Pope Francis and the family in crisis
Perhaps many are asking why there is so much fuss in the Vatican over a seemingly “minor” topic as the “family,” which is being tackled in the global gathering of bishops on Oct. 5-19. What does Pope Francis find so critical and urgent in the synod’s theme, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” when there are so many other pressing issues?
If the family, the basic unit and foundation of society, disintegrates, society also disintegrates, which may trigger radical shifts in values, a general spiritual degeneration, and, consequently, anarchy, war, and genocide.
Is the family in crisis across the globe? When a teacher in Sydney asked her high school class how many were a product of a broken family, 16 out of the 21 students raised their hand. If we multiply the isolated Sydney situation by a million across schools worldwide, this can become a trend, the rule rather than the exception. Quite possibly, we are headed toward a general breakdown of the family and of society on a global scale.
Families affect the world in the way a trillion drops of rain induce a deluge. It is the goal of the Synod to find ways to “save” the family through evangelization, conflict management among parents, marriage counseling, and value formation in rearing children.
A broken home produces children who suffer from lack of love and immersion in hatred and conflict. They implicitly ask why they have to suffer just because their parents cannot get along. The psychological effects on children are immense and even permanent—homosexuality, prostitution, perversion, withdrawal, violence. Freud and many others have written about the intimate relations among family, personality, and spiritual values.
The theology of the family. The social nature of sin tells us that children can suffer for the sins of their parents. We ask: Is it not unfair? The only possible answer is: We really do not know. God works in mysterious ways. His ways are not our ways. That is the essential nature of the theology of sin, its social character of the contagion of ill effects.
The number of refugees in the world has surpassed the 50-million mark since World War II. More than half of these are children, says the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There is a “quantum leap in forced displacements,” it adds. The increase by 6 million in 2012 was triggered by the Syrian war. Pakistan tops the list as host to a staggering 1.6 million refugees, due to wars in Afghanistan and India. Next are Lebanon (856,500), Iran (857,400), Jordan (641,900), and Turkey (609,900).
The family breaks down in the refugee camps. The lack of a home mutilates children spiritually, not just physically. As a Church response, the synod must focus on ensuring that families do not disintegrate somehow in the turmoil of our daily lives (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/20/global-refugee-figure-passes-50-million-unhcr-report).
It is ironic that the biggest number of suicides are in the affluent societies—Japan, Scandinavia, Canada, the United States, and the European Union. In some surveys of “the happiest people on earth,” the developing countries are the ones at the top. Can it be because the stress levels in wealthy countries are higher than the hunger levels in the poor ones? In all this, the family as the basic unit of society plays an important role.
Making waves. Francis, the first ever Jesuit pope, is making waves. He has initiated a battle against pedophile priests, an issue that has been consistently covered up by Church officials for the last two decades. He recently fired Paraguay Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano for the cover-up of a pedophile priest, and ordered the arrest of senior Vatican diplomat Josef Wesolowski for the sexual abuse of children in the Dominican Republic.
Francis is aware that the issue of pedophile priests is shaking the very foundation of the Church. Definitely, pedophilia in the clergy, which undermines the wellbeing of children and their future families, is a crucial topic for the synod. Clerical pedophilia can only be contained by dragging it out in the open, never by covering it up to protect the image of the Church. Covering up the abuse of children destroys, and not protects, the image of the Church.
The Pope and the synod need our prayers in this critical time of disasters, wars, and epidemics. Francis has composed a “Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod”:
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in You we contemplate the splendor of true love, to You we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families, too, may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the … Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen.”
Bernie V. Lopez ([email protected]) has been writing political commentary for the last 20 years. He is also a radio-TV broadcaster, a documentary producer-director, and a former Ateneo professor.
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