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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.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Life-long married love benefits children. Why then, is our government creating incentives for parents to not marry? Poor children need their own parents and a stable family life every bit as much as children of the middle and upper classes.
If you are not sure about the benefits of life-long married love for children, let me tell you about Gina. I encountered her when I was a foster parent. When I met Gina, she was 12 years old and was transitioning from a group home into a foster home. She was intelligent and pretty and articulate.
Gina’s mother and father had not married each other. Her mother developed a drug problem and disappeared. Her father took full responsibility for Gina. Eventually, he met another woman, fell in love, and married her. They had a child together.
Gina was jealous of the new wife and the new baby. Her father and stepmother were afraid to leave her unattended in the same room with the baby, for fear she would hurt the baby. In fact, she did try to hurt the baby.
One day, Gina provoked a quarrel with her stepmother. She got so frustrated she shoved Gina, who called the police. The stepmother knew she shouldn’t have done it. But Gina was in no real danger: she called the police out of spite. The stepmother spent a few days in jail. Child protective services put Gina in a group home.
Her father was heartbroken. He loved Gina and was really trying to take care of her. But she was a risk to the baby. And she got her stepmother arrested.
In the meantime, Gina’s maternal grandparents came to visit while she was in foster care. They wanted to get custody and take her home. They were heartbroken that their own daughter had gone off the rails so badly that she was not taking care of her own child. Although they had had little relationship with Gina, they were worried about Gina being in foster care and a group home.
They just wanted their granddaughter to be with them. Perfectly understandable, and laudable. We would want all grandparents to feel that way. Just one problem: Gina’s father did not want them to take Gina off to another state.
Nothing completely takes the place of a loving stable relationship between a child’s own parents.
So, let’s look at the scorecard. A heartbroken father, who can barely keep his wife and daughter from fighting, and who cannot be sure that his infant is safe from his 12-year-old daughter. A pair of heartbroken grandparents who want some relationship with their granddaughter. A stepmother who fears for her child’s safety and who fears being set up by the stepdaughter.
And one deeply disturbed little girl. Angry, lonely, manipulative. Gina was deeply in need of unconditional love, and yet almost completely incapable of receiving the love people tried to offer her.
This blended family is innocuous by modern standards. Gina had had only two “family transitions”: the first when her mother abandoned the family, the second when her father got married. The father was free to marry, even by the strictest Roman Catholic standards, since he had never been married to Gina’s mother in the first place. Everyone was sincerely trying to do the right thing for Gina. The family was not desperately poor. There was no hostility or quarreling between the biological parents.
Yet, there is still no solution to Gina’s situation. Nothing completely takes the place of a loving stable relationship between the child’s own parents. So, yes, kids really do need their own parents.
Now: is the government in fact undermining marriage among the poor? Consider these facts from the Institute for Family Studies, as of 2010:
Out of wedlock births are significant because the mothers so frequently have their next child with a different partner. This places the first child in a situation like Gina’s, with all the accompanying risks and complications.
What accounts for this overall trend and these class distinctions? Part of the answer, surely, is that some of the most significant income support programs have significant marriage penalties. People in these situations are better off cohabiting, or not living together at all, rather than getting married.
A report from the Urban Institute focuses on the Earned Income Tax and Child Tax Credits. A report from the American Enterprise Institute examines Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for food stamps) and TANF, (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.)
The widespread perception that marriage puts one’s benefits at risk may be driving behavior more than the actual details of the program.
The AEI report focuses on families with at least one child aged two or younger, in other words, the men and women most likely to be new parents and to be considering whether to marry. The poorest of the poor are less likely to be affected by marriage penalties. Many of the lowest income people qualify for benefits whether they marry or not. But even among the lowest income quintile, two-thirds of the lowest income quintile will likely face a marriage penalty for SNAP, TANF or Medicaid.
The situation is even worse for the working poor, with slightly higher incomes. People closer to the eligibility threshold can face substantial losses in family income if they marry. Among the middle quintile, three quarters face a marriage penalty for SNAP, TANF or Medicaid. And among those in the second lowest quintile, fully 87% of the families would face a reduction in benefits if they married.
Perhaps even more importantly, the AEI report found that about 30% of Americans personally know someone who did not marry due to fear of losing the benefits. This widespread perception that marriage puts one’s benefits at risk may be driving behavior more than the actual fine-grained details of the program.
The Federal government’s programs for poor relief undermine the ability of the poorest people in society to get married and stay married. This has got to stop.
Scholars and analysts across the political spectrum are aware of this problem. They only disagree about how significant it is. Analysts at the liberal end of the spectrum probably fear that removing the marriage penalties won’t do much. Those at the conservative end may fear that removing the marriage penalties would cost too much. But both these fears cannot be true. So, let’s spend the money it takes to remove the marriage penalties. If these penalties only affect a few people, it won’t cost much to remove them.
Social conservatives have the ear of the current Administration. Now is a good time to recruit scholars and analysts from the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Urban Institute and Brookings, and do something about the marriage penalties.
Together, they could come up with something. We owe it to the least among us to stop undermining the formation and stability of their families.
Posted on: Monday, October 24, 2016
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.
Posted on: Saturday, October 15, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
Originally published at The Blaze on October 14, 2016.
Dear Social Justice Warriors,
In some circles, the term “Social Justice Warrior” is a slur: an overly sensitive, obliviously privileged college student in a continual uproar over trivia.
I don’t agree with this caricature. I agree with you that social justice is real and worth fighting for. I admire young people who want to do something noble and good with their lives.
I have the perfect cause for you. This is a cause where you can do something constructive for the poor and marginalized. This cause demands something of you, rather than you demanding something of others. Are you ready for my challenge?In Portland Oregon, 2-year-old, Zackariah Luda Daugherty was murdered by a 20-year-old man. In West Virginia, an unnamed 9-month-old baby girl died after being sexually assaulted, shaken and strangled by a 32 year-old-man. In New Jersey, Ariana, a two-year-old girl diedafter being sexually assaulted by a 22 year-old-man.
What do all of these cases have in common?
The perpetrator of these crimes was in each case, the mother’s live-in boyfriend. If you type the words “mother’s boyfriend kills child” into your browser, many similar stories will pop up.
Social scientists have known for some time that the most dangerous living arrangement for a child is living with his or her mother and her live-in boyfriend. Back in 1994, a British study of child abuse reported that children living with their mother and a cohabiting boyfriend were about 50 times more likely to be killed than children living with their married parents.
This chart is taken from the original article with the permission of the author. Look at the bar labeled 2 NP md, which stands for “two Natural Parents, married,” and compare it with the bar labeled NM & chtee, which stands for “Natural Mother and cohabitee.”
A more recent study, in 2005, in Missouri, found that children living with their mother and an unrelated adult were 60 times more likely to be killed than children living with their married mother and father. And 84 percent of the time, that murderous unrelated adult was the mother’s boyfriend.
What does this have to do with me, you may ask? My young friends, I have frequently given talks on the hazards of cohabitation. And it never fails: some college student, usually a guy, will claim that cohabitation is not really so bad. It just looks bad, he will say, because lots of poor people cohabit. It looks like a bad deal, because the people who cohabit are more likely to be losers in the first place.
This is not correct, as it happens: controlling for income and education does reduce the impact of cohabitation, but not all the way to nothing. But let us say, for the sake of argument, that the problem is not cohabitation per se, but the people who happen to cohabit.
This, my earnest young friends, is where the social justice issue comes into play. Let’s say that you, as a privileged college-educated woman, can have a child, and then safely move in with a boyfriend who is not your child’s father. Let’s say you, as a college-educated man, never abuses your live-in girlfriend’s child.
But look: the child of a poor woman is more likely to be harmed by his or her mother’s boyfriend. What part of social justice is it for you and your advantaged friends to make excuses for a social convention, cohabitation, that won’t hurt you, but is systematically more likely to harm the poor? Why would you do such a thing?
That study is old and out of date, you may say. Ask yourself why you think that matters. I think we somehow expect the passage of time to bring wider acceptance of cohabitation. And we think, this wider social acceptance will solve these problems.
That assumes that the problems have only to do with social approval. Do you really believe that less disapproval of unmarried motherhood will eliminate the stress, fatigue and loneliness that unmarried mothers feel? Will wider social acceptance improve her judgment about what kind of guy is good for her to be involved with? Is the mere progression of time enough to make men no longer prefer their own natural children to someone else’s? Will further progress of the Sexual Revolution make men less interested in sex with the mother and more interested in her child?
In other words, the True Believers in the Sexual Revolution believe they can remake human nature.
I think this is a fool’s errand. I think these “old, outdated” studies show that we have known from the beginning that cohabitation is problematic. The privileged people of society, academics, social workers, judges, law enforcement officers, they are all aware of these risks. But we are not telling the poor, whose lives are most likely to be disrupted and even destroyed.
So here is my challenge to you. Stop making excuses for cohabitation. You don’t really need to move in with your Significant Other, do you? And even if you think you do, at least stop defending it as public policy. Give some thought for Zackariah, Ariana and the thousands of other unnamed children who have been harmed by their mothers’ boyfriends. Sacrifice yourself for the sake of social justice.
You just might save some lives.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse: Survivor of the Sexual Revolution
Posted on: Friday, August 12, 2016
By Ryan MacPherson, a Ruth Institute Circle of Experts member
Book Review: The Decline of Males, Lionel Tiger (New York: Golden Books, 1999)
This article was first published at hausvater.org.
Why would a confessional Lutheran (who recognizes that God created humanity male and female, instituted marriage, and designed the one-flesh union for procreation) want to read a book written by an evolutionist who claims that Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is the key to interpreting the breakdown of the American family? If the evolutionist is Dr. Lionel Tiger, a Rutgers University anthropologist, and the book is The Decline of Males, then the answer is simple: his insightful analysis offers lessons that transcend the gap between Darwinian assumptions, which fundamentally contradict Scripture, and the confessional Lutheran worldview, which proclaims that God “impressed upon [human] nature” a “divine ordinance” for marital procreation (Apol. XIII (XI), 7, 12).
Tiger differs from many scholars. He identifies the root of America’s culture war over “family values,” with its recurring “battle of the sexes,” not in politics, not in religion, not in any particular ideology, but rather in biology. He argues that male and female bodies, and the social behaviors that typically go with them, have evolved over millions of years to perfect a mammalian reproductive cycle in which offspring are preserved by males who care for pregnant and lactating females. The introduction of modern contraception in the 1960s, however, radically altered the human social environment. Biology—slow to evolve—is struggling to catch up. The result is social chaos, involving an escalation of single motherhood and absent fatherhood. A confessional Lutheran would want to correct Tiger’s evolutionary presuppositions with the doctrine that God the Creator designed human nature in such a way that “a husband should labor to support his wife and children … that a wife should bear children and care for them.” (AC XXVI, 10) The interesting thing is that many of Tiger’s conclusions would still stand. Following is the story he tells, drawn from anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
Prior to the 1960s, when the hormonal birth control pill became available, men and women had equal awareness of whether a sexual encounter was likely to result in pregnancy. Men, therefore, were more willing to accept responsibility for their pre-marital misbehavior, as evidenced by the high percentage of pregnant brides a century ago (30% to 50%). Today, by contrast, fewer women are pregnant on their wedding day, but many more remain unmarried as single mothers. “It is impossible,” writes Tiger, “to overestimate the impact of the contraceptive pill on human arrangements.” By shifting responsibility away from men and women (condoms and diaphragms) and toward women alone (pills and IUDs), modern contraceptive technology has empowered women to control their own destinies while also leaving women more vulnerable and isolated by deflating “a man’s sense of power … sense of function … sense of responsibility.” (35) Tiger suggests that this explains why the push for legalized abortion increased after the pill became available: when the pill failed, and an unmarried woman found herself pregnant, she could count no longer on a “shotgun wedding” as a safety net, and so she felt desperate for another way out.
By severing sexual intimacy from procreative potential, and procreative potential from male responsibility, the same pill that made women less dependent upon men also made them more dependent upon themselves, and ultimately upon the state. “If liberation means the absence of unavoidable irrefutable obligations,” explains Tiger, “women’s liberation has backfired. It is men who have been liberated.” (184) As women became less trusting of men and more reliant on themselves, higher education and gainful employment shifted, among women, from being luxuries to necessities. It became a greater stigma for a woman to be unemployed than unmarried. “Housewife,” formerly a badge of honor, was now a label of embarrassment. Women discovered, in a new culture of absent fatherhood and devalued motherhood, that “paid work enjoys high moral and social status even if it involves a woman’s taking care of someone else’s child ... and even if she has to pay yet another person to take care for hers.” (68) Men, meanwhile, shirked their responsibilities to the women they impregnated and the children born to them, leaving a void that social welfare sought to fill. Thus, monogamy gave way to “bureaugamy,” the marriage of a single woman and her child to the state’s welfare bureaucracy (21).
All this may sound too much like a “just so” story—clever, but without substantial evidence to support it. Here is where Tiger’s synthesis of the social sciences and natural sciences becomes more intriguing.
First, a lesson from primatology. Consider Austin, a dominant male monkey on a Caribbean island with nine female monkeys. As is typical for his species, he chooses to mate repeatedly with his favorite females—in this case, three of the nine. When researchers inject two of those three with Depo-Provera, a contraceptive, Austin loses interest and seeks two replacements from among the other monkeys. When the Depo-Provera wears off after three months, he returns to them. When researchers put all nine females on contraception, Austin begins “to rape, masturbate, and behave in a turbulent and confused manner.” (39) Depo-Provera chemically mimics pregnancy; since a female cannot become pregnant while currently pregnant, a female who is “chemically pregnant” on Depo-Provera has significant “protection” from actually becoming pregnant. As Austin’s harem demonstrates, this protection comes not only from the drug’s physiological effects, but also from it social effects. Chemically pregnant females do not exude the same pheromones as fertile females, and hence not only their own libido but also the interest that males exhibit toward them declines.
Similarly, women on the pill fall out of synch with off-pill women, whose pheromones lead the menstrual cycles of, say, women in a college dormitory to synchronize with the alpha female. In other words, “the pill affects how women relate to other women in a visceral way.” (42) Hormonal contraception also impacts women’s perceptions of men: women off the pill can distinguish responsible, gainfully employed, physically fit men from social “losers” by the smell of their clothes; women on the pill fail this same pheromonal evaluation. Such data confirm that Lutheran pastors had good reason to be concerned that, once the pill became commonplace, “Relationships between men and women would never again be the same.” (Lutheran Synod Quarterly, 1981*)
As Tiger progresses from the natural sciences to the social sciences, he does not champion “traditional family values” in the manner typical of reactionary conservatism. Rather, he argues compellingly for the success of single motherhood as a strategic adaptation to a radically impoverished human social environment. Women, whether single, married, or divorced, whether with or without children, are faring surprisingly well (though married women fare best). Women’s real wages increased in the closing decades of the twentieth century, while they declined for men. Women make up the majority of college students (55% in America; 60% in Canada) and are earning an increasing share of post-graduate degrees. Women are starting successful small businesses—often in or close to home, as they creatively integrate work with family life, a task that men have not mastered so well.
Rather than pointing a finger of blame at single women for being irresponsible, or for milking the welfare system, Tiger applauds their success at beating the odds. He also analyzes social transformations that have reshaped the odds in their favor. Specifically, a double-standard has emerged, under the guises of affirmative action and political correctness, in which all-female colleges retain praise but an all-male academy or golf club receives a court order to integrate. Rambunctious boys, whom an evolutionary anthropologist would identify as well-adapted for catching prey on the savannah, are now expected to cooperate quietly in feminized group learning classrooms, or else be diagnosed with ADHD and drugged with Ritalin. The same “troublesome” boys who fare poorly in school excel on the athletic field and demonstrate mental acuity by memorizing the stats of their favorite sports teams. Their biology is that of a male hunter-gatherer, but their social environment increasingly rewards feminine behavioral patterns they cannot readily produce.
Tiger thus objects both to the male chauvinism against which mid- to late-twentieth-century feminists reacted and also to the androgynous ideal that has largely replaced it. Emphasizing that men and women are biologically different, and by nature interdependent, Tiger worries about the “new world” in which men and women are expected to be the same, as interchangeable individuals rather than interdependent pairs. “Both men and women must play separately by the same rules rather than together by different ones.” (137)
But why separately? “It is almost easier to sever the most fundamental of human connections [marriage] than to install a Coke sign in a landmark part of town.” (115) No-fault divorce transforms even married mothers into single mothers, pseudo-empowering women to go it alone and men to leave them alone. Only 18% of single mothers receive child support from the father. Nearly 50% of Manhattan residents and 70% of central Oslo residents live alone. “The family effectively becomes almost a subset of society rather than the central system of society itself.” (107) Even families that remain intact outsource what historically have been the family’s most efficient achievements: childcare, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Half of American meals are eaten outside of home, and many of those eaten at home are “carry out” from elsewhere. The same two-income social structure that enables such tasks to be hired out also prevents spouses from having time to do them for themselves. Of course, this also means that husband and wife, parent and child are not doing such tasks for or with one another.
Men, meanwhile, recognize their lost ability to provide gainfully for a woman and their children. Some give up trying. Others labor in dissatisfying jobs, which they acquire only after tough competition against other men and women in an environment where affirmative action preferences female applicants. “The most challenging test to industrial communities,” projects Tiger, “will be to provide acceptable and gratifying occupations for young males and the adults they become.” (190) The decline of males has been especially sharp among African Americans, among whom 40% to 50% of young men are unemployed, and 7% of men spend part of their lives in jail. But the challenge is much broader. “How many men of any race or ethnic group can confidently assume they will, like their fathers, be able to support a spouse and several children in a seemly manner on their own check?” (170)
At the root of this all is a biological imperative: “Who will raise the children?” In Tiger’s evolution-assumed analysis, “it is best to begin with the mammalian fact that small children should be raised by their mothers. This is Mother Nature’s plan.” (260) Still, he does not suggest that people should be trapped by their genetic coding; rather, he urges that choices should be made in conformity with biological reality: if many mothers decide to remain at home with their children … this should be treated as an adult choice by empowered people, not a distasteful primordial legacy.” (263) He also wants women to feel free to remain unmarried and childless, pursuing independent lifestyles if they prefer. However, he argues that such independence should be truly independent, not bolstered by affirmative action—particularly now that 55% of college students are women anyway.
But whether women work, or stay at home to raise their children, or creatively develop a combination of both, is not Tiger’s principal concern. He simply suggests that children are best raised by their parents, and young children by their mothers, and thus he raises a red flag about a society that so causally has adopted the post-family normalcy of a single woman laboring (often by caring for other people’s children) in order to finance childcare for her own children. “No zookeeper would have Monkey Mother A take care of Monkey Mother B’s baby and vice versa,” but current welfare policy encourages precisely this arrangement for humans (264). Why not instead provide welfare payments for stay-at-home single mothers?
Better still, why not identify ways to foster greater responsibility among males, so that husbands and fathers can acquire gainful employment and fulfill responsibilities to women and children? Of course, responsibility implies interdependence, and interdependence is quite at odds with the sort ofindependence the pill promised women and men half a century ago. Could it be that such independence has prompted men to retreat from family responsibilities? Tiger thinks so, and warns that human society is regressing to a matrilineal chimpanzee lifestyle in which females mate with multiple males, none of whom maintain close ties to mother or child.
What he mistakes for evolutionary regression, Scripture identifies as original sin—the rotting away of our divinely fashioned human nature. For a full remedy to the epidemic of fatherlessness in America, one must look far beyond the social science of Lionel Tiger to the Bible’s testimony of the forgiving God who comes to earth to restore His fallen creatures. One must look to the gospel of Jesus Christ, concerning whom the prophet Malachi wrote, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
*Carl E. Braaten, “Sex, Marriage, and the Clergy,” Dialog n.v. (n.d.): n.p., as quoted and discussed in Norman A. Madson, “How Should a Pastor Deal with the New Morality?” Lutheran Synod Quarterly 21, no. 3 (1981): 32-47, at 35.
Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson is the founding president of The Hausvater Project. He lives with his wife Marie and their children in Mankato, Minnesota, where he teaches American history, history of science, and bioethics at Bethany Lutheran College. For more information, visit www.ryancmacpherson.com.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 03, 2016
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.
Posted on: Monday, November 02, 2015
By PEGGY FLETCHER STACK
This article was first Published at The Salt Lake Tribune on October 29, 2015, and last updated October 31, 2015.
On the third day of the World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City, stirring speeches about assaults on the family from the government and media, costs of the sexual revolution, and the urgent need to protect religious freedom rang through the Grand America ballroom.
The family was "ordained of God," the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said in a plenary session of the international gathering Thursday morning. "In essence, it is the heart of God by which we experience the fullness of God's glory."
The idea of the family "does not stem from a political ideology," said Rodriguez, who ministers to a multiethnic evangelical congregation in Sacramento, Calif., "and I don't believe the U.S. Supreme Court has the power and authority to redefine it."
Close, loving families led by a mother and father provide, he said, the "antidote to poverty, gang violence and economic disparities. ... It is a God-ordained firewall against so many ills."
An attack on the institution, Rodriguez said, "is an attack on communities that need it most."
Jennifer Roback Morse added her voice to the chorus of worried Christians, sounding the alarm about the aftermath — and victims — of the so-called "sexual revolution."
Morse — who was named one of the "Catholic Stars of 2013" along with Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and others — was so troubled by what she sees as the decline of marriage that she launched the nonprofit Ruth Institute in 2008 to raise awareness about the costs.
The list of those victimized by the family breakdown includes children of divorce, children of unwed mothers, women who have been abandoned and children of same-sex couples, she said. "Men, women and children have been harmed ... by the lies [about marriage]."
Society's view of sexuality "is a totalitarian ideology," the Catholic scholar said. "Even [its] most ardent opponents don't know how insidious the revolution is."
Morse then challenged the gathering to speak against sexual freedom and its consequences.
"We are up against powerful people in our world," she said, "but Bill Gates and George Soros do not have enough money to silence all of us."
The Rev. Paige Patterson, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, tackled the topic of religious freedom.
It began, he said, when God created the first couple — Adam and Eve.
"God could have created automatons," the Baptist preacher said, "but our progenitors were created with the freedom to reject God or honor him."
The Constitution's First Amendment outlaws any government-established religion and forbids limits to the "free exercise of religion" — unless the state has a compelling interest to do so.
"Those concerned about the future of the family can no longer lend support to any candidate who doesn't vigorously support the First Amendment or is seeking to impose restrictions on religious freedoms," he said. "All such [office seekers] must be resisted."
Without religious freedom, Patterson said, "all other freedoms become relatively meaningless."
The Utah gathering wraps up Friday. The 10th World Congress of Families is tentatively scheduled for May 16-18, 2016, in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
Posted on: Monday, October 26, 2015
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted October 22, 2015, at crisismagazine.com.
Let’s face it: The 2015 Synod on the Family is a mess. I was one who gave Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt. I now have my doubts about him. And I have no doubt at all that some of the men surrounding him are either heretics or lunatics or both.
The real question for us as lay people is this: what exactly can we do about it? We do not have full information about what is going on over there. Giving advice to cardinals and bishops is not likely to work. Screaming at them even less so.
As faithful lay people, we believe all that the Church has taught about marriage, family, and human sexuality. We do not want to see the Church water down that teaching, or surrender to the Sexual Revolution. It would be tragic indeed, if she did so now, right at the moment when the wisdom and beauty of her ancient teaching is becoming daily more evident from experience.
So what are we, as faithful lay people, to do about this? What has the best chance of cutting through the noise and having an impact?
To answer this question, let’s back up a minute. The Sexual Revolution has harmed millions of people. Just to take one of the issues most immediately before the Synod: divorce and unmarried parenthood.
We now know that kids are not “resilient.” They do not “get over it.” We know this from decades of careful research. We know if from experience. In fact, according to Judith Wallerstein, author of a 25-year study on the long-term legacy of divorce, the impact of divorce on children does not diminish with time. It “crescendos” in young adulthood, as they try to form relationships and marriages and families of their own.
Kids need their own parents. I learned from my experience as an adoptive mom, a foster mom, and a birth mom, all kids want the same thing. They want their parents to be there for them, and be appropriate parents. No matter how old the kids are, no matter what their parents have done, all kids of all ages, long for their parents to get it together and be good parents.
The Sexual Revolution has taught us that adults are entitled to have the sex lives they want, with a minimum of inconvenience. What we never hear anyone come out and say is: “And kids have to accept whatever the adults chose to give them.” You don’t usually hear people blurt out that last part, because we would be too ashamed of ourselves.
The Sexual Revolution promised fun and freedom. It delivered hurt and heartbreak. With the possible exception of a handful of predatory Alpha Males, everyone in society has been harmed: men, women and children, rich and poor alike.
I will let you in on a secret: the reason kids keep getting separated from their parents is because the victims, the kids, are not allowed to speak for themselves. As children, their parents expected them to accept whatever was going on around them, without complaining. And children, eager to please their parents, fearful of losing the parents’ love, kept quiet. Even as adults, the children of divorce and the children of unmarried parents, are expected to keep quiet, and go along with the program.
Silencing the victims has been crucial to the success of the Sexual Revolution. If you doubt me, consider these facts:
The solution is for all the victims of the Sexual Revolution to speak up, and tell the truth about how they were harmed. Telling that truth is the first step away from being a victim, to becoming a survivor. Anyone of us can take that step.
What does this have to do with the chaos over at the Synod? Most of the bishops know perfectly well that the Church’s teachings are good and humane. But they too, have been reluctant to speak out, and to preach this good news. Why? Because they are afraid of us, the laity!
True enough, many faithful people have been trying to support them all along. But look at it this way: if the souls wounded by the Sexual Revolution were visible, we wouldn’t be having this fight at all. All decent people would abandon the Sexual Revolutionary ideology in a heartbeat.
While it is awful that so many people have been harmed by the Sexual Revolution, we are undaunted. We are turning that very horror into an advantage: millions of us can testify about the false promises of the Sexual Revolution.
The elites in media, academia, law, and government cannot silence all of us. If everyone who has been harmed by the Sexual Revolution spoke out about it, we would change the world.
And eventually, even the most reluctant of the Catholic bishops might get the hint that the Church has been right all along, and find the courage to say so.
(Illustration credit: Sturt Krygsman)
Posted on: Monday, June 29, 2015
By Originally posted June 25, 2014 by Jennifer Johnson.
Around March of 2013 I came across the words of a prominent LGBT activist named Masha Gessen:
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.
Imagine having five parents! Here’s what it means: 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.
|As a child, would you choose a family structure advocated by Masha Gessen? Does this look fun?|
I don’t have to imagine, because I had five parents. I had five parents because my mom and dad divorced when I was about three; my mom remarried once and my dad remarried twice. So I had a mom and two step-moms, and a dad and one step-dad. In this day and age children can already have five parents. That’s how badly marriage has deteriorated already. The main difference between what Gessen advocates and my experience is that my step parents were not legal parents; she advocates for all of the adults in her situation to be legal parents.
Having more than two legal parents will be a nightmare for a child. Of course, I am making the reasonable assumption that the legal parents will not be living under the same roof, because there is no longer any societal accountability for adults to create a unified home for children. Thus, adding additional legal parents will create more disruption for children’s daily lives, more chaos, more confusion, less unity. And why are we doing this? So that adults can have the sexual partners they want.
Masha Gessen had a mom and a dad, so it appears that she benefitted from the socially conservative family structure--it appears she was not raised under the family structure she advocates. That sounds about right. I’ve talked to many people who think deconstructing the family in favor of adult sexual choice is a good thing… and these very same people lived under the socially conservative family structure with their one mom who spent her life with their one dad, and they all lived together in their unified home. Since I lived under the family structure they advocate, I will sometimes ask them: would you trade childhoods with me? They either say no or they don’t reply.
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.
It’s very painful for me to have conversations with these people. They don’t understand what they advocate, and they don’t seem to want to understand.
Posted on: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
by Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director
How savvy are you about step-families? Do you understand the structural similarity between step-families and same-sex marriage? Take the Step-Family Quiz to test your knowledge.I created this quiz as an engaging way to help defenders of marriage understand the cultural blind-spot that we have about step-families. Of course anybody is welcome to take it. But it is geared towards those who believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. By the end it should become apparent why I have focused on marriage defenders. There are five questions and their answers, plus a bonus question at the end.
1. Which group was the first to claim there is “no difference” between the intact family founded on natural marriage and other family structures?
2. When was that claim first made, and what form did it take?
3. You may recognize the following photo as being from a famous TV show:
If you do, set that aside for a moment and pretend you are a casual observer. You notice this family at church, at a restaurant, or at a sporting event. Can you tell if this was an intact family, or a step-family? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.
4. One of these families is an intact family. The other is a step-family. Which is which? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.
5. One of these families is an intact family. The other is a step-family. Which is which? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.
Here are the answers:
2. Early 1970s with the TV show, “The Brady Bunch.”
3. It is a step-family. There are no visual clues to help the casual observer discern that this is a step-family.
4. In the first photo, we see two men as the parents. Since two men cannot procreate together, that is the visual clue that this is a step-family. The taller man is the natural/legal father of both children. I believe the girl was adopted during his marriage to the boy’s mother. The other family is an intact family.
5. We see a man and a woman in each photo. Since men and women can procreate together, it is harder for a casual observer to discern which is which. The first is the step-family. The second is the intact family. (Yours truly is the child in the second photo–that’s my first family.) In the first photo, all of the children are the woman’s from a prior marriage.
6. From the child’s point of view, what is the structural difference between the two step families shown in questions 4 and 5? Most marriage defenders argue against the former quite vehemently and are largely silent about the latter. But from the point of view of the child, how different are they? Here are the photos again:
Answer: from the child’s point of view, they are not as different as might be imagined. Consider these similarities:
Might these similarities explain why the younger generation favors same-sex marriage? Perhaps their experiences (or the experiences of their friends) do not match our rhetoric. By not embracing arguments that defend the rights and legitimate entitlements of children, are we missing an opportunity to reach the younger generation? Given that 1,000,000 kids annually experience their parent's divorce, I think so.
How did you do? Thanks for taking the quiz!
I may continue to address the cultural blind spot we have in regards to step-families. Have not decided. If I do, then this will be the next installment.
Either way, after that we will examine the actual structure of step-families, with diagrams. This will make it clear that they are not remotely same as intact families.
After that, we will explore how the widespread acceptance of the step-family structure has weakened our ideas of “mother and father,” how it has weakened the idea of “two” parents for children, and the way these dovetail with the structural changes required to embrace same-sex couples into the institution of marriage.
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