by Joe Bollig
The family has been portrayed many ways in films too numerous to count. Among the most memorable of film families is the Corleone family in “The Godfather” trilogy.
The series traces the family from a single orphan boy escaping the violence of his native Sicily to the Corleones’ rise to become the most powerful Mafia family in America.
There is real love in the Corleone family, but it becomes warped and twisted by sin, ultimately leading to tragedy. The Corleone family failed because it became a school of sin, not virtue.
The church holds out a better choice.
“At its best, the family is a school of love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, mutual respect, patience and humility in the midst of a world darkened by selfishness and conflict,” according to “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the catechesis for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 22-25.
Humans are fallen creatures and do not always love as they should. This is true in the family, where the relationship of man and woman is threatened by the “regime of sin.”
The “regime of sin” includes not only personal sin, but also a long list of external forces and situations.
Among those external forces and situations is poverty. Stable marriages and families help overcome poverty, but poverty works against the aforementioned. The catechesis notes: “If we care for the poor, we will be serving families.”
Another force against families is the commodification of sex by the mass culture. This commodification sells us a destructive illusion: If we can afford it, it’s consensual and we want it, then we ought to have it.
This commodification is seen in attitudes toward masturbation, pornography, contraception and so-called same-sex “marriage.”
The church teaches that the family — and marriage — is something founded on nature, the “antecedent to civil society.” The family is the foundation of society, thus public authorities have a duty to protect and serve the family.
The church, for its part, must resist modern efforts to redefine marriage as something “infinitely plastic . . . subordinate and malleable to political will.”
Increasingly, there are attempts to promote the idea that marriage is merely a matter of individual preference, with no organic connection to sexual difference and procreation; that marriage is something negotiable and “accountable only to self-referential human consent,” and merely “a voluntary agreement between autonomous bearers of individual rights.”
By contrast, the church holds out the truth that marriage and the family are a gift of God, a sacrament of the covenant of mercy. The family is a place where its members practice the art of self-giving and sacrifice after the pattern of God’s covenant — everything flowing from Jesus himself.
Editor’s Note: Catholics throughout the country have been invited to join in the 10-month preparation for the World Meeting of Families to be held in Philadelphia this September. This reflection is based on the seventh chapter of the meeting’s catechesis “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”
Questions to consider
- What are the connections between the church’s care for the poor and its teaching about sex and chastity?
- What are the challenges to chastity in your community? How can your parish support people who want to live according to the church’s teachings?