Baltimore Roman Catholic Archbishop William D. Borders has called for a moratorium on all church gatherings on Monday nights so that Catholics can use Monday evenings for family night.
The recommendation came last week in a 6,500-word pastoral letter on family life. In the pastoral letter, Borders asked that Catholic families use Monday evening "asking for God's help in prayer and relaxation, and in a spirit of joy and gratitude" as a means of strengthening and enriching family life. But he said that "if Monday night becomes merely another evening to gather around the television set, then it will hardly have served its purpose."
Borders credits the Mormons with developing the idea of setting aside one night a week for family night. It is a tradition that the close-knit Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found to be very effective in strengthening both family and religious loyalties.
The archbishop said he has asked his family ministry department to develop materials to help families make the best use of their Monday nights together.
In his pastoral, the archbishop ranged over a variety of family-related topics, including the importance of family prayers, ministry to families split by divorce, the need for parental discipline for children, the church's ministry to young people, the role of single people in the church, and special programs for strengthening marriages.
He acknowledged the problems many Catholic couples have over the church's ban on artificial birth control, but urged wider use of the "symptothermal method," in which couples refrain from sexual intercourse during the fertile period of the wife, as determined by observation of a woman's vaginal secretions and body temperature. Borders said that couples following this method "can be 98 percent certain of having the family which they foresee they will be able to care for."
National studies have indicated that more than three-fourths of American Catholic couples disregard their church's traditional prohibition on artificial contraception. In an effort to address this problem, the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops announced last week a nationwide effort to promote the kind of natural family planning approved by the church.
The objective of the national program, directed by Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, is to integrate training facilities for natural family planning into the social service or health care services of every diocese in the country.
Borders, in his pastoral letter, reminded Catholics that the church's Second Vatican Council "stressed that parenthood must be responsible, and such responsibility usually entails planning." But he said the planning must be done "in a manner permitted by God's law."
While upholding the need for family planning, the archbishop also pointed out "the blessing" of large families. "As our society becomes more conscious of family size, the values of large families may easily be lost," he said, adding that his prayer was "that we will not lose the blessings for our times that a large family can offer."
Borders acknowledged divorce to be "a major disruptive force in our various communities." He said that "the care of the church at this time [when so many Catholics are involved in separation and divorce] is very necessary . . . A thoughtful, caring, pastoral response to the pains caused by divorce must be an integral part of the care of families."
The ministry of the Baltimore archdiocese to separated and divorces Catholics is ranked by church leaders as among the best in the church in this country.