Fix the Family Is Dangerous

Educate womenI recently read through several blog posts and watched three videos produced by the Fix the Family ministry, which is headed by two Catholic couples.  I guess these people have good intentions and I actually agree with them on a few things.  But they are dangerous, because they are envisaging a pre-50’s family in which “father knows best” and enjoys unquestioned obedience (including from the wife), in which  husbands should chastise their wives and keep them in line because they are the morally more vulnerable sex, and in which all women should be stay at home mothers.  They claim they are “100% faithful to the Vatican” yet many of their statements are so misleading, poorly reasoned, and unfounded that they’re honestly embarrassing in addition to being brutally wrong.

I would like to share this excerpt from an article by the one of the wives on why she is glad when her husband admonishes her:

“To be corrected by a husband is not a demeaning thing.  Because we obey God, it becomes a wonderful thing.  Many blessings and graces flow from this exercise of obedience, of human nature.  This is the way God designed it.   A playing out of this exercise is illustrated in Jane Austin’s Emma.  The fallen human nature of a woman is displayed in Emma as she is a busybody in matchmaking and manipulation . . . Mr. Knightly scolds and corrects her.  At the end, when they reveal their love, he tells her that she has borne his rebukes better than any other woman in London would have borne it!  . . . I am glad that my husband is not scared of me.  I am glad that he is man enough to make sure I keep my own spoon in my own pot!  He protects me from myself, my fallen human tendencies as a female.”

Does her husband allow her to guide him on his path to heaven?  The wife is holding on to a musty assumption that women are morally weaker than men, because Eve was the one to grab the apple.  Similarly, the husband has a very dark view of paid work because he sees it as punishment for the sins of Adam.

I had never heard of this website before reading Dr. Greg’s critique of one of their more outlandish claims:  parents shouldn’t send girls to college.  Raylan Alleman, the head honcho at Fix the Family, gave these as the eight reasons we parents should deny young women a college education:

1. She will attract the wrong kind of men.

Summary: a man will marry her because she’ll be a good provider to him and he’ll end up being a lazy good for nothing.

My response:  Um, ooookay.  You shouldn’t go to college because some lazy men might like you?  Lazy men are attracted to all sorts of women, but a well-educated woman will be more likely to see through him.

2. She will be in a near occasion of sin.

Summary: Too much sex goes on at college campuses.  She’ll have sex and end up with the wrong guy because all that sex will blind her judgment.

My response: So it’s okay for the boys to be having sex? It’s okay for us to send our boys into these dens of iniquity?  How about the many wonderful Catholic colleges that might nourish our children’s faith life, mind, and values?  Even if our daughters attend secular universities, it does not follow that she’ll become prey to the hook-up culture.

3. She will not learn to be a wife and a mother.

Summary:  College is a training for work, not for homemaking.

My response:  Of course higher education prepares us for family life!  It teaches us to consider and evaluate different truth statements, to defend our faith intelligently, to engage with the world, to awaken parts of ourselves left sleeping in girlhood.  College is far more than preparation for paid work.  By engaging in the ideas of history, we enter that “great conversation” with our peers, considering viewpoints with new rigor and awareness.  That’s preparation for all of life, not  just a job.

Also what if God is not calling her to be a wife and mother?  What if she is called to religious life and her chosen order prefers a college degree?  What if she is called to be a single tertiary?  I am not willing to presume what God has planned for my precious girls.

4. The cost of a degree is becoming more difficult to recoup.

Summary: Cost of college is inflated.

My response:  I agree with him.  The cost of college in this country is ridiculous.  But why wouldn’t this be an argument for NOBODY going to college — why women only?  What about scholarships or state schools?  What about attending college out of the country?  Finally, perhaps to many young women, that cost is worth it.

5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world.

Summary: Women shouldn’t feel their worth is determined by their job or income.

My response:  Going to college doesn’t make a woman feel that way; our culture does. Even if she doesn’t go to college, that message exists.  If she goes to college she’ll be better able to assess the credibility of some of the cultural messages.

6.  It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents.

Summary:  If parents have to pay for every child for college, they’ll be freaked out about cost, so they’ll limit family size.

My response:  If parents were willing to limit family size just because they fear college costs, they will limit family size for a host of other reasons: so they’ll have enough love “to go around”, so they can take more family vacations, etc.

7.  She will regret it.

Summary:  If your daughter goes to college she’ll be a career woman, never have kids, and will regret it later.  Many women today are admitting they regret not having children or focusing on their families.

My response:  Huh?  He is making a giant logical leap: college leads to corporate climbing maniac leads to mid-life regrets.  He points out how many women regret putting off having children.  So true.  But that doesn’t mean they regret going to college.  Furthermore, there are many, many college educated mothers who love their kids and are so glad they went to college, too.

8.  It could interfere with a religious vocation.

Summary:  If your daughter’s debt is too high, most religious orders will reject her.

My response:  Most religious orders prefer candidates with college degrees.   Be careful about debt, but go to college.  Furthermore, many women find their vocations in college.

This particular article gleaned more than 4000 comments on Facebook.  4000.  Almost all of them were critical; those supporting him said things like, “What do you expect from liberals — of course they’ll criticize plain common sense.”  I am not a liberal; and this stuff is not common sense.   (And can I point out that many of the comments were from non-Catholics who may think these are real Catholic principles?)  Clearly this website is receiving a great deal of attention and that concerns me.  Clearly their message is problematic, but it’s keeping writers busy offering critiques.  A professor in moral theology actually wrote an article critiquing their assertions about daughters attending college (it’s superb, check it out).  Too bad she had to take time to write it.  Too bad Dr. Greg had to do the same. Because while everyone is taking time to sift through the garbage, we are missing the opportunity to talk about real problems.

Moms and dads, these problems are important to me:

1.  How do we deal with the bloated cost of a college education so that all of our children at every level of society can not only attend, but can go on to use their talents in the way they imagine?  The answer isn’t to keep our girls home!  It is to examine, assess, and scream if necessary.

2.  Why do we think stay at home mothers aren’t working? Stay at home mothers WORK.  We should value ALL WORK and ensure that the dignity of the laborers is protected.  We need to have this discussion because our view of work demeans the contributions, creativity, and gifts of people who earn no or little paid salary.

3.  Why do some folks (like Fix the Family) assume working mothers are abandoning their families?  The Church does not require all mothers to stay home with their children.  CAPC supports mothers who work for pay and those who are full-time mothers.  We also support those moms who fall somewhere in between.  (All of them are working!!)  In fact, Pope John Paul II made it very clear that the unique gifts of women need to be felt not only in the home, but in the parish, in the boardroom, and in the public square.  (Incidentally, you will far more effective at making that kind of impact if you are educated, informed, and articulate . . .)  But in making these choices we have to use prudence and wisdom, and that means being informed about how our choices will affect the well-being of our children.  THIS is what we should be talking about.  We should love and support one another, especially mom to mom.  We are sisters in Christ, on this thorny road to heaven.

4.  How do we raise children who enter adulthood passionate about our Faith, confident in their own dignity, who easily live the virtues of mercy and justice in order to protect the dignity of others, including unborn children, women, and the poor?

5.  How do we nourish the masculinity of husbands and the femininity of  wives, while celebrating our shared dignity and our equal right to use our gifts and talents?  I was reading some remarks from a theologian recently on how real love brings out the uniqueness of each partner.  Love really isn’t blind.  Sometimes we see beautiful things in our spouses that they can’t even see.  Isn’t that amazing?  God also reveals more of us to ourselves when we love our husbands and wives completely, when we seek mutuality and communion rather than domination.

Now this stuff is interesting, at least to me.  What problems are  important to you?  Maybe today your biggest problem is getting toothpaste out of the toddler’s hair!  But do you see what I mean?  I think Fix the Family is dangerous because it distracts us from more productive and enriching dialogue.

I would like to share my story eventually about why I chose to stay home with my babies; why I chose to homeschool; why I don’t think you need to make the same choices that I did to be a wonderful parent.  I want you to know me better, because I think we parents need to share our personal stories of uncertainty and confusion, and how we grappled with them in the arms of Jesus.  Please share with all of us your journeys, too.  Please write guest posts for CAPC about who you are and how you ended up in this virtual “corner” with the rest of us.  All of our voices are valuable at the table.

God bless.

Comments

  1. You promote attachment parenting, which I also practice and love it, by the way, but it does not mean you forbidd other parenting styles, doesn’t it?
    The same way Fix the family promote their beliefs so why proclaim their way of promoting their life style ad dangerous? Feminist agenda is really hurting families and it sad that we attack people who try to live avoiding that trap.

    • Well, obviously I don’t have the authority to forbid anything, but I think you are asking if I would approve of parenting practices outside of the attachment parenting paradigm.

      Of course I recognize there are other legitimate approaches to parenting, but I think some choices are better than others, and some really are down right dangerous. For example, based on copious studies and scientific research, it’s obvious that hitting children as a form of discipline is dangerous. But you can be a wonderful parent without engaging in practices typically associated with “attachment parenting.” What is not optional is the secure attachment of the child to the parent. Without a secure attachment, the child’s well-being is imperiled. So as long as a parent’s choices are protecting the secure attachment, I think it’s thumbs up.

      I do think some of the ideas at Fix the Family are dangerous and unfortunate. It’s a slippery slope. You are concerned that my ideas about women are on the slippery slope toward feminism, while I am concerned the ideas of the Fix the Family are on a slippery slope toward domination, abuse, and the quashing of the spirit of girls. So, I guess for you my ideas are dangerous, and that’s okay. But let’s recognize that on the continuum of morality and family values, I probably sit very close to Fix the Family. I am grateful that they are working to strengthen families and to protect traditional family values.

  2. I actually think your site is dangerous because it misleads and confuses young married couples and serves gender ideology.
    How about telling the truth about Fix the family before attacking them in public: “a woman’s place is in the home not because she is not good enough for the world but because she is too good for it. In the home we can be as Catholic as we want to be forming families in truth. A man needs to make it possible for his wife to be exclusively devoted to home and family…The role of the stay-at-home mother in the home is much more important than that of the husband. The husband’s role is to be at the service of the wife’s because she is nurturing, forming, and educating young souls. ” for example?

    • Hello Rose,

      I do truly appreciate your heart and your thoughts about these issues. I wrote the article several years ago. I think if I were writing it today I would take a different tone with the authors of Fix of the Family. Really we are workers in the same vineyard: Catholics who believe in traditional family values. I think we simply disagree on a few fine points on how to run the vineyard. My disagreement with Fix the Family is very small compared to the chasm between myself and the larger culture. I think it’s important to have perspective as Catholic parents and to join together in unity as much as possible, to avoid distractions so that we can focus on the work of counter-acting the culture of death, the degradation of marriage, and the attack on common sense and decency.

      To answer your question, no I don’t think I’m too good for the world. I would not want to put it that way. I would go anywhere God wanted to take me, even if it was disgusting and horrible. Rather than say that women are too good for the world, I personally find it more productive to ask myself about my priorities, and then to examine my motivations for my choices. I stay home with my children because I found it impossible to prioritize their needs and to nourish my marriage while working outside the home. In examining my motivations, I could tell I was working because I felt a need to gain approval from the larger society, and to measure up to the standards that had been set for women by feminists who have very good intentions but they are simply wrong about 1) their basic assumptions about women (what we are, what we need, what we should do with our time) and 2) the lived experience of real women and not some theoretical Woman.

      But I would not want to judge another woman’s experience by own failures. I am sure there are women who work outside the home in response to an authentic call on their lives from God. I believe firmly that small children need their mothers at home. (And dads are not a replacement for mom, no matter how essential they are to the unfolding development of the child.) So, to be honest, I do struggle imagining what circumstances would lead a mother away from her small children. Perhaps her family will lose their insurance if she doesn’t work? Perhaps dad is unemployed? I don’t think career advancement is a legitimate reason, but I would be open to discussing this with my mom friends.

      Blessings,
      Kim

  3. Of course you find Fix the family dangerous to your seductive female roll – the photo following your article says it all. That sort of posture and clothes will for sure attract wrong kind of men … and women.
    I have MA University degree and I am a faithul catholic in a catholic country and yes if you have courage to see it Fix the family lot is sooo right. They are actually a pain relief if you look around and see broken families and miserable state society is in.
    God bless you

    • It’s just a stock photo. It’s hard find good stock photos. I think the young lady is lovely, but I agree her shirt is a little low cut.

      I hope all my children attend college, but I will leave it in God’s hands. My oldest child is a high school senior. He has been accepted into Franciscan University of Steubenville, a wonderful, conservative, co-ed Catholic college.

      You have a master’s degree? But this just proves my point. Perhaps because of your education, you are better able to articulate your disagreement with me, to engage in ideas in the public square, the parish hall, and in your own home. 🙂

  4. Thank you for this brilliant article. I was so bothered by that article on not sending your daughters to college. And I happened to be one of those 4000 comments, and I was on the critical side. It is nice to see that there are ppl like you!

  5. Kim,

    Thanks for writing this excellent, eloquent,and thoughtful piece. You do a great job answering Fix the Family’s claims. I agree with you completely and think you do a great job laying out all the reasons why higher education is so important. I will just add one – we are better parents when we are better educated. We know how to think critically and weigh different ideas, and we can help our children learn those skills too. We aren’t likely to feel threatened when our children start learning and growing in new ways as a result of their college experience.

    I remember that one of my daughters, at the age of 9 or 10, enjoyed looking at some of my college textbooks and talking with me about some of the ideas she discovered there. Back when I was studying for the LSAT (I’m a lawyer and went to law school when my kids were school age), my girls had fun doing some of the logic games questions. All those early experiences gave them a positive view of education and set them up for the success they have experienced in college and beyond.

    I agree that FtF is very dangerous because of the way that the ideas they espouse stunt the growth of those who embrace them. I do, though, think that part of what motivates this kind of thinking is real concern with the cost of college. If a person can’t afford college, they may feel better about not sending their kids if they can make themselves think their choice is the virtuous way to go. I do think we need to do more to make college affordable.

    We also need to encourage our daughters and sons to be all they can be. Thanks again for such a nice article.

    Lisa

  6. University saved me, brought me into the Church and my education protected my kids from the poverty cycle

    I had a conversion experience at 16 with a charming Presbyterian missionary and then was baptized in the spirit with the Jesus People, who had joined an Alliance church. When my parents moved, I REALLY wanted to move back with my sister and join a Christian household, then go to Bible College ( a fundamentalist, anti- intellectual, conservative 1950’s style, bible thumping sort of Bible College).

    God made it clear that He wanted me to go to university in a city with little Christian community or fellowship. Even though my senior pastor looked me in the eye and said, ” Why on earth would God NOT want you to return??

    At university I stumbled upon Catholic Charismatics and the Jesuits who ran a small college connected to the university!! Also, even though I was raised staunchly middle class with upper middle class values, my husband and I were and are considered POOR by Western Society. My children are not part of the poverty cycle. Even those who are in the trades (the 3 boys) they are all articulate and come across as intelligent, well-spoken, and well…classy, with the manners and presence of Christian kids who are well-off.

    WHY? The Holy Spirit formed their spirits, has healed them but my husband and I are educated with a house full of books; we research, read up, learn and are always growing and changing.

  7. Hello Andrea,

    Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I will try to address a few of your concerns with my article, but as this is a comment I’ll try to control myself!

    You made this well-taken point: “I also do believe that women need to be submissive to their husbands. This is something I need to work on myself. This is blatant in the Bible. If you have a problem with it, you need to take that up with God. It is a hard one, but it’s there and we can’t cherry pick.”

    Well thank you for that advice. I think you are actually cherry picking, though in good faith and with good intentions. I did in fact take this up with God when I was considering returning to the Church. I was particularly concerned about this issue. I think the passages about submission you are considering are mostly in Ephesians. A priest counseled me on those passages and pointed out that the world “submission” in the original has the sense of “hypotassessthai” — which is a voluntary attitude of cooperation, and assuming a burden on behalf of others. This sense of the word is very much in the same spirit as Pope John Paul II’s idea of mutual self-donation.

    In this sense I definitely submit to my husband and he submits to me. We live a life of mutual love and cooperation, helping one another on our paths to heaven. He would never consider “putting his foot down” as your husband does with you, because we have never been at that place — ever. He values my opinions and insights and I do his. We have disagreed on issues, yes, but eventually we came to a decision. Often I defer to him on things he is simply better at — finances especially. He does the same with me.

    We must also remember that letters in the New Testament were written in a particular historical period. Paul is addressing consternation and disagreements within the home because the Church was growing within household communities. The domestic codes and legal structure were very different in that time and culture. Within a household not only was the man the head of the household, but the wife was the head of slaves, the mother in law was the head of the wife, etc. (Recent scholarship, as I understand it, is revealing that even though this was the cultural ideal in ancient Rome, there were variations on this ideal — there is emerging evidence of women actually heading entire households.) But no matter. It was a cultural construct. We are living out our Christian call in a different time and culture. Yes, we need to respect our husbands. If you view your husband as the head of your household, great, and as a cultural construct it’s not necessarily invaluable but being a faithful Christian does not require me to recognize my husband’s authority over me. I respect him, support him, consider his well-being throughout my day, but he’s not my master.

    I am no exegete, so I’m sure there are more nuances here, but to say, “It’s blatant in the Bible, so accept it or you’re sinning” is very unkind and shortsighted. There are many “blatant” statements in the Bible that non-Catholics use against us (do not worship idols, call no other man father but me, etc.) which we point out to them need to be taken in context.

    On your issue with women working, you said, “I do think it’s wrong to have a family and work outside the home (with young children) if you do not financially have to (and you should take measures to try and prevent needing to work if you’re planning on having a family). One obvious reason is that God designed women to breastfeed and bond with their children in that way, and women can only at most partially do that if they are working away from their little ones. . . . Fr. William Virtue even explains in one of his books that failure to breastfeed when possible can be a sin. It makes sense logically- you are misusing your body in a way God did not design. Just like homosexual acts, in vitro fertilization, contraception, etc.”

    Women should never neglect their families. I think we do need to consider how children thrive when we are making these choices about how or whether we will participate in the paid marketplace. That’s partly why I started this website. We need to exercise prudence in making informed decisions.

    I am a breastfeeding advocate. I breastfed my youngest daughter until very recently; she’s 3. However, I would never be willing to say that women who don’t breastfeed may be sinning because they’re not using their bodies they way God designed them, esp. comparing this to homosexuality and contraception. At any rate, most working moms DO breastfeed their babies. Working does not prevent you from using your body to nourish your baby. It certainly takes you physically away from your baby and this is a problematic. It’s problematic, but not necessarily sinful. Whether it’s sinful or not is for that couple to consider with their confessor or spiritual director.

    If paid work interferes with a woman’s duty to her family, then it’s wrong, but so is it wrong for anyone to neglect their families for any reason. MEN can sin by working to the detriment of their families. Women have been the backbone of volunteer work within the Church, and this is working outside the home. It’s amusing to me that the same people who believe women should not work for pay applaud women for their volunteer efforts. It’s possible for us to neglect our duties to our families for volunteer work — it can take us away from families for more hours than is ideal and can distract us from recognizing the needs of our children. Both paid work and volunteer work can lead to sin — we have to be mindful of the pitfalls but it doesn’t mean this valuable work is sinful.

    I love this quote from John Paul II on the right of women — including MOTHERS — to work outside the home: “[Women] should be able to fulfill their tasks in accordance with their own nature, without being discriminated against and without being excluded from jobs for which they are capable, but also without lack for their family aspirations . . . The true advancement of women requires that labor should be structured in such a way that women do not have for their advancement by abandoning what is specific to them and at the expense of the family, in which women as mothers have an irreplaceable value.” (On Human Work, 19)

    He is saying just the opposite of what you claim: Women should NOT have to forgo having families in order to bring their talents to the marketplace. It is the marketplace that is the problem, not women. Now I agree with you that I find it hard to imagine how to make it work with a small baby or small children with Mom and Dad both working, but some people DO make it work. My brother-in-law and his wife have an incredible situation: her sister’s family lives in her home and they are raising their families together under one roof. One mom works and the other doesn’t. I love hearing about their family dinners! I guess my point is, how can we point fingers and say SINNER. It’s the ol’ beam in my eye thing.

    I’m not a relativist: I do think some choices are wrong, and some choices are better than others. It’s just in the case of women working I do not feel we can make blanket statements about what is right and wrong. We get into slippery slope arguments: how much work is too much? Is volunteer work wrong? Can an artist Mom go out on the weekends to work at art fairs?

    I’ve already written too much. I do not want to start a war here. But I absolutely affirm the value of working women on this forum, I affirm them in their choice, and I seek only answers to how we can help ALL members of the family — mom, dad, children — thrive in the way God intended.

    I’m sorry your regret going to college. I’m sure some women do regret it — my point was only that women regretting delaying having children isn’t the same as women regretting college. I do not regret my education. I am who I am in part because of it.

  8. I admit that I skimmed over this article for time reasons. But I have to say I agree with nearly all of the “Fix the Family” assertions. I do not think I will encourage my daughters to go to college. I do think it’s wrong to have a family and work outside the home (with young children) if you do not financially have to (and you should take measures to try and prevent needing to work if you’re planning on having a family). One obvious reason is that God designed women to breastfeed and bond with their children in that way, and women can only at most partially do that if they are working away from their little ones. I’m not going to get into exceptions to the norm here like a woman not being about to breastfeed- we all know that’s rare and still doesn’t take away from God’s natural design for most women. Fr. William Virtue even explains in one of his books that failure to breastfeed when possible can be a sin. It makes sense logically- you are misusing your body in a way God did not design. Just like homosexual acts, in vitro fertilization, contraception, etc.

    That said, I don’t think I would DISCOURAGE college, BUT I would make it known that they need to realize that either they will stop their career once they have a family and put their family first (until children are older and it doesn’t take away from family), OR forgo a family altogether and dedicate their vocation to God (which is completely acceptable as well). The CCC actually even mentions this and words it in a similar way that some women will forgo a family for charity work. It strongly implies you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The Bible also has statements that say women should be brought up how to care for families, to help them with their future vocation. And the Bible has more authority than a possibly fallible statement from JPII. I have read arguments for why women working is acceptable, and I find holes in all of them, and none of it is infallible teaching so there is room that it could be sinful in certain situations. We simply do not know. Since there is so much Biblical and CCC evidence that lean heavily towards motherhood as a complete vocation, I’d rather err on the side of caution myself.

    I also do believe that women need to be submissive to their husbands. This is something I need to work on myself. This is blatant in the Bible. If you have a problem with it, you need to take that up with God. It is a hard one, but it’s there and we can’t cherry pick. That said, some women take this too far and *think* it gives men a license to do whatever they want and basically abuse their wives. This is not true. While women are obligated to be submissive, men are the leader of the family, and they are going to be judged more harshly than the woman. Scott Hahn talked about this in one of his talks. The man needs to take his role seriously as well and be respectful of what God wants for his entire family. Men should not abuse their power- just as parents shouldn’t abuse their power over their children. There has only been a couple times when my husband has put his foot down. It was always over religious matters and as hard as it is to admit, in retrospect he was always right. There is a Bible verse in 1 Peter I believe that addresses women obeying so they can be an example to their husband to submit to God. Unless your husband is asking you to go against your conscience, you need to obey. You also need to keep this in mind when marrying. Remember this man is the head of the house and are you comfortable with that? Men and women are equal but have different roles, and both genders need to accept that.

    I did carefully read your arguments and responses to the certain points. There were some valid points here and there, but honestly I found holes in your arguments and it wasn’t strong enough to convince me on most points that you were right instead of the “Fix the Family” view.

    On a personal note- I do in fact regret going to college. My job, my role, was to be a wife and mother. I didn’t know this until I was thrown into the position. Now I wish I wouldn’t have wasted my time or money on college. Now, if I ever went back to work, when the kids are older or out of the house, I would have a completely different vocation than what I chose when I was young and had little life experience and choose something I no longer have interest to do. In fact, I went to college to become a teacher and now I am opposed to public school and feel parents should homeschool when possible. I *do* regret it, and you make it sound like no one ever does. I know I’m not the only one.

    Wish I had more time to address points individually and cite references but unfortunately I do not have time for that.

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