to actively protest the film. Please share this page with everyone you know!

Brought together by:

Al Kresta & Teresa Tomeo

Nick Thomm, Joshua Hull, Scott Rouse & Iris Hanlin

Kevin Mahon & Bryant Schoenle

Summary of 50 Shades of Grey:

Fifty Shades of Grey is the story of a college student, Anastasia, who begins a relationship with a 27 year old very successful and powerful businessman, Christian Grey, after interviewing him for her college newspaper. Ana loses her virginity to Christian, and he wants her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and a contract that keeps their relationship purely sexual and defines how their relationship as one of “dominance and submission.”


Why 50 Shades of Grey is Wildly Popular:

“Ultimately, the secret to the success of Fifty Shades is that it puts the reader in the role of both the saved and the savior.  But that’s also precisely what’s so dangerous about this story – because Christian Grey is not God, neither is Ana, and neither are any of us.  In reality, Christian’s all-consuming “love” would warrant a restraining order, and Ana’s refusal to leave him would eventually land her at a battered women’s shelter or dead.  The same is true for the rest of us – bad things happen when we try to play God, or when we let someone else fill the role of God for us.  The only salvific love we’ll ever find in this world is divine in origin – not romantic.”

Read the full article here (you really should read it. This is the best piece we’ve read on the topic) –  http://bit.ly/16VewAm


The Fifty Shades Effect


Michigan State University – Young adult women who read “Fifty Shades of Grey” are more likely than nonreaders to exhibit signs of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner, finds a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher. Further, women who read all three books in the blockbuster “Fifty Shades” erotic romance series are at increased risk of engaging in binge drinking and having multiple sex partners –  http://bit.ly/1vnWoGm


How to Protect your Children:

Miriam Grossman

Dr Miriam Grossman is a medical doctor specializing in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. She is the author of Unprotected and You’re Teaching My Child WHAT? which focuses on sex education and reproductive health. In the five part blog series below Dr. Grossman gives us a medical professional’s viewpoint on what makes the story so dangerous.

Introductory material – http://bit.ly/1tDS2sQ

The Dangers of Fifty Shades of Grey to Your Daughter – http://bit.ly/1xJRh3s

More Dangers of Fifty Shades of Grey to Your Daughter – http://bit.ly/1vuvIsc

The Dangers of Fifty Shades of Grey to Your Son – http://bit.ly/1KO1rpU

How to Speak With Your Child About Sadomasochism – http://bit.ly/1Apcuo8

Letter to Young People – http://bit.ly/1KRkP5n

Al’s Interview with Dr. Miriam Grossman:


The Reality of a “Fifty Shades” Relationship


While thousands of women are fantasizing about the controlling and abusive Christian Grey from the book, there are many women dealing with the horrors of actually living with men like him. The actions taken by Robert Bashara, 56, who goes by “Master Bob” in BDSM circles, paints a more realistic picture of how Fifty Shades of Grey plays out in real life – http://bit.ly/1A0oYRu


Other Articles and Studies:

Articles by Teresa Tomeo:

Grey is the Devil’s Favorite Color: http://bit.ly/1F0bDNw

“Fifty Shades” and the Sexual Objectification of Women – http://bit.ly/1DkXc4n

Fifty Shades of Fantasy, Fallacy and Fanaticism – http://fxn.ws/16ZkDE6

Dr. Gregory Popcak – Fight the Power of 50 Shades: Here’s What YOU Can Do! – http://bit.ly/1FGXRg8

Academy of Women’s Health – 50 Shades of Grey Romanticizes Sexual Violence and Emotional Abuse of Women: http://bit.ly/1AfgVnh

NY Daily News – The difference between BDSM and what’s portrayed in ’50 Shades of Grey': The behaviors depicted in E.L. James’ racy trilogy have popularized a potentially harmful and distorted version of the sexual practice, experts said – http://nydn.us/1AdOOof

Learn how to take further action at http://endsexualexploitation.org/




“Mass appreciation doesn’t always equate to something good. Think of Hitler!”

“Some of the Red Room stuff was uncomfortable. There were times when Dakota was not wearing much, and I had to do stuff to her that I’d never choose to do to a woman.”

“The first day [of filming] was kind of an out-of-body experience. I got there and they said, “Action!” I’m like, “What the f—k is happening? I’m a dad. What?

“It was an interesting evening. Then go back to my wife and newborn baby afterwards … I had a long shower before touching either of them.”


I still can’t look at it objectively or wrap my head around it. The parts of the movie that are difficult to watch were even more difficult—and emotionally taxing—to shoot.”

“But I don’t want my family to see [the movie], because it’s inappropriate. Or my brothers’ friends, who I grew up with. I think they’d be like, ‘Blegh.’ Also there’s part of me that’s like, I don’t want anyone to see this movie. Just kidding.”

“It’s just sweaty and it’s not very comfortable. And on top of that, my hands and legs were tied, and I was blindfolded, and I was being hit with this bizarre tool. … It was emotionally taxing. At first I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the worst thing ever,’ and then I was like, ‘All right, let’s get on with it.'”

“Sometimes I did walk off the set feeling a bit shell-shocked. There were some painful moments.”

God’s Vision for Sex (the Truth about Sexuality)

Dr. Peter Kreeft:

Is there sex in Heaven? – http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/sex-in-heaven.htm

Kreeft: On Love – http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/love.htm

Theology of the Body:

Theology of the Body – http://www.theologyofthebody.net/

TOB for Teens  – http://thetheologyofthebody.com/information/teens

Christopher West:

Christopher West’s website – http://corproject.com/

Chastity Project (run by Everts and Christopher West)  – http://chastityproject.com/

Dr. Gregory Popcak:

Fight the Power of 50 Shades: Here’s What YOU Can Do! – http://bit.ly/1F5Pxt4

Holy Sex! A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind Blowing, Infallible Loving – BUY IT HERE!

Holy Sex

Videos from Matt Fradd:

50 Things You Should Know About “Fifty Shades of Grey”

4 Lies About Sexuality in Fifty Shades of Grey

Matt Fradd’s website – http://www.theporneffect.com/

Kresta in the Afternoon – February 11, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 11, 2015

4:20 – The Slave Across the Street

The sex slave trade is a horror that isn’t confined to the slums of a third-world country. It’s an epidemic that extends to the suburbs of Middle America. Theresa Flores has experienced this horror firsthand. To her friends she seemed like a normal teenager. Unbeknownst to anyone, she was enslaved by an underground ring and endured more as a child than most of us do in a lifetime. Theresa joins us today with advice and insights on how to fight this horrible crime.

5:00 – Against All Odds: Bella Santorum’s Gift to the World

Rick and Karen Santorum’s eighth child was born with Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, an extremely dangerous genetic disorder. Only 10% of babies with this syndrome survive birth; of the children who do survive, 90% die within their first year. Bella Santorum is one of the survivors. She has overcome numerous scares and has brought joy and inspiration to the world. Rick and Karen are with us to talk about the daughter’s journey.

Pope Francis and Spanking: 4 Things to Consider – Dr. Greg Popcak

People know that, as a Catholic Parenting author and family therapist, I encourage parents to eschew corporal punishment in favor of more effective methods discipline that are more respectful of the dignity of the parent and the child.   As a result, I’ve been getting emails all week from people about Pope Francis’ recent comments which are being touted in the press as a ringing endorsement of spanking.  Before we all get our wimples in a knot, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1.  What did Pope Francis really say?

As usual, when the press reports that Pope Francis said something, we have to look at the context of what he actually said. With Pope Francis, context is everything.  He tends to not make global pronouncement like St John Paul the Great or Pope Benedict XVI.  He is very much a man who is in the here and now, addressing things in a very off the cuff manner.  He expects his audience make the effort to “get” the context of his comments.  Personally,  I think that’s optimistic, but that’s his style and you can’t understand what he means unless you take his style into account.

If you read the actual address–and I encourage you to do so rather than taking the press’ word for it as it’s short enough–the entire talk is about the importance of present, merciful, loving fathers, who aren’t afraid to involve themselves intimately in their wife and children’s lives, lead their families, and discipline their children with love and firmness in a manner that is respectful of their dignity as persons.  Here are the paragraphs leading up to the bit that’s getting all the press.

The first need, then, is precisely this: that a father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And that he be close to his children as they grow: when they play and when they strive, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find their path again; a father who is always present. To say “present” is not to say “controlling”! Fathers who are too controlling cancel out their children, they don’t let them develop.

The Gospel speaks to us about the exemplarity of the Father who is in Heaven — who alone, Jesus says, can be truly called the “good Father” (cf. Mk 10:18). Everyone knows that extraordinary parable of the “prodigal son”, or better yet of the “merciful father”, which we find in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 15 (cf. 15:11-32). What dignity and what tenderness there is in the expectation of that father, who stands at the door of the house waiting for his son to return! Fathers must be patient. Often there is nothing else to do but wait; pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy.

A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself. 

And then he gives his example.  Personally, I don’t think it’s a great example of what he led up to say, but it’s an example and because I’m one of those people who will make the effort to get the context of his remarks, I take his meaning.  After all, as a public speaker, I too, have offered examples that fell flat or detracted from my actual point.  That said, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that Pope Francis wasn’t really giving a speech about the awesome-y awesomeness of smacking your kids as long as you don’t leave visible marks–that’s COMPLETELY out of character for Pope Francis’ general positions on family life and completely inconsistent with both science and Catholic tradition on this matter (more on this below).  Rather, it is clear from the context of his remarks that he was speaking of the importance of dads not being afraid to step up and be dads; involved, loving, generous, engaged leaders of their families and formators of their children’s character and moral life.

2.  How Was He Speaking?

The second thing to keep in mind is how he was speaking–that is, in what capacity.  When he gave the example of the dad who sometimes has to “strike a child lightly” was he speaking as a theologian?  Well, it would not seem so, because he didn’t cite any scriptures, quotes from Vatican documents, or writings of the saints.  A theologian always builds from tradition.  Pope Francis didn’t do that.  He simply offered an example that he thought people could relate to illustrating the point he was trying to make in the three entire paragraphs before the example–three paragraphs, I might add, no one is talking about because his unfortunate example took center stage.  It happens, but when an example falls flat, which counts more?  The example?  Or the 3 paragraphs before it that carefully lays out everything you really meant?  Call me crazy, but I would go with what’s behind door #2, that is, the latter of the two options.

Well, if he wasn’t speaking as a theologian,  was he speaking as a social scientist?  Again, the answer appears to be “no.”  A social scientist also speaks from precedence–he cites research, he uses data. Pope Francis did none of  this.  So, clearly, he wasn’t intending to put forth some final, Catholic judgment on the raging debate in parenting circles and family psychology on the appropriateness and efficacy of corporal punishment.

So if, in giving this example, he was not speaking as a theologian or a social scientist, then what was he speaking as?  I would suggest that he was speaking as he often does, as a pastor, who was simply trying to illustrate his larger, main point in a way that his audience might relate to.  Again, I personally, think his example failed miserably, but it is a miscalculation that speakers often make.  The paragraphs before the example are really quite beautiful and lay out a powerful vision of fatherhood that does, incidentally, track with both Catholic theological tradition and social science.

3.  Discipline is a Matter of Prudential Judgment.

The third thing to keep in mind is that, for Catholics, parenting and discipline is a matter of prudential judgment.  Pope Francis wouldn’t tell people how to raise their kids because the Church doesn’t do that. it violates subsidiarity.   It’s up to parenting experts to state our case for the positions we take and for parents to listen, pray, and decide what makes the most sense to them.  I, and the overwhelming majority of my colleagues in family psychology, make the case that there are much more effective and dignified ways than corporal punishment to correct a child; methods that are also completely consistent with Pope Francis’ message of engaged, effective fatherhood.  That said, the vast majority of parents ignore that advice and still spank in spite of it.  Pope Francis knows this, and so he used an example of someone he felt spanked more mercifully than many other parents to underscore his point and give his message the broadest possible appeal.  Again, I think his example failed to serve his intentions, but that doesn’t change the point of his message; namely, dads should discipline, but only by using means that keep the dignity of the child in mind.  That point is quite clear and literally obvious from everything he says around the example he gave.

4.  What is the Larger Context of This Discussion?

Finally, we need to keep the larger context of this debate in mind.  Catholic theologians always respect the scientific findings that impact a particular subject when attempting to speak to that subject. The Vatican regularly asks scientists of every discipline to consult on various issues it has an interest in.  If Pope Francis were going to make anything more than a colloquial, folksy, comment on corporal punishment, he would need to consult both tradition and social science, both of which weigh very heavily against corporal punishment as an effective, respectful method of discipline.  For instance, here is a summary of the American Psychological Association’s finding on the research about corporal punishment.

Additionally, Pope Francis would need to consult the reflections of those holy men and women who have pronounced on this topic before him.  A while ago I posted an article on what the saints had to say about corporal punishment.  Here are some quotes pulled from that post.

~If thou shouldst see (your son) transgressing this law, punish him, now with a stern look, now with incisive, now with reproachful, words; at other times win him with gentleness and promises.   Have not recourse to blows and accustom him not to be trained by the rod; for if he feel it…, he will learn to despise it. And when he has learnt to despise it, he has reduced thy system to nought.  (St. John Chrysostum)

~The birch is used only out of bad temper and weakness for the birch is a servile punishment which degrades the soul even when it corrects, if it indeed corrects, for its usual effect is to burden (St Jean Baptiste de la Salle, c.f., On the Conduct of Christian Schools)

~Force, indeed, punishes guilt but does not heal the guilty….In the case of some boys, a reproachful look is more effective than a slap in the face would be. Praise of work well done and blame in the case of carelessness are already a great reward or punishment.  A reproachful or severe look often serves as an excellent means of moral restraint over the young. By it the guilty person is moved to consider his own fault, to feel ashamed, and finally to repent and turn over a new leaf.  Never, except in very extreme cases, expose the culprit publicly to shame. Except in very rare cases, corrections and punishments should be given privately and in the absence of companions; and the greatest prudence and patience should be used to bring the pupil to see his fault, with the aid of reason and religion.  To strike a child in any way…must be absolutely avoided…[these punishments] greatly irritate the child and degrade the [parent].  (St. John Bosco)


So, yes.  Pope Francis did, indeed, offer an example of parenting that, taken out of the larger context, appears to suggest that corporal punishment is just grand.  Putting it in context, however, it becomes quite clear that his example was just that, an attempt to illustrate a larger point, that unfortunately because of the press’ penchant for sound bites and the volatility of the debate among parents on this topic ended up obliterating the exact point about merciful, loving, engaged fatherhood he was trying to make.

For a thorough perspective on Catholic parenting that takes into account both social science and the fullness of our Catholic tradition, I invite you to pick up a copy of Parenting With Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids and Then Comes Baby:  The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithonthecouch/2015/02/pope-francis-and-spanking-4-things-to-consider/#ixzz3RH0K5vEF

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