Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Love and Marriage

A happy family: the vonTrapps
     Katherine Jean Lopez has a good piece in National Review Online (read article here) about the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., with a focus on San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone.  The good Archbishop was scolded by various left-leaning types, including “Catholic” politician Nancy Pelosi for encouraging “hate” by attending the pro-traditional marriage event.  Lopez quotes extensively from Cordileone’s speech at the March to show that the Church is motivated not by hate but by love when it upholds traditional marriage.
     The charge that any opposition to the deconstruction of the institution of marriage is motivated solely by hatred has been repeated so often by those on the left that not only have they convinced themselves, they have persuaded half the country as well.  Even Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could find no reason other than “animus” against homosexuals to oppose the imposition of gay marriage.  Archbishop Cordileone knows better; after recounting various problems (economy, immigration, schools) he says:

But none of these solutions will have a lasting effect if we do not rebuild a marriage culture, a culture which recognizes and supports the good of intact families, built on the marriage between a man and a woman committed to loving faithfulness to each other and to their children . . . No justice, no peace, no end to poverty, without a strong culture of marriage and the family.

It’s amazing how hard it is for many people to understand this seemingly obvious truth: there’s no social problem that isn’t made worse by the dissolution of traditional families, and none that wouldn’t be significantly alleviated by more intact families.  It’s an argument I’ve made numerous times (here, here, and here, among others).  The problem is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we can live our lives with self-satisfaction our highest goal, which includes, thanks to contraception, enjoying the pleasures of marital intimacy without the responsibility of children.              
     It’s not as simple as it seems, of course, so while a declining birthrate means that there are fewer and fewer children to support us in our dotage, there are still very many born to parents who aren’t committed enough to each other to stay married or, increasingly, even get married in the first place.  The result is bad for everyone: a growing number of men who are essentially irrelevant to the families they have fathered, denied the full experience of the paternal role that is their highest calling; women who are crushed under the burden of being both mother and father, in a culture that is increasingly indifferent to or even disdainful of motherhood; children who grow up without the attention of two full-time parents, and without models of self-sacrificing complementary love – which is not to say they don’t see self-sacrificing love, often heroic self-sacrifice, on the part of the single parent (usually the mother) who is raising them, but the dynamic between parent and dependent child is very different than that between husband and wife. Children don’t learn how to be successful husbands and wives, and increasingly don’t see a lasting marriage as a real possibility.
     Notice that none of the above has anything to do with homosexuality.  Gay activists are quite correct when they point out that we heterosexuals had already made a thorough mess of the institution of marriage before they came on the scene.  The question is, do we complete the demolition of the one natural institution most essential to human flourishing and a stable society, or do we work to protect and, ultimately, restore it? Which, really, is the loving thing?

Related link: I just read about this on Fr. Z's blog: Children's Divorce Stories (here), hosted by Jennifer Roeback Morse at the Ruth Institute; there's some sobering reading here.