A Crisis Bigger Than the Economy

Catholics and Orthodox Look at the Family in Europe

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TRENT, Italy, DEC. 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A joint Catholic-Orthodox forum says the family crisis in Europe is much deeper than the economic one, and they have recommendations for improving the situation.



A final statement from the 1st European Catholic-Orthodox forum was released today. The Wednesday-Sunday forum focused on "The Family: A Good for Humanity."

The forum, the statement explained, "[was] not to discuss theological issues that are treated at other levels. Our task rather is to concentrate on anthropological issues of crucial importance for the present and future of humanity. The goal of the forum is to help define common positions on social and moral questions."

The document gives a summary of basic tenets held by Orthodox and Catholics on the family, which revealed their largely shared beliefs and concerns.

Then, the statement goes on to consider three points of mutual focus: the importance of the family for the transmission of life, the right and duty of parents to educate, and the current crisis in society.

Supporting moms

Regarding the transmission of life, the Catholic and Orthodox leaders agreed: "We do not give life to ourselves, nor are parents the sole source of human life, since divine intervention is necessary. The sacredness of human life from conception to natural death should be fully respected. […]

"In the past the family and childbirth were regarded as something sacred. In recent years, however, these notions are questioned. There is an attempt to change language and introduce ambiguity into international documents under the ideological introduction of the gender theory."

The ecumenical leaders expressed worry that the "possibilities of bearing and rearing children are drastically reduced" in situations where both parents are "equally busy with the realization of their professional potential, and both have to bear the burden of financial responsibility for the family."

And they mentioned the problem of migration, which often causes "great suffering to children, with many of them being deprived of the presence of their parents' love and care."

The Christian leaders further lamented that society often "undermines the notion of motherhood as a personal vocation."

They affirmed: "We, Orthodox and Catholics together, insist on the sacredness of motherhood and on the need for society to respect it. Mothers who stay at home in order to raise and educate children should be afforded support both morally and financially. Their mission is in no way less important than that of other respected professions.

"Motherhood is a mission, and as such it deserves unconditional support and respect. The idea of fatherhood is also fundamental for society and it too needs to be rediscovered by contemporary society. It's impossible to speak of a fraternal society without fatherhood."

Sex education

The Christian leaders recalled that parents are the first educators for children and that others who collaborate in educating children must do so in accord with parents.

They gave special attention to sex education: "The principle aim of such teaching is directed toward forming young people in the meaning of married love. […] Furthermore, parents must provide information proportionate to each stage of the individual development of their children. Other bodies, such as the school, for example, constitute, in this sense, an aid for parents."

The forum participants cautioned against the influence of the media, noting that "alongside many positives aspects […] the means of communication unfortunately and increasingly present pornographic material and an individualist, egoistic culture."

The Church leaders ended with an affirmation on the importance of family life for culture: "Families that teach their children well, attentive to establishing proper relationships between all family members, constitute a valuable human capital that has great importance for society in both its economic and spiritual well-being. Family life creates culture: Man learns the essential language of life and all that helps him become fully human. All culture, in its beginnings and in its development is a family event."

Real crisis

The Catholic and Orthodox leaders contended that there is a "deep crisis in the vision of what it is to be human and family life."

They explained: "The demographic trends alone in Europe are clear signals of a crisis much greater than the financial one. The family, born of marriage between man and woman that gives rise to children and an extended network of relationships, needs to be rediscovered as valuable social capital."

Birth rates across Europe are remarkably low; Spain and Austria, for example, do not arrive to 0.1% and Germany and Italy are among those nations with a negative population growth percentage.

The Church representatives appealed to social and political leaders to give attention to this issue "before it is too late."

With that, the final statement offered six recommendations and appeals.

Among these, they affirmed: "Much effort needs to be invested in the promotion of family life. The family needs to be rediscovered for what it offers society. […]

"The family is not an outdated notion! Rightly rediscovered, it is the future. Without the mutual love of the family our society dies."

The final statement continued: "We see a great danger in the apparent subordination of the needs of children and the well-being of the family to economic interests.

"We call upon all public institutions to ensure that policies regarding remuneration for work are consistent with establishing and maintaining a family with dignity. […] It should be such that both parents need not necessarily be obliged to work full time outside the home to the detriment of family life and especially to the detriment of the education of children.

"We call upon the public institutions to recognize and respect the work of the mother in the home because of its value for the family and for society. The issue of 'child care' needs further consideration with the best interests of the child as the guiding principle."

The Catholic and Orthodox leaders concluded expressing the intention to again join forces in regular meetings "to strengthen our mutual relations and address common challenges facing Europe."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-24587?l=english