Bernardo M. Villegas
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Building the Future of Society

          Without meaning to spoil the suspense for those who have not yet seen the movie "New Moon" (although most of them would have already read the novel), the abrupt ending was a dramatic plea of Edward to Bella" "Marry me." Even to a supposedly "soulless" vampire like Edward Cullen, the importance of marriage for a lasting and loving relationship is not lost. Those who have read the next two novels of Stephanie Meyer know that the two lovers actually end up getting married.

          In another blockbuster before the end of 2009, the reunification of a divorced couple was the happy ending of an otherwise apocalyptic story. In "2012", the family that had already disintegrated because of the gross negligence of the husband was happily reunited by the trials and travails brought about by the catastrophes associated with the end of the world. Again, a Hollywood flick delivers the rare message that the family is an important source of human happiness for ordinary people. 

          As soothsaying becomes fashionable at the beginning of every year, let me make an absolutely certain prognostication about the future of mankind. It is a phrase attributed to the late Venerable Pope John Paul II: "The future of humanity passes through the family." As restated in a recent article that appeared in Zenit.org by Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, the foundation of society is the family. And the foundation of the family is marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman. It is not just a social construct, to be modified by circumstances prevailing in society through time and space. Its laws are immutable as human nature is immutable. As the keystone of society, the family is the most favorable environment in which to welcome children. In the terminology of my own profession, economics, it is the indispensable cradle of human capital formation.

          In a commentary on the Feast of the Holy Family, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, referred to two distinct challenges emerging from the crisis of the family in many societies, both Western and Eastern. Catholic lay people can do much to uphold the dignity of the important institution and sacrament of Marriage. They can do so by supporting the Marriage Preparation Programs in their respective parish communities. They should insist that in their parishes and dioceses, there are solid vocational programs for young adults and young people.  Parishes, dioceses and lay movements that do not have creative pastoral strategies and vocational programs about marriage for young people leave the door open to tremendous moral confusion and misunderstanding, misinformation, emptiness.

          The other challenge is to highlight the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman as the only strong foundation of a family. This reminder is especially timely as the New Year was greeted with the news that a predominantly Roman Catholic country, Mexico, just legalized homosexual marriages. As Father Rosica rightly pointed out: "At the same time, we cannot forget that there are other bonds of love and interdependency, of commitment and mutual responsibility exist in society. They may be good; they may even be recognized by law. They are not the same as marriage; they are something else. No extension of terminology for legal purposes will change the observable reality that only the committed union of a man and a woman carries, not only the bond of interdependency between the two adults, but the inherent capacity to bring forth children."

          The Philippines has an important role in the international community. We may be considered a laggard in economic development, but we can hold our heads high in the legal protection that we give to the natural family composed of a man and a woman indissolubly united in marriage together with the children that they have brought to this world through their procreative act. We can best carry out the challenge posed by Fr. Rosica:  "As a Christian community and as a society in general, we must do more to encourage the committed relationship of man and woman that remains so basic to all civilizations, and has proven to be the best support for the rights and needs of children. We must reflect carefully on the social consequences involved in the redefinition of marriage, examining all that is entailed if society no longer gives a privileged place and fundamental value to the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage. "

          Indeed, the Philippines is one of the few countries that have enshrined into their Constitution the inviolability of marriage and the sacredness of the family. Let us make sure that our young adults say their "I do" with joy, conviction, faith and hope. As Fr. Rosica concludes: "They are our future and our hope. Without married people, we cannot build the future of society and the Church. Without committed, married people, we will not have holy families today." For comments, my email address is bvillegas@uap.edu.ph.