Eleven Cardinals Tackle Key Marriage and Family Issues in Pre-Synod Book

In an upcoming Ignatius Press release, an impressive international roster of red hats offer doctrinally sound pastoral perspectives on how to address key marriage and family issues.

Participants assemble in the Vatican's Synod Hall for a session of the Synod on the Family on Oct. 10, 2014.
Participants assemble in the Vatican's Synod Hall for a session of the Synod on the Family on Oct. 10, 2014. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — With the 2015 Synod of Bishops rapidly approaching, 11 cardinals have contributed to a small but important book offering a pastoral perspective of the issues at stake, while reaffirming the truth of the Gospel on family and marriage issues.

The book is titled Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and Family and will be published in English by Ignatius Press. An Italian edition will also be published.

It is curated by Father Winfried Aymans, a German canon law professor and expert. It includes contributions by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna; Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India; Cardinal Paul Joseph Cordes, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum; Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague; Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht; Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne; Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja; Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop emeritus of Madrid; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, general vicar emeritus for the Diocese of Rome; Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas.

The book will be out shortly before the upcoming synod and will likely be part of the discussion at the synod.

Scheduled for October, the synod will gather bishops from around the world at the Vatican. They will discuss a wide range of matters dealing with family life, building upon last fall’s meeting on the same topic.

Rather than offering a rebuttal of any arguments presented at last year’s synod on the family, the book is instead aimed at giving a pastoral point of view of the issues at stake.

While most of the discussion has been focused on homosexual couples and access to Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics, the 11 cardinals will likely try to show that there is in fact a more in-depth problem, which deals above all with education of Catholic principles.

In the words of publisher Ignatius Press, in preparation for the synod, “11 cardinals from around the world have written powerful essays on some of the problems to be discussed: the challenge of providing adequate marriage preparation in a secularized world; the need for evangelization and conversion; the relationship between charity and truth; the situation of divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics; and the demands of authentic pastoral care.”


Contrast to the ‘Shadow Council’

On May 25, leaders of the German, French and Swiss bishops, theologians and select journalists met at an unannounced meeting at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The meeting included theological reflection and a discussion of goals for the synod.

Critics of the meeting dubbed it a “shadow council.” Some of the speakers advocated changing Catholic teaching on contraception, homosexual acts and Communion for the divorced-and-civilly-remarried.

In contrast, the authors of the new book “understand that doctrine and pastoral ministry are not opposed to one another,” according to Ignatius Press.

“They carefully steer a wise and merciful course that engages genuine concerns, while avoiding false compassion, which compromises both truth and authentic love.”

The contribution of the 11 cardinals cannot be ignored, given their prominence in the Church, and will be part of an intense discussion as the synod approaches.  

Another symposium, on “Faithful Voices, Discerning Hearts: Marriage and Family in the Church and Society,” will be organized in Rome Sept. 10-12.

The upcoming book has also been described as a sort of follow-up to the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church. That book collected the contributions of five cardinals and was a response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s opening address at the February 2014 consistory, when he called for the Church to open its doors to allow divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

More than a rebuttal of Cardinal Kasper’s thesis, the upcoming “11 cardinals’ book” will try to respond to pastoral questions, though theology necessarily will be at the root of any pastoral response. Among the questions the cardinals will address: How can we better accompany those who had been abandoned by their spouses and remain faithful to the marriage? How can the preparation for marriage more effectively address the situation of young people who have had poor catechesis and have been strongly influenced by the secularist culture?

The tone of the discussion could be hinted at in what Father Aymans wrote in a June 9 article for Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. In the article, Father Aymans raised the issues of the “theological understanding of marriage” and the “importance of faith in order to establish if a marriage is null or not.”

Father Aymans wrote, “In a moment when the civil right is always going to leave the matrimonial contract to an increasing free will, the Church must be even clearer” in the announcement of the gospel of marriage.