Bishops Urge Families To Share Responsibilities
The nation's Roman Catholic bishops last week approved a pastoral message calling for husbands and wives to treat one another as equals and for men to share in domestic and childrearing responsibilities.
The 33-page message, which was unanimously approved at a meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, was issued to contribute to the "International Year of the Family'' announced by the United Nations for 1994.
Several bishops at the meeting praised the document for its simple, clear language and message of encouragement for many types of families.
The document emphasizes that the bishops are speaking as members of families. "We are sons and brothers and uncles,'' it says. "We have known the commitment and sacrifices of a mother and father, the warmth of a family's care, the happiness and pain that are part of loving.''
The bishops address their message to traditional two-parent families, single parents, and to families blending children of previous marriages and involving parents of different religions. They describe the family as a "domestic church'' that represents the "most basic way'' that God acts in the world.
Acknowledging the stresses and strains on modern families--including economic demands, divorce, child and spouse abuse, alcoholism, crime, AIDS, poverty, and racism--the bishops say they are "struck by the incredible busyness of family life that can take its toll on loving relationships.''
"Balancing home and work responsibilities is a shared obligation for spouses,'' they say.
Beyond Gender Stereotypes
To cope with these increasing demands, the bishops call on men and women to "move beyond gender stereotypes'' to create domestic arrangements that work for both partners.
Despite the "strong and silent'' tradition that has governed the way men express their feelings, the bishops say, men should share their feelings and be willing to be vulnerable. Women, some of whom have "learned to fear conflict and may remain passive in the face of it,'' should not be afraid to express their ideas, beliefs, and feelings, including anger.
Children should be placed at the center of family life, the bishops say, sharing a place of dignity with adults and being brought into decisions that affect family life.
The message also calls for family members to spend more time together and for married couples to spend time alone to rejuvenate their relationship.
Each family member, they say, should ask the question, "Do television, sports, making money, shopping, getting ahead on the job, volunteering in the church or community, swallow up time that could be better spent with those I love?''
Families should make shared meals a priority, the bishops advise, even if they eat at a fast-food restaurant, should pray and worship together, and should build traditions and rituals within the family.
The bishops conclude their message by pledging to do their part to help families by increasing dialogue, offering continued support, and strengthening the church's marriage-preparation efforts.
They also pledge to continue advocating national policies and
legislation that will promote family stability and the welfare of
children and others who are "most vulnerable.''