Indice > Dialoghi Interconfessionali > L-R-RC > The Theology of Mariage | CONT. > sez.1

Crisis and Challenge
  IV. (MARRIAGE FOR LIFE) - selez.
  V. (PASTORAL CARE) - selez.

  (CONCLUSION) - selez.



1. In this discussion of the problems of marriage the Commission has been acutely aware of the contemporary crisis affecting marriage. While acknowledging the magnitude of the present challenge, however, we would wish to keep it in perspective by bearing in mind that there has always been an element of crisis or of tension in marriage in so far as the actuality has too frequently fallen short of the ideal, what marriage is has often fallen short of what it ought to be, and that this has not seldom been accepted through corruptions of the ideal, such as the double moral standard for husband and wife. Moreover, we are deeply convinced that the Churches should not disguise whatever responsibility they may have for contributing to the crisis, partly by their own divisions and divided witness, partly by caring too much for the institution and too little for those involved in it.

2. None the less, the crisis exists at present, although once again it should not be too rigidly separated from other contemporary movements and trends which call in question accepted standards and authorities, for it is probably not mistaken to see at the root of these the search for a reality and meaning which have been lost by many traditional forms of life and behavior; and this search commands a degree of sympathetic and appreciative understanding. On the other hand, this search for reality is probably not the only factor in the present situation; and there is no doubt that the emancipation of women has brought great changes to the marital situation, as have technological discoveries affecting this area of human existence. Another factor, operating at a deeper level, is an attitude of the human spirit which has readily emerged at a stage of modern civilization which owes much to scientific achievements and scientific ways of thinking. Perhaps this attitude of the human spirit reflects the detachment of a scientific age, and it is certainly tentative and skeptical, uncommitted and prone to experiment. It fits in well with a period of pluralism and secularism; but it lacks the criteria for gauging the success of the adventure of the human spirit, many in our time have sought participation in reality in a wide diversity of ways. Some of these ways have carried with them peculiar dangers to the human person. Others have had an essentially religious character and have been attempts to recover that existential sense of God the lack of which lies at the deepest root of our present problems.

3. Yet whatever place there is for experiment here and there in the course of human life, there is no place for it at the very roots of life, in connection with life itself. When we allow ourselves to consider the matter, we experience life both as a gift to us and as something we are enabled to pass on to future generations-as if God had not only called us into existence but has even made us partners with Himself in the promotion and enhancement of human life. With life itself we are given the promise of more life, and the possibility of its development in our children for good or for ill. Moreover, each marriage, with the children who may be given to it, must work itself out, again for good or ill, through a succession of situations in circumstances of sickness and health, of good fortune and bad, of prosperity and adversity, of life and death. It seems impossible to be existentially aware of this basic experience which has something of the character of a mystery and a challenge, without feeling the need for some interpretative vision; and certainly for its part the Christian Church has always assigned and must continue to assign, a very great importance and significance to the coming together of the sexes in marriage, which is, as it were, a focus of this basic situation.

4. In articulating this vision one may fall into all sorts of reductionist errors, and the Churches themselves have not always been free of these. They have sometimes treated sexuality as a merely biological means for the sole purpose of procreation; but others may likewise treat it as a merely anthropological language of communication and self-expression to the total exclusion of procreation. Both views, however, are partial and one-sided. Others again may treat sexuality as a sphere merely for self-satisfaction and the obsessive pursuit of pleasure; but this is a double mistake. It reduces the human personality to nothing more than instinct and sentiment, and it isolates the individual from his or her partner, from children, from society, from future generations, and from God.

5. There are clearly questions at issue here concerning potentiality and genuinely human reality which it would be tragic to allow to go by default; and certainly even if our Churches have sometimes seemed unduly legalistic and inward looking, their present concern in these conversations is to recover the reality and values in their traditions and under the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve humanity in its need and responsibilities in a rapidly changing world, which finds it easier to despair than to believe. Believing in the values of our traditions, we must help our people to grasp them afresh, in terms of their contemporary existence, lest they be lost in the confusion of change.

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