Earlier this year, a Catholic Archbishop in New Mexico made controversial national headlines because he dared to teach his flock about the sacred importance of marriage. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan wrote in a pastoral letter:
We are all painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel, and to help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God.
First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no “third way” possible for a Christian.
The reaction was swift and brutal. (more…)
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A new report this week documents the damage done to children who grow up in homes where parents live with partners without formal commitment:
In the latter half of the 20th century, “divorce posed the biggest threat to marriage in the United States,” sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox and 17 other scholars said in a report released this week by the Institute for American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
That is no longer the case, they said.
“Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives.”
I’ve been beating this drum for a while. What’s great in this article are the quotes from a woman who still wants to champion “alternative” families:
“Generalities about cohabiting are not particularly helpful,” said Ms. Schranz, a Unitarian Universalist minister in California.
“What matters is the quality of the relationships of the people cohabiting,” she said. “Just as there are poor relationships among cohabiting people, there are poor relationships among married people. The status of their relationship does not govern the quality of the relationship.”
“Generalities?” You mean facts gathered from research? Isn’t it funny when people want to rebut facts and research merely by repeating the wishful thinking of their fantasy world views? Good grief, that’s the kind of narcissistic solipsism that got our society into this mess.
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Last December I was in a church meeting and had an idea: I knew what I thought the biggest factor was in our problems with education as institution around here, but nobody was talking about it. Nevada’s huge divorce rate (and, based on informal observation, cohabitation rate), was creating a poor environment for learning. Awareness needed to be raised.
So in my spare time I worked on a letter asking local leaders to familiarize themselves with the problem and address it. A week and a half ago it was finished and I sent it out. I included excerpts from summaries of dozens of studies that backed up the obvious–family structure is a major factor in educational success.
But so far, zero response. I’m not sure what I expected. Is it asking too much that a city in an academic disaster take seriously a critical but neglected cause of that problem? I suppose the budget crisis is more glamorous to report on, and my issue can’t compete with the political drama these days.
Here’s the letter I sent, along with the 25 recipients, who maybe just haven’t gotten around to it, yet. Maybe I need to take more of a grassroots approach. Right now, I’m just sorry I spent half of my personal allowance for the month on postage for this!
March 31, 2011
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Education in Nevada is unacceptably unsuccessful. We are near or in last place for student proficiency, achievement, and graduation rates. Recent budget problems have many worried that things may get even worse. Our children’s future is in a state of emergency.
While many in our area wonder why students aren’t more successful, there’s one important factor that is usually ignored: too many students fall behind and fail because their parents aren’t married. Several other factors are often mentioned, such as poverty, but, as seen in the enclosed materials, a major cause of poverty is fractured families. (more…)
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Last Saturday, I heard this one over and over as people used it as their talking point for a radio audition. I’m sure we’ve all heard this reiterated endlessly. It always surprises me how blithely people rattle this one off, with little thought for how vapid the argument really is.
First, this thesis is usually followed by their one and only line of defense for it: “You don’t really know someone until you see how grumpy and grungy they are in the morning.” Seriously? You have to live with someone to know that they’re grumpy and grungy in the morning? Isn’t everybody? And if we already know this, then we don’t really have to live together first in order to learn it, now do we? News flash, folks: that special someone you’re thinking of making a commitment to also has really bad breath when they wake up. And I didn’t even have to live with them first to figure it out! There, I just saved you the cost of some moving boxes.
“But,” interjects our torridly anxious co-habitants, “you need to live together first in order to truly know them and see if you’ll work out together.” This “reason” is even more lame than the first one. When, exactly, do you know if things are going to “work out” with someone or not? After six months? Three years? Ten years? What magic sign of “working out” are you looking for?
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It’s ironic that America is now embroiled in an all out cultural war over whether or not gay couples should be able to get married. It’s ironic because for the last several decades the cultural left has been waging a war against marriage itself. The mantra with which we’ve all been bombarded is that marriage is “just a piece of paper.”
So on one hand, a huge segment of the cultural left in America clings to its established dogma that marriage is outdated, oppressive, or irrelevant, while a growing faction of the same population battles to convince us that marriage is a crucial necessity worth fighting over. Thousands of flexible, hip, cohabitating straight couples all blithely ignore the foundational covenant of civilization, while at the same time thousands of aggrieved, angry, entitled gay couples take to the streets to campaign for what seems to be a life-or-death need.
Perhaps it’s just traditional marriage that’s bad. Alternative marriages–surprise!–are great.
This contradiction makes the convenient, experimental wishes of the left ever more difficult to take seriously. Will America’s counter culture please make up its mind? Either marriage is important or it isn’t. Either it’s a vital ceremony with real value, or it’s just an optional piece of paper. It can’t be both.
When you come to a consensus, let us know. Then we can talk.
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A recent post I read has impressed upon me that cohabitation and/or actively chosen single motherhood may well be the most critical threat facing families and society at large.
Ann Coulter devoted a devastating chapter to it in her most recent book, but Joanne Jacobs has linked to a new study that finds cohabitation and voluntary single parenthood so prevalent that it is now very much the norm. Her report reminded me of this incredible essay in City Journal–part of a theme that they focused on for a while–that details the many problems of our generation’s heedlessly hedonistic lack of values.
I knew a guy who lived with a woman for a few years, having a couple of kids with her. After a while, he started calling her his wife, though they refused to actually get married. When he decided to leave her for another woman, that concept of hypothetical matrimony must have gone out the window. Now he calls the new woman, to whom he also has not gotten married, his wife.
Multiply that to a large scale and you see the environment in which the next generation will grow up.
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