The bishop of Elphin (Ireland), Christopher Jones seems to have a gift for slogans. In an interview to the Irish “Independent” he said that many children born in a dysfunctional family are “born losers”. His exact words were, speaking of his past experiences in the matter:
“[…] many of them were born losers. They had no start in life in terms of a loving relationship”
Well yes he says “many of them”, but it’s fair enough and probably a good depiction of reality.
The bishop expressed himself, in my view, even more happily when he said:
“When a culture of marriage weakens, an ever-growing number of children will never experience the inestimable value of being raised by a loving, married mother and father,”
making clear in a very poignant way what a burden is put on a child who doesn’t feel beloved, accepted and protected as he should.
The Bishop, though, allows himself what in my eyes are a couple of rather serious blunders, certainly the result of the automatic reflex of modern clergy to never want to displease anyone.
Firstly, he had to point out that he was “not criticising single parents, many of whom were making heroic efforts”. Yes of course some of them are; some of them have been left without great faults on their side, some of them are widowed, etc. But by “not criticising” the bishop actually shoots himself in the leg and undermines his own argument. If a mother makes the heroic effort to properly raise her child, be assured that this child will still grow up feeling loved and cherished, as countless orphans before him have done. But he should have stressed that many don’t do any effort, divorce after a couple of years, marry – when they do – without any serious intention to protect the children with an intact family, consider divorce a perfectly acceptable option, consider their own quest for an imaginary happiness to be more important than the environment in which their children grow.
What the bishop should have said is that we must start to stigmatise parents who divorce, as it was in every society who really (meaning: not in words) cares for the family, until not so many years ago. Yes, there might have been exception, but exceptions have always made bad laws. One of the dominant traits of modern times is the willingness to destroy everything out of fear of displeasing some tiny minority, or some relative, or neighbour, or acquaintance.
I remember the time where the “losers” were those whose marriage had failed. Let me rephrase it: those who couldn’t keep their marriage together. Altri tempi…..
The observations I used to hear in Italy at the news that someone had divorced (on the lines of “oh well, she must have been threatened with a pistol to marry him”, or “oh well, you can’t ask that people marry knowing what they’re doing”) reflected the thinking of a society where you took responsibility for your actions instead of blaming the partner, the society around you, or claiming to want to be happy and the like. Once upon a time, people started a marriage knowing that it would be difficult rather than going for the fire exit at the first difficulties. No divorce, you see….
There is no better incentive to avoid the destruction of a family than knowing that you have only one go, and that marrying means putting your life in the hands of another person who put hers in yours. Marriage becomes an authentic gift of oneself, and this shifting away from the “me,me,me” mentality the best premise for the raising of reasonably happy and healthy children.
This, the bishop doesn’t say. He throws compliments around instead.
The second blunder is about the so-called same-sex marriages, where we are confronted with a bishop that says that the fact that so-called same-sex marriages would undermine marriage is “his view”. When even bishops renounce to say loud and clear what the Church teaches and make themselves so little as to present even such obvious concepts as “their view”, one knows why the Church in Ireland has lost so much ground.
Can you imagine any bishop, Irish or not, expressing himself in such a way a couple of generations ago about so-called same-sex marriages….?!
Bishop Jones has, I think, still done a good deed and he might probably get some flak for this. But I continue to notice the same fundamental problem, the same underlying weakness, the same desire not to displease anyone, that is at the real root of today’s problems. Including born losers.