Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is a Catholic author, speaker, academic, and founder of the Ruth Institute (www.ruthinstitute.org), “dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown.” The Institute “has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.” She is married with two children (one adopted from Romania), and regularly speaks at religious and pro-life conferences on the Christian view of marriage and sexuality and the ill effects of the Sexual Revolution. She lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
She has a doctorate in economics and taught at Yale and George Mason University before leaving academic life to care for her two children. “Having my own children changed my perspective," she reflects, "It showed me how much children need their parents.”
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse (www.ruthinstitute.org)
The Ruth Institute commends Catholic bishops for their efforts to defend Catholic teaching on marriage and family; in February, the Institute sent a letter of commendation and 24 white roses to Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, applauding him for his defense of Catholic teaching on marriage in his Octobrer 2016 pastoral letter “A True and Living Icon”. In his letter, Archbishop Sample stated, “The indissolubility of marriage is a precious and essential teaching of the Church, revealed by Jesus and cherished in our unbroken Tradition… The marriage bond is indissoluble because the Gospel covenant is indissoluble, for the sacrament signifies Christ’s permanent union with his Church.” [See CWR's October 17, 2016 interview with Archbishop Sample.]
“We are particularly encouraged," said Dr. Morse, "that Archbishop Sample addressed three possible misuses of [Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation] Amoris Laetitia. Misuse One: Conscience Legitimizes Actions Contravening Divine Commandments. Misuse Two: Under Certain Conditions Divine Prohibitions Admit of Exceptions. And Misuse Three: Human Frailty Exempts from Divine Command. Time has shown the Archbishop’s foresight in this area, as many people, including people who ought to know better, are making these very mistakes.”
CWR recently spoke with Dr. Morse about her work, the impact of the Sexual Revolution, "no fault" divorce, cohabitation, homosexuality, transgenderism, and "Amoris Laetitia".
CWR: How would you define the Sexual Revolution?
Dr. Morse: I would define it as having three components: 1) contraception ideology, that a good and decent society should separate sex from procreation, 2) divorce ideology, that a good and decent society should separate both sex and procreation from marriage, and 3) gender ideology, that there are no differences between men and women.
CWR: Not long ago, both the United States and Europe were Christian societies. How did we get to this point today?
Dr. Morse: One by one these ideologies have been promoted by wealthy elites in our society. It began with the promotion of population control, which is the separation of sex from procreation. The things that followed would not have been possible without this beginning. Population control means the use of some form of contraception, backed by abortion when contraception fails.
Once population control had been accepted, there was a movement to such things as “no fault” divorce and the decriminalization of various kinds of sexual behaviors. These were laws crafted by lawyers financed by such people as those who run the Ford and Carnegie Foundations.
CWR: The Pill then became widely available around 1960.
Dr. Morse: Yes, but I believe the contraceptive ideology is more significant than the technology. People have known for a long time how to control fertility.
The thing to remember about contraception is that it really wasn’t intended for the mother with 12 kids struggling to get by, but for people to have sex with whomever they want whenever they want. It changes people’s thinking, making us believe we’re entitled to have sex without babies. We’re not particularly discriminating about whom we have sex with anymore.
And, when contraception fails, as it does, we end up with babies we feel that we can’t manage. So, it fuels a demand for abortion. The consequences of the contraceptive ideology are far reaching.
CWR: California is approaching the fiftieth anniversary of its “no fault” divorce, the first law of its kind in the nation. What effect has widespread divorce had on families?
Dr. Morse: The children are the biggest casualty. They can have their lives destroyed by divorce. The claim was that children are resilient, and they’ll get over it. But that’s not what the research shows. In fact, in some respects, the children get more upset about their parents’ divorce when they get older.
One study followed the children of divorce over a 25-year period, and it showed that the effects of divorce intensified as they went through young adulthood. They have a fear of commitment, and a lack of trust. Their parents’ divorce created an anxiety and trauma in them from which they have never recovered. It’s an effect of divorce that no one talks about.
Jennifer Johnson is director of the Ruth Institute’s Children of Divorce project and is herself a child of divorce. It has taken a long time for her to recover, and the subject is still painful for her. She, in fact, witnessed the remarriage of her parents, and says, “I had five parents and it sucked.”
Divorce has also created a divorce industry, the purpose of which is to separate the reluctant partner from their marriage. We have no idea how many people would have liked to stay married but have to get a divorce because that’s what the spouse wants. The system favors the person who wants the divorce.
The industry includes attorneys and also financial planners to figure out how much a parent can afford in child support. These planners are private sector people, but who act as agents of the state. The person paying child support may have done nothing wrong, but the government investigates his financial life and wields control over it. It’s the same thing with child custody. We’ve reduced people’s freedom, and increased the power of the government.
CWR: “Living together” before marriage was frowned upon before the Sexual Revolution but has become the norm today. What effect does this have on marriage?
Dr. Morse: Cohabitation does not prepare you for marriage. The social science says it is bad preparation for marriage, but good preparation for divorce. If they are unmarried with children it negatively impacts the children as well, as their parents’ relationships are less stable and they often see their parents separate and re-couple.
It’s also worth noting that the most dangerous place for child to live is with mom and her cohabitating boyfriend who is not the child’s father. The new partner is not interested in the child, but interested in the sex partner. If you look through the news with a trained eye, you’ll see many stories of a child injured or beaten to death, with the perpetrator inevitably being a cohabitating boyfriend.
CWR: What do you think about working mothers and daycare?
Dr. Morse: I’m not an anti-daycare absolutist; although I know people who are. I do think it is overused, though. Our society seems to have made its peace with daycare, but what I’d say to young people is that not all kids do well in daycare. You may have a child who in daycare tantrums or bites, so you can’t plan your life around the idea that both parents will work.
CWR: How is the widespread acceptance of homosexuality a reflection of the Sexual Revolution?
Dr. Morse: It’s a continuing of the progress of the Sexual Revolution. It starts with separating sex from babies. Gay sex is the ultimate in sterile sex. You can have sex with whomever you want and you don’t have to worry about having babies.
CWR: And what are your thoughts on the emergence of so-called “transgender” issues?
Dr. Morse: It’s the next step in the Sexual Revolution. “Gay marriage” was the big prize; it institutionalizes the idea that marriage has nothing to do with children. Once that was in place, the movement didn’t head towards polygamy, although the legal principle is in place.
What has come next is gender ideology, the idea that the human body is getting in the way of human freedom. The idea of being a male or female is oppressive. It is the last step in deconstructing the human body and human life. It’s crazy and makes no sense.
CWR: What else do you see as coming next?
Dr. Morse: I think it will be “contract parenting.” We’ve seen some of it already. This happens in the case when, say, a lesbian couple has their eggs fertilized by the sperm of a male “gay” couple. In this case, who are the parents? Since it is not based on biology, it is irrelevant who gave the sperm or egg. What is relevant is the desire of the adults. The two lesbians will say they are the parents, and the male “gay” couple could say they are as well. So, the government gets involved, and you’re including a third or fourth line on a birth certificate indicating who the parents are. Later on, you might see the child being shuffled around to three or four different homes.
CWR: How has the Catholic Church responded to the Sexual Revolution?
Dr. Morse: That’s a complicated question. For the longest time, we were the last holdout. It created a lot of hostility towards the Church. We said certain behaviors were wrong, so we ended up with a big target on our backs.
But dissent within the Catholic Church to Catholic teaching on marriage and family has created a huge opening for the Sexual Revolution. And, we’ve seen that it includes members of our hierarchy. That’s why, at the Ruth Institute, we’ve been highlighting and honoring Catholic prelates who are saying that Amoris Laetitia must be read in continuity with past teaching on marriage and family. These include Archbishop Sample, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
CWR: What are your thoughts on "Amoris Laetitia"?
Dr. Morse: There has been tremendous confusion generated by it. You have some bishops, like those I mentioned, insisting that it must be read in continuity with past teaching, while others, like the bishops of Malta, who seem to be saying the opposite.
CWR: What advice would you offer to parents as to how to teach their children about chastity and Catholic marriage?
Dr. Morse: The most important thing parents can do is make sure their own marriage is solid. If the kids see you disrespecting one another or being unkind to one another, they’ll run in the opposite direction.
There is also a need for good instruction in Catholic teaching, so they understand why we believe and behave as we do. At the Ruth Institute, we have reading groups to help participants understand these issues. We’re not a political group; instead we give our people the tools they need to better understand and share their faith. We’re not officially a Catholic organization, and, in fact, I do presentations to non-Catholic groups. But everything we teach is 100% in line with Catholic teaching.
CWR: How has your work been received?
Dr. Morse: We have our enemies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed us as an official “hate group.” They can’t seem to see the difference between us and the KKK. GLAAD [formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] has blacklisted us.
But other people are absolutely devoted to us, and are grateful and relieved to hear what we have to say. We’re speaking clearly the truths with which they were brought up.
We’ve had great success with our programs, especially our half-day Healing Family Breakdown retreat. It’s a way we try to help people to start to address the “woundedness” they’ve experienced themselves or the people around them have experienced. So much of society suppresses the harm that the Sexual Revolution has had on individuals, covering it up with what I call “happy talk.” They say everyone is fine, the kids will be fine. So, we try to give people the space and opportunity to acknowledge that their experiences were painful, and to give them a chance to heal.