The Vatican’s vigorous denial of the details of the pope’s meeting with Kim Davis as described by her lawyer – and its emphasis instead on his embrace of a gay friend who arrived with his partner – made me think of the increasingly fluid definition of family. As did the story of Chris Mintz, the man who put himself in the line of fire at Umpqua Community College and took several gunshots in his body. It was, he told the gunman who then shot him again, his son’s sixth birthday. Tyrik is autistic, not yet toilet trained and unable to speak, and he is the apple of his father’s eye. The Mintz family is not a conventional one: he and Jamie Skinner, Tyrik’s mother, were never married and have since amicably split up. Chris now lives with Jamie’s sister and brother-in-law while he goes to school and works odd jobs. He also stays at home with Tyrik, which allows Jamie to work full time.
“All happy families are alike,” begins Anna Karenina; “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy was wrong, I think. No two families are alike; each adapts – or fails to adapt – according to its particular circumstances, and what the intransigent defenders of the “traditional” family fail to understand is that, as with almost everything else in this world, it is their diversity that enriches families, and their adaptability will ensure the survival of an institution which cannot be reduced to a single definition imposed from without.