Marriage and family life is in crisis!
According to a recent study, the marriage rate in America declined by more than 50 percent from 1970 to 2010. At the same time, the number of unmarried couples cohabitating increased more than seventeen-fold between 1960 and 2011. The presence of children in America has also declined significantly from a fertility rate of 3.65 children average per woman in 1960 to 1.89 in 2011. This rate is below the “replacement level” of 2.1, the level at which the population would be replaced through births alone.*
The Catholic Church has long recognized the importance of marriage and family life for the good of society. In the last 100+ years, the popes have consistently taught on marriage and family. Some of the most notable documents include:
Leo XIII: On Christian Marriage (Arcanum) (1893)
Pius XI: On Christian Marriage (Casti Connubii) (1930) and
Paul VI: Humanae Vitae (1968).
Perhaps the most prolific was Pope St. John Paul II. The list includes: his Wednesday audiences now compiled as Theology of the Body: Original Unity of Man and Woman (1979-80), Familiaris Consortio (1981), Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem) (1988), Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane) (1994), Letter to Women (1995) and The Value and Inviolability of Human Life (Evangelium Vitae) (1995).
In anticipation of the World Meeting of Families next week in Philadelphia and Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October, Pope Francis has been using his Wednesday audiences and public appearances to reiterate the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. The family is the foundation of society. When the family crumbles, so does the culture. It is in families that children learn how to be productive and responsible citizens. As the family goes, so does the community and the world.
Here are a few excerpts from Pope Francis:
Not only would I say that the family is important for the evangelization of the new world. The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk. (Radio interview, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 27, 2013)
Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. (Address to World Youth Day volunteers, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 28, 2013)
The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. (Speech at Humanum Conference, Rome, Italy, November 17, 2014)
The union of man and woman in marriage [is] a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies. (Speech at Humanum Conference, Rome, Italy, November 17, 2014)
Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. (Speech at Humanum Conference, Rome, Italy, November 17, 2014)
The complementarity of man and woman… is the root of marriage and family. (Speech at Humanum Conference, Rome, Italy, November 17, 2014)
Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family. The future passes through the family. So protect your families! Protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. (Address to families, Manilla, Philippines, January 16, 2015)
The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. (Address to families, Manilla, Philippines, January 16, 2015)
Mistrust and skepticism has led our culture to disregard the marriage covenant between a man and a woman…When the stable and fruitful covenant between a man and a woman is devalued by society, it is a loss for everyone, especially the young. (General audience, Rome, Italy, April 22, 2015)
We must reaffirm the beauty and goodness of the family. The future of the Church and the world depends on healthy and holy families. Let us faithfully and courageously live out the mission to love in our families. This is the only way we can be fully alive.
* The State of Our Unions monitors the current health of marriage and family life in the America. Produced annually, it is a joint publication of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.