A monthly column by the Emmanuel Community: 46 Rosalino Street, Woodbrook.Tel:628-1064;firstname.lastname@example.org
The belief that marriage is a keystone of a nation’s social order is founded on the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. As the Catholic bishops of Australia pointed out in their 2015 pamphlet, Don’t Mess with Marriage, traditional marriage is not merely about intimate association but is “a comprehensive union between a man and a woman grounded on heterosexual union”.
A union “grounded on a total commitment: bodily and spiritual, sexual and reproductive, permanent and exclusive”…; a union “centred around and ordered not only to the well-being of the spouses but also towards the generation and well-being of children”. This is so even if no children result from the union.
The Catholic Voices (Great Britain) declared in a March 2012 briefing paper, In Defence of Conjugality: the Common-Good Case against Same-Sex Marriage, that this conjugal understanding of marriage is not just marriage’s real meaning; it is also the reason it is respected and promoted by the state.
It is not enough, however, to say that children thrive better within marriage. Several studies have shown the importance for children of having, as far as possible, both a mother and a father.
The Catholic Voices briefing highlighted the fact that children brought up by divorced or single parents, by adopted parents or by relatives, by same-sex couples or in foster homes, are all missing something essential to their well-being.
They pointed out furthermore that it is not simply the presence of two parents of opposite genders, but the presence of two biological parents, that best supports children’s development. It is telling that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises the right of children to know and be raised by their parents.
The Australian bishops stressed that while we may have to deal with the unintended reality of single parenthood, this is far different from “planning from the beginning artificially to create an ‘alternative family’ that deliberately deprives a child of a father or a mother”.
A change in the definition of marriage has legal implications as well in areas such as surrogacy, in vitro fertilisation, and adoption by same-sex partners.
There is cause for concern too in the area of health with regard to redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. In both Sweden and Denmark, where same-sex “marriage” has been legalised, the suicide risk for men in same-sex marriage and registered domestic partnerships has been found to be far greater than for different-sex married men.
The Australian bishops noted that traditional families “provide the social stability necessary for the future by modelling love and communion, welcoming and raising new life, taking care of the weak, sick and aged. The principal ‘public’ significance of the marriage-based family is precisely in being the nursery for raising healthy, well-rounded, virtuous citizens”.
Can we afford to gamble the health and stability of the (already shaky) family in our nation for the dubious privilege of granting a right that has no basis in natural or international law?