Sunday, December 20, 2015

Synod on the Family, Chapter Three

Chapter Three of the Synod on the Family's document is called "The Family, Inclusion and Society". It focuses on the needs of various groups.

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The elderly are more and more often seen as a burden in industrialized societies, especially since low birth rates mean the elderly are a higher percentage of the population than before. The care they require can be a burden, but we must try harder, instead of treating them like aliens. "If we don’t learn how to treat the elder better, that is how we will be treated" when we become elders.

Grandparents are a link between generations, and they help transmit traditions and values. They frequently help their children raise grandchildren, and I think. They often help introduce people to Christian life.

Widowhood can be difficult, but some use it as an opportunity to renew their mission in the family. The emptiness of loss is filled with love of family members. Widowers without family members should be helped by the Christian community. Widowers can be remarried, and the Bible puts special emphasis on caring for the poor and the widows.

Death and dying in the family is important. Today, people try to eliminate every trace of death and dying; they try to sanitize it with euthanasia and assisted suicide. "The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels obliged to assist families who take care of their elderly and sick members, and to promote in every way the dignity and worth of each person until the natural end of life." Also, the elderly are sometimes unfairly exploited for money. We need to emphasize a person's sense of fulfillment and place in Jesus' sufferings.

Disabled people cause mixed emotions and difficult decisions; it changes your family. "Families which lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are to be greatly admired. They render the Church and society an invaluable witness of their faithfulness to the gift of life." The family has to figure out new ways of being and behaving, when it has a disabled member. Sadly, eugenics practices in regards to disabled people are widespread; for example, the New York Times reports that 90% of all babies with Down's Syndrome are aborted. We need to celebrate these disabled people, not kill them. We also need to help disabled people who outlive their parents, as they are especially vulnerable.

Single people are devoted to their family and community. We should not overlook them and make them feel isolated.

Migrants need special attention, and we cannot ignore them. Dealing with a new country or culture is difficult enough, but the problem is exacerbated when the host country rejects them. The effects can last through generations. Our faith teaches us that we are all pilgrims, meaning we should have solidarity with migrants. "In accompanying migrants, the Church needs a specific pastoral programme addressed to not only families in migration but also members of the families who remain behind." There is also the problem that illegal migration is exploited by human traffickers.

"Children are a blessing from God (Gen 4:1); they ought to be of primary concern in the family and society and are a priority in the Church’s pastoral activity". Sadly, children sometimes become a commodity, which parents and family members fight over. Child labor still exists, as does sexual exploitation of minors. Other places have street children or kids raised in degrading family situations.

Women are treated differently in pretty much every country, but everywhere, "the dignity of women needs to be defended and promoted". Bad treatment towards women includes discrimination, penalizing women for having children, violence and abuse, forced sterilization or abortions, and surrogate motherhood. We need to rethink the duties of spouses, and affirm that both parents share responsibility for family life. One way to help the role of women in society is for the Church to give them more decision-making power, to place them into administrative roles, and to get them more involved in priestly formation.

Men need to be like Saint Joseph, who supported and protected his wife and family. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, both parents share responsibility to family life; men should not run out on their families and abandon their children and their mothers. Men should be more committed to their homes and families, and the way this was phrased reminds me of the statistic that women do the majority of the housework, even when they have stay-at-home husbands. Men, that's wrong! Step it up and do your share of the work, especially when your job is to do the majority of the work!

Young people have lots of different attitudes towards marriage. Some greatly desire marriage and starting a family. Too often, people are forced to postpone weddings against their will, and there are a myriad of reasons why young people willfully postpone marriage. The church is concerned that too many young people distrust marriage, and it is alarmed at how quickly people get divorced and remarried. We need to more carefully discern why young people don't want to get married, and perhaps encourage them with the good example of successful marriages.

In addition to saying the issue needs more study, the document lists many reason why young people don't want to get married, which are "the influence of ideologies which devalue marriage and family; the desire to avoid the failures of other couples; the fear of something they consider too important and sacred; the social opportunities and economic benefits associated with simply living together; a purely emotional and romantic conception of love; the fear of losing their freedom and independence; and the rejection of something conceived as purely institutional and bureaucratic."

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