Today, we finish this series on Made for the Common Good with Lucia Luzondo speaking about Pope Francis’ concept of “human ecology.” Just as the natural world has a proper environment and humanity needs to respect certain limits, so too the human person has a proper environment: the family. The pope wrote about this in Laudato si’ [LS] (nos. 5, 148, 152, and 155), which focused on “Care for God’s Creation.”
One of the aspects of human ecology we consider at MUR is the effect of gender ideology. As Pope Francis said, “An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves” (LS, no. 285). The increasing tendency to separate sex and gender and to promote a false anthropology in which one’s natural reality is inconsequential to one’s psyche today is dangerous. It will not lead to peace or joy.
The MUR video, Made for the Common Good, was created in order to elucidate the concept of the common good of society and how marriage contributes to it. We have looked at the effect that the marriage of one’s parents has on one’s development, and the way that other forms of family structure can be detrimental to a child. We have looked at the way that strong marriages in the community are of benefit to everyone, adding stability to neighborhoods and keeping kids out of jail.
Question: What else do you think is affected by marriage? How can we spread the word?
In today’s clip from Made for the Common Good, we hear from Alana Newman, who was
conceived by her mother with the contribution of a sperm donor. When Alana received information about her biological father, in the form of some “non-identifying” qualities, she immediately acted upon the information by buying a plane ticket to the country her father was originally from.
What did going to Poland do for Alana? Was it a pointless exercise?
If you’re American, chances are good that your family, somewhere down the line, is from somewhere else. Have you ever gone to visit the country your family is from? What was that experience like?
My family is Italian. The first time I went to Italy, I thought, “Wow, these people all look like me!” When I went into stores, the shop owners didn’t immediately switch to English, as they did with other tourists. Once I was dressed in a long skirt that friends joked was my “gypsy skirt” and sitting outside a church; a little girl pulled at her mother and pointed at me, asking her mother to give me money. (There are a number of Romani who beg outside churches in that area). Clearly, I blend in perfectly in Italy, despite having lived my whole life in the U.S. I experience an almost instinctive belonging there, because when I look around, I see people who look like me. We obviously share some genes!
That’s what Alana could find by going to Poland. She could sit in a café and look at people walking by and try to see her own face and body type in them. She would probably feel at least some of what I feel in Italy—instinctive belonging due to similarity in looks. Her father’s ancestry is her heritage, even though she has never met him. She shares genes with people in Poland.
If you’re interested in learning more about adults who look for information about their sperm donors, this article came out this month (February 2017), focusing on one clinic in California. The article looked into how many adults looked to connect with their sperm donor fathers when they came of age. This particular clinic uses “open-identity donation,” where this is an option once the child turns 18, but many clinics are still based on anonymous “donors” where the child has no recourse to knowing the identity of their biological parent.
Question: Do you think this situation of anonymous sperm and egg donors should be remedied? How?
“Because he loves me,” the young girls said, in response to Dr. Amanda Boyd’s question of why they would commit a crime with their romantic partner. They admitted to her that they probably wouldn’t have committed the crime if not for their boyfriend.
Dr. Boyd said that, of the girls she met when she volunteered at a facility for juvenile delinquents, only one of them had a father that they knew. They sought the affirmation of men in other, less healthy ways, most likely because of this lack in their life.
Children need a father.[i] They need a man to look up to, and to emulate (in the case of a boy) or to learn how they should be treated by one (in the case of a girl). Check out some of the research that shows the effect of fatherlessness on our kids.
This isn’t some ideological stance that is particular to the Church. Even Oprah talks about how “daddyless daughters” struggle with self-worth. Secular authors write about how dating a woman without a father has particular challenges and that women can have Fatherless Daughter Syndrome. There’s a Fatherless Daughter Project just for them. There’s loads of social science research backing it up.[ii]
There are some initiatives out there that seek to alleviate some of these effects, such as “Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” and these are laudable. But no one can really take the place of your own father.
Question: What can our society do to encourage men to be good fathers and to be involved in their children’s lives even if they are not married to the mother?
[i] An interesting (secular) take on this need is Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter? (New York: Scientific American, 2014).
[ii] There are too many studies out there to even begin to do a systematic review. Here’s a nice simple one from 2014: Anna Sutherland, “Yes, Father Absence Causes the Problems It’s Associated With,” Institute for Family Studies, http://family-studies.org/yes-father-absence-causes-the-problems-its-associated-with/ (accessed February 10, 2017).
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).