Media Finds Religion?

by Mike on February 10, 2006

in Religion

Not really. It’s just that the media is shocked to learn altruistic love causes happier marriages. Of course the Catholic Church has been saying that for a lot longer than any of us have been around. It’s amazing how little one can learn about Catholicism by relying on Diane Sawyer and the DaVinci Code for your information.

Comments from our married readers and/or married member would be appreciated as I am now wading outside my areas of expertise and familiarity. In my own defense though, you taught me well Providence College.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jewels February 10, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Being altruistic and putting the needs of your spouse first is essential to a happy marriage. I thought this article was interesting but none of the points were too shocking. Empathy is one of the most important human traits one should have, and I feel sad for those who were not raised to have empathy. Empathy is an integral part of all interpersonal relationships and not only marriage. EVERY Christian religion promotes the need for empathy and altruism towards one’s spouse. (I am sure that there are other religions that do this as well, but I am not familiar with all the religious points of various religions outside Christianity.) As a teacher-librarian, I have a student who is raised by a single-parent has a disadvantaged background and some learning issues. This year, as my second year as her librarian, I feel more caring towards her. How can I help her be more empathetic???


rightonoz February 12, 2006 at 8:57 pm

I agree wholeheartedly,

There needs to be a good balance between looking after your own needs and that of your partner, however if you always fault to the side of partner first, you’re on the way to a happier relationship.

I’m not religeous, in fact against religion per se as being responsible for more atrocoties and bloodshed through the ages thatn any other cause. I do however have the deepest respect for those who lead a ‘christian’ (or ‘moslem or buddist’ life, that is respecting others and doing good wherever possible.

My first marriage broke down because we both got to the point of only being interested in our own needs. 2nd time around we seem to have the focus right.


Sal February 13, 2006 at 8:21 am

I think the main reason that marriages do fail is because of what rightonoz alluded to, because people tend to focus on their own needs instead of those of their spouse. Marriage is about being selfless, about thinking of your spouse above yourself and the needs of your spouse before your own. Marriage in the Christian sense is really about that empathy towards each other, and taking the love that exists between the couple to the rest of the world in one’s daily lives. In the Catholic sense (and, I would imagine the Orthodox as well), it is Sacramental. Just as weekly Mass is a Sacrament, and one is supposed to go forth from Mass and live it the rest of the week, so is one supposed to “go forth” from their marriage daily and take that love and empathy to the rest of the world.

What it all boils down to is that selfishness — seeking one’s own fulfillment — can kill a marriage, making both people miserable. Selflessness — truly placing the needs of one’s spouse first — will not only lead to a long marriage, but a very fulfilling and happy marriage for both people.


noonan February 13, 2006 at 11:26 am

From a Catholic perspective, marriage is a vocation. Its about serving the needs of the other. More than just altruism, its about helping the other one grow closer to God and persevering in your own relationship with God so you can do that. As you each grow closer to God, you grow in love, and grow closer to each other. A simple image is that of a triangle, with two points being the spouses, and the third being God, anytime one moves closer to God, you are in effect moving closer to your spouse, and vice-versa.

Its about outdoing each other in lovingness only. Its also about appreciating the spirituality of the other, and sharing your own for mutual growth. Its about praying together, working hard to establish good communication patterns to resolve disputes, and an underlying love and respect that carries past any disagreement.

As a parent also, there is nothing more beautiful than looking at your child and seeing both yourself and the person whom you most love in the world in a dynamic new person. Children are important to a marriage too, because in watching the mystery of a child unfold, you continually see what you love in your spouse too, and are given an incredible role in God’s plan and a greater capacity for love.

The notion that religion is responsible for more bloodshed and atrocities through the ages than anything else is positively absurd. While religion has been used by those wishing to pursue violence as pretext, a proper understanding of most faiths would not lead to violence. To quite the contrary, I would submit that religion is responsible for decreasing the number of atrocities and amount of violence through history than any other cause.


Jewels February 13, 2006 at 6:06 pm

Noonan…I agree with you that religion probably has decreased violence and atrocities more than any other cause. I think the Catholic and Orthodox view of marriage is similar in many ways (as I am sure it is with other Christian denominations). One difference (please correct me if I am wrong) is that in the Catholic religion one of the main purposes of marriage is the bearing of children. In the Orthodox Church, from my understanding, the main purpose of marriage is to bring one another closer to salvation and work towards helping the other to develop more in agape (“selfless love”). Of course, other Christians believe in agape, but that is the prime purpose of an Orthodox Christian marriage. As lovers of God’s creation, children are also considered a blessing.


Sal February 13, 2006 at 8:34 pm


I have to correct you on your understanding of Catholic marriage as primarily being about bearing children. The Catholic church looks at having children as a very important part of marriage, but I would not say it is the primary part. Marriage has three purposes in the Catholic Church, but the primary purpose is the unity of a husband and wife in selfless love, as they work together to serve God in this world, and prepare to live together in the next. The Chatechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. John Chrysosdom in this regard “husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us…. I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you. ” [CCC 2356].

The Catholic Church then teaches that having children is a natural outgrowth, and one of the purposes of marriage, as family life is an important part of marriage. Having children is definately important in Catholic beliefs. However, if this was the primary reason, the Church would not allow older people (beyond child-bearing age) to get married, or people who were sterile.

The third purpose of marriage is to take the love between a husband and wife and to go forth share it with the rest of the world through Christian Love (Agape, as you say).

I honestly don’t think the Catholic and Orthodox theologies of Marriage are that different. Yes, the Catholic Church teaches that having children (or rather being open to new life) is important to a marriage, but it must be an outgrowth of the selfless love between a husband and wife, which must come first.


Voice Of Reason February 14, 2006 at 12:57 pm

I agree with you Sal. The husband and the wife in a marriage should come first since it obviously wouldn’t be a marriage with the strength of their love for eachother. I emphasize “their love for eachother.” Children learn best by example.


noonan February 16, 2006 at 10:50 am

Its hard to compare the fine point distinctions between the Orthodox and Catholic faiths, but it makes sense that they are similar. For the first thousand years or so after Christ, they shared not only a common set of beliefs, but were unified in one hierarchy.

Unlike the Protestant Reformation, the split between Rome and the Orthodox faiths was usually due to geographic constraints and individualized styles of worship and traditions. Also, unlike the King James Bible (66 books), we both have 73 books in our Bible, the same Scriptures. (The seven that were taken out at the time of the Reformation were those books written during the 200 year exile, and were written in Greek, not Hebrew).

As to the importance of children in a marriage, I’m not sure how to classify as a “primary” purpose or not. One of the first commands given was to “go forth and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it,” but not everyone is called to get married and have children. The best discussion of this from a Catholic perspective is the 1968 papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), which you can find all over the internet, and is a short and worthwhile read.

In short, my understanding is that you are required to be open to the possibility of children in the Catholic faith, and committed to raising them in the Church. Humanae Vitae talks about the dual purposes of sex as unitive and procreative. While marriage is about more than just sex, and helping your spouse along their way to Heaven is definitely top priority, sex is a very important, and probably necessary incident to marriage. Openness to having children is one of the primary purposes of sex.


Jewels February 16, 2006 at 9:17 pm

I agree with you, Sal and Noonan that Orthodoxy and Catholicism have many more similarities than differences. I appreciated both your posts…I believe I heard at one point (from someone in the Catholic faith although I do not now recall the origin) that the primary purpose of marriage in the Catholic Church was the bearing of children. Perhaps, this was an interpretation. You are right that the physical aspect of marriage cannot be ignored and is essential to spiritual growth as well. Children are a gift from God…Back to Mike’s post. Mike wrote “Thank you Providence College” for showing that altruism, agape, etc. is an essential component of Christian marriage. Providence did offer many opportunities for students to cultivate agape–through PSO, Campus Ministry, outreach, PC Pals, theology classes, etc. etc. My question for you alumns is…Did the everyday life of PC students cultivate agape? How could the college do a better job fostering that? For example, on Sunday mornings, after a tough weekends, sometimes the dorm bathrooms were in disgusting conditions (vomit, etc.) We had workers tirelessly working for nominal wages to clean up after students disrespect. Do you think students could have shown more agape in this situation? I do not want to come off as judgmental or harsh. These are just some points to ponder that I wanted to open up…


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