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Culture Friday: Pope Francis condemns surrogacy

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Pope Francis condemns surrogacy

Plus, the mainstream media’s efforts to discredit homeschooling and the delayed reckoning for Jeffery Epstein’s client list


Pope Francis baptizes infants in the Sistine Chapel Getty Images/Photo by Vatican Media via Vatican Pool

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 5th of January, 2024.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher

It’s time for Culture Friday, and joining us now is John Stonestreet. He’s president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Morning, John!

JOHN STONESTREET: Good morning.

EICHER: Well, John, we talk about the pope a lot, because he’s just always making news, and the Roman Catholic church is a huge institution: 1.4 billion Roman Catholics, one in 6 people is a Catholic believer, so what the pope says and does is important or at least newsworthy.

John, interesting the pope this week urges governments around the world to ban the practice of surrogacy, by which he means he thinks it should be illegal for so-called surrogate mothers to conceive and give birth to a child for the sole purpose of adopting out that child. Pope Francis calling the practice “despicable.”

Per The New York Times: the unborn child must not be turned into an “object of trafficking,” the pope’s words.

Unlike his ambiguous words on blessings for same-sex couples, he leaves no doubt here, doesn’t he, John?

STONESTREET: Well, he's exactly right. And I was actually thrilled, absolutely thrilled. And I feel like I also need to say that because I wasn't necessarily, you know, easy on the pope the last time we talked about him, which was, it feels like it was just quite recently, when there was an intentional seed of confusion sown in the church about same sex relationships, and certainly we have seen that confusion, bear out, but he was morally clear on this one. And so I really appreciated that.

And, you know, I think it's also important to say in light of this, that he exhibited, with that statement, a kind of moral clarity that many Protestants have not exhibited in their decisions, our willingness to kind of go down the line of artificial reproductive technologies of various forms without really thinking through the ethical analysis. We've kind of embraced the, if it's possible, it must be okay. And if it lets me have what I want, then it must be okay mentality. And I say that despite understanding, of course, that infertility is one of the most painful things that a couple, in particular, a woman, can experience. And of course, that pain itself points to the sort of creatures we are the sort of humans that we were made to be by God, male and female and male and female together. But of course, what's driving much of the international surrogacy market right now are Western gay couples, who hire surrogates. And then when they get the babies, they lay on the bed as if one of them actually just gave birth. I don't know where this trend started. We certainly saw it with Pete Buttigieg. But can I just say, good heavens that needs to stop.

But you know, what else needs to stop is a widespread problem and Protestantism not making the connection to the understanding of who we are as human beings, male and female, and babies born in the image and likeness of God not products, and then drawing out those ethical implications for these technologies and these practices which have been largely accepted.

Case in point, you know, I think it was two, three years ago where a major Christian publication, Christianity Today, had a cover article featuring the Christian surrogates, the Christian women who think of surrogacy as their ministry, and without any sort of accompanying and ethical analysis in that piece. This was a level of ethical clarity from this Pope that is needed, and is actually needed for Protestants as well.

BROWN: John, in my mainstream media days, there was this phrase that was sometimes used in the newsroom, “Such and such is scaring the people again.” And that means exactly how it sounds. Typically, it was used in the context of preparing viewers for some type of natural disaster and the hype that can go with that. But I heard you say recently that this phrase could also be applied to what’s happening right now in the mainstream media and their treatment of homeschooling.

Talk about the narrative that’s been pushed.

STONESTREET: Well, it's certainly widespread, but the case in point is over the last couple of months, the Washington Post; and this is something obviously that's close to my heart. I started to notice an increasing number of scare stories, but there was this whole series, three in the month of December, basically, you know, one telling a story of abuse and neglect. That was a horrific story, the mistreatment of a child. Of course another huge factor in this story was the fact that this was a broken home and a blended home, which is the most dangerous home for a child statistically. And again, I'm not saying that all blended homes are dangerous by any means. Some of them are very redemptive and hopeful. But the breakdown of the family is the most dangerous context in which a child actually lives. Of course that was never mentioned.

Then you have the articles, and they ran one of these as well, where experts are concerned with the big growth in homeschooling. And you know, what? Homeschooling has grown explosively since the pandemic - over a million, it's almost doubled in size. And that's not even counting, of course, all the other alternatives that have also exploded. And if that's all the case, maybe the headline of the story should be why parents are choosing so many alternatives, you know, other than the ones that the experts accept as the status quo.

And that was what was bizarre in this whole piece. Nowhere did anyone look at the mass exodus and assume, well, maybe the reason that parents have chosen this is they didn't buy the line from the various politicians who in the last couple years said it out loud that we know better than you. Maybe it was because parents got to see into what happened at the Loudoun County School Board and other school boards like it. Maybe it was because they actually saw what their kids were being taught, and the ideological indoctrination. Maybe, you know, there have been an awful lot of stories of sexual abuse that have come out of the public school that goes completely unscrutinized.

Oh, yeah, here's the other great one: another article by the Post highlighting the controversial researcher who's been doing this for homeschooling for years - a guy named Brian Ray. And of course, the data that he has produced for a long time has really shown very positive results for homeschooling, excelling, compared to public school peers in so many ways. And of course, the attack there was not on his methodology or anything like that, it was the fact that he has an estranged daughter, because you know, no public school teachers or public school researchers or school board leaders have estranged daughters. It's just, it's such a bizarre kind of tactic that is really fear mongering. And I really hope we're in this moment, it seems like we are, where there's such disruption to the status quo in the state system that you get pieces like this. But it's important then I think, to point out the ideological, and really the methodological, flaws in how they write these pieces.

EICHER: Older story here, but I did want to get your comment on the much-anticipated release of the Epstein list that turned out not to tell us anything we hadn’t already heard. John, it’s hard not to get cynical about this, that we hear there are so many on this list, influential people, and there’s going to be a reckoning, but it just never happens. And it needs to happen, and it’s kind of frustrating — isn’t it? — that the truth is being kept from us on such a consequential matter.

STONESTREET: Yeah, I mean, it is. I mean, I think the rumor mill had kind of, you know, preceded the release of the documents; there really wasn't anything that a whole lot of people didn't suspect for a really long time. And then of course, at that point, you're just like, Well, why all the secrecy? Why all that and that just kind of increases the constant erosion that seems to be happening right now, in terms of our ability to trust the institutions we should be able to trust. And we just don't and, you know, it's like, stop making me a conspiracy theorist. I'm ready to stop being one if you can help, you know, just by not kind of doing all this secretive hiding stuff. And, of course, the positions of power.

And, you know, the more we know, even you know, about the Hunter Biden involvement with foreign entities and the laptop and all that it's like, you know, we were sure that there was nothing here until there was, you know. And the problem is, is that this is just run on a kind of a consistent stream of other stories from COVID policies and medical lock downs, and all that sort of stuff is that we just kind of know now that we're not being told the truth, or at least not the sufficient truth. And I think that's the bigger issue. This is not a sustainable situation. It's not a sustainable way of living together. And I think, too, it underscores the fact that the sexual revolution gave birth to the Epstein's and the Harvey Weinstein's. It's not that there was not exploitation of children in other times in other places. Of course, there was. It's this sort of sexualization of younger and younger people was consistently argued in the name of ideas, in the name of beliefs about sexual freedom and sexual fulfillment. And what it's turned out is is all of that stuff not only was not true, but it was actually harmful. And so the chickens have come home to roost again, just like with the “Me Too” movement and some other things. And this is all part of that narrative. And so it does need to be resolved so we can move forward and we can actually help the victims and bring justice to those who deserve it. And then also move forward so that we can be a kind of a community and a culture that protects children instead of exploits them in the future.

BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks so much, John.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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