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Chapter 22

The Struggle For the Family


Perfect married life means
the spiritual dedication of the parents (to God)
for the benefit of their children.
—St. Thomas Aquinas



At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family... As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” (St. John Paul II)

Over the last half-century, the whirlwind of family disintegration has been everywhere in the air—contraception, abortion, cohabitation, adultery, civil divorce and single motherhood.  It has not helped the family that our contemporary culture encourages sexual immorality, including pornography, fornication and homosexual “relations” (sodomy).  In connection with this last sin, it should be known that the sin is in the action, not the inclination, which is only a temptation.  Every individual with same-sex attraction has the same dignity, value and worth as every other person created by God and, therefore, deserves equal respect and freedom from persecution, even though God did not create their condition or the inclination to sin.  At the same time, they are responsible for their actions or behavior, as we all are insofar as we have reason and free will, even though they may not be responsible, quite possibly, for their condition, that is, the disordered sexual attraction.  It is a cross which, if unchangeable through ordinary means, must be accepted while rejecting the temptation to live a sinful lifestyle.  It can then become, like every cross can, a means of sanctification and salvation.

To live a life of chastity has always been a challenge and a struggle, but especially in the day and age of artificial birth control and promiscuity.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful because it is unreasonable, selfish and self-centered.  It does not respect, protect or promote the spiritual, physical or emotional well-being of others, nor even of ourselves.  True love does.  The spiritual and moral battle to live a life of chastity in humility and true love is a struggle between competing desires that are in mutual conflict—between the desire to please self (self-centered self-love) and the desire to please God (humble charity)—between “the love of self unto the contempt of God” and “the love of God unto the contempt of self.” (St. Augustine, The City of God)

What is the will of God for marriage and the family?  Jesus Christ said, “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matt. 19:4-5)  We read in Genesis, “God blessed them, saying—“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)  So, putting it together, the plan of God for marriage is faithful, fruitful, lifelong love.  “What God has joined together, let no man divide.” (Matt. 19:6)  “By (Christian) matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises.” (Casti Connubii)  The sacred bond of a Christian sacramental marriage is dissolved only by death, that is, by the death of either party, husband or wife—“Until death do us part.”  In the life to come, “they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30)  In this life, even if they separate, their marriage continues, unless it was invalid in the beginning. 

At its best, the marriage relationship is complementary and collaborative, something beautiful to behold when the goal is God’s will for the family.  At its worst, it is manipulative or domineering, something destructive of true love and sharing.

To “be fruitful and multiply” is a blessing, not a command.  It is not necessary for the married couple to have as many children as possible in order to fulfill God’s will, but to be generous and sacrificial.  If, for some good reason, it is prudent or needful to limit the number of children in their family or to space them out over time, Natural Family Planning (NFP) can be employed as the wholesome alternative to artificial contraception.  Modern methods of NFP are just as effective as contraception and have the superior advantage of lifting sexual love to a higher level—that of the virtuous and the special—rather than degrade it to something trivial, selfish and sinful, as is the case, to one degree or another, with all artificial methods.

As for couples who are unable to have children due to sterility, their marriage can still be “fruitful” spiritually through charity for God, for each other and for others, whether or not they choose to adopt one or more children.


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