A Spanish archbishop has proclaimed his respect for same-sex families, adding moreover that “the Gospel never condemns” these relationships.

Driving the news

“Today the family structure has ceased to be limited to what we understood as a nuclear family, composed of parents and children, to give way to a diversity of forms that range from living together between men and women without marriage certificates (de facto couples), the single parent family, couples with different homes for husband and wife or families between people of the same sex with legal recognition”, Archbishop of Tarragona Joan Planellas wrote in an article in Spanish paper La Vanguardia December 29, reflecting on that day’s Feast of the Holy Family.

“Talking about the family currently means talking about families, because the forms they have acquired are diverse, from a social and legal point of view”, Planellas declared.

The big picture

“The family is the object of great hope throughout the world, but today, at the same time, it has become very fragile”, the archbishop affirmed, denouncing among the causes of that fragility the “complicated” economic conditions, excessive work demands and the unemployment that “demoralises young people and destabilises homes”.

On top of those practical reasons for the fragility of the family today, Planellas said, “mentalities evolve”.

“There are new relationships in the family, in addition to the new role of women in society”, the prelate observed.

Go deeper

But why this diversity today in families which historically have taken the form of father, mother and children?

Planellas answered that, in the first place, the modern increase in life expectancy “has contributed to marriage ceasing to be a life-long project in favour of becoming a life project with an unpredictable duration, and to divorce becoming very important”.

“In a world where separations and divorces become more frequent every day, family relationships are subject to endless processes of family reclassification”, Planellas recognised.

“It is also necessary to underline provisionality, which has become one of the dominant social values; that contrasts sharply with what happened in other times, in which stability was the obligatory reference of social systems.

“For many, the family has become a ‘transitional phase of life’ or a ‘part-time community'”, Planellas acknowledged.

Why it matters

The point of the archbishop’s sociological analysis of the family today was to stress the point that “it is not that the family as such is in danger of disappearing, but simply that a certain family model is no longer accepted by a significant number of members of our society”.

“The family is and will be the framework where the human being carries out his and her first and fundamental experiences, the laboratory where humans live the creative and humanizing possibilities of our species”, Planellas said, certain that “the future of the family seems assured”.

However, given this ever-changing nature of the family, the Church must remember that its contribution to the family can only have sense and meaning if it is “a call to live love and give oneself with all the magnanimity, delicacy and stringency that implies”.

That on the Church’s part supposes a “critical” but also a “respectful attitude”, Planellas recalled.

“There is no perfect family realisation. The Gospel never condemns, but assumes, encourages and corrects, in order to grow in the one Spirit. This is how the Gospel saves not only people, but also human groups, and especially the family”, Planellas concluded.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.