Weekend Reading: Much Ado About Marriage

There’s been a lot of news about marriage over the past week and I wanted to summarize as much a I could now that I’ve had a small breather from the week’s busyness.

Reading some of the comments to my previous posts, it’s clear there is a great deal of confusion about the Church’s teaching on the meaning of marriage, the need to support it, and why she continues to oppose same-sex “marriage.”

Last week, for instance, despite a letter from and lobbying by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, a problematic civil unions bill was passed in the Illinois lame duck session.

As Brian wrote in the aftermath,  Catholic Governor Pat Quinn argued that his faith was a principal motivation for deciding to sign the bill. Bishop Thomas Paprocki had words about that:

“He did not say what religious faith that would be, but it certainly is not the Catholic faith. … If he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority, and the Catholic church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.”

Quinn’s shrugging response? “I follow my conscience.”

Well, let’s educate Mr. Quinn’s conscience. I would urge readers who disagree with what I am about to write to commit the courtesy of reading the articles I cite before jumping into the comment box. Responding to arguments you haven’t troubled yourself to understand is no way to have a constructive conversation.

Jennifer Braceras writes, “Who Needs Marriage? Kids Do“:

When it comes to marriage, political correctness has given birth (literally) to an epidemic of illegitimacy and single-parenting. And these demographics have important social and economic consequences.

Braceras references a recently-released Pew Study “The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of New Families.” Do we really believe society will be better served by a “post-marriage culture?” Do we really believe children will grow up in an environment that is conducive to their short-term needs and long-term interests?

The push to redefine (or abandon) traditional marriage has huge unintended (yet still direct) consequences, as the above studies suggest. Additionally, Elizabeth Marquardt persuasively argues “How Redefining Marriage Redefines Parenthood.” In a media culture that already is producing severe social problems of isolation among children and young people, removing them from the experience of even being raised and nurtured by their biological parents will cause further alienation.

Europe gives us a taste of what a post-marriage culture looks like. Pope Benedict, in his message to the new Hungarian ambassador this week, issued these startling words, “Europe would no longer be Europe if the basic cell of the marriage disappears or is transformed.” Same-sex marriage, while one of the threats to marriage, is not the only one: every attempt to undermine the traditional definition of marriage, especially as it stands in law, has a harmful effect on the culture:

[The pope went] on to say that marriage and family are now affected by the erosion of their “values of stability and insolubility,” because of “the growing liberalization of divorce, the increasingly widespread habit of cohabitation”, because of the “different kinds of union which have no foundation in the cultural or legal history of Europe”.

The Church – adds the Pope – can not approve “of legislative initiatives that involve the enhancement of alternative models of married life and family.” These models contribute to “the weakening of the principles of natural law and thus to the relativization of law,” as well as to the weakening of “awareness of society’s values”.

American bishops are doing their best to communicate the same message here. Besides making “strengthening marriage (and the value of children and family life” one of their top five priorities next year, their concrete efforts are well-summarized by Michelle Martin.

The efforts to preserve and promote marriage are an opportunity for Christian ecumenism and common effort. Here is one example by R. Albert Mohler at the Christian Post of a Protestant explaining the social consequence of marriage, while Ron Snider encourages evangelicals to rethink what they do and say about gay marriage.

To round out this weekend reading linkfest, see these last three articles:

Deacon Moynihan – “In support of Marriage

Vicki Thorn – “Why So Disillusioned About Marriage?

Debra Saunders – “Polygamy Debate Evokes Familiar ‘Rights’ Language

A final thought about the reason I believe it is important to spend so much time thinking, reading and writing about marriage. Some have hurled the accusation in the comment box that is it basically because I hate gay people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This issue is important to me, rather, because I love God’s plan for us, and believe His plan reveals how human beings are called to live, which can be understood by our reason.

It is because I care about human happiness, care about vulnerable children and young people, care about human connectedness and fulfillment, that marriage matters so much.

When asked if we agree with the Church and God’s vision of marriage, I hope we can say, “I do.”



  • Christina H.

    Get the facts~ Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy–> http://is.gd/e4gZd

    • Amanda


      I read a little of the link, and realized this is all pertaining to the law, not necessarily of science or research. The law at one time said slaves were property and not fully human, but we know that slaves are fully human no matter what. So the law can be wrong and not in the best interest of its citizens. Whereas science and research (in theory) are not biased and just shows the plan facts and results.

      • Jared

        Amanda, it’s true that human law can be wrong and not in the best interest of its citizens. However, the paper to which Christina H. linked is specifically a study of the question of whether or not natural marriage is constitutional — that is, does the Constitution require that marriage be redefined to allow the union of two men or two women? The fact of the matter is that there is nothing whatsoever in the Constitution that requires the imposition of same-sex pseudomarriage.

        Now, you may argue that science and research show that homosexuals can marry and therefore the law should be changed to allow that, but even if that were true it still would not change the fact that permitting only natural marriage and forbidding unnatural perversions of marriage is not unconstitutional. Consequently, only a constitutional amendment would make it obligatory for the State to recognise homosexual pseudomarriage. As it stands now, however, under the law the State *may* recognise homosexual pseudomarriage, but is not obliged to do so.

        • Jared

          On the question of whether or not it violates the Constitution for the State to recognise and regulate marriage, here are some quotes from relevant court decisions:

          “Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.” Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). (cited in Loving v. Virginia) U.S. Supreme Court

          Minnesota Supreme Court in Baker v. Nelson (1971): “The institution of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family….This historic institution manifestly is more deeply founded than the asserted contemporary concept of marriage and societal interests which petitioners contend. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not a charter for restructuring it by judicial legislation.” (Accepted as precedent by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 by summary dismissal: when that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court by Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell, the Supreme Court, including the infamous liberals William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, unanimously dismissed the appeal for want of a substantial federal question. It is a decision on the merits and binds all courts in the nation on the applicability of the due process and equal protection clauses to marriage laws.)

          Washington Court of Appeals in Singer v. Hara (1974): “our society as a whole views marriage as the appropriate and desirable forum for procreation and rearing of children. This is true even though married couples are not required to become parents and even though some couples are incapable of becoming parents and even though not all couples who produce children are married. These, however, are exceptional situations. The fact remains that marriage exists as a protected legal institution primarily because of societal values associated with the propagation of the human race.”

          Washington Supreme Court in Andersen v. King County (2006): “the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not, in the legislature’s view, further these purposes.”

          New York Court of Appeals in Hernandez v. Robles (2006): “Far from recognizing a right to marry extending beyond the one woman and one man union, it is evident from the Loving v. Virginia decision that the Supreme Court viewed marriage as fundamental precisely because of its relationship to human procreation….”

          And finally:

          “For certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate states of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guarantee of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.” Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15. (cited in Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, and United States v. Bitty, 208 U.S. 393)

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