In the debate relative to redefining the nature of marriage, the young Liberals at the last Liberal policy convention came up with a lapel button - “It’s the Charter, stupid!”
Some Conservatives at their convention responded with a button that read - “It’s the stupid Charter!”
I would suggest that we need a third button -“It’s about Children, stupid!”
The most overlooked and disenfranchised group in the current debate about marriage is that of children.
According to the government’s agenda, Bill C-38, the social institution that has always symbolized our society’s commitment to the future - our children, will be transformed into an institution that symbolizes our commitment to the present - the needs and desires of adults. Marriage will have a new primary purpose, to validate and protect sexually intimate adult relationships.
Legislation which redefines marriage cannot achieve the impossible. It cannot alter the simple reality that there is a fundamental difference between a relationship that, by its nature, has the potential to create a child and a relationship, that by its nature, absolutely does not.
The proposed re-invention of the institution of marriage means that marriage must be disconnected from procreation, and the traditional family, the only institution that honours a child’s natural right to know and be cared for by his or her parents, must be dismantled.
This will effectively make children’s rights secondary to adults and turn on its head the ethical principle that children, as the most vulnerable people, must come first.
Some advocates of same sex marriage try to argue that children would be better off with good gay parents than with bad straight ones - even though comparing the best of one thing with the worst of another makes no sense.
Given that stable and exclusive homosexual coupling is very much the exception rather than the norm, to connect homosexual coupling with children’s welfare or with a stable environment for children is nothing if not dishonest.
The issue is not whether traditional marriage, as it stands, is a perfect institution, but whether society and especially children are better off with it than without.
Even if we concede that the social-science evidence is sometimes ambiguous, we know that two parents are better for children than one. Families with both mothers and fathers are generally better for children than those with only mothers or only fathers. Biological parents usually protect and provide for their children more effectively than non-biological ones.
That these facts are either ignored or trivialized by some advocates of gay marriage says something about concern for children in our society.
Prior to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, human rights standards applicable to all members of the human family had been expressed in legal instruments such as covenants, conventions and declarations, as did standards relating to the specific concerns of children.
But it was only in 1989 that the standards concerning children were brought together in a single legal instrument, approved by the international community and spelling out in an unequivocal manner the rights to which every child is entitled, regardless of where born or to whom, regardless of sex, religion, or social origin. The body of rights enumerated in the Convention are the rights of all children everywhere.
In the preamble and in article 5, article 10 and article 18, the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically refers to the family as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of its members, particularly children.
Under the Convention, States are obliged to respect parents' primary responsibility for providing care and guidance for their children and to support parents in this regard, providing material assistance and support programmes. States are also obliged to prevent children from being separated from their families unless the separation is judged necessary for the child's best interests.
States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child. Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.
Children need and have a right to both a mother and a father and a right to be reared by their own biological parents. There is a deep human need to be connected to our origins Restricting marriage to the union of a man and a woman establishes that right of children as the societal norm.
In other words, it is a fundamental purpose of marriage to give children both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents. Changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples would openly and directly contravene both the right and the norm and would mean marriage could no longer function to affirm the biological bond between parents and their children.
When there is a conflict between what adults want and what children need, who should be given priority?
Jim Wallis, a prophetic evangelical Christian, tells the story from his seminary days about his distress that many believers consistently miss a central theme of the Scriptures.
A group of eager first year seminarians did a thorough study to find every verse in the Bible that dealt with the poor. They found several thousand references to poor people, to wealth and poverty, to injustice and oppression and to what the response of God’s people was to be.
One member of the group took an old Bible and a pair of scissors and began the long process of literally cutting out every single biblical text about the poor.
The prophets were simply decimated. The famous refrain from Amos, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an every flowing stream,” was cut out.
Isaiah’s question, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undue the thongs of the yoke, and let the oppressed go free?,” had to go.
Micah’s call to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”was eliminated.
Much of the psalms, those sections describing God as defender and deliverer of the oppressed, disappeared, as did references to the Hebrew tradition of Jubilee.
The thankful Magnificat prayer of Mary didn’t survive the cut: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.”
The Nazareth manifesto of Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,” had to expunged.
The Sermon on the Mount, and especially the Beatitudes, were deemed to be too upsetting. Imagine saying that the blessed are the poor, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted, and those who hunger and thirst for justice!
Mt. 25, the last judgement scene, and that part about “As long as you did it to the least of my brothers” had to be excised.
Of course, the slashing affected Acts and the practice of economic sharing: “there was not a needy person among them.” Even Paul’s collection since it was encouraging economic redistribution had to go.
James with his doctrine about position in the community and “faith without works” had to be snipped; as did all that stuff from John about not having the love of God in you unless you opened your heart to the needy.
When the zealous seminarian was done with all his editorial cuts, the old Bible would hardly hold together. It was literally falling apart. What had been created was a “Bible full of holes.”
We tend to do the same thing.
People can really love the Bible, based their lives on it, and yet completely miss some of its most central themes. The Scriptures repeatedly tell how nations, rulers, and all of us are to treat the poor but we just don’t seem to get it.
We tend to take the comment of Jesus, “the poor you will always have with you,” as a fatalistic insight or an excuse rather than as an expression of the disciples continuing proximity to the poor. We don’t see assistance rendered to the poor as a primordial option. The poor are not those we identify with, spend our time and share our resources with.
Our provincial government recently announced that Albertans receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) will get up to $100 more each month starting April 1, 2005, and an additional $50 per month starting next year to bring their monthly living allowance to a maximum of $1,000.
After much discussion re the impact on small businesses but not on whether a person could live on such a level of subsistence, the Government of Alberta also announced that the minimum wage, currently $5.90 an hour, will be raised to $7.00 an hour on September 1, 2005.
Never mind that a single parent earning the current minimum wage and supporting one child must work over 80 hours a week to earn the Low Income Cut-off for a two person family ($24,745 annual income).
Never mind that the average hourly wage Albertans make is $18.55 an hour.
Never mind that 26,480 Calgary families live just above the LICO. Two thirds of Alberta’s “poor families” have incomes less than 75% of the LICO, while more than one third have an income of less than half of LICO.
Never mind that 14.8 % of Calgary children lived in poverty in 2002, up from 11.1% in 2001.
“Now the woman was a gentile, by birth a Syro-Phoenician, and she begged him to drive the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘the children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.’ But she spoke up. ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied, ‘but little dogs under the table eat the scraps from the children. And he said to her, ‘For saying this you may go home happy...”
Pope John Paul describe his early veneration of Mary in his memoir, Gift and Mystery:
At the time when my priestly vocation was developing a change took place in my understanding of devotion to the Mother of God. I was already convinced that Mary leads us to Christ, but at that time I began to realize also that Christ leads us to his Mother. At one point I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. At that time I was greatly helped by a book by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided we live her mystery in Christ.... This Is the origin of the motto Totus Tuus an abbreviation of the more complete form of entrustment which is - 'I belong to you entirely, and all that I possess is yours. I take you into everything that is mine. Give me your heart, 0 Mary.'
Jean-Paul Sartre once suggested that human beings create their own faces. For Sartre, we are born without a face, at least without one that says very much. When a baby is born, three features characterize its face:
- First, its face exhibits very little in the way of individuality. Despite mothers protests to the contrary, most babies look very much alike.
- Second, a baby's face gives you little indication as to what kind of character that person possesses and will develop.
- Finally, in a baby's face, beauty is almost totally genetic. A baby is good-looking or not depending almost entirely on its genetic endowment.
This holds true for a baby when it if first born, but, with each hour, day and year of its life, this changes and, according to Sartre, culminates at age forty when, finally, a person has the essential lines of a face. At that age, we look differently from anyone else in the world (even if we have an identical twin), our face speaks volumes about who we are, and our physical beauty has begun to blend with our general beauty so that we are now judged to be good-looking or not, more on the basis of who we are, than on the simple basis of physical endowment. From age forty onward, our faces manifest individuality, character, and a beauty-beyond-genes.
What is important about all of this is what, in the end, forms our faces. Up until age forty, genetic endowment is dominant and that is why, up to that age, we can be selfish and still look beautiful. From then onward, though, we look like what we believe in. If I am anxious, petty selfish, bitter, narrow, and self-centre, my face will show it. Conversely, if I am warm, gracious, humble, and other-centred, my face will also show it. A scary thought; there can be no poker faces after forty.
Our mission is precisely to form our own faces in the correct way - contemplate the face of Christ
Apostolic Letter on the Rosary:
The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she 'wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manager.' (10)
From that point time onward Mary's gaze would never leave him.
At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: "Son, why have you treated us so."
It would also be a penetrating gaze, on e capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana.
At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the cross, where her vision would still be that of a mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple.
On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring every word: "She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart."
Pope John Paul II recently acknowledged that his favourite prayer, the rosary, has accompanied him in moments of joy and difficulty. To it, he has entrusted a number of his concerns, and in it he has always found comfort.
It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, shed light on the mystery of man. At the same time, it becomes natural to bring to this encounter withe sacred humanity of the Redeemer all the problems, anxieties, labours and endeavours which go to make up our lives. "Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you." To pray the rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. Twenty five years later, thinking back over the difficulties which have also been pat of my exercise of the Petrine ministry, I feel the need to say once more, as a warm invitation to every one to experience it personally: the Rosary does indeed mark the rhythm of human life, bringing it into harmony with the rhythm of God's own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life's destiny and deepest longing. (25)
Contemplating the face of Christ through the various stages of his life, we come face-to-face with our own identity. Contemplating Christ's birth, we learn of the sanctity of life; seeing the household of Nazareth, we learn the original truth of the family according to God's plan; listening to the Master in the mysteries of his public ministry, we find the light that leads us to enter the Kingdom of God; and following him on the way to Calvary, we learn the meaning of salvific suffering. Contemplating Christ in glory, we see the goal towards which we are called, if we allow ourselves to be healed by the Holy Spirit.
Contemplating the face of Christ, we form our face.