It is not without reason that the Catholic Church describes the family as the domestic Church, for the family is the cornerstone of the Church. When Catholic families are in crisis, so, most likely, is the Church.
Much the same can be said about the health of society in general, since a high incidence of unstable families, or a high rate of family breakdown, impacts on every facet of social life and government, e.g., education, health and law and order.
When governments actively or passively undermine the family, they soon sow what they reap. Radical economic rationalist policies - accompanied by a downsized workforce - have seen a reduction in the number of full-time male breadwinners who can realistically contemplate marriage. At the same time, government policies or judicial decisions equating alternative arrangements to marriage between a man and a woman, solemnly undertaken, can weaken respect and commitment leading to higher levels of divorce.
The statistics discussed on page 8 of the current issue highlight the kinds of problems facing families today and go a long way towards explaining the kind of crisis of faith Benedict XVI identified "above all in Australia" as well as in other parts of the Western world, including his native Germany.
The steep decline in Mass attendances, the low level of observance of the Church's moral teachings, the relative few entering the priesthood and religious life, all connect with the parlous state of the family - including the decline in numbers of children.
It is, of course, much easier to state the complex problem. It is far more difficult to plot a series of feasible steps that might remedy the situation.
For starters, more Catholics need to be pro-active in the political arena, so that governments are encouraged to resist the pressures of minority groups bent on destabilising the family and to better appreciate the wisdom of building a social, economic and cultural environment that is truly family friendly.
This will be good for our society and likewise good for the Church.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor AD2000 (email - email@example.com)