There’s a reason why the Bible proclaims an injunction against divorce. That reason is the connection between marriage and the procreation of children.
God himself designed marriage as the vehicle by which “two become one flesh.” He made it clear that his desire was for human beings to “be fruitful and multiply.” And he devised a system in which there are two types of human beings — men and women, both created in his image and likeness — to accomplish this objective.
(Despite what some confused folks insist these days, the two types are still distinct.)
We don’t hear it said very much anymore, but procreation of children is the primary purpose of marriage.
The point of committing to this lifelong bond is not to form a special kind of friendship between a man and a woman. It’s not to provide a good way to live, through which we gain help, companionship, and the sharing of mutual interests. It’s not to promote social stability or encourage economic productiveness.
It’s not even that marriage is an effective way to contain concupiscence — which is to say, applying restraint on human sexual desires ( “better to marry than burn,” as St. Paul put it).
Marriage does accomplish all these things, and indeed they’re all good. But they’re not the primary purpose. Children are the primary purpose — perpetuating the human race.
Consequently, divorce is contrary to God’s plan. It destroys families, and thus interferes with having children.
There’s a theological significance to human procreation. Children make present God’s image and likeness in the world. Also, children have souls. And the more souls created, the more will eventually be with God in heaven — to enjoy his presence and give him glory throughout eternity.
And so children are to be propagated both for this world and for the next.
Most people would consider it a great sadness if they couldn’t have children. But some avoid procreation intentionally, or else they limit the number of offspring.
One hears many explanations for this, usually running along the lines of: “The world is a crazy place,” “Why should we bring kids into a life that can involve so much suffering?”; and other such rationalizations.
Developments in medical science have encouraged the practice of having a single child — an imagined “perfect” baby. Some people undertake elaborate and expensive procedures in their quest for an “ideal” child. Those procedures often involve aborting children that are conceived in the process but are considered imperfect or superfluous.
All of these ideas contradict God’s plan.
The responsibility of parents extends beyond childbirth, of course. It isn’t enough just to have children; those children must be raised and educated properly. Not everyone grasps the full scope of that responsibility, or what’s required to live up to it — at least not right away.
This accounts for the wide acceptance of an expression popularized by a certain well-known politician some years ago: “It takes a village.” The idea being that kids are raised by the entire community.
It’s true that children come under numerous and varied influences. Many people impact their lives, and we should all be mindful of the effects we have on the kids with whom we come into contact.
Nevertheless, what it takes, first and foremost, to shape a child’s life is a mother and a father. Which brings us back to divorce.
Children learn how to be good men and women through the examples of their parents, who are the most important influences on their lives. When divorce breaks a family apart, often depriving the kids of even seeing one parent or another with any frequency, they are left with a gaping hole where that removed parent’s daily influence should be.
This does terrible psychological damage. It affects the entire course of a child’s life.
It is often assumed that schools can compensate for what’s missing in family life. And so we see teachers being called upon to give children (especially children of divorce) the guidance and even the physical care they aren’t getting at home.
This is a fearful trend that’s placed unrealistic and stressful burdens on our educators, no matter how devoted they may be to their pedagogical calling. It has also increased the power of schools over the lives of children and families.
Essentially, this puts our children’s souls into the hands of the state. We are seeing the consequences of that in the warped ideas with which kids today are being indoctrinated by less-than-ethical teachers who are ideologically motivated.
Such warped ideas are usually inspired by socialism. At a minimum, they’re in sharp contrast with Christian understanding, ignoring God and Jesus, and often mocking our beliefs outright. This does a grave disservice to children.
We tend to assume that kids don’t care about anything serious, but that’s not true. They have an inherent need for God. They’re longing for Jesus, even if they aren’t yet able to articulate that need.
But their search is too often stifled in the schools — or else misdirected into a futile chasing after false philosophies that can never satisfy their hearts.
Children are open to all kinds of influences. I recently met a young Buddhist boy, struggling with a serious disease, who wants to become Catholic. He’s impressed with what some Catholic friends have told him about Jesus, and how sincerely they’re praying for his recovery. It’s always gratifying to encounter such examples of faith in action among young people.
But in most cases, it’s parents who first introduce children to the reality of God, and who set the direction for a spiritual life. That’s why it’s crucial that families stay intact.
If you’re thinking about divorce, I beg you to consider it the absolutely last, most extreme resort — even an impossibility. Please, do everything you can to make your marriage survive.
Jesus put it best when he insisted that no one should impede children from coming to him. He connected that directly with his teaching against divorce, which he attributed to our hardness of heart.
“What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals. His TV show episodes can be viewed online here.