Ruth Speaks Out

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

A Letter to God From a Child of Divorce

By Jennifer Johnson

This article was first posted at on

Dear God,

Will you please tell book publishers to stop publishing books about “two homes” for children of divorce? Every time I see one, I want to scream. I know those authors and publishers think they are performing a needed service, but in reality they are whitewashing an extremely painful experience that never ends. Please tell me You understand what I’m saying because it seems to confuse everybody else. Let me explain. Take this quote, from I Am Living in Two Homes, by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones:

It’s a grownup choice, through no fault of your own. Your dad and I are happier in two different homes.

Notice the word “choice.” It reminds me of “pro-choice.” “Choice” has been awfully hard on recent generations, Lord, don’t You agree?

Who is weaker, Lord: children or adults? I always thought children were weaker, but this book makes me feel like I was supposed be the strong one and sacrifice my happiness for the sake of my parents’ happiness. Isn’t that backwards, Lord? It seems like the older generations had a lot more family unity than more recent ones. Looking back, you can see that their parents sacrificed their “choices” in favor of their children.

Lord, I am reminded of what you said in Matthew 18:

Woe to the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to the man by whom the offense cometh.

I love my family, Lord, very much, and I know You do too, but frankly, I’m offended. Very offended. In important ways it’s not their fault so please don’t be mad at them. When professionals who know better are silent, how can the normal people who listen to their advice be blamed? The psychological, psychiatric, and medical communities have abandoned people like me by not speaking out to defend the natural family, even though they know it is the best environment for children. My entire culture has gone off the rails by propagating beliefs like these:

  • “Kids are resilient.”
  • “Babies are blank slates.”
  • “Kids can and do thrive under any number of family configurations.”

“The Sexual Revolution has blinded adults to the structural inequalities they are creating for their children. They have all embraced ideas of “freedom,” that are very heavy and burdensome for children who grew up like me and have to live with adults’ “choices.” For a long time I have tried to be a trooper and carry the burden as well as I could, Lord, but I am tired. So very tired.” It hurts so badly that my dad spends more time with his step-children than he does with me, and my mom had created a new family that I am not fully part of. Worse, I can’t say anything about it because I’m afraid of their reaction. And what good will it do? Will they get back together if I speak out? How can they get back together when they are already remarried with new families? I figured out a long time ago that there is no escape, and it makes me profoundly sad.

In addition to the professional communities mentioned, almost all of the Christian churches have abandoned me. Even my own church, the Catholic Church, the only Church that upheld the fullness of Your teaching about marriage and human sexuality in recent decades, is considering it. Will You please talk to the Catholics, Lord? I need somebody to go to bat for me. If they abandon me, where will I go? Children don’t have any money to put into the basket on Sundays. Let their tears be an offering instead, OK?

This verse in Your Word at Psalms 56:8 gives me comfort:

You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

In the meantime, publishers need to know that we don’t need any more books whitewashing children’s pain of living in “two homes.” In fact, we need the opposite: we need books that encourage adults to live in “two homes” so that their children can live in one home. Yes, the children should live in one home, and the adults should be the ones to pack suitcases every week and make the back-and-forth trip. I’d appreciate it if you’d let them know that this is what they should be doing, instead of pushing that burden down to their children. I think this would wake them all up as to how heavy of a burden it really is.

Here is another thing we children of divorce can never understand: if one of my parents is too awful for my other parent to live with, then why am I packing my suitcase to go and stay at the awful person’s home on a regular basis? If they are so awful, then I shouldn’t be going there. Since I am going there regularly, then this means that they can’t be that bad. Either that, or I am being put into harm’s way.

Finally, Lord, will you please ask someone to write a book or make a movie telling adults that it is okay to stay together for the sake of the kids? I would be very grateful for that, and I know that other kids of divorce would too.


An adult child of divorce who has been struggling with the aftermath for over four decades
Jennifer Johnson is the Associate Director for the Ruth Institute.

The Church Has Been Right on Divorce All Along

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first posted at Crisis Magazine on January 27, 2016.

I would like to weigh in on Ross Douthat’s on-going dialogue with theologians employed at nominally Catholic institutions. Like Douthat, I am not a theologian. However, we don’t have to be theologians in order to be good Catholics or people of good sense. I think us “amateurs” can contribute two very solid points that the theologians sometimes seem to overlook. We can point out that Jesus was and is the Son of God. And we can point out that he was correct about divorce. We cannot make these two points too often.

Anyone who is blathering about Jesus being limited by his knowledge and his social context, does not really believe that Jesus is God. Such people are not Catholics or Christians of any kind. I don’t care whether they teach at an institution that calls itself Catholic. Jesus is who he claimed to be. If he wasn’t the Son of God, he was a fraud or a nut-job. As C.S. Lewis pointed out years ago, the so-called “moderate” or “middle-ground” is completely illogical.



Even if one does not accept the claim that Jesus was and still is who he claimed to be, we can evaluate the soundness of his teaching about divorce. I believe the evidence shows that he was correct about divorce. The American experience with no-fault divorce since 1968, proves this beyond any shadow of a doubt.

No-fault divorce removed the presumption of sexual exclusivity within marriage. When adultery is no longer considered a marital fault, who benefits? The adulterous partner. Think about that: the law takes sides with the adulterous party. The so-called “exception” clause in Matthew 19 is completely irrelevant. No serious person of any Christian denomination believes that Jesus intended to allow an adulterer to run off and remarry their new sweetie.

No-fault divorce also removed the presumption that marriage would be permanent. This harms children. We know this from a vast amount of social science evidence. The committed Sexual Revolutionaries are well aware of this evidence. They are also aware that the continued “progress” of their movement requires that none of its negative consequences be reported or even acknowledged.

So we take the kids to therapy. We give them medication. We have chipper features like “Blended Family Friday” to celebrate positive stories.

After forty years of this, the kids can now speak for themselves. The adult children of divorce number in the millions. I have lost track of how many people have told me, “Dr. Morse, you are the first adult I have ever heard say that divorce is hard on kids.” At the Ruth Institute, we have a blog called “Kids Divorce Stories.” When we give the children of divorce a chance to speak, we get an earful.

Of course, Jesus foresaw all this. In Matthew 19, verses 3-9, is his well-known and much-analyzed dialogue with the Pharisees about divorce. But the scene shifts in verse 10. The disciples exclaim, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”

I like to imagine what went through the mind of Jesus at this point. Being the Son of God and all, he could instantly picture millions of intimate moments for millions of people across time and space. In the split second between the time the disciplines whined at him that this was too hard, and his reply, Jesus may have pictured the wounds that children would experience from the loss of their parents’ love for each other.

He saw the little flower girl at her mother’s remarriage, silently heartbroken: her mother’s remarriage means her mother and father will never get back together again. Jesus saw the teenaged boy, watching his mother have a parade of boyfriends through the house. The boy is simultaneously protective of his mother and disgusted with her.

Jesus saw boys and girls going back and forth between their parents’ homes, never feeling completely at home in either place. Jesus saw their mother and her new husband having new children together. He saw them hang the photos of their new family on the wall. Jesus saw the hidden pain the children of the original marriage would feel when they see those photos, and never see photos of their complete family in either parents’ home.

Yes, in that split second, Jesus knew perfectly well that his new commandment for marriage was revolutionary. And he saw that it was good.

He basically told the disciples, “You’ve got your choice. Lifelong fidelity to one woman or lifelong celibacy. Get over it, buckaroos.”

I know that many people have gotten divorces that they regret. I realize that many spouses did not want to get divorced in the first place. I know many of these people are wounded, and perhaps bitter. The Church knows it too.

The Church has something for all of us: the confessional. Go to confession, even if you were the wronged party, the abandoned spouse or the innocent child. The grace of the confessional helps us let go of our woundedness, and move forward in love. After all, Jesus wants us to love even those who have harmed us. He gives us the grace to do what may seem to be impossible. And of course, if you yourself provoked an unjustified separation or loss of love between yourself and your child’s other parent, you absolutely need to go to confession.

In short, the Church is far more reasonable and humane than her self-styled “progressive” opponents. This is the deepest reason that the Church should not change its teaching: the teaching is good. The evidence is all around us.

The Catholic Church is the only institution that has even attempted to stand up to the modern Sexual State. Even the Catholic Church has not done enough to provide justice to the millions of abandoned spouses and children in our country, as Stephen Baskerville has pointed out multiple times on this site. It would be tragic indeed, if the Catholic Church abandoned her ancient and still-relevant teaching, at the precise moment that it is obvious she has been right all along.


More than two Parents: Not so New and Not so Enlightened

From the United Families International blog on July 16, 2014.

by Diane Robertson, featuring quotes by Ruth Institute's Jennifer Johnson.

child sad 2

In 2013 California made it legally possible for children to have more than two parents. More states will surely follow suit. The diversity-in-family-structure-loving-liberals think this is enlightened. They’re working hard to bring society out of the dark ages of Married mother and father families into the “Brave New World” of many parents.

Except this idea isn’t so brave and isn’t so new. Some children have already had a similar experience through divorce and they are speaking out. The Ruth Institute is collecting stories from children of divorce. As it turns out divorced couples, remarried couples, step families, broken families, and shared custody don’t actually feel so enlightened to the children who grew up in these situations.

One such personal story, told by Jennifer Johnson, illustrates what it actually feels like growing up with 5 parents. Johnson’s parents divorced when she was about three. Her mother remarried once and her father remarried twice. Johnson explains what her life was like growing up with five parents:

“it means going back and forth between all those households on a regular basis, never having a single place to call home during your most tender and vulnerable years. It means having divided Christmases, other holidays, and birthdays–you spend one with one parent, and another with the other parent, never spending a single holiday or birthday with both parents. Imagine having each of your parents completely ignore the other half of you, the other half of your family, as if it did not even exist. Meanwhile, imagine each parent pouring their energy into their new families and creating a unified home for their new children. These experiences give you the definite impression of being something leftover, something not quite part of them. You live like that on a daily basis for 18+ years.”

So why would so many adults push for this type of family brokenness and even make it possible for many adults to have legal control over a child? It’s called selfishness. Adults want this so they can have children and have sex with whoever they please and at whatever stage of life they wish. They want this sort of life legal so their partner can make medical and educational decisions for their children. They want convenience for themselves, but not their children.

Johnson writes about a woman, Masha Gessen, a prominent LGBT activist, who grew up with a married mother and father and speaks frankly about how her children have 5 parents. Gessen bemoans the fact that there, as yet, isn’t a way for her children to have all of their parents legally:

“I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”

Johnson’s replies to Gessen simply calling out the truth of the matter:

“If what I had is so great, then why don’t they want it as children? Here’s my conclusion: they want it as adults but not as children. They want the benefits of the socially conservative family structure when they are children. But as adults, they want sexual freedom, or at least they want to appear ‘open minded’ and ‘tolerant’ about others sexual choices, even at the expense of children, even though they themselves would never want to live under what they advocate. It’s a bizarre sort of a ‘win-win’ for them, I guess.”

Children don’t need more than two legal parents. Society doesn’t need diversity in family structure. All children and all of society needs responsible adults who marry before having children, work daily on a loving relationship and together raise their children in stable, happy homes. It can be done and would be the source of a truly “enlightened” society!


Remember Our Children

Nov 12 2015 - America Magazine | Jason Adkins, Jessica Aleman, Richard Aleman, Mary Jane O'Brien

Finding hope in the church’s ‘hard teachings’ on marriage and Communion


A child attends a special Mass at Mission San Miguel in San Miguel, Calif., May 16 (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec).

Now that the Synod on the Family has concluded, Pope Francis is expected to issue a report, and perhaps an apostolic exhortation, based on the synod’s final recommendations. One of these recommendations is to discern what forms of “exclusion” experienced by divorced and civilly remarried couples can be overcome. Pope Francis has communicated that certain changes in pastoral practice are necessary with respect to how the church treats adults in these irregular marital situations.

As the church goes forward in a process of discernment, the church should be attentive to the voices of the numerous children affected by the divorce culture and the sexual revolution. By doing so, the church may better recover a truly pastoral approach that seeks conversion of heart, growth in Christ’s love and “accompaniment” of all souls.

Although no one should be indiscriminately marginalized from the life of the church, not inviting those who have divorced and remarried to Eucharistic Communion is the path most consistent with both justice and mercy, especially for the children living in and trying to cope with an irregular union of a parent.

In a general audience address on Aug. 5, Pope Francis made comments indicating that the church needs to adopt a different posture toward the divorced and remarried precisely out of its concern for children. On the situation of children he said:

If we then also look at these new bonds through the eyes of the young sons and daughters—and the little ones watch—through the eyes of the children, we are aware of a greater urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities. For this reason it is important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes, always be attentive to people, starting with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer the most in these situations.

Pope Francis rightly calls us to consider the needs and well being of children. Some of his comments, however, also seem to suggest that children are harmed by the current practice of excluding their divorced and remarried parents from receiving Communion. This notion is mistaken. A change in pastoral practice concerning the divorced and remarried will not only have the practical effect of diluting the church’s life-giving teachings on marriage and sexuality; it will also be unmerciful and unjust to the children of those who are in irregular unions, since it is those children who suffer the most from their parents’ choices.

A Wounded Generation

We write as members of the so-called divorce generation: children who were born and grew up as divorce laws were liberalized, making divorce more socially acceptable. Each of us has been personally touched by divorce, with parents who themselves have divorced and/or are now living in irregular unions. We are part of a generation of walking wounded. While our experiences are different, we all continue to cope with family fragmentation and sexual brokenness playing out in our own lives or in the lives of family and friends.

An overly solicitous pastoral approach, rooted in an abstract conception of mercy, will deeply undermine the church’s evangelical credibility. It fails to appropriately accompany the children of those who have divorced and remarried.

Many of these children are angry and confused as to why their parents turned their lives upside down, even while they continue to put on a “brave” face due to fear of abandonment or letting their parents down. These children are carrying this baggage well into adulthood as they struggle to find stability, trust and love in their own relationships.

Contrary to what some comments by certain synod fathers and the Holy Father seem to imply, relationships fail and divorce happens in many cases primarily because of the willful choices of adults. Indeed, the failure of relationships is often due to the unwillingness of one of the spouses to love and sacrifice to the extent required by the vocation of marriage.

Given this reality, proposals that the church should invite those in irregular marriages to receive Communion, even after some act of penance or discussion with a priest in the “internal forum,” would dismiss the needs of children in order to satisfy the desires of adults. It confuses the little souls that the church is responsible for forming. It communicates that divorce is not a big deal, which would have ripple effects in the church’s pastoral practices and in our homes. And it should come as no surprise when a child, watching as the church “sides with” the adults who are, often, the very ones who have caused such great hurt in his or her life, grows up skeptical of the moral authority and evangelical credibility of the church.

What children need is for the church to stand with them and to speak the truth about what their parent or parents have done. As Catholics, we understand that God’s judgment is a sign of his mercy and love, especially the judgment of those actions that have destructive consequences for the people we love. Lest we forget, encouraging repentance and reparation for our wrongs toward others is for the good of our souls and for the well being of those around us.

And this brings us to our main concern. We are not bitter young people who fear change or want to see parents in irregular unions punished. On the contrary, we love our parents and want them to go to heaven. As the church is the instrument of healing for broken and wounded souls, we pray that by being excluded from the Eucharist they will recognize the gravity of their sins and seek repentance.

We do not believe, however, the church can fulfill this responsibility by papering over sin under the guise of mercy. Mercy and love must be lived in truth. If they are not, they become merely patronizing sentiments and ultimately do not have the effect of bringing people closer to Christ. To be a true field hospital in battle, we must come with medicine, not just bandages.

Based on our own experience, as well as observing our peers of all stripes and backgrounds, we have found the clarity of the church’s witness on questions of marriage and sexuality, including the theology of the body, to be transformative, life giving and healing. From those with same-sex attraction to those caught up in the hook-up culture, the splendor of the truth—coupled with friendships and relationships that help people live this truth and explore paths of healing—can give new life.

Boldness Bears Fruit

We were initially discouraged by both the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, and the proposal from Cardinal Walter Kasper to create a penitential path to Communion for the divorced and remarried without a decree of nullity. Neither seemed to have in mind or to be rooted in the experiences of the countless victims of divorce and the sexual revolution, including the many young men and women who have experienced hope and healing from the “hard sayings” of the church’s moral teaching.

Whether the “Kasper proposal” is still considered a viable option after the synod or whether it has been effectively dismissed, it remains critical for the church to listen to the voices of the divorce generation. Should Pope Francis and the synod fathers widen the discussion and the discernment process, they could consider research from family scholars who have identified the ways in which cohabitation after divorce and second marriages are often deeply harmful for children. (See articles here, here, here, here and here.)

Likewise, they might consult the many stories Jennifer Roback Morse is collecting from the victims of divorce and the sexual revolution. The stories are quite painful, and showing greater attention to them will perhaps shake us out of our current stupor of minimizing the harm and evil of divorce.

Today, the church needs more clarity, not less. Divorce is an act that breaks apart families, neglects children and harms the community. When compounded with adultery, it is an affront to the sacrament of marriage and to the plain words of Christ, and it merits exclusion from Eucharistic Communion. Either we believe that Christ and his teachings are the way, the truth and the life, or we do not. Greater fidelity and boldness, we believe, bears great fruit, while false compassion undermines the church’s evangelical credibility.

Pope Francis rightly wants us to go forth into the peripheries and share the joy of the Gospel, yet we are spending enormous amounts of time and energy fighting another intra-church battle over settled matters. This battle, in itself, indicates that there remains a critical need to clarify the proper mode of evangelical engagement. Going to the peripheries with love and mercy means willing the authentic good of others; but to will the authentic good means to first know what constitutes the good and to be willing to proclaim it. When we go to the margins of society, we must do so while remaining always in the truth of Christ.

Jason Adkins, Jessica Aleman, Richard Aleman and Mary Jane O'Brien write from St. Paul, Minnesota.


World Congress of Families speakers lament sexual revolution, family breakdown


This article was first Published at The Salt Lake Tribune on October 29, 2015, and last updated October 31, 2015. 

On the third day of the World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City, stirring speeches about assaults on the family from the government and media, costs of the sexual revolution, and the urgent need to protect religious freedom rang through the Grand America ballroom.

The family was "ordained of God," the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said in a plenary session of the international gathering Thursday morning. "In essence, it is the heart of God by which we experience the fullness of God's glory."

The idea of the family "does not stem from a political ideology," said Rodriguez, who ministers to a multiethnic evangelical congregation in Sacramento, Calif., "and I don't believe the U.S. Supreme Court has the power and authority to redefine it."

Close, loving families led by a mother and father provide, he said, the "antidote to poverty, gang violence and economic disparities. ... It is a God-ordained firewall against so many ills."

An attack on the institution, Rodriguez said, "is an attack on communities that need it most."

Jennifer Roback Morse added her voice to the chorus of worried Christians, sounding the alarm about the aftermath — and victims — of the so-called "sexual revolution."

Morse — who was named one of the "Catholic Stars of 2013" along with Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and others — was so troubled by what she sees as the decline of marriage that she launched the nonprofit Ruth Institute in 2008 to raise awareness about the costs.

The list of those victimized by the family breakdown includes children of divorce, children of unwed mothers, women who have been abandoned and children of same-sex couples, she said. "Men, women and children have been harmed ... by the lies [about marriage]."

Society's view of sexuality "is a totalitarian ideology," the Catholic scholar said. "Even [its] most ardent opponents don't know how insidious the revolution is."

Morse then challenged the gathering to speak against sexual freedom and its consequences.

"We are up against powerful people in our world," she said, "but Bill Gates and George Soros do not have enough money to silence all of us."

The Rev. Paige Patterson, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, tackled the topic of religious freedom.

It began, he said, when God created the first couple — Adam and Eve.

"God could have created automatons," the Baptist preacher said, "but our progenitors were created with the freedom to reject God or honor him."

The Constitution's First Amendment outlaws any government-established religion and forbids limits to the "free exercise of religion" — unless the state has a compelling interest to do so.

"Those concerned about the future of the family can no longer lend support to any candidate who doesn't vigorously support the First Amendment or is seeking to impose restrictions on religious freedoms," he said. "All such [office seekers] must be resisted."

Without religious freedom, Patterson said, "all other freedoms become relatively meaningless."

The Utah gathering wraps up Friday. The 10th World Congress of Families is tentatively scheduled for May 16-18, 2016, in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.


Society victimized by divorce

by Francis Michael Walsh

This article was first published October 3, 2015, at Pacific Daily News.

On the very week that the Catholic Church sponsored a World Meeting of Families, the PDN published a column extolling the virtues of Guam’s divorce laws. We were told by the correspondent that the divorce laws in Guam are a win-win situation. “In my opinion,” he writes, “the law provides an important service to Americans living abroad while at the same time safeguarding the process against the type of abuses that existed under the old law. This is a win-win situation for Guam and for those who otherwise would be stuck in dead-end marriages.”

The family as a social unit is under unprecedented attack today. That attack is aimed at the heart of the family, the marriage. The forces that are driving the culture today want us to think that divorce is a “win.” Thus, divorce is an answer to marital problems (when all else fails, of course, and you are stuck in a dead-end marriage, as if there were such a thing), and it should be made accessible to all (no-fault divorce) and socially acceptable by all.

Without an intact marriage, there is no family that can perform the essential task of socializing the next generation. What is that task? To put a conscience into every child before it is too late.

Jennifer Roback Morse has summed it up very well: “The basic self-control and reciprocity that a free society takes for granted do not develop automatically. Conscience development takes place in childhood. Children need to develop empathy so they will care whether they hurt someone or whether they treat others fairly. They need to develop self-control so they can follow through on these impulses and do the right thing even if it might benefit them to do otherwise.”

They also need the experience of being loved so that they don’t have to waste their adult lifetime looking for love, but can move on to do the loving of someone else.

Without a family built on an intact marriage, we are all in trouble. The children are at risk to emerge from that broken home poorly socialized. They have no one to love them by showing them what love really is — seeking the good of the other. Instead, all that they have seen are parents whose marriage has nosedived in their frustrated search to get someone to love them.

Marriage is the brainchild of God and is built into the structure of the universe. According to this plan, the union of a man and woman in a lifelong commitment of self-giving love was envisioned as the best way that human life could optimally be passed from one generation to the next. There are some, however, who have thought that they had a better idea.

One of these “better ideas” is the illusion that the solution to a troubled marriage is “to call it quits and file for divorce.” This is also called no-fault divorce (with its implied promise of marital and familial happiness). According to this idea, marriage should now be reconfigured to be a personal choice that can be ended at will by an individual who no longer considers himself bonded to anybody. The reality backfires because when one is completely free at will to walk away from a commitment if things do not work out to one’s complete satisfaction, no one can ever give himself away in love to anybody.

The victims of the divorce scam are multiple. They begin with, but do not end with, those who you choose that option. Your life then becomes segmented: my first wife, my first life; my second wife, my second life, etc. These victims of the sexual revolution no longer have a life that is one love story from beginning to end. Their story instead becomes the tale of their frustrated search to find the right person who will love them.

The other victims include the children who never learn the value of self-sacrifice. As Morse rightly observes: “A free society needs people with consciences. The vast majority of people must obey the law voluntarily. If people don’t conform themselves to the law, someone will either have to compel them to do so or protect the public when they do not. It costs a great deal of money to catch, convict, and incarcerate lawbreakers — not to mention that the surveillance and monitoring of potential criminals tax everybody’s freedom if habitual lawbreakers comprise too large a percentage of the population.”

Eventually, the whole of society is victimized by divorce. When these damaged souls enter the educational system, they come with their home problems and are not prepared to cooperate with teachers. The greater dysfunctional homes there are, the greater will be the dysfunctional schools.

Prisons, then, become the only way to segregate the misfits, but there is a limit to the number of lawbreakers with whom a society can deal before it itself becomes dysfunctional.

Imagine, as we were asked to do in a column on these pages (recently), that “for any number of reasons, your marriage has taken a nosedive and both you and your spouse realize that it’s time to call it quits and file for divorce.” I submit it is insane to try to solve one problem by creating the conditions for another. If your marriage is in a nosedive, the problem is not the other. Emotional systems (and marriage is an emotional system) do not work that way. To believe that problems are in any one person is scapegoating. Problems are between people. We all have our part to play.

By caving into the demands to make Guam a divorce mill, our legislators have shown they are willing to contribute to a much greater social problem. We need a serious discussion on what constitutes a family law system that is family-friendly. The present one is definitely not.

Francis Michael Walsh is with the Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores Catholic Theological Institute.


Laity Should Act When Clergy Won’t

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first posted October 22, 2015, at

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.

  • About 1 million children per year have experienced their parents’ divorce, every year since 1972.
  • Over a million children have been born to unmarried parents, every year since 1988. In 2008 alone, 1.7 million children were born to unmarried parents.
  • By 2010, about 20 million children were living in single-parent households.
  • These are just the children in the United States. Many other developed countries have similar rates of family brokenness.

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 state of California just passed legislation requiring pregnancy care centers to announce that they do not do abortions, and to post signs telling women where they can get abortions. Why? The Revolutionaries cannot stand the thought of women seeking alternatives to abortion, or regretting their abortions. Women who do not fit the “narrative” must be silenced.
  • The Huffington Post has a regular feature called “Blended Family Friday.” Their stated purpose is, I’m not making this up, “Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!” Is there a comparable site for children of all ages who were miserable in stepfamilies? To the best of my knowledge, the Ruth Institute’s Kids Divorce Stories is the only thing remotely like it.
  • How about all the career women, who put off having children for too long? I estimate that there are over 500,000 women with Masters degrees or more education, who have impaired fertility. What does the Sexual Revolution have to offer them? Commercial third party reproduction, a complete separation of sex from love and reproduction, is supposed to make up for all the losses we experience.

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.

This is what I wanted to say to a fellow child of divorce

by Jennifer Johnson

I just came across this article, written by a young adult whose parents divorced when she was 16. Her name is Talia Kollek. She is defending divorce and advocating for more divorces. I wanted to post this as a comment under her article, but for some reason I didn't have the heart. So instead I'll post it here, in an expanded form, because I think it makes an important point about the hall of mirrors that children of divorce may live in.


I am a child of divorce myself, and appreciate what you are trying to do. You want people to be happy and I get that. But there are a few things here that are either factually incorrect, or they seem to be incorrect assumptions you are making. For example:
  • Divorce is contagious. Your neighbor's divorce, and your parent's divorce, does impact you.
  • The divorce rate is going down.
  • Bringing up abusive situations is really a straw man. I don't know of any marriage or divorce policy organization that advocates for people to remain in abusive relationships. In your case, you don't mention that one of your parents was abusive. And it doesn't sound like they were.
  • No fault divorce means unilateral divorce. The government takes sides with the spouse who wants the marriage the least. Every single day innocent people lose their children, their homes and their savings and yet have not been convicted of any wrongdoing.
  • Divorce harms children for the rest of their lives. It is not a benign or neutral event, nor is it a one-time painful shock that recedes a couple years after the divorce. For example, compared to their peers raised by their married biological parents, children of divorce don't graduate from high school or college at the same rates, they have higher mortality rates, they are more likely to engage in early sexual activity, more likely to suffer from drug or alcohol abuse... the list goes on.
  • The social science is clear that family disintegration due to the death of one spouse is far easier for children to endure than when it is due to divorce.
So why the advocacy for something that is demonstrably harmful to not only children but innocent spouses? I think, oftentimes, children of divorce live in a hall of mirrors, unknowingly created by their parents and society. We are expected to accept divorce--indeed, we are forced to accept it if we want to remain in a good relationship with our parents. I think too that we realize that there is no hope for our family to be reunited, so we may feel like there is no use speaking out. We lost something very dear to us and we have every right to know why it happened and for our parents to tell us why it happened. But how many of us know why or agree with the reason? If we don't know or don't agree, then our love for our parents gets turned against us--we must endorse their sexual/marital/reproductive choices or else face disapproval or rejection.

Because we must endorse our parents sexual/marital/reproductive choices, we may end up advocating for more of the same, even though the social science is very clear about its harms. That is why I say it is like living in a hall of mirrors. We may end up looking at a reflection of reality, which is of course backwards from reality itself. It is very difficult to advocate for a family structure that makes demands on people, when authoritative people in our lives have rejected those demands. What might they think we are saying about them if we advocate for a family structure they rejected? Not only can this kind of advocacy be hard for the child of divorce, but I imagine that there are other situations where it is difficult as well. For example, such advocacy might be hard for those whose intact families would not exist except that somebody else's intact family was first destroyed by divorce. 

How do I know if this applies to you? In any particular case, such as yours, I don't know. But I do wonder if there is a broadly applicable dynamic at work. That's why I needed to say this. I am trying to understand why those who were subject to demonstrably harmful family structures later advocate for those very same structures.

Breaking the Sexual Revolution's New Taboos

By Jennifer Johnson

This article was first published June 30, 2015, at the Christian Post.

A taboo is a subject, word, or activity that is avoided because it is offensive or embarrassing. It seems to me that children who are not raised by their married biological parents are subject to a new kind of taboo. They are not encouraged to discuss what it is like to live in a situation where one or both biological parents were amputated from their lives on purpose. I'm thinking of the following kinds of people:

Children of divorce
Children of unmarried parents
Donor conceived children
Children in a "single-parent-by-choice" household
Some adopted children
Children with falsified birth records

In addition, there are others who live under the Sexual Revolution's new taboos:

Men, grandparents, etc., who had a biologically-related child aborted against their will
Children with an aborted sibling (or half-sibling)
Children with frozen embryo-siblings (or half-siblings)
People divorced against their will

All of these situations have become legitimate due to the Sexual Revolution, which was a cultural shift surrounding marital, sexual and reproductive choices that has transpired over the past 40-50 years.

Not only are these people not allowed to discuss any pain of living in those situations, our language does not describe the experience very well. If they do discuss problems they have, they are labeled as whiners or are diagnosed as having some kind of treatable mental illness. When these kids have problems with depression, for example, they may be said to "have issues." However, I think it's very possible that they are responding as a normal person would when living with stress, living with injustice, and living in a social environment that is inhospitable to the unique kind of pain caused by those situations.

The Sexual Revolution's new taboos mean that we must avoid offending people who believe in the new morality surrounding marital, sexual and reproductive choices. Also, offending those people goes against popular cultural beliefs such as:

"The kids will be fine if the adults are happy"
"Babies are blank slates"
"Kids are resilient"
"Freedom to choose is a woman's fundamental right"

Here is an example of what I mean. It's a message I received a few days ago from a child of divorce, copied here with his approval:

"I want to share my testimony online about my family upbringing. I can only do it if it is done anonymously, I don't think I can really share a very public testimony about the mistakes of my parents without guaranteed anonymity. In their own individual way, my parents are too sensitive to handle that kind of criticism."

This is an example of how the popular cultural belief of "Kids are resilient," has an unspoken corollary: "Your parents are fragile, so you are duty-bound to keep quiet about their marital, sexual and reproductive choices."

At the expense of their own feelings, people in those situations become responsible for maintaining their parents' (or others) feelings. To object to new kinds of marital, sexual and/or reproductive choices made by others is to break the taboo and to risk sanctions.

The Sexual Revolution did not remove any taboos. It only shifted them from one realm to another. Isn't it time we broke the Sexual Revolution's new taboos?

What do you think? Do people in those situations live under a taboo? If you were subject to one of the above situations, do you have complete liberty to talk about any pain you experienced because of it? If not, why not?

Jennifer Johnson is the associate director at the Ruth Institute.


I had Masha Gessen’s dream of five parents… and it sucked

By Originally posted June 25, 2014 by Jennifer Johnson.

Around March of 2013 I came across the words of a prominent LGBT activist named Masha Gessen:

I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.

Imagine having five parents! Here’s what it means: it means going back and forth between all those households on a regular basis, never having a single place to call home during your most tender and vulnerable years. It means having divided Christmases, other holidays, and birthdays–you spend one with one parent, and another with the other parent, never spending a single holiday or birthday with both parents. Imagine having each of your parents completely ignore the other half of you, the other half of your family, as if it did not even exist. Meanwhile, imagine each parent pouring their energy into their new families and creating a unified home for their new children. These experiences give you the definite impression of being something leftover, something not quite part of them. You live like that on a daily basis for 18+ years.

As a child, would you choose a family structure advocated by Masha Gessen? Does this look fun?

I don’t have to imagine, because I had five parents. I had five parents because my mom and dad divorced when I was about three; my mom remarried once and my dad remarried twice. So I had a mom and two step-moms, and a dad and one step-dad. In this day and age children can already have five parents. That’s how badly marriage has deteriorated already. The main difference between what Gessen advocates and my experience is that my step parents were not legal parents; she advocates for all of the adults in her situation to be legal parents.

Having more than two legal parents will be a nightmare for a child. Of course, I am making the reasonable assumption that the legal parents will not be living under the same roof, because there is no longer any societal accountability for adults to create a unified home for children. Thus, adding additional legal parents will create more disruption for children’s daily lives, more chaos, more confusion, less unity. And why are we doing this? So that adults can have the sexual partners they want.

Masha Gessen had a mom and a dad, so it appears that she benefitted from the socially conservative family structure--it appears she was not raised under the family structure she advocates. That sounds about right. I’ve talked to many people who think deconstructing the family in favor of adult sexual choice is a good thing… and these very same people lived under the socially conservative family structure with their one mom who spent her life with their one dad, and they all lived together in their unified home. Since I lived under the family structure they advocate, I will sometimes ask them: would you trade childhoods with me? They either say no or they don’t reply.

If what I had is so great, then why don’t they want it as children? Here’s my conclusion: they want it as adults but not as children. They want the benefits of the socially conservative family structure when they are children. But as adults, they want sexual freedom, or at least they want to appear “open minded” and “tolerant” about others sexual choices, even at the expense of children, even though they themselves would never want to live under what they advocate. It’s a bizarre sort of a “win-win” for them, I guess.

It’s very painful for me to have conversations with these people. They don’t understand what they advocate, and they don’t seem to want to understand.


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