Families

Pope Francis Calls on Catholics and the Church to Kneel Before Poor Families

Photo via Alessandro Di Meo / Catholic News Service / RNS
Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican on June 3, 2015. Photo via Alessandro Di Meo / Catholic News Service / RNS

Pope Francis praised poor families and their ability to “save society from barbarity,” on June 3, at a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in which he also named war and individualism as twin evils.

Addressing crowds of followers undeterred by the hot summer weather, the pope urged them to “kneel before these poor families.”

“They are a real school of humanity and they save society from barbarity,” he said.

Pope Francis: Opting Not to Have Children a ‘Selfish Choice’

Photo via Cathleen Falsani / RNS
Pope Francis officiated at the weddings of couples at St. Peter’s Basilica in September 2014. Photo via Cathleen Falsani / RNS

Less than a month after saying Catholics don’t have to multiply “like rabbits,” Pope Francis on Feb. 11 once again praised big families, telling a gathering in St. Peter’s Square that having more children is not “an irresponsible choice.”

He also said that opting not to have children at all is “a selfish choice.”

A society that “views children above all as a worry, a burden, a risk, is a depressed society,” Francis said.

Citing European countries where the fertility rate is especially low, the pope said “they are depressed societies because they don’t want children. They don’t have children. The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1 percent.”

He once again praised the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, that reiterated the ban against artificial contraception while enjoining Catholics to practice “responsible parenthood” by spacing out births as necessary.

Francis added, however, that having more children “cannot automatically become an irresponsible choice.”

“Not to have children is a selfish choice,” he said. “Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!”

Baby Makes 3: More Unmarried New Moms Cohabiting

A mother and father holding their baby’s feet. Photo courtesy of Hannamariah via Shuttestock.

Nearly three in five births to unmarried women across the United States were to women living with their partner — marking the first time a majority of these births were to women in cohabiting relationships, according to a new analysis of federal data released Wednesday.

The increase was sharp; the percentage of nonmarital births within cohabiting relationships rose to 58 percent from 41 percent in just a few years, says the report, based on various data sources from the National Center for Health Statistics, collected between 2002 and 2013, the most recent available.

“What’s happened is the percent of nonmarital births within cohabiting unions has been increasing, but now it’s increased to the point where the majority of nonmarital births are to women that are cohabiting,” said Sally Curtin, the report’s co-author.

While the births in cohabiting relationships increased, the number, rate, and percentage of births to unmarried women overall declined during the same period.

In 2013, the total of 1,605,643 births to unmarried women was the lowest since 2005. The birthrate for unmarried women has steadily declined. 

On Scripture: Our Dysfunctional Families

Before I knew God, I knew Joseph.

If you grew up in the 80s, like I did, there’s a decent chance that your earliest knowledge of Joseph’s story came through a local high school or community theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That musical (by Broadway legends Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice) playfully (and rather faithfully) tells the story of a young boy, the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob, who sets in motion both a family and a geo-political drama by flaunting his fashionable coat. As a youngest child, I loved the story—I fancied myself as the favorite son, destined for greatness, who would one day be like Jacob, irresistible to the ladies. There is a time in life when each of us is made up of ego needs and delusions of grandeur.

Papa Don't Preach — But Family-Friendly Work Policies Would Be Nice

Quote by LaVonne Neff; vector image from Shutterstock.com
Quote by LaVonne Neff; vector image from Shutterstock.com

"Unmarried moms are rarer in America than France, Sweden, New Zealand, the UK, or the Netherlands" screams yesterday's headline by Matthew Yglesias on vox.com.

"And honestly, it's no big deal," sighs an exasperated Swiss friend of mine, weary of conservative American Facebook memes. Unmarried mothers apparently do just fine in Switzerland (though admittedly the Swiss rate of 20.2 percent of births to unmarried women is considerably lower than the American rate of 40.7 percent).

Actually, though, it is a big deal in the United States, for several reasons.

How To Help Your Child Launch Rockets

In 2014, we have an opportunity to raise our children with a sense of wonder, encouragement, and fulfillment that works for our times. No longer do we have to strongly encourage them to think along the lines of working for a good company, or being ready to have few ambitions beyond being a housekeeper. An interview I heard this week with a human rights advocate named Jim Wallis (@jimwallis) suggested that at one time, there was an unwritten "social charter" that ensured while most working families would never get rich or have a great deal of disposable income, there was always enough. If that is no longer the case, then our children will benefit from our encouragement to dream and think BIG, which requires developing a healthy, dependable connection with them based in love.

A Fast for Families

Miriam Perlacio assembles a prayer quilt in the Fast for Families tent on the National Mall. Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

IT WAS LIKE the end of the movie Lincoln. In an instant, one whole side of the House of Representatives turned, looked up at the five core fasters from the Fast for Families and erupted in overwhelmingly spirited applause. The applause reverberated throughout the chamber for what seemed like an eternity, though it was really only minutes. Ah, but what grand minutes. I wept. My body, standing there in the gallery, could not contain it.

The Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship was launched on Nov. 12 with core fasters abstaining from all food and drinking only water. Based in a tent on the National Mall, only a few hundred yards from the Capitol building, the fast was sponsored by nearly 40 church and labor organizations and garnered support from more than 4,000 solidarity fasters across the U.S. and around the world. Our goal: To move the hearts and compassion of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

In the Capitol building on Dec. 2, during the hour before the startling ovation, Eliseo Medina (the leader of the fast, which had reached the end of its 21st day on that Monday evening), D.J. Yoon (executive director of NAKASEC, a Korean-American advocacy agency), Cristian Avila (from Mi Familia Vota), and I received House member after member who’d come to visit us in the gallery to say “thank you for your sacrifice.” All the faces and names you usually see flashed across the screen commenting on the events of the day on cable television shows—they came to us, standing in the flesh, shaking our hands, grateful and concerned for our health.

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Afghan Street Children Beg for Change

Kathy Kelly with Safar, an Afghan “street child”
Kathy Kelly with Safar, an Afghan “street child”

Kabul, Afghanistan, is “home” to hundreds of thousands of children who have no home. Many of them live in squalid refugee camps with families that have been displaced by violence and war. Bereft of any income in a city already burdened by high rates of unemployment, families struggle to survive without adequate shelter, clothing, food, or fuel. Winter is especially hard for refugee families. Survival sometimes means sending their children to work on the streets, as vendors, where they often become vulnerable to well-organized gangs that lure them into drug and other criminal rings.

Last year, the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV), young Afghans who host me and other internationals when we visit Kabul, began a program to help street children enroll in schools. The volunteers befriend small groups of children, get to know the children’s families and circumstances, and then reach agreements with the families that if the children are allowed to attend school and reduce their working hours on the streets, the APVs will compensate the families, supplying them with oil and rice. Next, the APVs buy warm clothes for each child and invite them to attend regular classes at the APV home to learn the alphabet and math.

Yesterday, Abdulhai and Hakim met a young boy, Safar, age 13, who was working as a boot polisher on a street near the APV home. Abdulhai asked to shake Safar’s hand, but the child refused. Understandably, Safar may have feared Abdulhai. But when Abdulhai and Hakim told Safar there were foreigners at the APV office who were keen to help, he followed them into our yard.

Foster Care Resources

In “Foster Care for a New Millennium,” (Sojourners, January 2014), Juliet Vedral describes foster children as the modern-day “orphans in distress,” with more than 102,000 children nationwide waiting to be adopted. DC127, a movement started in Washington, D.C., is hoping to reverse the foster care list by encouraging church congregants to become foster families or adopt.  

Everyone can do something to care for children in foster care, whether by fostering, adopting, or supporting those that are doing so. The resources below help engage foster care at a personal and community level. What can you do to help the thousands of children who seek a loving and stable home?

ORGANIZATIONS

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Foster Care for a New Millennium

I WAS 7 years old when my family first opened our home to foster children. My parents were in their early 40s and already had four children at home. They were somewhat typical for foster parents at that time: married, established, often people of faith. We had a total of 10 children in our home—two of whom were adopted—from 1988 until 1997. Fostering children was a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment and calling. As my mother would say, “God sets the lonely in families—but am I willing to let him set them in mine?”

This is a question that more Christians—particularly the oft-maligned Millennials—are asking themselves. They are examining both the sheer number of children growing up without families and scripture to see what it says about their faith. Taking their cue, and often their names, from James 1:27 (“look after orphans and widows in their distress”), groups in Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Virginia, and most recently the District of Columbia have committed to looking after these modern-day “orphans in their distress.”

According to the Administration for Children and Families, in 2012 there were 400,000 children in foster care nationwide. Of that number, 102,000 were waiting to be adopted. Only 52,000 children were adopted in 2012; at the end of 2011, 15 percent of youth in the system lived in group homes or institutions. What is most troub-ling is the number of youth who “age out” of the system every year without the support of a family. At the end of 2011, 11 percent, or 26,000 youth in the system, aged out. These youth are much more likely to experience homelessness, health problems, unemployment, incarceration, and other trouble later in life.

In Washington, D.C., there are about 1,300 children in the foster care system; 300 of them are on the waitlist for adoptive homes. Many are siblings, and many more are adolescents, past the ages when most families typically want to adopt.

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