Check out this new website filled with resources about the meaning of marriage: Marriage Ecosystem. From the home page:
Marriage is like an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a functional unit consisting of living things in a given area, linked together in a particular way. One of the wonderful things about an ecosystem is how it can be perceived as a unit, with each creature contributing to the welfare of the entire system. If one of the species dies in an ecosystem, the entire ecosystem is affected.
This critical social institution is more than the sum of many parts. When one part is removed or altered, the entire ecosystem begins to wobble and threatens to collapse. It plays a stabilizing role in society, both in people’s day to day lives and also in our society as a unit. We hope by reading our site, you will understand why we call it an ecosystem. We also hope you’ll understand why it’s important to treat it as we might treat any other ecosystem: with respect, care, and appreciation (emphasis original).
This train of thought – marriage as an ecosystem – is reminiscent of the concept of “human ecology” used by Pope Benedict in his encyclical 2009 Caritas in Veritate. There, the Holy Father writes:
There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology” is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.
. . .
It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development (no. 51, emphasis added).
Pope Benedict has spoken of “human ecology” elsewhere, for example in his 2007 message for the World Day of Peace:
Alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a “human” ecology, which in turn demands a “social” ecology. All this means that humanity, if it truly desires peace, must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology (no. 8).
The thread running through the Holy Father’s words – and through the concept of marriage as an “ecosystem” – is that the realities of creation (including men, women, and the particularly human sphere of action called “culture”) are deeply and fundamentally interconnected. Ignoring, overlooking, or misunderstanding one part has vast implications for the whole of reality.