Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 1, 2007
De facto unions not equivalent to marriage
Increase in non-traditional households must be lamented
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
Equality before the law must respect the principle of justice which means treating equals equally, and what is different differently.
De facto unions are characterized precisely by the fact that they ignore, postpone or even reject the conjugal commitment.
In marriage, through the covenant of conjugal love, all the responsibilities that result from the bond take on an institutional character of public recognition by the state that yields not only good results for the spouses themselves and for the children in their affective and formational growth, but also for the other members of the family and the whole of society.
Although not all de facto unions have the same social weight or the same motivations, they tend to reflect private situations and as such do not presume to have either the public character or the stability that is based on the marriage bond. They are characterized by their strong assertion to not take on any ties.
There is also a certain more or less explicit "commitment" to "marital fidelity," so to speak as long as the relationship lasts.
Some de facto unions are clearly the result of decisive choice. "Trial" unions are common among those planning to marry in the future, but on the condition that they have the experience of a union without the marriage bond.
Some other persons who live together justify this choice because of economic reasons or to avoid legal difficulties. The real motives are often much deeper. There is often an underlying mentality that gives little value to sexuality, influenced more or less by pragmatism and hedonism, as well as by a conception of love detached from any responsibility.
In other cases, de facto unions are formed by persons who were previously divorced and are thus an alternative to marriage.
Others live together rejecting marriage for ideological reasons.
Still others form de facto relationships because they fear that marriage would involve tax burdens or the loss of their pensions.
We should seek to understand the existential problems and choices of persons living in de facto unions but understanding the circumstances and respecting persons are not equivalent to justification or happy acceptance of such unions.
Furthermore, equality before the law must respect the principle of justice which means treating equals equally, and what is different differently: that is, to give each one his due in justice.
This principle of justice is violated if "de facto unions" are given a juridical treatment similar or equivalent to the family based on marriage. If the family based on marriage and de facto unions are neither similar nor equivalent in their duties, functions and services in society, then they should not be similar or equivalent in their juridical status.
The pretext used for exerting pressure to recognize de facto unions, that is, "non-discrimination," implies a real discrimination against family based on marriage because the family would be considered on a level similar to any other form of cohabitation, regardless of whether there is a commitment or reciprocal fidelity and the begetting and up-bringing of children or not.
Such discrimination is either an ideological imposition exerted by influential pressure groups or a serious sign of the contemporary breakdown in social moral consciousness, or "weak thought" with regard to the common good, or all three.
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