In today’s clip, Peter Range discusses the way a child can reach his or her “full potential” in the care of a loving mother and father. He is speaking in a particular way from his experience assisting with the Church’s adoption ministry.
While expressing support and admiration for those generous single persons who feel called to open their homes to children who are in need of adoption, the general preference of the Church for adoptive situations is to entrust a child to a married mother and father, who can supply the kind of home that the child has lost.
Is it just that you need two people? Would two mothers or two fathers be just as good?
Consider your own relationship with your parents, or even with aunts and uncles or nieces or nephews. Our relationships are necessarily conditioned by our physical reality. A hug from your dad is experientially just a different thing from a hug from your mom. The way you relate to others has to do with whether you are a man or a woman—that does not mean simply that you can’t do x, y, or z but rather that when you do x, y, or z, you do those things as a man or as a woman. Therefore, the way you learn about relationships as a child is in large part through watching a man and a woman—your parents—interact every day before your eyes. You also learn as a child that your sister and brother aren’t treated exactly the same way and that Uncle Joe is the one who throws you in the air while Aunt Sally pinches your cheek. It’s just different.
Question: How do you think a child’s ability to reach his or her potential is affected by family structure? Why?
In this clip from the opening of Made for the Common Good, Glenn Stanton uses the analogy of the foundation of a house to help us think about marriage’s role in a community.
Did you know that, even if the neighborhood is not safe in general, children in married households are safer, and witness less violence, than children in one-parent homes?[i] In addition, “Even after controlling for socioeconomic factors, studies show that children who grow up in single-parent households are poorer, less economically mobile, and more prone to a variety of behavioral issues than those raised by married parents.”[ii] The stability of a home with a mother and father who are committed to their marriage cannot be overestimated.
One of the questions facing our society today is: how can we help young people to see the benefits of marriage, especially when they are inclined to be either afraid or pessimistic about it?[iii] How can we encourage young people to consider marrying, particularly marrying before having children? Despite the fact that married men report happiness at a higher rate than unmarried or cohabiting men, [iv] the number of men who are married between the ages of 20 and 39 has dropped significantly in the last twenty years. [v] It is clear that so much more needs to be done as a society and in the Church (or as the Church) to reverse this decline.
What are your ideas about this? Leave a comment and let’s start a discussion.
[i] Nicholas Zill, “Even in Unsafe Neighborhoods, Kids Are Safer in Married Families,” Institute for Family Studies, http://family-studies.org/even-in-unsafe-neighborhoods-kids-are-safer-in-married-families/ (accessed February 9, 2017).
[ii] Dwyer Gunn, “What’s Marriage Got to Do With Poverty?” Pacific Standard, https://psmag.com/what-s-marriage-got-to-do-with-poverty-369336f72f8#.6geruwigb (accessed February 9, 2017).
[iii] For an article about young men’s approach to marriage, see W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It,” National Review, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444746/marriage-benefits-men-financial-health-sex-divorce-caveat (accessed February 10, 2017).
“The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete an effective fulfillment.” – Pope St. John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, no. 74
What does “the common good” of society mean?
The Catechism’s section on the common good (nos. 1905-1917) lists three essential components:
- Respect for the person
- Social well-being and development
It notes, “The common good is always oriented towards the progress of persons: ‘The order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around’ (Gaudium et Spes, no. 26). This order is founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love” (CCC, no. 1912).
To put it simply, society should be ordered in such a way that people will find it easier to be good, even to get to heaven—to develop their gifts and capacities in peace, carrying out their duties and responsibilities without having to struggle against oppression or fear, able to act according to their consciences. The common good is meant to ensure that people may live a “truly human life” (CCC, no. 1908). Government, the state, has a role to play in upholding the common good (see CCC, no. 1910) by supporting institutions that are good for all.
Strong marriages—marriages in which a man and a woman stay together for their entire lives—are good for society as well as for the couple themselves. They serve as examples to the community of the virtues of love, fidelity and perseverance. They demonstrate the capacity of the human being to live up to his or her promises. As G.K. Chesterton put it, “It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word.”[i] Children who are raised in homes with their own married mother and father enjoy stability that no other family structure offers.[ii]
If we consider these points, it becomes clear that marriage is important to the common good of society—the institution of marriage, properly understood as a man and a woman, bound to one another and their children, helps everyone in the society to flourish. It encourages young men and women to make promises to one another if they want to be “a couple”; it gives a societal recognition of such a promise and the community’s investment in helping the couple to keep it; and it gives children the stable homes they deserve.
The series we are beginning on the MUR blog accompanies short segments of the video Made for the Common Good. In this video, various experts and witnesses discuss the importance of marriage to society. During the next five weeks, we will explore these themes a bit more. The questions provided can be used for personal reflection or for group discussion.
[i] G.K. Chesterton. “The Wildest of Adventures,” in Brave New Family, ed. Alvaro de Silva (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 51.
[ii] There are many studies that show this. One article about family structure is: W. Bradford Wilcox, “Family Structure Matters – Science Proves It,” National Review, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425957/family-structure-matters-science-proves-it-w-bradford-wilcox (accessed February 9, 2017).