Gaudium et Spes 47 begins a chapter titled, “Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and the Family.” This section sets the table for what will follow in this chapter.
The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family. Hence Christians and all (people) who hold this community in high esteem sincerely rejoice in the various ways by which (people) today find help in fostering this community of love and perfecting its life, and by which parents are assisted in their lofty calling. Those who rejoice in such aids look for additional benefits from them and labor to bring them about.
The Council realizes the positive influence marriage has for the individual and for society. Some of these aspects are spiritual, but not all. What I find missing from Church sources is the recognition of changes in society. And I don’t mean the external movements detrimental to marriage. I’m not sure some of the Church’s marriage thinkers have moved beyond the Catholic village mentality: extended family and the reinforcement of a Catholic culture amongst married couples.
What is needed is the development of alternatives to the “Catholic village” for married couples, especially young marrieds.
Yet the excellence of this institution is not everywhere reflected with equal brilliance, since polygamy, the plague of divorce, so-called free love and other disfigurements have an obscuring effect. In addition, married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation. Moreover, serious disturbances are caused in families by modern economic conditions, by influences at once social and psychological, and by the demands of civil society. Finally, in certain parts of the world problems resulting from population growth are generating concern.
I think these disturbances need to be recognized and evaluated. These would pile in on top of the massive cultural shifts in the Western world in the past century. Note that GS lists economic conditions immediately after the Catholic favorite, “illicit practices against human generation.”
All these situations have produced anxiety of consciences. Yet, the power and strength of the institution of marriage and family can also be seen in the fact that time and again, despite the difficulties produced, the profound changes in modern society reveal the true character of this institution in one way or another.
Despite these cultural problems and direct attacks, marriage retains high attractiveness as a vocation. That is a testament to our human constitution. I think it also bodes well for the sacramental aspect of marriage.
Therefore, by presenting certain key points of Church doctrine in a clearer light, this sacred synod wishes to offer guidance and support to those Christians and other (people) who are trying to preserve the holiness and to foster the natural dignity of the married state and its superlative value.
This presumption is an important one. We want to assume that married people want to succeed in their adventure. We want them to discover what is “superlative” about the married state.