In my last post, I mentioned that in our collective desire to grant adults more and more liberty, the weakest among us, particularly children, lose out. In his lecture series Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Pope Benedict XVI states that “…the concept of liberty on which [Western] culture is based inevitably leads to contradictions since it is either badly defined or not defined at all” (35).
Nowhere is this more apparent than in dealing with abortion–in which a woman’s right to ‘own’ her body trumps a child’s right to life–but the conflict between contradictory freedoms arises in same-sex marriage as well.
This conflict between vaguely defined freedoms is being realized throughout the country right now as same-sex couples raise children. Despite research to the contrary, supporters of same-sex marriage insist that having a father and a mother does not matter. In my experience, this claim is a hollow one, and whenever it comes up in conversation I think about my dad.
Just a few months after he was born, his own father, my grandfather, died from post-surgical complications. My grandmother was beside herself with grief; she deeply loved her husband and faced the daunting task of raising her son as a single mother in the 1950s. (She did an excellent job of it.) However, my own dad has never claimed that having a father wasn’t important. Now that his own sons are grown, my dad sees in us what he missed out on: the opportunity to grow up under the care and protection of a father.
In polite conversation we are often afraid to admit that being raised by one parent, two parents of the same gender, or no parents at all will have an adverse affect on children. This is largely because we do not wish to inadvertently offend those who may have been raised in such circumstances, or the parents who are trying their best to raise them in a healthy environment. But my dad’s experience reminds me that there is something deep within each child’s heart that cries out, “I want a mom and a dad.” Having male and female providers, role models, and teachers helps shape a child’s sense of self. His or her relationship with both mother and father becomes the model on which all other relationships are based. (See Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Chapter 5, #212-214, for Catholic social teaching.)
A child’s desire for a mom and dad needs to be respected before we elevate same-sex relationships to the same status as traditional marriage in our state law. Children should have two role models, one male and one female, so that they can grow up to be well-adjusted, balanced adults who are capable of relating to and valuing people of both genders on an equal level. If we make this our goal, we will have a stronger civil society. Any child whose situation does not measure up to this standard should be treated with compassion, respect and love, but we should never confuse these kids—and our entire society—by saying something like, “Hey, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a dad. You really didn’t need him anyway.”