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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, May 07, 2019
The Ruth Institute’s first annual Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution (April 26-27, in Lake Charles, Louisiana) was highly praised by participants. All agreed that the caliber of speakers and content (which covered Survivors of Divorce and Survivors of the LGBT subculture) were exceptional.
Here are a few of the comments from speakers and participants:
“The Summit revealed to me many different survival stories which involved deep pain. However, their stories all ended in hope because they turned to God. It also gives me hope to see everyone that attended was united to God’s plan for marriage and family.” Al Chlupacek -- Chemical Engineer, Indianapolis
“Thank you all. It was incredible, and a real shot in the arm. Now we all have work to do. But I feel like at least we know our fellow soldiers in this battle! It’s a rough world out there, and sadly, many of our ‘enemies’ are fellow Christians… It’s a battle from within and without. But I’m so pleased at the depth of intelligence and holiness on display this weekend! God bless you all! And thank you, Dr. Morse! You are a true solider for Christ!” Leila Miller – Catholic author, Phoenix
“This was a very meaningful conference. I enjoyed the scholarship, the personal testimonies, and all the informal conversations and relationship-building in between. I look forward to ongoing conversations with many of the wonderful people I met this weekend. The experience was powerful and inspiring.” Matt F. Johnson – humanitarian and disaster relief, Washington, D.C.
“Thank you Mr. And Dr. Morse plus your team for putting together such a conference. I learned a lot. Thanks also to you all that took time to do papers and share with us your stories. It gives me hope as an African to see the good side of America. You people are amazing. Hopefully we do this in Africa, too? God bless you all.” Ann Kioko, CitizenGO Campaigns Manager for Africa, Nairobi
“I just want to tell you all how very honored I am to have had the pleasure to work with all of you this weekend in this critical endeavor! Mr. & Dr. Morse, you are both tireless in your efforts and I have great respect for you both. Thank you - and the Ruth Institute's extremely capable staff and volunteers -- for showing us all such genuine kindness and hospitality. This weekend will go down in my memory as one of great blessings and fellowship. To be gathered with so many others who recognize the beauty, goodness and critical importance of marriage and the traditional family was a such a true honor and pleasure.” Christy Fitzgerald – Registered Nurse, Case Manager, Hickory, N.C.
“This Summit was a bright moment for recovering from a toxic family culture and beginning to build something better. I want to add my thanks to everyone as well, for sharing your stories and journeys and scholarship and standing for marriage, life and children. Patti and I were both deeply touched by the accounts of struggle and overcoming and finding new life and sanctity in the pain of marriage and parental loss. For me, one of the most fruitful times was also breakfast at the hotel, when I was blessed to, and saw others too, encourage one another and build friendships and mutual support and plot ministry strategies in a fellowship free-for-all. There are not many other places something like that could happen.” Fr. D Paul Sullins, Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute
“I hope everyone realizes just how innovative this was. For all the many ‘pro-family’ groups out there, almost none of them seriously confronts the divorce system, connected issues, and the government machinery behind it. I also noticed other ways in which the various speakers were ‘pushing the envelope,’ and I for one think that we have nothing to lose, and much to gain, from continuing and even increasing the push.” Stephen K. Baskerville, Purcellville, Virginia
“To get the inside scoop on the extraordinary Survivors Summit, be sure to check out the various presentations at the Ruth Institute’s website, and on its Facebook page. Be forewarned that the truth about these problems is not easy to handle. However, the truth shall set you free.” C. Preston Noell, American Society for Tradition, Family and Property, Washington, D.C.
“Don’t sit on the sidelines. Now that you understand the devastation caused by the Sexual Revolution, help us to fight for the family and cultural sanity.” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., Founder and President of the Ruth Institute
Posted on: Tuesday, April 30, 2019
The Ruth Institute’s Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution (April 27) was a success by any measure. The Summit, which took place in Lake Charles, Louisiana, included Survivors of Divorce and Survivors of the LGBT Culture.
The Summit was preceded by an Awards Banquet the evening of April 26. Those honored were Dr. Robert Gagnon, recipient of the Scholarship Award, and Jeff Morgan, who received the Activism Award. Both spoke the next day.
Moira Greyland Peat, who received the Public Witness Award, was the banquet’s keynote speaker. Author of The Dark Side of Avalon, Moira survived years of sexual abuse by her mother, famed science fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley. Many commented that while her testimony was emotionally exhausting, it also provided a necessary antidote to the cliched version of the gay lifestyle pushed by the media.
The Saturday Summit included keynote addresses by Dr. Stephen Baskerville (Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College on How No-Fault Divorce Empowers the State), Mrs. Leila Miller (author and Catholic blogger on The Lifelong Impact of Divorce On Children),
Dr. Robert Gagnon (Professor of New Testament at Houston Baptist University, on What the Church really teaches about homosexual activity)
and Fr. Paul Sullins (Ruth Institute Senior Research Associate, on The Impact of Same-Sex Parenting on children and the impact of the homosexual subculture on clergy s*x abuse).
There were also testimony panels on Abandoned Spouses and Adult Children ofDivorce – and Adult Children and Spouses of gays, lesbians and transgenders, and refugees from the gay lifestyle).
A participant remarked: “These are tragedies the mainstream media, the divorce industry, and the gay-friendly culture do their best to ignore.” Another added: “I’ve been reading about the abandonment, betrayal and trauma of divorce for years. But hearing these speakers made the devastation real in ways that news stories and academic reports can’t.”
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ruth Institute Founder and President, challenged participants to use the knowledge they acquired to help shape the debate over the Sexual Revolution.
“Don’t sit on the sidelines. Now that you understand the devastation caused by the Sexual Revolution, help us to fight for the family and cultural sanity,” Morse declared.
The entire Summit will be available on podcast and YouTube soon.
To schedule an interview with Dr. Morse, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization equipping Christians to defend the family in the public arena and build a Civilization of Love. Click here for more Information on the Ruth Institute.
Posted on: Tuesday, March 12, 2019
The children of divorce, even as adults, have become accustomed to being silenced.
Recently, I noticed my friend Leila Miller repeating online that she does not insist that people remain living with an abusive spouse. My inclination was to say, “Stop! You don’t need to say it again!”
Around the same time, I noticed that I was about to repeat myself on a seemingly unrelated topic. I started thinking, “What exactly is going on here?” My answer: We are dealing with weaponized self-pity, not a good-faith question.
Miller is the author of Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. She gives voice to the adult children whose lives were disrupted by their parents’ divorces. This is the context in which people continually challenge her about abusive marriages. “Why,” Miller asks herself in frustration, “do I have to keep assuring people that no one is required to remain living in abusive situations?”
I’ve had this experience myself. Like Miller, I point out how difficult divorce can be for children. Our focus is on the children, their lifelong suffering and what we can do about it, as individuals and as a society.
The children of divorce, even as adults, have become accustomed to being silenced. As children, they were expected to go along with whatever the adults decided to do. Their parents’ love often seems uncertain and fragile. Challenging the parents’ interpretation of events risks that love.
Even as adults and even outside their families, children of divorce often hesitate to speak up. When they state that divorce was hard for them, people regularly shut them down. In fact, some children of divorce sardonically take bets among themselves in online discussions. “When we talk about how hard divorce was for us, how long will it be before someone says, ‘But what about abusive marriages?’ Counting down, 3-2-1 …”
Do you see that bringing up abusive marriages in this context is changing the subject? The subject is the child and the impact divorce had on him or her. Whether the marriage was abusive or the divorce was justified: These are subjects for another time.
The children of divorce deserve to have at least a few minutes where their experience is the primary subject. “What about abuse?” shuts down the child and his or her perspective.
It is true, however, that sometimes people bring up the question of abuse as a justification for divorce in good faith. Perhaps those asking the question want to know what public policy should be on the issue. Or maybe they want to know how to think about an abuse situation they’ve encountered in which divorce otherwise may not be an option.
I’ve noticed that the person asking a good-faith question is generally satisfied with a good-faith answer. “No, in a truly abusive situation, a woman may have a responsibility to herself and her children to create physical separation between herself and her husband. That may ultimately include civil divorce.”
But some people are not satisfied with such an answer — or with any answer, really. In such cases, the woman (and it is almost always a woman) will desperately recount the abuse. She will urgently tell me more than I wanted to know. She ratchets up her description of the horrors of her marriage, although it doesn’t usually come to physical danger. The final blow is: “You don’t understand! How dare you judge me?!”
I also have another sort of experience of women telling me about their abusive husbands: Often times the husband is a sex addict committing multiple infidelities, violent to the point of throwing furniture through walls, or the spouses’ daughters feel creeped out by their fathers’ pornography addictions. These women don’t need my assurance on the right or prudent thing to do, although I gladly give it.
These same women don’t flip out when I say, “Divorce is hard on children.” They already know that. That is why they worked so hard to preserve the marriage. But, given the circumstances, they are at peace with themselves and their decision.
What is the difference between these two types of responses — the one irrational and angry, the other calm and reflective?
My working assumption is that the first group has unfinished business with their divorce. Maybe they are not really sure it was abusive. Maybe they had a new boyfriend waiting in the wings, whose significance they diminish by shouting, “Abuse!”
Somehow, in some way, their conscience is bothering them. They don’t want to believe they inflicted unnecessary pain on their children. No matter how many times Leila Miller or I assure them that abused spouses can remove themselves, they can’t hear it.
Honestly, I don’t care how they treat me. I bet Miller doesn’t either. What bothers me is that these parents cannot hear what their children want to say to them, need to say to them and have every right to say to them.
These parents have grown deaf to their children by feeling sorry for themselves and by not thinking about the impact of their behavior on others — especially their children. They weaponize self-pity, using it as both a shield and a projectile. Argue with them and you will get blasted with the sad story of their lives.
Divorced parents, if your adult children are trying to talk to you about a long-ago divorce, I’m begging you: Set self-pity aside. Whatever problems you may have in your lives, self-pity will not help you solve them. You will be happier without it. And you will be more available to listen to your children, who may really need you.
The weaponizing of self-pity is on high display in another arena of recent public discourse when priests come out as “gay” and tell a sad story about life
“in the closet.” Part 2 will discuss that in greater detail.
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2019
by Paul Sullins
A review of: Regnerus, Mark, Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
This article was first published at humanumreview.
Cultural norms—the tacit, taken-for-granted expectations that structure human society—adapt to institutional and technological change. In our day, as the life tasks and realms formerly integrated within marriage—sex, intimacy, shared residence and meals, childbirth, raising children, economic sharing, and career planning—increasingly uncoupled from that institution, the related norms shift. When, as in America today, most children experience the dissolution of their parents’ relationship, the norms of mating and parenthood implicitly shift from the prospect of stability to the prospect of instability. When less than ten percent of women experience sexual onset within a permanent relationship, the norm shifts from regarding virginity with admiration to regarding it with ridicule. When more than half of births to women under 30 occur outside marriage, the norm of “first comes marriage” shifts to “marriage comes second”—if marriage comes at all.
In his book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus argues that this shift in marital and mating norms has now extended to sex itself. Bringing to bear an impressive array of data, including Regnerus’ own large survey of over 15,000 Americans (called the Relationships in America [RIA] survey project) and over 100 interviews conducted for the book, he ably demonstrates that “cheap sex is plentiful—it’s flooding the market in sex and relationships—and … this has had profound influence on how American men and women relate to each other, which has in turn spilled over into other domains” (29). In case we need to be convinced, he presents detailed data and evidence that young Americans of marriageable age (ages 24‒32) engage in sex relations more quickly, casually, frequently and with more variety than ever before. Waiting until marriage is becoming a rare option; many do not wait until the second date. Or even the first date. In the RIA data, Regnerus reports, over a third of men and a quarter of women reported that they had sex with their current or most recent partner before the relationship actually began (97). Like text messaging has replaced, for young Americans, the intrusive investment of time and interpersonal energy in an actual phone call, Tinder and the hookup has rendered almost quaint the notion of investing time and interpersonal energy in an actual date. If you think that this is a description of the commodification of sex, you are beginning to get the idea.
Sex has become cheap, explains Regnerus, not because it leaves young people feeling cheap or is less desired by them—in fact, quite the opposite—but as a matter of hard-headed rational social exchange: “Sex is cheap if women expect little in return for it and if men do not have to supply much time, attention, resources, recognition or fidelity in order to experience it” (28). This definition follows the little-known branch of sociology known as “sexual economics,” which analyzes sex relations on the model of a transaction in which a man offers his resources—summarized above as “time, attention, resources, recognition or fidelity”—in exchange for sexual access to a woman’s body. The popular formula which says that men give love to get sex, while women give sex to get love, expresses roughly the same idea. But sexual economics goes further, analyzing the sum of these transactions as a kind of mating market, using the tools and concepts of classical economics to expose what many would call cultural insights.
In the mating market of young Americans, explains Regnerus, well-documented gender differences show that men are largely the source of demand for sex, while women function as gatekeepers controlling supply. Sex has become cheap not because demand has decreased—male sexual desire is reliably constant—but because supply has become much more plentiful. The key drivers of this change, he maintains, are not cultural or even sociological, but something more fundamental: technological change. Since the 1960s, and particularly since the turn of the present century, norms of sex and marriage have been upended by the confluence of “three distinctive technological achievements: 1) the wide uptake of the [birth-control] Pill as well as a mentality stemming from it that sex is “naturally” infertile, 2) mass-produced high-quality pornography, and 3) the advent and evolution of online dating/meeting services” (11). The Pill has eliminated the perceived risk of pregnancy, thereby greatly lowering risk which had formerly inhibited casual sex relations, particularly for women; Tinder and similar online meeting sites have increased the supply of willing short-term partners, particularly for men; and ubiquitous pornography allied with masturbation (“the cheapest sex” ) has made sexual experience available for men (and for women, but mostly for men) without even troubling to find an actual partner.
The result of these technologies is that women’s gatekeeping power is largely undermined in the sexual exchange. If men give love to receive sex, and women give sex to receive love, then in today’s mating market, young women must give much more sex in exchange for much less love.
The young women who do so, in the vast majority, are not reluctantly lowering their moral standards (though they may have other reasons for reluctance), but conforming to a new standard, a shift of norms, as abundant non-fertile sexual experience has become for them an assumed social fact. “[Cheap sex],” Regnerus observes, “is a presumption, widely perceived as natural and commonsensical, and hence connected by persons to expectations about their own and others’ future sexual experiences (as similarly low-cost). It has become normative, taken for granted” (30). In the popular mentality and cognition of today’s young Americans, sex is for fun, not for procreation.
Many of the developments Regnerus documents were predicted 25 years ago, in the influential analysis of modern sexuality presented in Anthony Giddens’ 1992 volume The Transformation of Intimacy. Giddens, a pre-eminent Marxist sociologist who is the longtime Director of the London School of Economics, proposed that the emergence of “plastic sexuality,” i.e., sexuality freed from the needs of reproduction, reflected a fundamental transformation in the constitution of sexual relationships. Sexuality, love and eroticism were increasingly being shaped by aspirations for personal fulfillment, sexual attraction (and repulsion), and psychic needs, and decreasingly by collective control imposed by the state, tradition or moral norms. The result was a restructuring of sexual intimacy, not around marriage and family or any social or moral norms, but around what Giddens called (ironically, to Catholic ears) the “pure relationship,” which is “a social relationship which is entered into for its own sake, for what can be derived by each person from a sustained association with another; and which is continued only in so far as it is thought by both parties to deliver enough satisfactions for each individual to stay within it.”
Although marriage, through the rise of the romantic love complex, had played a major role in the rise of the pure relationship, eventually the connection between love and sex via the pure relationship would undermine marriage. Women tended to lead, while men lagged, in the present and future development of such relationships; they were therefore the most advanced, in many ways, among lesbian couples. Regnerus examines Giddens’ predictions throughout the book, partly as a kind of guide, and partly as a foil to his own analysis. He finds that most of Giddens’ predictions and insights hold up well, although he is less positive about them than Giddens may have been, as evidenced by the fact that what Giddens called a “pure relationship” roughly corresponds to what Regnerus calls “cheap sex.”
For women, the Pill has reduced the ability to form a good marriage by splitting the mating market into parts: at one extreme, persons looking for casual sex with a minimum of strings, and at the other extreme, persons looking to marry. Consistent with the sex differences already noted, Regnerus notes, “there are more men in the sex corner of the pool than women, and more women in the marriage corner of the pool than men” (35). Due to the imbalance of males in the sex corner, although sex is cheap for men, it is still much easier, as we all know, for a woman to have casual sex, if she wants to, than it is for a man. As Regnerus points out, men looking for a no-strings sex partner often come up short, but “[w]hen women signal interest in [casual] sex, men pounce” (35). But at the other end of the pool, where there are far more women than men who are interested in the “expensive” sex of marriage, men dominate the exchange.
Since women are less likely to marry a man with lower education and earnings than themselves, the pool of men available to marry has grown even smaller as women become, on average, more highly educated and employable than men (another, less direct, effect of the Pill). The result is that women who want to marry struggle to find a marriage partner and some will fail to do so. Others may settle for a less than optimum partner, which contributes to increased rates of divorce—the large majority of which are initiated by women—and relationship churning. In this way, cheap sex directly lowers the quality and duration of marriage.
But the effect of cheap sex on women is dwarfed by its effect on men. A central concern of the book, pursued in a chapter with the same name as the subtitle, is that “cheap sex has transformed modern men …, undermined and stalled the marital impulse, and stimulated critics of monogamy” (191). This is more than just a matter of the proverbial milk and cow effect. Shorn of the need to offer significant resources in exchange for sex, cheap sex has not just lowered men’s interest in marriage, but more importantly their marriageability: that is, their economic and social capacity to marry, or to attract a marriage partner. The rise of underemployed and underachieving young men in the past 15 years has been a widely observed trend, puzzled over by a spate of books across the ideological spectrum, from Hanna Rosin’s left-leaning The End of Men to Lionel Tiger’s right-leaning The Decline of Males. One largely overlooked reason for the lassitude of young men today, Regnerus argues, may be cheap sex. “Cheap sex, …”, he writes, “does little to stimulate the [men] of our modern economy toward those historic institutions—education, a settled job, and marriage—that created opportunity for them and their families” (154). Faced with no need to attain a higher education or well-paying job in order to attract a woman, many young men lose the motivation to attain a higher education or well-paying job at all.
It gets worse. Because marriageability and productivity are closely allied, the decline of marriageability resulting from cheap sex has also reduced young men’s general social productivity. On this point Regnerus cites the sexual economists Baumeister and Vohs: “giving young men easy access to abundant sexual satisfaction deprives society of one of its ways to motivate them to contribute valuable achievements to the culture” (152). The Freudian idea here is that sexual deprivation energizes the development of civilization. Catholic thought arrives at the same place by a different route, affirming that as marriage (the only proper realm for sex) contributes to the common good, when men fail to contribute to marriage they also deprive the common good of valuable accomplishments. In this way, however understood, cheap sex beleaguers not only men and marriage, but society more broadly.
The overall effect of this book is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Each well-documented fact, each clinical insight, contributes to the growing realization that marriage is in more trouble than is currently imagined, and in a way that is not likely to recover very soon, if at all. By the end of the book it has become clear that the analogy of market exchange, which has helped to explain male-female interactions throughout the book, has now become the defining reality of sex relations for young Americans. As Regnerus explains, it is not just that “marriage … is in the throes of deinstitutionalization” (195) but that cheap sex is in the throes of mass-market commodification, becoming “a synthetic compound of our Western penchant for bigger, cheaper, better, diverse and more—an ironic postmodern intersection where Wal-Mart meets [explicit sex advice columnist] Dan Savage” (197).
Shed of transcendence and uniqueness, disconnected from larger life goals or relationships, cheap sex has become a rationalized commodity, discounted even further for being mass produced in bulk. Cheap sex has become junk sex. Like McDonald’s burgers—the prototypical rationalized commodity—it has become a kind of ersatz product which can be obtained ever more quickly, cheaply and reliably, and which is tasty and attractive, but not very nourishing as a steady diet. Regnerus, citing Wendell Berry, terms it “industrial sex”: “Industrial sex, characteristically, establishes its freeness and goodness by an industrial accounting, dutifully toting up numbers of ‘sexual partners,’ orgasm, and so on, with the inevitable industrial implication that the body is somehow a limit on the idea of sex …” (198). Regnerus sums up the accounts from his interviewees of “orgasmic experiences, partner numbers, time in pursuit, exotic accounts, one-night stands, regrets, pain, addictions, infections, abortions, wasted time, and spent relationships” as metrics “of an industrial sex whose promises consistently exceeded its deliveries” (198).
When sex becomes this cheap—affordable to all like a Big Mac—, marriage by comparison becomes prohibitively expensive, like a five-star dinner affordable only to the select few. The problem industrially cheap sex presents for marriage is not only that fewer young men will marry—that process is well advanced—but that fewer older ones will marry as well. The metrics of good industrial sex listed above by Berry and Regnerus omit, not by accident, the most important measure of good sex relations in Catholic and traditional thought: children. Older men, more than younger men, have typically eventually settled down to become more open to marriage for the sake of children and family. If, in their minds, sex is really for fun and not for children, and women can have and raise children without their lifelong commitment, there is little need for them ever to step up to parental responsibility, nor for women to demand of them that they do so. In the era of cheap sex, men (and women) who in the recent past may have married for these very reasons (and then perhaps divorced) are increasingly likely never to marry at all.
To make this point Regnerus presents the above figure (146), which shows, from Census data, the proportion of young Americans who have not married by the age of 35. Strikingly, just since the turn of the century, that proportion has risen by almost 20 percentage points, from a third of young Americans in 2000 to well over half of them today. At the turn of the century, by the age of 35, over half of young Americans had married; today, over half remain unmarried. For decades, even though younger Americans have increasingly deferred marriage, by the time of their mid-thirties the vast majority of Americans had eventually married. Figure 5.1 suggests that that cultural pattern no longer holds. Regnerus attributes this change to the fact that the new norms of cheap sex are still diffusing gradually throughout the population:
[M]any people are marrying because they are still following the cultural practices of their parents and grandparents, even though historically compelling reasons—like babies, financial and physical security, or the desire for a “socially legitimate” sexual relationship—no longer hold. … The next generation, today no older than teenagers, will wonder why they should marry at all. (147)
The picture Regnerus paints is a grim one, not because marriage will fully disappear—marriage rates will remain high among the wealthy and the very religious—but because the rise of cheap sex and its consequences are the result of technological change, which is generally irreversible, rather than social or cultural trends which may recover. After several generations of predicating sexuality on effective infertility due to the Pill, as Regnerus points out, “a return to the patterns witnessed prior to the ‘sexual revolution’… is very unlikely” (8).
And yet. In a world of commodity sex, industrial sex is not just emotionally unsatisfying, as Regnerus observes, but may contain the seeds of its own destruction. Literally. The logic of the sexual economics which Regnerus deploys so well can be maintained only by treating children as an externality to coupled pleasure, the cost of which, like polluting smokestacks in an industrial market, is largely ignored. But children are not merely external to sex: they add distinct value to the exchange. Children, of course, do not negotiate or offer any exchange goods to the sexual partners who may produce them. But more than marriage, it is the prospect and eventual presence of children that, like religion, lifts the perspective of sex partners from the present experience to the future, not only a future state of society in which their children can thrive, but also the future beyond the horizon of their own lives. Children personalize sex and endow it with meaning, an exchange to be sure, though one that may be better understood in terms of gift, rather than a sexual economics based on transaction.
The value of children is pertinent, because what Regnerus does not address is that the Pill’s promise of reliably preventing conception, which he, like his study subjects, accepts largely at face value, is false. As a matter of simple fact, hormonal birth control fails to prevent pregnancy in actual use at a rate—between 10 and 20 percent of the time in most studies—unacceptably high to be reasonably considered a foolproof method of preventing pregnancy. The effect of the Pill, then, is not technological, as Regenerus holds, but symbolic, because as a technology, it clearly fails to deliver. Like mythology, young Americans believe in the efficacy of contraception because it enables and explains the hypersexualized world in which they have been socialized. More than a few discover, after much pain and regret, that that world is a lie.
The mythology of the Pill’s infallible bar to conception is maintained only by the prospect of the efficient elimination, through widespread legal abortion, of the children who slip past its provision. This is not a new social dynamic. Children inconveniently resulting from illicit sexual liaisons have long been cheapened, considered “illegitimate” and denied the recognition and care of their natural parents. Today’s bastards are the “unwanted” children, who comprise about half of conceptions in America, who are denied both parental and social recognition before birth and are routinely subject to death. One could say—and many do—that the technology of abortion completes the technology of effective contraception, but this ignores the inconvenient externality even more blindly. Cheap sex is enabled only by cheaper children; and the low value placed on unwanted, unborn infant life is not a product of technology but of a culture, possibly reparable, that has forgotten what it means to be human.
 Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies (Stanford University Press, 1992).
 Ibid., 58.
 Ibid., 154.
Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D. is a tenured Associate Professor at the Catholic University of America and a Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute. His most recent book is Catholic Social Thought: American Reflections on the Compendium (Lexington).
Posted on: Wednesday, November 21, 2018
by Ruth Institute Circle of Experts Member, Bill Duncan
This article was first published Nov. 21, 2018, at News Max.
The U.S. Supreme Court does not often address divorce. In 1992, the Court specified that the federal courts do not have authority to rule on most divorce cases since the Court’s jurisdiction required a dispute between citizens of different states.
This is not say that the Court has never discussed it, though, because it has and those instances are very instructive.
In 1888, Justice Stephen J. Field (who had been appointed to the Court by Abraham Lincoln) wrote an opinion in a dispute over the ownership of a land grant in Oregon. Although not required to decide the case, Justice Field described the nature of marriage (and, by implication, the nature of divorce): “it is something more than a mere contract. The consent of the parties is of course essential to its existence, but when the contract to marry is executed by the marriage, a relation between the parties is created which they cannot change. Other contracts may be modified, restricted, or enlarged, or entirely released upon the consent of the parties. Not so with marriage. The relation once formed, the law steps in and holds the parties to various obligations and liabilities.”
In this case, the Court upheld the validity of the divorce in Oregon, holding that the legislature had the authority to grant divorces and, despite some misgivings about the behavior of the ex-husband in the case. This might seem curious to modern readers who are used to divorces in the court system, but this was not always the case.
The United States did not really inherit a practice for granting divorce from England where divorce was rare, granted by Parliament, and most would either have to be granted an annulment or a legal separation. Some of the states adopted the English approach, others allowed courts to grant divorces and others reserved grants of divorce to the legislature. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, legislative divorce had essentially disappeared, but the legislature provided clear standards for the courts considering a petition to divorce.
As a legal historian has noted, these statutes “were never simple, facilitative laws.” Rather, they specified that a spouse would have to demonstrate that there were serious grounds to justify a court in granting the divorce, such as adultery or abuse.
This is consistent with the rationale for legal divorce recognized in the earliest Supreme Court opinion to mention the topic.
In that 1819 case, Chief Justice John Marshall argued that legislative power to grant divorces only allowed an injured spouse to be leave the marriage because the marriage agreement “has been broken by the other.” Crucially, the opinion continues: “When any state legislature shall pass an act annulling all marriage contracts, or allowing either party to annul it, without the consent of the other, it will be time enough to inquire, whether such an act be constitutional.”
Eventually, though, states began to do just that, to allow one party to end the marriage without the consent of the other. This occurred through the no-fault divorce revolution. Now, if one of the spouses wants a divorce, that divorce will be granted even if the other objects and even if there is no serious fault alleged. It is not just that this kind of “no fault” divorce is allowed, it is the formal or de facto law of divorce in every state.
Now divorce is not a legislative or judicial proceeding as much as an administrative procedure, a mere clerical process where a court always says yes as long as someone asks and then the dispute shifts to splitting up property and child custody.
This is a drastic development given the multiple interests affected. Divorce implicates religious considerations for the parties, property rights, time with children, and on and on. A spouse may lose their opportunity to repair a relationship, may lose the ability to live with their children, may have to pay support to a former spouse when they did nothing to end the relationship, may have to sell their home, and much more, all without a finding that they did anything wrong.
This is a matter of simple justice and it corrodes the perception of fairness in our court system. The law must again recognize that marriage is “more than mere contract.” At the very least, a unilateral divorce should not be granted on no-fault grounds. The spouse who objects deserves a fair hearing. That is simple fairness.
Bill Duncan is director of the Center for Family and Society at Sutherland Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 09, 2018
By Tyler O'Neil
This article was first published October 4, 2018, at PJMedia.com.
In 21st century America, sex is all around us: on television, in movies, in classrooms, in politics, and even in churches. Sex permeates our desires, our expectations for relationships, even our identity. The Sexual Revolution goes far beyond the LGBT movement, and it has fundamentally reshaped American society. But few Americans actually grasp exactly where this revolution came from. An explosive new book reveals that government and wealthy donors, rather than impersonal historical forces or newly liberated women, propelled the Sexual Revolution.
"The State bears the greatest responsibility for the toxic sexual culture in which we live," Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute (RI), writes in "The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologues Are Destroying Lives And Why the Church Was Right All Along." She presented five other explanations for the Sexual Revolution, and found each one wanting.
Many have suggested that the Sexual Revolution came about through the inevitable and impersonal "march of history." This view does not work "because it robs us and our forbears of human agency." Even the over-hyped birth control pill "is just an inert piece of technology" that people could decide to use or not use, or use in different ways.
Morse also rebuts the feminist narrative, which suggests that "these changes have been one long string of victories for the benefit and advancement of women." Ironically, the very success of women's liberation "undermines the claim that women have been completely powerless and dominated by the patriarchy throughout all of recorded history." Furthermore, the author argues that "the pro-life movement is dominated by women," suggesting that not all women want more of the Sexual Revolution.
Perhaps the most common explanation for the Sexual Revolution is the "liberationist narrative," which posits that everyone is more free thanks to new sexual norms. This view also cannot explain how age-old oppression was immediately dissolved in one generation, Morse argues.
Furthermore, many people "have become less free, in fact actually oppressed, by the very forces that are supposedly liberating us. The breaking of family bonds has increased the size and scope of the State, including the intrusion of the State into the everyday lives of ordinary people." She mentions college sex tribunals, family courts — which even rule on which schools and churches children can attend — and higher taxes to pay for social workers who manage tough divorces and family breakdown.
Morse also rejects the "over-population narrative," which suggests that "too many people create ecological disaster and economic backwardness," so the State needs to control population through birth control and abortion. Interestingly, advocates of this narrative "haven't been able to adapt the narrative to the changing circumstances of population decline, which the Over-Population Narrative itself helped bring about."
Finally, the author turns to a "steal capitalist narrative," explaining the Sexual Revolution by pointing to the many people who benefit financially from family breakdown. Abortionists, pharmaceutical companies, the fertility industry, pornographers, divorce professionals, family court judges and lawyers, medical professionals who specialize in sexually transmitted diseases, and social workers all perversely benefit from family breakdown, contraception, and abortion.
Even higher education and employers benefit from women choosing to get married later, to go to school and to work, rather than raising a family. Morse claims that employers benefit from easy divorce as well, as women are less able to rely on their husbands to financially support them. She suggests that these factors cement the Sexual Revolution, but they do not explain it.
The author boils the Sexual Revolution down to three basic "ideologies:" the Contraceptive Ideology separates sex from childbearing; the Divorce Ideology separates sex and childbearing from marriage; and the Gender Ideology eliminates the distinctions between men and women that individuals do not explicitly embrace.
"The Sexual Revolution needs the State for one major reason: the premises of the Sexual Revolution are false," Morse declares. "Sex does make babies. Children do need their parents, and therefore marriage is the proper and just context for both sex and childbearing. Men and women are different." The Sexual Revolution requires "reconstructing society" around a rejection of these basic truths, so it involves a great deal of propaganda.
"If you can make people believe Bruce Jenner, the 1976 male Olympic decathlon winner, is a woman, you can make them believe 2 + 2 = 5. If you can make people afraid to say, 'Bruce Jenner is a man,' you can make them afraid to say anything," Morse quips. "The Sexual Revolution is a totalitarian ideology with a blind commitment to the implementation of its tenets, regardless of the human costs."
The book begins with a list of victims of the Sexual Revolution, a topic for a future article. Those victims include children of divorce, spouses who did not want to get divorced, women who waited too long to have children, young women who wanted to abstain from sex, and more. Suffice it to say, the Sexual Revolution has harmed many people.
Morse narrates how the state unleashed the Sexual Revolution, beginning with the Supreme Court contraception case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). The Contraceptive Ideology predated this decision and played a large role in pushing the Court to change the law on contraception.
The author cites liberal attorney Leo Pfeffer and conservative historian Allan Carlson, who agreed that governments will consider contraception necessary once they have established welfare states — in order to prevent the subsidized poor from having children. Tragically, the U.S. government pushed contraception before Griswold, pushing contraception in post-World War II Japan and other foreign countries considered to be U.S. interests.
In the 1960s and 1970s, USAID started pushing contraception and abortion, thinking these "family planning" efforts would help other countries defeat poverty. These policies were also wrapped up with the ugly eugenics movement in America.
In order to downplay the ugly history of eugenics, contraception activists turned to the work of Alfred Kinsey, an academic who claimed that "up to" 67 to 98 percent of American men ha had premarital sex and that 69 percent of American males had at least one experience with a prostitute. His claims were shot down by other researchers, who exposed his shoddy methods. But the Rockefeller Foundation funded his research and sent his crackpot theories mainstream.
Planned Parenthood and its allies enjoyed connections to elites, and helped push the Court in the direction of legalizing contraception for anyone across the country.
Similarly, elite institutions and big donors pushed no-fault divorce, Morse argues. After Ronald Reagan signed the first no-fault divorce law in 1968, the American Law Institute (ALI), founded with support from the Carnegie Foundation, crafted model legislation to insert the state in between husbands and wives — and favor the spouse who wanted a divorce.
The ALI pushed for decriminalizing private sexual acts between consenting adults, a key plank that struck down states' ability to regulate obscene materials and contraception.
By 1974, all but five states had adopted a form of no-fault divorce.
Morse argues that no-fault divorce positions the power of the state on the side of whichever spouse least wants the marriage to continue. This damages spouses who are committed to the marriage, but it also damages children who do not grow up with both of their parents. It also empowers the government, which now mediates between divorced mothers and fathers.
The author argues that the claim "the kids will be all right" is propaganda. She cites the work of Judith Wallerstein, who found that divorce has a long-term impact on children — damaging their prospects for romantic relationships in adulthood. Similarly, the worries about husbands abusing wives are overblown, as studies have shown that women and children are more likely to be abused in cohabiting relationships than in marriage.
Finally, Morse argues that the government and elites pushed the "Gender Ideology" — long before transgender identity went mainstream — in order to encourage women to be "ideal workers:" "a person who never takes time off, is never sick, whose mental and psychological focus is entirely on the job."
"We've built a society around the premise that our educated women must be permitted to time their 1.6 pregnancies right down to the minute when it's most convenient. But convenient for whom? All too often, it means the convenience of the employers, or the interests of the career path, or of those who hold the student debt which the young woman or young couple must pay down," Morse claims.
The author does not lament the fact that women have entered the "managerial class," highly paid professions which do not involve manual labor. She herself is a member of this class. Rather, she suggests that the pressures of work and the benefits of this class enable people to overlook the obvious differences between men and women.
"People who do manual labor aren't deluded for a moment that men and women are interchangeable," Morse quips. For this reason, men are vastly over-represented in the dangerous professions.
Women's involvement in the workforce need not be connected to the Sexual Revolution's Gender Ideology, the author argues. "I claim the right to participate in the labor market as women, not as men in skirts." She suggests that "educated women would be better off if they accepted that their fertility peaks during their twenties and planned their lives around this fact."
Morse lays out a basic life plan: Women should go to college for a liberal education, not a vocational one. They should et married and have kids early, using their higher educations to be involved in educating their kids. "Let your husbands support you. Trust them. Be grateful for them," and when the children are older, go back for an advanced degree and work.
Tragically, activists are pushing on all these issues and more. Morse discusses same-sex marriage in a chapter on the Gender Ideology. She recalls the battle over California's Proposition 8.
"The 'Yes on 8' campaign was arguably the largest grassroots campaign in history," she writes, noting that California's secretary of state website crashed because there were over 5,000 pages of contributors to the campaign. Yet modern "progressives" "took Proposition 8 to court on flimsy pretexts and rich people's money."
After Proposition 8 passed and the people had amended their constitution, California's attorney general refused to defend it. The people's will failed thanks to an effective pocket veto. in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that proponents of ballot initiatives like Proposition 8 could not defend such laws in court, enabling Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) to resume same-sex marriage in the state. Now-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) performed the first same-sex marriage after this ruling.
As with Proposition 8, wealthy liberals continue to push Sexual Revolution issues, particularly abortion and contraception. George Soros and Warren Buffett continue to fund abortion groups, and they use their money to "shape political institutions so they can use the government to recreate the world in their own image and likeness," Morse alleges.
Importantly, the book notes that contraception carries health risks for women, and some studies have shown that hormonal contraception is as likely to cause cancer as smoking. "Smoking has been all but banned, tobacco companies have been sued, and smokers have been socially shunned," Morse writes. "By contrast, the government actively promotes the use of hormonal contraception while the media plays down the risks."
Abortion, often considered an alternative should contraception fail, also carries tremendous health risks to the mother, which medical associations keep secret for political reasons, the author argues. She also notes that wealthy donors funded abortion activists who convinced the Supreme Court to strike down Texas regulations treating abortion clinics like any other medical facility.
"When the people of Texas, acting through their duly elected state legislators, enacted health and safety legislation for abortion clinics, the elites of society knocked it down," Morse declares.
"The Sexual State" makes a compelling case that state power and wealthy elites pushed the Sexual Revolution, and people should fight back. While Morse does address LGBT issues, her book mostly focuses on the negative impacts the Sexual Revolution has had on family life, harming faithful spouses, children of divorce, and many others.
Morse, a Roman Catholic, presents a very Catholic view of these issues and champions the Catholic Church's approach. Her book was ill-fated to release shortly after the sexual abuse scandal broke, but her points still stand.
The book may be too polemical, but it raises important questions about the hidden harms of the Sexual Revolution and who benefits from this humongous social change.
"The Sexual State" is an important book for libertarians to wrestle with, as it presents a compelling case that big government benefits from the Sexual Revolution, and that marriage and family would help weaken the power of the state.
Posted on: Monday, January 08, 2018
Posted by Marc & Julie Anderson on in Archdiocese, Leaven News
What part will you play in the future of the family?
It is a question that is on the mind of more than a few Catholic leaders these days, as we see the primary institution of our society fracture under seemingly insurmountable stress.
But the Catholic Church is not the only institution unwilling to throw in the towel on the institution of the family.
The Ruth Institute, founded in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, is a global nonprofit organization aimed at ending family breakdown by energizing survivors of the Sexual Revolution.
And it’s a movement that is coming to the archdiocese next month.
On Jan. 27, the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life will host the institute’s “Healing Family Breakdown” spiritual workshop at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
The event is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic, and, according to Morse, is meant to accomplish three goals: (1) heal families; (2) help participants prevent family breakdown; and (3) help participants become agents of healing within society at large.
When families attend the workshop, Morse added, something important and life-changing happens to them.
“You realize you and your family are not the only ones,” she said. “For a lot of people, that is huge.”
That realization is an important first step in healing, she said, and is often made manifest to her in a tangible way in the seating arrangement of workshop participants.
“The Holy Spirit has a way of seating people at the table who belong together,” Morse said.
For example, at a past workshop, she witnessed a teenage girl’s perspective change as a result of a conversation she had with a man at her table.
The girl was the daughter of divorced parents. She blamed her father for the situation and did not want anything to do with him.
However, also seated at her table was a divorced man experiencing loneliness as his children would not talk to him. A conversation between the two, Morse said, led the young lady to consider the hurt and loneliness her father might be experiencing, a perspective the teenager had not considered previously.
And that’s just one type of healing and paradigm shift The Ruth Institute is trying to bring about in the world.
On the nonprofit’s website — www.ruthinstitute.org — Morse identifies a dozen different types of survivors of the Sexual Revolution, ranging from children of divorce and of unmarried parents, to a pornography addict or a post-abortive man or woman.
If you recognize yourself, a family member or a friend in one of the 12 survivor descriptions, Morse discourages you from trying to go it alone. Participate in the workshop and begin the healing process, instead.
“We need [survivors’] participation,” she said. “We need you to be witnesses to say the church was right all along [about its teachings on family and sexuality].”
Morse calls survivors “the secret weapon” to restoring the family to its greatness and its rightful place in society.
“All these wounded souls need to speak up,” she said.
“Many people leave the faith over sexual issues,” Morse explained. “I know. I stormed off in a huff.”
But just as people leave the faith over sexual issues, Morse said, countless people later realize the beauty of church teaching and return to the faith.
“I was completely wrong, of course,” she said of her departure from the faith.
Later, by studying the church’s teachings and by watching her adopted and biological children grow, Morse said she realized how much children need their father and mother as well as how much they want their parents.
“That’s how I got interested in the family and how the family fits into society,” said Morse.
As she has watched the family structure in modern society continue to deteriorate, however, Morse is not without hope.
“A lot of what society is trying to do is undoable,” she said. “We believe it is possible to make the family great again.”
Posted on: Monday, September 25, 2017
Interview with Brenda Baietto, Esq., (left) coauthor with Jennifer Johnson (right) on the American Bar Association Journal article advocating for Family Structure Equality
I was blessed with an opportunity to coauthor an important article for the American Bar Association Journal regarding the “family structure equality” argument I make in my book, Marriage and Equality.
Brenda Baietto, Esq., of Tampa Mediations, is the lawyer who spearheaded this opportunity. She reached out to me in May. We worked collaboratively to get the article published, and it was published in September. You can read the article here.
I want to introduce Brenda to our Ruth Institute audience. Here is an interview I conducted with her about the article.
Jennifer Johnson (JJ): Tell me about the opportunity you had to write for the ABA Journal. When and how did that opportunity arise?
Brenda Baietto (BB): This opportunity arose back in May of this year as a result of a very good friend of mine named Florence M. Johnson, Esq who I met in law school and have stayed friends with since.She is an accomplished litigation attorney in Memphis TN, active in her local and state Bars, the national American Bar Association (ABA) and, for the last year or so has headed the Practice Pointers section of the Minority Trial Law Section of Litigation for the ABA.She asked me to consider writing a practice pointer piece on mediation for the target audience of trial lawyers.She wanted to give me an opportunity because she is a generous person and trusted me that I would produce a solid piece.
JJ: Of all the interesting people and legal topics you could have chosen to write with and about, why did you pick me and the "family structure equality" (FSE) that I make in my book?
BB: I picked you and your argument to write about because after reading it I knew you had put to words concepts that had been ﬂoating around in my head for some time especially as these concepts relate to family law, speciﬁcally divorce.And you were so very authentic.Your personal story has big impact precisely because it is so real.It cuts to the heart.More to it, after the decision in Obergefell [Editor’s note: Obergefell was the Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States], it was becoming more and more common to hear (from potential clients, other attorneys and in continuing legal ed seminars) about the creation and dismantling of new and different family structures and that these new structures have legal protection, deserve legal protection - all this with no discussion about the children other than an underlying belief that when adults are happy so are kids.So the predominant theme I am seeing in my legal community and reading about nationally is to support these new structures strictly based on compassion/sentiment for adult choices.It was surprising to me.
Your topic touched on these issues and I knew I had something to add.It was just a matter of putting it together such that it could ﬁt into what Florence was asking of me.Since it was not going to ﬁt into a practice pointer context, we discussed making it a short article and submitting it for consideration.
JJ: Your insight was to apply the FSE argument to the "best interests of the child standard." Why is that standard a good area to apply the FSE argument?
BB: In the context of divorce law, the best interest of the child standard is something we family lawyers and judges really see as the cornerstone of child custody/timesharing decisions. Judges and lawyers take very seriously their respective roles in determining what exactly is in the best interest of a child and work with a generous spirit to do what they think is “best.”However, the best interest standard traditionally focuses on “factors” that spring from either a previously accepted or “legal” arrangement whether or not the arrangement is “good” in and of itself for the child or from a decision to divorce which is accepted without question.Never are these accepted arrangements or decisions analyzed from a best interest of the child standard and it seems only logical to do so.Jennifer’s article made that easy because it gracefully begs the issue of what is in the best interest of the child and highlights a glaring deﬁciency in limiting the best interest standard to a sort of “after the fact” analysis.
JJ: What do you foresee as a positive outcome that can happen in the life of a child if a judge relies on the FSE argument?
BB: It is my belief that with rampant no fault divorce as well as the emergence of more and more diverse “family systems,” as they are called, children are being valued more as a commodity and not as human persons with dignity.In surrogacy contract cases, for example, children are property and where a dispute over custody arises between the surrogate and the buyer, many state laws subject the child only to property laws based on the contract and refuse to even entertain a best interest analysis at all.This loss of dignity brings with it the loss of understanding of what is truly in their best interest as humans who are alive in society as children, teens and adults.How we see children’s best interest is part and parcel of how we see the best interest of the family in society.
If judges and lawyers begin relying on the FSE argument several positive outcomes will result:ﬁrst, society will have to face the very real issues children suffer as a result of no fault divorce and diverse family structures including the grief so many adult children have experienced due to structural inequality.This could very well lead to a renewed interest in natural marriage and a rethinking of the import of children in society; second, the “best interest” standard will broaden and deepen bringing meaningful protections to children who as of now are wholly subject to the whims and desires of adults; third, the legal system will no longer be a wedge between a child and his biological parents blocking a child’s most natural desire to know who he is and creating stressors in the child that he would never dream could happen, i.e. will I marry my sister without realizing it? ; and ﬁnally, and so important, children will regain their dignity as humans and not a “thing” that is more and more being viewed only as a byproduct of adult desires.
JJ: Why do you think the Minority Trial Lawyers picked up the article, and not some other group within the ABA Journal?
BB: Because, as I understand better now and did not realize before, my friend Florence is particularly involved with the Minority Trial Lawyer section and she submitted the article directly through that channel. I do think, however, it is a gift that the article is published in the Minority Trial Lawyer Section.The FSE argument is meaningful to minorities when it is part and parcel of an overall understanding of the disproportionate impact of the welfare state on black families followed by the legalization of abortion in 1973 which had and continues to have a devastating effect of the black family. Supporting policies that reverse these programs and encourages a return to the natural triad family will help strengthen inequalities felt by children in the black community and begin to create generations that are more stable.
“According to a recent PEW report, 48% of nonwhites want to get married but say ﬁnancial instability is the reason they do not.One factor, which must be taken into account, is the disproportionate impact of the welfare state following the civil rights movement. Major welfare programs established in the late 1960s, which required recipients to be unmarried to qualify, followed shortly thereafter by the legalization of abortion in 1973, had a devastating effect on the black family.Data we have today should provoke a sense of urgency to focus policy on reversing the damage done by years of programs that have hurt the very low-income communities they were supposed to help.” From: https://townhall.com/columnists/starparker/2017/09/20/marriage-collapse-white-andblack-n2383765
We need policies that protect life and encourage marriage, ownership and individual responsibility and that includes the FSE argument.
JJ: Is there anything else you want our audience to know about the article?
BB: I want the audience to know that the truths in this article must get out into the world and be discussed.This article is a ﬁrst step to beginning a dialogue that heretofore was just not done and can focus on real analysis and exchange about the welfare of the family and children. Even more than that, it is about each of us living the truth of the natural family and letting others know that you do so in a spirit of love and devotion to the Lord whose precepts we accept and live out loudly.
Posted on: Monday, September 25, 2017
by Jennifer Johnson (left) and Brenda A. Baietto, Esq.
This article was first published September 11, 2017, at Americanbar.org.
Due to no-fault divorce and "diverse family structures," children often experience a form of inequality that is largely ignored. With lawyers and judges focused on a liberty that is defined as adults' happiness with their family structure choices, there is little focus on the inequalities these choices create for children. The legal profession readily supports the thinking that a happy adult makes for a happy child, yet we disregard a century of jurisprudence linking the state's interest in natural marriage to children and their formation and the substantial body of literature linking children and communities flourishing with the stable presence within a family of married, biological parents. Nor does the "best interests of the child" standard address this form of structural inequality. Finally, it is only fair to consider the testimonies of the children affected, especially once they are old enough to separate appropriately from their parents, examine their childhoods in an objective manner, and then decide for themselves how fair and just it was.
Family Structure Equality for Children
There is a kind of equality for children that deserves attention. It is called "family structure equality." It is the idea that most children should have the same kind of family structure, one founded on the lifelong marriage of their own married mother and father, also known as natural marriage. This is humanity's anthropological truth, our foundation—preexisting the law of marriage. Diagrammatically, this is represented as an inverted triangle, with the couple's child or children at the third point. This triad, in line with overwhelming social science evidence (both past and present), is the family structure that best ensures equality for children—equality of love, belonging, and security. When the family breaks down or doesn't form according to the triad, the inequalities for children multiply. Here are three ways this happens.
1. Two half-time dads do not equal one full dad. When parents divorce, a child can spend his or her childhood going back and forth between "two homes." If both parents remarry, that child can conceivably have a male father figure in each home. So the child has two half-time dads: a dad and a step-dad. For that child, however, having two half-time dads does not equal having one full-time dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though the child being with each of them half the time would be the same as having one whole dad. But for one of the authors of this article, Jennifer Johnson, who was raised by divorced parents, it was not:
I am not 100 percent sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day when I was about 12 years old. I remember feeling terrible about the messed-up nature of my family, how alone I was in it, and how it was never going to change.
Perhaps I came to this realization because I was an eyewitness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom and my step-dad. I could see that what she had and what I had were two different things. In each home, I needed to pretend that my other parent (and that parent's family) did not exist, meaning they were not welcome. Family photos of other people's whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Group family photos were taken and hung on the walls, but I wasn't in them. I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. While all this was going on for me, I am acknowledging everybody's mother and father and their whole families. But mine was not acknowledged. Thus, I had no real sense of family and home.
Jennifer Johnson, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children (Ruth Institute 2017).
2. Non-triad arrangements. Other types of non-triad arrangements have inequalities as well. Children who are conceived from anonymous gametes must pretend that half of who they are does not exist.
If the parents were raised inside the intact triad, then there is an inequality between the parents and the children because there are two different standards being applied. The child must pretend that half of himself or herself does not exist, while the child's parents do not. A study was conducted in 2010 of young adults who had been conceived through sperm donation. Two-thirds of them agreed with this statement: "My sperm donor is half of who I am." Elizabeth Marquardt et al., My Daddy's Name Is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation (Inst. for Am. Values 2010).
"It's going to be heartbreaking for him (Zachary) to grow up and realise he hasn't got a mummy." —Elton John (quoted in Sarah Nathan, "It Will Break My Son's Heart to Realise He Hasn't Got a Mother," Daily Mail, July 15, 2012).
The wedge between a child and the gamete donor represents the legal system. It permanently blocks children from knowing half of their family trees. In some cases, this includes falsifying the child's birth certificate with the social parent's name. Consider the additional stressors these kids endure:
Who is my donor?
Who are my half-siblings?
Will our paths cross?
Will I accidentally marry one of them?
This is an inequality in their family structure that neither their parents nor their peers share, with stressors that their parents and their peers can hardly even imagine.
3. Disenfranchised grief. If a child thinks or feels something about the inequality he or she experiences, the child's thoughts and feelings may not be welcome. To welcome those thoughts and feelings might cast doubt on the structure of the family and call into question the adults' freedom to make those choices. Thus, the child suffers a disenfranchised grief, one not accepted by the wider culture. Part of the healing process for these people is having the freedom to talk about the inequalities without being judged or pathologized. This is a kind of equality that is now denied in the popular culture.
Even if our society agreed with all of this, there would still be a small amount of structural inequality among children. Death, rape, ignorance, and human weakness mean that some family structure inequality will always exist. Adoption serves as a remedy for this kind of inequality because it provides parents to children who need them.
We must distinguish between adoption and other instances where children are not being raised with their own married parents. Anonymous gamete donation, for example, is not analogous to adoption. It is when adults want to become parents and use money and business contracts to create children. Consider the screening process. In adoption, adults are screened. Those who are deemed unfit to be parents are excluded, at least in principle. In anonymous gamete donation, the children are screened. Those deemed unfit to be children are aborted, thrown away as embryos, or permanently frozen. Adults with enough money can be parents using this technology, including those with criminal histories or personality disorders. People with criminal histories and personality disorders can become parents under natural marriage, but they must secure the cooperation of the child's other genetic parent, which mitigates the child's risks.
The Legal Community's Responsibility
The "best interests of the child" standard, which is used where there are custody and time-sharing disputes, focuses on individual "fitness" to parent or what parenting arrangement would benefit a child in the future (or both). It does not address the family structure itself. Nearly all states share a codified list of factors to determine the best interests of the child that serves to remind parents of their parental responsibility to the child—"while marriages and relationships may dissolve, parents are forever." Implicitly, the assumption is that children need "parents," but what that means is untethered from familial structural equality and tied more closely to the freedom of adults to make those choices, regardless of the social science.
St. Pope John Paul II has said that the future of the world passes through the family. If, in that future, our children grow up accustomed to inequality and injustice, what can they pass on to the next generation? Adult children of divorce and other non-triad arrangements are speaking out. It is incumbent on us to review that literature, whether it is the six adult children of gay parents who filed amicus briefs against gay marriage in the Obergefell case or the video by Zach Wahls advocating for his lesbian parents and separately pointing out the joy of having and knowing about a biological sister (a shared sperm donor) or author Jennifer Johnson's testimony about her negative experiences with no-fault divorce. See also Leila Miller's new book, Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak (LCB Publishing 2017).
The legal community is ethically bound to uphold truth and justice for all citizens—adults and children. We have accepted children's inequality as part of the landscape of contractual families that provide unbridled freedom to the adult. Should the legal community reevaluate when to apply the best interest standard? Should it be applied before an adult is given autonomy with a child's family structure? Can a guardian ad litem focus on these inequalities and be a source of education for parents? Are the child's true best interests being sacrificed at the time an alternative family is founded, where that child is without any legal protection? We in the legal community must reevaluate our duty to children when we are involved in the formation and dismantling of families.
Jennifer Johnson is the associate director for the Ruth Institute. She was raised by divorced parents and is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children. Brenda A. Baietto, Esq. is a family law attorney and mediator for Tampa Mediations, LLC, in Tampa, Florida.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 22, 2017
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was originally posted at Crisis Magazine August 3, 2017.
When people learn that I oppose no-fault divorce, some will say, “You have forgotten about abusive marriages.” When the Ruth Institute, the organization that I lead, describes itself as “The World’s Only Campaign to End Family Breakdown,” we hear again, “But what about abusive marriages?”
So, let me deal with this important issue. What about abusive marriages?
First off, let me assure you: I am certainly aware abusive marriages exist. I hear a lot of these stories. There are valid reasons why sometimes, spouses can, and should live separately. I am not opposed to separation in these cases. In some cases, a civil divorce can be justified, and even necessary.
The real question is this: who “broke” this family? Remember, I’m working to end family breakdown. In my opinion, the person throwing furniture through the wall, broke the family covenant. His wife has every right, and perhaps even a responsibility, to ask him to move out. If he refuses, she may need the help of (our admittedly dysfunctional) legal system. But make no mistake: she is not breaking up the family. He is.
Or what about this case? A woman becomes addicted to drugs. She spends all the family’s money, runs up credit card debts and acquires new lovers. Her husband may very well need to kick her out, sever all their financial dealings, and take steps to keep her away from the kids. He may need the help of the government to accomplish this. And yes, a divorce may be the only way to disentangle her from the family finances.
Who broke this family? The person who broke the covenant: the wife. The husband is protecting himself and his children.
I’m against the behavior that led to the family breakdown. I’m not against the innocent party doing what they need to do to protect themselves and their children. Yes, I’m so much against family breakdown that I want to see abusive behavior end.
I stated right up front that I am opposed to no-fault divorce. I stand by that. No-fault divorce was a radical restructuring of the institution of marriage. Under the no-fault regime, the State takes sides with the person who wants the marriage the least. The State not only allows, but actually assists, the least committed party to unilaterally ending the marriage.
Under a fault-based regime, an abused spouse could get a divorce. Abuse, adultery, abandonment, addiction: these were considered marital faults in virtually any jurisdiction. The person claiming a fault would have to offer evidence, to prove the faults had indeed occurred. But a fault-based divorce regime does not mean divorces never happened. Nor would a reintroduction of marital fault mean that “women would be trapped in abusive marriages.”
Under the no-fault divorce regime, the State pretends to be unable to discern an abusive marriage, from one that is not, or an offending party from an innocent party. The State then turns around and presumes to discern parenting plans, child support plans, and living arrangements of entire families. According to the State, no one has done anything wrong. Yet, the State assigns itself the right to send children for psychological evaluations, and to investigate all the family’s financial records.
It is true that the State does not use all this authority in every instance. This does not negate the fact that they still have that authority. No-fault divorce is a highly intrusive, privacy-invading legal structure.
Finally, some will ask, what about the Catholic Church’s annulment process? The annulment process is conceptually separate from discerning whether a marital fault has taken place. I realize this may sound harsh. But adultery or abuse has no direct bearing on whether the marriage was canonically valid in the first place.
The annulment process seeks evidence about the conditions surrounding the marriage itself. Did both parties freely consent? Were there any defects of form? Were both parties free to marry? Whether one or both became mentally ill or abusive or adulterous or anything else is not, strictly speaking relevant. If a person is too dangerous to live with, the couple can licitly live separately.
So why is annulment such a big deal in the Catholic Church? An annulment gives a person the Church’s permission to contract a Catholic marriage, just as a civil divorce grants a person permission to contract another civil marriage. But bear in mind: no one ever has to get married again.
This is why I am persuaded that abusive marriages do not present an exception to Jesus’ law of the indissolubility of marriage. Nor does the existence of abusive marriages dissuade me from my belief that family breakdown is something every decent person should work to end.
Breaking up a family in the absence of marital fault is unjust to the innocent parties, especially the children. And when abuse does take place, the
person filing the divorce papers is not the person breaking up the family. The abuse that led to divorce is what needs to stop. Surely everyone
can agree to that.