“A great number of children are born outside of wedlock, many of whom subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in a blended or reconstituted family. The sexual exploitation of children is yet another scandalous and perverse reality in present-day society. Societies experiencing violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime are witnessing the deterioration of the family, above all in large cities, where, on their outskirts, the so-called phenomenon of ‘street-children’ is on the rise.” The sexual abuse of children is all the more scandalous when it occurs in places where they ought to be most safe, particularly in families, schools, communities and Christian institutions.
Migration is another sign of the times to be faced and understood in terms of its negative effects on family life. In accompanying migrants, the Church needs a specific pastoral program addressed not only to families that migrate but also to those family members who remain behind. This pastoral activity must be implemented with due respect for their cultures, for the human and religious formation from which they come and for the spiritual richness of their rites and traditions, even by means of a specific pastoral care. Migration is particularly dramatic and devastating to families and individuals when it takes place illegally and is supported by international networks of human trafficking. Extreme poverty and other situations of family breakdown sometimes even lead families to sell their children for prostitution or for organ trafficking. Every effort should be encouraged, even in a practical way, to assist families and Christian communities to remain in their native lands.
Families who lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are greatly to be admired. People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity.
Most families have great respect for the elderly, surrounding them with affection and considering them a blessing. Care and concern for the final stages of life is all the more necessary today, when contemporary society attempts to remove every trace of death and dying. The elderly who are vulnerable and dependent are at times unfairly exploited simply for economic advantage. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are serious threats to families worldwide; in many countries, they have been legalized. The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels the need to assist families who take care of their elderly and infirm members.
We need to care for families living in dire poverty and that have great limitations. The problems faced by poor households are often all the more trying. For example, if a single mother has to raise a child by herself and needs to leave the child alone at home while she goes to work, the child can grow up exposed to all kinds of risks and obstacles to personal growth. In such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother Church called to show them God’s mercy.