Tag Archives: marriage

‘Customized marriage’ is grace-infused by God

Mary Hasson, JD

Recent marriage research offers important insights for spouses and for “remote marriage preparation” for our children. In The Marriage Paradox: Why Emerging Adults Love Marriage Yet Push It Aside, researchers Brian Willoughby and Spencer James of Brigham Young University observe that although most millennials aspire to marriage, they are the least marrying generation to date. The problem? Unrealistic expectations. They expect a soul mate but postpone searching for one until they finish school and climb the career ladder. They vaguely imagine a future that feels more settled, more conducive to finding that “perfect match.” But they worry about recognizing their soul mate—what if they’re wrong? What if someone better comes along? Millennials, who came of age assuming everything can be customized — from running shoes to espresso to social media — risk “treating affective relationships…[as] disposable,” writes Pope Francis. Those habits set real marriages — between two very flawed human beings — up for failure, or serious disappointments. Unrealistic expectations are compounded by cultural changes redefining marriage and parenthood as paths to personal fulfillment. Millennials, observes Willoughby, “believe you get married when you find someone that makes YOU happy…you have children when they will make YOUR life fulfilled by becoming a parent. Having a family is something the [that] serves individual happiness and contentment; it is less about societal obligation than it might have been 1-2 generations ago.” Marriage measured by self-centered peaks of personal fulfillment won’t make it through the inevitable valleys of sin and struggle—or experience the joy of generous love.

A friend who persevered through a bumpy marriage remembers well the many months when he was preoccupied by the tantalizing lie that divorce would make him happier. Many couples, even young marrieds, experience this, says a recent study (The National Divorce Decision making Project, 2015): “[I]n a culture with high divorce rates and widespread concerns about the fragility of marriage it is hard not to have some thoughts about divorce when problems and disappointments exist in the marriage. It’s hard to swim upstream against such a strong cultural current.” Most marriages survive those situations if those thoughts spur the person “to try to strengthen or repair a relationship.”

Most struggling couples who stay committed eventually experience thriving marriages. The study found that 28% of couples “thought their marriage was in serious trouble at some point in the past but not recently.” Almost “90% of them said they were glad they were still married;” only 1% wished otherwise.

Marriages can and do turn around. Couples survive “rough times” in various ways:

[M]ore than 90% said, “Over time, things changed and just got better or weren’t as hard.” A similar proportion said, “My commitment to keeping my marriage/family together was strong.” Also, “I/my spouse worked at fixing some problems and improving our relationship,” was endorsed as helpful by nearly all who reported serious marital problems in the past…[O]ne in four got some counseling (together or alone) [and] 75% said it was helpful.

In sum, “[p]atience, perseverance, promises, and some relationship perspiration” help resolve marital problems and prayer and the sacraments provide the spiritual nourishment to love and live marriage as God intends.

My friend with the bumpy marriage (a car buff) offers this analogy to explain the deep happiness he and his wife now enjoy, after decades of marriage (paraphrased): “When you’re newlyweds, your marriage is like your first car—it’s the best, shiny and new, an exhilarating ride. As the miles pile up, the shine dulls. Hard driving, season after season, takes its toll. Repair costs increase and satisfaction drops…it’s tempting to want to trade up. But you persevere, care for the car, and value its fundamental soundness. After logging many miles, you realize your car is a classic. You experience great satisfaction, cherish its value, and the years of memories and life it represents.” That’s marriage, through the eyes of a car guy. It testifies to the grace of lifelong marriage—customized by God.

MARY HASSON, JD, directs the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Marriage as God intended it – sacramental, faithful and fruitful

The institution of marriage is under attack today, perhaps more than at any other time in history.

In a 2015 address, Pope Francis said the family “as God wants it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and also the generation and education of children, is deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization.”

The pope has applied the term “ideological colonization” to a number of social evils, but it always refers to the conflict between troubling ideologies and the Christian ideal. When it comes to marriage, the ideal is rooted in God’s design from the beginning of creation, Christ’s establishment of marriage as a sacrament, and the Church’s long tradition of the marriage covenant.

Marriage in scripture

Although detractors may claim marriage is a strictly human institution, it is of divine origin. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman for one another: A man “leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (2:24). Genesis also affirms marriage as a complementary relationship of equals: Adam called Eve “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (2:23). Together they are called to participate in God’s life-giving power and exercise stewardship over the created world: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28).

Marriage is therefore the “default” or natural human vocation for man and woman; when a person has a vocation to celibacy, he or she is “called” away from the marriage vocation.

Following the First Couple’s commission of Original Sin, however, marriage suffered from the disorders it introduced; man and woman could not live according to God’s plan for marriage without divine assistance. That help arrived when Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament, providing supernatural grace for husbands and wives to live according to the ideal.

Christ performed His first public miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, which the Church sees as His affirmation of the goodness of marriage and a sign of His efficacious presence in marriage. Whereas the law of Moses had allowed divorce in some instances, Christ would later explain that marriage “from the beginning of creation” was meant to be a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman. Citing the passage from Genesis, He said of the relationship between husband and wife: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has brought together, let no man put asunder” (Mk 10:9). To divorce and marry another, He continued, constitutes adultery.

Nuptial imagery had been used in the Old Testament to convey the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Christ in His parables sometimes portrayed Himself as a bridegroom as though preparing for his bride. In the Book of Revelation, the heavenly banquet is described as the wedding feast of the Lamb, who is Christ, united with His bride, the Church.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament draws upon all these scriptural images to reflect upon the sacramental character of marriage. Not only are man and woman individually created in the image of God, but in marital union they constitute “a great mystery.” They are to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). The husband is to love his wife “as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her,” even as He loves His own body. This reciprocal self-sacrifice and self-giving reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church. The Second Vatican Council relates sacramental marriage to this covenant relationship.

Sacramental theology took centuries to develop, but Christian marriage was recognized as something sacred by leading Church fathers from a very early date. In the early second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote that “it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God.” In the early fifth century, St. Augustine said of marriage that “now this is threefold, faithfulness, offspring, and the Sacrament” — affirming matrimony as exclusive, fruitful, and lifelong with the help of God’s grace. Popes and councils over the centuries defended marriage as a sacrament against heretical claims to the contrary.

St. Thomas Aquinas drew greatly from patristic and later Church sources to systematize our understanding of marriage and sacramental theology. His work was heavily influential during the sixteenth-century Council of Trent – which set the groundwork for Catholic teaching on marriage today.

Marriage and the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, summarizing the Council of Trent and the development of doctrine that preceded it, states: “The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved His Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life” (CCC 1661). It further states: “Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage” (CCC 1664).

Catholic marriage law requires that for a sacramental union to exist both bride and groom must be free to marry, give full and knowing consent, and intend to enter a faithful, lifelong, and fruitful commitment of love and mutual self-giving. In the Latin Rite, the bride and groom themselves are the ministers of the sacrament, with the priest or deacon as its official witness.

Children are the “supreme gift of marriage,” says the Catechism (1652). The family is considered “the domestic church” because it is through their parents – as they’ve promised in their sacramental marriage vows – that children are educated in the faith and its practice (cf. CCC 1655-1658). It also is “a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2205).

Sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage because it is a sign of the total self-giving of the marriage covenant. It properly has two essential dimensions: It is unitive, because as an expression of selfless love it strengthens the marital union for the good of the spouses; and it is procreative in that the sexual act must be open to the creation of new life (CCC 1643).

Modern challenges

Today there are mounting challenges to the true meaning of marriage:

• Divorce and remarriage (without benefit of Church annulment) go against the indissolubility of marriage.

• Same-sex “marriage” and polygamy run counter to marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.

• The practice of cohabitation, like all premarital and extramarital sexual activity, fails to honor and obey the Church’s sacramental covenant of Holy Matrimony as binding, permanent, procreative and unitive under God.

• Gender theory – the idea that a person may subjectively identify as a gender that differs from his or her biological sex – is a “great enemy of marriage today,” remarked Pope Francis in 2016.

• Illicit forms of contraception and elective sterilization deny the procreative purpose and potential of married love.

• Self-absorption and materialism mitigate against the ideal of mutual self-giving.

• Fear of commitment and radical feminism can create distorted perspectives on the meaning of marriage and male/female roles.

The Catholic response

What should Catholic men and women do in the face of such challenges? Even as we seek to restore the dignity of marriage and family through educational and legislative means, our most effective response is the faithful witness of Catholics living in the world: those exemplifying Catholic living as put forth by the traditional teachings of the Church.

“People are hungry for the truth; and they’ll choose it, if it’s presented clearly and with conviction,” wrote Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., ahead of the 2015 World Meeting of Families.

“Therein lies the need for every Christian marriage to be engaged in preaching by example. A husband and wife who model a love for Jesus Christ within their family — who pray and worship together with their children and read the Scriptures — become a beacon for other couples. … Catholic families have a key role in God’s healing of a broken world.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

What God has joined together…

Marriage has its moments of joy, love and happiness, and certainly its crosses. Human weakness, tragedy, and everyday stresses of work, finances, and raising children can strain any marriage. As St. Paul wrote in the first century, where sin is present, grace abounds even more.

Several Legatus couples have learned that lesson firsthand, and see that God has always been there for them, even during their darkest, most challenging times. Their stories underscore Paul’s message
to the Corinthians that “love never dies.”

Ripple effect of unified rediscovery

Mark and Linda Pierce, Cleveland Chapter

Looking back on their early years, Linda Pierce says she and husband Mark had a “fine marriage and a good family.” But it was like a “rudderless ship” with no direction.

“We didn’t have that strong father in the same faith who could guide us,” she said.

Mark, 57, had grown up as son of Methodist and Baptist parents who only took the family to church on Easter, and admits he didn’t have a faith life.

When he and Linda, 56, married 38 years ago, Mark agreed to let Linda raise their children Catholic. He would accompany the family to Sunday Mass and sit in the pews with his arms folded.

“I would be thinking about Catholics going to hell for worshiping statues,” said Mark, who eventually became part of the parish community in volunteering for fish fries and delivering meals.

Seven years into marriage, Mark — after being asked to be a godfather — felt prompted to join his wife’s faith and “unify” the family. Linda sponsored him in RCIA, and together they learned much more about Catholicism.

Mark’s RCIA experience motivated him to read Catholic books, attend Bible studies, and immerse himself further in the faith. His deepening Catholic outlook began to change him on all fronts.

“Our marriage transformed because I had not been treating my wife properly according to God’s laws,” said Mark. He later became more of a servant at home rather than trying to get his own way.

He also changed his business approach from a secular to a faith-based model. As a business and leadership coach, his leadership-development approach is now based on five pillars: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and financial health.

But perhaps the biggest testimony to Mark and Linda’s transformation is their two youngest adult children are practicing Catholics with faithcentered lives. The two oldest children who grew up before Mark’s conversion are not churchgoers, though they’re impressed by what their father has become.

“They tell me, ‘You’re such a different dad,’” said Mark, who with Linda is involved in a diocesan marriage preparation ministry, as well as enrichment retreats for married couples.

Said Mark, “It’s given me a greater sense of purpose.”

Grappling with powers and principalities

Troy and Christy King, Orlando Chapter

When their 8-month-old son Leo died last year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Christy King says God let her see the devil using that tragedy to spiritually shipwreck her family.

“It really ticked me off,” said Christy, 47, who has been married to Troy, 48, a pediatric dentist, for 20 years.

Christy said the family decided to fight back.

“We really stepped up,” she said. “We were already praying together as a family, but much more so now — a lot more family rosaries, and with refocus and redirection. Troy and I began uniting particular sufferings with Christ’s suffering on the cross, which gives them so much power.”

The King family has been through this before. Seven years ago, they’d lost another young son, Dominic, in another apparent case of SIDS.

“We endured the worst thing ever, then we had to do it again,” said Christy, saying she doesn’t know how people can weather a terrible setback without God in their lives.

“With tragedies you either come through stronger, or they destroy your family. That was never an option,” said Christy, who met Troy at a gym. They dated for 10 years before marrying 20 years ago.

The couple has had 18 children, including the two who died in infancy. The older siblings have handled those losses differently, in their own way – some choosing to go to school and lacrosse practice rather than stay home; another took bike rides in his sadness over Leo.

One daughter, who’s now Leo’s godmother, told Christy she is thankful for having a special connection to a young saint in heaven. For Christmas, the family had stockings for the deceased boys, and the children talked about how much Leo would have enjoyed the season. And though the kids miss Leo and Dominic greatly, they’re hopeful to be with them again.

“Some suffering is not always the worst thing,” Christy said.

Vows renewed in forgiveness

Pete and Mimi Peters, Mobile Chapter

Mimi says she wouldn’t wish what happened to her on her worst enemy.

“But my faith deepened because I had to lean so hard on the Lord,” Mimi said.

About 11 years into their marriage in 1991, Pete had an affair and decided he no longer wanted to be married.

“I believed the lie that I could be a better dad if I was with this other person,” Pete said.

The couple’s two children were 2 and 4 years old when they divorced the following year. For the next several years, Mimi — who tried to talk Pete out of divorcing – reordered her life and raised the children. She allowed Pete to remain part of their kids’ lives, and said she learned a lot about herself and her faith.

“I had to look at myself and see how I could change,” Mimi said.

“Mimi always put the best interests of the kids first by allowing me to be a big part of their lives. She showed me what marriage was supposed to be about. It’s a commitment — not about how you feel,” Pete said.

With “a lot of prayer” and the grace of the Holy Spirit, Pete began to realize in the late 1990s he’d made an awful mistake. He was determined to prove to Mimi his sincerity about bringing their family back together.

Mimi and Pete sought counsel from their Christlike pastor.The first time Pete asked to reconcile, Mimi didn’t believe he was ready. In 1998 after he attended a silent retreat, Mimi said Pete apologized and vowed to spend his life making it up to her.

“I knew I’d married a good man, and that he was going to come back around,” Mimi said.

Pete said the couple told their children they were going to reconcile on their daughter’s 13th birthday. Pete said their daughter had included reconciliation in her birthday wish list.

Not long after, the couple renewed their marriage vows in a private Mass followed by a celebration at Mimi’s horse farm, Silver Lining Farm.

“There were so many people who were happy for us because they had seen a miracle,” Pete said.

Today, Pete, 64, and Mimi, 63, counsel other married couples going through rough times. Both their children are devout Catholics married to Catholic spouses. After recently spending the holidays with their children, Pete said it was another reminder that nothing in life would satisfy without his wife and kids.

“I’m not finished learning,” he said. “I now know that I had a hole in my heart and God wasn’t going to fill it until I got where I needed to be with my family.”

Launching a business to reclaim family

Jay and Lucinda Bolding, Omaha Chapter

Friends thought Jay Bolding was having a midlife crisis when he left corporate America in 2006 to start his own business.

But for Bolding, CEO and president of Bold Office Solutions in Omaha, the opportunity to start a company and have his wife, Lucinda, as business partner offered him an opportunity to “reclaim” their relationship.

“For so long, work overshadowed all else, and I wanted to create a family business that would allow us time together,” Jay said. “I knew that by having her with me, she’d add a spiritual touch not only to our culture, but keep me grounded in seeing all we have is a gift from God.”

Lucinda said she was surprised when Jay wanted her involved in the business. Jay said she has helped him to recognize that he needs to pray every day for wisdom, understanding, guidance, and to trust that God has a plan for them, their family and the company.

“As we look back, it certainly was a challenge for us, but we had a strong marriage before and we are stronger in many ways now,” Jay said.

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.


Why marry in the church?

Today, only 25 percent of those identifying as “Catholic” marry sacramentally in the Catholic Church. And within that segment, many don’t attend Mass, catechize their own children, or embrace spiritual order. Other adult Catholics who were raised in the faith, even married in the Church, concede to their kids skipping the sacrament of Holy Matrimony altogether in favor of indulgent alternatives. Education, comfort and opportunity have brought society a long way. But to where?

Christine Valentine-Owsik

The reason for sheltering marriage under the protective wing of Christ has been largely forgotten. Today, the divorce rate among Catholics is indistinguishable from society at large.

Except in a little nondescript town near Croatia – where there are no marriage breakups. A priest recently relayed their story in a sermon.

“The Cross of Christ has a special place in that town,” he said. “When a Catholic couple there stands at the altar to be married, the priest tells them ‘you have found your cross.’” The couple brings a special crucifix to the ceremony, the priest blesses it, and they keep both their hands upon it. They promise to be faithful to God and the precepts of the Church. They conclude by kissing the cross – not each other. Bringing the same crucifix back to their home, they give it a place of honor from that day on, to remember to go before Jesus for help with any problem.

Catholics have historically approached the sacrament of Holy Matrimony in earnest, vowed to embrace God’s will for their life and its direction, accept children willingly, and persevere through good times and bad. They couldn’t know all that might lie ahead, but they committed and trusted in God’s fortification.

He had good reason to create the First Couple in complementarity – male and female – and to validate their purpose from the beginning. “… male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…’” (Gen 1: 27-28). At the wedding feast of Cana, the bride and groom invited Christ and His mother as honored witnesses – and were helped immediately – even miraculously – in their need before thinking to ask their esteemed Guest for it (John 2: 1-12).

This circles back to why marrying in the Church makes an interminable difference.

If man’s purpose is to align with God, bring others to Him, and live happily with Him in eternity, God will certainly assist spouses along their journey if He’s invited. Numerous studies over recent decades have shown that among the happiest and least-stressed of people are those who pray regularly and practice their Christian faith.

In Catholic faith-practice, Holy Matrimony is vital for a reason. Christ anticipates spouses’ need for His special grace and intervention – for themselves, and in raising their children. Through sacramental marriage, He blesses them. And when each remains faithful to Him, He channels what is needed, in good times and in bad, spiritually and temporally.

The Lord’s is the most important wedding invitation, and His gift is beyond compare.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.


Love bears all things … and never ends

Don Neyer was a shy young man in his early 20s when he spotted the pretty teller at the bank in downtown Cincinnati where he made his business deposits.

Her name then was Phyllis Holthaus. The year was 1952. Neyer worked nearby and finally one day got the courage to ask her out.

They hit it off.

A 63-year tapestry

“It was obvious that I liked her, and she liked me. We also liked each other’s value systems,” Don, 87, recalled during a recent interview. Two months after their first date, they were engaged. Seven months later, they were married.

Sixty-three years passed before Don and Phyllis were separated. On July 2, 2016, Phyllis died after suffering from an aggressive form of dementia for the last 10 years of her life. By the end, the illness had robbed Phyllis of her ability to speak and understand conversations.

But her love and concern for Don never wavered.

“She’d smile whenever she saw me,” Don said. “She’d give me a kiss. She was very emotionally involved. She may not have been able to talk, but she communicated with her eyes and with her expressions.”

Caregiving and prayer giving

About five and a half years ago, Don and Phyllis Neyer moved into Twin Lakes, a senior living community in Montgomery, Ohio. Not too long after that, with her disease rapidly progressing, Phyllis had to be moved into a specialized care unit.

But Don never left her side. For the last three and a half years of her life, Don would be alongside his wife everyday to make sure she was properly cared for. He fed her, bathed her, brushed her hair, and performed any task he could to ensure she was taken care of.

Every night, Don would say some prayers as Phyllis closed her eyes and listened before going to sleep. Don said caring for his wife was never a chore.

“It wasn’t difficult at all,” Don said. “I was happy to be with her.”

Don’s steadfast devotion to Phyllis moved many of the Twin Lakes staff. His example inspired the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio to name Don as its Caregiver of the Year in 2016.

“I think Christ came to give us two words: Love all and serve all. And if you’re working for the good of others, as opposed to working for the good of yourself, you feel good about what you’re doing,” said Don, a charter member of Legatus’ Cincinnati Chapter.

Jim Mayer, the executive director at Twin Lakes, said Don was “the pinnacle” of a true caregiver.

True partner

“He was the real definition of a spouse who was there for better or for worse,” Mayer said. “He cared for her. He was there for her every day.” Don would escort his wife in her wheelchair down the hallways of her building. Every Wednesday, he accompanied her to Mass and would hold up the missalette so Phyllis could see it during the liturgy.

“I feel she’s happy now in Heaven,” Don said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors in the United States dies from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. As the national population of people over age 65 increases, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to soar.

Don said he began noticing the early signs of Phyllis’ dementia about 12 years ago, when she began forgetting some things and having difficulty making routine decisions. She used to enjoy daily walks with a friend, but if someone she didn’t know came along, she would want to go home because she could not follow the conversation.

“She stopped talking on the phone about 10 years ago,” Don said. “It was a progressive disease, but the last five years of her life it was just very severe.”

Phyllis’ dementia left her unable to understand when their youngest son died of a brain tumor about two and a half years ago. Don recalled breaking down in tears after receiving a phone call shortly after their son died. Phyllis saw Don crying and rubbed his arm in sympathy.

Family generosity … and her Notebook

Don and Phyllis raised eight children. The house was always bustling with activity, but Don and Phyllis made it a priority to eat dinner as a family and to instill Catholic values into their kids.

Phyllis was the more patient parent, teaching their kids how to ride bicycles even though she never learned to ride herself.

“She’d run alongside them, encouraging them. She was just very calm about things, and I’ve always been hyper about things,” said Don, who a few months ago found a notebook that Phyllis saved in which she kept a detailed journal of the family’s daily activities over a 17-year period.

“Her whole life was wrapped around me and our kids,” Don said. “She was very family oriented, and she would spend all of her waking hours doing what she could for the benefit of her family.”

Don and Phyllis enjoyed playing bridge with friends. On weekends, they would go to their lakeside cottage outside Cincinnati to spend time together. For several years, they also enjoyed their monthly date nights at their chapter’s Legatus meetings.

When Phyllis died, Don said all the activities and committees that he is involved with at Twin Lakes helped him to grieve. He became really emotional when a granddaughter got married last December on the day before what would have been Phyllis’ 85th birthday.

“Then it really begins to hit you,” Don said.

Still putting gifts to work

Mayer, the executive director of Twin Lakes, said Don is involved in several of the community’s committees and initiatives, including a $50 million construction project. That task is a good fit for Don, who ran his family’s construction business for several decades before retiring in 1994.

“He’s the best construction manager in the world who is not paid,” Mayer said. “It’s like having a free consultant on staff.”

Showing that an octogenarian can be up to date on technology, Don will often take out an iPhone to schedule appointments and update his calendar. Mayer said he is always prepared for committee meetings.

“I feel like we’re cheating him by not paying him. He’s such a good guy,” said Mayer, who joked that other Twin Lakes staff members, when faced with difficult choices, will ask themselves, “What would Don Neyer do?”

“Because he always does the right thing,” Mayer said. “Don helps, assists and cares about everyone; the infirm, those with dementia, the well-informed, the affluent, the poor. I’m blessed that he lives here at Twin Lakes.”

Fruitful branches, everlasting comfort

Don said he tries to keep busy while also keeping in regular contact with his family. Collectively, Don and Phyllis have 32 grandchildren and 16 grandchildren. Several of Don and Phyllis’ children have been married for more than 20 or 30 years.

Don does not hesitate to say Phyllis was the love of his life.

“She had a wonderful value system, and I loved her for that,” Don said. “I loved her for everything she had. She was a wonderful person. I was very blessed.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

God intends permanence for marriage

In 1969, Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, passed the first state law allowing for no-fault divorce. Instead of having to prove one partner committed a fault such as adultery or abuse, a marriage could be ended simply because the couple had “irreconcilable differences.” But what have been the consequences of this redefinition of marriage?

Trent Horn

After hitting a high point in the 1980s, the divorce rate has returned to the level it was at prior to no-fault divorce. But that’s only because more people are choosing not to marry—11 percent more people, to be precise. But that doesn’t mean an increased number of people have stopped engaging in the marital act.

In 1963, only 7 percent of children were born out of wedlock. Today, that number is 40 percent, and in some socioeconomic communities it’s as high as 71 percent. On average, one out of four children in the U.S. lives apart from his or her biological father. Research has found that children from divorced or unmarried households are more likely to live in poverty and more likely to be abused than children from stable marriages.

The best gift for a child

Child Trends, a nonpartisan research group that has studied the family for the past four decades, says that children in households with married parents have “in general, better health, greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems than children living in other types of families.” In contrast, a child whose parents cohabit but who aren’t married is four times more likely to be abused. A child whose mother has a live-in boyfriend is 11 times more likely to be abused. The best gift you can give your child isn’t the latest toy or game; it’s married parents who are willing to resolve their problems in a healthy way.

Aside from the evidence social science provides for the goodness of lifelong marriage, the Bible reveals that God’s plan for marriage always involved permanence. Jesus said that when a man and woman marry, “they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:8-9). To make his point even clearer he said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12) .

The Catholic Church allows for legal separation and even civil divorce if there are circumstances like spousal abuse. However, if the couple are baptized Christians, then, following what Jesus taught, they are still validly married and so the Church prohibits either person from getting remarried. Even if the marriage fell apart because of infidelity or abuse, sin cannot undo what God has joined together. But grace can overcome sin.

It gives divorced spouses the strength to bear the crimes committed against them, and it gives spouses whose marriages are in trouble the humility to seek spiritual and professional help. Marriage is not easy, but as St. Paul said, “I can do all things in [Christ] who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

This excerpt is printed with permission from Chapter 23, “Til Death Do Us Part,” of the newly published book Why We’re Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love, by Trent Horn (Catholic Answers Press, 2017).

TRENT HORN is a convert to Catholicism and staff apologist for Catholic Answers, specializing in teaching Catholics to graciously and persuasively engage those who disagree with them. He is featured weekly on a radio program where he talks with atheists, pro-choice advocates and other non-Catholic callers. He travels worldwide speaking about the Catholic faith, and has authored several books.


Catechism 101

Thus the marriage bond has been established by God Himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1640

Reclaiming Marriage

As an energy company’s corporate officer in 2008, Margot Kyd was struggling to explain the truth about marriage in her workplace.

Margot Kyd

Margot Kyd

After opponents of California’s Proposition 8 to ban same-sex “marriage” publicized her support for the measure, Kyd — a member of Legatus’ San Diego Chapter — redoubled her efforts to articulate her beliefs in a way people could relate to and understand.

In her search for help, she discovered Catholics for the Common Good Institute and now, as chairman of its board of directors, Kyd is part of the organization’s recently launched Marriage Reality Movement.

Unifying movement

Introduced at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last September, the Marriage Reality Movement seeks to form people so that they can talk about marriage — especially with their children — in a culture rife with confusion about gender and relationships.

“Our goal is to communicate the reality of marriage to our children in a way that they say, ‘That’s beautiful,’” said Bill May, founder and president of Catholics for the Common Good. “The battle over marriage has moved from the Supreme Court to the classroom and the family dinner table.”

Bill May

Bill May

May said the movement focuses on what Marriage Reality members are for, not what they’re against. It recognizes marriage as a universal reality integral to God’s plan for creation. It also defends and promotes the human right of children to be united with their mothers and fathers and brought up within marriage — and the right of young people to know the truth about love, marriage, family and sexuality.

Additionally, the movement evaluates all laws, institutions and curriculums in light of how well they support men and women in marriage, men and women marrying before they have children, and young people developing relationships that can lead to marriage.

These principles, May said, can unite people who are on the same side of the marriage issue, just as clear objectives have brought members of the pro-life movement together despite differing strategies and programs.

“Our view is that there really has been an absence of a unifying movement across the country that recognizes the crisis we have with the breakdown of marriage and is a platform for those working around this issue,” Kyd explained. “The Marriage Reality Movement was born from that recognition and need.”

The truth of marriage

Over the last few years, May added, Catholics for the Common Good has been developing a new way of thinking about marriage as understood from revelation and verified by common human experience.

“It’s a totally different way of communicating about it with a change of language and thinking,” he explained. “For example, the Church doesn’t teach that marriage is good for children or what children need. She teaches precisely that marriage is connected with a fundamental human right of children and there are corresponding responsibilities. We actually translate Church teaching into nonreligious language.”

The group has published its own educational materials and is now forming a coalition of organizations that agree with the movement’s principles.

In her own efforts to explain the truth about marriage, Kyd said, she quickly realized that the root of the problem is that the culture has obscured the meaning of marriage and redefined it by such social changes as no-fault divorce and separating marriage from children and procreation through contraception.

“The issue here is not about same-sex ‘marriage,’” she explained. “The issue is we’ve lost the meaning of marriage. To begin rebuilding a marriage culture it’s necessary to start by reintroducing marriage.”

Brian Brown

Brian Brown

Universal truths

Taking into account the breakdown of marriage and the need to protect children’s rights, Kyd said the Catholics for the Common Good approach resonated with her because of its simplicity and positive message that marriage not only unites a man and woman with each other but with any children born from their union.

“This is not a religious issue,” she said, “it’s a fundamental human rights issue and it applies to everyone.”

Philadelphia Legate Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said he appreciates the Marriage Reality Movement’s emphasis on children’s rights.

“One of our mottoes is: ‘Children do best with both a mother and a father.’ And we’ve seen the group in France — La Manif pour Tous — rally millions of people by focusing not on adult desires, but the very real needs of children. I think this is an excellent focus.”

Brown said proponents of redefining marriage have spent years and untold sums of money putting forth the idea that children end up the same whether they’re raised by the biological mother and father or two men or two women.

“On every level of culture, we need to point back to the truth that children not only need, but have a mother and father. That is biological reality, not ideology.”

Although his group is more focused on public policy and activism, Brown said he welcomes the Marriage Reality Movement’s involvement in the battle to preserve marriage.

“The more the merrier. We’re up against a juggernaut that wants to redefine the very nature of what it means to be a human person. We encourage as many efforts as possible to lay out the reality that, regardless of what the law says, marriage remains what it has always been: the union of man and woman.”

Rose Sweet

Rose Sweet

Rose Sweet, a Catholic author and marriage speaker who attended the Marriage Reality Movement launch, said what she appreciates most about the movement’s approach is its message that husbands and wives are irreplaceable to each other and to their children.

“I love the word ‘irreplaceable,’” she said. “It’s a lot more powerful than we realize.”

Sweet said she is beginning to see and hear such language in blogs and talks by Catholic leaders — a reflection of the outreach that May and Catholics for the Common Good have done.

As their message moves into the culture, Sweet also said she believes it helps not to mention Church teaching by name.

“I know the wisdom of being able to share universal truth without using religious language. That’s what Jesus did. He tapped into the deepest desires of the heart and universal truth that we all understand.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more: takebackmarriage.org

Brian Brown, Philadelphia Chpater

Brian Brown is recognized by many as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman — and articulating its importance to society.

Brian Brown- President, National Organization for Marriage – Philadelphia Chapter

Brown co-founded the National Organization for Marriage in 2007 and served as the organization’s first executive director before becoming its president in 2011. He led NOM’s work in California to qualify Proposition 8 to the ballot, and successfully campaigned throughout the Golden State in 2008 to urge voters to adopt the measure.

Brown, who is also the founder and chairman of ActRight.com — a clearinghouse for conservative action which has helped raise over $7 million from grassroots activists to support conservative causes and candidates — is still involved in the battle for marriage and the related issue of religious liberty. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

A year after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage” in Obergefell v. Hodges, what have been its effects?

When you redefine marriage in the law, there are going to be profound effects, and one of those is the whole notion of gender. The difference between male and female is now called into question and undermined. It’s no surprise to us that we’re now having battles over bathroom bills, which are sort of the tip of the iceberg.

The second impact has been an all-out assault on religious freedom. Under the guise of anti-discrimination we’re seeing discrimination by the government against people of faith across the country. We’ve had bakers and florists sued by the state, videographers put out of business, wedding halls put out of business.

We have seen lawsuit after lawsuit trying to punish those who hold the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. We predicted all this, and it’s happening.

Is the marriage debate over?

The people of this country didn’t somehow endorse same-sex “marriage” in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. In fact, a number of polls in the following months showed opposition to same-sex “marriage” was actually higher. The fundamental idea put forward by the other side that once the court issued its decision, this issue would be settled, has been excluded. It’s not true.

So you believe the marriage issue is still alive and relevant in political campaigns?

I see ourselves in a position that’s analogous to the pro-life movement in the years immediately after Roe v. Wade. It’s up to us to make sure that we grow as a movement and never accept the lie that is unfortunately embedded in our law — that there is nothing unique and special about mothers, fathers, husbands and wives. That’s going to take years. It could take decades. It could take longer, but that’s what we’re called to do.

Do you see the National Organization for Marriage continuing to have a visible presence post-Obergefell?

Our supporters and members are more devoted than ever. We did an action alert to support the First Amendment Defense Act. We’ve worked for years to advance that, and we’re going to get a hearing and a vote in Congress. That’s a big deal. We have over 167 sponsors in Congress on this bill. That took a lot of work and it took the grassroots activism of thousands of Americans who are not going to give in or give up.

What are NOM’s current public policy priorities?

There is one piece of federal legislation that we are wholeheartedly behind, that we want to see passed, and that’s the First Amendment Defense Act. What we need now is a simple common sense solution that says that the government cannot punish or discriminate against organizations and individuals that maintain the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

We’ll be having another March for Marriage on June 25 in Washington, D.C. It will be heavily focused on the threats to religious liberty and the threats to our first freedom. There is a reason our founders put religious freedom in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The time is now to rally around that.

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The Catholic Church’s long, good fight for family and marriage

I recently heard from an evangelical pastor desperate for allies in a culture where modern citizens render unto themselves the right to redefine the laws of nature and nature’s God.

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor

Like many faithful Christians, this pastor stands speechless at his fellow Americans’ willingness to fundamentally transform the multi-millennia standard of male-female marriage. Having just released a book on this subject, he wanted my advice. In an offer of Christian solidarity, I told him that evangelical churches could and should take example from the Roman Catholic Church on these questions. He was all ears as I shared the instructive Catholic example on marriage and family from the mid-1800s to the 21st century.

My new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, details a two-century-long attack on family and marriage by extremist forces ranging from socialist utopians to orthodox communists to “cultural Marxists” to the 1960s New Left to modern secular progressives — all culminating in the great takedown that is same-sex “marriage.” This completely new configuration of marriage succeeds in repudiating the natural, traditional, biblical, Judeo-Christian standard of male-female marriage. All along, the one organization that most consistently resisted these efforts was the Church of Rome.

Beginning in the 1800s, rabidly atheistic leftists — from socialist utopians like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier to communists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels — sought to tear down religion and traditional family and marriage. Marx wrote to Engels: “Blessed is he who has no family.” In their Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote openly of “the abolition of the family,” which, even then (in 1848), they could refer to as “an infamous proposal of the communists.”

It was infamous enough that in Rome two years earlier, Pope Pius IX began his long pontificate with the encyclical Qui pluribus (On Faith and Religion), released in 1846. The first of many Pius IX statements, it eviscerated “the unspeakable doctrine of communism, as it is called, a doctrine most opposed to the very natural law.” Pius IX predicted severe destruction, including moral damage, and specifically warned that communism would violate “the sanctity of marriage.”

Pius IX was succeeded by another long-serving pope, Leo XIII. Likewise, in the first year of his pontificate, this pope zeroed in on the secular left’s burgeoning moral wreckage. In 1878, he released Inscrutabili Dei Consilio (On the Evils of Society), followed by Quod Apostolici muneris (On Socialism). The first encyclical identified the evils being perpetrated by “socialists, communists, nihilists” and others who “strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning — the overthrow of all civil society.” He continued: “They debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples.”

After Leo XIII, a succession of popes echoed these warnings in major pronouncements in 1924, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, and with the harshest still yet to come: In 1937, in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI issued the Church’s most scathing attack on ascendant communist ideology, which it called a “satanic scourge.”

Pius XI instructed the flock that holy “matrimony” is of “divine origin” and was “fundamental” and “fixed” by the Creator. He decried the efforts to make “marriage and the family a purely artificial and civil institution.” Divini Redemptoris was focused here mainly on the forces of atheistic communism, but it also applies to family/marriage redefiners today.

This consistency in defending Christian marriage against its enemies continues in Rome today, without references to communism but instead to radical individualism, to what Popes Francis and Benedict XVI have both called the “dictatorship of relativism.” In January, Francis explicitly warned against “forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family” and that seek to “redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism.” He has asserted that marriage must remain between one man and one woman, and that every child has a “right” to a mother and a father.

There is, in short, a lesson here not only for evangelicals, but for Christians of all stripes, including Catholic priests reticent about addressing such hot-button issues. Priests should not shrink from that obligation. After all, in the Roman Catholic Church, marriage is not a cultural issue, it’s a sacramental issue.

From Pope Francis today, way back to Pope Pius IX two centuries ago, there has been a striking moral and institutional consistency from Rome on marriage, with the only adaptation being not core teaching but a merciful tone that preaches and reaches. Will it work in repelling the gay “marriage” in modern Western culture? Either way, it has to be tried. This must be part of the New Evangelization not just for Christians, but for all the culture, country, and world.

DR. PAUL KENGOR is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.

Marriage: Legates must fight the good fight

I never cease to be amazed at the wisdom of our nation’s founders — at their reliance upon God as they cobbled together a Declaration of Independence and Constitution unlike any other in the history of mankind.

John Hunt

John Hunt

They left us a legacy for the ages: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those gifts are our inheritance … but only if we preserve them. There are forces that would eviscerate our national heritage: Supreme Court decisions that impugn the sacrament of Marriage and forces that deny the existence of innocent life and demean the value of the elderly and the infirm. This generation must answer for these scourges.

In pondering these massive challenges to our faith and our nation, I ask: “Why now?,” and if now, “why me?” And the Lord’s response to all of us is clear: “Why not you?”

Legates are responding in great numbers to the urgent crisis of marriage and family in our nation. They understand the role they can play in securing the integrity of marriage, both now and into the future.

Don’t believe that marriage is under attack? A recent Chicago Tribune column noted with some glee that 20 countries — from Belgium and Canada to Spain and Ireland — hold two things in common: all have legalized same-sex partnerships and all have more adherents to Catholicism than any other religious group. The implication here is that the Catholic Church should “fall into line” with the prevailing culture. Sure, why not? Let’s all just “get along.”

While driving through the beautiful Midwest last month, I listened to talk radio’s most prominent personality. In a monologue on the same sex “marriage” issue, he noted that the secularist attack is focused directly and deliberately on the Catholic Church.

The challenge to defend this irreplaceable sacrament is daunting, but it’s our duty — hierarchy, clergy and laity — to fulfill our roles in the culture war.

I for one am emboldened by the challenges we face. I believe I speak for all Legates in assuring our shepherds that we leaders in the Catholic business community will carry the Church’s message into the marketplace and the public square so long as the conflict wages and until, as we have been assured, Jesus Christ and His Church prevail.

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.