Divorce fantasies

Kids are resilient. All kids really want and need is …. What exactly? Tune in to find out.  

We’ve been talking about the great fantasy of our time: we are all entitled to have as much sex as we want without the responsibilities of parenthood. Yesterday, we saw that with a lot of propaganda, you might be able to convince people that sex doesn’t make babies. This strategy needs to be backed up with even more propaganda to keep people from thinking too much about the problems the contraception itself can cause.

Maybe our hypothetical sexual utopian could go in a different direction. He could concede that sex does indeed make babies, but he’d insist, babies don’t really need much care.

Wait a minute, Dr. Morse. Everyone knows babies need a lot of care. After all, that is why we are all so hell-bent on avoiding having any babies. We don’t want the responsibility.

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!

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?

Authentic Reproductive Justice

“Reproductive Justice.”

“Reproductive justice” is generally code for “abortion on demand and without apology.”  I propose we talk about “authentic reproductive justice,”  which means justice for the child.

Justice for children means that every child conceived has a right to be welcomed into life. The financial condition or age or belief systems of their parents are irrelevant. Equality for children means every child is treated the same from conception until birth: cared for by their parents, and welcomed into life.

Real Social Justice Warriors

The shallow concept of “Reproductive Justice” that we have currently enshrined in our laws cannot last for even a single generation. Sure, men and women may be more equal in education and income. But, children whose parents get married and stay married have immeasureable advantages over children whose parents divorce or never marry. The differences among the rich and the poor, the educated and the less educated, increase in the subsequent generation.

Equality and justice for children means that every child has a right to a relationship with both of their natural parents, unless some unavoidable tragedy prevents it.  Death, mental illness, serious illness, these tragedies separate children from their parents. Desertion, abuse, incarceration: the parent left behind may have no responsible choice other than keeping their children away from their other parent.

No-fault divorce: a structural injustice to the child.

“I don’t want to have a relationship with your other parent.”

“My relationship with my new sex partner is more important to me than my relationship with your other parent.”

“My new life and vision of myself is more important to me than my relationship with you.”

These are not unavoidable tragedies. These are acts of injustice by one parent perpetrated on their children and their spouse.

But you may ask, what do these have to do with “reproductive justice?” The concept of Authentic Reproductive Justice means that each parent commits to spending a lifetime in a relationship with the other parent that allows their child to have a functioning, supportive relationship with both of them.

That means:

  • treating the child’s other parent with respect: after all, the other parent is half of who your child is. If you disrespect the child’s other parent, you are disrepecting at least half of your child.
  • making sure your child can spend time with his or her other parent.
  • giving the child’s other parent significant input into all major decisions regarding the child’s life and upbringing.
  • supporting, not undermining the other parent’s authority and status in the child’s eyes.
  • having such a relationship with the other parent before even giving birth.
  • choosing the other parent carefully enough that spending a lifetime co-parenting is an imaginable and even joyful prospect.
  • and since all forms of contraception sometimes fail, only choosing to have sex with individuals whom you can treat according to the above criteria.

Authentic Reproductive Justice: Take your marriage seriously.

In other words, Authentic Reproductive Justice, which takes account of the human rights of the mother, the father and the child means:

  • get married
  • stay married
  • have sex only with your spouse
  • love your spouse

Our current understanding of “reproductive justice” that only considers “equality” between men and women, or “equality” in education, jobs and money is a superficial, dim shadow of Authentic Reproductive Justice. This is a technocratic vision, focused solely on material things.

Authentic Reproductive Justice focuses on the more humane, deeper realities of relationships, identity and love.

I can only think of one social philosophy that endorses this deeper concept of justice, and that provides the tools to bring it about: the Ancient Teachings of Christianity. One man, one woman, for life.  If you are a Christian, especially if you are a Catholic Christian, please respect what Jesus is trying to do for us. Embrace it. Live it. Be grateful for it. Matthew 19. Mark 10.