Archbishop Barry Hickey
DUBLIN – The Catholic Church is under attack "partly because of the sins of some of its leaders, but mainly because of its uncompromising teachings" on marriage, said an Australian archbishop.
"Faced with this, the Church can either compromise and face irrelevance, or continue to teach Christ's truth about marriage, life and love, and pray that the world will listen," said Archbishop Barry Hickey.
Hickey, the retired archbishop of Perth, told pilgrims at the International Eucharistic Congress June 12 that "only a few years ago one could safely assume that our understanding of marriage was generally accepted."
That is no longer the case, he said. "Increasingly marriage is being promoted as only one of the many options in human sexual relationships.
"Recent years have witnessed a sharp rise in cohabitation before marriage. These so-called partnerships are even taking the place of marriage."
Hickey said that "adding to this is the pressure to change the very definition of marriage from a union of a man and a woman to a union of two persons of the same sex."
"The ideal of Christian marriage is under great threat," he warned.
He said that "the availability of easy divorce undermines the strength of commitment that true marriage requires and encourages the view that marriage is no longer a permanent contract."
The archbishop said that "this worsening situation is all around us, yet it is rarely the subject of political debate.
"It calls for urgent action at all levels of society. The family is under threat because the institution of marriage is being undermined," he said.
The June 12 events at the congress concentrated specifically on marriage and the family.
In his address to the congress, Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, criticized a tendency to see marriage merely as a contract.
Anderson noted that one American law school textbook on family law describes marriage as "a joint venture for profit between the spouses."
Often the cultural commentary about marriage suggests marriage and family is risky and that one's commitment may not "pay off," he said.