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Chapter 22

The Struggle For the Family

 

Perfect married life means
the spiritual dedication of the parents (to God)
for the benefit of their children.
—St. Thomas Aquinas

 

 

At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God.” (St. John Paul II)

Over the last half-century, the whirlwind of family disintegration has been everywhere in the air—contraception, abortion, cohabitation, adultery, civil divorce and single motherhood.  It has not helped the family that our contemporary culture encourages sexual immorality, including pornography, fornication and homosexual “relations” (sodomy).  In connection with this last sin, it should be known that the sin is in the action, not the inclination, which is only a temptation.  Every individual with same-sex attraction has the same dignity, value and worth as every other person created by God and, therefore, deserves equal respect and freedom from persecution, even though God did not create their condition or the inclination to sin.  At the same time, they are responsible for their actions or behavior, as we all are insofar as we have reason and free will, even though they may not be responsible, quite possibly, for their condition, that is, the disordered sexual attraction.  It is a cross which, if unchangeable through ordinary means, must be accepted while rejecting the temptation to live a sinful lifestyle.  It can then become, like every cross can, a means of sanctification and salvation.

To live a life of chastity has always been a challenge and a struggle, but especially in the day and age of artificial birth control and promiscuity.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful because it is unreasonable, selfish and self-centered.  It does not respect, protect or promote the spiritual, physical or emotional well-being of others, nor even of ourselves.  True love does.  The spiritual and moral battle to live a life of chastity in humility and true love is “a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict”—between the freedom to love God to the point of disregarding self, and the freedom to love self to the point of disregarding God. (Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II) (City of God, St. Augustine)

What is “the plan of God for marriage and the family?” (Familiaris Consortio)  Jesus Christ said, “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matt. 19:4-5)  We read in Genesis, “God blessed them, saying—“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)  So, putting it together, “the plan of God for marriage” is faithful, fruitful, lifelong love.  “What God has joined together, let no man divide.” (Matt. 19:6)  At its best, marriage is complimentary and collaborative, something beautiful to behold when the goal is God’s will for the family.  At its worst, it is manipulative or domineering, something destructive of true love and sharing.

To “be fruitful and multiply” is a blessing, not a command.  It is not necessary for the married couple to have as many children as possible in order to fulfill God’s will, but to be generous and sacrificial.  If, for some good reason, it is prudent or needful to limit the number of children in their family or to space them out over time, Natural Family Planning (NFP) can be employed as the wholesome alternative to artificial contraception.  Modern methods of NFP are just as effective as contraception and have the superior advantage of lifting sexual love to a higher level—that of the virtuous and the special—rather than degrade it to something trivial, selfish and sinful, as is the case, to one degree or another, with all artificial methods.

As for couples who are unable to have children due to sterility, their marriage can still be “fruitful” spiritually through charity for God, for each other and for others, whether or not they choose to adopt one or more children.

 

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