I applaud the bishops for addressing that many of the challenges to the modern family are not obstacles of their own making. Paragraphs six through nine of the “short” document address these problems, if not in all particulars, with a hopeful and reverent tone.
All families struggle with illness, infirmity, and death–it is part of our being less than perfect in all aspects of our lives:
We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.
As a parent of a special needs adopted child, I appreciate this statement. We do not always handle the challenges of life perfectly, but I think admiration is a good approach. Gratitude is not lost on many family members, either–especially when it is expressed by clergy.
I would have been surprised if one of the “true” dictatorships of the world was not mentioned:
We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii Gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.
Outside of our First World comforts, people suffer indignities largely unimaginable to Europeans and North Americans and East Asians:
We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii Gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.
Governments do have a role. In democracies, every official, elected or otherwise, represents people. Gridlock, in the face of these challenges, is a termination offense.
This statement of welcome satisfies me:
Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.
I affirm this document’s tone that avoids navel-gazing. The lamentable movement to turn the Church into a culture of the victimized has been halted, I think. I hope. Our place is not to bemoan our own persecutions, even the ones we’re not imagining, but to advocate for those who are true victims.
And even misguided people have a place with us.
For reference, the so-called “short” document is online is here, in English.