Ruth Speaks Out

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

Workshop to offer ways to heal family breakdown

Posted by Marc & Julie Anderson on in Archdiocese, Leaven News

Jennifer Roback Morse will lead the archdiocesan family life office’s “Healing Family Breakdown” spiritual workshop Jan. 27 at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.

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 — — 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.”

Retreat offers hope and healing for survivors of family breakdown

by Leslie Fain

First posted on Catholic World Report December 29, 2016

Catholic News Service photo

When we think of the “least of these,” whom Jesus exhorted us to defend and aid, several groups easily come to mind: the poor, the unborn, the disabled. One often overlooked group is adult children of family breakdown. The non-profit Ruth Institute is striving to help that group with a new Healing Retreat for Family Breakdown, launched recently in Louisiana.

“There is a wealth of social science data that people can turn to to see what happens to individuals as a result of family breakdown,” said Jennifer Johnson, associate director of the Ruth Institute. “Let’s take one—divorce. We know that children of divorce are more likely to grow up and experience their own divorce as adults, [compared to] kids raised with their own married mother and father. We know that kids of divorce suffer academically in a variety of ways, they lose contact with grandparents, they feel a lack of compassion from their churches. We know that divorced men have a higher rate of suicide than men who’ve never been divorced.”

“Divorce impacts the Church because children of divorce are more likely to be non-religious when they grow up,” Johnson continued. “Family breakdown is expensive for society, since intact families reduce the risks for so many negative outcomes, for both the children and the adults.”

The Healing Family Breakdown Retreat is a half-day program featuring presentations by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, and Johnson, as well as small-group breakout sessions, meditations, and prayers. It debuted in the Diocese of Lake Charles in October to a full house, which included several priests and religious. Thanks to the success of this retreat, the Ruth Institute will offer a second retreat in the diocese in February.

The Healing Family Breakdown Retreat focuses on those who have suffered from various forms of family breakdown, including divorce, growing up with a single parent or cohabitating parents, and third-party reproduction, among others. Participants are encouraged to look at family breakdown from the child’s perspective. The goal, according to remarks made by Morse at the retreat, is to create a “lasting and Christ-like movement to end the agony and injustice of family breakdown.”

Father D.B. Thompson, a priest for the Diocese of Lake Charles and retreat attendee, said outside of this program or private counseling, he has not encountered any services, groups, or retreats for children of divorce, adult or otherwise. He said this was unfortunate, as children tend to be the most impacted group in a divorce.

“Divorce creates a wound in a child’s heart, even an adult child’s heart, because it breaks apart a foundation for that child,” said Thompson, himself an adult child of divorce. As a Catholic priest, he said, he believes ministering to adult children of divorce is important because Christ wants to bring healing to every heart.

Johnson said the pain of family breakdown can be misunderstood by those who haven’t experienced it. “I have reason to believe that many people think silence equals approval,” said Johnson, who herself experienced family breakdown as a child.

“When kids grow up outside an intact family, and they don’t speak out about it, people around them seem to think that the kids’ silence means that they approve of it. I’ve found that speaking about my dismembered natal family has been extraordinarily difficult as it creates a double bind.”

Johnson said she didn’t want to hurt her parents, “so I remained silent as a self-protective mechanism, even though I really needed the freedom to speak to them about how hard it was to live as I did.”

As a result, one challenge Johnson and Morse had in creating the retreat was to pre-emptively tackle any defensive reactions some of those participating might have.

“Much of our legal system and culture is set up to promote a view of freedom that is at odds with family obligations,” said Johnson. “When somebody has been tempted to embrace that view of freedom, and has built their life around it, they can feel defensive when they hear that their ‘freedom’ has negatively impacted other people, in particular their children. At the Ruth Institute we call this ‘the guilty conscience problem,’ since it blocks people from understanding what is happening, from making amends, and from moving on to promoting a more just view of freedom.”

“We don’t want people to feel defensive, and so we make it clear that it’s not entirely the individual’s fault,” Johnson added. “The legal system, culture, and prior family experiences play a role. ‘No man is an island,’ and this adage certainly applies to our issue. Speaking for myself, I am a child of divorce—multiple divorces, in fact—and am also divorced as an adult. It is true that I am culpable to a certain extent, perhaps even a large extent, but it’s also true that the deck was stacked against me, so to speak. I made many mistakes, but in some respects I was doing the best I could with what I had. I’m sure this is true in many, many cases. Nobody needs to feel defensive, but they do need to be willing to see their own role in what happened.”

Johnson said the Ruth Institute is patterning their movement after the pro-life movement. She points out that some of the strongest advocates for life are those women who have had abortions but who now regret it and warn others of the consequences of abortion. Along the same lines, Johnson said the goal of their organization is to educate those who have been affected by the Sexual Revolution so they can find healing and repent of any part they had to play in family breakdown. Then those who have experienced the pain of family breakdown can also help others find healing.

Three phrases were shared with retreat attendees at the beginning of the event: “I am sorry this happened to you”; “You are not alone”; and “This is not all your fault.”

Andrew Casteel, who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood and is an adult child of divorce, said those phrases were the most important things he took away from the retreat. “It’s like an opening conversation we can have with our family,” he said.

Johnson said focusing on the three phrases also helps retreatants to look at their situations more objectively, and less defensively.

Felicia Borel, who works for Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church in Lake Charles, said the retreat helped her see how growing up in a home where there was divorce and remarriage shaped her future. Family breakdown in her childhood led to single parenting, divorce, and remarriage, as well as combining families in her adult life, she said. Family breakdown in childhood “affected choices I made, and that, in turn, affected how I parented my children,” she said. “So, without being able to go back and change the past, how do I help my adult children make better choices?”

Borel said the retreat helped her to understand challenges in her adult children’s lives. “It helped me put things in perspective as far as how I parented them and what’s happening now. It’s easier to begin to work on a relationship with a little bit more knowledge,” she said. “It’s given me a new perspective on how I can approach healing a relationship with an adult child. Knowing the things my adult child is going through, I can see I’ve participated.”

Keep reading.


'Healing Family Breakdown' retreat set

by Crystal Stevenson / American Press

This article was first published October 21, 2016, at

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

Donate now!