Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli
In 1843, Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant in London, found himself too busy to sit down and write the customary Christmas greetings to his family and friends. So he asked the British painter John Callcott Horsley to design a card with an image and greeting to send instead. That first Christmas card has spawned an industry that produces more than 2 billion Christmas cards each year in America alone.
Despite the secular greeting cards that now flood the market at Christmas, cards with a religious theme remain the most popular. And, of all the religious scenes, the Nativity remains the favorite. After all, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But, there is another reason for the popularity of the Nativity scene on Christmas cards. The image of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus touch the human spirit at its deepest level.
The loving communion of the Holy Family represents the ideal, the prototype of every family. All of us come from a family. All of us long to belong to a family. Mother, father and child. That is how it all began in Eden. And, from the dawn of civilization, that is how it has always been — until today.
In every age, the very existence of the family has faced serious threats. Poverty. Addictions. Unemployment. Infidelity. Divorce. War. All of these eat away at the fabric of family life. But, more serious than any of these is the ideological propaganda that seeks to change the very definition of family itself.
In our all too tolerant society, no one would dare deny the right of any individual to choose to form a relationship with another person. Individuals with an orientation that is heterosexual, homosexual or any variation thereof all have the right to form friendships that are personal and loving. But, in the name of equality, the political elites are imposing an agenda that radically undermines the traditional family. Certainly, not every family has a mother, a father and child(ren). Infertility. Death. Divorce. Premarital sex. Separation. These factors are real and they leave many a home without the ideal family. But it is quite another thing for society itself to equate what is with what should be, and, even worse, to undermine what is meant to be for the good of society.
Every individual has a God-given dignity. An individual’s sexual orientation is not the sum and substance of who that person is. When asked if he approved of homosexuality, Pope Francis replied with his own question. He said, “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person … In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.”
The pope’s words are certainly an encouragement and consolation to those families that struggle with coming to terms with a child who announces his or her own same-sex attraction. Every individual is to be loved and cherished. Nonetheless, the pope’s words are not an endorsement of same-sex unions. When such unions are legitimized by law, they are no longer private arrangements without societal consequences. They are the imposition of a new, politically correct concept of family. Unfortunately, speaking in favor of traditional family life is deceitfully interpreted as bigotry and prejudice.
Interesting enough, from France, come some of the loudest voices speaking in favor of the traditional family. From France, whose clarion call Vive la difference extols liberty and diversity, come the demonstrations against emptying the family of its basic meaning. Last year, when the French government rushed through the legalizing of gay marriage, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest. Why?
With the political and ideological agenda to equate same-sex unions with traditional marriage, there is something deeper taking place than merely affirming the right of two people to love each other. If two men who love each other are civilly married, the law allows them to adopt. If two women who love each other are civilly married, they can make whatever arrangements they want to have a child. This is what the thousands of ordinary French people were protesting. The gay marriage law, in effect, makes mothers and fathers “optional” for children. Is this the way society should go?
The Holy Father has clearly taught that children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father. When society no longer fosters the truth that children should come from a loving relationship between a man and a woman united in marriage, then, children are reduced to a possession, an object, something anyone can choose to get for himself or herself to enhance their life and fulfill their desires.
Today’s society guarantees the de facto rights of adults to engage in sexual intimacy and to cohabitate at will and to choose to have a child or to abort the child. But, the rights of children are not guaranteed. Should we be surprised that the same society that denies the child the very right to be born does not espouse the right of a child to have a mother and father?
The Nativity scenes on our Christmas cards, indeed, touch us at our deepest love. They remind us of God’s plan for the human family: a mother, a father and a child. The Christ child was a gift to Mary and Joseph and to the whole world. So is every other child! A child is not a right, but a gift to be received, cherished and loved by a mother and a father. To tar this truth with the deceptive branch of bigotry will ultimately destroy the roots of a healthy society.