Referring to the ongoing debates on the family, he said: “The Church cannot stand aside from these important debates about the defence of the family as a fundamental institution within society. At times, as with all ideological debates, the debates become acrimonious and very often it is the Church which is then portrayed as being the cause of such acrimony and of inflaming public debate.
We need to keep that debate going, but we must do so in a way in which we build a wide, broad consensus about the family.”
He said that since the end of World War II a philosophy of individual rights and freedom had arisen which had in some ways helped the family because the family often made the father the dominant figure and put women and children in second place.
He added: “There was however an individualism which looked on the family as having predominantly negative effects on the rights of individuals. The family, it was said, was oppressive; the family had to be redesigned and redefined.”
Referring to his own time negotiating at UN conferences on the family, he said: “I remember well the ideological battles at international conferences in which I, as the lead negotiator for the Holy See, became involved with some of the more liberal States of the European Union. They were difficult and at times fraught negotiations. At times the polemics were strong and the Vatican was categorized as being worse than fundamentalists, defending unreal ideological positions.”
He challenged the Church to “foster that new culture of mutuality in marriage in a world where individualism reigns. When we talk of marriage and the family as being at the heart of the parish, we must look more clearly at what the Church can do for families and for the concept of stable and fulfilling marriage.”
The conference took place in Clonliffe College on Saturday.
Archbishop Martin's talk in full can be found here.