The “Modern” Family

The Cast of “Modern Family”

I admit it.  I’m a bit of a TV junkie.  I am.  I just really like TV.  There’s so many interesting and entertaining shows to choose from.

Though I probably know more about what’s on HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, and Nick Jr. than a normal person should, I don’t just enjoy shows that are on the science and learning (or kids!) channels.  I also enjoy a lot of the sitcoms and a few dramas on network television.  One of the shows we enjoy in our house is Modern Family.

Now, if you’ve never seen Modern Family, here it is in a nutshell – a comedy about the interactions of 3 related family units.  Here’s the family tree for the show:

Jay is the father of adult children Claire and Mitchell.  Jay is older and divorced.  He remarried a younger, beautiful Columbian woman named Gloria.  Gloria has a son from a previous relationship named Manny.  Claire is married to Phil and they have 3 middle school – high school aged children.  Mitchell is married to Cam (another man) and they have an adopted child from China named Lilly.  Did you follow all that?

Many of my good, Catholic friends and family members refuse to watch this show because it depicts a homosexual couple who have adopted a child.  People have argued with me that if you are watching a show with such elements, you are promoting homosexual “marriages” and are defying the Church’s teachings.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight – I stand with and 100% believe in the teachings of the Catholic church.  But, I don’t believe that I am “condoning” same-sex marriages by watching a TV show about family that includes this type of family in it.

Despite the controversial dynamics, the show, is, actually about a family that loves and supports each other through all kinds of trials and hijinks (something not actually seen in a lot of other shows out there).  It shows parents loving their children (young and adults) and children realizing that their parents are actually not complete fools.

But, the point of this blog is not to convince you to watch the show.  It is, however, about some of the questions that have been raised for me as a result of watching this show.  I’m a person of faith living in today’s “modern” society and I am doing my best to raise a child in this world, too.

Not all families are “perfect”
We have to come to terms with it – families with two dads or two moms are a real part of our society.  In fact, more people are choosing this lifestyle and even being in committed, monogamous relationships than many conservatives want to accept.  And, when I say “committed and monogamous”, I mean people who are together as long and longer than many married couples.  They might be in your own family, your parish, or your school.  You may not know them, but they are there.

It’s a reality that a “modern” family may have members that are not living in a way that makes sense to others in their extended family or that is recognized by the Church (or, most states, for that matter), but they are still functioning as a family unit.

And, as followers of Christ, we are called to love these people as much as we love “normal” families.  As we often say, we are called to “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  We may not approve of their lifestyle, but it’s not our place to pass judgement on their eternal soul or discriminate against them.  We have to recognize and accept that we will, if we haven’t already, encounter family units that are different than ours.

Mitchell, Cam, and adopted daughter Lilly

What about the children?
Inevitably, as a result of this new, modern family emerging where there are two same-sex parents, there are children involved.  Some are adopted, some are conceived via surrogacy and others via artificial insemination.  Apart from adoption, these are obviously means that we, as Catholics, cannot support as options for bringing children into this world.

However, if children are conceived and born as a result of these methods, they need to be loved and welcomed as much as any other child.  God has still allowed life to happen.

And, what about the adopted children?  Isn’t it better for them to be welcomed into the arms of loving parents, same-sex or not, versus being left in some sort of government system or abandoned altogether?

I know that we, as Catholics, recognize that it’s not ideal for a child to miss out on the balance of a mother AND father in their lives.  But, that issue arises anyways, when parents divorce and a child lives with one or the other.  Or, if one of the parents has some sort of issue or addiction that is detrimental to the family and keeps them from fulfilling their role as mother or father appropriately.

So, is it really worse for a child to be born into or adopted by a loving family that wants and loves them, even if it’s headed up by two fathers or two mothers?

(I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions.  Maybe a priest or person who is better educated in the faith than I am can clarify the Church’s stance on homosexual relationships and children.)

I guess what it comes down to, for me, is reality.  I can’t control who my children will go to school with and I have no doubt they will probably end up with friends who come from a “non-traditional” home.  And, as they grow up, they will probably come home with questions about these families or invitations to birthday parties in those homes. Am I prepared to field those questions and give the best, most Christ-centered answers in order to raise a child who is respectful and loving, but understanding of the Church’s teachings?

For me, the plan is this: begin praying and seeking guidance now on the best ways to raise my traditional family in a modern world.
UPDATE:  As you probably read in the comments below, someone shared Pope Benedict XVI’s words on the topic of gay couples adopting.  Our new pope, Pope Francis, also stands firmly against gay couples adopting children.  According to some recent articles:

“However he strongly opposed same-sex marriage legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine government, calling it a ‘destructive attack on God’s plan’.

In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote: ‘Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God.  We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.’”


  1. sara · February 16, 2012

    Great Article Rebecca… Thanks for sharing and such an interesting issue. I agree whole heartedly that we are called to love these children and families, is the sin of living a homosexual lifestyle any worse than the 90% who are contracepting in their marriages?

    I also want to add… that picture of JP2 on the top of the blog is possibly my most favorite picture of him of all time! I have never seen that before and I love it.

  2. mm · February 16, 2012

    I am one of those people who doesn’t watch this show, and it isn’t so much about “condoning” homosexual marriage/adoption as it is about “desensitizing” myself. To expose myself to actions that are contrary to my/the Church’s beliefs can cause a dangerous slippery slope in my own conscience. (The “I would never do it, but if it makes other people happy, who am I to stand in the way” mentality.) That being said, I believe 90% of the shows on TV all portray something that the Church opposes – fornication, adultery, cohabitation, drugs, etc. Perhaps this realization should call us to a stronger depth of faith, one that requires discipline and sacrifice. I recently gave up Grey’s Anatomy, for instance. I had been watching it for years, dealing with the sex and immorality, but when they performed an abortion on screen and everyone was ok with it – I had had enough. While we cannot choose to know or not know homosexual couples (or enter any other sin here), we CAN choose to watch or not watch shows which portray them. I am not speaking for anyone but myself – I should do a better job of weeding out those shows which could ultimately desensitize my own conscience.

    As for the adoption angle, it is absolutely imperative that same sex couples not be allowed to adopt. Quoting from Pope Benedict – “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.” (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons) Obviously, as you mentioned, there are less than ideal situations that children grow up in all the time. This does not and cannot be compared to homosexual adoption. Wanting the child to be loved is obviously a concern of mine as well, but that want should never justify an immoral action.

    In response to the previous post, comparing the homosexual lifestyle and the use of contraception does nothing to erase the fact that they are BOTH sins against marriage and the family.

    Congrats Rebecca – you really did get us thinking! 🙂

  3. mm · February 16, 2012

    I should add, however, that I FULLY agree we are called to love those families/couples/children!

  4. sara · February 16, 2012

    MM… yes they are both Mortal sins… that was the point of the comment.

    Thanks for sharing that quote from Pope Benedict. No one ever said our faith was easy right?

    This article had me thinking: If one of my daughters grew up, got married and used contraception, would I feel any differently about it than if one of them grew up to be a lesbian? I would hope and expect I would still love them unconditionally. Probably a little harder to accept the Lesbian issue than the contraception issue. But again, both are just as mortal of a sin.

  5. mm · February 16, 2012

    Sara – You just highlighted two of my (many) worries since having a baby! So much to think about as a parent!!

  6. Fr. Paul · February 16, 2012

    You already answered the 2 questions you asked. All children need to be loved. How that love is experienced is as unique as every person created in God’s image and likeness. As a priest, I unfortunately do not have a definitive answer in regards to the Church’s teachings. I do know, however, that all of us are children of a Single Parent, that being God. We experience His love through many different people, with many different likes and dislikes, orientations and experiences. It all boils down simply seeking love first in Him who created us and sharing that love morally and ethically with others that creates a desire in them to discover God’s love.

  7. mm · February 16, 2012

    This article explains it better than I can…the Four Sins that Cry Out to Heaven…and the idea of “cultural conditioning”. It’s worth a read!

  8. Susan Rosko · February 16, 2012

    While raising my five children, it was invariably my experience that they found the less than typical classmates and families the most intriguing. ( While same sex parents were not in the mix then, I’m sure if I were doing it all again, those would be the parents of their best friends.) Perhaps they could be open to a variety of people because they were viewing them from within the security of an intact family. As one of those five said here, they are our neighbors, next to us in our pews and will likely be the classmates of YOUR children. This is when I am glad that I am not God and can just trust what I call “the great accounting department in the sky” to sort it all out. All I have to do here is respect them as God’s children and try to love them. (By the way there were people who wouldn’t let their kids come to OUR house for their own peculiar reasons.)

  9. ymkbird · February 18, 2012

    I don’t watch Modern Familt (though not because of any moral debate…I just don’t have time for another TV show)…but I think that we cannot overstate the importance of intention. Certainly desensitization is a legitimate concern for some people; however we cannot forget that while we are called not to be ‘of the world’, we are called to be ‘in the world’. I watch some of these shows for the same reason I read Harry Potter and Twilight…because they are an important aspect of our culture and influence many…particularly the teens and families I work with.

    By virtue of our baptism we are called to the common priesthood of Christ, which means we are called to consecrate (or make holy) that which is secular (or not holy). Rebecca, I think you did a phenomenal job of consecrating certain aspects of this secular show! Each of us has unique gifts and charisms and therefore unique aspects of our secular world that we are qualified and called to consecrate. For me, it’s literature (the holiness found in Twilight is a blog post for another day…), for Rebecca it’s Modern Family. The important thing is that we not judge each other in the way we fulfill the duties of our common priesthood. On the contrary, I should celebrate that there are others who are uniquely gifted to consecrate the areas I cannot.

    Imagine if we spent all the time we currently spend judging other faithful, good Catholics for not being ‘Catholic enough’ focusing on consecrating our culture…we’d be a lot closer to bringing about the Kingdom here on this earth, I think.

  10. Matthew · February 20, 2012

    I’m seriously curious here. Do your Catholic family and friends refuse to watch TV shows with divorced couples, or people who lie, or children who don’t honor their parents, or people who kill, or even people who desire (covet) what others have? It seems that homosexuality, which is barely mentioned in the Bible, bothers some people more than items that are actually in the Ten Commandments, and I’m wondering why.

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