Marriage is the foundation for building a stable society and politicians must support it if they are serious about pursuing the good of all, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.
Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said there could be no solutions to social problems caused by family breakdown unless marriage was promoted.
He said: “The stability of our society depends directly on the stability of family life”.
He added: “This is why marriage, as the strongest foundation for stable family life and the best environment for the growth of children, is to be supported in our country today if we are really to pursue, both politically and socially, the genuine common good of all.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Simon Caldwell suggests the Archbishop’s comment could be seen as a “slight” on Children’s Secretary Ed Balls, who has claimed that marriage is no more than a lifestyle choice and should not be supported above any other form of stable relationship.
Archbishop Nichols made his comments to an audience involved in the field of marriage preparation, at a service in Liverpool.
“This vision of marriage lies at the centre of the Church’s teaching,” he said. “In all that you do, in the work of marriage preparation, in the witness of a married life, in all of this, we are serving the wider good of our society.”
Last week a bestselling American book, soon to be released in the UK, said parents who want to raise happy, successful children need to prioritise their marriages not their children.
The book, To Raise Happy Kids Put Your Marriage First, tells parents that “the greatest gift you can give your children is to have a fulfilling marriage yourself.”
Earlier this month a national newspaper columnist said marriage must be “shored up and protected” with more than just tax breaks in order to halt a breakdown in moral and social behaviour.
Melanie Phillips said the erosion of marriage is key to the “disintegration” of the family and wider society, and that the only solution is to protect the institution with “a web of formal and informal laws, conventions and attitudes”.
The importance of marriage for stable family life was demonstrated in a report released in January.
The findings, published by the Bristol Community Family Trust, showed that only three per cent of couples who stay together until their child is 15 are unmarried and most cohabiting couples either get married or split up.
The report dispelled the myth of stable long-term cohabitation and suggested that “the trend away from marriage is responsible for the rise in family breakdown”.