8. Families are in crisis today due to the erosion of the fundamental values such as loving fidelity and permanence of marriage. Hence, the number of divorces, separated couples, one-parent families, children without parents, and live-in relationships without commitment are on the increase. Lack of respect for parents on the one hand and the rejection of children on the other, are giving rise to dysfunctional families. The neglect of vulnerable family members, particularly children with special needs, the sick, single women/men and senior citizens, is also part of this crisis.
9. Disparity of cult (inter-faith) and mixed (inter-denominational) marriages are on the increase given the Indian context of constant interaction among people of various religions and cultures and the positive attitude of the church that promotes inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue. There is a dire need to recognize inter-faith and inter-denominational families as signs of the times, and value their daily, intimate, inter-religious dialogue, as well as the bonds they forge with their extended families.
10. Inter-faith families create situations of ‘double belonging’ in faith and culture which has a unique impact on the faith formation of the children. The love of these families is at time put to test because of the insistence of Canon 1125 which expects Catholic partners to obtain the assurance (promise) from the other partner for the baptism of their children. The reality of inter-faith and inter-denominational marriages calls for a more inclusive theology of marriage and baptism as well as laws, regulations and marriage liturgies that are respectful of and sensitive to their unique situation.
11. Caste and class differences continue to wreck the sanctity of marital love. The cruel practice of honour killing is on the increase, though not explicitly within the Christian communities. However, there is no evidence of unequivocal and witnessing ecclesial practices to abolish caste atrocities and to foster inter-caste marriages or to stand by the couple who dare to enter into a nuptial union cutting across their caste clutches.
12. Though endogamy is associated with self-preservation, and is practised by many ethnic communities in India and around the world, its practice in certain Christian communities in India does raise theological and pastoral issues. It is indeed scandalous and contrary to Christian love that in the name of rite and tradition marriages outside their own ethnic group are barred and this is sanctioned by ecclesial authorities.
13. An emerging global neo-liberal culture that propels individualism, selfishness and greed, with lifestyles and mindsets inspired by materialism and utilitarianism, poses a threat to the family. Many families are attracted to a consumerist lifestyle and want to possess the latest clothes, jewellery, phones, cars, etc. This puts them under pressure to spend beyond their means, making them borrow money or take loans which cannot be easily repaid. Frequently families are also under pressure to spend lavishly on weddings and other family functions, leading to the selling of their assets.
14. Alcoholism and drug abuse in some areas are common threats to healthy family life. Both are on the increase. Many become alcoholics especially among the poor, due to the policies of the State governments which promote alcoholism to maximize liquor sales to collect revenue. Almost in all the instances, addiction to intoxicants leads to violence – physical, verbal and psychological – both at home and in the society.
15. Migration is another serious phenomenon of the present times that has a strong impact on marriage and family life. Globalization, unjust land acquisition, lack of employment and unsustainable agriculture, wars and conflicts contribute to the growing displacement and migration. This situation leads to single-parent families, the weakening of husband-wife relationships and results in dysfunctional families. Migrants often have no roof over their heads and are forced to live on pavements and slums in inhuman conditions, forever under the threat of eviction. Because they are poor they do not have the means to improve their condition.
16. A new threat to the family is the all pervasive cyberspace. Families today have become porous to the influence of Internet and social media that often propagate values that are not in keeping with the values of the Gospel. Virtual relationships have substituted real ones based on human contact with its inherent verbal and non-verbal communication. Unlimited access to social networking without adequate guidance leads the youth to believe that the number of virtual friends defines a person’s worth. As a result, they develop superficial relationships and are frequently unable to meet the demands of loving relationships in marriage.
17. The obsession with the Internet also causes islands of isolation within the family, eating into the already limited family time available to working family members. It brings pornography into the family space resulting in further deterioration of mutual trust in the family, which leads to psychological problems. Unhealthy sexual conduct spreads sexually transmitted diseases which are a further threat to healthy family life.
18. The Church is also facing other challenges like same-sex unions which have received legal recognition in many countries and seem to be gaining more public acceptance in India. Legislation supporting same- sex marriages and long-term live-in relationships in many countries is challenging the Christian understanding of marriage.
19. A critique is necessary of the new forms of family advocated by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and their supporting groups with the claim for social and civil rights. There is absence of clarity even among scientists, psychologists and religionists regarding the various aspects of the question of sexual orientations. As a result the formulation of a theology that can adequately address the issue is not an easy task. However the situation demands a compassionate pastoral approach.
20. The youth today are exposed to various views on sexuality, marriage and family which are at variance with the understanding of the church and which often are detrimental to the good of family and society. Once they begin college studies, the urban youth find no time and space for recreation, sports and games, and this may lead to sexual problems and negative habits. They are attracted to a neoliberal culture which promotes greed and individualism and are hostile to institutions including the “institutional” church.
21. Women are taking up leadership roles and careers, bringing home money and opening up new perspectives to family life. This has brought in some changes in gender equations in the family. The male members of the family do not have the same dominant positions as before. However, feminist movements have shown the subtle ways in which patriarchy continues to exercise control over women and family life. Financial independence does not ensure that women get to participate equally in decision-making in the family.
22. Whether women work outside the domestic unit or assist in traditional work, the maintenance of their household is their primary responsibility. Whether in lower, middle, or upper-class homes, woman’s work always includes personal service (the work of maids, butlers, cooks, personal secretaries), sexual service (including provision for man’s sexual needs and bearingthe children, also including “being nice,” “being attractive” for him), and ego service (encouragement, support, praise, attention).
23. Gender discrimination in the household is often rooted in the patriarchal attitude that values the social status of men over women. Patriarchal ideology exaggerates biological differences between men and women, making certain that men always have the dominant or the so called masculine roles and women always have the subordinate or the so called ‘feminine roles’. A strikingly high proportion of men in the country believe that wives should submit to their husband’s authority on household decisions. A man’s name, his line, his honour is to be preserved even at the expense of a woman’s body, her resources, her rights and her very life. Often, even religion is used to justify and reinforce women’s subordination to men.
24. In India patriarchy is not just a matter of male supremacy and male centeredness, it is a social system of control and domination. Caste oppression, preference for sons, female foeticide, infanticide, bride burning, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, etc. are the result of domination and control through violence. Patriarchy perpetuates and justifies violence against women. The most prominent victims of violence are wives and children. It is indeed disheartening to hear that seventy per cent of Indian women are victims of domestic violence.
25. The joint family system is slowly being replaced by the emergent nuclear family. The elderly are often left to fend for themselves or end up in homes for the aged. When grandparents are part of the family, often they are reduced to being just caretakers of the grandchildren. There is no respect or gratitude shown towards them and they find it hard to adapt to this. Once they are unable to do this, they become unwanted.
26. With millions of families living in single-room tenements, there is no space for conjugal privacy and intimacy, resulting in frustration and alienation between husband and wife. Young couples who work for mostly multi-national companies and huge concerns have no time for each other as one works at night while the other during day time. Their conjugal love is in perpetual postponement. Some couples get separated even before coming to know each other.
27. In spite of these immense pressures on peace and unity in family life, there seems to be a general apathy and incompetence among Church communities in promoting Family Apostolate though a few dioceses have taken right steps in this direction. Marriage preparation courses today seem to be grossly inadequate and family catechesis seems to be limited to teaching people to recite prayers and take part in devotions. The pastoral approach to divorced and remarried Catholics appear to be judgmental while there is ignorance about Canon Law and Civil Law pertaining to marriage, divorce, separation, annulment, etc. Besides there is a lack of effective and adequate family counselling centres to address the needs of the families.