Vatican City, 9 March 2012 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Benedict XVI received a group of prelates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have recently competed their “ad limina” visit. Extracts of his English-language remarks to them are given below:

“In this talk I would like to discuss … the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost”.

“In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defence of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

“In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the Sacrament of Matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a Sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity”.

“On the practical level, marriage preparation programmes must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples”.

“In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. … It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young. … Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing “apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom”. In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great”.

“Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognising our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfilment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole”.

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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  1. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    A relevant address on the issues which have been discussed here a day or so ago, and which may undermine Fr. Blake’s view that little which is effective is being done, but as always, I’m ready to be proved wrong. Fr; Blake may however be right that time is short.

    I also realise that this address is to bishops, but I sincerely hope that it is rewritten to speak to a general audience, without whom there will be no real progress.

    PB 16 is right to acknowledge the need for “sensitivity and concern towards young couples” – that is, those who have a different view of ‘morality’ than conservatives would like.


  2. The Church needs to start defending existing marriages against no-fault divorce. The Pope says it is evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant has led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.
    Couples planning church weddings this spring will soon be saying, “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” Such people are only willing to start a family under certain conditions: if bride and groom both agree to be together until death, remain sexually faithful, and promise to support the children and each other in a marital home for life.

    The Catholic Church, our culture, and the civil laws used to recognize that keeping these vows was a good thing, but with no-fault divorce, that has all changed. Don’t we all know a faithful spouse and good parent who had been a defendant in a no-fault divorce? These faithful spouses are separated from their own children most of the time and ordered to pay child support for a second household in which they are not even allowed to live.

    I’m not shocked that the animalistic sexual liberation ideologues don’t lift a finger to try to protect children and faithful spouses from typical no-fault divorce. But I’m disappointed at the indifference of the Catholic pastoral leadership that celebrates all these church weddings. Catholic leaders are silent bystanders when members of their own flock force no-fault divorce on their families, against the will of the other spouse who has been faithful.

    There is now a formal way to get the Catholic Church off the sidelines and involved. Mary’s Advocates, our non-profit, pro-marriage organization, is offering a “Vindicate Rights Petition” so a faithful spouse can use canon law to formally ask the Church to intervene.

    For those who profess to be faithful Catholics, forcing no-fault divorce on one’s family is untenable, according to The Catholic Code of Canon Law. In the U.S.A., however, the Church response is commonly to offer the ‘pastoral care’ of giving annulments. An annulment, a decree of invalidity of marriage, is an official statement from a Catholic Tribunal in which they say the couple was never married in the first place. What child of divorce wants that kind of ‘pastoral care’ when one parent chooses to abandon marriage and force a family break-up?

    Two forward thinking Catholic Canon lawyers are supporting the “Vindicates Rights Petition.” Canon Lawyer, Fr. Chuck Zmudzinski, C.P.M., J.C.L of the Fathers of Mercy in Auburn Kentucky describes the pastoral landscape from his perspective. “Now that almost every marriage that appears before the Church’s tribunals in the U.S. ends up being declared invalid, I fear that many pastors take the side of the spouse who wants to divorce and remarry and actually encourage divorce and annulment, leaving the abandoned spouse with little or no recourse, and the children of the broken home are the greatest victims of this injustice.” … “There should be a serious effort by the pastors to bring the offending spouse to repentance and save the marriage.”

    Canon lawyer, Philip C. L. Gray, J.C.L, from Hopedale, OH, describes what he sees happening to Catholics when one wants divorce, “In the vast majority of cases today, divorce has become an ‘easy out’ to avoid responsibility, pass blame, obtain revenge, or somehow justify problems in the marital relationship or between parents and children.” After Gray reviewed the Vindicate Rights Petition, he says, “The legal and doctrinal foundations for these petitions are well established. In my opinion, unless a petition in a particular case suffers from a defect identified in law, these cases should be accepted and heard. Not doing so would express a departure from the expectations of the Natural Law and the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church.”

    Natural laws are the life-principles that we are all ordained to follow, whether we consciously think about it or not. It is natural for every married couple to have disagreements and challenges, but it is not natural for one unsatisfied spouse to force the permanent break-up of his or her own family. Children, by nature know this, and the Vindicate Rights Petition is a way to involve the Catholic Church in keeping families together. Dissatisfied spouses should work on bettering their marriage, rather than abandoning them, and it is time for the Catholic Church to start formally telling them just that.


  3. Gertrude says:

    Thank you very much for the above. I had not heard of this movement before, and wonder is this an American and/or British movement? If there is such an organisation in the UK an address would be very helpful.


  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Here’s an issue…

    If one is an American (or more accurately a US citizen) then what are you to do with the current dilemma?

    That is, you are Catholic but progressive, and you strongly object to same sex marriage. The Republicans agree. So you consider voting for them, but then you realise that they are howling to attack Iran (even tho’ 16 of 16 military and state bodies say Iran has no nukes), they also want to cut aid to the poor (tent cities now in the US, 30% without healthcare) , and millionaire Republican candidates boast that they pay only 13% taxes, unlike you.

    The Republicans also broadly agree with you on contraception, abortion etc.

    So how do you vote? What does the Church offer in way of guidance? Bearing in mind all the issues.



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