Pope Francis on Friday spoke about the challenges facing families, including threats to human dignity such as pornography and surrogacy.
“We also talk about the scourge of pornography, which is now spread everywhere via the web,” the pope said at the Vatican on June 10.
“It should be denounced as a permanent attack on the dignity of men and women. It is not only a matter of protecting children — an urgent task of the authorities and all of us — but also of declaring pornography a threat to public health,” he told members of a family association network.
Quoting a 2017 speech he gave to a congress on child dignity online, the pope added that “it would be a serious illusion to think that a society in which abnormal consumption of sex on the web is rampant among adults is then capable of effectively protecting minors.”
Family networks, schools, and local communities are crucial to combat pornography and to help heal the wounds of those addicted, he said.
“The dignity of men and women is also threatened,” he continued, “by the inhumane and increasingly widespread practice of ‘womb renting,’ in which women, almost always poor, are exploited, and children are treated as commodities.”
Pope Francis spoke about some of the challenges faced by families in a meeting with members of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE).
FAFCE is an umbrella organization that gives support to Catholic families and promotes discussion of family policy issues within European institutions and local governments. The group met with Pope Francis before their June 10 conference on the family, held in Rome in advance of the World Meeting of Families 2022.
In his speech, the pope encouraged the pro-family organization to continue its mission during what is “not only an era of change, but a change of epoch.”
It can be a discouraging time for families, he said, “but, with God’s grace, we are called to work with hope and confidence, in effective communion with the Church.”
“The family founded on marriage is, therefore, at the center. It is the first cell of our communities and must be recognized as such, in its generative, unique and indispensable function,” Francis said.
The pope also worried about the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the “hidden pandemic” of loneliness.
“While many families have rediscovered themselves as domestic churches, it is also true that too many families have experienced loneliness, and their relationship with the Sacraments has often become merely virtual,” he noted.
Addressing the topic of the environment, Pope Francis disagreed with a view which holds that children have a negative impact on the world’s ecology.
Quoting a 2021 FAFCE Board Resolution, he said, “the concept of an ‘ecological footprint’ cannot be applied to children, as they are an indispensable resource for the future. Instead, consumerism and individualism must be addressed, by looking to families as the best example of resource optimization.”
“Having children should never be considered a lack of responsibility towards creation or its natural resources,” he quoted.
Pope Francis also spoke about the important example of unity families can give, and how they can work to bring about peace, especially at a time when many families are separated due to the war in Ukraine.