Europe Seen as Lacking a Unified Family Policy

Professors Analyze the State of the Institution

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ROME, JUNE 28, 2004 ( Europe’s low birthrate and the breakdown of the traditional family are among the phenomena troubling the continent’s intellectuals.

The European Symposium of University Professors recently analyzed the state of the family in Europe and manifested its preoccupation over the trends, including the difficulties in balancing family and work.

The 400-member symposium, organized by the Office of University Pastoral Care of the Diocese of Rome and in collaboration with several Italian ministries and the National Council for Research, emphasized the lack of a united political agenda regarding the family in the European Union.

The introductory session, held at the Lateran University, was presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s vicar for Rome.

At the end of the sessions, moderator Pierpaolo Donati, of the University of Bologna, said: «Europe has to seriously ask itself what it wants to do with the family.» According to the professor, it is a matter of making «an anthropological option for the civilization that asks consistency in political decisions.»

According to the speakers, the 25-member European Union isn’t even clear about what it understands by «family.»

A first part of the congress, whose participants were received in audience Friday by John Paul II, was dedicated to studying the theme «Experiences and Problems in Europe.»

One of the problems analyzed was that of Spain. Rafael Navarro Valls, professor of the University Complutense of Madrid, said that in Spain there is a «blurring of the basic lines of marriage.» He said there is a «tendency of the law to take as a hypothesis the couple in crisis, instable and incomplete.»

Yet, conferees also pointed out the positive aspects of recent Spanish legislation, namely, recognition of the equal rights between man and woman within the marriage and within the family, and the need to protect victims of domestic violence.

J.M. Janssens of the Catholic University of Nimega, in the Netherlands, commented that in his country the family is now defined to include «a community that is composed of at least one adult and at least one child.»

Alicja Grzekowiak, of the Catholic University of Lublin, in Poland, recalled that the «family in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were destroyed by Communism, and the state assumed the functions of the family.»

Since the fall of Communism, she said, the problem has been that «the conditions of life that are each time worse have contributed to the disintegration of the family.»

«In Poland, fewer and fewer children are born,» Grzekowiak said.

Janne Haaland Matlary, of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said: «There are many policies regarding the family at the national level, but there is a lack of an authentic European policy.»

«As it turns out, it is difficult to unify the different agendas, since among the different countries of the EU they disagree on numerous points; the first of all of those points is the question of heterosexuality,» she told Vatican Radio. «This constitutes a serious problem, and therefore, it is necessary to establish what we understand by family.»

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