Sunday, 4 July 2010

Times: Underlying dynamics of marriage
Sunday, 4th July 2010 by Mario Grech

In our effort to strengthen marriage and the family, it is essential to shed light on the existential origin of the newly-emerging forms of the family, family breakdown, divorce, cohabitation, sexual permissiveness, etc. Society needs to take urgent action in order to identify the stem which is constantly producing deceiving shoots.
Whereas Samuel Huntington states that the cause of conflict in the world today is the clash of civilisations, James Hurth specifies that the real tension lies not so much between the great civilisations of the world, but rather in the friction and conflicts which are rife in the Western world - between those who embrace a Jewish-Christian vision of life and those who have strayed from this vision in order to assimilate several schools of thought, such as feminism, multiculturalism, liberalism - all these diversities go by the name of what it is referred to as 'secular orthodoxy'.
One may conclude that this tension is also between reason and faith. But Christian moral vision, as enlightened by the Word of God and the tradition of the Church to help men arrive at the truth, is not opposed to reason. Robert George reiterates that "Christian moral teaching can be shown to be rationally superior to orthodox secular moral beliefs".
Those of secularist belief hold that it is not through reason that man discovers good. Reason does not dictate to us what it is we should do, rather we use it only as a means of achieving that which our heart desires. David Hume, father of modern secularism, states that "reason is and ought only to be slave of the passions, and may never pretend to any office other than to serve and to obey them".
According to the secularists, marriage is merely a legal contract to safeguard the emotional well-being of the parties, be they of the same gender or of different sexual orientation. Permanence, exclusivity, openness to life do not belong to this type of marriage where everything is negotiable. Everything depends upon the will and consent of the parties involved in this experience.
In the light of this premise, it is not difficult to determine the major cause of the current situation of marriage and the family in our country. This secularist philosophy with a utilitarian moral code has kindled the cry for the right of abortion, to divorce, to marriage between two people of the same sex - the right of a person to live his or her life without any interference, least of all from the state.
A secularist culture promotes moral subjectivism and relativism. Unless we are careful, even talk about the primacy of the conscience can at times lean towards pure subjectivism. Pope Benedict XVI is not alone in his frequent exhortations against the dangers of moral relativism. Other exponents of secularism admit that relativism is not consistent with many of its own moral claims.
One can give the example of the claim that divorce laws are a fundamental human right. By deduction, therefore, those who are in favour of a permanent relationship have the same fundamental human right to a law which safeguards the indissolubility of marriage.
Joel Freinburg, a liberal philosopher, warns that "Liberals must be aware of relativism, or at least, of a sweeping relativism, lest they be hoist (with) their own petard". Therefore, the relativistic position, which has dismissed strong moral principles, is faced with a grave philosophical problem. Moral schools of thought enter a crisis when they are unable to answer questions they themselves have raised. True secularists are in a crisis, as is their entire philosophy, which is leading our society into crisis.
In his book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre highlights the failure of the Enlightenment and Liberalism project to build a moral system based on "secular reason". He compares the modern European and American civilization to the "dark ages" of the Roman Empire era.
Then there were people who "turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead... was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness".
Today barbarianism is an overpowering trend of thought which is bringing down institutions and huge political structures. Its force is disrupting people's lives and families. In MacIntyre's words, today "the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament".
Therefore, if we are to seriously address this wave of marriage and family breakdown, we urgently need to promote the 'ministry of thought' to help people use their brains. We have among us several intellectuals who because they believe that Christian philosophy is a valid key to give the right interpretation to reality, have contributed and are still contributing in the formulation of sound principles. We need, even as a Church, to allow them more space so that their sound ideas can deeply permeate contemporary thought.
Secondly, it is important that we enter into a dialogue with opinion- makers and decision-makers; with intellectuals, with people in the areas of education, culture, politics and the media. In a sincere spirit of searching we can face the fallacy of certain beliefs. Together we can draw a plan of action to protect the natural institution of marriage based on strong ethical principles and values.
Every vision, choice or action about marriage and the family has at its source a thought or a belief. Since thought is incarnated within a particular cultural context, I feel it would be wise for all those who wish to safeguard marriage and the family to seriously address the "educational emergency".
Mgr Grech is Bishop of Gozo.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 12, 2010

    Very pathetic. Gay couples who take on legal responsibility labor more than heterosexual ones to build their marriage. The bishop's idea that they are just seeking emotional comfort is false. He has not talked with any married gay couples I imagine.