Interim staff

Speakers as diverse as a Catholic theology professor and a rabbinical scholar found common ground in discussing marriage and the family as basic elements in the maintenance of stable societies. And despite overwhelming evidence of the benefits society derives from the family as basic elements in the maintenance of stable societies.

And despite overwhelming evidence of the benefits society derives from the family, both speakers warned of increasing assaults on marriage and family life in North America.

John Haas, a professor of moral theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of an interfaith group promoting traditional ethical and political values, were among dozens of presenters at the Second Pan-American Conference on Family and Education May 26-30 in Toronto.

Haas focused on the family as the ethical foundation of society, while Lapin discussed the origin and destiny of marriage. Although they spoke on separate days of the conference, both speakers found much common ground in their defense of marriage and family.

Haas said the family’s divine origins have been forgotten in the rush to redefine it as an artificial construct. “The family has been taken for granted in the latter years of this century,” Haas told conference delegates, “yet nothing to date can replace it.” He said there are few examples today of governments taking any initiatives to strengthen the traditional family.

“Marriage as an institution is under intense attack today. There is much evidence that the disintegration of the family is the cause of a number of social problems,” said Haas. “Sociological data confirms what the Church has been teaching for the last 2,000 years, and that is the future of mankind passes through the family.”

Haas’ defense of the family complemented Rabbi Lapin’s argument on the importance of marriage to stable societies. Lapin discounted claims marriage is a simply a man-made institution that can be easily dissolved. He also cited the Book of Genesis blueprint for marriage as evidence that it was divinely inspired and not some creation of secular society.

Lapin recommended pro-family supporters not be reserved about proclaiming their religious faith in an increasingly secular society.

“The materialists have tried to convince us that those with faith should stay out of the village square,” Lapin said. “But our faith is all that stands between our potential and the abyss of secular values.”

Lapin also urged pro-family elements not to abandon the political arena, despite the cynicism and opportunism of many elected officials. “Politics is not a dirty word,” he said. “Politics is what allows us to live together without resorting to our differences.”

Lapin came to the Pan American Conference on Family and Education with an interesting background. A native of South Africa, Lapin was ordained a rabbi in 1967. He arrived in the United States in 1974 where he founded Towards Tradition, a coalition of Christians and Jews with a common political and ethical vision.

He has written a number of books for religious and secular publishers, and he is host of a radio talk show in Seattle, Washington. As well, Lapin is President of Cascadia Business Institute on the west coast.

He was one of several speakers to refer to Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Families as an effective blueprint for marriage and family life as we approach the next millennium.