Editor’s note: the following is taken from the introduction to the upcoming book from Emmaus Road Publishing, From the Beginning: The Mission and Vocation of the Family in the Contemporary World. The introduction was written by Dr. Michael Sirilla, professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is reproduced by him here. The book received an initial limited print run in order that it might be given to a number of the Synod fathers. It will become available to the public in the near future at the link above.
On September 8, 2015, the Franciscan University of Steubenville hosted a panel discussion and keynote address delivered by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on the Instrumentum Laboris for the fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 4-25. The topic of the Synod is “the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.” After His Eminence’s keynote address, eight scholars representing various branches of theology and philosophy read abstracts of longer essays they had written. The Synod’s topic is timely as the institution of marriage, especially as understood in the light of Christ’s teachings, is under siege. The Instrumentum Laboris incorporates the final relatio from the 2014 third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic of Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. Before, during, and since that synod, it has become painfully clear that on the questions of contraception, divorce, the nature of marriage, homosexual relations, reception of Holy Communion for those who are divorced and have attempted civil remarriage, and similar matters, confusion is coming not only from our secularized post-Christian culture but from a group of very influential Catholic prelates within the Church herself.
To assist those bishops who are preparing to participate in the ordinary synod, as well as the faithful in general, we offer this volume which is headed by Cardinal Burke’s keynote address and followed by the complete essays of six of the eight panelists. Dr. Stephen Hildebrand (Franciscan University of Steubenville [FUS], patristics) and Mrs. Pia Crosby (FUS, MA theology student, patristics) through a careful analysis of patristic texts and practice argue that it would constitute a regression and even a denial of the truth about marriage to adopt Cardinal Kasper’s proposal for an oikonomia (that is, an “accommodation”), consisting in admitting to the Blessed Sacrament divorced Catholics who have attempted remarriage. Dr. Patrick Lee (FUS, bioethics) returns us to the nature of marriage properly understood as a voluntary union of love open to the procreation of new life. This commitment is lifelong and the indissolubility of marriage is able to be known naturally or philosophically. In my essay (I am a professor of systematic theology at FUS) I argue that Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, as found in the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 ordinary synod, must be rejected by the synod fathers and by the pope as gravely sinful and scandalous in the strict sense. That proposal is essentially a directive for bishops to commit the grave sin of sacrilege by admitting to Communion persons who have not repented. Based on the principle lex orandi lex credendi, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (Wyoming Catholic College, liturgical theology) examines how some of the tremendous changes in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council have contributed to the widespread confusion among the faithful on the truth about Christian marriage and the family. Dr. John Bergsma (FUS, biblical theology) highlights the irony embedded in the claim of those who impugn as “pharisees” those who defend Christ’s teaching that “from the beginning” God instituted marriage as an indissoluble bond of love for the procreation of offspring (Matthew 19:8).
Also included in this volume are the abstracts of the two remaining scholars who presented at the panel discussion at FUS: Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR (President FUS, canon law) and Dr. Donald Asci (FUS, moral theology). This volume opens with the full text of Cardinal Burke’s keynote address in which he thoroughly and critically examines the canonical suggestions found in the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 ordinary synod on the process of matrimonial nullity.
It is our sincere hope that this volume will be of assistance to the synod fathers, to pastors of souls, and to the faithful as the Church contemplates the precious gift of marriage, instituted naturally by God “from the beginning” and elevated to a sacrament by Christ.
Married with seven children. Professor of dogmatic and systematic theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. A Thomist in the Dominican interpretive tradition. Special research focus: fundamental theology, ecclesiology, and theology of the episcopacy.