[Editor’s note: At the close yesterday of the Asian Conference on the Family, held on May 13-16 at different venues in Manila including the Cardinal Sin Auditorium in Paco, the Pope Pius XII Center in Ermita and the University of Santo Tomas in Sampaloc, the participants issued the following “Exhortation.”]
We, 551 participants, lay faithful, religious and clergy, coming from 14 Asian countries, 60 Philippine dioceses and 20 lay associations, gathered in Manila from 13 to 16 May 2014 to celebrate with exuberant joy the thirty years since the Charter of the Rights of the Family was promulgated.
With us was the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Bishop Jean Laffitte, as well as 28 bishops and some men and women of other faith traditions.
The Charter of Rights of the Family
The Charter manifests that nothing authentically human fails to find an echo in the heart of each believer (Gaudium et Spes, n. 1). It expresses what we hold to be the basic framework within which the human family – any human family – every human family – can form, flourish and fulfill its mission.
50 years since Vatican II
In the past 50 years, the world has been undergoing great changes in the economic, social, political, cultural and religious spheres. Affected by these changes is the most basic human institution, the family. In fact, the family itself has been the primary beneficiary and victim of these changes, which have become challenges to families all over the world.
Challenges and Threats
These challenges present themselves as threats to the very existence of the family itself. Abortion kills the very life without which no family can exist. Contraception and sterilization– and a contraceptive mentality which refuses to shoulder the responsibility of having children – threatens the procreative purpose of marriage and the family by attacking the very wellsprings of human life. The advocacy for same-sex marriages likewise attempts to reduce marriage to a sterile relationship between people of the same sex.
An amnesia of God
A consumeristic, materialistic and individualistic culture that suffers from an amnesia of God (Pope Benedict XVI) and is fed by a certain liberal and moral relativism has also threatened the family by breeding lifestyles harmful to family living. And so people live, motivated not so much by the cultivation of healthy human relationships but driven rather by the desire for money, pleasure and success.
A liberal and moral relativism
The outcome is a society where fidelity and commitment come in short supply and are subordinated to the accumulation of possessions and the achievement of personal ambitions. Hence, the widespread phenomenon of divorce and marital infidelity.
Looming large like a storm cloud whose waters can drown the family is the poverty that afflicts billions of people in our continent. This poverty has resulted in conditions which make moral living almost impossible, and has become a fertile field of temptations for impoverished families to surrender their own human dignity in order to meet the economic requirements of survival.
Poverty is the fertile ground for pornography, cybercrimes, prostitution, human trafficking, slavery, and other practices that dehumanize and divide members of families. Poverty has also driven people to seek means of livelihood that separate husbands and wives from each other and from their children. Thus, poverty, the deprivation of the necessities for decent human living, has led to the destruction of families.
The ambiguity of affluence
If poverty is gravely harmful to the family, affluence also affects families destructively if it is not tempered by a sense of solidarity with others, especially the poor. Affluence, when enjoyed in a self-centered manner, can only result in the destruction of the lives of individuals and families through hedonism and extravagance.
Threats from other institutions
Compounding the threats to the family are governments and other social institutions that militate against life and the family through coercive measures that run counter to the rights of individuals, couples and families to flourish according to the natural law and the laws of the Church.
What is natural law?
This natural law we refer to is the participation of human beings in God’s eternal law, a participation inscribed in our very humanity and can be discovered by the light of reason aided by the grace of God.
Betrayal by some governments
Governments that promote contraception, abortion, sterilization, coercive population control, divorce, same-sex marriages and euthanasia, destroy families which they are duty-bound to protect and foster.
A tsunami of evils
The result of all of these and other threats to family life is a tsunami of evils threatening to engulf families today, whether they be rich or poor.
But the present changes present not only threats but opportunities for families. We believe that the family is especially dear to the heart of God, for the family is the first social institution established by God to foster, defend and promote human life and human love. It is by way of the family, that the good of society, of humanity and of the Church herself passes (CRF, Preamble, K).
The family is dear to the heart of God
Because it is so precious to God, it must also be most highly valued by us. Thank God, we in Asia do. Because the family is so valuable and because God wants the future of humanity to pass through the human family, we must safeguard, protect, foster and promote the family. We—each one of us, all of us— must individually and together do this for what is at stake is the future of humanity.
(Part 2, the conclusion of this Exhortation, will be published tomorrow.)