The Dr J Show

Welcome to our newest project. The Dr. J Show is a weekly broadcast with an interview segment that features some of the foremost leaders and thinkers on issues relating to marriage, family and human sexuality. New episodes come out every Friday; catch them here or over at our YouTube channel.


Divorce Does Hurt Kids: The Research Doesn't Begin to Tell the Whole Story

Dr. Daniel Meola is an adult child of divorce who earned his Ph.D. in Theology of Marriage and Family from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He has been leading retreats and support groups for adult children of divorce or separation since 2015 in the Archdiocese of Washington, and in 2018 he founded Life-Giving Wounds to spread the retreat, support groups, and other ministry to adult children of divorce or separation around the country.

Bethany Meola is a stay-at-home mom with a master of theological studies degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. She and Dan met there and married in 2011. Bethany served the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for seven years in the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Among other tasks, she managed the website For Your Marriage and researched and wrote on various topics related to marriage and family. In 2017, Dan and Bethany welcomed their daughter Zelie-Louise through the gift of adoption, and Bethany became a stay-at-home mom. And in 2019, Grace joined their family, also through adoption. Bethany assists with many of the behind-the-scenes operations of Life-Giving Wounds.


Readings & Resources


Your Spouse Leaves You and The State Takes Possession of Your Kids. What Next?

Since 2004, Bai Macfarlane has been upholding the dignity of marriage in light of no-fault divorce. Under no-fault divorce, the party that still loves his or her spouse and wants to keep the family together is virtually defenseless. Mary’s Advocates is a voice for faithful spouses, and provides resources to equip those in positions of authority and influence to encourage reconciliation and denounce marital abandonment and unjust separations.

This episode is also available as an audio podcast. More resources & readings after the cut.


Bai spoke in Rome for Human Life International Rome about the marriage crisis and the Code of Canon Law. Her paper was distributed to the delegates at the Synod of Bishops. Mary’s Advocates work has been publicized by Homiletic and Pastoral Review, National Catholic Register, the United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops, and LifeSite News. She’s been a radio guest on Relevant Radio, Ave Maria Radio, and EWTN.

 

Readings & Resources

 

Before marriage, Bai earned earned a bachelor of science from the University of Notre Dame. She was a stay-at-home mom raising four children under the age of 12 just prior to beginning her marriage work.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Hi, everyone. I am Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute. Welcome to this edition of the Dr. J show. My guest today is Mrs. Bai MacFarlane, who is the founder and president of Mary's advocates, and I am going to let her tell you all about Mary's advocates and what they do. Bai welcome to the Dr. J show.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Jennifer, Thanks for having me.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Tell people a little bit about yourself, and how you got involved in advocating for divorce reform of various sorts.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Ok sure. I was always a Christian, I am Catholic, raising a Catholic family and my husband and I got married after college, and I was living the good life. And then about 12 years into our marriage, my husband, for reasons that are not even worth talking about decided that he needed to have our family go through divorce. So, I had a quick education about what no-fault divorce was. And I was ignorant. I did not know anyone close to me who had gone through this. So, having been a defendant in no-fault divorce, I had an eye-opening education. And you have talked about no-fault divorce. You have written about it in your book, The Sexual State

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes. The Sexual State, there is a big chapter in there on divorce.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

So, it was obvious that something unjust was happening because the person who didn't do anything grave that would justify a separation of spouses, as if I had lost my mind, or if there was a husband who's committing adultery, The other spouse has a legitimate reason to be separated, because a person's breaking their marriage promises in a big way. It does not matter if one party goes to the state and says, I want a divorce. Essentially, what they are doing is saying to the state, take over my children, take over my property, you decide. If my spouse and I don't decide on how we want to split everything. I give the court the power display everything. So, anyone who has been a defendant or close to someone who's a defendant knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes, that is right.And let's stop right there to say that the Ruth Institute does have a lot of resources about this very topic, because there are a lot of people who have been through this, and most of them are kind of socially invisible. So, it is very important that you are coming forward and talking about this a little bit more. Yeah, go ahead Bai.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

And the perspective that I take is someone who believes in marriage. And we understand that when two people marry, they are married, you cannot unmarry somebody, just like you can't unmake somebody, your actual biological son. I mean, it's just a fact of nature. It is true. So, in the —there is a lot of pressure for people who are defendants in divorce to accept that your marriage is over. Why would you want to stay married to somebody that does not want to be married to you anymore? Your spouse doesn't love you anymore. You need to move on. Even nice things. You are good looking, you are nice. I'm sure you can find someone who will appreciate you. You need to do all these things. So, there's tons of pressure to say that one's marriage is not in existence anymore, and your marriage is over just because of a civil divorce. So what Mary's advocates does is we support those who are unjustly abandoned, who recognize that they're still married. And it’s like what?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right. You are married. You are definitely a countercultural radical. Okay, let's give it to you Bai. You are a countercultural radical for sure. This is what radical looks like in 2020 people.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Some of my friends are dead saints that I have on my wall, so it's like St. John Fisher was a countercultural radical

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yeah, that's right. So, you know, I want to back up just a little bit, because we're gonna talk about Mary’s advocates. That's what we're here to talk about in a way. You used a word and I want to kind of come back to that. There's kind of a natural level at which all of this happens. There's a natural law basis. For this, that should be the basis of civil law and church law. That there's a natural reality here that a man or a woman have come together, they have made promises solemn promises, and they have created children together. And you can't unmake yourself a mom, you can't unmake yourself a husband. So, draw out for us the natural law basis of all of this, because I think this is a new thought, for people, people are used to thinking you can end a marriage, and they haven't really thought through necessarily, what exactly you're saying when you say that.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Okay, well let's look at what is the purpose? Or what's needed in making a child capable of participating in society in a functional way.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

I guess I could just start with that. Well, they need to know how to talk, they probably need to have some manners, they need to know how to share, they need to know how to communicate, they need to know how to work, I mean, all these kinds of things that you would want your children to know how to do. And by nature, long before there were governments, the way that cultures were doing this, is that a Mom and a Dad who have extreme interest in their own children —You know, people would sacrifice their own lives for their children. It's innate, so that's what I mean by nature. Yes, it can be done outside of that, yes, someone can grow up with only one parent because one of the parents died, or one of the parents abandoned. Yes, you can do that. But is that by nature, the way that it was designed, the way that works best? I'm sure you can look at study after study after study that show the results. It’s sad to say, it's like self-confidence, performance in the work world, ability to trust, all these things that children of divorce are kind of suffering.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.And so, if you look at it, just from the natural perspective, it takes a man and a woman to make a child, and that parental relationship is lifelong. And the cooperation between the parents is an essential aspect of the child's ability to thrive. So, if mom and dad hate each other, that means the two halves of who I am, are at war with each other. A five-year-old can't figure that out, and you probably have had people say this, if you're going through divorce, you should sit them down and tell them, “mommy and daddy don't love each other anymore. We still love you, honey, but we don't love each other anymore.” Well, that's half of who you are. And then the little kid is like how does this even work? And of course, it doesn't even work. So, the natural order of things for mom and dad to cooperate for a lifetime for the benefit of each other and for the benefit of the children. And that cooperation system we call marriage, and to abandon a promise of that solemnity, without a just reason, is unjust, it's unjust to abandon that promise. And if civil law doesn't take account of that you got a big problem. There's something really wrong. So that's what I want to get out on the table that is for people to really think this through because we're so cavalier in this culture,

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Or people are people are used to trusting. Well If something happens in a civil court, well, Justice occurs, that's what courts are for. Courts are for administering justice.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

So, there's talk about how the courts decide. Well, that would be great if we lived in an era where the government system supported marriage and family, but now we have the absolute opposite. I remember going through, in our divorce situation, I was a person who wasn't able to sign saying I agree to split my children and property because that is a lie. I don't agree to any of this. I think we should have an intact home and you should get the right kind of professional help and whatever our issues were, we're not even that different than issues I read about being common in lots of marriages. It's like, let's get humble and get down to hearing it out, and it would have been fine. But when moms and dads don't agree, the court will decide what happens to children. And sometimes the court will assign other paid government entities to decide what happens. So, they can appoint a Guardian Ad Litem who's a children's lawyer, or they can appoint a court psychologist. And then these two have a vested interest in getting more clients. And the way to get clients is when someone files for divorce. So, you've got these hangers on who earn good incomes, by taking assets from parents who are in divorce court. So, if you're the defendant, there's a lot of pressure to just sign on that dotted line that you agree to be divorced. And I remember a meeting with our guardian Ad Litem, and he was talking about how divorce is just like going through a tornado. And people recover and you rebuild your house. No, it's not. I mean it's my family, divorce and even the separated faithful, Divorce is the gift that keeps on giving.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

But let's go back to that tornado analogy because I just lived through a hurricane. And yeah, everything gets destroyed and you rebuild. But the difference between a hurricane and a divorce is that there's no moral agency here. Nobody's singled me out and blasted me with a hurricane. When your marriage is destroyed by your spouse, and by agents of the state. There is human moral agency at work there. And you look there, and you go, there's culpability here. This didn't have to happen. Somebody decided to make this happen. Down here in Lake Charles we're dealing with act of God. Okay, God, we got a hurricane. Thank you very much. I don't know what you're trying to say, but we accept it. That's not the same case with some —with the judge and the guardian Ad Litem, and the financial planners, and the court appointed psychologists and the people who supervise your visits. Sometimes that comes into play, where somebody makes an allegation and there's some kind of problems. So, there's some non-family members supervising the visits so there are many agents of the state that get involved in managing divorces. Now, Bai you made it clear from the outset that you didn't want the divorce. Did you ever sign the paper that they were asking you to?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

No, I didn't. And what happened in our case is —for reasons that would take too long to explain— a constitutional law professor got involved like nine months into it. And he was challenging that no-fault divorces is unconstitutional, based on the principle that people who marry in accordance with a religious right, or a religious doctrine or dogma, that both people going into a marriage and they contract a marriage according to certain rules, the state can't come in years after the fact and usurp the rules and the obligations, which the parties agreed that are in line with their church. Does that make sense?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes, yes. So, he was making a First Amendment type of an argument.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

That and contract. Due process and religious liberties kind of argument. And we ended up losing on a technicality having to do with timing, because we were designating the church as a third-party arbitrator. So, it didn't bear any fruit in my case. But one of the resources that Mary's advocates has, is that we wish people would do but I haven't figured out how to market it in a way that people jump on board. What are they agreeing? Are their obligations? Because everyone who marries right now in a pure no-fault divorce state, you're agreeing that the government can you have control of your property and children, when one of you, for no reason, decides I want out.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. What no-fault divorce really means is that the government will always take sides with the person who wants the marriage the least. That's what it actually means. And so, this resource that you have, is it a document for people to sign going into it? Tell us about this document that you have in mind

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

We call it our true marriage proclamation set. Or covenant agreement and it's language that's available, anyone could go on the website and find it today. They could download a PDF, it’s something that could be signed just prior to marriage. The goal would be that it would have the weight of a prenuptial agreement legally, because there's certain things you have to do to have a prenuptial agreement be legal. You have to have an option for a lawyer to review it with you, and the lawyer could sign saying I explained this to you, I explained this to the other side. Or they could sign it after marriage, and it could have the weight of a post-nuptial agreement. That's the goal. And the big thing that happens is it designates a third-party arbitrator. You know you buy a $30 software item, and they have you read that long contract before you say yes, I agree to buy this $30 item. There's lots of times where you're agreeing that if I'm dissatisfied, I won't go to a civil court and sue the seller. I will go to a third-party arbitrator and there are entities that exist, where churches, for example, non-Catholic churches, could designate that we want all of our contracts with our employees to have this clause in here about if there's a conflict, we're going to go with third party arbitrator. And there's a Christian arbitration association that exists right now, that is recognized in the civil forum for handling different kinds of disputes between a pastor and an employee. And for Catholics, one could sign the way our agreement is written, is that there is a designating the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic code of canon law, and those authorized to implement the Catholic code of canon law.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

So, in other words, you would make it explicit ahead of time, that you do not wish to use the civil authorities. That you both agree to be subject to this form of arbitration, in your case, that Canon Law, but it could be a Christian arbitration service. But to make it explicit, so that people have thought that thing through.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Over the years what I have found my focus to be. It is to support the people who already understand, and they already get what we're talking about. Because we need to get more of those people feeling comfortable and confident and assured that what you're saying makes good sense. It's actually from a Roman Catholic perspective, it's supported by long standing church teaching, and we just need to hold our ground. Amongst the people that you know, I mean, I'm an unusual circumstance. And maybe it's my personality —it is my personality. It’s my ability to hold my ground, regardless of what somebody says. I just can't not hold my ground. So, my work is to try to figure out as much as I can discern, to get some good done on this, but some people in the no-fault divorce situation are sort of drowning. You're barely keeping where you live, your house is lost, your kids are all over the place. They're going back and forth, trying to raise and discipline and teach a child who goes back and forth. It's just not fair.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes. It's not fair to the kid.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Enforcement mechanism, you teach them something here, they get something different over there. You try to have some kind of consequence for behavior and just normal stuff, like, how many hours a day, are you going to be allowed to be on your cell phone?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right, that's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

At mom’s house she says this, but at dad’s house —So these kinds of things.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

And these are problems which couples in a functioning marriage solve and confront every single day. Mom and Dad may have different opinions about different things, but they'll look at each other and they'll solve it. They don't bring agents of the state in, or kick each other under the table. “We'll talk about this later,” whatever little conflict we have as parents in an ongoing marriage you don’t bring in the guys with guns. I mean, because let's face it, the state has guns and they put people in jail, and they seize property, and they do all that kind of mean stuff. And once you go into divorce court, you are involving the guys with guns. That's just fact.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Yeah, and a sad pattern that I see a lot, because people talk to me, who are the separated faithful, who don't want the divorce, who want to keep the marriage together. They're humbly admitting that I never said I was a perfect spouse. I said, “I want to work on it. And I can let me know, what is it that I'm doing that's causing issues. If I'm at fault about whatever it is, —and we're not talking about reasons for separation, we're talking about just things that are annoying, or whatever else. Fine, I'm willing to grow in virtue.” But the person on the other side refuses to cooperate with people who are expert helping couples, I just see that as a telltale pattern and to me. That concludes that someone is not genuine.

Or they say, I tried counseling and it didn't work. Well, the reason it didn't work is because you refuse to cooperate and then there's nothing that defendant can do about it. So, it sounds kind of hopeless, but the hope is, as Christians, I mean, as a Catholic, what are we to do when we're faced in a situation where we're experiencing injustice?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

So far, we've been talking about all this on the civil side of things. And the Ruth Institute has talked about this a lot on the civil side. We've had other abandoned spouses speak at our conference and things. We've had Dr. Stephen Baskerville speak at our things, who is in my mind a great theorist on this subject. Really unmasking the injustice of the state. And then we've had Layla Miller speak who's written a compilation of First-Person accounts from adult children of divorce and the impact that their parents’ divorce had on them. But what you bring to the table Bai, that is unique, and I think will be helpful to a lot of people is canon law.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

The most exciting thing that I've uncovered that I publicized with Mary's advocates, is the church's law on separation of spouses. In Scripture, when it says, if your brother sins against you, you bring your concern to him directly. And if you don't get anywhere you bring some friends witnesses, and if you don't get anywhere you bring it to the church? That principle is written into our canon law about marriage. And I've gone back to the Council of Trent in 1563, where it's talking about how, for Catholics, keeping a family together is of public interest. It's not a private little thing between you and the person you're buying your car from. And it's not a private little thing where one little spouse is supposed to decide all on her own, to give her family to the state. We have protections written into our canon law about separation of spouses, where they're supposed to be a Canon Law investigation prior to anyone going to the civil forum. And this is a thing that I uncovered.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

So Bai, I have looked at some of your debates on this subject, and so on and so forth. And this is a really complicated area and a very controversial area. And I want to say I appreciate the research and diligence that you've done on it. But I can't say to my viewers that this is a settled issue, because obviously, it's not, you know, led to a lot of controversy about, but there's some things you're doing that relate to annulment. And some things you have thought about, that are not controversial, I think. And one of the important things that I've seen you do is that you assist people who are going through the annulment process, who don't want their marriage to be annulled. In other words, people who think this is a valid marriage. No! Just like you wouldn't sign the paper in the civil court, there are people who don't want to go along with it in the in the ecclesial courts as well. So, tell somebody a little bit about how that might work. Because we may have people watching. There are all kinds of situations with that, so tell people a little bit about how you and your materials assist people.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Okay. There are some tribunals that grantannulments to 100% of the petitioners. And I would surmise to say that they don't have any canon lawyers on staff who have experience with the kind of person you're describing, who wants to uphold the validity of their marriage, because they've never seen them. They've never seen it happen that a marriage was upheld, because their diocese, they give them to virtually everyone. So, some of the simple procedural things that I can help people with. Like, when a party alleges that a marriage is invalid, they're supposed to submit a petition. They're supposed to submit a petition, they're supposed to say certain things like explain, “Hey! I think my marriage is invalid for this ground and here's some facts and proofs in a general way describing why.” Like if I was to accuse you of anything, or accuse something, let's say, you want the drunken contract example, if you were going to say that our contract about selling the car was void, because I tricked you and you were drunk, and you got witnesses? Well, you would decide that on your petition as to why you think this contract is void. That's what's supposed to happen in canon law petition. And the petition is supposed to be sent to the other party. The other party needs to see what's the basis for the complaint. And I've had people that I've worked with where in their diocese, the standardize form that's used and accepted for the petitions says, No grounds for the petitioner, No grounds for the respondent. And that's what they give to the other side.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

What? I don’t understand. On the printed form it asserts that there are no grounds given.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

It might have been typed. It's typed in. I've seen in two cases in a diocese, where the petition that was sent to the respondent says, “I so and so applying for a decree of invalidity of my marriage.” And then further down in the paper, it says I assert the marriage is invalid. Checkbox. No grounds on the petitioner. Actually, there wasn't a checkbox, It was just typed language, no grounds on the petitioner, no grounds on the respondent. And when I'm saying petitioner respondent, the petitioners is the one that wanted a petition so, a common ground that's used in the United States is grave lack of discretion of judgment that has to do with psychological issues. So, someone might say I allege that I myself have this grave lack of discretion of judgment, but the respondent should see that so, That's an example.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right? So, you've seen these petitions where no grounds are given, what do you tell the person to do? What does the respondent do?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Everything I do is I suggest “you might want to…”. This is your letter; this is not my letter. I suggest that they respond back and just cite in the canon law that says: No petition is supposed to be accepted, unless it shows the grounds, and it shows the facts and proofs and a general way upon which the petitioner is relying to support the grounds. Or another thing I've seen is they're not supposed to collect proofs, witness testimony, until after they set in stone, what grounds are going to be investigating? Both sides need to know what's at stake here. What are you accusing? Are we saying that someone lied about wanting kids? Or are we saying that someone was psychologically so impaired that they couldn't consent because they didn't know what they were doing? You need to know that before you go in, and then you need to know which party.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

It kind of goes play by play through the procedures. And if the procedures are really irregular, then I help people submit appeals. So, I can't say we've had a lot of success. But what I hear from the people who contact me is they're just relieved that there's somebody who appreciates the law, respects their rights. You can't win everything. We don't know what's going to happen. But these people are saying, I have to try!

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. That's right. That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

There's nobody that can help me because, I'm reading on your website about a petition is supposed to say facts and proofs in a general way. But when I talk to my tribunal personnel, and they just say we're waiting for you to answer our questionnaire over and over again.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

I want to say for the record, I do know of one case where a person succeeded in defending her marriage, using some materials that you had provided for her. Personally, I know of a case where this woman, they had four children together. And her husband left her and petitioned for an annulment and she fought it and she won. It was denied, and he had already tottled off with this new Sweetie, so it was kind of a mess for him. But she was greatly relieved, and her children were so relieved. Yeah! Mom and Dad, you are married, this is a real marriage. And that's important to children. So, in a sense, what I Intuit about this, Again, I'm not a Canon lawyer, either. And I haven't spent any time in tribunals. But the vibe that I'm getting, if you want to put it that way, for the people I talk to is, is that the spirit of the age has infiltrated the church in this area, as in other areas, so you'll have the priests saying you should move on. Or why don't you do this? Or it'll be okay. That kind of thing. The idea that somebody would defend their marriage, would stand for their marriage —Not so long ago, that was understood to be what one ought to do. And now, it's not. That common understanding is gone.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

And when you're talking about how there are priests that will say you need to move on. The priests only know what they're taught. You only know what you've read. So, I've got shelves of stuff behind me. And if people contact me, and they're trying to understand...Is my marriage invalid or not? I really think it's valid. I tell them to read these books.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right. You’ve done the legwork for them, right?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

This one has 58 pages on psychological grounds for annulment, go look at this, because I have other books on my shelf, it's just a paperback book put together by some publisher that says it's Catholic that has one paragraph written about grounds for an annulment on psychological grounds, and they say, you were too immature to get married. So, people are repeating things that are contrary to what the scholarly stuff says. All you know, is the little tidbits that you've heard, you might think, Oh!my marriage is invalid because I had this or that problem. I was like No! Do your homework.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

People who care.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. And in defense of the tribunals, they have a lot of cases to deal with. And like you say, they're going with what they know, with what's familiar to them in a lot of cases. And they're looking into a lot of stuff and they're overworked. And they're looking at the evidence. I mean, a competent trial tribunal will be looking at the evidence and seeing the paperwork and seeing what happened and so on and so forth. So, a lot goes into it, and I don't want to just slam anybody here. But the fact is, the ethos has changed, No one would deny that.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

the piece that's so sad about annulments being granted too much is that, for two parties who are Catholic who are willing to follow the church's teaching, the church teaching could result in healing marriage.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

You know, if you've got somebody that kind of freaked out when they filed for divorce, and then they got all this support of this is what you need to do from the system. They're told, well, now that you've got your divorce, the right solution is to apply for your annulment. So, whenever they apply for their annulment and the annulment is granted, you've just missed the whole thing of what caused the marriage to break up really? And let's address it.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right. So much of the culture ignores that very important point. I've had family law attorneys say to me,particularly when a woman comes in and says, “I'm going to divorce my husband,” she has been thinking about it a long time, she's got her exit strategy planned. And he's completely blindsided because he had no idea how upset she was, or whatever. But she's doing all this. And I have had the lawyers Tell me, when they get to that point, there is no talking to them, and they get really mean and really vindictive. And then it's really bad. It can go really bad. Now, one point of clarification I want to mention because we do have some non-Catholic followers, followers who say that there's no role for church law or for annulment. That the church doesn't have the right to say anything about this. They're not used to the idea of church law, or of having to investigate. The point is you need to have institutions to enforce the gospel if you want to say that.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

The gospel doesn't implement itself, the Bible doesn't implement itself, you have to have structures to determine the facts. Well, is this really your twin brother? Or did you really mistakenly marry your cousin? Or did he really lie that he was impotent? You found out after the fact that he was impotent? Did that really happen? You have to have some structures for dealing with that.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Yeah, that's a really good way to put it. Because it's even scriptural that you go to the church about certain kinds of conflicts.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. So now I want to talk about this term “Standers”. I want to talk about the standers. I've encountered non-Catholics and Catholics who use this term, or without the term or doing the concept of standing. So, tell people what this term standers means. And a little bit about where you've encountered them.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Stander is someone who's separated or divorced, who still stands for their marriage. And even standing is a really good word, because it's not aggressive, it's not offensive, it's not pushing, it's just standing, it's just standing. And it's standing for a truth that I'm still married. And I've encountered that, I was one from the very beginning, even in the civil form. I didn't know that it had a name, but it's just this isn't true. I don't agree to this. I believe I'm married. Marriage is for life. I didn't get married in the state, the state cannot unmarry me. Some of the things I see common in standers is we still wear our wedding rings. Because out in the public, we're not single again. We're not like a widow, whose marriage is truly ended because my husbands dead. No. And in in how we talk, we would talk about, my husband or my wife, or you know, the whole thing of my ex-spouse, we would never say ex-spouse. There is no such thing as an ex-spouse anymore more than there is an ex-son.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. That's exactly right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

There's also a supernatural hope for reconciliation. And I modify that with supernatural because on a human level, the chances look like 0.00000 and infinity. The other spouse is already supposedly married to a different person. We wouldn't even call a second marriage, a marriage.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

There's one lady, her husband married someone else. And she's like, “Well, that's just a civil forum approving adultery.”

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

That's right. Not it's not marriage. You know, people might give you pushback.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yeah, they might. They give you plenty of pushback, right?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

In the civil forum, because we had a full-blown trial, where a lot of people don’t, they just go to the judge and say here is our paperwork. And the Guardian Ad Litem was questioning me. And I remember this. And he's like, “Well, why did you contact this person?” “I was looking for help.” “Why did you write this person?” “I was looking for help.” “Why did you reach?” I mean, I just was looking for help everywhere, thinking maybe somebody could help keep our family together. But the plaintiff in the divorce court gets what they want every time.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

There's a woman Charlene steinkamp, I think, Charlene cares. And she's from a biblical perspective. And people can go to her website. She sends a daily motivational message based in Scripture of how one stands for your marriage and the other spouse is a prodigal, like the prodigal son, and the dads waiting. and the dad knows that son might come home, he's hoping his son comes home. And it's that kind of thing or with Mary's advocates Coming at it from a Catholic perspective, there was a book published in Italian that we got translated into English.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Oh, tell us about that book, I have a copy of it too.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

It talks about the modes, that one passes in and out of and stays in, when one is separated faithful. And what we do is we have a monthly conference phone call, where we just go through a little section of the book each time, and over the years, people have become friends with each other, some of them have met separately. In my diocese, there's a group of us that meet in person, and we just use the book as a springboard for conversation. Because it's people who don't live it, they don't get it. And I think they frankly, kind of get tired of it. I mean, if you had a spouse who’s schizophrenic, it would really be helpful for you to have people who also have a spouse who's schizophrenic, that you can support each other in that walk.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

You remember what you used to have. So, the absence of what you used to have, it's just a laser focus on what you don't have now. And the thing that we support each other in, is what does one do with these emotions, because it's hard? So, we encourage each other in trusting in God and leaning on the cross and remembering that life is permanent. I mean, life on this earth is temporary, and we have a permanent goal, which is heaven. We also remind each other that anytime there's a suffering, like Paul says, I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, because I complete what's lacking in Christ's suffering for the sake of his body, the church. This kind of suffering is unique suffering, because we're standing like Paul suffering, and Paul could have lied and said, “I don't believe Jesus is God,” who knows what, he would have gotten out of jail.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

What's wrong with you, Paul? What you're the stubbornnest guy, Paul.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

So, we remind each other that, if you're really sad, because your kids have trouble with this, and these bad things are happening, and it's hurtful? Well, you offer that up for Christ'. I'm offering it up for the conversion of my husband or my children. And it is really nice to have other people who will have that walk. And there was a woman who joined our call, most recently, and she was talking about how it's not like she chose to be a stander, to be separated faithful, it was already there. It was like she would have to unchoose to not do it.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right, in other words, what she chose was to be married, and what her spouse chose to do, she has no control over. And, given that he did, what he did, she didn't really have a choice. Right? I get that. And you know, this is where I really want to pause because the spiritual significance of what you guys are doing, and what you just said, is powerful. So, I want to underline it for everybody. And I want people to memorize that Bible verse because it's a very important Bible verse used to be much more prominent in Catholic subculture and the Catholic culture, that you offer things up, that unavoidable suffering is something we offer up. We accept it, we don't run from every form of suffering, because some suffering is unavoidable, and this is an example of an unavoidable pain that can be turned to good, that can be given to Christ united in the cross and used by Christ in however he thinks best, so it's a very deep kind of spiritual walk that it sounds like from multiple branches of Christianity people are, are cultivating that and clinging to that and understanding and growing within that, but it's completely countercultural, because our culture is telling us to be comfortable, literally at any cost.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Right? And then you think is there something wrong with me If I'm uncomfortable? Of course, you're sad, you're experiencing an injustice, give yourself permission to be sad, give yourself permission to cry, it's not bad if you cry, because some of the things that get on my nerves. It's like, “Well, you know, you didn't get over it. You know, if you're a mentally healthy person, you'd have gotten over it.” And the fact that you won't act like everything's good means that you're not over it yet. The same kind of talk that you talk about, meaning if your spouse dies, and you go through the stages of mourning? When you're done, you're actually done. Well, because divorce is the gift that keeps on giving. You're never done.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

You're not over it, because it's still in your life experience. And if I had been sexually abused by a priest when I was 13, that's wicked and evil. But it happened forty-some years ago. But if I'm divorced, which I am, we still have the kids trying to navigate, well, how do I have a relationship with mom and dad when mom believes this, and dad believes that? and then you bring in the stepparents and the step siblings, and it doesn't end. Then you have a holiday. One of the people in our group was trying to discern, what should he do about his divorce wife? He's a stander and his father died. So, his father died, and he's having a gathering after the funeral, and he's home and he's trying to discern, my wife is saying that she'd be willing to come and not bring her new civil partner, husband, you know? She's willing to come because she feels an affiliation to her father in law. But that's a difficult thing. Yes this woman did this to you and did this to you. And for her to come, it's not clear whether it would be a good thing for her to come or not a good thing to come. People in intact homes don't have to deal with that.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. And discern is the right word, because it isn't immediately obvious what the right answer is, there are all kinds of factors that would play into what's the right answer. In a situation like that.

And you're right, in an intact home, that's not even an issue. You don't have to worry about who gets the tickets to juniors’ graduation, when you only have so many tickets. Which set of grandparents and step grandparents? And it's never ending. And I want to pause and say that to tell people you should get over it, that the culture says the mark of mental health is to get over it. What our culture is really saying to us, the mark of being healthy is to be calloused to certain kinds of pain that people are going through. Right? In other words, if you got over it, that would mean that you're no longer concerned about the fact that this continues to be hard for your kids. Because if you got over it and chose another spouse, or your husband chooses another spouse, and so on. There's still going to be problems for the kids, for you to get over, It doesn't mean they got over it. It doesn't mean those moving around problems all went away. It means you're just not feeling anything about it anymore, because you're moving on with your life. Well, that doesn't strike me as particularly edifying.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Of course, it doesn’t help at large. what about all the people who were calloused about slavery?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

We can just sell people, split up families, we don't care.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right? No, we don't worry about that, the kids will be fine. The kids will be fine. No! they're not fine. They're really not fine.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

So many reasons that are legitimate reasons to separate on a moral perspective?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Well, if my husband had been out committing adultery, repetitively, unapologetically, that is a morally legitimate reason to be separated. My children shouldn't be given scandal by a husband doing that. I'm not saying my husband ever did that. But in the civil forum, it makes things worse, because the court will say the kids have to, if dad wants to, have them go back and forth between homes.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

And if the dad doesn't want to pay as much child support, if he can figure out how to get the kids away from the mom, because he hires expensive lawyers. It's like the civil forums no-fault can do more harm than what it was before they got involved.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes. That's right and exclude the non-offending spouse and put burdens on the non-offending spouse that wouldn't have been there if the state was not involved.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

And I don't see that the secular confused world is going to be pushing to correct this on the short term. And my hope would be that morally grounded people who are Bible believing or Catholics who kind of sense that what we're talking about makes sense, at least amongst ourselves in our own institutions, we could structurally change something.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Right? We could do a little bit better job of what we're dealing with. So Bai, I want to give you a chance to tell people where they can connect with you a little bit more maybe about the services that you offer. This book that you mentioned, I did not realize that you guys were the sole publishers of it, and that you'd had it translated. So, this looks like a winner. Can people connect with you about these, this monthly call that you guys have? Tell people a little about that?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Yeah, I'm just going to jump over to Mary's advocates to where things are in our menu, because the services that Mary's advocates provide are all under Resources. So, in the beginning, we were talking about that true marriage proclamation covenant, that's one of those items there, or a support network. So, if somebody wants to connect to this monthly call, or connect to others who are trying to get groups their own diocese, they can find that there, the book, “The Gift of Self” is there. Then there's things that we do about defending marriage that gets more into if somebody wants to try to invoke canon law or defend their rights in a Canon Law forum. Those are all this stuff is under Resources. There are tons of information under research, and to contact me it's just on the About Us section, find my contact information, my phone number and email address.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That is so stupendous that you'll put your phone number and email address out there.You do that for people.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Never been a problem.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yeah, that's good. That's really good. Are there are diocesan resources, any place that you could recommend? Are there diocese that sponsor these groups, anything like that that's out there?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

The Archdiocese of Minneapolis had had a group for a while. I don't know what the status of that is right now. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia publicizes on the marriage and family office, this is the group that someone could join the phone call. Bishop Morlino, who passed God rest his soul in Madison, Wisconsin, they have this book on their website. He has “The Gift of Self” book on their website, those kinds of things.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Okay. But if I were a marriage and family life coordinator in a in a diocese, starting a group like this is a simple step that we could take, that proclaims by its existence, that this is the church's teaching about marriage and family. That marriage is permanent, marriage is a permanent covenant. And the people who are standing for their marriage are a very powerful witness to that truth. And so, any attention that we can call to those people, I think is something very positive. And I love it that y'all wear your wedding rings. I love it, that you never use the term ex-spouse. Because that term drives me crazy too. Because it's not true. There's no such thing. It’s not like my late husband, you could say my late husband who's dead, that means he's dead. But things like that, they add up and they have an impact that there's something bigger here than my immediate comfort and my immediate pleasure. That we have we have another, another home and other kingdom.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

That's beautiful. Thank You.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Oh, well, Bai do you have any parting words for us?

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

If you know anyone who's in a marriage crisis, do everything you can to encourage them to get the right kind of help.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Yes. Don't be one of those people that says, Oh, honey, you deserve to be happy get out. Unless you really know what's going on. Yeah. Encourage them anyway.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Oh, get out can mean, I have a legitimate reason for temporary separation of spouses. Because I have this serious problem.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right.

Mrs. Bai MacFarlane

Home, is healing and reconciling. The goal is not to run them over and over divorce court.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

That's right. And if you treat the innocent and the guilty in the same way, who benefits from that? The guilty gets off scot free and the innocent, are harmed by doing that kind of thing. So, that's parting word from Bai MacFarlane. If you're a Roman Catholic and you're in a situation where you are being petitioned for an annulment that you do not want, and you want to contest it, and you want to defend your marriage as best you can. And before the tribunal, Bai is a person who can really be a lot of help to you, and whether you're Catholic or not, if you believe in the sanctity of marriage. This aspect of defending marriage is extremely important. And I hope that you'll get in touch with Bai and her network of friends because she's got a number of networks —I think you can tell— networks of Catholics and non-Catholics alike who are committed to the idea of one man, one woman for life. I'm Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute. Thank you so much for being my guest today Bai. And thank you all for watching.


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