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CURIA-LOPEZ (CORRECTED) Mar-14-2006 (1,110 words) One in an occasional series. With graphics posted Feb. 8 and photo March 14. xxxi

Defense of family life crucial, says head of Vatican's family council

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo spends most of his days behind a desk, but he says he feels like he's "in the eye of the hurricane."

As president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo has denounced proposals in several countries that would authorize same-sex marriage and adoption.

He has helped local churches oppose legislation to legalize abortion or make it easier to obtain and has called promotion of contraceptives a form of "biological colonialism" by drug companies and wealthy nations.

He has described drug addiction as a modern "form of slavery that oppresses the whole world."

Two years ago, he went on British television to warn that condoms were not an effective barrier against the AIDS virus and suggested condom packets should carry a warning to that effect.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo is convinced that the family risks destruction today and that the church must lead an "evangelical struggle" to defend it.

"People don't realize the human tragedy they are preparing," Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said in a recent interview with Catholic News Service.

"If you look at Europe or the Americas, there's not a parliament where these issues are not being debated. I think it's providential to have a pope who speaks with courage and clarity -- and to have a curial agency to lend help when needed," he said.

The cardinal's comments came as Pope Benedict XVI was considering ways to streamline Roman Curia departments. One rumor was that the family council would be reorganized as a part of an enlarged Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In the interview, however, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said his council's role was more important than ever. It is currently preparing the Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, in July; the pope is expected to attend.

The meeting, the cardinal said, will bring together Catholic pro-family advocates from around the world to exchange experiences, to proclaim and defend church teachings, and "to bring fire" to the movement.

"In this sense, the pope's presence is unique," he said.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo sees Pope Benedict as a natural successor to carry on Pope John Paul II's strong pro-family agenda.

"The pope has chosen this as one of the human priorities of his papacy, a historic priority. Because if the family collapses, the world collapses," he said.

He noted that already in his papacy, some of Pope Benedict's sharpest comments have focused on threats to the family. The pope's first encyclical defended the dignity of marriage as the true expression of love between a man and a woman, he said.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, the former archbishop of Medellin, has headed the family council since 1990. The 70-year-old prelate has never shied away from making news, and Pope John Paul gave him the freedom to speak loudly and clearly whenever the family was in danger.

"As the pope would say, these are decisive battles, and we want to be in the middle of them," the cardinal said.

Under Pope Benedict, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo has continued to speak his mind on topics ranging from divorce to gay adoption.

At the Synod of Bishops last October, he urged a firmer line on the issue of Communion, politics and abortion. In his view, he said, politicians who promote unjust legislation must "remedy the evil committed" before they receive Communion.

When Spain approved gay marriage last year, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said Catholic civil officials should conscientiously object to taking part in such ceremonies, even if they lose their jobs as a result.

On several occasions, he has praised the Bush administration for its opposition to abortion and its positions on a range of pro-life and family issues.

In the interview, the cardinal freely acknowledged that his council engages in political questions. But he said that while Pope Benedict has cautioned church leaders against involvement in partisan politics, the council is simply "enlightening politicians and saying what the values are ... as a service to society."

"It's a different kind of politics," he said. "Those who are afraid of this are mistaken."

Over the years, the council has sponsored six important dialogue encounters with politicians and legislators in Europe and the Americas. In all these efforts, he said, the council tries to speak with "love and charity, but also with clarity," explaining the church's positions and its vital interest in the family.

The family council was established by Pope John Paul May 13, 1981 -- the day the pope was shot by a Turkish assailant in St. Peter's Square.

"That's why we say we were born with a baptism of blood," Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said.

The council has a presidential committee of 15 cardinals and 12 archbishops and bishops, 19 married couples from various countries who serve as members, and 39 consultors. Its permanent staff of 12 officials is small by Vatican standards.

The council studies demographic issues, bioethical challenges, the impact of the mass media, and devotes considerable resources promoting family education and family spirituality for parents, children and couples preparing for marriage. It has strongly supported the teaching of natural family planning methods.

In 2003, the council completed one of Cardinal Lopez Trujillo's pet projects, a lexicon of what he considers ambiguous terms in discussions of life and family matters. It said terms like "gay marriage," "reproductive rights" and "emergency contraception" are really euphemisms used to promote practices that deny the natural truths about sexuality, marriage and the dignity of human life.

More recently, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo personally wrote two pamphlets on "What Is and What Is Not Safe Sex?" and cloning versus natural paternity.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said one thing he likes about Pope Benedict's approach to family issues is that he addresses them in broad terms, using philosophical and anthropological arguments as well as church teachings to make his points.

The pope is emphasizing that it is in humanity's best interest to examine questions like same-sex marriage more carefully, so that traditional values are not jettisoned, the cardinal said.

The stakes are high and the questions raised by the pope are crucial, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said.

"Will the future have a human heart, or will it be dehumanized? And will the family be destroyed in some countries by unjust laws, hastily approved laws that show a real misunderstanding of society?" he said.


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