By Ann Schneible
-- Remarking on Pope Francis' strong words against the threats which “ideological colonization” poses to the family, the Vatican's spokesman told journalists Friday that redefining marriage falls within this category.
In an address to more than 1,000 Filipino families in Manila on Jan. 16, Pope Francis decried the “new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family.”
The Pope also warned against increasing efforts “to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”
The Holy Father made similar statements in defense of marriage earlier in the day, as he said Mass in Manila's cathedral: “Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.”
He then warned the faithful against “powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
The Jan. 16 Mass in Manila's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, followed by the encounter families in Manila's main sports arena, were among the key events on the agenda of Pope Francis' tour of Sri Lanka and the Philippines, which runs Jan. 12-19.
During a press briefing later that evening the head of the Holy See press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed to journalists that this “colonization” of which Pope Francis spoke refers in part to gay marriage.
“I think that it is well-known that the perspective of the Church about the family is that the family is based on the union of the marriage of a man and a woman.”
For Catholics, the family is “the union of the man and the woman, and the children that come from this union,” the spokesman added. “If there are persons that desire to have community in other ways… this is not for us a family.”
Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila, who was on the panel at the press briefing, cited concerns raised during last October's Synod on the Family by bishops and laypeople, particularly from Africa, about the attempt to use foreign aid to impose Western views of marriage and sexuality.
According to these bishops, foreign aid is “oftentimes is linked to some measures that the receiving country is somehow forced to accept,” the cardinal said. “Some of the conditions for the aid seem to be an acceptance or a welcoming of some views regarding marriage, or sexuality, or what, which could be alien to the vision of the receiving country or culture.”
Citing Pope Francis' statement listing the “lack of openness to life” as one of the threats against the family, Cardinal Tagle addressed the Church's efforts with regard to the Philippines' recent legislation on contraception.
Signed in 2013 by the Philippine's president Benigno Aquino, the reproductive health law requires government-sanctioned sex education for adults, middle school and high school students.
The law also requires fully subsidized contraceptives under government health insurance. The Filipino bishops have been vocal opponents of the law.
“We will continue preaching what the Church teaches,” Cardinal Tagle told journalists. “With or without the law, we continue our mission.”
The cardinal added that the criteria applied to contraception could carry through in addressing the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics during this year's Synod of Bishops on the Family.
There was widespread media attention during last year's Synod on the Family, a precursor to the upcoming gathering this year on the same theme, regarding the pastoral care for divorced and remarried couples.
Much of the speculation centered on whether civilly remarried couples could be admitted to Communion without having received an annulment.
The cardinal noted that during last October's gathering, which dealt with a broad range of issues relating to the family, the bishops “were given a wider picture of the various cases, particular contexts, of marriage”.
Looking at the pastoral response in the context of Church teaching, Cardinal Tagle added that, in this year's Synod on the family, the Church's approach to contraception “can be carried through to other concerns or other questions regarding the family.”