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Time to Stop Defending Marriage and Time to Reintroduce It, Says Advocate

Stephan Hochhaus-cc

John Burger - published on 06/29/15 - updated on 06/08/17

St. John Paul II used to talk about marriage as a communion of man and woman leading to communion between parent and child, and the importance of looking at marriage as an intergenerational institution, a connecting institution of kinship. The Church also teaches that it is through the secure relationship with their moms and dads united by marriage that children can discover their own identity. Who am I? …

So now that the word "marriage" has been separated from the reality of marriage—it still exists but not connected to the word—now our goal is to reintroduce it starting from the beginning, and ultimately have it re-recognized by the state. This is what we refer to as taking back marriage. It’s time to stop defending marriage and time to reintroduce it to the culture starting from the beginning. 

How do you see that working out on a practical level?

We’ve got training materials and formation materials. It’s no longer an issue for the Supreme Court or legislatures. It’s an issue for around the family dinner table, an issue we’re going to have to prepare people to deal with, with school boards and things of that nature. 

So you would recommend ways for parents to talk to their kids about this? Young people today are inundated with messages from the gay rights agenda, etc.

Yes…. A child knows the truth about marriage, and the first thing they think about isn’t sex. Unfortunately, in our culture that’s the first thing everybody thinks about. But the reality of marriage can only be seen today through the eyes of a child. And for an adult, it has to be put in a context so they can see it through the eyes of the child within them, because we all have an experience of God’s plan for creation seen in our own desire for connection, to know where we came from, for connection with, and be loved by, our own moms and dads and our grandparents. People are fascinated by searching for their ancestors. You know, we’ve got sperm donors now walking down the street looking for people who look like them. 

So the truth about marriage is within us, and in children it’s just merely a case of reinforcing what they already know. The family with married parents didn’t happen by accident. It was intentional. "Mom and dad chose to make ourselves irreplaceable to each other because that’s what prepared us to receive you, as a gift. In reality, you’re irreplaceable to us, and we’re both irreplaceable to you."

For people with married mothers and fathers, they can’t imagine their mothers and fathers being apart. For people who have lost a mother or father, they are aware they’ve had a loss—that’s reality. Telling kids they have two dads or two moms is an insult to their intelligence, because they know they have a mom and a dad. During the day they might say "I’ve got two dads," but as they’re lying in bed at night they’re wondering, "Where’s mom?" When I talk to teenagers, this blows them away: finally someone is acknowledging what they’re feeling. 

We can talk to our children about how much their two dads love them, how much they love their dads, but unfortunately they don’t have their mom, and they’ve lost someone who’s really important. We have to have compassion for them but reinforce in the child that it’s important future dads and moms make themselves irreplaceable to each other before having children. 

Even some of the single parents in our movement have talked about this with their kids: "It’s a misfortune that Dad’s not here. Dad loves you still, but it’s a misfortune."

What’s happening today is that people think of marriage as a commitment rather than a choice of irreplaceability, which also has the understanding of unsubstitutability and irrevocability because someone is either irreplaceable or he’s not. 

We’ve been losing our kids in this debate by being anti-, anti-, anti-. Now we can be for, and present it in a way where young people can say, "Wow, that’s beautiful. I’m so glad my mom and dad got married, and that’s what I want for my children because it’s so beautiful."

And one more thing: the
decision is riddled with false premises. I am not sure a well-catechized or orthodox Catholic could even spot the false premises because they’re so widely accepted. When we’re helping people understand what marriage is, we have to understand the false premises that they’re starting with. You can’t get to what’s true from assumptions that are false.

We learned this through our focus groups. And when people understand, they say "Oh my gosh, I’ve been saying things that conflict with what I believe." 

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

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