Pope Francis: Family Mustn't Be Used for Ideological Battles

The family is not a subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes, but rather an environment in which we learn to communicate, Pope Francis has said in his message for World Day of Communications published Friday.

In the 49th message for the Day, which will be celebrated on March 17, the Pope stressed that it is in the context of the family that we first learn to communicate. It enables us to pray, to embrace and support one another, and reach beyond itself to help others to help build up the Church – the “family of families.”

The Pope, who chose the message's theme of the family in view of the continuing Synod on the Family process, said it is also a place where we “daily experience our own limits and those of others”, and that it is the family “where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins,” therefore making it a “school of forgiveness”.

Having a disabled member can also be an incentive “to openness, sharing and communication with all,” Francis continued. But with social media, which he also said can be both harmful and beneficial, the “great challenge” facing the world today is to “learn once again how to talk to one another” and not simply “how to generate and consume information.”

“Information is important, but it is not enough,” the Pope said. “All too often things get simplified, different positions and viewpoints are pitted against one another, and people are invited to take sides, rather than to see things as a whole.”

He concluded: the family is not a “subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes,” but rather “an environment in which we learn to communicate in an experience of closeness, a setting where communication takes place, a "communicating community".

“The family is a community which provides help, which celebrates life and is fruitful,” he added. “Once we realize this, we will once more be able to see how the family continues to be a rich human resource, as opposed to a problem or an institution in crisis.”

He said the media can, at times, tend to present the family as a kind of “abstract model which has to be accepted or rejected, defended or attacked, rather than as a living reality, or else a grounds for ideological clashes rather than as a setting where we can all learn what it means to communicate in a love received and returned.”

But he stressed that relating our experiences “means realizing that our lives are bound together as a single reality, that our voices are many, and that each is unique.”

Families, he said, should be seen as a “resource rather than as a problem for society,” and families, at their best, actively communicate by their witness the “beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children.”

He ended by saying: “We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live.”

It's not entirely clear to whom the Pope's warning against making the family the subject of ideological battles is addressed. It may be just a general assessment related to what he's termed "ideological colonization", but some will see it as criticism of those at last year's synod who tried to introduce secular ideologies and subversive changes in pastoral practice into the debate on the family. Others may view it as a criticism of those who tried to uphold the Church's teaching in the face of these efforts. 

But another observation is that, for a message on family and communication, it not only omits any mention of sacred tradition -- long thought to be an essential form of communication in the family that comes from the Latin word 'trado' or 'tradere' meaning to hand over, to deliver, or to bequeath the teaching of the Apostles to the next generation -- but it seems to imply that defense of the past isn't worth fighting for, but rather to build "a better future". Whether this is the meaning that what was truly intended isn't clear.

The full text of the message can be read here.