The Family: A Good for Humanity
The First Catholic-Orthodox Forum, organized by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), took place in Trent from Thursday to Sunday. Seventeen representatives of European bishops' conferences, Vatican dicasteries, and Orthodox Churches met to discuss the theme "The Family: A Good for Humanity." The Forum is not a theological dialogue; rather, it seeks to "help define common positions on social and moral questions. By engaging in this exchange, we help each other realize just how close our moral and social doctrines are."
"Marriage and the family," participants jointly affirmed, "belong to the created order and are not a product of mere human decision. Written into the very nature of human being and revealed to us in the Bible, the family, founded on marriage, was established by God as a union between man and woman. The Bible presents us with a vision of the family as a unity of life-giving love, an indissoluble relationship, open to life ... There is a most urgent need to rediscover the understanding of the family and marriage. We believe that one of the primary causes of the current demographic crisis and all related crises is the rejection of this understanding."
Forum participants emphasized parental education rights: "We affirm that, since they have conferred life on their children, parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them. They must be acknowledged as the generally best suited and the first and foremost educators of their children. We call upon the political institutions to ensure the parents' right to educate their children in conformity with their moral and religious convictions, taking into account the cultural traditions of the family. This includes the right to freely choose schools or other means necessary to educate their children in keeping with their convictions. In particular, sex education is a basic right of the parents and must always be carried out according to their choice and under their close supervision."
Participants also hoped for a situation in which "both parents need not necessarily be obliged to work full time outside the home to the detriment of family life and especially to the detriment of the education of children. We call upon the public institutions to recognize and respect the work of the mother in the home because of its value for the family and for society. The issue of ‘child care' needs further consideration with the best interests of the child as the guiding principle."
Echoing the joint statement, Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna said that the sexual revolution destroyed "the balance between a man and a woman in the family deeply rooted in the human nature, overturned the idea of maternity, and damaged the image of a husband as a ‘breadwinner' who is mainly responsible to support his family."