Amoris Laetitia 172: The Love of a Mother and a Father

amoris laetitia memeSections 172 through 177 deal with the topic of “the love of a mother and a father.” A first word from the Holy Father and a teaching he offered last Fall:

172. “Children, once born, begin to receive, along with nourishment and care, the spiritual gift of knowing with certainty that they are loved. This love is shown to them through the gift of their personal name, the sharing of language, looks of love and the brightness of a smile. In this way, they learn that the beauty of human relationships touches our soul, seeks our freedom, accepts the difference of others, recognizes and respects them as a partner in dialogue… Such is love, and it contains a spark of God’s love!”(Catechesis (14 October 2015)) Every child has a right to receive love from a mother and a father; both are necessary for a child’s integral and harmonious development. As the Australian Bishops have observed, each of the spouses “contributes in a distinct way to the upbringing of a child. Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to have a mother and a father”.(Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Pastoral Letter Don’t Mess with Marriage (24 November 2015), 13)

If this is true, and I’m not arguing against it as such, it means that significant numbers of children who await adoption are denied this “right,” simply because older children are considered less desirable than newborns. While individual couples may discern that adoption isn’t a calling, Christian couples as a body would seem to be indicted for the lack of enthusiasm for adoption, especially those who promote so-called family issues.

Having a mother and a father is an ideal that is probably realized more often today than in previous generations with higher mortality rates.

We are speaking not simply of the love of father and mother as individuals, but also of their mutual love, perceived as the source of one’s life and the solid foundation of the family. Without this, a child could become a mere plaything. Husband and wife, father and mother, both “cooperate with the love of God the Creator, and are, in a certain sense, his interpreters”.(Gaudium et Spes, 50) They show their children the maternal and paternal face of the Lord. Together they teach the value of reciprocity, of respect for differences and of being able to give and take. If for some inevitable reason one parent should be lacking, it is important to compensate for this loss, for the sake of the child’s healthy growth to maturity.

This last sentence is sensible. There are reasons for the loss of mother or father. Having a mother and a father cannot be seen to be an absolute right. But it may well be enough of an objective good that some leeway is needed as the Church administers situations that are less than ideal, but have workable solutions within the bounds of child-rearing.


For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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