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Living In Our ‘De-Familied’ Society

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In the U.S., about half of adults live alone. Somewhere around 43 percent of kids in America are only children. In the past 50 years, the number of children living with only one parent has almost doubled. We are, in the words of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, living in a “de-familied” society.

Just prior to the current Pontifical Council for the Family, Archishop Paglia (who heads that Council) spoke to the National Catholic Register about issues he hoped would be addressed by the bishops at the council. The archbishop spoke of a major shift in our society’s manner of thinking, calling it a “delirium of omnipotence:”

Indeed it as is, today, homo homini Deus (Man is God for man). Now, this is the fundamental knot. Why? Because from this tearing apart and arbitrary rebuilding we are going towards a society “de-familied” and therefore weaker and less solid. [The theologian Richard] Baumann would say liquid. In this context, the one who wins is not “us,” but “I.”

The archbishop is very concerned about the demographic situation facing much of the world:

We have enormous problems before us. The problem for example of the demographic crash, the problem of the decrease in birth rates — in the United States the percentage [decrease] is enormous. This is accompanied by a cultural justification: that it is beautiful to be a woman but not a mother.

There is the problem of the numerical growth of “families” composed of a single person.

In the United States, almost 50% of adults now live alone. There is a high percentage of families with an only child. What does this mean? It means that the future is cut in half. It means that the economy and attention to the future is weaker. It means that the crisis of society is grave because the pyramid is turned upside down: many elderly and few young people. To this is added the crisis of relationships between the generations.

Old people become excluded.  The years of life are increased, but also the years of abandonment. Juvenile delinquency increases. In American jails, in the juvenile prisons of America, 75% of youths are from families without fathers. You understand that these are enormous problems.

The rampant and rabid individualism that pervades our culture today tears apart families, which in turn means that communities become disconnected. “Individualism,” he states, “is the pair of scissors that cuts and lacerates.”

Read “Archbishop Paglia: We Are in a ‘De-Familied’ Society” at the National Catholic Register.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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