Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 5, 1999
Say 'No' to the madness
Province must do more than build politically correct 'fences' around marriage
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
The traditional family - man and woman joined in marriage and committed to each other for life, openly willing to have and nurture children - is in a tailspin.
Families frequently don't form at all or don't stay together. The number of cohabitating adults has increased in alarming proportions, to the point that co-habitation often seems more the norm rather than the exception.
Today close to one-third of all births are out of wedlock. When marriages do occur, they have a 50-50 chance of lasting. As one sociologist noted, "Till death do us part" is now more likely "until someone better comes along."
Those who cohabit before marriage are especially prone to divorce. Lack of commitment at the beginning too often equals lack of commitment at the end. No promises made; none kept.
When those we love experience problems in marriage, most of us tend to avert our eyes out of some mistaken notion that it's a private matter.
In the moving little book Random Acts of Kindness, one anonymous contributor tells her story: "I grew up in what we would now call a dysfunctional family. My parents were materially quite-well off, but we lived amidst emotional chaos and confusion in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. As with most children, I simply assumed that this was the way it was and the problems, the undercurrents of anger and hostility, were somehow my fault.
"One day when I was still very young, after a particularly painful and confusing series of interactions with my parents, our maid took me aside to talk to me. She told me that she did not care if it cost her job, she could not continue to be a silent observer.
"She told me that my parents were crazy, that they were acting very badly and not at all like good, loving parents should act towards their children. She told me that I was a good, sweet girl and that the situation was not my fault.
"It was an incredible gift. Her words gave me the explanation I needed, a way to stop blaming everything on myself."
The consequences of marital breakdown are anything but private. The losses in rudimentary health and welfare visited upon children in unformed or dissolved families are profoundly troubling. Much of the increase in child poverty can be traced to divorce and illegitimacy. Equally depressing statistics tumble forth in the areas of crime, education and health.
Regrettably, the costs of divorce and other unstable relationships on children are not short-term. One 10-year study has shown that almost half of the children of divorce enter adulthood as worried, underachieving, self-deprecating and sometimes angry young men and women.
And children of single parents are more likely to bear a child out of wedlock, have a child as a teen or, if they do marry, divorce readily. The family failings of one generation are not only visited upon, but compounded by, the next.
Given the weakening of marital ties and loosening of standards of sexual morality, the restructuring of family is bound to follow.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised when courts rule and governments throw in the towel as they decide that we may no longer express reservations about other intimate relationships, such as homosexual unions or "same sex-marriages."
These more novel arrangements are merely variations on the theme of serial marriage or cohabitation. When a culture ceases to support - through its mores, symbols, models, laws, and rituals - the sanctity of the sexual bond between a man and a woman, the lack of marital probity and marital support is not without cost as the first casualties are children.
Given the social crises of our times, because of the family's fundamental and irreplaceable role as the basic social unit, laws and customs should be enacted that positively favour marriage over all other ways of life.
"Not registered domestic partnerships," but marriages, real marriages, between a man and a woman who will hopefully become a father and mother, and whose union is designed to last for life. We need more than spinning and blustering about a legally dubious threat to invoke the "notwithstanding clause" if Ottawa attempts to impose gay marriages.
Part of the solution must be generated by legislators in Edmonton who are prepared to do more than simply react and counter the decisions of others. We need more from our elected representatives than compromises and the promise of a provincial referendum if necessary.
We need more than the erection of a so-called "fence" around the word "marriage," we need real fences built not with a politically correct compass but with a functioning moral compass. We need more than the lowest common denominator in social policy.
Rather than broadening the adoption laws and foster child policy, permitting same-sex adoptions when it's in the "best interest of the child," and downloading the decision-making to social workers, with the case-by-case justification within a week to the minister, given all that we know about impact of family structures on children, why not a simple "NO" to this madness!
The human race survives only in its children and its children can flourish only in the family centred on husband and wife. Civilization depends on the begetting, nourishing and educating of its children, but for this to occur children need both a father and a mother.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
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