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.

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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.

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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….)

“Nobody told me it was wrong”

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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.

Poor Kids Deserve Their Own Parents, too.

The Federal government’s programs for poor relief undermine the ability of the poorest people in society to get married and stay married.

Consider these facts:

  • For women with a high-school degree and maybe some college, 58% percent of their firstborn children are born out of wedlock. These children end up having limited contact and relationships with their fathers.

    wilcoxpic1
    Dr. Brad Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies and the University of Virginia. He and his colleagues crunched a bunch of these numbers.
  • The percent having their first birth out of wedlock is 55% for white women, 69% for Hispanic women, and 87% for African American women. [1]
  • Some of the most significant income support programs have significant marriage penalties for some people. People these situations are better off cohabiting, or not living together at all, rather than getting married. These programs include the Earned Income Tax, Child Tax Credits, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF and WIC.  [2]
  • Children living with cohabiting parents are more likely to experience the separation of their parents than children whose parents are married. This separation diminishes the chances of the children having continuous relationships with both their parents, especially their fathers.
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Elaine Maag of the Urban Institute: “I believe that we can work toward providing a strong safety net for all people—and that the tax system will always be an important part of that effort.” You go, girl!

Marriage benefits children. There is no longer any serious doubt about this. Why then, is our government creating incentives for parents to not marry? Poor children need their own parents and a stable family life every bit as much as children of the middle and upper classes.

My references below include people from across the political spectrum. In spite of this, nothing has been done to remove the marriage penalties from federal income support programs. My guess is that many of the “liberals” are fearful of marriage as something that could be oppressive to abused women. My further guess is that many of the “conservatives” are fearful of the increased taxpayer costs that removing the marriage penalties might create.

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Dr. Joe Price of Brigham Young University. He too, crunched some of these numbers. A coalition of BYU and the Urban Institute: it can be done!

Social conservatives have the ear of the current Administration, more so than any time I can recall.  I urge social conservatives inside the Trump administration to remove the marriage penalties from these programs. I suggest convening a commission of the authors listed in the notes below, along with Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation, and Isabell Sawhill of the Brookings Institute.

Together, they could come up with something. We owe it to the least among us to stop undermining the formation and stability of their families.

 

1. “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” Kay Hymowitz, Jason Carroll, W. Bradford Wilcox, Kelleen Kay, 2013 by The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and The Relate Institute. http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/the-great-crossover/ (Last accessed November 15, 2016.)

2. Elaine Maag and Gregory Acs, “The Financial Consequences of Marriage for Cohabiting Couples with Children,” (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, September 2015.)   http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000366-The-Financial-Consequences-of-Marriage-for-Cohabiting-Couples-with-Children%20.pdf  

W. Bradford Wilcox, Joseph P. Price and Angela Rachidi, “Marriage, Penalized”: Does Social-Welfare Policy Affect Family Formation?” (Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute and Institute for Family Studies, 2016). https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IFS-HomeEconReport-2016-Final-072616.pdf

Spencer Rand, “The Real Marriage Penalty: How Welfare Law Discourages Marriage Despite Public Policy Statements to the Contrary—and What can be done about it.” University of the District of Columbia Law Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2015, pp. 93-143. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2685206

Robert Rector, “How Welfare Undermines Marriage and What to Do About it,” (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2014). http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/11/how-welfare-undermines-marriage-and-what-to-do-about-it

Jesus was right, and we can prove it.

Jesus made His position on divorce very clear:  One to a customer for life. (Slight paraphrase.)

Seriously. His apostles were quite frankly, freaked out. He doubled down, and started talking to them about celibacy. Seriously. Look it up in Matthew 19. 

With the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight, we can see the wisdom of prohibiting attempts at second marriages. Divided loyalties for children. Broken hearts of abandoned spouses. Since we have been systematically breaking His commandments for the past 50 years, we have statistical evidence that divorce is hard on children.

sad-girlgrey-her-scars-are-on-the-insideThis particular research summary finds that children of divorce have poorer relationships with not only mother and father, but often with grandparents as well. Children of divorce have a weakened ability to handle conflict, are more likely to be aggressive, and as adults, tend to be less able to communicate effectively with their own spouses. Children of divorce have more behavior problems in school, more depression and anxiety, diminished learning capacity and lowered school performance. Child abuse and neglect are more common, especially in stepfamilies. Children of divorce have lifelong increased health burdens, including a risk of premature death. This summary of research goes on in this vein for 48 closely-typed pages, and 333 footnotes.

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A classic image of the Agony in the Garden, the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.

On the night before He died, Jesus foresaw His own physical suffering as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. I imagine that He saw all the sins of the world, for which He would suffer and atone. Because He was God, He could see all things and know all things. I believe He saw the children of divorce, weeping for the loss of the lives they had known. I believe He saw the anguish of abandoned spouses. I bet He saw the fact that second “marriages” are more likely to fail that first marriages. He saw the disappointment so many attempted second marriages would bring. He was trying to spare us all this.

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Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta: What is he thinking?

Some bishops of the Catholic Church are interpreting Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia to mean that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can present themselves for communion, if they believe they are “at peace with God.” I cannot imagine what these men are thinking.

I can tell you what they are NOT thinking. They are not thinking about the abandoned spouses. They are NOT thinking about the children, whose families have been turned upside down by their parents’ switching out of parent-figures and sex-partners.

This is the child’s perspective. We tell them, “I still love you. But my relationship with my new sex partner is more important to me than my relationship with your other parent, even though your other parent is half of who you are.” The children cannot make sense of these incompatible claims.

Needless to say: this conflict does not even arise in families where the parents are continuously and faithfully married to each other.

There is, in the end, only one cure for this kind of social confusion. To say as often and as loudly as we can: Jesus was right to prohibit attempts at second marriages while the first spouse is still living. We know this from experience. Our experience is so profound, we will not be talked out of it.

If you have such an experience to share, please consider telling your story for the Tell Ruth the Truth blog. You will be helping more people than you know.

“Playboy sold me a pack of airbrushed lies.”

We started the Tell Ruth the Truth blog to give Survivors of the Sexual Revolution a chance to tell their stories of heartache and recovery. I’m very taken with a recent post, from a man who calls himself “E.H.”  He had the courage to share his story this week.

“Playboy magazine had sold me a pack of airbrushed lies. The idea that Playboy promoted was that there is playboy-bunny-logosomewhere this perfect woman with a perfect body with whom you want to spend your days. Somehow, having a perfect body in bed with me would be what I needed and wanted to have ultimate happiness. I bought the lie, as did so many millions of men.”

The airbrush is a basic necessity for keeping the Sexual Revolution going.  The Revolutionary propaganda airbrushes away all the problems and pain, leaving only glamour and fun. Each individual who is harmed by the lies, feels that he or she is the only one. When they work out that they have been lied to, they have no forum for sharing their insight. Every person has to figure it out alone.

E.H. cries out with apology to those he has harmed:

“In 2001 I converted to the Catholic faith and a few years later I discovered Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. … How I wish I had known that when I met Robin. How I wish I had heard that in time to live it out with Karen.”

 

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The Late Great Pope St. John Paul II, an inspiration to many.

Writing can be therapeutic for the person, helping them heal and move from being a Victim to being a Survivor. These stories can also help the readers. Some may believe they and their families are the only ones who have made these mistakes. Others may despair of ever recovering from their past sins. I am very grateful to “E.H.” and all of our contributors to the Tell Ruth the Truth blog.

Do you have a story? Consider sharing it with us and our readers.