Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Family, the Church, and Defending Human Dignity

A post on the Catholic Dads website, "Pope John Paul II And Familiaris Consortio #1" (Jason Gennaro (June 1st, 2011)), linked to the three-decade-old apostolic exhortation.

Quite a bit has changed since then, in some ways. In others, not so much.

I started reading the 34,000-or-so-word document this evening. Skimming, actually. I don't expect to finish it any time soon. It's easier reading than some documents I've found on the Holy See's website - which isn't the same as being easy reading. That's not a criticism. They tend to be written with a great deal of information in each paragraph: and not much attention paid to online conventions like short paragraphs and bulletized lists.

The Family in the Modern World

That won't stop me from taking the first paragraph of that 1981 apostolic exhortation, and breaking it out as a list. The words are the same as Pope John Paul II's. All I've changed is how they're displayed.
  • "The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture..."
  • "...Many families are living this situation in fidelity to those values that constitute the foundation of the institution of the family..."
  • "...Others have become uncertain and bewildered over their role or even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal and family life..."
  • "...Finally, there are others who are hindered by various situations of injustice in the realization of their fundamental rights...."
    ("Familiaris Consortio" (November 22, 1981))
Here's another excerpt, from near the end of the introduction:
"...The Church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the Gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in marriage and in the family capable of being fulfilled..."
("Familiaris Consortio")

Remembering the 'Good Old Days'

I'll be 60 this year. I remember the 'good old days' before Woodstock and Nehru jackets. I think nostalgia is okay, in small doses. But - I DO NOT WANT TO GO BACK to 'Happy Days.'

Agreeing with the Catholic Church about the importance of family and the Gospel is not the same as wanting to live in some mythologized past.

Whatever else I expect to find in Blessed John Paul II's apostolic exhortation, I do not expect to see that we're supposed to run families the way many Americans did during my childhood, where:
  • Dad
    • Goes to work
    • Ignores the kids
    • Takes his wife for granted
  • Mom
    • Stays home in the suburbs
    • Being 'just a housewife'
    • Watching
      • Soaps
      • Commercials with improbably-cheerful women
        • Doing housework in high heels
No, I do not want to go back.

Not all families were like that, of course.

Still, I think some aspects of child-rearing practices and family organization of post-World-War-II America were appalling. And that's another topic.

The Church: Defending Human Dignity

The Catholic Church doesn't conform to the preferences of today's cultural leaders. We never have. We can't.

The Catholic Church operates under the authority that my Lord gave Peter (Matthew 16:18-19), guided by the Bible, Magisterium, and Tradition. We have a duty to be the body of Christ in the world. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 787-795)

That does not leave room for taking polls to see which of the Decalogue are trending this month, and which should be changed to keep up with the latest intellectual fad.

What might be startling, if more folks knew it, is how much the Church cares about human dignity - the importance of treating people as if they were persons, and worth something by themselves.

Another excerpt, the last in this post:
"...Not infrequently ideas and solutions which are very appealing but which obscure in varying degrees the truth and the dignity of the human person, are offered to the men and women of today, in their sincere and deep search for a response to the important daily problems that affect their married and family life. These views are often supported by the powerful and pervasive organization of the means of social communication, which subtly endanger freedom and the capacity for objective judgment...."
("Familiaris Consortio") [emphasis mine]
Whatever useful details I find in that apostolic exhortation's 34,000 words, I'm about as sure as I can be that it'll all boil down to two simple rules: Love God; Love my neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Somewhat-related posts:


Brigid said...

I think there's an extra letter in here: "supposed to run families they way many"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


WHAT?! I never make mistakes!! Don't you know who I am?!!

Oh, wait.

Just a minute.

There. Fixed it.

Thanks. ;)

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.