In today’s Gospel, Jesus stands in the midst of His own countrymen and begins to teach. His countrymen, far from appreciating the teachings of Jesus, ridicule him, they question his ability to teach and are offended by Him. Jesus is astounded by their lack of belief and is able to do little due to their hindrance.
I think that many Christians feel like we just went through the same situation last week with the decision of the Supreme Court to declare that the constitution guarantees the right for two men or two women to quote “marry” each other. It was a hard blow for many Americans so close to the 4th of July. Although our legal system has been deeply influenced by Protestantism and Deism, it still has been shaped around the idea that laws are to uphold the public good, encourage virtue and punish vice. In the past 100 years it has slowly changed from this understanding to a new legal system that upholds personal autonomy, the freedom to do whatever you want to do, as its chief goal.
The scary fact is that in 2015, we who believe that marriage cannot exist outside of one man and one woman, and believe it is in the best interest of society to legally uphold this, are in the minority. There is a phrase I have seen lobbed at us Catholics over and over again in the past years and certainly in the past week. “If you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get gay married! It has nothing to do with you!” Now, aside from the grammatical errors of that statement, there is plenty wrong with it. The idea that a society can all of a sudden change the way the family has worked for our country’s entire history is ludicrous. People are influenced by what they see around them. Their understanding of what is normal, and what is not, is shaped by the community around them.
I believe that we are in the situation that we find ourselves in today because of a decision we made as a culture 100 years ago: That children are not an important part of marriage.
At the turn of the last century ideas about eugenics and population control became popular. They were championed by people like Margaret Sanger and her institution, Planned Parenthood. Eventually the Anglican Church and Protestants gave into this societal push, and began to allow contraception in marriages. In 1930 Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Casti Connubii, saw that this was the beginning of an erosion on the common Christian and Natural Law understanding that marriage was between one man and one woman who were open to the generation of life as a result of their marital union. He explains the problem thus: “amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. And indeed the Creator of the human race Himself… when, instituting marriage in Paradise, He said to our first parents, and through them to all future spouses: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth."… But Christian parents must also understand that they are destined not only to propagate and preserve the human race on earth, indeed not only to educate any kind of worshippers of the true God, but children who are to become …members of God's household…”
If I child is a blessing, how can we reconcile a contraceptive union? We can’t, because we now are saying to God: I only want your blessing, if ever, when I’m at the right point in my career, when my bank account looks good or when I’m done having enough “fun” with just my spouse. How do we fulfill the charge Pius gave us to educate our children and make them fellow citizens of the saints when we have told them they only exist at out pleasure, not God’s plan before their birth?
Pius’ warning went unheeded and our culture accepted contraception as normal, and children began to learn that they were often a burden or a luxury, not a blessing from God, because we stopped accepting God as the most important person in our marriage. From this naturally flowed easy or no fault divorce, wherein children are taught that the happiness or independence of a parent often trumps the need for a child to have both a mother and a father in their life.
Now, with the normalization of same sex civil marriages, we have a new problem. It is biologically impossible for these unions to generate life, yet the deep yearning that so many people have to have to be a father or mother, coupled with the idea that children are a right and a scientific community that can make any things happen, we now find many children who live in a home with two daddies or two mommies. So what does this all add up to these children? They are being taught:
- They are a luxury for parents who have the money, time or desire for them
- That marriage is not a necessary part of their existence
- That their mother or father has a right to leave them behind to seek happiness in a new family situation
- That they don’t need both a mother of a father, or have a right to be with them
- That there is no difference between a mother and a father, so two dads o two moms is just as good, with femininity and masculinity no longer existing
When children grow up in this type of a society, it becomes so hard to teach them that they are always a blessing from God, no matter the circumstances of their birth; that they are a natural part of their father and mother’s marriage, that their father and mother have different yet complimentary God given gifts to share with the child and that they have a God given right to be with both their parents.
The negation of all these truths in the laws, morals and conduct of our society makes it so much harder to teach our children.
So when someone asks you “How does this new supreme court ruling affect you?,” a simple answer is “it makes it that much harder to teach children that they are part of God’s plan for marriage, that they are a blessing and that they are a living embodiment of God’s love.”
Some of us may have been led by our society to not treat marriage as the holy Sacrament that it is. If so, remember that God wants to forgive you because he loves you so much. May God give us all the grace to speak to all those who disagree with us with respect, with kindness, but with firm principle. We pray that our country will begin to support virtue again, and protect and encourage true love for our children. In the meantime, all us who are parents and Godparents need to remember that society and schools are not the primary teachers of our children, we are! May we teach them well, that they, in the words of Pius XI, become members of the Church of Christ, fellow-citizens of the Saints, and members of God's household, so that the worshippers of God and Our Savior may daily increase!