‘The Family Today’ is the theme of the spring edition of the Jesuit periodical Studies, just published this March 2008 including articles on:
‘Children’s Rights’ by Urusla Kilkelly,’ Modern Families’ by Breda O Brien and ‘Cohabitiation’ by Anastasia de Waal.
Other articles include:
Prisoner’s Families, Jessica Breen
Multiculturalism and Assimilation, Peter Sutherland
Irish Religiousity, Eoin O’Mahony.
Proposals for relevant amendments to the Constitution are now before an All-Party Oireachtas Committee. According to Ursula Kilkelly, senior lecturer in law at Cork University, in her article on ‘Children’s Rights and the Family, an important starting point would be to insert into the Constitution an unequivocal statement of children’s rights, in the form of a general commitment and duty on the part of the State to respect and vindicate the rights of the child, This would establish a constitutional principle that all actions concerning children should have regard to the best interests of the child. It would be a rebalanced model which has “greater potential to unlock better treatment for children, greater access to services and better support for families than an approach that seeks purely to protect the family from the interference of the State”.
The observation that it is easier to get out of a marriage than a mortgage is made by Brenda Almond in her article ‘Family: Social Construction or natural phenomenon?’
According to Almond the marriage contract now has been diluted to the point that it is much less binding than the average business deal and questioning the notion of ‘no fault’ divorce she quotes economist Robert Rowthom who claims ‘fault’ must be seen as relevant to divorce settlements.
Addressing the issue of cohabitation she says that statistically cohabiting relationships are more unstable than married ones with the child of an unmarried couple having a 1 in 2 risk of seeing its parents break up before it is five years old. Anastasia de Waal argues that cohabitation is not in competition with marriage as marriage is now the new ‘gold standard’ with cohabiting couples either ambitiously straining towards it or finding that it is economically beyond them.
Journalist Breda O Brien in her article ‘Modern Families’ argues that civil unions of homosexual persons that are marriage in all but name would inevitably lead to gay adoption. Proposing to change at one fell swoop both the man-woman paradigm and the fundamentally child- centered nature of marriage is, she says , an extremely radical experiment and the child’s right to know and be loved by their own fathers and mothers is too basic to be trumped by adults’ needs.
According to Fergus O Donoghue SJ, Editor of Studies, “The Irish family is not in crisis but neither is it in full health. There are social and ideological currents that affect all of us. It we try to understand them, we will have a better grasp of what is happening, thus lessening our chances of being hapless victims of change”. This edition of Studies, a quarterly publication of the Jesuits since 1913, is an attempt to try and understand the changing role and nature of the family in this new millennium.