Coronavirus Crisis Reminds Us of Eternal Truths of Marriage and Family

(source) In today’s modern world, seemingly everything has been transformed into something political. Eternal truths and universal lived experiences are ignored, cast aside and ridiculed as outdated and even bigoted. Institutions like marriage and family are remade into political paradigms to serve emerging ideologies. Even science is scorned in order to advance gender ideology.

But despite the constant attempts by groups, especially those on the left, to turn everything into a political matter, much of life has nothing to do with politics and ideology. Take marriage for example. There is nothing about the institution of marriage that is political despite the left’s ceaseless efforts to turn marriage into a political battle as they have sought to redefine it in the law in countless countries around the globe. Marriage is what it is – a universal, timeless relationship between men and women that brings the two halves of humanity together in order to form families to care for the children born of their union. This has been its purpose since the dawn of time.

From time to time, world developments transcend politics and we find ourselves retreating to the safety and familiarity of eternal truths. We are in just such a moment with the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.  All around the world, whether by force of government edict or simple common sense, people are turning inward to protect themselves and their children. As people shelter in place or practice the new art of “social distancing,” many are rediscovering the universal lived experience that families with children anchored by marriage are better positioned to handle the crisis.

Of course, there are some practical elements to this. With two parents at home, the couple can share responsibilities or deal with the particulars of sheltering in place. Perhaps one is better positioned to work from home; perhaps another can then be freed up to conduct home schooling or supervise distance learning. One spouse might be more vulnerable to being laid off than the other spouse. Another might have better access to financial supports. Research shows that married couples are more economically stable and accumulate more wealth than either single parents or those in cohabitating relationships. That will prove most helpful during this crisis.

But beyond the economics are family dynamics. The essence of the marriage relationship is complementarity. Men and women are made for each other, body and soul, equal in every way. But equality does not equate to sameness. Men and women are not the same, they bring different strengths and approaches to everyday life, including to the care of children. This will be useful and beneficial for children, now during the crisis and later when it subsides. A child at home with both mom and dad is likely to experience first hand what research has clearly documented:

  • A mother’s inherent instinct is to protect her child, while a father will push his child to take risks.
  • The two will play differently with the child, the mother preferring orderly, rule-based games, the father preferring more physical activity, roughhousing and spontaneous activity with fewer rules.
  • Dad will joke more with the child than mom, who is more serious.
  • The two will discipline their child in different ways. Mom gives more chances and fewer punishments while dad will act more decisively and predictably.
  • Dad will praise the child when he feels the child deserves praise, while mom is likely to offer praise as a means of providing comfort and to boost self-esteem. As a result, children often work hard to gain the praise of their fathers.

Eventually, God willing, the COVID-19 crisis will pass and we will return to what we hope will be a normal existence. When this happens, I hope that we don’t forget the eternal truths of marriage, and what it means for children and families.  

The overwhelming body of evidence collected by social scientists demonstrates that children raised in a family with their married mother and father are much more likely to enjoy good and healthy relationships with their parents, and with others. They will enjoy better physical and mental health and experience less family instability. They achieve greater educational attainment, including getting better grades and have a lesser chance of being held back and ultimately dropping out of school.  These children graduate from high school at a higher rate. They will be more likely to graduate from college and obtain jobs with higher occupational status and earnings, and will experience less unemployment and economic hardship. Boys raised in an intact home typically experience less juvenile delinquency and incarceration, while girls raised in an intact home have a lesser incidence of experiencing a teen pregnancy. Children raised by their married parents will have much less chance of experiencing poverty while growing up.

No other family structure comes close to delivering the enormous benefits to couples and children that does marriage between a man and a woman. Not single parents. Not same sex parents. Not parents who cohabitate.

In reality, we didn’t need social scientists to tell us all the benefits of marriage, not only for couples and children, but for entire societies. The benefits are obvious, observable and experienced by virtually every culture throughout history. Perhaps we might be well-advised during this crisis to resolve to stop treating natural marriage as a political matter and start promoting it as an essential institution integral to enhancing human flourishing.

Samaritan’s Purse. They airlifted in an Emergency Field Hospital and provided life-saving medical assistance and equipment to the city of Cremona, not far from Milan in the soutern part of Lombardy. A medical staff of 60 people and a 60-bed hospital with 8 intensive care units comprise this field hospital.

It is an unexpected ray of sun, but welcome and needed. We thank America, thank Samaritan’s Purse. What else can Christians do in this time but try to help others? This is happy news, an important sign of real ecumenism and fraternity. It is also distinct from the globalist solidarity excercised by the world’s NGOs. They press for support and donations to help all manner of poor people, but here in Lombardy and in Italy in general they are totally absent during this tragedy. ‘Emergency’, ‘Doctors Without Borders’, Amnesty International, Oxfam, CARE, and so many others: these haven’t provided medical staff or equipment—and the list of organizations could be much longer. Their “solidarity” may be strong with those who suffer far away, but it is weak in their own back yards. Do they discriminate? Is it because we are mostly white Europeans, Italian Catholics, that we don’t merit their help?

The major international philanthropists have done exactly the same as the NGOs: they support “humanity” and the “open society” but not a cent to help the emergency here in Italy. It leaves us speechless. The number of deaths take the breath away. The deaths are no less tragic beause of the fact that they are mostly old people: their loss impoverishes our families and communities, as we lose their venerable wisdom and experience. Yet even here in Lombardy the tragedy doesn’t seem to fully sink in: supermarkets are full of people in mad rushes to hoard, not from any real necessity but from a spirit of consumerism and selfishness.

On March 18 and during the subsequent days, the Italian army was called in to the province of Bergamo. A long line of military trucks transported coffins to the cemeteries and crematoriums of other cities. This is yet another compounding factor in this tragedy. People die alone, and then cannot even have a funeral, and then are buried far off from their home because local cemeteries are full.

Our faith strengthens us. On March 19, Pope Francis invited everyone to invoke the intercession of St. Joseph and pray the Rosary for the country and all the sick around the world. On March 25, he extended the invitation to all Christians to pray together the Lord’s Prayer at noon all around the world. And on Friday, March 27th, he is inviting all believers to tune in and pray together to receive a blessing for the world.

This is consoling as restrictions to movement in the country become more and more strict, making it nearly impossible to go to a Church and pray. On March 20th, I asked to a police officer who was patrolling the streets if I could go to the Church to pray the Stations of the Cross. “It is not necessary!” was his quick answer.

Yes, the common idea is that it isn’t “essential” to address our needs to God, our Savior. But for some of us it is. It was honorable of President Trump in America to declare Sunday, March 15 a National Day of Prayer, for example. It reminds us how important prayers are, to ask help from God just as our forebears did, in the US just as in Lombardy. This virus acts by taking one’s breath, suffocating and isolating the person: but this just reminds us that we take our breath for granted, when really every breath comes from God.  But this only This virus takes breath away, suffocates and leaves you alone. It has been questioned by this tragedy; we are more and more aware that every breath depends on someone else, God.

I share with you in closing this ancient, short hymn from the time of the Black Death. This isn’t a song of “imagining”—it a real, a prayer for help to drive plague away. These songs from our ancestors are what we need, even if Hollywood finds no use for them.

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