Challenges and Possibilities at the Beginning of the Third Millennium
They expressed their concerns, hopes and resolutions regarding
family and life issues in the following conclusions.
During the past 10 years,
many things have changed in Europe. This is particularly true with
regard to the family. The situation of families in Europe has
profoundly changed right before our eyes. We have noted some rather
disturbing elements in the current situation, but also some positive,
hopeful aspects. Based on these observations, we have outlined a
pastoral care of the family that will respond on the European scale to
the needs of our times. The Holy Father has given us an encouraging
message that we have tried to follow faithfully in these conclusions.
I. Challenges that exist today
The Church looks with great
concern on the difficult situation of the family and the challenges to
human dignity and even human life in Europe. Moreover, this situation
and the threats to human life are at the centre of parliamentary
A growing inability on the
part of many of our contemporaries to make decisions that are binding
in a definitive way, a decrease in interiority and the ability to
reflect, and a lifestyle shaped by consumerism are affecting the
structures of society in Europe. All this affects the family primarily
where self-destructive tendencies are manifested.
At a time when so much is
said about "future man" and his technological possibilities for
"improvement", it is important to be realistic and to condemn the
tendencies towards regression and dehumanization emerging in our
societies that favour the weakening and precariousness of the family.
These tendencies also represent challenges.
1. Some challenges come from the family itself
Today, when "new family
models" are spoken about uncritically, the word "family" is used in the
plural, and there is also a tendency to redefine the concept of
marriage itself. By departing from the fundamental notion of the
union-communion of two persons of different sexes who give themselves
to each other in an exclusive way without reservation or time
limitations, the ambiguous terms are multiplying in an effort to define
the "new family models". Thus, one speaks of the "single-parent
family", "recomposed family", "de facto unions" or even "homosexual
family". These so-called "new models" are deceptive.
First, the expression "single-parent family" contains a contradiction in terms. A child always
has two parents. To speak about a "single-parent family" is to deny the
existence of the absent parent, usually the father, and to give credit
to the growing matriarchal model.
Second, regarding the
so-called "recomposed" family, it should be noted that since it is the
result of a failure, it is conceived of and desired according to the
model of the nuclear family. But behind a so-called "recomposed"
family, there is a "broken" family that remains, and many times this is
the family that is important to the children.
Talking too much about the
"single-parent family" or the "recomposed family" and attempting to
extend the notion of family to homosexual couples has resulted in
emptying the idea of family of its meaning. There is a tendency to no
longer present the family as a simple "union between two persons" with
no further specification. The consequences of this deliberate vagueness
are grave, especially for the children. Indeed, all too often family
questions are seen today almost exclusively from the viewpoint of the
adults and their interests. Children are the first victims, often in
very painful conditions, of these "new models" that are neither new nor
2. Other challenges come from the secularization of society
Another important point to
be taken into consideration in this analysis of the challenges to
families in Europe today concerns the secularization of society and the
changes this has brought about in the philosophical and anthropological
perspective. By departing from any reference to God and any idea about
creation and proclaiming the human being's complete autonomy with
regard to "nature", our societies have not only fallen into grave
errors of judgment, but also into a process of dehumanization. Even
though the "human person" is still spoken about and an ever-longer list
of "rights" is claimed, man is no longer respected for his nature and
destiny. The art of right thinking and sound reasoning is left to
philosophical experts, while it is technology that prevails.
All of a sudden no one
knows how to solve "ethical" problems any more. Instead of moral
evaluation and wise propositions, all too often juridical positivism
triumphs in the course of justice, and pragmatism dictates law in
parliaments more and more. Of course, the number of ethical commissions
and committees is growing, but they cannot make definitive judgments.
They cannot make anything but so-called "consensual" verdicts, by
reducing all to a relative common denominator.
Such secularization has
been manifested recently in the rejection by some members of European
conventions of any reference to Europe's Christian roots in the future
Constitution of the Union.
3. Challenges from society through forming unjust laws
Since society is so
secularized and liberated from any reference to a universal "natural"
morality, Europeans, in the past decade, through the voices of their
delegates in the different national parliaments and European bodies,
have tried to pass laws on all the points of moral life that had
escaped the arbitration of human laws until then. It is especially in
the inviolable areas, that is, those of the family and of life, that
major manifestations of zeal have been recorded in an effort to
regulate (or deregulate) it. In some parliaments, this will to proclaim
man's autonomy in legislative texts has been expressed in the
promulgation of unjust laws regarding abortion, euthanasia,
medically-assisted procreation, the use of human embryos for medical
research and the creation of a juridical framework for homosexual
unions. These laws are contrary to Europe's Christian heritage, which
has made it possible to become aware of the dignity of human life in a
One particular danger
entailed by the unjust laws voted in by some parliaments in Europe
concerns the beginning of human life. Since it has avoided giving a
definition of the human embryo (because this would have condemned the
practice of abortion which, on the contrary, is considered inviolable),
the right has been claimed to establish thresholds and limits in the
biological evolution of the embryo, and it has been decreed that it is
possible to manipulate, use and destroy unborn human life with impunity
as long as it is still on this side of one of the arbitrarily chosen
Human life has thus turned
into laboratory material despite the unconditional respect for human
life written into the Constitutions of States and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
4. The current situation on the European scene
With some surprise we
realized that despite our countries' different histories and economic
situations, they are experiencing an evolution towards the same
deterioration of family values. Today the family in Europe is often in
a very fragile and precarious situation.
The first form of fragility concerns marriage because its very basis is being questioned.
The number of young people who live together before getting married
is continually growing. In particular, the duration of cohabitation is
longer and lasts for several years. This is accepted and no longer
considered (or is) a moral problem. As a result, the number of children
born outside of marriage is rising constantly.1
People get married later: 28 years of age for women and 30 for men, that is, five years later than 20 years ago.2
Today there is a "pro-divorce mentality",
according to the Discourse of the Holy Father on 28 January 2002 to the
Tribunal of the Roman Rota.3 The prevailing culture favours the
separation of spouses and divorce as the solution to a couple's
problems.4 In the countries where divorce is relatively recent (Italy,
Spain), the number of divorces is growing.5 In the countries where
divorce has been possible for a longer time, the number has stabilized.6
Married couples separate
more readily during the first years of marriage, with a peak in the
fifth year, but divorces are recorded in every stage of married life.
The consequences of these
often short-lived unions affect the children in the first place,
jeopardizing their education and balanced scholastic integration.
b) De facto unions
The question of de facto unions and their legal "framework" by
the State, which has been introduced recently in various European countries,7 is
of great current interest. Even though these unions only represent 8 percent
compared to marriages,8 they also constitute a real challenge to the natural
institution of marriage. As John Paul II stated in his Discourse on 21 January
1999 to the Roman Rota, there is an "...essential difference between a mere de
facto union —
even though it claims to be based on love —
and marriage, in which
love is expressed in a commitment that is not only moral but rigorously
The bond reciprocally assumed has a strengthening effect, in
turn, on the love from which it arises, fostering its permanence to the
advantage of the partners, the children and society itself".9
In some countries, these
relations open the door to a statute or to rights similar to those of
conjugal life, although objectively they do not involve the same
commitment. In particular, these relations do not imply an enduring
commitment, which ought to be the minimum requirement when a family is
formed. How can society be so indifferent to this lack of stability,
even when children born from these unions are deprived of the solid
bond between their parents that would ensure their harmonious
A second stage in the
evolution of de facto unions has to do with same-sex unions. In some
European countries, these unions have been integrated into the
juridical framework given to de facto unions through a vote in the
national parliament or a decision on the regional level.10 The juridical
framework proposed for de facto unions has surely not been presented as
an alternative to marriage, but in reality and implicitly, this
provision strikes at the family based on the conjugal bond.
A third stage is reached
when same-sex couples, registered in the juridical framework of de
facto unions, presume to have the right to adopt children.11 This
represents an even greater danger because the "higher interests of the
child" are not respected, as indicated in the United Nations Convention
on the Rights of Children.
c) The family
There is a tendency to
relegate the family to the private sphere, without taking into
consideration the fundamental service that the family offers to the
State. In many cases, we are witnessing a withdrawal of governmental
economic aid and support for the family as such and as a subject of
rights and duties. In so doing there is a shift from a family policy
(where the family is a subject of which all its members are part), to a
social aid policy (granted to the different needy members of a given
family, for example, the children).
Such social aid is
certainly legitimate to the extent it helps those in need, but it also
includes the risk of treating the different members of the family
separately, for example, on one side the mother, on the other, the
children. Such a social aid policy must not be substituted for the fair
retribution for the services the family renders to the State. This
would amount to ignoring these services and indirectly penalizing the
families that have more than two children, thus ensuring generational
Today there is an urgent need to enact legal measures so that
mothers will not be obliged to work outside the home when they have to take care
of their children's upbringing.
Some European countries are taking initiatives along these
lines; others are trying to facilitate working conditions for mothers outside
the home and to ensure them some job security during maternity leave.
Regardless of these
measures, today, in general, families in Europe with several children
feel penalized compared to couples without children or unmarried
persons, all at a time when a decline in the birth rate in Europe is
d) Life: voluntary procreation limits
The use of contraception in
Europe has increased steadily13 ever since the first combined pill
appeared on the market (1958) containing estrogenic and progesteronic
hormones (Ortho-Novum), as the Encyclical
had predicted. The so-called "emergency contraceptive" pill has been
available now for several years. Even though this pill makes early
abortion possible, everything is being done to facilitate its use among
young, school-aged women. An increase in surgical sterilization is also
noted among very young women.
The promoters of such
contraception based their arguments on the slogan that "the pill" was
"the most effective remedy against abortion" (Evangelium Vitae,
n. 13). The truth is that the spread of contraception has not led to a
decrease in the number of voluntary abortions as expected.14 Indeed, the
contraceptive mentality that frees one from any responsibility towards
a child leads to the abortion mentality in which the child resulting
from contraceptive failure is rejected.
As John Paul II states in his Encyclical
Evangelium Vitae: "Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils... but
despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception
and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree".15
While a growing interest is
noted among women in the natural methods for responsible procreation,
in most countries governmental bodies responsible for public health and
for youth have made little serious effort to present these methods to
the public to promote their spread. As a result, all too often these
methods remain almost on a confidential level.
contraception has well-known, dramatic effects on the birth rate,16 aging
of the population,17 and shortly also on the economic stability of the
countries concerned. Despite these dangers there are no appropriate
governmental policies in favour of responsible procreation to increase
The use of contraception,
which is fostered by active propaganda among young people through
so-called "sex education" courses, has negative effects that are well
known today. The information provided in these courses is often limited
to instruction on how to use contraceptives. Sex education centred on
an individual's sexual impulses and the "risk-free" means to satisfy
them is poor preparation for the mature, responsible love of adult
sexuality that has the nature of a gift and finds its proper place in
the family. Sometimes this kind of education tends to distance children
from their parents in the name of the young people's "sexual rights".
When young people receive
this kind of "preparation", they get an erroneous, immature mentality
regarding sexuality that is unsuitable for their future conjugal union.
It is not surprising that wherever this kind of "sex education"
prevails, an increase is seen in the number of unwanted pregnancies
among adolescents, often followed by abortion. Another result is an
increase in sexually transmittable diseases that often lead to
permanent sterility in women.
A vicious circle has been
created involving contraception, abortion and artificial procreation.
Despite objective statistical surveys, in the most-affected countries,
propaganda in favour of contraception among young people is increasing.
Today, in almost every
European nation, abortion is available up to the 12th week of pregnancy
through a simple request by the mother. In the Eastern European
countries, developments from this viewpoint have not been at all
encouraging. Under the Communist regimes, abortion had taken on
unprecedented proportions in these countries. The fall of these regimes
and the people's access to Western contraceptive means have not led to
a decrease in abortion, contrary to what was predicted. By now this
practice is too ingrained in the people's spirit and habits to turn
As a result, these
countries often find themselves facing the grave consequences of a
prolonged "demographic winter". They see their populations aging and
diminishing numerically in a real and proper implosion that is draining
the energies of their countries.
The RU-486 pill (mifepristone) is
now available in a growing number of European countries. The
circulation of this pill, which makes it possible to bring about early
abortions, was supposed to lead to a reduction in the number of
surgical abortions. This did not happen: women simply resort to
abortion more. Today, one-third of the total number of abortions in
France are the result of the RU-486.
market has taken on vast proportions. This trend finds fertile ground
in powerful economic interests. Some doctors bend to their patients'
desires instead of proposing wiser alternatives to them, and they are
taking greater risks with regard to the child's integrity.
With the development of
medically-assisted procreation technology, the practice was introduced
of freezing and conserving embryos while awaiting their hypothetical
use. Often these embryos are abandoned by couples, and this situation
appears to justify the requests from scientists who would like to use
them in their research.
Since a child is
essentially a "gift", it is not legitimate to proclaim a "right" to a
child that would justify all the operations that are carried out in
order to have one, regardless of their morality. On the other hand, the
widespread practice of prenatal diagnosis has increased the number of
abortions that are proposed whenever there is the slightest suspicion
of somatic, chromosomal or genetic anomalies. Prenatal diagnosis is
also opening the way to sex selection.
Moreover, in Europe we have
already entered into the practice of preimplantation diagnosis with the
"selection of embryos". If laws are not made to limit this practice,
"scientific" eugenics will be introduced into our culture again after
being temporarily banned by the Nuremberg Trial following the fall of
the Nazi regime.
It is true that rightful
resistance has been made in most European countries to the proposals to
legalize or decriminalize euthanasia and its corollary, assisted
suicide; however, it is also true that euthanasia has already been
admitted in a few European countries,18 albeit received with some
reluctance by doctors. With the case of Oregon in the United States,19 an
example was created that fuels the debate.
It should be noted that
there is no such debate in the countries that set up suitable
palliative care at the right time and a sufficient number of homes for
II. Positive and hopeful signs
In view of these
challenges, we note that the so-called "traditional" family based on a
solid conjugal bond endures much better than expected. Most couples
continue to be faithful.
In France, for example,
between 30 and 55 years of age, seven couples out of eight are married,
and 62 percent of couples do not divorce!20 Moreover, only one family in
eight is a "single-parent family".21 The value of the conjugal bond
continues to be strong.
When asked, most young
people in any European country say that they want to get married and
have a family. Sociologists tell us that "family ties have never been so strong".22
Surveys show that fidelity is always a "guiding value" among couples,
and the great majority of young people support this.23 Candidates for
marriage are being prepared better and are more aware of their
responsibilities and duty.
During 25 years of service
to the Church, the Successor of Peter has done very much for the
family. These years of John Paul II's papacy have been a particularly
fruitful time for the Church's pastoral care of this institution. Not
without reason, today the Holy Father is called "the Pope of the
Family". Even though it is difficult to make a precise assessment in
this area, the papacy of John Paul II has certainly curbed the most
self-destructive tendencies of the family predicted by the "prophets"
of the "sexual revolution" of the 1970s.
The Bishops' Conferences,
aided by the COM.E.C.E: (Commission of the Episcopates of the European
Community) disseminate the Holy Father's rich teachings on the family
and apply them to concrete situations. In the Bishops' Conferences and
Dioceses a new awareness is giving priority to the central character of
the pastoral care of the family. We see a growing recognition of the
importance of the family everywhere. This explains why the pastoral
care of the family is a priority concern today. Often the annual
diocesan programmes are built around this pastoral care.
The great effort based on
the Gospel to renew the family carried out by the different movements
should be acknowledged. Among these movements inspired by the Spirit,
the ones that work in favour of the family and life have a particular
dynamism that commands ever greater attention and respect.
The Institutes for the
Family respond to the need to train the animators of the pastoral care
of the family. In particular, the John Paul II Institute in Rome
deserves special mention.24 Today the efforts made by this Institute are
bearing fruit all around the world.
Inspired by its model,
priests and laypeople trained in this Institute have created other
Institutes for the Family: in the U.S.A. (Washington, D.C., 22 August
1988), Spain (Valencia, 14 September 1994), Mexico (Mexico City, 22
January 1996), Brazil (São Salvador da Bahia, 2 January 2001), Benin
(Cotonou, 22 May 2001) and India (Thuruthy, 15 October 2001). More
institutes are being established. Moreover, there are other valid
institutes for the family, some of which have existed for a long time.
There are also very
widespread movements that help families and often play a role of
networking or spiritual support for married couples and families.
III. Overall resolutions and implications
Based on this assessment, we present the following resolutions.
The pastoral care of the
family in Europe must adapt to the needs of our times and be more
effective. In past years great progress has been made. Aware of these
considerable, encouraging developments, we must aim at action that is
more united, coordinated, incisive and forward-looking. The pastoral
care of the family must be able to respond adequately to this strategy.
This general outline for action has some precise implications, both
inside and out of the Church.
A. Inside the Church
1. A clearly defined mission
The Holy Father is calling
us to a new evangelization,25 centred on the pastoral care of the family.26
Therefore, enough emphasis can never be put on the central character of
the pastoral care of the family within the general framework of the
work carried out by the Bishops' Conferences and in the Dioceses. This
central character makes everyone's cooperation necessary, on all
levels, in developing and implementing the pastoral care of the family.
The task of the Commissions
for the Family and Life must be carried out with renewed ardour,
especially in places where this work has just begun, such as in some
Eastern European countries. In places where the pastoral care of the
family has deep roots, the work must continue with constancy and
enthusiasm. The pastoral care of the family should be provided with
formation centres, permanent personnel and many competent volunteers.
The organization of
careful, quality marriage preparation continues to be the basis of the
pastoral care of the family. Today this preparation for marriage is
increasingly combined with teaching the Gospel, accompanied more and
more by a task of evangelization linked with welcoming, listening to
and keeping in touch with the couples. Many young people who ask to be
married in church have not had any proper grouding in the faith. Thus,
this offers us a privileged moment to announce and sow the Gospel.
Marriage preparation is
especially successful if the young people have received an education to
authentic love at home and during the course of their catechesis. The
document published by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1995, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, does not isolate sexual education; on the contrary, it inserts it into the framework of a person's overall formation.
2. A mission for the whole Church
In order to bear fruit, the
pastoral care of the family requires all those who have a role of
responsibility, and in first place the Bishops and the Bishops'
Conferences, to be involved. Therefore, one of the tasks for those in
charge of this pastoral care must be vigilance. It is necessary for one
or more members of the different diocesan groups and episcopal
commissions to be effectively involved in the pastoral care of the
To be more effective, the
pastoral care of the family should be developed as a network linked to
the work of all the other kinds of pastoral care.
B. Outside the Church
Throughout our analyses one
common point emerged: the Catholic Church represents a considerable
potential force in Europe that is not expressed sufficiently in the
Therefore, it is urgent to
create more, better organized reflection and information groups,
particularly in political bodies and Catholic organizations for the
defense of the values of the family and life. During our exchanges we
realized that many dishonest or immoral proposals in the different
European countries could have been stopped at the appropriate time
through the intervention of the Bishops or the members of a Commission.
In order to carry out these
complex tasks effectively, it seems important to set up a European
"observatory" as an efficient service to the Church and society. It
would be entrusted with the task of gathering all the information
useful to the promotion of respect for the family and life and
providing in-depth reflection on these subjects. At a time of
confusion, a service that clarifies matters is needed.
The "Lexicon",27 recently
published by the Pontifical Council for the Family, enters into this
perspective of aid and clarification. The "observatory" would be at the
service of the family and life and all those who work in this area. It
would be directed at apostolic movements, politicians and lawmakers in
order to inform and form them. It should be a reference point for the
various associations working in favour of the family and life and would
foster communication and collaboration between them. The guarantee of
the Holy See in this matter, through the Pontifical Council for the
Family, should ensure the freedom of this tool from any particular
interests as well as its fidelity to the teachings of the Church.
United around the Holy
Father and encouraged by the broad scope and emphasis of his teaching,
we would like to enhance the value in the eyes of the world of the
riches of the family, the cradle of civilization and love, and a living
source of joy for the world. There is a lot to do and to develop, and a
great task of giving witness must be ensured.
The Lord wants to save the
families in Europe because he wants to save the men and women that
comprise them. For this he came into the world, suffered at human hands
and gave up his own life. For this he offers himself every day in the
Eucharist. It is he who sends us to these families.
With his help, the pastoral
action of our Church in Europe can and must bring a new springtime for
the family. The approaching 10th anniversary of the Year of the Family
in 2004 offers us a fitting framework for a renewed commitment in
favour of the values of the family and life.
1 The rise in births
outside of marriage is parallel to that of cohabitation. In 15 years,
the percentage of children born in Europe to parents who are not
married has gone from 10 to 25%, with a peak in Sweden (55%), but only
9% in Italy and 4% in Greece. France continues to be among the average:
in 2000, 43% of births in this country took place outside of marriage,
and 55% for the first child.
Houchard, La famille: Une idée neuve en Europe, Fondation Robert Schuman, Paris, 2000, p. 20.
— P. Krémer, 2001 année exceptionelle pour les naissances et les mariages, Le Monde, 7 February 2002, p. 10.
2 In 2002, in France (INSEE,
2001, 2002), the average age for women at civil marriage was 28.1 and
for men 30.2. In 1980, this was respectively 23 and 25 years of age.
Spain (UNFPA, 1999), which until a short time ago showed an inverse
trend in Europe with very young spouses, has come close to the figures
for France (between 23-24 for the woman and 25-26 for the man in 1980;
between 26-27 for the woman and 29-30 for men in 1993). These figures
are also valid for the European countries as a whole (B. Houchard,
2000). The average age at marriage in Europe is 29 for men and 26 for
women. Even though the Portuguese and the Belgians tend to get married
earlier compared to the Swedes and Danes, the same trend is noted
towards later marriage. This explains in part the low birthrate seen in
— United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Population Fund, Fertility and Family Surveys in Countries of the ECE Region. Standard Country Report. Spain, 1999, Geneva, p. 13.
— B. Houchard, La famille: Une idée neuve en Europe, Fondation Robert Schuman, Paris, 2000, p. 18.
— INSEE Bilan démographique 2001. Le regain des naissances et des mariages se confirme, n. 825, February 2002, p. 3.
— INSEE Bilan démographique 2002. Légère diminution des naissances, n. 882, January 2003, p. 3.
— P. Krémer, 2001, année exceptionnelle pour les naissances et les mariages, Le Monde, Thursday, 7 February 2002, p. 10.
3 John Paul II, Address for the Inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Roman Rota, 28 January 2002; ORE, 6 February 2002, n. 5, p. 6.
4 In 1970 in Europe there was
an average of 10 divorces for every 100 marriages. Twenty-five years
later in 1995, there were 30 divorces. A higher divorce rate is found
in Belgium, followed by Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, Germany,
Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Next come France, Luxembourg,
Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Italians divorce relatively little
despite the fact that the divorce law has been in force in Italy since
— B. Houchard, La famille: Une idée neuve en Europe, Fondation Robert Schuman, Paris 2000, p. 19.
5 According to the
Statistical Office of the European Community (Eurostat 2001), the
number of marriages in the European Union (15 countries) has decreased
from 2,247,900 in 1980 to 1,926,700 in 2001, while the number of
divorces has gone from 503,300 in 1980 to 705,600 in 2001. The rate of
marriage per 1,000 inhabitants has decreased from 6.3 in 1980 to 5.1 in
2000, while the rate of divorce has gone from 1.4 in 1980 to 1.9 in
2000. The highest number of divorces is recorded in Lithuania and
Estonia (a rate of 3.2). In 2001 in the United Kingdom there were
155,000 divorces (a rate of 2.6) per 306,000 marriages (a rate of 5.1).
In Germany in 2001 there were 195,000 divorces (a rate of 2.4) per
389,000 marriages (a rate of 5.1). In Italy, on the other hand, in 2001
there were only 37,600 divorces (a rate of 0.7) per 280,000 marriages
(a rate of 4.9). Spain is the country in the European Union where fewer
divorces are recorded (39,000 in 2001, with a rate of 1, compared to
210,000 marriages, with a rate of 5.3).
— Eurostat, Premiers résultats de la collecte de données démographiques pour 2001 en Europe, Table 5. See http/www.europa.eu.int./comm/eurostat/.
6 In France, the tendency to
divorce, which slowed around the end of the 1980s, reached a new peak
in 1995, with 119,000 divorces compared to 280,000 marriages. The years
1997 and 1998 were marked by stabilization at a high level of
approximately 116,000 divorces. More than a third of marriages
celebrated in this country in the 1980s ended in divorce, while the
ratio in the 1960s was only 16%. The risk of divorce is greatest around
the fifth year of marriage and then decreases steadily. However, the
increase in the divorce rate after 30 years concerns all marriages,
regardless of their duration, and so divorce after 30 years of marriage
was three times more frequent in 1999 than in 1979.
— P. Krémer, La France est championne d'Europe de la natalité, derrière l'Irlande, Le Monde, Sunday-Monday, 10-11 September 2000.
— INSEE, Bilan démographique 2001. Le regain des naissances et des mariages se confirme, n. 825, February 2002, p. 4.
7 Laws regarding registered
cohabitation: Holland, January 1998; Resolution of the Parliament of
Catalonia, which gives a framework to stable couples, including
same-sex couples: 1 July 1998; Law on the Civil Solidarity Pact (Pacs)
promulgated in France: 15 November 1999. Other laws that give a legal
framework to de facto unions: Norway (1993), Sweden (1995), Belgium
(2000), Germany (18 July 2001).
8 In France in 2001, 296,000
marriages were celebrated with a rate close to 5 marriages per 1,000
inhabitants for the second consecutive year. However, this figure fell
to 288,000 in 2002, i.e., 8,000 less than in 2001 (-3%). On the
contrary, the "Pacs", which gives a framework to de facto unions,
recorded increases in 2002: in the first nine months of the year 17,000
Pacs were registered, i.e., an increase of 25% compared to the first
nine months of 2001. At the end of 1999, 6,200 Pacs were signed, 23,600
in 2000 and 14,000 during the first three trimesters of 2001. A total
of 65,000 Pacs have been made since this regulation was created at the
end of 1999. For every 100 marriages celebrated, 8 Pacs are registered.
— P. Krémer, 2001, année exceptionnelle pour les naissances et les mariages, Le Monde, Thursday, 7 February 2002, p. 10.
— INSEE Bilan démographique 2001. Le regain des naissances et des mariages se confirme, n. 825, February 2002, p. 3.
— INSEE Bilan démographique 2002. Légère diminution des naissances, n. 882, January 2003, p. 3.
9 John Paul II, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, 21 January 1999, n. 5.
10 Resolution of the European
Parliament on the equal rights of homosexuals and lesbians in the
European Community, A3-0028/94, 8 February 1994. Laws permitting
homosexual "marriage": Denmark (1989), Sweden (1993), Norway (1994),
Holland (15 September 2000, 20 December 2000, came into force on 1
April 2001), Germany (10 November 2000, promulgated on 18 July 2001,
came into force on 1 August 2001, confirmed by the Constitutional Court
on 17 July 2002), Belgium (28 November 2002).
— A. Franco, Les Pays-Bas inventent le mariage homosexuel ou "partenariat enregistré", Le Monde, 17 January 1998, p. 1.
— A. Leparmentier, Le Bundestag adopte le mariage homosexuel, Le Monde, Sunday 12, Monday 13 November 2000, p. 3.
— A. Franco, Gay, gay, marions-nous à l'hôtel de ville d'Amsterdam, Le Monde, Tuesday, 3 April 2001, p. 1.
— Zenith, Allemagne: entrée en vigueur de la loi sur les unions homosexuelles, Wednesday, 1 August 2001.
— Olanda: gli omosessuali possono sposarsi e adottare bambini, Medicina e Morale, 2001, n. 3, p. 552-553.
— La Cour constitutionnelle valide le "mariage homosexuel" allemand, Le Monde, Friday, 19 July 2002, p. 4.
— N. Calmes, La Belgique dit oui au mariage homosexuel, La Croix, Thursday 28 November 2002, p. 7.
11 Laws authorizing persons of
the same sex to adopt children: Holland (15 September 2000, 20 December
2000, came into force in April 2001), United Kingdom (Tuesday, 5
— A. Franco, Les homosexuels néerlandais pourront se marier et adopter des enfants, Le Monde, Friday, 15 September 2000, p. 3.
— A. de Joing, Aux Pays-Bas, les homosexuels pourront se marier et adopter, La Croix, 20 December 2000, p. 9.
— J.-P. Langellier, La Grande-Bretagne autorise l'adoption par les couples homosexuels, Le Monde, Friday, 8 November 2002, p. 6.
12 W. Lutz, B.C. O'Neill, S. Scherbov, Europe's Population at a Turning Point, Science, 28 March 2003, vol. 299, n. 5615, pp. 1991-1992.
13 Almost two-thirds of women
(70%) in Europe use contraceptive methods (24% combined pill, 8%
intrauterine devices (IUD), 5% prophylactics, 19% coitus interruptus or
periodic continence, 12% sterilization). In France, for example, 75% of
women use some contraceptive method: 36% the pill, 20% intrauterine
devices, 5% prophylactics, 1% other methods, 5% periodic continence or coitus interruptus, 8%
sterilization. The data is somewhat different for Germany where 75% of
women use contraceptive methods: 59% use the pill, 6% the IUD, 4%
prophylactics, 2% other methods, 3% periodic continence or coitus interruptus, and
1% sterilization. In Spain, 59% of women use contraception: 16% the
pill, 6% the intrauterine device, 12% prophylactics, 22% periodic
continence or coitus interruptus and 4% sterilization. In
Italy, 78% of women use contraception: 14% the pill, 2% the IUD, 13%
prophylactics, 2% other methods, 46% periodic continence or coitus
interruptus, 1% sterilization.
— United Nations, Population Division, Levels and Trends in contraceptive use as assessed in 1998. Key findings.
[The UN data given above
does not make the important distinction between artificial
contraceptive means and the natural methods for responsible
14 In 1971 in Great Britain
there were 95,000 legal abortions compared to 783,000 births, i.e., one
abortion for every 8 births. In 1986 the number of legal abortions rose
to 148,000 with 661,000 births, i.e., one for every 4 births. In the
U.S.A., the number of voluntary abortions has grown parallel to the
development of contraception in that country, going from 586,760 in
1972 to 1,297,606 in 1980, to 1,330,414 in 1993. The number of
"voluntary interruptions of pregnancy" in France has decreased only
slightly in the past 20 years from 250,000 in 1976 (immediately after
the liberalization of abortion) to 220,000 a year in 1994, with the
most significant decrease between 1981 and 1988. Now almost 70% of
French women between 18 and 49 years of age use some contraceptive
— M. Clarke, Fertility and Legal Abortion in England and Wales: Performance indicators for Family Planning Services, British Medical Journal, 10 October 1988, vol. 297, n. 6652, pp. 832-833.
— Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 45, n. 11, 22 March 1996, pp. 235-238; 1997, 45, pp. 1123-1127.
— J.Y. Nau, Le nombre des interruptions volontaires de grossesse ne cesse de diminuer, Le Monde, Wednesday, 11 June 1997, p. 9.
15 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, n. 13, 25 March 1995.
16 The average Total Fertility
Rate (TFR) for Europe, which was 2.1 in 1980 (for 18 European
countries), is currently 1.5 (1.5 births per woman), which is far below
the necessary threshold for the replacement of the population (2.1).
Since 2000, 15 country members of the European Union have entered a
stage of population decline (negative moment); if this persists until
2020, it will lead to a decrease in the European population equivalent
to 88 million in 2100 (W. Lutz et al., 2003). For example, the
TFR in France was 2.93 in 1950; it decreased to 2.73 in 1960, to 2.47
in 1970, to 1.94 in 1980, to 1.78 in 1990 and reached its lowest level
in 1994 (1.65), and then rose again to 1.9 in 2001 (G. Pison, 2002).
For Germany, the TFR was 2.03 in 1970, 1.48 in 1975, 1.25 in 1995 and
1.36 in 1998. For Italy it was 2.43 in 1970; it fell to 2.21 in 1975,
1.64 in 1980, 1.42 in 1985, 1.33 in 1990, 1.2 in 1995, and has remained
at that level since then (INED, 2003). In 2000, the TFR was 1.89 in
France, 1.89 in Ireland, 1.78 in Luxembourg, 1.76 in Denmark, 1.73 in
Finland, 1.65 in Belgium, 1.64 in Great Britain, 1.54 in Sweden, 1.54
in Portugal, 1.34 in Germany, 1.32 in Austria, 1.3 in Greece, 1.25 in
Italy and 1.22 in Spain (P. Krémer, 2002).
— W. Lutz, B.C. O'Neill, S. Scherbov, Europe's Population at a Turning Point, Science, 28 March 2003, vol. 299, n. 5615, pp. 1991-1992.
— P. Krémer, 2001, Année exceptionnelle pour les naissances et les mariages, Le Monde, Thursday 7 February 2002, p. 10.
— G. Pison, La Population de la France en 2001, Population & Sociétés, April 2002, Table 1.
INED, pays développés, indice synthétique de fécondité (nombre
moyen d'enfants par femme), dernière mise à jour, January 2003, http:
17 E. Bursaux, p. Krémer, L'INSEE
prédit un "vieillissement inéluctable" de la population dans les
prochaines décennies. En 2011, les moins de vingt ans seront moins
nombreux que les plus de soixante ans, Le Monde, Wednesday, 28 March 2001, p. 11.
18 After being adopted in
April 2001, the law on euthanasia in Holland came into force on 1 April
2002. A very similar law was promulgated in Belgium on 28 May 2002.
Contrary to the Netherlands, Belgium does not authorize euthanasia for
— A. de Jong, Les Pays-Bas légalisent l'euthanasie, La Croix, 29 November 2000, p. 9.
— P. Benkimoun, La législation de l'euthanasie par les Pays-Bas suscite des réactions hostiles, Le Monde, 12 April 2001.
— A. de Jong, Les Pays-Bas ouvrent une brèche, Wednesday 3 April 2002, p. 1, 4-5.
Strootbants, La Belgique légalise sous conditions l'euthanasie, Le Monde, Saturday 18 May 2002, p. 5.
19 On 8 November 1994, the
State of Oregon, U.S.A., became the first State to legalize
medically-assisted suicide. Attempts made by the U.S. Federal
Government to invalidate the law were stopped on 17 April 2002 by a
decision of the Federal Judge Robert Jones of Portland.
— A. Alpers, B. Lo, Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon, JAMA, 9 August 1995, vol. 274, n. 6, pp. 483-487.
— W. Booth, Oregon Law On Assisted Suicide Upheld, Washington Post, 17 April 2002.
— A. Liptak, Judge Blocks U.S. Bid to Ban Suicide Law, The New York Times, 18 April 2002.
20 V. de Vezins, Quelques
vérités cachées sur la famille. La structure traditionnelle résiste
beaucoup mieux qu'on ne le croit aux évolutions des moeurs, Le Figaro, Thursday, 4 May 2000.
— X. Lacroix, Tous les modèles familiaux se valent-ils?, in "Hommage à Mgr Gérard Defois", Mélanges de Sciences Religieuses, special issue, Lille, 2001, pp. 217-222, See p. 218.
21 Children who grow up in a
single-parent family, most often with their mother following a divorce,
or more frequently a refusal to live as a couple, represent more than
15% of the children under 16 in Great Britain, 14% in Finland and
Denmark, 12% in Ireland, 10% in Belgium and Germany, between 8-9% in
France, 7% in the Netherlands and Portugal, 6% in Italy and Spain, and
less than 5% in Luxembourg and Greece.
— B. Houchard, La famille, une idée neuve en Europe, Fondation Robert Schuman, Paris 2000, p. 20.
22 Martine Segalen, Les
liens familiaux n'ont jamais été aussi forts. Il existe aujourd'hui un
"nouvel esprit de famille", fondé sur des liens affectifs, qui respecte
l'autonomie de chacun, La Croix, Tuesday, 9 April 2002, p. 14.
23 Idées reçues: "La fidélité n'a plus la cote". Faux, La Croix, Tuesday, 9 April 2002, p. 14.
24 The John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family was instituted with the Apostolic Constitution Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum
of 7 October 1982. It is authorized to confer a License and a Doctorate
in Sacred Theology, and a Master's in Sciences of Marriage and the
Family. The Institute is located at the Pontifical Lateran University,
and with John Paul II's approval of the Statutes on 21 November 1992
and 17 March 1993, it became autonomous.
— Annuario Pontificio 2002, Vatican City, p. 1652.
25 "To nourish ourselves with
the word in order to be "servants of the word' in the work of
evangelization: this is surely a priority for the Church at the dawn of
the new millennium.... Over the years, I have often repeated the
summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially
in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of
the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the
apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost". John Paul II, Apostolic
Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 6 January 2001, n. 40.
26 "At a time in history like the present, special attention must also be given to the pastoral care of the family,
particularly when this fundamental institution is experiencing a
radical and widespread crisis... it is necessary to ensure that through
an ever more complete Gospel formation, Christian families show
convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with
God's plan and with the true good of the human person". John Paul II,
Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 6 January 2001, n. 47.
27 Pontifical Council for the Family, Lexicon. Termini
ambigui e discussi su famiglia, vita e questioni etiche, Ed. Dehoniane, Bologna 2003.