2017 Communique of Ghana Catholic Bishops
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE
GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
AT THE END OF ITS ANNUAL PLENARY ASSEMBLY HELD IN HO IN THE VOLTA REGION OF GHANA NOVEMBER 6 – 18, 2017
Grace and Peace of God our Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, be with you all (cf. Eph. 3:14-15).
We, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have held our annual Plenary Assembly at the Freedom Hotel in Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana from November 6 to 18, 2017 under the theme: “Integral Pastoral Care for the Family in the light of Amoris Laetitia”. Our theme was inspired by Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family – Amoris Laetitia (AL), which literally means, “the Joy of Love”, released on April 8, 2016. We are equally motivated, convinced and therefore affirm that the joy of love experienced by our families in Ghana is also the joy of love experienced by the Catholic Church in Ghana (cf. AL, #1).
In the course of our Plenary Assembly, we had a five-day spiritual retreat facilitated by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. We paid courtesy calls on the Volta Regional Minister, Hon. Dr. Archibald Letsa, Deputy Volta Regional Minister and some Staff of the Volta Regional Coordinating Council as well as the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State and President of the National House of Chiefs, Togbe Afede XIV and some of his sub-Chiefs and Queenmothers of the Asogli State. We also invited and interacted with Mr. William Darkwah, the Coordinator of the Free Senior High School (SHS) Programme. Among ourselves, we deliberated on our theme and appraised the socio-political situation of our country Ghana. In the context of our deliberations, we wish to share with you the following reflections.
THE SITUATION OF FAMILY IN GHANA
The Ghanaian family is experiencing emerging trends which are at variance with the ideal family image foreseen by the Church’s tradition of faith and morals. Some of these changes began and were noticed decades ago. Such changes include the increase in the proportion of “cohabitation and other sexual unions”, which were initially socially unacceptable, butare now gaining greater social tolerance. The phenomenon of teenage and single parenthood, poor or irresponsible parenting, separate household and distant marriages that make couples live apart are all aspects of contemporary trends in the Ghanaian family of today.
Children are influenced by the current social and digital experiences. Social media rule their lives and they must organize their experiences according to its dictates. Some must battle to find their orientation towards integral development amidst a myriad of alternatives with which they are enticed from different philosophies of life.
The urban elite live mostly in nuclear family systems that are by and large non-traditional in structure. Partners in marriage strive for self-development; they must sometimes maintain more than one job to sustain their desired standard of living and make sure that their children have the best of education and opportunity for growth and success in the future. Those that accept additional responsibilities towards extended family members experience more stress. Some families are in many practical regards alienated from their roots. Their children barely have any connections with members of their extended families and communities of origin. A good number of such children and youth may never have visited their places of origin.
SOME CONCERNS FOR FAMILY LIFE IN GHANA
The traditional vision of marriage and family life in Ghana attaches importance to procreation and sexuality. While social pressure is the same across the various models of family in terms of the place of sexuality and procreation in marriage, concepts, decisions, challenges and their solutions vary across the models. A general trend that seems to be affecting some youth across the social divide is their fixation on sexual functionality, particularly among young and middle-aged men.
The desire to be sexually active and effective among married men compels some to abuse popularly advertised alcoholic beverages, and what is worse, untested traditional or orthodox medication, believed to boost libido in men. Such young men come to realize after a few years, to their humiliation and surprise, that they have not succeeded in their adventure.
Most troubling, however, is the long standing traditional stigma associated with inability to give birth. In traditional Ghanaian communities, this inability is erroneously blamed on the woman, though there is increasing awareness to the fact that this challenge equally occurs in men. This challenge raises the additional concern for family pastoral care in Ghana. The many prayer requests from women and young couples seeking the blessing of fruits of the womb at various Church centres is evidence of the importance of childbirth in marriage and family life in Ghana.
Other concerns include the inadequate availability and involvement of parents in the direct upbringing of their children due to professional and busy-weekend engagements, the way couples and their respective families manage and resolve their differences which sometimes only breeds unforgiveness, instability, bitterness, disunity and consequently separation and the fate of young children in the face of such challenges. The increased monetization and exaggeration of customary marriages (erroneously named ‘engagement’) has become, in some cases, quite burdensome for the average young man in Ghana seeking the hand of a woman in marriage.
Apart from these specific realities of marriage and family life in Ghana, we recall some general experiences and challenges, identified in Chapter 2 of Amoris Laetitia, that may not necessarily be limited to specific cultures. These are extreme individualism which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, freedom of choice that lacks noble goals or personal discipline; and degenerates into an inability to give oneself generously to others, migration and its effect on populations, the ideological denial of differences between the man and woman, the culture of the provisional anti-birth mentality and the impact of biotechnology in the field of procreation, the canker of pornography and abuse of minors, inattention to persons with disabilities, lack of respect for the elderly, legal dismantling of the family and violence against women.