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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: Wednesday, June 17, 2020
As part of its 2020 Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution (July 17-18), the Ruth Institute will offer exclusive training at its “It Takes a Family to Raise a Village” Ambassador’s Conference on July 17, 8:30 AM to 4 PM, in Lake Charles, LA.
Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., explained, “We’ll train leaders and activists to counter the more toxic aspects of the Sexual Revolution -- to help them expose and oppose an ideology masquerading as a social justice/health campaign.”
The topics to be covered include:
Understanding the Global Sexual Revolution: Christian Anthropology, History and Social Systems – Building a society around Christian anthropology promotes human rights and human flourishing. Presented byDr. Morse.
Medical Tragedies of the Sexual Revolution – Traditional Christian Sexual Morality promotes good health. Presented by Dr. Michelle Cretella, MD, Executive Director, American College of Pediatricians.
Social Science Evidence about the Sexual Revolution – Social science research about post-abortion trauma, same-sex parenting and children’s needs for their parents. Sophisticated social science research supports Traditional Christian Sexual Morality. Presented by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D.
Human Rights Catastrophes of the Sexual Revolution: Population Control and Demographic Winter – Deviations from traditional Christian Sexual Ethics cause long-term, large-scale problems. Presented by Don Feder, JD.
Morse added: “The training will make participants knowledgeable and impassioned advocates for traditional Christian morality in the face of the Sexual Revolution.”
Participation at the Ambassador’s Training is by application only and can be applied for here.
The Summit will also include the Ruth Institute’s 3rd Annual Awards Dinner (July 17, 6:00 PM) and the main program (July 18, 8:30 AM).
Previous releases on the Survivors Summit:
All sessions will take place at Treasures of Marilyn’s in Lake Charles, LA.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 02, 2020
The Ruth Institute will hold its Third Annual Awards Dinner and Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution on July 18, in Lake Charles, LA. Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., said, “This Dinner and Summit will take those who’ve suffered from the Sexual Revolution from victimhood to healing, empowerment and activism.”
The event will be held live, in accordance with the gradual reopening guidelines for the state of Louisiana. Morse said, “We are not cowering in fear, wondering whether we will have a future. We will comply with all public health guidelines in place at the time. But we want the public to know that we at the Ruth Institute are filled with hope for the future. We will act as if we have a future.”
The Awards Dinner Friday evening kicks off the festivities. The Institute will give awards for activism and public witness, including a keynote address on How the Sexual Revolution Hijacked the Women’s Movement. The Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution on Saturday includes these sessions:
Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse – Statistical analysis and strategies for healing, including testimony from survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including clergy sexual abuse.
Surviving Pornography Addiction – Understanding pornography as a public health crisis, and offering strategies for protecting children.
Surviving the LGBT Sub-Culture – Including health and psychological risks commonly associated with same-sex sexual activity and gender dysphoria.
Morse added: “Last year’s Survivors Summit was an overwhelming success. This year, we’ll be hearing expert input and testimony from survivors on a new range of issues associated with the Sexual Revolution.”
“The Ruth Institute is the only organization fighting for the family and exposing the interconnectedness of such diverse issues as divorce, pornography, sexual abuse, gender dystopia, the LGBT movement and the sub-cultures it’s spawned.”
Morse concluded, “Our Third Annual Awards Dinner and Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution will be about healing, hope and unity.”
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization leading an international interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love.
Jennifer Roback Morse is the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives.
To schedule an interview with Dr. Morse, contact email@example.com.
Posted on: Thursday, May 28, 2020
Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., said the United Nations’ attempt to make language more politically correct is “another advance for the Sexual Revolution and a further descent into barbarism.”
A UN bureaucrat recently tweeted that we need to make language more “gender-neutral” by eliminating the words “husband” and “wife” and substituting “spouse.” Morse noted, “Who controls the language controls the debate.”
“I warned ten years ago during the marriage debates that a necessary consequence of removing the gender requirement from marriage would be de-gendering marriage,” Morse said. “No more ‘husband and wife,” only gender-neutral ‘spouse’ or ‘partner.’”
Morse asked how far this will go. “This process also includes replacing the words ‘father and mother’ to the gender-neutral ‘parent.’ The words ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ become the generic ‘child.’ The end goal of the Sexual Revolutionaries is to remove all references to sex from law and custom.”
Regarding the UN tweet: “There was never a vote to switch from husband and wife to spouse, not even in the UN, where such a vote might have passed,” Morse said. “And there was certainly never a popular referendum on the question. Very few of the ordinary people who supported same-sex marriage had any idea that they were de-gendering marriage. Proponents of the Sexual Revolution are adept at infiltration and subversion of unaccountable bureaucracies.”
Morse urged: “Don’t let them get away with it. Once we start purging the language of gender-specific words, there’ll be no end to it. Each victory
will whet the Revolutionary appetite for more. Today’s gender-confused children are, in part, a consequence of our gender-confused law and language.”
Posted on: Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Educating yourself is the first step in fighting the effects of the sexual revolution in your life and among loved ones.
The Ruth Institute is hosting its Third Annual Awards Dinner and Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution, and you're invited.
Learn how to confront and survive trends in transgenderism, the LGBT subculture, the pitfalls of population control, post-abortion trauma, same-sex parenting, childhood sexual abuse, and more.
The summit will include various sessions loaded with information. Have you ever wondered, for example, how pornography is affecting people’s lives? The Summit’s class “Protecting Our Children from Our Pornified Culture” will open your eyes. These and other facts about pornography will be discussed:
For this and many other well-researched presentations, save the date:
July 17-18, 2020
Posted on: Monday, October 14, 2019
Writing in Public Discourse, the Journal of the Witherspoon Institute, Fr. Paul Sullins, a Senior Research Associate with the Ruth Institute, analyzed a new study which conclusively refutes the notion that some people are born homosexual. (“Born That Way” No More: The New Science of Sexual Orientation, September 30, 2019.)
Ruth Institute Founder and President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. commented: “In this article, Fr. Sullins continues his important work debunking the myths of the Sexual Revolution. Previous highlights include the myth of ‘no difference” between children of same sex parents and mother-father couples and the myth that clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church has nothing to do with homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood. Now Fr. Sullins is among the few who are willing to draw out the conclusions from this latest study: homosexuality cannot be genetically innate. There is no gay gene.”
The study was released last month by a team of scientists at MIT and Harvard. Fr. Sullins writes that they found “that the effect of the genes we inherit from our parents (known as ‘heritability’) on same-sex orientation was very weak.” But “a person’s developmental environment which includes diet, family, friends, neighborhood, religion and a host of other life conditions – is twice as influential on the probability of developing same-sex behavior or orientation as a person’s genes are.”
As Fr. Sullins reports, the study notes, “'There is certainly no single genetic determinant (sometimes referred to as the gay gene in the media)' that causes same-sex sexual behavior.”
Morse adds: “The study, whose conclusions Fr. Sullins describes incisively and with clarity, will have a huge impact in a number of areas, including anti-discrimination cases, and bans on behavior modification therapy.”
More on “Born That Way” No More: The New Science of Sexual Orientation:
thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/09/57342/ and papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3464342
Fr. Sullins, who was an Episcopalian priest, is now a married Catholic priest; he earned a Ph.D. from Catholic University in 1997.
Besides his work for the Ruth Institute, the Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., is a Research Professor of Sociology and Director of the Leo Initiative for Catholic Social Research at the Catholic University of America. He has written four books and over 150 journal articles, book chapters and research reports on issues of faith and culture, including “Is Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse related to Homosexual Priests,” in the National Catholic Bioethics quarterly, Winter 2019.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 03, 2019
The findings of a study of the genetic basis of homosexuality published last week in the journal Science explode the false narrative that being gay is an innate condition that is controlled or largely compelled by one's genetic makeup.
Rebutting decades of search by LGBT scientists for a "gay gene", the study's first author flatly concludes "it will be basically impossible to predict one’s sexual activity or orientation just from genetics”.
This is putting it gently.
The study found that a person's developmental environment--the influence of diet, family, friends, neighbourhood, religion, and a host of other life conditions--was twice as influential as genetics on the probability of adopting same-sex behaviour or orientation. The genetic influence did not come from one or two strong sources but from dozens of genetic variants that each added a small increased propensity for same-sex behaviour.
A genetic arrangement based on a large number of markers across the genome means that virtually all human beings have this arrangement, or large portions of it. In other words, not only did the study fail to find some controlling gene for gay identity, it also established that gay persons are not genetically distinct from all other human beings in any meaningful sense.
Gay persons, we might say, have a perfectly normal human genome.
Proponents of LGBT normalization, which includes the publishing journal and mainstream media reporters, have tried to put the best face on this result. As if the issue were tolerance of gay people's lifestyle choices, the New York Times quotes one of the authors saying, “I hope that the science can be used to educate people a little bit more about how natural and normal same-sex behaviour is”. LGBT activists declared that the study "provides even more evidence that being gay or lesbian is a natural part of human life".
Indeed, the study found that genetic propensity for same-sex behaviour is not very different from that of 28 other complex traits or behaviours and is related to a propensity for other risk-taking behaviour such as smoking, drug use, number of sex partners or a general openness to new experience.
But the longstanding and emphatic claim of gay activists in law and public policy has not been that same-sex activity reflects upbringing or lifestyle factors, but is an inborn difference that is discovered, not developed; a distinct and fixed element of a person's nature that is unchangeable.
Emotionally and sexually, same-sex orientation is not a matter of who persons choose to become, they have claimed, but who they already are.
A linchpin of the evidential basis for the US Supreme Court decision sanctioning same-sex marriage, for example, was that same-sex orientation reflected an "immutable nature [which] dictate[d] that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment." (Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, p. 4).
And the point of conflict for tolerance today is not so much for people who want to identify themselves as gay or lesbian, but for people who want, for themselves personally, to avoid or resist such an identification.
On the grounds that they would be denying their immutable nature, numerous legislative and judicial efforts are currently underway to outlaw voluntary therapy for or deny the legitimacy of adults who experience some level of same-sex attraction but do not want to engage in same-sex relations or identify themselves as gay or lesbian.
In the very jurisdictions where persons with same-sex orientation are now free to identify as gay and to engage in same-sex marriage, LGBT ideologues are working to deny the same persons the freedom to decline to identify as gay and to engage in opposite-sex marriage, on the premise that they would thereby be doing violence to who they really are.
This study pulls the rug out from under such thinking.
If gay and lesbian persons are genetically normal, what basis is there for considering them a distinct, protected class subject to preferential treatment under the law or for prohibiting other genetically normal persons from refusing to engage in same-sex behaviour?
The study finds that most persons with the identical genotype as gay or lesbian persons (by an approximate ratio of 2 to 1) end up, for various reasons of social environment or development or personal principle, not engaging in same-sex relations. Shouldn't such persons have equal freedom and legitimacy to do so?
In a free society that values personal autonomy, it is not an appropriate function of law to penalize personal lifestyle choices, no matter how vehemently some may disagree with them or politically incorrect they may be. If it ever did make sense on the premise that gay persons were born that way, in the absence of such a compelling genetic difference, it is impossible to reasonably maintain that tolerance of homosexual behaviour requires intolerance of heterosexual behaviour.
In light of these implications, some of the scientists involved in the study, who are themselves gay, have publicly opposed its publication. Strikingly unaware of their own bias, they expressed concern that the study findings would be "misconstrued" to "advance agendas of hate".
In less heated language, they are concerned that it might be interpreted in ways with which they disagree. For them, the benefits of increased understanding of human behaviour in this area did not outweigh the perceived negative political implications of the findings for the expression of gay identity.
The lead authors of the study, some of whom are also gay, are to be commended for resisting the impulse to suppress scientific evidence for the sake of political expediency. Although sadly often violated today, the conviction that the dissemination of evidence and ideas should not be censored by political considerations is fundamental to modern science.
While we can dispute, hopefully with mutual respect, who may be being hateful to whom in their interpretation of the results, in the end we will all find our best modus vivendi on the basis of policy and law that reflects solid objective evidence, honestly presented, as this study exemplifies.
Or as a wise man once said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free".
Rev. D. Paul Sullins recently retired as Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC. He is a Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute. Dr. Sullins is a leader in the field of research on same-sex parenting and its implications for child development. He has written four books and over 100 journal articles, research reports, and essays on issues of family, faith, and culture.
Posted on: Monday, February 26, 2018
Dear Dr. J:
My brother just announced he would be getting married to his boyfriend. They have been together for approximately ten years. My parents and brothers
raised their glasses to his plans and seem to be congratulating them. As a Roman Catholic with my principles of natural family and natural marriage,
how should I react about him getting married and what should I do when he invites me to his wedding?
Should you go to the wedding? In a word, no, you should not. They may ask you, "Would you go to the wedding of a divorced person who was remarrying?" The correct answer is, "No, I would not. They are entering publicly into an adulterous union. I would not go." If they reply, "But you went to Uncle Harry's second wedding and didn't say a word," the proper answer is, "I was wrong to do that. I should not have gone."
The longer-term question is: how do you maintain good relationships with these people and other family members who are going along with their plans to marry? This is the larger challenge.
Take every opportunity to show them love and compassion. Include your brother and his friend in activities whenever you can do so in good conscience. For instance, you can have them over for dinner, or go out to a show with them. These are not intrinsically "coupled" activities. You should invite them whenever you can. If they say no, that is ok. You have done your part. You can send them each birthday cards or Christmas cards.
If they want to argue with you about why you didn't go to the wedding, I suggest you decline to participate. Ditto if they want to argue about related topics, like the Church’s teaching on sexuality, unless you have reason to think they are sincerely interested in what you have to say. If they just want to argue, your answer is a polite, "No thanks."
Keep praying for them. Your time with the Lord will gradually reveal other specific ways in which you can show love to your brother. Eventually, the
Lord may show you an opportunity to explain the Church’s teaching in its fullness. Or maybe the Lord will place someone else in your brother’s
life who can share it with him.
Thank you for your question.
Posted on: Monday, February 12, 2018
New York is sacrificing a child's best interest in favor of "marriage equality."
By Jennifer Roback Morse
Published on February 9, 2018, at The Stream.
A little girl in New York is in foster care, even though her father is a perfectly fit parent. The court will not even recognize him as her father. How is this possible, you ask?
The little girl’s mother is in a same sex union. The girl is in foster care, because of neglect petitions pending against both the mother and her lover. The five-judge panel agreed that the fact that the child was in foster care was “relevant” and “concerning.” They nevertheless denied the father’s request to prove his fatherhood.
In the court’s logic, this man “merely donated sperm, belatedly asserting parental rights.”
In other words, he is not a father unless we say so.
The news stories about this case focus on its implications for “Marriage Equality.” The Daily Beast story has a sub-headline: “judges rule in favor of marriage equality over biology in case of 3-year-old girl.” A Canadian paper, The National Post describes the case this way:
Without legal advice, Christopher and the women drew up a contract in which he waived any claims to paternity, custody or visitation, and the women waived any claim to child support. But troubles arose, and they disagreed on Christopher’s access to the child … In April 2015, Christopher went to court, seeking an order for a paternity test, and later for custody of the child.
The Post is not too clear on what “troubles arose.” We get a clue, from the court documents (page 18), which The Daily Beast cited only in passing, that the child has been in foster care for a lengthy “period of time” since the 2015 hearing.
Perhaps this explains why he “belatedly asserted parental rights.” Maybe he saw what the child welfare authorities eventually saw. These women were neglecting the seven-month-old child.
Christopher volunteered his sperm as a “humanitarian gesture” to two women who were family friends. He evidently absorbed the Grand Gay Narrative that assures us:
If the Grand Gay Narrative is true, a man might logically conclude that donating his sperm could be a “humanitarian gesture.” He might well believe that agreeing in advance to stand down from active fatherhood was a fine thing to do, costless to himself and his child, and beneficial to these two women.
The problem is that the Grand Gay Narrative is false. Biology does matter. Both parents and children care about their biological connections. Being raised by a same sex couple does present risks to kids, compared with being raised by one’s own biological parents. The people who say otherwise base their opinion on highly suspect, cherry-picked data, from small unrepresentative samples. Frankly, most of it is highly publicized junk science.
Neither of these women has pulled herself together enough to have the little girl returned to her care. I was a foster parent in San Diego. I know that child welfare agencies try to give parents every opportunity to reunify with their children. If the child has been in foster care “for a lengthy period of time,” these two women must be bad news. Christopher was trying to be a nice guy in 2014 when he donated the sperm. He has been trying to be a responsible father since April 2015 when he first petitioned the court.
Isn’t this how we want men to behave toward the children they sire?
The five-judge panel was not interested.
We believe that it must be true that a child born to a same-gender married couple is presumed to be their child … A paternity test for an outsider, who merely donated sperm, belatedly asserting parental rights, would effectively disrupt, if not destroy, this family unit and nullify the child’s established relationship with the wife, her other mother. Testing in these circumstances exposes children born into same-gender marriages to instability for no justifiable reason other than to provide a father-figure for children who already have two parents.” (emphasis added.)
News flash to the judges: a child in foster care is already “exposed to instability.” Is letting her father be involved more disruptive than foster care?
The court’s ruling does not protect the child’s best interests. Their ruling circles the wagons to protect the Grand Gay Narrative.
“Marriage Equality” advocates assured us that removing the gender requirement from marriage was only a matter of making same sex couples the legal equivalent of opposite sex couples. This case shows that “Marriage Equality” creates a whole round of new inequalities. Some fathers are permitted to be involved in their children’s lives. Others are not: the law actively blocks Christopher from his own child. Some children have a legally recognized right to their fathers. Others, like this little girl, do not.
She only has the parents the government allows her to have. And that is way too much power for any government.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 28, 2017
by Fr. Mark Hodges
AUSTIN, Texas, May 22, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Two bisexual women and one man proclaim threesome marriage “should be the future of relationships” and that their threesome parenting is “setting a good example.”
Adam Lyons, 36, lives openly with two women, 28-year-old Brooke Shedd — with whom he has a two-year-old son, and 27-year-old Jane Shalakhova — who is eight months’ pregnant with his third son. He already has a seven-year-old stepson from yet another relationship.
“Three parents are better than two,” Lyons told the New York Post. “It enables us to manage daily life so much better.”
He says he notices “normal” two-person couples are often exhausted and struggle to keep up with work and children. “With three people, it’s logistically so much easier. … We share out the responsibilities, and it fits our sexual preferences too.”
“This should be the future of relationships, where people are able to enjoy love in any way they feel works,” Lyons advocated. “Three people and three parents makes so much sense to us.”
The unmarried polygamous arrangement has been going on for five years, which proves, Lyons says, “we’re a real family with healthy, happy kids.” All three say they are “setting a good example” for Lyons’ stepson, Oliver.
All three also admit they occasionally bring in a fourth sex partner. “We’re still open to fun when it comes along,” Lyons said. “We do sleep with other people outside the three of us” and “if we wanted to add someone, I’m sure we could.”
“We still make time to go to strip clubs together,” Shalakhova happily added. “We just hang out and have fun there.”
Shedd hints at a possible future political front in the culture wars. “I would definitely love to get married to Adam and Jane. It’s something we’ve always wanted, even though it’s not legal.”
Shedd says one thing is certain. “We definitely want a few more kids.”
Pro-marriage and family advocates say the threesome are in delusion.
“This is a form of child abuse, pure and simple,” National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown told LifeSiteNews. “A child has a mother and father … period. To introduce an additional sexual partner into the home is to create confusion and chaos for an innocent child.”
Brown said this proves what opponents of homosexual “marriage” knew all along.
“We predicted that this would be the next step with the court creating the legal fiction of same-sex ‘marriage:’ This is a further step down the path of sacrificing children’s real needs to the sexual desires of parents.”
“I pray for the children who are being robbed of their innocence in such a home,” Brown added.
Dr. Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, expressed concern to LifeSiteNews over a lack of stability for the children.
“From a social scientific perspective, this is an inherently unstable arrangement — and we know stability is good for children,” the professor explained.
“Adding children to the ‘mix’ is likely to destabilize the (polyamorous) arrangement, whereas it often functions to unite a marriage between a man and a woman,” Regnerus observed.
Jennifer Johnson, the Ruth Institute’s director of the Children of Divorce Project, has seen the damaging effects of non-traditional family structures on children.
“These adults have created a structural inequality for the children and are celebrating it,” she explained to LifeSiteNews. “This is very typical for adults in our culture, who place their sexual liberty ahead of family structure equality for their children.”
“Family structure equality means that kids are raised with their own married mother and father, and that they don’t have step and half siblings to contend with,” Johnson illustrated. “Mom, dad, kids. That is equality from the child’s point of view.”
Johnson’s book, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children, notes:
“Children are observant. Any school-aged child can see which of them live with their own married parents and which do not. They can see that some kids know and are connected to both halves of their origins, and others are not. If a particular child thinks or feels something about the inequality in which he finds himself, his thoughts and feelings may not be welcome. This is because they cannot be welcome. To welcome those thoughts and feelings might cast doubt upon the structure of the family itself.”
This inner disconnect is most often only acknowledged years later, once the damage is done to the child.
“For example, the now-adult children of unilateral divorce are finding their voices and beginning to speak out,” Johnson said. “They were silent for many years because of not wanting to hurt their parents, feeling too afraid to reveal their true feelings, and feeling isolated.”
Johnson says the pain, insecurity, and inner conflict that adult children of non-traditional family structures witness to shows that polygamous arrangements like Lyons, Shedd, and Shalakhova’s are deeply harmful.
“They are now telling their stories, and what they have to say isn’t pretty,” Johnson said. “It will undermine the belief that ‘kids are resilient.’”
The current generation is cursing the coming generation with an unbearable psychological and emotional (and sexual) burden.
“I will not be surprised when all the other kids of other kinds of family structure inequality also grow up, find their voices, and tell the ugly truth about what it was like to have their own intact families sacrificed on the altar of sexual liberation,” Johnson added.
Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg pointed out that if Lyons’ “arrangement” is true, it confirms the many warnings of concerned Christians.
“Those of us who opposed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples were routinely mocked for making ‘slippery slope’ arguments suggesting that such eliminating the male-female requirement for marriage would lead to further redefinitions, such as eliminating the requirement that marriage be limited to two people,” the senior fellow for policy studies told LifeSiteNews. “The slope is proving even more slippery than I might have imagined.”
Sprigg echoed his pro-family colleagues’ concern for the children.
“Living in a household with their mother, father, and another woman they also refer to as ‘Mom’ is likely to create confusion about their place in the world,” he explained. “As they grow older, there may well be rivalries between the half-siblings who have different mothers — as is clearly seen in the polygamous families of the Old Testament.”
Furthermore, polygamous relationships are unstable, Sprigg says.
“This ‘throuple’ is even more likely to eventually break up than a typical married couple, which can cause lasting trauma to a child,” he said. “While they present a rosy picture in this article, it is almost inevitable that jealousies would arise in this situation.”
“That’s not to mention the destructive role model of self-indulgent promiscuity that these three are providing for the children in their home,” the family advocate added.
“I would think that it is not only conservatives who should be concerned about such an arrangement, but feminists as well,” Sprigg noted. “One rarely hears of a woman sharing a household with multiple male sexual partners. If this model were to spread, it would mean more men would have difficulty finding wives, and a surplus of unmarried men in a society is a recipe for instability.”
“The one-man, one-woman model of marriage is one of the most egalitarian social institutions,” Sprigg concluded, “because it maximizes the likelihood that everyone, regardless of social status, will be able to find a suitable mate.”
Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2017
A Child of Divorce Speaks Out on the Importance of a Family
Jennifer Johnson is Director of the Children of Divorce Project at the Ruth Institute. She is an author, whose interests include homeschooling (she homeschooled her three children), children’s rights and family structure issues. She has worked full time with the Ruth Institute since 2010, an organization founded by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse “dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown.”
Johnson’s most recently published work is “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.” She recently talked about divorce and its effect on her life.
What is your own personal experience of divorce?
I have a lot of experience with divorce, far too much to ask of any one person in my opinion. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos. By the time I was about 22, I had experienced three divorces: my own parents’ divorce and my dad’s two subsequent divorces. I am divorced as an adult and there is quite a bit of divorce in the rest of my family.
How did it affect you, and how have you been able to recover?
That is a whole story that I tell in my Special Report, “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children”. The short version is that I did not have a family; I was the lone member of my family. The family experience that I had was shared by no other person. I include diagrams in the report to show what I mean.
That experience taught me to suppress my true thoughts and feelings about the original divorce and the remarriages. That chaotic situation taught me to ignore my own intuitions, taught me that letting my intuitions bubble to the surface of my mind was dangerous. Had I examined and revealed my intuitions about all that to my parents, it would have jeopardized my already-tenuous relationship with them. Learning to ignore my thoughts, feelings and intuitions about things that bothered me made me extremely vulnerable once I became an adult. I joined a cult at the age of 19, had an arranged marriage there, and participated and endorsed some horrific abuse and exploitation of others so that I could fit in and not be thought of as an outsider. The cult appealed to my deep need for belonging, for being a full-fledged member of a family.
Anthropologists have a concept that applies here. It is called “liminality.” Limin is Latin for the threshold of a doorway. The threshold is not one room or the other. It is the in-between place between two rooms, or between the outside of the house and the inside. Liminality is the condition of being between states or statuses. Sometimes it is referred to as being “betwixt and between.” When somebody is in a liminal state, they are no longer what they were and are not yet what they will be. The old rules no longer apply, and the new rules do not apply yet.
When my parents divorced, I ceased to exist as a full-fledged daughter in my family, because my family ceased to exist. I never again entered a full-fledged status with either of them. Their divorce and subsequent remarriages pushed me into a liminal state from which I have never emerged. Joining the cult was my attempt to exit the liminal state, to become initiated as a full-fledged member of a family, even if it was an abusive family.
There have been many studies about the effects of divorce on children. What are some of the findings?
It’s bad. It is worse than the average person wants to realize. Divorce shortens people’s lives. That alone should get people’s attention. Plus it increases the risk factors for addictions, not finishing high school, getting divorced as an adult and losing contact with grandparents. Children of divorce report feeling a lack of empathy from their churches, and don’t go to church as much as kids from intact families.
“No fault” divorce came to California in 1969, and the rest of the country soon after. How do you think divorce has affected society as a whole?
In order to talk about society, we need to talk about the mechanics behind the changes of “no-fault.” No-fault changed an important legal presumption in marriage. A presumption is a starting-point, a place where we say, “Here is where we begin, and we can make adjustments to individual circumstances from this place, but we need a beginning point so we always begin here.” Prior to no-fault, the legal presumption, the legal beginning point, was that marriage is permanent. It was viewed as a truly life-long commitment and the family courts honored this, at least in principle. Of course, there was divorce and separation prior to no-fault, but the presumption of permanence was honored by the courts. In order to get a divorce, that presumption had to be overcome by demonstrating why the marriage had failed. Such circumstances included adultery, addictions and abandonment.
No-fault changed the legal presumption. Now marriage is no longer legally presumed permanent by the family courts. The courts get involved in the minutia of family life at the behest of one spouse. One spouse has the power to harness the family court to destroy the family, like wielding a sledge hammer, and the family courts must comply. They no longer side with the family, giving preference to its legitimate claim on wholeness. They side with the person who wants to destroy the family. If the other spouse wants to keep the family together, that person has no legal remedy. The divorce will be enforced in all cases if one spouse wants it.
In this respect, no-fault divorce is like abortion. That might sound like a dramatic claim, so let me spell it out.
In both cases, the State sides with one person (the pregnant mother, the petitioner in a no-fault divorce action) to uphold or enforce the action that the person wants (the abortion, the no-fault divorce), while simultaneously providing no legal defense for the other person (the unborn child, the respondent in the divorce action). The individual who wants the action (of the abortion or to be divorced) must be “freed” from every restraint that he does not explicitly want. Even if he chose the restraint at a point in the past, if he changes his mind, then the State’s duty is to free him from it if this is what the individual wants.
In February, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput published a book called, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. He makes this same point when he says: “Without the restrains of some higher moral law, democracy instinctively works against natural marriage, traditional families and any other institution that creates bonds and duties among citizens. It insists on the autonomous individual as its ideal.”
Thus, as a society, we believe that the State’s duty to the individual is to annul or at least modify his familial obligations whenever he chooses in order to free him.
I’ve heard it said divorce may be a necessity when “the 3 A’s” are involved: addiction, abuse and adultery. Do you agree?
This is a complex question since it touches on a variety of issues. We can talk about it from the State’s perspective or the perspective of individual families. Taking the State’s perspective, we might ask: what is the State’s role in divorce? Should the State be involved? If so, at what point? I would say that yes, there is a role for the State, but to restore some semblance of justice in divorce we need to restore the legal presumption of permanence. I do not know how that should be done. Should we go back to some sort of fault-based system that relies on “the 3 A’s”? Should we at least eliminate the unilateral aspect of divorce and require both spouses to consent to it? I would say yes to both of those questions.
We can also consider the perspective of individual families. Perhaps somebody reading this article is experiencing one or more of those things right now. It is difficult to give blanket advice since each case is unique. Even so, I have heard many reports about couples who recovered from adultery. For addiction issues, help can be found through groups such as Al-Anon.
The good thing about the old fault-based system is that somebody was legally culpable. This person was then penalized by the courts. This deterred bad behavior. For example, if the child is not living with that person post-divorce, then this makes sense. Children should not be living with addicts or with abuse, especially when their other parent is not there to serve as a buffer.
What might you say to couples with children considering divorce when less serious issues are involved?
That triad of your family matters a great deal. It matters to your children, to all of the people around you, and to your grandchildren and the rest of your posterity. So try harder to work things out. I know you’re tired and you probably want to go find somebody else. But your kids need you there, at home. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your situation will beat the odds for your kids. Are you willing to implicitly tell them that you don’t want to live with them for half of their remaining childhood? Because that is what you will be communicating to them if you split up. Do you want to throw away their sense of being your full-fledged child?
You will continue to have a relationship with your spouse even after the divorce, and you will have less say-so in the lives of your children than you do now. Your ex-spouse might bring undesirable people into your children’s lives, and your children will feel pressure to accept and love those people. Some spouses resort to parental alienation tactics, which means that you run the risk of losing all contact with your children for a very long time.
Please do not make the child live in “two homes.” Do not break up their daily life like that. Consider keeping the family home, letting the children live there full time, and getting a small place nearby that you share with your ex-spouse. Each of you takes turns going back and forth between the family home and the other place. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then please reconsider making your kids do the same. Apply the same standard to your children that you want applied to you.
What help/advice would you offer children of divorced parents to help them recover?
I don’t have any magic words here. Healing is an ongoing process. The first steps were the hardest for me:
I recommend my reading my book for more details about all of these concepts, plus many diagrams that make it easy enough for a child to understand.