Just one month before the start of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, the Vatican Secretary of State has given an indication that the main focus of the synod may not be the reforms that some in the Church hope for, but the legal and cultural threats to the family itself. The Church “understands the many threats to family life, in the form of policies and laws that allow or even hasten the dissolving of the family”, Cardinal Parolin told participants in the fifth annual conference of the International Catholic Legislators Network. He called upon those present “not only to live ‘in the midst of the world’ but also to be ‘a leaven in the world’ in favour of the family, the local community, and your respective nations.”
He added: “This means, by your words, by your witness and by your legislative and political actions informed by faith, you are called to foster a more just society, centred on the dignity of the human person.”
Speaking the day after the feast of St Augustine, the cardinal said: “I know that you are here because you are passionate about the ‘city on earth’ which seeks to root Christian morals and virtues ever more authentically in communities around the world, so that together we may reach the ‘City of God’.”
He pointed out that St Augustine wrote of “two loves”, that give rise to two cities: “the earthly one of love of self even to indifference towards God; and the heavenly one, of love of God even to indifference towards self”.
Augustine dedicates an entire work, The City of God, to learning how to understand the present circumstances and to establishing “a new order for living in society”, he said. “I believe that in our own difficult times, too, valuable indications emerge clearly from the experiences and teachings of Saint Augustine.”
“His Holiness Pope Francis has written that we are to strive to ‘light a fire in the heart of the world’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 271),” the cardinal said. “Just as the Church needs you, you need the Church. She places at your disposal her sacraments, her wise counsel and her commitment to the moral truths of the natural law. She supports your ongoing initiatives to serve the common good through sound lawmaking.”
Cardinal Parolin is one of the Council of Cardinals helping to advise Pope Francis on doctrinal and practical reforms. His relatively conservative stance could disappoint those hoping for changes to Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, contraception, communion for divorced and remarried persons, and other controversial topics at the 5-19 October synod.
The International Catholic Legislators Network was founded in 2010 by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and the British parliamentarian Lord David Alton, to discuss the promotion of Christian values and morals in the political arena.
Above: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, at the Vatican 20 March. Photo: CNS/Paul Harding