Review: Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family – Essays from a Pastoral Standpoint, Edited by Winfried Aymans, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2015.
The eleven Cardinals who wrote these essays are united in their concern to preserve the constant teachings on family against erroneous proposals that surfaced for the Extraordinary Synod of last year. Here we are not only talking of the initiative of Walter Cardinal Kasper, but also proposals to take a more positive view towards cohabitating couples, and proposals to adopt language that would undermine the teaching of the Church against the practice of homosexuality.
This valuable work underlines the need to communicate in a clear and precise way the teachings of the Church on marriage and family, especially given the growing difficulties in presenting this message to a secularized society that rejects the message of the Christ.
A second and far more concerning problem in presenting the Church’s teaching on marriage is the dissent that has surfaced within the Church on the nature of marriage as it was manifested in the Extraordinary Synod. In Eleven Cardinals John Cardinal Onaiyekan mentions how “Efforts to introduce changes in Church doctrine and practice are being persistently inflicted on our Church, not only by fringe theologians on the margins of the Church, but sometimes by people quite high up in the ecclesiastical realm. This is what we saw during the 2014 synod.”
In this book, all of the contributors who consider the initiative of Walter Cardinal Kasper strongly reject it, showing that it is contrary to the constant teachings of the Church. Several Cardinals express their serious concern that that the pastoral practice of the Church has not always lived up to her constant teachings on family and marriage and they provide concrete examples. Joachim Cardinal Meisner underlines the low level of preparation that it is offered in Germany and that, “preaching about the truth, meaning, and sense of sexuality in Germany is practically nonexistent.” Cardinal Urosa points out how secularism has entered into the Church, manifesting itself, among other ways, in disrespectful attitudes toward the celebration of the liturgy, providing several examples of decay in the Church.
Some of the contributors consider the question of marriage preparation, distinguishing between a distant preparation that will teach or strengthen the faith of the future spouses, and the short term preparation that would prepare them to receive the sacrament. All insist that it is necessary to introduce substantial improvements in the immediate preparation for marriage. Robert Cardinal Sarah additionally points out that marriage preparation must become an instruction in the faith, because very often one is dealing with couples that do not even know the most basic teachings of the faith. If an engaged couple does not accept the teachings of the faith on marriage, they cannot be admitted into the sacrament. This preparation should lead the couple to know and to be freely committed to practice the faith. Many underline the importance of a strong pastoral care during married life.