Saving the Institution of Marriage

Wednesday, August 11, 2004



In the past, many readers and I have debated whether gay marriages, allowing divorced Catholics to come to Communion, and/or contraception are threats to the institution of heterosexual marriage. Many readers believe that rates of cohabitation and divorce rates are climbing because of a general mental separation between procreation and sexuality. This ideological separation between sexuality, procreation, and marriage is believed to be causing the institution of marriage to dissolve.

Since divorce and cohabitation rates have climbed since the 1960's - especially in regions like Scandinavia, the cause seems to be this mental dissociation between sexuality, procreation and marriage. Thus, the proposed solution is for the Church to more aggressively and forcefully promulgate the teachings on contraception, homosexuality, and divorce - even using denial of Communion and censures against theologians and those who do not comply.

I have proposed an alternative hypothesis. My hypothesis is that people do not make decision to marry or divorce based on attitudes about sexuality and procreation.

Indeed, most heterosexuals still idealize marriage and want to give it a try at some point in their lives. Those who cohabitate tend to believe they are somehow preparing for marriage eventually. Few people enter into marriage planning a divorce. I simply find it unimaginable that heterosexuals will chose to forgo marriage or chose to divorce simply because gay civil unions were made legal.

My hypothesis is that modern economics create the situation where young people cohabitate and married people drift apart and divorce.

In order to understand this, we need to take ourselves mentally back to the pre-modern era before the pill, and before feminism, and before our modern consumerist society.

Before the post-modern era, and even before the modern era, there was a time when adolescence, as a concept, did not exist. A boy went through Confirmation or his Bar-Mitzvah, and was considered to cross from childhood to adulthood instantaneously. He immediately entered the military or the work-force in his teens, and started what would like be a life-long career at a living wage. He was allowed to buy a drink, drive his own carriage (if he belonged to the upper classes that owned carriages), etc....At the same age, he could marry.

In some societies, marriages were arranged, while others, the young man could choose his own wife. In those societies where marriage was not arranged, it would not be unusual for a young man to work a few years before marrying, but it would be unusual to marry any later than the age of 25.

In modern society, a boy goes through Confirmation or Bar-Mitzvah or other rite of passage rituals at about the same as age as the pre-modern era. Yet, he is nowhere near ready to be treated as a full adult. He will need to wait another couple of years to drive. He will then still need to graduate high school. Only at that point will he be a legal adult, and in most places, he still won't be able to buy a drink. College has become a near necessity in post-modern society, and graduate school may even be needed as the work-force becomes ever more specialized. After college, he will need to work a few years to have enough money to make a down-payment on a home and stabilize himself for marriage.

So, the first difference between the pre-modern and the post-modern era is that people are nearly forced to marry later than ever by economics. Biologically, people are ready for marriage by around 18 to 21 years old, but economically, it could be disastrous to marry before the age of 25 or even 30, depending on where you live and your type of career.

This extended period of growing into adulthood also creates problems with the way people mature emotionally in the post-modern era. Adolescence and young adulthood have become so part of our way of thinking that people who are in such stages know that they are not fully adults no matter how many adult rights and privileges they have. A young man at the age of 22 fresh out of college but not owning a car and a home, perhaps considering grad school, is likely to prefer dating to marriage until he becomes more economically stable - even if society pressured him to marry - but since such a life-style has become common, he is also likely to enjoy this stage of life as well. It's what everyone else his age is doing, and there are plenty of women to date at this stage of life.

Married life will be different than the pre-modern era in another way. Not only will it come later in life, but when a couple decides to marry, they are likely to find that in order to live as well as their parents or better, both spouses need to work. Even in the pre-modern era, it was not unheard of for women to work, but the man was typically the main bread-winner.

In the post-modern era, it takes two incomes to make mortgage payments or rent that often consume half of a single income these days. Unless you are willing to move into neighborhoods that place children in poor school systems or the entire family at risk of crime, basic housing is going to consume a large percent of the average income.

Keeping a job will also require reliable transportation, and therefore a car is no longer a luxury, as it may have been in 1910. It will be a necessity anywhere where there is not reliable public transportation (any non-metropolitan area). And while a Christian may choose to dress simply as part of the Christian virtue of poverty of spirit, the work environment will have minimum standards regarding dress that were non-existent in the pre-modern era. It is even becoming more and more a necessity that a person carry a cell phone and have internet access at home simply to keep their job!

In other words, we can talk all we want about how our society has become too materialistic and consumerist, but the culture is shifting to a point where the choice is between abject poverty or the middle class dream with nothing in between. In order to maintain the even the simplest middle class life-style, it is becoming almost imperative that both spouses work, at least in the early years of marriage until one or the other advances on the career totem poll to the point of earning a salary that can sustain the household by itself. Only about 15 percent of the entire population ever obtains the salary level where a woman does not need to work.

So, the working woman is not simply a bi-product of the pill or feminism. Rather, the working woman has become a necessity in order to afford decent housing and the commodities such as a car and "business casual clothing" that help a man simply sustain a life-style that is not abject poverty until he reaches the level where he can sustain a family himself (if he ever reaches that top 15 percent level at all). Alternatively, even a single parent can sustain basic life -support for herself and her children if she is willing to go on welfare, or live in the inner-cities, or live in a trailer park and send her children to failing public schools, etc....

Yet, while the dual income family has become a necessity, at least in the early years of marriage, having both spouses work also is what I believe is the cause of high divorce rates and low birth rates. Women naturally want to wait till their thirties to have a child so that they can build up their own career, and give their husband time to advance. Contraception in early marriage is a natural choice. As both men and women work longer hours in the office, they spend less time with each other. What little time they spend together is spent on housework, child care if and when they have any children, and arguing about the finances.

In the pre-modern era, a man may have worked long hours, but when he came home, he did no housework. He typically had the evenings and the Sabbath day to spend with his family. The family ate supper together every night. The family likely gathered around the fireplace, the radio or even TV in the early days of TV to simply enjoy each other. If the wife worked at all outside of the home, it was a low paying part time job often taken for a short period of time to get the family over a hump. The rest of the day, she did housework, cared for the children and maybe did some gardening or light farming to supplement the food. The children were almost never at home without one of the parents present.

The dawn of the industrial age began the first big changes in this set-up. At that time, unions rose up to restore some balance. What initially occurred is that businesses were literally working the men to death, sending them into mines and factories with unsafe working conditions seven days a week and 10 to 12 hours per day. The unions gave us the 40 hour work week and made it expensive for employers to work someone more than that by making overtime pay a mandatory practice. The unions won the Sabbath back and improved working conditions.

What will save marriage and the family?

I believe we are in a similar situation today at the dawn of the information age. Big business is trying to work us all to death in a sense. The situation is not quite as dour as the pre-union industrial age, but the effects on marriage are disastrous, nonetheless.

In the new reality, it is not simply men who make up the majority of the work-force. Now men and women together are being worked to death. Perhaps our working conditions are not unsafe, but we work longer hours for less pay than ever. Many of us are placed in salaried positions where overtime pay is not mandatory to the employer, and yet, we are forced or encouraged to work what amounts to mandatory overtime without pay.

Why are women now in the work-force along-side of men?

Many people mistakenly think of feminism as a purely modern phenomenon that exploded on the scene in the last 40 years. However, modern feminism lead to the suffrage movement in the early twentieth century, and has roots in women's movements in the nineteenth century. In turn, these movements find their origins in movements that took shape in the middle ages and before. Feminism has an extremely long history (or herstory) if we really look at it carefully. In this essay, I want to only look at it only in broad strokes.

Feminism arose in Christian societies as women gained greater access to education. Christian societies have always preserved the value of education for its own sake because in Christianity, we want everyone to be able to read the Bible. Thus, the Irish monks preserved education after the fall of the Roman Empire. The first universities in Europe formed from the theology schools for priests and monks. Education was extended from the religious to the aristocracy and then to the common people such that by the time of the colonization of America, the Puritans built the first public school system available to everyone!

As women became educated as well or better than men, it was only natural that they wanted to use their skills in the marketplace along-side of men. It took a long time for all of this to take the shape it began to take in the late nineteenth century - but the feminists movement began when the disciples of Jesus baptized women and admitted women to holy Communion without question. Indeed, in the early Church, women held positions such as deaconesses (Rome 16:1-2) and even apostle (Rom 16:7). Perhaps they were presbyteresses (1 Tim 5:1-2). The orders of virgins and widows also grew in the second century as a group of educated women, and educated women often made up large portions of the convents. The history of women in Christianity would make a fascinating volume, but let's skip ahead.

It would take fully 19 centuries for the very foundations of pagan patriarchy to be called into question, and so ingrained was patriarchal sexism in the spirit of the world that many Christians to this day consider feminism as something originating outside of Christianity. However, feminism started and grew entirely in Christian cultures and reached its most vocal turning point with the suffrage movement while Western society was still clearly defined as a Christian culture. Feminism is a product of Christianity - not a movement outside of and apart from Christianity!

As women entered the workforce in droves during and after the conditions created by World War II, and as women finally achieved a point where nearly all women had the opportunity to go to college, it was inevitable that women would join the work-force and demand equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity to career growth.

It was somewhat coincidental that the pill was introduced as this was occurring. The pill opened up the possibility for women to compete with men for jobs without worrying about sacrificing career or sacrificing marriage. Had the pill not come along, there would be more nuns today than there are. Indeed, there were a lot more nuns before the pill - hundreds of thousands more. Contrary to male stereotypes, women have historically proven that if you give them education and opportunity, many will often chose productive work over child-bearing. Legions of nuns give testimony to this in history. The pill simply allowed the choice to be made without a vow of celibacy!

Of course, had the pill not been invented, the answer that was arising was abortion, which also became legal just a few years after the pill first hit the market. It is as though the devil takes advantage of injustice toward women to push his own agenda.

If there were no pill, abortion would be even harder to fight than it already is, and more women would have had them than already have. Abortion became the clean break with historical Christian tradition in the feminist movement, and the arguments with the Vatican over the new contraceptive technologies simply hardened the feeling among educated women that Christianity itself truly was a vestige of patriarchal thinking, when feminism truly could not have occurred outside of a Christian society.

The sexual revolution lead to some weird ideas and practices in the late sixties and early seventies. However, what I am pointing out is that these things were going to happen whether the pill was invented or not. The pill did not cause the sexual revolution, nor did it cause the legalization of abortion. The root cause of the sexual revolution and the expansion of feminist consciousness was the education of women, and women were educated in Christian society because it was presumed that teaching them to read the Bible would be beneficial to their souls.

What I am arguing is that it is not the separation of procreation from sexuality that caused the negative effects of the sexual revolution. Rather, the separation of procreation from sexuality is the result of educating women.

We cannot restore the days of single income households headed by men simply by banning the pill and abortion. As long as there are educated women, many of those women will choose to develop a career. As long as women choose to develop a career over child-bearing, women will seek ways to avoid procreation. If you take away the pill and abortion, they will find other means, and only some will chose NFP or celibacy as the means of doing this.

Am I arguing that we need to stop educating women and return to the days of keeping women barefoot and pregnant? Are we to adopt an attitude like the Taliban towards women?

Of course not. In laying out that the root cause of the separation of procreation from sexuality lies in educating women, I am not trying to argue that we should stop educating women. Rather, I am arguing that this fundamental change has already occurred in society, and it was made because Christianity - of all the world's religions - was the first to realize the importance of educating women. Now that women are educated, there is no turning back the clock.

Saving marriage in post-modern society must take account of educated women who will hold careers and chose not to bear as many children as their ancestors if it means giving up the opportunity to use their education productively. If we do not take this into account, we cannot and will not save marriage.

The byproduct of feminism occurring in the post industrial and post-modern information age is that women entered the work-force en masse. As they did so, employers did not initially offer women the same wages and opportunities as men. As women cried foul, employers raised the wages of women, but raised prices on services and effectively froze the salaries of men, leading to double digit inflation in the seventies. The unions cried foul and built in COLAs (cost of living adjustments), but the dawn of the information age brought an entirely new industry where unions had no voice. The end result is that by the 1990's a man can no longer earn enough to support a family by himself. Big business is now paying effectively 50 percent less per worker than they paid in the 1960's!

We don't feel the cut in pay as much for two reasons. First, big business was smart enough to give the dual income household a bigger house and a bigger car over this time period. However, what is masked is that the bigger house and the bigger car do not give a couple the freedom to have one partner stay home. Second, big business has expanded our needs through creation of a consumerist society.

You cannot simply move into a house the size of your parents or grandparents and drive the same size car they drove in order to have one spouse stay home. The reason is that the house no longer exists - at least not in the neighborhood where crime is as low and the schools are as good as where your parents and grandparents lived. Wages are not as high in those areas either. You may not have adequate health care at the jobs in those neighborhoods. Again, the choice is between the current middle class dream and abject poverty with little in between.

What big business has really done over the last 40 years since women entered the work-force is nearly cut compensation cost in half to absorb women into the work-force. Where a single worker had to earn enough to support his family by himself at the dawn of the industrial age, the single worker today does not earn enough to support a family. It takes two workers to support the family today.

There is less disparity between the middle class and the poor in small town middle America, and more flexibility there. In the small towns of the mid-west, there are still a few couples who manage to survive as well as their parents on single incomes. These folks can still marry a little younger than the urban areas, where college degrees and graduate school are becoming a necessity. As manufacturing jobs continue to move overseas, it will become harder and harder to maintain the pre-modern family life-style, even in rural America.

In the midst of this change in society, gays and lesbians have emerged from the closet. They are not a product of the social change in the sense of an ideology giving rise to people becoming gay and lesbian. There were always gays and lesbians in society. Often, they too were part of the nunneries and monasteries along with the early feminists heterosexuals who wanted to work rather than marry and have babies.

The rise of feminism gave the lesbians a forum to come out and the gay men followed suit. AIDs eventually brought the last closeted people out of the closet, because it became obvious by the late 1980's that silence equaled death. Gays and lesbians were not a fundamental cause of the massive social changes of the 1960's and 1970's, nor were they an effect of these decades. Rather, the time had simply arrived where centuries of silence could finally be lifted.

So - the root causes in society that is leading to a decline in marriage demonstrated by rising numbers of young people cohabitating without marrying, and higher rates of married couples divorcing are the following factors:

First: The lengthening of the transition from childhood to adulthood for economic reasons: people need more education to work in today's world, and this extends the transition from a single teenage ritual to a process of adolescence and young adulthood that could last into a person's thirties.

Second: The necessity of a dual income household for any couple seeking to sustain a middle class family. When both spouses work 40 hours or more outside of the home, they do not have time to build up the family the way families were built up in the pre-modern era.

And the root cause of these two problems is the following two factors:

i) The industrial revolution followed by the rise of the information age.

ii) The entry of women into the work-force, which in turn was caused by the Christian desire to create an educated population.

Here's my suggestions on how to save marriage. As with any problem in life, there is likely more than one viable solution, and I am sort of brainstorming here - trying to intentionally think outside of the box (to use a cliche that is clearly in the box).

In order to save marriage, we need to figure out how to tackle three problems that have arisen in the post-modern era described above:

1) How do we allow a woman to use her education to build a career outside of the home if she chooses and still have time for the home?

2) How do we create time for a couple to spend with each other and their children when both spouses are working?

3) How do we encourage people to marry and bear children at a younger age while also permitting them the opportunity to continue educating themselves for the post-modern information age?

There are some principles in Church teaching that apply. Without referencing Vatican documents, I will take for granted that many of my readers are aware that the Vatican has pushed the following economic agenda:

A) A single worker has a right to a "living wage" defined as a wage that would support the average family. If only one member of the family needs to work, this would free up time for the other to either spend time on housework and childrearing, or devote one hundred percent of the second salary to the finest child and home care expenses while they work. Work for the second worker would truly be a free choice, rather than a necessity.

B) The Vatican has clearly indicated recently that a woman working outside of the home should not work so many hours that she has no time at home. Of course, the same could be said of a man. Nobody should spend so much time at work that they do not have time for family and the nourishment of spiritual and cultural values.

C) The Vatican has indicated that people have a right to adequate food, clothing, housing and health care. Of course, the teaching is vague on the definition of "adequate", but the basic principle is that one does not earn these things. Rather, one has a right to them by virtue of being a human person.

So, here's a simple plan for saving marriage. First, ensure that each and every worker - even the grill cook at McDonald's - is paid a living wage. Second, as a society, ensure that everyone is granted a certain minimum food, shelter, clothing, housing and health care. Third, reduce the hours required to spend at work for both sexes.

Of course, everyone will raise the issue that this is too simplistic, too idealistic, and too expensive. Some will even argue that this leads to communism.

Consider this.

What if society eliminated the notion of paying workers annual salaries and required all employers to pay hourly wages to every employee. And what if instead of making overtime pay mandatory at 40 hours, it were made mandatory at 30 hours? And what if employers were required to give four weeks vacation per year to every employee who has worked six months or more in a calendar year?

In the short range, people will likely chose to work the overtime hours and gain the extra overtime pay. Our habits of working the forty plus hour per week job is deeply ingrained in American society, and big business will not want to slow down productivity. In time, however, managers will see the sense in simply hiring more employees so that overtime can be reduced. It is cheaper to hire than to pay excessive overtime.

If you originally had 3 employees who typically worked 150 hours (120 hours at regular wages, and 30 hours at overtime, ten OT hours per person), you will now hire 4 people to work the same 120 hours at regular wages and 30 hours of overtime, 7.5 OT hours per person.

This would result in lower unemployment!

Initially, the employer would see no change to the bottom line since the same number of hours are being paid. The employer is simply paying more people to work the same hours. Over time, workers will demand higher hourly wages to offset the reduction in hours. However, such a transition will be just as successfully navigated as the historical transition to a reduction in hours to 40 per week at the dawn of the industrial age.

At the same time, we will rid the work-world of an injustice. Since I've entered the work-force, I often see people who really should be paid hourly being paid salary. I'm not sure from the viewpoint of the worker that I can understand what benefit there is to a annual salary as opposed to being paid hourly. The only people who might benefit from such an arrangement are those who can complete their jobs in less than 40 hours, which is seldom, if ever the case.

If an insurance company was accustomed to paying salaries of $35,000 to call center representatives, and required mandatory overtime on a regular basis, now that company will be forced to actually pay for those workers' time, and need to determine how that $35,000 actually fits into an hourly wage that is just.

The adjustment in compensation for salaried workers who should now be paid hourly will hurt the bottom line initially, but the end result will be greater fairness. Defrauding a worker of his wages is considered in Catholic tradition to be a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. Many professionals that big business currently classify as salaried employees unjustly are being defrauded of their wages. If you work in IT, you've likely seen this first hand.

In those cases where employers pay salary instead of hourly wages because the job truly entails successful completion of a project, we could require that the employer pay on a per project basis or reward employees on a bonus plan.

What about the living wage concept? How do we fit this into the picture?

This one is actually simple conceptually, but requires the expertise of an economist to implement. We already have minimum wage laws. Those minimum wages need periodic adjustment. The minimum wage should be established based on a thirty hour work week and produce enough income for a single worker to support an average family.

If the size of an average family increases or decreases, the wage would be adjusted accordingly. If inflation or deflation occurs, the minimum wage would be adjusted accordingly. The adjustments would occur on a quarterly basis about as often as changes to the prime interest rate. There could be a built in EGA factor to account for different economies in different geographic regions. Employers who fail to pay the minimum living wage on an hourly basis should be penalized financially to ensure compliance.

To provide adequate food, shelter, clothing and healthcare, we would also continue to do much of what we already do with Social Security, Welfare, Medicaid and Medicare. However, health care coverage made available through the state will need expansion. Social service aid would continue to be awarded based on certain indications of involuntary poverty. In other words, most people would continue to gain access to these services through their employers, but the safety net to the poor would exist so that nobody in America is without certain minimum necessities to sustain life. The expansion in health care I envision would not be substantially different than the moderate Kerry plan, which appears very doable in our economy.

Who will pay for all of this?

Business may try to pass the cost on to the consumer, but it won't work. If inflation occurs, minimum wages go up with it. If business tries to pass the cost of expanded social services to the consumer, this too will raise the minimum wage. Indeed, any attempt to raise product prices will have a corresponding effect on the minimum wage. Business leaders will truly be forced to find other ways to gain efficiencies to increase profit rather than price gouging.

What if employers simply move all jobs overseas?

I would respond in two ways to this - one as an American, and the other as a Roman Catholic.

As an American, I would argue that a potential solution is exactly what John Kerry argues, though I am not positive it would work. The idea is to use tax incentives and disinsentives that remove any economic advantage from moving work off shore.

Secondly, as a Roman Catholic, I would argue that the Church ought to use its global power to push this agenda global as a human rights issue and a defense of the institution of marriage.

The justice advocates of the Church could join forces with the conservative defenders of marriage and push for hourly wages that pay overtime at the 30 hour mark in every single nation on earth. The justice advocates working in conjunction with conservatives could be pushing for safety nets for the poor everywhere. The justice advocates in a coalition with the conservative defenders of marriage could use even use minimum wage criteria established in the United States as a benchmark for what the minimum wage should be globally!

Indeed, piggybacking off the Vatican's enthusiasm for international institutions such as the United Nations in recent years, I would look forward to the day when a reformed and strengthened United Nations could enforce the principles outlined here globally so that multinational corporations have nowhere to go on the entire planet where they can defraud workers of their wages and destroy marriage in the process!

What we have proposed so far will allow married couples the economic resources and the time to spend with one another and their children that I believe will eventually reduce divorce by reducing the stresses of time and money on being married. It will also reduce unemployment rates. However, this still leaves us with the question of what we can do to encourage people to marry younger and bear more children?

My solutions require some imagination and will-power. They may not be the only solutions, but if we, as a society, decide that marriage is a valuable institution worthy of being saved, I think these ideas could form the basis of a plan that could work.

First, change the way we do education. The best classes I ever took in my life were always practicum courses with an internship component. What if the education community, the political community and the business community formed a partnership to develop a paid internship program that could begin around the age of 16 or so at the minimum living wage. An employee would increase his or her earning potential by progressing through ever higher training applied to real projects that add value to business. It's a win-win for everyone, and allows people to start earning enough to marry at a younger age, and continue learning throughout life.

Instead of sitting children and adolescents and young adults in classroom lectures where they remember very little of what they learn because it seems impractical, let them get on the job training and let this model continue through life. Then, pay workers for the time they spend learning and doing throughout life, using our thirty hour model above and the idea of a minimum wage based on a living wage.

The idea would be that during your standard thirty hours at work, you may be in a classroom or seminar environment for up to 5 or 10 hours or so, and the remaining 20 to 25 hours would be spent applying what you have learned. Career advancement would depend on the level of skills mastered and the value added to the organization by those skills. The process may begin as young as sixteen or seventeen and would continue until retirement age - which could be raised to help save social security.

The second thing I would do would be to create tax incentives to being married and having children. I don't mean a small credit to offset the cost of childrearing. I mean a large enough credit to make it somewhat profitable to have children.

My idea would also be that FMLA would be mandatory for both men and women - all 12 weeks must be taken if you have a child (but you get paid for the whole 12 weeks). This may initially sound like it would halt the career advancement of the couple who decides to have a child every year. After all, if a couple has a child every year for four years, they'd have missed a whole year of work at the end of the four year period.

Here's how I would propose it should work. Not only should the entire 12 weeks of FMLA be paid, but there ought to be a substantial tax credit that would encourage people to have children. Remember, too, that career advancement is partially based on gaining new skills and introducing innovative and productive ideas through what you learn at work. Some one who is really smart and productive at work could theoretically pass up a single person with no children simply by virtue of studying and working smarter or harder per hour.

Such a person, being smart, will also want the tax credit and paid time off work. You'd be a fool not to take it if you can figure out how to do more in less time. We'd be rewarding people for working smarter rather than working longer.

What would happen over the long run is that people would marry and start having children as soon as they are legally able. Since on the job training is a life-long process, there is no need to wait till graduation to "grow up". You will never "graduate" in the sense that people graduate schools today. The transition to adulthood could be restored to a single ritual at the appropriate age determined by society, such as the age of sixteen or so. It would happen at the age we, as a society, determine is a marriageable age.

Marrying early and having children as soon as possible is the surest way to maximize your tax credits and get a guaranteed 12 weeks per year off from work. And it won't stunt your career growth as long as you keep honing new skills when you are at work.

To further ensure that couples marrying so young do not get divorced out of immaturity and go through serial monogamy, we could repeal the idea of no-fault divorce, and/or even reduce the marriage tax credit available to a second marriage that was not due to death of the first spouse or some grave fault such as physical and sexual abuse.

By the way, we could toughen laws against rape, incest, and spousal or child abuse, which is very important to supporting marriage and desired by feminists as well.

Basically, we as a society would be saying that we value marriage as an institution enough to make people think twice about why they are getting divorced. We're not making it impossible to divorce - just difficult enough to make a person think twice.

What about gay marriage? Where does this fit in?

Basically, I see gay marriage as no real threat to the institution of heterosexual marriage. In other places, I have also argued that I see not theological reasons to oppose gay unions, whether we call it marriage or not. In my mind, a commited relationship between two homosexuals differs little from a committed relationship between two heterosexuals who are infertile.

I have already outlined that I believe that the causes of rising divorce rates and later marriages (with the result of more cohabitation) lie in economic factors. By removing those economic factors, we will have saved marriage. Thus, we could make gay marriage legal and give gay couples the same tax credits for child rearing as heterosexuals if they opt to adopt!

I believe that even the most so-called "undesirable" orphans would find a home if we did this right. Thus, gay marriages would benefit society by strengthening the value of permanent commitment and giving orphans homes!

What about abortion and contraception?

Few people would want either in such a society. Abortion could finally be made illegal because the opposition to the pro-life position would simply dwindle. Rather than pushing the pro-life position as an issue of reproductive choice verses family values, we could finally create a society that sees abortion for what it really is - an issue regarding the dignity of human life in a consistent ethic of life.

Contraception would also become less popular since couples would seek to have more children. As contraception sales dwindle, it may even become a high priced commodity to those who simply do not like children and do not want the child tax credit. Contraception within marriage need not be labeled a sin, avoiding any internal contradictions inherent with the position that sex without procreation in NFP is permissible, while sex without procreation with artificial means is not. Whether the Church insists on maintaining this teaching or not, many people will not want to use it.

Let's return finally to the question of who will pay for all of this. If you've been reading me for any amount of time, you already know that I believe that over eighty percent of the nations wealth is controlled by the top two percent income brackets. This means that for every $4 a rich person has, the rest of us have 25 cents. These are the people benefitting most from Bush' tax cuts and his wars of agression to control the oil fields.

I'm basically arguing that we should structure society in such a way that this wealth were re-distributed in such that top two percent had perhaps $2 for 75 cents the rest of us have, and punish them if they try to raise prices to offset this cut to their pay. In other words, let's cut their standard of living in half in order to make a three fold increase for the rest of society. They'll still remain the richest people with more wealth than they need - but the rest of us could focus on our marriages better.

Why is this fair?

Because nobody really does enough work to claim "a right" to earn $4 to their employee's 25 cents. Because the rich are only able to amass the wealth they amass in a society that provides an infrastructure supported by taxes, and thus, they owe us something in return. Because it is simply unfair for a person to have four dollars in their pocket while a starving man has 25 cents that won't buy a meal. The gap between rich and poor is unjust - and this is actually Church teaching already (see paragraph 1938 of the CCC). And because if we don't do this, we likely can't save marriage as an institution in our society.

There are those who seem to prefer to tackle the situation by retreating from society and encouraging Catholics to drop out. They argue that your 25 cents to the rich person's $4 is enough to live a lifestyle unimaginable to our ancestors or those who live in the developing nations. Rather than radical social, economic and political changes like I propose, they would prefer that we fight the battle to save marriage by creating a Catholic subculture within our current culture.

This subculture would be comprised of people who practice NFP, typically home-school, and intentionally live simpler than the rest of society. Other than making abortion and gay marriages illegal, they do not seek to radically change society to make divorce and cohabitation undesirable. Rather, they seek to save marriage by encouraging a vision of Catholic spirituality that embraces the cross and is willing to make extreme personal sacrifices. These people blame the erosion of marriage on the desire of individual workers to own a SUV.

My vision is different. I want to save the institution of marriage for the whole of society, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jew, Muslim, or atheist. I see the causes of the breakdown in marriage as less of a failure of the individual, and more a result of massive cultural change that has lead to an unjust distribution of wealth, and where those who control that wealth have a direct or an indirect vested interest in the destruction of our marriages. The love of money is the root of all evil, not lust.

My concern is not with the individual worker's desire to own a SUV, but with people like the Walton family, founders of Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the United States. Why do we worry about a Wal-Mart employee's rather simple desire for a SUV when the individuals running this company that employs this worker are making billions personally by paying this same employee such a pittance that he or she needs to work a second job to afford it? And what about the case where the worker is not concerned about an SUV so much as making sure his sick daughter gets health care?

If you want to talk about sacrifices needed to save marriage, the Waltons should be making some sacrifices. A little sacrifice by one or two of the Waltons can save thousands of marriages, where the sacrifice of a single Wal-Mart employee is not likely to save a single marriage!

If society decides as a whole that marriage is worth saving, we need to make economic changes that will ultimately hurt the very institutions that are tearing marriage apart - and big business is the destroyer of marriage in the West. Indeed, the lack of presence of big business in developing nations where marriages are more stable is evidence of this!

Even if someone has better ideas than I do, I am convinced that the solution to saving marriage lies in radical economic reform.

Peace and Blessings!

Readers may contact me at


posted by Jcecil3 1:37 PM

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