Peter Sprigg

What you need to know about the Mark Regnerus study of homosexual parents

Peter Sprigg
By Peter Sprigg

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus sparked a firestorm of criticism from pro-homosexual activists when his peer-reviewed scholarly article on children raised by homosexual parents was published in the journal Social Science Research in June. Using a large, population-based sample, Dr. Regnerus found that children whose parents had a same-sex romantic relationship while the child was growing up suffer deficits compared to children raised by their own married biological mother and father.

Because the study undermined the politically correct claim that such children are “no different” from children with heterosexual parents, and because it reinforced a key point made in defense of the natural definition of marriage as the union of man and woman (namely, that kids need both a mom and a dad), it became urgent for pro-homosexual activists to discredit the study and, if possible, destroy Regnerus.

That effort, thus far, has failed. When a liberal blogger who uses the pen name “Scott Rose” filed a complaint with the University of Texas charging Regnerus with “scientific and scholarly misconduct.” Although Rose had little standing to bring such a charge, the University convened a four-person faculty committee (and hired an outside expert in “research integrity”) to conduct an “inquiry” into whether the charges merited in-depth investigation. The conclusion was clear: “Professor Regnerus did not commit scientific misconduct . . . None of the allegations . . . put forth by Mr. Rose were substantiated.” (This was hardly a surprise; as the journal article itself stated, “Both the study protocol and the questionnaire were approved by the University of Texas at Austin’s Institutional Review Board”–before the research was even undertaken.)

Because of the importance of the Regnerus study–and the viciousness of the attacks upon it and him–I have written about it several times since its release in June. I am here posting links to each of these papers and posts, to provide the reader with convenient one-stop access to all of them.

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THE “HOMOSEXUAL PARENTING” DEBATE

My first Issue Brief explained the importance of this study in the context of the debates over homosexual parenting and what the research shows. It explained why Regnerus’ methodology was superior to that of virtually all previous studies on this subject–as demonstrated by the article which accompanied Regnerus’s, by Loren Marks, which showed the serious weaknesses of other “gay parent” studies usually relied upon by those who claim “no differences” from heterosexual parents. It also briefly summarized Regnerus’s findings.

Peter Sprigg, “New Study on Homosexual Parents Tops All Previous Research: Children of Homosexuals Fare Worse on Most Outcomes,” Issue Brief; online.

FINDINGS IN DETAIL

In response to requests for a more thorough summary of the actual findings in the Regnerus study, I prepared a second Issue Brief. This piece is shorter than the first, because it contains less narrative explanation, but it actually includes more detailed data on the findings, as well as a response to some of the key criticisms of the study. One of its key points is that the New Family Structures Study did not just compare children of homosexual parents to children of married, biological parents. It also compared them to children of heterosexual parents from several other (less stable) family forms–and found the children of homosexuals at a disadvantage in those comparisons, as well:

Peter Sprigg, “Homosexual Parent Study: Summary of Findings,” Issue Brief; online.

THE MEDIA: GETTING THE STORY WRONG

The pushback against Regnerus was so immediate and so intense that even conservative media outlets made mistakes in covering it. One such outlet was The Weekly Standard, which criticized FRC’s summary of the study (a single sentence taken out of the context of the first Issue Brief, although The Weekly Standard did not mention that). In response to this article, I wrote a two-part blog post. The first explained why The Weekly Standard criticism of FRC was unjustified:

Peter Sprigg, “The “Homosexual Parent” Study and The Weekly Standard, Part 1: Making Mountains out of Molehills,” FRC Blog; online.

Part 2 of this blog post pointed out errors which author Andrew Ferguson made in the Weekly Standard article which were far more deserving of criticism than FRC’s summary:

Peter Sprigg, “The ‘Homosexual Parent’ Study and The Weekly Standard, Part 2: Making Molehills out of Mountains,” FRC Blog; online.

AN “AUDITOR’S” WEAK CRITIQUE

Finally, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article summarizing findings (not yet published) by a critic of the study who was appointed to “audit” it by the Social Science Research journal’s editor. The Chronicle’s headline labeled the study “severely flawed,” and the article quoted the auditor, Darren Sherkat, describing the Regnerus paper as “b***s***.” However, the actual criticisms described in the article ranged from weak to completely implausible, as I wrote on the FRC Blog:

Peter Sprigg, “An Obscenity and a Headline Can’t Discredit Study of Homosexual Parents,” FRC Blog; online.

FRC will continue to monitor the reactions to the Regnerus study. However, I remain convinced that far from being “discredited,” the New Family Structures Study will stand as the gold standard for research in this field for years to come.

Reprinted from Family Research Council.

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President Obama speaks at Planned Parenthood's national conference in 2013.
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Obama remakes the nation’s courts in his image

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By Dustin Siggins
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It has often been said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is President Obama's greatest achievement as president. However, that claim may soon take second place to his judicial nominees, and especially their effect on marriage in the United States.

In a new graphic, The Daily Signal notes that while President George W. Bush was able to get 50 nominees approved by this time in his second term, Obama has gotten more than 100 approved. According to The Houston Chronicle, "Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. When Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat."

Three of the five judges who struck down state marriage laws between February 2014 and the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013 were Obama appointees, according to a CBS affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area. Likewise, the Windsor majority that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act included two Obama appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obama has nominated 11 homosexual judges, the most of any president by far, says the National Law Journal.

Only one federal judge has opposed same-sex "marriage" since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision. He was appointed under the Reagan administration.

This accomplishment, aided by the elimination of Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, could affect how laws and regulations are interpreted by various courts, especially as marriage heads to a probable Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of state laws.

Democrats eliminated the filibuster for all judicial nominees except for Supreme Court candidates last year, saying Republicans were blocking qualified candidates for the bench. However, the filibuster was part of the reason Democrats were able to keep the number of approved Bush appointees so low.

The Supreme Court may hear multiple marriage questions in its 2015 cycle. 

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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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