“Cohabitation rapidly becoming acceptable alternative; more than half of births to women under 30 occur outside marriage.”
The letter focuses on the greatest challenges affecting the family in the world today and vigorously reiterates timeless truths about marriage.
Signed by 48 scholars and leaders from several countries, both Catholic and non-Catholic, the letter was sent to the Vatican in June through the offices of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
It does not engage the problem of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, but is dedicated to other issues that the signatories believe the upcoming Synod, and the one to take place next year, should address.
Below is the full text of the letter:
Holy Father, Eminences, and Excellencies,
We rejoice that the Holy Father has captured the world’s attention and so much good will for the Christian faith! Like others we are deeply moved by his expressions of love and mercy, echoing the love and mercy of Christ, especially for those who are defenseless and abandoned.
It is in this context that we welcome the decision to convene an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to examine the challenges to marriage and the family. Like each of you, we believe the family is, with the Church itself, the greatest institutional manifestation of Christ’s love. For those who wish to love as He would have us love, marriage and the family are indispensable, both as vehicles of salvation and as bulwarks of human society.
Recent popes have made these points abundantly clear. For example, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that, “Marriage is truly an instrument of salvation, not only for married people but for the whole of society.” And, in Evangelii Gaudium, Your Holiness wrote that “the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”
This Synod is an opportunity to express timeless truths about marriage. Why do those truths matter? How do they represent true love, not “exclusion” or “prejudice,” or any of the other charges brought against marriage today? Men and women need desperately to hear the truth about why they should get married in the first place. And, once married, why Christ and the Church desire that they should remain faithful to each other throughout their lives on this earth. That, when marriage gets tough (as it does for most couples), the Church will be a source of support, not just for individual spouses, but for the marriage itself.
You have written so powerfully, Holy Father, of the importance of a new evangelization within the Church: “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”
May we humbly suggest that in the context of marriage and family life your words are a call to personal responsibility, not only for our own spouses and children, but for the marriages of those God has put by our side: our relatives and friends, those in our churches and in our schools.
The stakes are high. According to a 2013 Child Trends international report: “Dramatic increases in cohabitation, divorce, and nonmarital childbearing in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania over the last four decades suggest that the institution of marriage is much less relevant in these parts of the world.” In the United States the marriage rate is the lowest ever recorded, unmarried cohabitation is rapidly becoming an acceptable alternative to marriage, and more than half of births to women under 30 years of age now occur outside marriage. Among countless other negative associations, each of these trends has been linked to lower net worth and economic mobility, poverty, and welfare — for women and children, in particular.
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