LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A leading Catholic bishop in England says “the single most important factor in a child’s flourishing is the stable relationship of their parents.”

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury was speaking ahead of Great Britain’s July 4 general election.

“Amid the many “choices and challenges faced at a general election, we cannot hope for families and society to flourish if marriage does not flourish,” the bishop said on June 8 in Saint Columba’s Church in Chester.

“And while we cannot expect a generation of politicians to resolve so great a crisis, we should expect our elected representatives to have the courage and responsibility to recognise the central place of marriage in securing the good of society and of new generations,” Davies said.

The bishop said research indicates most young people in 21st century Britain still aspire to the enduring faithfulness of marriage, “even as we suffer one of the highest rates of family breakdown anywhere in Europe and witness the institution of marriage in near-catastrophic decline.”

RELATED: Catholic bishops call on British to reject assisted suicide when they vote on July 4

“Sadly, in public life and policy we have seen a parallel diminishment of the place of marriage, as if it were merely a lifestyle choice rather than the bedrock on which the well-being of the individual and society is bound up,” he said.

He said the “immense good” which depends on marriage should never surprise people because the Church recognises the lasting union of man and woman is “the plan of the Creator of all things.”

A recent study by the UK’s Marriage Foundation says that by the age of 14, around 46 percent of children in the UK are not living with both natural parents. While a third of these children have experienced the collapse of their parents’ marriages, almost half – 46 percent – have witnessed the separation of parents who were unmarried.

The Marriage Foundation claims that UK government family police is now focused on the provision of childcare and encouraging all parents into work instead of supporting marriage, even though the institution is proven to be the most secure for children.

The charity says aside from regulatory changes, the UK government almost entirely avoids making distinctions between married and cohabiting couples in both tax and benefits systems, the charity contests, and it is nine years since any cabinet minister gave a serious speech discussing marriage.

The Marriage Foundation says the only remaining financial advantage in getting married is a £252 tax allowance for low-income couples introduced in 2015, but this is dramatically offset, by a substantial “couple penalty” for low-income couples who stand to lose thousands of pounds in welfare payments if they move in together or marry.

RELATED: Catholic leaders urge faithful to vote in Britain’s July 4 elections

Harry Benson, the research director of the Marriage Foundation says it is now a decade since any cabinet minister made a speech that included the importance of marriage.

“This public silence is at odds with their private behaviour. Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are both married, as are most of their respective cabinets. What do they know that we shouldn’t know?” Benson says in a blog post.

“The case for the state’s support for marriage is a strong one. Economists argue that the primary social function of marriage is to bond men to the mothers of their future children. The psychology behind the act of marriage is compelling. Married parents and their children tend to have better social outcomes than those who never marry, regardless of income,” he added.

Benson called on political parties to champion marriage, to make it attractive for couples to marry, and to turn back the tide of family breakdown.

“State your support in your manifestos. You embrace marriage in your personal lives. So why not promote it in your public policies,” he says.

The bishop said in his remarks that the Church overwhelming supports families.

“Through all the changing social and cultural conditions of centuries and millennia, in the face of everything that has threatened to diminish and devalue the dignity of marriage, the Church has unfailingly defended this lifelong, faithful commitment of love where the gift of children is welcomed,” Davies said.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome