Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience on 24 June in St Peter’s Square:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In the last catecheses we spoke about the family that lives the frailties of the human condition: poverty, sickness, death. Today, instead, we reflect on the wounds that are opened in fact within the family’s coexistence. When, that is, harm is done in the family itself — a most awful thing!
We are well aware that no moments are lacking in any family history in which the intimacy of dearest affections is offended by the behavior of its members. Words and actions (and omissions!) that, instead of expressing love, subtract or, even worse still, mortify it. When these wounds, which are still remediable, are neglected, they worsen: they are transformed into arrogance, hostility, contempt. And at a certain point they can become profound lacerations, which divide husband and wife, and induce to seeking understanding, support and consolation elsewhere. However, often these “supports” do not think of the good of the family.
The deprivation of conjugal love spreads resentment in relations, and often the break-up falls on the children.
See, the children. I would like to reflect somewhat on this point. Notwithstanding our seemingly evolved sensibility, and all our refined psychological analyses, I wonder if we are not also anesthetized in regard to the wounds of children’s soul. The more one tries to compensate with presents and little snacks, all the more the sense is lost of the most painful and profound wounds of the soul. We talk a lot about behavioral disturbances, psychic health, the child’s well-being, of anxiety of parents and children … but do we yet know what a wound of the soul is? Do we feel the weight of the mountain that crushes the soul of a child, in families in which there is bad treatment and harm is done, to the point of breaking the bond of conjugal fidelity? In our choices — mistaken choices, for example — how much weight does the soul of the children have? When adults lose their head, when each one thinks only of him/herself, when father and mother harm one another, the soul of the child suffers much, he experiences a sense of desperation. And they are wounds that leave their mark for the whole of life.
Everything is connected together in the family: when its spirit is wounded in some point, the infection contaminates everyone. And when a man and a woman, who committed themselves to be “one flesh” and to form a family, think obsessively of their own needs of freedom and gratification, this distortion profoundly damages the heart and life of the children. So many times children hide to cry by themselves. We must understand this well. Husband and wife are one flesh, but their children are flesh of their flesh. If we think of the harshness with which Jesus admonishes adults not to scandalize the little ones — we heard the passage of the Gospel — (cf. Matthew 18:6), we can also understand better his word on the grave responsibility to protect the conjugal bond that begins the human family (cf. Matthew 19:6-9). When man and woman have become one flesh, all the wounds and all the abandonments of the father and the mother affect the living flesh of the children.
On the other hand, it is true that there are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can even become morally necessary, when in fact it is a question of removing the weaker spouse, or little children, from the gravest wounds caused by arrogance and violence, humiliation and exploitation, estrangement and indifference.
Not lacking, thank God, are those that, sustained by faith and love of the children, witnesses their fidelity to a bond in which they believed, although it seems impossible to revive. Not all those who are separated, however, feel this vocation. Not all recognize, in solitude, an appeal of the Lord addressed to them. We find around us different families in so-called irregular situations — I don’t like this word — and we ask ourselves many questions. How can we help them? How can we support them? How can we support them so that the children do not become hostages of the father or of the mother?
Let us ask the Lord for great faith, to look at reality with God’s gaze; and a great charity, to approach persons with his merciful heart.