Monday, April 03, 2006


2 Key Threats to the Family

2 Key Threats to the Family
According to Theologian Father Michael Hull

NEW YORK, APRIL 2, 2006 ( Here is the text of an address Father
Michael Hull of New York delivered at a theologians videoconference last
Tuesday. The Congregation for Clergy organized the international

* * *

Threats to the Family

By Father Michael Hull

The family is the beginning and the basis of all human society. Thus has it
been from creation: "Then the Lord God said: 'It is not good that the man
should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'" (Genesis 2:18).

Aristotle has a sense of this when he describes the family as the
fundamental community between men and women ("Politica" I.2). St. Augustine
speaks of marriage as "the first natural bond of human society" ("De bono
conjugali" 1.1).

Threats to the family are those that imperil this bond, especially when it
is sealed as a sacrament. Perhaps the two gravest threats to the family are
divorce and artificial birth control. The former destroys the family by
tearing it asunder; the latter frustrates natural expansion of the family
and the human community.

Civil divorce has become de rigueur in many developed countries and is on
the rise all over the world. In most countries these days, divorce is a
simple civil matter, easily obtained and no longer socially stigmatized.
The breakup of families is common and carefree, with little concern for Our
Lord's solemn admonitions against divorce (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark
10:2-12; Luke 16:18; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16).

In the United States of America, for example, surveys place the current
divorce rate at about 40% among the general population and 20% among
Catholics. Interestingly enough, these rates are significantly lower,
approximately 10% to 15%, than they were 10 years ago.

The reason? Marriage has fallen into such disfavor that many couples elect
to live in sin, either temporarily or permanently. Many young adults engage
in a number of short-term or even long-term relationships before they marry
-- if they ever marry at all.

Many younger and older couples decide specifically against marriage and opt
to live their lives in so-called common-law marriages. Surely the Church
must minister to the divorced -- as is illustrated so well in Pope John
Paul II's "Familiaris Consortio" (see Nos. 83-84) -- but the Church must
continue to speak out vociferously against the breakup of marriages and,
therefore, families.

Like divorce, artificial birth control seems to be the order of the day. On
the one hand, it is utilized by those who are married, frustrating or
limiting God's plan of procreation. On the other hand, it contributes
substantially to the contemporary malaise of sin by eradicating many of the
consequences of immoral sexual intercourse.

Both Pope Pius XI in "Casti Connubii" (Dec. 31, 1930) and Pope Paul VI in
"Humanae Vitae" (July 25, 1968) put a special emphasis on artificial birth
control as a principal threat against the sanctity of marriage and the
family in modern times.

Pius was clear: "Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way
that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate
life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who
indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin" (CC, No. 56).
Paul was prescient when he noted that artificial birth control would "open
wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral
standards" (HV, No. 17).

There is no doubt that such unfaithfulness is on the rise as moral virtue
declines. Indeed, artificial birth control has opened the way so wide and
facilitated such a lowering of moral principles that Paul's words seem but
modest and understated.

In order to defend the family, the Church must be vigilant in proclaiming
the sanctity, inviolability, and permanence of marriage, as well as the
importance of leaving the marital act open to life. The aforementioned
threats to the family are best met by remembering what the family is,
namely, the cornerstone of society and the domestic Church ("Lumen
Gentium," No. 11; FC, No. 21), without which man is bereft of his natural
and supernatural community.

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