Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saving Secular Marriage

Saving Secular Marriage

We have seen the redefinition of marriage repeatedly defeated at the ballot box, yet repeatedly enforced by judges.  In truth, marriage can not be redefined in either venue.  But many people are beginning to wonder, “Is it even worth the fight for us as Catholics to try and defend marriage in the secular sphere?”  After all, we are concerned with Sacramental marriage, which will not be touched, and society has long recognized as valid many unions which, in the proper sense, are not valid marriages.

The battle everyone agrees we must fight is that for religious liberty.  With courts trying to enforce our participation in same-sex “marriages,” there is much work to be done on that front.  So should we even care what secular society believes about marriage?

I believe the answer is “yes,” and something I saw recently hammered home the reasons why.  I was watching some game show and the exchange between the host and a contestant went like this:

Host: “You’re a married man?”

Contestant: “Yes, my wife and I have been married for 10 years.”

Host: “And you have children?”

Contestant: “We have three.  Our oldest daughter is 15, our son is 13, and our youngest daughter is 11.”

It was clear that the three kids are all from the contestant and his wife.  The youngest is 11, and they have been married for 10 years.  That means their oldest daughter was five years old, with two younger siblings before they decided to get married.  Now I’m not judging them personally; this is the culture in which we live.  The fact that they are still together, and the three children are with both of their natural parents, means that this family is actually ahead of the game, nowadays.

But I’ve known many people with similar circumstances.  The state licenses marriages in the first place because sociological studies (and common sense) overwhelmingly demonstrate that a married mother and father provide the best environment in which children can grow up.

Should we care about the state of secular marriage?  Yes, because as St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the world.”  The problem is that we’re getting forced into a debate exclusively about same-sex “marriage.”  The redefinition of marriage began years ago with the acceptance of wide-spread divorce.  That had to come first; once a generation grew up without a true sense of marriage, they would be able to accept all other sorts of redefinitions.

The media try to keep us focused on the same-sex issue because they like to portray us as bigots, or at least out-of-touch.  Nothing is further from the truth.  It is we who don’t define a person by his or her sexual attractions, but rather by the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God.

What we need to do is adjust the message.  Our culture has lost a true vision of marriage.  Instead of letting other people focus on what we say “no” to, we need to let people see the beauty of what we’re saying “yes” to.

It’s the same reason we lost the culture on chastity, in large part.  The “sexual revolution” portrayed the Church as only telling people, “Thou shalt not,” but the truth is that the beauty of chastity, and what it means for fruitful relationships far outweighs the darkness of the sexual revolution.  But until recently, we have been so much on the defensive against the darkness, people have not been able to see the light we bear as Catholics.

We need to present the culture with a true, positive, beautiful view of what marriage really is.  And that means first, we as a Church must be living it.  Is it too late to save the culture?  Perhaps.  But, then again, let us never forget, as St. Teresa of Avila said, “God plus one equals an army.”