Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


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.


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.


Jennifer Johnson's family situation


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.
 

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.


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.




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



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.


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.

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