Q. The recent Connecticut Supreme Courts decision to redefine marriage by allowing same-sex unions as marriages suddenly motivated me to try to understand the Churchs over all teaching about marriage. What authentic books are available for personal study?
A. Sometimes a news story like the Connecticut Supreme Courts ruling permitting same-sex marriage has the effect of reminding Catholics to update their understanding of Catholic doctrine. Theology, after all, is classically defined as faith in search of understanding (fides quaerens intellectum), a phrase usually attributed to St. Anselm, who, it appears, was a dialectician even in his prayers.
Two authentic, easily readable books about marriage doctrine are (1) Marriage, the Rock on Which the Family is Built, by Professor William E. May of the Pope John II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, in Washington, D.C.; and (2) Catholic Sexual Ethics, (2nd ed.) by Father Ronald Lawler, Joseph Boyle Jr., and the above cited William E. May. Dr. Mays book was first published by Ignatius Press in 1995; the second book, by Our Sunday Visitor, in 1998.
Both of these volumes should be in every Catholic adults home.
There are other books available, of course; but these are, in my judgment, the best English study texts in America today.
Both of these books reflect Magisterial sources, beginning with Vatican Council II and the encyclicals or other statements, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Both, therefore, are structured upon Pope Paul VIs Humanae Vitae (1968), Pope John Paul IIs Familiaris Consortio (1981), Letter to Families (1994) and the encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (1995).
The Catechisms summary of Catholic teaching about marriage can be found beginning with Article 7, no. 1601. Surely any effort to understand the theology of marriage should begin there.
For more extensive studies, Karol Wojtylas Love and Responsibility is essential reading. Professor Wojtyla, remember, taught the theology of marriage long before he became Pope John Paul II, so that his contributions to the subject were the result of countless lectures, disputations, writings and books. Indeed, much of the vocabulary which contemporary theology employs in its understanding of marriage is based on Karol Wojtylas famed Theology of the Body, crystallized in a series of catecheses which he gave later as Pope. These catecheses were published in 1981 by the Daughters of St. Paul, under the title: Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis.
There is a deep fountain of wisdom available for anyone seriously in quest of Catholic teaching on human sexuality, marriage and family. But a sound beginning, at least, is put together by the two books cited at the beginning of this article: Marriage, the Rock by Dr. May; and Catholic Sexual Ethics, by Father Lawler, Dr. Boyle, and Dr. May.
To discover why same-sex marriage is contraindicated morally, why man and woman are equal yet complementary, why marriage is permanent, why laboratory generation is not justifiable, why contraception is wrong, why extramarital sexual experience, as well as adultery, is wrong and more one should read these two books first.