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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: 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: Monday, March 27, 2017
Dear Dr. J,
What do I say to a same-sex married lesbian niece whose mother (my sister-in-law) just left a phone message saying they “are expecting twins”? Congratulations just doesn’t seem right but it’s not the children’s faults. It doesn’t seem right to create a family rift over this but neither can I be happy about it. I have no idea who the father is, which of the females in the relationship is carrying the children, whose eggs were used, etc. Nor do I know if I will ever be told because the family knows I do not believe in gay ‘marriage’. I can’t just ignore this, but do I say nothing? What do I say when the children are born? Any kind of congratulatory words would come out as fake, & they would be falsely said.
Your problem is becoming increasingly common. We are all figuring this out on the fly. So, let me offer a few suggestions for you to consider.
In general: keep your powder dry. Save it for when you really need it. There is absolutely nothing you can do right now to prevent this situation from unfolding. A time will come when you may be able to make a truly unique and valuable contribution. Prepare yourself for that time, through prayer and charity. Who knows? Maybe your preparation will allow you to help someone outside your family.
Do you have a question for me? Send an email to email@example.com.
Posted on: Thursday, March 23, 2017
A book review from TampaMeditations.com on 12/21/2016
you can start to change your own marriage today, simply by making a decision to be more generous: by being the first to forgive; by making allowances; by admitting you were wrong. These are an antidote to self-righteousness, the belief that “it’s not my fault”. There are other strategies, such as never using phrases such as “You always” or “You never” in disputes; being prepared to give way on unimportant issues; persevering in keeping the peace whenever possible.
Go out and get this book, “101 Tips for a Happier Marriage”, written by Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes. It is full of sage advice that would have been obvious to previous generations but, like the art of home cooking, seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern society.
Notice that the authors put God before “each other” in the subtitle. The book’s emphasis is on what the person who reads it can do to make a difference for the marital relationship. Growing closer to God will inevitably follow. If we tend to the ways in which God calls us, we will grow closer to Him. Once we’ve said our marriage vows and entered the sacrament of marriage, we can be pretty sure that God is telling us to work on our commitments.
Do not buy this book to change your spouse. Do not give it to your spouse to work on. The tips are effective only when applied to oneself. If you change,
your marriage will change. This book is also not for anyone dealing with domestic violence or addictions of any kind. It cannot replace specialized
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2017
For immediate release:
“Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins! So, go to Confession!” –Ruth Institute President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Ruth Institute launches ‘Go to Confession’ Campaign
(March 14, 2017, Lake Charles, LA) During this season of Lent, The Ruth Institute has launched an online and billboard campaign encouraging people of all faiths to make things right with God. “Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins!” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse stated in announcing the campaign. “That is why have launched a series of billboards and social media messages urging people to go to confession!”
Even in cases where one person has the major responsibility for fracturing the family, all family members can benefit from going to confession. “The injured parties may need help with bitterness, anger, emotional paralysis and many other issues. The grace of confession can help them,” Dr. Morse explained. “And of course, it goes without saying: if you have injured your family through addiction, abuse, adultery or desertion, go to confession. Jesus is waiting for you in the confessional and wants to forgive you. If you can’t tell him, in the person of the priest, that you are sorry, how are you ever going to be able to face your ex-spouse or your children?”
“Our ‘Go to Confession’ campaign reminds people that God is merciful and He will forgive us. What better time than during Lent?” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute said.
The Institute launched a billboard campaign in Lake Charles, LA, with messages: “Jesus is waiting for you,” “Sin makes you stupid,” featuring St. Thomas Aquinas (who loosely said that), and “Party’s over. Go to confession,” with an image of Mardi Gras debris. “Lake Charles is in the heart of Cajun Country, the Catholic buckle on the Bible belt. If we can’t publicly urge people to go to confession here, where can we? And the world desperately needs this encouragement.”
Dr. Morse added. “Guilty consciences make it harder for us to move forward and to resolve the issues caused by our sins, or the bitterness we’ve held onto from the sins of others.” Find the Ruth Institute’s ‘Go to Confession’ images on their website here, here and here.
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.
Reply to this email if you’d like to interview Dr. Morse further about this unique and beneficial ‘Go to Confession’ campaign.
Posted on: Thursday, March 02, 2017
by Penna Dexter
This article was first posted February 24, 2017, at pointofview.net.
A new study commissioned by the dating service Match.com shines a light on today’s hook-up culture, and it isn’t flattering. Match.com recently announced the results of its survey in which a shocking 34 percent of young adults report having sex before even going on a date with someone. Millennials — people between the ages of 18 and 34 — are 48 percent more likely to have sex before a first date, so they can “see if there’s a connection,” than all other generations of singles.
It’s a way to size someone up before committing time and energy to a relationship.
Match.com’s survey, that encompassed 5,500 people of all ages, also found that millennials are increasingly using Internet dating apps to meet people. Many of these apps are for the specific purpose of finding sexual partners.
But you can’t blame the apps. What has happened in the culture that makes this so commonplace?
One explanation for this phenomenon is hard to swallow: It says that young adults looking for love are simply too busy even to go out on first dates with people they have not already tested out as sexual partners. C’mon.
Another reason that’s been floated is that millennials are under so much pressure to get married. I hate to tell you girls but some things never change. This is no way to attract ‘Mr. Right.’
In reporting on this phenomenon, USA Today spoke with one sex therapist, Kimberly Resnick Anderson, who says the millennials who are engaging in sex before dating have inverted the relationship process. This, in a culture that has already destigmatized sex before marriage.
Jennifer Roback Morse is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, an organization that deals with the fallout from the sexual revolution. Dr. Morse reminds young people of “the natural biological result of sex, bonding, and babies.”
Sex does create an emotional bond. That’s a positive if the couple is going to stay together. But when people treat sex as sort of a screening process for relationships they deny and distort that bond.
Sex is really a gift God has given us and, inside a marriage, the bond it creates enhances the relationship. Casual sex with multiple partners is really an abuse of the gift of sex. Jennifer Roback Morse says casual sex inflicts long-term damage on a person’s ability to form lasting, stable relationships. When young people do marry and have kids, these poor bonding skills will affect their children.
Dr. Morse says millennials respond better to real life stories than statistics. There’s a story that’s breaking my heart. The child of someone dear, barely 30, is ending her second marriage. Both relationships started out with sex early on, then cohabitation, then — bad marriages.
Sex before dating, even if the chemistry is great, means the parties are blinded by attraction. The couple that marries on this basis really has no
idea if they are well-matched.
Posted on: Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A January conference in Phoenix will tackle tough issues of homosexuality, transgenderism
by James Graves at OSV Newsweekly on January 27, 2017
Clergy process out of the chapel at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Mich., in August 2015 after the opening Mass of the Truth and Love Conference. CNS photo by Mike Stechschulte
Courage International will join with the Diocese of Phoenix to host Truth and Love, a conference intended to offer practical and pastoral guidance on the topics of homosexuality and sexual identity on Jan. 9-11, 2017, at St. Paul Parish in Phoenix. Courage is the Catholic Church’s apostolate to help men and women struggling with same-sex attraction live in accordance with the teachings of the Church. The Phoenix conference will be Courage’s third since its founding in 1980; a similar conference was held most recently in Michigan in August 2015.
Father Philip Bochanski, Courage’s executive director, says that the conference is a tool to “share the good news that living chastely and finding our true identity as sons and daughters of God is the way to real happiness and authentic relationships.”
The theme of Truth and Love is “welcoming and accompanying our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions or confusion regarding sexual identity.”
According to a joint statement released by the Diocese of Phoenix and Courage, many of the current approaches to homosexuality “do not include the fuller perspective of the human person. Rather, they limit themselves to ‘acceptance’ and to the protection of the ‘right’ of ‘sexual satisfaction.’ Yet, as the Catholic Church has consistently taught, these approaches will never lead people to the abundant life that Christ promises.”
Presenters include Father Bochanski; Coadjutor Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Agaña, Guam; chastity speaker Jason Evert; Walt Heyer, a former transgender person, speaker and operator of the site www.SexChangeRegret.com; Janet Smith, a professor of moral theology at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary; John Cuddeback, a professor of philosophy at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia; and Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute.
Morse is an author and speaker specializing in the area of marriage and family, and played a prominent role defending traditional marriage in California’s Proposition 8 campaign. Her conference topic will be “Understanding the Sexual Revolution.”
Her topic, she said, includes refuting the belief of the sexual revolution that happiness comes merely by having sex, an idea that she says didn’t emerge without help.
“I’m 63, and the sexual revolution has been with us throughout my lifetime,” she said. “The good news is that we have decades of studies that have demonstrated that these ideas are a failure.”
Once the ideas of the sexual revolution had permeated society, she continued, “the building blocks for gay marriage were already there in the culture. People have come to believe that sex should be a sterile activity — that people can have sex and not think about babies — and gay sex is the ultimate sterile sex.”
Coupled that with the belief that “men and women are interchangeable and that kids don’t need their parents, so why not have gay marriage?”
Also featured at the conference will be speakers who have experienced same-sex attraction or sexual identity confusion sharing how chaste friendships and embracing the teachings of the Church have helped them on their journey toward chastity and sanctity. These include Daniel Mattson, who will present “Captivated by Truth: Why the Church’s Truth about Homosexuality has Set Me Free.”
Mattson is a professional musician from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was baptized Catholic and raised an evangelical Christian. He experiences same-sex attraction, and although he was “clandestine” about it, he was once involved in the gay lifestyle.
He wanted to participate in the Courage conference, he said, in hopes that he could “communicate that chastity is a vital part of the Good News, and part of the reason I came back to the Catholic Church.”
Mattson noted that in the entertainment world of which he is a part, his fellow musicians “would celebrate me coming out, embracing being gay and having a boyfriend.” Instead, he continued, “They are mystified that I would choose to be Catholic.”
But, he continued, it was in the Catholic Church that he has found both “truth and freedom, and I accept that truth in humility, even though that does not affect that I am still attracted to men.”
Mattson returned to the Catholic Church after attending a Courage conference in 2009. He tells his story in the Courage film “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which can be viewed under the resources tab on the Courage website. He travels frequently to speak at high schools and colleges, often accompanied by Father Bochanski or Father Paul Check, the former executive director of Courage.
He recalled a question asked by a teenage boy at one of his high school presentations: “If I feel I’m attracted to the same sex, am I gay?”
“I responded, ‘No. The Church wisely teaches us that our feelings do not define who we are. Who we are made by God is what defines us.”
Mattson continued, “I do what I’m doing to help people like this boy. He’s living in a world that tells him it does mean he’s gay, but I’m here to say that he doesn’t have to follow every feeling or desire. These kids are being told lies and falling into a trap.”
Mattson also will soon release a book through Ignatius Press sharing his experiences. Mattson’s brother, Steve, is a priest of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, and also is a presenter at the conference.
Mass celebrants include Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez. Bishop Olmsted was pleased to have his diocese host the conference.
“The work of Courage International, helping those with same-sex attraction to build friendships and virtue, and helping the Church to share the Good News of Christ in a challenging area, is essential in our time,” he said. “I encourage all who have pastoral responsibilities to join us at the conference. It will help you to grow in knowledge and fellowship.”
Posted on: Saturday, February 18, 2017
by Jennifer Roback Morse on
In my line of work, people tell me their stories of family breakdown and heartbreak. I recently heard the following story. I will tell it in first person, roughly as it was told to me. My comments are in italics.
“Like you and your husband, my wife and I went through years of infertility. We decided to try IVF. I was worried that a child created by us would not be fully a child of God. I went to a priest/mentor. He told me: “you are going to a lot of trouble and expense to create a child. The child will certainly be a child of God.” I breathed a sigh of relief. The priest relieved his immediate concern. The priest also said, “I have to tell you: the Church doesn’t want you to do this.” I couldn’t tell whether the priest gave him any reasons why the Church doesn’t want him to do this: all my friend heard was, “It’s ok.”
“The IVF clinic told us that we should retrieve three eggs, fertilize and implant them, for the best chance of getting one embryo to implant successfully. Once my wife woke up from the procedure, the doctors informed us that they had retrieved 13 eggs and fertilized all of them. They had implanted 3 in my wife’s womb, as we discussed. But this was the first mention of any other eggs or embryos. Only then, did they ask us what we wanted to do with the “extras.” I have heard many similar stories of infertility clinics failing to tell the whole story. People desparate for a child do not always think clearly or listen completely. And the fertility industry does not always help them….
“I was in shock. Indeed. The man’s countenance visibly changed as he told me this part of the story. We decided to freeze them and deal with them later.
“Only one of the babies survived, and she is now a teenager. I love her. I’m glad I have her. But I have agonized over those 10 frozen embryos ever since. Apologists for the Sexual Revolution might say that this man’s guilt is a problem created by the last vestiges of religion. I say that is a crock. He instantly and instinctively knew that something was wrong with freezing his children. After all, if the one that was implanted and carried to term became his precious child, how could her siblings, conceived at exactly the same time, and under the same circumstances, be any less precious?
“My wife and I divorced. I am still struggling over what to do with our frozen embryos. I have met with other priests and counselors. I finally found one who said, “Stop calling them embryos. They are your children.” I knew immediatly that he was right. The priest gave him some genuine relief, by actually addressing the problem, not glossing over it. I don’t know about you, but I feel crazy when someone tells me “it’s ok,” when I know for a fact that it isn’t. The priest gave me an ethical path for what to do for my children. I still have to convince their mother. I don’t know if she will go along with it.”
I’m not going to share the priest’s counsel right now. I will save that for a different post. Today, I want to focus on one point: if that first priest had given him reasons to NOT do IVF, this man would not have had these years of anguish.
It is true that he would not have had this particular daughter, conceived at this particular moment and in this particular way. And of course, we must never regret the child. Each and every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift from God.* But he and wife might have had some other experience of fatherhood and motherhood, some other way, on God’s good time and in God’s good way. Who knows? They might even still be married.
Priests and other authority figures need to tell people the whole truth. Sugar-coating is not helpful. Truthful words, spoken firmly before the sin actually occurs, could prevent the sin, and save the person years of heartache.
Please Padres, Pères and Fathers: tell us the whole truth. We promise to listen and not give you a hard time.
And my non-clergy readers, please: if you are in a situation like this, go to confession.** Trust the Lord to put you in the right confessional with the right priest. Do not delay. Trust me on this. You are going to feel better.
* I spell this out in more detail in my essay, “You were loved into existence.” We give this essay away as a free premium for signing up for the Ruth Institute newsletter.
** Or as Fr. Z would say, GO TO CONFESSION!!
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2017
'We are separating ourselves from our bodies'
A new survey detailing the extent of casual sex among singles shows many are having intimate relations before the first date, a development that can be blamed in part on technology but leads to tremendous regret and permanently damaged relationships.
This week, the dating service Match released a new survey on sex and singles conducted by Research Now. Included in the data are the revelations that 34 percent of singles have had sex before a first date and that millennials are 48 percent more likely to have sex before a first date than all other generations of singles in order “to see if there is a connection.”
In a USA Today story on the survey, sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson suggests millennials have inverted the relationship process, using sex to determine if they want to pursue anything further with that person.
“We used to think of sex as you crossed the line now, you are in an intimate zone. But now sex is almost a given, and it’s not the intimate part. The intimate part is getting to know someone and going on a date,” Anderson is quoted as saying.
Ruth Institute Founder and President Jennifer Roback Morse says the discrepancy between millennials and other singles is that the older ones know better.
“The reason older generations are not [having sex before a first date] is because they have figured out already from experience that this is not a good idea,” Morse told WND and Radio America. “What we’re doing is just one generation of young people after another are having to figure out for themselves that hopping into bed with somebody is a lot more complicated and potentially hurtful than we’re led to believe by the media and stories like this one.”
Morse also said smartphone apps for the explicit purpose of casual sex are contributing to the trend.
“It’s a new thing when you have dating apps or casual sex apps on your cell phone and you can find out if there’s somebody close by who wants to have sex with you. That’s a new thing,” she said.
“The desire to be sexually active has been with us forever obviously, but this way of going about it and the way the culture is pushing people toward sex without any kind of intimacy or friendship, that is something new and, I think, uniquely destructive,” Morse said.
“What we’re trying to do is get away from this message of airbrushing away all the problems and allowing people space and time to say here’s what really happened. ‘Here’s how I really felt after casual sex. Here’s the next step after the first time you have that kind of encounter and then you get kind of swept away in it and are having one encounter after another and they’re not really satisfying you. Here’s where that leads,'” stated Morse.
She said her work shows that personal stories resonate best with young people.
“I think millennials particularly want to hear stories. They don’t care for data. All these numbers aren’t going to touch them one bit,” Morse said. “But if someone who is 35 years old stands in front of them and says, ‘This is how my heart was broken by doing what you’re standing there thinking about doing,’ they just might listen to that.”
Perhaps worst of all, Morse said, is the long-term damage casual sex inflicts on future efforts at meaningful relationships.
“The results of sex are bonding and babies. That’s the natural biological result of sex, bonding and babies,” Morse said. “If people don’t know how to bond with one another, they’re going to have trouble creating lasting, stable relationships for when they do finally want to have babies. Then they’re not going to be ready to really care for their children and give the children the kind of security and attachment that they need.”
She said the impact of poor bonding is also is also felt by the children.
“The kind of damage that’s going to happen to children of people who can’t form relationships is really hard to predict just how bad that can be,” Morse said. “Honestly, I don’t see a floor under this elevator. We’re still going down.”
Posted on: Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Life-long married love benefits children. Why then, is our government creating incentives for parents to not marry? Poor children need their own parents and a stable family life every bit as much as children of the middle and upper classes.
If you are not sure about the benefits of life-long married love for children, let me tell you about Gina. I encountered her when I was a foster parent. When I met Gina, she was 12 years old and was transitioning from a group home into a foster home. She was intelligent and pretty and articulate.
Gina’s mother and father had not married each other. Her mother developed a drug problem and disappeared. Her father took full responsibility for Gina. Eventually, he met another woman, fell in love, and married her. They had a child together.
Gina was jealous of the new wife and the new baby. Her father and stepmother were afraid to leave her unattended in the same room with the baby, for fear she would hurt the baby. In fact, she did try to hurt the baby.
One day, Gina provoked a quarrel with her stepmother. She got so frustrated she shoved Gina, who called the police. The stepmother knew she shouldn’t have done it. But Gina was in no real danger: she called the police out of spite. The stepmother spent a few days in jail. Child protective services put Gina in a group home.
Her father was heartbroken. He loved Gina and was really trying to take care of her. But she was a risk to the baby. And she got her stepmother arrested.
In the meantime, Gina’s maternal grandparents came to visit while she was in foster care. They wanted to get custody and take her home. They were heartbroken that their own daughter had gone off the rails so badly that she was not taking care of her own child. Although they had had little relationship with Gina, they were worried about Gina being in foster care and a group home.
They just wanted their granddaughter to be with them. Perfectly understandable, and laudable. We would want all grandparents to feel that way. Just one problem: Gina’s father did not want them to take Gina off to another state.
Nothing completely takes the place of a loving stable relationship between a child’s own parents.
So, let’s look at the scorecard. A heartbroken father, who can barely keep his wife and daughter from fighting, and who cannot be sure that his infant is safe from his 12-year-old daughter. A pair of heartbroken grandparents who want some relationship with their granddaughter. A stepmother who fears for her child’s safety and who fears being set up by the stepdaughter.
And one deeply disturbed little girl. Angry, lonely, manipulative. Gina was deeply in need of unconditional love, and yet almost completely incapable of receiving the love people tried to offer her.
This blended family is innocuous by modern standards. Gina had had only two “family transitions”: the first when her mother abandoned the family, the second when her father got married. The father was free to marry, even by the strictest Roman Catholic standards, since he had never been married to Gina’s mother in the first place. Everyone was sincerely trying to do the right thing for Gina. The family was not desperately poor. There was no hostility or quarreling between the biological parents.
Yet, there is still no solution to Gina’s situation. Nothing completely takes the place of a loving stable relationship between the child’s own parents. So, yes, kids really do need their own parents.
Now: is the government in fact undermining marriage among the poor? Consider these facts from the Institute for Family Studies, as of 2010:
Out of wedlock births are significant because the mothers so frequently have their next child with a different partner. This places the first child in a situation like Gina’s, with all the accompanying risks and complications.
What accounts for this overall trend and these class distinctions? Part of the answer, surely, is that some of the most significant income support programs have significant marriage penalties. People in these situations are better off cohabiting, or not living together at all, rather than getting married.
A report from the Urban Institute focuses on the Earned Income Tax and Child Tax Credits. A report from the American Enterprise Institute examines Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for food stamps) and TANF, (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.)
The widespread perception that marriage puts one’s benefits at risk may be driving behavior more than the actual details of the program.
The AEI report focuses on families with at least one child aged two or younger, in other words, the men and women most likely to be new parents and to be considering whether to marry. The poorest of the poor are less likely to be affected by marriage penalties. Many of the lowest income people qualify for benefits whether they marry or not. But even among the lowest income quintile, two-thirds of the lowest income quintile will likely face a marriage penalty for SNAP, TANF or Medicaid.
The situation is even worse for the working poor, with slightly higher incomes. People closer to the eligibility threshold can face substantial losses in family income if they marry. Among the middle quintile, three quarters face a marriage penalty for SNAP, TANF or Medicaid. And among those in the second lowest quintile, fully 87% of the families would face a reduction in benefits if they married.
Perhaps even more importantly, the AEI report found that about 30% of Americans personally know someone who did not marry due to fear of losing the benefits. This widespread perception that marriage puts one’s benefits at risk may be driving behavior more than the actual fine-grained details of the program.
The Federal government’s programs for poor relief undermine the ability of the poorest people in society to get married and stay married. This has got to stop.
Scholars and analysts across the political spectrum are aware of this problem. They only disagree about how significant it is. Analysts at the liberal end of the spectrum probably fear that removing the marriage penalties won’t do much. Those at the conservative end may fear that removing the marriage penalties would cost too much. But both these fears cannot be true. So, let’s spend the money it takes to remove the marriage penalties. If these penalties only affect a few people, it won’t cost much to remove them.
Social conservatives have the ear of the current Administration. Now is a good time to recruit scholars and analysts from the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Urban Institute and Brookings, and do something about the marriage penalties.
Together, they could come up with something. We owe it to the least among us to stop undermining the formation and stability of their families.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2017
by Ben Johnson
This article was first published August 3, 2016, at LifeSiteNews.
Think Millennials are the most sexually active generation in history? Think again, say the authors of a new study released on Monday.
The number of young adults born in the 1990s who report they are not having sex is more than twice as high as it was for the Baby Boomer generation, a sign they have learned from the fallout of the sexual revolution, experts tell LifeSiteNews.
The study found that 15 percent of Millenials aged 20-24 said they had not had sex since age 18, more than those born in the late 1960s (six percent), 1970s (11 percent) or 1980s (12 percent). That is lower than their fellow Millennials born in the previous decade.
The definition of “sex” is left up to the respondent to define. However, the number of women who were sexually abstinent as young adults tripled since the 1960s, while the number of men doubled, according to the study, which appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
"I think a lot of them are watching the adults around them and concluding that sex without limits is not making people happy," particularly "parents with multiple marriages and divorces,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute told LifeSiteNews.
The study concludes that “the new sexual revolution has apparently left behind a larger segment of the generation than first thought.”
"The idea that these kids are 'left behind' by the sexual revolution is quite strange, as if they've somehow been sealed in a bomb shelter and never knew it happened,” Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., the associate director of research for the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), told LifeSiteNews. “More likely, they've seen that experiment running its course and decided they'd rather learn from someone else's mistakes instead of their own.”
The finding dovetails with CDC figures that show a majority of teenagers are choosing not to have sex. Only 41 percent of high school students reported sexual activity, a 13-point drop since 1991. Millennials also have a lower average number of sexual partners (eight) than either Baby Boomers (11) and Generation X (10).
Valerie Huber, the president of Ascend, told LifeSiteNews that her group – formerly the National Abstinence Education Association - “commissioned the Barna Group to survey 18 and 19 year olds and found similar results. The majority did not like the idea of ‘hooking up,’ and most of those who were not sexually experienced were waiting for a committed relationship."
Some do not know what to make of the results. The Washington Post wrote, "Delaying sex is not necessarily bad, experts say."
Numerous studies show having sex at a younger-than-average age leads to negative results, while delaying sexual activity and reducing the number of partners has positive outcomes.
Dana Haynie of Ohio State University found that early sexual activity increased delinquency by 20 percent. Experts have warned that earlier sexual activity can increase anxiety and negative psychological reactions, such as feeling used, especially for girls. A study in Pediatrics last year concluded that troubled children were more likely to begin having sex earlier in life, reinforcing the vicious circle.
Those who had sex later than average had higher incomes, educational achievement, and satisfaction in marriage, according to a 2012 report from Dr. Paige Harden of the University of Texas.
A 2014 report found that having multiple sexual partners and cohabitation before marriage decreased marital happiness after couples eventually tied the knot.
“We know that early sexual behavior tends to set a pattern for later behavior. The fact that more and more emerging adults are avoiding sex suggests they recognize that casual sex can compromise their life goals,” Huber told LifeSiteNews.
One young person told The Washington Post that, having seen so much sex depicted in pornography, "there really isn't anything magical about it” anymore.
Those who attend religious services are more likely to be abstinent, as well. "There was a significant increase in sexual inactivity among those who attend religious services once a week or more compared with those who do not,” Oas noted.
Huber said the most common reasons young people reported to Ascend for delaying sex were personal values and a focus on attaining their goals. She encouraged schools to teach Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education - as opposed to Sexual Risk Reducation (SRR) or Comprehensive Sex Education, which present teen sexual activity as more normative.
The study notes, “abstinence-only sex education and virginity pledges became more popular (and federally funded) after the 1980s, especially between 1996 and 2009, when abstinence-only programs received large amounts of federal and state funding.” Studies have found that abstinence-based education reduces the overall teen sex rate.
“This new research suggests that our students have caught a positive and healthy vision for their futures,” she said. “It also means that we must, as a society, be more intentional on reinforcing this same healthy behavior for young, single adults."
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