Bishop's Column

The stability of love

Our families matter.  We are created for family life—from the very beginning. To the first humans God created, he gave the first commandment: “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”

Families matter because they are communities of love—they mirror the love of the Blessed Trinity.  Even those who do not marry—priests, religious, and single people—are called to share in the joys and challenges of family life. God created us each to play unique roles in family life, as mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters. 

In families, we learn how to love as God made us. Mothers and fathers, living as God created them, form children for the vocations to which they are called.  Families matter.  And they matter most of all for children—who depend on the loving stability of mothers and fathers to become virtuous, joyful, and charitable.

I know many single parents who work and sacrifice heroically to support their children. And I know many children, raised by only one parent, who have grown to become good and holy men and women.  Single parents deserve our admiration and respect.  But when I talk with single parents, they often express the same thing: the wish that their children might know the love of both a mother and a father.  And when I talk to children with only one parent, they often express how much they long for the parent they don’t see.

The stability of a mother and father’s love is often the greatest gift parents can give their children. 

While most families are the fruit of natural procreation, many families are formed through adoption or foster care. My own sister was adopted by my mother and father when I was 7 years old. I remember like it was yesterday, the day we brought her home as a baby and welcomed her into our family. Both adoption and care for children in the foster care system are acts of love, undertaken by families whom God calls to care for those in need of family life.  I pray that Catholic families across the Diocese of Lincoln will discern whether God calls them to adopt children, or to open their home to any of the 4,000 children in Nebraska’s foster care system.

But this month, the Nebraska Legislature will begin considering two bills that radically impact the state of adoptive and foster care families in our state.  LB647 and LB648 would make it easier for adults who are unmarried to adopt or foster children together. 

These bills stand to benefit two groups: those who choose to cohabit without committing to marriage, and those in same-sex unions who wish to adopt children. These bills do not stand to benefit the children of Nebraska. In fact, passing LB647 and LB648 would bring real harm to children in our state.

In 2011, sociologist Bradford Wilcox reported that “children in cohabiting families are about twice as likely to drop out of high school, use drugs, or end up depressed, compared with children in intact, married families. They are also at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused.”  

In 2009, sociologists reported that 50% of cohabiting couples are broken up within five years, and that 75% of children born to cohabiting parents live with only one parent by the time they are 15. 

Couples who choose not to marry are statistically more likely to live in unstable homes, which most often break apart. Children in such situations bear the heaviest cost of their parents’ choices.

Children adopted by same-sex couples are deprived of either motherhood or fatherhood. Both motherhood and fatherhood are important for the formation of children, and by definition, children of same-sex couples suffer from the absence of one. 

Katy Faust, an Oregon writer who was raised by a same-sex couple, notes that the absence of a mother or father in a child’s life is profound. “If you ask a child raised by a lesbian couple if they love their two moms,” she writes, “you’ll probably get a resounding ‘yes!’ Ask about their father, and you are in for either painful silence, a confession of gut-wrenching longing, or the recognition that they have a father that they wish they could see more often. The one thing that you will not hear is indifference.”

Children need stability.  The world today is a difficult place in which to live and flourish. Children need models of masculinity and femininity. They need love which mirrors the fruitful love of God. Foster children and children waiting to be adopted need families—and Catholics should take that need seriously, and act on it whenever possible. 

But LB647 and LB648 will not provide children with stability, or a better chance for healthy family life. These bills ignore the importance of marriage, and motherhood, and fatherhood. And they ignore the rights of Nebraska’s children.

Please join me in calling your state senators to oppose LB647 and LB648. And please join me in praying for all of Nebraska’s children.

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