A Vatican official praised the television show “Modern Family” for raising interest in the complexities of family life today, saying it ties in well with Pope Francis’ initiatives to address pastoral care of families.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia of the Pontifical Council for the Family was speaking at a United Nations event when he made the remark last Thursday. Paglia said:
” ‘[P]henomena like the media production “Modern Family,” or same-sex marriage initiatives in a significant number of jurisdictions, the family has become the subject of increasingly intense interest and discussion.’ “
Paglia, speaking during the annual Day of the Family, nuanced his remarks by criticizing the “ideological” discourses which dominate these discussions. Crux’s report continues:
“[Discussion] centers too much on definitions of the family unacceptable to one political current or another, and on economic considerations…
“Instead, he said, family is a complex of human relationships characterized by love, fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, trust, conflict, joy, fruitfulness, nurture, respect, celebration, protection, memory and faith.”
However, the archbishop noted that addressing family life through existing models is not only insufficient for the church’s pastoral care, but for the authentic development of peoples as well. Family breakdown undermines the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals.” Pope Francis’ emphasis on families — in the synod of bishops last October and this fall, in his weekly audience addresses, and in his attendance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia — is an effort to reverse these trends. Paglia, whose Vatican office sponsors the World Meeting of Families, noted:
” ‘Clearly, what the Catholic Church is striving for is a new, more authentic flourishing of the family, and with it all of society.’ “
“Modern Family” presents a family in all its messiness, but one ultimately marked by those traits heralded above by Archbishop Paglia. In the show, a gay male couple with an adopted child are part of an extended family network that includes others in non-traditional arrangements.
Archbishop Paglia is naming a reality that many Catholics already know, which is that the struggle for LGBT inclusion and other renewal efforts is often a struggle for a “more authentic flourishing of the family.” Marriage equality has been about strengthening couples and their families by public recognition and legal protection. The most passionate church reformers are frequently the parents of LGBT children seeking a Catholic community which will embrace their family unconditionally and treat their children justly. Fundamentally, when Catholics stand for LGBT justice, they are acknowledging the common family shared by being siblings in Christ as members of the church.
Family is at the heart of our advocacy and our outreach. Between now and the synod, I hope Archbishop Paglia sits down with Pope Francis to watch a few more episodes of “Modern Family.” Even more so, I hope they will listen to the real stories, the real complexities of Catholic families in all their forms today as the church discerns a more loving, merciful, and just pastoral program.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
U.S. Catholic, “Loving Our Modern Families“