The two synods on the family and the Holy Father’s exhortation published last week provide guidance for Catholics who are enmeshed in what I call the Marriage Mess.
The fact of the matter is, the whole human race–and not simply Catholic Christians are going through a crisis that is bigger than just the question of divorce and re-marriage. Divorce and re-marriage are part of a much larger problem that has hit us, and this problem goes to the very roots of who we are as human beings and God’s creatures.
Since the mid 1960s a range of different factors have hit the human race which have come together to create a perfect storm. That perfect storm is the Marriage Mess. We’re in the midst of this perfect storm now and it a huge number of people have been thrown by it, and the problem is only going to get worse: much worse. It is difficult to over estimate the continued destruction and damage that will be caused to the human family because of this perfect storm.
The symptoms of the Marriage Mess are sexual confusion, the breakdown of the family unit, lack of social cohesion, breakdown of traditional morality and subsequent sexual anarchy and chaos. Why has this massive amount of confusion and chaos happened? Here are ten factors in no particular order:
- Geographical Mobility – Since World War II with the growth of air travel people have been able to move around the world with increasing speed and frequency. National boundaries are porous. Individuals and families not only move around the country but around the world. Families used to be extended and local. In other words, we all lived near our siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and an extended community. Most people belonged to a local set of family and friends who belonged to the same religion, the same ethnic group and the same socio economic group. This local reality contributed to strong marriages and families. Increased mobility has dissolved the local, extended family. Marriages were made with people one met while traveling, at college or in a new town or country, and those marriages were not supported by the strong bonds of a local, extended family.
- Social and Educational Mobility – As people travelled and an increasing number of people became more highly educated they also became socially and economically mobile. As individuals went away to college they also went away from their extended families and often moved away from the religion, morals and worldview with which they were raised. As they moved away in an individualistic fashion, they also moved away from many of the structures that would have supported and defended and helped to establish a strong and permanent marriage. Marriages were formed on more sentimental, erotic and individualistic foundations rather than the shared foundations of a strong extended family unit and the deep roots of a shared value system and a stable socio economic environment.
- Moral Relativism – Situational ethics was taught in colleges and universities and filtered down to the general public. Absolutes of moral behavior were discarded in favor of individualism and personal choice based on erotic attraction, sentimentalism or peer pressure. The idea of religious binding solemn vows was given only lip service. There were no absolutes so people had to establish their own rules and regulations. This philosophy does not value permanent, life long marriage and sexual fidelity.
- No Fault Divorce If ever there was a lie this was it. “No fault divorce?” There’s no such thing. But of course, this was put into place so that divorce could be quick and easy. Consequently, the idea of a lifelong marriage was immediately undermined. With divorce being easy, quick and cheap it was very difficult to stay married . When things got rough, divorce became the quick, easy and cheap solution.
- Artificial Contraception – This one is HUGE. The invention of quick, easy, cheap and efficient artificial contraception (and by extension abortion) separated the sexual act from procreation. Once sexuality was separated from having babies, what was the point of marriage? Marriage had been for the mutual support and union of a man and woman and the procreation and establishment of a secure home for the nurture of children. If children were not part of the sex act, then immediately marriage became something else as well. It became an institution for the couple’s self fulfillment and self indulgence. If the reason for marriage then was to make the and woman happy, then of course when they stopped being happy and marriage became a chore it seemed obvious that they should divorce and find someone else who might make them happy.
- Pornography If sex is only about self fulfillment, then it is essentially masturbatory. Pornography turns the sexual instinct in on itself and the person involved suffers from an inverted sexuality. They think only of themselves and their ability to establish a mature, caring and loving relationship with another person becomes crippled, stunted and eventually paralyzed. Continue Reading