Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Three of the Course, Fourth Assignment, Question 2
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 6 August 2012, 6:39 PM

As a married, Catholic woman I think the most positive outgrowth of Vatican II was the change made in the Church’s definition of the primary purpose of marriage. Since at least the time of Augustine of Hippo, procreation had been considered the first and most important purpose of marriage. Some of the patristic fathers considered it sinful for a married couple to enjoy having intercourse. Vatican II finally recognized what loving couples had known for a long time. Those most intimate moments in a marriage help provide the glue that keep marriages together through the rough times.

Marriage was thus given two main purposes, the support of the couple and the procreation and education of children (390). This acknowledgement of importance of the union in both its emotional and physical aspects appears to have been an effort by the bishops to remove the stigma of being “dirty” that married sex has carried for thousands of years. This opened up the beautiful Theology of the Body that was delivered by John Paul II during a series of Wednesday audiences early in his pontificate. His theology expresses the sacredness of the love between a husband and wife more eloquently than previous theologians, with children being the joyful product of that union.

Unfortunately this probably came too late for the majority of Catholics in the industrial world. Two problems loom large within populations. The first is the problem of failed marriages, particularly in the United States. The divorce rate in the US is about fifty percent with Catholics being no different from the rest of the population. Many divorced Catholics who decide to remarry feel compelled to stop practicing their religion because the Church considers them to be committing adultery. It is possible to seek an annulment where a tribunal of canon lawyers look into the first marriage and can possibly decide no sacramental marriage took place and the parties are free to marry. But this process is time-consuming, can be expensive and while those who serve on the tribunals say the process is supposed to be healing; those who go through it say it is like going through the divorce a second time. It is painful.

The second problem arises with the Church’s stand on the use of artificial contraception. While John Paul II’s theology of the body gives powerful statements about the detrimental effects of using artificial contraception and could have helped Catholics to better understand Rome’s position, and earlier pope, Paul VI declared it immoral on what could be described as, “I’m the Pope and I said so.” The majority of the Catholics in the industrial nations promptly ignored the ban. This is a consequence of trying to use arguments based on scholastic and Tridentine thinking on a population that is highly educated.

I doubt the breach surrounding the Church’s ban on artificial contraception and the attitude of the Catholic laity is fixable. Although I do firmly believe teaching using the intellectual gifts of John Paul II may aid Catholics in a better understanding of the dangers to future generations of both artificial contraception and artificial conception.

The divorce issue is also difficult to answer. Long standing marriages add to the stability of a society. Children can grow to adulthood secure in knowing they are cared for and loved. Young adults have the examples of the older generation to get through the difficult times that life presents to everyone. Finally, those of us who have reached maturity have someone who can be that companion for our final years who knows our history, shares our memories and can provide support when our bodies fail to act like the twenty year olds our minds still think we are. The best remedy that we have right now is to prepare our young people for the reality of life as a family. Marriage preparations through groups like Engaged Encounter purport to decrease the divorce rate among those couples who participate.

GRADE 4 (Accurate analysis and reasoned evaluations.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Thursday, 2 August 2012, 12:18 AM)