Pope Says Legalized Divorce is Contributing to the “Demolishing” of the Family

Tue Sep 29, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

VATICAN CITY, September 29, 2009 ( - In an address to the Brazilian bishops on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI on Friday criticized legalized divorce as one effect of secular influences that "seem bent on demolishing" the family.

(Click here to view Pope Benedict's address in Portuguese.) 

The pontiff discussed the modern crisis of the family with prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, who had come to Vatican City for the "Ad Limina" pilgrimage to the sepulchers of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Marriage, the pope reminded them, is a "natural institution confirmed by divine law, which is ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, which is its crown."  "Putting all of this into question are forces and voices in today's society that seem bent on demolishing the natural cradle of human life," he said. 

Benedict noted that some of the bishops in his audience had often pointed out to him "this harassment of the family" in their correspondence.

While "the Church tirelessly teaches that the family has its foundation in marriage and in God's plan," said the pontiff, "the secularized world is dominated by profound uncertainty on this matter, especially since western societies legalized divorce.

"The only recognized foundation seems to be individual subjectivity, expressed in a desire to live together."

He continued: "The number of marriages is falling because no one wants to commit themselves on such fragile and unpredictable grounds, the number of 'de facto' unions is increasing, and divorces are on the rise.  It is in this fragile scenario that the drama of so many children is played out - deprived of the support of their parents, victims of apprehension and abandonment - and social disorder grows."

The pope insisted that "the Church cannot remain indifferent in the face of the separation and divorce of couples, the break-up of homes, and the repercussions on children who need extremely precise points of reference for their instruction and education: in other words, determined and confident parents who participate in their upbringing."

It is this principle of education, he said, that "is being undermined and compromised by the practice of divorce."  The pope criticized the "so-called extended and mobile family which increases the number of 'fathers' and 'mothers,' and leads to a situation today in which the majority of those who feel orphaned are not children without parents, but children with a surplus of parents."

Benedict urged married couples to return "to the solidity of the Christian family, a place of mutual trust, of reciprocal giving, of respect for freedom and of education to social life," and said it is upon such families "that the social fabric must be recreated."

"With all the understanding the Church feels towards certain situations, couples in their second marriage are not like those in their first; theirs is an irregular and dangerous situation which must be resolved, in faithfulness to Christ, finding, with the help of the priest, a way possible to rehabilitate everyone involved," he said.

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