“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized.” These words come from Pope Francis, who spoke them in an October 2014 address to the Schoenstatt movement about how secular Western culture has turned against the family. And over the last several weeks, he has reinforced this message during his Wednesday catechesis on the true meaning of the family.
When the United States Supreme Court issued its June 26 decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case and redefined marriage, this rift between the prevailing culture and the created order was placed in the spotlight. The triumph of relativism and the removal of truth, reason, and virtue from our national debate on marriage were obvious for all to see.
Many of those who support changing marriage say, “You shouldn’t be worried. This doesn’t affect people of faith. It only changes the civil definition of marriage.” But what those who support the state changing its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples don’t realize is that people of faith are concerned about living their entire lives in conformity with how God created the world. It is neither possible nor healthy to live a life that is divided between one’s public and private existence. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, change the created order of nature. And yet, this is what those in favor of redefining marriage are promoting.
The Holy Father addressed the dangers of interacting with the world this way in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ (LS). He calls this a “technocratic” mentality that sees the natural world, our social institutions, our bodies and even our personalities as a kind of “raw material” that can be shaped according to our will, without any regard for their created purpose.
This self-serving way of life, the pope says, compromises the “dignity of the world.” And, he warns: “When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: ‘Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed’” (LS, 115).
Certainly this applies to marriage, an institution that was created by God before states and laws ever existed. The fact is the debate about marriage is not about equality or rights; it is about whether man can redefine creation.
Over the last century we have already seen the fallout from attempting to do this with other aspects of marriage. With the widespread use of contraception, fruitfulness and fidelity became no longer recognized as necessary parts of marriage. The permanent nature of marriage has also been undermined by the acceptance of divorce. Blessed Pope Paul VI predicted that accepting contraception would result in a general lowering of morality, increased infidelity, a decrease in men’s respect for women, and governments attempting to force birth control on their citizens – all of which have happened. The damage caused by redefining marriage as something not permanent, not requiring total fidelity and as not necessarily fruitful is evident from the data being reported by the social sciences.
Although much of Western society had already moved to support redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships, the Supreme Court’s legal approval will undoubtedly have further consequences.
Sociological and statistical studies have already begun to show what happens when children are raised by same-sex couples, instead of a mother and father.
In his January 2015 study, The Unexpected Harm of Same-Sex Marriage, Dr. Donald Sullins details how children who are raised by same-sex couples do worse on nine out of twelve measures of emotional and developmental health than children being raised by opposite sex parents. Similar results were reported in recent large-sample studies carried out by Dr. Mark Regnerus and Dr. Douglas Allen.
Interestingly, one series of studies by Dr. Jennifer Wainwright found that there were no negative outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples, but these studies had significant coding errors that resulted in children with heterosexual parents being included in the homosexual sample. When this was corrected for, Wainright’s study showed similar negative results for children being raised by same-sex couples.
But the tragic fact is that the Supreme Court’s ruling does not mention children and the impact its decision will have on them, even though these same studies were presented to the court. The court obviously does not appreciate the crucial and irreplaceable role that marriage between a man and woman plays in bringing forth new life and raising virtuous citizens. Only a man and woman can bring about the gift of children and become the mother and father that every child needs.
The question that remains for Catholics and all who recognize the vital importance of living in accord with the created order is, “What should we do now?” The new era that we have embarked on – in which Christianity and the natural order no longer inform the law – brings with it the opportunity to share the joy of living according to God’s plan with those who are searching for it.
This will require us to be generous when it is difficult, to be open to those who are suffering, and willing to endure being misunderstood or rejected.
So many of you have encountered Christ, dedicated your lives to living the sacrament of marriage and raising children who are faithful men and women of character. I give thanks to God and to you for your witness. I have also been blessed to meet young families throughout the archdiocese and around the country, who are striving to raise their children to be saints, as well as young people who aspire to be married. All of you give joy to my heart and hope for the future.
He who created heaven and earth will give us the grace we need to be faithful to him and will continue to pour out the gifts of his Spirit on those who live according to his plan! May our Lord bless you and fill you with his peace!