The Dispatch: More from CWR...

As marriage rates plummet, polyamory rises

You can’t say nobody saw it coming. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage five years ago, critics sounded the warning.

Under the heading “A fair chance for children” the New York Times editorial board recommends four measures to help low-income kids: create government-funded savings accounts for newborns, provide universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, “spend more” on educating poor children, and get rid of lead water pipes.

Getting rid of lead pipes, where that hasn’t been done, is clearly a good idea. The others may or may not be. My point here, though, is that all four boil down to the familiar formula of the third: “spend more.” Money is the answer.

The Times editorial board’s list says nothing—not a word—about the ongoing disaster reflected in the following numbers: In 2017, nearly 40% of all children born in the United States were born to unmarried mothers (whites—28.4%, Hispanics—52.1%, blacks—69.4%). By comparison, the overall figure in 1970 was a–relatively speaking–puny 10.7%.

Should this upward trend in births out of wedlock simply be ignored? Social science studies have repeatedly shown that children growing up without fathers are at risk of suffering an alarming array of economic, social, and psychological harms. Too bad the collective wisdom of the Times editorial board couldn’t find anything to say about giving kids in this situation “a fair chance.”

But let’s not single out the Times for criticism. How are marriage and the family faring in America generally these days?

Not very well, it seems, as shown by the announcement earlier this year that the U.S. marriage rate had fallen to its lowest level—6.5 new unions per 1,000 people—since the government started tracking these numbers in 1867.

But not to worry. Somerville, Massachusetts has stepped up to save the day. In late June the city council in that community of 80,000 near Boston voted unanimously to recognize polyamorous groupings of three or more persons as domestic partnerships with the same rights as marriages. (In case “polyamory” and “polyamorous” aren’t part of your everyday vocabulary, the dictionary defines polyamorous as “practicing or being open to intimate relationships with more than one partner.”)

You can’t say nobody saw it coming. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage five years ago, critics sounded the warning. In fact, no less than Chief Justice John Roberts, dissenting, wrote that an “immediate question” raised by the court majority’s ruling was the whether states that define marriage as a union of two people would be permitted to retain that definition.

Farfetched? Conceptually, Roberts pointed out, “the really big leap” is from marriage as a union of two persons of different sexes to marriage as a union of two persons of the same sex. The leap from there to marriage as a relationship of more than two persons is comparatively easy. “If the majority is willing to take the big leap,” he wrote, “it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.”

Quite so. The city council of Somerville has shown the way. May we now expect the New York Times editorial board to take up the cudgels for polyamory?

But let’s not end on a down note. Patrick Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute is a social scientist who has studied and written about marriage and family for decades. In a recent short essay, Fagan said the “intact married family that worships God weekly” would be the “acknowledged core” of a new civilization destined to arise from the debris of the one that now appears to be rapidly disintegrating. Say a prayer he’s right.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Russell Shaw 271 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity, and, most recently, The Life of Jesus Christ (Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).


  1. Even before Obergefell v Hodges (2015), in 2012 a young woman in the Seattle area donned the veil and “married” a landmark brick building that had captured her affection. After all, the only difference between a woman and a man is the plumbing, and under transgenderism even this can be remodeled like any kitchen or bathroom–but dammit, no one stepped in to protect the bride from Shaw’s lead pipes.

  2. Chief Justice Roberts saw it coming, Somerville MA’s city council anointed it. Statistically 1970 was the last year before the deluge. We can say with reasonable confidence that the little hexagon pill’s appearance 1963 began the process of disassociation of Life, its transmission from the conjugal act-between Man and Woman. Soon it became choose your partner, married swingers and for the jaded same sex and more. Pope Paul saw it coming too and alluded to it in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae. Now the lunacy is marriage of self. Can it get worse? “Pope Francis in communication with Argentine Sr Monica Cremona known as the Trans Nun referred to her transgender clients as girls. ‘Dear Monica, God, who did not go to the seminary or study theology, will repay you abundantly. I pray for you and your girls'” (John-Henry Westen LifeSite). Is there hope?. “Patrick Fagan speaks of the intact married family that worships God weekly as the future of a new civilization. Say a prayer he’s right”. Pray to Saint Monica whose feast is today intercede for our depraved world. And our morally tattered Church.

  3. I return to my comment with need to speak of our spiritual malaise during so unusual a time impacted by physical pestilence as well as moral within the Church. What will bring us to recover from our despondency evident in the tone of so many comments. If not turning to that font of all mercy and love Christ’s Sacred Heart, that overflows with graceful solace. Reading the breviary for Saint Monica her reminisces and his quiet dialogue with his mother at Ostia both exhausted from travel sharing thoughts of what delight must await in their heavenly home. Monica expresses her desire to leave this world since her son has become a Catholic Christian her purpose accomplished. Augustine’s brother is present as Monica is being called to her true home. A family bonded in love bestowed upon them by Love Itself. How beautiful and touching a family how wonderful life. Although that reward was gained by much prayer, tears, and suffering by Saint Monica. Those are our weapons, our means of recovery in a world Darkened by evil. Christ’s goodness is every ready to respond to our need if only we turn to him with confident faith.

  4. “May we now expect the New York Times editorial board to take up the cudgels for polyamory?”

    Does it have to be the editorial board directly? Does it count if they do it indirectly by allowing pieces like the following to “test the waters” of public support / opposition?…

    From 2015:

    From 2017:

    From 2019:

    With “conservative” Justices like Neil ‘sex-includes-sexual-orientation-and-gender-orientation’ Gorsuch >> on the bench, I suppose the ‘Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force’ >> can look forward to more “reshaping” of society.

  5. Children of divorced parents, score lower on every social demographic metric, than children of married parents. The problem is not only children born out of wedlock, but also children of divorce. The problem is moral.

  6. I believe Lot’s wife received what Gods Angels warned her against.Even as they took her hand and attempted to lead her away.Just as Eve took that first bite of the apple and mankind was forever changed by the words of the Snake Lucifer.So it is today in 2020 as we see the results of the hounds of hell baying after Lucifer & Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals”.

  7. Just 24 persons to protect a city – power of meditating on the Passion of The Lord , invoking the grace to live in His Will , not self will..

    said to be cherished by St.Pious X , given him via St.Hannibal and the Divine Will devotions

    Good mediations too , helping us too see spiritual realm with more action and power , God knowing how same can help our times suffused with media images and its dramas .

    Even if the formal groups are not set in place right away , even a few persons doing the meditations can help to also deepen the other devotions ..

    and families doing the above as groups – more to grow in the best kind of lasting love ,
    to help break down the prisons and fortresses of lust and all that comes with it –
    our Father , so good to us ..

  8. This can’t be happening. America was consecrated to Mary in May by Archbishop Gomez. Mary is protecting America. She won’t let this happen.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. As marriage rates plummet, polyamory rises - Catholic Mass Search
  2. As marriage rates plummet, polyamory rises | Catholic Canada
  3. As marriage rates plummet, polyamory rises | Catholicism Pure & Simple

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.