Honoring Families Without Honoring Marriage?

It seems that yesterday was “Family Day” here in the United States.  I didn’t receive the memo, but the White House did.  So, the President dutifully issued a proclamation that spoke of the importance of parents, empathized with their struggles, and exhorted them to keep up the good work.  He even found the time to extoll parents in same-sex relationships.

But there was one word that was conspicuous by its absence from the President’s proclamation.  Guess what it was?

There was nary a mention of the word “Marriage”.

So here we have the President of the United States talking about the importance of family and parenthood, but he can’t seem to bring himself to mention the single most important factor in ensuring a successful family — an intact marriage.  This is incomprehensible, especially for a man who has a very happy marriage and family.  How can he not realize that the same blessing that he has received is also the best situation for everyone?

The importance of marriage for adults, children, and society is incontrovertable, by all evidence from the social sciences, including:

  • Children born in an intact marriage have a dramatically lower chance of living in poverty than those born outside of marriage. 
  • Boys whose parents divorced or never married are two to three times more likely to end up in jail as adults.
  • Children whose parents get and stay married are healthier and also much less likely to suffer mental illness, including depression and teen suicide.
  • Families with an intact marriage are, on average, substantially more economically secure. 
  • Children whose parents never marry are far more likely to require public assistance.
  • Both men and women who marry live longer, healthier and happier lives. On virtually every measure of health and well-being, married people are better-off than otherwise similar singles.
  • Unmarried women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence.  
  • Children with married parents are significantly safer — they are a far lower risk of drug use, engaging in sexual activity, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, abortion, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect.
  • Children whose parents divorced or never married have lower grade point averages, are more likely to be held back a grade, to drop out of or be expelled from school, and are less likely to graduate from college.

If the President isn’t clear on this, perhaps he should consult his own Department of Health and Human Services, which has a laudable program called the “Healthy Marriage Initiative”, designed to promote marriage as the foundation of healthy adult life and family life.  They understand the importance of a good marriage to a family.  In fact, they even have a picture of the President’s family on their webpage. 

Our Bishops have also been undertaking a major “Pastoral Initiative on Marriage” to support married couples.  Here in the Archdiocese we’ve been working hard on our marriage preparation, natural family planning, and marriage enrichment programs.

This issue is really not that complicated or difficult.  Marriage is the foundation of a good family.  It is the best place for adults and children.  Most of our social problems are traceable to problems in marriage and the family.

So if our government is going to recognize and honor families, it should also be promoting and honoring marriage.

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