An article on the impact of the publication of Familiaris Consortio
“Knowing that marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values, the Church wishes to speak and offer her help to those who are already aware of the value of marriage and the family and seek to live it faithfully, to those who are uncertain and anxious and searching for the truth, and to those who are unjustly impeded from living freely their family lives…. At the close of their assembly, the Synod Fathers…asked me unanimously to be a spokesman before humanity of the Church’s lively care for the family and to give suitable indications for renewed pastoral effort in this fundamental sector of the life of man and of the Church.” Familiaris Consortio, 1-2
On 22 November 1981 Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio was published. It was more than a year after 200 delegates had gathered in Rome to discuss The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. The delay in publication may have been the result of two notable events: the shooting of Pope John Paul II in May 1981 and the publication of his encyclical on labour, Laborem Exercens in September 1981.
Familiaris Consortio was the fruit of an intense month of reflection by the world’s bishops and the Holy Father’s response to their 43 propositions. The document is divided into four sections: Bright Spots and Shadows for the Family Today; the Plan of God for Marriage and the Family; the Role of the Christian Family and Pastoral Care of the Family: Stages, Structures, Agents and Situations. As Archbishop Vincent Nichols points out, an Apostolic Exhortation is to be seen almost as a position paper, a benchmark for the Church across the world. Totalling 64,000 words, Familiaris Consortio was then, and remains today, the most comprehensive document published by the Church on marriage and family life.
Dr David Thomas
Dr Thomas attended the Synod as a theological adviser, or peritus, to the American bishops. He reflects on the great reservoir of insight provided by Familiaris Consortio and discusses the document’s important sections.
Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter: Pages 9-11
Familiaris Consortio – Reflections on the deliberations of the 1980 Synod of Bishops, 15 Dec 1981. Newsletter Volume 5, No 2, March 1982.