Marriage and the Family today

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The Lay Centre hosted its first conference of the 2014-2015 academic year on 13 October. About 90 people attended. The evening offered four thought-provoking theological reflections on the theme of the current Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which began at the Vatican on 5 October and will continue until 19 October.

“Our role today is to stimulate dialogue,” said Prof. Donna Orsuto, director of The Lay Centre, when welcoming guests. “We want dialogue to continue in the next months, after the Synod on the Family.”

The Lay Centre invited American journalist Mr. John L. Allen, Jr. to dialogue with four European theologians: Mrs. Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn, founder and director of the International Academy for Marital Spirituality (INTAMS) in Brussels; Prof. Philippe Bordeyne, rector at the Institut Catholique de Paris; Prof. Thomas Knieps-Port Le Roi, INTAMS chair for the Study of Marriage & Spirituality, Catholic University of Leuven; and Prof. Martin M. Lintner, OSM, instructor of moral theology at the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Brixen. They shared their perspectives and insights on the theme “Marriage and the Family Today: Pastoral challenges and hopes in light of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”.

Prior to mediating the discussion between the four theologians, Mr. John L. Allen, Jr. highlighted the aspects particular to the current Synod in comparison with others in the past. “It is shorter, it is small and there is a greater sense of urgency.” The vaticanist, who has been covering the Holy See for nearly two decades, believes there is a “very honest reflection” taking place at the Synod, in line with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Prof. Philippe Bordeyne introduced the theological-practical problematic of marriage, saying that nowadays “there is much desire for family without any desire for marriage”. He believes “the Synod helps people discern. There are elements of good in any kind of love, but there is also desire for something more”.

Mrs. Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn gave her perspective on Sensus fidei in the life of the Church. She also spoke about how to give voice to marriages that are still together after several decades, in spite of great challenges. “When we look at society, is the art of living taught and practised by us married lay people? Are we well formed? Not for Church but for ourselves?” she asked.

Prof. Thomas Knieps-Port Le Roi also offered a few arguments from the Church’s theology of marriage. “Marriage is an earthly reality that has a sacred value. Marriage is the only sacrament that does not need another outside element to make it sacred,” he said. “The real treasure of the Church’s doctrine lies in the way couples make real God’s saving presence.”

Prof. Martin M. Lintner, OSM, gave an overview of some very strong pastoral concerns about marriage and the family. “Many people are still interested in the Church but many faithful people have lost trust in the Church,” he said. “But before entering into questions of content, it is important to define what dialogue is,” he stated. He later added that the reflections of the lay faithful are important to consider in moral discernment. According to Prof. Lintner, the Church must also listen to people who do not follow Church teaching “because they can be closer to the human experience”.

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