Friday, May 18, 2012

The ‘human ecology’ of marriage and family

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Several years ago, I was blessed to attend the annual World Meeting of Families when it was held in Mexico City. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI made a special address to us at the end of the Mass through a live video link-up.

I’m praying this week for our Holy Father, as he gets ready to attend the seventh annual World Meeting of Families, which is being held this year in Milan, May 30 to June 3.

Our world — and our American society especially — is anxious and troubled about what marriage means and what the family is for.

We can see this in many ways. Divorce rates. Abortion rates. More and more unmarried couples living together. More and more children being born out of wedlock. We can see it in the push from powerful people and groups trying to “redefine” marriage.

I’m more convinced than ever that Catholics have a duty to lead our society to conversion. By our teaching and by our way of living.

We need to restore the vital sense of what Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II before him called the “human ecology.” We need to help our brothers and sisters see that the family rooted in marriage is the natural sanctuary of life and civilization.

As Catholics, we know that marriage and family are part of the deepest mysteries of our Father’s creation and his plan of salvation.

The history told in Scripture begins with the marriage of the first man and woman and ends with the wedding of Jesus and his bride, the Church, at the end of time. The human family is the vessel through which God pours out his blessings. That’s why Jesus was born in a mother’s womb and nurtured in a holy family. That’s why in his dying words, he made his mother the mother of all the living, “Behold your Mother!”

The church is entrusted with safeguarding the dignity of every person, according to the natural order of creation. As Catholics, we are called to share this beautiful truth with the world.

We can recognize that every society in every age has always understood marriage to be the lifelong union of one man and one woman for their well-being and for the creation and education of children. In every society in every age, marriage and family have always been about children. Because our children are our society’s future.

Until just a generation ago, American institutions — schools, media, industry and government — all agreed. Our policies and values encouraged strong marriages and supported parents in their efforts to raise healthy, virtuous children.

Things have changed.

Birth control and reproductive technologies cut the natural ties between the marital act and the procreation of children. Our culture now promotes a radical individualism that defines sexual freedom as the source of real happiness.

These and other changes are behind the confusions we see in our society today.

What troubles me is how much our debates today are focused only on adults and their desires for their relationships.

There is very little concern for children. This is sad. Because they will be the “subjects” of all our social experiments. They will bear the consequences of all our new ways of defining what it means to be “married” or to be “parents” or to be a “family.”

We can’t govern our society on the basis of our self-centered wants. As adults and as citizens, we have a moral obligation to look beyond ourselves. To think about the common good of society. To think about future generations.

Children have a right to grow up in a home with the mother and father who gave them life and who promised to share their lives forever. They have a right to be born in a family founded on marriage. Where they can discover their true identity, dignity and potential. Where they can learn in love the meaning of truth, beauty and goodness.

So we have a duty — each one of us as citizens — to promote and defend these rights for our children. Our children have no voice. They are depending on us.

Let’s pray for one another this week, and for our children. And let’s pray for our Holy Father and for the success of the World Meeting of Families.

Let’s ask our Blessed Mother to help us restore the human ecology of our society — so that marriage is sacred and the family is the true sanctuary of life and the heart of a civilization of love.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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