“The Church has made a decisive contribution in defining and disciplining the family; she is thus in a privileged condition for proposing models of new families adapted to our times and faithful to their Christian vocation. However, in order to do, she needs to listen to reality and to the real members of the family, namely, men and women: real men and women but especially women who have lived and have reflected on the immense change in the female role which has taken place in the past century, one of the fundamental reasons for the crisis of the family”. Lucetta Scaraffia, an auditor at the Synod of the Family, addressed the 12th General Congregation with these words which met with resounding applause. “The Church needs to listen to women, to listen to what they consider they have lost and have gained in this great transformation, to listen to what kind of family they want today. For it is only in listening to one another that real discernment is made. Women are great experts on the family; if we extricate ourselves from abstract theories we can turn especially to them to understand what needs to be done, how we can lay the foundations of a new type of family which is open to respect for all its members, which is no longer founded on the exploitation of women’s capacity for sacrifice but guarantees to all supportive affective nourishment. In both the text and the debates, however, little indeed is said about women, about us. It is as if mothers, daughters, grandmothers, wives – that is, the heart of the family – were not part of the Church, of that Church which understands the world, which thinks and which decides; as if, even with regard to families, one could continue to pretend that women don’t exist. It is as if it were possible to continue to forget the new gaze, the unheard of and revolutionary relationship which Jesus had with women. The families in the world are very different but in all of them it is women who play the most important and crucial role in guaranteeing them solidity and a long duration. Further, when one speaks of families one should not always or only speak of marriage: an increasing number of families consist of a single mother and her children. It is women, in fact, who always stay with their children even if they are sick, disabled or the fruit of violence. These women, these mothers have almost never taken theology courses, they are frequently not even married but they set a wonderful example of Christian behaviour. If you Synod Fathers do not pay attention to them, if you do not listen to them, you risk making them feel even more wretched because their families are so different from the ones you are talking about – even lonelier. Indeed, all too often you speak about a family in the abstract, a perfect family but one that does not exist, a family that has nothing to do with the real families which Jesus met or of which he spoke. You speak of a family so perfect that it seems almost never to be in need of either Jesus’ mercy or his word: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’.”
St. Peter’s Square
Aug. 21, 2019
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