spoke of what he described as the urgent need for "exemplary"Christian families that will give a concrete witness to, "the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony", which I read as meaning "must be married" and "must not practise contraception" - although this may be a somewhat limited and narrow interpretation on my part...
I value enormously the idea of strong families. There are few things more important than bringing up children in loving and supportive environments which allow them to mature into confident and happy adults. However, I cannot buy into this idea of an "exemplary" family. To start with, I am not sure this exemplary family even exists, nor that I would want to be part of any family that felt it could not be anything other than "exemplary" at all times. Furthermore, a christian married couple and their children might tick all the "exemplary" boxes but still be no such thing , as the wonderful cartoon from ASBO Jesus shows. All sorts of unsavoury things can be found under the surface of the "exemplary" family. Moreover, another family that did not pass some ludicrous litmus test could still be an environment where children are loved and nutured. It might not be "perfect", but it might be good enough. Should any family be considered a "second class" family?
I would also challenge the idea that one of the main points of a family is to be some kind of testament to the virtues of Christianity or Catholicism. Surely families are there to allow people to live together, to care for each other, to bring up children and offer something which is valuable in itself? Do people of faith own unique rights to THE FAMILY? Sometimes you would think we do! Is a child best brought up within a faith system in any case? It can be great gift, equally it can be damaging and limiting, especially if children are not also given freedom of belief and the right to make their own choices.
So, I am not very impressed when I hear people harping on about family and family values. I agree with the idea that love is a family value. It is the qualities found within a family that count, not its external respectability. Even when families are not "exemplary" - and I am pretty sure mine isn't - if there is love and respect and relationship, can they not still be a "concrete witness" to all of us?