Tag: marriage

On divorce, Chaput and Francis singing from the same song sheet

From my latest at Crux. In the world of Catholic news, we were almost headed for a lull between the pope’s late June interview on the plane back from Armenia…

From my latest at Crux.

In the world of Catholic news, we were almost headed for a lull between the pope’s late June interview on the plane back from Armenia and the early July appointments of Vatican communications experts (two Americans among them, nary an Italian or a cleric).

But in between, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia released his pastoral guidelines for the implementation of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the fruit of the two Synods on the family.

Phew! Catholic social media now had fumes to light a fire, burning faster and brighter than a California wildfire in a drought year.

Like Francis, Chaput discusses marriage and sexuality in light of Church teachings. However, the headlines were about the divorced and remarried [whose previous marriages have not received a decree of nullity from a Church tribunal] not being able to receive Holy Communion.

Read more here.

Especially, the last two paragraphs…

 

 

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Dear David Brooks: I Needed That Laugh. Thanks!

David Brooks has a hilarious piece in The New York Times today.  (H/T James Taranto, “Best of the Web.”) Arguing that it’s not constructive to have culture wars, he offer some advice to…

Paris_Tuileries_Garden_Facepalm_statue David Brooks has a hilarious piece in The New York Times today.  (H/T James Taranto, “Best of the Web.”) Arguing that it’s not constructive to have culture wars, he offer some advice to Christians –

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

His own argument belies the havoc of the sexual revolution. But apparently we shouldn’t talk about root causes. Instead we should fix everything without attending to the foundation…which, by the way, has something to do with sexual mores –

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely. The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

“Those people” are Christians and other social conservatives. He tasks us with helping to nurture stable families. But…apparently we can’t talk about what is a stable family and what sex has to do with that. Meanwhile, The Atlantic just published an article on the largest mental hospital that just happens to be Cook County Jail. Nneka Jones Tapia, a clinical psychologist who now serves as the executive director of the facility commented:

We’re re-teaching them things they learned in their family unit because a lot of these individuals come from dysfunctional families, unfortunately. What you see in correctional institutions are, more often than not, [symptoms] of a larger problem. And then you go into the communities and it’s single-parent homes, no-parent homes—it’s tough to teach your children when you’re not there. So we’re going back and teaching them those skills.”

Brooks acknowledges the crisis in the family, thinks that Christians are uniquely poised to help the situation, but he just doesn’t want us to talk about the situations that create good or bad familial situations. This exercise in absurdity has given me something to laugh about. Thanks, David! And I have to laugh or else I’ll cry. Image source: Wiki Commons.

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Same-Sex Marriage Wasn’t Decided Today

It was decided decades ago, perhaps even almost 100 years ago. The United States population did not wake up a few years ago and say, “Hey, we want to redefine…

water-drop-384649_640 It was decided decades ago, perhaps even almost 100 years ago. The United States population did not wake up a few years ago and say, “Hey, we want to redefine marriage.” We have been living the redefinition of marriage for much longer.

Some will point to the 7th Lambeth Conference in 1930, whereby the Anglican Church allowed for the use of birth control by married couples. Soon after, many other Christian denominations followed suit.

Fast forward to 1968. One year before the summer of love, Pope Paul VI published his encyclical Humanae Vitae, which set forth the Catholic Church’s unchanged teaching – contraception had been and was still inconsistent with the married vocation. However, many people, lay and clerical alike, had expected a different response from Rome. Regardless of the content of the encyclical, they started to live as if the Church had in fact approved the use of contraception, for everyone, not just married couples.

Christians of all types had chosen to ignore Church teaching of almost 2,000 years.

1968 also gave us the SCOTUS decision Griswold v. Connecticut, which ruled that married couples had a right to have access to contraception. For all practical purposes – in law, religion, and practice –  sex had been separated from marriage and procreation. Marriage had been separated from procreation and maybe even sex. The fundamental definition of marriage had changed. Even though the very word “matrimony” derives from the Latin word “mater” [“mother”], marriage was being lived as if it wasn’t about a creating a safe space for children and their mothers and fathers.

In her book Call the MidwifeJennifer Worth, observed the effects of the pill in the London neighborhood where she worked:

The Pill was introduced in the early 1960s and modern woman was born. Women were no longer going to be tied to the cycle of endless babies; they were going to be themselves. With the Pill came what we now call the sexual revolution. Women could, for the first time in history, be like men, and enjoy sex for its own sake. In the late 1950s we had eighty to a hundred deliveries a month in our books. In 1963 the number had dropped to four or five a month. Now that is some social change!

That is some change, indeed. Perhaps it accounts for the logical separation of children from sex and marriage. After all, our personal experiences do shape our thinking.

Recall, it wasn’t so long before the widespread acceptance of contraception that many states had laws about common-law marriages. For example, some states considered an unmarried couple who checked into a hotel room together to be common law wedded…because sex had something to do with children and society thought that the children who might be born of a sexual union had a right to the stability of the marital union of their parents. Such a thought looks archaic now when more than 40% of births are to single moms and parenthood outside of marriage has become a celebrity factor.

I’m not convinced of the efficacy of laws governing common law marriages, but I do think they point to an underlying reality about sex…

Common-law marriages  were countered by the increasing availability of no-fault divorce throughout the 20th century. It also facilitated the sexual revolution. As a common practice it gained traction in 1969 (the year of the summer of love) and mowed down thousands if not millions of families in the 70s and 80s, and well beyond.

We have had decades of living marriage as if children were not an essential part of it. This has nothing to do with infertility; this is about people consciously impeding sexual intercourse from it’s not infrequent end. The end of sex became the orgasm, not the child or even the union.

The Catholic Church proposes a context for sex in which the orgasm was not just something experienced on the physical level, but also on the spiritual, emotional, and psychological levels. It was supposed to be a physical experience indicative of a procreative love that would increase not only the love of the spouses for each other, but the numbers of people who would be part of the communion of love.

Think about it. From a Christian perspective, sex is not about replacing the population and hoping there’s someone to pay your social security or wipe your bottom when you’re old and incapacitated. Woman and man existed as sexually differentiated beings from the beginning, before original sin. They were told to go forth and multiply before death, the consequence of sin, existed.

Made in the image and likeness of God, the original husband and wife were invited to be cooperators with God. They were invited to spread and increase love. In fact, Aquinas argues that the physical pleasures of sex (e.g. orgasm) would have been greater before original sin. The difficulties and sufferings associated with marriage and children were not part of the original plan for humanity.

Additionally, for millennia, differing cultures and religions have recognized a distinction between procreative sex and non-procreative sex. The former deserved social and political protection because of the potential of a child. The latter, while certainly not unknown, was never seen to require that kind of protection; in and of its nature, it could not produce a child even if deeply desired.

But things change, don’t they? Everyone who woke up this morning to the news that SCOTUS declared same-sex marriage a right, had already been immersed, if not an actual participant, in societal practices which separated children and permanent commitment from marriage.

The redefinition of marriage as formalized today in Obergefell v. Hodges was only a logical – even a “natural” conclusion  – of how marriage has been lived already.

So what’s next? Well, if you want to restore marriage to its original meaning, start with living it and helping others to live it. Married people haven’t done the best example of witnessing that this kind of love is even possible. And those who try, frequently don’t receive the support they need.

Obergefell is the new Roe. There will be more legislative and court battles. But the most effective tool will be to live and support marriage and family according to our state in life. That witness, if lived by enough people, will become the new-new-normal. Christianity itself evidences the impact of personal witness.

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Cardinal Kasper – The Pope Didn’t Endorse My Proposal

We live in a soundbite world. Of that, there is no doubt. Before, during, and after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last year, the question of whether the divorced…

Kasper
We live in a soundbite world. Of that, there is no doubt. Before, during, and after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last year, the question of whether the divorced and remarried can receive the sacrament of Holy Communion was and continues to be passionately debated.

Sadly, too many Catholics, including some clergy, rely only on the headlines and soundbites to inform themselves and the result of the debate has been growing confusion that somehow the Church has changed it’s teaching on a very fundamental and important issue.

This week, Raymond Arroyo of EWTN’s The World Over did us all a favor in his interview with Cardinal Kasper, one of the main proponents of the proposal to allow some divorced and remarried couples to receive Communion. Over at the National Catholic Register, Arroyo offered excerpts of the transcript of his interview with the Cardinal. Read his entire piece

ARROYO: But you do understand, when a Churchman like yourself, a theologian, an esteemed international figure, a Curial official says: “Here is my proposal, and the Pope agrees with me” that does cause some …

CARDINAL KASPER: Well, this I did not say.

ARROYO: Well you did say, and the quote is: “Clearly this is what he wants,” and the Pope has approved of my proposal. Those were the quotes from the time …

CARDINAL KASPER:  No … he did not approve my proposal. The Pope wanted that I put the question [forward], and, afterwards, in a general way, before all the cardinals, he expressed his satisfaction with my talk. But not the end, not in the … I wouldn’t say he approved the proposal, no, no, no.

Here’s the full episode. It’s well worth your time, particularly if you’re weighing in on this debate.
The Cardinal says that the Pope wanted to open the debate. I couldn’t agree more. Last year I wrote that the Pope sort of arranged a pre-Synod. He knew (we all knew) that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of marriage. In fact, I’m grateful for the debate. It’s brought forth greatly needed clarity on the teaching. Now, it’s a matter of continuing to clarify and teach so that the confusion is dispelled, a major task set before all of us.

Speaking of confusing, as we look to the Ordinary Synod on the family this coming October, remember the three things you needed to know about a Synod 14, take a deep breath, steady the course, and keep your peace and your sense of humor. (And if you’re looking for something to do this summer, join me in Denver or online for my intensive course on Christian marriage.)

Meanwhile, many thanks to Arroyo for his excellent and respectful interview, as well as to Cardinal Kasper for his willingness to openly discuss his perspectives. I really appreciate the tone in which they engaged each other, a great reminder of how this debate should proceed. Just remember, in his own words, the Cardinal has clarified that Pope Francis has not approved his proposal.

Soundbite – “The Pope did not approve Cardinal Kasper’s proposal.”

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Summer Learnin’

What are you doing this summer? Vacation? Sounds good. But what about a graduate course on Christian Marriage? After all, marriage is a pretty hot topic these days. Plus, we’ve…

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Photo by Pia de Solenni. Detail of the fragment of a Christian tombstone for a deceased spouse. Santa Maria in Trastevere.

What are you doing this summer? Vacation? Sounds good. But what about a graduate course on Christian Marriage? After all, marriage is a pretty hot topic these days. Plus, we’ve got the World Meeting of Families coming up, not to mention the Ordinary Synod on the Family in October.

Are you ready?

I’ll be teaching this course for the Augustine Institute in Denver, along with the esteemed Dr. Edward Sri and Lucas Pollice. Lest we rest in theory, we’ll be joined by marriage coaches Matt and Mindy Dalton, as well as Greg and Julie Alexander.

You can take the course in person in Denver from June 15-19. Or you can sign up to take it as a distance ed student, meaning that you’ll have access to the videos, discussion, and coursework via an online platform. The distance ed course will run July 6 – August 14. The syllabus for the course is here. For more info on the course, email our Registrar, Kristi Logan, at kristi.logan@augustineinstitute.org.

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My Podcast – Catholic Answers Live – Divorce, Remarriage, & Communion

On Monday, I was a guest on Catholic Answers Live to discuss something really easy and noncontroversial….marriage, divorce, etc. There were a lot of calls and the conversation centered mostly…

On Monday, I was a guest on Catholic Answers Live to discuss something really easy and noncontroversial….marriage, divorce, etc. There were a lot of calls and the conversation centered mostly around annulment.

Here’s the podcast.

A previous guest post: “Advice From An Annulment Advocate.”

And a previous post of mine: “Annulment: A  Right And A Healing.”

As we come up to the next Synod on the Family, it’s all too apparent that we, the Church, need to be doing a lot more to help people enter into and maintain healthy marriages.

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3 Things You Can Expect From Synod 14.

Here are three things you can expect from the Synod – Chaos. The Vatican is not Italian. It’s Roman. Do not try to impose your standards on it. You want Romans to be in charge of things like food, fashion, all things epicurean and aesthetic. They do bureaucracy well if you think bureaucracy is a good thing in the first place, hence a Vatican that almost everyone acknowledges needs to be reformed/re-orged/rebooted/re-everything. Look at this. This is how Romans park their cars.

Here are three things you can expect from the Synod – Rome is a colorful place, to say the least, and it has certainly left its stamp on the Vatican.

  1. Chaos. The Vatican is not Italian. It’s Roman. Do not try to impose your standards on it. You want Romans to be in charge of things like food, fashion, all things epicurean and aesthetic. They do bureaucracy well if you think bureaucracy is a good thing in the first place, hence a Vatican that almost everyone acknowledges needs to be reformed/re-orged/rebooted/re-everything. Look at this. This is how Romans park their cars.  5869762-Smart_parking_in_Rome_Rome
    Actually, this picture doesn’t do them justice. It’s a little too organized. But still, note the directions of the cars. I love Rome and Romans; if you know them, you understand the Vatican better and you don’t allow yourself to be uber American and maniacal about media. Instead, you do as the Romans. You know, when in Rome, and all that… You ignore the chaos and go about your life, you use the chaos to your advantage either to create more chaos, or to get away with something, or you sit back and enjoy the entertainment. Take your pick. Why do you think Pope Francis arranged for two consecutive Synods on the family (and perhaps even a pre-Synod of sorts)? It takes time to sift through chaos.
  2. Ambiguity. Again. This. Is. Rome. This. Is. The. Vatican. #ThisIsTheUniversalChurch. You really think this is easy? Sometimes we barely agree on the articles of the Creed. Give everyone a little space to work things out and wrap their heads around things. Let them get over personal, geographical, political, and every other kind of difference so that they can see what they have in common. The great thing is that all of this chaos is making clear exactly what work needs to be done. St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio was largely ignored; so now things are even more of a mess than they were when he wrote it in 1981, after the 1980 Synod on the family. To change that, there’s going to have to be a lot of clear teaching. It’s everyone’s job, not just those who speak from the pulpit. St. John Paul II spoke of the “mission” that we all have to the family. Instead, way too many people ignored him or went back to sleep.
    Part of a monument inside St. Peter's, Rome.

    Part of a monument inside St. Peter’s, Rome.

    So now we’re back facing the tired arguments of the 70s as if the 1980 Synod on the family and Familiaris Consortio never happened. Start teaching. If you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches, well, be honest. Decide whether you can work your mind around what she teaches or whether you can accept it without understanding it. If you can’t, then in good conscience, you really should find something that fits more with your beliefs. But, first, check out what the Catechism has to say about conscience and the “work” of forming one’s conscience. It really is work. It’s difficult. Part of that work is taking place now at the Synod. It’s messy. That’s normal.

  3. No change in doctrine.The Church cannot change her doctrine. A recent example (recent in terms of a 2,000 year old entity), is contraception. Pope Paul VI formed a commission to study the question of whether contraception could be consistent with Catholic teaching. It hadn’t been so far, but maybe something had been missed. The majority of the commission voted to approve birth control. Guess what. Despite majority opinion, Church teaching did not change. In fact, the confusion ensuing from Humanae Vitae proved fruitful in many ways. It demonstrated that there was a clear lack of teaching/understanding. After all, if the pre-Vatican II Church had been so strong, how could the sexual revolution have happened? Catholics as a whole had been experiencing a crisis of faith. Councils don’t get called except to address a crisis. There was no 1950s golden age of Catholic faith. Had there been, I maintain that the response to Humanae Vitae would have been very different and Catholics would have been a strong and beautiful witness that may have even kept the sexual revolution from happening with the quasi sexual intensity that it did. But the confusion paved the way for St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, a much needed presentation of the beauty of sex, marriage, and the family. I’ve also commented that Cardinal Kasper’s remarks have also borne fruit that we needed, albeit perhaps unintended by him. I’m convinced that more good will come. We just need to be patient about the process even if we don’t like it.

    Things in Rome have a way of lasting, despite the Romans and the various invaders.

    Things in Rome have a way of lasting, despite the Romans and the various invaders.

So what can you do in the meantime? Here are some suggestions –

  • Have a drink, if that’s your thing.
  • Go for a run.
  • Spend some quality time with family, friends, etc.
  • Listen to music.
  • Wash your hair.
  • Organize your sock drawer.
  • Count the blades of grass in your yard.
  • Read Familiaris Consortio.
  • Read Humanae Vitae. (C’mon, it’s a short document. The Vatican English translation is arguably better than the Pauline edition.)
  • Have an opinion on marriage prep or annulments? Find out what you really know. Ask about your diocesan or parish marriage prep program. Read the annulment paperwork on the marriage tribunal’s page of your diocesan website. If they don’t have it posted, call and ask.
  • Read something to enrich your understanding.
  • Spend time in quiet contemplative prayers and let yourself hear God speaking to you.
  • Let the Holy Spirit do its work.

Yes, there’s chaos, but this too shall pass. Ignore the alarmists. Anyone who disrupts a Christ-centered peace is doing someone else’s work, not Christ’s. Read Church history. We have always been a rather muddled mess. That’s what proves the Church is divinely instituted. No merely human institution could withstand humanity and all its foibles as long as the Church has.

St. Peter's, with the tomb reaching towards heaven and the arms (braccie) of the piazza embracing and drawing together humanity.

St. Peter’s, with the dome reaching towards heaven and the arms (braccie) of the piazza embracing and drawing together humanity.

 

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Why I’m Grateful to Cardinal Kasper: “Remaining in the Truth of Christ.”

I am grateful to Cardinal Kasper. Indeed, I’ve long had a particular respect for him because I often attended daily Mass that he reverently offered at Santa Maria in Trastevere,…

712lpuKFawLI am grateful to Cardinal Kasper. Indeed, I’ve long had a particular respect for him because I often attended daily Mass that he reverently offered at Santa Maria in Trastevere, a beautiful ancient Roman church with a vibrant parish community. He was usually assisted by seminarians and he was consistently emphatic in his teaching and formation of the seminarians even during the Mass.

That made a lasting impression on me. I saw that he was a priest who took the sacrifice of the Mass very seriously.

Later, I learned that we might not see eye to eye on some issues. Well, it is the Catholic Church and there’s not always a whole lot of agreement under our big tent. Yet, we’re all Catholic and there’s something to be said for that.

In February, when the Cardinal addressed the extraordinary consistory in preparation for the Synod, he raised a very important pastoral issue (though by no means the only one): the admittance of the divorced and remarried to the reception of the Eucharist.

As the content of his presentation leaked out or was presented in other interviews, and finally the publication of his book, The Gospel of the Family, I found myself at odds with his solution to the problem – sort of a via media. Simply put: find a way for some couples meeting specific criteria in irregular marital situations so that they could perhaps undergo a penitential process and then be admitted to all the sacraments, including the Eucharist.

I get where he’s coming from. It’s a serious problem. But, not withstanding his scholarly expertise, his priesthood, and his ranking as a Cardinal, I did not find his solution convincing because I did not see that it took into account fully the deep tradition and theology of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, he started a necessary conversation that could have hijacked the Synod had it been left for initial discussion until then. Having started what has become a dialogue of sorts has allowed time for thoughtful scholarly exchange to begin, most notably in the work of the upcoming volume Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, a collection of essays written by five Cardinals and four additional scholars responding to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal and claims.

It’s very important to have accurate scholarly analysis when addressing complex and emotionally charged issues like that of the divorced and remarried. As the internet has become the dominant form of publication and exchange of ideas, some debates have been obliterated by the very forum provided by the internet: quick responses, no editing, not so much academic work and careful research. Instead it turns into a rapid fire response that does not allow time for the true work of academia: seeking and discovering truth. It just becomes a way for more people to stay fixed in their opinions, something more in line with the tenor of cable news shows.

That said, I’m not betting that Cardinal Kasper’s opinion will change simply because of this volume. But I eagerly await his response so that the exchange can continue so that we can better understand our faith.

Remaining in the Truth of Christ includes historical analysis, Scriptural exegesis, theological study, and canonical analysis, all of it very carefully researched and presented. In order to know where we’re going, we’ve got to know where we’re coming from. We have to know what exactly the Church has done, thought, and promulgated over 2,000 years. Does the annulment process make sense when we look at it in its entire context or not?

I think this will be a foundational book for anyone, scholar or not, interested in the questions not only of the divorced and remarried, but also marriage, the Eucharist, the role of law, the meaning of what it means to be pastoral. In many ways, it’s a great compliment to St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981) [the resulting document of the previous Synod on the family (1980)] and also to his Theology of the Body, along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Each essay presents unique themes and insights. In particular, I was probably most interested in an observation by Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ. He brings out a special ontological significance to Genesis 2,24 (“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his woman,and they become one flesh”) that could further our understanding of St. John Paul’s theology of the body. [I hope to post more on this in another post once I’ve obtained permission to excerpt the text before its publication.]

Cardinal Burke’s contribution is brutally honest, putting forth serious shortcomings of various tribunals while at the same time arguing for the integrity of the annulment process. He clearly sees a need for reform, too, even if it’s not the same one that Cardinal Kasper enunciates.

The historical analysis by John Rist, not to mention the overview of the various Orthodox approaches to marriage, divorce, and remarriage, by Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, SJ, provide an essential basis to any serious conversation on the topic. So far, there’s been casual mention of historical and Orthodox practices, but very little discussion and analysis of the actual practices.

If we’re going to move beyond the realm of opinion and emotionalism, we have to encounter the truth face on. I don’t expect this volume to be the last word, even though each expert makes a very important contribution, and I certainly hope Cardinal Kasper responds in kind so as to keep the conversation going until we have a better grasp of the truth as the Church in her entirety.

And as things begin to become better understood at the academic and hierarchical levels, they need to trickle down to pastors and other lay leaders so that every parishioner, indeed every person who comes into contact with the Church, is greeted with the truth, even when it’s difficult.

I’ve always been put off by the practice of hiding or denying truths that are “too difficult.” In psychological parlance, that’s a bad form of co-dependence. I don’t like it because it doesn’t respect the dignity of the human person to think and act for herself.

In some cultures, for example, the patient is not told the full extent of her illness in an effort to “protect” her. Many have noted that we are sick because of our sins and Pope Francis has called the Church “a field hospital for sinners.” And that’s precisely why I think that it’s so very important to not only arrive at the truth, but to promulgate it. A patient can’t get better or prepare for a terminal diagnosis without being fully informed.

It’s my hope that this volume will be foundational in the field hospital that is our Church. It’s also my hope that Cardinal Kasper and others who agree with his thinking will respond for the sake of the pursuit of truth.

After all, as Christians we believe that Christ is the only means of obtaining eternal health and well being: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14,6). We cannot follow Christ or live as Christ if we do not have the truth.

If you’re interested in the truth and want to inform yourself about a debate that will surely continue beyond this Synod and onto the next in 2015, pre-order Remaining in the Truth of Christ. Read it and study for yourself and for all those in your life who will also be asking questions related to the topic at hand.

You might also enjoy my recent post on how Pope Francis may have organized a pre-Synod, sort of a release valve, to make the upcoming Synod more effective and focused.

Pia de Solenni is a moral theologian and cultural analyst. Her dissertation was recognized by St. John Paul II in 2001.

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