The Christian ideal of marriage is under “great threat” from cohabitation, the disposable marriages of celebrities and the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage, a leading Australian bishop told an audience of thousands at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin yesterday.
In his address, Dr Barry Hickey (pictured), Archbishop Emeritus of Perth, also said that the culture created by artificial contraception “has led to the separation of sex from marriage itself and has led to the proliferation of casual unions, to the exploitation of young women, to false hopes that sexual activity will lead to love, and to the abandonment of marriage by millions of people around the world”.
He said: “Increasingly marriage is being promoted as only one of the many options in human sexual relationships. Recent years have witnessed a sharp rise in cohabitation before marriage. These so-called partnerships are even taking the place of marriage.
“Adding to this is the pressure to change the very definition of marriage from a union of a man and a woman to a union of two persons of the same sex.”
And he said that children were the victims of the resulting problems.
He said: “The ideal of Christian marriage is under great threat. The much publicised romances and brief marital unions of so-called ‘idols’ of screen and television only contribute to the trivialisation of marriage.
“The availability of easy divorce undermines the strength of commitment that true marriage requires and encourages the view that marriage is no longer a permanent contract.”
He added: “One must be concerned about the increasing number of children who are born out of marriage and those who grow up in single parent families, often without a father. When the relationship breaks down the father is generally the one who has to live away from the children. While such a situation calls for compassion and understanding, it is not ideal.
“Given the stresses on modern marriage many children are sadly caught in the crossfire of hostility between their parents. This often does not cease if the marriage or relationship breaks down.
“In the search for happiness in a second marriage or in a ‘partnership’, success is not guaranteed either for the spouses or for the children. The breakdown rate of second and subsequent marriages is higher than for first marriages. Children are the victims of adult behaviour."
The result of this, he said, was that large numbers of children were taken into care by the State today because the family unit can no longer cope. The damage done to children who grow up in such dysfunctional families affected by violence or drugs had been catalogued many times.
The distress of children from such backgrounds manifested itself in mental illness, anti-social behaviour, and tragically, in suicide.
Studies have shown that cohabitation before marriage contributes to the early breakdown of marriage.
Archbishop Hickey also said that truth was “not respected when couples defy Church teaching on contraception”. This approach, when taken by couples set up “an inner conflict which undermines faith, and causes mistrust of Christ’s mandate to teach on matters of human sexuality”.
He said: “The wisdom of the world has chosen to ignore, even ridicule Catholic teaching on the matter of openness to children, and has taken a different and tragic path.
“Faced with this, the Church can either compromise and face irrelevance, or continue to teach Christ’s truth about marriage, life and love, and pray that the world will listen.”
He also warned that around the western world educators “to take over sex education from the parents because they want a complete break from the past”.
He said: “Teachers in one country I know are now telling young people before puberty to become sexually aware and to experiment.
“At puberty they are urged to become sexually active as soon as possible or they will grow up with inhibitions, fears of sex and will have psychological problems.
“They are to be fully instructed in contraception and abortion as ways of continuing to enjoy a full sexual life. They are told to prefer serial unions of choice rather than marriage, and to severely limit the numbers of children, as the world is overpopulated.
“They are to be trained to deny gender differences of male and female as these are only social constructs. They are told that homosexuality is a legitimate sexual outlet, and often preferable because children do not come from their sexual activities.”
“What we condemn is now being taught to children as the way to a happy sexually satisfied life.”