Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Is a Catholic Family?


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — GATHERED in Rome last week to discuss marriage, divorce and the widening array of domestic arrangements with which they now must contend, a group of Roman Catholic bishops released a statement that included a theological turn of phrase that proved more telling than intended. “We must not forget that the church that preaches about the family is a sign of contradiction.”

This was not meant as a self-aware nod to the incongruity of a cohort of celibate men discussing the place of birth control, child-rearing and marital relations in the lives of millions of noncelibate Catholics, nor as an acknowledgment that the church has held conflicting views on the family from the beginning. A “sign of contradiction” here alludes to a prophecy given to Mary early in the Gospel of Luke that the infant Jesus would be a “sign that is spoken against” by the people he had come to save.

For Christians, this sign is a call to stand apart from society, enduring scorn for the sake of religious truth. Referring to their synod on the family this way, the bishops were not humbly admitting their inability to speak from experience, but making a lofty claim to a higher authority.

Still, the contradictions most evident in the aftermath of the bishops’ statement were those within their own ranks. A recap of discussions held during the first half of a two-week meeting convened by Pope Francis, the report was greeted with outsize praise and alarm for its willingness to engage in unexpected ways with issues including homosexuality and what the church used to call “living in sin.”

(More here.)


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