ROME – After two summits of bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015 and the publication of a major papal document, Amoris Laetitia, in 2016, the Vatican is trying to get concrete through the creation of an observatory that will statistically monitor households from a social and economic standpoint.
“There is an urgency for doctrine, teaching, pastoral approaches to confront and enter directly in all the horizons of social and anthropological sciences so that they may look at the situation of our families in the eye and with intelligence,” said Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Great Chancellor of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family, during a press conference at the Vatican Dec. 6.
This observatory, he added, “is a small help for the great commitment that the Church must have for Amoris Laetitia.”
Amoris Laetitia is the 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis addressing the pastoral care of families.
“The International Observatory on the Family” is being created by the John Paul II Institute, the Catholic University of Murcia, Spain, and the International Center for Family Studies in Milan, Italy, with partners in countries from five continents, including the United States, Italy, Spain, Finland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Benin, Kenya and Hong Kong.
“We must broaden our horizons and provide ourselves with a tool that will allow us to reflect in a non-self-referential way,” said Paglia, who is also President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, adding that in line with Francis, the Church must “keep its feet on the ground and help every family.”
The observatory will act in cooperation with Caritas Internationalis, taking advantage of the large amounts of global data it collects. The initiative can be found online at www.familymonitor.net.
It will provide the “first serious investigation” of the family situation, said Professor José Luis Mendoza Pérez, President of the Catholic University of Murcia, and be “a service for the Church and for humanity.”
Taking into account demographic shifts, technology, media and the economy, Pérez said that the observatory will be a one-of-a-kind tool that looks at the family through a Christian lens but with hard, scientific statistical evidence.
“Our observatory wishes to adopt a method that is both quantitative and qualitative,” said Francesco Belletti, who heads the International Center on the Family in Milan, noting that existing organizations mainly take into account the statistical aspect of the family, but not its internal reality.
“This ambitious effort,” Belletti said, will operate on a three-year plan focusing on the theme of family and poverty. This will allow the project to “intercept a priority at an international level,” he said, considering the numerous global efforts and goals to fight poverty.
The observatory will present its findings on “relational poverty” in the family in 2020 which will focus on isolated and marginalized families, followed in 2021 by a report on “structural poverty” in families that suffer poverty and financial disadvantage.
Throughout its analysis, the observatory will pay special attention to the female condition, children and technological advancement.
“These three drivers,” Belletti said, “make the difference for or against the well-being of the family.”
While answering questions at the end of the conference, Paglia commented on Italy’s policies to promote families, a growing tendency in countries facing demographic decline.
“The drop in birth rates is a huge problem in Italy, where there is a growing number of families raising one child,” he said, adding that “any policy to help is welcome.”
Despite challenges and differences surrounding the family across the globe, addressing their reality is “a challenge that we cannot refuse,” Paglia said.
“In a moment when society is fragmented, with a low rate of socialization,” he said, “the family makes society less ‘liquid’ and unstable.”
“The Nobel Prize for the sustainability of society should go to the family,” he added.