Whenever I read an article about family values especially those written by celibate Catholic clergy I immediately become suspicious of its actual purpose and intent. Are these experts writing based on their own personal experience or is it a long academic litany espousing a particular controversial church position on the issue? When it comes to the latter I was not to be disappointed when I read Fr. Stan Chu Ilo’s comment in a recent issue of the Catholic Register ‘For Catholics,marriage, family life a ‘biggie’. In a language typically reserved for clerics Fr. Stan hopes the lay reader will be silenced with his rather obscure use of the trinity as the ultimate image to redefine perfect happy family values. Considering Biblical scholars continue to debate the actual meaning of the 4th century Trinitarian doctrine, it remains a challenge for me and perhaps many others, how to relate the trinity directly to Christian or Catholic family values.
Not surprisingly therefore it is not until the reader reaches the end of Fr. Stan’s article that we discover his actual intent. Fr. Chu Ilo suggests that families which are lacking Trinitarian values are “torn by separation, divorce, abuse, neglect and infidelity.” Furthermore “when people advocate for trial marriages, co-habitation, polygamy and same-sex marriage, they often forget that families are called to mirror the image of the Trinity because family is a biggie for God.”
Families are not in competition with other families, rather they are looking for help and guidance to make their relationships more inclusive, more loving and less stressful.
Would it not have been more positively edifying for readers if Fr. Stan had provided us with actual down to earth experience and definition of family values and what constitutes a family? No one seems to understand this better than The Vanier Institute of the Family. They define 'family' as "any combination of two or more persons who are bound together over time by ties of mutual consent, birth and/or adoption or placement and who, together, assume responsibilities for variant combinations of some of the following:
· physical maintenance and care of group members
· Addition of new members through procreation or adoption
· Socialization of children
· Social control of members
· Production, consumption, distribution of goods and services
· Affective nurturance – love"
I think these are the true family values God desires for each family. These are the objective goals or so-called 'biggie’s' that God understands continue to challenge every family world wide and day after day. In the meantime most Catholic families today struggle with at least one or more of the 'maladies' mentioned by Fr. Stan with or without the support of their particular religious institution. But times are changing and so must our church if they are to remain relevant.
Finally was it any wonder that the 2014 Catholic Synod on the Family produced so much confusion. When will the institution learn to listen to and serve its flock free of condemnation and like God meet us where we are not where its theology and others would have us be.