While saying that the Holy Father sees that families today have been attacked and feels their pain and brokenness, Cardinal Robert Sarah has reaffirmed that we must strongly and firmly defend the Church teachings given to us, especially Jesus’ words about marriage.
In an interview with ZENIT this week, the president of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ says, “Stemming from the effects of a secular and relativistic society, the crisis of today’s family is in how the concept of marriage and family has changed.”
The current culture, he explained, speaks of family without specifying any meaning, referring to “all its forms” as if these situations could become role models.
The cardinal also weighs in on the synod, the Pope’s involvement, and problems facing families worldwide, including in his native Africa, including “harmful ideologies,” paganism, and polygamy.
ZENIT: What is the biggest challenge facing the family, in general?
Cardinal Sarah: Thank you for this question. It is an important one since the debate on admission to the Eucharist of divorced and remarried Catholics has taken the focus away from the real important challenges that affect families today. Stemming from the effects of a secular and relativistic society, the crisis of today’s family is in how the concept of marriage and family has changed. The Christian concept of marriage and family consisting of man and woman, married together to bring a family into the world, is no longer a definition that everyone agrees to. The current culture speaks of family without specifying any meaning. Society speaks of family in all its forms – biological, adoptive parent, homosexual – as if [all] these situations could become role models when in reality they are simply a tragic expression of individual problems. We must also consider the social and economic causes that contribute to the weakening of the family.
As we are seeing in the Synod, the problems for the family from other countries differ from those in Africa.
ZENIT: And how are these problems for the family different in Africa? As a native of Guinea, what do you believe are the greatest challenges facing African families?
Cardinal Sarah: African traditional culture is centered on the family. The notion of family is so widespread and deeply rooted that it is considered a mark of African tradition in general. In African culture, family life and values are upheld and enthusiastically promoted and the roles of both man and woman are important in the family; one cannot exist without the other. Both are necessary for the task of raising and educating their children.
However, the African family is being attacked by Western ideologies that try to destroy this traditional relationship between men and women. The “Gender” ideology denies God’s plan for the human family when He created the human persons as male and female. The Gender ideology expresses the desire of men and women of today to free themselves from what is a given fact, from an anthropological, theological and ontological determination that are inscribed in their nature. This Gender model encourages woman to interpret her relationship with man in a conflicting way and for individuals to have a free choice over their sexual orientation, allowing a culture of homosexuality permissible in African culture. Western aid and support have tried to impose these ideologies into African culture. The acceptance of these harmful ideologies is a necessary condition for receiving Western humanitarian and financial aid for Africa. In addition to these challenges, African families also face the influence of pagan cultures, for example polygamy, and the harmful effects of poverty on family life.
ZENIT: Is the Synod addressing these problems?
Cardinal Sarah: During the Synod, there have been recommendations that the Church should affirm and promote her vision of marriage and the family, which the Church has inherited through faith and tradition. We have to listen again to what Jesus said, “In the beginning the Creator made them male and female… For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19: 4-6). We must strongly and firmly defend the teachings given to us in Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium of the Church. It is also necessary for the Church to come up with pastoral approaches taking into account these challenges. I do believe this is what we are aiming for in the Synod.
ZENIT: Do you think concrete positive developments can be made by the next Synod?
Cardinal Sarah: Yes, the main task of the extraordinary Synod was to draw up the situation of today’s family and the challenges that the Church faces in her pastoral ministry to the family that lives in such hostile situation. In view of this, I am happy to note that the Synod of the family in 2015 will be dedicated to the theme of the vocation and mission of the family within the Church and in the contemporary world. We will be listening God’s teaching and the teaching of the Church.
ZENIT: How is Pope Francis supporting the Synod?
Cardinal Sarah: First of all, the Holy Father sees that families today have been attacked. He feels the pain and brokenness experienced in many families. He wanted the Church to dedicate two years to pray and reflect on the family in view of the new evangelization. He sees the Church as a Mother who truly cares for the family. The Holy Father follows closely the Synod with his presence in the different sessions. I believe that in this period of new evangelization for the Church, the difficult situations of families and addressing the challenges they face is close to his heart. This is the reason why he has called for this special Synod.