Saturday, December 9 2023

“Parents must have the courage to discover and enter into the media
world. There is no other alternative: their children are already

—Is the family in crisis or is the family an opportunity?

The family is without a doubt always an opportunity and an option.

To form a family responds to the human desire to develop a profound
belonging. It is a place where one has the certainty of being able to love
and to simply be. It can become the perfect place for developing
the fundamental qualities of the human person and the qualities in which
society is built upon. The family therefore is not an extra structure;
rather, it is the heart of society. We need to believe in the family, which
is precisely what John Paul II called for most during his pontificate. Even
though great fragility exists in families today, it continues to be the
place for men and women to grow and become educated.

—Is forming a family a job for super-heroes?

Today in Italy, building up a family is without a doubt a heroic venture
for young adults. To form a new family implies two already difficult
situations: being young and forming a family. In Italy, it is not easy to
be young. The Italian youth are heavily penalized by our education, work,
and welfare systems. Moreover, the family is not an option promoted by the
social context. Two young people who say today, “we’re getting married in
six months”, receive the response “wait, who told you to do that”?

—Where do we go from there?

It wasn’t like this years ago. There’s a need to rediscover the fresh and
beautiful challenge of doing a project together, forever. Today, forming a
family is not easy because it is an endeavor which one must take on in a
cynical climate that leaves the spouses unaided, on their own. It demands
heroism, but a conscious heroism that is capable of presenting itself as
something normal, and at the same time, attractive; a heroism for real men
and women.

—The parents also see that a part of their educational role is taken by
the media. Can they recover it?

The parents are in a difficult situation regarding their educational
responsibility, with or without the media. The difficulty is rooted in the
reality of being parents: to say yes or no, to have authority and exercise
it. In general, the context of the modern world does not facilitate the
development of parental authority because it generally denies “respect for
authority”. On the other hand, it is necessary to remember that loving the
destiny of the children does not mean leaving them alone; above all, it
requires the parents to enter into harmony with their children, to guide
them and cultivate the growth of their talents until they become
independent. Authority therefore, is one of the fundamental backbones of
education and ought to be recuperated.

—Authority as education?

I use the word “authoritativeness” and not “authoritarianism” because the
two terms are obviously quite different. However, it is necessary to
clarify that the role of the parents is radically different than the role
of their children. Being a parent requires the practice of a
non-democratic, asymmetrical responsibility that generates an unequal
power. It demands precise and direct responsibility over the children,
which is nothing other than the fruit of conjugal love.

—Is it possible to combine love and authority?

It implies that a parent loves his own child, not only because he is “other
than you”, but in order to make him become autonomous, to educate him in
respect to the truth and in the capacity to find and understand the reality
as “other than himself”, as a gift. To love therefore, implies positively
entering into the development of the children, constantly haggling, so to
speak, their freedom. In this context, there are two key words that are
related to each other: authority, authoritativeness, and responsibility.
The authority implies exercising judgment of a good or a bad; avoiding
authoritarianism or the extreme opposite, which would be the renunciation
of the responsibility to judge. This approach favors an seemingly
politically correct “laissez faire” that in effect, results in the
surrender of one’s responsibility to educate.

—What is the idea of family that is presented in public opinion?

There is a “no idea” presented in public opinion that renders it one of the
most difficult issues to discuss. The idea of the family is left for each
individual to determine, since any way of living together has come to be
considered family. The family, not only from a Christian perspective, but
also in the lens of being something good in itself, is the loving and
peaceful encounter between man and woman, who are open to life, assume the
responsibility and therefore educate. It is in this way that society is

—What would be the key elements of the concept of family?

There are four elements of the anthropological identity of family: the
relationship/alliance between the sexual difference (the great idea in
Genesis which affirms that image of God is rooted precisely in this
reality: “man and woman, He created them, in his image and likeness”), the
procreative capacity, the educational and the social responsibility. From
the ecclesiastical point of view, there is the additional responsibility to
build up the Church.

— What are the profound needs of the family that the media does not
address in a reliable way?

The first need of the family that the media does not address is the need
for truth and love in the relationships within the family. Today the family
must frantically follow the rhythms of life that are imposed on all of the
members of a society full of activity and commitments. The risk is that in
the midst of this congestion of commitments, love becomes neglected. The
most important thing is to be happy in one’s own house, with the people
chosen as life-long companions. Being family is not a guarantee for
happiness. The happiness within a family is a desire and a task that each
one of us must take on in order to build it up day by day, throughout our
entire lives.

The second great need of each family, though difficult to recognize, is the
need for sharing and openness. The family that limits itself to the
confines of its own living quarters creates a poor family life. The
openness to other families, on the contrary, is a social mandate inherent
to “forming a family”. At the end of a marriage preparation course, the
real question posed to the couples, especially to the young couples, is the
possibility of finding companionship and friendship in the place where they
have chosen to live.

—Are there other needs?

A third need of the family involves the public discourse on the family. If
you live in a society where the family is presented as a viper’s nest, a
place of violence or a series of imprisoning relationships, then it is
difficult to have a positive model. It is therefore appropriate to think of
how to present the topic of the family in a positive way, as “good news”.
There are many happy families, though with difficulties and limitations,
but they are truly happy. These families aren’t presented by the media or
in television series. Simply talking about how young people today try to
form a family is already a positive step, for it is a representation of
that ideal that people desire to fulfill.

—Is it that difficult to educate in the context of the media?

Now, more than ever, the family doesn’t educate by itself, even though this
has always been the case. The current social context is particularly
intrusive and extremely powerful; and, the distance between generations is
more strongly defined by the relationship with the media world. Parents
today are in the front lines of this change and they find themselves at a
critical turning point; above all because of the power of the new media
that brings people to live in a totally virtual world. Parents must know
that all of the media is an opportunity as well as a risk. They must have
the courage to discover and enter into the media world. They have no other
alternative: their children are already there.

—Could you offer any practical advise?

Perhaps the key is to avoid one’s own child from becoming isolated before a
computer or video game console, and find in those means the opportunity to
educate, adapted to each circumstance. For example, to decide that there
can only be one computer at home, located in a common room (similar to what
used to be done with the television years ago), where people share and grow
together, helping to exercise freedom.

In other words, try to find a space where it may be possible to educate the
family in the responsible use of the media. You learn a language in the
company of others. Many young people are still learning the intellectual
alphabet in the virtual world. Even though they know how the programs work
from the technical point of view, they have not mastered the nuances of a
language composed of moral attitudes, relationship choices, values that
deeply affect them. They are immersed in the language of the media that
launches them suddenly into the context of a global culture, where concepts
such as friendship, work, love, family, God, have undergone many
ideological social pressures, and this generates a disorientation of values
that is very difficult to contrast.

Our families should become places of experience and of testimony to the
beauty of being together, of family bonds, of the alliance of couples and
of families. Only in this way can our young people know how to govern the
new media and the ensuing opportunities , instead of being governed by the
new media, as it is often the case.


The Congress on the Family in Chile, on the occasion of the Bicentennial Anniversary of its Foundation


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