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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: 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.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 16, 2017
An excerpt from “The Sexual State,” a forthcoming book by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
At the heart of the Divorce Ideology is one simple idea: kids are so resilient that they do not really need their own parents. This idea salves many a guilty conscience over making these choices. This is the idea that allows adults to divorce, remarry, become single parents by choice, and use third party reproduction. This idea allows people to have sex with people they are not married to: they presume the resulting children, (if any) will be fine. They presume that their currently existing children will not mind them taking up with new lovers, forming new households and all the rest. Kids are resilient.
This idea is completely false. All its variants are equally false.
“I can safely abandon the mother of my child, and my child.”
“I can safely kick my child’s father out of the house.”
“As a judge or social worker, I can separate children from their parents, support one blameless parent against the other, and nothing bad will happen.”
“As an academic or journalist, I can safely promote the idea that marriage is unnecessary, probably oppressive, and after all, just a piece of paper.”
“The kids will be better off if I am happy.”
It takes a lot of propaganda to maintain the myth that the kids will be fine.
The victims of the Divorce Ideology number in the millions. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by this ideology. All these people need to be silenced to maintain the fiction that the kids will be fine as long as their parents are happy. But over-writing nature on this scale is no small matter. The Revolutionaries need to enlist a lot of social effort, since their ideas do not accord with reality. The True Believers in the Sexual Revolution regard doing the impossible as a high moral duty. They believe themselves entitled to use all available social and political power to achieve their impossible goals. They believe working toward these high moral ends will give meaning to their lives and salvation to society. Since their premises are false and their goals are impossible, they will never be satisfied, no matter how much social change they generate. In fact, since the premises are false, every mistaken step compounds the previous mistaken steps. The True Believer becomes even less happy with every step of the “March of Progress.”
Some of this is masked by the fact that they sometimes have legitimate goals wrapped up inside their ideology. For example, many people agree that increasing women’s participation in higher education and the professions is a good thing. The Sexual Revolutionaries claim credit for every woman who has graduated from college since 1965. But they never stop to assess any collateral damage that their methods may have generated. Nor do they ask whether these legitimate objectives (behind which they hide their Revolutionary agenda) could have been achieved in some other way.
The Sexual Revolution needs the State because it needs enormous amounts of power to accomplish its impossible objectives. This one insight unlocks the key to the whole course of the Sexual Revolution. We are now in a position to see why the Sexual Revolution has morphed into a power grab, why it seems so overwhelming, why it is so seductive, why its propaganda seems so relentless, and why the downhill slide seems to be accelerating.
Propping up this combination of half-truths and flat-out lies requires a lot of propaganda. Every TV sitcom showing the happy fatherless family is part of this effort to remake human nature. Ditto every movie showing jolly blended families. Speaking of, The Huffington Post has a regular feature called “Blended Family Friday.” They describe it this way:
As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life! Want to share your own story? Email us at email@example.com.
Most of these accounts are chipper reports from the adult’s point of view. I have not seen too many accounts written from the child’s perspective. The articles tend to downplay the problems, suggesting that with tenacity and determination, these problems can be overcome. This feature outrages my friends who are adult children of divorce. They feel it diminishes the negative experiences they had as children.
The propaganda for the divorce ideology causes real pain to real people. Those who have been harmed by family breakdown feel isolated. “If only my family was cooler and more together, we could be like those people on TV. We would not be having all these problems.” What if you and your family are more common than you believe, and the TV show characters are the unusual ones?
People who have made decisions that result in family breakdown undoubtedly sometimes do so based on the cultural narrative supporting the “freedom to divorce” and “the kids will be fine.” When they discover that all that freedom didn’t make them happy, that the kids really aren’t fine, many of these people feel cheated, like freaks, like outliers. What if the difficulties you encounter are the norm and the TV characters are the freaks?
Every instance of this propaganda victimizes the already-victimized. Besides being hurt by their parents’ divorce, the children of divorce are subjected to the continual claim that they really are all right. And if they are not all right, there is something especially wrong with them. We take them to therapy. We prescribe medication for them. We ask them to deny the reality that is right in front of them. No wonder they are upset. No wonder they have stomach cramps, sleepless nights, psychological problems, and trouble with their school work. The divorce ideology and the propaganda that supports it is crazy-making. Honestly, it is a wonder that so many of the children of divorce do as well as they do. I cannot even imagine what they go through.
I don’t care how often it happens. I don’t care how much propaganda attempts to normalize it. I will never consider it “normal” for children to be asked to do without one of their parents, without a really, really, good reason.1. “Meet the Blended Families We’ve Featured in the Past” is a montage of 156 stories of stepfamilies. The description quoted in the text appears in the tee-up of each one. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-blended-family-motto-this-mom-swears-by_us_55fb25fce4b0fde8b0cd9012?slideshow=true#gallery/559ee9b3e4b05b1d02900b90/0(Last accessed November 16, 2016.)
Posted on: Wednesday, August 02, 2017
by Leslie Fain
This article was first published at Catholic World Report on July 7, 2017.
In cases of divorce as well as same-sex marriage, our culture is more concerned about sexual happiness for adults than about what happens to kids.
Jennifer Johnson, director of the Ruth Institute’s Children of Divorce Project, is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children, a short book that presents the case for natural marriage based on equality. It is one of two new books by Catholic authors on the subject of divorce and its effects on children; CWR also interviewed Leila Miller, author of Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, about her book.
CWR: In your book you lay out the case that in the fight over same-sex marriage, the arguments most often presented in favor of traditional marriage, although not wrong, did not win the day because they did not appeal to people’s sense of justice. Can you explain?
Jennifer Johnson: Our movement is beset with internal contradictions that worked against us. We tried to make an argument about children by saying things like, “Kids need a mom and a dad.” This is a perfectly true statement, but given our sexually lax culture, it takes too much for granted. For example, from the point of view of the child, what is the difference between the following two scenarios? A child living in “two homes” where the mom and step-dad are in one home, and the dad and step-mom are in the other home; a child living in “two homes” where the mom and lesbian lover are in one home, and the dad and gay step-dad are in the other home.
Both situations fulfill the slogan “Kids need a mom and a dad.” So the complementarity of the sexes is present in the child’s life, at least in principle. So simply saying that “kids need a mom and a dad” does not account for divorce, remarriage, out of wedlock childbearing, and anonymous sperm and egg donation. Why should children raised under those scenarios go along with the argument for complementarity of the sexes when their own experience of complementarity has been diluted or harmed without protest from social conservatives?
CWR: Can you describe the inspiration for developing your argument?
Johnson: I have a devotion to the Holy Family and I pray from time to time for wisdom in defending marriage and the family. One day I was looking at an image of [the Holy Family] and I saw a triangle between all of their heads. And I thought, “Wow, the family structure is a triangle!” There are a lot of details that I explain in my book, but the short version is that I saw how the Sexual Revolution has meant that more and more children are not raised inside of their own “triangle” of mother, father, children. I like being able to use the triangle to explain our argument, since it makes the argument very visual and easy to understand.
CWR: I know we can’t do it justice in this brief interview, but in a nutshell, how does natural marriage uphold structural equality for children?
Johnson: “Structural equality” is a phrase I use to describe what historic Christian sexual ethics provides to children. We don’t have to quote any Bible verses to understand how natural marriage provides a legitimate form of equality for children, and how the inequalities among children multiply when a culture disregards natural marriage and historic Christian sexual ethics. I list a number of structural inequalities in my book drawn from my own life experiences as a child of divorce. For example, there is a structural inequality when it comes to grief. Kids raised outside the marriage of their own mother and father are not permitted to openly grieve that loss. They are required to endorse whatever family arrangement their parents have chosen and are not permitted to feel anything about it other than what the parents want them to feel.
Another form of structural inequality among children who are raised outside the marriage of their own mother and father is that they have to pretend that half of themselves does not exist. For example, a child of divorce must pretend that his mother does not exist when he is in his father’s home, and he has to pretend that his father does not exist while in his mother’s home. In each home, family photos won’t show the child’s full family. This is confusing in its own right, but it gets compounded because the parents don’t have to do that same thing—family photos on display in the home will show the parents mothers and fathers, and those corresponding family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). There is no home where the child’s full family is on display.
Looking at the photos on the walls is a good way to see the kind of dynamic the child is living under.
CWR: You are a child of divorce yourself, more than one time over. There is a poignant scene you paint in your book in which you have the epiphany that your family isn’t like other families. Can you tell us about that?
Johnson: There were two times that I had painful realizations about my family structure, and they are related. The first was when I was 12. I was standing in the driveway at my mom’s home and I had a realization that something was terribly wrong with how my family was structured but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. My mother had remarried and had a new child with this new husband. I could see that what this child had and what I had were two different things.
The other painful realization proved to be the answer to the first one. It was when I saw the triangle between the heads of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, that I mentioned above. I was in my late 40s when this happened. I went home that evening and applied the triangle concept to my situation by drawing it all out. I had no idea what to expect, but ended up being extremely shocked and saddened by what I saw. My family structure was not the simple triangle that I had seen. It looked more like a malformed spider’s web. It was ugly and I felt ashamed of it. Later in the book, I explain the way that God used this image to show me other important things about what the radical Left is doing to marriage and family. So God had a plan, even though at the time I had no idea what it could be.
CWR: In my interview with Leila Miller, she talked about adult children of divorce being afraid to tell their parents how they felt about the divorce. You refer to this as “disenfranchised grief,” another form of inequality. Can you explain this phenomenon?
Johnson: There is a socially-approved divorce narrative that everybody follows. It goes like this, roughly speaking: “Kids are resilient. Babies are blank slates. They don’t care about their family structure. They don’t care if their mother is in bed with somebody who is not their father. They don’t care if their father is in bed with somebody who is not their mother. They don’t mind shuttling back and forth between ‘two homes.’ They don’t mind when their parent spends more time with a new love interest and new children than with them. They don’t care about subsequent divorces. Any problems they have after the divorce are due to their own character flaws or mental disorders, and are thus avoidable or treatable. In no way are post-divorce problems due to the divorce. If you question divorce and remarriage, you will be labeled with a psychiatric disorder.”
This narrative is profoundly anti-science. The social science data is very clear that divorce is a huge problem for children, and it dramatically elevates many risk factors for negative outcomes. [But the narrative is upheld] in the face of the data because our culture is more concerned about sexual happiness for adults than about what happens to kids because of the pursuit of that sort of happiness.
CWR: You write that natural marriage creates structural equality for children. When children are raised without the protection of natural marriage, these inequalities multiply. Can you explain how that happens?
Johnson: I have identified a number of inequalities. Two of them are best described as horizontal inequality and vertical inequality. Horizontal refers to siblings or peers. Vertical refers to parents. When the horizontal form of inequality is present among siblings, they are treated differently from each other with respect to how their family is structured. It is present with half-siblings and step-siblings, not full-blooded siblings. For example, one half-sibling may live in a unified home with both his mother and his father who are married while another half-sibling is living in “two homes.” This was the arrangement that I had as a child.
For the vertical form, it means that parents have created a family structure for their children that is worse and more chaotic than what their parents created for them. For example, the parents may have been raised with their own married parents in a unified home, but as adults they are not raising their children with the children’s other genetic parent, and the children [may be] living in “two homes.” They are treating their children worse in this respect than how their parents treated them.
CWR: Your argument not only applies to children of divorce, but also children of same-sex marriage and third-party reproduction. What are some examples of inequality in those cases?
Johnson: In many respects, the inequalities are similar in all three of those situations; it is what happens when genetic parents reject each other. One genetic parent is excluded from daily life for the child of divorce, the child of same-sex parenting, and the child of third-party reproduction. The child must pretend that this half of himself does not exist, since it is unwelcome. This half of the child’s family won’t be seen in family photos in display in the home.
In the case of third-party reproduction, these kids have some of the same issues that adoptees face, such as wondering who they look like and, by law, not having access to their full genetic family tree. They have the added burden of not knowing how many half-siblings they have, and whether or not they might meet one, date one, or marry one. In this respect, it is actually worse than polygamy. In polygamy, at least the kids know who their half-siblings are.
CWR: Who would benefit from reading Marriage and Equality?
Johnson: I think it is good for anybody interested in family policy issues, anybody raised outside of the marriage of their own mother and father, and anybody who believes that equality is an important ideal.
CWR: Not only are you a child of divorce, but you are also a divorced parent. You write that like post-abortive parents and doctors, those who have participated in family breakdown should realize the harm done, and speak out for positive change. What suggestions do you have for a divorced parent who reads your book, or Miller’s book, and wants to make amends?
Johnson: The child’s other genetic parent is half of who the child is, so always make sure that the child knows that you have not rejected that half of them. If possible, try to make amends with that person and to develop a relationship with them. At an age-appropriate time, ask the child how they feel about the arrangement under which they were raised and make sure they can speak openly and honestly. Be prepared to hear things that you might not like to hear, and always apologize for assuming things that were not true (“Babies are blank slates,” “Kids are resilient,” etc.). Be willing to have the child’s other genetic parent be part of family events and family photos, since they are half of who the child is. Finally, become an advocate for just family structures for children.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 02, 2017
by Rachel Lu
This article was first published July 18, 2017, at Crisis Magazine.
“As a kid I was always sad and always trying to keep everyone else happy. I felt like I had to be one person when I was with my dad and another when I was with my mom.”
So says an anonymous child of divorce, describing how her parents’ divorce impacted her childhood. She is one of seventy anonymous narrators of Leila Miller’s new book, Primal Loss, which offers first-hand narratives of the experiences of now-grown children of divorce. Together with Jennifer Johnson, author of Marriage and Equality, Miller is working to rejuvenate a national discussion about the devastating impacts that family breakdown can have on the lives of children.
The topic of divorce has been oddly eclipsed in recent years within the public square. Homosexuality, transgenderism, polyamory, and other novelties have become the frontline issues of the culture wars. Divorce is an old topic, which is also less controversial than in days of yore. Once, Americans argued about the impact of divorce on kids, suggesting that childhood “resilience” might make it excusable to prioritize adult relationships. Sociologically, there’s not much disagreement anymore that kids suffer when their families break apart.
Progressive elites have responded to that realization by working to stabilize their own marriages, fashioning a “neo-traditional” arrangement that is overall fairly stable. That pattern isn’t trickling down, however. Less prosperous Americans are far less likely to marry, and considerably more likely to divorce. In general, liberals don’t seem very interested in discussing this reality. They treat it as a sad inevitability, and make little effort to help working-class Americans enjoy the same communal and social benefits that are available to their own children. Regrettably, that trend has extended to the Church itself, where attention has recently been focused on the accommodations that some would like to make for the divorced. Shouldn’t we be devoting more of those energies to saving marriages?
Miller and Johnson think so. Their books potentially offer a fruitful pairing, especially for Catholics with an interest in this general topic. Miller’s book offers an extended look into the experiences of children of divorce, while Johnson explores some of the arguments for why divorce is unjust to children, and a driver of greater inequality in society at large.
The idea behind Primal Loss is quite simple. Miller sent eight questions to seventy different respondents, all the now-grown offspring of married couples who eventually divorced. What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you? Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage? Are children really “resilient”? What do you most want others to know about how divorce affects children? The book compiles their answers.
Both the differences and the similarities are interesting. Some people, despite their loss, have ultimately achieved a healthy perspective on life and (especially) marriage. Others still struggle to establish healthy relationships, with one man saying he has “holes that will never be filled this side of Heaven.” Some respondents are bitter, while others are more circumspect. A few seem to think that one parent was mostly blameless for the divorce, and even that divorce was better for the parents or family in the long run. (Most often that was connected to very severe problems with one parent, who posed a serious physical threat.) A larger number seem to think that the divorce represented a traumatic event in their parents’ lives as well as their own.
Regardless of the specifics, it’s clear that the cost to children is always significant when the two people who created them decide they want nothing more to do with each other.
Some of the saddest episodes in the book come from people whose parents divorced when they were young children, initially unable to understand what was happening. One remembers telling his friends eagerly how, “We’re getting a divorce!” not knowing what that meant. Many were told as children how the divorce would represent an exciting adventure, or a bright new chapter for the family. In reality, these blithe reassurances are just additional demands that divorcing adults too often place on their children. Even as their whole world fractures, we ask kids to pretend that everything is wonderful, to spare their parents from feelings of guilt.
The unfairness of that demand is a major focus of Johnson’s book. Because the natal family is almost a child’s whole world, the rupture that divorce represents is cataclysmic. Nevertheless, adults expect “resilient” children to accommodate themselves to adult needs and interests, moving between homes and avoiding references that would be painful to their parents’. One respondent remembers congratulating his mother warmly at the end of each day when she “didn’t cry.” Another recalls being told that she and her siblings needed to live with her mother instead of her father because her mother “needed them more.” Is it right to make children the support structure for their parents? It often happens after a divorce.
There are a thousand painful details in both of these books, reminding us of what life is actually like for kids experiencing this kind of loss. For children of divorce, holidays and vacations often cease to be occasions of joy, instead becoming fractious reminders of family brokenness. Adults are permitted to fill their houses with pictures of everyone they love, but the children are expected to divide their photographs and memories into two sets, ensuring their parents’ greater comfort. Their own pain becomes a lonely and isolating secret.
Adults often have a variety of options for rebuilding their lives and identities, or at least seeking reassurance and support. For children, family separation gets written into their lives at a much more elemental level, and they have no real choice but to accept this. This is another serious injustice, as Johnson emphasizes again and again.
In both of these books, it’s remarkable and heartbreaking to see how a truth that Christians express in Biblical and even metaphysical terms (“the two shall become one flesh”) is felt in a concrete way in the lives of the descendants of “divided flesh.” For many of them, the natural permanence of marriage is a haunting truth that was etched across their childhood through their parents’ persistent attempts to deny it. On some very deep level, they were asked to build their childhoods around a lie.
Our failure to respond properly to these injustices, Johnson argues, has set the stage for further assaults on the traditional family. It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. The silver lining is that renewed attention to the issue of permanence might yield a whole range of fruits over the longer run. For instance, I have found anecdotally (and studies seems to confirm) that Millennials are extremely sympathetic to same-sex couples wanting to marry, but that they view divorce quite negatively overall. If same-sex couples have difficulty with permanence, that might influence public views of same-sex “marriage” over the long term.
More immediately, though, we should work harder to ensure that parents across the nation understand the grim effects that divorce can have on children.
Many do survive the experience and go on to live successful lives, but that’s not a good excuse for forcing children to shoulder the burdens of fractured
adult relationships. These two books provide a compelling argument for choosing a better path, in the Church and in our own lives.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 12, 2017
By Brandon Showalter, CP Reporter
This article was first posted July 5, 2017, at Christian Post.
Younger Americans are less likely to cheat on their spouses than older Americans are, and although culture has become much more accepting of loose sexual norms, adultery is still viewed with disapproval, according to the social science data.
Writing on the blog of the Institute for Family Studies Wednesday, Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor of family and consumer sciences and sociology at the University of Utah, explained that a notable gap exists between those over 55 and under 55 regarding extramarital sex.
The "adultery taboo" has endured throughout human history, Wolfinger wrote. And the number of Americans who admit to having sex outside of marriage has remained steady over the years, hovering around 16 percent, giving the impression that Americans have basically concluded that extramarital sex is wrong.
Yet, some shocking changes have occurred since the year 2000, he noted: older Americans are cheating more and younger Americans are cheating less.
Wolfinger derived this assessment from the past three decades of data from the General Social Survey which tracks social attitudes about a variety of moral matters. Since 1991, GSS respondents have been asked: "Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?"
"Starting after 2004, Americans over 55 began reporting rates of extramarital sex that were about five or six percentage points higher than were being offered by younger adults. By 2016, 20% of older respondents indicated that their marriages were nominally adulterous, compared to 14% for people under 55," Wolfinger said.
While the majority of Americans are committed to monogamy, "the mounting age difference is noteworthy and statistically significant," he added.
Wolfinger further underscored the role of the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s as a driving factor in shaping the attitudes of people toward sex. For the generation who came of age during the sexual revolution — people who are now in their 50s and 60s — "it's understandable they are more likely to have sex with someone without their spouses," he said. These people are also more likely to have had more sexual partners in their lifetimes than their older or younger peers.
"They may have firsthand experience with 1970s-era experiments with non-monogamy. A few people born in the late 1950s may have had swingers for parents, leading offspring to question taboos surrounding infidelity."
After reaching a peak in 1990, sex among teenagers has fallen significantly, the data shows.
"Collectively, this sexual biography makes it understandable that products of the sexual revolution would be most predisposed to extramarital sex. If people just aged into outside love affairs, presumably as they grew bored of their marital beds, we could expect that the oldest GSS respondents would be the most likely to report extramarital sex," Wolfinger said.
But the data suggests that is not the case. The sexual revolution continues to produce fruit today in the generation who grew up in its wake, he observed.
Although the rate of divorce overall has dropped in the past few decades, "gray divorce," that is, divorce among the middle aged, has seen a surge.
"Part of that story seems to be a corresponding increase in midlife extramarital sex," he said.
Even as increased chatter about "open" marriages and other forms of consensual non-monogamy like polyandry have appeared on the scene, with the declines in extramarital sex observed for younger Americans, "barring any unforeseen developments, we should anticipate a future of more monogamous marriage," Wolfinger said.
Americans by and large "still disapprove of sex outside of wedlock, but we disapprove less strongly than we used to," the scholar noted, suggesting that society is witnessing a growing "sexual inequality."
GSS data also reveals that while some Americans have more sex out of wedlock, others have become even more disapproving.
"Indeed, perhaps some of this disapproval reflects the comparably high rates of extramarital sex 50-somethings and 60-somethings have been observing in their peers."
His analysis seems to comport with the findings in other related studies.
The Christian Post reported in August that contrary to conventional wisdom and a sex-saturated culture, young people are actually not having much sex.
In a study published last year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers Jean M. Twenge, Ryne A. Sherman, and Brooke E. Wells discovered that young people born in the 1990s were "significantly more likely to have no sexual partners" than Gen Xers. The only generation with a higher rate of sexual inactivity than today's 20- to 24-year-olds was the one born in the 1920s when controlled for time period and age.
"I think a lot of them are watching the adults around them and concluding that sex without limits is not making people happy. Parents with multiple marriages and divorces, etc.," said Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse in a statement to CP, suggesting that younger generations were becoming wiser.