Kathryn Lopez

These were exactly the issues former vice president Dan Quayle highlighted in his famous "Murphy Brown" speech, as Palin points out, calling his speech, which criticized the protagonist of that television show's unwed motherhood, "prophetic." In her 2007 book, "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age," Kay Hymowitz focused on exactly what Palin is highlighting. While there was a brief "revived national interest in poverty, particularly black poverty," Hymowitz noted around the time of the release of her book, it was missing a discussion of marriage. "Even the lowest-income couples are better off than their single peers, with fewer spells of hardship and more help from extended family. This is not just because marriage brings the benefits of two incomes and two sets of hands. Saving and making money are in the DNA of American marriage, and have been since the first Englishmen arrived," she told me.

It may have something to do with the genetics of marriage itself. As Paul VI wrote in the summer of '68: "Conjugal love ... is total; that is, it is a very special form of personal friendship whereby the spouses generously share everything with each other without undue reservations and without concern for their selfish convenience."

Wisely, Palin slams the tyranny of relativism in the matter of relationships. "When it comes to raising good citizens, all 'lifestyle choices' are not equal," she writes. And she does so with self-awareness, as the mother of an unwed teenage mother herself. Bristol Palin was unfortunate enough to have to live her pregnancy on national TV, but she was also lucky to have a supportive family and rare opportunities. Palin writes: "We've welcomed Bristol's son, Tripp, into our lives with open arms. He is beautiful, and things are working out. But Bristol has paid a price -- a high price. Her adolescence ended long before it should have ... and she's making sure other girls know it. That's why she's out there, speaking up about her experience and telling other young girls, 'Don't do what I did.'"

Or, translated to the boys of New Orleans, I'll quote Bill Cosby: "We have to make it 'cool' not to become a father until you're ready to become a father." We live in a fallen world, but one that's never irrevocable severed from the good. Seewald's conversation with Pope Benedict was specifically sparked by the issue of AIDS in Africa. Africans, poor black Big Easy residents and your teenage daughter and son all deserve a chance at the full "humanization of sexuality" -- a healthy, holistic view of sex and love. A condom's not a key to true happiness; it can be a barrier. Ditto the government. Education and encouragement and love are true game changers. When we stop ridiculing, dismissing and misrepresenting the prophets, teachers and other voices of common sense, we might just get somewhere.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.