In a series of closed-door meetings this week, cardinals from around the world expressed a common care and concern for the state of marriage and the family in the modern world.
“One of the things that we’re facing is a whole culture that doesn’t appreciate the significance, value, and importance of families. The secular culture we’re a part of just dismisses the importance of family,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. told CNA on Feb. 22.
The extraordinary synod on the pastoral care for the family will be held this October. The topic of the family was a major topic of Vatican meetings ahead of the recent consistory.
Cardinal Wuerl said that the upcoming synod and its related discussions “just highlight that family is the bedrock of civilization, and we have to do everything we can to support it.”
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the retired Archbishop of Westminster, noted that at the meetings which preceded today’s consistory, among all the cardinals was “a concern for the state of marriage in their countries.”
“What the Church feels and what I feel is that family is at the heart of society. Marriage is at the heart of society, because obviously from marriage comes children and (the question) becomes, how do they grow up?” he explained.
“I think that one of the difficulties for people today is that they haven’t got communities which support (them). In the old days, before the great cities and movement of peoples, people lived in villages, small towns, they had the support of, as it were, ‘wider family.’ That’s not so today. Families break up and it’s terrible for the children, so the Church naturally is concerned about this.”
Cardinal George Alencherry, who heads the India-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, told CNA Feb. 21 that the discussions focused on “the question of the challenges of the family in the modern world,” such as “divorce, (and) divorced people getting remarried.”
“They would like to have the assistance from the Church,” he added. The cardinals discussed how to help people in such situations while being faithful to the truth of the “unity and indissolubility” of marriage “because Jesus wanted it.”
“Breakdowns in marriage are very sad,” lamented Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. The cardinals’ concern for marriage, he noted, is accompanied by an understanding that “sometimes you have an innocent party--man or woman,” and the pressing question is, “how can you help?”
Thus, “one of the issues that will be discussed in these synods that are coming on the family will be, ‘how can we help prepare people better for marriage, support them in their marriage?’”
The world-wide breakdown in marriage and family life is accompanied by certain ideologies, the cardinals found. According to Cardinal Alencherry, they discussed the “materialistic and hedonistic and then the secularist tendencies of the present world that are challenging the practice of the Catholic faith.”
“I think what we’re seeing is the secularism that is spreading everywhere has the same impact of families everywhere in the world,” reflected Cardinal Wuerl.
Given the global situation, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor concluded that the recent discussions focusing on family life were very timely. “I think the Church is right to give this time to what is the foundation of human society, and also of the Church.”
“If you grow up in a Catholic family, it’s a great gift, so we must help,” he added.