our Holy Father, Pope Francis, offered the following challenge: "But
nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help
married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of
raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the
This probing question by Pope Francis in The Joy of Love
, no. 52) is for all of us: every family, community, and
nation. The Holy Father is firm: "No one can think that the weakening of
the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove
beneficial to society as a whole" (Amoris Laetitia
, no. 52).
we care about addressing poverty, promoting the well-being of children,
building stronger communities—we must at the same time care about
strengthening marriages and families. The social science is clear on
But a decisive question must be faced in order to move forward: What is marriage?
Today on June 26, people will be marking the U.S. Supreme Court's decision one year ago in Obergefell v. Hodges
Some, following the Court's majority opinion, see this decision as a
victory for equality and freedom. But that opinion is remarkable for
what it lacks: a coherent account of what marriage is and what it is
for. What makes marriage different than any other type of relationship?
Why should the state have an interest in marriage? Why should marriage
be between only two people?
Court fails to offer substantial rationale here. It also fails to
consider seriously the fact that our culture over the last several
decades has been progressively declining when it comes to strengthening
marriage and the family—a decline that leads to cultural breakdown:
"There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble
union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as
a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life" (Amoris Laetitia
pope keenly observes that "many countries are witnessing a legal
deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost
exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will" (Amoris Laetitia
no. 53). Unfortunately, this has been the case in the United States. Our
laws have tended not to put families and children first but instead
have made an idol of individual autonomy at the expense of truth and the
common good, and even God himself. Civil law is meant to reflect what
is true and just, not create or reconstruct it.
has changed the law, but it has not changed the truth. Some may think
that Obergefell concludes a conversation, but that conversation is only
beginning, because the central questions at stake still need a hearing.
And truth, ultimately, cannot be silenced.
what is marriage? How is society protecting a child's basic right to be
welcomed, raised, and loved by a mother and father if the law no longer
recognizes man and woman as necessary to marriage? With malice toward
none and with charity for all, we must advance this conversation and
I encourage those who have not read the Obergefell decision to begin
reading the majority opinion and then the dissenting opinions carefully.
Take time over the next several weeks to reflect upon Pope Francis' The
Joy of Love and to peruse other resources that shed light on the
meaning of marriage, like those available on www.marriageuniqueforareason.org
. Consider how you and your family can advance a renewed conversation about marriage in your community.
today let us pray that our hearts be open to one another and to God's
healing grace. May respect and kindness guide our conversations with one
another, especially in our families, communities, and nation. And let
us pray for a deeper understanding of the tremendous gift that marriage
and family life is to the world: a warm and welcoming home where a
husband and wife, father, mother and their children, strive to know,
love and serve the Lord and one another. May the Holy Spirit inspire in
us renewed confidence to witness to the truth of God's plan for marriage
and the family, attracting others by our own striving to grow in love.