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“Today, the family is in crisisit is in crisis worldwide”, Pope Francis has said. “Young people don’t want to get married, they don’t get married, or they live together. Marriage is in crisis, and so the family is in crisis.”
The main problem with the family in the Church today, contends Gerhard Cardinal Müller, is not the small number of civilly remarried divorced Catholics who want to receive Holy Communion. It is the large number of Catholics who live together before marriage, who marry civilly, or who do not even bother with marriage, as if these choices were sound options for Catholic living. Furthering the problem is the widespread failure of married Catholics to understand marriage as a way of Christian discipleship.
In this engaging conversation, Cardinal Müller, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers in the Vatican, addresses the challenges facing marriage and family life today. The loss of faith in many traditionally Christian societies has led to a crisis. In turn, cohabitation, civil marriage, and divorce and civil remarriage, further undermine faith because they harm the family as the “domestic Church” and the place of initial evangelization. Thus, the Church must undertake a robust new evangelization of the family: sharing the fullness of truth about marriage and family in Christ, encouraging families to worship and to pray together, and helping them to witness by their lives the joy of the gospel.
Cardinal Müller stresses mercy and compassion in pastoral ministry with struggling Catholics, but he does so without either contradicting the teaching of Jesus about divorce and remarriage or minimizing the power of grace to transform lives. In this way he proclaims hope for the family rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Gerhard Cardinal Müller is the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Formerly the bishop of Regensburg, Germany, and a professor of theology, he is president of both the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission. He is also the author of many books, including Priesthood and Diaconate. He was created a cardinal of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis in 2014.