Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers Speak to Parents

This past spring, after three years of conversations, prayer and consultations with many around the world, the Holy Father shared with the whole world the deep importance of marriage and family in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).

This is very significant and there is a special purpose for this document.

The Holy Father released this document, the fruit of a synodal process (the Extraordinary General Assembly and the Ordinary General Assembly), in order to bring about a renewed attention to the significance and importance of marriage and family for the society as a whole. Further, it’s a terrific pastoral guide for those preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage and for those who are already living out the vocation of marriage.

"An Education for Love" for CatholicMom.com. Courtesy of CMGConnect Parents and Covenant Eyes. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

In this light, I wish to share some thoughts of Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers that were spoken particularly to those who are raising children–parents!

I hope it brings consolation to parents everywhere that, as the Holy Father explains, there is no ideal family. Not one! As a response to this, he says: “I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfill their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.”[1] Thus, even if your family falls along the way—and it will—the strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love.”[2]

How does the family both demonstrate and teach how to love when there are so many fundamental challenges facing families today that impact the raising of children? Pope Francis gives us examples of some major challenges that many of us know all too well in regard to the raising of a Christian family. These include the the powerful influence of the media, ads and TV that negatively undercut family values, electronic devices, the “spread of pornography and the commercialization of the body, fostered by the misuse of the Internet,” and the overall negative impact of electronics and the selfish interests of others. These all greatly and negatively impact parenting in the present day and amount to what Pope Francis refers to as the “throwaway culture”.[3] [4] With this in mind, it makes it all the more important that parents provide children with a proper education, with the proclamation of the Gospel (“kerygma”) and “the Gospel of the family” as central.[5] [6] [7] This education is to include “a positive and prudent sex education” or what Pope Francis also refers to so beautifully as “an education for love, for mutual self-giving”.[8] We must give this education time and commitment and to help our young people “prepare seriously for a great generous love.”[9] “Why?” In the words of Pope Francis, because “[w]here sex education is concerned, much is at stake.”[10]

To assist our young people in reaching joyful and loving encounters by growth in self-knowledge and self-control, on this topic, the Holy Father offers what can be summed up in the following points:[11]

  • Age Appropriate Education: When it comes to education regarding human sexuality, parents and educators must keep in mind that neither children or young people have attained full maturity. The education they receive must come at the appropriate time and age.[12] Further, there needs to be a new and more appropriate language developed for introducing children to the overall topic of human sexuality.[13]
  • Pornography: If children and young people consume data that includes new ideas and suggestions, i.e., pornography, without having been previously taught how to deal with such things, their sexuality can become disordered. Young people must be taught that some activities and messages are harmful to their maturity and “[cripple] their capacity to love.” Children and young people need the guidance of adults to recognize and seek out positive influences and run from porn.[14]
  • Modesty: Modesty is not a relic, nor a thing of the past. Sexual education should foster a healthy sense of modesty. Pope Francis states: “Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used. Without a sense of modesty, affection and sexuality can be reduced to an obsession with genitality and unhealthy behaviors that distort our capacity for love, and with forms of sexual violence that lead to inhuman treatment or cause hurt to others.”[15]
  • Negativity Towards Procreation: Children and young people need to be taught that a child is a gift and not an enemy. It is common that sex education will teach “protection” and “safe sex” when discussing sex and intercourse. This teaches them to try to “protect” against life and the possibility of having a baby, instead of acceptance. This creates self-absorption and aggression. Further, it is an invitation to adolescents, in the words of Pope Francis “to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage.” By teaching young people to contracept and not to abstain, we encourage them to use other people.[16]
  • Respect and Communication: Instead of teaching young people ways to use others, we need to be teaching them ways to eventually give of themselves completely through the gift of their bodies and whole self. Following a public commitment (i.e., marriage, priestly or religious vows), they will need to demonstrate love toward their spouse or flock via “expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect and deeply meaningful communication.” We need to teach young people authentic self-giving, instead of prolonging their immature state in the way they show love.[17] 
  • Respect and Appreciation for Differences: Young people need to be helped to understand and accept their bodies as they were created, and that we do not have absolute power over our own bodies. Pope Francis states, “Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension “to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.”[18] 

Parents and educators have the key role in seeing that our young people receive an education that cultivates an authentic, healthy and faith-filled development of each child’s unique identity for the present and the future.

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To assist parents and educators in this task, Catholic Mutual Group and Covenant Eyes partnered to create CMGConnect Parents.

CMGConnect Parents is a free online resource that provides parents and educators with educational guides to educate themselves while educating adolescents and young people on sexuality, self-gift, respect, modesty, pornography and what it means to be a male or female, made in God’s image. In particular, parents will gain knowledge and tools they need to have positive conversations with their children about sexuality and responsible use of the Internet. When you sign up for CMGConnect Parents, you will receive a free 30-day promo code to Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering and more!

Copyright 2016 Amanda Zurface

amanda-zurfaceAbout the author: Amanda Zurface is the Catholic Campaign Coordinator for Covenant Eyes. Amanda holds a License and MA in Canon Law and BAs in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. Amanda has served in various roles within the Catholic Church both in the United States and internationally. She resides in Washington Court House, Ohio.


[1] Joy of Love, p. 44

[2] Joy of Love, p. 42-43

[3] Joy of Love, p. 65

[4] Joy of Love, p. 31

[5] Joy of Love, p. 14

[6] Joy of Love, p. 41

[7] Joy of Love, p. 50

[8] Joy of Love, p. 211

[9] Joy of Love, p. 214

[10] Joy of Love, p. 214

[11] Joy of Love, p. 211

[12] Joy of Love, p. 211

[13] Joy of Love, p. 212

[14] Joy of Love, p. 211

[15] Joy of Love, p. 212

[16] Joy of Love, p. 213

[17] Joy of Love, p. 213

[18] Joy of Love, p. 214.