All posts tagged: family

Is There an Escape from the Evils of a Contracepting Society?

What a Contracepting Society Looks Like Contraception was from the beginning touted as the answer to a host of societal problems, from the old Neo-Malthusian bogeyman of over-population, down to marital unhappiness and child abuse.  But have such extravagant claims come true? Has contraception helped marriage? Contraception, after all, is sold as promoting the deeper union of the spouses. But divorce has skyrocketed to around 40-50 percent of all marriages since contraception became a widespread marital practice. If contraception increases bonding between spouses, then at least some amelioration of the divorce rate among those using contraception (that is, almost every married couple) should be evident. But no data indicate such an effect. In fact, demographer Robert T. Michael has argued that half of the rise of the divorce rate between 1965 and when it leveled off in 1976 “can be attributed to the ‘unexpected nature of the contraceptive revolution’ . . . especially in the way that it made marriages less child-centered.”[1] More generally, given the deepening of love that it is supposed to foster, contraception …

Relegating the Faith to the Private Sphere Generates a Distortion

Culture in the broadest sense can be defined as a way of life. The great historian Christopher Dawson created an entire corpus focused on the intersection of religion and culture. He claimed that four central pillars form the foundation of culture: people, environment, work, and thought.[1]  He describes how “the formation of culture is due to the interaction of all these factors; it is a four-fold community—for it involves in varying degrees a community of work and a community of thought as well as a community of place and a community of blood.”[2] When Dawson refers to the importance of thought, he means especially religious thought, which provides the inner form for the material organization of society. He describes how “every social culture is at once a material way of life and a spiritual order,” because “it is the religious impulse which supplies the cohesive force which unifies a society and a culture.”[3] Although Dawson recognizes that we live in the first secular culture in human history, he also rightly claims that the modern world …

Why Would Young People Want to Remain Catholic?

“This was like the synod for the American Church.” This remark came from one of the more than 20 bishops[1] during a closing conversation for the Cultures of Formation conference hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life and cosponsored by the USCCB committee on doctrine. It was a breathtaking three days. Some 550 registered participants and a few hundred more unregistered attendees considered the profound issues, the pressing needs, and the most ambitious hopes for what Pope Francis has asked the whole Church to focus its attention: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” While those of us who were in attendance will be unpacking what we heard and discussed for months and years to come, those who were not able to attend can sign-up for free follow-up resources, including a forthcoming digital conference, on the conference webpage. Since a comprehensive rundown of the whole conference would likely require at least an entire book if not a multivolume series, I would like to offer six initial reflections both to remind those of us who …

The Perfect Family Is an Idol

It’s 10 o’clock at night, the kids are asleep, and my husband and I are in the midst of a massive fight that has somehow spilled out of our house and into the backyard. We’re yelling at each other, words born of anger, each of us too hurt and ashamed to back down. And like the majority of our worst fights, I don’t even remember what started it, I just remember how awful it felt. My husband and I own a small business, and at the time we were working long hours, often late into the night, and we were having cash flow issues, which is a polite way of saying that we were out of cash. We also have little kids, so we were probably sleep deprived. Obviously, we’d had a bad day. None of this justifies our behavior, it just gives it context. We’re sinners with an anger problem. And while I don’t remember what started our fight, I do remember what stopped it. We live next to an old apartment building, and …

The Cruciform Shape of the Family

Embarking on the journey of marriage and family life is filled with many joyful moments but also with moments of suffering. This suffering is inherently relational, meaning that by entering into commitments such as marriage and parenthood, we open ourselves up to the possibility of being wounded by such commitment. For example, think of the newlyweds who ache with overwhelming love for one another, a mother who labors to meet her child, the infertile couple who longs to conceive, the parents who suffer with and for a sick child, or the elderly man who sits at his dying wife’s bedside after a lifetime shared together. As we can see, suffering takes a unique, relational shape in the context of marriage and family life. This shape reflects Christ’s suffering in the sense that he entered into relationship with mankind, therefore opening himself up to such relational wounds—wounds of love. When we gaze upon Christ crucified, we see not only the horrific suffering of his Passion but also a sign of hope in his Resurrection. However, it …

Marriage as Mission: The Implications of the Charism of Marriage

The role of the Holy Spirit in the nuptial union of a couple can be understood in light of the charism given to the couple by the Spirit. It is this gift that the couple is called to give back to the Church through participation in her mission. Grounded in the baptismal identity of all Christians, the charism of marriage implies that the baptismal vocation will be taken up in the nuptial and familial life of the couple. Practicing this form of participation in the mission of the Church includes the call to evangelize in real ways, concretely through the social doctrines of the Church. Thus, the charism of marriage should be considered in marriage formation as couples learn to foster their charism and discern its implications in their own lives. We can then consider: If marriage formation was approached as a fostering of charism, how might the identity and role of married persons and their families in the Church evolve? As the charism of marriage implies a mission in marriage, how might this new …

Joy and Parenting

There is a common sentiment, one which I shared as a single person, that the place where you live is simply a practical location to store food and clothing, sleep, charge your cell phone, and relax away from all the tasks and commitments of life. This was how I felt about my dorm room in college, a cinder block cube where I seldom worked and where I would certainly never have invited anyone for dinner. Until recently, I never actually owned a home, so many of the spots I dwelled in were temporary and shared. This did not negate the possibility of experiencing these places as a kind of home, but I lived more of my life away from the home than in it. It was not until I married and we started our family that I started to treat the place we lived as a place that meant something more than a cozy nook to eat and sleep in. The phrase “domestic Church” coined in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, §11) establishes the home of Christian families as “the first school of Christian …

Embracing a Preferential Option for the Family

Ministry at the level of the parish is often an attempt to focus chaos and point that energy in the right direction. People and groups approach parish ministers (both clergy and lay pastoral ministers like me) with ideas, energy, financial backing, and credentials on a weekly—even daily—basis. The reality of focusing the energy and effort of the parish is tremendously gratifying yet bewilderingly difficult; it requires a deep friendship with Christ (who is the way, the truth, and the life) and a clear, prophetic vision for the reign he came to teach. Within the beautiful bedlam of parish ministry I have found it important to hold onto certain pastoral values in the midst of all the judgments and decisions about which directions to point energy (both mine and others) and asserting priorities ahead of other items which may very well be good too. One such value that is particularly helpful in focusing pastoral care at parishes is what I’ve come to call the “preferential option for families.” The wording preferential option is borrowed explicitly from …

“Amoris Laetitia”: An Invaluable Opportunity for Teachers of the Faith

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) On April 8, 2016, the Vatican published the English-language version of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”): On Love in the Family. In the time period leading up to the much-anticipated release of Amoris Laetitia—effectively spanning the [Extraordinary] Synod of Bishops on the Family of October 2014 and the [Ordinary] Synod of Bishops on the Family of October 2015—all categories of the faithful, comprising the clergy and laity alike, offered speculation concerning what the document would entail. This is not to mention that news outlets, mainstream or otherwise, were quick to extend manifestations of pseudo-expertise addressing sentimental perceptions of what Pope Francis would say, or perhaps would not say, in terms of what the Catholic Church professes regarding God, marriage, and family life. Ultimately, in over 250 sprawling pages, Amoris Laetitia revealed that which various realms of the Church should have expected to receive from Pope Francis in the end: his defense, promotion, and embrace of God’s age-old plan for …

A Tale of Two Synods: What’s Become of Catholic Marriage and What Can We Do About It?

Hermeneutics has always been a challenge, even with something seemingly simple. Allow me an example. I was teaching catechism for three- to five-year-olds at our parish on Sunday, and I asked the kids to draw a picture of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt. Well, after five minutes my son brings up his uncontestably creative rendition. I could see Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but there was a fourth figure I couldn’t make out. Aware that I look thoroughly nonplussed, my son enlightens me: “Papa, you see, that’s Pontius Pilate. He was flying their plane!” Thankfully, you didn’t come here tonight to hear me tell jokes. You’re here to hear a tale of two Synods: what’s happened to marriage and what we can do about it. It was the best of Synods, it was the worst of Synods, it was the synod of wisdom, it was the synod of foolishness, it was the episcopate of belief, it was the episcopate of incredulity, it was the papacy of Light, it was the papacy of Darkness . . …