Advertising adulterous relationships
There is never a dull moment in this crazy world we live in. Something new, strange, bizarre or perverse strikes the headlines every day. Recently, in Massachusetts, US, an advertising campaign was launched promoting an internet website for married people looking for an adulterous relationship. Some sections of the media carried the adverts while others refused. This is just another example of how, in this topsy-turvy world of ours, there are those who boast of things that they should be ashamed of.
In the face of these adverts the bishops of Massachusetts are, as one would expect, defending the institution of marriage: "This wrongful enterprise threatens not only the oldest and most foundational of human institutions, but also the common good of all," the bishops said. "Marriage requires honesty, loyalty, trust, self-sacrifice, personal responsibility, respect, and commitment. Marriage is a vocation that benefits all of society by building and strengthening human relationships within the family home and beyond with relatives, neighbours and one's community."
The bishops were right to take the stand they took and I hope that they were not left alone. Adultery harms marriage and where marriage is hurt, so is society. So attacking such adverts is a must. But this is not enough. Catholics, together with others of similar convictions about the importance of marriage and the family, should be proactive in their defence of these institutions.
We should be happy that - I think - no one would imagine launching such a campaign in Malta. On the other hand, we are all conscious that the family and marriage are under stress. The question is: are we doing enough to defend them?
Let me pose some questions:
1. Campaigns are regularly organised urging the public, for example, to save energy, to use seat belts and to exercise regularly. Shouldn't we then also conduct pro-family and pro-marriage campaigns? The Archbishop has made an innovative proposal in this regard on more than one occasion.
2. The number of people opting to tie the knot only through a civil marriage is on the increase. Should not the state help such couples prepare for their marriage? In Malta, it is only the Church that organises such preparatory courses.
3. Is our system of social services open to abuse that favours, even if indirectly and unintentionally, people who decide to live together without marrying? I have heard of people cohabiting without marrying so as not to lose their entitlement to a social service.
4. Are our work practices as family-friendly as they should be? Family-friendly work practices come at a price, but so does family breakdown. In fact, the price in emotional and monetary terms is much bigger.
5. A lot of soap operas are shown on our TV stations. What messages are they projecting about marriage and the family? I am not advocating that TV series should become boring sermons. Perish the thought. But what I am asking is for TV producers and scriptwriters to think of the values they are promoting about marriage and the family.
6. Is government investing enough to help families facing problems and to save marriages in difficulty? Is it helping enough NGOs that are doing this sterling work? This can only be done if government adopts a holistic pro-family strategy.
The list could go on, but action is needed, and now.