Amid clergy abuse scandals around the world in 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury in August released a report detailing the horrific abuse of more than 1,000 child victims by more than 300 “predator priests” going back to the 1940s. The report rocked the nation, in part because it represented such a large quantity of abuse in such a small population (the jury investigated church records in just six of eight Pennsylvania dioceses) and because of a systematic cover-up by church leaders who continually reassigned abusers to new parishes. Though leaders claimed this year that Catholic higher-ups knew nothing of the widespread abuse, the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., and claims that Pope Francis knew about his misconduct, tell their own tale. Since the grand jury released its report, efforts by U.S. bishops to make large-scale reforms have failed, in part because of stalling by Francis. The pope called a global summit on sexual abuse for February, and Catholics are hoping for answers. —K.C.
Rebelling against God’s design
Family | 2018 saw society further dismiss a Biblical understanding of sex, marriage, and family
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 12/28/18, 02:34 pm
The deconstruction of gender, and thus God’s good design for humans, dominated marriage and family news again this year. Experts grappled with technology and its effect on children and families, and how later-in-life marriage and fewer children are changing culture. Here are the top five family and sexuality stories for 2018.
Gender ideology went mainstream this year, leaving its mark on education, policy, entertainment, and medicine. States passed laws allowing third-gender designations and made it easier for people to change their legal sex without a doctor’s note. The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance recommending parents, teachers, and doctors affirm and embrace gender dysphoria in children. Culture celebrated transgender celebrities, including a Miss Universe contestant. Transgender athletes, most often men who identify as women, bested their competitors and advocated for the abolition of testosterone regulations. Schools opened their restrooms and locker rooms to children and teens of any sex. And public libraries across the country hosted drag queen story times for preschoolers.
But perhaps more startling than the embrace of transgender ideology this year was the harsh silencing of any opposition, from an American mother who claimed her daughter was abused by a boy in the girls restroom at school to a British mother who was investigated for a tweet critical of sex change surgery on minors. Twitter banned “misgendering” in November, an ominous move that raises a question for 2019: Can someone hold a belief in binary, God-designed biological sexes and have a voice in the public square? —K.C.
A small study published this year poked a big hole in transgender ideology. A Brown University professor, Lisa Littman, studied parental reports of a condition called “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” in which post-puberty teens seem to suddenly identify as transgender after increasing social media use and associating with friends who also identify as the opposite sex. Littman’s research found evidence that transgenderism in adolescents could be the result of social peer pressure, like drug use and eating disorders, not an innate condition. Transgender activists lambasted the study and forced Brown to take down a news release about its results. But efforts to have the study pulled from the online journal PLOS One proved unsuccessful. Littman has called for more research into rapid onset gender dysphoria. —K.C.
Skyrocketing rates of screen time and near-constant social networking are taking a toll on the physical and mental health of today’s toddlers, children, and teens.
Former tech insiders, social scientists, and doctors sounded alarms about the dangers of technology use by kids this year, with one expert asserting the so-called iGeneration is “on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades.” Rates of pornography use and sexting among teens are also on the rise.
In response, tech companies—including YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Fitbit, Apple, and Tumblr—sought to assuage parental fears with controls, monitors, and filters. But parental controls still leave looming questions about how the explosion of portable device use by children and teens is affecting their bodies, brains, and futures. Expect more startling research and more pleading letters from child advocacy groups in the new year. —K.C.
The U.S. birth and fertility rates continued a downward trajectory in 2018, with the birth rate hitting a 30-year low, according to government data released in May. The United States has come in short of the replacement fertility level for most of the last 45 years, boosted only by robust immigration. But immigration likely can’t stave off a looming population crisis. An aging population and shrinking workforce are the recipe for a classic demographic disaster. Experts have and will continue to advocate boosting fertility rates, suggesting better policies on family leave and help for college graduates with so much debt they avoid having babies because of the cost. —K.C.
Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.