Marriage and, by the way, Family

MARRIAGE and, by the way, Family

I remember taking a college course entitled “Marriage and Family.” In those quaint olden days it seemed fitting to put the two subjects, “marriage” and “family” together. Most couples got married and had children. That’s just the way it worked. Putting the two topics into a single course made sense because in the vast majority of cases, people planned to raise children.
Not so much anymore. A scholar by the name of Cormac Burke, a participant in the current synod on the family in Rome, reminded us recently that family is, fast becoming a dispensable part of marriage. He says “Modern marriage is basically an a deux arrangement, an agreement between two people that has nothing to do with children.” A family can of course be added on later but only if convenient.
“Children,” he adds, “instead of being the natural fruit of married love and the glue that holds it together in times of stress are reduced to the category of minor accessories to the personal happiness of two separate persons and so dispensable,( like the marriage itself) if they do not serve each individuals happiness.”
We talk a lot these days about the rights we are owed as married people (gay or straight). We want tax advantages and inheritance rights perhaps forgetting that these rights and privileges were by and large given to married folks in order to protect and provide for the offspring of their marriages.
Was it the 80’s that was referred to as the “me generation?” I’d suggest that we could call ourselves the “me and you generation.” We have become so obsessed with a couples personal relationship and fulfillment that the broader social nature of marriage and family has faded into insignificance.
I submit that marriage is greater that the personal relationship between willing partners. A married couple becomes part of a society bigger than themselves. They have certain rights as members of society but they also have obligations to that same society. This includes being open to raising a new generation of children themselves, or fulfilling their obligation in love and compassion to those children who have no one to take care of them. Foster kids and homeless kids are “our kids” too.
We are not doing very well by our children. They are the ones who suffer when we separate marriage from family, when we pursue our individual lives as though they are an afterthought in the scheme of things, as though their welfare is not the most important aspect of marriage.