Dear Dr. J: My niece is expecting twins with her same sex partner.

Dear Dr. J,

What do I say to a same-sex married lesbian niece whose mother (my sister-in-law) just left a phone message saying they “are expecting twins”? Congratulations just doesn’t seem right but it’s not the children’s faults. It doesn’t seem right to create a family rift over this but neither can I be happy about it. I have no idea who the father is, which of the females in the relationship is carrying the children, whose two-brides-wedding-ceremonyeggs were used, etc. Nor do I know if I will ever be told because the family knows I do not believe in gay ‘marriage’. I can’t just ignore this, but do I say nothing? What do I say when the children are born? Any kind of congratulatory words would come out as fake, & they would be falsely said.

Help!

T.

Dear T.

Your problem is becoming increasingly common. We are all figuring this hatched-by-2-chicksout on the fly. So, let me offer a few suggestions for you to consider.

  1. You cannot give people the impression that you approve. It sounds as if you have that covered.
  2. Your instinct that it is not the children’s fault is a sound instinct. Remember that God loves these children. He wills their existence, even if He does not will the circumstances of their birth. Pray for these kids, starting right now.
  3. You can, and should rejoice that new life is coming into the world. There is nothing immoral or wrong about you sending them a card, or a gift that the children would enjoy, or that they would enjoy. They are going to have problems, that is for sure. You don’t necessarily need to pile on. Reality will exact its own punishment.
  4. donor-family-treePray for wisdom to find an opening to be good friends to the adults, and eventually, to the children. A time will come when they will need friendship. But don’t push it. It may take years for this situation to unravel sufficiently that they see the need for friendship.
  5. In the meantime, pray to have all the sting of your disapproval removed from your relationship with these adults. They are beyond the point where you can talk them out of or into anything. They have chosen their path. You may be their only connection with Jesus. Don’t let that connection be soured. (No pressure!)

    anonymous-us-volume_2
    Real life stories of Donor Conceived Persons
  6. Don’t ask questions about the identity of the father/mother at this point. Your niece will interpret that as a hostile act. When the children are older, they may want to know.  You may be one of the few people in their lives who will honor the fact that they want to know. You may be their best source of support for the kids.
  7. Check out Anonymous Us. Read the stories there. I think the pain that the kids feel in these situations will become more real to you. You may also see stories from mothers who used donor sperm. You can see their thought process. All this will prepare you to be an empathetic friend when the time comes.

In general: keep your powder dry. Save it for when you really need it. There is absolutely nothing you can do right now to prevent this situation from unfolding. A time will come when you may be able to make a truly unique and valuable contribution. Prepare yourself for that time, through prayer and charity. Who knows? Maybe your preparation will allow you to help someone outside your family.

Your friend,

Dr Morserg_broch_children_donor_cover

PS: We have a couple of pamphlets that might be helpful to you (don’t even think about giving them to this couple.) Children and Same Sex Parenting, and Children and Donor Conception.

Do you have a question for me? Send an email to info@ruthinstitute.org.

The Tyranny of Lawlessness

The Amoris Laetitia crisis in the Catholic Church has many facets and unanswered questions. One question is: why are so few bishops and cardinals asking for clarification of the ambiguities in the document? Why are so few coming to the defense of the plain teaching of Jesus?

ignatius_of_loyola_militant
Ignatius of Loyola, former soldier, originator of the “servile” theory of obedience.
Over at Rorate Caeli,  John R. T. Lamont, DPhil offers a possible answer: too many Catholics have accepted a servile concept of obedience to authority.
The explanation lies in a false conception of religious authority, which considers it to be above the law rather than subject to law, and that sees the surrender of intellect and will to the religious superior as virtuous and indeed obligatory. This conception has deep roots in the history of the Church.

His argument is long and complex and I will not attempt to review it all here. But his bottom line is very much to the point of this blog.

This programme (of Pope Francis and his allies) does not intend to allow any divorced and remarried Catholics whatsoever to receive communion. Instead, it decrees that reception of communion is to be subject to the decision of the priest who gives it – a decision that is to be guided by considerations that are general enough to make the will of the priest in practice the determining factor. (my emphasis.) 

The programme is presented to the public as an increase in freedom for the divorced and civilly remarried. They will no longer be inconvenienced by having to get an annulment. Many of them will not go through the “process” of “accompanying” and simply give themselves permission to go to communion. (Let’s face it: many of them already are.) And since Amoris Laetitia does not actually establish a new process that defines “accompaniment and discernment,” it is easy to see why they would feel ok about giving themselves permission.
Oon the other hand, if a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic presents himself or herself to the priest in good faith, asking for “accompaniment and discernment,” there is no process or criteria in place to determine whether they can receive communion. This is when Dr. Lamont’s point kicks in with a vengance:
This replaces the divine law concerning marriage and the Eucharist with the authority of the priest, and enshrines the superiority of this lawless and therefore tyrannical authority over the authority of God Himself.

The priest decides, with no reference to any authority outside of himself.

divorce-decree-500-x-250
It looks so neat and tidy.

This is exactly comparable to the havoc that “no-fault” divorce created in American civil marriage and divorce law. Presented to the public as an increase in freedom for couples in “loveless” or “dead” marriages, the reality has been quite different. One party can divorce the other unilaterally, against the wishes of the other spouse. Quite often, the adulterous spouse seeks the divorce, and the law assists them.

No fault was presented to the public as a solution to the problem of legalistic, proceedings requiring one party to prove that the other was having an affair. The advocates of this far-reaching legal change did not seem to realize that these “sham” proceedings could only work if both parties agreed to make it work. The partners in the “dead” “loveless” marriage had to cooperate to make the court believe that one had met the legal criteria for a “cause” for divorce. The “loveless” partners had to agree to most of the terms going into the court, or they would not cooperate with each other.  Under the no fault regime, no one has to provide evidence of anything. One party can end the marriage against the explicit wishes of the other.

Family courts have become sources of tyranny in our culture, where the most powerful, the most vengeful, the richer systematically prevail over the weaker, gentler and poorer. Where the faithful spouse is at a disadvantage. God forbid the Church should replicate this form of “progress.”

But Dr. Lamont’s insight suggests that this is exactly what will happen. Under the interpretation of Church law inspired by Amoris Laetitia, the priest will have more, not less authority, because he will no longer feel himself bound by the annulment process defined by canon law. The more lawless divorced and civilly remarried spouses will give themselves permission. Those who most wish to follow Christ, will become the weaker parties, disadvantaged by the dismantling of legal processes.

french-women-rioting-for-bread
French women rioting for bread, during the Revolution

Looking across history and cultures, one can see this pattern: Lawlessness benefits the already strong, and harms the weak. The alternative to law is not freedom, but the Law of the Strongest.

Padres: please tell us the full truth!

In my line of work, people tell me their stories of family breakdown and heartbreak. I recently heard the following story. I will tell it in first person, roughly as it was told to me. My comments are in blue italics.

cryotanks-frozen-embryo-storage
Cryotanks for frozen embryo storage. Is this where you want your children to live for the foreseeable future?

“Like you and your husband, my wife and I went through years of infertility. We decided to try IVF. I was worried that a child created by us would not be fully a child of God. I went to a priest/mentor. He told me: “you are going to a lot of trouble and expense to create a child. The child will certainly be a child of God.” I breathed a sigh of relief. The priest relieved his immediate concern. The priest also said, “I have to tell you: the Church doesn’t want you to do this.” I couldn’t tell whether the priest gave him any reasons why the Church doesn’t want him to do this: all my friend heard was, “it’s ok.”  

“The IVF clinic told us that we should retrieve three eggs, fertilize and implant them, for the best chance of getting one embryo to implant successfully. Once my wife woke up from the procedure, the doctors informed us that they had retrieved 13 eggs and fertilized all of them. They had implanted 3 in my wife’s womb, as we discussed. But this was the first mention of any other eggs or embryos. Only then, did they ask us what we wanted to do with the “extras.” I have heard many similar stories of infertility clinics failing to tell the whole story. People desparate for a child do not always think clearly or listen completely. And the fertility industry does not always help them….

“I was in shock. Indeed. The man’s countenance visibly changed as he told me this part of the story. We decided to freeze them and deal with them later. 

“Only one of the babies survived, and she is now a teenager. I love her. I’m glad I have her. But I have agonized over those 10 frozen embryos ever since. Apologists for the Sexual Revolution might say that this man’s guilt is a problem created by the last vestiges of religion. I say that is a crock. He instantly and instinctively knew that something was wrong with freezing his children. After all, if the one that was implanted and carried to term became his precious child, how could her siblings, conceived at exactly the same time, and under the same circumstances, be any less precious? 

“My wife and I divorced. I am still struggling over what to do with our frozen embryos. I have met with other priests and counselors. I finally found one who said, “Stop calling them embryos. They are your children.” I knew immediatly that he was right. The priest gave him some genuine relief, by actually addressing the problem, not glossing over it. I don’t know about you, but I feel crazy when someone tells me “it’s ok,” when I know for a fact that it isn’t. The priest gave me an ethical path for what to do for my children. I still have to convince their mother. I don’t know if she will go along with it.”

I’m not going to share the priest’s counsel right now. I will save that for a different post. Today, I want to focus on one point: if that first priest had given him reasons to NOT do IVF,  this man would not have had these years of anguish.

It is true that he would not have had this particular daughter, conceived at this particular moment and in this particular way. And of course, we must never regret the child. Each and every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift from God.* But he and wife might have had some other experience of fatherhood and motherhood, some other way, on God’s good time and in God’s good way. Who knows? They might even still be married.

Priests and other authority figures need to tell people the whole truth. Sugar-coating is not helpful. Truthful words, spoken firmly before the sin actually occurs, could prevent the sin, and save the person years of heartache.

miserere-confession
Go to confession. Jesus is waiting for you.

Please Padres, Pères and Fathers: tell us the whole truth. We promise to listen and not give you a hard time.

And my non-clergy readers, please: if you are in a situation like this, go to confession.** Trust the Lord to put you in the right confessional with the right priest. Do not delay. Trust me on this. You are going to feel better.

* I spell this out in more detail in my essay, “You were loved into existence.” We give this essay away as a free premium for signing up for the Ruth Institute newsletter.

** Or as Fr. Z would say, GO TO CONFESSION!!!

 

The Guilty Conscience Problem

At the Ruth Institute, we have identified the Guilty Conscience Problem as the key to the Sexual Revolution. The idea is this: people who are plagued by a guilty conscience do not think clearly. They will go to great lengths to deflect attention from whatever is burdening their consciences.

If we are correct about this, (and I am convinced that we are,) then we will never be able to argue people into agreeing with our positions on social conservative issues, such as abortion or same sex marriage. Far less, will we get agreement on the more basic issues such as contraception, divorce and sex outside of marriage. People have participated in all these activities. When we say, “X is an immoral act,” all they hear is “Guilty, guilty, guilty.” All of their protective instincts come to the fore, and rational discussion ends.

cain_and_abel008
Abel looks toward God with awe. Cain looks toward Abel with envy.

That is why I was so taken with the First Reading at today’s Mass. The story of Cain and Abel clearly shows Cain’s guilty conscience, from the start. Genesis 4: 3-5.

Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” 

Why? Fr. Cormier explained: Abel brought the first and the best, while Cain brought the leftovers.

I had heard this before. What jumped out at me, was God’s speech to Cain in the next verse:

“Cain greatly resented this, and was crestfallen. 6 So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head.” 

God is reaching out to Cain, encouraging him to do better. He wouldn’t have done so, if He didn’t believe improvement was possible for Cain.

And then the real kicker in the second half of verse 7, where God warns Cain:

“‘but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master .” *

Temptation will always be with you. It even pursues you, crouching at your door. But God believes Cain can handle it.

However, Cain cannot bear to see his brother. Why?

The most logical answer: Cain knew he was wrong. Rather than accept God’s correction and invitation to closer union with Him, Cain removes the reminder of his sin from his sight. Cain murders Abel, and the rest is history.

survivor
Of course you do. Everyone knows a Survivor of the Sexual Revolution.

Most of us are not complicit in murder. Yet we often behave like Cain. We resist help, even from those who love us most, even when we know, deep down, that we are wrong.

If we are the ones trying to help, having a better, more winning argument will not do the job in this situation. Arguing can just drive the person further into themselves and further from you, from God and from the Truth. Have you noticed this?

At the Ruth Institute we are working at reframing the issues, so we can overcome this resistance. (For instance, see our page, “Are you a Survivor of the Sexual Revolution? Take this quiz.”) We identify the natural, harmful consequences that flow from sexual sins. We assure people that they have been greatly misled about these consequences, both natural and supernatural. Our hope is that through this gentle approach, we can lead them to a lasting repentance. We are having some success with this. Our Healing Family Breakdown Retreats address this problem too. Would you like to join us for the next one?

*(This translation is from the approved Lectionary. It does not accord exactly with any of the translations I’ve found on Bible Gateway. Maybe one of my Bible scholar friends can explain this to me….)

The Alinsky-ite Attack on Cardinal Burke

The Anti-Catholic Media have decided to go after Cardinal Burke, a wise and gentle man, greatly beloved by Catholics around the world. cardinal-burkeThe New York Times on February 7 and the Washington Post on February 9 published hit pieces on the Cardinal. Sandwiched in between was a Feb 8 Washington Post hit piece on Steve Bannon, that took an incidental swipe at Cardinal Burke.

I will not dissect these ghastly articles. Others have already done so. See Fr. Z. Carl Olson. Phil Lawler. Robert Moynihan.  I will add two points.

  1. Saul Alinsky in his (in)famous “Rules for Radicals,” (you know, the book dedicated to Lucifer. Go “look inside” at Amazon and you’ll see it.) gives rule # 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and rules-for-radicals-coverpolarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.” Evidently, Cardinal Burke is the current target.
  2.  Look at the comments to the Feb 9 WaPo hit piece. For the first 24 hours, the comments are all hostile to Cardinal Burke. After that, his supporters ride in to the rescue. Out of over 100 comments since Feb 10, I counted perhaps 5 that were hostile to him. (Fr Z’s readers, perhaps?)

My point is this: we need to go to these sites and stick up for Cardinal Burke. The attackers will not let up. Therefore, we must not let up either.

“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” And other naive questions about the “Women’s March”

women-protest-more-vaginas
Amateur Pix from the “Women’s March.” h/t Church Militant readers

One of my Facebook friends begins a post this way:

“Other than abortion, which would be contentious under any Republican president, which women’s rights are threatened by Trump?”

I was not surprised that the ensuing discussion produced more heat thanlight. For there is simply no way one can say, “other than abortion” in today’s political moment.

Abortion is the driving political reality of our time. It is the 21st century equivalent of slavery in the 19th century, the Holocaust in the early 20th century and the Gulag in the late 20th century. You either side with the weak against the strong, or with the strong against the weak. Those who pretend there is a middle ground are, quite simply, deceiving themselves.
“Other than abortion?” There is no “other than abortion.”
The women who march for abortion believe they are marching for their “rights.” If a child does not have a right to be born, no one has a right to anything. “But we need abortion in order to have access to jobs and equality and dignity.” The truth is that we can build a society that gives people jobs and equality and dignity without anyone ever killing an innocent person. It can be done. We could do it, if we had the will to do so.
As for abortion being a “women’s issue,” don’t make me laugh. How many predatory men are relieved that they can pressure their victims into having abortions so they can be excused from paying any consequences for their actions? Abortion clinics have a sordid record of not inquiring too closely into these kinds of situations. Crisis pregnancy counselors regularly hear these stories and try to help the women.
Does Planned Parenthood do as much? Just asking….

“Nobody told me it was wrong”

healing-family-retreat_postcard_front
Postcard, describing our most recent Retreat.

The Ruth Institute held another Healing Family Breakdown Retreat this past weekend. As I listen to people share their stories of family breakdown, a procession of past encounters marches through my memory. People tell me their stories, and not just at times appointed for this purpose, like the Retreat. I recall:

  • a college student in tears at our student conference: “Dr. Morse, you are the first adult I have ever heard say that divorce is hard on children.”
  • a middle-aged man whom I met at a party. He later told me that his mother (who had been married and divorced multiple times) recently revealed to him that she had had an abortion when he was in high school. The man was in shock over the loss of a sibling.
  • a woman in her sixties ran out of my talk at a conference. At the dinner that evening, she shared with me, that my talk stirred up the pain of her parents’ divorce.
  • a man who has been married and divorced twice, confided that he and his former wife had a child through IVF. The child is now a teenager. He has agonized for years over what to do with the 10 “leftover” frozen embryos. He would have to get the consent of his former wife, the mother of the embryos, for anything he might want to do. “When you are trying so hard to have a baby, they don’t tell you that you may end up killing babies.”
  • a couple on their second marriage, who had both chosen to sterilize themselves during their first marriages. Both were in tears, because they now wanted children with each other. They were Catholic and finally realized that the Church teachese that deliberate sterilization is sinful. “No one told me it was wrong,” they each said through their tears.

And that, for me, is the bottom line: no one tells people the down-sides of any aspect of our Brave New World. “No one told me it was wrong.”

Memo to priests and catechists: You are not hurting people to tell them “it is wrong.” You may be saving them from tremendous heart-ache. And incidently, you are doing your job.

Mr. President, you shouldn’t have included the green card holders.

Mr. President. trump-thumbs-up

I voted for you. I like you. I support most of what you have done in your first days in office.

But you should not have included the green card holders in the immigration Executive Order. It looks too much like a broken promise. That’s not your style, sir. It is not America’s style. I urge you to reconsider.

Your friend, (really)

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Happy Birthday, Father Schall

Catholic World Report published a tribute on Fr. James V. Schall on the ocasion of his 89th birthday, today.  It is fitting that was born on January 28, the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, for Schall is a great Thomist/Aristotelian. (I used to joke that Fr. Schall was on a first-name basis with Aristotle.)

I was never his student, at least not in the classroom. I met him at an Acton Institute conference back in the early 1990’s. We realized that we were more or less neighbors, as he taught at Georgetown and I taught at George Mason. We became friends and correspondents.schall-montage

And he was quite the correspondent. This was pre-internet. I would make a photo copy of something I had written and mail it to him. He would send it back, the next day, covered with comments. He would also send me a fat envelope with copies of his articles. He could write faster than I could read.

Most of our conversations included suggestions for books I should read. I generally came away with a list or 4 or 5. I cannot say that I read every one. But I can say that I benefited from every one that I did read. As he got older, the book lists got shorter. I wondered if that was because he was slowing down, or whether I was getting better read. In any case, he did his share to transform an economist with a technocratic training into the person I am today.

I also felt that he fully supported me in my vocation as wife and mother, something many of economist colleagues found mystifying or worse. One incident stands out in my mind. After a visit at the Georgetown campus, he walked me to my car. As I opened the car door, he noticed the toys, cheerios, and other assorted debris typcial of a car that routinely transports two pre-schoolers. I was about to become embarrassed by the mess. But he got an affectionate smile on his face, and said, “Ah, a family car.”  No more embarrassment for me!

One day, I received a phone call from an editor at the American Enterprise Magazine. He said, “I have a complete dossier on you, courtesy of Fr. Schall. We would like you to write something for us.”  This editor had been a student of Fr. Schall’s, who had been sending him fat envelopes with my stuff. And I’m thinking to myself, if he has done this for me, I bet he has done it for lots of other people too.

And he has. I was privileged to attend his Farewell Lecture on his retirement from Georgetown, “The Final Gladness.”  (You can watch it here. You will see the enthusiasm of the students before and after the talk.)

At the reception afterwards, I had a chance to talk with him. He asked me about my family and my work. He treated me as if I were the most special person there. I noticed that he treated every other person in the exact same way: as if they were the most special person there. The gift of a true pastor.

Fr. Schall is from the generation of Jesuits who were men of vast learning and deep sanctity. Many happy returns of the day, Fr. Schall. We love you.

Mr. President, I like you, but no torture, please

Mr. President. trump-thumbs-up

I voted for you. I like you. I support most of what you have done in your first days in office. Thank you for supporting the rights of the unborn, the least and most vulnerable among us. The taking of innocent life must be off-limits. Whatever good people think they are accomplishing by abortion, they could accomplish some other way.

So please, Mr. President, no torture. You have surrounded yourself with good and capable people. I am confident that with their help, you can find other ways to accomplish the good you think you will accomplish with the use of torture.

Your friend, (really)

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

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