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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 14, 2020
This article was first published April 14, 2020, at the NCRegister.
COMMENTARY: The people who have the most to offer in combating the sexual revolution also have the most to lose from doing so.
by Jennifer Roback Morse
Respected commentator Father Raymond de Souza observed a little-known fact about the convoluted case of Australian Cardinal George Pell: “No judge who had a future to worry about sided with Cardinal Pell. Every judge whose future was secure from recriminations for judging fairly sided with the cardinal.”
One such fair judge was the lone dissenter on the lower court, Justice Mark Weinberg. Father de Souza’s observation has implications far beyond one Australian legal case. Let me come right to the point: Retired professionals, we need you back on the playing field!
Let me explain.
Obviously, the top jurists in the Australian legal system do not have “a future to worry about.” These judges on the highest court of the land are the ones who ultimately exonerated Cardinal Pell. Let’s zero in on Weinberg, who, as noted above, was the lone dissenter at that level. His 200-page dissent utterly demolished the majority opinion, which upheld Cardinal Pell’s convictions. Father de Souza pointed out something I did not previously realize: Weinberg is a 71-year-old retired judge who is called in for special cases because of his expertise.
Let’s apply this seemingly offhand observation to the broader situation of living out Catholic teaching in the modern world. The entire developed world is in the grip of an ideology that is every bit as toxic and irrational as communism or fascism. This ideology demands conformity, imposes penalties for dissent, and controls all the major institutions of society. The ideology promises to create heaven on Earth, if only we allow the ruling savior class enough power to reshape law, media, education, entertainment and, of course, the judicial system.
The ideology I’m speaking of is the one spawned by the sexual revolution. We can all have carefree, unlimited sex. No unwanted babies. No broken hearts. No loneliness. We’re told that the sex of the body is not a real constraint on anything, so we can remake our society and our bodies in any way we want. Children don’t really need anything from their natural parents, so we don’t really need any social norms requiring permanence in sexual relationships. If we just continue to reshape the institutions of society, we will eventually arrive at that wonderful world where sexual activity is sterile unless you have quirky lifestyle preferences and happen to want a baby: heaven on Earth.
The only major institution in the world holding out against this ideology is the Catholic Church. And even parts of the Church have “gone wobbly,” in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s colorful phrase from a different era about a different totalitarian ideology. Cardinal Pell’s “crime” was that he actively resisted the claims of the sexual revolutionaries. The child-abuse charges were trumped up against him. There are clerics around the world who are much guiltier of much worse things who are getting far better treatment within their own countries’ legal systems and the international media than poor Cardinal Pell. Why single out him, of all people? Interesting question, no?
I’ve written before about the commonalities among the cases of Theodore McCarrick, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein. And I’ve written quite a lot (a whole book, in fact) about the dynamics of the sexual revolution and what keeps it chugging along, in spite of its irrationality and crimes. Long story short: Delaying childbearing is the de facto social price of getting an education and entering the professions.
Many people accomplish that delay, not by sexual restraint until marriage, but, rather, through the use of contraception and, in many cases, abortion. This fact tilts the educated and professional classes toward favoring the sexual revolution and the unfettered license it touts. The people most likely to be in positions of influence, power and wealth either think the sexual revolution is just grand, or secretly know that it isn’t but have a guilty conscience about it. In either case, an outsized percentage of people in the professions have a strong incentive to keep the sexual revolution going. People like Cardinal Pell, who dissent from the sexual revolution’s orthodoxy, disturb the consciences of many journalists and jurists.
Members of the professions who do not agree with the sexual revolution know all about the pressure to conform to its tenets. I have heard from Catholic lawyers and doctors, as well as evangelical Protestant therapists and social workers, about the difficulties of trying to do their jobs. The people who have the most to offer in combating the sexual revolution also have the most to lose from doing so.
Yet these are the very people we need to fighting for the integrity of their professions. These are people who know the fields of law or medicine or journalism. They can speak to the specific problems in the libraries and schools. They know how their profession operates. They know the important people and have connections an outsider can’t have.
This brings me back to Cardinal Pell. What if Mark Weinberg hadn’t come out of retirement to take this case? Where would Cardinal Pell be today if Weinberg had decided to check out and do the Australian equivalent of playing golf that day? Only someone who is both qualified and relatively detached from social pressure could render the type of impartial ruling that Weinberg did.
Retired doctors, nurses, teachers, attorneys: This is my plea. Find creative ways to influence your profession for good. Join or form alternative professional organizations or independent practices. No one can fire you anymore. You have nothing to lose now, and you still have a lot to offer. Get to work. We need you!
Posted on: Monday, January 28, 2019
By Tyler O'Neil
This article was first published October 4, 2018, at PJ Media.
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 overhyped 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 get 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, April 30, 2018
by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
First published April 11, 2018, at The Stream.
Kevin Williamson has been summarily dismissed from The Atlantic. The editor says it was because Williamson advocated that the law should treat abortion as murder. But this is hardly a full explanation of the full social process around this disturbing incident. Williamson did not express that view in The Atlantic’s pages: His opponents resurrected it from a 4-year-old podcast. If the editors at The Atlantic really wanted a “big tent,” (their supposed reason for engaging Williamson in the first place) they could have found dozens of more moderate pro-life advocates.
No, something else is afoot. Let me explain it. This will take more than 144 characters. Bear with me.
Suppose you are a woman, and a recent college graduate. You aspire to a career in journalism. You are having sex with someone you would not want to marry. Maybe he is married to someone else. Maybe he is hopelessly immature, narcissistic, and/or self-absorbed. But since you are using contraception, you figure its ok.
Then, the unthinkable-statistically-unlikely-but-still-non-zero-probability-event takes place. You get pregnant. You now have four choices:
The choice you make now will shape your belief system for a long time. There are roughly two paths:
I think you’ll agree that the woman or couple that chooses life for their child is less likely to support abortion, either before or after that decision. Likewise, many, many women who abort their children become convinced or were already convinced, that abortion is a necessity. They come to believe that even if it is a killing, it is a justifiable killing, and not murder at all. Their experience either establishes this belief or confirms and reinforces it.
Here is why this is relevant to Kevin Williamson.
Which women, making which choice, are more likely to land a job at a prestigious publication like The Atlantic? Women who have their babies? Or women who abort?
In general, the woman with child-care responsibilities is at a competitive disadvantage compared with the woman who does not. This is especially true during the early career-building phase. (This period of life just happens to be near the peak of a woman’s natural fertility. Which produces another whole set of problems. But I digress.)
I don’t say that a woman who has a baby shortly after college could never have a successful career in journalism. I just say it is unlikely. In fact, I will say something even stronger: In the social universe as it is today, delayed child-bearing is the price of entry into the professions. Contraception, backed up by abortion, is necessary for women to compete. The United States Supreme Court said as much in its decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey , back in 1992. (I hasten to add: this is not the only possible social environment in which women can participate in higher education and the professions: it is just the one our culture has created using the abortion license as its touchstone. But I digress.)
That is why mainstream journalism is dominated by people who believe passionately in unlimited abortion. Their lives as they know them, depend upon it. Likewise, pro-choice women professors dominate the academy, including the legal academy.
One exception proves the general rule. Some women who have abortions later become pro-life. These women conclude that they have committed a murder and regret it, sometimes immediately, sometimes after the passage of time. The professional literature on post-abortion mental health confirms this. We have known since the 1990’s that at least 10% of post-abortive women, and possibly as many as 30%, experience regret serious enough to cause mental health issues.
But we seldom hear about these women outside of publications dedicated to the pro-life position. Men are reluctant to say much about women’s feelings about abortion. And the women sociologists and statisticians, who are could study such things are, more than likely, women who cannot relate to such regrets.
It takes a rare warrior like Dr. Priscilla Coleman to study mental health complications associated with abortion. Her fellow academics either don’t want to study the subject or dedicate themselves to tearing her down. Journalists who might cover her studies have no interest in publicizing such results.
Note: I am NOT saying that women professionals conspire to hide or distort evidence, or to drive dissenters from their midst. I AM saying that people who have similar incentives are likely to engage in similar behaviors and hold similar beliefs. They don’t need to plot and scheme and conspire. They study and write about topics that interest them, that they find compelling and believable. The public, in turn, concludes “women are pro-choice” if the women they see in public positions are pro-choice.
There are plenty of pro-life women, some with advanced degrees and great accomplishments to their credit. Anyone who has hung around the pro-life movement knows that women dominate it. But: Women who value their children more than their careers are at a disadvantage in the competition for high-status, high-visibility jobs.
This is all we need to know about why people with pro-abortion views dominate the professions.
And that is why The Atlantic fired Kevin Williamson.
Posted on: Friday, April 07, 2017
Despite the predictable flurry of sugary clichés and hedonistic consumerism, Valentine’s Day is as good an opportunity as any to reflect on the nature of human love and consider how we might further it across society.
For those of us interested in the study of economics, or, if you prefer, the study of human action, what drives such action — love or otherwise —is the starting point for everything. For the Christian economist, such questions get a bit more complicated.
Although love is clearly at the center, our understanding of what that looks like is interconnected with and interdependent on the love of God, which persistently yanks our typical economist sensibilities about “prosperity,” “happiness,” and “quality of life” into transcendent territory (never mind those convenient buckets of “self-interest” and “sacrifice”). The marketplace is flooded with worldly spin-offs, as plenty of cockeyed V-Day ditties and run-of-the-mill romantic comedies are quick to demonstrate. At a time when libertine, self-centered approaches appear to be the routine winners in everything from consumerism to self-help to sex, we should be especially careful that our economic thinking doesn’t also fall prey to such distortions.
In her book Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, Jennifer Roback Morse cautions against such tendencies, pointing us in the right direction and challenging us to reconsider our basic views about human needs and human potential.
Morse begins with a critique of homo economicus (economic man), the understanding of man as Supreme Calculator, capable of number-crunching his way to happiness and fulfillment on the basis of cut-and-dry cost/benefit analysis. Such a view ignores the social and spiritual side of the human person, excusing away our thoughts and affections at the mercy of of a cold, limiting, earthbound order. As Rev. Robert Sirico puts it, “Any man who was only economic man would be a lost soul. And any civilization that produced only homines economici to fill its markets, courts, legislative bodies, and other institutions would soon enough be a lost civilization.”
To demonstrate the inadequacy of the common caricature, Morse points us to human infanthood, a uniquely universal human experience in supreme dependency and irrationality. “We are not born as rational, choosing agents, able to defend ourselves and our property, able to negotiate contracts and exchanges,” she writes. “We are born as dependent babies, utterly incapable of meeting our own needs—or even of knowing what our needs are. As infants, we do not know what is good or safe. We even resist sleep in spite of being so exhausted we cannot hold our heads up. We are completely dependent on others for our very survival.”
As Morse goes on to remind us, the other side of this dependence — a nurturing family environment — is not an automatic given, and our response (or non-response) proves the economic man hypothesis to be dangerously incomplete (while also countering Rousseau’s view of the “state of nature”).
To demonstrate her case, she looks to extreme situations wherein the family has been entirely removed, focusing specifically on child abandonment and the attachment disorder that so often follows:
The classic case of attachment disorder is a child who does not care what anyone thinks of him. The disapproval of others does not deter this child from bad behavior because no other person, even someone who loves him very much, matters to the child. He responds only to physical punishment and to the suspension of privileges. The child does whatever he thinks he can get away with, no matter the cost to others. He does not monitor his own behavior, so authority figures must constantly be wary of him and watch him. He lies if he thinks it is advantageous to life. He steals if he can get away with it. He may go through the motions of offering affection, but people who live with him sense in him a kind of phoniness. He shows no regret at hurting another person, though he may offer perfunctory apologies.
Here we find a peculiar integration of economic man and noble savage, a child “untouched by corrupting adult influences” who seeks only to meet his own temporal human needs, regardless of the social costs. As Morse summarizes, to avoid a society filled with such disorder, we must ground ourselves in something far more powerful and grounded and transcendent than self-centered individualism. “The desperate condition of the abandoned child shows us that we have, all along, been counting on something to hold society together, something more than the mutual interests of autonomous individuals,” she writes. “We have taken that something else for granted, and hence, overlooked it, even though it has been under our noses all along. That missing element is none other than love.”
Thus, before we get too deep into all the important Hayekian questions about knowledge and decision-making, proceeding to dichotomize between a centralized governmental Mother Brain and “better,” “morerational” individualistic mini-brains, we should pause and remember that without love properly defined and vigorously pursued, human holes will surely remain.
Whatever form of magical super-rationalism we humans might be able to concoct, whether through governments or markets or otherwise, without the love of God and the corresponding building blocks of relationship and family and community, our stomachs will continue to growl and the social stew will continue to fester. Without transcendent obedience and a willingness to sacrifice our own convenience and temporal, transactional notions about prosperity, happiness, and human fulfillment, society at large will slowly yield to false caricatures about human needs and the corresponding solutions.
“Love is from God,” writes the Apostle John, “and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” This is what we should strive for: to be born of God and to know God, from the way we respond to a baby’s first breath to the way we cultivate our families and communities to the way we conduct ourselves in our daily work across the economic order.
This Valentine’s Day, let us remember that love is much more than the sentimentality and self-gratification that consumes our culture. Love is what holds society together, and that means fewer self-centered sonnets to faux self-empowerment, and more covenantal worship and service across society. Whether as spouses or parents, neighbors or strangers, we remain children of the King, created in the image of a God who so loved that he gave.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 16, 2016
First published August 11, 2016 at heymiller.com and will be in the
NATIONAL REVIEW August 29, 2016.
“It’s a discouraging time to be a social conservative,” says Jennifer Roback Morse. “We’ve been marginalized everywhere: the media, the academy, the legal system, and now even in politics.”
Many of her brethren know exactly what Morse means. Everywhere they look, it seems, they’re on the defensive. The Supreme Court just overturned abortion restrictions in the states and has mandated gay marriage everywhere. The Republican presidential nominee, usually a conduit for their ideas, rarely addresses their concerns. Their numbers may be shrinking, too: The percentage of Americans who describe themselves as social conservatives has fallen from 42 percent in 2009 to just 31 percent last year. This is the lowest rate the Gallup Poll has ever recorded.
Yet Morse concedes nothing. “The cause of truth is never lost,” she says. “Hope is not a plan or a strategy. It’s a supernatural virtue.”
She might benefit from a bit of divine intervention. As the founder and leader of the Ruth Institute, a small nonprofit organization, Morse has taken up a difficult vocation: “We’re trying to create a social movement that supports people harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other aspects of the sexual revolution,” she says.
People call her “Dr. J” — a reference to her Ph.D. in economics, a background that allows her to bring an uncommon perspective to debates over everything from women in the work force to transgender bathroom access. She writes a weekly column, gives radio interviews, and travels the world; I caught up with her in June, when she had just returned from a ten-day trip to Australia and was getting ready for a couple of speeches in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Morse refuses to speak in code. She mixes her moral sensibility and economics training to produce a bracing candor that listeners tend to find either plucky or abrasive. Here’s how she talks about single motherhood, for example: “There’s no such thing as a single parent. They’ve become dependent on other people in commercial transactions, such as their employers and child-care providers. A single mother may look like she’s doing so much ‘on her own,’ but she has merely commercialized the things the father would have done.”
This style of rhetoric has the power both to attract and to repel potential converts to the cause of social conservatism — and behind these words lies not only an unequivocal voice but also a fascinating story of personal conversion from anything-goes libertarianism to strait-laced conservatism.
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, the 62-year-old Morse attended Oberlin College in the early 1970s and then transferred to Ohio State University, shedding the Catholicism of her youth and discovering the free-market thinking that would form the initial basis of her professional life. “I was attracted to the way it explained the world,” she says. By the time she was a graduate student at the University of Rochester, she had become attached to libertarianism in its most freewheeling forms. “I was deeply committed to all of it, even legalized prostitution,” she says.
She also had an abortion. “I regretted it right away,” she says. “I was in a marriage that I knew was a mistake and I was scared that I wouldn’t be a good mother.” She divorced her husband, earned her Ph.D., and threw herself into the politics of the Libertarian party, even joining its platform committee and cheering the presidential candidacy of Ed Clark in 1980. The abortion continued to haunt her, however. “I had night terrors and anniversary anxiety,” she says. “I went to counseling but none of the counselors said that maybe the abortion had something to do with my troubles.”
As a young woman with a doctorate in economics and a devotion to free-market philosophy, Morse was a rare commodity. “I was often the only girl in the room,” she says. The legendary public-choice economist James Buchanan tried to recruit her to Virginia Tech, where he was then teaching. She turned his offer down in favor of a post at Yale. By 1985, however, Buchanan had moved on to George Mason University in northern Virginia, where he was assembling an impressive faculty of latter-day Adam Smiths (and where he would win the Nobel Prize in 1986). He remembered the impressive young lady from several years before and once again offered her a job. This time, she accepted.
Morse’s academic career looked bright. “She was a sharp colleague and an excellent scholar,” says Walter Williams, a longtime member of GMU’s economics department. She was happily remarried, too. “I had it all planned out,” she says. “I was going to get tenure and have a baby, and we were going to make sure the baby came at the end of one school year so that I could deliver and be ready for the start of the next school year. I thought I was in complete control and that I could choose everything.”
She got tenure but failed to get pregnant, let alone on the precise timetable she had imagined. A year went by and then another. The abortion still disturbed her and she began to wonder if she had missed her one chance at motherhood. “I was panicked,” she says.
Looking for solace, Morse started to attend early-morning Mass at a Catholic church. Then she went to confession, which she had not done in years. “The priest understood right away how the abortion was weighing on me,” she says. “I started to calm down.” She finally made a full return to the faith of her youth. “I realized that I didn’t have to get all of the things that I wanted.” One day, as she walked down the baby-food aisle of a grocery store — “an experience,” she points out, “that can be emotionally hard for childless women” — it occurred to her that she could be a mother without having a baby. She and her husband could adopt.
“Then something unlikely happened,” she says. In 1991, as the couple entered the advanced stages of adoption, she became pregnant. In April, they brought home a boy from Romania. In October, Morse gave birth to a daughter.
With the Romanian adoption, they thought they were not only aiding a child but also doing their part to help a struggling nation realign itself after the fall of Communism. What they didn’t anticipate was a two-year-old with disabilities. “From birth, he had almost never left his crib,” says Morse. “He had serious developmental needs. What he needed most was a mommy. To put him in day care would have been cruel. He didn’t need a mother substitute. I was already that.” They named him Nick. “He convinced me that children require parents. This is the great insight of my life!” she says, laughing. “Somebody’s got to say it.”
So she tried to balance the demands of work and home, teaching courses on microeconomics and researching the economic history of the Civil War while also looking after her kids. “I could have stayed at GMU forever,” she says. Yet her husband wanted to leave. “He didn’t like Washington, D.C. The old me would have said, ‘I’m not going — not unless I get an academic position somewhere.’ But that was no way to live.” So she quit her job.
The family moved to California, first to Silicon Valley and later to San Diego. Without a job, Morse spent more time with her kids, and especially with her son, who required extra attention. They also opened their home to eight foster children. “As this was going on, I was losing my libertarianism — or rather, it was losing me,” says Morse. “Without strong families, you can’t have free markets or limited government. Instead, you get ‘The Life of Julia.’” This is a reference to a slide-show advertisement from President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign that treated a fictitious woman’s cradle-to-grave dependence on government as a triumph of progressivism.
The intellectual dissonance became personal when one of the leading lights of libertarian economics — Morse’s mentor, James Buchanan — publicly disapproved of her decisions. The showdown came in 1997, at the 50th-anniversary meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, a prestigious organization of classical liberals founded by F. A. Hayek. Morse had been asked to deliver remarks at a confab in Switzerland. She didn’t want to take time away from her family, so she wrote a paper. William Campbell of Louisiana State University presented it.
There is no transcript or recording of the session — at least none that I could track down — but several witnesses described what happened. During a discussion period, Buchanan spoke. “I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it had something to do with throwing away a career to do a minor thing like raise a family,” says Edwin J. Feulner, the longtime head of the Heritage Foundation who was at the time also the society’s president. “A few years before he had told me that Jennifer was one of his star protégés.” Father Robert A. Sirico of the Acton Institute also was there. “Jim didn’t speak for long, but he made clear that he was disappointed in her.” (Buchanan died in 2013.)
Back in the United States, Morse heard about the incident from friends and colleagues. Today, she doesn’t want to say much about Buchanan’s comments — they still sting — but she offers this much: “He was very good to me until he wasn’t.”
During those years, Morse was slowly writing a book. Love & Economics came out in 2001. “My understanding of the human person and society had been deeply influenced by free-market economics and libertarian political theory, which have shaped my entire adult working life,” she wrote. “As I came to realize how much I had overlooked, I concluded that my profession was overlooking much as well.” It had forgotten about the vulnerability of children and the need for families: “Without loving families, no society can long govern itself.”
These words set the stage for the second part of her career. In 2008, as her kids approached adulthood, Morse found herself with more time for travel and activism. She started the Ruth Institute, envisioning it as a way to help her talk to young women. “I wanted to warn them about the careerist trap,” she says. “It’s okay to get married, stay married, and do something later. You don’t have to get on the career bandwagon.”
She spoke on campuses around the country but soon, like so many social conservatives, found herself embroiled in the gay-marriage debate. At first, she tasted success as part of the team that pushed for Proposition 8, the ballot proposal in California to ban gay marriage, which voters approved. Then judges struck it down in what became a series of rapid legal defeats, culminating in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling last year.
“We learned that making a correct argument doesn’t matter to the Supreme Court,” says Morse, who departed California and moved to Louisiana last year. “It’s not listening to reason and evidence. So we need a new strategy, one that focuses on the entire sexual revolution, not just the gay parts. That’s my mission now — to tell the truth about how the sexual revolution oppresses us.”
Divorce is a favorite topic. “Nobody talks about it, but this is an issue of justice for the child,” she says. She ticks off statistics about the children of divorced parents: They’re more likely to fall behind in school, abuse drugs and alcohol, and think about suicide. “This is the number-one lie of the sexual revolution: Kids are resilient. No, they’re not.”
And though she ended her first marriage, Morse won’t shy away from criticizing others who make the same choice. “We didn’t have kids and I got an annulment,” she says. “I’m not a hypocrite. I’m penitent. Divorce has harmed lots of people and those people have harmed lots of people. We have to say this. Modern society tries to make guilt go away by saying nothing is ever wrong — that there’s no right or wrong at all — and that’s not true.”
The most important thing social conservatives can do right now, she says, is persevere. “It’s as if we’ve lost a war and now we live in an occupied country. What did people in Communist Poland do? They resisted.” She brings up the example of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the dissident writer in the old Soviet Union. “He may have thought he was in a minority of one, but then he started writing and people read him,” she says. “I believe that millions of people agree with us, even Democrats who are sick of a culture that’s saturated in pornography and the sexualization of children — as well as people who have survived the sexual revolution and are willing to tell the whole story. Is it really so hard to say that children are entitled to parents? This is the birthright of every child, not an impossible dream.” She pauses, then concludes: “When nothing is politically possible, you don’t need to trim sails. You can just tell the truth.”
Posted on: Wednesday, August 03, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published July 23, 2016, at The Blaze.
Earlier this week, the Ruth Institute sent a letter of commendation and 24 white roses to Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Our letter thanked him for “his clear teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality in the Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
With all the excitement of the political conventions, why would we spend our time sending flowers to an archbishop? We want to shine the spotlight on the positive things people are doing to build up society.
The archbishop’s guidelines restate the Ancient Teachings of Christianity regarding marriage, family and human sexuality. These teachings are obscured today. No less a theological heavy weight than the mayor of Philadelphia castigated the archbishop, saying the Guidelines were un-Christian!
To be fair to Mayor Jim Kenny, we have to admit that the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, has caused worldwide confusion over Catholic teaching on marriage. Yelling at the pope has become a new cottage industry among tradition-minded Catholic writers. Pulling his words into a sexually indulgent direction has become a cottage industry among progressives of all faiths. And trying to parse out what he really meant has been a full employment guarantee for everyone.
Rather than getting involved in all that, we want to call attention to people who are implementing the unbroken teaching of the Church in a vibrant manner. Focus on what we know to be true and good. Archbishop Chaput’s Guidelines provide a clear and practical statement of ancient Catholic teaching, in the spirit of genuine mercy, incorporating language from Amoris Laetitia.
I believe that these teachings are correct, good and humane. I founded the Ruth Institute for the purpose of promoting those teachings to the widest audience possible. I don’t believe these things because I am a Catholic. On the contrary. It is precisely because I came to believe in these teachings that I returned to the practice of the Catholic faith after a 12-year lapse.
Let me discuss just one issue that has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the past 2 years. Jesus told us very clearly that remarriage after divorce is not possible. If attempted, it amounts to adultery. Why? According to Jesus, Moses only permitted a man to issue a bill of divorce because of “the hardness of your hearts.” (This is the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, in case you were wondering.)
At that point, he could have said, “So, I’m going to eliminate this appalling male privilege and allow women to divorce their husbands, exactly like Moses allowed men to divorce their wives.” However, he did no such thing. He didn’t extend the male privilege. He eliminated it entirely. “From the beginning it was not so,” referring back to God’s original plan for creation. “I tell you, anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” One of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, no doubt. But pretty darn clear.
(And please: don’t trouble me with that so-called loophole, ok? The real innovation in modern no-fault divorce law is that it allows an adulterer to get a divorce against the wishes of the innocent party. No sane person can argue that Jesus provided that “loophole” to allow the guilty party to validly remarry.)
The Church teaches that civilly divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive communion because she is trying to implement this teaching of Jesus. A civilly divorced and remarried person is living with, and presumably having sex with someone, while still validly married to someone else. If the first marriage is still valid, the second attempted marriage is not valid, and is in fact, adulterous. What is so hard to understand about that?
You know who really understands this concept, who intuitively “gets it?” Children of divorce. Kids look into their parents’ bedroom and see someone who doesn’t belong there. “Who is this guy in bed with my mom: my dad is supposed to be there.” Or, “who is this woman in bed with my dad? My mom is supposed to be there.”
At the Ruth Institute, we know there are situations in which married couples must separate for the safety of the family. But we also know that those cases are by far not the majority of cases. No-fault divorce says a person can get divorced for any reason or no reason, and the government will take sides with the party who wants the marriage the least. The government will permit that person to remarry, against the wishes of their spouse and children.
This is an obvious injustice that no one in our society will talk about. The children of divorce are socially invisible. In fact, I bet some of them felt like crying when they read my paragraph above quoting with approval, what might have gone through their little minds. Many of them have never heard an adult affirm their feelings that something dreadfully wrong and unjust took place in their families.
Jesus knew. Jesus was trying to keep us from hurting ourselves and each other. And the Catholic Church has been trying to implement Jesus’ teaching. You may say the Church has been imperfect in her attempts and I won’t argue with you. But I will say that no one else is even seriously trying.
Political campaigns come and go. Political parties come and go. In fact, nations themselves come and go. But the teachings of Jesus are forever. What we do about marriage and children and love reveals what and whom we truly love.
That is why we congratulate Archbishop Charles Chaput for his guidelines. We wish the Archdiocese all the very best. Make Marriage Great Again.
Posted on: Monday, July 11, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted at The Blaze on July 5, 2016.
So a radical feminist and two childless women walk into a courtroom. How do you expect them to rule on abortion or contraception? Their lives as they know them, depend on both.
In Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas law regulating abortion clinics as if they were any ordinary medical facility. You have no doubt heard that this was somehow a victory for women, in the ongoing and everlasting War Against Women.
Actually, I believe there is no War Against Women, but a long-standing War Among Women. And this time, like most of the time, Elite Women prevail over “Everywoman.”
Consider the three women currently serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. Whose interests do these women actually represent?
The most senior female member of the court is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifelong radical feminist. Let’s look for a moment at her personal life. Justice Ginsburg had the lifelong support of her husband in her career aspirations. Thanks to no-fault divorce, women today cannot count on a lifetime of mutual support with their husbands.
Justice Ginsburg came of age in the short historical window of time when women could still get married, have kids, go to law school, and have a career after child-bearing. Her two children were born when she was 22 and 32, in 1955 and 1965 respectively.
Thanks to radical feminism, highly educated women have a much more difficult time doing these things. They can go to law school and have a career all right. But getting married and having children sometime before menopause, not so much. Justice Ginsburg has been safely insulated from the negative fallout of the Sexual Revolution which she and her radical feminist colleagues did so much to champion.
The other two women on the Supreme Court, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, are childless.
It is highly unlikely that the two of them understand the aspirations of women who want their babies and stable marriages. For most women, family is everything and “career” is a way to put food on the table. Elite women know nothing of Everywoman, the people who have endured the Sexual Revolution, and who do not have high status jobs as compensation.
I am acutely aware of all this because I am a bit of an outlier among my educational class. That is a fancy way of saying I am a freak. I left a tenured university position back in 1996 to give more attention to my children who needed me, and my husband who wanted me and who I, in turn, wanted. No one gives up tenure. Believe me. My friends quietly thought I had lost my mind, except for one dear friend who told me I was a counter-cultural radical.
I had been in line to become the head of my department. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I never sat on any prestigious commissions. I haven’t received a plum political appointment like my childless or male peers have. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I do not regret my choices for a moment. I have encountered plenty of other women with advanced degrees who have made similar choices with no regrets.
No, my point is different. Delayed childbearing is the price of entering the professional classes. Tenacious focus is the price of remaining in the upper echelons of those classes. Placing a high personal value on life, marriage, family and the next generation puts a woman at a disadvantage in the competition for high-end jobs.
Put another way, childless women have an advantage over mothers in the competition for power and influence. For many elite women, the Sexual Revolution has made possible their lives as they know them. They literally cannot imagine what their lives would be like without contraception, or without abortion as an easy back-up.
The Sexual Revolution has been an imposition by the elites upon the masses. From the beginning, it is the people of modest means who have suffered from no-fault divorce, and hook-ups and instability and relationship churning and non-marital childbearing.
The Everyman and Everywoman regularly vote for lawmakers who promote pro-life legislation. But elites in the judiciary consistently overturn it. And that is what happens when a radical feminist and two childless women walk into a courtroom.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted at The Blaze on June 1, 2016.
The image from the Huffington Post staff meeting created an immediate backlash for editor Liz Heron’s rhetorical question: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?”
Unlike many of the internet commentators, I am not interested in the ethnic diversity or ideological hypocrisy of the Huffington Post. All these editors appear to be twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings at most, with the possible exception of Heron herself. To me, this photo illustrates the most poignant sociological fact of our time: Delayed child-bearing is the price of entry into the professional classes.
Look at these eager young faces. These young ladies have high hopes for their lives.
An editors’ meeting at Huffington Post. Editor Liz Heron tweeted: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?” (Twitter)
They believe that by landing this great job, they are set. Once they are established in their careers, then and only then, can they think seriously about marriage and motherhood. They do not realize that they are giving themselves over to careers during their peak fertility years, with the expectation that somehow, someday, they can “have it all.”
They are being sold a cynical lie.
Here is the bargain we professional women have been making: “We want to participate in higher education and the professions. As the price of doing so, we agree to chemically neuter ourselves during our peak child-bearing years with various types of birth control. Then, when we are finally financially and socially ready for motherhood, we agree to subject ourselves to invasive, degrading and possibly dangerous fertility treatments.”
I am no longer willing to accept this bargain. These arrangements are not pro-woman. They are simply anti-fertility. Any woman who wants to be a mother, including giving birth to her own children, taking care of her own children, and loving their father, needs a better way. Until now, we have been adapting our bodies to the university and the market. I say, we should respect our bodies enough to demand that the university and the market adapt to us and our bodies.
We cannot expect much help from establishment publications like Huff Po, establishment institutions like the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools, and certainly not from the government.
Huffington Post is a consistent cheerleader for the sexual revolution. They have a whole page devoted to divorce. They have a regular Friday feature called “Blended Family Friday,” in which “we spotlight a stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!” And they are enlisting twenty-somethings to sell their propaganda.
I wonder how many of the young ladies seated at that Huff Po editors meeting have ever heard of abortion regret or considered the topic worthy of their attention? I wonder how many of them believe that hooking up is harmless, as long as you use a condom. I wonder how many of them have ever heard that hormonal contraception – especially implants and vaginal rings – increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
I wonder if any of them wish for a guy who would dote on them, and act like he really truly cares. I wonder if they have ever chided themselves for being too clingy when a relationship ended, without realizing that bonding to your sex partner is perfectly normal.
I wonder how many of them realize how unlikely childbirth after 40 really is? A recent study of IVF in Australia looked at the chance of a live birth for initiated cycles. Don’t look at the bogus “pregnancy rate:” IVF pregnancies are 4-5 times more likely to end in stillbirth. And don’t be taken in by the “pregnancy per embryo transfer.” Plenty of women initiate cycles but do not successfully make it to the embryo transfer stage.
The average Australian woman aged 41-42 years old had a 5.8 percent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle. And women over 45 have a 1.1 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle — which is almost a 99 percent chance of failure every time.
Yes, Huffington Post is an opinion-making and opinion-leading organization. And yes, it is not right for a bunch of white, privileged childless twenty-something
women to be having such an outsized influence on public opinion. But for now, let’s give a thought to these young ladies themselves. They are being
sold a bill of goods. It is up to us, as adults, to warn them.
Posted on: Monday, May 30, 2016
An Australian study came out
with success rates for women over 40, using their own fresh (that is, not frozen from years before) eggs. The figures are shocking:
The latest, Australian-only numbers given to Four Corners by the industry show the chance of a live delivery for initiated cycles by all age groups for the year 2013.
The numbers for women older than 40, who are trying to collect and fertilise their own eggs, are extremely low.
The average Australian woman aged 41-42 years old has a 5.8 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle.
If you're 43-44 years old, you have a 2.7 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle.
And if you are over 45, you have a 1.1 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle — which is almost a 99 per cent chance of failure every time.If you are a twenty-something planning to "have it all," using IVF after 40 if necessary, I beg you to think again. You are being sold a bill of goods.
Posted on: Monday, May 30, 2016
Pro-Family Political Leaders and legislators: here is some low-hanging legislative fruit. Propose that your state standardize the reporting for all IVF clinics in your state. The measure you want is Live Birth per Cycle Initiated. This proposal allow you to educate the public, including women who are being misled by the industry. This proposal also allows you to take the moral high ground as a consumer protection advocate, in opposition to the fertility industry, which really does take advantage of very vulnerable people.
You don't want the number of pregnancies because not all pregnancies make it all the way to the birth of a live child. This is especially true with IVF because the rates of miscarriages and still birth are higher than for naturally conceived children.
You also don't want the number of "embryo transfers" as your baseline number. Not all women make it to the point of doing a successful embryo transfer into the woman's uterus. The woman may have difficulty at the stage of egg retrieval or fertilization for instance. Yet she has been through a cycle. Her body and soul have taken some abuse. It is not fair for the clinics to exclude these women from their "success rates."
This story quote a couple of IVF experts from Australia, but the point is the same everywhere. Women contemplating assisted reproduction have a right to know the actual probability of success, for the amount of money and physical trauma she will experience per cycle.
Fertility clinic websites have a number of different ways of reporting success rates. For instance, clinics may report success rates in terms of pregnancy, or they may report it in terms of live birth rate per embryo transfer.
IVF pioneer Alan Trounson said pregnancy rates were not helpful to the consumer, because some pregnancies were lost.
"What you need to know is the probability of having a baby, because you didn't come in to get pregnant, you came in to have a baby," he said.
On top of that, Professor Norman said clinics defined "pregnancy" differently in their website claims.
If you count a pregnancy at an earlier stage, or a later stage, the statistics change — and that also meant consumers could not make proper comparisons between websites.
"There's [a] big inconsistency," Professor Norman said.
"You'll find some clinics define pregnancy on the basis of an ultrasound.
"Others are included from 12 weeks onwards, so it's a bit of a mess all over the place."
Some clinics also present success rates in terms of live birth rate per embryo transfer.
But this does not reflect all those women who could not make it to the embryo transfer stage. If your eggs could not be retrieved, or fertilised, you are not included in this statistic.
Also, see Dr. Norman's "5 things to ask your fertility doctor."