A Look Back to 2009

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Commentary of the day
Pope Benedict XVI Address, Ad limina, 25 September 2009

The Church cannot be indifferent to the separation of spouses and to divorce, facing the break-up of homes and the consequences for the children that divorce causes. If they are to be instructed and educated, children need extremely precise and concrete reference points, in other words parents who are determined and reliable who contribute in quite another way to their upbringing. Nor, it is this principle that the practice of divorce is undermining and jeopardizing with the so-called "extended" family that multiplies "father" and "mother" figures and explains why today the majority of those who feel "orphans" are not children without parents but children who have too many. This situation, with the inevitable interference and the intersection of relationships, cannot but give rise to inner conflict and confusion, contributing to creating and impressing upon children an erroneous typology of the family, which in a certain sense can be compared to cohabitation, because of its precariousness.

The Church is firmly convinced that the true solution to the current problems that husbands and wives encounter and that weaken their union lies in a return to the stable Christian family, an environment of mutual trust, reciprocal giving, respect for freedom and education in social life. It is important to remember that: "the love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses' community of persons, which embraces their entire life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1644). In fact, Jesus said clearly "what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mk 10: 9) and added, "whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mk 10: 11-12). With all the understanding that the Church can show in these situations, there are no spouses of the second marriage but only of the first: this is an irregular and dangerous situation which it is necessary to resolve, in fidelity to Christ and with the help of a priest, finding a possible way to save all those involved.

To help families, I urge you to propose to them with conviction the virtues of the Holy Family: prayer, the cornerstone of every domestic hearth faithful to its own identity and mission; hard work, the backbone of every mature and responsible marriage; silence, the foundation of every free and effective activity. In this way, I encourage your priests and the pastoral centres of your dioceses to accompany families, so that they are not disappointed or seduced by certain relativistic lifestyles that the cinema and other forms of media promote. I trust in the witness of those families that draw their energy from the sacrament of marriage; with them it becomes possible to overcome the trial that befalls them, to be able to forgive an offence, to accept a suffering child, to illumine the life of the other, even if he or she is weak or disabled, through the beauty of love. It is on the basis of families such as these that the fabric of society must be restored.


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