Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the spiritual leader of the Roman catholic Church in England and Wales, has used his New Year message to stress the importance of marriage and what are thought of as "traditional family values".
He claimed that most parents did not want their children to be taught that marriage was nothing more than "one lifestyle choice among many", urged parents to bring God into their homes, and said the "traditional family" remained central to the well-being of society but was being dangerously eroded.
Society was slowly waking up to the dangers of climate change and pollution for the planet, said the Cardinal, but seemed largely oblivious to the destruction of the family.
His remarks will be crticised by those who will see them as, in part, a thinly-veiled assault on equality legislation for homosexuals and others, which the Church has rigorously opposed in 2007, claiming that they undermine marriage - a contention rejected as simplistic and one-sided by many others, Christian and otherwise.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor declared: "It has taken us a long time to realise that if we cut down trees, use cars with highly leaded fuels and build factories with toxic emissions, we were gradually destroying the ecosystem within which we live and breathe."
"Perhaps, however, it has been harder for us to admit those elements in our relationships or in our society which have contributed to the fragmentation of the family," he continued.
"Yet it is equally true that we are rapidly moving the very structures on which society is built and on which humanity depends; we are gradually destroying the 'ecosystem' that supports the family," he added.
The Cardinal said that although a traditionalist, he was aware that many people had suffered broken marriages or were "courageous" single parents and he understood their sorrow and hurt. He did not mention gay couples.
Christians who adopt a different approach to the Cardinal argue that the solidity of faithfulness in marriage is part of a rich pattern of relationships created by the Gospel beyond the 'established' bonds of blood, hierarchy and kinship.
They point out that Jesus prioritised the creation of a new community of companions above existing ties, and that his own origins were anything but "traditional".
Also from Ekklesia: Deirdre Good, Jesus' Family Values .