Marriage and Family

Marriage and Family

The family is the building block of society

The Catholic Church supports the family as a basic building block of society. This includes supporting marriage as a union of one man and one woman as well as programs that help poor families and children.


In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa’s law which stated that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid. The Iowa bishops support amending the Iowa Constitution to recognize marriage only as a union of one man and one woman.

The government interest in continuing to encourage and support marriage are not merely legitimate, but compelling. No other institution joins together persons with the natural ability to have children, to assure that those children are properly cared for. Every child has a basic right to a mother and a father who are united in marriage. While circumstances may prevent a child from being raised by his or her own mother and father, marriage provides for the needs of a child in ordinary circumstances.

For the sake of these interests, the Catholic Church will continue to advocate for the preservation of the traditional understanding of marriage.

We also believe the state has a legitimate interest in a waiting period for a divorce, especially because of the impact on children. The state’s current waiting period serves several public policy purposes, including providing both parties with the opportunity to thoroughly contemplate the impact of divorcing and to help insure that all issues are addressed and no advantage is taken of either party.

“Marriage is a basic human and social institution. Though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.”

“Marriage, whose nature and purposes are established by God, can only be the union of a man and a woman and must remain such in law. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children.”

“The union of husband and wife becomes, over a lifetime, a great good for themselves, their family, communities, and society. Marriage is a gift to be cherished and protected.”

(Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-sex Unions, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003)

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Economic concerns relating to families

In Catholic teaching, the principle of a living wage has long been integral to Catholic understanding of human work. Wages must be adequate for workers to provide for themselves and their families. We have a duty to work when we are able, not only so we can provide for our families and ourselves, but also to contribute to the common good through the fruits of our work. As Pope Francis reminds us, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.”

Therefore, the Church has steadfastly upheld that workers deserve fair and just wages and benefits, decent working conditions and the opportunity to organize. A just wage allows us to develop more fully as individuals, families, and even society as a whole. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2434)

A minimum wage is not the same as a living wage. However, the Iowa bishops have supported an increase in the minimum wage because of its current failure to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families.

As leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities have said, “We write not as economists or labor market experts, but rather as pastors and teachers who every day, in our ministries and churches, see the pain and struggles caused by an economy that simply does not produce enough jobs with just wages. So many of our families find it increasingly difficult to afford basic needs, forcing some to take multiple jobs or, in desperation, even seek out predatory loans.”

The bishops also support:

  • Efforts to provide comprehensive programs for domestic violence victims and for those who commit these crimes.
  • Governmental assistance that strengthens families, encourages and rewards work, and protects all vulnerable children, born or unborn, including those with developmental disabilities.
  • Adequate funding for job training and child care.
  • Legislation that promotes and funds chastity and abstinence education.