There are two questions we should ask ourselves when we read a “dated” document: How have times changed since the document was written? Can the document be of relevance to us today?
Cardinal Caffarra began his intervention with these thoughtful questions at the Conference entitled “The Familiaris consortio 30 years later” held by AMBER Association (Billings Method Association in Emilia Romagna) on 22 January, 2012.
During his talk, he spoke about how the Christian proposal of the family and marriage throughout the centuries had been accepted in principle but had met with difficulties on a practical level. He summarizes this common perception in a sentence: “this view of marriage and family is something authentic and beautiful but cannot be put into practice in its entirety.” Previously, the question of the truth of marriage (i.e. its indissolubility and responsible procreation) was not questioned though discussion was raised regarding its practical aspects.
“In the last decades, however, a radical historical change has taken place”, states the Archbishop of Bologna. Nowadays, it is not the practical aspects of the Christian proposal which is in question, moreover, it is the search for the truth of the institution of marriage.
In the past, numerous cultures, with all but a few exceptions saw marriage as a permanent and stable institution that certain personal convictions could not change. Today, the situation is quite the contrary.
The Archbishop also explained that the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio by John Paul II, was written when certain cultural processes of marriage dissolution were already in progress. For this reason, the document still offers a valid solution to the opposing destructive tendencies existing today. Its method is propositional and its content presents anthropology as a preliminary approach to understanding marriage and family as an authentic and genuine reality. It also presents faith as a parameter of discernment in order to find a way of living a fulfilling life in today’s society.
There is a need to rebuild the family and marriage along the guidelines of the document, but, as Caffarra states, “in order for this to happen, Christian thought must face three fundamental challenges in today’s society: metaphysical nihilism, moral cynicism and asocial individualism”.
The full document of the conference can be downloaded in the Documents section (translations is ours)