Editor’s note: Between now and the Archdiocesan Synod, June 7-8, the Catholic Herald will publish summaries, prepared by the Synod Preparatory Commission, of each of the eight background papers that will be discussed at the synod. The complete text of each paper, along with an introduction to the papers, “Discipleship: Our fundamental Catholic Identity,” written by Bishop Donald J. Hying, is available at tinyurl.com/syn odbackground.

Cultural realities

■ There have been seismic changes in cultural realities facing married couples and families.
■ Positive realities include greater attention to interpersonal relationships, promotion of the dignity of women, and the church’s emphasis on the family to help build a just society.
■ Negative realities include cultural “hostility” to marriage and family, redefining marriage, frenetic “busyness,” and pervasive pornography – especially the Internet.
■ Challenges to marriage as identified by the U.S. bishops are cohabitation, divorce, same-sex unions and contraception.

Reflection question

Given these cultural realities, how do we support and strengthen marriage and family in our culture today?

Theological foundations

■ Theological foundations for marriage and family are found in the very beginning of Sacred Scripture – God created male and female in “his image” and found his creation to be “very good” (Gen 1:31) and God creates men and women as “suitable partners” (Gn 2:23).
■ The Catholic Church understands marriage as a covenant that is a permanent, faithful, and fruitful partnership between one man and one woman.
■ The church also recognizes the challenges of living out this unbreakable union and acknowledges that it can be difficult at times.

Reflection question

How can those who are married be living witnesses to the sacrament of marriage as a life-long and life-giving commitment?

Other issues and challenges

■ Fewer people have a true understanding of marriage and family in our society and as Catholics we are called to fully realize the importance of the vocation to marriage
■ Parishes are called to promote the vocation of marriage through regular preaching on marriage, catechesis on marriage for all ages, formation of the engaged and support of married couples from early to mature marriages
Reflection question
■ How can we, as a church of southeastern Wisconsin, better support couples living out their vocation to marriage?