"The Family is Suffering a Major Crisis in Our Time," an interview with Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, September 5, 2014

"The Family is Suffering From a Major Crisis"

Translated by Gordon Henry,  Famille Chretienne, No. 1911, August 30-September 5, 2014.  We  thank Famille Chretienne for its unique and in-depth coverage of the Martin family and of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

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In this exclusive interview, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, discusses the context and the objectives of the assembly of bishops that will be held in Rome, from the 5th to the 19th of October.
— Famille Chretienne, August 30-September 5, 2014
  •  The Synod of Bishops will meet in extraordinary session in October. With what objective?

      The family, the central element of society, is suffering in our day from a major crisis, before which the Church feels the responsibility to intervene.  We must confront the challenge openly, with strength and determination, by proclaiming the "Gospel of the family.”

  •  The Instrumentum Laboris (working document) of the Synod was made public on June 26th. What are its most important points?

      In the first instance, the Church must address the need for clear ideas on what the family is and find a common conceptual vocabulary that all can understand. Then we must clarify the Church's teachings on the family.  From that follows the need for good preparation for marriage.
     The challenges are many and enormous; they touch the life of individuals, of future generations, and of society as a whole.  They call for profound study, by the social sciences and the ecclesiastical sciences alike, specifically in the fields of anthropology and pastoral policy. This latter must seek to bring the Church close to people, to be with them when they are in difficulties, and to comfort them when they are suffering.

  •  What are the particular difficulties to which the Church must respond?

      The long list that is given in the Instrumentum Laboris runs from problems that are internal to the family, like the crisis of faith, and violence and abuse, all the way to external pressures like poverty, war, and displacement, and including issues like family breakdown, financial bankruptcy, children undergoing certain family events, difficulties in education, and the phenomenon of same-sex unions. 

  •  Contemporary culture is often opposed to the institution of the family.  Is this not precisely the opportune moment for the Church to promote and defend it?

      The Synod will survey the family from every angle, seeing not only what takes place within it, but its geographic, ethnic, social, and political dimension . . . . It is well, in fact, to have as broad a perspective as possible.  The West is marked by a strong tendency to devalue the family, notably at the legislative level.  But it is quite otherwise on other continents, where a strong family identity, tied to ancient traditions, is preserved.
     From this perspective, the Church does not feel itself alone.  Rather, it is encouraged to furnish to humanity its heritage of wisdom, as an expert in humanity.  I believe that the moment in which we find ourselves is, in fact, the best moment to make known and to offer to families the human and spiritual potential of the Church.

  •  In this context of the crisis of the family, what attitude does the Church seek to instill in Christians?

      What is important in the first place is to give people with the knowledge and the tools to enter the state of marriage fully conscious of the reasons for doing so. Marriages that last are normally those that have been built on a good foundation.  
     Furthermore, we must encourage among married couples openness, acceptance, kinship, as a free gift, and a great understanding of those who live differently, while at the same time learning to help them, if they need correction, to resume the right path.

  •  What can Christians do to stop the weakening of the family unit?

      Even though it is no longer taken for granted as it once was, the family continues to be the core of society.  Ideologies that encourage hedonism, individualism, and materialism, and above all the massive incursions of propaganda on international organizations, have a great effect on the very fabric of the family structure.  It is almost as if the media were part of an organized effort aimed at destabilizing the family.
     Christians must react.  They will succeed if they rely on the appropriate means--if the rely on the faith, and the deepening of their faith, and on the concrete pastoral direction that will emanate from the Synod.

  •  This July, you went to Alençon, following in the steps of Louis and Zélie Martin.  What connection do you see between your visit and the Synod?

      Louis and Zélie Martin are a married couple the Church has raised to the honors of the altar as models of married life and family life.  The approaching Synod on the family wants to highlight concrete examples of actual marriages and families.  The Martin spouses are one such example.  They illustrate the fact that it is possible to build a family in a Christian way, to become holy in the state of married life, in an intimate union fortified by the grace of God.

  •  On July 12th at Alençon you received some relics.  What place will they have at the Synod?

      I did, in fact, have the honor of receiving relics of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin at Alençon from the hands of Mgr Jacques Habert, and I am most grateful to him.  The exhibition of the relics of spouses who are saints or blesseds during the Assembly of the Synod in the month of October is in preparation.
     These relics will be exposed fpr the veneration of the Fathers and of the faithful in the chapel of the Synod.  They will be a powerful symbol during this Synod consecrated to the family.