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September 22, 2014

It is encouraging that 14 married couples have been invited to the World Synod of Bishops on the Family next month. One hopes that a significant majority of these couples have had the joyous and demanding experience of raising children.

Unfortunately, this cannot be taken for granted, despite the Church's own emphasis on procreation as an essential end of marriage. Too often, the couples the Church holds up for imitation are those who have lived marriage in a state of celibacy or who, at least, have been childless with the result that they can better devote their time to various ministries.

One good reason for the Church not ordaining married men to the priesthood is that it would undermine marriage and the raising of children. A priest is married to his flock more than symbolically. In a persecuted Church – not the current state of the Church in Canada, but arguably the natural state of the followers of Christ – the priest must be prepared to lay down his life for his flock. A priest with a wife and children would, at the very least, have divided loyalties.

The life of a father and a mother, however, is, or ought to be, a life of total dedication for many years to the raising of children. They live, not the life of public ministry, but the hidden life of Nazareth. Despite the Church's lip service, it is not so clear that Nazareth is seen as a part of the life of the Church to be honoured in the same way as is public ministry. Rarely does the Church consider its employees' family situations in determining their level of pay.

The Church flourishes because of the martyrs and saints; it also flourishes because of the hidden lives of parents dedicated to raising their children, never drawing attention, but remaining ever-faithful. If the synod gives concrete emphasis to the unsung "ministry" of parenting, it will have left a great legacy.

Letter to the Editor – 11/03/14