The Lost Boys of FLDS

The story of the FLDS’ “lost boys” is a heart-wrenching one. One wonders why there haven’t been more prosecutions for child abandonment and neglect when so many victims are going public. There are, after all, legal ways to go after the cult without indiscriminately ripping their families apart.

On a related note, the deranged psychopath who heads the FLDS has apparently admitted that he is “not the prophet”. Here’s the chilling video, and here’s an article with context. FLDS members are reportedly skeptical.

And here’s what amounts to a promotional video for Colorado City, Arizona. “A bride on every lap”, he sings – a remarkable benefit to the practice of culling excess males. Based on this video I think I’d like the place. If I didn’t know better. Very low crime rate, too …

What a tangled web we weave …

CPS just can’t seem to keep its story straight.

“From the beginning, the agency seems to take these girls’ word when it benefits their case, and label them liars when it suits them … This case just gets stranger and stranger. There’s still no complaining victim. The allegations spawning the raid were a hoax. The agency can’t figure out how many kids its seized from day to day. And none of the crime victims agree with the state’s allegations, which differ wildly in the media from what DFPS said in court. Just bizarre.”

(GritsforBreakfast is a good source for updates on the case. )

I’ve always had a soft spot for Texas. Of all the southern states, it has the most in common with California – the Spanish and Mexican influence, the Catholic place names, the wild west heritage, the cattle and cotton empires, the independent streak, the sheer “bigness” of the place. I’ve liked every Texan I’ve ever met, and there are many Texas transplants in California’s rural hinterlands.

I used to think of Texas as a kind of uncorrupted California, what California might have become if the radicals hadn’t taken over. So this whole fiasco surprises me. If you live in Texas, perhaps you could fill me in. Is the “Eldorado roundup” just another side of the Texas personality, the dark side of Texas frontier “justice”? Or is this completely out of character for your state?

Bring Back Early Marriage

The FLDS situation has brought certain social issues back into the spotlight, the most prominent being early marriage. It is alleged that some (probably not many) FLDS females marry and conceive children when they are as young as 13. This – quite apart from the related issues of forced (arranged?) marriage and polygamy – has scandalized many people and is often cited as an abuse in itself. Therefore I think the question of early marriage deserves its own treatment, lest we Catholics get carried off by media presuppositions and the winds of popular opinion.

The demise of early marriage is a significant cause of the culture of immorality that surrounds us today. Most people are not particularly zealous for virtue, even in the best of times. Yet, they can be enticed by social norms to live generally moral lives – and one of the most important of these norms is a culture of early marriage. By “early” I do not mean 13, necessarily, but an age of 15-22 for most people. That is the age when hormones are naturally raging, and they are raging for the natural purpose of finding and keeping a spouse.

Postponing marriage beyond these years frustrates the design of the Creator for all but the most virtuous. Some are indeed called to celibate religious vocations, and others to celibacy in the world, and they are promised the necessary graces to live out these vocations. But such people are never the majority in any society. For the majority, the result of frustrating nature is the emergence of an open culture of fornication and vice, in which legions of marriageable but unmarried people end up accumulating a vast number of sexual partners before getting married.

The median age for marriage has now reached 25 for women, and 27 for men. The median age for first intercourse is still about 17. As a result, today’s women average six partners in a lifetime, while men average twenty (the male average is skewed by a small number of men reporting a very large number of partners). Obviously the trend toward late marriages, because it results in high rates of promiscuity, contributes indirectly to all of the ills associated with promiscuity. According to Michael P. Orsi:

“This tendency toward later marriage or no marriage has been the cause of a great deal of our social deterioration. The high incidence of pre-marital sex, a decrease in population, a higher incidence of infertility, a growth of the abortion industry, the financial burden placed on society due to out of wedlock births causing single-parent households, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the rise of homosexual activity, the widespread use of birth control, and a reported higher rate of loneliness and depression among the unmarried compared to married couples of the same age, are all indicative of the moral and spiritual conundrum that delayed marriage or no marriage has caused for society and for young people who want to live a Christian life but find the burden of containing their sexual urges unbearable during their artificially protracted adolescence.”

What about teen pregnancy? Isn’t that supposed to be a bad thing? Frederica Mathewes-Green writes:

“By the age of 18, a young woman’s body is well prepared for childbearing. Young men are equally qualified to do their part. Both may have better success at the enterprise than they would in later years, as some health risks — Cesarean section and Down Syndrome, for example — increase with passing years. (The dangers we associate with teen pregnancy, on the other hand, are behavioral, not biological: drug use, STD’s, prior abortion, extreme youth, and lack of prenatal care.) A woman’s fertility has already begun to decline at 25 — one reason the population-control crowd promotes delayed childbearing. Early childbearing also rewards a woman’s health with added protection against breast cancer.

Younger moms and dads are likely be more nimble at child-rearing as well, less apt to be exhausted by toddlers’ perpetual motion, less creaky-in-the-joints when it’s time to swing from the monkey bars. I suspect that younger parents will also be more patient with boys-will-be-boys rambunction, and less likely than weary 40-somethings to beg pediatricians for drugs to control supposed pathology. Humans are designed to reproduce in their teens, and they’re potentially very good at it. That’s why they want to so much.

Teen pregnancy is not the problem. Unwed teen pregnancy is the problem. It’s childbearing outside marriage that causes all the trouble. Restore an environment that supports younger marriage, and you won’t have to fight biology for a decade or more.”

What is the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church concerning early marriage? It is well known that the Blessed Virgin Mary was likely 13 or 14 years old when pregnant with Our Lord, and her husband Joseph many years her senior, in some traditions a widower of advanced age. Contrary what many have been led to believe, the Church has always sanctioned early marriage. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“The marriageable age is fourteen full years in males and twelve full years in females, under penalty of nullity (unless natural puberty supplies the want of years). Marriages void because of the absence of legal or natural puberty are held as sponsalia, inducing thereby impediment of “public decorum” (Cap. 14, tit. de despon. impub., X, 4, 2). Civil codes generally require a more advanced age than the canonical. Dispensations, however, as to the required ages are expressly granted by France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Romania, and Russia. The marriageable age in France, Italy, Belgium, and Roumania is eighteen for men, and fifteen for women. (France requires also, under penalty of nullity, the consent of parents); Holland, Switzerland, Russia (Caucasian Provinces excepted), fifteen and thirteen; and Hungary fixes the age at eighteen and sixteen; Austria, fourteen for both parties; Denmark, twenty and sixteen; Germany, twenty-one (minors set free by parents at eighteen) and sixteen years respectively. Marriages contracted in Germany below the ages aforesaid are valid but illicit. In India natives marry under canonical age. So also in China, where there is a further deviation from canonical age, owing to the Chinese method of reckoning age by lunar rather than solar years (thirteen lunar months make a solar year). The canonical age holds in England, Spain, Portugal, Greece (Ionian Isles excepted, where it is sixteen and fourteen), and as regards Catholics even in Austria. While in some parts of the United States the canonical marriage age of fourteen and twelve still prevails, in others it has been enlarged by statutes. Such statutes, however, as a rule, do not make void marriages contracted by a male and femals of fourteen and twelve years respectively, unless the statute expressly forbids them under penalty of nullity. The English Common Law age of fourteen in males and twelve in females prevails in all the Canadian provinces, with the exception of Ontario and Manitoba. Ontario requires fourteen years, and Manitoba sixteen years, in both parties. Marriages contracted at more youthful ages than these are not irreparably null and void. They can be, and are, ratified by continued cohabitation after the prescribed age.”

As further evidence, the royal marriages of England – blessed by the Catholic Church – are instructive:

“King Stephen’s wife, Matilda, was only 14 in 1119 when she married …

[King ] John’s choice of second wife was Isabella of Angoulême, who was only about 13 when she married him in 1200, and about twenty years her husband’s junior …

Isabella’s eldest son, Henry III, succeeded to the throne at the age of nine, but waited almost 20 years before marrying. His bride, Eleanor of Provence, was only 13, and had never met her 28-year old husband before the day of the wedding …

As part of the settlement of a dispute of the territory of Gascony, Henry III and Alfonso X of Castile arranged the marriage of Henry’s son, Edward, to Alfonso’s sister, Eleanor. The marriage took place in 1254, when he was 15 and she 13 …

Eleanor died in 1290, and three years later, Edward set his heart on the young Blanche of France, who was famed for her beauty. In order to win her, the king even agreed to surrender Gascony to France, only to discover later that he had been duped and she was already betrothed to a German truce. King Philippe IV of France offered the English king Blanche’s younger sister, Marguerite, instead, but a furious Edward entered upon a five-year war against the French. When peace was signed, marriage to Marguerite was part of the agreement. Edward I was 60, Marguerite was 17 when they married …

The contrast with the marriage of the next king, Edward II, couldn’t have been greater. He, too, married a young French princess, Isabella, who was 12 at the time of their marriage …

Edward III also married a young bride, Philippa of Hainault, but, at 15, he was close to her age. Their marriage was a successful one, lasting over 40 years (until her death in 1369) and producing 14 children, the first (Edward the Black Prince) born when she was about 16 …

The Black Prince predeceased his father and on Edward’s death the throne passed to his grandson, Richard II. Richard was only 15 when he married his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, who was a few months older than him …

Margaret of Anjou was 16 when she married Henry VI who was about six years her senior …

Catherine Howard’s age when she married Henry VIII in 1540 is uncertain, but she is believed to have been between 15 and 20, while Henry was 50 …

The final two teenagers to marry English kings were Henrietta Maria of France, who married Charles I in 1625 at the age of 16, and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who married George III in 1761 when she was 17. Both marriages were loving ones …”

On the Pope’s visit

My thanks to favorite commenter Annabenedetti, who has graced this blog with the most eloquent commentary I have read thus far on the Holy Father’s apostolic visit:

“I have never felt so strongly the invisible, but highly tangible bonds of the mystical body of Christ. I saw clearly why it is so important for the Church to be united under one vicar of Christ, one visible shepherd for the flock. It is not lightly he wears the pallium made of lamb’s wool; so evocative of the shepherd carrying the lost lamb home upon his shoulders.

I think Pope Benedict came to America hoping to carry home lost sheep – hoping, and not expecting, the outpouring of love that he received. Souls are thirsting nigh unto death for the Living God, and Benedict carried Christ to them; in his heart and in his hands, in humility and in love; fully aware of the poverty of his human limitations but in full knowledge that with God, nothing is impossible.

I read of his grief, fully exposed, shared with the anguish of the abuse victims he met with, and the comfort he brought to them. I heard his call to the young to turn away from the world and turn to Christ, their only hope. I know of more than one person who is returning to the Church after the Pope’s words fell on fields prepared by grace. Recall the Pope’s words: ‘I have a mustard seed and I am not afraid to use it.’

Sure, there were times to cringe. But those times were provided courtesy of the American church and its stiff-necked bishops and liturgists, not from Benedict. There are those who will never find good with this Pope; some because he is too orthodox and some because he is not orthodox enough. I am not in either camp. Today, I am simply glad to call myself Catholic. Laus Deo!”

The State and the Cults

It is true that the FLDS cult is – or should be considered – a problem for the state on several levels. Polygamy is a problem for numerous reasons, many of which have been addressed by my commenters. Other beliefs and practices of this cult are destructive and disordered (although they don’t seem so bad when compared with mainstream American culture). The state has a legitimate interest in suppressing the FLDS and discouraging its growth.

The problem is that we have a secular state that claims (falsely and deceitfully) to be neutral in matters of religion. The state has abandoned, for example, all religious justifications for the institution of marriage, and therefore cannot easily make an argument against polygamy or any other oddball marriage practices. The doctrine of religious liberty forbids the state from openly suppressing any religious cult unless a “non-religious” justification can be found.

But a secular and religiously indifferent state is not only impossible, it is foreign to Catholic social thought. The state is obliged to favor truth in religion and morality. Because of fallen human nature and the fact of religious pluralism in many places, the state is also obliged to tolerate a degree of error in order to prevent greater evils. But it is not obliged to tolerate every error, and it is sometimes obliged to legislate against error – that is, against specifically religious error, openly stating the truth of the matter without having to search for a dishonest pretext.

As is the case with Islam, the FLDS is exposing religious neutrality for the fraud that it really is. At some point the state has to discriminate. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The danger, for us, is that it will end up persecuting any group that does not conform to the American Secular Religion with its gods of Materialism, Hedonism, Individualism and Egalitarianism. I believe that is exactly what we are witnessing in Texas.

I would like to see our state and local governments openly acknowledge a bias for creedal Christianity: that is, for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and those ecclesial communions that have their origins with the Reformation. This would give the state a legal framework for dealing with cults like the FLDS (not to mention Islam). The cults could therefore be legally restrained and prevented from flourishing before reaching the level of human tragedy we are witnessing in Texas.

But let’s face it: that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. The next best thing is to try and maintain the fiction of religious neutrality in order to prevent the wrong kind of persecution. That pretty much means letting the cults do their own thing. That also means – when the time is ripe – permitting the growth of Christian enclaves throughout the land, places where Catholic values are not marginalized, where faith is not banished from the public square, and where families can preserve their children’s innocence without becoming virtual hermits.

What the FLDS children can look forward to

The Texas foster care system:

“The children suffer behind an iron curtain of corrupt secrecy. That curtain was lifted a few years ago, long enough to get a brief but terrifying glimpse of what was being done by people who had placed themselves beyond accountability.

Scores of children were killed, poisoned, beaten, and otherwise abused each year. Child rape was terrifyingly common: The largest group of victims were between 12 and 15 years of age, but thirteen percent of the victims were three years old or younger.

An official investigation of this secretive system was undertaken, but soon foundered over obstructions thrown up by those who had the most to lose if the full truth were revealed. But before the portcullis was slammed shut, the investigator learned that a child being raised in that system was four times more likely to die of criminal violence than a child in the general population.

The obvious course of action would be to mount an armed raid to liberate those children, by whatever necessary means, from the abusive system in which they’re being held.

Unfortunately, the entity that would carry out such an operation also presides over the systematic abuse. The findings described above are from an abortive investigation of the Texas Foster Care System conducted by Carole Keeton Strayhorn on behalf of the state Comptroller’s office.”

Courtesy of the Young Fogey at A Conservative Blog for Peace.