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Familiaris consortio

Familiaris consortio (Latin roughly translated as "of family partnership", but titled in English On the role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) is a postsynodal apostolic exhortation written by Pope John Paul II and promulgated on November 22, 1981.

It describes the position of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the meaning and role of marriage and the family, and outlines challenges towards realizing that ideal. It defines marriage "as a personal union in which the spouses reciprocally give and receive."

Among other observations, the document restates the opposition to artificial birth control stated earlier in Humanae Vitae, and (briefly) mentions opposition to abortion. It also discusses the responsibility and expectations of the family regarding the education of children. It continues with a description of the expectations of the family regarding the larger society, including service to the poor.

The final (and longest) portion of the document describes expectations of the family which more directly involve religion in daily life, relating it to several of the Catholic sacraments, particularly marriage, and strongly urging family prayer. In particular, this section of the document restates the expectation of a permanent Catholic union for all members of the church seeking marriage. It rejects the acceptability of alternative arrangements, including "trial marriages", exclusively civil marriages, and unions with no publicly recognized bond.


  • Outline 1
  • References 2
  • See also 3
  • External links 4


 A. The document is addressed to families.
  1. Who know what marriage is.
  2. Who are searching for the truth.
  3. Who are not free to live as families.
 B. The occasion for issuing this document is the 1980 synod of bishops, which considered the family.
 C. The family exists to announce the Gospel.
 D. The family also exists to discern vocations.
 E. The Church has a profound interest in the family.
  1. Proof of this interest is the 1980 synod of bishops.
  2. The bishops, gathered in synod, made some propositions and asked the Pope "to be a spokesman before humanity" on the Church's interest in family life.
 F. The family was willed by God in His creative act.
 G. But family life is interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ.
 H. The family can realize itself only by accepting Christ.
 I. Further, it is only in accepting Christ that the family can be restored to the full realization of God's plan.
  1. Men and women cannot live family life as God planned because of original sin.
  2. Only the grace of Christ restores the family to what it should be.
 Part I: Bright Spots and Shadows for the Family Today
 A. This part defines the problems of the family in our age.
 B. God's plan for marriage and family life is not an abstract, theoretical concept, but applies to families in their concrete existence.
 C. Some very appealing ideas are proposed in our age to questions about family life.
 D. However, many of these are contrary to the Gospel.
 E. The Church wishes to offer the entire truth about humanity and family life to the modern world.
  1. The Church is not just the hierarchy, but includes all the baptized.
  2. Christian couples have a very special obligation to proclaim the Gospel to other families.
 F. There are certain modern negative phenomena which threaten the family.
  1. Divorce.
  2. Abortion.
  3. Sterilization.
  4. A contraceptive mentality.
 G. At the root of these phenomena is a false idea of freedom based on selfishness.
  1. There is a conflict between two loves: love of self and the love of God.
  2. The Church proclaims the freedom and love of the Gospel, which are not in conflict because both find their source in God.
 H. The faithful are not immune to these false ideas.
 I. A new culture is emerging which is characterized by advanced technology.
  1. These developments are good.
  2. But we must recover an awareness of moral values.
 J. Everyone needs a permanent conversion to Christ.
 Part II: The Plan of God for Marriage and the Family
 A. This section teaches the world what the family is, i.e., its identity.
 B. The first article of Part II summarizes the Theology of the Body series.
  1. The human person, as an image of God, is made to love.
  2. This love is expressed in and through the human body.
  3. Human love must reflect the total self-donation of God in the creation and the redemption.
  4. The gift of a married couple to one another must include the possibility of children. Couples should exercise "responsible fertility."
  5. Sexuality and procreation are not something merely biological.
  6. If a man and a woman love one another and wish to express their love through their sexual powers, this must occur in marriage.
  7. Virginity and celibacy also represent a gift of love in and through the body.
 C. Marriage is a sign of God's love for His people.
 D. Christ restores family life and makes it possible even after sin.
  1. Christian married couples are a sign of Christ's love.
  2. They are called to love as Christ loved us on the cross.
 E. Children are a precious gift of marriage: the fruit of the mutual gift of the spouses to one another.
 F. The family is a communion of persons which builds up society and the Church.
 G. The family also is the means by which the child enters society and is introduced into the life of the Church.
 H. Conversely, the Church finds a way to the hearts of all people, especially children, through the family.
 I. Virginity and celibacy are embraced as another way of expressing love.
  1. Virgins and celibates testify to the goodness of marriage and family life.
  2. Further, it is only when family life is held in high esteem that virginity and celibacy make any sense.
 Part III: The Role of the Christian Family
 A. This third part discusses the mission of the family.
  1. As a miniature mystical person of Christ, the family must realize itself and know itself in and through its proper acts. It must become what it is, a domestic church, through its proper acts.
 2. The acts of the family, i.e., the mission of the family, correspond to the mission of the Church.
 B. The first division considers the building of the communion of persons in the family.
  1. The familial communion of persons is based on love, the mutual self-donation of all the family members to one another.
  2. Grace, especially that given through the sacrament of Matrimony, makes this self-donation possible.
  3. A marital union must be exclusive. Thus, polygamy contradicts the familial communion of persons.
  4. The marital union is total and therefore indissoluble.
  5. All members of the family are called to live in love with the other family members.
   a. The Pope discusses the role of women in the family.
   b. He also discusses men.
   c. He treats the children.
   d. He concludes with some remarks on the elderly.
 C. The second division of Part III discusses the family's obligation to serve life.
  1. The Pope divides this topic into two areas.
   a. The first is the transmission of life.
   b. The second is the education of the children.
  2. The power of transmitting life is an extraordinary gift. Men and women are called to share in the divine love, which is always fruitful.
   a. The Church teaches that the love of spouses must always be open to the transmission of life.
   b. The Church stands for life and supports life against all those who would attack it.
   c. The magisterium asks theologians to explain the teachings of the Church regarding life.
   d. Contraception is not accepted because sexuality is separated from the person.
   e. The Second Vatican Council affirmed the teaching of the Church against contraception as did Pope Paul VI.
   f. Contraception is a manipulation and degradation of human sexuality. The couples who practice it are living a lie.
   g. There is no contradiction between love and morality.
   h. Fertility awareness is unequivocally recommended and encouraged.
   i. All people must always strive to live according to the moral norms. They will grow in holiness and as they grow in holiness, they will find it easier to follow the moral precepts.
   j. All those who investigate the fertility cycle are commended, thanked, and urged to continue.
  3. The spouses have a grave obligation to educate their children.
   a. Parents should teach by word, but even more importantly, by example.
   b. They should prepare the children for love, not neglecting education in sexuality, i.e., in discipline and self-control according to Christian values.
   c. Parents teach by virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony.
   d. Parents have a grave obligation to ensure the Christian formation of their children. They should teach the children prayer, assist them to grow in holiness, and enable them to receive the sacraments at the proper times. They should teach the Christian truths by example and help their children exercise the Christian virtues.
   e. Church, state, and other Christian families should assist the family in its role of education.
   f. Those families which do not have children witness to their fruitful love by reaching out to others.
 D. The third division of Part III considers the role of the family in participating in society.
  1. The family serves society by giving society new members.
  2. The family also serves society by reaffirming the dignity of each and every human being.
   a. The family does this within itself when all members give themselves in love to all the other members.
   b. The family also does this by extending hospitality to all other human beings.
  3. Families should engage in political activity in order that the government would support and defend family life.
  4. The state has obligations to the family.
   a. The government should not appropriate familial tasks to itself.
   b. The state should assist families in shouldering their responsibilities.
  5. Article forty-six has the charter of the rights of the family.
  6. Christian families, in the exercise of Christ's kingly office, have a very special obligation to participate in the development of society.
   a. Christian families will offer a very special witness to human dignity by cultivating a preference for the poor, the hungry, and those without a family.
   b. Some issues need to be solved on a worldwide basis. Christian families will unite with other Christian families around the globe in defense of human dignity.
   c. Christian families will give witness to human dignity primarily through education.
 E. The last section of Part III considers the family's obligation to share in the life and mission of the Church.
  1. The Christian family is a domestic church called to exercise the priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices of the Lord.
  2. The Christian married couple exercises the prophetic office by receiving the teaching of the Church with faith.
   a. The couple exercises Christ's prophetic office through the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony.
   b. The ritual of the marriage rite should be a "moment of faith."
   c. The couple should exercise Christ's prophetic office throughout the marriage as they give living witness to the Christian truths.
  3. The couple also exercises Christ's prophetic office by teaching the faith, especially to their children.
   a. This task of evangelization often causes suffering if the children reject the faith.
   b. At such times, parents should keep in mind the suffering of the Apostles when they proclaimed the faith.
  4. Spouses also exercise Christ's priestly office.
   a. The priestly office is activated through the sacrament of Matrimony.
   b. However, it also requires refreshment through the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance.
  5. Once activated through the sacraments, the priestly office of the spouses is exercised in prayer and through teaching the children to pray.
   a. The prayer of the family should include liturgical prayer.
   b. Family private prayer should include the usual prayers of the Church, and especially the Rosary.
  6. The parents also exercise their priestly office by presenting the children for reception of the sacraments at the appropriate times.
  7. The family also exercises Christ's kingly office.
   a. Spouses must govern themselves (integration) and this occurs through the exercise of the kingship of Christ.
   b. Such self-rule is necessary for true love.
   c. Spouses must also strive to uphold human dignity and this is an exercise of Christ's kingship in its second aspect: the restoration of the created order as God intended "from the beginning."
 Part IV: Pastoral Care of the Family: Stages, Structures, Agents, and Situations
 A. This part of the exhortation is very practical and applies the principles learned previously to concrete situations.
 B. It is in four divisions: stages, structures, agents, and situations.
 C. The stages of pastoral care of the family are threefold: preparation, celebration of the rite, and the married life.
  1. Preparation is divided into three areas: remote, proximate, and immediate.
   a. Remote preparation occurs in the family when the child is young and learns about love from his/her parents.
   b. Proximate preparation occurs during the adolescent years and should include fertility awareness and other practical areas necessary to married life.
   c. Immediate preparation includes the canonical inquiry and a preparation for the actual rite. This should be a journey of faith.
   d. Even though such preparation is the norm, those who refuse to engage in such preparation should not, for that reason alone, be refused marriage.
  2. The actual celebration of the rite is also a stage of pastoral care.
   a. The ritual should be sanctifying. It must be fruitful, valid, and worthy.
   b. Even couples without strong faith may be married in the Church because they are conforming themselves to the will of God as expressed in Genesis.
   c. If a couple explicitly rejects what the Church intends by marriage, the marriage cannot take place. Otherwise, the priest should witness the marriage.
  3. The last stage of pastoral care follows the marriage.
   a. The Church should support the newly married.
   b. Older families should help the younger ones.
   c. There should be Christian associations of families.
 D. The second division of Part IV considers the structures of the pastoral care of the family.
  1. The most important structure is the diocese.
  2. However, for most people, the contact with the Church is through the parish.
  3. The family, itself, as a miniature church, is an agent of pastoral care.
  4. Finally, there are associations of families, which should act as agents of pastoral care.
 E. The third division of Part IV considers the agents of pastoral care.
  1. The family is an agent of pastoral care.
  2. However, in a diocese, the bishop is the primary agent for the pastoral care of the family. The bishop should take a personal interest in the support of families.
  3. Priests assist the bishop and they should receive training for the family apostolate before accepting parish assignments.
  4. Theologians should assist the Church and families by explaining the teachings of the Church.
  5. Religious institutes should try to devote some personnel and resources to the family apostolate.
  6. Lay experts of every type and description extend the Church's pastoral care.
  7. Finally, those in the media should be mindful of their influence on families. Not only should they discourage programming harmful to families, but they should strive to incorporate family values in the development of new shows.
   a. Families should encourage such programming.
   b. The Church supports those Catholics who undertake such arduous work.
 F. The final division of Part IV treats difficult cases.
  1. The Pope first considers families with special needs.
   a. He mentions many such cases, but discusses the families of migrant workers, interfaith families, and families in special situations, e.g., birth, death, and marriage. The Pope also includes elderly families among those with special needs.
   b. The Church wishes to offer such families a special solicitude.
  2. The Pope also discusses the special care which both the couple and the Church must take when there is a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian, or a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Christian.
  3. The Pope also considers irregular situations.
   a. Trial marriages violate the dignity of both the man and the woman.
   b. Free unions also violate the dignity of the man and the woman.
   c. Sometimes young people enter these for lack of money and other necessities. Civil authorities should do what is possible to make true marriage a viable option in all societies.
   d. Civil marriages of Catholics are forbidden. Catholics in civil marriages cannot receive the sacraments until the marriage is validated.
   e. Divorced or separated spouses should receive the Church's constant support. They are to be encouraged to forgive their spouses.
   f. When the divorced and separated live without entering a new union, they give a powerful witness to the whole Church.
   g. Finally, the Pope discusses the divorced and remarried.
   h. These men and women have chosen a way of life contrary to the Gospel. The Church offers prayers on their behalf.
   i. There are differences among this group. Those who were abandoned by their spouses or those who remarried for the sake of children are in a different category from those who left their spouses and remarried.
   j. The divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to the sacraments, but if they persevere in prayer, God will grant them the grace of repentance.
  4. The Pope extends the hospitality of the Church to all those without a family.
 A. "The future of humanity passes by way of the family."
 B. The Pope expects a special care for families on the part of the baptized because they know the full revelation of God concerning family life.
 C. The Pope invokes the protection of the Holy Family on all families.
 D. He ends this long document with a prayer to Joseph, Mary, and Christ.


  1. ^ familiaris consortio outline

See also

External links

  • Complete English text from the Vatican
  • in England and WalesFamiliaris consortioAn online archive marking the 30th anniversary of
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