Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

The Church’s Policies on Families

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 28, 2020

On the feast of the Holy Family, it seemed appropriate to identify a few Church policies on marriage and family.

At this point, the Church’s policy is that marriage is between one man and one woman. Church’s policy requires that husband and wife should be faithful in marriage in an exclusive union, open to children, until the parting of death.

The Church also forbids the marriage of people of the same sex. Current Church policy does not permit contraception and homosexual behavior. Church policy has rules against divorce and remarriage. We don’t know what the policies will be in ten years.

The Church also has scientific policies. There are traditional policies that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The Church also holds that gravity is not only a good idea. It is the law. These are the policy positions at present. We don’t know if those policies will change in the future.

Please excuse this exercise in evangelical sarcasm. Reality doesn’t depend upon Church policy or even Church teaching. We witness reality. Yet how many times do we read that churchmen from priests to high ranking prelates talk about truth as if it is their private plaything? Naturally the attitude quickly trickles down to an often careless and ignorant press. So we commonly read reports that the Church’s “policy” on gay marriage, for example, may change. Nonsense.

In some ways, we have a similar problem with the phrase “the Church teaches” and “the authority of the Church.” Jesus warns: “But you are not to be called rabbi [teacher], for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. (Mt. 23:8-10)

Jesus is the one teacher. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and all teaching authority must participate in his teaching. Depart from the truth, and we relinquish our teaching authority. A scientist who deviates from the scientific method and teaches his theories as facts violates his teaching authority. Churchmen who presume that their authority is their own violate their divine mandate.

Similarly, all legitimate fatherhood is a participation in the Fatherhood of God. He alone defines the meaning of fatherhood. So an abusive and cruel father relinquishes his right to be called a father. A priest who teaches error to please his parishioners also defiles his spiritual fatherhood.

Of course, it is acceptable to speak of the Church’s teaching authority—and even her policies—provided we understand her role as a faithful witness. But it is increasingly common for senior churchmen to play the part of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. In grasping for an authority that exceeds their competence as a reliable witness, they not only deny reality, they impugn their belief in the Sacraments of forgiveness and healing.

Many Catholics were disturbed when, in 2019, the German bishops’ conference expressed their commitment to “newly assessing” the universal Church’s teaching on homosexuality, sexual morality in general, as well as the sacraments of ordination and marriage. One of the German bishops even suggested that homosexual inclinations are “normal.” Members of the Flat Earth Society are undoubtedly now waiting for the German bishops to issue “inclusive” policy statements recognizing the heartfelt belief that the earth is flat as “normal.”

Cultural chatter aside, “gay marriage” is a delusional view of marriage. A person cannot be “transgendered.” (Church documents should never use the word!) Surgery cannot change a single X chromosome into a Y chromosome. The reality is mutilation. During a recent doctor’s visit, the registration paperwork required that I indicate my sex assignment at birth. The question had me wondering whether the doctor had the competence to diagnose my medical ailments.

Here is the reality: Most families are dysfunctional in one way or another. The dysfunctions range from mild to severe, visible to the outside, or safely concealed from relatives and friends. That’s life, as we have known it since Adam and Eve. We need care, compassion, and understanding—Gospel teaching and the sacraments. We need the hard work that comes with imitating the virtues of the Holy Family. But let’s not try to redefine reality.

We all have our sinful inclinations and even our secret demons. Through sins of weakness and malice, we often go off the rails. Amid family afflictions, our job is to be good friends but also good shepherds. We cannot allow failure and the response of false compassion to redefine reality.

When an airplane crashes because of pilot error or faulty equipment, it’s madness to suggest that we must change the law of gravity to make sure airplane crashes never happen again.

There’s an old Groucho Marx joke that goes, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” With the eyes of faith and reason, do not allow the culture—or even churchmen—to confuse you with their faithless and unrealistic policies. They have no authority to stand in judgment of reality. They are either faithful witnesses or liars caught up in the whirlwind of political-correctness.

The Holy Family is a fact. The unfolding of God’s revelation of marriage and family is a fact. The teachings of Jesus on marriage and the family are facts. Our job is to witness and live those facts and pick up the pieces with the help of God’s grace when we mess up. Fidelity to God’s revelation is the best policy.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: EiLL - Jan. 05, 2021 8:59 PM ET USA

    Thank you Fr. Pokorsky! I printed this out to share with my adult children who are getting blown around with how to be kind without buying into the false validity of homosexual lifestyles.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Dec. 30, 2020 11:23 AM ET USA

    Thank God that we still have a few adults in the Church. Thank you, Father Pokorsky.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Dec. 29, 2020 9:14 AM ET USA

    At first I thought I was reading the blather of a Vatican official or a modern Jesuit. But then you started making sense. Chicago, San Diego, El Paso, and Germany ain't got nuthin' on you.