, Dan Burke gets insights from Ignatius Press’ Mark Brumley about the first week of the Synod for Marriage and Family in Rome. Also, Jeanette De Melo talks to Hilary Towers who together with 48 scholars and marriage advocates sent an open letter to the Synod Fathers. That letter included concrete ways of stemming divorce and cohabitation rates while increasing lifelong, faithful and happy marriages.

Mark Brumley on the Synod for Marriage and Family

Mark Brumley is the Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press. He also oversees the online magazines for Ignatius Press, is project coordinator for the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. Mark joins us to talk about the Synod of the Family in the Vatican.

The Synod of Bishops going on right now is a regular meeting of leaders among the bishops from around the world, Brumley explained. They’re getting together to “talk about pastoral issues related to the life and mission of the Church,” which Brumley said is a development of the Second Vatican Council. “The Synod of Bishops is one way in which the team quality of the bishops united with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, can be manifested,” he said.

Those present at the Vatican are bishops from around the world, people involved in various offices in the Vatican related to family and marriage, and lay people from ministries and works concerning marriage and family life. “This is an extraordinary synod in that it’s not in the usual sequence. It was called by the Holy Father to prepare for the ordinary synod which is going to be next year on the topic of the family,” Brumley said. 

According to Brumley, the synod now happening is on the very broad topic of marriage and family, and what the new evangelization has to say about it. There is also a discussion about civilly remarried Catholics which is receiving a lot of hubbub and debate. “How you deal with that question has ramifications for a lot of other things,” Brumley said.

Brumley discussed the debate that Cardinal Kasper puts forth about communion for civilly divorced individuals and how he presented it to the consistory of cardinals at the request of the pope earlier this year. “Only the last quarter of [his presentation] that really engaged that issue,” Brumley said, “and by all reports, there was a lot of pushback from the college of cardinals.” 

Five cardinals, including Cardinal Burke, along with other contributors, looked at Cardinal Kasper’s arguments and addressed the concerns he raised in a book called Remaining in the Truth of Christ (Ignatius Press, 2014). They look at biblical evidence, the teaching of the early Church Fathers — including some places Cardinal Kasper cites in favor of his argument — and “they show how in fact a careful reading of those texts actually contradicts Cardinal Kasper’s position,” Brumley said.

Ignatius Press also has a couple of other books on the topic of marriage and family recently published: The Gospel of the Family and The Hope of the Family, which are “broader in their conversation about what the issues are facing the family,” Brumley said. They also have a book-length edition of Humanae Vitae with contributions by a Mary Eberstadt, James Hitchcock, and Jennifer Fulwiler.

Ignatius has created a special website, GospeloftheFamily.com, that lists marriage and family resources they have available.

Dr. Hilary Towers on Increasing Lifelong Faithful Marriages

Dr. Hilary Towers is a developmental psychologist and mother of five children. She writes about marriage and spousal abandonment, especially as those issues are treated within the Catholic Church. She joins us on Register Radio as one of the 48 scholars and marriage advocates who sent an open letter to the Synod Fathers. That letter talks about the experts’ advice about divorce and cohabitation…and how to promote lifelong, healthy and faithful marriages.

Towers notes that she cowrote the letter with her father, who is the director of the Religious Freedom Project. “The letter is a call to action to all of us in the Church,” Towers said, “and not just to the bishops who are attending the synod, although they of course are in a unique position to help get going some of the proposals we’re making in the letter.”

Towers continued, “[The letter]’s really a call to action for each one of us, and it’s a call to stand up and defend the marriage bond by embracing and participating in certain strategies that we propose as a foundation in the hope that some of these strategies will work toward the goals of reducing cohabitation and divorce rates, but also strengthening marriages and families around the world.” 

The theme of the synod is the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization. One of the main goals of the synod is to provide guidance to the faithful about Church teachings on marriage, especially in the area of helping us to live out those teachings. 

Towers said that the theme of evangelization applies to the main theme of the letter: “You need to encourage the formation of small communities of faithful, lifelong marriages in which families and friends and churches hold spouses accountable for their marriage vows.” She stated that this is a sort of re-creation of what used to happen naturally at the level of the family through the role of the immediate and even extended family.

“What we have now is a situation that, when couples are struggling, we sort of turn a blind eye,” Towers said. She referenced this as an almost false sense of privacy and maintained that the synod could do so much good in this area.

The major theme of the letter, Towers said, is around creating communities of strong marriages. 

Towers wrote a recent commentary for the Register with many statistics about marriage, which she discussed in this interview

Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.