Alumni Focus: Seeing the challenges to family life up close

Andrea Ponzone (left) poses for a photo with Cardinal Seàn O'Malley, archbishop of Boston. Ponzone is an alumnus of The Lay Centre and works as a judge for Boston's ecclesiastical tribunal. (Photo courtesy of A. Ponzone)

Andrea Ponzone (left) poses for a photo with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston. Ponzone is an alumnus of The Lay Centre and works as a judge for Boston’s ecclesiastical tribunal. (Photo courtesy of A. Ponzone)

Andrea Ponzone works with the challenges facing marriage and family every day. As a judge at the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Archdiocese of Boston, Ponzone says his work has allowed him to gain insights into marriage and family, and specifically why divorce rates continue to rise among Catholics.

A canon lawyer, who hails from Casale Monferrato, Piedmont, located in northwestern Italy, Ponzone first studied civil law. However, his interest turned to canon law early in his professional life, while working in a small diocese in Piedmont. He subsequently moved to Rome and earned a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University. He lived at The Lay Centre during his studies in Rome, from 2007 to 2011.

In January 2013, he moved the United States, where he has been serving as a judge at the ecclesiastical tribunal in Boston ever since. He works primarily on cases of marriage nullity, commonly known as marriage annulments.

Ponzone said he anticipates that discussions at the Synod of Bishops on the family this fall will focus on the way contemporary language and issues are redefining traditional family, as well as how the family plays a valuable role in the Church, and in society overall.

The theme of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place 4-25 October, is “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The nature of the family in the 20th century was the topic of the Synod in 1980, which promulgated Familiaris Consortio in 1981.

“In canon law terminology, ‘emotional immaturity’ is the principle culprit for failing marriages,” said Ponzone. “Today, many people are better educated and hold high-power jobs. In spite of this, many of them are not ready for marriage.”

“Once the ‘fairy tale’ period is over, people start to realize that they must deal with daily problems, and many couples don’t know how to cope with this stage of the marriage,” he said.

According to Ponzone, traditional marriage preparation programs are no longer effective in secular societies. Couples wishing to enter into marriage need to understand more deeply the challenges that are involved, and to recognize if they are ready to deal with them, he added.

Ponzone also said moving to the U.S. has given him another experience of Church. He said he is fascinated with the active participation of the laity in the U.S. and their commitment to the life of their churches.

“The Lay Centre was one of the best things that happened to me during my time in Rome,” he said. “I learned to embrace my lay vocation, and I participated in many great spiritual and cultural events as well.”

“Most importantly, I met wonderful and smart people there,” he said. “It was an invaluable experience.”

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