Once I was talking to a person who said that because of their bad experiences of family life during childhood, they decided not to have children in their own marriage. Such bad experiences of family life are not rare. Pope Francis discussed the topic recently.
In all families there are moments of discord, but when harmful words, acts and indifference are ignored, they can be aggravated and transformed into arrogance, hostility and contempt, which can become deep lacerations, dividing husband and wife and inducing them to seek understanding, support and consolation elsewhere. “But often, these forms of support do not think of the good of the family. … And frequently the effects of separation have an impact on the children”.
“But do we still know what a wound to the soul is? Do we feel the weight of the mountain that crushes the soul of a child, in families in which the members treat each other badly and harm each other, to the point of breaking the bonds of conjugal trust?” asked the Pope. … When adults lose their head … when the father and mother harm each other, the soul of the child suffers greatly, feeling a sense of desperation. And they are wounds that leave a lifelong mark”.
“In the family, everything is interconnected: when its soul is wounded at some point, the infection spreads throughout. … Husband and wife are one flesh”, emphasised the Pope, “But their creatures are flesh of their flesh. If we think of the severity with which Jesus warns adults not to offend the little ones, we can also better understand his word on the grave responsibility of safeguarding the conjugal bond that is at the origin of the human family. When a man and a woman become one flesh, all the wounds and neglect of the father and mother are brought to bear on the living flesh of the children”.
The Holy Father also spoke about those cases in which separation is inevitable or indeed morally necessary “to remove the weaker spouse, or young children, from the wounds caused by arrogance and violence, debasement and exploitation, estrangement and indifference”.
However, he said, there is no lack of those who, thanks to God, “supported by faith and love for their children, bear witness to their faithfulness in a bond in which they have believed, however impossible it may seem to revive it. Not all separated people have this vocation, though. Not all recognise, in their solitude, the Lord’s call to them. We find many families in irregular situations around us. And this poses many questions: how can we help them? How can we accompany them? How can we accompany them so the children do not become hostages to their father or mother?”.
The Pope concluded his catechesis by asking the Lord for “great faith, to look upon reality through the eyes of God; and great charity, to be near to people with a merciful heart”.