Contemporary Issue: Family


The key to fixing the “more serious destruction” of our human environment, the starting point, what Centesimus Annus calls 

"the first and fundamental structure for 'human ecology'" (CA, 39) the family. Centesimus Annus defines the family as

"...founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny." (CA, 39)

Pope Saint John Paul II implored us to re-consider the family in our daily affairs:   

“It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. The family is indeed sacred” (CA, 39)

One symptom of modern life, however, is that people oftentimes forget this sanctuary, and instead, revert to seeing

"their lives as a series of sensations to be experienced rather than as a work to be accomplished. " (CA, 39)

Pope Francis has devoted himself to recommunicating this aspect of CST today, primarily in the idea that marriage is not an emotion, but rather an essential building block of society.

"Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born “of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life”". (Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 24 November 2013, 66)

CST examines and encourages how our society may continue to hold the family as sacred,

"the heart of the culture of life..." (CA, 39)

For instance, Pope Benedict XVI was emphatic that some controls regarding the family should be inherent in our governing laws, highlighting a key concern regarding the Role of the State in modern society:

“Far from remaining indifferent to marriage, the State must acknowledge, respect and support this venerable institution as the stable union between a man and a woman who willingly embrace a life-long commitment of love and fidelity” (Benedict XVI, Address to New Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See, 13 September 2007)

Benedict was even more specific about this subject in Caritas in Veritate:

“States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family...”(CIV, 44)

He echoed this position in several speeches during his papacy - most pointedly, in a reference to the marriage laws of our Canadian neighbors. There, Benedict reaffirmed the official stance of the Catholic Church:

"In the name of ‘tolerance’ your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of ‘freedom of choice’ it is confronted with daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator’s divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost." (Benedict XVI, Address to Ontario, Canada Bishops, 8 Sep 06)
The Church cannot compromise in the defense of certain human rights. Every state has the obligation to defend the family in its “incomparable mission to be the source of communal life and the building block of all society.” (Benedict XVI, Address to the new Chilean ambassador to the Holy See, 8 Sep 06)

Pope Francis has recently reminded us that the family is indeed the building block of all society - the "mustard seed" where we are introduced to solidarity, the common good, and faith itself. Francis has made it clear that The Church perceives and is combating a breakdown of the traditional concept of family in our world today, and portends what the implications of this swing may affect:

"The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds… the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children."(Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 24 November 2013, 66)

To this end, Pope Saint John Paul II underscored the implementation of policies - including support from the State - to uphold and preserve the family unit within our Structures of Society:

"In order to overcome today's widespread individualistic mentality, what is required is a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity, beginning in the family with the mutual support of husband and wife and the care which the different generations give to one another. In this sense the family too can be called a community of work and solidarity. It can happen, however, that when a family does decide to live up fully to its vocation, it finds itself without the necessary support from the State and without sufficient resources. It is urgent therefore to promote not only family policies, but also those social policies which have the family as their principle object, policies which assist the family by providing adequate resources and efficient means of support, both for bringing up children and for looking after the elderly, so as to avoid distancing the latter from the family unit and in order to strengthen relations between generations." (CA, 49)

Related Thoughts on Family

"Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us."(Pope Francis, Laudato Si', par. 161) Taken from "Pope Francis and the United Nations on the Environment"
THE CENTESIMUS ANNUS PRO PONTIFICE 2015 STATEMENT - "A Reformed Market Economy: Entrepreneurship for Human Development” - is the result of the May 2013 challenge by Pope Francis to members of CAPP  for recommendations on how the market economy might be made more sensitive to the needs of the poor and marginalized.   Taken from "A Reformed Market Economy: Entrepreneurship for Human Development-The Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice 2015 Statement"
Consumerism arises from a misunderstanding about the meaning of life and the real source of human happiness: consumerism is the mistaken idea that the consumption of things and experiences leads to happiness. It is an addiction to buying things, to spending money, as a solution to the lack of happiness and peace in one’s life, in one’s family. Taken from "Consumption and Family Life"

Related Speakers / Panelists / Authors on: Family

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"Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us."(Pope Francis, Laudato Si', par. 161) Read more