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.

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!”

Sharon Jayson 08-13-2014

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. 

David Lewicki 08-04-2014

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.

LaVonne Neff 04-22-2014
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.

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.
Lisa Sharon Harper 01-05-2014

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

We didn't eat for 22 days, but we did feast.

Kathy Kelly 12-31-2013
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.

Rebecca Kraybill 12-17-2013

Resources that help address the modern-day "orphans in distress" in our midst.

Juliet Vedral 12-11-2013

Christians step up for modern-day "orphans in their distress."

Has the uptick in Christians eager to adopt overseas done more harm than good?

Maryada Vallet 05-11-2013

Where the U.S. meets Mexico, rhetoric often gets in the way of the facts.

Brandon Hook 11-26-2012

As a privileged child growing up in suburbia, I could never imagine losing my parents. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities they gave me, and the love they have poured out on me for as long as I can remember.

“You’ll understand once you have a child, Brandon,” my dad has told me countless times in a sort of sage-like way. Without saying, we both acknowledge that I will not understand the love parents have for their children until I have a child of my own.

But, even if I could not comprehend the love my parents had for me, I am able to understand that I could not be who I am today — more likely, I would not be much of anything — without their presence in my life. And that’s not to say that anyone missing a parent cannot function.

But thousands of children to parents living in the U.S. without citizenship are abruptly forced to carry on without one or both of their parents, as a record number of people are being deported from the U.S. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), nearly 45,000 parents were removed in the first six months of this year.   

Timothy King 12-09-2011
Gay and happy family. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/v9yizi

Gay and happy family. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/v9yizi

Failure to provide equal rights for LGBT people doesn’t just hurt those who are gay or lesbian, it also hurts the nearly 2 million children who now live in LGBT households.

Contrary to many stereotypes, children living in LGBT households are 50 percent more likely to live in poverty than those living in heterosexual households. Societal prejudice and discriminatory policies both have something to do with it. A recent report sponsored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress, explains why.

Cathleen Falsani 10-30-2011

In case you missed it...

In an OpEd titled, "What the Costumes Reveal," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote about a Halloween office party thrown by the N.Y. law firm of Steven J. Baum, an outfit that specializes in real estate foreclosures -- a "foreclosure mill," if you will -- where, apparently, employees came costumed as homeless and foreclosed-upon families.

Anne Marie Roderick 10-25-2011

In my vision of the emancipated world, women will not be sitting at the top of some profit-driven society, relishing power and basking in material wealth. In the reign of God, women will be able to take the time we need to be mothers and daughters without having to let go of our more far-reaching aspirations. And men will have the time they need to be fathers and sons. We will love and value ourselves without playing into the false worldly notion that we can and should be "number one." And we won't be afraid to say "NO," when we're tired.

Lisa Sharon Harper 10-21-2011

As you are reading this, the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. The Super Committee) is making choices about who and what our nation will protect.

Will we protect the wealthiest 2 percent by preserving $690 billion in Bush era tax cuts?

Or will we protect children by preserving $650 billion in special education, student aid, and assistance to low-income schools?

Will we protect corporations by preserving $97.5 billion in subsidies for big business or will we protect families by preserving $98 billion in Head Start and child care programs?

We have 32 days left to remind Congress that, "Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss" (Proverbs 22:16).

Joshua Witchger 10-04-2011

This Sunday (Oct. 9) , Sesame Street will introduce a brand-new Muppet character — a magenta-faced, impoverished 7-year-old named Lily who represents one of the 17-million Americans who struggle daily with hunger and poverty — during a rare prime-time special called, "Growing Hope Against Hunger."

Alex Awad 09-26-2011
Late last week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the United Nations to request an official recognition of Palestine as an independent state with full statehood status at the UN.
Amy Stetzel 09-26-2011

[caption id="attachment_34028" align="alignleft" width="214" caption="Detail of a sculpture at the site of a former slave market, Christ Church, Zanzibar. By Cathleen Falsani."][/caption]