Posted on: 2015-11-11

Around the world

Catholics all over the world  could be forgiven for thinking that only the Catholic Church and the Pope have emphasized marriage and family life in the whole world in the last 12 months. This is because since the "advance"  Synod on the Family held in the Vatican in October 2014 there have been countless seminars, activities and ceremonies within dioceses, nations and even international catholic organizations on the subject. Pope Francis himself has also addressed the issue on many occasions, not least at the World Meeting of Families held in Philadelphia, USA just before the "second" apex Synod on the Family of October 2015. Just before that Synod, Pope Francis issued another landmark document entitled "Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus" (The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge). That document brought greater clarity and simplicity to hitherto cumbersome and complex processes of marriage annulment to the benefit of married Catholics. The Pope's initiative has been welcomed by many in the spirit of the "Year of Mercy" declared for the Church by the Pope and it underlines the Church's desire to alleviate the burden of married people and families. In truth, many other initiatives are going on all over the world in defense of marriage and the natural family and those initiatives are happily driven largely  by married people and secular organizations who believe in the two universal  human phenomena.

The World Congress of Families 

Perhaps the most important of such initiatives is the World Congress of Families, WCF, the 9th edition of which took place in Salt Lake City, Utah in the USA from 27th till 31st October 2015. Going by the website of the WCF, it is "the premier gathering of parents, youths, lawmakers, scholars, religious leaders and advocates united to affirm, celebrate and encourage the natural family". Given the privilege of participating in the event, I simply wondered if there could really be a bigger, better, or more comprehensive forum for  the defined purpose. There were participants of diverse status, religions, denominations, races or ages, standing up for what the entire world used to cherish and benefit from, but which now stands threatened by powerful modern, misleading movements of fancy. Many superb speakers addressed different aspects of the general theme: Family; the Promise begins with me". One of the spectacular speakers was Francisco Tatad, former Majority leader for the Philippines senate, who ably demonstrated what it means for a non-clergyman to be co-responsible for the Church's mission in the world. Demonstrating total faith conviction, he declared to the 5,000 strong hall: "The global attack on human dignity, on the integrity of the human person and the family, is ultimately an attack on God. The war of religions is over, but the war on religion has only just begun and the target is no longer any individual religion in particular, but God. He has become the arch enemy.  Many things have been invoked  to justify or explain it. Science is one; reason is another. Yet some of the most eminent men of science and learning have testified  that there is no conflict between faith and science, between reason and faith". Tatad's eloquence really did engender a longing in me to see more lay Christians stand up and speak up in a similar way for  faith and values in Nigeria.

Does God have rights

Most of the participants expressed anxiety about how in  modern times just about any kind of human behavior or tendency is conferred with the status of rights in clear exaggeration and abuse of the term.  Ironically, God, the only one who is the source and origin of all rights does not seem to share in this modern largesse of modern man's. Tatad lamented this modernist relativism, already correctly highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI,  whereby the crude and vulgar liberalist mantra: "I have a right to my own body" demands to be treated as a serious philosophy. He said: "They hate the fact that they have to reckon with a Transcendent Being, unimaginably more immense and powerful than themselves. In a world that zealously protects everyone's intellectual property to their crudest inventions, God alone is denied his intellectual property rights to his own creation". This absurdity of modern reality which can  tempt anyone to ask whether God has any rights can only be correctly confronted by people of faith. If there is a kingdom of God to be established on earth it can only mean that there is a king who makes the rules and everyone else is subject to those rules in his kingdom.

Bring God back into his world

The Bible supports that methodology. God is the one who established man and not vice- versa and he did so according to very clear terms. "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground. God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1: 26-27). Man's departure from this scheme is bound to cause a storm,  which according to  Tatad, leaves in its path "a debris of withered lives, shriveled families, shrunken cultures and a woeful caricature of creation". It is into this universal chaos that it is necessary to bring God back, right into that space where men and women have sought to abolish his existence. The World Congress of Families was undoubtedly a great platform for achieving that. It is certainly a legitimate desire that such an event be replicated in various nations across the world not least in Nigeria.