It Takes Three: A Wholistic View of Marriage

The last few days there’s been a lot of buzz around the Catholic Blogosphere about the purpose of Marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, this is awesome, and with society continually pushing the boundaries of marriage, we should be continually re-examining and re-evangelizing what marriage is.  The two most popular articles have been “Marriage Isn’t for You” and its aptly titled response “A Response To: Marriage Isn’t for You“.  While both of these articles are beautiful and make important points about the selflessness and God-focused nature of marriage, I think they miss the bigger picture, and are perhaps better when considered two sides of the same the coin. So who is marriage for?

Marriage is for Me.

We can try all we want to remove ourselves from the focus of marriage–whether for reasons of humility or whatever–but in reality I think we need to remember that we are still part of this marriage, and we have to put our own personal effort into making it work.  My wife and I recently had a relatively serious argument about a decision I made, and both of us were feeling hurt and unloved because we thought the other was being unsupportive.  Only when I realized that my feelings were both selfish and prideful was I able to move on and forgive my wife (and myself) for feelings that were causing disunity in the marriage.  And believe me, it wasn’t easy, and it took prayer and grace from the Sacrament to let go of that anger that was so easily felt.  

The point here is that if we push to ad-absurdium the fact that marriage is self-less and for our spouse, we risk missing the essential focus of marriage as a vocation and a path to sanctification.  My marriage to my wife should make me a better man, a better Christian, and a better person, and indeed I think it has to start with me allowing God to transform myself in humility, self-giving, and love, before I can expect my wife to be transformed by the marriage.

Marriage is for my spouse (and others)

“Marriage Isn’t for You” had it right in some sense…a husband or wife who is focused solely or predominantly on themselves is not fulfilling their marriage or bringing it to its full fruition.  While we do need to make sure we are allowing the challenge of marriage to transform and sanctify ourselves, it is equally if not more important, that we bring our spouse to heaven.  Not only is it for your spouse, but it requires a spouse that is equally committed to making the marriage work.    Furthermore, a solid marriage is needed to adequately and healthily raise children in the best possible situation.   It is also a reflection of the inner love of the Trinity, the devotion to and effectiveness of the Sacrament, the fruitfulness of faith in family life, and the positive role of the domestic church in the universal Church and society.  In this way marriage is not for “you” or “me” but for the good of my spouse, my family, the world, and the Church.

Marriage requires God

This brings me to my third point… and I think the “Response” article was close to making this point but I’d like to refocus it.  While it can be argued that marriage is “for” God (although the implication or nuance of God needing marriage makes the theological part of me cringe a bit), I believe that it is more accurate to say that marriage requires God.  Yes, insofar as a healthy marriage glorifies God, does his will, and brings about the Kingdom of God, marriage is for God.  But I think the greater point here is that marriage, in a sense, subsists, in God.  It is hard, some days its the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, and its a lifetime commitment to daily choose to love this person and act on it.  Love like that cannot be sustained without grace–a grace that comes most fully through God and the sacrament of marriage.

It Takes Three

I don’t “disagree” with anything the authors of the other posts said.  I think they are very beautiful, pertinent, and well written messages that present a piece of the marriage puzzle.  The most important thing however, is that Christian couples realize that God needs to be at the center of their relationship for it to be most fruitful.  If marriage has only one person invested, it will fall flat on its face.  If it has two, it may hobble along for a while, but will be crippled.  If it has three people–husband, wife, and God–the marriage will dance and bare abundant fruit for the couple, the family, and the Kingdom of God as whole.

 

Did I miss anything?  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below!

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Comments on the Regnerus Study

There is a new study out being touted by Catholic and Anti-Gay Marriage believers as proving that same-sex parent (SSP) families are uniquely detrimental to children.  To them, this is another reason that Same Sex Marriage should not be supported.

As Catholics, American’s, and human being’s endowed with intellect and rational function, we have a responsibility not only to seek the fullness of Truth according to reality, but to uphold, support, and defend the Truth through realistic, prudent, and valid means.  Therefore, I would like to examine this study to see what actual conclusions can be drawn from it concerning the same-sex marriage issue.

First however, to remove any doubt of my bias, let me share my views concerning SSM.  I believe marriage is a Sacrament between a man and a woman, a reflection of the Trinitarian nature of God, for the purpose of begetting and raising children in a God centered environment.  Therefore, I believe that any form of legislation endorsing same sex union is contrary to the will of God.  For various theological, philosophical, psychological, legal and social reasons, same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry nor adopt or birth children.  Furthermore, the raising of a child by a same sex couple after a heterosexual divorce provides complicated legal issues that could also be avoided by a marriage amendment.

That being said, the idea presented in this study that SSP is significantly and uniquely detrimental to the child being raised is, from a scientific paradigm, contrary to prior studies I have read, specifically one by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association*, but also numerous other studies (some of which even suggest children of SSP are actually better adjusted than even IBF’s**).  However, Mr. Regnerus addresses the reliability of these studies in his article and thus appropriate doubt could be shed on their findings concerning their contrary views.

Futhermore, there are sources  pointing out the flaws of the study (anything from sample-size, its specific cohort as being unrepresentative, to unreliable measures) and while some of these arguments are more valid than others, they seriously handicap the ability of this study to be used in public discourse.  Of course, any secular instituion, most of which are in favor of SSM, will find a way to attack this study. However, Mark Regnerus himself says that the study has some weaknesses, does not say anything specifically about the morality of SSP, and should not be used to defend any political position.  I mostly agree with these criticisms–the study, in what and how it measures, is extremely limited in its findings, though there is some valuable information to be gleaned.

What can we take away from this study?  First, it must be noted that in nearly any scientific study dealing with this subject, the spiritual aspect of the child is ignored, and in that concern I believe that no SSP can ever be spiritually healthy for the child involved, as it presents an intrinsically disordered representation of love, sex, marriage, and natural law.  In general however, this study supports the opinion that, while SSP is no worse than divorce, step parentage, and single parent families, the benefits that proceed from an intact biological family cannot be ignored.  Traditional marriage is the best chance a child has at a healthy, spiritually fulfilling life and a realistic portrayal of love and sex.

What does all this mean for Catholics and Marriage Amendment supporters?  This study is not the savior of the Marriage Amendment cause, so please do not treat it as such.  The very sketchy and limited nature of the study, and the fact that most people are skeptical of it, means that it is very unlikely to help you win any arguments, or convince people to even more closely examine their views.  It is important as Catholics that we use all the tools (science, philosophy, revelation, etc.) to adequately support our point, and that we don’t use an illogical, purely passionate, or invalid argument just because it supports our view.  This does not win us any respect.  Mark Regnerus’ study has some points with which we can use as a piece of the scaffold in our argument, but it is in no way sound enough to stand on its own, nor does it disable the opponents argument concerning SSP and child well-being.  We must continue this fight in prayer, peaceful and respectful discourse, and with a firm handle on Truth and reality.

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*cf. Carole E. Allen, James E. Crawford, Mark Del Monte, Jane M. Foy, Miriam Kaufman, Jonathan D. Klein, et al. “The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-Being of Children” Pediatrics. 118.1 (July 2006) p349)

** “Intact Biological Families”–I disagree with this conclusion based on merely spiritual grounds, but the point is that there are varying degrees of sound science which finds different views on the matter.