Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from an address given yesterday, March 9, from the Holy Father to U.S. bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota who were in Rome for their “ad limina” visit. (All emphasis added.)
Pope Benedict began his talk by referencing the other meetings he’s had this year with other bishops from the United States, in which they discussed current threats to freedom of conscience, religion, and worship. He continued:
In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.
The Holy Father went out to specifically address the current proposals in the United States to redefine marriage by exiling sexual difference from the marriage covenant:
In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.
He then spoke beautifully about the virtue of chastity, needed by married and unmarried people alike:
In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality.
Finally, the Holy Father reiterated again the Church’s great concern for the littlest among us, children, who inordinately suffer from the eclipse of chastity and marriage in American society:
Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment.
Pope Benedict’s words – so current and so rich – provide a faithful compass for the work of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project. They deserve to be read and re-read and contemplated in depth