An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

A Dialogue on Marriage: Part Two

Dialogue-Part-TwoWhat is marriage? Part Two

Today we continue to eavesdrop on a conversation about marriage, begun on Monday.

Socrates: So Bob, when last we spoke, we were talking about whether it’s important for children to be raised by both a mother and a father.
Bob: Yes, that’s right. And I pointed out that parenting skills are not the issue when it comes to what children need; obviously two men or two women can have great parenting skills.
Socrates:That’s true, I think. Would you say that fathering and mothering is primarily about certain qualities or skills, or rather about a relationship?
Bob:  What do you mean?
Socrates: A mom and a dad can both change a diaper equally well, for example—that’s a skill, and, come to think of it, a babysitter can do that just as well as a parent.  But if fathering and mothering are about a relationship, then it’s not so much that a father does different things than a mother does, but rather that moms and dads do similar or even identical things differently.
Bob:  Oh, okay.  I would say the relationship then, if you put it that way. A father relates to his child in a different way than a mother does, and vice versa—even if they share certain skills.
Socrates: Do you think that’s a good thing?
Bob:  Yes, I do.
Socrates: So you would agree, then, that speaking about fathers and mothers always implies unique relationships within the family: father to mother, father to child, mother to child, father to mother to child?
Bob: That makes sense, but I don’t understand how this relates to the question about marriage.
Socrates: You agree that the father-child relationship and the mother-child relationship are different, right?
Bob:  Yes.
Socrates: And that having both a mother and a father is the best thing for a child?
Bob:  Sure, I would say that.
Socrates: Okay, then I would just point out that your definition of marriage doesn’t show that.
Bob: You mean that if marriage is, as I said, about “two adults in a sexual relationship who commit to live together and have a family together,” then the father-mother-child relationship doesn’t necessarily figure into the discussion, because the emphasis is on adults?
Socrates:That does seem to follow. But if marriage is and can only be a union of a man and a woman, and the child comes from that union, then the father-mother-child relationship would be really important to the discussion.
Bob: Are you saying that when people talk about marriage today, they may be talking about a different thing?
Socrates: Yes, you can put it that way. The meaning of marriage matters, and many times that meaning is presumed but not examined.
Bob:  How so?
Socrates: If marriage is the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union of a man and a woman, it is the only reality that truly unites for life a man and a woman and any children conceived of their union as a family. If, on the other hand, marriage is simply about adults and about validating their own commitments, attachments, and desires—however well intended they may be—this is a different understanding.
Bob:  But don’t most people agree that marriage is mostly about adults loving each other?
Socrates: That’s not clear, since many people are not asking the right question; they ask why certain couples can’t get married instead of asking what marriage is. We all should be concerned about asking the right question and arriving at the correct answer. Because, as you agreed, every child has a mother and a father, it would seem to follow that promoting the correct understanding of marriage, not censoring it, is really important for children and for all of us.
Bob:  Interesting. I’ll get back to you.


FAQ: What is Marriage?

 

2 responses to “A Dialogue on Marriage: Part Two”

  1. Confused says:

    Ok so what if you we’re very young and made decisions in result have baby without being married. I do have a boyfriend now who loves me and my daughter who has made better live decision than her father, but has this five year plan before marriage. While me and the father have a long history and he has asked me to marry him before i began another relationship. I had given him so many chances but he couldn’t seem to become the man I once loved he was still this green eyed monster. We’ll he has been away for five years now and claims to be rehabilitated and do see he has changed for the better. I just want my daughter to be happy even if that means sacrificing my own happiness.She has a lot of animosity towards my boyfriend and tells him “your not my dad and just want my daddy”, and often says “I thought you and daddy was getting married.” What do you think would best benifit my daughter?

    • DOM says:

      Dear Confused,
      It sounds like you are in a really difficult situation. I hope that you will consult with people that you know and trust who can help you to make the best decision for yourself and your daughter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.