Book Review

Mystery And Sacrament Of Love:
A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization

by Marc Cardinal Ouellet
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (30Sept 2015)
ISBN: 978-0802873347

Book coverThis is a profound and sublime response to the now famous, some may say infamous, Kasper proposal which rejects the indissolubility of marriage. It was first written in Italian in 2007 and has been updated in the light of the current family synod. It is much needed.

Cardinal, Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, explains that while there has been a development in the theology of marriage in the last few decades, there has been no revolution. There can be no question of the Church recognizing second marriages if the first marriage is valid. Those who "objectively contradict" the indissoluble bond of marriage are unable to receive Holy Communion because we are called to take seriously the truth of the sacraments.

Ouellet suggests that the current anthropological crisis regarding marriage has been brought about by the sexual revolution, the attempt at relegating religion to the private sphere and by attempts to re-define marriage. 

While critical of current trends, he does not favour a return to traditional theology. Rather, he points to the theological interpretations of de Lubac, Von Balthasar and Saint John Paul among others.

Is marriage about love or procreation? Clearly, it is about both. Having read some excellent books on marriage well before the Second Vatican Council, I am not convinced that traditional theology downplayed the importance of love in marriage. Be that as it may, Ouellet masterfully synthesizes the traditional and the personalist perspectives. True marriage reflects the divine-human love of Christ for the Church and Jesus Christ alone gives meaning to sacramental signs. Marriage requires the complementarity of the sexes.

If the nuptial relationship between Christ and the Church can alone define marriage, it follows that marriage cannot be re-defined.

Ouellet sees the family as the domestic church and as a means of promoting the new evangelization. The domestic church has a role model in the Holy Family.

This is a deeply satisfying theological work.

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan