Ignoring the controversy over certain ambiguities in Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, two priests with a long experience of teaching in Roman Colleges have written a clear defence of traditional Catholic teaching on marriage. Mgr Markus Graulich and Father Ralph Weimann have published The Path to Marriage: Daring to say “I will” through Faith (Gracewing).
Dedicated to “couples who follow the path of faith and faithfulness”, the book, only 70 pages, is addressed to all those planning to marry or who are following marriage preparation courses, with the purpose of showing them how, by following the Church’s timeless teaching, they can make a lifelong success of their marriage.
The bibliography provides an indication of the authors’ stance: it includes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae and Saint John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio among other documents.
Although the book refers to the two recent Synods on the Family, it is in the context of promoting proper and sustained marriage preparation – something called for by many of the Synod Fathers, in particular the African bishops, led by Cardinal Sarah of Guinea.
Pointing out that marriage preparation and marriage accompaniment in today’s society are both “much more important than they used to be”, the authors explain the difference between secular forms of cohabitation and the sacrament of marriage, “the personal union of man and woman for the whole of life.” They emphasise that marriage is not a symbiotic relationship, nor a quest for “perfect fusion”.
Instead of seeking a perfect partner, sacramental marriage brings God squarely into the relationship: when this is done, “His presence can be the foundation for compensation and can give that fulfilment which couples are often not capable of providing by their own strength.” For this reason, couples are urged to learn to pray together throughout their marriage.
Alluding to gender ideology as a “problem of postmodernity”, the authors make it clear that “humans are predetermined as woman or man; they cannot embrace a new sexual identity for themselves but must accept what they are…The nature of the human cannot be manipulated at will.”
The book also warns against two modern attitudes towards children: deciding not to have them at all, or seeing them as commodities that can be manipulated through technology.
Critics will dismiss the book as old-fashioned or “traditionalist”. Actually it is a wise summary of the Church’s unchanging teaching. Questions are included at the end of every chapter that challenge couples to clarify their understanding of the seriousness of their proposed commitment.
It would make an excellent supplementary text to marriage preparation.