We stand for life, for marriage, and for family

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Last month we welcomed Ben Smith, his wife Julianna and their six children to Hobart. Ben is taking on the role of Director of the Office for Life, Marriage and Family. Previously he led a similar office for the Diocese of Parramatta. He comes to us with experience in this area and qualifications from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

The Office for Life, Marriage and Family was established four years ago and Dr Brigid McKenna was its first Director. Earlier this year Dr McKenna was offered a teaching position in the Faculty of Medicine at UTAS, so we searched for a replacement.

An office for life, marriage and family in a Catholic diocese is a sign of the times. Society around us is in a continuous state of flux concerning life, marriage and family. We can see the Christian vision being eroded and we know that what is being proposed will not serve the wellbeing of the individuals concerned nor the health and wellbeing of our society. 

The issue of the protection of human life from conception to its natural end is a vital one in contemporary society. To its critics the Church seems out of sync with modern attitudes. However, its teaching derives from an awareness that God is the author of all human life. Each human soul is a unique creation and every human life has transcendent value.

The protection of human life is a key commitment of the Church. Despite the increase in abortion, the Church stands firm in its desire to protect and nurture every human life. It will continue to promote the “Gospel of Life”. In a similar way, it rejects efforts to open the door to assisted suicide. Life is God’s gift and we entrust every life in all its mystery to the hands of God.

The office is also dedicated to fostering the Christian vision of marriage. The Church turns to Divine Revelation and faithfully teaches what we find in the Sacred Scriptures: “God made them male and female”. Men and women were designed with marriage in mind. They were created equal but different, complementing one another. Masculinity and femininity are a gift and should be embraced as such.

The Book of Genesis immediately moves from describing the creation of man and woman to speak of marriage: “This is why a man leaves his mother and father and joins himself to his wife and they become one body”. Man and woman were created for marriage. This is God’s plan for human life.

The Lord himself draws on the teaching of Genesis to emphasise that “what God has joined, man must not divide”. The Christian understanding of marriage is grounded in a belief that God’s wise plan for human life is something that works.

In the present environment, when there is much confusion about the nature of marriage and doubt about its capacity to be an enduring source for human happiness, it is important that the Church presents marriage as a path for human fulfilment. The natural orientation to marriage is enriched by its sacramental dimension. It is graced by God.

There is a need to develop a renewed culture of marriage in our society. It is important that young people approach marriage with a full and rich understanding of its meaning. It is important that they understand God’s purpose for human sexuality. To this end we are developing what is being called the ‘Matrimonium Project’.

Finally, there is an increasingly urgent need to publically promote the fundamentally important role of the natural family for society. In the face of attempts to redefine the nature of the family and the capacity of natural families to work for the full human flourishing of their children, the Church needs to constantly work to support family life.

When we look around at our society we see so many issues related to life, marriage and family. Certainly, it is beyond the capacity of one person to address the many challenges before us. Indeed, one of our major challenges is that even many Catholics have not had the opportunity to know the full richness and beauty of the Church’s teaching in these areas. This will be one of Ben’s primary tasks and a key focus of the Matrimonium Project.

We, as the Catholic Church in Tasmania, declare that we stand for life, for marriage, and for family.