Matthew J. Franck

Mark Regnerus and the storm over his controversial gay parenting study

Matthew J. Franck
By Matthew Franck

November 19, 2012 (ThePublicDiscourse) - Seldom has the publication of a dry, factual report in sociology caused such a storm of controversy. In June 2012, the bimonthly peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research published an article by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus titled, “How different are the children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” The answer to his title’s question was: quite a bit different, and most of the differences are not good.

Within minutes, it seemed, Professor Regnerus, a gifted and highly productive scholar with two previous books published on related subjects, was denounced as “anti-gay,” attacked personally and professionally, and his thoughtful, measured research conclusions were buried under an avalanche of invective, abuse, and misunderstanding. For the remainder of the summer months, Regnerus withstood an onslaught of criticism, but as the autumn arrived, it became clear that his reputation and the soundness of his research had been vindicated.

What had happened?

The editor of Social Science Research, Professor James D. Wright of the University of Central Florida, had known that Regnerus’s article would spark discussion about family and sexuality among sociologists. As he would later say himself when others complained that he was trying to drive up the readership of the journal, “guilty as charged.” What editor doesn’t want people reading and talking about what he works so hard to produce?

This is why Wright published, alongside Regnerus’s new research, a probing criticism of the inadequacy of nearly all previous research on the question of parenting by people in same-sex relationships, authored by Professor Loren Marks of Louisiana State University (who was not connected with Regnerus’s new research in any way). It’s also why Wright invited critiques to be published, in the same issue, by three experienced scholars in the sociology of the family (Paul Amato, David Eggebeen, and Cynthia Osborne), with rejoinders by Regnerus and Marks. It made for a very interesting exchange.

The June 2012 issue of SSR was a red-hot topic of controversy because Regnerus and Marks overthrew a “consensus” among sociologists on the “no differences” thesis—the view that there are no meaningful differences, in the life outcomes of children, between those raised by heterosexual parents and those raised by gay or lesbian ones.

In its most extreme form—one that is not even supported by the generally low-quality research published before Regnerus’s article—the “no differences” thesis holds that children raised by parents who have same-sex relationships do just as well as, or in some cases even better than, those raised in the intact biological family by their own natural parents who are and remain faithfully married to each other.

The American Psychological Association, despite the cagy wording of its bombshell assertion, was probably happy to invite this unwarranted inference in its 2005 legal brief, published to influence judicial deliberations in same-sex marriage lawsuits. The APA said “the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth.” And who didn’t think of the Ozzie-and-Harriet natural family when reading “heterosexual parents” in that sentence?

But as Loren Marks showed, the 59 studies grounding the APA’s statement were all deeply flawed, with sampling and design problems, inadequate statistical rigor, and conclusions about “no differences” that could not be justifiably generalized to the larger population.

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

And whereas Marks offered only well-founded criticism of previous research, Regnerus offered something new: the first research employing a large, random sample of the young adult population, directly asking them about their childhood experiences and their present state of life, across a range of variables touching on economic and educational success, romantic and sexual experience, substance abuse, experiences with crime and violence, and so forth.

Regnerus and his colleagues in the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), working with the research firm Knowledge Networks, screened more than 15,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 39, and interviewed nearly 3,000 of them. The subjects’ family experiences were sorted into eight categories, ranging from the intact biological family (with the subject’s parents still together at the time of interview), across various family structures involving divorce, remarriage, adoption, and single-parenting, with two categories for subjects raised by mothers or fathers who had same-sex romantic relationships during their childhood.

The results were dismal for the “no differences” thesis: on 25 out of 40 outcomes variables, the children of mothers who had had lesbian relationships fared poorly compared to the children of intact biological families. And on 11 of the 40 outcomes, the children of fathers who had had gay relationships fared poorly on the same comparison. (For a summary of the study’s findings, see Ana Samuel’s Public Discourse article, “The Kids Aren’t All Right,” and this link here.)

Regnerus was cautious in his conclusions: he didn’t label poor outcomes as effects of parents’ sexuality, and noted that “a variety of forces uniquely problematic for child development in lesbian and gay families” could account for the phenomena. But, he concluded, “the empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go.”

The high quality of the New Family Structures Study’s research design, data collection, and findings, and the firmness of Regnerus’s conclusion that the “consensus” in sociology was exploded, only seem to have encouraged interested parties, in the academy and outside it, to attempt to debunk the NFSS. UCLA demographer Gary Gates assembled about 200 scholars to denounce Regnerus’s article, but to little substantive effect.

In the public arena, Regnerus saw his research crudely hashed over at The New Yorker, The New Republic, and the Huffington Post, among other places—and found himself caricatured as strapped to a Catherine wheel on the cover of the Weekly Standard. These are not normal experiences for your average stay-at-home sociology professor. Clearly Regnerus’s political adversaries saw much at stake in the public reception of his research. (For the legal stakes, see my Public Discourse essay, “Supreme Court Take Notice: Two Sociologists Shift the Ground of the Marriage Debate.”)

The two main criticisms of Regnerus’s article, repeated in numerous variations, are these. First, he had used the abbreviations “LM” (for “lesbian mother”) and “GF” (for “gay father”) to describe subjects who knew that their mother or father had a romantic same-sex relationship of any length before the subject turned 18.

The use of “LM” and “GF” was culpably misleading, critics claimed, because the category might include persons who never “identified” as lesbian or gay, and might only have had a “one-night stand” with a same-sex partner. The second criticism, closely related, was that in comparing these young people raised in “LM” and “GF” households, so defined, with those raised in “IBF” households—married heterosexual couples raising their own biological offspring and staying together throughout the subjects’ lives (even beyond their childhood, to the present)—Regnerus was comparing apples to oranges.

In their view, he should have compared children of IBF households with children of long-term, intact, stable same-sex couples who identify as gay or lesbian. Then, they were sure, the differences he found would largely disappear—as they claimed was shown by the previous research Regnerus and Marks had each criticized for their small, unrepresentative samples. What he was really doing, they claimed, was setting stable family situations next to unstable ones—and so stability was the real variable at work. To make it seem that the differences were “about” sexuality was worse than an error, critics claimed: this was culpable distortion of the social phenomena, a twisting of social science in the service of conservative ideology.

A third, more ad hominem criticism was that Regnerus received the majority of his grant funding from the Witherspoon Institute (publisher of Public Discourse), and a minority from the Bradley Foundation—both of them viewed as “conservative” institutions in their educational and philanthropic efforts. But Regnerus declared these facts in his original article, and told his readers that neither Witherspoon nor Bradley had any role in shaping the conduct or the conclusions of his research, which he has made wholly transparent. No one has ever gainsaid this avowal on his part. For my part, I can say that Regnerus had no input on my choice to write this account of the controversy or its content.

In the less responsible precincts of the blogosphere, Regnerus was the target of vicious calumnies along the lines described above, one of which led to the opening of an official “inquiry” by the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches, to determine whether he had committed “scientific misconduct.”

At UT, the policy in such matters is that the merest squeak from any party alleging misconduct is enough to trigger a preliminary inquiry, which in 60 days must determine whether a full-blown investigation is warranted. The university swung into action, doing everything by the book, at no little inconvenience to Regnerus, but at the end of August the UT “research integrity officer” concluded that no plausible charge of misconduct could be substantiated. The university’s provost accepted that conclusion, and closed the matter without prejudice to Regnerus’s standing as a scholar and teacher.

Meanwhile SSR editor James Wright was under fire for publishing Regnerus’s article; for appearing to rush it to publication; and for placing Marks’s article alongside it. Opting for transparency at some risk to his own reputation, Wright asked a member of SSR’s editorial board to “audit” the process that led to the publication of Regnerus’s article.

The risk was that he chose Darren E. Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois University whom Regnerus would later describe (without fear of contradiction) as someone “who has long harbored negative sentiment about me.” Sherkat, speaking out of school, confidently told a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education in July that Regnerus’s study was “bull****” when his audit was still in draft form and neither Regnerus nor Wright had written a response to it.

Sherkat’s audit and several other items of interest have now been published in the November 2012 issue of SSR, in a special 40-page section introduced by Wright. To his credit, when he sticks to the charge he was given, Sherkat finds that the journal’s editor did nothing wrong in publishing either Regnerus’s article or Marks’s.

Wright referred both papers to knowledgeable scholars of the subjects involved, who held varying views on the politics of same-sex unions, and who unanimously recommended their publication. No violations of normal procedure occurred; Sherkat says he “may well have made the same decisions” Wright did, given the reviews; and he dismisses as “ludicrous” any suggestion that the editor was up to anything political.

To his discredit, Sherkat, a sociologist of religion who does not appear to have done any research on family and sexuality issues (but for a single article studying how religion and political affiliation affect views of same-sex marriage), nonetheless appoints himself a final referee of the merits of Regnerus’s research—not a function he was asked to perform—and opines that it should not have been published.

James Wright, correctly, takes Sherkat’s conclusions as an auditor as vindication of his editorial performance, and rightly discounts his colleague’s attempt to set himself up as a post hoc referee with a veto over publishing Regnerus’s scholarship. If he sent the work to knowledgeable reviewers who unanimously said to publish it (and Wright notes that such unanimity is unusual), that seems to be the end of the affair.

But it isn’t. In the latest issue Wright chose to publish two significant new contributions to the discussion begun in June. The real issues with Sherkat and other critics are joined by Regnerus, who returns to the pages of SSR with a vigorous response and a re-analysis of his data, and by Professor Walter Schumm of Kansas State, who contributes an expert review of what we know from social science today about the interwoven variables of sexuality, family stability, and childrearing outcomes.

I’ll say more on these contributions in tomorrow’s essay.

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Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Radford University. Reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse.

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EWTN’s ‘honest analysis’ of Synod: Media confined to covering press conferences, Vatican spokesmen like Fr. Rosica

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By Steve Jalsevac


Robert Royal: “Everyone seems to be very much on edge. There is a high degree of anxiety.”

ROME, October 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The October 8 EWTN World Over program led by Raymond Arroyo, who was joined by canon lawyer and New York pastor Fr. Gerald Murray, as well as Robert Royal, editor of the, presented a surprisingly “honest analysis” of the tumultuous first week of the Synod on the Family.

Arroyo and his two guests expressed many concerns about the Synod process and what took place during the first week. They notably commented at length on the statements about homosexuals by Fr. Thomas Rosica that they said “seemed to come out of nowhere” and which were not mentioned by the other language Vatican press office reporters as having been discussed by the bishops.

The program began with a video clip of Cardinal Pell’s statements before the start of the Synod, during which he expressed concerns about the Synod process that he and other Synod fathers held.

"What is important to us is that both sides are represented equally on committees, and what is published in reports,” he said. “It's a disservice to the church and a disservice to the work of the Synod if in any sense the reporting is skewed.”

Arroyo emphasized that the Synod “is merely an advisory meeting of the bishops. It is in no way binding on the pope” and therefore it is uncertain what impact all the discussions will have on the final outcome, to be determined solely by Francis.

Also shown was a clip of Archbishop Chaput stating his concern last Wednesday about “the English translation” of Synod documents, “which in some ways doesn't match the Italian which is the official version.” This addressed a deep concern among the bishops about whether they were being provided with accurate translations of what was being said during the speeches at the Synod.

Chaput said that “the language is a big issue.”

Arroyo asked his guests, “How reliable are the translations?”

Robert Royal, from his observations and discussions in Vatican City, replied,

“This nervousness about the language reflects the general nervousness here in Rome and not only the traditional Catholics in the room, but also by the progressives. Everyone seems to be very much on edge. There is a high degree of anxiety it seems to me about what exactly are the processes, the procedures that are being followed in the Synod and also the content, of course.”

Father Murray’s response was that,

“There's always the danger, that the Church in addressing a topic will engage in sociology, rather than theology. In other words describe how people are living and then try and say this is how it fits with the Christian life. Really a Synod has to be the extension of a theological reflection that the Church takes to the Gospel and her defined doctrines. That means, the life situation of the people is judged by the gospel and not the other way around. And that's where the concern is of archbishops and others about the working document.”

He continued, “The word of God must train us and guide us and prepare us to change how we live” as opposed to the expressions of the more “progressive” bishops suggesting that instead it is the Church that should change.

Arroyo observed that “the pope took to the floor” early on, “to calm the fathers” about marriage and vouched for the method and process of the Synod that many are concerned about – a move that Royal said was “extraordinary.”

The EWTN program then plunged into the comments on homosexuality that were introduced and emphasized by Vatican English correspondent, Fr. Thomas Rosica.

It was not mentioned that Fr. Rosica is well-known to favor a liberalization of Church teaching and practice related to homosexuality, especially given his effusive praise for heretical Canadian former priest and Vatican II advisor, Gregory Baum. Baum has been perhaps the leading Catholic in Canada to advocate for acceptance, among many other things, not only of homosexuality itself, but also for acceptance of active homosexual clergy.

Appearing to exercise prudent restraint, Father Murray responded, “there is a concern that all the discussion about homosexuality as it relates to marriage and the family is not being adequately treated in the way it's being reported.” That seemed to be directed to the shocking statements by Fr. Rosica about what the Synod Fathers are alleged to have discussed.

“How will we know if that's the case,” mused Fr. Murray. “Fortunately,” he continued, “the Synod fathers were told that they will have free access to the press, but I would be much happier if we return to earlier Synodal practice where everything was made public so the faithful can follow the discussion.”

Robert Royal expressed concern that “there are 10 people who are going to write the final report,” and among these 10 are Cardinal Baldisseri, who was the chief organizer of last year’s scandalous synod and Archbishop Forte, “who is the author of the notorious midterm report last year.” The difficulty not mentioned is that, despite the obvious unsuitability of Baldisseri and Forte, the bishops who will be writing the report have all been selected by Pope Francis.

Royal also noted that “the way the Synod is set it favors the discussion about a topic that is really closed – communion for the divorced and remarried is not an open question.” However, Fr. Murray expressed concern that "process is overcoming product," and the fact that the discussion is happening at all “is leading some people to say, ‘I guess the Church doesn't really mean what it used to say.’”

“How to pastorally engage homosexuals and modifying the language used when describing them” was brought up by only couple of bishops in the Synod, said Royal.

Arroyo then showed a video of Fr. Thomas Rosica, the official English translator for the Vatican press office, making his authoritative-sounding comments that gave an impression that the issue of homosexuality was one that was widely being discussed among the bishops. The EWTN team seemed alarmed over this evidence that a mere Vatican translator and reporter was permitted to strongly advocate to the world, as though he were a Synod father, for changes that violated Church moral teachings.

Arroyo then asked a very pointed question to his guests, “Gentleman how big concern is this for the bishops gathered in Rome or is it, as some reporters have suggested, possibly a Vatican reporter (Fr. Rosica) exaggerating the concerns for whatever reason.”

Robert Royal responded that Fr. Rosica’s dissertation,

“took people by surprise because it seemed to come out of nowhere. None of the other language reporters mentioned the sensitivity language for homosexuals. The difficulty is, we are all trying to read, as father Murray was saying, since we have no access to what really happens inside the Synod, we have to rely on what we hear from the official spokesman, also from bits and pieces here and there. That seemed to be very odd. Some other reporters have asked Fr. Lombardi, “who is the main spokesman for the Holy See press office? Don't you have some statistics how often the subjects have been brought up. He claims not to have them.”

“What we learned after, just by a stray remark that Archbishop Chaput made… is that language about ‘gays’ had only come up about once or twice at that point. This seems to be something that certain elements within the Vatican are pressing forward immediately and we know that, from our experience in the United States, where there is a great deal of sensitivity and there is this heightened sense of being offended by language, no amount of softened language is ever going to satisfy people whose basic objection is that the Catholic Church regards homosexuality to be, per se, as intrinsically disordered as the Catechism says…Even that phrase is going to be coming up for reconfiguration. I don't see that is going to have very much success or it's going to satisfy anyone who is not already a serious Catholic.”

Arroyo mentioned his general dissatisfaction about the synod arrangements stating,

“Only this morning I tweeted out that journalists are not really covering the Synod. They're covering a press conference about the Synod. This control of information flow, frankly, I don't find it helpful, we don't know who is saying what, and there are many expressions that are being suppressed and ignored.”

Father Gerry was asked for his impression.

The canon lawyer responded, 

“You're right.  Obviously, this process did not occur at past Synods, and now it's going to be up to the Cardinals to go to press conferences outside of the Vatican and say what really happened. That's not really helpful. In fact this is supposed to be all about the culture of encounter and the faithful should have an opportunity to hear what their pastors say and discuss it among themselves, rather than just reporters talking about what reporters are saying.”

Fr. Gerry continued that Canadian “Archbishop Durocher floated the idea of women deacons and said perhaps it is time to permit laymen and women to preach homilies. Doesn’t it risk using up Synod time to allow a hodgepodge of bishops’ pet projects?”

Robert Royal suggested all these concerns of the West are not the concerns of the rest of the world.

Arroyo related he had a sense that,

“The Synod seems to be a large act of grand international theater without any real finale. The finale will come afterwards when the pope writes whatever document he writes and changes pastoral changes to accommodate the challenges that he sees facing the family today.”

Fr. Murray warned, “Cardinal Kasper’s suggestions are offensive and dangerous. Catholic doctrine must be defended vigorously, otherwise many souls will be imperiled by false teaching.”

Robert Royal concluded, saying,

“the main thing that we should be doing is affirming the family because that is what makes life as good as it can be. It helps form people. It transmits the faith from one generation to the next. That should be the focus. For the time being it looks like the family is being edged out by some of these peripheral issues.”

See also Robert Royal’s October 12 article, The Devil in the Details, about the confusion and uncertainties of Vatican Press Secretary, Fr. Lombardi, regarding the Synod.

See also Battle of the Catholic Stations: Salt and Light’s Fr. Rosica Rips EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo over Kennedy

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Fr. Mark Hodges

Methodist, Episcopalian clergy ‘bless’ Cleveland abortion clinic in prayer service

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

CLEVELAND, OH, October 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- More than a dozen religious leaders from a variety of denominations gathered last week to support abortion and "bless" a Cleveland abortion facility.

The "blessing" of the Preterm facility was initiated and coordinated by Rev. Laura Young, a Methodist priestess and the executive director of The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s (RCRC) Ohio chapter.  

"Bless this building,” prayed Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean of Cleveland's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, at the abortion facility. “May its walls stand strong against the onslaught of shame thrown at it. May it be a beacon of hope for those who need its services."

RCRC is based in Washington, D.C. Its national president, Rev. Harry Knox, participated in the Cleveland demonstration as well, and told the Columbus Dispatch, “I’m here today standing alongside my fellow clergymen and clergywomen to say, thank God for abortion providers.”  

Knox is a "married" homosexual who has also spearheaded same-sex “marriage” efforts in Georgia and Florida.

The group held signs that said to be pro-abortion is to be "pro-family" and "pro-faith."  Other signs read, "Good women have abortions."


From Today's prayer service at Preterm Cleveland Ohio. Religious people gathered to bless that space of sacred decision making. #GodBlessTheClinics

Posted by Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice on Thursday, October 8, 2015

One demonstration participant, Molly Marvar, had positive things to say about her abortion at the Cleveland Preterm clinic, calling her abortion a great, caring experience, and a privilege. “It was a defining moment for me," she said.  "It’s really important to me that I speak up about my abortion to help other women.”

“There is a reverence for life that happens in this clinic,” Marvar told Think Progress.  “And the decision to get an abortion is often a really, really, spiritual decision.”

In an interview with Think Progress, Young explained that she believes God supports abortion.

"Women who have had abortions are being attacked at a religious level, and the faith community has a moral obligation to heal these spiritual wounds,” she said.

Young, a self-described "progressive theological thinker and a feminist," said if her demonstration and "blessing" is successful, her group will bless other state clinics as well.  She recently testified against a pro-life bill in the Ohio senate, along with Unitarian, Universalist, United Church of Christ and Episcopalian clergy.

Young also recently led the invocation for the Ohio House of Representatives. She was assigned to lead Ohio's RCRC by her Methodist bishop, Gregory Palmer.  

Young says pro-lifers are exercising a “misguided faith” when they peacefully tell women entering Preterm that there is a better way, according to the National Right to Life. Rather, Young insists that pro-lifers are "hurling hate and judgment" on women who have abortions. Young rhetorically asks, "Is that loving?"

However, the Very Reverend Jason Kappanadze, priest of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Elmira Heights, New York, differs with Young. “The Church never judges people, but judges actions,” he explained. “We do, however, tell the truth, to help people discern the godly, loving path.”

“How far we have strayed from true understanding, when we characterize an attempt to save lives as hateful, and characterize the taking of life as loving?” he asked.

“To tamper with the creation of human beings by God - intentionally and by His loving will - is an example of human arrogance and hubris, and is indicative of a loss of fundamental reasoning and the understanding of life.”

Kappanadze says he sees the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice as emblematic of a deeper problem. “The growth of the acceptance of abortion is parallel to the loss of direction of many Christians, who can no longer call people to repentance because of their division,” he said. The division of Christians, he said, “prevents them from speaking with one voice, as it was in the beginning of the Church.”

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Kristi Burton Brown


Video shows unborn baby at 18 weeks ‘singing’ to music in groundbreaking study

Kristi Burton Brown
By Kristi Burton Brown

October 12, 2015 (LiveActionNews) -- Innovative scientists at the Institut Marques in Barcelona, Spain, have made an amazing discovery. Preborn babies can hear and respond to music much sooner than previously believed.

“For the first time ever,” it can be scientifically proven that a preborn baby detects and responds to sound at 16 weeks gestation.

The Institut Marques reports (emphasis mine):

“Ultrasound”, the journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS), has published our study entitled “Fetal Facial Expression in Response to Intravaginally Transmitted Music”, an innovative research project on fetal hearing.

This report explains that, beginning in week 16 of pregnancy, a response exists to music delivered intravaginally, expressed through specific movements of the mouth and tongue.

Our initial hypothesis suggests that music creates a response which manifests as vocalisation movements, as it activates the brain circuits that stimulate language and communication. In other words, learning begins in utero.

The Daily Mail reports: “ntil now experts did not believe a foetus could hear until week 18, at the earliest but more commonly nearer 26 weeks.”

This scientific discovery is just one more in a long line, proving the absolute humanity, beauty, and value of preborn babies. As science develops, we gain windows to the womb that show us the valuable person we lose every time an abortion is committed.

Abortion does not take a potential life: it take the real, actual, life of a human being. And in many cases, this little human can already sing.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

This video shows an amazingly formed preborn baby at 18 weeks – just two weeks after the ability to respond to music can be scientifically proven.

For more information on preborn babies at every age, check out the stunning photos, videos, and detailed information provided by The Endowment for Human Development, a scientific nonprofit dedicated “to help everyone appreciate, apply, and communicate the science of health and human development.

Reprinted with permission from Live Action News

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