Marriage is the foundation of family life

Father John A. Kiley

Marriage in Western Civilization and in virtually every society in the world and certainly within the Judean-Christian tradition has been the indissoluble union of one man and one woman open to the procreation and education of children.

Plainly expressed, marriage is family: the oneness of a dad and a mom raising kids. The United States Supreme Court will shortly be analyzing two petitions on the nature of marriage. The contested Defense of Marriage Act plainly defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Another petition addresses the grievance of homosexuals who claim their legal inability to marry is a denial of their individual rights under the United States Constitution. Exactly what definition of marriage the Supreme Court will employ to make its deliberations is, of course, critical. Frankly, the use by the court of the natural law definition of marriage accepted throughout civilization as normative is highly problematic and, frankly, would be hypocritical. American courts have regularly ignored the indissolubility and the pro-creativity of marriage. A nod to the natural law now is sadly unlikely.

Marriage is not indissoluble because of canon or civil law; marriage is indissoluble by natural law. Marriage was an irrevocable bond between a man and a woman long before Abraham, Moses, or Jesus Christ came along. The marriage bond is naturally and universally unbreakable to insure the emotional and physical support of both spouses and of their children. The clear good of the family unit demanded that marriage be a permanent institution altered only by death or by the children’s adulthood. (A glance at today’s fractured society justifies this ancient and perennial wisdom.)

Marriage is by its nature oriented toward the continuation of the human species. Clearly, much more often than not, marriage down through the centuries has meant children. The married couple, whether they know it or not, are nature’s instruments for extending human kind. By nature the married couple must cooperate in what civilization has instinctively determined to be the greater good: the enrichment of the human race. While infertility has sometimes frustrated nature’s design, fertility has much more often been the delight and the duty of the married couple. The clear good of society demands children. (Zero population growth is today a lament of the Western nations.)

The time-honored triple foundation stones of marriage are indissolubility, complementarity and pro-creativity. Two of these natural marital bases, indissolubility and pro-creativity, are already severely dislodged in the Western world. Since marriage is rooted in nature, not in civil law, civil divorce is itself a violation of the natural law. Marriage is naturally permanent. Certainly no-fault divorce is the ultimate insult to the natural permanence of marriage.

Today boredom is sufficient reason under civil law to renounce one’s marriage vows. In all honesty, “til death do us part” should be stricken from the civil marriage formula since the states have no intention of honoring the phrase and, in fact, cannot enforce it since individual rights rather than the common good are now the supreme law of the land.

Contraception in its many forms – abortion, tubal ligation, vasectomy, the pill, condoms, uterine devices, salves, jellies, and patches – have been universally declared legal by American courts many times over the last half century. Once again the civil law negates the natural law by making procreation a matter of individual rights rather than an obligation toward society. Certainly responsible parenthood allows a couple to embrace effective family planning methods, but such measures must employ rather than frustrate nature’s designs.

So, on the flimsy grounds of individual preference and in complete defiance of the natural law, American law courts have already dismissed indissolubility and pro-creativity as integral to marriage. It will be interesting to see on what possible grounds American jurisprudence can continue to insist that marriage is solely between one man and one woman. Citing the natural law would be grossly inconsistent with the past century’s decisions. Still, not citing the natural law would mean that from now on all marital interaction is declared random, unpredictable, even impulsive – which is exactly what secular American society favors.