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05/19/2010

Rosary vs the ring finger, MN edition: Keep your eye on Nienstedt!

by Jeremy Hooper

In California, there was Bishop Cordileone. In Maine, Bishop Malone. And now for those of you focusing on Minnesota and the potential for a ballot fight to happen there, it's time you start learning the name Archbishop John Nienstedt.

We've been telling you for some time now that the National Organization For Marriage is laying the groundwork there for a potential ballot fight. There have been speaking engagements in St. Paul (alongside the aforementioned Cordileone). There have been appearances at local Catholic Universities. And then yesterday came the big reveal in the form of a $200,000 marriage campaign. The strategy is to first remove pro-equality legislative/executive voices and replace them with anti-gay ones, since any potential ballot initiative must first go through the legislature. Then if/when they should get a marriage amendment on the ballot, NOM hopes to already have this strong Archbishop-NienstedtCatholic infrastructure, whose endless wells of money, connection, and influence can and will be tapped for the purposes of hurting loving gay couples.

Here now, another canonical/NOMonical/histrionical/non-commical connection. What follows is a speech that Nienstedt recently delivered to the faithful at Edina, Minnesota's (not to be confused with Idina Menzel's) Church of Our Lady of Grace. The subject on this February day was "marriage and the current debate." And as you will see from this snippet, the Archbishop is more than ready to make Maggie Gallagher the quarterback of any potential political football game that should make its way to the North Star State. Enjoy:

The person who, in my opinion, has made the greatest contribution in researching the positive benefits that accrue to children who grow up in an intact, married biological family unit is Maggie Gallagher, President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. She first cites the research of social scientists in measuring how much better children on average do when their parents are married in a stable, non-violent relationship.

She points to the following conclusions that have been established by the research of twelve leading family scholars:
1) Marriage increases the likelihood that children enjoy warm, close relationships with parents.
2) Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage in terms of measurable results in a child’s productivity or their stability as adult citizens.
3) Children raised outside of intact married homes are more likely to divorce or become unwed parents themselves.
4) Marriage reduces child poverty.
5) Divorce increases the risk of school failure for children, and reduces the likelihood that they will graduate from college and achieve high status jobs.
6) Children in intact married homes are healthier, on average, than children in other family forms.

7) Babies born to married parents have sharply lower rates of infant mortality.
8) Children from intact married homes have lower rates of substance abuse.
9) Divorce increases rates of mental illness and distress in children, including the risk of suicide.
10) Boys and young men from intact married homes are less likely to commit
crimes.
11) Married women are less likely to experience domestic violence than cohabiting and serially dating women.
12) Children raised outside of intact marriages are more likely to be victims of both sexual and physical child abuse.

These twelve researchers conclude,

“Marriage is more than a private emotional relationship. It is also a social good. Not every person can or should marry. And not every child raised outside of marriage is damaged as a result. But communities where good-enough marriages are common have better outcomes for children, women, and men than do communities suffering from high rates of divorce, unmarried childbearing, and high-conflict or violent marriages.”

From such research, it can be demonstrated that family structure does matter for children and the intact, low-conflict marriage of two biological parents is proven to be the most helpful for the raising of healthy productive children.

At the heart of the so-called “gay marriage” debate, according to Gallagher, is the question of how children fare when raised by same-sex couples. She acknowledges several studies that have been done on this issue, most of which report favorably on gay parenting. Gallagher challenges those findings on four counts:
1. None of the studies were based on random, representative samples;
2. Many of the outcomes used were unrelated to standard measures used to evaluate families of two biological parents;
3. Few or more of the studies follow children of unisex parents into adulthood.
4. Most of the studies compare children with divorced lesbian mother-headed families with children in divorced heterosexual mother-headed families, ignoring the influence on a son or daughter by the father in an intact, low conflict marriage of two biological

Gallagher admits that:

“Marriage provides children not just with any two adults, but with their own parents: the mother and father who made them biologically are expected to maintain that parenting union socially, economically, sexually and psychologically as well. The social science evidence we have establishes fairly powerfully that this family structure is best for children (at least of all the family structures that have been well-studied), but it does not tell us as clearly why or how.”

There is, however, strong evidence to suggest that the intact family structure works better for children because fathers and mothers parent differently, in ways that complement one another and boost a child’s well-being. And this difference is not limited to the differentiation in tasks, but also in the area of gender identity through which a child begins to understand his or her own sexual embodiment, both from the mother as well as the father.

I urge you to read Gallagher’s arguments which are found in Robert George’s edited work which I cited above. She argues convincingly that the benefits of marriage as it has traditionally been defined “offer to the child the natural benefits that flow from being raised by his or her own mother and father united in one loving family.”
My friends, I hope this survey of the biblical, philosophical and sacramental meanings of marriage, as well as my brief reflection on what best serves our children, has been helpful to you. We are reminded by the Second Vatican Council that all of us who have been baptized and confirmed in our Catholic faith share in the Church’s mission of salvation. Therefore, we all have a specific vocation to make the Church present and active as salt and light in and to the world.34 But to do so in a credible way, we must be knowledgeable of what we believe as Catholics and why we believe it. We must be prepared and willing to enter the civic debate confident that society needs to know and embrace the truth that ultimately comes from God.

Each of us is his or her brother’s keeper. We are obliged to protect and foster the common good. We are ultimately called to be those instruments through which Jesus will reconcile all things in himself.

The same Second Vatican Council reminds us that the well-being of each person and of human and Christian society as a whole is intimately connected with the healthy state of marriage and the family within the community. Therefore, we cannot stand by and see the human and sacred supports for marriage and family life be knocked down by false ideologies and a wrong headed egalitarianism.

“As Aristotle explained in his account of moral formation and human flourishing, culture humanizes us by demanding our obedience. Happiness does not come from living according to one’s desires. It comes from desiring to live according to demanding and disciplinary social norms that transcend individual desires.”38
My friends, we must join together to make our voices of reason and faith be heard in a way that fosters a culture of life based on marriage as a “two-in-one flesh bodily” union. We must challenge those who believe that they can make of marriage whatever they desire. And with the special sacramental grace of the Holy Spirit, we ourselves must be able to witness to the noble vocation of marriage, by just getting up each morning and living out our commitment.

Thank you!
MARRIAGE AND LIFE PRESENTATION: Marriage and the Current Debate (pdf)

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