Are you a Victim of the Sexual Revolution?

This page helps complete Step 1: We honestly Face and Embrace the Impact of the Sexual Revolution on our lives.

If you are not familiar with the “7 Steps to Sexual Peace,” go here.

Dear Friend,

We have identified twelve categories of people who have been harmed by the Sexual Revolution. This questionnaire explores Child of Divorce. Use this check list to see if you are a Victim of the Sexual Revolution.

Our goal here is not merely to identify Victims. The goal is to help the Victims become Survivors, and the Survivors to become Activists for positive change.

  • Children of Divorce: Children are resilient and can take care of themselves after their parents’ divorces.
  • Were your parents married to each other when you were born?
  • Did they stay married during your childhood?
  • If not, did they marry someone else during your childhood?
  • Were you expected to have a relationship with your parents’ new love interest(s)?
  • Did you live in a shared custody situation that required you to move back and forth between homes on a regular basis?
  • Did your parents treat one another with respect?
  • Did your parents treat each other disrespectfully in front of you and your siblings?
  • Did you ever wonder, in your little mind, if you were to blame for your parents' divorce?
  • Did you ever feel like a leftover, when your parent had a new baby with a new spouse?
  • Did you ever go to family court? Were you asked to testify against one of your parents? Were you ever asked to choose between your parents? Were you ever asked to perjure yourself by one parent against the other in family court?
  • Did your parents’ new love interests ever abuse you?
  • Do you feel that your situation as a Child of Divorce is socially invisible?

Links We Like

Mary's Advocates - particularly helpful for Catholics experiencing an unwanted divorce from a marriage they believe to be valid

The Catholic's Divorce Survival Guide - Especially helpful for Catholics who believe their marriage was not valid


Related Resources

If you are a Child of Divorce, you may benefit from these resources created or compiled by the Ruth Institute.

Primal Loss gives the Children of Divorce a chance to speak, in their own words, about the pain of their parents' divorce(s). If you are still suffering, read this book for insight into what others in similar situations are going through and why. Dr. Morse wrote the forward to this book.


Does Divorce Law Treat Marriage Seriously?

by Ruth Institute Circle of Experts Member, Bill Duncan

This article was first published Nov. 21, 2018, at News Max.

 

Does Divorce Law Treat Marriage Seriously?

The U.S. Supreme Court does not often address divorce. In 1992, the Court specified that the federal courts do not have authority to rule on most divorce cases since the Court’s jurisdiction required a dispute between citizens of different states.

This is not say that the Court has never discussed it, though, because it has and those instances are very instructive.

 


 

In 1888, Justice Stephen J. Field (who had been appointed to the Court by Abraham Lincoln) wrote an opinion in a dispute over the ownership of a land grant in Oregon. Although not required to decide the case, Justice Field described the nature of marriage (and, by implication, the nature of divorce): “it is something more than a mere contract. The consent of the parties is of course essential to its existence, but when the contract to marry is executed by the marriage, a relation between the parties is created which they cannot change. Other contracts may be modified, restricted, or enlarged, or entirely released upon the consent of the parties. Not so with marriage. The relation once formed, the law steps in and holds the parties to various obligations and liabilities.”

In this case, the Court upheld the validity of the divorce in Oregon, holding that the legislature had the authority to grant divorces and, despite some misgivings about the behavior of the ex-husband in the case. This might seem curious to modern readers who are used to divorces in the court system, but this was not always the case.

The United States did not really inherit a practice for granting divorce from England where divorce was rare, granted by Parliament, and most would either have to be granted an annulment or a legal separation. Some of the states adopted the English approach, others allowed courts to grant divorces and others reserved grants of divorce to the legislature. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, legislative divorce had essentially disappeared, but the legislature provided clear standards for the courts considering a petition to divorce.

As a legal historian has noted, these statutes “were never simple, facilitative laws.” Rather, they specified that a spouse would have to demonstrate that there were serious grounds to justify a court in granting the divorce, such as adultery or abuse.

This is consistent with the rationale for legal divorce recognized in the earliest Supreme Court opinion to mention the topic.

In that 1819 case, Chief Justice John Marshall argued that legislative power to grant divorces only allowed an injured spouse to be leave the marriage because the marriage agreement “has been broken by the other.” Crucially, the opinion continues: “When any state legislature shall pass an act annulling all marriage contracts, or allowing either party to annul it, without the consent of the other, it will be time enough to inquire, whether such an act be constitutional.”

Eventually, though, states began to do just that, to allow one party to end the marriage without the consent of the other. This occurred through the no-fault divorce revolution. Now, if one of the spouses wants a divorce, that divorce will be granted even if the other objects and even if there is no serious fault alleged. It is not just that this kind of “no fault” divorce is allowed, it is the formal or de facto law of divorce in every state.

Now divorce is not a legislative or judicial proceeding as much as an administrative procedure, a mere clerical process where a court always says yes as long as someone asks and then the dispute shifts to splitting up property and child custody.

This is a drastic development given the multiple interests affected. Divorce implicates religious considerations for the parties, property rights, time with children, and on and on. A spouse may lose their opportunity to repair a relationship, may lose the ability to live with their children, may have to pay support to a former spouse when they did nothing to end the relationship, may have to sell their home, and much more, all without a finding that they did anything wrong.

This is a matter of simple justice and it corrodes the perception of fairness in our court system. The law must again recognize that marriage is “more than mere contract.” At the very least, a unilateral divorce should not be granted on no-fault grounds. The spouse who objects deserves a fair hearing. That is simple fairness.

Bill Duncan is director of the Center for Family and Society at Sutherland Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

 



Respect Life 2018: Understanding the Sexual Revolution

(October 13, 2018) Dr J is the keynote speaker at the Respect Life Conference in Meriden, Connecticut. She gave two talks; this is the first one, "Understanding the Sexual Revolution," on what the sexual revolution is, its underlying ideologies, and how it moves forward. Stay tuned for her second talk in our regular podcast stream.

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'The Sexual State': How Government and Big Donors Gave Us the Sexual Revolution

By Tyler O'Neil

This article was first published October 4, 2018, at PJMedia.com.

Cover of "The Sexual State" by Jennifer Roback Morse

In 21st century America, sex is all around us: on television, in movies, in classrooms, in politics, and even in churches. Sex permeates our desires, our expectations for relationships, even our identity. The Sexual Revolution goes far beyond the LGBT movement, and it has fundamentally reshaped American society. But few Americans actually grasp exactly where this revolution came from. An explosive new book reveals that government and wealthy donors, rather than impersonal historical forces or newly liberated women, propelled the Sexual Revolution.


"The State bears the greatest responsibility for the toxic sexual culture in which we live," Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute (RI), writes in "The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologues Are Destroying Lives And Why the Church Was Right All Along." She presented five other explanations for the Sexual Revolution, and found each one wanting.

Many have suggested that the Sexual Revolution came about through the inevitable and impersonal "march of history." This view does not work "because it robs us and our forbears of human agency." Even the over-hyped birth control pill "is just an inert piece of technology" that people could decide to use or not use, or use in different ways.

Morse also rebuts the feminist narrative, which suggests that "these changes have been one long string of victories for the benefit and advancement of women." Ironically, the very success of women's liberation "undermines the claim that women have been completely powerless and dominated by the patriarchy throughout all of recorded history." Furthermore, the author argues that "the pro-life movement is dominated by women," suggesting that not all women want more of the Sexual Revolution.

Perhaps the most common explanation for the Sexual Revolution is the "liberationist narrative," which posits that everyone is more free thanks to new sexual norms. This view also cannot explain how age-old oppression was immediately dissolved in one generation, Morse argues.

Furthermore, many people "have become less free, in fact actually oppressed, by the very forces that are supposedly liberating us. The breaking of family bonds has increased the size and scope of the State, including the intrusion of the State into the everyday lives of ordinary people." She mentions college sex tribunals, family courts — which even rule on which schools and churches children can attend — and higher taxes to pay for social workers who manage tough divorces and family breakdown.

Morse also rejects the "over-population narrative," which suggests that "too many people create ecological disaster and economic backwardness," so the State needs to control population through birth control and abortion. Interestingly, advocates of this narrative "haven't been able to adapt the narrative to the changing circumstances of population decline, which the Over-Population Narrative itself helped bring about."

Finally, the author turns to a "steal capitalist narrative," explaining the Sexual Revolution by pointing to the many people who benefit financially from family breakdown. Abortionists, pharmaceutical companies, the fertility industry, pornographers, divorce professionals, family court judges and lawyers, medical professionals who specialize in sexually transmitted diseases, and social workers all perversely benefit from family breakdown, contraception, and abortion.

Even higher education and employers benefit from women choosing to get married later, to go to school and to work, rather than raising a family. Morse claims that employers benefit from easy divorce as well, as women are less able to rely on their husbands to financially support them. She suggests that these factors cement the Sexual Revolution, but they do not explain it.

The author boils the Sexual Revolution down to three basic "ideologies:" the Contraceptive Ideology separates sex from childbearing; the Divorce Ideology separates sex and childbearing from marriage; and the Gender Ideology eliminates the distinctions between men and women that individuals do not explicitly embrace.

"The Sexual Revolution needs the State for one major reason: the premises of the Sexual Revolution are false," Morse declares. "Sex does make babies. Children do need their parents, and therefore marriage is the proper and just context for both sex and childbearing. Men and women are different." The Sexual Revolution requires "reconstructing society" around a rejection of these basic truths, so it involves a great deal of propaganda.

"If you can make people believe Bruce Jenner, the 1976 male Olympic decathlon winner, is a woman, you can make them believe 2 + 2 = 5. If you can make people afraid to say, 'Bruce Jenner is a man,' you can make them afraid to say anything," Morse quips. "The Sexual Revolution is a totalitarian ideology with a blind commitment to the implementation of its tenets, regardless of the human costs."

The book begins with a list of victims of the Sexual Revolution, a topic for a future article. Those victims include children of divorce, spouses who did not want to get divorced, women who waited too long to have children, young women who wanted to abstain from sex, and more. Suffice it to say, the Sexual Revolution has harmed many people.

Morse narrates how the state unleashed the Sexual Revolution, beginning with the Supreme Court contraception case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). The Contraceptive Ideology predated this decision and played a large role in pushing the Court to change the law on contraception.

The author cites liberal attorney Leo Pfeffer and conservative historian Allan Carlson, who agreed that governments will consider contraception necessary once they have established welfare states — in order to prevent the subsidized poor from having children. Tragically, the U.S. government pushed contraception before Griswold, pushing contraception in post-World War II Japan and other foreign countries considered to be U.S. interests.

In the 1960s and 1970s, USAID started pushing contraception and abortion, thinking these "family planning" efforts would help other countries defeat poverty. These policies were also wrapped up with the ugly eugenics movement in America.

In order to downplay the ugly history of eugenics, contraception activists turned to the work of Alfred Kinsey, an academic who claimed that "up to" 67 to 98 percent of American men ha had premarital sex and that 69 percent of American males had at least one experience with a prostitute. His claims were shot down by other researchers, who exposed his shoddy methods. But the Rockefeller Foundation funded his research and sent his crackpot theories mainstream.

Planned Parenthood and its allies enjoyed connections to elites, and helped push the Court in the direction of legalizing contraception for anyone across the country.

Similarly, elite institutions and big donors pushed no-fault divorce, Morse argues. After Ronald Reagan signed the first no-fault divorce law in 1968, the American Law Institute (ALI), founded with support from the Carnegie Foundation, crafted model legislation to insert the state in between husbands and wives — and favor the spouse who wanted a divorce.

The ALI pushed for decriminalizing private sexual acts between consenting adults, a key plank that struck down states' ability to regulate obscene materials and contraception.

By 1974, all but five states had adopted a form of no-fault divorce.

Morse argues that no-fault divorce positions the power of the state on the side of whichever spouse least wants the marriage to continue. This damages spouses who are committed to the marriage, but it also damages children who do not grow up with both of their parents. It also empowers the government, which now mediates between divorced mothers and fathers.

The author argues that the claim "the kids will be all right" is propaganda. She cites the work of Judith Wallerstein, who found that divorce has a long-term impact on children — damaging their prospects for romantic relationships in adulthood. Similarly, the worries about husbands abusing wives are overblown, as studies have shown that women and children are more likely to be abused in cohabiting relationships than in marriage.

Finally, Morse argues that the government and elites pushed the "Gender Ideology" — long before transgender identity went mainstream — in order to encourage women to be "ideal workers:" "a person who never takes time off, is never sick, whose mental and psychological focus is entirely on the job."

"We've built a society around the premise that our educated women must be permitted to time their 1.6 pregnancies right down to the minute when it's most convenient. But convenient for whom? All too often, it means the convenience of the employers, or the interests of the career path, or of those who hold the student debt which the young woman or young couple must pay down," Morse claims.

The author does not lament the fact that women have entered the "managerial class," highly paid professions which do not involve manual labor. She herself is a member of this class. Rather, she suggests that the pressures of work and the benefits of this class enable people to overlook the obvious differences between men and women.

"People who do manual labor aren't deluded for a moment that men and women are interchangeable," Morse quips. For this reason, men are vastly over-represented in the dangerous professions.

Women's involvement in the workforce need not be connected to the Sexual Revolution's Gender Ideology, the author argues. "I claim the right to participate in the labor market as women, not as men in skirts." She suggests that "educated women would be better off if they accepted that their fertility peaks during their twenties and planned their lives around this fact."

Morse lays out a basic life plan: Women should go to college for a liberal education, not a vocational one. They should et married and have kids early, using their higher educations to be involved in educating their kids. "Let your husbands support you. Trust them. Be grateful for them," and when the children are older, go back for an advanced degree and work.

Tragically, activists are pushing on all these issues and more. Morse discusses same-sex marriage in a chapter on the Gender Ideology. She recalls the battle over California's Proposition 8.

"The 'Yes on 8' campaign was arguably the largest grassroots campaign in history," she writes, noting that California's secretary of state website crashed because there were over 5,000 pages of contributors to the campaign. Yet modern "progressives" "took Proposition 8 to court on flimsy pretexts and rich people's money."

After Proposition 8 passed and the people had amended their constitution, California's attorney general refused to defend it. The people's will failed thanks to an effective pocket veto. in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that proponents of ballot initiatives like Proposition 8 could not defend such laws in court, enabling Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) to resume same-sex marriage in the state. Now-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) performed the first same-sex marriage after this ruling.

As with Proposition 8, wealthy liberals continue to push Sexual Revolution issues, particularly abortion and contraception. George Soros and Warren Buffett continue to fund abortion groups, and they use their money to "shape political institutions so they can use the government to recreate the world in their own image and likeness," Morse alleges.

Importantly, the book notes that contraception carries health risks for women, and some studies have shown that hormonal contraception is as likely to cause cancer as smoking. "Smoking has been all but banned, tobacco companies have been sued, and smokers have been socially shunned," Morse writes. "By contrast, the government actively promotes the use of hormonal contraception while the media plays down the risks."

Abortion, often considered an alternative should contraception fail, also carries tremendous health risks to the mother, which medical associations keep secret for political reasons, the author argues. She also notes that wealthy donors funded abortion activists who convinced the Supreme Court to strike down Texas regulations treating abortion clinics like any other medical facility.

"When the people of Texas, acting through their duly elected state legislators, enacted health and safety legislation for abortion clinics, the elites of society knocked it down," Morse declares.

"The Sexual State" makes a compelling case that state power and wealthy elites pushed the Sexual Revolution, and people should fight back. While Morse does address LGBT issues, her book mostly focuses on the negative impacts the Sexual Revolution has had on family life, harming faithful spouses, children of divorce, and many others.

Morse, a Roman Catholic, presents a very Catholic view of these issues and champions the Catholic Church's approach. Her book was ill-fated to release shortly after the sexual abuse scandal broke, but her points still stand.

The book may be too polemical, but it raises important questions about the hidden harms of the Sexual Revolution and who benefits from this humongous social change.

"The Sexual State" is an important book for libertarians to wrestle with, as it presents a compelling case that big government benefits from the Sexual Revolution, and that marriage and family would help weaken the power of the state.


The Sexual State on Morning Glory

(September 5, 2018) Dr J is a guest of Thom Price, Gloria Purvis, and Fr. Bryce Sibley on EWTN's "Morning Glory." They're discussing her newest book, The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church was Right All Along.

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How the State Created the Sexual Revolution

(August 20, 2018) Dr J is once again Al Kresta's guest on his eponymous radio show from Ave Maria. They're discussing Dr. J's new book, The Sexual State, and they also touch on how those ideas connect with the predatory sexual scandal breaking right now in the Catholic Church.

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Finding Wholeness in my Identity as a Daughter of the King

I have been healing from the effects of the sexual revolution for about 30 years now. If you had told me as a 24-year-old that my life would be marked by emotional and spiritual wholeness, that I’d one day celebrate 28 years of marriage and three beautiful daughters, I would have thought you cruel for holding out that kind of promise.

My life up to that point had been overwhelmed by the choices my parents made, which wounded me (divorce, father’s addictions and abandonment, mother’s horrible live-in boyfriend), as well as the destructive choices I started making for myself as a teenager (sexual promiscuity and regular drug/alcohol use). The more I engaged in these behaviors, the worse I felt, and the guilt drove me into evermore destructive choices. My broken family had no religious, moral, or parental guidelines to put limits on my behavior. My mom was completely wrecked by a horrible relationship with a man who I would later find out was a predator. At the tender age of 18 he proposed to me one day during a lunch, complete with a ring and his plan that I would have his babies, but my mom would raise them. This was the man who I had lived in the same house with since 5th grade, and tried to see as a father figure, even though he was never interested in being a father to either my brother or me. It was just one more big crack in my already terribly damaged self-image as a young woman.


I would go on to have lots more hook-ups and drunken, drug filled nights as I moved into my 20’s. But I was getting desperate to understand why I was even on the earth. What purpose could my crappy life even have, and how could I ever hope to be different? I read self-help books thinking that was my answer. It didn’t take long to understand that reading about what was wrong was much easier than fixing it. Those books became a trap for me because I could understand the problems, but knew I was powerless, no matter how many times I determined to start fresh, to get out of the pit I was in.

I was only sure of a few things at that point. I wanted more than anything just to have a family of my own, but I was also committed to never doing to my children what was done to me. It felt like a no-win trap, because I knew in my morally bankrupt lifestyle I would never be a good wife or mother, nor would I ever find a spouse the way I was living. By my early twenties I had become convinced nothing about my life would ever be different, and I would be stuck and alone.

But a kind Christian man would come along in my mother’s life and fall in love with her, though she wasn’t a believer. My brother and I thought she was so desperate for a man that she was willing to settle for a “Bible thumper”! It soon became obvious that he wasn’t like anyone we’d met before. He shared his faith with me, and told me for the very first time in my life that I had a Father in heaven who knew me, loved me, and had a plan for my life. As I listened I was undone. Was it true that the God of the universe really knew me, and not just knew me, but loved me, even the way I was? The offer of salvation, the need to repent of my sins, being washed clean from the stain of sin, and knowing Jesus would be with me always was an offer I could not refuse. (My mom accepted Jesus as well.)

Healing came slowly but steadily as I pressed into living life with Jesus, taking in His Word, surrounding myself with healthy Christian community in a church committed to making mature disciples of Christ. Learning to practice healing prayer where I brought the pain of the past to the cross and Jesus exchanged it for truth and wholeness was, and still is, how I live free in Christ Jesus. The Lord has given me so much more than I could have ever hoped or imagined in this life, the most precious being a deep knowing that I belong to Him.

Submitted by S.


Acton 2018: The Sexual State & the Divorce Ideology

(June 22, 2018) This year's Acton University is coming to a close--this is the last of Dr J's three talks this time around. This year her three talks are all themed "The Sexual State"--they highlight how various ideologies ingrained in our culture are products of and further the aims of the toxic sexual revolution. This is her third and final talk, entitled "The Sexual State and the Divorce Ideology."

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Powerpoint slides from this presentation are also available.


A Closer Look at Divorce & Remarriage

(June 12, 2018) Dr J is once again Sheila Liaugminas' guest on Relevant Radio's "A Closer Look." They're discussing the Ruth Institute's work with the survivors of the sexual revolution, specifically touching on divorce, remarriage, and the effects on children when their parents "move on."

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LAR: The Divorce Ideology

(May 26, 2018) Dr J is one of the speakers at the Asociación LAR México conference in Monterrey, Mexico. Now in their 9th year, the theme this time around is "The Challenges of the Family Today." Dr J gave three talks; this is the second one, on "The Divorce Ideology." Check out our podcast stream for the other two.

Lar, which means "home" in Spanish, is part of the larger IFFD, the International Federation for Family Development.

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Powerpoint slides from this presentation are also available.


 


Dr J on Quest for a Culture of Life in America

(May 15, 2018) Dr J is Steve Koob's guest on his radio show from Radio Maria, "Quest for a Culture of Life in America." They're discussing the Ruth Institute's work exposing the myths and untruths of the sexual revolution as well as this weekend's "Healing Family Breakdown" workshop to be held at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan this Saturday, May 19.

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Dr J on Healing Family Breakdown in Ann Arbor

(May 4, 2018) Dr J is once again Teresa Tomeo's guest on Ave Maria Radio's Catholic Connection. They're discussing Ruth Institute's upcoming "Healing Family Breakdown" workshop on May 19 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Healing Family Breakdown is on May 19, 2018, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Check out our event or find us on Facebook for more information.

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Children falling short in school? Blame parental break-ups

When family life fails, so too do students

Nicole M. King and Bryce J. Christensen

This article was published April 18, 2018, at Mercatornet.com.

 

Educationhas established itself as a god term in progressive circles. Name any problem whatever—from global warming to grade-school bullying—and progressives will begin to genuflect and burn incense before the shrines of education, certain that academe can save us. Their solo fide progressive credo blocks from view the way that educational attainment actually depends on family life. After all, progressive ideology typically rests on a secularized individualism that defines family life as little more than an unfortunate constraint on individual liberty.

Still, from time to time social science unsettles progressives’ faith in education by adducing evidence that when family life fails, so too do students. The latest evidence that academic success depends on strong family life comes from Dutch researchers trying to explain why some students fall short of the educational potential predicted for them by standardized tests. These researchers begin their inquiry supposing that when students do not realize their academic potential, perhaps health problems are to blame. But their study uncovers no evidence implicating health issues as the reason students tumble short of their educational potential. Instead, evidence surfaces clearly identifying parental divorce as a significant reason that students do not realize their potential.


Affiliated with the University of Groningen, Utrecht University, and the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the authors of the new study “recogniz[e] that educational achievement has far-reaching consequences for health later in life,” consequences reflected in data indicating that “in the Netherlands, as in other countries, life expectancy increases with attained level of education.” The researchers accordingly regard it as a matter of “great importance, both for their future socio-economic position and for their later health, that children complete the level of education that matches their abilities (their educational potential).”

But a significant number of Dutch students do not reach their educational potential. Suspecting that “health-related factors” may be a prime reason for such educational shortfalls, the researchers set out hoping to illuminate these factors. By helping public-health officials to identify these findings, the researchers hope that they “may facilitate the development of interventions that create a breakthrough in the vicious circle of poorer health status affecting educational achievement affecting health status later in life.”

To identify the factors preventing students from reaching their potential, the Dutch scholars parse data collected for 1,519 children born in various parts of the Netherlands in 1996-1997 and tracked since then. Naturally, the researchers focus especially on the approximately one in seven (13.6%) of students who have come up short of their academic potential, as measured through standardized testing.

Not surprisingly, the researchers conclude that students manifesting attention disorders and those using alcohol, tobacco, and drugs appear significantly less successful in reaching their educational potential than do peers without such issues. But the researchers themselves may have been surprised that they detect “no evidence that physical health contributes to discrepancies between the potential and attained level of secondary education.” Elaborating, the researchers remark, “None of the indicators of physical health included in the study (general health, number of illness-days in the last 2 months, asthma, regular headaches or migraine, and fatigue) were associated with discrepancies between the [standardized test] score [assessing educational potential] and the level of secondary education actually attended 3 years later.”

Given the amount of attention that bullying has received as a problem in schools, the research findings on this matter likewise may have surprised the researchers. For although the researchers do establish a linkage between students’ being bullied and their falling short of educational potential in their simple two-variable analysis, that linkage falls below the threshold of statistical significance in their multivariable analysis accounting for background variables such as parental education, students’ gender, and students’ substance use.

Keep reading.

10 Minutes for Ruth: BNI Presentation

(March 28, 2017) Dr J gives a brief introduction to the founding and mission of the Ruth Institute at Business Network International's annual dinner. She discusses children's need for their own parents, family structure, California's Prop 8, being labeled a "hate group," and so on.

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Will Cupich “Accompany” Reluctantly Divorced Spouses?

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published March 14, 2018, at Crisis Magazine.

Cardinal Cupich has been holding seminars on implementing Amoris Laetitia. These “New Momentum Conferences” will “provide formative pastoral programs.” I wonder whether these seminars will include anything for reluctantly divorced persons. No one else seems to be doing anything for abandoned spouses. Perhaps Cardinal Cupich and his friends will step up to the plate.

The public, including many Catholics, has the impression that no-fault divorce allows two sensible and mature adult people to agree to end their marriage. We imagine that the state must not interfere in this mutual decision. No one should cry over the spilt milk of a “dead marriage.” Many in the Church tacitly agree.


But setting theology aside, let’s challenge the basic premise of no-fault divorce. What if one person wants a divorce and the other wants to remain married? Dr. Stephen Baskerville, frequent contributor to these pages, made me aware of this possibility in his first book, Taken into Custody. If the spouses do not agree, justice requires adjudication by a neutral party. But on what basis would that neutral party decide which spouse to side with: the spouse who wants the divorce, or the spouse who wants the marriage?

The Grand Divorce Narrative offers no answer. The official ideology of no-fault does not acknowledge that such a case can even exist. And if we add the (highly dubious) claim that “kids are resilient,” then there is no reason for anyone to favor preserving a marriage, even one with children. As for adjudication between the spouse who wants the marriage and the one who wants divorce, forget it. No-fault divorce means the state always sides with the party who wants the marriage the least.

The Grand Divorce Narrative, subtly or not-so-subtly, suggests people who complain about divorce probably did something to bring it on themselves. They need to stop whining and get with the program.

I wish I could tell you whether the abandoned spouses are a misbehaving lot. I wish I could tell you anything systematic about the reluctantly divorced. Unfortunately, all I have is anecdotal information. The people who normally collect and analyze this kind of thing seem to be completely uninterested.

We don’t even know how many reluctantly divorced or abandoned spouses there are.

Here is one snippet. I once bemoaned the fact that we have no data on the number of reluctantly divorced persons. My friend, University of Texas sociology professor, Mark Regnerus chimed in that he had some data on this question in his new book, Cheap Sex.

I checked it out. In Figure 5.2 on page 161, he asked this question of divorced spouses, “who wanted the marriage to end, you, your spouse, or both of you?” Only 24 percent of women and 27 percent of men said, “we both wanted it to end.” In other words, in his survey, over 70 percent of divorces have a reluctant partner.

The CDC reported over 800,000 divorces from 44 states and the District of Columbia in 2016. If 70 percent of those divorces had a reluctant partner, that is over a half million reluctantly divorced people, in a single year. Add that up, year after year for forty years. That is a lot of broken hearts and wounded souls, walking around, socially invisible, and isolated.

Please note: counting reluctantly divorced persons was not the focus of Dr. Regnerus’ study. God bless him, he stumbled across it while studying something else. I don’t know of any other large scale, representative study of this question. This lack of professional and scholarly interest testifies to the power of the Divorce Ideology.

We also know very little of the lived experiences of the reluctantly divorced or abandoned spouses. We do know that divorce doubles a man’s probability of suicide and has essentially no impact on the woman’s chance of suicide. But we don’t really know why. As to spiritual life, we know that children of divorce are less likely to practice any religion. But as far as I know, no one has ever asked how divorce affects the religious commitments of the adults, particularly, one who was divorced against their will. The category, “reluctantly divorced persons” does not even exist in the minds of the scholars who have the expertise to study this sort of thing. After over 40 years of no-fault divorce, I am appalled that we have so little information about the reluctantly divorced or abandoned spouses.

And I might add, I’m also appalled at the lack of pastoral concern for the reluctantly divorced, blameless, or abandoned spouses. In all the uproar over Amoris Laetitia, in all the endless yammering in favor of “accompaniment” and “discernment,” for the divorced and civilly remarried, one can find almost nothing about the spouse of the original union.

I know an abandoned spouse who changed parishes. She couldn’t bear to see her spouse receiving communion with his new cohabiting girlfriend. He evidently “discerned” that this was hunky-dory. The pastor wasn’t much help to my friend. He told her the “people fall out of love,” and that “everyone gets an annulment.” He assumed that my friend was also dating someone else, which she had no intention of doing.

What was this pastor thinking? Why didn’t anyone ensure she feels “fully integrated” into the life of the parish where she and her husband were married?” Will anyone “accompany” abandoned spouses like her? Why is the Church abandoning them to the brutal injustice of the divorce culture?

At least on paper, the Church still holds to the radical teaching of Jesus on the indissolubility of marriage. I hope Cardinal Cupich and his friends pay attention to the reluctantly divorced, though I’m not holding my breath. Catholics, of all people, should be paying special attention to abandoned spouses. Their pain proves that Jesus was right all along.


Freedom Readers: The Government's Duty to Marriage

(March 14, 2018) Dr J is speaking to Freedom Readers, a project of Grove City College's Center for Vision & Values. Her topic is "The Government's Duty to Marriage: A Not-Exclusively Biblical Approach." Check out our podcast stream if you missed yesterday's talk to one of Grove City's classes, and stay tuned for Q&A afterward.

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From Grove City College: The Government's Duty to Marriage

(March 13, 2018) Dr J is speaking to a class of students at Grove City College near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her topic is "The Government's Duty to Marriage: A Not-Exclusively Biblical Approach." Stay tuned for Q&A afterward, and tune in for tomorrow's talk in the same vein to Freedom Readers, a project of the college's Center for Vision & Values.

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Invite Children of Divorce to Cupich’s Amoris Laetitia Seminars

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published February 28, 2017 at Crisis Magazine.

I see where Cardinal Cupich is planning a series of seminars on Amoris Laetitia. According to a letter obtained by the Catholic News Agency, the “New Momentum Conferences on Amoris Laetitia,” will “provide formative pastoral programs.” As someone who has listened to many victims of the Sexual Revolution, I am eager to learn about the “pastoral practice” these seminars will promote. I wonder if they will feature adult children of divorce or unmarried parents among their presenters.

I can still recall the first time a young person came up to me in tears after one of my talks. “This is the first time I have ever heard an adult say that divorce is hard on children.” She went on to describe her father’s intention of entering yet another civil marriage, this time, to a woman in her twenties.

My young friend was twenty-one.


Since that incident, I have heard from many people of all ages, whose parents divorced and remarried. I can remember sitting down to a post-conference dinner with one of the other speakers and his wife. She confided in me that she had run out of the room in the middle of my talk. She couldn’t bear to hear my description of children’s hurt from divorce. My talk stirred up pain from her parents’ divorce.

She was in her sixties.

I don’t see any mention of Leila Miller or Jennifer Johnson among the proposed speakers on the traveling Amoris Laetitia Road Show. Both Mrs. Miller and Ms. Johnson have written poignant works on the experiences of children of divorce. You may imagine what the adult children of divorce have to say about second “marriages.”

Or perhaps you can’t. So, let me tell you: they feel their parents’ selfishness and excuse-making made their childhoods miserable, and continue to cause problems even in adulthood. One anonymous author titled her essay, “How my parents’ divorce ruined holidays and family life forever.”

Perhaps some of the presenters at the Amoris Laetitia gabfests will offer practical tips for what a child, of any age, ought to do when their parents decide they can’t stand each other anymore. Will Cardinal Cupich “accompany” the children of divorce when they see no photos of themselves with both parents, in either of their parents’ homes? Will any of the presenters help the children of divorce “discern” where to direct their anger when their stepfather brings home gifts for his children and his wife, but nothing for them?

I wonder if Cardinal Cupich and his friends will discuss the inequalities that divorce creates among children, and between children and adults. Jennifer Johnson argues passionately that natural marriage and only natural marriage, can create and preserve equality among children, while divorce creates deep and lasting inequalities. Here is just one example:

I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided holidays, and divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “two Christmases” or “two birthdays” in some divorce literature as a way to sugar-coat the vertical inequality. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. When I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. None of the adults in my life had to do any of those things. It was a requirement placed on me that made their lives easier.

No, I suppose they don’t have room for children of divorce and their lived experiences. After all, the seminars are already full of experts on women’s ordination, contraception, non-binary gender, and God knows what else.

Speaking of God: I have an idea that Jesus (remember him?) knows exactly what these children of divorce are going through. He told the apostles “in the beginning, it was not so,” when he instituted that whole one man, one woman, for life, thing. The apostles were freaked out. They thought it was too hard.

I bet Jesus saw the pain a little girl might feel when her mother asked her to be the flower girl in her second wedding. Even as a preschooler, she knew this ceremony meant that her parents would never get back together. She knew she was supposed to be happy for her mother on her special day. She faked it, but her heart was breaking.

Jesus foresaw every painful little incident, like this one:

When I was six or seven, I woke up from a bad dream in the middle of the night. I went looking for my mom but couldn’t find her. I wandered from room to room crying, disoriented and scared. But Mom wasn’t there because I was at Dad’s place, an apartment I went to once a month. My dad couldn’t understand why I wanted my mom so much. Nothing in the apartment was familiar, not even dad. He was hurt because of my longing for my mom, my house, and my own bed, so I did what a lot of children of divorce do: I bottled up my emotions to try to make one of my parents feel better.

Jesus saw how attempts at re-partnering would create a lifetime of difficulties:

At my biological grandma’s funeral, my siblings and I were left out of the family pictures. We watched our cousins treated differently just because their parents had remained married. We stopped getting invited to family reunions. Today I’m a stranger to most of my relatives on my dad’s side because growing up I saw him so little and them even less.

Maybe this sort of thing is why Jesus made such a stink about the indissolubility of marriage.

Perhaps some adult children of divorce will just show up at one of the meetings at Boston College, the University of Notre Dame, or Santa Clara University. I wonder if anyone will let them have a turn at the microphone.

Maybe not. That might be just a little too much “accompanying” and “synodality,” even for Cardinal Cupich.


Even Closer: Healing Family Breakdown

(January 23, 2018) Dr J is once again a guest on Relevant Radio's "A Closer Look." She and Ed Morrissey, who's filling in for Sheila Liaugminas this week, discuss the Ruth Institute's work caring for survivors of the sexual revolution, specifically through our series of Healing Family Breakdown workshops.

Check out our upcoming workshop this Saturday in Kansas City, Kansas: ruthinstitute.org/events/healing-family-breakdown.

The David & Kimberly/narrow escape from abortion video Dr J referenced can be watched here.

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A Closer Look at Healing Family Breakdown

(January 18, 2018) Dr J is once again Sheila Liaugminas' guest on Relevant Radio's "A Closer Look." They're discussing the Ruth Institute's work caring for survivors of the sexual revolution, specifically through our series of Healing Family Breakdown workshops.

Check out our upcoming workshop in Kansas City, Kansas on January 27th--more information over at our website: ruthinstitute.org/events/healing-family-breakdown.

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Healthy Actions and Expectations Before Saying "I Do"

(January 8, 2018) Dr J is speaking with John Rustin on his radio show, Family Policy Matters. The topic is healthy actions and expectations before saying "I do," and they touch on specifics regarding cohabitation, weddings, divorce, and marriage.

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Healing Family Breakdown on The Shepherd's Voice

(January 5, 2018) Dr J is a guest of Archbishop Joseph Naumann on his radio program "The Shepherd's Voice." They're discussing our upcoming Healing Family Breakdown workshop at the Church of the Ascension in Kansas City.

"Healing Family Breakdown" is the morning of Saturday, January 27, at the Church of the Ascension in the Overland Park neighborhood of Kansas City. For more information and registration, check it out on our website: ruthinstitute.org/events/healing-family-breakdown.

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Workshop to offer ways to heal family breakdown

Posted by Marc & Julie Anderson on in Archdiocese, Leaven News

Jennifer Roback Morse will lead the archdiocesan family life office’s “Healing Family Breakdown” spiritual workshop Jan. 27 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.

What part will you play in the future of the family?

It is a question that is on the mind of more than a few Catholic leaders these days, as we see the primary institution of our society fracture under seemingly insurmountable stress.

But the Catholic Church is not the only institution unwilling to throw in the towel on the institution of the family.


The Ruth Institute, founded in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, is a global nonprofit organization aimed at ending family breakdown by energizing survivors of the Sexual Revolution.

And it’s a movement that is coming to the archdiocese next month.

On Jan. 27, the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life will host the institute’s “Healing Family Breakdown” spiritual workshop at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.

The event is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic, and, according to Morse, is meant to accomplish three goals: (1) heal families; (2) help participants prevent family breakdown; and (3) help participants become agents of healing within society at large.

When families attend the workshop, Morse added, something important and life-changing happens to them.

“You realize you and your family are not the only ones,” she said. “For a lot of people, that is huge.”

That realization is an important first step in healing, she said, and is often made manifest to her in a tangible way in the seating arrangement of workshop participants.

“The Holy Spirit has a way of seating people at the table who belong together,” Morse said.

For example, at a past workshop, she witnessed a teenage girl’s perspective change as a result of a conversation she had with a man at her table.

The girl was the daughter of divorced parents. She blamed her father for the situation and did not want anything to do with him.

However, also seated at her table was a divorced man experiencing loneliness as his children would not talk to him. A conversation between the two, Morse said, led the young lady to consider the hurt and loneliness her father might be experiencing, a perspective the teenager had not considered previously.

And that’s just one type of healing and paradigm shift The Ruth Institute is trying to bring about in the world.

On the nonprofit’s website — www.ruthinstitute.org — Morse identifies a dozen different types of survivors of the Sexual Revolution, ranging from children of divorce and of unmarried parents, to a pornography addict or a post-abortive man or woman.

If you recognize yourself, a family member or a friend in one of the 12 survivor descriptions, Morse discourages you from trying to go it alone. Participate in the workshop and begin the healing process, instead.

“We need [survivors’] participation,” she said. “We need you to be witnesses to say the church was right all along [about its teachings on family and sexuality].”

Morse calls survivors “the secret weapon” to restoring the family to its greatness and its rightful place in society.

“All these wounded souls need to speak up,” she said.

“Many people leave the faith over sexual issues,” Morse explained. “I know. I stormed off in a huff.”

But just as people leave the faith over sexual issues, Morse said, countless people later realize the beauty of church teaching and return to the faith.

“I was completely wrong, of course,” she said of her departure from the faith.

Later, by studying the church’s teachings and by watching her adopted and biological children grow, Morse said she realized how much children need their father and mother as well as how much they want their parents.

“That’s how I got interested in the family and how the family fits into society,” said Morse.

As she has watched the family structure in modern society continue to deteriorate, however, Morse is not without hope.

“A lot of what society is trying to do is undoable,” she said. “We believe it is possible to make the family great again.”



Making the Case 2017

(November 11, 2017) We're live at the annual "Making the Case" conference in Houston! Regular listeners know that Dr J is a frequent guest on Todd Wilkin's radio program Issues, Etc.; she also speaks at their annual conference in Houston, Texas. This year her topic is the Sexual Revolution: what it is, what its endgame is, and what we're going to do about it.

The Acton Ideology talks Dr J mentioned are the contraceptive ideology, the divorce ideology, and the gender ideology. You can also find out more about our upcoming training webinar and the book clubs Dr J mentioned.

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Interview with Brenda Baietto, Esq.

Interview with Brenda Baietto, Esq., (left) coauthor with Jennifer Johnson (right) on the American Bar Association Journal article advocating for Family Structure Equality

Dear readers,

I was blessed with an opportunity to coauthor an important article for the American Bar Association Journal regarding the “family structure equality” argument I make in my book, Marriage and Equality.

Brenda Baietto, Esq., of Tampa Mediations, is the lawyer who spearheaded this opportunity. She reached out to me in May. We worked collaboratively to get the article published, and it was published in September. You can read the article here.

I want to introduce Brenda to our Ruth Institute audience. Here is an interview I conducted with her about the article.

Jennifer Johnson (JJ): Tell me about the opportunity you had to write for the ABA Journal. When and how did that opportunity arise?

 


 

Brenda Baietto (BB): This opportunity arose back in May of this year as a result of a very good friend of mine named Florence M. Johnson, Esq who I met in law school and have stayed friends with since.She is an accomplished litigation attorney in Memphis TN, active in her local and state Bars, the national American Bar Association (ABA) and, for the last year or so has headed the Practice Pointers section of the Minority Trial Law Section of Litigation for the ABA.She asked me to consider writing a practice pointer piece on mediation for the target audience of trial lawyers.She wanted to give me an opportunity because she is a generous person and trusted me that I would produce a solid piece.

JJ: Of all the interesting people and legal topics you could have chosen to write with and about, why did you pick me and the "family structure equality" (FSE) that I make in my book?

BB: I picked you and your argument to write about because after reading it I knew you had put to words concepts that had been floating around in my head for some time especially as these concepts relate to family law, specifically divorce.And you were so very authentic.Your personal story has big impact precisely because it is so real.It cuts to the heart.More to it, after the decision in Obergefell [Editor’s note: Obergefell was the Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States], it was becoming more and more common to hear (from potential clients, other attorneys and in continuing legal ed seminars) about the creation and dismantling of new and different family structures and that these new structures have legal protection, deserve legal protection - all this with no discussion about the children other than an underlying belief that when adults are happy so are kids.So the predominant theme I am seeing in my legal community and reading about nationally is to support these new structures strictly based on compassion/sentiment for adult choices.It was surprising to me.

Your topic touched on these issues and I knew I had something to add.It was just a matter of putting it together such that it could fit into what Florence was asking of me.Since it was not going to fit into a practice pointer context, we discussed making it a short article and submitting it for consideration.

JJ: Your insight was to apply the FSE argument to the "best interests of the child standard." Why is that standard a good area to apply the FSE argument?

BB: In the context of divorce law, the best interest of the child standard is something we family lawyers and judges really see as the cornerstone of child custody/timesharing decisions. Judges and lawyers take very seriously their respective roles in determining what exactly is in the best interest of a child and work with a generous spirit to do what they think is “best.”However, the best interest standard traditionally focuses on “factors” that spring from either a previously accepted or “legal” arrangement whether or not the arrangement is “good” in and of itself for the child or from a decision to divorce which is accepted without question.Never are these accepted arrangements or decisions analyzed from a best interest of the child standard and it seems only logical to do so.Jennifer’s article made that easy because it gracefully begs the issue of what is in the best interest of the child and highlights a glaring deficiency in limiting the best interest standard to a sort of “after the fact” analysis.

JJ: What do you foresee as a positive outcome that can happen in the life of a child if a judge relies on the FSE argument?

BB: It is my belief that with rampant no fault divorce as well as the emergence of more and more diverse “family systems,” as they are called, children are being valued more as a commodity and not as human persons with dignity.In surrogacy contract cases, for example, children are property and where a dispute over custody arises between the surrogate and the buyer, many state laws subject the child only to property laws based on the contract and refuse to even entertain a best interest analysis at all.This loss of dignity brings with it the loss of understanding of what is truly in their best interest as humans who are alive in society as children, teens and adults.How we see children’s best interest is part and parcel of how we see the best interest of the family in society.

If judges and lawyers begin relying on the FSE argument several positive outcomes will result:first, society will have to face the very real issues children suffer as a result of no fault divorce and diverse family structures including the grief so many adult children have experienced due to structural inequality.This could very well lead to a renewed interest in natural marriage and a rethinking of the import of children in society; second, the “best interest” standard will broaden and deepen bringing meaningful protections to children who as of now are wholly subject to the whims and desires of adults; third, the legal system will no longer be a wedge between a child and his biological parents blocking a child’s most natural desire to know who he is and creating stressors in the child that he would never dream could happen, i.e. will I marry my sister without realizing it? ; and finally, and so important, children will regain their dignity as humans and not a “thing” that is more and more being viewed only as a byproduct of adult desires.

JJ: Why do you think the Minority Trial Lawyers picked up the article, and not some other group within the ABA Journal?

BB: Because, as I understand better now and did not realize before, my friend Florence is particularly involved with the Minority Trial Lawyer section and she submitted the article directly through that channel. I do think, however, it is a gift that the article is published in the Minority Trial Lawyer Section.The FSE argument is meaningful to minorities when it is part and parcel of an overall understanding of the disproportionate impact of the welfare state on black families followed by the legalization of abortion in 1973 which had and continues to have a devastating effect of the black family. Supporting policies that reverse these programs and encourages a return to the natural triad family will help strengthen inequalities felt by children in the black community and begin to create generations that are more stable.

“According to a recent PEW report, 48% of nonwhites want to get married but say financial instability is the reason they do not.One factor, which must be taken into account, is the disproportionate impact of the welfare state following the civil rights movement. Major welfare programs established in the late 1960s, which required recipients to be unmarried to qualify, followed shortly thereafter by the legalization of abortion in 1973, had a devastating effect on the black family.Data we have today should provoke a sense of urgency to focus policy on reversing the damage done by years of programs that have hurt the very low-income communities they were supposed to help.” From: https://townhall.com/columnists/starparker/2017/09/20/marriage-collapse-white-andblack-n2383765

We need policies that protect life and encourage marriage, ownership and individual responsibility and that includes the FSE argument.

JJ: Is there anything else you want our audience to know about the article?

BB: I want the audience to know that the truths in this article must get out into the world and be discussed.This article is a first step to beginning a dialogue that heretofore was just not done and can focus on real analysis and exchange about the welfare of the family and children. Even more than that, it is about each of us living the truth of the natural family and letting others know that you do so in a spirit of love and devotion to the Lord whose precepts we accept and live out loudly.

 



Diverse Family Structure: Reevaluating the Best-Interests-of-the-Child Standard

by Jennifer Johnson (left) and Brenda A. Baietto, Esq.

This article was first published September 11, 2017, at Americanbar.org.

Due to no-fault divorce and "diverse family structures," children often experience a form of inequality that is largely ignored. With lawyers and judges focused on a liberty that is defined as adults' happiness with their family structure choices, there is little focus on the inequalities these choices create for children. The legal profession readily supports the thinking that a happy adult makes for a happy child, yet we disregard a century of jurisprudence linking the state's interest in natural marriage to children and their formation and the substantial body of literature linking children and communities flourishing with the stable presence within a family of married, biological parents. Nor does the "best interests of the child" standard address this form of structural inequality. Finally, it is only fair to consider the testimonies of the children affected, especially once they are old enough to separate appropriately from their parents, examine their childhoods in an objective manner, and then decide for themselves how fair and just it was.

Family Structure Equality for Children


There is a kind of equality for children that deserves attention. It is called "family structure equality." It is the idea that most children should have the same kind of family structure, one founded on the lifelong marriage of their own married mother and father, also known as natural marriage. This is humanity's anthropological truth, our foundation—preexisting the law of marriage. Diagrammatically, this is represented as an inverted triangle, with the couple's child or children at the third point. This triad, in line with overwhelming social science evidence (both past and present), is the family structure that best ensures equality for children—equality of love, belonging, and security. When the family breaks down or doesn't form according to the triad, the inequalities for children multiply. Here are three ways this happens.

1. Two half-time dads do not equal one full dad. When parents divorce, a child can spend his or her childhood going back and forth between "two homes." If both parents remarry, that child can conceivably have a male father figure in each home. So the child has two half-time dads: a dad and a step-dad. For that child, however, having two half-time dads does not equal having one full-time dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though the child being with each of them half the time would be the same as having one whole dad. But for one of the authors of this article, Jennifer Johnson, who was raised by divorced parents, it was not:

I am not 100 percent sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day when I was about 12 years old. I remember feeling terrible about the messed-up nature of my family, how alone I was in it, and how it was never going to change.

Perhaps I came to this realization because I was an eyewitness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom and my step-dad. I could see that what she had and what I had were two different things. In each home, I needed to pretend that my other parent (and that parent's family) did not exist, meaning they were not welcome. Family photos of other people's whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Group family photos were taken and hung on the walls, but I wasn't in them. I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. While all this was going on for me, I am acknowledging everybody's mother and father and their whole families. But mine was not acknowledged. Thus, I had no real sense of family and home.

Jennifer Johnson, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children (Ruth Institute 2017).

2. Non-triad arrangements. Other types of non-triad arrangements have inequalities as well. Children who are conceived from anonymous gametes must pretend that half of who they are does not exist.

If the parents were raised inside the intact triad, then there is an inequality between the parents and the children because there are two different standards being applied. The child must pretend that half of himself or herself does not exist, while the child's parents do not. A study was conducted in 2010 of young adults who had been conceived through sperm donation. Two-thirds of them agreed with this statement: "My sperm donor is half of who I am." Elizabeth Marquardt et al., My Daddy's Name Is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation (Inst. for Am. Values 2010).

"It's going to be heartbreaking for him (Zachary) to grow up and realise he hasn't got a mummy." Elton John (quoted in Sarah Nathan, "It Will Break My Son's Heart to Realise He Hasn't Got a Mother," Daily Mail, July 15, 2012).

The wedge between a child and the gamete donor represents the legal system. It permanently blocks children from knowing half of their family trees. In some cases, this includes falsifying the child's birth certificate with the social parent's name. Consider the additional stressors these kids endure:

Who is my donor?
Who are my half-siblings?
Will our paths cross?
Will I accidentally marry one of them?

This is an inequality in their family structure that neither their parents nor their peers share, with stressors that their parents and their peers can hardly even imagine.

3. Disenfranchised grief. If a child thinks or feels something about the inequality he or she experiences, the child's thoughts and feelings may not be welcome. To welcome those thoughts and feelings might cast doubt on the structure of the family and call into question the adults' freedom to make those choices. Thus, the child suffers a disenfranchised grief, one not accepted by the wider culture. Part of the healing process for these people is having the freedom to talk about the inequalities without being judged or pathologized. This is a kind of equality that is now denied in the popular culture.

Addressing Adoption
Even if our society agreed with all of this, there would still be a small amount of structural inequality among children. Death, rape, ignorance, and human weakness mean that some family structure inequality will always exist. Adoption serves as a remedy for this kind of inequality because it provides parents to children who need them.

We must distinguish between adoption and other instances where children are not being raised with their own married parents. Anonymous gamete donation, for example, is not analogous to adoption. It is when adults want to become parents and use money and business contracts to create children. Consider the screening process. In adoption, adults are screened. Those who are deemed unfit to be parents are excluded, at least in principle. In anonymous gamete donation, the children are screened. Those deemed unfit to be children are aborted, thrown away as embryos, or permanently frozen. Adults with enough money can be parents using this technology, including those with criminal histories or personality disorders. People with criminal histories and personality disorders can become parents under natural marriage, but they must secure the cooperation of the child's other genetic parent, which mitigates the child's risks.

The Legal Community's Responsibility
The "best interests of the child" standard, which is used where there are custody and time-sharing disputes, focuses on individual "fitness" to parent or what parenting arrangement would benefit a child in the future (or both). It does not address the family structure itself. Nearly all states share a codified list of factors to determine the best interests of the child that serves to remind parents of their parental responsibility to the child—"while marriages and relationships may dissolve, parents are forever." Implicitly, the assumption is that children need "parents," but what that means is untethered from familial structural equality and tied more closely to the freedom of adults to make those choices, regardless of the social science.

St. Pope John Paul II has said that the future of the world passes through the family. If, in that future, our children grow up accustomed to inequality and injustice, what can they pass on to the next generation? Adult children of divorce and other non-triad arrangements are speaking out. It is incumbent on us to review that literature, whether it is the six adult children of gay parents who filed amicus briefs against gay marriage in the Obergefell case or the video by Zach Wahls advocating for his lesbian parents and separately pointing out the joy of having and knowing about a biological sister (a shared sperm donor) or author Jennifer Johnson's testimony about her negative experiences with no-fault divorce. See also Leila Miller's new book, Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak (LCB Publishing 2017).

The legal community is ethically bound to uphold truth and justice for all citizens—adults and children. We have accepted children's inequality as part of the landscape of contractual families that provide unbridled freedom to the adult. Should the legal community reevaluate when to apply the best interest standard? Should it be applied before an adult is given autonomy with a child's family structure? Can a guardian ad litem focus on these inequalities and be a source of education for parents? Are the child's true best interests being sacrificed at the time an alternative family is founded, where that child is without any legal protection? We in the legal community must reevaluate our duty to children when we are involved in the formation and dismantling of families.

Jennifer Johnson is the associate director for the Ruth Institute. She was raised by divorced parents and is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children. Brenda A. Baietto, Esq. is a family law attorney and mediator for Tampa Mediations, LLC, in Tampa, Florida.


Recognizing Propaganda for Divorce

An excerpt from “The Sexual State,” a forthcoming book by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

At the heart of the Divorce Ideology is one simple idea: kids are so resilient that they do not really need their own parents. This idea salves many a guilty conscience over making these choices. This is the idea that allows adults to divorce, remarry, become single parents by choice, and use third party reproduction. This idea allows people to have sex with people they are not married to: they presume the resulting children, (if any) will be fine. They presume that their currently existing children will not mind them taking up with new lovers, forming new households and all the rest. Kids are resilient.

This idea is completely false. All its variants are equally false.

“I can safely abandon the mother of my child, and my child.”

“I can safely kick my child’s father out of the house.”

“As a judge or social worker, I can separate children from their parents, support one blameless parent against the other, and nothing bad will happen.”

“As an academic or journalist, I can safely promote the idea that marriage is unnecessary, probably oppressive, and after all, just a piece of paper.”

“The kids will be better off if I am happy.”


 

It takes a lot of propaganda to maintain the myth that the kids will be fine.

The victims of the Divorce Ideology number in the millions. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by this ideology. All these people need to be silenced to maintain the fiction that the kids will be fine as long as their parents are happy. But over-writing nature on this scale is no small matter. The Revolutionaries need to enlist a lot of social effort, since their ideas do not accord with reality. The True Believers in the Sexual Revolution regard doing the impossible as a high moral duty. They believe themselves entitled to use all available social and political power to achieve their impossible goals. They believe working toward these high moral ends will give meaning to their lives and salvation to society. Since their premises are false and their goals are impossible, they will never be satisfied, no matter how much social change they generate. In fact, since the premises are false, every mistaken step compounds the previous mistaken steps. The True Believer becomes even less happy with every step of the “March of Progress.”

Some of this is masked by the fact that they sometimes have legitimate goals wrapped up inside their ideology. For example, many people agree that increasing women’s participation in higher education and the professions is a good thing. The Sexual Revolutionaries claim credit for every woman who has graduated from college since 1965. But they never stop to assess any collateral damage that their methods may have generated. Nor do they ask whether these legitimate objectives (behind which they hide their Revolutionary agenda) could have been achieved in some other way.

The Sexual Revolution needs the State because it needs enormous amounts of power to accomplish its impossible objectives. This one insight unlocks the key to the whole course of the Sexual Revolution. We are now in a position to see why the Sexual Revolution has morphed into a power grab, why it seems so overwhelming, why it is so seductive, why its propaganda seems so relentless, and why the downhill slide seems to be accelerating.

Propping up this combination of half-truths and flat-out lies requires a lot of propaganda. Every TV sitcom showing the happy fatherless family is part of this effort to remake human nature. Ditto every movie showing jolly blended families. Speaking of, The Huffington Post has a regular feature called “Blended Family Friday.” They describe it this way:

As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life! Want to share your own story? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com.

Most of these accounts are chipper reports from the adult’s point of view. I have not seen too many accounts written from the child’s perspective. The articles tend to downplay the problems, suggesting that with tenacity and determination, these problems can be overcome. This feature outrages my friends who are adult children of divorce. They feel it diminishes the negative experiences they had as children.

The propaganda for the divorce ideology causes real pain to real people. Those who have been harmed by family breakdown feel isolated. “If only my family was cooler and more together, we could be like those people on TV. We would not be having all these problems.” What if you and your family are more common than you believe, and the TV show characters are the unusual ones?

People who have made decisions that result in family breakdown undoubtedly sometimes do so based on the cultural narrative supporting the “freedom to divorce” and “the kids will be fine.” When they discover that all that freedom didn’t make them happy, that the kids really aren’t fine, many of these people feel cheated, like freaks, like outliers. What if the difficulties you encounter are the norm and the TV characters are the freaks?

Every instance of this propaganda victimizes the already-victimized. Besides being hurt by their parents’ divorce, the children of divorce are subjected to the continual claim that they really are all right. And if they are not all right, there is something especially wrong with them. We take them to therapy. We prescribe medication for them. We ask them to deny the reality that is right in front of them. No wonder they are upset. No wonder they have stomach cramps, sleepless nights, psychological problems, and trouble with their school work. The divorce ideology and the propaganda that supports it is crazy-making. Honestly, it is a wonder that so many of the children of divorce do as well as they do. I cannot even imagine what they go through.

I don’t care how often it happens. I don’t care how much propaganda attempts to normalize it. I will never consider it “normal” for children to be asked to do without one of their parents, without a really, really, good reason.

1. “Meet the Blended Families We’ve Featured in the Past” is a montage of 156 stories of stepfamilies. The description quoted in the text appears in the tee-up of each one. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-blended-family-motto-this-mom-swears-by_us_55fb25fce4b0fde8b0cd9012?slideshow=true#gallery/559ee9b3e4b05b1d02900b90/0(Last accessed November 16, 2016.)


Leila Miller on The Catholic Conversation

(August 15, 2017) Leila Miller, author and friend of Ruth, is speaking with Steve and Becky Greene of Immaculate Heart Radio's The Catholic Conversation. They're discussing Primal Loss, Leila's book about adult children navigating experiences related to their parents' divorces and broken families. (Dr J wrote the forward for Primal Loss.)

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Recognizing the rights of children in the fight for marriage

by Leslie Fain

This article was first published at Catholic World Report on July 7, 2017.

In cases of divorce as well as same-sex marriage, our culture is more concerned about sexual happiness for adults than about what happens to kids.

(Left) The Ruth Institute's Jennifer Johnson; (right) the cover of her new book, "Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children"

 

Jennifer Johnson, director of the Ruth Institute’s Children of Divorce Project, is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children, a short book that presents the case for natural marriage based on equality. It is one of two new books by Catholic authors on the subject of divorce and its effects on children; CWR also interviewed Leila Miller, author of Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, about her book.


CWR: In your book you lay out the case that in the fight over same-sex marriage, the arguments most often presented in favor of traditional marriage, although not wrong, did not win the day because they did not appeal to people’s sense of justice. Can you explain?

Jennifer Johnson: Our movement is beset with internal contradictions that worked against us. We tried to make an argument about children by saying things like, “Kids need a mom and a dad.” This is a perfectly true statement, but given our sexually lax culture, it takes too much for granted. For example, from the point of view of the child, what is the difference between the following two scenarios? A child living in “two homes” where the mom and step-dad are in one home, and the dad and step-mom are in the other home; a child living in “two homes” where the mom and lesbian lover are in one home, and the dad and gay step-dad are in the other home.

Both situations fulfill the slogan “Kids need a mom and a dad.” So the complementarity of the sexes is present in the child’s life, at least in principle. So simply saying that “kids need a mom and a dad” does not account for divorce, remarriage, out of wedlock childbearing, and anonymous sperm and egg donation. Why should children raised under those scenarios go along with the argument for complementarity of the sexes when their own experience of complementarity has been diluted or harmed without protest from social conservatives?

CWR: Can you describe the inspiration for developing your argument?

Johnson: I have a devotion to the Holy Family and I pray from time to time for wisdom in defending marriage and the family. One day I was looking at an image of [the Holy Family] and I saw a triangle between all of their heads. And I thought, “Wow, the family structure is a triangle!” There are a lot of details that I explain in my book, but the short version is that I saw how the Sexual Revolution has meant that more and more children are not raised inside of their own “triangle” of mother, father, children. I like being able to use the triangle to explain our argument, since it makes the argument very visual and easy to understand.

CWR: I know we can’t do it justice in this brief interview, but in a nutshell, how does natural marriage uphold structural equality for children?

Johnson: “Structural equality” is a phrase I use to describe what historic Christian sexual ethics provides to children. We don’t have to quote any Bible verses to understand how natural marriage provides a legitimate form of equality for children, and how the inequalities among children multiply when a culture disregards natural marriage and historic Christian sexual ethics. I list a number of structural inequalities in my book drawn from my own life experiences as a child of divorce. For example, there is a structural inequality when it comes to grief. Kids raised outside the marriage of their own mother and father are not permitted to openly grieve that loss. They are required to endorse whatever family arrangement their parents have chosen and are not permitted to feel anything about it other than what the parents want them to feel.

Another form of structural inequality among children who are raised outside the marriage of their own mother and father is that they have to pretend that half of themselves does not exist. For example, a child of divorce must pretend that his mother does not exist when he is in his father’s home, and he has to pretend that his father does not exist while in his mother’s home. In each home, family photos won’t show the child’s full family. This is confusing in its own right, but it gets compounded because the parents don’t have to do that same thing—family photos on display in the home will show the parents mothers and fathers, and those corresponding family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). There is no home where the child’s full family is on display.

Looking at the photos on the walls is a good way to see the kind of dynamic the child is living under.

CWR: You are a child of divorce yourself, more than one time over. There is a poignant scene you paint in your book in which you have the epiphany that your family isn’t like other families. Can you tell us about that?

Johnson: There were two times that I had painful realizations about my family structure, and they are related. The first was when I was 12. I was standing in the driveway at my mom’s home and I had a realization that something was terribly wrong with how my family was structured but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. My mother had remarried and had a new child with this new husband. I could see that what this child had and what I had were two different things.

The other painful realization proved to be the answer to the first one. It was when I saw the triangle between the heads of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, that I mentioned above. I was in my late 40s when this happened. I went home that evening and applied the triangle concept to my situation by drawing it all out. I had no idea what to expect, but ended up being extremely shocked and saddened by what I saw. My family structure was not the simple triangle that I had seen. It looked more like a malformed spider’s web. It was ugly and I felt ashamed of it. Later in the book, I explain the way that God used this image to show me other important things about what the radical Left is doing to marriage and family. So God had a plan, even though at the time I had no idea what it could be.

CWR: In my interview with Leila Miller, she talked about adult children of divorce being afraid to tell their parents how they felt about the divorce. You refer to this as “disenfranchised grief,” another form of inequality. Can you explain this phenomenon?

Johnson: There is a socially-approved divorce narrative that everybody follows. It goes like this, roughly speaking: “Kids are resilient. Babies are blank slates. They don’t care about their family structure. They don’t care if their mother is in bed with somebody who is not their father. They don’t care if their father is in bed with somebody who is not their mother. They don’t mind shuttling back and forth between ‘two homes.’ They don’t mind when their parent spends more time with a new love interest and new children than with them. They don’t care about subsequent divorces. Any problems they have after the divorce are due to their own character flaws or mental disorders, and are thus avoidable or treatable. In no way are post-divorce problems due to the divorce. If you question divorce and remarriage, you will be labeled with a psychiatric disorder.”

This narrative is profoundly anti-science. The social science data is very clear that divorce is a huge problem for children, and it dramatically elevates many risk factors for negative outcomes. [But the narrative is upheld] in the face of the data because our culture is more concerned about sexual happiness for adults than about what happens to kids because of the pursuit of that sort of happiness.

CWR: You write that natural marriage creates structural equality for children. When children are raised without the protection of natural marriage, these inequalities multiply. Can you explain how that happens?

Johnson: I have identified a number of inequalities. Two of them are best described as horizontal inequality and vertical inequality. Horizontal refers to siblings or peers. Vertical refers to parents. When the horizontal form of inequality is present among siblings, they are treated differently from each other with respect to how their family is structured. It is present with half-siblings and step-siblings, not full-blooded siblings. For example, one half-sibling may live in a unified home with both his mother and his father who are married while another half-sibling is living in “two homes.” This was the arrangement that I had as a child.

For the vertical form, it means that parents have created a family structure for their children that is worse and more chaotic than what their parents created for them. For example, the parents may have been raised with their own married parents in a unified home, but as adults they are not raising their children with the children’s other genetic parent, and the children [may be] living in “two homes.” They are treating their children worse in this respect than how their parents treated them.

CWR: Your argument not only applies to children of divorce, but also children of same-sex marriage and third-party reproduction. What are some examples of inequality in those cases?

Johnson: In many respects, the inequalities are similar in all three of those situations; it is what happens when genetic parents reject each other. One genetic parent is excluded from daily life for the child of divorce, the child of same-sex parenting, and the child of third-party reproduction. The child must pretend that this half of himself does not exist, since it is unwelcome. This half of the child’s family won’t be seen in family photos in display in the home.

In the case of third-party reproduction, these kids have some of the same issues that adoptees face, such as wondering who they look like and, by law, not having access to their full genetic family tree. They have the added burden of not knowing how many half-siblings they have, and whether or not they might meet one, date one, or marry one. In this respect, it is actually worse than polygamy. In polygamy, at least the kids know who their half-siblings are.

CWR: Who would benefit from reading Marriage and Equality?

Johnson: I think it is good for anybody interested in family policy issues, anybody raised outside of the marriage of their own mother and father, and anybody who believes that equality is an important ideal.

CWR: Not only are you a child of divorce, but you are also a divorced parent. You write that like post-abortive parents and doctors, those who have participated in family breakdown should realize the harm done, and speak out for positive change. What suggestions do you have for a divorced parent who reads your book, or Miller’s book, and wants to make amends?

Johnson: The child’s other genetic parent is half of who the child is, so always make sure that the child knows that you have not rejected that half of them. If possible, try to make amends with that person and to develop a relationship with them. At an age-appropriate time, ask the child how they feel about the arrangement under which they were raised and make sure they can speak openly and honestly. Be prepared to hear things that you might not like to hear, and always apologize for assuming things that were not true (“Babies are blank slates,” “Kids are resilient,” etc.). Be willing to have the child’s other genetic parent be part of family events and family photos, since they are half of who the child is. Finally, become an advocate for just family structures for children.


The Children of Divorce Speak Out

by Rachel Lu

This article was first published July 18, 2017, at Crisis Magazine.

“As a kid I was always sad and always trying to keep everyone else happy. I felt like I had to be one person when I was with my dad and another when I was with my mom.”

So says an anonymous child of divorce, describing how her parents’ divorce impacted her childhood. She is one of seventy anonymous narrators of Leila Miller’s new book, Primal Loss, which offers first-hand narratives of the experiences of now-grown children of divorce. Together with Jennifer Johnson, author of Marriage and Equality, Miller is working to rejuvenate a national discussion about the devastating impacts that family breakdown can have on the lives of children.


The topic of divorce has been oddly eclipsed in recent years within the public square. Homosexuality, transgenderism, polyamory, and other novelties have become the frontline issues of the culture wars. Divorce is an old topic, which is also less controversial than in days of yore. Once, Americans argued about the impact of divorce on kids, suggesting that childhood “resilience” might make it excusable to prioritize adult relationships. Sociologically, there’s not much disagreement anymore that kids suffer when their families break apart.

Progressive elites have responded to that realization by working to stabilize their own marriages, fashioning a “neo-traditional” arrangement that is overall fairly stable. That pattern isn’t trickling down, however. Less prosperous Americans are far less likely to marry, and considerably more likely to divorce. In general, liberals don’t seem very interested in discussing this reality. They treat it as a sad inevitability, and make little effort to help working-class Americans enjoy the same communal and social benefits that are available to their own children. Regrettably, that trend has extended to the Church itself, where attention has recently been focused on the accommodations that some would like to make for the divorced. Shouldn’t we be devoting more of those energies to saving marriages?

Miller and Johnson think so. Their books potentially offer a fruitful pairing, especially for Catholics with an interest in this general topic. Miller’s book offers an extended look into the experiences of children of divorce, while Johnson explores some of the arguments for why divorce is unjust to children, and a driver of greater inequality in society at large.

The idea behind Primal Loss is quite simple. Miller sent eight questions to seventy different respondents, all the now-grown offspring of married couples who eventually divorced. What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you? Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage? Are children really “resilient”? What do you most want others to know about how divorce affects children? The book compiles their answers.

Both the differences and the similarities are interesting. Some people, despite their loss, have ultimately achieved a healthy perspective on life and (especially) marriage. Others still struggle to establish healthy relationships, with one man saying he has “holes that will never be filled this side of Heaven.” Some respondents are bitter, while others are more circumspect. A few seem to think that one parent was mostly blameless for the divorce, and even that divorce was better for the parents or family in the long run. (Most often that was connected to very severe problems with one parent, who posed a serious physical threat.) A larger number seem to think that the divorce represented a traumatic event in their parents’ lives as well as their own.

Regardless of the specifics, it’s clear that the cost to children is always significant when the two people who created them decide they want nothing more to do with each other.

Some of the saddest episodes in the book come from people whose parents divorced when they were young children, initially unable to understand what was happening. One remembers telling his friends eagerly how, “We’re getting a divorce!” not knowing what that meant. Many were told as children how the divorce would represent an exciting adventure, or a bright new chapter for the family. In reality, these blithe reassurances are just additional demands that divorcing adults too often place on their children. Even as their whole world fractures, we ask kids to pretend that everything is wonderful, to spare their parents from feelings of guilt.

The unfairness of that demand is a major focus of Johnson’s book. Because the natal family is almost a child’s whole world, the rupture that divorce represents is cataclysmic. Nevertheless, adults expect “resilient” children to accommodate themselves to adult needs and interests, moving between homes and avoiding references that would be painful to their parents’. One respondent remembers congratulating his mother warmly at the end of each day when she “didn’t cry.” Another recalls being told that she and her siblings needed to live with her mother instead of her father because her mother “needed them more.” Is it right to make children the support structure for their parents? It often happens after a divorce.

There are a thousand painful details in both of these books, reminding us of what life is actually like for kids experiencing this kind of loss. For children of divorce, holidays and vacations often cease to be occasions of joy, instead becoming fractious reminders of family brokenness. Adults are permitted to fill their houses with pictures of everyone they love, but the children are expected to divide their photographs and memories into two sets, ensuring their parents’ greater comfort. Their own pain becomes a lonely and isolating secret.

Adults often have a variety of options for rebuilding their lives and identities, or at least seeking reassurance and support. For children, family separation gets written into their lives at a much more elemental level, and they have no real choice but to accept this. This is another serious injustice, as Johnson emphasizes again and again.

In both of these books, it’s remarkable and heartbreaking to see how a truth that Christians express in Biblical and even metaphysical terms (“the two shall become one flesh”) is felt in a concrete way in the lives of the descendants of “divided flesh.” For many of them, the natural permanence of marriage is a haunting truth that was etched across their childhood through their parents’ persistent attempts to deny it. On some very deep level, they were asked to build their childhoods around a lie.

Our failure to respond properly to these injustices, Johnson argues, has set the stage for further assaults on the traditional family. It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. The silver lining is that renewed attention to the issue of permanence might yield a whole range of fruits over the longer run. For instance, I have found anecdotally (and studies seems to confirm) that Millennials are extremely sympathetic to same-sex couples wanting to marry, but that they view divorce quite negatively overall. If same-sex couples have difficulty with permanence, that might influence public views of same-sex “marriage” over the long term.

More immediately, though, we should work harder to ensure that parents across the nation understand the grim effects that divorce can have on children. Many do survive the experience and go on to live successful lives, but that’s not a good excuse for forcing children to shoulder the burdens of fractured adult relationships. These two books provide a compelling argument for choosing a better path, in the Church and in our own lives.

 


Contraception & Divorce: Vox Vitae Adults

(July 11, 2017) Live from the adult evening session at this year's Vox Vitae, a pro-life camp in Alhambra, California, Dr J is speaking about contraception, divorce, and the survivors of the sexual revolution. Stay tuned for her second talk on the gender ideology.

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Young Americans Cheat on Spouses Less Often Than Older Americans, Study Finds

By Brandon Showalter, CP Reporter

This article was first posted July 5, 2017, at Christian Post.

Marriage requires more than just the rings and the vows.

Younger Americans are less likely to cheat on their spouses than older Americans are, and although culture has become much more accepting of loose sexual norms, adultery is still viewed with disapproval, according to the social science data.

Writing on the blog of the Institute for Family Studies Wednesday, Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor of family and consumer sciences and sociology at the University of Utah, explained that a notable gap exists between those over 55 and under 55 regarding extramarital sex.

The "adultery taboo" has endured throughout human history, Wolfinger wrote. And the number of Americans who admit to having sex outside of marriage has remained steady over the years, hovering around 16 percent, giving the impression that Americans have basically concluded that extramarital sex is wrong.


Yet, some shocking changes have occurred since the year 2000, he noted: older Americans are cheating more and younger Americans are cheating less.

Wolfinger derived this assessment from the past three decades of data from the General Social Survey which tracks social attitudes about a variety of moral matters. Since 1991, GSS respondents have been asked: "Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?"

"Starting after 2004, Americans over 55 began reporting rates of extramarital sex that were about five or six percentage points higher than were being offered by younger adults. By 2016, 20% of older respondents indicated that their marriages were nominally adulterous, compared to 14% for people under 55," Wolfinger said.

While the majority of Americans are committed to monogamy, "the mounting age difference is noteworthy and statistically significant," he added.

Wolfinger further underscored the role of the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s as a driving factor in shaping the attitudes of people toward sex. For the generation who came of age during the sexual revolution — people who are now in their 50s and 60s — "it's understandable they are more likely to have sex with someone without their spouses," he said. These people are also more likely to have had more sexual partners in their lifetimes than their older or younger peers.

"They may have firsthand experience with 1970s-era experiments with non-monogamy. A few people born in the late 1950s may have had swingers for parents, leading offspring to question taboos surrounding infidelity."

After reaching a peak in 1990, sex among teenagers has fallen significantly, the data shows.

"Collectively, this sexual biography makes it understandable that products of the sexual revolution would be most predisposed to extramarital sex. If people just aged into outside love affairs, presumably as they grew bored of their marital beds, we could expect that the oldest GSS respondents would be the most likely to report extramarital sex," Wolfinger said.

But the data suggests that is not the case. The sexual revolution continues to produce fruit today in the generation who grew up in its wake, he observed.

Although the rate of divorce overall has dropped in the past few decades, "gray divorce," that is, divorce among the middle aged, has seen a surge.

"Part of that story seems to be a corresponding increase in midlife extramarital sex," he said.

Even as increased chatter about "open" marriages and other forms of consensual non-monogamy like polyandry have appeared on the scene, with the declines in extramarital sex observed for younger Americans, "barring any unforeseen developments, we should anticipate a future of more monogamous marriage," Wolfinger said.

Americans by and large "still disapprove of sex outside of wedlock, but we disapprove less strongly than we used to," the scholar noted, suggesting that society is witnessing a growing "sexual inequality."

GSS data also reveals that while some Americans have more sex out of wedlock, others have become even more disapproving.

"Indeed, perhaps some of this disapproval reflects the comparably high rates of extramarital sex 50-somethings and 60-somethings have been observing in their peers."

His analysis seems to comport with the findings in other related studies.

The Christian Post reported in August that contrary to conventional wisdom and a sex-saturated culture, young people are actually not having much sex.

In a study published last year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers Jean M. Twenge, Ryne A. Sherman, and Brooke E. Wells discovered that young people born in the 1990s were "significantly more likely to have no sexual partners" than Gen Xers. The only generation with a higher rate of sexual inactivity than today's 20- to 24-year-olds was the one born in the 1920s when controlled for time period and age.

"I think a lot of them are watching the adults around them and concluding that sex without limits is not making people happy. Parents with multiple marriages and divorces, etc.," said Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse in a statement to CP, suggesting that younger generations were becoming wiser.

 


Divorce Ideology: The Sexual State

(June 22, 2017) This year's Acton University is in full swing! Dr J has been with the program since the beginning. This year her three talks are all themed "The Sexual State"--they highlight how various ideologies ingrained in our culture are products of and further the aims of the toxic sexual revolution. This is her second talk, entitled "The Sexual State and the Divorce Ideology."

Stay tuned for more from Acton, coming right up in our podcast stream. Also check out our Ruth Refuge; Dr J took questions after each talk, and those will be available to listen to from there.

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Powerpoint slides from this presentation are also available.


The psychologist hastily concluded I had "hang ups" about sex

At the age of 52, I recently found myself sitting in my mother's psychologist's office. She went to him most of her adult life, though she died six years ago. I knew her psychologist well since, at the age of 14, I was the one who had sought him out in hopes of acquiring help for my family. My dad attended family therapy once, at which time he stood in frustration, faced his broken family, and proclaimed, "I am an alcoholic and have no intention of changing anything."

After my third divorce, I returned home to the Catholic Church. Then, following a year of devotion to praying my mom's rosary, I felt compelled to approach my parish priest about starting the annulment process. The time had come to confront my painful past, and the healing process was subsequently set in motion. It has not been easy, but necessary.

After Mom passed away, I discovered her own annulment documents. They revealed that my father was a sex addict and described in detail the abuse she had suffered in her marriage. It was overwhelming to realize the puzzle of my past consisted of a myriad of pieces. I think it would have been a relief the day dad chose to walk out of our family had it not been Christmas Eve. He was donning a new shirt and void of regret as he walked right past his wife's brokenness and his children's joyful anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus.


After two years of therapy, I found myself still staring at a mound of puzzle pieces--very few connected. In my desperation, I thought mom's psychologist could help trigger some memories. Within the first ten minutes of our visit, I regretted this decision as he hastily concluded I had "hang ups" about sex since I was in a chaste relationship. He suggested that if we liked each other, we should live together. I remember staring at his degree hanging appropriately lopsided on the wall when it felt as if a bolt of lightning shot through my body, which appeared to have traveled upwards from hell, as I realized this man had influenced my mom. She sought help to better her life, and this is what she got. I was now guilt-ridden, knowing I had brought them together.

This sparked an unwelcome memory of my mom asking me to purchase her a condom. I vividly recollected struggling to process the metamorphosis I was witnessing--she was planning a one night stand. At the time I was married with two small children. Possessing only the life skills acquired on my own, I desperately tried to persuade her to reconsider. What was most upsetting was that she seemed so happy, even giddy, at the prospect. I wondered what had happened to my mom, the one who attended mass and confession and was quite devoted to praying the rosary. Now I knew.

I listened to the psychologist as he recalled this very encounter as my mom had described it to him. "It was liberating," he proclaimed, for her to express herself in this manner after being abused by my dad for so long. She now had control over her sexual being and was free to express her sexuality with confidence and without fear. He assured me it was quite pleasurable for her. I felt sick and was rendered speechless for a moment as I absorbed the shock waves of this most recent traumatic event. I  responded to him by leaning inward and looking directly into his eyes with a resounding, "Seemingly!"

It was time to leave. As I walked out the door, I muttered "hippie" and felt somewhat vindicated.

Submitted by D.W.



Divorce Enablers

(June 14, 2017) Dr J is once again Todd Wilkin's guest on Issues, Etc. Divorce is the topic under their microscope today. Check out Dr J's article from Clash Daily, "Divorce Enablers: The Liberal Fantasy World is Wrecking Children's Lives," linked on our website.

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Dr J on Striker Radio

(June 10, 2017) Dr J is once again a guest of Steve Pauwels on Striker Radio. They're discussing her recent piece over at ClashDaily (where Steve is also an editor), a forward Dr J just wrote for Leila Miller's book about the aftermath of divorce from adult children's perspectives. Leila's book is entitled Primal Loss.

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Divorce never stops being destructive.

Today is June 7th. I found out today that my maternal grandmother died. My mother called to tell me. Mother found out today too. Grandma, my mom's mom, died on May 15, three weeks ago.

My parents are divorced. My dad has been a porn addict since before I was born. I know that contributed to his attitudes about women and the eventual failure of my parents' marriage. Dad is remarried to a woman who had children from a previous marriage. He and his second wife had a child together too. We were strongly coerced to pretend we were all a cohesive family, but it never really took root.

Mom is post-abortive and believes in sexual "freedom." She's been married four times and now lives with a man who has never been her husband. She struggles with depression and has attempted suicide numerous times.

I was close to my grandmother and loved her very much. Despite her death, the saddest, most injuring thing about today is how, even 36 years after their divorce, my parents are still so awful to each other. My brother was my grandmother's power of attorney. He and my dad talk regularly.

I've been shut out of my dad's life because of my decision to have a relationship with my mom and because I told my sister that good Catholics don't cohabitate with their boyfriends. (I have been branded someone who tries to "force their religion" on other people.) I expected not to be told when my grandmother died. Mom is angry. She said, "I don't believe in hell, but I hope your father goes there."

I think attitudes of the sexual revolution led to the demise of my parent's marriage and all the fall out that I still experience. Divorce never stops being destructive.

Submitted by T.K.

DIVORCE ENABLERS: The Liberal Fantasy World Is Wrecking Children’s Lives

This article was published June 3, 2017, at ClashDaily.com.

By Jennifer Roback Morse

The Divorce Ideology is one of the linchpins of the Sexual Revolution. Kids are resilient. Parents who don’t get along do their kids no favor by staying married. Everyone has a right to be happy, which means the right to change sex partners more or less at will. TV sitcoms, movies, academic studies, public policies, “style” sections of newspapers, women’s magazines, therapists and even some clergy claim divorce is harmless to children and beneficial to adults.

Unfortunately, these claims are false. Switching partners around can create chaos in the family. Divorce does not necessarily solve the problems people thought it would solve: the probability of divorce is higher for second marriages than for first marriages. Family law attorneys tell me that managing post-divorce conflict is a major portion of their business. And, most to the point of this book: children do not just get over divorce.

“The kids will get over it.” So say the experts and cheerleaders for divorce. On that basis, many parents end perfectly good marriages that could have been saved with some effort.


Sustaining the Divorce Ideology requires that people don’t ask too many questions, or voice too many objections. According to the Divorce Ideology, no-fault divorce just means that two adults who agree to divorce do not have to go through the elaborate charade of claiming that one party committed adultery.

In reality, many divorces take place against the will of one of the parties. The law takes sides with the party who wants the marriage the least, even if that person has committed adultery. That is how no-fault divorce not only demolished the presumption that marriage is permanent. It also smashed the presumption that marriage is sexually exclusive.

In the Divorce Fantasy World, there are only two choices. Unhappy parents stay miserably married and fight for the rest of their lives. Or, they get divorced and everyone lives happily ever after. The idea that one or both parents should change their behavior doesn’t register as an option. Nor does the idea that the divorce might seriously wound the kids.

In the Divorce Fantasy World, the children are all better off if their parents split than if they stay together. The children are delighted that their parents are happy. They have no ill-feelings about being asked to move every other week, a fate that few adults would willingly endure. Children are ok with calling their mom’s new husband, “dad”, or seeing their dad in bed with another woman. Children have no feelings at all about their family photos being taken down. They never feel jealous of the children of the new union, children who absorb the attention of their parent and new spouse. No, my goodness, no: the children from the original union never feel like leftovers from a previous relationship.

To keep the Fantasy alive, anyone who does not follow the Socially-Approved Divorce Script, must be silenced. This is bad enough for abandoned spouses. But for children of divorce, it is literally a nightmare.

The kids are socially invisible. If they have a problem, we take them to therapy. We put them on medication. But we never admit that maybe the adults should have worked as hard on their marriages as they seem to work on managing their divorce. And we certainly never tell the adults not to remarry.

Even inside the family, the children are not permitted to voice their real feelings. Love inside the family feels fragile: the kids have absorbed the message that people sometimes leave each other, or get kicked out. They may view love as unreliable. Even if children could verbalize their feelings, (which they can’t) they are afraid to risk losing their parents’ love. They don’t want to upset mom or dad.

They learn to silence themselves.

Leila Miller’s book, Primal Loss, gives voice to the adult children of divorce. Their stories are not pretty. This book is significant precisely because it breaks through the layers and layers of pro-divorce propaganda that we all endure in 21st century America.

The cultural elites love the Sexual Revolution and actively promote the Divorce Ideology. They provide a platform for happily-divorced people, jolly blended families and all the rest. They never mention the abandoned spouses or the shattered children. They need all this propaganda because that’s what it takes to convince people that biological bonds don’t matter either to children or adults.

Each parent is half of who the child is. When the parents reject each other, they are rejecting half of the child. They may tell the child, “We still love you: we just don’t love each other.” The child cannot make sense of this impossible contradiction. In my opinion, this is the underlying reason for the well-documented psychological, physiological, and spiritual risks that children of divorce face.

As a society, we are faced with two competing worldviews. The worldview of people of faith is this: Every child has identity rights and relational rights with respect to their parents. When children are deprived of these rights without an inescapable reason, this is an injustice to the child.

And these rights impose legitimate obligations on adults to provide these things to children. We don’t like to say this too loudly because people in our time resist hearing that they have obligations to others that they did not explicitly choose to bear.

The competing worldview is this: Every adult has a right to the sexual activity they want, with a minimum of inconvenience, and children must accept whatever the adults choose to give them. We do not just blurt out that last part because we would be ashamed of ourselves. But that is approximately the position of most of the people in power in most of the so-called developed countries: they believe it is the job of the government to minimize the inconvenience that adults experience from their sex lives.

The Divorce Ideology needs the State because it needs enormous amounts of power to accomplish its impossible objectives. This one insight unlocks the key to the whole course of the Sexual Revolution. We can now see why enforcing divorce has become a power grab on the part of a whole array of businesses and professionals who could be called the Divorce Industrial Complex. We can see why the family-breakdown-is-harmless propaganda seems so relentless, and why the downhill slide into new, more devastating, and more permanent forms of family breakdown seems to be accelerating.

And we can see why silencing the victims and dissenters is essential to its success. Once people start asking questions, or raising objections, the whole fragile structure could come tumbling down.

Because of this systematic silencing of the victims, the next generation of children grows up operating under the very same illusions as their parents. No one ever gets a course-correction.

Leila Miller has done us all a great service by giving a voice to the Children of Divorce. Please read this book. Then share it with friends, family, counselors, teachers, and pastors. Break the silence. Do it for your own family, and for the families of future generations.

This suffering has gone on long enough.

Jennifer Roback Morse Ph.D. is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization, dedicated to creating a Christ-like solution to family breakdown. Visit at www.ruthinstitute.org or facebook.com/TheRuthInstitute/ To hear more from Dr. Morse, sign up for her e-newsletter here and receive a free gift. This article is the Forward to Primal Loss: Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak.


Divorce & Family Structure on "Beyond the Veil"

(June 6, 2017) Dr J and Jennifer Johnson are speaking with Father Thomas Loya of Radio Maria's Beyond the Veil. They're discussing divorce, marriage, and family relationships. Jennifer Johnson's recent booklet, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children, comes up as well.

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Baby Boomer Divorce

(June 5, 2017) Dr J is once again a guest of Drew Mariani on his eponymous show on Relevant Radio. They're discussing divorce in our culture--its ups and downs, what that means, and how people view marriage.

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St. John Bosco's Clergy Appreciation Dinner

(May 23, 2017) Dr J is the speaker at St. John Bosco Catholic Church's annual Clergy Appreciation Dinner in Westlake, Louisiana. Her topic is "What the Ruth Institute Can Do for the Priests and People of St. John Bosco;" she also made a special statement to the children who were present.

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Family diversity and its children: the next equality debate

Changes in marriage and family life result in inequality for children.

by Jennifer Johnson

This article was first published March 14, 2017, at Mercatornet.com.

Marriage, family and sexual equality are subjects that have all been extensively aired. Ironically, the discussion is often led by people who are creating another form of inequality, that foisted upon the children of new versions of the family.

In a special report for the Ruth Institute, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality … for Children, Jennifer Johnson describes her own experience of the inequality of a broken home, and challenges society to face the injustice that children suffer when only adult desires are taken into account. The following are slightly edited excerpts from her essay.

* * * *

I was not raised with my own married parents. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos.

Reflecting on this experience in the light of the “marriage equality” debate I have come to understand better one of the fundamental flaws in the argument for same-sex marriage, and at the same time the flawed arguments for divorce, donor conception, surrogacy and other departures from natural marriage: the inequality these create for children.

I define “natural marriage” as life-long marriage between one man and one woman who are open to procreating their own children through their lovemaking.

Diagrammatically I represent these relationships as an inverted triangle, with the couple’s child or children at the third point of the triangle. This triad, I argue, in line with social science evidence, is the family structure that best ensures equality for children – equality of love, belonging, identity and security.

That’s a type of equality that people don’t talk about so much, but it is real. And there are other equalities that flow out of that one. When the family breaks down or doesn’t form according to the triad, the inequalities for children multiply. Here are three ways this happens.


Two half-time dads do not equal one full dad

When I was growing up, my parents were divorced, so I spent my entire childhood doing the back-and-forth thing between “two homes.” They also both remarried. So in each of those places, I had a male father figure. So I had two half-time dads, a dad and a step-dad.

I was about twelve when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though me being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad.

But it was not.

I am not 100 percent sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day. I also remember feeling terrible about the messed-up nature of my family, how alone I was in it, and how it was never going to change.

Perhaps I came to this realization because I was an eye-witness to what an intact family and a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom and my step-dad. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two very different things.

In each home, I was required to pretend that my other parent (and that parents’ family) did not exist. So while in my mother’s home, I had to pretend that my father and his family did not exist, and while in my father’s home I had to pretend that my mother and her family did not exist.

Family photos of other people’s whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Group family photos were taken and hung on the walls, but I wasn’t in them.

I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “Two Christmases,” or “Two birthdays” in some divorce literature. These are euphemisms. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas Eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. And when I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. Nobody else traveled alone during the holidays to see ex-family members.

Just to show the reality of this, recently my dad’s sister met my step-dad’s brother. Quite innocently, he remarked, “I didn’t know Jim (my dad) had a sister.” Of course. How would he know? My dad had three sisters, but I never talked about them. I think my aunt felt a little slighted, but I had to explain to her that we just never talked about them.

While all of this was going on, I acknowledged everybody’s mother AND father and their whole families.

Missing donor dads and moms

I know there will be some who are tempted to think that my experience is unique to me, but it is not. It is the dynamic of what happens when genetic parents reject each other.

Something similar happens in other non-triad arrangements.

Kids who are conceived from anonymous sperm, or anonymous eggs – as in a single-mom-by-choice household or gay household -- have to pretend that half of who they are does not exist.

If the parents were raised inside the intact triad, then there is an inequality between the parents and the children. There are two different standards being applied. The child must pretend that half of himself does not exist, while the child’s parents don’t have to do the same. The child acknowledges those parents, the grandparents, their aunts and uncles, but one half of that child’s genetic family has been discarded, and is not acknowledged by those same people.

When full family acceptance is a two-way street, that is equality. The parents are treating the kids the same way that the kids treat the parents. Everybody’s full families are acknowledged.

When full family acceptance is a one-way street, that is inequality between the generations. The older generation gets preferential treatment. The younger generation just has to accept whatever acceptance of that other family that the adults “choose” to give, which is zero.

Social bias towards adults’ happiness creates injustice

Not only does the inequality happen on the level of the family, it happens in the wider culture. The child lives under a burden and is not allowed to feel anything negative about the particular family form that was chosen for him. If he feels grief about missing half of himself, it is “disenfranchised grief,” grief that is not acceptable to the wider culture.

Our culture is profoundly concerned about adults and their happiness in their marital, sexual and reproductive choices. But we fail to understand that when we redefine all of those things to expand those choices, the children must live under structural inequalities, double standards and unreciprocated demands.

Adults’ happiness with their family structure choices as adults is more important than their happiness as children regarding those same things.

All of this is going on, even in the face of all the social science data saying that kids fare best with their own married parents.

It is a strange sort of “win-win” for people to be raised with their own married mother and father, then grow up to champion unequal family structures for the next generation, including for their own children.

Our grief about these injustices is not acknowledged, since the injustice itself is not acknowledged. But those of us who experienced it deserve to be healed of our pain, just like everybody else who has pain.

Part of that healing is having the freedom to talk about it without being judged, free to develop language and concepts to understand it better, and free to advocate for policies that will prevent it from happening to others in the future.

That is a kind of equality that we are now denied. While it is true that we can go to therapy for our issues, the entertainment complex, the legal community, and the business community are actually going in the opposite direction. Increasing forms of “family structure diversity,” really means “entrenched disregard for natural marriage and the family founded upon it.”

You can decide who to listen to, but I suggest taking into account those who have actually lived it, as children. Be sure to listen very carefully to what they say.

Jennifer Johnson is Associate Director of the Ruth Institute, a California-based marriage advocacy organization. Marriage and Equality is available in paperback and as a Kindle e-book.


Fighting Against No-Fault Divorce in Texas

Three long years ago, my husband and I separated. The intention was to work on our marriage; I never thought it would turn into divorce.

I know the agony of a broken home. My parents divorced when I was not quite two years old. My mother remarried, but their marriage ended ten years later, just a month before my own wedding. I thought, If this is how marriages turn out, do I ever want to be married? But I also knew that my husband and I were both Christians. No matter what difficulties we would face, we would face them together, I told myself. We married almost 20 years ago.

So, what happened?

In a word: offense. My husband and I did hurtful things out of our own pain and immaturity instead of solving the real problems in our relationship. We can be hurt by others and yet not take up offense. Offense happens when we compare ourselves to one another, instead of in humility comparing ourselves with Christ. We need look no further than the Cross of Christ to see the cost of our own sin, to feel the weight of the price that was paid for our mistakes to be forever removed. Our obligation, having received such a gift, is to give it away, to share it, by forgiving others. No matter how badly I have sinned or been sinned against, it is nothing compared to all my sins put together that Christ had to forgive for me. Should we do anything except fall with our faces to the ground, crying out great thanksgiving to God for His mercy? Having received such a gift, do we owe anything less than complete forgiveness to our brothers and sisters?

The enemy of our souls had fed us a lie, that our situation was hopeless. With Christ, there is no such thing as hopelessness! We got to the point where we told ourselves, I can’t take any more of this. But in hind sight, the pain we experienced then is nothing compared to what we’ve been through since. Oh, how I wish I could go back, put my hands firmly on my own shoulders, look myself in the eyes and say, “STOP. Now. If you go any further, you will experience pain and sorrow that no English words can accurately describe.” I would have dropped all offenses immediately. I would have apologized faster. I would have repented sooner. I would have guarded my mouth with utmost diligence. And I would have realized with great sobriety just how easily divorce can happen in our culture.

Davis and children at the rotunda of the Texas State Capitol Building

 


 

We would do well to heed the Proverb: Anyone who loves to quarrel loves sin; anyone who trusts in high walls invites disaster (17:19, NLT).

Days became weeks, weeks became months, and then that message I’ll never forget: “I want a divorce.” Despite my desire for reconciliation, our family is still facing permanent division. A wise man once told me: divorce is like tearing a tree in two. Trees don’t rip neatly; they tear. If you’ve ever heard a large branch break off a tree, the tearing is loud and violent. To me, ‘divorce’ means “division by force.” Three times now in my life: once as a toddler, once as a grown adult, and now as a wife and mother, divorce has been forced upon me, and there is nothing outside of prayer I can do about it. All three have happened in the state of Texas, and all three under the “no-fault divorce” system put into place before I was even conceived. Forty years of agony. If you’ve been through it, I need not explain how it feels.

Back in January, just a few short months ago, I sat in my attorney’s office working on draft #3 of our divorce decree. I asked my attorney, “At what point can I stand up and say to the judge that I don’t agree with this, that I don’t think our marriage is irreconcilable? Or insupportable?” Her reply, “Well, you can say it at final trial, if the case goes to final trial, but it won’t matter. The judge will still grant the divorce, even if she doesn’t want to. It’s the law.” It all seems so very wrong. Why can a judge who has never met my husband, myself, or our children, agree that our marriage relationship cannot be reconciled and our family healed? Why is this ok, if one of the two parties in this court case disagrees with the “charge” of insupportability, especially the defendant?

About a week after that meeting, however, a friend and mentor of mine shared with me, “Have you heard about this new bill in the Texas House? They are asking for the repeal of no-fault divorce.” I couldn’t believe my ears! You mean, someone is standing up against this decades-old failed social experiment? I looked it up online. I wrote to my Representative. (Did I mention we are a homeschooling family?) And thanks to a homeschooling program called Capitol Days put on by Texas Home School Coalition, I found myself in the state capitol with my four children less than a month later, on my birthday. Though we were tired by the end of the afternoon, we made one more stop and went by the office of the Representative brave enough to author this bill, just to share our story, just to say thank you.

They asked me if I would testify for the bill.

I could not have asked for a better birthday gift! After feeling helpless against divorce for so long, I was given an opportunity to do something about it.

On March 8, I went back to Austin to testify for House Bill 93, authored by Representative Matt Krause. I was overwhelmed, as out of the millions of people who have suffered this tragedy in my state alone, I was among eight in the office that day, ready to stand for marriage with this Bill. The Committee gave me about 3 minutes to tell them what I had waited about 40 years to say: Making divorce easy makes for disaster. The local news asked for an interview. You can view it here.

While I was there, I met another person who had shown up to testify, a constitutional law attorney. He was willing to say that no-fault divorce cases are without due process, and it is therefore unconstitutional to have such a law. He said he would challenge the Legislature’s law right up to the Supreme Court of Texas if he could find someone willing. I knew I had to ask if my case qualified; I was willing.

The attorney and I spoke. We were on a very short court schedule, so getting everything we needed done in such a short time would be difficult. I needed two things: 1) an extension to one court deadline to get all the paperwork for the challenge submitted, and 2) funding for the case to move forward. I only had a few weeks. We asked for a hearing before the judge to see if the deadline could be extended. That hearing was held April 20. The judge granted us the extension, but only for 8 additional days, until April 28th. It was not enough time. After all the effort, my case could not move forward. Even if the House Bill passes, it will not affect our marriage as our case was already filed.

I find myself back where I started: facing unilateral no-fault divorce, with nothing but prayer to help me. I cried. A lot.

But all is not lost! House Bill 93 is alive and moving through the Texas House. You may follow it here. Please contact the House representatives, and let them know you support this bill!

Are you walking through no-fault divorce and would like to use your case to challenge the law? Or maybe you are able to contribute financially toward such an effort? It’s an investment that could affect millions of lives for the better, especially the lives of children! If so, please contact me at nofaultrepeal@gmail.com.

Lastly, please pray for our family. After standing for our marriage for so long, I am nearing my 20-year anniversary; I’ve spent the last three anniversaries without my husband. All four of my children have dealt with various issues because of this divorce. Our case is scheduled for mediation on May 18th, just two weeks away. And yes, I am still believing for a miracle. With God, all things are possible!

Standing with you for marriage,

Kristi Davis


DIVORCE REFORM: Time For Pro-Family Conservatives To Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published at Clash Daily on March 25, 2017.

Representative Matt Krause of Texas has introduced a bill to limit no-fault divorce in that state. it is time to put up or shut up about family breakdown.

The Ruth Institute has a petition that anyone can sign. It just says we support Rep. Krause’s effort to limit no-fault divorce. You do not have to live in Texas to sign it.


Conservatives complain and wring their hands over “losing the culture wars.”

We can’t honestly complain about losing a battle we never even fought.

“Kids need a mom and a dad,” the constant mantra of the pro-marriage movement, is not nearly strong enough. “Kids need their own mom and dad,” is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m sorry to get in your face about this. But children are entitled to a relationship with both parents, unless some unavoidable tragedy takes place to prevent it.

— “I’m tired of your father,” is not an unavoidable tragedy. It is very avoidable.
— “I’m running off to marry my secretary,” is not an unavoidable tragedy. It is a selfish act of injustice to the children of the marriage.

These are the divorces that no-fault protects. When people say, “but we need no-fault divorce because fault is too hard to prove,” adultery and selfishness are sneaking in the backdoor.

Conservative Christians complained about “gay marriage” harming children.

No-fault divorce harms children.

Conservative Christians complained about “gay marriage” being un-Biblical.

No-fault divorce is un-Biblical. See Matthew 19. Don’t whine to me about the so-called “exception clause,” aka “escape hatch big enough to drive a Mac Truck through.”

Why were people against gay marriage? I don’t know about you. But I know why I was. I saw that it would harm children’s legally-recognized rights to have a relationship with both parents.

We at the Ruth Institute were virtually alone in the “Marriage Movement” in arguing this way. And I am pretty sure I know why. Once you say, “Kids have a right to their own parents,” you have to be willing to start talking about divorce, single-parenthood and donor conception. Most of the Marriage Movement bobbed and weaved to avoid these topics.

The Ruth Institute did not. I am grateful to our supporters who have stood by us as we made these arguments. I am not ashamed to say:

— no-fault divorce is an injustice to children.
— single-motherhood by choice is an injustice to children.
— donor conception is an injustice to children.
— gay “marriage” and gay parenting is an injustice to children.

The Gay Lobby accused us of hypocrisy, saying we didn’t really mean it about any of those other topics. We just really hated gay people. Divorce and single-motherhood and all the rest were just window dressing.

Too bad. We talked about children’s rights then. We continue to talk about children’s rights, now, long after the dust has settled on the whole gay “marriage” controversy. We intend to keep talking about it.

What about you? Will you sign our petition, supporting Rep. Krause and his divorce reform?


A Child of Divorce Speaks Out on the Importance of a Family

A Child of Divorce Speaks Out on the Importance of a Family

“No-fault divorce is like abortion,” says the Ruth Institute's Jennifer Johnson.
 
by Jim Graves 
 
This article was first posted April 10, 2017, at ncregister.com.

 

Jennifer Johnson is Director of the Children of Divorce Project at the Ruth Institute. She is an author, whose interests include homeschooling (she homeschooled her three children), children’s rights and family structure issues. She has worked full time with the Ruth Institute since 2010, an organization founded by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse “dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown.”

Johnson’s most recently published work is “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.” She recently talked about divorce and its effect on her life.

What is your own personal experience of divorce?

I have a lot of experience with divorce, far too much to ask of any one person in my opinion. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos. By the time I was about 22, I had experienced three divorces: my own parents’ divorce and my dad’s two subsequent divorces. I am divorced as an adult and there is quite a bit of divorce in the rest of my family.

How did it affect you, and how have you been able to recover?

That is a whole story that I tell in my Special Report, “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children”. The short version is that I did not have a family; I was the lone member of my family. The family experience that I had was shared by no other person. I include diagrams in the report to show what I mean.


That experience taught me to suppress my true thoughts and feelings about the original divorce and the remarriages. That chaotic situation taught me to ignore my own intuitions, taught me that letting my intuitions bubble to the surface of my mind was dangerous. Had I examined and revealed my intuitions about all that to my parents, it would have jeopardized my already-tenuous relationship with them. Learning to ignore my thoughts, feelings and intuitions about things that bothered me made me extremely vulnerable once I became an adult. I joined a cult at the age of 19, had an arranged marriage there, and participated and endorsed some horrific abuse and exploitation of others so that I could fit in and not be thought of as an outsider. The cult appealed to my deep need for belonging, for being a full-fledged member of a family.

Anthropologists have a concept that applies here. It is called “liminality.” Limin is Latin for the threshold of a doorway. The threshold is not one room or the other. It is the in-between place between two rooms, or between the outside of the house and the inside. Liminality is the condition of being between states or statuses. Sometimes it is referred to as being “betwixt and between.” When somebody is in a liminal state, they are no longer what they were and are not yet what they will be. The old rules no longer apply, and the new rules do not apply yet.

When my parents divorced, I ceased to exist as a full-fledged daughter in my family, because my family ceased to exist. I never again entered a full-fledged status with either of them. Their divorce and subsequent remarriages pushed me into a liminal state from which I have never emerged. Joining the cult was my attempt to exit the liminal state, to become initiated as a full-fledged member of a family, even if it was an abusive family.

There have been many studies about the effects of divorce on children. What are some of the findings?

It’s bad. It is worse than the average person wants to realize. Divorce shortens people’s lives. That alone should get people’s attention. Plus it increases the risk factors for addictions, not finishing high school, getting divorced as an adult and losing contact with grandparents. Children of divorce report feeling a lack of empathy from their churches, and don’t go to church as much as kids from intact families.

“No fault” divorce came to California in 1969, and the rest of the country soon after. How do you think divorce has affected society as a whole?

In order to talk about society, we need to talk about the mechanics behind the changes of “no-fault.” No-fault changed an important legal presumption in marriage. A presumption is a starting-point, a place where we say, “Here is where we begin, and we can make adjustments to individual circumstances from this place, but we need a beginning point so we always begin here.” Prior to no-fault, the legal presumption, the legal beginning point, was that marriage is permanent. It was viewed as a truly life-long commitment and the family courts honored this, at least in principle. Of course, there was divorce and separation prior to no-fault, but the presumption of permanence was honored by the courts. In order to get a divorce, that presumption had to be overcome by demonstrating why the marriage had failed. Such circumstances included adultery, addictions and abandonment.

No-fault changed the legal presumption. Now marriage is no longer legally presumed permanent by the family courts. The courts get involved in the minutia of family life at the behest of one spouse. One spouse has the power to harness the family court to destroy the family, like wielding a sledge hammer, and the family courts must comply. They no longer side with the family, giving preference to its legitimate claim on wholeness. They side with the person who wants to destroy the family. If the other spouse wants to keep the family together, that person has no legal remedy. The divorce will be enforced in all cases if one spouse wants it.

In this respect, no-fault divorce is like abortion. That might sound like a dramatic claim, so let me spell it out.

In both cases, the State sides with one person (the pregnant mother, the petitioner in a no-fault divorce action) to uphold or enforce the action that the person wants (the abortion, the no-fault divorce), while simultaneously providing no legal defense for the other person (the unborn child, the respondent in the divorce action). The individual who wants the action (of the abortion or to be divorced) must be “freed” from every restraint that he does not explicitly want. Even if he chose the restraint at a point in the past, if he changes his mind, then the State’s duty is to free him from it if this is what the individual wants.

In February, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput published a book called, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. He makes this same point when he says: “Without the restrains of some higher moral law, democracy instinctively works against natural marriage, traditional families and any other institution that creates bonds and duties among citizens. It insists on the autonomous individual as its ideal.”

Thus, as a society, we believe that the State’s duty to the individual is to annul or at least modify his familial obligations whenever he chooses in order to free him.

I’ve heard it said divorce may be a necessity when “the 3 A’s” are involved: addiction, abuse and adultery. Do you agree?

This is a complex question since it touches on a variety of issues. We can talk about it from the State’s perspective or the perspective of individual families. Taking the State’s perspective, we might ask: what is the State’s role in divorce? Should the State be involved? If so, at what point? I would say that yes, there is a role for the State, but to restore some semblance of justice in divorce we need to restore the legal presumption of permanence. I do not know how that should be done. Should we go back to some sort of fault-based system that relies on “the 3 A’s”? Should we at least eliminate the unilateral aspect of divorce and require both spouses to consent to it? I would say yes to both of those questions.

We can also consider the perspective of individual families. Perhaps somebody reading this article is experiencing one or more of those things right now. It is difficult to give blanket advice since each case is unique. Even so, I have heard many reports about couples who recovered from adultery. For addiction issues, help can be found through groups such as Al-Anon.

The good thing about the old fault-based system is that somebody was legally culpable. This person was then penalized by the courts. This deterred bad behavior. For example, if the child is not living with that person post-divorce, then this makes sense. Children should not be living with addicts or with abuse, especially when their other parent is not there to serve as a buffer.

What might you say to couples with children considering divorce when less serious issues are involved?

That triad of your family matters a great deal. It matters to your children, to all of the people around you, and to your grandchildren and the rest of your posterity. So try harder to work things out. I know you’re tired and you probably want to go find somebody else. But your kids need you there, at home. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your situation will beat the odds for your kids. Are you willing to implicitly tell them that you don’t want to live with them for half of their remaining childhood? Because that is what you will be communicating to them if you split up. Do you want to throw away their sense of being your full-fledged child?

You will continue to have a relationship with your spouse even after the divorce, and you will have less say-so in the lives of your children than you do now. Your ex-spouse might bring undesirable people into your children’s lives, and your children will feel pressure to accept and love those people. Some spouses resort to parental alienation tactics, which means that you run the risk of losing all contact with your children for a very long time.

Please do not make the child live in “two homes.” Do not break up their daily life like that. Consider keeping the family home, letting the children live there full time, and getting a small place nearby that you share with your ex-spouse. Each of you takes turns going back and forth between the family home and the other place. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then please reconsider making your kids do the same. Apply the same standard to your children that you want applied to you.

What help/advice would you offer children of divorced parents to help them recover?

I don’t have any magic words here. Healing is an ongoing process. The first steps were the hardest for me:

  • to acknowledge just how damaging my parents’ divorce was to my sense of self. Their one-flesh union was supposed to be a mirror for me to see myself in a holistic way. Shattering that mirror shattered my ability to see myself and to orient myself within my family and later into society as a young adult.
  • that I was not resilient like the experts said I would be, even though I tried very hard to be.
  • that I really did love that family and miss it terribly to this day.
  • that their divorce and remarriages taught me to lie to myself about how I really felt about it all. Out of fear, and wanting to be accepted, I showed approval even though I did not approve.
  • that learning to lie to myself hamstrung me as a young adult, since by the time I was grown I was totally comfortable with ignoring and distrusting my intuitions. Without my intuitions to help me, this led me into situations that were further damaging.
  • that as an older adult I have had to learn how to trust my intuitions and it is an ongoing process, scary at times.

I recommend my reading my book for more details about all of these concepts, plus many diagrams that make it easy enough for a child to understand.


May I Please Speak to My Daddy?

by Doug Mainwaring at publicdiscourse.com on March 2017.

 

 

This world does not need men to selfishly take whatever we want, especially if the price is the welfare of our children. Our children don’t need superheroes—just quiet, unsung, ordinary, everyday heroes who answer to the name “Daddy.”

When I was taking my first few steps out of the closet in the late 1990s, a guy who called himself Tex offered me a short version of his life story over drinks at a Dupont Circle bar. The conversation took an unanticipated turn: he explained that his current partner had moved halfway across the country, leaving behind an ex-wife and kids. Tex would sometimes answer the house phone (this was before cell phones) and would hear a small voice cautiously ask, “May I please speak to my Daddy?” This was his partner’s eight-year-old daughter calling from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Tex said that it troubled him deeply that his partner’s daughter had to ask permission of a stranger in order to speak with her daddy.

 

 


 

 

When I think of this little girl, my thoughts drift to folks like Alana Newman and others who have anonymous sperm donors for fathers, many of whom have daily asked that same question in their hearts. May I please speak to my Daddy?

When I started speaking out about the dangers of same-sex marriage for children, I found it difficult to get proponents of genderless marriage to engage in intellectually honest one-on-one discussions. Then I realized: at least half the people who wanted to clobber me with bumper sticker slogans were products of broken marriages.

In early 2013, following my participation in a panel discussion, a young man accused me of being unfair to gays, lesbians, and their children. So I took a chance and asked him point blank: “Did your parents divorce when you were a child?”

He was a little stunned by the personal question, but he answered, “Yes.” The smugness left his face.

“Did you live with your mother?”

“Yes.”

“Did you see much of your father?”

“No. I almost never saw him.”

“Did you miss him? Did you wish you could be around him more?”

“Yes. Of course,” he answered, with a bit of wistfulness.

“Did your parents’ divorce increase your happiness—or your sadness?”

“Sadness.”

“So your parents dismantled your home and set up two new structures that put their needs first, not yours. In fact, they were structures guaranteeing your continued unhappiness. You learned to live with it, because as a child you had no control whatsoever over their actions, but these new structures weren’t necessarily built with your best interest in mind.”

“Well, no. I didn’t get to vote on the matter. I was a kid.”

“Exactly. So why would it be different for children of gays and lesbians who are denied either their father or mother? Do you really think two moms or two dads is exactly the same as having both mom and dad around to love and care for you? Seriously? Would having an extra mom around the house really have satisfied you, or would you still have an unanswered yearning in your heart for your Dad?”

“I see.”

“Then why would you want to condemn other children to be fatherless? Or motherless?”

He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it—and then he walked away. I have no idea if he changed his mind, but at least he had finally actually heard and listened to an opposing point of view—one that resonated with him.

As I walked away, I thought to myself, “To be intellectually honest, I can’t keep speaking publicly against the dangers of genderless marriage without also simultaneously speaking about the objective evil of divorce for kids.” Divorce is an exponentially larger, far more pervasive threat to children than the prospect of gays raising children without moms and lesbians raising children without dads. I sighed. There is a lot to undo and set straight.

The Prodigal Dad

After my wife and I had been divorced for a few years, it was not unusual for her to call and ask me to drive to her house because our youngest son was out of control. When I would arrive, I found turmoil. He had gotten angry about something, and that had triggered a rage completely disproportionate to the issue. He would yell and scream and kick, then isolate himself in his bedroom. No trespassers allowed. It was gut-wrenching to witness this. Thankfully, he would calm down after a while and return to normal.

His rage would, in turn, trigger discussions with my ex-wife. What were we going to do about his behavioral problem? Did he require medication? Did he need to be spanked? Did he need psychological help?

After this happened a few times it became abundantly clear to me exactly what he needed. Our son did not have a behavioral problem. He needed just one thing: he needed his parents to get back together and to love each other. The slicing and dicing of our family had thrust unbearable stress on this four-year-old’s tender psyche. His Dad and Mom were the culprits responsible for this, yet we were approaching this as if it were his problem.

Our little boy bore no blame, but I sure did.

Keep reading.

 

 

 


Marriage Equality on The Catholic Conversation

(March 28, 2017) Jennifer Johnson, Ruth Institute's Associate Director, is speaking with Steve and Becky Greene of Immaculate Heart Radio's The Catholic Conversation. They're discussing family structure equality for children and Jennifer's new booklet, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.

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Retreat offers hope and healing for survivors of family breakdown

by Leslie Fain

First posted on Catholic World Report December 29, 2016

Catholic News Service photo

When we think of the “least of these,” whom Jesus exhorted us to defend and aid, several groups easily come to mind: the poor, the unborn, the disabled. One often overlooked group is adult children of family breakdown. The non-profit Ruth Institute is striving to help that group with a new Healing Retreat for Family Breakdown, launched recently in Louisiana.

“There is a wealth of social science data that people can turn to to see what happens to individuals as a result of family breakdown,” said Jennifer Johnson, associate director of the Ruth Institute. “Let’s take one—divorce. We know that children of divorce are more likely to grow up and experience their own divorce as adults, [compared to] kids raised with their own married mother and father. We know that kids of divorce suffer academically in a variety of ways, they lose contact with grandparents, they feel a lack of compassion from their churches. We know that divorced men have a higher rate of suicide than men who’ve never been divorced.”


“Divorce impacts the Church because children of divorce are more likely to be non-religious when they grow up,” Johnson continued. “Family breakdown is expensive for society, since intact families reduce the risks for so many negative outcomes, for both the children and the adults.”

The Healing Family Breakdown Retreat is a half-day program featuring presentations by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, and Johnson, as well as small-group breakout sessions, meditations, and prayers. It debuted in the Diocese of Lake Charles in October to a full house, which included several priests and religious. Thanks to the success of this retreat, the Ruth Institute will offer a second retreat in the diocese in February.

The Healing Family Breakdown Retreat focuses on those who have suffered from various forms of family breakdown, including divorce, growing up with a single parent or cohabitating parents, and third-party reproduction, among others. Participants are encouraged to look at family breakdown from the child’s perspective. The goal, according to remarks made by Morse at the retreat, is to create a “lasting and Christ-like movement to end the agony and injustice of family breakdown.”

Father D.B. Thompson, a priest for the Diocese of Lake Charles and retreat attendee, said outside of this program or private counseling, he has not encountered any services, groups, or retreats for children of divorce, adult or otherwise. He said this was unfortunate, as children tend to be the most impacted group in a divorce.

“Divorce creates a wound in a child’s heart, even an adult child’s heart, because it breaks apart a foundation for that child,” said Thompson, himself an adult child of divorce. As a Catholic priest, he said, he believes ministering to adult children of divorce is important because Christ wants to bring healing to every heart.

Johnson said the pain of family breakdown can be misunderstood by those who haven’t experienced it. “I have reason to believe that many people think silence equals approval,” said Johnson, who herself experienced family breakdown as a child.

“When kids grow up outside an intact family, and they don’t speak out about it, people around them seem to think that the kids’ silence means that they approve of it. I’ve found that speaking about my dismembered natal family has been extraordinarily difficult as it creates a double bind.”

Johnson said she didn’t want to hurt her parents, “so I remained silent as a self-protective mechanism, even though I really needed the freedom to speak to them about how hard it was to live as I did.”

As a result, one challenge Johnson and Morse had in creating the retreat was to pre-emptively tackle any defensive reactions some of those participating might have.

“Much of our legal system and culture is set up to promote a view of freedom that is at odds with family obligations,” said Johnson. “When somebody has been tempted to embrace that view of freedom, and has built their life around it, they can feel defensive when they hear that their ‘freedom’ has negatively impacted other people, in particular their children. At the Ruth Institute we call this ‘the guilty conscience problem,’ since it blocks people from understanding what is happening, from making amends, and from moving on to promoting a more just view of freedom.”

“We don’t want people to feel defensive, and so we make it clear that it’s not entirely the individual’s fault,” Johnson added. “The legal system, culture, and prior family experiences play a role. ‘No man is an island,’ and this adage certainly applies to our issue. Speaking for myself, I am a child of divorce—multiple divorces, in fact—and am also divorced as an adult. It is true that I am culpable to a certain extent, perhaps even a large extent, but it’s also true that the deck was stacked against me, so to speak. I made many mistakes, but in some respects I was doing the best I could with what I had. I’m sure this is true in many, many cases. Nobody needs to feel defensive, but they do need to be willing to see their own role in what happened.”

Johnson said the Ruth Institute is patterning their movement after the pro-life movement. She points out that some of the strongest advocates for life are those women who have had abortions but who now regret it and warn others of the consequences of abortion. Along the same lines, Johnson said the goal of their organization is to educate those who have been affected by the Sexual Revolution so they can find healing and repent of any part they had to play in family breakdown. Then those who have experienced the pain of family breakdown can also help others find healing.

Three phrases were shared with retreat attendees at the beginning of the event: “I am sorry this happened to you”; “You are not alone”; and “This is not all your fault.”

Andrew Casteel, who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood and is an adult child of divorce, said those phrases were the most important things he took away from the retreat. “It’s like an opening conversation we can have with our family,” he said.

Johnson said focusing on the three phrases also helps retreatants to look at their situations more objectively, and less defensively.

Felicia Borel, who works for Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church in Lake Charles, said the retreat helped her see how growing up in a home where there was divorce and remarriage shaped her future. Family breakdown in her childhood led to single parenting, divorce, and remarriage, as well as combining families in her adult life, she said. Family breakdown in childhood “affected choices I made, and that, in turn, affected how I parented my children,” she said. “So, without being able to go back and change the past, how do I help my adult children make better choices?”

Borel said the retreat helped her to understand challenges in her adult children’s lives. “It helped me put things in perspective as far as how I parented them and what’s happening now. It’s easier to begin to work on a relationship with a little bit more knowledge,” she said. “It’s given me a new perspective on how I can approach healing a relationship with an adult child. Knowing the things my adult child is going through, I can see I’ve participated.”

Keep reading.

 



Divorce Reform: Take your stand

by Jennifer Roback Morse

 
Representative Matt Krause of Texas (pictured on left with his family) has introduced a bill to limit no-fault divorce in that state. Ruth Readers: it is time to put up or shut up about family breakdown.

We have a petition that anyone can sign. It just says we support Rep Krause’s effort to limit no-fault divorce. You do not have to live in Texas to sign it.

Conservatives complain and wring their hands over “losing the culture wars.”

We can’t honestly complain about losing a battle we never even fought.


“Kids need a mom and a dad,” the constant mantra of the pro-marriage movement, is not nearly strong enough. “Kids need their own mom and dad,” is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m sorry to get in your face about this. But children are entitled to a relationship with both parents, unless some unavoidable tragedy takes place to prevent it.

  • “I’m tired of your father,” is not an unavoidable tragedy. It is very avoidable.
  • “I’m running off to marry my secretary,” is not an unavoidable tragedy. It is a selfish act of injustice to the children of the marriage.

These are the divorces that no-fault protects. When people say, “but we need no-fault divorce because fault is too hard to prove,” adultery and selfishness are sneaking in the backdoor.

Conservative Christians complained about “gay marriage” harming children.

No-fault divorce harms children.

Conservative Christians complained about “gay marriage” being un-Biblical.

No-fault divorce is un-Biblical. See Matthew 19. Don’t whine to me about the so-called “exception clause,” aka “escape hatch big enough to drive a Mac Truck through.”

Why were people against gay marriage? I don’t know about you. But I know why I was. I saw that it would harm children’s legally-recognized rights to have a relationship with both parents.

We at the Ruth Institute were virtually alone in the “Marriage Movement” in arguing this way. And I am pretty sure I know why. Once you say, “Kids have a right to their own parents,” you have to be willing to start talking about divorce, single-parenthood and donor conception. Most of the Marriage Movement bobbed and weaved to avoid these topics.

The Ruth Institute did not. I am grateful to our supporters who have stood by us as we made these arguments. I am not ashamed to say:

  • no-fault divorce is an injustice to children.
  • single-motherhood by choice is an injustice to children.
  • donor conception is an injustice to children.
  • gay “marriage” and gay parenting is an injustice to children.

The Gay Lobby accused us of hypocrisy, saying we didn’t really mean it about any of those other topics. We just really hated gay people. Divorce and single-motherhood and all the rest were just window dressing.

Too bad. We talked about children’s rights then. We continue to talk about children’s rights, now, long after the dust has settled on the whole gay “marriage” controversy. We intend to keep talking about it.

What about you? Will you sign our petition, supporting Rep. Krause and his divorce reform?



Press Release: 'Go to Confession' Campaign

 

For immediate release:

“Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins! So, go to Confession!” –Ruth Institute President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Ruth Institute launches ‘Go to Confession’ Campaign

(March 14, 2017, Lake Charles, LA) During this season of Lent, The Ruth Institute has launched an online and billboard campaign encouraging people of all faiths to make things right with God. “Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins!” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse stated in announcing the campaign. “That is why have launched a series of billboards and social media messages urging people to go to confession!”


Even in cases where one person has the major responsibility for fracturing the family, all family members can benefit from going to confession. “The injured parties may need help with bitterness, anger, emotional paralysis and many other issues. The grace of confession can help them,” Dr. Morse explained. “And of course, it goes without saying: if you have injured your family through addiction, abuse, adultery or desertion, go to confession. Jesus is waiting for you in the confessional and wants to forgive you. If you can’t tell him, in the person of the priest, that you are sorry, how are you ever going to be able to face your ex-spouse or your children?”

“Our ‘Go to Confession’ campaign reminds people that God is merciful and He will forgive us. What better time than during Lent?” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute said.

The Institute launched a billboard campaign in Lake Charles, LA, with messages: “Jesus is waiting for you,” “Sin makes you stupid,” featuring St. Thomas Aquinas (who loosely said that), and “Party’s over. Go to confession,” with an image of Mardi Gras debris. “Lake Charles is in the heart of Cajun Country, the Catholic buckle on the Bible belt. If we can’t publicly urge people to go to confession here, where can we? And the world desperately needs this encouragement.”

Dr. Morse added. “Guilty consciences make it harder for us to move forward and to resolve the issues caused by our sins, or the bitterness we’ve held onto from the sins of others.” Find the Ruth Institute’s ‘Go to Confession’ images on their website here, here and here.

The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.

Reply to this email if you’d like to interview Dr. Morse further about this unique and beneficial ‘Go to Confession’ campaign.




Abandoned Faith and Family Breakdown

(March 10, 2017) Dr J is once again a guest of Drew Mariani on his eponymous show on Relevant Radio. They're discussing how people leave the faith as a result of family breakdown. Their discussion was sparked by the new book Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home by Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez.

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Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of the Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins


Book Summary, by Bai Macfarlane, posted here.

One quarter of today’s young adults are children of divorce (66) and a book from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute examines anew the nature and meaning of marriage: Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of the Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins.

The book’s back cover blurb shows, “After decades of talk about the rights of adults to get a divorce and the benefits for children of an amicable split between parents (a so-called ‘good divorce’), these authors—theologians, philosophers, political scientists, lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, and cultural critics—effectively unsettle conventional opinion.”


Umpteen studies have concluded that children of divorce are disadvantaged compared to children of married parents. However, Torn Asunder explains that children of divorce are deeply wounded, either parent entering a second marriage does not solve the problems (28). Contributor, Paul Sullins, sociologist, says, “[T]he effect of divorce on a child is best described as a loss of being, an impairment at the level of his or her existence” (38). Moreover, author Andrew Root, who is an associate professor of Youth and Family Ministry, finds “divorce radically changes the way the young people live their lives, because their world has changed;… this sends shockwaves back to her own being”(p. 100). Theologian, Fr. Antonio López, writes, “losing one’s place in being radically puts into question life’s meaning, that is, the unity between oneself, others, the world, and the divine source of all that is” (123).

A child of divorce herself, theologian Lisa Lickona, describes in Torn Asunder the reaction of children of divorce: “I felt that I was being extinguished, that I would fall into that abyss and disappear from the face of the earth. I did the only thing I thought I could do, the thing most children of divorce do. I tried not to think about it.” She describes this self-preservation technique as the “’bubble wrap method’: wrapping and forgetting, keeping one’s memories in check with diversion and distraction” (17). According to modernity, it is natural for the closest relationships between parents, children, and spouses, to be tenuous, explains theologian and the editor of Torn Asunder, Margaret Harper McCarthy. She says, however, that the children of divorce aren’t being convinced.

But nature has a way of rising again, and in a strange ways. … In this light, it is perhaps not so ironic that it is the children of divorce who, on the basis of their ‘experience of deprivation’—and against the many attempts to convince them otherwise—are putting their fingers on something more original—more natural—than the tenuousness between parents and their children. It is they who are putting their fingers on the necessary link between our identity and our origin (in our parents) (218).

With the enactment of no-fault divorce, policy makers rejected the notion that family is the building cell of society, replacing it with both the unhindered freedom of the individual, and the power of the state. In the eyes of the law, marriage—understood as a lifelong union between man and woman for the rearing and education of children—does not exist (135). In his essay tracing the changes in Lutheran theology in the United States, historian, Ryan C. McPherson, points out that, “It is no longer divorce, but rather its condemnation, that is become taboo for all” (148). The family is no longer the fundamental unit of society. “In its place, a swarm of isolated individuals competed, through their attorneys, for rights to property, child custody, and child visitation; … The no-fault revolution has not only severed the lifelong bond between husband and wife but is also ruptured the natural linking between parent and child” (135).

In Torn Asunder, psychologist and founder of The Institute for Marital Healing, Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, explains that counselors themselves cause the problem because marital therapists are known to adopt “the ‘psychological’ view of marriage where the primary obligation is not to one’s spouse and family but to one’s self alone” (56). Another contributing psychologist, Dr. Margaret R. Laracy, says “therapists often assess whether the marriage is working or workable, rather than focusing on marital healing from the start. This pragmatic starting point can leave therapist to support or even recommend a decision to divorce”(193). Not being able to talk together was a reason for filing for divorce in 53 percent of cases, and growing apart was the reason for 55 percent of the cases, according to study cited by Fitzgibbons (55). In his own clinical experience, he reveals, “the conflicts that most often lead to divorce are insecurity and selfishness in husbands and loneliness and selfishness in wives” (55).

Children whose parents divorce for low-conflict reasons, like those aforementioned, are more harmed by divorce than those whose parents had a high-conflict divorce due to serve destructive behaviors (85). The children of the low-conflict divorce are more likely to lose hope in the institution of marriage altogether, because, if their parents—who appear to get along—could not even hold their marriage together, then how could the young people trust the indissolubility of marriage for themselves.

To deter breakups, Fitzgibbons emphasizes the importance of everyone encouraging parties to “grow in the virtue of justice, which consists in the constant and firm decision to give their due to God and neighbor, and in this case spouses and children” (59). He says clergy should remind spouses of their marriage vows, and the need of children for their parent’s stable union (59). Laracy’s chapter is titled “Sacrifice and Happiness: Approaching an Authentic Therapeutic Response to Married Couples in Distress.” She says that therapists themselves also need to be willing to sacrifice, suffering along with clients for a greater good. In describing her own work with couples she says, “Affirming the inextricability of the marriage bond for the good of the spouses called me to forgo the easy path of passive collusion in the breakdown of their marriage.”

Besides the chapter on sacrifice in marriage, there is also a chapter about forgiveness in marriage by psychologist Andrew J. Sodergren. Forgiveness requires humility to acknowledge one’s own pain and empathy toward the offender (170). Sodergren explains stages of forgiveness, one of which is the “work phase:”

This is where the person does the difficult internal work of letting go of anger and hurt and replacing them with goodwill and beneficence toward the offender. Some key aspects of this phase include learning to see the offender and the offense in a new way. It means gaining a more complex, complete, and/or nuanced view that leaves space for the humanity of the offender.

The willingness to forgive is more potent than any evil in the heart of man (171). Forgiveness starts with the decision to forgive and does not require the reconciliation between the offender and the offended.

Torn Asunder pulls together theological, psychological, and sociological findings demonstrating the failure of the current systems of contraception, cohabitation, infidelity, no-fault divorce, and the “marriage-go-round.” The second-to-last chapter is by Jeanne Heffernan Schindler, a research fellow with the Center for Cultural and Pastoral Research at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. She points out, “What is required to counteract the divorce culture, then, is an alternating anthropology, a different vision of man that can serve as the wellspring for a fundamentally different view of marriage, family and political community. Catholicism offers precisely this alternative. Man as Made for Communion.”

See more excerpts from Torn Asunder HERE



Family Structure Equality for Children

(March 3, 2017) Jennifer Johnson, Ruth Institute's Associate Director, is speaking with John Rustin on his radio show, Family Policy Matters. They're discussing family structure equality for children and Jennifer's new booklet, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.

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HEY, LIBERALS: Here’s A Pro-Family Argument Even YOU Might Like

by Jennifer Johnson

Published on March 2, 2017, at clashdaily.com.

This is an image of the Holy Family that I used to keep in my office.

holy-family

I would look at this image from time to time and pray to Jesus for wisdom for defending marriage and the family. One day I was looking at this image and saw a triangle between the head of Jesus, His mother Mary, her husband Joseph, then back to Jesus. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s the family structure! It’s a triangle! It is not only a reflection of the Holy Family, it is a reflection of the Trinity!”


This excited me for a couple reasons. For one thing, I’ve discovered that the average person doesn’t understand what “family structure” or “structural issues” mean. Policy wonks, like me, tend to take for granted what we mean when we use phrases like that. To be able to show the family as a triangle means that the average person now has a simple way to understand what those phrases mean.

I was also excited because I wondered how it would apply to my own childhood.

I had not been raised with my own married parents. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos.

So I went home that night and applied the family triangle to my situation.

I carefully drew it all out, using several pieces of paper. It took me several tries to get everybody to fit onto the page in a way that made sense and was proportional.

As I worked on it, I could tell that it was going to be far more complex than I had ever imagined.

This is what I saw:

chart-1

That’s me, in the bottom center circle.

What do you think? What is your gut response to this?

The first few hours after I finished the drawing were surreal, and I was in a daze.

Seriously, what is this? How was I supposed to navigate this as a child, alone?

In fact, I didn’t navigate it at all. I blocked parts out as time went on, out of necessity. That’s why it was such a shock to see it all there in a two-dimensional way.

One of the first things that stuck out at me was how ugly it is. It looked like a malformed spider’s web.

It was not pretty like the simple triangle I had seen.

I had a flood of emotions come over me, as it brought back memories of people that left my life due to divorce, so I was supposed to have forgotten them when that happened.

My initial excitement had turned to tears of sadness.

And so I cried, a lot at first.

As time went on, I became angry at God for showing this to me. I couldn’t understand why He would make me feel old pain like that. Why bring it all up again? Why have this ugly family structure burned into my mind now? Wasn’t I better off just burying it all in the back of my mind, as if it never happened? The diagram made me feel ashamed. It was always very difficult to have so many different adults and new family members to reckon with constantly, and I didn’t like having them thrust into my face again all at once.

Is it safe for me to say that I just wanted my own family? MY family, MY triad, MY home?

Social conservatives believe in equality for children, because they believe in this for every child:

chart-2

When every child has this, without the extraneous people as I had, it is a form of equality.

The problem with this argument is that conservatives are not drawn to it. Equality is not a primary ideal in conservatism. But if we stop to think about it, I think it is fair to say that our recent loss over same-sex marriage may have been because our argument did not appeal to people’s sense of fairness. The appeal to equality was an appeal to fairness, after all.

Let’s consider the pro-life movement and see if there is something there that can help us. Crux.com recently published some interesting remarks by Daniel K. Williams, author of Defenders of the Unborn and associate professor of history at the University of West Georgia. He makes the argument that the pro-life movement started as a liberal movement based on social justice and human rights. He believes that the movement gains vitality and appeal when its proponents frame the issue using liberal values.

I discovered that we can do the same thing. We can embrace the liberal value of equality. The ancient Christian teachings on sex and marriage means that every child is to be raised with his or her own married mother and father, except for an unavoidable tragedy.

That’s a type of equality that people don’t talk about, but it is real. And there are other equalities that flow out of that one. When the family breaks down or doesn’t form according to the triad, inequalities for children multiply. I think it is exciting to see that this form of equality has been the flip-side of the ancient Christian teaching on marriage and sex all along.

You can learn more about this form of equality, and about the inequalities children face who were not raised with their own married parents. Go to the Ruth Institute website and order my new Special Report, called, “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.” It includes stories and easy-to-understand diagrams that will help you reopen this discussion with your friends and family members who may believe in same-sex marriage.

By embracing the liberal value of equality we can show people that we hold an ideal that they care about. This may help them listen to what we are saying. After all, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Go here to order this Special Report now:

http://www.ruthinstitute.org/store/pamphlets-and-booklets/marriage-and-equality

I don’t want to give away too much, but remember how I said I cried when I drew the diagram of my family structure? If you order the report, you read the story of how God worked that out for good.


Watching home videos from before the divorce is heartbreaking.

My dad divorced my mom after 26 years and eight kids. He subsequently married three more times. I was out of college when my parents divorced and so was least affected. I've heard that divorce is the suicide of the family. I have to agree.  I'm 50 and not married. I'm a marginal Catholic. My youngest sister became a Marxist in college. She has two kids from different men and will likely continue this trend. She was four at the time of my parent's divorce. My youngest brother was nine. He still lives rent free with my mom and verbally abuses her. My sister says he is a heroin addict. These two were so beautiful and innocent before. Watching home videos of them before the divorce is heartbreaking.

Submitted by B. B.


A Closer Look at National Marriage Week 2017

(February 8, 2017) Dr J is once again Sheila Liaugminas' guest on Relevant Radio's A Closer Look. They're discussing matters of the heart during National Marriage Week: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person, marriage, the effects of divorce on children, government and cultural pressures, and more.

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How to marry the right person

Five tips to get you started on the path to a happy marriage.

 
This article was first posted November 25, 2016, at Mercatornet.com.
 

If you are a take-your-vows-seriously type of person and believe in “till death do us part,” your life will be much simpler if you marry the right person to begin with. For some this seems a difficult task. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. If you’re dating someone to the point where things have crossed over that indefinable line into a “serious relationship,” stop and ask yourself if this is someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Can you see this person as the mother or father of your children? If not, why are you wasting your time? Don’t put off the inevitable. It will only be harder later on for both of you. Meanwhile, the person who is right for you is out there still, waiting to meet that wonderfulness that is you. Or perhaps you already know him or her, but you’ve just been unavailable. Don’t stay with someone who isn’t right for you out of fear of being alone. Instead, get yourself one step closer to lifelong happiness—with the right person.

2. Ask the opinion of your mom or best friend


when it comes to your relationship with this person. They know you better than anyone and have an outsider’s view of your relationship. Does that person think you two are a good match? Do they like your significant other? If not, why? The tricky part here is to be open to the other person’s objective opinion. You may be filled with warm fuzzies just at the thought of this person, but those feelings will not last and will not sustain a marriage. There needs to be something backing the emotion. A person on the outside can see if your relationship has substance. Listen to that person.

3. Discuss children, finances, and in-law involvement. These are all issues that can cause conflict later on. If you truly love this person, learn to compromise. If you’re truly right for each other, you will agree on important areas such as these. If one of you wants seven kids and the other wants zero—you’ve most likely got a deal breaker. If one of you is a penny pincher and the other a spend-thrift, you may have conflict in your future life together. If one of you wants your mom essentially to live with you, while the other thinks a week-long visit every five years is sufficient, you’d best work that out now. Men, especially, have trouble saying no to their mother, but once the ring is on your finger, gentlemen, your wife becomes the most important woman in your life. She takes precedence. Your mom will need to understand that.

4. Once you’re engaged, take the marriage preparation seriously. Listen to the experts whose mission is to help you be sure you’re making the right decision and to have the best marriage possible. Engaged couples break up. It happens all the time, but better now than years, and children, down the road. Are there any nagging issues that you’ve been repeatedly pushing to the background or rationalizing away? Do you think he or she will eventually change, or that the grace from the sacrament of matrimony will fix everything? If that’s what you’re hoping for, you should know that it doesn’t work that way. Use this as a test: when you haven’t seen the other person for an extended amount of time, how do you feel when you do see him or her again? Does your heart sing or does it flop? Does it feel nothing at all? Take a hard, honest look at how you truly feel about this person. And do it now before it’s too late.

And finally and most importantly, if you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s when it comes to all the tips above, don’t blow it now by moving in together before the wedding. Cohabitation greatly increases your chances of divorce. What you don’t realize, and what society doesn’t tell you, is that living together means you don’t fully trust each other. “Playing house” is a mere rehearsal for those who don’t love or trust each other enough to do things right the first time. Instead, it’s using one another.

Real love cares about doing things right, in the right order. If you really love one another, and want to be together for the rest of your lives, don’t sabotage your future now. What’s waiting a few more months when you have a lifetime ahead of you? If you don’t believe me, keep this in mind: research by the National Marriage Project showed that “no positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found,” and if you take the time to look, you’ll find lots of research stating the pitfalls of cohabitation—the stuff no one dares to talk about even though the evidence is overwhelming. Think you can beat the odds? So does everyone else. What makes you any different from them?

Remember that love is doing the right thing for the sake of the other person’s happiness and well-being, even, and especially, when it’s inconvenient to you. That may mean making the hard decision to break things off, or to wait to live together even though society may mock and misunderstand you. The greatest reward, a lifetime of married happiness, belongs to those who do the difficult, but honest and selfless acts. Best of luck to you!

Betsy Kerekes is Director of Online Publications at the Ruth Institute and co-author with Dr Jennifer Roback Morse of a new book: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do.


Jennifer Johnson on Marriage and Equality

(January 30, 2017) Jennifer Johnson is once again Molly Smith's guest on From the Median. They're discussing her just-released book, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children. They also touch on the general interrelatedness of the marriage and life issues.

Jennifer's book can be found at our store in several formats--check it out!

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Man Woman Marriage Creates Equality for children (in more ways than one!)

Marriage and Equality – How natural marriage promotes equality for children

By Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director, the Ruth Institute

“Gay marriage” supporters aren’t the only ones who care about equality. The ancient Christian teachings on sex and marriage ensure that every child is raised with his or her own married mother and father, except for an unavoidable tragedy. That’s a kind of equality people don’t talk about. And we need to talk more about it.

 

I have observed three ways that natural marriage upholds equality for children.

First way:

Every child lives with his own married mother and father in a unified home, except for an unavoidable tragedy.

The Christian teaching on marriage and sex creates “structural” equality among children—they’re all with their own parents. None of them are shuttling back and forth between “two homes.” None of them have had a genetic parent/family severed from them due to being conceived as a result of anonymous sperm or egg donation. None of them have birth records that have been falsified to accommodate a non-genetic parent’s wishes.

I first saw this form of equality one day when talking to Dr. Morse about her childhood. I asked her, “How many kids had divorced parents when you were young?” She said that she could think of one. So my mind pictured the playground, with her and all her schoolmates on it. I imagined each of them with a diagram of their family structure above their heads, in a little bubble like a cartoon. All of the kids had an intact family, except for one.


Second way:

The acceptance of all family members should be a two-way street between parents and their children.

Natural marriage creates equality between the generations. Let me use an anecdote from my own life to illustrate what I mean.

When I was growing up, my parents were divorced, so I spent my entire childhood doing the back-and-forth thing between “two homes.” They also both remarried. So, in each of those places, I had a male father figure. So, I had two half-time dads, a dad, and a step-dad.

I was about twelve or so when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though me being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad.

But it was not.

I am not 100% sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember consciously thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day. It might have been because I was an eye-witness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom, and my step-dad. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two very different things.

Family photos of other people’s whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Family photos were taken, but not with me in them.

I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “Two Christmases,” or “Two birthdays” in some divorce literature. These are euphemisms. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas Eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. And when I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. Nobody else had to do that.

Third way:

Everybody’s pain and grief caused by injustice deserves to be expressed, acknowledged, healed, and prevented so that others don’t experience the same thing.

Not only does the inequality happen on the level of the family, it happens in the wider culture. The child lives under a burden and is not allowed to feel anything negative about the particular family form that was chosen for him. If he feels grief about missing half of himself, it is “disenfranchised grief,” grief that is not acceptable to the wider culture.

Our culture is profoundly concerned about adults and their happiness in their marital, sexual and reproductive choices. But we fail to understand that when we redefine all of those things to expand those choices, the children must live under structural inequalities, double standards and unreciprocated demands.

Read Jennifer Johnson’ whole report on Marriage and Equality. We can defend man-woman marriage! We can defend the rights of children to their own parents! Get the arguments you need by downloading the full report Marriage and Equality on your Kindle for $2.99. Or, purchase a physical copy of this brand new Report here.



Altar Society: About Ruth...

(November 21, 2016) Dr J was invited to speak at the Altar Society in Lake Charles on the work and history of the Ruth Institute.

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Jennifer Johnson on Life Line

(December 2, 2016) Jennifer Johnson, Ruth Institute's Associate Director, was invited to give an interview to Melinda Knight on Living Bread Radio's " Life Line" about the work of the Ruth Institute in the broader context of the sexual revolution.

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Restoring Confidence in Traditional Marriage

(November 17, 2016) Dr J is once again Molly Smith's guest on From the Median. They're discussing her latest book, 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person, and interrelatedness of the marriage and life issues.

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Live-in Boyfriends and Domestic Violence against Children

(November 8, 2016) Dr J is once again Todd Wilkin's guest on Issues, Etc. They're discussing domestic violence against children, specifically in situations involving a live-in boyfriend or other unrelated adult.

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Top 10 Tips for Marrying the Right Person

by Marcia Segelstein

This article was first published at NCRegister.com on October 20, 2016.

One of the first sermons I heard at the Catholic parish where I would eventually be received into the Church was on the subject of marriage. The priest spoke about the relationship between a husband and wife as being indissoluble. Like siblings or parents and children, he told us, spouses formed a different, but equally permanent, bond with each other. It was as though a light bulb went on for me. “Of course,” I thought. “That makes perfect sense!” It was, simply put, the Catholic definition of marriage.

So while I firmly believe that commitment is the most critical ingredient for a marriage as it’s meant to be, choosing the right partner is pretty important, too.

Jennifer Roback Morse and her colleague at the Ruth Institute, Betsy Kerekes, have just released a new book called 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. It’s an easy read chock full of great advice.

I’ve narrowed their tips down to my top ten favorites, in some cases combining a few.


1) Pray. Pray for encouragement, guidance, and consolation. Pray that you find your future spouse. Pray for him or her. And, as Morse and Kerekes put it, “If you have no prayer life, get one. Right away. For real. You think life is tough now, searching for the right person? Wait until you have to put up with each other – and kids.”

2) Be friends first. My husband started out as my best friend, so I can attest to the wisdom of this advice. It is, as the book says, “an excellent, no-pressure way of getting to know each other without stress or expectations.” It’s also a great way to avoid the pitfalls of the hook-up culture, where physical intimacy comes first, and emotional intimacy not so much.

3) Keep your expectations real. Fight the inclination to expect fairy-tale romance or love at first sight. Or, as Morse and Kerekes write, “This is real life. Your Prince (or Princess) Charming will not magically appear as you sing to the wildlife in the forest.” Nor will your perfect soul mate magically bump into you at Starbucks. You might find your future spouse there. But there’s no such thing as a perfect soul mate.

4) Don’t waste your time. It’s OK to want commitment. If the person you’ve been dating for months doesn’t exclusively want to be with you, ask yourself if he or she is worth it.

5) Try to imagine the future. Specifically, try to imagine the person you’re dating as the parent of your children. Ask yourself if you can picture him or her as a role model for them. “If not,” say Morse and Kerekes, “move on.”

6) Picture introducing your potential future spouse to friends and family. Would you be proud? Or would you find yourself embarrassed or ashamed of some aspect of his or her character? If so, some reevaluating is in order.

7) Take parents into consideration. Or, as the book suggests, “Evaluate your significant other’s relationship with his or her parents as well as your relationship with your own parents.” Most people have some unresolved issues with their parents. Try to determine if you’re ready to live with the consequences of your loved one’s, and take a hard look at your own.

8) Stay chaste. Sexual activity releases hormones that cause feelings of bonding, especially in women. Your ability to think clearly and rationally about what may be the most important decision of your life will be clouded by a hormonal fog otherwise.

9) Don’t live together. Study after study has shown that cohabitating before marriage is not a good idea. The authors put it bluntly: “Ignore the hype from popular culture: couples who live together prior to marriage are more likely to divorce than those who don’t.”

10) When the time comes, focus on the marriage, not the wedding. Keep Bridezilla in check and take this advice from Morse and Kerekes: “Take a deep breath, relax and go with the flow. This one day, though extremely important, is not as important as the rest of your lives.”




'Healing Family Breakdown' retreat set

by Crystal Stevenson / American Press

This article was first published October 21, 2016, at AmericanPress.com.

How to heal after the breakdown of one’s family unit will be the topic of the San Diego-based Ruth Institute’s inaugural Louisiana event.

The “Healing Family Breakdown” retreat will be 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven’s family center, 3939 Kingston St.

The retreat will include short talks, guided meditation and small group discussions, said Ruth Institute founder and retreat organizer Jennifer Roback Morse.

“Pretty much every family is affected by it in some way or another, if not your immediate family then in the extended family,” Morse said. “We realized based on our scientific research that there is an enormous amount of pain associated with it. Just looking around the culture you can see that people are suffering, but they don’t know what to do about it.”


Morse describes the forms of a family breakdown as adults divorced against their will — such as in cases of adultery or desertion; children who experience the divorce of their parents; children born to unmarried parents; and fostered, adopted or donor-conceived people who don’t know their biological parents.

“A lot of times people feel it’s their fault and there’s something wrong with them, but really we have a lot of structural problems causing this,” she said. “So we wanted to put together something that would help people deal with it in their own lives and also have a bigger picture of why it’s so troubling, and that’s what the retreat is designed to do.”

Morse said the retreat will focus on the child’s perspective.

“Our philosophy is that every child is entitled to a relationship with both of their parents unless some unavoidable tragedy takes place to prevent that, and of course that does happen,” she said.

“From the child’s perspective, anything that involves them not being in a day-to-day relationship with both parents, that’s a breakdown. If you look at it from a child’s perspective, sometimes the family is broken down even before it starts.”

Too many families are suffering alone and in silence, Morse said.

“It’s possible to have some healing. The feelings you have of maybe longing for the missing parent or longing for the relationship to somehow be restored, that’s a perfectly valid feeling,” she said.

“It might not happen; you might not be able to control whether it happens or not. But we want people to feel affirmed that at least it’s OK to have that desire.”

Morse said the conference is open to people ages 15 and older. Cost is $30 per person and $50 per family; attendance is free for members of the clergy. To register, visit www.olqh.org.



Does the Family Have a Future? (Part 1)

(October 13, 2016) Dr J travels to Smithfield, Rhode Island to speak at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church on the theme "Does the Family Have a Future?" Addressing over 100 people, she describes why the family is the basis of society.

Stay tuned for the second part of her talk or head over to our Ruth Refuge for the Q&As after each talk.

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Dr J and Jennifer Johnson on the Sexual Revolution

(September 17, 2016) Dr J was invited to Phoenix, Arizona to speak to the diocese there. We've already podcasted that one, but during that visit, she and Ruth's Director of Operations Jennifer Johnson were once again guests on Immaculate Heart Radio's "The Catholic Conversation" with Steve and Becky Greene. They're discussing the Ruth Institute's work healing the family and shedding light on the problems wrought by the sexual revolution--divorce specifically.

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The Ruth Institute congratulates and thanks Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Virginia for upholding Catholic teaching on marriage

The Ruth Institute recently sent a letter of commendation and 24 white roses to Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Virginia congratulating and thanking him for his defense of Catholic teaching. Tim Kaine, Democratic candidate for Vice President, has said that the church will change its teaching on marriage. Bishop DiLorenzo, Kaine’s local bishop, disagrees. The Bishop’s office posted the following:

“Despite recent statements from the campaign trail, the Catholic Church’s 2000-year- old teaching to the truth about what constitutes marriage remains unchanged and resolute.”

The statement continues by pointing out a foundational belief shared by the Ruth Institute: “Redefining marriage furthers no one’s rights, least of all those of children, who should not purposely be deprived of the right to be nurtured and loved by a mother and a father.”


The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture and other forms of family breakdown.

Dr. Morse stated, “We are particularly encouraged that Bishop DiLorenzo defended the rights of children to be nurtured and loved by their mothers and fathers.”

Dr. Morse continued, “The Ruth Institute dreams of the day when every child will be welcomed into a loving home with a married mother and father. We believe every child has the right to a relationship with both natural parents, unless some unavoidable tragedy prevents it. We believe every adult without exception has the right to know his or her cultural heritage and genetic identity. Bishop DiLorenzo has restated the ancient teachings of Christianity and of Jesus Christ Himself. These teachings protect the interests of children, as well as the interests of men and women in lifelong married love.”

As a sign of support for Bishop DiLorenzo, the Ruth Institute sent 24 white roses to the Bishop’s office, and offers prayers for him and for everyone in the Diocese of Richmond.

Dr. Morse is available for interviews about the Roses from Ruth Initiative, the Bishop’s statement, and Catholic teaching on marriage. To interview Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, contact the Ruth Institute at:

info@ruthinstitute.org

(760) 295-9278


Catholics in the Public Square

(September 17, 2016) Dr J was invited to Phoenix, Arizona to speak on "Catholics in the Public Square" to the diocese there. Her talk is designed to prepare people for personal and civic engagement on the marriage and life issues in the current cultural climate.

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Jennifer Johnson on Cogwatch

(March 2016) Here's one from our files: Jennifer Johnson is a guest on Dr. Robert Oscar Lopez's podcast Cogwatch. They're discussing divorce, freedom, and family.

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It’s Time to Make Marriage Great Again By Redefining Divorce

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published July 23, 2016, at The Blaze.

Earlier this week, the Ruth Institute sent a letter of commendation and 24 white roses to Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

Our letter thanked him for “his clear teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality in the Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

With all the excitement of the political conventions, why would we spend our time sending flowers to an archbishop? We want to shine the spotlight on the positive things people are doing to build up society.


 

The archbishop’s guidelines restate the Ancient Teachings of Christianity regarding marriage, family and human sexuality. These teachings are obscured today. No less a theological heavy weight than the mayor of Philadelphia castigated the archbishop, saying the Guidelines were un-Christian!

To be fair to Mayor Jim Kenny, we have to admit that the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, has caused worldwide confusion over Catholic teaching on marriage. Yelling at the pope has become a new cottage industry among tradition-minded Catholic writers. Pulling his words into a sexually indulgent direction has become a cottage industry among progressives of all faiths. And trying to parse out what he really meant has been a full employment guarantee for everyone.

Rather than getting involved in all that, we want to call attention to people who are implementing the unbroken teaching of the Church in a vibrant manner. Focus on what we know to be true and good. Archbishop Chaput’s Guidelines provide a clear and practical statement of ancient Catholic teaching, in the spirit of genuine mercy, incorporating language from Amoris Laetitia.

I believe that these teachings are correct, good and humane. I founded the Ruth Institute for the purpose of promoting those teachings to the widest audience possible. I don’t believe these things because I am a Catholic. On the contrary. It is precisely because I came to believe in these teachings that I returned to the practice of the Catholic faith after a 12-year lapse.

Let me discuss just one issue that has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the past 2 years. Jesus told us very clearly that remarriage after divorce is not possible. If attempted, it amounts to adultery. Why? According to Jesus, Moses only permitted a man to issue a bill of divorce because of “the hardness of your hearts.” (This is the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, in case you were wondering.)

At that point, he could have said, “So, I’m going to eliminate this appalling male privilege and allow women to divorce their husbands, exactly like Moses allowed men to divorce their wives.” However, he did no such thing. He didn’t extend the male privilege. He eliminated it entirely. “From the beginning it was not so,” referring back to God’s original plan for creation. “I tell you, anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” One of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, no doubt. But pretty darn clear.

(And please: don’t trouble me with that so-called loophole, ok? The real innovation in modern no-fault divorce law is that it allows an adulterer to get a divorce against the wishes of the innocent party. No sane person can argue that Jesus provided that “loophole” to allow the guilty party to validly remarry.)

The Church teaches that civilly divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive communion because she is trying to implement this teaching of Jesus. A civilly divorced and remarried person is living with, and presumably having sex with someone, while still validly married to someone else. If the first marriage is still valid, the second attempted marriage is not valid, and is in fact, adulterous. What is so hard to understand about that?

You know who really understands this concept, who intuitively “gets it?” Children of divorce. Kids look into their parents’ bedroom and see someone who doesn’t belong there. “Who is this guy in bed with my mom: my dad is supposed to be there.” Or, “who is this woman in bed with my dad? My mom is supposed to be there.”

At the Ruth Institute, we know there are situations in which married couples must separate for the safety of the family. But we also know that those cases are by far not the majority of cases. No-fault divorce says a person can get divorced for any reason or no reason, and the government will take sides with the party who wants the marriage the least. The government will permit that person to remarry, against the wishes of their spouse and children.

This is an obvious injustice that no one in our society will talk about. The children of divorce are socially invisible. In fact, I bet some of them felt like crying when they read my paragraph above quoting with approval, what might have gone through their little minds. Many of them have never heard an adult affirm their feelings that something dreadfully wrong and unjust took place in their families.

Jesus knew. Jesus was trying to keep us from hurting ourselves and each other. And the Catholic Church has been trying to implement Jesus’ teaching. You may say the Church has been imperfect in her attempts and I won’t argue with you. But I will say that no one else is even seriously trying.

Political campaigns come and go. Political parties come and go. In fact, nations themselves come and go. But the teachings of Jesus are forever. What we do about marriage and children and love reveals what and whom we truly love.

That is why we congratulate Archbishop Charles Chaput for his guidelines. We wish the Archdiocese all the very best. Make Marriage Great Again.


Young Women Are Gambling On a Losing Game

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first posted at The Blaze on June 1, 2016.

 

The image from the Huffington Post staff meeting created an immediate backlash for editor Liz Heron’s rhetorical question: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?”

Unlike many of the internet commentators, I am not interested in the ethnic diversity or ideological hypocrisy of the Huffington Post. All these editors appear to be twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings at most, with the possible exception of Heron herself. To me, this photo illustrates the most poignant sociological fact of our time: Delayed child-bearing is the price of entry into the professional classes.

Look at these eager young faces. These young ladies have high hopes for their lives.

Inline image 1

An editors’ meeting at Huffington Post. Editor Liz Heron tweeted: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?” (Twitter)


They believe that by landing this great job, they are set. Once they are established in their careers, then and only then, can they think seriously about marriage and motherhood. They do not realize that they are giving themselves over to careers during their peak fertility years, with the expectation that somehow, someday, they can “have it all.”

They are being sold a cynical lie.

Here is the bargain we professional women have been making: “We want to participate in higher education and the professions. As the price of doing so, we agree to chemically neuter ourselves during our peak child-bearing years with various types of birth control. Then, when we are finally financially and socially ready for motherhood, we agree to subject ourselves to invasive, degrading and possibly dangerous fertility treatments.”

I am no longer willing to accept this bargain. These arrangements are not pro-woman. They are simply anti-fertility. Any woman who wants to be a mother, including giving birth to her own children, taking care of her own children, and loving their father, needs a better way. Until now, we have been adapting our bodies to the university and the market. I say, we should respect our bodies enough to demand that the university and the market adapt to us and our bodies.

 

We cannot expect much help from establishment publications like Huff Po, establishment institutions like the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools, and certainly not from the government.

Huffington Post is a consistent cheerleader for the sexual revolution. They have a whole page devoted to divorce. They have a regular Friday feature called “Blended Family Friday,” in which “we spotlight a stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!” And they are enlisting twenty-somethings to sell their propaganda.

I wonder how many of the young ladies seated at that Huff Po editors meeting have ever heard of abortion regret or considered the topic worthy of their attention? I wonder how many of them believe that hooking up is harmless, as long as you use a condom. I wonder how many of them have ever heard that hormonal contraception – especially implants and vaginal rings – increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

I wonder if any of them wish for a guy who would dote on them, and act like he really truly cares. I wonder if they have ever chided themselves for being too clingy when a relationship ended, without realizing that bonding to your sex partner is perfectly normal.

I wonder how many of them realize how unlikely childbirth after 40 really is? A recent study of IVF in Australia looked at the chance of a live birth for initiated cycles. Don’t look at the bogus “pregnancy rate:” IVF pregnancies are 4-5 times more likely to end in stillbirth. And don’t be taken in by the “pregnancy per embryo transfer.” Plenty of women initiate cycles but do not successfully make it to the embryo transfer stage.

The average Australian woman aged 41-42 years old had a 5.8 percent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle. And women over 45 have a 1.1 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle — which is almost a 99 percent chance of failure every time.

Yes, Huffington Post is an opinion-making and opinion-leading organization. And yes, it is not right for a bunch of white, privileged childless twenty-something women to be having such an outsized influence on public opinion. But for now, let’s give a thought to these young ladies themselves. They are being sold a bill of goods. It is up to us, as adults, to warn them.

 

 


Making the Case for Marriage: Acton 2016

(June 16, 2016) It's that time of year again--Dr J is at Acton University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She's been with the conference since the beginning, and yesterday she gave one of the foundational lectures designed to orient religious leaders in basic economic concepts. This lecture is on "Making the Case for Marriage." Check out our Ruth Refuge for the Q&A session afterward, too.

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The Case for Marriage (SWBTS), Part 2

(May 24, 2016) Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest Southern Baptist seminaries in the world, hosted Dr. J at their annual Summer Institute, sponsored by the Land Center. This is the second part of her address to pastors and seminary professors on making the case for marriage; if you missed the first part, check out the previous podcast.

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The Case for Marriage (SWBTS), Part 1

(May 24, 2016) Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest Southern Baptist seminaries in the world, hosted Dr. J at their annual Summer Institute, sponsored by the Land Center. She addressed pastors and seminary professors on making the case for marriage.

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Marriage Alliance: Public Policies and Personal Strategies

(May 20, 2016) Dr J is in Australia! She was invited to speak at a Marriage Alliance event in Sydney. Her talk is on public policies and personal strategies for sparking discussion and change on the marriage issue. She took questions afterward, too--those are available on the Ruth Refuge podcast.

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South Toowoomba Baptist Church

(May 17, 2016) Dr J is in Australia! She was invited to speak at the South Toowoomba Baptist Church. Her talk is entitled "Same-Sex Marriage Affects Everyone." She took questions afterward, too--those are available in the Ruth Refuge podcast.

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Community Church in Cooper's Plain

(May 16, 2016) Dr J is in Australia! She was invited to speak at the Community Church in Cooper's Plain near Brisbane, Australia.

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Hobart Cathedral of St. Mary's

(May 15, 2016) Dr J is in Australia! Archbishop Julian Porteous invited her to speak at the Hobart Cathedral of St. Mary's on the island of Tasmania. Her talk is entitled "Same-Sex Marriage Affects Everyone." She took questions afterward, too--those are available in the Ruth Refuge podcast.

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Our Lady of the Rosary

(May 14, 2016) Dr J is in Australia! She was invited to speak at Our Lady of the Rosary near Sydney. Her talk is entitled "Same-Sex Marriage Affects Everyone." She took questions afterward, too--those are available in the Ruth Refuge podcast.

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Whose fault was no-fault divorce?

by Ryan C. MacPherson, a Ruth Institute Circle of Experts member

This article was first published at Mercatornet.com on May 9, 2016.

 

When language aficionado Bo Mitchell judged 461 entries for the “Great Oxymoron Contest” in 1983, he ranked “wedded bliss” in third place. In fourteenth place came “happily married.” Mitchell distinguished two kinds of oxymorons: “linguistic oxymorons, which contain two words with opposite or conflicting meanings” (such as, “Positively no!” or “pretty ugly”) and “sociological oxymorons, which wryly comment on various stereotypes” (such as “military intelligence” or “honest politician”).

A generation earlier, it is doubtful that Americans would so readily have considered “wedded bliss” or “happily married” as sociological oxymorons; those sentiments had been sincere, not self-contradictory, in the 1950s. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, a momentous series of events transformed the public rapport of marriage dramatically: the institution no longer would be associated with lifelong happiness, except in jest. What harought about this change in expectations? Much of the answer may be discovered by unpacking the history behind another oxymoron that Mitchell placed near the top of his list: “no-fault divorce.”

 


 

Prior to the California Family Law Act of 1969, divorce across the fifty states required an adversarial procedure. A plaintiff filed for divorce, alleging specific faults by the other spouse, who was named as the defendant. The clerk called the case Doe v. Doe, indicating one spouse “versus” the other. Only upon evidence of statutory grounds for fault—such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty—did the court decide in favor of the plaintiff and grant a decree of divorce.

As other states followed California’s lead through the 1970s, fault vanished from the proceedings, and so did the other contextual clues as to the real meaning of “divorce”: the plaintiff became a petitioner, the defendant became a respondent, the case was renamed In re Doe, the venue shifted to the newly established and purportedly user-friendly “family court,” and no one alleged anyone else to be at fault. In fact, even that old-fashioned, pejorative term “divorce” yielded to the matter-of-fact neologism “dissolution of marriage,” devoid of any moral significance. This “dissolution revolution” never quite finished its course, however. Instead, the term “no-fault divorce” acquired colloquial acceptance, testifying by its very terminology that without constant reminding to the contrary, people would never believe that divorce could be legitimate apart from fault.

Although California’s new law marked the beginning of the no-fault revolution in the United States, the legislative deconstruction of marriage recently had occurred halfway across the globe, in a political climate quite distinct from the American scene. The Soviet Union pioneered no-fault divorce at the height of the Cold War; how ironic it was that the United States followed soon after. Why would the champion of western democracy adopt a public policy so dissimilar from its own heritage and so congruous with Soviet social engineering?

It turns out that no-fault received support from more than one segment of American society. Radical leftists, liberal theologians, and progressive lawyers each urged a loosening of the marital bond for their own peculiar reasons. Once the movement gathered momentum, even prominent moral conservatives gave up trying to stop it. Along the way, scholars occasionally paused to evaluate the impact of no-fault reform; often research revealed a gap between intentions and consequences, or showcased uncertainties as to the actual legacies of the new legislation, but not until the 1990s did mainstream scholars call for a return to the formerly unquestionable presumption that marital permanency serves the best interests of men, women, and children, and of the society that they together constitute.

By that time, too, a few traditionalists began re-inserting “fault” into the statutory procedures for divorce, but to gain acceptance they had to offer fault-based divorce as merely an optional rider on the otherwise unilaterally dissoluble marriage contract. The “no-fault” slogan already had been repeated for four decades, long enough to ring timelessly true in the national psyche.

Russian Roulette: The Gamble of Soviet Social Engineering

If no-fault divorce is the answer, then what was the question? In the case of the Soviet Union, the question centered on a need to correct the excesses of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which had sought to annihilate marriage as a formal institution. In tsarist Russia, the Orthodox Church had permitted divorce only rarely, and on narrow grounds of fault. The situation changed when Tsar Nicholas II was deposed in 1917. Extending the critique by Marx and Engels that marriage was a bourgeois arrangement by which men “owned” the rights to the productive and reproductive labor of women, Vladimir Lenin decreed that individuals be free to divorce without cause, without mutual consent, and even without informing the other spouse. In effect, marriage lost whatever had distinguished it from cohabitation. In 1918, divorces outnumbered civil marriages five to one in Moscow.

Writing for The Atlantic in 1926, an anonymous woman in Russia described the scene: “Peasant boys looked upon marriage as an exciting game and changed wives with the change of seasons.” The state paid for abortions, even as the number of vagrant homeless children abounded. Continued the Russian woman,“Among the general population and especially among the peasants there is a keen realization of the difficulties, material and otherwise, which have come up as a result of a too literal adoption of the ‘free love’ slogan.”

By the 1930s, Soviet leaders realized that the children of the new, post-marital generation lacked the kind of socializing experiences that would prepare them for successful adult life; neither schools nor other public institutions could fill the gap where the family once had nurtured the young. A legal reform in 1944 introduced marital breakdown as a prerequisite for divorce, requiring the court to weigh evidence of such breakdown. Unlike in the United States, Soviet law had never enumerated “faults” constituting grounds for divorce. Rather, as the U.S.S.R. Supreme Court ruled in 1949, divorce was granted when “continuation of the marriage clashes with the principles of communist morality and creates abnormal conditions for family life and the upbringing of children.”

In practice, this often meant that spousal incompatibility could suffice for divorce between a recently married couple with no children, but that an established couple with children would be obliged to remain married in service to the state. By reinstating marriage as a distinct category from cohabitation, the 1944 decree also reintroduced the bourgeois category of “illegitimate” children. In 1968, the pendulum oscillated once more, this time to re-legitimize all children while also expediting divorces for couples who had no children or who could mutually agree to a plan for the children’s welfare following the termination of their marriage.

Properly speaking, the Soviet Union never had adopted “fault” divorce, but rather embarked upon an experiment that initially eliminated marriage as both an ecclesiastical and a civil institution and later elevated the voluntary cohabitation of two adults back to something resembling marriage—or at least resembling the kind of marriage that would become typical in the United States during the final three decades of the century: a mutual union of two persons with the option of unilateral dissolution, subject to a few limitations for the sake of protecting the weaker spouse and the children from extreme consequences.

It is doubtful that the Soviet reforms directly influenced American policy making. True, radical leftists such as Margaret Sanger had, in Marxist terms, also lambasted marriage as male capitalistic sexual slavery over women, but this view did not receive significant support in the United States; she instead learned to attack not marriage, but rather Catholicism, in order to achieve Protestant support for birth control.

As for divorce, the Soviet Union and the United States arrived at a similar center point from opposite extremes. The Soviets were retracing their steps from marital disestablishment toward the codification of marriage in an effort to stabilize the social order. When American legislatures adopted no-fault, they did so in response to a different question than the Soviets had been asking; only coincidentally did the Americans arrive at a similar answer. Moreover, whereas the Soviet government forced the church to surrender its regulation of marriage, the American states already had full legal authority over marriage plus reassurance from religious leaders that the time had come for no-fault reform.

Liberal Theologians: Moving Ahead of the Legal (and Theological) Curve

In terms of American religion, the history of no-fault divorce proceeded in three stages. Early in the twentieth century, liberals and conservatives broadly agreed that divorce required fault and that remarriage was even less permissible than divorce. By mid-century, liberal theologians broadened the set of faults that justified divorce, with a few voices even calling for no-fault divorce prior to legislative enactment. Finally, in the closing decades of the century, liberals and conservatives again approached a consensus, this time to ratify the new norm of no-fault divorce.

The transition between the first two stages may be seen readily in the history of the United Lutheran Church of America (ULCA), which formed during 1917–1918 from a liberal merger—that is, several church bodies agreed to disagree about how best to address the age-old debate between Calvinist predestination and Arminian free will. As to marriage and divorce, however, the ULCA retained a conservative stance, declaring in 1930: “In general, therefore, all divorce is to be condemned, and, whenever possible, avoided.” The 1930 convention urged that as pastors instruct their congregations, they should “seek to maintain among them a Christian conscience on divorce.” Both that year and again in 1936, the church prohibited pastors from solemnizing the second marriage of a divorced person, “unless he [the pastor] is convinced that the individual is the innocent party.”

By 1956, the liberal tendencies within the ULCA had begun to show themselves regarding the question of divorce. The national convention now agreed that “Christian love and concern for the welfare of all involved” might at times make reconciliation inadvisable. Remarriage, rather than being permitted only to the innocent party, now could proceed for either party upon receiving sufficient pastoral counsel and displaying “evidence of his [or her] Christian faith.”The 1956 position statement even called for “uniform and constructive marriage and divorce laws” that would avoid “adversary litigation” and permit a smoother “adjustment” once a civil dissolution of marriage seems inevitable.

In 1962, the United Lutheran Church of America merged with several other Lutheran bodies to form the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). Two years later, this new body adopted language identical to the 1956 ULCA statement, calling for a less adversarial approach to the civil dissolution of marriages. In 1967, a committee of the LCA, seeking to “stimulate thought and discussion,” dared to envision divorce without fault-finding:

"Divorce proceedings pit two people against each other as adversaries, each having to destroy the other person in order to resolve a problem. The present divorce proceedings, which make one party innocent and the other guilty, are at variance with the insights of Christian ethics."

By 1970, the LCA was ready to take official action; the convention adopted the position that divorce was not intrinsically sinful and at times may even be morally superior to the preservation of a marriage:

"To identify the legal action of divorce as sinful by itself obscures the fact that the marital relationship has already been mutually undermined by thoughts, words, and actions. Although divorce often brings anguish to those concerned, there may be situations in which securing a divorce is more responsible than staying together."

The LCA had completely reversed the statements of its predecessor body, the ULCA, from the 1930s: in certain circumstances, divorce would not only be tolerated, but actually preferred, and those circumstances need not involve the assignment of moral fault.

Chronologically, the LCA’s reconstruction of divorce from a rarely permissible and always fault-based termination of marriage to a faultless happenstance coincided roughly with the deliberations of the California Commission on the Family. Under advice from that commission, the California Assembly enacted no-fault reform in 1969, with most states following suit in the 1970s.

By 1982, a more moderate church body, the American Lutheran Church (ALC), similarly adopted a policy statement permitting divorce without demonstration of specific fault. Now contemplations of divorce could proceed on the shared recognition that “each party generally bears some responsibility.” With pastoral guidance, the parties would recognize that “a responsible choice” favors “the lesser of several evils in a fallen world,” a formula allowing for divorce.

In 1987, the ALC joined with the LCA and a third association of Lutheran congregations to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In 2009, that body adopted a social statement concerning human sexuality. Although expressing an aspiration for marriage to be “lifelong” and “monogamous,” the resolution avoided any negative judgment concerning adultery or desertion and extended to all persons the “freedom” to marry someone new. In the drafting of this document, a proposed amendment to define marriage as a “lifelong, normative covenant” received significant support but fell short of the required majority. By that time, of course, many parishioners had already inherited the legacy of legal reforms that had excised fault from the statutory definition of divorce.

Progressive Lawyers: Charting Efficient Paths to Individual Liberty

Proponents of divorce reform in California ostensibly hoped to slow the rising divorce rate, eliminate hypocrisy in charges of fault, render court proceedings less confrontational, and foster more equitable outcomes for spouses. Following legislative hearings in 1964, Governor Edmund G. Brown assembled a Commission on the Family in 1966 to suggest revisions to marriage laws and to explore the establishment of family courts for handling divorce cases. Building upon the state supreme court’s ruling in DeBurgh v. DeBurgh (1952), which overturned the long-standing principle that only an innocent party may file for divorce, the commission began to push fault aside, both as a grounds for divorce and as a basis for determining alimony. Recommendations from the commission provided models for several legislative proposals in the late 1960s.

By 1969, the assembly had settled upon a new Family Law Act based largely upon the work of Assemblyman James A. Hayne. The act sanitized the language of divorce (which became “dissolution of marriage”) and established fairness rather than fault as the standard for determining “support” (what once had been alimony). Because the legislature emphasized its desire to reduce adversity and foster amicable negotiations in the new family courts, likely opponents to no-fault divorce—such as Roman Catholics—became supporters of what they perceived to be mild reform, not a fundamental revolution.

California’s no-fault law had both an ideological and a personal connection to the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act promulgated jointly by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in 1974. Herma Hill Kay, a law professor at the University of California who had served on the governor’s commission, worked as a co-reporter with Robert J. Levy, of the University of Minnesota, on the UMDA. Kay was not shy to advocate for a cause she believed in. As a school child in South Carolina, she had boldly stood alone in challenging her classmates’ consensus that “The South Should Have Won the Civil War.” Stunned, her teacher suggested law school. Kay’s subsequent legal career represented a steady crusade for women’s equality. Kay’s own support for no-fault divorce must be interpreted in this light, even if, as she acknowledged, the state assembly had not prioritized gender equality when enacting the bill she helped to draft.The governor’s commission, however, had at her urging explored equitable results for property distribution and child custody, and subsequent to the 1969 act Kay herself continued to push for reforms that would shift financial rewards from men toward women.

First, however, Kay and Levy had to produce a uniform divorce law that both the ABA and the NCCUSL would accept. The two organizations became gridlocked during the early 1970s over the definition of “irretrievably broken,” which was to be the sole criterion by which a court would determine that a dissolution of marriage should be granted. The NCCUSL preferred to leave the term undefined, allowing for judicial discretion. The ABA’s Family Law Section, by contrast, proposed that a demonstration of either physical separation of one year or else serious marital misconduct must substantiate that a marriage was irretrievably broken; these criteria effectively would have re-introduced fault as grounds for divorce. Levy himself attributed the ABA’s meddling to jealous rivalry: the ABA was trying to take ownership of the NCCUSL’s proposal by modifying it. In any case, the two parties had heated debates and then suddenly reconciled their views concerning divorce, apparently due to the practical necessity of establishing a united front if their reform initiative was to win over state legislatures in the years to come.

By 1980, thirty-seven of the fifty states had significantly altered their divorce laws toward the no-fault standard of California and the UMDA. While some states permitted both fault and no-fault to operate side by side, the trend clearly was following the path of least resistance.

Cautious Constituency-Builders: The Reluctance of the Religious Right to Address No-Fault Wrongs

No-fault reform has retained its status as the law of the land in part because it derives its justification from both sides of the political spectrum. Even if initially engineered by aloof lawyers and judges, not grass-roots partisan reformers, no-fault divorce has strong champions on both the political left and right. Remarkably, the no-fault revolution of the 1970s and 1980s enjoyed bipartisan support despite an undercurrent of disagreement that fomented into a culture war during the 1990s, casting conservatives and liberals into a fierce debate over other moral and social issues—but generally not concerning divorce.

In California, Republicans united with Democrats in supporting no-fault divorce. A leading sponsor of the bill was Republican state senator Donald Grunsky, known as a “prominent conservative.” The law was signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican who had risen to national attention for his endorsement of Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican National Convention. Ironically, Goldwater made a name for himself as a militant anti-communist, and yet Reagan’s signature brought California into line with Soviet marriage reforms. Also ironic, Reagan, himself divorced and remarried, would be swept into the U.S. presidency in 1980 by a coalition of religious traditionalists known as the “Moral Majority.”

Founded by the television evangelist Jerry Falwell in 1979, the Moral Majority listed as third among its founding principles that “We are pro-traditional family.” Translated into action, this statement meant campaigning against abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and the Equal Rights Amendment, while seeking to restore school prayer. Strangely, the Moral Majority was virtually silent about divorce. Standard histories of Falwell’s movement do not even list “divorce” in the index.

In 1988, Pat Robertson, another television evangelist, campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination under a banner of “traditional family values.” Although his candidacy failed to secure the endorsement of his party, his followers reorganized themselves around the Christian Coalition, a nonprofit organization established in 1989. The Coalition advocated for public displays of the Ten Commandments, opposed obscene works funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, attacked Darwinism, and implicated abortion and homosexuality with the decline of American society. As with the Moral Majority, however, the Christian Coalition seldom addressed divorce.

These are but a few of the pro-life, pro-family organizations that touted the benefits of marriage but barely mentioned divorce. The fact that the divorce rate is higher in “red states” than in “blue states” may have something to do with the inability of conservative organizations (both political and religious) to gain traction for the repeal of no-fault divorce. If not crusaders for it, conservatives at least have become complicit in accepting no-fault; it is increasingly difficult to distinguish which side conservatives favor in what remains of the debate. Pat Robertson, for example, suggested in 2011 to 700 Club viewers that the spouse of someone with Alzheimer’s disease may seek a divorce. He reasoned that severe mental illness is “a kind of death,” thus satisfying the marital vow “until death do us part.”

No-Fault Reform in Hindsight: Did Marriages Now End More Smoothly?

When the New York Times published a ten-year retrospective on California’s no-fault divorce law in 1979, a few supportive voices were quoted, followed by numerous critics. The American Bar Association’s Doris Jonas Freed claimed “no-fault divorce has helped everybody,” but others concluded that men, women, and children each had suffered harm.

“Women were better off under the adversary system, because they used to get the home, furniture, and car,” explained Professor Karen Seal of Grossmont College, El Cajon, California. “For older women,” added Trish Somers, of the Older Women’s League, “no-fault divorce has been a disaster,” since it leaves them without either husband or alimony in a competitive career environment for which a long-time homemaker is ill prepared. The Displaced Homemaker Center in Oakland was attempting to fill the need for divorcées, while Fathers Demanding Equal Justice in Los Angeles advocated for dads who had lost custody of their children.

A study of over 4,000 California divorce cases revealed that “men got custody in only 7 percent”—almost always in those rare instances in which women voluntarily forfeited the children.

In 1983, U.S. News and World Report noted that one marriage was dissolved in America every twenty-seven seconds—totaling one million per year, twice the number from two decades prior. According to Sanford Katz, a Boston College law professor, divorce litigation comprised nearly half of all civil filings in the nation, often “as complicated as commercial and corporate cases.” Judge Rex Sater of Santa Rosa, California, observed that “under no-fault divorce people can’t vent their hurts in court. Instead, they fight over junk.” Questions of child custody, who gets the dog, and how to measure the “good will” value that a wife contributed to her husband’s law firm while working as secretary began leading to such acrimonious disputes that some judges ordered an “investigative accountant” to determine who acquired what while they were together, as a prelude to deciding who should be entitled to what when they split.

Compromises such as joint custody of children presented the appearance of simplicity, but in practice these arrangements involved countless disputes over the details each time a child transitioned between the parents’ split homes. One California judge even awarded a couple joint custody of their pet cockapoo—an exceptional instance that nonetheless bore testimony to the depravity of the new normality. In St. Louis, it was a fierce parental dispute over child custody rather than a pet that prompted four kids to hire their own lawyer against both mom and dad. Of course, not all cases of the early 1980s involved so much commotion; with over 200 divorce cases per judge in Detroit, and judicial delays pushing from months into years, many couples desiring to “call it quits” were opting for streamlined mediation—an approach that proved to be faster, though not always less expensive.

Social science scholarship reinforced the reports of the popular press: no-fault divorce may have eliminated fraudulent charges of fault, but it had not improved the lot of divorced persons. Research concerning California “consistently” demonstrated that “divorcing mothers are faring more poorly under the no-fault system.” Absent the “moral leverage of fault,” women had little negotiating power left when suing for alimony.

On a more theoretical level, no-fault reforms had disturbed the old calculus by which self-interested parties were channeled into behavioral choices that served the common good; under the new regime, self-interest led toward self-destruction, both for individuals and for the community. Under the no-fault regime, “the benefits to the party ending the relationship may be less than the costs of dissolution to the party wishing to maintain the union, and yet the dissolution will occur.” Unilateral divorce, by tipping the scales in favor of the party suing for severance, had disrupted the forces of the marriage market in favor of dissolution, even when such an outcome would be economically inefficient by rational models of analysis.

The inevitable results of no-fault divorce, yoked tightly together, were a rise in the economic disparity between marital and divorced households and a rise in the divorce rate.That being said, some studies suggested no-fault reforms have had no appreciable impact upon divorce rates. Other researchers, however, concluded that “more divorces occur in a regime of no-fault divorce”—23% more by one projection. Studies failing to detect a correlation between no-fault reform and higher incidences of divorce had, according to this account, failed to adequately define terms, to employ “controls” for comparison, or to consider short-term and long-term impacts separately.

Amid a diversity of statutory definitions and judicial practices, it was particularly difficult for researchers to separate states into fault versus no-fault, and to identify the effective dates by which a state moved from one category to another. As the century drew to a close, other researchers suggested that both the adoption of no-fault reform and the rise in divorce rates (some of which preceded the adoption of no-fault) share a common cultural source, rather than the former causing the latter.

In 1987, the chief architect of California’s new family court edifice, Herma Hill Kay, published a retrospective appraisal that attempted to salvage the reputation of no-fault divorce. Acknowledging current scholarship that identified “women in ‘traditional’ marriages” as the most injured “victims of the no-fault revolution,” she called for further reform rather than faulting no-fault. As a remedy, Kay proposed that divorcing homemakers should receive credit for the “investment in human capital” that they have made by empowering, through fulfillment of domestic responsibilities, the husband to pursue higher education and work his way up the career ladder.

Against evidence of the short-term economic devastation suffered especially by women following no-fault divorce, Kay suggested that in the long term women “are more likely to experience an improved quality of life following divorce than are men.” Even so, the bald facts remain undeniable: “Women and children have borne the brunt of the transition that took place in California’s legal regulation of the family between 1970 and 1987.” Rather than considering repeal, or even a partial retraction, of no-fault, Kay instead wrote encouragingly of California’s 1987 reform that rendered nonmarital cohabitation a legally sanctioned alternative to marriage.

Four years after Kay’s reappraisal, Robert J. Levy, who spearheaded the crafting of the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, offered his own evaluation of the path paved by no-fault reform. Like Kay, Levy acknowledged that “many women, especially homemakers, have paid a price for changes in the social acceptability of divorce.” He also admitted to a “vast increase in the amount of litigation and, consequently, in attorneys’ fees.” However, Levy concluded that on balance the UMDA had made “the divorce process considerably more honest” and helped to focus attention on “the right issues”—property distribution and child custody—rather than allegations of fault.Proponents of no-fault had promised that the reform would simplify and streamline divorce proceedings. By the 1990s, the track record of twenty-some years showed otherwise, as both Kay and Levy admitted: the allegations had simply shifted from past wrongdoings (adultery, desertion, or cruelty) to current wrongdoings (fraudulent disclosures of earnings and assets, failure to comply with visitation agreements, and the list went on).

By the turn of the century, evidence had accumulated that neither women nor men were bearing the brunt of divorce; rather, their children suffered most of all. Children desperately need fathers, concluded Professor David Popenoe of Rutgers University, and not just any fathers—married fathers, specifically. Marriage involves putting children’s needs ahead of adults’ wants; divorce does the opposite, with devastating impacts upon all three parties, discovered Popenoe’s colleague Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. From 1997 to 2009, Popenoe directed the National Marriage Project, which subsequently relocated to the University of Virginia under the directorship of sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox. A steady flow of research reports from this institute consistently has identified the risks that divorce, as well as cohabitation, impose upon children and adults alike.

In the third decade of the no-fault regime, scholars also realized that children do not so readily “outgrow” the negative impacts of their parents’ divorce. After initially interviewing children of divorce in the early 1970s, psychologist Judith Wallerstein conducted a follow-up study in the 1990s. She discovered that as children of divorce transitioned into adulthood, they suffered insecurity, with their anxieties soon being confirmed by an inability to form stable relationships of their own. Not until their mid-thirties, and now often embarking on a second marriage, did typical children of divorce begin to achieve a semblance of psychosocial stability; many others never married at all.

In 2012, a conference synthesizing the work of economists, historians, psychologists, sociologists, and theologians revealed that adult children of divorce struggle in myriad ways, as the broken promises of their parents leave them hesitant to trust and unable to become trustworthy for their own marriages. The previous year, scholars at Pennsylvania State University concluded that the so-called “good divorce”—one involving minimal conflict observed by the children and maximal cooperation by parents for post-divorce childrearing—often fails to protect children from the harms associated with more acrimonious instances of marital dissolution. (Is research really necessary to reveal that children can see straight through the cliché, “Your father and I just don’t love each other anymore, but don’t worry, we will always love you”?)

Despite mounting evidence that divorce harms children, while also imposing economic and psychological burdens upon men and women, Herma Hill Kay persisted at the dawn of the new century in celebrating the no-fault revolution yet again. Specifically, she credited divorce reform and related measures with the empowerment of women to assert their own identities and to exercise greater control over their own bodies (through abortion rights secured by Roe v. Wadeand its progeny; Kay avoided mention of an aborting woman’s destructive control over the unborn child’s body, although she did lament that “our culture identifies mothers, rather than fathers, as the primary caretakers of infants and pre-school aged children”).

Looking toward the future, Kay applauded the American Law Institute for its latest work-in-progress, Principles of Family Dissolution, which further blurred the boundary between cohabitation and marriage while also sponsoring same-sex divorce (even for same-sex couples who were merely cohabiting, prior to the legalization of same-sex “marriage”). “The ALI Principles,” wrote Kay, “will have a positive effect on the way we think about marriage by providing a legal framework that enables couples to design their family relationships to suit their individual aspirations as they evolve over time.” Marriage, for Kay, was not a covenant by which two persons join as one, but a “common project” by which two autonomous adults “seek to enjoy intimacy” without any presumption for permanency.

If demography determines truth, then Kay’s position cannot be challenged. Divorce and remarriage now are ubiquitous in America. Divorce is perhaps the one thing all Americans, regardless of politics or theology, have in common—in the extended family if not in the immediate family. Increasingly, cohabitation also defines the American social structure while married-for-life adults and the children of married-for-life adults have become minorities. Men and women aged twenty to twenty-four are more likely to be cohabiting than to be married, and fewer than half of all men aged twenty-five to forty-four are married to their first wife.

Consider, also, the perspective of the children whom these adults raise—or abandon. Even during ages nine through eleven, when children are most likely to have both parents living with them and married to each other, fewer than two thirds of all children experience such a family. Over half of all children will experience part of their childhood being raised with at least one biological parent absent—seldom from death, usually from divorce, and increasingly from cohabitation followed by unofficial divorce. The natural family has become a minority status.

It is no wonder that pastors shy away from preaching against divorce in the pulpit or teaching about it in Bible classes. Even pastors who personally desire to promote reconciliation rather than divorce realize that many of their parishioners have already decided differently. Many more have relatives whose lives have been entangled by a web of divorces and remarriages, often with a fair mix of cohabitation, too. The children of divorce populate youth groups.

All of these factors can lead pastors to ask themselves, how is it even possible to broach the issue without offending someone? They therefore hesitate, and then choose silence. As long as many can remember, this has always been the case. As early as 1988, half the staff directors appointed to the Lutheran Layman’s League—an affiliate of the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod—were “divorced and remarried,” a fact which its board dismissed as irrelevant to their work as Christian mentors. The “no fault” message has successfully removed the stigma from marital dissolution.

* * *

Where does the American family find itself after nearly fifty years of no-fault divorce—that legal enshrinement of individual adult autonomy, of unilateral decision-making that imposes itself upon the other spouse and the children? Research is just now beginning to reveal how the tragedies of divorce persist into the third generation—as the impact of no-fault reform passes now to the grandchildren of those who first sowed its seed in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, “Kids’ Divorce Stories,” on the Marriage Ecosystem website sponsored by the Ruth Institute, collects first-hand accounts from the rising generation as they reflect upon the choices of their parents, who in turn inherited the new divorce culture ushered in by no-fault reforms.

By listening to these voices, young men and women now have the opportunity to evaluate the decisions of those who have traveled the road before them—decisions by conservatives and liberals alike, by lawyers and theologians, by specialists and laypeople, by a broad spectrum of Americans who by either action or acquiescence participated in the no-fault revolution.

Prudence demands a better path. If today’s young people can be equipped with tools for forgiveness and reconciliation, then their collective actions may be able to remove “wedded bliss” from a list of oxymorons and restore it as the cornerstone of both civilized society and genuine personal fulfillment. To accomplish this, however, the rising generation will require mentoring from the minority of natural families who still remain and encouragement from another minority group: fractured families who have reunited to become whole with one another again.

Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D., is author of Rediscovering the American Republic (2 vols.) and Senior Editor of The Family in America. He serves as chair of the History Department at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. This article is republished with permission from The Family in America, the Journal of the Howard Centre for Family, Religion & Society.

Read the orginal article with footnotes.

 


 



Which is Harder on Kids: Death or Divorce?

(April 21, 2016) Dr J is once again Drew Mariani's guest on his show on the Relevant Radio network. They're discussing the recent study that compares outcomes of children whose parents have died with those whose parents divorced. The study was a joint project of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Tokyo.

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Losing a parent to death or divorce - which is worse?

Research shows that “Parental separation was significantly associated with almost all disorders.”

by Nicole M. King

This article was first published April 20, 2016, at Mercatornet.com.

The News Story - MPs to look into Cyprus divorce problems

Divorce in Cyprus has been on the rise, and the resulting “negative impact on children caught in bitter custody battles” has that nation’s House Human Rights Committee looking into the creation of a pre-divorce mediation service.

According to The Cyprus Weekly, the committee “heard about how divorces are often followed by increased ill-feeling between the former couples, financial disputes and custody and alimony issues with negative consequences for any children involved, particularly if they become estranged from one of their parents.” “We believe the situation will benefit if more can be done through mediation,” said committee chairman Sophocles Fyttis. The Office for the Protection of Children’s Rights told the committee that “it was time for society to become more child-oriented.”

And while these goals may be laudable, they are unlikely to accomplish much if smoothing out couples’ disagreements before divorce is their only aim. A real “child-oriented” society, research shows, would encourage such couples to seek more marriage counseling instead.

The New Research - Parental divorce is worse than parental death



Everyone recognizes that children suffer when they lose a parent through death. But in recent decades, some progressives have asserted that children suffer relatively little when they lose a parent (usually their father) through divorce. The progressive line, however, is fast losing credibility. The latest piece of evidence comes in the findings of a study recently completed by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and from the University of Tokyo, a study concluding that parental separation is a decidedly stronger predictor of various forms of mental illness than is parental death.

To compare the psychological effects of parental death with those of parental separation, the researchers parse data collected between 1993 and 1998 from 2,605 male twins from the Virginia population-based twin registry, looking for statistical linkages between parental loss (any loss, death, and separation) during childhood and subsequent lifetime risk for seven common psychiatric and substance-use disorders. The seven disorders of interest to the researchers are Major Depression, General Anxiety Disorder, Phobia, Panic Disorder, Alcohol Dependence, Drug Abuse, and Drug Dependence.

Painstakingly assessing their data, the authors of the new study see an unmistakable pattern emerging: “Parental separation has stronger and wider effects on mental illness than death.” Specifically, the researchers conclude that parental separation “significantly predicted risk for all disorders except phobia (O[dds]R[atio]s ranged between 1.45 and 2.03).” Looking closer at their data, the researchers conclude that “parental separation had the strongest impacts on risk for depression and drug abuse/dependence.” “By contrast [with the effects of parental separation],” the researchers remark, “parental death was marginally significantly associated with only risk for phobia and alcohol dependence (both of p < 0.05).”

Having shown that “parental separation was significantly associated with almost all disorders,” the Virginia Commonwealth and Tokyo scholars see in their findings strong evidence that “the effect of parental death persists a relatively short time and has weaker impact on adult psychopathology than that of parental separation.” This conclusion, they acknowledge, is “in accordance with previous studies” that have found “no or weak associations between parental death and psychiatric disorders.” The authors of this study indeed interpret the findings of this 2014 study against the backdrop of their own 2002 study in which they “demonstrated that the risk for depressive onsets due to parental death returned to baseline within a limited time whereas a much longer time period was required for the risk due to parental separation to return to baseline.”

The authors may be justified when they conclude by calling for “further research . . . in larger prospective cohorts to confirm [their] findings and elucidate the mechanisms by which parental loss impacts risk.” But Americans surely know enough already to realize that children face greater risks when a parent employs a divorce lawyer.

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America 30.1 [Winter 2016]. Study: Takeshi Otowa et al., “The Impact of Childhood Parental Loss on Risk for Mood, Anxiety and Substance-Use Disorders in a Population-Based Sample of Male Twins,” Psychiatry Research 220 [2014]: 404-9.)

 




Long and Winding Road out of the gay lifestyle: a story of forgiveness

The headline over at LifeSiteNews says this is a story out of the gay lifestyle. And so it it. But it is first and foremost an inspiring story of forgiveness and repentance. Any Survivor of the Sexual Revolution, any person seeking peace, can benefit from this article. 

A sample: 

 

I embarked upon an incredible journey of forgiveness, having many people from my past, and especially men, that I needed to forgive. The therapy and prayer sessions I now regularly engaged in never focused solely on my being sexually attracted to men, but I was encouraged to look every aspect of my present and past in the eye. This included the painful process of accepting that I had been consistently sexually abused by a number of men as a child over a three-year period.

Much of my spiritual journey became concerned with recognizing where, during my infancy and childhood, my little soul had chosen to build walls within myself against significant others in my life, especially against my parents, siblings and other prominent people from my past.

He faced the wrong that was done to him (child sexual abuse) and at the same time took responsibility for the ways he had built walls around himself. Eventually, he became able to forgive those who had wronged him. 

Survivors of all sorts: please study this! 


 


Losing a parent to divorce affects educational ambition

Why? Because it changes family involvement in children’s educational activities

by Nicole M. King
 
This article was first posted March 30, 2016, at mercatornet.com.

The News Story - Free community college education bill a potential “game changer” for state

A new bill proposing that Kentucky cover the costs of community and technical college education for qualified students has just passed through committee in the state legislature.



The Work Ready Kentucky Program “can be a game changer for a lot of families,” according to Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College President Phillip Neal. "This opens the door to higher education to people across the state who for financial reasons can't access college.” The bill now faces difficult hurdles on its road to law—most particularly Kentucky’s already severe budget difficulties.

But while free community college may sound like a perfect solution for workplace shortages, for example—the problem that Kentucky lawmakers cite as incentive for the bill—it will go only so far in encouraging students to graduate. Research reveals that far more powerful factors may be at play in students’ decisions whether to attend college.

The New Research - Losing Dad, losing ambition

Sociologists have known for some time that children of divorced parents fall short in their educational attainments, when compared to peers from intact families. A prime reason for this deficiency comes to light in a study recently completed at the University of Oslo in Norway: children who lose a parent (usually their father) through divorce also often lose their educational ambition.

In beginning their inquiry into how parental divorce affects educational ambitions, the Oslo scholars fully anticipate that family breakup might cool young people’s ardor for pursuing a college degree. After all, they remark, “A family composed of two biological parents is considered to have an optimal family environment for children.” Elaborating, the researchers stress that “each of the biological parents is an important resource of emotional support, practical assistance, information and guidance.” But when parents part through divorce, children lose some of these critical resources. Typically, such parental divorce “deprives children . . . of the opportunity to get a male role model, because usually the father leaves the household.” The father’s absence, the researchers explain, “strongly contributes to the change in parent practices and family involvement in children’s educational activities” experienced after the divorce.

But in this new study, the researchers focus not on how parental divorce affects educational attainment but rather on how it affects educational ambition. To gauge the impact of parental divorce on educational ambition, the researchers pore over data collected from two samples of 18- and-19-year-old Norwegian adolescents, the first (from a prospective study) comprising 1,861 young men and women and the second (from a cross-sectional study) comprising 2,391.

The data from both samples provide clear evidence that parental divorce dampens educational drive. Among the young people surveyed in the prospective study, those who had experienced a late parental divorce were almost twice as likely as peers from intact families to drop plans for college or university education, becoming “undecided” as to their educational future (Odds Ratio of 1.8). The statistical linkage between parental divorce and diminished educational ambitions likewise shows up in the cross-sectional data, which establish that “adolescents who experienced parental divorce during childhood or adolescence were more likely to have undecided educational ambition, compared to their peers from continuously married parents (O[dds]R[atio] 1.3).”

“In conclusion,” the Oslo scholars write, “experience of parental divorce seems to be associated with undecided educational ambition among 18/19 year-old adolescents.”

Though their data all come from Norway, the researchers’ findings align with those of a 2007 study involving “a large sample of Canadian adolescents . . . report[ing] that adolescents from single-parent families had lower educational ambitions than those from two-parent families.” The results of this new Norwegian study also parallel those of a 2007 study finding that “non-intact family structure variables were negatively associated with the decision to continue education” among children and adolescents in Sweden and the United States.

Seeking to translate their findings into public-policy implications, the researchers reason that “mechanisms that reduce the adverse influence of parental divorce on educational ambitions need to be in place.”

Isn’t it past time to stop looking for mechanisms reducing the adverse influence of parental divorce and to start looking for reforms actually preventing parental divorce from happening in the first place? It is such reforms—legal and cultural—that will most help to ensure that young people do not give up on their educational dreams.

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America 30.1 [Winter 2016]. Study: Henok Zeratsion et al., “The Influence of Parental Divorce on Educational Ambitions of 18/19 Year-Old Adolescents from Oslo, Norway,”Journal of Child and Family Studies 24.10 [2015]: 2,865-73.)

This article has been republished with permission from The Family in America, a publication of The Howard Center. The Howard Center is a MercatorNet partner site.

 



 



A Letter to God From a Child of Divorce

By Jennifer Johnson

This article was first posted at onepeterfive.com on

Dear God,

Will you please tell book publishers to stop publishing books about “two homes” for children of divorce? Every time I see one, I want to scream. I know those authors and publishers think they are performing a needed service, but in reality they are whitewashing an extremely painful experience that never ends. Please tell me You understand what I’m saying because it seems to confuse everybody else. Let me explain. Take this quote, from I Am Living in Two Homes, by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones:

It’s a grownup choice, through no fault of your own. Your dad and I are happier in two different homes.

Notice the word “choice.” It reminds me of “pro-choice.” “Choice” has been awfully hard on recent generations, Lord, don’t You agree?


Who is weaker, Lord: children or adults? I always thought children were weaker, but this book makes me feel like I was supposed be the strong one and sacrifice my happiness for the sake of my parents’ happiness. Isn’t that backwards, Lord? It seems like the older generations had a lot more family unity than more recent ones. Looking back, you can see that their parents sacrificed their “choices” in favor of their children.

Lord, I am reminded of what you said in Matthew 18:

Woe to the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to the man by whom the offense cometh.

I love my family, Lord, very much, and I know You do too, but frankly, I’m offended. Very offended. In important ways it’s not their fault so please don’t be mad at them. When professionals who know better are silent, how can the normal people who listen to their advice be blamed? The psychological, psychiatric, and medical communities have abandoned people like me by not speaking out to defend the natural family, even though they know it is the best environment for children. My entire culture has gone off the rails by propagating beliefs like these:

  • “Kids are resilient.”
  • “Babies are blank slates.”
  • “Kids can and do thrive under any number of family configurations.”

“The Sexual Revolution has blinded adults to the structural inequalities they are creating for their children. They have all embraced ideas of “freedom,” that are very heavy and burdensome for children who grew up like me and have to live with adults’ “choices.” For a long time I have tried to be a trooper and carry the burden as well as I could, Lord, but I am tired. So very tired.” It hurts so badly that my dad spends more time with his step-children than he does with me, and my mom had created a new family that I am not fully part of. Worse, I can’t say anything about it because I’m afraid of their reaction. And what good will it do? Will they get back together if I speak out? How can they get back together when they are already remarried with new families? I figured out a long time ago that there is no escape, and it makes me profoundly sad.

In addition to the professional communities mentioned, almost all of the Christian churches have abandoned me. Even my own church, the Catholic Church, the only Church that upheld the fullness of Your teaching about marriage and human sexuality in recent decades, is considering it. Will You please talk to the Catholics, Lord? I need somebody to go to bat for me. If they abandon me, where will I go? Children don’t have any money to put into the basket on Sundays. Let their tears be an offering instead, OK?

This verse in Your Word at Psalms 56:8 gives me comfort:

You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

In the meantime, publishers need to know that we don’t need any more books whitewashing children’s pain of living in “two homes.” In fact, we need the opposite: we need books that encourage adults to live in “two homes” so that their children can live in one home. Yes, the children should live in one home, and the adults should be the ones to pack suitcases every week and make the back-and-forth trip. I’d appreciate it if you’d let them know that this is what they should be doing, instead of pushing that burden down to their children. I think this would wake them all up as to how heavy of a burden it really is.

Here is another thing we children of divorce can never understand: if one of my parents is too awful for my other parent to live with, then why am I packing my suitcase to go and stay at the awful person’s home on a regular basis? If they are so awful, then I shouldn’t be going there. Since I am going there regularly, then this means that they can’t be that bad. Either that, or I am being put into harm’s way.

Finally, Lord, will you please ask someone to write a book or make a movie telling adults that it is okay to stay together for the sake of the kids? I would be very grateful for that, and I know that other kids of divorce would too.

Sincerely,

An adult child of divorce who has been struggling with the aftermath for over four decades
Jennifer Johnson is the Associate Director for the Ruth Institute.


Mommy come back!

 

by Meredith H. (South Jordan)

It started when I was 5. I remember hearing them fight scream while I cried trying to go to sleep. One night as I was asleep I heard some yelling outside my door. Then I heard my mom singing though my dad was still trying to argue with her. As weeks passed the police came to my house so often it scared me. When I turned 6 I went to my aunts house with my sister and three brothers. Only to cry even more finding out they were at court. When we returned home I had found out that my mom had been sent to jail. She got out but shes not doing well. 2 years later we moved. It was the worst I was depressed. But I just smiled hoping everything will be alright. But it never was. I missed my mom so much it hurt to know I didn't have anyone to do my hair. I bubbles my feelings so much that I suddenly burst. I CUT. Voices in my head told it would help but it didn't. My dad started yelling more it was bad. I cried for my mom for help for anyone to save me! I went to a counselor for help she helped me so much she understood me her parents too got in a divorce. It helped but sometimes at night when everyone is asleep i cried and wished for a mommy. I even drew my own mommy. To this day I hate that we moved. I am still depressed and still have feelings i want to spill. My family could have worked. Its been 7 years and I still cry is there anyone out there who just wishes they could have one phone call to heaven.

 


The grass isn't always greener

When I was 13, my mom began an affair with an old boyfriend, who she ran into at a reunion. She eventually divorced my dad, and married him. My father was devastated. My mom justified her actions by telling everyone their marriage had been miserable and my dad treated her poorly. This was a huge source of gossip in the mid 80's in our small town, and I felt like everyone was talking about my family behind my back. Both my parents were too busy trashing each other to notice what their divorce had done to me. My mom felt she was entitled to be happy with her new husband, and people get divorced all the time, and so it was all really no big deal and I would get over it. Karma did get her though--her amazing old boyfriend turned out to have a big drinking problem, and her new marriage spiraled downhill fast. She eventually divorced him too. Like so many people, she discovered the grass really wasn't greener with someone else. If only more people understood this.

I was, and remain, 100% committed to never putting my children through anything like what I went through. I married a wonderful man and we recently celebrated our 15th anniversary. It shocks me when I realize that we are approaching the length of time my parents were married when my mom's affair began. We have two children who are our entire world, and when I look at them I can't fathom for one minute putting them through anything like that. To this day, I still feel pain over the fact that my mom didn't feel the same way. It's been over 25 years and that pain is still there.


Restoring Marriage Today

(March 4, 2016) Dr J is one of the speakers at this year's Catholic Answers Conference: "Restoring Marriage Today." Her talk was entitled "Keeping the Family Together: Public Policies and Personal Strategies."

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The children of divorce: anything but resilient

By Nicole M. King

This article was first published February 24, 2016 at Mercatornet.com.

 

The News Story - Coping with a new home life

In Part I of a series called “Children of Divorce,” provided by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Lohud Journal News outlines some “strategies to help your child cope” with a parental divorce.

Among these strategies are “validate your child’s feelings,” “respect your partner’s rules,” and “make decisions based on what’s best for the child.” “Concerned parents,” according to the story, “have more power than they think when it comes to promoting their child’s resilience and facilitating the transition.”

But research suggests that, in spite of such parental palliatives, children’s “resilience” can only go so far, and a true decision “based on what’s best for the child” would be to stay married.


The New Research - The children of divorce: anything but resilient

When pressed to admit that the divorce revolution they led has hurt children, progressives invoke the myth of children’s resilience. Yes, they say, parental divorce does hurt children, but—not to worry—children are resilient: they bounce back in a year or two. The latest empirical insult to this myth comes from a study recently completed at Vanderbilt University, a study showing that more than four decades after parental divorce, the children affected still manifest the malign effects of that divorce upon their health.

This damning new evidence comes out of a sophisticated analysis of how “adverse social environments . . . become biologically embedded during the first years of life with potentially far-reaching implications for health across the life course.” As these researchers press their analysis of the linkages between social disadvantage in childhood and chronic health problems in adulthood, family disintegration emerges as a particularly important component of that social disadvantage—more important, in fact, than even low household income.

To analyze the relationship between social disadvantage in childhood and chronic health problems in adulthood, the researchers carefully examine data for 566 men and women born between 1959 and 1966, individuals for whom they have the social data necessary to formulate “an index that combine[s] information on adverse socioeconomic and family stability factors experienced between birth and age 7 years.” Drawing from data collected in 2005-2007 from these same individuals as adults, the researchers look for correlations between their index of childhood social disadvantage and adult health problems as measured in two ways: first, in cardiometabolic risk (CMR), determined by combining data from eight CMR biomarkers (including waist circumference, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels); second, in a composite index derived by assessing eight chronic diseases (including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis).

And the correlations do stand out. Using a statistical model that accounts for differences in adult variables, such as adult social disadvantage and race, the researchers still find that “a high level of social disadvantage [in childhood] was significantly associated with both higher CMR (incident rate ratio = 1.69) and with a higher number of chronic diseases (incident rate ratio = 1.39) [in adults].” In other words, the data show that “children who experience high levels of childhood social disadvantage are more likely to have cardiometabolic dysregulation across multiple biological systems and also to be diagnosed with a higher number of chronic diseasesmore than 4 decades later.”

The findings most lethal to the myth of childhood resilience after parental divorce emerge when the Vanderbilt scholars carry out “analyses considering the 2 components of the social disadvantage score separately.” These analyses establish that “both family stability and childhood SES were significantly [and separately] associated with chronic disease,” while “family stability, but not childhood SES, was significantly associated with CMR.” Overall, the researchers therefore conclude that “the measure of family stability alone accounted for more variation in CMR and chronic disease than the childhood SES measures.”

As they reflect on their findings, the authors of the new study stress that the linkage they have limned between childhood social disadvantage and both cardiometabolic dysregulation and chronic disease in middle-aged adults is likely to “grow stronger over time as individuals begin to exhibit more age-related diseases.” But recognizing that one particular form of social disadvantage entails particularly pronounced long-term health risks, the researchers emphasize that “stability in the family environment is critical to setting children on a healthy trajectory early in life.”

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, forthcoming in “New Research,”The Family in America Vol. 30 Number 1, Winter 2016. Study: Amy L. Non et al., “Childhood Social Disadvantage, Cardiometabolic Risk, and Chronic Disease in Adulthood,” American Journal of Epidemiology 180.3 [2014]: 263-71.)

 



I moved in with my girlfriend at 16.

My family were not Christian when I was a child, and my mum was never warm towards me or my sister because we reminded her of her aging and mortality, which she resented. The sexual revolution had made her fixate on being a young woman and gave her no preparation to function as a mum. She eventually committed adultery against my dad with his best friend when I was about 15. My mum left, and my older sister already lived away (with her boyfriend), so it was just my dad and me at home, but he was very depressed. I moved out at 16 and moved in with a girlfriend.

My parents' divorce took four years through costly solicitors and was full of bitter hurt. My girlfriend at the time and I introduced my dad to my girlfriend's mum, who had also been hurt by her adulterous ex-husband. We had meant for them to be friends, but they got together and my girlfriend's mum moved in with my dad and eventually became my step-mum. So I was engaged to my step-sister.
 
We moved to university together, but I was struggling to function and I started receiving humanistic counseling when I was 19 or 20 for about two years. Then my fiancée and I went to couple's therapy on and off for about a year, but we finally broke up when I was 21, after years of difficulty and perseverance in a really unnatural situation. We'd been together since we were 15, lived together since 16, broke up after 6 formative and tumultuous years.
 
Since we broke up, she's been diagnosed as bi-polar: she was physically and emotionally abusive, coercive, and controlling towards me during our relationship, but because of my dad's marriage to her mum, my dad never helped me. He and my step-mum took my abusive partner's side and colluded in her abuse of me, and made me feel responsible for her treatment of me.

Then one day I met an evangelist and after being amazed by the love present in the Christian community I became a Christian and met my now wife, also a Christian, when I was 22. We had a godly courtship for two years and on the advice of my evangelist and pastor we got married when I was 24 after a short marriage course provided by some lovely Christian mentors. My wife is incredibly loving and not at all like my mother or my ex-partner were. However, because of my formative traumatic experiences, I do unconsciously project onto her and so I experience her behavior as rejecting or neglecting me, even when she is not.
 
She knows this about my psychology and is patient and supportive. We talk about these things articulately. I have been in psychotherapy for the last five years and really am healing, with therapy, a Christian marriage, church community, and especially the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.

Submitted by A.L.P. in February 2016.



How Could Divorce Affect My Kids?

By Amy Desai, J.D.

This article was first published at Focus on the Family.

Many years ago, the myth began to circulate that if parents are unhappy, the kids are unhappy, too. So divorce could help both parent and child. "What's good for mom or dad is good for the children," it was assumed. But we now have an enormous amount of research on divorce and children, all pointing to the same stubborn truth: Kids suffer when moms and dads split up. (And divorce doesn't make mom and dad happier, either.)

The reasons behind the troubling statistics and the always-present emotional trauma are simple but profound. As licensed counselor and therapist Steven Earll writes:


Children (and adult children) have the attitude that their parents should be able to work through and solve any issue. Parents, who have given the children life, are perceived by the children as very competent people with supernatural abilities to meet the needs of the children. No problem should be too great for their parents to handle. For a child, divorce shatters this basic safety and belief concerning the parents' abilities to care for them and to make decisions that truly consider their well-being.

Children have the strong belief that there is only one right family relationship, and that is Mom and Dad being together. Any other relationship configuration presents a conflict or betrayal of their basic understanding of life. In divorce, children [tend to] resent both the custodial and absent parent."1

Research on Children and Divorce

While virtually every child suffers the lost relationship and lost security described above, for many, the emotional scars have additional, more visible consequences. More than 30 years of research continues to reveal the negative effects of divorce on children. Most of these measurable effects are calculated in increased risks. In other words, while divorce does not mean these effects will definitely occur in your child, it does greatly increase the risks. The odds are simply against your kids if you divorce.

Research comparing children of divorced parents to children with married parents shows:

  • Children from divorced homes suffer academically. They experience high levels of behavioral problems. Their grades suffer, and they are less likely to graduate from high school.2
  • Kids whose parents divorce are substantially more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile.3
  • Because the custodial parent's income drops substantially after a divorce, children in divorced homes are almost five times more likely to live in poverty than are children with married parents.4
  • Teens from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual intercourse than are those from intact families.5

Before you say, "Not my kid," remember that the children and teens represented in these statistics are normal kids, probably not much different from yours. Their parents didn't think they would get involved in these things, either. Again, we're looking at increased risks.

A few more statistics to consider:

  • Children from divorced homes experience illness more frequently and recover from sickness more slowly.6 They are also more likely to suffer child abuse.7
  • Children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress.8 And the emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood.9

The scope of this last finding — children suffer emotionally from their parents' divorce — has been largely underestimated. Obviously, not every child of divorce commits crime or drops out of school. Some do well in school and even become high achievers. However, we now know that even these children experience deep and lasting emotional trauma.

For all children, their parents' divorce colors their view of the world and relationships for the rest of their lives.

Wallerstein Study

Psychologist Judith Wallerstein followed a group of children of divorce from the 1970s into the 1990s. Interviewing them at 18 months and then 5, 10, 15 and 25 years after the divorce, she expected to find that they had bounced back. But what she found was dismaying: Even 25 years after the divorce, these children continued to experience substantial expectations of failure, fear of loss, fear of change and fear of conflict.10 Twenty-five years!

The children in Wallerstein's study were especially challenged when they began to form their own romantic relationships. As Wallerstein explains, "Contrary to what we have long thought, the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Rather, it rises in adulthood as serious romantic relationships move center stage . . . Anxiety leads many [adult children of divorce] into making bad choices in relationships, giving up hastily when problems arise, or avoiding relationships altogether." 11

Other researchers confirm Wallerstein's findings.12 Specifically, compared to kids from intact homes, children who experienced their parents' divorce view premarital sex and cohabitation more favorably.13 (This is disturbing news given that cohabiting couples have more breakups, greater risk of domestic violence14 and are more likely to experience divorce.15)

Behind each of these statistics is a life — a child, now an adult, still coping with the emotions brought on by the divorce.

As Wallerstein put it, "The kids [in my study] had a hard time remembering the pre-divorce family . . . but what they remembered about the post-divorce years was their sense that they had indeed been abandoned by both parents, that their nightmare [of abandonment] had come true."16

Parents tend to want to have their own needs met after a divorce – to find happiness again with someone new. But not only do the old problems often resurface for the adults, new problems are added for the children. As Wallerstein observed, "It's not that parents love their children less or worry less about them. It's that they are fully engaged in rebuilding their own lives — economically, socially and sexually. Parents' and children's needs are often out of sync for many years after the breakup."17 Children again feel abandoned as parents pursue better relationships after the breakup."

Feelings of abandonment and confusion are only compounded when one or both parents find a new spouse. A second marriage brings complications and new emotions for children — not to mention new stepsiblings, stepparents and stepgrandparents, who often are in competition for the parent's attention. (And the adjustment can be even more difficult — because it is the adults who choose new families, not the children.)

Lilly expressed it this way: "My loss was magnified as my father remarried and adopted a new 'family.' Despite attempts on my part to keep in touch, we live in different cities, and his life now revolves around his new family with infrequent contact with me. This has only increased the feelings of abandonment and alienation from the divorce."

And the high rate of second-marriage divorces can leave children reeling from yet another loss.

Full "recovery" is nearly impossible for children because of the dynamic nature of family life. While you and your ex-spouse's lives may go on separately with relatively little thought, your children will think about their loss almost every day. And 25 years after the fact, they will certainly be influenced by it. Life itself will remind them of the loss at even the happiest moments. As Earll explains: "Children never get over divorce. It is a great loss that is in their lives forever. It is like a grief that is never over. All special events, such as holidays, plays, sports, graduations, marriages, births of children, etc., bring up the loss created by divorce as well as the family relationship conflicts that result from the 'extended family' celebrating any event."18

Not an Easy Out

What parents see as a quick way out often results in emotional damage that the children will carry for 30 years or more. Divorce is no small thing to children. It is the violent ripping apart of their parents, a loss of stability and often a complete shock. While we often think of children as resilient, going through such trauma is a lot to ask of our kids.

In light of the fact that most marriages heading for divorce can be salvaged and turned into great marriages, parents should take a long pause before choosing divorce. While it may seem like a solution to you, it's not an easy out for you or your kids.

 



Divorce is good and other myths: Column

Don't buy into popularity of unhitched culture.

by Diane Medved

This article was posted on usatoday.com on October 23, 2013.

The books just keep coming: Collaborative Divorce, Happy Divorce ,The Good Karma Divorce, The Creative Divorce . Reading the articles and books, you might get the idea that The Good Divorce is a sacrament, not a disaster.

One typical story featured a family gathered together comfortably: the ex-husband with his new wife, his old wife with her new husband, their son and his new baby. Now they're just peachy, they insist, and experts agree.

Constance Ahrons, who coined the phrase "good divorce," thinks split families should meld seamlessly, without stigma, into our social fabric. The message seems simple: With the right attitude, divorce can lead to a relatively pleasant mélange of happily combined relatives. But that wasn't what I saw in my years counseling divorcing couples.

A year later, most divorced couples claim they're stronger, better and smarter. So why not "good divorce"?


Heartache, financial loss and time detangling bring irreparable setbacks. Lots of spouses get dumped. Eighty percent of U.S. divorces "are unilateral, rather than truly mutual decisions," notes researcher Maggie Gallagher. Still, healthy people can wade through the hurt and make the best of the situation.

That doesn't ameliorate the damage. Children, who never have a say in their parents' parting, become collateral damage and dismissed with the dubious phrase "kids are resilient." Judith Wallerstein, whose landmark 25-year study of divorced families convinced her of its ongoing harm, found that "many of these ... children forfeited their own childhoods as they took responsibility for themselves, their troubled, overworked parents; and their siblings." The trauma peaks in adulthood, she cautions, undermining love, sexual intimacy and commitment.

Divorce mars the lives of in-laws and unsettles otherwise contented bystanders; it unsteadies society, destabilizes neighborhoods and brings awkwardness in social encounters.

Yet a "culture of divorce" has grown as new technologies gave us feel-good instant gratification, demoting the virtues of duty and obligation. Americans' attention span shrank from reading tomes to watching TV shows to three-minute YouTube videos to six seconds of a Vine.

Our notion of commitment became shorter, too. Marriage pledges are now really "hopes," easily revised by a Facebook status change. The New York Times' "Vows" page recently began a new column called "Unhitched," each week highlighting one couple's divorce.

Stripped of connection to paternity, marriage has become optional. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 48% of women cohabited with a partner as a first union, The overall out-of-wedlock birth rate topped 40% in 2011.

Years ago, tempted cartoon characters paused to consider the coaxing of an angel perched on their right shoulder and a devil on their left. The conscience angel urged, "Do your duty! Do what is moral and right! Defer gratification!" The self-centered devil whispered, "Do what feels good! Follow your heart! Get what you want, right now!"

Granted, not all marriages can survive, like the hopeless cases where an abusive or addicted spouse won't get help. To overcome problems, both partners must want to stay married; the hitch is that our non-judgmental culture greases their paths out the door instead of encouraging deep introspection.

I learned two lessons counseling divorcing couples. First, a rejected mate usually requires at least half as long as the marriage to recover. Second, recovery occurs not when a spouse "feels good" about the former mate, but when she's indifferent.

Our accept-it-all milieu grants so much leeway for individual happiness that relationships have no backbone with which to stand. The little devil perched on society's slumping shoulder gloats, "You can have a good divorce! Do what you want, and do it now!" That angel guy is so old-school, he can't even text his apologies to the kids whose lives turn upside down.

Diane Medved, a clinical psychologist, is author of The Case Against Divorce.

 




Should we fix mental health issues or prevent them?

By Nicole M. King

This article was first published at Mercatornet.com on February 17, 2016.

The News Story - Time running out on mental health bills

Wisconsin is one of many states considering legislation that would amend how mental-health issues are treated, but several of the proposed bills will expire soon if not acted upon.

According to the Post Crescent of the Fox Cities, these proposed bills are primarily directed at children, and “involve a range of issues, including clinical work provided in schools, tax credits for new psychiatrists, zoning rules for peer-run respites and new stipends for the mental health advisory board . . . ” State Representative Paul Tittl identifies two bills in particular that he believes are particularly important. One “would allow contracted mental health professionals to provide care at schools without a state-certified, on-site clinic,” and the second “would provide an income tax credit to new psychiatrists who commit to practicing in the state for at least 10 years.”

Laudable efforts, to be sure, but research indicates that such expensive legislation is a mere palliative to a problem that runs much deeper, and that perhaps state legislatures would do better taking a look at the family circumstances that put children and young people in need of such services in the first place.

The New Research – Young adult minds coming unglued

America’s permissive divorce laws give children no voice when parents choose to part. But evidence continues to mount that those children suffer tremendously when parents fail to make an enduring marriage. That suffering takes a number of forms. In a study recently completed at Charles University in Prague, researchers identify serious mental disorders as symptoms of the suffering occasioned by family disintegration.


Intent on identifying the “potential mental health risks related to stress influences associated with a mother’s marital status,” the authors of the new study parse data collected from 364 19-year-old Czechs participating in the European Longitudinal Study of Parenthood and Childhood. With these data, the researchers can diagnose the mental distress occasioned when parental marriages fission—or never form in the first place. These data indicate that living without a father disorders the minds of young men, and that living with a stepfather entails similarly malign consequences for young women.

As they examine the data for the young men in their study, the Czech scholars detect psychopathology in significantly elevated dissociative symptoms—including “feelings of depersonalization, derealization, [and] psychogenic amnesia”—among those living with never-married and divorced mothers (p < 0.01 with young men living in intact two-parent homes as the baseline). The researchers speculate that psychological dissociation develops among fatherless boys because “boys need a specific kind of separateness from mothers to find male identity, for which they need a father or father figure.” What is more, they suggest, a fatherless home may foster a “pathologically dependent attachment between mother and son.”

When they shift their focus to the young women in the study, the researchers find the disturbing incidence of dissociation not among those living without fathers but rather among those living with stepfathers. Compared to peers living in intact two-parent families, young women from stepfamilies are significantly more likely to manifest symptoms of psychological dissociation (p < 0.01). The Czech scholars see in this pattern evidence that “girls had more difficulties interacting with stepfathers than [did] sons.” Noting an even more disturbing but plausible reason for the high levels of dissociation among girls in stepfamilies, the researchers note “that stepfather–daughter erotic attachment and sexual abuse is more prevalent than [such] abuse by biological fathers.”

The researchers interpret their findings against the backdrop of earlier studies establishing a clear “relationship between fatherlessness and children’s emotional and behavioral problems” and showing that “divorce and destructive couple conflict represent major risk factors for many forms of dysfunction and psychopathological manifestations in children.” The authors of this new study also find relevant context for their conclusions in earlier studies indicating that “children from single parent or blended families have increased vulnerability to traumatic and other stressful life events.”

The Czech scholars call for “further research . . . to explain to what extent psychodynamic factors play significant roles in these family processes associated with dissociation.” But Americans already have enough research on hand to know that the minds of many young people have been scrambled by parental breakups, facilitated by our swinging-door divorce laws.

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, forthcoming in “New Research,”The Family in America Vol. 30 Number 1, Winter 2016. Study: Petr Bob et al., “Dissociative Symptoms and Mother’s Marital Status in a Young Adult Population,”Medicine 94.2 [2015]: e408, Web.)

This article has been republished with permission from The Family in America, a publication of The Howard Center. The Howard Center is a MercatorNet partner site.

 


 



I watched as the officers took my dad into the car in handcuffs.

While I was growing up my parents would argue a lot. I thought their fighting was just a normal thing that grown-ups did. As I got older I would try to intervene and stop them from fighting.

One night when I was 12 years old I woke up at about 3AM and heard my father yelling. I came downstairs to see my mom on the phone with 911. I sat down on the couch with my dad. I found out eventually that my parents were getting a divorce and this was the last night that they were spending together before moving out. I remember my Dad yelling that he didn’t understand how you can be in love with someone and be married to them for over 20 years and just stop being in love with them.

The police eventually came to our house to try to get my dad to agree to leave for the night. He did not want to because he worked for our house and so they told him he either had to leave or they would take him. He was mad at the officers and asked for a moment to say goodbye to me, saying you would want that chance too if you weren’t going to see your son again for several months. The police officers told him to stand up and place his hands against the window because he was under arrest. I immediately ran upstairs and went to the bedroom that overlooked our driveway. I watched as the officers took my dad into the car in handcuffs and drove away. This was the last time that I saw my dad for several months.


I immediately fell into a deep sadness, having a very hard time ever wanting to go to school or do anything else. I suddenly could only see my dad every other weekend and had to walk far away from my house for him to be able to pick me up. My parents tried to have me see counselors, but they were not ever any help. No one ever told me why my parents would no longer be together other than that they did not love each other anymore. I could not understand how they could stop loving each other after being married for so long. It was not until I was 22 years old and heard Dr. Morse speak that I ever heard anyone talk about how much divorce impacts children. I grew up very lonely, only ever having one or two friends while at school and never having a social life outside of school or sports.

I still do not feel like I have a family that I can go home to. I rarely visit my family because it doesn’t feel like home, and I have a hard time feeling like they love me. We did not go to Church after my parents' divorce, and I eventually became an agnostic. I only ever knew of God and never saw him as being three persons who loved me.

I was gifted the grace of faith at the beginning of this year and since coming back to the Church have found an incredible amount of love and support for the suffering that I have gone through and still carry with me today. I am so thankful for the Church’s teachings on the indissolubility of marriage. I still carry a lot of pain with me but I have found immense relief in knowing that I am a victim, my parents separation was wrong, and that I was not wrong for being hurt by it. It helps knowing that my parents are still married in His eyes and that God still very much so loves our entire family.

Looking to the future, I am happy that God has gifted me with the incredible grace of a vocation to religious life with a Fransiscan Order. I am happy that I am finally home-sick when I am away from the brothers as they truly feel like family. I am also able to finally fulfill the deep desire that I have always had within me to spend my life serving those in need.

Submitted by S. R. December 2015.



I never thought to question the morality of abortion.

My mother left when I was six. My sister and I went to a beautiful old house we called “the home” - a group home for girls whose families were under stress. We were fed and dressed well, had lots of play time but, even with my sister there, I was scared. I saw Matron rub a twelve year old girl’s nose into her urine-soaked sheets, and I had seen her pull down underpants in public, in order to spank other girls. That was when I began to live on the margins and keep watch. Like the kid in the movie 'The Blind Side’, I became "99% self-protective”.

At age eight I went back to live with Daddy. I hardly can recall my mother but Dad remains my hero. He and I shared long evenings reading or listening to the radio and talking about plays, music and politics. With him, I participated in anti-apartheid marches. My love of history came from trips we took to ancient places like the Roman ruins at St. Albans and, every year, we went by ferry to his Irish homeland. I loved sitting on deck at night, singing old Irish songs.

By my early teens I began getting in trouble and ended up in boarding school. The school was in a 19th Century mansion, its grounds filled with exotic plants, lakes, a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts. A tolerant staff kept watch over us. We danced to juke-box music every weekend. Boys and girls found all kinds of secret places to meet - in fireplaces, by laundry baskets, in the woods and at the trout stream. And we knew not to go “all the way”.


By 1965, the naive little boarding school girl, heavily influenced by an atheist/socialist Dad, went to nursing school and became a bleeding heart. Assisting with abortions was part of the surgical rotation. I never thought to question the morality of it and none of my peers did either. There was no public discussion about it, no talk about women’s rights. It was a scandal for a young woman to be pregnant outside of marriage. They were my peers, and I wanted to shield them.

When Evangelical friends put a Bible in my hands, my life changed radically. By the time I read the Gospels the third time, I was sensing a protective and tolerant Presence, yet I struggled with accepting Christianity. Then came terrible nightmares about dead babies. I felt prompted to read my Bible and start writing. I realized I was dreaming about the abortions I’d participated in and which, for fifteen years, I never had a second thought about. In nursing school, I had believed as I was taught, that the baby was a “blob of tissue”.

The words of Deuteronomy 30:19 jumped out - “I put before you Life and Death, choose…” I saw two armies, one standing behind Jesus and one behind Satan, and my inner ears heard, “there is no gray area”. It was a mandate. My choice had to be an eternal one. After 29 years I went back to the Church, and I was (flinchingly) in the pro-life camp.

However, I continued, as a Public Health nurse, thinking that birth control was a lesser evil than abortion and that the Church’s teachings were wrong, until I learned about the beautiful spirituality of natural family planning. I began to remember women who had strokes as a result of birth control - and malignant hypertension and pancreatitis. Could my sister’s death, from pancreatic cancer have been avoided if she had not taken birth control for thirty years?

Following a hunch, I discovered many horrid complications of artificial contraception besides abortifacient properties - cardiovascular disease, cancers of breast, liver and cervix, egg-producing male fish, personality changes, sterility, miscarriages and STDs.

I know now, as my 69th birthday approaches, that the Church had wisdom about the terrible consequences the sexual revolution would bring - long before science began to identify them.

Submitted by L. P. February 2016.



"It was torture for all of us."

I am a child of divorce. I am a 52 year old father of three children. I am married but in a mixed marriage. We do not share the same faith background. I am the third child of four. I have two older sisters and a younger brother. My mom was 15 when she got pregnant with my oldest sister. My dad was 19. They were married 6 months before my sister was born. They had four kids in five years. My sisters are actually 11 months apart (Irish Twins).

My mom was raised Catholic and actually had the notion of being a nun. My father did not have a strong faith background and was nominally Christian. He converted to Catholicism before they were married. My sisters, brother and I were very close given our proximity in age. We were all baptized and received Holy Communion. My sisters were both confirmed but neither my brother nor I were confirmed.

About the time I was in seventh grade my parents began to fight. They would spend hours every night screaming at each other in the laundry room in the basement with the washer and dryer running, but it did little to muffle their yelling. My dad never inflicted any physical harm on my mother nor did she to him. They verbally abused each other for about a year. Then when I was in 8th grade they announced their divorce. The four of us were completely devastated. We huddled together to protect each other.


My Dad moved out. Over the next several years he would drive by the house and find ways to taunt her or try to reconcile with her. It was torture for all of us.

He remarried around the time I turned 16. From the very first day and up to this day I did not get along with his wife. She has always been emotionally unstable, and at one point attempted suicide. I hated my dad for the divorce, for marrying her, and I had little respect for him. I still have not completely reconciled with him. Our relationship is tense, and I see him almost every day.

My Mom stayed in the house and lives there still today. She remarried to a man I have not liked from the beginning. He has had health problems and has been on disability for the last 25 years. He only briefly worked when they were married. He did not own anything substantial at the time of their marriage. His medical bills are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars but are all taken care of through the VA. He is barely mobile and can hardly get around the house. He has driven us all away from our mother. When she calls us to help her with something, we are all reluctant because of the drama we have to deal with. I rarely talk to my mother on the phone because he is in the background interjecting comments.

I left the church as a teenager and did not return until my oldest daughter was born 18 years ago. My wife was raised in an Evangelical church, and she and I have gone to separate churches every Sunday for the past 18 years. She raised our daughters in her church, and I go to mass alone.

Yay, divorce!

Submitted February 10, 2016 by D.B.

The Church Has Been Right on Divorce All Along

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first posted at Crisis Magazine on January 27, 2016.

 

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I would like to weigh in on Ross Douthat’s on-going dialogue with theologians employed at nominally Catholic institutions. Like Douthat, I am not a theologian. However, we don’t have to be theologians in order to be good Catholics or people of good sense. I think us “amateurs” can contribute two very solid points that the theologians sometimes seem to overlook. We can point out that Jesus was and is the Son of God. And we can point out that he was correct about divorce. We cannot make these two points too often.

Anyone who is blathering about Jesus being limited by his knowledge and his social context, does not really believe that Jesus is God. Such people are not Catholics or Christians of any kind. I don’t care whether they teach at an institution that calls itself Catholic. Jesus is who he claimed to be. If he wasn’t the Son of God, he was a fraud or a nut-job. As C.S. Lewis pointed out years ago, the so-called “moderate” or “middle-ground” is completely illogical.

 


 

Even if one does not accept the claim that Jesus was and still is who he claimed to be, we can evaluate the soundness of his teaching about divorce. I believe the evidence shows that he was correct about divorce. The American experience with no-fault divorce since 1968, proves this beyond any shadow of a doubt.

No-fault divorce removed the presumption of sexual exclusivity within marriage. When adultery is no longer considered a marital fault, who benefits? The adulterous partner. Think about that: the law takes sides with the adulterous party. The so-called “exception” clause in Matthew 19 is completely irrelevant. No serious person of any Christian denomination believes that Jesus intended to allow an adulterer to run off and remarry their new sweetie.

No-fault divorce also removed the presumption that marriage would be permanent. This harms children. We know this from a vast amount of social science evidence. The committed Sexual Revolutionaries are well aware of this evidence. They are also aware that the continued “progress” of their movement requires that none of its negative consequences be reported or even acknowledged.

So we take the kids to therapy. We give them medication. We have chipper features like “Blended Family Friday” to celebrate positive stories.

After forty years of this, the kids can now speak for themselves. The adult children of divorce number in the millions. I have lost track of how many people have told me, “Dr. Morse, you are the first adult I have ever heard say that divorce is hard on kids.” At the Ruth Institute, we have a blog called “Kids Divorce Stories.” When we give the children of divorce a chance to speak, we get an earful.

Of course, Jesus foresaw all this. In Matthew 19, verses 3-9, is his well-known and much-analyzed dialogue with the Pharisees about divorce. But the scene shifts in verse 10. The disciples exclaim, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”

I like to imagine what went through the mind of Jesus at this point. Being the Son of God and all, he could instantly picture millions of intimate moments for millions of people across time and space. In the split second between the time the disciplines whined at him that this was too hard, and his reply, Jesus may have pictured the wounds that children would experience from the loss of their parents’ love for each other.

He saw the little flower girl at her mother’s remarriage, silently heartbroken: her mother’s remarriage means her mother and father will never get back together again. Jesus saw the teenaged boy, watching his mother have a parade of boyfriends through the house. The boy is simultaneously protective of his mother and disgusted with her.

Jesus saw boys and girls going back and forth between their parents’ homes, never feeling completely at home in either place. Jesus saw their mother and her new husband having new children together. He saw them hang the photos of their new family on the wall. Jesus saw the hidden pain the children of the original marriage would feel when they see those photos, and never see photos of their complete family in either parents’ home.

Yes, in that split second, Jesus knew perfectly well that his new commandment for marriage was revolutionary. And he saw that it was good.

He basically told the disciples, “You’ve got your choice. Lifelong fidelity to one woman or lifelong celibacy. Get over it, buckaroos.”

I know that many people have gotten divorces that they regret. I realize that many spouses did not want to get divorced in the first place. I know many of these people are wounded, and perhaps bitter. The Church knows it too.

The Church has something for all of us: the confessional. Go to confession, even if you were the wronged party, the abandoned spouse or the innocent child. The grace of the confessional helps us let go of our woundedness, and move forward in love. After all, Jesus wants us to love even those who have harmed us. He gives us the grace to do what may seem to be impossible. And of course, if you yourself provoked an unjustified separation or loss of love between yourself and your child’s other parent, you absolutely need to go to confession.

In short, the Church is far more reasonable and humane than her self-styled “progressive” opponents. This is the deepest reason that the Church should not change its teaching: the teaching is good. The evidence is all around us.

The Catholic Church is the only institution that has even attempted to stand up to the modern Sexual State. Even the Catholic Church has not done enough to provide justice to the millions of abandoned spouses and children in our country, as Stephen Baskerville has pointed out multiple times on this site. It would be tragic indeed, if the Catholic Church abandoned her ancient and still-relevant teaching, at the precise moment that it is obvious she has been right all along.


 



More than two Parents: Not so New and Not so Enlightened

From the United Families International blog on July 16, 2014.

by Diane Robertson, featuring quotes by Ruth Institute's Jennifer Johnson.

child sad 2

In 2013 California made it legally possible for children to have more than two parents. More states will surely follow suit. The diversity-in-family-structure-loving-liberals think this is enlightened. They’re working hard to bring society out of the dark ages of Married mother and father families into the “Brave New World” of many parents.

Except this idea isn’t so brave and isn’t so new. Some children have already had a similar experience through divorce and they are speaking out. The Ruth Institute is collecting stories from children of divorce. As it turns out divorced couples, remarried couples, step families, broken families, and shared custody don’t actually feel so enlightened to the children who grew up in these situations.

One such personal story, told by Jennifer Johnson, illustrates what it actually feels like growing up with 5 parents. Johnson’s parents divorced when she was about three. Her mother remarried once and her father remarried twice. Johnson explains what her life was like growing up with five parents:


“it means going back and forth between all those households on a regular basis, never having a single place to call home during your most tender and vulnerable years. It means having divided Christmases, other holidays, and birthdays–you spend one with one parent, and another with the other parent, never spending a single holiday or birthday with both parents. Imagine having each of your parents completely ignore the other half of you, the other half of your family, as if it did not even exist. Meanwhile, imagine each parent pouring their energy into their new families and creating a unified home for their new children. These experiences give you the definite impression of being something leftover, something not quite part of them. You live like that on a daily basis for 18+ years.”

So why would so many adults push for this type of family brokenness and even make it possible for many adults to have legal control over a child? It’s called selfishness. Adults want this so they can have children and have sex with whoever they please and at whatever stage of life they wish. They want this sort of life legal so their partner can make medical and educational decisions for their children. They want convenience for themselves, but not their children.

Johnson writes about a woman, Masha Gessen, a prominent LGBT activist, who grew up with a married mother and father and speaks frankly about how her children have 5 parents. Gessen bemoans the fact that there, as yet, isn’t a way for her children to have all of their parents legally:

“I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”

Johnson’s replies to Gessen simply calling out the truth of the matter:

“If what I had is so great, then why don’t they want it as children? Here’s my conclusion: they want it as adults but not as children. They want the benefits of the socially conservative family structure when they are children. But as adults, they want sexual freedom, or at least they want to appear ‘open minded’ and ‘tolerant’ about others sexual choices, even at the expense of children, even though they themselves would never want to live under what they advocate. It’s a bizarre sort of a ‘win-win’ for them, I guess.”

Children don’t need more than two legal parents. Society doesn’t need diversity in family structure. All children and all of society needs responsible adults who marry before having children, work daily on a loving relationship and together raise their children in stable, happy homes. It can be done and would be the source of a truly “enlightened” society!

 




I'm still emotionally disturbed by my parents divorce sixty years ago.

I am a sixty-one year old adult child of divorce. My parents divorced in 1956 when I was two years old. My mother remarried in the same month that the divorce was final. My mother had full custody of me, and my new step-father raised me into adult-hood. I had minimal contact with my natural father especially after he remarried a couple of years later and produced four more children. He became busy taking care of his family, like we all do. But his absence in my life as I was growing up bothered me emotionally a great deal. I was in enough pain that I started smoking pot at about twelve years old and drinking alcohol at about thirteen whenever I could get it. Smoking pot lasted about twenty years, and I use alcohol to this day.


I have been through a divorce after a twenty-two year marriage and was not the best husband or father during that first marriage. I have remarried and have been married now for twenty-one years and almost ruined this one with alcohol abuse, anger rages, arguments, etc. For many years of my life until recently I thought my father had done somethings wrong or had not been a good husband to my mother and somehow screwed up the marriage. I was angry at him. I could not relate to him when I did see him, so I went long blocks of time, years, without having contact with him. I loved him, he loved me, but we had zero relationship. I also missed out on relationships with my aunt and grandparents on my father's side. My father passed away ten years ago, and my aunt and grandparents are also gone. My aunt passed away last about ten months ago, and I all of a sudden had access to family photos, scrap books, misc. documentation. This prompted me to research my mother and father's marriage and divorce all those years ago.

I found out that my mother became dissatisfied in their four year marriage and hooked up with a friend of my father's (while she was still married to my father). This new man in her life became my step-father, who raised me. I did not know this information until I was sixty years old, just a few months ago. All through my life none of my elders told me what really happened, not even my father. For at least fifty years I had misplaced blame for my parents' divorce. I blamed my father. When my father remarried, he was married until death, about forty-five years. My mother has been married four times during her life.

After learning this information now, I am in anguish thinking that if I had only known this information when I was twenty and was able to process it, maybe I could of had a relationship with my father over all of those years. In my humble opinion, I think the sexual revolution may have started a long time before the 1970's. My testimony to the negative effects of a divorce when children are involved is that I am sixty-one years old and I am still emotionally disturbed about my parents divorce that happened sixty years ago.

Submitted by R.A. October 2015.



Remember Our Children

Nov 12 2015 - America Magazine | Jason Adkins, Jessica Aleman, Richard Aleman, Mary Jane O'Brien

 
Finding hope in the church’s ‘hard teachings’ on marriage and Communion

 

A child attends a special Mass at Mission San Miguel in San Miguel, Calif., May 16 (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec).

Now that the Synod on the Family has concluded, Pope Francis is expected to issue a report, and perhaps an apostolic exhortation, based on the synod’s final recommendations. One of these recommendations is to discern what forms of “exclusion” experienced by divorced and civilly remarried couples can be overcome. Pope Francis has communicated that certain changes in pastoral practice are necessary with respect to how the church treats adults in these irregular marital situations.

As the church goes forward in a process of discernment, the church should be attentive to the voices of the numerous children affected by the divorce culture and the sexual revolution. By doing so, the church may better recover a truly pastoral approach that seeks conversion of heart, growth in Christ’s love and “accompaniment” of all souls.


Although no one should be indiscriminately marginalized from the life of the church, not inviting those who have divorced and remarried to Eucharistic Communion is the path most consistent with both justice and mercy, especially for the children living in and trying to cope with an irregular union of a parent.

In a general audience address on Aug. 5, Pope Francis made comments indicating that the church needs to adopt a different posture toward the divorced and remarried precisely out of its concern for children. On the situation of children he said:

If we then also look at these new bonds through the eyes of the young sons and daughters—and the little ones watch—through the eyes of the children, we are aware of a greater urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities. For this reason it is important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes, always be attentive to people, starting with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer the most in these situations.

Pope Francis rightly calls us to consider the needs and well being of children. Some of his comments, however, also seem to suggest that children are harmed by the current practice of excluding their divorced and remarried parents from receiving Communion. This notion is mistaken. A change in pastoral practice concerning the divorced and remarried will not only have the practical effect of diluting the church’s life-giving teachings on marriage and sexuality; it will also be unmerciful and unjust to the children of those who are in irregular unions, since it is those children who suffer the most from their parents’ choices.

A Wounded Generation

We write as members of the so-called divorce generation: children who were born and grew up as divorce laws were liberalized, making divorce more socially acceptable. Each of us has been personally touched by divorce, with parents who themselves have divorced and/or are now living in irregular unions. We are part of a generation of walking wounded. While our experiences are different, we all continue to cope with family fragmentation and sexual brokenness playing out in our own lives or in the lives of family and friends.

An overly solicitous pastoral approach, rooted in an abstract conception of mercy, will deeply undermine the church’s evangelical credibility. It fails to appropriately accompany the children of those who have divorced and remarried.

Many of these children are angry and confused as to why their parents turned their lives upside down, even while they continue to put on a “brave” face due to fear of abandonment or letting their parents down. These children are carrying this baggage well into adulthood as they struggle to find stability, trust and love in their own relationships.

Contrary to what some comments by certain synod fathers and the Holy Father seem to imply, relationships fail and divorce happens in many cases primarily because of the willful choices of adults. Indeed, the failure of relationships is often due to the unwillingness of one of the spouses to love and sacrifice to the extent required by the vocation of marriage.

Given this reality, proposals that the church should invite those in irregular marriages to receive Communion, even after some act of penance or discussion with a priest in the “internal forum,” would dismiss the needs of children in order to satisfy the desires of adults. It confuses the little souls that the church is responsible for forming. It communicates that divorce is not a big deal, which would have ripple effects in the church’s pastoral practices and in our homes. And it should come as no surprise when a child, watching as the church “sides with” the adults who are, often, the very ones who have caused such great hurt in his or her life, grows up skeptical of the moral authority and evangelical credibility of the church.

What children need is for the church to stand with them and to speak the truth about what their parent or parents have done. As Catholics, we understand that God’s judgment is a sign of his mercy and love, especially the judgment of those actions that have destructive consequences for the people we love. Lest we forget, encouraging repentance and reparation for our wrongs toward others is for the good of our souls and for the well being of those around us.

And this brings us to our main concern. We are not bitter young people who fear change or want to see parents in irregular unions punished. On the contrary, we love our parents and want them to go to heaven. As the church is the instrument of healing for broken and wounded souls, we pray that by being excluded from the Eucharist they will recognize the gravity of their sins and seek repentance.

We do not believe, however, the church can fulfill this responsibility by papering over sin under the guise of mercy. Mercy and love must be lived in truth. If they are not, they become merely patronizing sentiments and ultimately do not have the effect of bringing people closer to Christ. To be a true field hospital in battle, we must come with medicine, not just bandages.

Based on our own experience, as well as observing our peers of all stripes and backgrounds, we have found the clarity of the church’s witness on questions of marriage and sexuality, including the theology of the body, to be transformative, life giving and healing. From those with same-sex attraction to those caught up in the hook-up culture, the splendor of the truth—coupled with friendships and relationships that help people live this truth and explore paths of healing—can give new life.

Boldness Bears Fruit

We were initially discouraged by both the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, and the proposal from Cardinal Walter Kasper to create a penitential path to Communion for the divorced and remarried without a decree of nullity. Neither seemed to have in mind or to be rooted in the experiences of the countless victims of divorce and the sexual revolution, including the many young men and women who have experienced hope and healing from the “hard sayings” of the church’s moral teaching.

Whether the “Kasper proposal” is still considered a viable option after the synod or whether it has been effectively dismissed, it remains critical for the church to listen to the voices of the divorce generation. Should Pope Francis and the synod fathers widen the discussion and the discernment process, they could consider research from family scholars who have identified the ways in which cohabitation after divorce and second marriages are often deeply harmful for children. (See articles here, here, here, here and here.)

Likewise, they might consult the many stories Jennifer Roback Morse is collecting from the victims of divorce and the sexual revolution. The stories are quite painful, and showing greater attention to them will perhaps shake us out of our current stupor of minimizing the harm and evil of divorce.

Today, the church needs more clarity, not less. Divorce is an act that breaks apart families, neglects children and harms the community. When compounded with adultery, it is an affront to the sacrament of marriage and to the plain words of Christ, and it merits exclusion from Eucharistic Communion. Either we believe that Christ and his teachings are the way, the truth and the life, or we do not. Greater fidelity and boldness, we believe, bears great fruit, while false compassion undermines the church’s evangelical credibility.

Pope Francis rightly wants us to go forth into the peripheries and share the joy of the Gospel, yet we are spending enormous amounts of time and energy fighting another intra-church battle over settled matters. This battle, in itself, indicates that there remains a critical need to clarify the proper mode of evangelical engagement. Going to the peripheries with love and mercy means willing the authentic good of others; but to will the authentic good means to first know what constitutes the good and to be willing to proclaim it. When we go to the margins of society, we must do so while remaining always in the truth of Christ.

Jason Adkins, Jessica Aleman, Richard Aleman and Mary Jane O'Brien write from St. Paul, Minnesota.

 



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