When bishops from around the world converge on Rome for the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family on Oct. 4, they will continue the reflection on marriage and family that they began last year, during the extraordinary synod. In the weeks leading up to the synod, a number of new books have been released that present Catholic teaching on issues of critical importance to the family. The authors of these seven books seek not to change what has been the Church’s constant teaching, but to present that teaching with clarity and charity. 


Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays From a Pastoral Viewpoint, edited by Winfried Aymans (Ignatius Press)

Ignatius Press has drawn together 11 cardinals from around the world to discuss some of the far-ranging concerns that will be addressed by the synod. The cardinals’ helpful essays address 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-remarried Catholics and the demands of authentic pastoral care. The authors are united in their conviction that the teaching of Jesus Christ must not come into question and that unabridged Church teaching must find its expression in the modern world. Marriage preparation is a recurrent theme in the essays. Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne, Germany, discusses challenges that must be addressed in marriage preparation, including an “education for love,” which reiterates the theme of marriage and sexual morality, including the connection between love and fertility and the language of the body as an expression of love. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is concerned that, when sexuality is taken for granted, it is no longer an expression of love, but a form of narcissism for two.


Christ’s New Homeland — Africa: Contribution to the Synod on the Family by African Pastors, translated by Michael J. Miller (Ignatius Press)

“The African prelates,” says Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, “see the family in Africa as a place where the elders are highly respected, the link with the ancestors is appreciated, and the virtue of filial piety is extolled.”

In June 2015, African prelates met to prepare for the synod. Five cardinals and 45 bishops representing 50 African nations gathered in Accra, Ghana, to hear Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea encourage them to “speak with clarity and with one incredible voice and with filial love of the Church.” That approach — to speak in an entirely positive manner, seeking to promote the family and the values that it bears — is evident in the 10 essays that comprise this book. The bishops steer a wise and merciful course that engages genuine concerns and pastoral needs, while emphasizing the continuity of Catholic teaching — citing, for example, the importance of recent magisterial teaching on marriage and the family. Indeed, it may be the Church in Africa that safeguards the faith, even as Western society has become ever more secularized.


Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization by Marc Cardinal Ouellet (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

Cardinal Marc Ouellet originally formulated the ideas in this book as a course that he taught some years ago at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome, and he draws from Pope Francis, the theological intuitions of Vatican II, the contributions of St. John Paul II (the “Pope of the Family”) and the innovative thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Mystery and Sacrament of Love is divided into three parts: Part one takes up the essential theological data regarding the sacrament of marriage and explains that human love, as mystery and sacrament, is a real participation in the love of Christ and the Church. Part two focuses on the relationship between the Church’s sacraments, particularly sacramental marriage, and the Church as sacrament. And Part three develops more systematically the link between the mystery of the Trinity and nuptial symbolism, from the starting point of the mysterium fidei of the New Covenant.


The Choice of the Family: A Call to Wholeness, Abundant Life and Enduring Happiness by Bishop Jean Laffitte (Image Books)

In a series of interviews with journalists Pierre and Véronique Sanchez, Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, expresses his hope that all families would come to understand more profoundly God’s design for human love. He speaks fondly about his memories of growing up as the youngest of 12 children in a loving family and seeing his mother’s generous service to her family.

But while his stories of his own childhood are inspirational, Bishop Laffitte doesn’t stop there. He speaks honestly about the problem of cohabitation, explaining the theology that shapes Church teaching regarding chastity and the call to remain celibate until marriage. He challenges young engaged couples to make the radical choice for love and thus for its demands of purity, and he challenges those who prepare couples for marriage to say the hard things. He offers encouragement for those who are divorced and remarried and who may not receive the Body and Blood of Christ, without suggesting that the Church law may be changed.


God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Nicholas Diat (Ignatius Press)

In God or Nothing, journalist Nicholas Diat records his lengthy interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. In this new book, Cardinal Sarah offers insights on a wide range of theological and pastoral issues, including the mission of the Church, the joy of the Gospel, the definition of marriage and what he calls the “heresy of activism.” He explains: “The idea of putting magisterial teaching in a beautiful display case while separating it from pastoral practice, which then could evolve along with circumstances, fashions and passions, is a sort of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I therefore solemnly state that the Church in Africa is staunchly opposed to any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and of the magisterium. ... The Church of Africa is committed in the name of the Lord Jesus to keeping unchanged the teaching of God and of the Church.”

Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction by Janet E. Smith and Father Paul Check (Ignatius Press)

The writers in this volume explore the Christian view of the human person and of human sexuality, challenging the bifurcation of sexualities into “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” Topics include an explanation of the meaning of the word “disorder,” a discussion of the therapeutic power of friendship and an application of St. John Paul II’s personalism to the question of same-sex attraction. Catholic psychologists and counselors explain various ways of affirming those who experience same-sex attraction and of leading them to experience the power of Christ’s healing love. Several of those who live with same-sex attraction but who are determined to live chastely tell their touching and inspiring stories.


The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation Into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family by Edward Pentin (Ignatius Press)

Was the outcome of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family manipulated by inside groups within the Church who hoped to bring about a change in Catholic practice and perhaps in Catholic teaching on divorce, remarriage and same-sex relationships? In The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?, which is only available as an e-book, international reporter and analyst Edward Pentin, the Register’s Rome correspondent, investigates the serious allegations, accusations and facts surrounding the controversial meeting of select bishops of the world and explains what was at stake on both sides of the debate.


Kathy Schiffer writes

from Southfield, Michigan.

Read more at NCRegister.com.

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