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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, December 13, 2016
This article was first published at Fathers for Good on November 23, 2016.
New book outlines Catholic plan for marriage
If the “101 Tips” of this handy little book could be summed up in a few words, they would be: Know thyself. The wisdom of Socrates holds true today, though the modern dating scene may cause him to add: Know the other person, too.
Authors Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes, of the Ruth Institute, have culled a wealth of social science, psychology, common sense and personal insights in 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press). The book serves as a sort of prequel to their 2013 release, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. But it would be simplistic to assume that if you read their latest book on dating you won’t need the earlier one on marriage. We all need help in getting our relationships right.
The authors are clear from the start: “Basically, the young adult Catholic dating scene is horrific.” A brief chat with young Catholics will confirm this statement. There are no rules, even the chaste and faithful are afraid to commit, and parents, parishes and priests – three strong forces for matchmaking in the past – have pretty much left young people to find their own way. Thus, this book is not only for the young Catholic searching for love, it is also for older folks who want to have some ready answers and advice for the young ones in their lives. It would also make a nice Christmas gift for those of dating age.
You can read these 122 pages in one night, skipping around the different topics. Tip No. 8 caught my eye: “Pray for your future spouse.” This is exactly what my future wife’s grade school teacher in the Philippines (a nun) told her class of girls one day. My wife followed the advice and sensed that she was not called to marry a man from her country, and thus was not at all afraid when the opportunity came for her to get a master’s degree in the United States. You never know where God will lead if you give him your heart in prayer.
Under the chapter “Best Practices,” there are these little gems: “Be friends first” and “Ladies: Let him be a man. Gentlemen: Be a man!” Under “Potential Pitfalls,” you will find warnings not to “think you can change him or her into the perfect image of your future spouse,” or “waste your time on someone who won’t commit to you.”
Here are more tips, randomly flipping the pages: “Keep your head. Guard your heart.” “Don’t expect a fairy-tale romance.” “Don’t expect love at first sight.”
There is a helpful section on the common practice of cohabiting that includes research and common sense on why couples should avoid it, and a practical guide on wedding planning if the relationship gets to that point.
This is an excellent, extremely readable book that a dating couple could easily read together, having a few laughs as well as some serious discussions. Fathers could also use this little volume to start a conversation with their son or daughter on some topics they probably should discuss before the kids leave home.
Posted on: Monday, November 14, 2016
This article was first published at atxcatholic.com.
Today’s review is of a short book, so this will be a short review. Following on the heels of their successful book 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage , Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes have released a guide for getting to marriage in the first place. This new title basically begged me to read it: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. Yes, please! In this tiny tome, I found much to support my previous thoughts about important premarital decisions and a few new points to ponder.
As the authors note, it’s much easier to have a happy marriage when you’ve married the right person in the first place. Thus, most of the book is given over to how to improve yourself as a single, how to date wisely, and what to look for when the possibility of marriage pops over the horizon. They’re definitely on the right track there. I have never been married, but I used to do marriage prep (for other couples, not for myself), and I have a personal interest in improving the way marriages begin. Starting off on the right foot sounds like a good way to set yourself up for marital bliss.
Photo by Billy Quach
Some standout tips are:
16. When the relationship begins to get serious, seek the opinion of an objective third party, with emphasis on “objective.”
They suggest parents or siblings. When you marry someone, you marry their family, too, and family will still be with you even if the romance ends.
25. Do not date someone you wouldn’t consider marrying.
This wanders into an unclear zone. Similar advice has caused many people to not date at all, insisting that they have to know someone well enough to know they’d marry them before they will go on a date. How, then, do you get to know someone? Most people are worth one date, but I agree that you shouldn’t stay in a relationship unless you see it going somewhere.
45. Does the other person care enough to help cheer me up when I’m down or commiserate with me when I’m upset—whichever I prefer?
This is crucial. I am a commiserator. Pollyannas drive me crazy. I know they mean well, but it’s quite difficult to already be feeling down about whatever my stressor is and then also be upset about my partner’s failed attempt at stress relief!
Posted on: Monday, October 24, 2016
by Marcia Segelstein
One of the first sermons I heard at the Catholic parish where I would eventually be received into the Church was on the subject of marriage. The priest spoke about the relationship between a husband and wife as being indissoluble. Like siblings or parents and children, he told us, spouses formed a different, but equally permanent, bond with each other. It was as though a light bulb went on for me. “Of course,” I thought. “That makes perfect sense!” It was, simply put, the Catholic definition of marriage.
So while I firmly believe that commitment is the most critical ingredient for a marriage as it’s meant to be, choosing the right partner is pretty important, too.
Jennifer Roback Morse and her colleague at the Ruth Institute, Betsy Kerekes, have just released a new book called 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. It’s an easy read chock full of great advice.
I’ve narrowed their tips down to my top ten favorites, in some cases combining a few.
1) Pray. Pray for encouragement, guidance, and consolation. Pray that you find your future spouse. Pray for him or her. And, as Morse and Kerekes put it, “If you have no prayer life, get one. Right away. For real. You think life is tough now, searching for the right person? Wait until you have to put up with each other – and kids.”
2) Be friends first. My husband started out as my best friend, so I can attest to the wisdom of this advice. It is, as the book says, “an excellent, no-pressure way of getting to know each other without stress or expectations.” It’s also a great way to avoid the pitfalls of the hook-up culture, where physical intimacy comes first, and emotional intimacy not so much.
3) Keep your expectations real. Fight the inclination to expect fairy-tale romance or love at first sight. Or, as Morse and Kerekes write, “This is real life. Your Prince (or Princess) Charming will not magically appear as you sing to the wildlife in the forest.” Nor will your perfect soul mate magically bump into you at Starbucks. You might find your future spouse there. But there’s no such thing as a perfect soul mate.
4) Don’t waste your time. It’s OK to want commitment. If the person you’ve been dating for months doesn’t exclusively want to be with you, ask yourself if he or she is worth it.
5) Try to imagine the future. Specifically, try to imagine the person you’re dating as the parent of your children. Ask yourself if you can picture him or her as a role model for them. “If not,” say Morse and Kerekes, “move on.”
6) Picture introducing your potential future spouse to friends and family. Would you be proud? Or would you find yourself embarrassed or ashamed of some aspect of his or her character? If so, some reevaluating is in order.
7) Take parents into consideration. Or, as the book suggests, “Evaluate your significant other’s relationship with his or her parents as well as your relationship with your own parents.” Most people have some unresolved issues with their parents. Try to determine if you’re ready to live with the consequences of your loved one’s, and take a hard look at your own.
8) Stay chaste. Sexual activity releases hormones that cause feelings of bonding, especially in women. Your ability to think clearly and rationally about what may be the most important decision of your life will be clouded by a hormonal fog otherwise.
9) Don’t live together. Study after study has shown that cohabitating before marriage is not a good idea. The authors put it bluntly: “Ignore the hype from popular culture: couples who live together prior to marriage are more likely to divorce than those who don’t.”
10) When the time comes, focus on the marriage, not the wedding. Keep Bridezilla in check and take this advice from Morse and Kerekes: “Take a deep breath, relax and go with the flow. This one day, though extremely important, is not as important as the rest of your lives.”
Posted on: Monday, October 24, 2016
by Terri Kimmel
This article was first published on October 24, 2016, at CatholicLane.com.
In today’s electronic world of tweets and status updates, communicating with brevity is everything. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do by the Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes speaks to the internet generation in a language and format that keeps up with the frenetic pace.
Being in my mid-40’s I don’t consider myself technically (pun intended) part of the internet generation. Still, even my middle-aged brain has become accustomed to absorbing information in short spurts. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person conveys timeless wisdom to a time-crunched world. I loved this about the book. It is ultra-concentrated, but penetrates and enriches in a way that is fresh, relevant, and relatively effortless for the reader. It also has a wonderful list of additional resources at the back for those who would like to delve deeper into a subject.
The objective of the book is (from the book’s cover) “Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do.” Written as a kind of prequel to an earlier book by the same authors, 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person impresses me most by the way it fearlessly goes into the dark places that our culture takes single people and meets them there with light, truth, and tenderness.
I am a child of divorced parents. I remember how my past created anxiety for me when I was preparing to get married. Jennifer and Betsy, the authors, tackle this issue head on. “The long-term effects of divorce crescendo in young adulthood. . . . Don’t be discouraged if either of you is a child of divorce. Instead, give this risk factor the seriousness it deserves. Get some help for whatever issues you may have.” Such candor and clarity would have been a comfort to me as I was preparing to get married.
Boldly addressing topics that our politically-correct culture often overlooks or ignores, the authors meet the reader where he/she is on the issue, explain the pitfall, and give friendly and easy-to-understand advice. There is no hesitation to “go there” on the tough questions. They even acknowledge that men and women are different! Scandalous, right? Who does that anymore? Tip #82 in the book says, “Be aware that a long-term cohabiting situation often puts women at a disadvantage compared to men.”
It’s a fascinating read even for someone like me who has been married almost a quarter century. Having read the book I feel better equipped to mentor the people who frequently ask me questions about marriage and/or parenting. (Having nine kids makes me a default resource in the minds of a lot of people.)
One of the sections is a list of “Do Not’s” followed by a brief explanation. Here’s a sampling of topics: “Ladies, Do Not: Dress like a floozy”; “Do Not: Date Someone Just to Annoy Your Parents”; “Do Not: Agree to marry someone because it’s expected.” It’s the kind of book that I could pick up, browse through for just a few minutes, learn something valuable, and then put down until later. I think this format will appeal to those in marriage preparation ministry, both priests and lay people. It’s the most user friendly marriage prep book I’ve ever seen.
The book is divided into several sections, starting with tips on finding the right person. It moves through discerning while dating/courting, into considerations about cohabitating, followed by a section on what to do if you’re already cohabitating. It ends with questions to ask yourself right up to the wedding. “Ask yourself one last time: Do I feel at peace with my decision to marry this person?” Every step provides insight based on the combined wisdom and experience of forty-five years of marriage of the authors who represent two generations and two very different sets of life experiences.
Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder of the Ruth Institute, has a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and taught economics at the university level. She tells us in the book that she cohabitated with her husband before marriage saying, “Not all my expertise in this area is book learning. I can attest that the research I report in this book is true.”
Betsy Kerekes is a homeschooling mom of three young children, a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the editor and director for online publications at the Ruth Institute. The two very diverse points of view, joined by fidelity to truth and the common objective of mentoring those seeking a strong marriage, combine to create a depth of strength and wisdom that is valuable to anyone seeking a long-lasting, holy, happy marriage.
I truly loved everything about this book. I plan to recommend it to my pastor and the director of family life in our diocese. It’s also now on my list of books to give engaged couples, along with books by Christopher West, Gregory Popcak, and Natural Family Planning information. If you know of a couple wherein one or both do not like to read self-help books, this book is exceptionally easy to read and stuffed with good information. I think it’s an appropriate alternative resource to longer, more involved reads.
My favorite thing about 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person is that it is thorough without being tedious. My daughter married two years ago. I remember her telling me that she was disappointed with marriage preparation. She wanted topics to talk about. She also told me that she felt the priest who was leading her preparation was at a loss because my daughter and her fiancé were chaste and not already living together. The priest told her she and her fiancé were anomalies. The beauty of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person is that it covers all the bases. My daughter would have found it useful.
I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in helping marriages succeed.
Posted on: Friday, August 12, 2016
By Ryan MacPherson, a Ruth Institute Circle of Experts member
Book Review: The Decline of Males, Lionel Tiger (New York: Golden Books, 1999)
This article was first published at hausvater.org.
Why would a confessional Lutheran (who recognizes that God created humanity male and female, instituted marriage, and designed the one-flesh union for procreation) want to read a book written by an evolutionist who claims that Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is the key to interpreting the breakdown of the American family? If the evolutionist is Dr. Lionel Tiger, a Rutgers University anthropologist, and the book is The Decline of Males, then the answer is simple: his insightful analysis offers lessons that transcend the gap between Darwinian assumptions, which fundamentally contradict Scripture, and the confessional Lutheran worldview, which proclaims that God “impressed upon [human] nature” a “divine ordinance” for marital procreation (Apol. XIII (XI), 7, 12).
Tiger differs from many scholars. He identifies the root of America’s culture war over “family values,” with its recurring “battle of the sexes,” not in politics, not in religion, not in any particular ideology, but rather in biology. He argues that male and female bodies, and the social behaviors that typically go with them, have evolved over millions of years to perfect a mammalian reproductive cycle in which offspring are preserved by males who care for pregnant and lactating females. The introduction of modern contraception in the 1960s, however, radically altered the human social environment. Biology—slow to evolve—is struggling to catch up. The result is social chaos, involving an escalation of single motherhood and absent fatherhood. A confessional Lutheran would want to correct Tiger’s evolutionary presuppositions with the doctrine that God the Creator designed human nature in such a way that “a husband should labor to support his wife and children … that a wife should bear children and care for them.” (AC XXVI, 10) The interesting thing is that many of Tiger’s conclusions would still stand. Following is the story he tells, drawn from anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
Prior to the 1960s, when the hormonal birth control pill became available, men and women had equal awareness of whether a sexual encounter was likely to result in pregnancy. Men, therefore, were more willing to accept responsibility for their pre-marital misbehavior, as evidenced by the high percentage of pregnant brides a century ago (30% to 50%). Today, by contrast, fewer women are pregnant on their wedding day, but many more remain unmarried as single mothers. “It is impossible,” writes Tiger, “to overestimate the impact of the contraceptive pill on human arrangements.” By shifting responsibility away from men and women (condoms and diaphragms) and toward women alone (pills and IUDs), modern contraceptive technology has empowered women to control their own destinies while also leaving women more vulnerable and isolated by deflating “a man’s sense of power … sense of function … sense of responsibility.” (35) Tiger suggests that this explains why the push for legalized abortion increased after the pill became available: when the pill failed, and an unmarried woman found herself pregnant, she could count no longer on a “shotgun wedding” as a safety net, and so she felt desperate for another way out.
By severing sexual intimacy from procreative potential, and procreative potential from male responsibility, the same pill that made women less dependent upon men also made them more dependent upon themselves, and ultimately upon the state. “If liberation means the absence of unavoidable irrefutable obligations,” explains Tiger, “women’s liberation has backfired. It is men who have been liberated.” (184) As women became less trusting of men and more reliant on themselves, higher education and gainful employment shifted, among women, from being luxuries to necessities. It became a greater stigma for a woman to be unemployed than unmarried. “Housewife,” formerly a badge of honor, was now a label of embarrassment. Women discovered, in a new culture of absent fatherhood and devalued motherhood, that “paid work enjoys high moral and social status even if it involves a woman’s taking care of someone else’s child ... and even if she has to pay yet another person to take care for hers.” (68) Men, meanwhile, shirked their responsibilities to the women they impregnated and the children born to them, leaving a void that social welfare sought to fill. Thus, monogamy gave way to “bureaugamy,” the marriage of a single woman and her child to the state’s welfare bureaucracy (21).
All this may sound too much like a “just so” story—clever, but without substantial evidence to support it. Here is where Tiger’s synthesis of the social sciences and natural sciences becomes more intriguing.
First, a lesson from primatology. Consider Austin, a dominant male monkey on a Caribbean island with nine female monkeys. As is typical for his species, he chooses to mate repeatedly with his favorite females—in this case, three of the nine. When researchers inject two of those three with Depo-Provera, a contraceptive, Austin loses interest and seeks two replacements from among the other monkeys. When the Depo-Provera wears off after three months, he returns to them. When researchers put all nine females on contraception, Austin begins “to rape, masturbate, and behave in a turbulent and confused manner.” (39) Depo-Provera chemically mimics pregnancy; since a female cannot become pregnant while currently pregnant, a female who is “chemically pregnant” on Depo-Provera has significant “protection” from actually becoming pregnant. As Austin’s harem demonstrates, this protection comes not only from the drug’s physiological effects, but also from it social effects. Chemically pregnant females do not exude the same pheromones as fertile females, and hence not only their own libido but also the interest that males exhibit toward them declines.
Similarly, women on the pill fall out of synch with off-pill women, whose pheromones lead the menstrual cycles of, say, women in a college dormitory to synchronize with the alpha female. In other words, “the pill affects how women relate to other women in a visceral way.” (42) Hormonal contraception also impacts women’s perceptions of men: women off the pill can distinguish responsible, gainfully employed, physically fit men from social “losers” by the smell of their clothes; women on the pill fail this same pheromonal evaluation. Such data confirm that Lutheran pastors had good reason to be concerned that, once the pill became commonplace, “Relationships between men and women would never again be the same.” (Lutheran Synod Quarterly, 1981*)
As Tiger progresses from the natural sciences to the social sciences, he does not champion “traditional family values” in the manner typical of reactionary conservatism. Rather, he argues compellingly for the success of single motherhood as a strategic adaptation to a radically impoverished human social environment. Women, whether single, married, or divorced, whether with or without children, are faring surprisingly well (though married women fare best). Women’s real wages increased in the closing decades of the twentieth century, while they declined for men. Women make up the majority of college students (55% in America; 60% in Canada) and are earning an increasing share of post-graduate degrees. Women are starting successful small businesses—often in or close to home, as they creatively integrate work with family life, a task that men have not mastered so well.
Rather than pointing a finger of blame at single women for being irresponsible, or for milking the welfare system, Tiger applauds their success at beating the odds. He also analyzes social transformations that have reshaped the odds in their favor. Specifically, a double-standard has emerged, under the guises of affirmative action and political correctness, in which all-female colleges retain praise but an all-male academy or golf club receives a court order to integrate. Rambunctious boys, whom an evolutionary anthropologist would identify as well-adapted for catching prey on the savannah, are now expected to cooperate quietly in feminized group learning classrooms, or else be diagnosed with ADHD and drugged with Ritalin. The same “troublesome” boys who fare poorly in school excel on the athletic field and demonstrate mental acuity by memorizing the stats of their favorite sports teams. Their biology is that of a male hunter-gatherer, but their social environment increasingly rewards feminine behavioral patterns they cannot readily produce.
Tiger thus objects both to the male chauvinism against which mid- to late-twentieth-century feminists reacted and also to the androgynous ideal that has largely replaced it. Emphasizing that men and women are biologically different, and by nature interdependent, Tiger worries about the “new world” in which men and women are expected to be the same, as interchangeable individuals rather than interdependent pairs. “Both men and women must play separately by the same rules rather than together by different ones.” (137)
But why separately? “It is almost easier to sever the most fundamental of human connections [marriage] than to install a Coke sign in a landmark part of town.” (115) No-fault divorce transforms even married mothers into single mothers, pseudo-empowering women to go it alone and men to leave them alone. Only 18% of single mothers receive child support from the father. Nearly 50% of Manhattan residents and 70% of central Oslo residents live alone. “The family effectively becomes almost a subset of society rather than the central system of society itself.” (107) Even families that remain intact outsource what historically have been the family’s most efficient achievements: childcare, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Half of American meals are eaten outside of home, and many of those eaten at home are “carry out” from elsewhere. The same two-income social structure that enables such tasks to be hired out also prevents spouses from having time to do them for themselves. Of course, this also means that husband and wife, parent and child are not doing such tasks for or with one another.
Men, meanwhile, recognize their lost ability to provide gainfully for a woman and their children. Some give up trying. Others labor in dissatisfying jobs, which they acquire only after tough competition against other men and women in an environment where affirmative action preferences female applicants. “The most challenging test to industrial communities,” projects Tiger, “will be to provide acceptable and gratifying occupations for young males and the adults they become.” (190) The decline of males has been especially sharp among African Americans, among whom 40% to 50% of young men are unemployed, and 7% of men spend part of their lives in jail. But the challenge is much broader. “How many men of any race or ethnic group can confidently assume they will, like their fathers, be able to support a spouse and several children in a seemly manner on their own check?” (170)
At the root of this all is a biological imperative: “Who will raise the children?” In Tiger’s evolution-assumed analysis, “it is best to begin with the mammalian fact that small children should be raised by their mothers. This is Mother Nature’s plan.” (260) Still, he does not suggest that people should be trapped by their genetic coding; rather, he urges that choices should be made in conformity with biological reality: if many mothers decide to remain at home with their children … this should be treated as an adult choice by empowered people, not a distasteful primordial legacy.” (263) He also wants women to feel free to remain unmarried and childless, pursuing independent lifestyles if they prefer. However, he argues that such independence should be truly independent, not bolstered by affirmative action—particularly now that 55% of college students are women anyway.
But whether women work, or stay at home to raise their children, or creatively develop a combination of both, is not Tiger’s principal concern. He simply suggests that children are best raised by their parents, and young children by their mothers, and thus he raises a red flag about a society that so causally has adopted the post-family normalcy of a single woman laboring (often by caring for other people’s children) in order to finance childcare for her own children. “No zookeeper would have Monkey Mother A take care of Monkey Mother B’s baby and vice versa,” but current welfare policy encourages precisely this arrangement for humans (264). Why not instead provide welfare payments for stay-at-home single mothers?
Better still, why not identify ways to foster greater responsibility among males, so that husbands and fathers can acquire gainful employment and fulfill responsibilities to women and children? Of course, responsibility implies interdependence, and interdependence is quite at odds with the sort ofindependence the pill promised women and men half a century ago. Could it be that such independence has prompted men to retreat from family responsibilities? Tiger thinks so, and warns that human society is regressing to a matrilineal chimpanzee lifestyle in which females mate with multiple males, none of whom maintain close ties to mother or child.
What he mistakes for evolutionary regression, Scripture identifies as original sin—the rotting away of our divinely fashioned human nature. For a full remedy to the epidemic of fatherlessness in America, one must look far beyond the social science of Lionel Tiger to the Bible’s testimony of the forgiving God who comes to earth to restore His fallen creatures. One must look to the gospel of Jesus Christ, concerning whom the prophet Malachi wrote, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
*Carl E. Braaten, “Sex, Marriage, and the Clergy,” Dialog n.v. (n.d.): n.p., as quoted and discussed in Norman A. Madson, “How Should a Pastor Deal with the New Morality?” Lutheran Synod Quarterly 21, no. 3 (1981): 32-47, at 35.
Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson is the founding president of The Hausvater Project. He lives with his wife Marie and their children in Mankato, Minnesota, where he teaches American history, history of science, and bioethics at Bethany Lutheran College. For more information, visit www.ryancmacpherson.com.
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, October 26, 2015
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted October 22, 2015, at crisismagazine.com.
Let’s face it: The 2015 Synod on the Family is a mess. I was one who gave Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt. I now have my doubts about him. And I have no doubt at all that some of the men surrounding him are either heretics or lunatics or both.
The real question for us as lay people is this: what exactly can we do about it? We do not have full information about what is going on over there. Giving advice to cardinals and bishops is not likely to work. Screaming at them even less so.
As faithful lay people, we believe all that the Church has taught about marriage, family, and human sexuality. We do not want to see the Church water down that teaching, or surrender to the Sexual Revolution. It would be tragic indeed, if she did so now, right at the moment when the wisdom and beauty of her ancient teaching is becoming daily more evident from experience.
So what are we, as faithful lay people, to do about this? What has the best chance of cutting through the noise and having an impact?
To answer this question, let’s back up a minute. The Sexual Revolution has harmed millions of people. Just to take one of the issues most immediately before the Synod: divorce and unmarried parenthood.
We now know that kids are not “resilient.” They do not “get over it.” We know this from decades of careful research. We know if from experience. In fact, according to Judith Wallerstein, author of a 25-year study on the long-term legacy of divorce, the impact of divorce on children does not diminish with time. It “crescendos” in young adulthood, as they try to form relationships and marriages and families of their own.
Kids need their own parents. I learned from my experience as an adoptive mom, a foster mom, and a birth mom, all kids want the same thing. They want their parents to be there for them, and be appropriate parents. No matter how old the kids are, no matter what their parents have done, all kids of all ages, long for their parents to get it together and be good parents.
The Sexual Revolution has taught us that adults are entitled to have the sex lives they want, with a minimum of inconvenience. What we never hear anyone come out and say is: “And kids have to accept whatever the adults chose to give them.” You don’t usually hear people blurt out that last part, because we would be too ashamed of ourselves.
The Sexual Revolution promised fun and freedom. It delivered hurt and heartbreak. With the possible exception of a handful of predatory Alpha Males, everyone in society has been harmed: men, women and children, rich and poor alike.
I will let you in on a secret: the reason kids keep getting separated from their parents is because the victims, the kids, are not allowed to speak for themselves. As children, their parents expected them to accept whatever was going on around them, without complaining. And children, eager to please their parents, fearful of losing the parents’ love, kept quiet. Even as adults, the children of divorce and the children of unmarried parents, are expected to keep quiet, and go along with the program.
Silencing the victims has been crucial to the success of the Sexual Revolution. If you doubt me, consider these facts:
The solution is for all the victims of the Sexual Revolution to speak up, and tell the truth about how they were harmed. Telling that truth is the first step away from being a victim, to becoming a survivor. Anyone of us can take that step.
What does this have to do with the chaos over at the Synod? Most of the bishops know perfectly well that the Church’s teachings are good and humane. But they too, have been reluctant to speak out, and to preach this good news. Why? Because they are afraid of us, the laity!
True enough, many faithful people have been trying to support them all along. But look at it this way: if the souls wounded by the Sexual Revolution were visible, we wouldn’t be having this fight at all. All decent people would abandon the Sexual Revolutionary ideology in a heartbeat.
While it is awful that so many people have been harmed by the Sexual Revolution, we are undaunted. We are turning that very horror into an advantage: millions of us can testify about the false promises of the Sexual Revolution.
The elites in media, academia, law, and government cannot silence all of us. If everyone who has been harmed by the Sexual Revolution spoke out about it, we would change the world.
And eventually, even the most reluctant of the Catholic bishops might get the hint that the Church has been right all along, and find the courage to say so.
(Illustration credit: Sturt Krygsman)
Posted on: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
by Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director
How savvy are you about step-families? Do you understand the structural similarity between step-families and same-sex marriage? Take the Step-Family Quiz to test your knowledge.I created this quiz as an engaging way to help defenders of marriage understand the cultural blind-spot that we have about step-families. Of course anybody is welcome to take it. But it is geared towards those who believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. By the end it should become apparent why I have focused on marriage defenders. There are five questions and their answers, plus a bonus question at the end.
1. Which group was the first to claim there is “no difference” between the intact family founded on natural marriage and other family structures?
2. When was that claim first made, and what form did it take?
3. You may recognize the following photo as being from a famous TV show:
If you do, set that aside for a moment and pretend you are a casual observer. You notice this family at church, at a restaurant, or at a sporting event. Can you tell if this was an intact family, or a step-family? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.
4. One of these families is an intact family. The other is a step-family. Which is which? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.
5. One of these families is an intact family. The other is a step-family. Which is which? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.
Here are the answers:
2. Early 1970s with the TV show, “The Brady Bunch.”
3. It is a step-family. There are no visual clues to help the casual observer discern that this is a step-family.
4. In the first photo, we see two men as the parents. Since two men cannot procreate together, that is the visual clue that this is a step-family. The taller man is the natural/legal father of both children. I believe the girl was adopted during his marriage to the boy’s mother. The other family is an intact family.
5. We see a man and a woman in each photo. Since men and women can procreate together, it is harder for a casual observer to discern which is which. The first is the step-family. The second is the intact family. (Yours truly is the child in the second photo–that’s my first family.) In the first photo, all of the children are the woman’s from a prior marriage.
6. From the child’s point of view, what is the structural difference between the two step families shown in questions 4 and 5? Most marriage defenders argue against the former quite vehemently and are largely silent about the latter. But from the point of view of the child, how different are they? Here are the photos again:
Answer: from the child’s point of view, they are not as different as might be imagined. Consider these similarities:
Might these similarities explain why the younger generation favors same-sex marriage? Perhaps their experiences (or the experiences of their friends) do not match our rhetoric. By not embracing arguments that defend the rights and legitimate entitlements of children, are we missing an opportunity to reach the younger generation? Given that 1,000,000 kids annually experience their parent's divorce, I think so.
How did you do? Thanks for taking the quiz!
I may continue to address the cultural blind spot we have in regards to step-families. Have not decided. If I do, then this will be the next installment.
Either way, after that we will examine the actual structure of step-families, with diagrams. This will make it clear that they are not remotely same as intact families.
After that, we will explore how the widespread acceptance of the step-family structure has weakened our ideas of “mother and father,” how it has weakened the idea of “two” parents for children, and the way these dovetail with the structural changes required to embrace same-sex couples into the institution of marriage.
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