Marriage and Family
Becker-Posner try to explain the "sexual revolution" and the current ideas about sex, marriage, fidelity, and divorce. The discussion arose from the death of Pope John-Paul II, whose idea about family, contraceptives, and promiscuity were considered controversial and old-fashioned, and "out of step" with the evolution of society. I believe, and I think Pope Paul believed, that the most important single element of society is the family: the individual family, and the family of the church. The bedrock of the family is trust. Trust depends upon fidelity, both outside of marriage and within a marriage. This is why Pope Paul spoke so often, and so strongly, against promiscuity, against divorce, against infidelity, and against abortion. All are destructive of the family unit.
Pope Paul understood that sex outside of marriage weakened the commitment to family, and encouraged promiscuity. It weakened commitment and destroyed trust. It also reduced the role of sex from the ultimate act of union between two equal partners and an affirmation of commitment to a simple act of pleasure and release. Such behavior is destructive, on a personal level, on a societal level, and on the larger level of man's relationship to his Creator.
I believe the basic building-block of any group of people is the family, consisting of one man, one woman, and their children. When the bonds of family are strong, the group is strong. When the bonds of family are weakened or broken, the group itself becomes weak, and will eventually collapse. I believe that Becker-Posner approached the problem from the wrong direction, and that their comments explain the "why" without examining the basic premises of family, and how sexual fidelity either builds or destroys both its integrity and the integrity of society.
The family is under attack in the United States, from virtually every direction. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is that we've lost the understanding of what a family is, how it arose, how it's supposed to function, and the role of religion in establishing and energizing a family.
Families have existed since Man became Man. The Bible relates how God created Eve to be Adam's helpmate and partner. Three of the Ten Commandments directly relate to marrital behavior: the fifth Commandment tells us to honor our father and our mother; the the seventh Commandment tells us not to commit adultery (to be faithful to our spouse), and the tenth Commandment tells us that we should not covet our neighbor's wife (or anything that is our neighbor's). There are scores of passages in the Bible telling us how to live as a family, how to behave toward spouse and children, and how to act in society as a whole. The people who hold true to those teachings have strong families and are usually happy and successful.
Legally, a couple's children usually inherit their parents' estate. Fidelity - on the part of both husband and wife - ensures that the children who inherit are actually the legitimate children of the family. It also makes it difficult for there to be outside claims upon the estate.
Family life establishes patterns of behavior that will continue through the life of the children. A strong, two-parent family, where there is love and devotion to the partners, provides a more nurturing background than any other. When the father practices commitment, the children learn the value of commitment, and internalize trust. When the mother provides the example of dedication and devotion to the family, the children learn the value of family. The children learn the value of family, and the roles played by both members within that unit.
Bad habits are also picked up. If the father is promiscuous, the children have a harder time learning to trust. When the mother is promiscuous, the children have a harder time learning faithfulness and commitment. Other failures on the part of the "adults" in a family relationship also create problems. A parent that fails to provide for his children fails to instil virtue and trust in his children. Integrity learned in the home can be carried over to integrity in other practices. Failing to learn integrity places a heavy burden on children when they become older and must provide for themselves.
When we make divorce too easy, and divorce loses its social stigma, children fail to learn to make commitments, to value their personal integrity, and have a harder time trusting others, both adults and children.
Failure of the family also leads to failure of the society, and failure of the church - regardless of what church that is. The family establishes (or doesn't) the integrity of personal commitment - to the immediate family, to the extended family, to the tribe (or society), to the state, and to the church. There's a reason church congregations are frequently referred to as "family" - the same type of relationships exist, for the same reason. Personal integrity, honor, commitment, and trust are required at every level of the community, in business, and in political, social, and religious organizations. These are best learned by example in the immediate family.
The so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1960's and '70's supposedly "freed" men and women from "archaic behavior". In actuality, what it did was destroy trust. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Suddenly, however, the pillar of trust, the family, was no longer "important". "Commitment" became a dirty word. Sexual behavior changed, and the foundation of the family was shaken. The State removed the stigma of sexual behavior outside of marriage, the stigma of divorce, and the stigma of unwed motherhood. Instead of commitment, we suddenly worshiped "victimhood". An entire generation grew up with an extremely damaged view of sexuality, marriage, commitment, integrity, and trust.
It's not just the family that has suffered from this damaged view of what we refer to loosely as "moral values". Family commitment has been weakened, and with it the commitment to society and the nation have also suffered. Criminal behavior has skyrocketed. Abuse, neglect, abandonment, and dozens of other family-related crimes have grown apace. We're no longer sure of our role in society, or in the community.
Pope John Paul II knew this. He knew the core of personal relationships, the family, was the key to success as individuals, as a culture, as a state, and as a church. He also knew it had to be the "traditional" family as established in the Bible and through history, not some manmade construct. He knew that the family was the key to success - for the individuals involved, for the state, for society, and for the Roman Catholic Church. He understood that the attack on religion - all religions - was actually an attack on the family. Societies that have destroyed the integrity of family have themselves been destructive in other ways - communism, fascism, and any other form of fanaticism first replaced the role of the family by the State, and destruction follows.
Integrity of the family is the essential foundation for any group. The destruction of the family will destroy the nation, the society, and the church. A society must commit itself to maintaining the family as a viable unit, or it faces its own demise.
Pope Paul also knew that the traditional roles of family members must be understood and accepted for the family to succeed. That includes a male and female parent, and children. A family that fails to breed soon dies out. A society that fails to breed collapses. A church that fails to acknowledge the necessity of children and the relationships within a family has forgotten the foundation of its faith. The pope stressed these things, these relationships, and admonished the Catholic Church to honor them and teach its members to honor them. He knew that this was the foundation for honoring God, the Father of the Church, and acknowledging the role of the Church family in sustaining and maintaining the Church and its teachings.