Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 17, 2010
Families evolve into a mosaic of patterns
Experts state a blended family hides a parent who is left bereft and alone
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - Families come in many diverse forms but marriage provides the best outcomes for children.
That was the conclusion of the two keynote speakers - one an Anglican and the other a Catholic - despite their divergent views at an international colloquium on The Family's Many Faces, held at Saint Paul University May 6-8.
Prof. Xavier Lacroix who teaches moral theology at the Catholic University of Lyon, France, author of many books on the family, including Le Corps et l'Esprit, said the family is different from other groups or clusters because it has both a fleshly and a spiritual aspect.
Usually family types fall into the following categories: married couple, single parent, blended families, cohabiting couple or same-sex couple, he said.
The family types often succeed each other "as different phases of a journey."
A cohabiting couple may marry, then divorce, leaving single parents who then remarry to form blended families, he said.
"These new forms are not chosen for themselves."
Instead they are seen as a remedy for a break up, failure or a deficit of some kind.
"You need two people to raise a child," he said. "A mother and father can't replace each other."
He stressed that the father places an important psychic role in the life of a child. The first obligation of a parent is to give children a permanent situation in which to grow.
Single-parenthood is not a model, he said. It is usually an accident and, if chosen willingly, it should be viewed as a negative moral choice.
In blended families, the smiling faces of the family hide the other faces of fathers or mothers left alone at the family table, representing families that have become unblended.
Prof. Adrian Thatcher, who teaches applied theology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, said while he found the tone of many empirical studies on family outcomes to be "polemical, alarmist and conservative," the results should not be dismissed because of that tone.
The empirical data shows that it is far better for children to have married parents, he said. Two-parent families have better outcomes for children from better physical and emotional health, to less likelihood of poverty to the lower likelihood that that child will eventually divorce.
What the churches have been teaching for centuries about marriage being good for children, parents, spouses and society can now be empirically verified, he said.
Thatcher, the author of several books including Theology and Families, said an exploration of Jesus' teaching, however, shows he placed the kingdom of heaven above kin.
He said he often thinks of Jesus "subversive" teachings on the family when he contemplates the forms of family diversity existing today.
"No family form must become an idol," he said. "The kingdom is more important than kin, though the kingdom involves caring for others."
"We should be wary of making an idol of the nuclear family as if it was already in the New Testament and Jesus liked it," he said.
Thatcher also said St. Paul was lukewarm about marriage, describing it as "a last resort for the incontinent." Celibacy was better than marriage, according to Paul.
Thatcher built his theology of marriage based on Jesus' teaching on children because when one receives or welcomes a child, one receives or welcomes Jesus. He said he wanted to look for the Real Presence of Jesus in the child as well as in the Eucharist.
"The teachings of Jesus put children first," he said.
Thus any theology of the family must support whatever arrangement is best for children.
"Jesus wills the flourishing of all children," he said. "Children are more likely to flourish within a marriage. Therefore Jesus wills marriage for bringing up children."
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