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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: Monday, April 17, 2017
A Child of Divorce Speaks Out on the Importance of a Family
Jennifer Johnson is Director of the Children of Divorce Project at the Ruth Institute. She is an author, whose interests include homeschooling (she homeschooled her three children), children’s rights and family structure issues. She has worked full time with the Ruth Institute since 2010, an organization founded by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse “dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown.”
Johnson’s most recently published work is “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.” She recently talked about divorce and its effect on her life.
What is your own personal experience of divorce?
I have a lot of experience with divorce, far too much to ask of any one person in my opinion. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos. By the time I was about 22, I had experienced three divorces: my own parents’ divorce and my dad’s two subsequent divorces. I am divorced as an adult and there is quite a bit of divorce in the rest of my family.
How did it affect you, and how have you been able to recover?
That is a whole story that I tell in my Special Report, “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children”. The short version is that I did not have a family; I was the lone member of my family. The family experience that I had was shared by no other person. I include diagrams in the report to show what I mean.
That experience taught me to suppress my true thoughts and feelings about the original divorce and the remarriages. That chaotic situation taught me to ignore my own intuitions, taught me that letting my intuitions bubble to the surface of my mind was dangerous. Had I examined and revealed my intuitions about all that to my parents, it would have jeopardized my already-tenuous relationship with them. Learning to ignore my thoughts, feelings and intuitions about things that bothered me made me extremely vulnerable once I became an adult. I joined a cult at the age of 19, had an arranged marriage there, and participated and endorsed some horrific abuse and exploitation of others so that I could fit in and not be thought of as an outsider. The cult appealed to my deep need for belonging, for being a full-fledged member of a family.
Anthropologists have a concept that applies here. It is called “liminality.” Limin is Latin for the threshold of a doorway. The threshold is not one room or the other. It is the in-between place between two rooms, or between the outside of the house and the inside. Liminality is the condition of being between states or statuses. Sometimes it is referred to as being “betwixt and between.” When somebody is in a liminal state, they are no longer what they were and are not yet what they will be. The old rules no longer apply, and the new rules do not apply yet.
When my parents divorced, I ceased to exist as a full-fledged daughter in my family, because my family ceased to exist. I never again entered a full-fledged status with either of them. Their divorce and subsequent remarriages pushed me into a liminal state from which I have never emerged. Joining the cult was my attempt to exit the liminal state, to become initiated as a full-fledged member of a family, even if it was an abusive family.
There have been many studies about the effects of divorce on children. What are some of the findings?
It’s bad. It is worse than the average person wants to realize. Divorce shortens people’s lives. That alone should get people’s attention. Plus it increases the risk factors for addictions, not finishing high school, getting divorced as an adult and losing contact with grandparents. Children of divorce report feeling a lack of empathy from their churches, and don’t go to church as much as kids from intact families.
“No fault” divorce came to California in 1969, and the rest of the country soon after. How do you think divorce has affected society as a whole?
In order to talk about society, we need to talk about the mechanics behind the changes of “no-fault.” No-fault changed an important legal presumption in marriage. A presumption is a starting-point, a place where we say, “Here is where we begin, and we can make adjustments to individual circumstances from this place, but we need a beginning point so we always begin here.” Prior to no-fault, the legal presumption, the legal beginning point, was that marriage is permanent. It was viewed as a truly life-long commitment and the family courts honored this, at least in principle. Of course, there was divorce and separation prior to no-fault, but the presumption of permanence was honored by the courts. In order to get a divorce, that presumption had to be overcome by demonstrating why the marriage had failed. Such circumstances included adultery, addictions and abandonment.
No-fault changed the legal presumption. Now marriage is no longer legally presumed permanent by the family courts. The courts get involved in the minutia of family life at the behest of one spouse. One spouse has the power to harness the family court to destroy the family, like wielding a sledge hammer, and the family courts must comply. They no longer side with the family, giving preference to its legitimate claim on wholeness. They side with the person who wants to destroy the family. If the other spouse wants to keep the family together, that person has no legal remedy. The divorce will be enforced in all cases if one spouse wants it.
In this respect, no-fault divorce is like abortion. That might sound like a dramatic claim, so let me spell it out.
In both cases, the State sides with one person (the pregnant mother, the petitioner in a no-fault divorce action) to uphold or enforce the action that the person wants (the abortion, the no-fault divorce), while simultaneously providing no legal defense for the other person (the unborn child, the respondent in the divorce action). The individual who wants the action (of the abortion or to be divorced) must be “freed” from every restraint that he does not explicitly want. Even if he chose the restraint at a point in the past, if he changes his mind, then the State’s duty is to free him from it if this is what the individual wants.
In February, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput published a book called, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. He makes this same point when he says: “Without the restrains of some higher moral law, democracy instinctively works against natural marriage, traditional families and any other institution that creates bonds and duties among citizens. It insists on the autonomous individual as its ideal.”
Thus, as a society, we believe that the State’s duty to the individual is to annul or at least modify his familial obligations whenever he chooses in order to free him.
I’ve heard it said divorce may be a necessity when “the 3 A’s” are involved: addiction, abuse and adultery. Do you agree?
This is a complex question since it touches on a variety of issues. We can talk about it from the State’s perspective or the perspective of individual families. Taking the State’s perspective, we might ask: what is the State’s role in divorce? Should the State be involved? If so, at what point? I would say that yes, there is a role for the State, but to restore some semblance of justice in divorce we need to restore the legal presumption of permanence. I do not know how that should be done. Should we go back to some sort of fault-based system that relies on “the 3 A’s”? Should we at least eliminate the unilateral aspect of divorce and require both spouses to consent to it? I would say yes to both of those questions.
We can also consider the perspective of individual families. Perhaps somebody reading this article is experiencing one or more of those things right now. It is difficult to give blanket advice since each case is unique. Even so, I have heard many reports about couples who recovered from adultery. For addiction issues, help can be found through groups such as Al-Anon.
The good thing about the old fault-based system is that somebody was legally culpable. This person was then penalized by the courts. This deterred bad behavior. For example, if the child is not living with that person post-divorce, then this makes sense. Children should not be living with addicts or with abuse, especially when their other parent is not there to serve as a buffer.
What might you say to couples with children considering divorce when less serious issues are involved?
That triad of your family matters a great deal. It matters to your children, to all of the people around you, and to your grandchildren and the rest of your posterity. So try harder to work things out. I know you’re tired and you probably want to go find somebody else. But your kids need you there, at home. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your situation will beat the odds for your kids. Are you willing to implicitly tell them that you don’t want to live with them for half of their remaining childhood? Because that is what you will be communicating to them if you split up. Do you want to throw away their sense of being your full-fledged child?
You will continue to have a relationship with your spouse even after the divorce, and you will have less say-so in the lives of your children than you do now. Your ex-spouse might bring undesirable people into your children’s lives, and your children will feel pressure to accept and love those people. Some spouses resort to parental alienation tactics, which means that you run the risk of losing all contact with your children for a very long time.
Please do not make the child live in “two homes.” Do not break up their daily life like that. Consider keeping the family home, letting the children live there full time, and getting a small place nearby that you share with your ex-spouse. Each of you takes turns going back and forth between the family home and the other place. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then please reconsider making your kids do the same. Apply the same standard to your children that you want applied to you.
What help/advice would you offer children of divorced parents to help them recover?
I don’t have any magic words here. Healing is an ongoing process. The first steps were the hardest for me:
I recommend my reading my book for more details about all of these concepts, plus many diagrams that make it easy enough for a child to understand.
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2017
For immediate release:
“Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins! So, go to Confession!” –Ruth Institute President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Ruth Institute launches ‘Go to Confession’ Campaign
(March 14, 2017, Lake Charles, LA) During this season of Lent, The Ruth Institute has launched an online and billboard campaign encouraging people of all faiths to make things right with God. “Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins!” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse stated in announcing the campaign. “That is why have launched a series of billboards and social media messages urging people to go to confession!”
Even in cases where one person has the major responsibility for fracturing the family, all family members can benefit from going to confession. “The injured parties may need help with bitterness, anger, emotional paralysis and many other issues. The grace of confession can help them,” Dr. Morse explained. “And of course, it goes without saying: if you have injured your family through addiction, abuse, adultery or desertion, go to confession. Jesus is waiting for you in the confessional and wants to forgive you. If you can’t tell him, in the person of the priest, that you are sorry, how are you ever going to be able to face your ex-spouse or your children?”
“Our ‘Go to Confession’ campaign reminds people that God is merciful and He will forgive us. What better time than during Lent?” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute said.
The Institute launched a billboard campaign in Lake Charles, LA, with messages: “Jesus is waiting for you,” “Sin makes you stupid,” featuring St. Thomas Aquinas (who loosely said that), and “Party’s over. Go to confession,” with an image of Mardi Gras debris. “Lake Charles is in the heart of Cajun Country, the Catholic buckle on the Bible belt. If we can’t publicly urge people to go to confession here, where can we? And the world desperately needs this encouragement.”
Dr. Morse added. “Guilty consciences make it harder for us to move forward and to resolve the issues caused by our sins, or the bitterness we’ve held onto from the sins of others.” Find the Ruth Institute’s ‘Go to Confession’ images on their website here, here and here.
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.
Reply to this email if you’d like to interview Dr. Morse further about this unique and beneficial ‘Go to Confession’ campaign.
Posted on: Monday, March 06, 2017
Por su oposición a las interpretaciones rupturistas de Amoris Laetitia
Posted on: Saturday, March 04, 2017
This article was first posted March 2, 2017, at Lifesitenews.com.
In his Pastoral Letter, “A True and Living Icon,” Archbishop Sample had stated, “The indissolubility of marriage is a precious and essential teaching of the Church, revealed by Jesus and cherished in our unbroken Tradition… The marriage bond is indissoluble because the Gospel covenant is indissoluble, for the sacrament signifies Christ’s permanent union with his Church.”
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.
Dr. Morse stated, “We are particularly encouraged that Archbishop Sample addressed three possible misuses of Amoris Laetitia. Misuse One: Conscience Legitimizes Actions Contravening Divine Commandments. Misuse Two: Under Certain Conditions Divine Prohibitions Admit of Exceptions. And Misuse Three: Human Frailty Exempts from Divine Command. Time has shown the Archbishop’s foresight in this area, as many people, including people who ought to know better, are making these very mistakes.”
Jennifer Johnson, Director of the Ruth Institute’s Children of Divorce project stated, “We are so grateful for Archbishop Sample’s clear teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. We hear from people who have been harmed by family breakdown, literally every day. Straying from Jesus’s teaching on the permanence of marriage has devastated millions of children and deserted spouses. We want the Archbishop to know these wounded souls deeply appreciate his words.”
Posted on: Monday, January 30, 2017
Five tips to get you started on the path to a happy marriage.
If you are a take-your-vows-seriously type of person and believe in “till death do us part,” your life will be much simpler if you marry the right person to begin with. For some this seems a difficult task. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. If you’re dating someone to the point where things have crossed over that indefinable line into a “serious relationship,” stop and ask yourself if this is someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Can you see this person as the mother or father of your children? If not, why are you wasting your time? Don’t put off the inevitable. It will only be harder later on for both of you. Meanwhile, the person who is right for you is out there still, waiting to meet that wonderfulness that is you. Or perhaps you already know him or her, but you’ve just been unavailable. Don’t stay with someone who isn’t right for you out of fear of being alone. Instead, get yourself one step closer to lifelong happiness—with the right person.
2. Ask the opinion of your mom or best friend
when it comes to your relationship with this person. They know you better than anyone and have an outsider’s view of your relationship. Does that person think you two are a good match? Do they like your significant other? If not, why? The tricky part here is to be open to the other person’s objective opinion. You may be filled with warm fuzzies just at the thought of this person, but those feelings will not last and will not sustain a marriage. There needs to be something backing the emotion. A person on the outside can see if your relationship has substance. Listen to that person.
3. Discuss children, finances, and in-law involvement. These are all issues that can cause conflict later on. If you truly love this person, learn to compromise. If you’re truly right for each other, you will agree on important areas such as these. If one of you wants seven kids and the other wants zero—you’ve most likely got a deal breaker. If one of you is a penny pincher and the other a spend-thrift, you may have conflict in your future life together. If one of you wants your mom essentially to live with you, while the other thinks a week-long visit every five years is sufficient, you’d best work that out now. Men, especially, have trouble saying no to their mother, but once the ring is on your finger, gentlemen, your wife becomes the most important woman in your life. She takes precedence. Your mom will need to understand that.
4. Once you’re engaged, take the marriage preparation seriously. Listen to the experts whose mission is to help you be sure you’re making the right decision and to have the best marriage possible. Engaged couples break up. It happens all the time, but better now than years, and children, down the road. Are there any nagging issues that you’ve been repeatedly pushing to the background or rationalizing away? Do you think he or she will eventually change, or that the grace from the sacrament of matrimony will fix everything? If that’s what you’re hoping for, you should know that it doesn’t work that way. Use this as a test: when you haven’t seen the other person for an extended amount of time, how do you feel when you do see him or her again? Does your heart sing or does it flop? Does it feel nothing at all? Take a hard, honest look at how you truly feel about this person. And do it now before it’s too late.
And finally and most importantly, if you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s when it comes to all the tips above, don’t blow it now by moving in together before the wedding. Cohabitation greatly increases your chances of divorce. What you don’t realize, and what society doesn’t tell you, is that living together means you don’t fully trust each other. “Playing house” is a mere rehearsal for those who don’t love or trust each other enough to do things right the first time. Instead, it’s using one another.
Real love cares about doing things right, in the right order. If you really love one another, and want to be together for the rest of your lives, don’t sabotage your future now. What’s waiting a few more months when you have a lifetime ahead of you? If you don’t believe me, keep this in mind: research by the National Marriage Project showed that “no positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found,” and if you take the time to look, you’ll find lots of research stating the pitfalls of cohabitation—the stuff no one dares to talk about even though the evidence is overwhelming. Think you can beat the odds? So does everyone else. What makes you any different from them?
Remember that love is doing the right thing for the sake of the other person’s happiness and well-being, even, and especially, when it’s inconvenient to you. That may mean making the hard decision to break things off, or to wait to live together even though society may mock and misunderstand you. The greatest reward, a lifetime of married happiness, belongs to those who do the difficult, but honest and selfless acts. Best of luck to you!
Betsy Kerekes is Director of Online Publications at the Ruth Institute and co-author with Dr Jennifer Roback Morse of a new book: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do.
Posted on: Monday, January 23, 2017
Marriage and Equality – How natural marriage promotes equality for children
By Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director, the Ruth Institute“Gay marriage” supporters aren’t the only ones who care about equality. The ancient Christian teachings on sex and marriage ensure that every child is raised with his or her own married mother and father, except for an unavoidable tragedy. That’s a kind of equality people don’t talk about. And we need to talk more about it.
I have observed three ways that natural marriage upholds equality for children.
Every child lives with his own married mother and father in a unified home, except for an unavoidable tragedy.
The Christian teaching on marriage and sex creates “structural” equality among children—they’re all with their own parents. None of them are shuttling back and forth between “two homes.” None of them have had a genetic parent/family severed from them due to being conceived as a result of anonymous sperm or egg donation. None of them have birth records that have been falsified to accommodate a non-genetic parent’s wishes.
I first saw this form of equality one day when talking to Dr. Morse about her childhood. I asked her, “How many kids had divorced parents when you were young?” She said that she could think of one. So my mind pictured the playground, with her and all her schoolmates on it. I imagined each of them with a diagram of their family structure above their heads, in a little bubble like a cartoon. All of the kids had an intact family, except for one.
The acceptance of all family members should be a two-way street between parents and their children.
Natural marriage creates equality between the generations. Let me use an anecdote from my own life to illustrate what I mean.
When I was growing up, my parents were divorced, so I spent my entire childhood doing the back-and-forth thing between “two homes.” They also both remarried. So, in each of those places, I had a male father figure. So, I had two half-time dads, a dad, and a step-dad.
I was about twelve or so when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though me being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad.
But it was not.
I am not 100% sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember consciously thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day. It might have been because I was an eye-witness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom, and my step-dad. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two very different things.
Family photos of other people’s whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Family photos were taken, but not with me in them.
I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “Two Christmases,” or “Two birthdays” in some divorce literature. These are euphemisms. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas Eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. And when I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. Nobody else had to do that.
Everybody’s pain and grief caused by injustice deserves to be expressed, acknowledged, healed, and prevented so that others don’t experience the same thing.
Not only does the inequality happen on the level of the family, it happens in the wider culture. The child lives under a burden and is not allowed to feel anything negative about the particular family form that was chosen for him. If he feels grief about missing half of himself, it is “disenfranchised grief,” grief that is not acceptable to the wider culture.
Our culture is profoundly concerned about adults and their happiness in their marital, sexual and reproductive choices. But we fail to understand that when we redefine all of those things to expand those choices, the children must live under structural inequalities, double standards and unreciprocated demands.
Read Jennifer Johnson’ whole report on Marriage and Equality. We can defend man-woman marriage! We can defend the rights of children to their own parents! Get the arguments you need by downloading the full report Marriage and Equality on your Kindle for $2.99. Or, purchase a physical copy of this brand new Report here.
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: Tuesday, August 16, 2016
First published August 11, 2016 at heymiller.com and will be in the
NATIONAL REVIEW August 29, 2016.
“It’s a discouraging time to be a social conservative,” says Jennifer Roback Morse. “We’ve been marginalized everywhere: the media, the academy, the legal system, and now even in politics.”
Many of her brethren know exactly what Morse means. Everywhere they look, it seems, they’re on the defensive. The Supreme Court just overturned abortion restrictions in the states and has mandated gay marriage everywhere. The Republican presidential nominee, usually a conduit for their ideas, rarely addresses their concerns. Their numbers may be shrinking, too: The percentage of Americans who describe themselves as social conservatives has fallen from 42 percent in 2009 to just 31 percent last year. This is the lowest rate the Gallup Poll has ever recorded.
Yet Morse concedes nothing. “The cause of truth is never lost,” she says. “Hope is not a plan or a strategy. It’s a supernatural virtue.”
She might benefit from a bit of divine intervention. As the founder and leader of the Ruth Institute, a small nonprofit organization, Morse has taken up a difficult vocation: “We’re trying to create a social movement that supports people harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other aspects of the sexual revolution,” she says.
People call her “Dr. J” — a reference to her Ph.D. in economics, a background that allows her to bring an uncommon perspective to debates over everything from women in the work force to transgender bathroom access. She writes a weekly column, gives radio interviews, and travels the world; I caught up with her in June, when she had just returned from a ten-day trip to Australia and was getting ready for a couple of speeches in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Morse refuses to speak in code. She mixes her moral sensibility and economics training to produce a bracing candor that listeners tend to find either plucky or abrasive. Here’s how she talks about single motherhood, for example: “There’s no such thing as a single parent. They’ve become dependent on other people in commercial transactions, such as their employers and child-care providers. A single mother may look like she’s doing so much ‘on her own,’ but she has merely commercialized the things the father would have done.”
This style of rhetoric has the power both to attract and to repel potential converts to the cause of social conservatism — and behind these words lies not only an unequivocal voice but also a fascinating story of personal conversion from anything-goes libertarianism to strait-laced conservatism.
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, the 62-year-old Morse attended Oberlin College in the early 1970s and then transferred to Ohio State University, shedding the Catholicism of her youth and discovering the free-market thinking that would form the initial basis of her professional life. “I was attracted to the way it explained the world,” she says. By the time she was a graduate student at the University of Rochester, she had become attached to libertarianism in its most freewheeling forms. “I was deeply committed to all of it, even legalized prostitution,” she says.
She also had an abortion. “I regretted it right away,” she says. “I was in a marriage that I knew was a mistake and I was scared that I wouldn’t be a good mother.” She divorced her husband, earned her Ph.D., and threw herself into the politics of the Libertarian party, even joining its platform committee and cheering the presidential candidacy of Ed Clark in 1980. The abortion continued to haunt her, however. “I had night terrors and anniversary anxiety,” she says. “I went to counseling but none of the counselors said that maybe the abortion had something to do with my troubles.”
As a young woman with a doctorate in economics and a devotion to free-market philosophy, Morse was a rare commodity. “I was often the only girl in the room,” she says. The legendary public-choice economist James Buchanan tried to recruit her to Virginia Tech, where he was then teaching. She turned his offer down in favor of a post at Yale. By 1985, however, Buchanan had moved on to George Mason University in northern Virginia, where he was assembling an impressive faculty of latter-day Adam Smiths (and where he would win the Nobel Prize in 1986). He remembered the impressive young lady from several years before and once again offered her a job. This time, she accepted.
Morse’s academic career looked bright. “She was a sharp colleague and an excellent scholar,” says Walter Williams, a longtime member of GMU’s economics department. She was happily remarried, too. “I had it all planned out,” she says. “I was going to get tenure and have a baby, and we were going to make sure the baby came at the end of one school year so that I could deliver and be ready for the start of the next school year. I thought I was in complete control and that I could choose everything.”
She got tenure but failed to get pregnant, let alone on the precise timetable she had imagined. A year went by and then another. The abortion still disturbed her and she began to wonder if she had missed her one chance at motherhood. “I was panicked,” she says.
Looking for solace, Morse started to attend early-morning Mass at a Catholic church. Then she went to confession, which she had not done in years. “The priest understood right away how the abortion was weighing on me,” she says. “I started to calm down.” She finally made a full return to the faith of her youth. “I realized that I didn’t have to get all of the things that I wanted.” One day, as she walked down the baby-food aisle of a grocery store — “an experience,” she points out, “that can be emotionally hard for childless women” — it occurred to her that she could be a mother without having a baby. She and her husband could adopt.
“Then something unlikely happened,” she says. In 1991, as the couple entered the advanced stages of adoption, she became pregnant. In April, they brought home a boy from Romania. In October, Morse gave birth to a daughter.
With the Romanian adoption, they thought they were not only aiding a child but also doing their part to help a struggling nation realign itself after the fall of Communism. What they didn’t anticipate was a two-year-old with disabilities. “From birth, he had almost never left his crib,” says Morse. “He had serious developmental needs. What he needed most was a mommy. To put him in day care would have been cruel. He didn’t need a mother substitute. I was already that.” They named him Nick. “He convinced me that children require parents. This is the great insight of my life!” she says, laughing. “Somebody’s got to say it.”
So she tried to balance the demands of work and home, teaching courses on microeconomics and researching the economic history of the Civil War while also looking after her kids. “I could have stayed at GMU forever,” she says. Yet her husband wanted to leave. “He didn’t like Washington, D.C. The old me would have said, ‘I’m not going — not unless I get an academic position somewhere.’ But that was no way to live.” So she quit her job.
The family moved to California, first to Silicon Valley and later to San Diego. Without a job, Morse spent more time with her kids, and especially with her son, who required extra attention. They also opened their home to eight foster children. “As this was going on, I was losing my libertarianism — or rather, it was losing me,” says Morse. “Without strong families, you can’t have free markets or limited government. Instead, you get ‘The Life of Julia.’” This is a reference to a slide-show advertisement from President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign that treated a fictitious woman’s cradle-to-grave dependence on government as a triumph of progressivism.
The intellectual dissonance became personal when one of the leading lights of libertarian economics — Morse’s mentor, James Buchanan — publicly disapproved of her decisions. The showdown came in 1997, at the 50th-anniversary meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, a prestigious organization of classical liberals founded by F. A. Hayek. Morse had been asked to deliver remarks at a confab in Switzerland. She didn’t want to take time away from her family, so she wrote a paper. William Campbell of Louisiana State University presented it.
There is no transcript or recording of the session — at least none that I could track down — but several witnesses described what happened. During a discussion period, Buchanan spoke. “I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it had something to do with throwing away a career to do a minor thing like raise a family,” says Edwin J. Feulner, the longtime head of the Heritage Foundation who was at the time also the society’s president. “A few years before he had told me that Jennifer was one of his star protégés.” Father Robert A. Sirico of the Acton Institute also was there. “Jim didn’t speak for long, but he made clear that he was disappointed in her.” (Buchanan died in 2013.)
Back in the United States, Morse heard about the incident from friends and colleagues. Today, she doesn’t want to say much about Buchanan’s comments — they still sting — but she offers this much: “He was very good to me until he wasn’t.”
During those years, Morse was slowly writing a book. Love & Economics came out in 2001. “My understanding of the human person and society had been deeply influenced by free-market economics and libertarian political theory, which have shaped my entire adult working life,” she wrote. “As I came to realize how much I had overlooked, I concluded that my profession was overlooking much as well.” It had forgotten about the vulnerability of children and the need for families: “Without loving families, no society can long govern itself.”
These words set the stage for the second part of her career. In 2008, as her kids approached adulthood, Morse found herself with more time for travel and activism. She started the Ruth Institute, envisioning it as a way to help her talk to young women. “I wanted to warn them about the careerist trap,” she says. “It’s okay to get married, stay married, and do something later. You don’t have to get on the career bandwagon.”
She spoke on campuses around the country but soon, like so many social conservatives, found herself embroiled in the gay-marriage debate. At first, she tasted success as part of the team that pushed for Proposition 8, the ballot proposal in California to ban gay marriage, which voters approved. Then judges struck it down in what became a series of rapid legal defeats, culminating in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling last year.
“We learned that making a correct argument doesn’t matter to the Supreme Court,” says Morse, who departed California and moved to Louisiana last year. “It’s not listening to reason and evidence. So we need a new strategy, one that focuses on the entire sexual revolution, not just the gay parts. That’s my mission now — to tell the truth about how the sexual revolution oppresses us.”
Divorce is a favorite topic. “Nobody talks about it, but this is an issue of justice for the child,” she says. She ticks off statistics about the children of divorced parents: They’re more likely to fall behind in school, abuse drugs and alcohol, and think about suicide. “This is the number-one lie of the sexual revolution: Kids are resilient. No, they’re not.”
And though she ended her first marriage, Morse won’t shy away from criticizing others who make the same choice. “We didn’t have kids and I got an annulment,” she says. “I’m not a hypocrite. I’m penitent. Divorce has harmed lots of people and those people have harmed lots of people. We have to say this. Modern society tries to make guilt go away by saying nothing is ever wrong — that there’s no right or wrong at all — and that’s not true.”
The most important thing social conservatives can do right now, she says, is persevere. “It’s as if we’ve lost a war and now we live in an occupied country. What did people in Communist Poland do? They resisted.” She brings up the example of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the dissident writer in the old Soviet Union. “He may have thought he was in a minority of one, but then he started writing and people read him,” she says. “I believe that millions of people agree with us, even Democrats who are sick of a culture that’s saturated in pornography and the sexualization of children — as well as people who have survived the sexual revolution and are willing to tell the whole story. Is it really so hard to say that children are entitled to parents? This is the birthright of every child, not an impossible dream.” She pauses, then concludes: “When nothing is politically possible, you don’t need to trim sails. You can just tell the truth.”
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: Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Petition to: Archbishop Charles Chaput of PhiladelphiaThank you for the wisdom and clarity in your Guidelines. We are praying for you!
For the Petition:
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