Developing families with personality

This story was originally published by Catholic News Singapore on 6 June 2007. Republished with permission.

By Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – Msgr Cormac Burke, a former judge of the Roman Rota, was in Singapore recently to speak to Catholics at forums organized by the Catholic Lawyers Guild and the Catholic Medical Guild. Msgr Burke’s first talk “Developing Families with Personality” was given at Catholic Junior College on Apr 20 to an audience of mainly young and middle-aged couples.

A family with personality is one that influences other families more than it gets influenced, said Msgr Burke. A family with more children is richer than a family with fewer, he said.

One good way for couples to identify whether their family is one with personality is to see whether children from neighbouring houses are attracted to their houses. If a family has less personality, and hence less vitality, children would be attracted to other people’s houses or to nearby shopping malls where they would have a more enjoyable time, said Msgr Burke.

Msgr Burke highlighted that “we are today all influenced on a massive scale that is largely not good”. Therefore, he said, it is important for parents to teach their children values, how to weigh them, and why it is important to weigh them. Otherwise, the children “are going to sink” to forces such as peer pressure and external pressure such as the drug and pornography industries which exploit children.

He noted that the real school of our values now is the media, which has invaded the home in the form oftelevision, radio, and the Internet, and that is not good. “The only family that can resist this is one with personality,” he said. It is important therefore for a life to be backed with good experiences such as to be loved, to be forgiven and taught to forgive, how to have a good time and how to help others to have a good time, he said.

“Evil is making its way into your home,” said Msgr Burke, referring to television as one of the ways. If evil is there, you have to make good news present with the power of God, he said, adding that “the closer you are to God, the more power you have to create good in the family”.

Msgr Burke suggested the use of family councils and voting to decide which television programmes the family should be allowed to watch, “with mum and dad having the power of veto”.

In some cases, it might be better to allow a certain film to be viewed by children, followed by a critical talk on values that appear in the film. “It takes some effort, but it’s for your children’s critical sense. You have to be the stimulator of your children’s consciences,” he said.

The challenge today is to create a family that develops talents and other interests in children and their friends, said Msgr Burke. As he concluded his talk, Msgr Burke gave some basic tips on creating a family with personality. The first thing is to have a large family. The second thing is to have a network of likeminded families and friends. The third thing is that the parents themselves must have personality.

“The best gift for your child is another brother or sister,” he advised.

MSGR CORMAC BURKE is a professor of Modern Languages and a doctor in Canon Law, as well as a civil lawyer and a member of the Irish Bar. He was ordained a priest in 1955. Pope John Paul II appointed him a Judge of the Roman Rota, the High Court of the church, in 1985.

Msgr Burke is also an award-winning writer. In 1994, the National Federation of Catholic Physicians of the United States awarded him the Linacre Award for his writings in the field of marriage and sexual ethics. Among his best known books are “Conscience and Freedom”, “Authority and Freedom in the Church”, and “Covenanted Happiness”, which have been translated into many languages, and is found on his website –

He retired from the Rota in 1999, and returned to Africa where he has continued to teach at Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya.


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