Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 297


297.  It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an "unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous" mercy.  No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!  Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.  Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17).  Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.  Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest.  As for the way of dealing with different "irregular" situations, the Synod Fathers reached a general consensus, which I support:  "In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God's plan for them",238 something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

238  Relatio Synodi 2014, 25.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 296


The Discernment of "Irregular" Situations 325


296. The Synod addressed various situations of weakness or imperfection.  Here I would like to reiterate something I sought to make clear to the whole Church, lest we take the wrong path:  "There are two ways of thinking which recur throughout the Church's history: casting off and reinstating. The Church's way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement...  The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God's mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart...  For truly charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous".326  Consequently, there is a need "to avoid judgements which do not take into account the complexity of various situations" and "to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition".327

325  Cf. Catechesis (24 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 25 June 2015, p.8.
326  Homily at Mass Celebrated with the New Cardinals (15 February 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 257.
327  Relatio Finalis 2015, 51.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 295


295.  Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called "law of gradualness" in the knowledge that the human being "knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth".323  This is not a "gradualness of law" but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.  For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being "advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demand of God's definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life".324

323 Apostolic Exhortation Familaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 34: AAS 74 (1982), 123.
324 Ibid., 9: AAS 74 (1982), 90.


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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 294


294.  "The choice of a civil marriage or, in many cases, of simple cohabitation, is often not motivated by prejudice or resistance to a sacramental union, but by cultural or contingent situations".319  In such cases, respect also can be shown for those signs of love which in some way reflect God's own love.320  We know that there is "a continual increase in the number of those who, after having lived together for a long period, request the celebration of marriage in Church.  Simply to live together is often a choice based on a general attitude opposed to anything institutional or definitive; it can also be done while awaiting more security in life (a steady job and steady income).  In some countries, de facto unions are very numerous, not only because celebrating a marriage is considered too expensive in the social circumstances.  As a result, material poverty drives people into de facto unions".321 Whatever the case, "all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel.  These couples need to be welcomed and guided patiently and discreetly".322  That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26):  he addressed her desire for true love, in order to free her from the darkness in her life and to bring her to the full joy of the Gospel.

319 Relatio Finalis 2015, 71.
320 Cf. ibid.
321 Relatio Synodi 2014, 42.
322 Ibid., 43.


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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 293


Gradualness in Pastoral Care

293.  The Fathers also considered the specific situation of a merely civil marriage or, with due distinction, even simple cohabitation, noting that "when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage".315  On the other hand, it is a source of concern that many young people today distrust marriage and live together, putting off indefinitely the commitment of marriage, while yet others break a commitment already made and immediately assume a new one.  "As members of the Church, they too need pastoral care that is merciful and helpful".316  For the Church's pastors are not only responsible for promoting Christian marriage, but also the "pastoral discernment of the situations of a great many who no longer live this reality. Entering into pastoral dialogue with these persons is needed to distinguish elements in their lives that can lead to a greater openness to the Gospel of marriage in its fullness".317  In this pastoral discernment, there is a need "to identify elements that can foster evangelization and human and spiritual growth".318

315 Ibid., 27.
316 Ibid., 26.
317 Ibid., 41.
318 Ibid.


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 292


292.  Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society.  Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way.  The Synod Fathers stated that the Church does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage.314 

314 Cf. ibid., 41, 43; Relatio Finalis 2015,70.




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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 291


291.  They Synod Fathers stated that, although the Church realizes that any breach of the marriage bond "is against the will of God", she is also "conscious of the frailty of many of her children".311 Illumined by the gaze of Jesus Christ, "she turns with love to those who participate in her life in an incomplete manner, recognizing that the grace of God works also in their lives by giving them courage to do good, to care for one another in love and to be of service to the community in which they live and work".312  This approach is also confirmed by our celebration of this Jubilee Year devoted to mercy.  Although she constantly holds up the call to perfection as asks for a fuller response to God, "the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm".313  Let us not forget that the Church's task is often like that of a field hospital.

313 Ibid., 28.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 290


290.  "The family is thus an agent of pastoral activity through its explicit proclamation of the Gospel and its legacy of varied forms of witness, namely solidarity with the poor, openness to a diversity of people, the protection of creation, moral and material solidarity with other families, including those most in need, commitment to the promotion of the common good and the transformation of unjust social structures, beginning in the territory in which the family lives, through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy".310  All this is an expression of our profound Christian belief in the love of the Father who guides and sustains us, a love manifested in the total self-gift of Jesus Christ, who even now lives in our midst and enables us to face together the storms of life at every stage.  In all families the Good News needs to resound, in good times and in bad, as a source of light along the way.  All of us should be able to say, thanks to the experience of our life in the family: "We come to believe in the love that God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16).  Only on the basis of this experience will the Church's pastoral care for families enable them to be both domestic churches and a leaven of evangelization in society.

310 Ibid., 93

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 289


289.  The work of handing on the faith to children, in the sense of facilitating its expression and growth, helps the whole family in its evangelizing mission.  It naturally begins to spread the faith to all around them, even outside of the family circle.  Children who grew up in missionary families often become missionaries themselves; growing up in warm and friendly families, they learn to relate to the world in this way, without giving up their faith or their convictions.  We know that Jesus himself ate and drank with sinners (cf. Mk 2:16; Mt 11:19), conversed with a Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:7-26), received Nicodemus by night (cf. Jn 3:1-21), allowed his fee to be anointed by a prostitute (cf. Lk 7:36-50) and did not hesitate to lay his hands on those who were sick (cf. Mk 1:40-45; 7:33).  The same was true of his apostles, who did not look down on others, cut off from the life of their people.  Although the authorities harassed them, they nonetheless enjoyed the favour "of all the people" (Acts 2:46; cf. 4:21,33; 5:13).

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 288


288.  Education in the faith has to adapt to each child, since older resources and recipes do not always work.  Children need symbols, actions and stories.  Since adolescents usually have issues with authority and rules, it is best to encourage their own experience of faith and to provide them with attractive testimonies that win them over by their sheer beauty.  Parents desirous of nurturing the faith of their children are sensitive to their patterns of growth, for they know that spiritual experience is not imposed but freely proposed.  It is essential that children actually see that, for their parents, prayer is something truly important.  Hence moments of family prayer and acts of devotion can be more powerful for evangelization than any catechism class or sermon.  Here I would like to express my particular gratitude to all those mothers who continue to pray, like Saint Monica, for their children who have strayed from Christ.



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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 287


Passing on the Faith

287.  Raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the faith.  This is made difficult by current lifestyles, work schedules and the complexity of today's world, where many people keep up a frenetic pace just to survive.306  Even so, the home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the faith, to pray and to serve our neighbour.  This begins with baptism, in which, as Saint Augustine said, mothers who bring their children "cooperate in the sacred birthing".307  Thus begins the journey of growth in that new life.  Faith is God's gift, received in baptism, and not our own work,  yet parents are the means that God uses for it to grow and develop. Hence, "it is beautiful when mothers teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much love there is in that!  At that moment the child's heart becomes a place of prayer".308 Handing on the faith presumes that parents themselves genuinely trust God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does "one generation laud your works to another, and declare your mighty acts" (Ps 144:4) and "fathers make known to children your faithfulness" (Is 38:19).  This means that we need to ask God to act in their hearts, in places where we ourselves cannot reach.  A mustard seed, small as it is, becomes a great tree (cf. Mt 13:31-32); this teaches us to see the disproportion between our actions and their effects.  We know that we do not own the gift, but that its care is entrusted to us.  Yet our creative commitment is itself an offering which enables us to cooperate with God's plan.  For this reason, "couples and parents should be properly appreciated as active agents in catechesis...  Family catechesis is of great assistance as an effective method in training young parents to be aware of their mission as the evangelizers of their own family".309

306  Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 13-14.
307 Augustine, De sancta virginitate 7, 7: PL 40,400.
308 Catechesis (26 August 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 27 August 2015, p.8.
309 Relatio Finalis 2015, 89.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 286


286.  Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons, as well as other formative situations.  It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God's work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore.  But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories.  It is possible, for example, that a husband's way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife's work schedule.  Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame.  Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy "exchanges" which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure.  A rigid approach turns into an over-accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony.  Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual's abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership.  This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children's specific identity and potential.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 285


285.  Sex education should also include respect and appreciation for differences, as a way of helping the young to overcome their self-absorption and to be open and accepting of others.  Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for "thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation... An appreciation of our body as male and female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves.  In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment".304  Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centredness and self-absorption.  Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension "to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it".305

304 Encyclical Letter Laudato Si' (24 May 2015), 155.
305 Catechesis (15 April 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 16 April 2015, p.8.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 284


284.  Young people should not be deceived into confusing two levels of reality: "sexual attraction creates, for the moment, the illusion of union, yet, without love, this 'union' leaves strangers as far apart as they were before".303  The language of the body calls for a patient apprenticeship in learning to interpret and channel desires in view of authentic self-giving.  When we presume to give everything all at once, it may well be that we give nothing.  It is one thing to understand how fragile and bewildered young people can be, but another thing entirely to encourage them to prolong their immaturity in the way they show love.  But who speaks of these things today?  Who is capable of taking young people seriously?  Who helps them to prepare seriously for a great and generous love? Where sex education is concerned, much is at stake.

303 Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, New York, 1956, p. 54.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 283


283.  Frequently, sex education deals primarily with "protection" through the practice of "safe sex". Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against.  This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance.  It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage.  They end up being blithely encouraged to use other persons as a means of fulfilling their needs or limitations.  The important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect and deeply meaningful communication. All of these prepare them for an integral and generous gift of felt that will be expressed, following a public commitment, in the gift of their bodies.  Sexual union in marriage will thus appear as a sign of an all-inclusive commitment, enriched by everything that has preceded it.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 282


282.  A sexual education that fosters a healthy sense of modesty has immense value, however much some people nowadays consider modesty a relic of a bygone era.  Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used.  Without a sense of modesty, affection and sexuality can be reduced to an obsession with genitality and unhealthy behaviours that distort our capacity for love, and with forms of sexual violence that lead to inhuman treatment or cause hurt to others.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 281


281.  Sex education should provide information while keeping in mind that children and young people have not yet attained full maturity.  The information has to come at a proper time and in a way suited to their age.  It is not helpful to overwhelm them with data without also helping them to develop a critical sense in dealing with the onslaught of new ideas and suggestions, the flood of pornography and the overload of stimuli that can deform sexuality.  Young people need to realize that they are bombarded by messages that are not beneficial for their growth towards maturity.  They should be helped to recognize and to seek out positive influences, while shunning the things that cripple their capacity for love.  We also have to realize that "a new and more appropriate language" is needed "in introducing children and adolescents to the topic of sexuality".302

302 Relatio Finalis 2015, 56.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 280


The Need for Sex Education

280.  The Second Vatican Council spoke of the need for "a positive and prudent sex education" to be imparted to children and adolescents "as they grow older", with  "due weight being given to the advances in the psychological, pedogogical and didactic sciences".301  We may well ask ourselves if our educational institutions have taken up this challenge.  It is not easy to approach the issue of sex education in an age when sexuality tends to be trivialized and impoverished.  It can only be seen within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving.  In such a way, the language of sexuality would not be sadly impoverished but illuminated and enriched.  The sexual urge can be directed through a process of growth in self-knowledge and self-control capable of nurturing valuable capacities for joy and for loving encounter.

301  Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, 1.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 279


279.  Nor is it good for parents to be domineering.  When children are made to feel that only their parents can be trusted, this hinders an adequate process of socialization and growth in affective maturity.  To help expand the parental relationship to broader realities, "Christian communities are called to offer support to the educational mission of families",297 particularly through the catechesis associated with Christian initiation.  To foster an integral education, we need to "renew the covenant between the family and the Christian community".298  The Synod wanted to emphasize the importance of Catholic schools which "play a vital role in assisting parents in their duty to raise their children... Catholic schools should be encouraged in their mission to help pupils grow into mature adults who can view the world with the love of Jesus and who can understand life as a call to serve God".299  For this reason, "the Church strongly affirms her freedom to set forth her teaching and the right of conscientious objection on the part of educators".300

297 Catechesis (20 May 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 21 May 2015, p.8.
298 Catechesis (9 September 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 10 September 2015, p.8.
299 Relatio Finalis 2015, 68.
300 Ibid., 58

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 278


278.  The educational process that occurs between parents and children can be helped or hindered by the increasing sophistication of the communications and entertainment media.  When well used, these media can be helpful for connecting family members who live apart from one another.  Frequent contacts help to overcome difficulties.296  Still, it is clear that these media cannot replace the need for more personal and direct dialogue, which requires physical presence or at least hearing the voice of the other person. We know that sometimes they can keep people apart rather than together, as when at dinnertime everyone is surfing on a mobile phone, or when one spouse falls asleep waiting for the other who spends hours playing with an electronic device.  This is also something that families have to discuss and resolve in ways which encourage interaction without imposing unrealistic prohibitions. In any event, we cannot ignore the risks that these new forms of communication pose for children and adolescents; at times they can foster apathy and disconnect from the real world.  This "technological disconnect" exposes them more easily to manipulation by those who would invade their private space with selfish interests.

296 Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 67.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 277


277.  In the family too, we can rethink our habits of consumption and join in caring for the environment as our common home.  "The family is the principal agent of an integral ecology, because it is the primary social subject which contains within it the two fundamental principles of human civilization on earth:  the principle of communion and the principle of fruitfulness".294  In the same way, times of difficulty and trouble in the lives of family life can teach important lessons.  This happens, for example, when illness strikes, since "in the face of illness, even in families, difficulties arise due to human weakness.  But in general, times of illness enable family bonds to grow stronger... An education that fails to encourage sensitivity to human illness makes the heart grow cold;  it makes young people 'anesthetized' to the suffering of others, incapable of facing suffering and of living the experience of limitation".295

294  Catechesis (30 September 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 1 October 2015, p.8.
295 Catechesis (10 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 11 June 2015, p.8.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 276


276.  The family is the primary setting for socialization, since it is where we first learn to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another and live as one.  The task of education is to make us sense that the world and society are also our home; it trains us how to live together in this greater home.  In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others.  We break out of our fatal self-absorption and come to realize that we are living with and alongside others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness and our affection.  There is no social bond without this primary, everyday, almost microscopic aspect of living side by side, crossing paths at different times of the day, being concerned about everything that affects us, helping one another with ordinary little things.  Every day the family has to come up with new ways of appreciating and acknowledging its members.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 275


275.  In our own day, dominated by stress and rapid technological advances, one of the most important tasks of families is to provide an education in hope.  This does not mean preventing children from playing with electronic devices, but rather finding ways to help them develop their critical abilities and not to think that digital speed can apply to everything in life.  Postponing desires does not mean denying them but simply deferring their fulfilment.  When children or adolescents are not helped to realize that some things have to be waited for, they can become obsessed with satisfying their immediate needs and develop the vice of "wanting it all now".  This is a grand illusion which does not favour freedom but weakens it.  On the other hand, when we are taught to postpone some things until the right moment, we learn self-mastery and detachment from our impulses.  When children realize that they have to be responsible for themselves, their self-esteem is enriched.  This in turn teaches them to respect the freedom of others.  Obviously this does not mean expecting children to act like adults, but neither does it mean underestimating their ability to grow in responsible freedom.  In a healthy family, this learning process usually takes place through the demands made by life in common.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 274


Family Life as an Educational Setting

274.  The family is the first school of human values, where we learn the wise use of freedom.  Certain inclinations develop in childhood and become so deeply rooted that they remain throughout life, either as attractions to a particular value or a natural repugnance to certain ways of acting.  Many people think and act in a certain way because they deem it to be right on the basis of what they learned, as if by osmosis, from their earliest years: "That's how I was taught".  "That's what I learned to do".  In the family we can also learn to be critical about certain messages sent by the various media.  Sad to say, some television programmes or forms of advertising often negatively influence and undercut the values inculcated in family life.

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