Irish bishop: children of divorce are "born losers"

Irish bishop: children of divorce are "born losers" August 16, 2011

He made that statement during an interview with a local newspaper yesterday:

Many children from broken homes are born “losers” and so deprived of love that they grow up to be dysfunctional adults, according to a Catholic bishop.

Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones said that during his 17 years working in social services in Sligo he had seen the damage wrought on children as a result of marriage breakdown.

The bishop, who is president of the Catholic marriage care service Accord, stressed that he was not criticising single parents, many of whom were making “heroic efforts”.

But he insisted that “the greatest good” would “come ultimately from the family in marriage”.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Bishop Jones said the breakdown of married life could result in social unrest and even violence.

He said the risk to society from the disintegration of family life was not simply the church’s view but was backed by extensive social research.

He acknowledged that some marriages broke down “for unavoidable reasons” and that in those cases, “compassion ought to be our overriding response”.

The bishop said that during his time in social services, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he worked closely with families who, for the first time, found themselves isolated on newly built estates, without the support of their wider family circle.

“The husband was away all day and the mother was left with the children,” he said. In many cases he saw, children were born into a family that was not secure and they were denied love at an early stage.

“Many of them were born losers. They had no start in life in terms of a loving relationship,” he said, adding that in his experience, children who were denied love at an early age were “denied a sense of self-esteem and self-worth”.

“They grow up disturbed and dysfunctional,” he added.

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12 responses to “Irish bishop: children of divorce are "born losers"”

  1. The only serious qualification I would place here is what is the strength of the child’s extended family?

    –If that child’s extended family is close and is a strong one, then grandparents and aunts/uncles act as the mentors and the child will turn out fine. I have a lot of examples here from my own pastoral experience.

    –On the other hand; if the parents themselves were isolated — or isolated themselves — from any support of an extended family (and Bishop Jones seems to base his experiential judgements on those situations alone), then I would certainly agree.

  2. From reading the whole article, I gather the newspaper cherry-picked the “loser” quote to make the bishop–an opponent of “marriage equality,” as they put it–sound harsh and unsympathetic to the children whose welfare he was actually supporting. It’s like the debate over using the term “bastard” for children born out of wedlock. The PC folks shed crocodile tears about placing a stigma on innocent young people while totally ignoring the horrific disadvantages with which those same youngsters are forced to cope as a result of their parents’ selfish choices.

    I don’t know what it will take to get people to recognize the harmful consequences of the Sexual Revolution. But the recent riots and mayhem on both sides of the Atlantic are apparently waking up a few folks. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s recent call for black fathers to live up to their parental responsibilities is a sterling example.

  3. I read the headline of your post and thought, “Well I guess he’s talking about me. I must be a born loser.” In my childhood I sometimes heard adults say things like, “He/she’s from a broken home. What can you expect?” Although they were referring to someone else, not me, I would think, “I’ll show them. I’ll be good.” The point is, that sort of talk is hurtful, and how it affects people probably varies.

    The bishop is correct about the fact that divorce has a negative impact on children. I think a lot of children of divorce do grow up “disturbed and dysfunctional.”

    I also agree that the extended family makes a big difference in one’s ability to overcome the negatives and live a normal life. When I was a child most families were intact and there were good role models everywhere. That doesn’t seem to be true today, though.

  4. Being the product of a broken marriage, my husband also a product of a broken home, I don’t disagree with him. The effects of divorce are long lasting and deep.

    When my husband and I started having children we realized that we had no collective parenting wisdom. Yes, I could change a diaper and burp a baby, keep them from climbing the walls and teach them to eat with a fork and knife. But more children came, and that’s when the rubber hit the road. I had no idea how to train them toward virtues, how to develop charity in them. I learned through mistakes, and more when we reverted. As they got older, we realized the depth of what we, ourselves, lacked. Our kids are different. As parents we make a lot of mistakes, but our children have a culture of family. Because of that, I see stability in them that I never had as a child.

    So yes, I agree with him.

  5. It’s a poor choice of words. Children are born to parents, who may well not be divorced yet.

    So the bishop is frustrated with divorce? Take a number. Wait in line behind couples and kids.

    The real challenge is how the Church addresses the issues: preparing engaged couples for marriage, forming teens in the nature of the sacrament long before marriage is a serious thought, providing spiritual support for existing marriages, offering resources for troubled marriages, and assisting newlyweds after the wedding day.

    Divorce is deeply lamentable. But it’s only part of the problem. Curiously, it’s the one aspect over which the Church has the least amount of control.

  6. To address this problem adequately, the carrot approach (ministries supportive of intact families) may not work well unless more of us also employ a stick (honest discussion of the horrid effects of divorce on children). Divorce, like cohabitation and illegitimacy, no longer carries a social stigma. In fact, it is often promoted as beneficial for women and even for children. Why, then, would anyone WANT to seek the help of marriage ministries offered by the local parish? Sure, this bishop risked stepping on some sensitive toes. But he is telling the truth about what divorce does to kids, and it’s about time the rest of us did the same.

  7. In the school district where I work many of our students come from broken homes. I cannot disagree with what the Bishop says. These kids are at a terrible disadvantage, and often repeat the mistakes of their parents, perpetuating the cycle.

    Some may see the issue surrounding the term “bastard” as a PC tempest in a teapot. However, what does it say to a five year old child when they hear folks call them by that term? Does it help them overcome their disadvantage, or simply remind them that they will never be able to overcome their “loser” status?

    When you call a child born out of wedlock or in a divorced household “bastard”, are you not also calling Jesus the same? After all, by the world’s standard, Jesus was conceived out of wedlock.

  8. Guess I would ask the Bishop if couples should stay together “for the kids” when all they do is fight with each other, or if one parent is verbally or physically abusive to the other? Hopefully those would be the “unavoidable reasons” he mentioned. Unfortunately I think in the past, some couples did stay together “for the kids” and that was more harmful to the children then the parents divorcing. In an ideal world, all marriages would be happy and the children would benefit. Unfortunatley this isn’t an ideal world. There are, however, children from divorce situations that turn out to be productive, loving adults who perhaps marry and have children of their own.

    Yes, some children from divorced families do have a harder time, but as said above, hopefully extended family, can step in and help stablize the children as they grow.

  9. “But he is telling the truth about what divorce does to kids, and it’s about time the rest of us did the same.”

    I don’t know where some of the “rest of us” have been. Divorce has always been hard on kids. Living in a house with a toxic adult relationship isn’t a picnic either. Parents know it–it’s why many choose to delay divorce until after the children are in college. There are countless examples of the negative effects on kids in popular culture: tv, movies, self-help media, music, and the like. It’s mystifying to think anyone would interpret divorce as a good thing for kids in most cases.

    I wonder if this isn’t a B16 moment for Bishop Jones. Why not just come out and say “Kids of divorced families have it hard.”? It sounds like he was trying to juggle a stick and ended up bopping himself in the head when it came down.

    Why misspeak and bring up “birth”? What does birth have to do with divorce, anyway?

  10. Todd #5: “Curiously, it’s the one aspect over which the Church has the least amount of control.”

    Well, based on this 2008 survey by Barna Research it does appear that at least some churches may have a marginal impact on divorce.

    33% of adults in the survey had been divorced, while only 28% of Catholics had been. Still with 1 in 4 marriages ending in divorce, it’s nothing to write home about.

  11. I think we forget Jesus words:

    “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    All the reasons in the world can not override Christ’s injunction about the indissolubility of marriage. Don’t blame the Church, bishops or priest. Blame Jesus, he taught it.

  12. I was thinking as I reread the article a minute ago—-the term “born losers” is placing a term on a group of children who may or may not suffer from their parent’s getting a divorce. Guess I just don’t like the term—-perhaps just saying that many children whose parents divorce have a harder time growing up or settling into adult hood and all that can encompass, is fine—but the term is disturbing to me.

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