Posted on: 2016-10-05

Concerns for Missions

The work of the missions in our time has so very many facets. Considering mission during the Jubilee of Mercy necessitates that we step up our commitment to ITS most urgent need of mission. Christians are called to bring the kingdom of God and the Gospel to the ends of the world not just to the few kilometer circumference of their daily life and existence. One aspect of life that is most in need of our missionary effort is the family. The Universal Catholic Church in the past few years has done so much to guide the thoughts and actions of the faithful in this direction. In considering the Christian family it is inevitable to address the marriage institution. Pope Francis at an audience with priests, religious and pastoral workers on October 1 this year uncovered one of the most potent dangers to marriage when he spoke of contemporary gender theory as “a great enemy of marriage today”. He then followed up this thought when he was interviewed some days later on his way from Georgia. “Today the whole world is at war trying to destroy marriage,” he said, noting that this war isn’t being fought with arms “but with ideas.” There are “certain ideologies that destroy marriage,” he said. “So we need to defend ourselves from ideological colonization.”

Extending the reach

The Holy Father’s concern is obviously serious enough to attract our concerted action. In fact support for the Marriage institution has already, justifiably risen to the top of the pastoral agenda of the Church in Africa. The Bishops of Africa under the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences for Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) made it the focus of their symposium in Angola last July after several consultations and conferences preparatory to the last Synod of the Universal Church on the Family last year in the Vatican. In the final document, the symposium called for the protection of marriage under all circumstances in order to secure the family as the ideal space for bringing up good citizens for any society.

Much nearer home

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), just as concerned about new developments all over the world, also issued a statement last year on the family which deserves to be brought to be re-published at this time. The statement, entitled “Our Stand on Marriage, Family and Human Society”, in its opening paragraph, read as follows:

“The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria would like to once again reiterate the perspective of the Church on more recent developments concerning the sanctity and dignity of human life and the institution of marriage and the family all across the world.  The recent rise in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activism, the popular vote in the Republic of Ireland and the Supreme Court decision in the United States of America will tend to provoke a notable and rapid shift in public opinion about the nature and meaning of marriage and family as it has been known for millennia. This, in many countries, has inevitably led to powerful legislative and judicial manoeuvres to redefine marriage in order to include ‘same sex marriage’. We wish to state that this is a sad, unjust and lamentable situation based largely upon a distorted perception of natural law, the will of God and human nature”.

Pressure building up

The Bishops were absolutely right. More recently in Nigeria the activities of anti-marriage and anti-family lobbyists have truly increased, with even public servants and government officials unabashedly nudging the authorities to accept and promote anti marriage orientations and tendencies. The Bishops rightly cried out for caution and the opportune time for all Christians to heed their cry is now. “We call on our leaders to be circumspect. Accepting this western trend by officially endorsing homosexual unions or ‘same sex marriage’ will be devastating and detrimental to our nation, Nigeria as it will lead to the inevitable deconstruction of the family and the society at large with other serious but negative implications…. We call upon President Muhammadu Buhari and all our esteemed leaders, legislators and judges to shun all pressures and protect all Nigerians from the growing but dangerous influence of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender propaganda”.  

The 2016 catechetical week

The Bishops of Nigeria took the trouble to also re-express clearly where they stand in regard to current realities on marriage. “On our part we hereby reemphasize that Marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman for the begetting and care of children. It forms the core of the family which is the bedrock and foundational cell of our civilization and as such it is sanctioned by God, upheld by our culture, celebrated in our society and protected by our government. The family deserves the protection from all civilized institutions as it predates society and is not subject to it. So our role is to promote it, protect it at a time like this when many countries have unfortunately chosen a different path”.  I that the theme chosen by CBCN for the catechetical week this year is “Family Catechesis: An Imperative for the New Evangelization”. The reflection, discussion and action ensuing from the week in our families, groups, outstations, parishes and dioceses must not end with the week. They must generate affirmative action for marriage and the family at every level of the life of the Church, local, nationally and universally. No one can seriously claim to be missionary minded today if he does not take mission to the family sufficiently seriously.