In his weekly audience Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his reflections on the family, urging separated parents not to make their children bear the brunt of their difficulties.
The Pope acknowledged what a hard time separated parents have in raising and educating their children but emphasized above all the need to build up the other spouse in front of the kids, even when there is pain and rancor between them.
Using a curious expression, Francis said that in these situations “many times the child is taken hostage and dad speaks badly of mom and mom speaks badly of dad, and this causes much damage.”
The Pope suggested that children can often be “used” by the spouses to get back at each other, much as hostages are “used” as bargaining chips in tense negotiations, with no thought for their interests.
Addressing separated parents themselves, Francis urged them to put their children first: “Never, never, never take the child as a hostage!”
“You separated because of so many difficulties and reasons,” he said, “and life has handed you this trial, but your children shouldn’t be the ones to bear the brunt of this separation and shouldn’t be used as hostages against the other spouse.”
Children, the Pope continued, “need to grow up hearing mom speak well of dad, even though they are not together, and that dad speaks well of mom.”
“For separated parents this is very important and very difficult, but they can do it,” the Pope said.
The Pope also said that families have taken a beating in the modern world and have been robbed of their God-given role as the primary educators of their children.
“Intellectual ‘critics’ of all kinds,” he said, “have silenced parents in many ways, to protect the young generation from the damage—real or imagined—of family education.”
“The family has been accused, among other things, of authoritarianism, cronyism, conformism, and emotional repression that generates conflicts,” he said.
The Pope complained of a “rift” that has opened between families and society and between families and schools, saying that the educational pact between families and schools today is shattered because of “a breakdown in mutual trust.”
The Pope ended his address asking God to “grant Christian families the faith, freedom and courage needed for their mission.”
“If family education rediscovers pride in its primacy, many things will change for the better,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome