On June 10, 2019, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education released a reflection on human sexuality entitled: ” ‘Male and Female He Created Them’: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education”
The document is the fullest exposition of the concept of gender (gender identity, gender fluidity, ‘transgenderism,’ etc.) that has been released from the Vatican to date. It is concerned with the “educational crisis… in the field of affectivity and sexuality” (no. 1) and reiterates Catholic anthropology, rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. “The Christian vision of anthropology sees sexuality as a fundamental component of one’s personhood” (no. 4).
The document seeks to combat the dualism that is operative in the idea that “one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex. The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society” (no. 20). This is precisely what legislation such as the Equality Act does.
There will be further reflection on this document in the coming days and weeks, so watch this space!
And here’s a reminder of a few resources that the USCCB has created or made available on the issue of gender:
Created Male and Female: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders (December 15, 2017)
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, reflected on May 31, 2019 on the state of religious freedom in our country in his column in The Catholic Telegraph. He writes,
“In the United States, freedom of worship is taken for granted. However religious liberty involves much more than that. It is also the freedom to live out our faith in the public square as we serve the community in faithful citizenship. That is what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects in its very first words: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’
Today, however, Catholic hospitals, schools, and charitable services (such as adoption and foster care) are under attack for upholding Catholic teaching about marriage and sexuality. New federal legislation introduced in the House of Representatives, deceptively called the “Equality Act,” would force such institutions to choose between operating according to our faith and shutting down. This is the latest in a series of threats to religious freedom over the past decade.
The Catholic Church in the United States will highlight these challenges later this month with its annual observance of Religious Freedom Week. The week begins with the Feasts of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher on June 22 and ends with the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29. All those saints were martyred for living their faith – the faith we share as Catholics.”
Join in the USCCB’s observance of Religious Freedom Week, 2019!
Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on April 23, 2019. His full address is available; He spoke on the importance of continuing to preach the good news of marriage and family.
He spoke about gender ideology, among other topics, noting, “Any rejection of bodiliness will immediately target two beautiful but demanding and sometimes inconvenient realities: marriage and the child.”
How do Catholic families navigate the waters of addiction to drugs or alcohol? How can the Church better support recovery efforts? On this episode, hear from two men in recovery, Dan Buckley and Brian Peck, who were interviewed by Zoey Maraist at the Arlington Catholic Herald, and Bishop Burbidge in the Diocese of Arlington who has many ideas for the Church’s ministry to families dealing with addiction. We also talk with Nina Marie Corona, who experienced the heartache of watching her daughter struggle with addiction and who is certified in alcohol and drug recovery and began the programs “We Thirst” and “Afire.”
I also just realized– Sara, here– that I missed an opportunity to introduce y’all to the Venerable Matt Talbot in this episode! He struggled with alcoholism, and today people ask for his intercession to become sober. I was able to see his Shrine in Dublin when we attended the World Meeting of Families last summer. Outside the shrine, people had written in chalk their names and their lengths of sobriety.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Pheonix has published a new apostolic exortation on the family: Complete My Joy. Check it out!
As the bishops of the Church discussed during last month’s synod in Rome, we here at home are discussing young people, the faith, and discernment with Bishop Caggiano of Bridgeport (also a delegate to the synod), Bishop Sis of San Angelo, Sr. Helena Burns, fsp, Anna Carter of the Eden Invitation, and 3 young people: Jeanne Marie Hathway, Kelly Walsh, and Elizabeth Plaza.
Listen on Soundcloud:
And here are a few resources about discernment (including consolation and desolation, as mentioned in the episode):
- Discernment Tools
- Resources for Parents on Vocations
- Vocation Videos
- Parish Vocation Resources
- Campus Ministry Vocation Resource
(Not endorsed! Just Sara’s googling and a cursory check that it’s not crazy…)
- Introduction to Discernment of Spirits
- Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s Podcast and Website on Discernment of Spirits (Author of Discerning the Will of God and many other books on this topic.
Fathers are a gift to their children. Fatherhood is also an immense task; a father is meant to give unconditional love and acceptance, along with protection and challenge. This episode features Bishop Sis (San Angelo), Bishop Paprocki (Springfield), Mark Hartfiel of That Man is You, Paul Jarzembowski and Andy Lichtenwalner from the USCCB, Katy Doran of CanaVox, Deborah Savage from the University of St. Thomas, and Joseph Capizzi from Catholic University.
And as always, the episode is also on Soundcloud and iTunes (USCCB Clips)!
Check out Bishop DiMarzio’s column on marriage in his Diocesan paper (Diocese of Brooklyn).
USCCB Chairmen Applaud Supreme Court’s Respect for Religious Liberty in Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision
WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involves a Christian baker named Jack Phillips who declined in 2012 to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. State officials sought to compel Phillips to create such cakes under Colorado’s public accommodations law. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following joint statement:
“Today’s decision confirms that people of faith should not suffer discrimination on account of their deeply held religious beliefs, but instead should be respected by government officials. This extends to creative professionals, such as Jack Phillips, who seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of their daily lives. In a pluralistic society like ours, true tolerance allows people with different viewpoints to be free to live out their beliefs, even if those beliefs are unpopular with the government.”
The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop, which can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/16-111-tsac-USCCB.pdf.
When a man decides to go to the seminary, his family’s reaction matters. In this episode, two bishops (Bishop Caggiano, Bishop Rassas), 2 priests (Fr. Al Baca, Fr. Luke Ballman), and 1 seminarian (Brendan Glasgow) share their parents’ reaction to their discernment.
The above link is for Podbean, which is a platform we joined because we got feedback that it is better for a lot of people. But everything is still on Soundcloud and iTunes too!
The Governor of Oklahoma recently signed into law a bill that protects faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that continue to hold that children deserve to be placed in homes with both a mother and a father. The Bishops of Oklahoma have praised this upholding of religious freedom in the state.
This is a great reminder that the Church’s defense of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has not ended because of the Supreme Court’s redefinition in 2015.
Today the USCCB gave this press release about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that was heard today at the U.S. Supreme Court:
USCCB Chairmen Comment on Supreme Court’s Oral Arguments on Religious Freedom of Creative Professionals
WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involves a Christian baker named Jack Phillips who declined in 2012 to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. State officials seek to compel Phillips to create such cakes under Colorado’s public accommodations law. Phillips argues that the state’s action against him and his bakery violates the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Commenting on the oral arguments before the Court, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following joint statement:
“Today’s oral arguments address whether our Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion will be protected by the Supreme Court. Americans of every creed depend on these guarantees of freedom from unnecessary government coercion. America has the ability to serve every person while making room for valid conscientious objection. We pray that the Court will continue to preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation. Artists in particular deserve to have the freedom to express ideas—or to decline to create certain messages—in accordance with their deeply held beliefs. Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged in the Obergefell decision in 2015 that people who oppose same-sex marriage ‘reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.’ Creative professionals should be allowed to use their artistic talents in line with these decent and honorable convictions.”
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.
The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop, which can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/16-111-tsac-USCCB.pdf.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, issued the following statement today on President Trump’s decision to disqualify transgender individuals from military service:
“Saint Pope John Paul the Second wrote that, ‘Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church.’ This care extends from the time an individual is conceived, until natural death, and every point of life in between. It is offered regardless of personal choices or conditions, because Christ offers salvation to all people.
“Earlier this week, citing a detriment to military readiness and the cost associated with gender reassignment surgeries and therapies, President Trump banned individuals who identify as transgender from serving in the military in any capacity.
“Certainly military readiness is of utmost importance to our servicemen and women who selflessly risk personal safety to defend the values and freedoms of our Nation. The President’s announcement and the prevailing response, however, fail to address the essence of the issue – the dignity of the human person.
“The dignity of the human person is rooted in the fact that people are created in the image and likeness of God – God who in the fullness of his divinity assumed humanity to redeem the world. A recent conference, titled ‘Framing a Catholic Response to Gender Ideology’ held this past May at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, noted that gender ideology undermines basic Christian anthropology by defining the person as a disembodied mind and the body as a mere instrument. A Catholic response to gender ideology considers multiple insights including medical, psychological, philosophical, theological, pastoral, and legal perspectives. The Church honors human dignity by drawing near in order to accompany people.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity issues reflect a rapidly increasing and incorrect societal attitude that individual behaviors in life should pursue immediate and personal choices rather than eternal truth. In extending the maternal care of the Church to the faithful of this Archdiocese, it is opportune to reaffirm that personal choices in life, whether regarding the protection of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the acceptance of a person’s God-created biology, should be made not solely for a penultimate reality on this earth but in anticipation of the ultimate reality of sharing in the very life of God in heaven.”
Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo made a statement on the governor’s veto of a bill defending the right of religious organizations to practice their faith in various ways. Read the whole statement at the Arlington Catholic Herald.
“The bill merely sought to preserve fair access to public resources – like tax exempt status, contracts, grants and licensure — for religious charities and schools that hold to their longstanding belief that marriage is between a man and a woman…
“Just as serving the most vulnerable is inherent to our Catholic faith, so is our understanding about the nature of marriage. We cannot sever one from the other. We are dismayed that with this veto the governor fails to recognize the right of these organizations to profess and practice their faith.”
Bishop Mark Davies in Shrewsbury, UK, wrote to his Catholic schools at the end of September regarding gender ideology. Excerpts of his letter follow:
Dear Headteachers, Chairs of Governors and Heads of Religious Education,
There are now many questions arising in the world of education concerning the ideology of gender which underlies transgenderism. I am not thinking in this letter of individuals who, for a variety of complex reasons, experience difficulty identifying with their biological sex, be that of male or female. Our Christian approach to persons in any kind of confusion and suffering must always be one of respect, compassion and understanding, together with a commitment to seeking appropriate help.
However, today we are being encouraged – sometimes forcefully – not only to accept but to embrace an ideology of gender which is beginning to permeate social consciousness with farreaching consequences. I have often warned that, in that vacuum left by the loss of Christian faith within contemporary society, new ideologies would emerge. For decades the Popes, from Saint John Paul II to Pope Francis, have warned that the radical ideology of gender would challenge the truth about the human person. In this short letter, I write to remind you of their words: When Pope Francis spoke to Bishops at World Youth Day 2016, his comments gained widespread attention in the secular media.
“We are living a moment of the annihilation of man as image of God,” the Holy Father observed, “of ideological colonisations … one of these I say clearly with name and surname is gender! Today children – children! – are being taught in school that one can choose one’s sex.”
Echoing Pope Benedict’s words, Pope Francis went on to urge us to reflect that we are living in “the time of sin against God the Creator” (cf. transcript of the Holy Father’s dialogue with the Polish Bishops, 27th July 2016). At Christmas 2012, Pope Benedict had already spoken of this ideology:
“According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of; it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, whereas in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being” (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 12th December 2012).
We are thus faced with claims that our physical characteristics do not determine who we are as a man or as a woman, and that gender is no more than a ‘social construct.’ And yet we know that sex is determined by physical characteristics which start to develop from conception. The Scriptures speak of these sexual differences being willed by God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27); they come into existence when we are conceived, as science universally affirms; and this complementarity of man and woman is ordered to procreation in which father and mother collaborate with God in the coming to be of a new person.
(Read the full letter at the Catholic Herald UK)
Archbishop Chaput, Chairman-Elect for the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB, gave the Tocqueville Lecture at the University of Notre Dame on September 15th, 2016. The full text is available here. The middle section, reprinted here, examines the importance of a true understanding of human sexuality:
So, what does any of this have to do with sex, family and the liberty of the Church? I’ll answer the question this way.
I’ve been a priest for 46 years. During that time I’ve heard something more than 12,000 personal confessions and done hundreds of spiritual direction sessions. That’s a lot of listening. When you spend several thousand hours of your life, as most priests do, hearing the failures and hurts in people’s lives – men who beat their wives; women who cheat on their husbands; the addicts to porn or alcohol or drugs; the thieves, the hopeless, the self-satisfied and the self-hating – you get a pretty good picture of the world as it really is, and its effect on the human soul. The confessional is more real than any reality show because nobody’s watching. It’s just you, God and the penitents, and the suffering they bring with them.
As a priest, what’s most striking to me about the last five decades is the huge spike in people – both men and women — confessing promiscuity, infidelity, sexual violence and sexual confusion as an ordinary part of life, and the massive role of pornography in wrecking marriages, families and even the vocations of clergy and religious.
In a sense, this shouldn’t surprise. Sex is powerful. Sex is attractive. Sex is a basic appetite and instinct. Our sexuality is tied intimately to who we are; how we search for love and happiness; how we defeat the pervasive loneliness in life; and, for most people, how we claim some little bit of permanence in the world and its story by having children. The reason Pope Francis so forcefully rejects “gender theory” is not just because it lacks scientific support — though it certainly has that problem. Gender theory is a kind of metaphysics that subverts the very nature of sexuality by denying the male-female complementarity encoded into our bodies. In doing that, it attacks a basic building block of human identity and meaning — and by extension, the foundation of human social organization.
But let’s get back to the confessional. Listening to people’s sexual sins in the Sacrament of Penance is hardly new news. But the scope, the novelty, the violence and the compulsiveness of the sins are. And remember that people only come to Confession when they already have some sense of right and wrong; when they already understand, at least dimly, that they need to change their lives and seek God’s mercy.
That word “mercy” is worth examining. Mercy is one of the defining and most beautiful qualities of God. Pope Francis rightly calls us to incarnate it in our own lives this year. Unfortunately, it’s also a word we can easily misuse to avoid the hard work of moral reasoning and judgment. Mercy means nothing – it’s just an exercise in sentimentality – without clarity about moral truth.
We can’t show mercy to someone who owes us nothing; someone who’s done nothing wrong. Mercy implies a pre-existing act of injustice that must be corrected. And satisfying justice requires a framework of higher truth about human meaning and behavior. It requires an understanding of truth that establishes some things as good and others as evil; some things as life-giving and others that are destructive.
Here’s why that’s important. The truth about our sexuality is that infidelity, promiscuity, sexual confusion and mass pornography create human wreckage. Multiply that wreckage by tens of millions of persons over five decades. Then compound it with media nonsense about the innocence of casual sex and the “happy” children of friendly divorces. What you get is what we have now: a dysfunctional culture of frustrated and wounded people increasingly incapable of permanent commitments, self-sacrifice and sustained intimacy, and unwilling to face the reality of their own problems.
This has political consequences. People unwilling to rule their appetites will inevitably be ruled by them — and eventually, they’ll be ruled by someone else. People too weak to sustain faithful relationships are also too weak to be free. Sooner or later they surrender themselves to a state that compensates for their narcissism and immaturity with its own forms of social control.
People too worried or self-focused to welcome new life, to bear and raise children in a loving family, and to form them in virtue and moral character, are writing themselves out of the human story. They’re extinguishing their own future. This is what makes the resistance of so many millennials to having children so troubling.
The future belongs to people who believe in something beyond themselves, and who live and sacrifice accordingly. It belongs to people who think and hope inter-generationally. If you want a portrait of what I mean, consider this: The most common name given to newborn male babies in London for the past four years in a row is Muhammad. This, in the city of Thomas More.
Weak and selfish individuals make weak and selfish marriages. Weak and selfish marriages make broken families. And broken families continue and spread the cycle of dysfunction. They do it by creating more and more wounded individuals. A vast amount of social data shows that children from broken families are much more likely to live in poverty, to be poorly educated, and to have more emotional and physical health issues than children from intact families. In other words, when healthy marriages and families decline, the social costs rise.
The family is where children discover how to be human. It’s where they learn how to respect and love other people; where they see their parents sacrificing for the common good of the household; and where they discover their place in a family story larger than themselves. Raising children is beautiful but also hard work. It’s a task for unselfish, devoted parents. And parents need the friendship and support of other likeminded parents. It takes parents to raise a child, not a legion of professional experts, as helpful as they can sometimes be.
Only a mother and father can provide the intimacy of maternal and paternal love. Many single parents do a heroic job of raising good children, and they deserve our admiration and praise. But only a mother and father can offer the unique kind of human love rooted in flesh and blood; the kind that comes from mutual submission and self-giving; the kind that comes from the complementarity of sexual difference.
No parents do this perfectly. Some fail badly. Too often the nature of modern American life helps and encourages them to fail. But in trying, parents pass along to the next generation an absolutely basic truth. It’s the truth that things like love, faith, trust, patience, understanding, tenderness, fidelity and courage really do matter, and they provide the foundation for a fully human life.
Of course some of the worst pressures on family life come from outside the home. They come in the form of unemployment, low pay, crime, poor housing, chronic illness and bad schools.
These are vitally important issues with real human consequences. And in Catholic thought, government has a role to play in easing such problems – but not if a government works from a crippled idea of who man is, what marriage is, and what a family is. And not if a government deliberately shapes its policies to interfere with and control the mediating institutions in civil society that already serve the public well. Yet this could arguably describe many of the current administration’s actions over the past seven years.
The counterweight to intrusive government is a populace of mature citizens who push back and defend the autonomy of their civil space. The problem with a consumer economy though – as Christopher Lasch saw nearly 40 years ago — is that it creates and relies on dependent, self-absorbed consumers. It needs and breeds what Lasch called a “culture of narcissism,” forgetful of the past, addicted to the present and disinterested in the future. And it’s hard to argue with the evidence. In his inaugural speech of 1961, John F. Kennedy could still tell Americans, quite confidently, to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Today I wonder how many of us might find his words not only naïve and annoying, but an inversion of priorities.
If we want strong families, we need strong men and women to create and sustain them with maturity and love. And as a family of families, the Church is no different. The Church is strong when her families and individual sons and daughters are strong; when they believe what she teaches, and then witness her message with courage and zeal.
She’s weak when her people are too tepid or comfortable, too eager to “fit in” or frankly too afraid of public disapproval, to see the world as it really is. The Church is “ours” only in the sense that we belong to her as our mother and teacher in the family of God. The Church does not belong to us. We belong to her. And the Church in turn belongs to Jesus Christ who guarantees her freedom whether Caesar likes it or not.
The Church is free even in the worst persecution. She’s free even when many of her children desert her. She’s free because God does exist, and the Church depends not on numbers or resources but on her fidelity to God’s Word. But her practical liberty — her credibility and effectiveness, here and now, in our wider society — depends on us. So we should turn to that issue in the time remaining.
More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, and despite recent statements from the campaign trail, the Catholic Church’s 2000-year-old teaching to the truth about what constitutes marriage remains unchanged and resolute.
As Catholics, we believe, all humans warrant dignity and deserve love and respect, and unjust discrimination is always wrong. Our understanding of marriage, however, is a matter of justice and fidelity to our Creator’s original design. Marriage is the only institution uniting one man and one woman with each other and with any child who comes from their union. Redefining marriage furthers no one’s rights, least of all those of children, who should not purposely be deprived of the right to be nurtured and loved by a mother and a father.
We call on Catholics and all those concerned for preserving this sacred union to unite in prayer, to live and speak out with compassion and charity about the true nature of marriage – the heart of family life.
From September 15, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
This is the first in a series of six articles by Archbishop Cordileone on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (the Joy of Love).
“The Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed.” These words are among the opening statements of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love). An Apostolic Exhortation is the document issued by the Pope following on a Synod of Bishops which recapitulates and gives direction to the deliberations of the participating bishops, a sort of universal pastoral plan for the specific topic treated at the Synod affecting the life and ministry of the Church. Amoris Laeititia, the longest such document yet, follows up on the Synods on the Family of 2014 and 2015.
The Christian understanding of the family, marriage, and the human person are indeed good news. It stands in stark contrast to the view held by many today, according to which we are fundamentally alone in life (Mother Theresa has said that, particularly in the West, “loneliness… is the greatest poverty”), and that society is held together largely by a collection of individual rights. As Christians, however, we believe that every human person is, in the words of Saint John Paul II, “unique and unrepeatable,” and that each of us is created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:17).
What does it mean to be in the image and likeness of God? We know from Scripture that God is Love (1 John 4:8), and love always means making a gift of oneself for the good of the other. We also know from Revelation that God is not alone – God is a Trinity of Persons. On reflection, this makes sense, because to have love, to “be love,” requires more than one person. The Father loves the Son, everything He is and has He gives to the Son; the Son in turn loves the Father and returns this to the Father; and, because love is always other-centered and life-giving, the love between them generates the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and giver of life,” who “proceeds from the Father and the Son,” as we profess every Sunday at Mass.
Thus, the most fundamental and true statement to be made about any person is that we are made for love (with others on earth, and with God – Love Himself – in heaven). The Second Vatican Council teaches us that the human person “cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 24), that is, except through loving others.
Further, to love and to be loved is not only essential to our human nature, but it is the very end for which we are designed, that is, to live in union with others. In contrast to Enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, who claim that human nature is essentially solitary, the Christian understanding – and one of the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching – is that we are social beings. (We can recognize, for example, that the most severe punishment in prison is solitary confinement, as this is the denial of our basic human need for others – thus the movement to mollify this extreme penalty.) We are made in the image of God, who Himself is a “communion of persons,” according to Pope Francis.
All of Catholic teaching on marriage and family, all of Catholic Social Teaching, is based on this understanding of the human person. We can only truly flourish as a person in relation to others. Even our salvation depends on this – we are saved not so much as individuals, but in being joined to the Body of Christ (cf 1 Cor 12:27).
The Holy Father urges a “patient and careful reading” of the text by families and those in ministry to families. I hope in this upcoming series of brief articles to offer some useful reflections on Amoris Laetitia, and apply it to current issues around marriage, family life and sexuality. In the end, however, I must echo the words of Pope Francis, by strongly encouraging couples to read the document themselves slowly and prayerfully. At the very least, I ask all couples to please read excerpts from Chapter 4 (“Love in Marriage”), already published in the April 14, 2016, issue of Catholic San Francisco.
Archbishop Chaput, incoming chairman for the Bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, shares segments from the report on sexuality and gender from The New Atlantis in his column this week.
He notes: “We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the ‘Sexuality and Gender’ report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.”