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Voices Online Edition
Michaelmas 2001, Volume XVI No. 3

Inside Voices

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, addressed to families on their role in the Church and in society. It was issued November 22, 1981, following the 1980 Synod on the Family.

The Pontifical Council on the Family was established after this Synod, and was charged with producing the Charter of the Rights of the Family, issued in 1983. Both Familiaris Consortio and the Charter are key to understanding the Church's teaching on matters concerning the family, its theological foundations, its social role, and the evangelical mission of the family within the Church and to the world. The need for such a clear teaching is, if anything, greater today than it was twenty years ago.

In this issue of Voices, you will find excerpts from Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II's concluding "Prayer for Families", as well as the entire Charter of the Rights of the Family. In view of the continued undermining of the family today these documents bear careful re-reading.

The growing need for reliable guidance on issues involving the family is made clear in essays in this issue of Voices. The United Nations proposals on children's rights have been carefully tracked by Mary Jo Anderson. (Her report in Voices Pentecost 2001 is amplified in this issue. If you missed it, we still have copies, or you can access it on our web site.)

The situation is serious, and calls for prayer and action.

Education is key -- and continues to be a primary concern for Catholic families and teachers. Sheila Liaugminas gives a parent's-eye-view of the problem. Mary Ellen Bork looks at the present from the historical perspective of the Reformation in her first contribution to Voices.

Two new members have joined the Voices editorial staff this summer: Rita Joseph of Australia, a member of the editorial board, and Joanna Bogle of England, a contributing editor. We are honored and delighted to have these outstanding Catholic women working with us, and are pleased to "internationalize" the Voices staff. We think readers will find their articles engaging and thought-provoking.

While my husband and I were on a lecture tour in Australia this July, we were impressed by the energy and fidelity of many young Catholics -- and to learn of new and continuing efforts to strengthen the Church's mission in Australia. The Australian branch of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family was successfully launched in Melbourne in July. (Rita Joseph will be teaching there.)

We also learned that cultural and religious problems are not unique to the United States. Indeed, they sound very familiar.

During our trip we met several bishops, including Archbishop George Pell, now of Sydney, Bishop Kevin Manning of Paramatta (near Sydney), and Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore (near Brisbane). We received a letter from Archbishop Denis Hart, the new archbishop of Melbourne (see letters column). We look forward to stronger associations with Catholics in Australia in the coming months.

A new book, Christian Marriage, a Historical Study (edited by Glenn W. Olsen) studies the development of the Christian theory and practice of marriage from biblical times to the present. A variety of scholars are involved, including Father Francis Martin on the biblical bases of marriage, Olsen and Teresa Olsen Pierre on marriage in the Middle Ages, R. V. Young and James Hitchcock on changes in marriage in early modern times, and John Haas on the contemporary world. The book was published this year by Crossroad.

This issue of Voices, including this column, was nearly completed before the terrible attack on America on September 11. Both the front and back covers were done before these earth-shattering events occurred -- events which shock us all into recognizing that we are confronted with principalities and powers of evil in this world.

The devastating destruction of the World Trade Center complex, severe damage to the Pentagon, and the terrible loss of life are foremost on everyone's mind. Our daughters -- Louisa, who had moved to Manhattan only ten days earlier, and Consuelo -- an attorney in DC who has spent much time at the World Trade Center, were both safe, thanks be to God. Many families have suffered grievous losses, and our hearts go out to them -- with our prayers. All Americans are deeply grateful for the heroic and self-sacrificing acts of so many who risked or lost their lives to save others.

Though we may "walk through the valley of the shadow of death", we have courage and hope. For "our help is in the Lord who hath made heaven and earth". Let us pray together for the souls of the victims, for the consolation of their families; for justice and for peace -- in the certain knowledge that Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection has conquered evil and death. This is the Triumph of the Cross.

Sincerely in Christ,

Helen Hull Hitchcock

September 14, 2001
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

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