The upcoming Synod of the USCCB on the state of the family is convening in October of this year. The subject of the discussions- the state of the family, is an urgent issue for a few facts I will state below. No doubt, for these reasons and likely more I have not come up with will be on the good Excellency’s daily notes and agendas.
Recently I read that as the bishops go forward, they will likely push Natural Law- note as Aquinas understands it, to the backburner and rely on totally on Sacred scripture to formulate their positions on how to go about restoring and strengthening the fabric of the most basic unit of society, the family.
Oh my. St. Thomas of Aquinas, please pray for us.
Please consider one more trillionth time:
• “In study after study, divorced adults report greater psychological distress than married couples. Divorced women in particular report “more of an increase in depression, more hostility, more of a decline in self-esteem, less personal growth, and less self-acceptance and environmental mastery (than divorcing men).”25 Similarly, divorced fathers are more likely to be depressed than married fathers.26 Due to the strained parental role, divorced fathers of minor children especially “struggle with issues of personal and social identity. 27
• Significant negative outcomes can be identified among children of divorced parents. The breakup of a marriage alters the relationships between father and child, as well as mother and child.28 This change typically adds new emotional and even physical stressors to the family member’s role. For example, in some families, the oldest child, or the oldest daughter, “may become a confidant of the mother and act as a surrogate parent for her younger siblings. While such an arrangement may provide comfort to the mother and may reinforce parental authority, it is unlikely to be as effective as having two parents in the household.”29
[25 Nadine F. Marks and James D. Lambert, “Marital Status Continuity and Change among Young and Midlife Adults: Longitudinal Effects on Psychological Well-being,” Journal of Family Issues 19 (1998): 652-86, cited by Gallagher and Waite, Case for Marriage, (2000), p. 70.
26 Adam Shapiro and James David Lambert, “Longitudinal Effects of Divorce on the Quality of the Father-Child Relationship and on Fathers’ Psychological Well-Being,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (May 1999): 397-408, cited by Family Research Council, The Family Portrait, (2002), p. 105.
27 Debra Umberson and Christine L. Williams, “Divorced Fathers: Parental Role Strain and Psychological Distress,” Journal of Family Issues 14 (September 1993): 378-400, cited by Family Research Council, The Family Portrait, (2002), p. 106.
28 One foundational study from 1997 “found that divorced mothers provide less emotional support to their children than do married mothers.” Jane E. Miller and Diane Davis, “Poverty History, Marital History, and Quality of Children’s Home Environments,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 59 (November 1997): 996-1007, as cited by Family Research Council, The Family Portrait, (2002), p. 105.
29 Robert Weiss, “Growing Up a Little Faster: The Experience of Growing Up in a Single-Parent Household.” Journal of Social Issues 35 (1979): 97-111, cited by Sara McLanahan and Gary D. Sandefur, Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1994), pp. 28-29.]
This info and the very credible references:
What does the breakdown of the family have to do with natural law?
Here’s what worries me: While they may not be planning to ignore natural law outright, the bishops may as well be. Why? There is a notion as old as the Protestant Reformation that natural law is no longer accessible to man after the Fall. Why? His heart is just too corrupt.
Defending natural law is not a suspension or replacement of God’s law or anything of that nature. On the contrary as Aquinas would say, natural law is fundamental and not deduced: 1.They don’t need to be deduced, because they are principles we can’t not know, such as the desire to procreate ( the focus of the Synod to start with). 2. They can’t be deduced, because they are what everything else is deduced from; 3. From these points it follows that any principle that can be deduced is not really fundamental. P. 108, Two Views of Natural Law.
Why are we under pressure to ‘take side’? Why not draw from the wisdom of both natural law and scripture? Prof. J. Budziszewski sheds light on this predicament in his book, Written on the Heart by InterVarsity Press:
Simply put, nowadays man pushes away moral principles in favor of ‘rights’- whatever those happen to be at the moment.
This is how Aquinas views natural law:
“Everything is for something, as the heart pumps blood for the purpose of physical life, the thumb opposes the fingers for the purpose of grasping, marriage unites man and woman for the purposes of procreation and spiritual union, and society unites citizens for the purpose of a secondary partnership in goodness. The purpose of human reason is to participate in the wisdom by which God made the universe, and one way human reason participates is to grasp the purposes that God has implanted in human nature itself. If this were impossible, natural law would be impossible.” P.109
“Rejectionists” such as William Selden, according to Budziszewski, view natural law:
“I cannot fancy myself to myself what the law of nature means, but the law of God. How should I know I ought not steal, I ought not to commit adultery, unless somebody had told me…? Whence comes the restraint? From a higher power. Nothing else can bind.[…]” P.110-111
In response, Budziszewski asks this question: “[First], if the mind is so fallen that it cannot figure out what clues to the divine design have survived its own corruption, how can it figure out what follows from this corruption?” P.111
In other words, how can man know if he is ‘corrupt? What makes man’s view of the pursuit of happiness, provided he knows what happiness really is, more fundamental than an attempt to end it all?
May I suggest to the Bishops: I don’t think pointing out rules and dogma are going to cut it at this time, your Excellencies. Man has wholesale rejected meta-narratives such as institutions and writings which attempt to tell him what he should do or not do. Man is rejecting ‘religion.’ (BTW, on that note, part of me is intrigued by the rejectionist’s claim: Man has been beaten down by sin. We are weighed down by so much bad news. Society is sick.)
So what is a remedy you ask ? I believe man needs to be built up. [See St. John Paul II’s ‘Personalism’ thought on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.] Appeal to his God given dignity. Fill him with hope. Re-ignite man’s reason via positive affirmations, the “goodness” of man proclaimed by God in the garden. Emphasize joy, hope. Post modern man loves thinking outside the box, dialoging with those who uphold his dignity, irrespective of the subject. Appeal to our common sense and reason to begin thinking about ourselves as miracles made in the image of God. Appeal to our sense that we are conscious of what is good and what is evil. Appeal to our natural inclinations to preserve life, reproduce and promote a flourishing common good.