Good Reads on Christian Marriage

With the recent news regarding the decline in belief in the Church’s teachings on Christian Marriage (i.e., sex), I thought some might appreciate a compendium of good reads on the topic of Christian Marriage: encyclicals, books, articles, etc.

From the Popes:
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII
Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) — Pope John Paul II

The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II (* a general audience, which makes up the teachings contained in the theology of the Body, is not on the same level of teaching as a Papal encyclical or Conciliar document)

From the Bishops:
Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality – Pontifical Council for the Family
Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage – Pontifical Council for the Family
Love & Life in the Divine Plan — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cohabitation Before Marriage — the Bishops of Kansas
Pennsylvania Bishops Document on Cohabitation — the Bishops of Pennsylvania
PDF on Fornication & other Sexual Matters — Archdiocese of Washington
Pastoral Letter on Cohabitation & Marriage in the Church — Archbishop Sheehan, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
The Vocation of Marriage in God’s Plan — Archbishop Stafford

From Priests, theologians, etc.:
Cana is Forever — Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Three to Get Married — Msgr. Fulton Sheen
Clean Love in Courtship – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik
Chastity: A Guide for Teens & Young Adults – Fr. Gerald Kelly, SJ
Questions Young People Ask Before Marriage – Fr. Donald Miller, CSSR
When Is Company Keeping Lawful & Prudent? – (“Company Keeping” = courtship/dating)
Little Book of Instructions for Christian Mothers – Fr. Pius Franciscus, OM Cap.
“Casti Connubii 60 Years Later” – John Kippley

Books not currently available (to my knowledge) online: (Get ‘em from your library or cool Catholic friend)
The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand
The Sins of Parents by Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) (you can catch a decent size preview on Google Books here)
Called to Love by Carl Anderson & Fr. José Grenados (I briefly reviewed it here)

This is (and will be) constantly updated. Feel free to recommend something I may have missed.


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Surprising Statistics

Unfortunately it’s not surprising, but it is disappointing… according to the latest statistics from CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) only a mere %14 of Catholics think pre-marital sex is wrong, and even among Catholics who regularly attend Mass (i.e., at least once a week) only %30 said pre-marital sex is wrong. Msgr. Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington noting the statistics said, “we have a lot of work to do”… YA THINK!?! Archbishop Chaput also said last week that this generation has failed in catechesis… in handing on the faith to the next generation and as a result young people today have lost a “moral vocabulary”:

“Our culture is doing catechesis every day. It works like water dripping on a stone, eroding people’s moral and religious sensibilities, and leaving a hole where their convictions used to be.”

“Christians in my country and yours – and throughout the West, generally – have done a terrible job of transmitting our faith to our own children and to the culture at large.
Instead of changing the culture around us, we Christians have allowed ourselves to be changed by the culture. We’ve compromised too cheaply. We’ve hungered after assimilating and fitting in. And in the process, we’ve been bleached out and absorbed by the culture we were sent to make holy.
We need to confess that, and we need to fix it.”

“The central issue is whether we ourselves really do believe. Catechesis is not a profession. It’s a dimension of discipleship. If we’re Christians, we’re each of us called to be teachers and missionaries.”
“If we’re embarrassed about Church teachings, or if we disagree with them, or if we’ve decided that they’re just too hard to live by, or too hard to explain, then we’ve already defeated ourselves.”
“We need to really believe what we claim to believe,” he stressed. “We need to stop calling ourselves ‘Catholic’ if we don’t stand with the Church in her teachings – all of them.”

In response to the crisis, the Archdiocesan website put up a PDF of relevant passages from the Sacred Scripture condemning pre-marital sex. You can find it here.

While it is clear that the Bible condemns pre-marital sex (“fornication”), and the Church has always taught that sex before marriage is wrong; it’s also clear that either people don’t understand this, or very few care anymore. This baffles me. Even aside from the religious aspect of things, look at the situation rationally: what has promiscuity brought us? … STDs, children who don’t know their fathers or who must grow up in a ‘broken home’, and all the mental consequences of casual hookups (depression, etc.), etc. Not one good thing has come from embracing promiscuity.

I have to also admit, given the popularity of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, especially with Christopher West and others supporting and teaching it all over the country… I am surprised at the numbers… but as the good Archbishop Chaput said, “the central issue is whether we really believe”.

 

What does the Catholic Church teach regarding Christian Marriage?
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII

Book Review: Called to Love

Overall: This is a GREAT book, well worth the read. I highly recommend it.

Carl Anderson and Father José Granados have done an amazing job interpreting and explaining Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados have presented in Called to Love, a mature and all-encompassing understanding of the “Theology of the Body” that underscores the true subject of Pope John Paul II’s catechesis: the vocation of every Christian person to love. In this reviewer’s opinion, the authors here have one up on Christopher West– Mr. West presents a kind of introduction to the “Theology of the Body” that gets your feet wet. Here is the rest of the story. Carl Anderson and Fr. Granados have presented the main attraction: how the vocation to love transforms and informs our understanding of human sexuality and human love.

My favorite aspect of Called to Love is that the authors incorporate not only Pope John Paul II’s Wednesday Audiences which comprise the “Theology of the Body” but Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados also reference Pope John Paul II’s poetry, his plays, and his other major work on love (the real point of the “Theology of the Body”): Love & Responsibility. Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados see that the “Theology of the Body” is not just the Wednesday Audiences of catechesis, but that this vision extends throughout the whole of Pope John Paul II’s theology; it permeated everything he wrote. The “Theology of the Body” is the manner of understanding human sexuality and love in the light of Divine Love. Called to Love is then able to present a fuller view of Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” based on the nature and meaning of love.

You can purchase this book here.

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Is the Theology of the Body scandalous?

Christopher West, among other lay Catholic speakers, has definitely popularized Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. But if you caught his stint ABC’s Nightline, or the small fury in the blogosphere over an article that quotes Dr. Alice von Hildebrand saying West’s approach is “dangerous”; you might be wondering where’s the balance? Are we too prudish, or is the Theology of the Body scandalous?

I’ll be honest. I like Christopher West. I think he’s a good guy trying hard to do a difficult job. But, I also agree with many of the criticisms leveled against him. In that vein, I think he should take the criticism seriously, learn from it, and move on adjusting his presentations as necessary.

Pope John Paul II’s catechesis on the “Theology of the Body”(TOB) is revolutionary. Indeed, I remember reading his Love & Responsibility and thinking, “a celibate guy wrote this? Seriously?” and then immediately understood the scope of Pope John Paul II’s phenomenology (i.e., I have a lot to learn). It’s not that TOB added anything new to the Church’s teaching on sexuality or the human person; but the understanding and explanation is unfolded carefully and meaningfully in TOB.

Sex is a touchy subject. It has to be handled faithfully and sensitively– which tends to make most people turn off their listening ears. Christopher West’s presentation of the Theology of the Body is lively; he tries to wake up his audience to help them see that the Catholic Church really does know what she’s talking about in regards to who we are as human persons– and especially as regards our sexuality. He says some outlandish things (to grab the attention of the audience) but usually goes on to explain and nuance the odd sayings in the light of Church teaching.

For mature Christians, I think there is some wiggle room for discussion. For example, while The Theology of the Body Institute recently made it clear that Mr. West does not endorse oral sex; his book The Good News About Sex & Marriage does give the go-ahead. I think his conclusions are based on sketchy evidence, at best; and on that point I think Mr. West is off base. While the Church is not going to draw up a list of bedroom dos and donts for married couples, I don’t think the Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur in Mr. West’s books can make up the beginning of one. Theology of the Body is not about learning how far we can go, or how much we can get away with– that’s the wrong way to look at things. Theology of the Body is about who we are as persons and the ultimate purpose of the gift of sexuality lived out in human life–whether through the sacrament of marriage OR (and I think this is too often forgotten) through celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.