Creating a culture of life : a Catholic ethical analysis of the causes and consequences of the breakdown of family life in Mariannhill, South Africa
Author(s)Mcunu, Tobias Nhlanhla
African traditional family
Pastoral care of families
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AbstractVatican II provided the Catholic Church with an opportunity for deep reflection and to align its theological teachings with modern times. This reflection resulted in a resurgence of the importance of Christian marriage and family living. Beyond Vatican II, the Christian family has been described as a ‘domestic’ church. This description defines the family founded on marriage as a cornerstone for the church and society. The Church has realised that if she has to succeed in her mission of evangelisation, she needs to strengthen the families founded on the sacrament of marriage and also to take care of broken families. The theme of a ‘domestic church’ was further explored and discussed in the 1994 Special Synod for the Bishops of Africa. This synod strongly used the image of the family as an effective tool for evangelisation in Africa. The rationale for this emphasis was that the institution of the family founded on marriage is held in high esteem in Africa and it is one of the most important custodians of cultural values. This institution, the bishops argued, can now be used as a custodian for Christian values. Hence, the family founded on marriage will become a school where these values are cherished and taught to offspring. The family founded on marriage is celebrated across the global cultural spectrum. It is through the family that the age old wisdom of ancestors is propagated. This ensures the survival and the development of the different communities. Communities develop because they are built upon strong ethical, religious and cultural values which are safeguarded by the institution of the family founded on marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is the custodian of life. Marriage is about life. Hence, the respect of human life is safeguarded by the family. The collapse of such a pivotal institution has serious implications for the community. The institution of the family founded on marriage is presented in this thesis as a turn around strategy to the challenge of moral permissiveness in our country. It is a commonly accepted theory that development can only take place where there is stability. The lack of infrastructural development in most African countries is due to lack of political stability. Instability often results in chaos and anarchy. Marriage promises stability which is rooted in the self giving of the couples. Such an environment becomes conducive for human life to be propagated, nurtured and developed. It further creates a sense of being loved and belonging to the child. These qualities are essential for proper and integral human development. Furthermore, marriage ties together the goals of parenting, namely, procreation and parenthood and they are inseparable. They prepare children for social integration.The purpose of this research is to demonstrate how the institution of the family founded on marriage can help us develop a coherent moral vision in South Africa. This turn around strategy is proposed by systematically analysing the causes and consequences of family breakdown. The thesis establishes that the institution of the family founded on marriage is undergoing a crisis. This crisis manifests itself through single-parenthood, high rate of divorce, fatherlessness, etc. The consequences of this crisis are not favourable for individuals and the society.
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