EWTN interview: I’m on with Fr. Mitch about The Sexual State

This is the link to my interview with Fr. Mitch Pacwa on EWTN LIve on May 1, 2019.  Fr. Mitch had actually read the book, and did a very good interview with me!

Trip to Spain: I discover Ruth Institute Fans!

During my recent trip to Spain, I found that I have some fans over there. Pablo Gines, editor of Religion in Liberty, a Catholic news outlet,

Pablo Gines’ photo of me at the Universidad de Francisco Vittoria in Madrid.

had already translated one of my articles into Spanish. This is my book review of Scott Hahn’s The First Society, translated into Spanish. Mr. Gines added a chart to the translation, a chart I had not included in my original article at Crisis. So thank you for that, Pablo!

He also interviewed me.
Spanish-speaking Friends of Ruth, Please share this with your friends!
And please know: we are in the process of commissioning translations of some of our work. Stay tuned.

Adult Children of Divorce: Holiday Stress Relief Guide

Become Everybody’s Favorite Relative

I know a young couple who both have divorced parents. They feel obligated to drive from one house to another throughout the holiday season. The wife’s Mom can’t stand to be in the same room with Dad and his new wife. Ditto for the husband and his parents.

Sound familiar?

Los Angeles Traffic Thanksgiving 2016. Lovely, unless you’re sitting in it, with crying babies and in-laws tapping their feet, standing by the door, anxiously awaiting your arrival…

Once they started having children, holidays became an even greater nightmare. Mom and Dad, and Mom-in-law and Dad-in-law all insisted on seeing the grandchildren within the 24-hour period around Christmas Day. The “acceptable” window for visiting got crammed into a smaller and smaller period. Did I mention that this was in Southern California?

Southern California freeways, in the car, during the holidays, with small children: ho, ho, ho.


If you or your spouse are the adult children of divorce in this situation, here are some tips.

Try a New Pre-Holiday Thought Process:

  1. Understand that your family is not the only one dealing with this problem. Millions of people have divorced and remarried. Many of them have created this complicated mess in their lives and their children’s lives. You are not alone!
  2. Understand that you are now adults. You do not have to obey your parents.
  3. You may feel strongly that your parents’ love for you is fragile, and dependent on your compliance with their wishes. Realize that this may or may not be true.
  4. Try giving them the benefit of the doubt. Assume they can be generous and mature with you. Try making a plan that works for your family. Offer this plan to your parents. See what they do.
  5. If your parents’ love for you DOES depends on your compliance with all their wishes, or upon getting their own way all the time, I would like to say to you: they are bad parents. Period. Full Stop.
  6. I would also like to say this to you: I am sorry. This should not be happening to you. Everyone deserves loving parents.
  7. You are more obligated to your own children than you are to your parents. Given a choice between the good of your children, and the good of your parents, it should be a no-brainer. Take care of your kids first. Let your parents be adults.
  8. Ask yourself this: will there ever be a better year for you to get a grip on this situation? Each year that goes by, your parents are getting older. One day, they will be frail, and will legitimately need for you to accommodate them. Why not try now, to obtain some peace?

Dealing with your particularly difficult relatives

  1. You are not obligated to include every family member in your holiday celebrations. You are not obligated to spend time with people who routinely make you or your family members miserable. You can send them a card or some other greeting by mail, that does not require you to be in their immediate presence.
  2. If there is someone whose behavior has been so egregious that you do not want to include them, then, don’t include them. But ask yourself this: if this person’s behavior is so bad that you don’t want them in your home, why would you allow them to dictate how you spend your Christmas?
  3. BTW, “bad behavior” or “egregious behavior” includes things like, “molested me and my siblings for years.” It does not include, “my mom is uncomfortable around him for no particular reason at all.”

Make a New Plan

  1. Let yourself dream: what plan would work for you and your family? You and your spouse brainstorm about what would be comfortable for your family, all things considered. Come up with a couple of plans that work for you. Don’t concern yourself with other family members at this point.
  2. Make a pact with your spouse. The pact is this: “We are sticking together with this plan. Once we have made a decision together, we are going to follow through.” If you can’t agree to that, perhaps you need to reconsider the plan itself, until you have a plan you can both live with.
  3. Plan to back each other up. Agree now that you will not call up your relatives and tell them your husband made you agree to this terrible idea. Agree now that if your mom calls you up complaining, you will not let her talk you into undermining your wife and the plan you made with her. (I’ve talked to lots of people about marriage problems. You’d be amazed at how often parents try to sabotage their children’s marriages. Especially if they are divorced themselves.)
  4. Once you and your spouse have a plan that you really want, take some time preparing to break it to your other relatives. Spend time in prayer. Ask God to relieve you of any bitterness. Ask to be filled with love. Remind yourself of endearing and lovable traits of your difficult relatives. Take a deep breath. Only then, pick up the phone.
  5. Propose your plan to your relatives with as little drama as possible. Your purpose here is to convey simple information. Your purpose is NOT to solve every family problem, or relieve a lifetime of hurts and disappointments.
  6. Try something like this, “We are going to have Christmas dinner at our house this year. Everyone is welcome. We will have a turkey on the table at 4 PM. You are welcome to bring a dish to share and a guest. (This allows your dad to bring his current girlfriend.) What would you and your guest like to bring?”
  7. Or, “We are going to have our own Christmas this year, just our little family, on Christmas Day. We will be glad to have visitors on ‘Day X.’ We will be glad to visit you on ‘Day Y.’” (Fill in X and Y with whatever works for you.)
  8. You can add this to your invitation, if you this necessary, “By the way, if you do not behave, we will ask you to leave. Just a reminder.”
  9. Ladies, if you have a husband who really will follow through and expel misbehaving relatives, thank him. And thank God for him. It is not a comfortable thing to have to do. But sometimes, it does have to be done.
  10. While I’m on the subject, gentlemen, if your wife really will put you ahead of her mother, be grateful. Thank her. (See above!)
  11. After the holiday dust has settled, make a point of reaching out to the people you were unable to see in person. Be as pleasant as possible. Tell them you missed them (if it is true.) Tell them you love them.

But what if they get mad at us!!! 

  1. Then they get mad. You can’t control their feelings. You know that you spoke to them calmly, with love, and without bitterness. (See above.)
  2. You know that you did your best to consider the good of your children. That is what good parents do: sacrifice their own comfort for the good of their children. Adults should not be asking children to sacrifice for them.
  3. If you spoke clearly and calmly, you did not “make” anybody feel anything. You made some simple statements. Allow other people to have their feelings and reactions. If they have a melt-down, it is not really your fault. 

You will be everybody’s favorite relative. 

  1. Well, maybe not everybody’s. The kind of person who insists on getting their own way all the time is not really available to be in genuine relationship with others. You won’t be their favorite relative. But that was never a realistic possibility in the first place.
  2. But if you put a stop to some serious nonsense, some of your family members will be grateful to you. And others will be grateful later. You will become a hero to that part of your family!

That’s it! You can become Everybody’s Favorite Relative. Or at least, your spouse’s favorite!


Divorce Rates, State by State

The Lake Charles American Press published an article about state-by-state divorce rates.

Louisiana has the fourth highest divorce rate in the country, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and commentary website. The state rate is 20.8 divorces per 1,000 married couples. Only Arkansas, Idaho and Nevada had higher divorce rates. Oklahoma held down fifth place.

The article acknowledges that income and employment have a lot to do with a state’s divorce rate.

Louisiana’s median income of $45,146 is much lower than the national median income of $57,617 and the state had an unemployment rate last year of 6.1 percent…. Massachusetts, on the other hand, had a $75,297 median income and an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. Also, 42.7 percent of the state’s adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, the highest percentage in the country.

This points to the growing gap between the college educated, and everyone else. The college-educated professional classes denigrate marriage, (It’s just a piece of paper), chastity (Abstinence is for losers) and celebrate divorce (Kids are resilient) and (Divorce is liberating). But when it comes right down to it, the professional class gets married before having kids, and stays married.

Professional women cannot meet their aspirations for their own children as a single mom. So they get married and stay married. But delayed childbearing is the price of entry into the professions. So the educated classes are deeply committed to the Contraceptive Ideology. (Separating sex from child-bearing is an entitlement.) 

God love the working and middle classes of this country. They try to do the right thing. They are frequently the butt of jokes and the object of derision by the “betters.” Yet the good salt-of-the-earth people, like those we have here in Louisiana, still strive to do the right thing. I love them. They are in my mind and heart, a lot of the time.

More about Bai Macfarlane

As I said yesterday, Bai Macfarlane has resources available for Catholics who wish to defend their marriages in an annulment proceeding. Her website, Mary’s Advocates, has information and resources.

I have a high opinion of Mrs. Macfarlane and her efforts. As far as I know, she is the only person offering assistance to those who are facing an unwanted civil divorce or an unwanted Catholic annulment. (If anyone knows of any other resources, please let me know.)

I have heard from many Reluctantly Divorced persons, and I know they are hurting. When the Catholic Church grants their spouse an annulment, it adds insult to injury. When they have to see their spouse, in church, with a new “spouse,” both receiving communion, it is salt in an open wound.

Please note: I do not know whether Mrs. Macfarlane is correct in her interpretation of canon law. I do not know how the tribunals will react to the arguments and ideas that Mary’s Advocates provides. Respected canon law authorities disagree with her position.  Other canon lawyers evidently agree with her, at least in part. I am not qualified to offer an opinion on canon law.

I do believe though, that bringing the issue before the tribunals in a dignified and intelligent manner is worth trying. Reluctantly Divorced Catholics have few other resources (none, actually, that I am aware of) in trying to defend their marriages. This process of presentation and response has the best chance of discovering how the Church can serve those who wish to defend the validity of their marriages. As Dr. Ed Peters wisely commented after presenting his case,

Readers can form their own conclusions about which presentation is more likely correct and, more importantly, Roman authorities will certainly reach theirs in due course.

I want the Roman authorities to be presented as often as possible with this issue and others related to ending the scourge of divorce. Let’s put the arguments out there, in a forum where it actually matters, the tribunals, and see what happens.

If anyone has used Mrs. Macfarlane’s materials, I would be very interested in hearing about their experiences.

Bai Macfarlane and John Farrell

Some of my readers are familiar with the very inside-Catholic-baseball question about whether a Catholic is required to get the permission of his or her bishop before filing for a civil divorce. The extensive discussion of my most recent article on Crisis convinces me that people are indeed interested in this topic.

To the best of my knowledge, two people are promoting this view. One is Bai Macfarlane, who has a website called Mary’s Advocates. The Ruth Institute includes this site among our Links we Like for the Reluctantly Divorced.

The other person is John Farrell. To the best of my knowledge, he has never been published anywhere other than his own blog and a Facebook page.

Permit me to say that if you are interested in this topic, follow Bai. Ignore John. And I do mean, ignore him.

This man is not helping his cause, if that cause is to persuade the bishops to implement canon law in the way that he believes is correct. In fact, he is actively harming that cause.

Where Bai patiently answers questions, John just repeats his one or two talking points. He is rude. As a Southerner, (admittedly, an adoptive Southerner, but an appreciative Southerner) saying someone is rude is no small matter. Compare Bai’s comportment in the comments section of my Crisis article, with John’s behavior on this thread.

I am no expert on canon law. I have said so repeatedly. I have told John this privately, and publicly. I am not going to make a pronouncement on this topic, as I am not qualified to do so. I am trying to keep an open mind, and listen to what people have to say. Bai is worth listening to. John’s noise-making makes it almost impossible to listen, or to even think clearly.

Please do not encourage this man. Especially if you want to help end the divorce culture, both inside the Catholic Church and in the wider culture.

But what about abusive marriages?

When people learn that I oppose no-fault divorce, some will say, “You have forgotten about abusive marriages.” When the Ruth Institute, the organization that I lead, describes itself as “The World’s Only Campaign to End Family Breakdown,” we hear again, “But what about abusive marriages?”

So, let me deal with this important issue. What about abusive marriages?

First off, let me assure you: I am certainly aware abusive marriages exist. I hear a lot of these stories. There are valid reasons why sometimes, spouses can, and should live separately. I am not opposed to separation in these cases. In some cases, a civil divorce can be justified, and even necessary.

The real question is this: who “broke” this family? Remember, I’m working to end family breakdown. In my opinion, the person throwing furniture through the wall, broke the family covenant. His wife has every right, and perhaps even a responsibility, to ask him to move out. If he refuses, she may need the help of (our admittedly dysfunctional) legal system. But make no mistake: she is not breaking up the family. He is.

Or what about this case? A woman becomes addicted to drugs. She spends all the family’s money, runs up credit card debts and acquires new lovers. Her husband may very well need to kick her out, sever all their financial dealings, and take steps to keep her away from the kids. He may need the help of the government to accomplish this. And yes, a divorce may be the only way to disentangle her from the family finances.

Who broke this family? The person who broke the covenant: the wife. The husband is protecting himself and his children.

I’m against the behavior that led to the family breakdown. I’m not against the innocent party doing what they need to do to protect themselves and their children. Yes, I’m so much against family breakdown that I want to see abusive behavior end.

I stated right up front that I am opposed to no-fault divorce. I stand by that. No-fault divorce was a radical restructuring of the institution of marriage. Under the no-fault regime, the State takes sides with the person who wants the marriage the least. The State not only allows, but actually assists, the least committed party to unilaterally ending the marriage.

Under a fault-based regime, an abused spouse could get a divorce. Abuse, adultery, abandonment, addiction: these were considered marital faults in virtually any jurisdiction. The person claiming a fault would have to offer evidence, to prove the faults had indeed occurred. But a fault-based divorce regime does not mean divorces never happened. Nor would a reintroduction of marital fault mean that “women would be trapped in abusive marriages.”

Under the no-fault divorce regime, the State pretends to be unable to discern an abusive marriage, from one that is not, or an offending party from an innocent party. The State then turns around and presumes to discern parenting plans, child support plans, and living arrangements of entire families. According to the State, no one has done anything wrong. Yet, the State assigns itself the right to send children for psychological evaluations, and to investigate all the family’s financial records.

It is true that the State does not use all this authority in every instance. This does not negate the fact that they still have that authority. No-fault divorce is a highly intrusive, privacy-invading legal structure.

Finally, some will ask, what about the Catholic Church’s annulment process? The annulment process is conceptually separate from discerning whether a marital fault has taken place. I realize this may sound harsh. But adultery or abuse has no direct bearing on whether the marriage was canonically valid in the first place.

The annulment process seeks evidence about the conditions surrounding the marriage itself. Did both parties freely consent? Were there any defects of form? Were both parties free to marry? Whether one or both became mentally ill or abusive or adulterous or anything else is not, strictly speaking relevant. If a person is too dangerous to live with, the couple can licitly live separately.

So why is annulment such a big deal in the Catholic Church? An annulment gives a person the Church’s permission to contract a Catholic marriage, just as a civil divorce grants a person permission to contract another civil marriage. But bear in mind: no one ever has to get married again.

This is why I am persuaded that abusive marriages do not present an exception to Jesus’ law of the indissolubility of marriage. Nor does the existence of abusive marriages dissuade me from my belief that family breakdown is something every decent person should work to end.

Breaking up a family in the absence of marital fault is unjust to the innocent parties, especially the children. And when abuse does take place, the person filing the divorce papers is not the person breaking up the family. The abuse that led to divorce is what needs to stop. Surely everyone can agree to that.

Originally published at Crisis on August 3, 2017

Why Do I Let Him Treat Me Like This?

Questions to ask yourself, before you file the papers….

I hear from many people in various stages of divorce: pre-divorce, post-divorce, going-through-the-middle of divorce, reluctantly divorced people who would like to stay married, people leaving abusive situations that would have qualified for divorce under the strictest definition of “fault.”

One question I hear again and again from people in troubled marriages, before or after divorce: “Why do I let him or her treat me this way?” It is a good question. Closely related to “Why do I always pick such losers?”

May I make a respectful suggestion? Wherever you may be in the divorce process, take the time to answer questions like these. The answer to “Why do I let him treat me like this” may help you understand how you behave in many, many relationships, not just in your marriage. The answer to “Why do I always pick such losers?” may help you avoid picking other losers in the future.

You are going to be part of your own life, no matter what happens to this marriage.

And may I suggest: ask yourself these questions before you divorce. You may discover something about yourself that will allow you to improve the situation.

Why I’m not worried about Gorsuch.

I know some of my friends are concerned about Gorsuch describing Obergefell as “absolutely settled law.” I would be more worried except for one thing. As far as I know, no one has a credible case for overturning Obergefell.

Neil Gorsuch

The conservative Christian legal community does not have a litigation strategy for overturning Obergefell, to the best of my knowledge. True, I don’t know everyone in that community. But I know quite a few folks. I do not know anyone who is even working on finding the plaintiffs and constructing the arguments for such a case. We cannot blame Trump for that.

And no, religious liberty cases do not cut the mustard. We need arguments that defend marriage, on its own terms. Marriage is good for society. Marriage provides justice and equality for children. Removing the gender requirement from marriage undermines its ability to provide justice and equality for children.

So, it is cheap for people to say anything they want, one way or the other. True, I would have liked it better if Gorsuch had said, “If a case challenging Obergefell were to come before me (wink,wink, knowing this is exceedingly unlikely) I would give it all due consideration and would tend toward overturning it.” But calling it “settled law” when there is “absolutely” no credible case on the horizon, does not disturb me all that much. His opinion on prospective pro-life cases is more significant b/c there may actually be some credible cases in the foreseeable future.

Would all these kids be marching in the snow for separation of powers and federalism? I doubt it.

Speaking of the pro-life movement, consider this. What would public opinion around the life issues be today, if the pro-life movement had confined itself to religious liberty and separation of powers and federalism?

  • Roe v Wade interferes with the rights of Catholic doctors to practice medicine as they see fit.”
  • Roe v Wade is judicial overreach.”
  • Roe v Wade interferes with the states’ rights to set their own policies.”

All true statements, to be sure. But all utterly irrelevant to shifting public opinion in a pro-life direction. The pro-life movement gave a full-throated defense of the humanity of the child in the womb, the value of pre-natal life, the harms of abortion to women, and how abortion does not solve the problems it claims to solve. These are much more human, much more compelling points, with vivid imagery that stirs the heart. The other arguments are bloodless and sterile by comparison.

We need a pro-marriage movement that stops talking about religious liberty and starts talking about marriage. And I’m afraid I know why so few people are willing to talk about the rights of children to their parents. Once we say that, the next question will naturally be: “what about divorce? More children lose their parents to divorce than will ever lose them to gay parenting. Are you going to outlaw divorce?”

Trust me, that was and still is the argument. I was in the 9th Circuit courtroom during the Prop 8 case, when Judge Stephen Reinhardt asked Prop 8 defense counsel Charles Cooper that question. The courtroom burst into laughter. They treated the rights of children as a joke. Cooper stood there silent.

I was practically jumping out of my seat. “Answer him! Answer him! Say ‘You are correct. We do want to reform divorce, because current divorce law is unjust.'”

Divorce ripples through the generations.

American society, including the conservative and pro-marriage movements, do not want to talk about divorce. Too many people have participated in divorce, and do not wish to stir up guilty consciences. Currently, most of those people are either against the concept of children having rights to their parents, or they are simply silent.

But I think this is also an opportunity. Many people have been unwilling participants in divorce: children, abandoned spouses, grandparents who lose touch with their grandchildren, and many others. Enlist all of those people. Now, you’re talking about a real movement.

If children do not have a right to their own parents, no one has a right to anything.

Divorce Reform: Take your stand.

TX Rep Matt Krause and Family

Representative Matt Krause of Texas has introduced a bill to limit no-fault divorce in that state. Ruth Readers: it is time to put up or shut up about family breakdown.

We have a petition that anyone can sign. It just says we support Rep Krause’s effort to limit no-fault divorce. You do not have to live in Texas to sign it.

Conservatives complain and wring their hands over “losing the culture wars.”

We can’t honestly complain about losing a battle we never even fought.

“Kids need a mom and a dad,” the constant mantra of the pro-marriage movement, is not nearly strong enough. “Kids need their own mom and dad,” is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m sorry to get in your face about this. But children are entitled to a relationship with both parents, unless some unavoidable tragedy takes place to prevent it.

  • “I’m tired of your father,” is not an unavoidable tragedy. It is very avoidable.
  • “I’m running off to marry my secretary,” is not an unavoidable tragedy. It is a selfish act of injustice to the children of the marriage.

These are the divorces that no-fault protects. When people say, “but we need no-fault divorce because fault is too hard to prove,” adultery and selfishness are sneaking in the backdoor.

Conservative Christians complained about “gay marriage” harming children.

No-fault divorce harms children.

Conservative Christians complained about “gay marriage” being un-Biblical.

No-fault divorce is un-Biblical. See Matthew 19. Don’t whine to me about the so-called “exception clause,” aka “escape hatch big enough to drive a Mac Truck through.”

Why were people against gay marriage? I don’t know about you. But I know why I was. I saw that it would harm children’s legally-recognized rights to have a relationship with both parents.

We at the Ruth Institute were virtually alone in the “Marriage Movement” in arguing this way. And I am pretty sure I know why. Once you say, “Kids have a right to their own parents,” you have to be willing to start talking about divorce, single-parenthood and donor conception. Most of the Marriage Movement bobbed and weaved to avoid these topics.

The Ruth Institute did not. I am grateful to our supporters who have stood by us as we made these arguments. I am not ashamed to say:

  • no-fault divorce is an injustice to children.
  • single-motherhood by choice is an injustice to children.
  • donor conception is an injustice to children.
  • gay “marriage” and gay parenting is an injustice to children.

The Gay Lobby accused us of hypocrisy, saying we didn’t really mean it about any of those other topics.  We just really hated gay people. Divorce and single-motherhood and all the rest were just window dressing.

Too bad. We talked about children’s rights then. We continue to talk about children’s rights, now, long after the dust has settled on the whole gay “marriage” controversy. We intend to keep talking about it.

What about you? Will you sign our petition, supporting Rep. Krause and his divorce reform?

Dr. J's Blog

Because Kids Need Their Own Mothers and Fathers...

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