No Longer “Book of the Month”

In recent weeks I have reluctantly criticized the bishops’ new website on marriage for, among other things, recommending as a marriage resource a book by dissident theologian Richard Gaillardetz. I also raised these concerns with a few of the bishops who serve on the Marriage and Family Committee of the USCCB, who said they would look into this.

Apparently they have.

Last week a friend emailed me to tell me that the review of Dr. Gaillardetz’ book A Daring Promise: A Spirituality of Marriage in the “Book of the Month” section of the website has been removed. This development was also recently reported by The Curt Jester.

This is an encouraging development, but it reflects only a partial resolution of the difficulty. Dr. Gaillardetz’ book is still included on a short list of four books recommended for couples who are preparing for marriage, as well as on a longer list of marriage resources that seems to eschew Catholic publishers known for their orthodoxy  (e.g., Ignatius Press, Emmaus Road, Our Sunday Visitor, Sophia Press, etc.), favoring publishers that are either “progressively Catholic,” Protestant, or secular. It’s not that the latter can’t publish books that are worthwhile, but the selections taken as a whole are a bit curious, to say the least.

In addition, I understand that there is still no mention on the website that contraception is a serious sin or, as the Catechism (no. 2370) puts it, “intrinsically evil.” I also could find no mention in the cohabitation section that flat out advises that premarital intercourse is a sin. Instead, it merely states that sex outside of marriage “cannot express what God intended” and “says something false.”  True, but on something this fundamentally important, we need things spelled out more clearly, especially when we have teachers like Dr. Gaillardetz who offer ambiguity rather than orthodoxy. In my opinion, it’s a toxic brew.

As noted previously, the “For Your Marriage” site has tremendous potential, and even now has many good and helpful features. Plus, the bishops who serve on the committee that is ultimately responsible for the site are terrific shepherds in their own right who have done much to strengthen marriage in their own dioceses. So, I think there is good reason to be optimistic that further improvements to the site are in the offing. Stay tuned . . .  

5 responses

  1. fyi…
    I did a google search for “contraception” limited to the website. As of this reading there were 5 hits, although two of these were only links to the Contraception/NFP page and one was used to describe a document for confessors that “Offers specific recommendations to confessors for married penitents on contraception and related issues.”

    Here are the two links of any substance related to the morality of contraception:

    Marital Sexuality
    The bond between the procreative and the relational aspects cannot be broken. Each sexual act in a marriage must be open to the possibility of conceiving a child. Contraception is wrong because it separates the act of conception from sexual union. (See Married Love and the Gift of Life for more on this topic.) (the document is linked)

    Contraception and Natural Family Planning
    The Church believes that God has established an inseparable bond between the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage. The couple has promised to give themselves to each other, and this mutual self-giving includes the gift of their fertility. This means that each sexual act in a marriage needs to be open to the possibility of conceiving a child. “Thus, artificial contraception is contrary to God’s will for marriage because it separates the act of conception from sexual union” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 409).

  2. Thanks, John. I realize that this seems to be a fair amount of text, but in the context of the entire site, this really isn’t very much. There’s no mention of contraception in the section on “issues facing couples.” In addition, it’s not directly treated in the “preparing for your marriage” section (though there is a page that mentions NFP, and if you click on that you come to one of the above passages).

    If it’s true that most Catholic couples contracept, and that contraception (assuming full knowledge and consent) is a mortal sin, I don’t think the topic should receive only peripheral, watered down treatment. Sure the site has a statement that it’s “wrong” and “contrary to God’s will,” but those passing statements do not have the same effect as candidly and compassionately advising couples that this is a serious sin with devastating consequences in this life and even more in the life to come.

    While we’re at it, the quote from the Adult Catechism brings up a pet peeve of mine, as it talks about “artificial” contraception. Is any contraception “natural”? Doesn’t such expression give credibility to the misunderstanding that “natural” family planning is merely Catholic contraception?

    I realize that this may sound like a mere quibble, but I think language is important. And if this is to be the “go to” national site for couples who are getting married in the Church, I think greater candor and clarity on all issues is in order, especially when it comes to hot button issues like contraception.

  3. I think the issue of contraception is only one area where the USCCB is missing the mark from an Orthodoxy point of view. Take its recent review of the movie “A Golden Compass” – ( where they give the movie a very good review in spite of its signficant anti-catholic and anti-religious themes. A much better review was given by Steve Wood in the recent edition of the National Catholic Register for those that subscribe or are interested.

    The difficulty for me is that I would expect the Bishops to be more conservative or more Orthodox because of their position in the Church. I am disappointed that the Bishops running the USCCB web site may not be giving faithful Catholics the best food for their minds and spirits. In light of the recent review, I would urge Steve Wood to consider taking the link to the USCCB off of his web site for movie reviews. It is my understanding that “Brokeback Mountain” also got a good review?

    With all due respect to the Bishops (and I mean that wholehartedly), PLEASE step up to the plate and provide a thoroughly Orthodox position on the USCCB website, in your writings, and in everything you do. The Church will be better for it.

  4. Thanks, Rick. The posts on contraception have been related to the “For Your Marriage” website, which was recently launched by the Marriage and Family committee of the USCCB. This website is distinct from the USCCB site, though they are linked.

    You’re absolutely right in protesting the benign review of The Golden Compass that has been posted on the USCCB site. While most bishops would not agree with the review (and a few have even spoken out strongly against the movie and the trilogy on which it’s based), promoters of the movie are getting good mileage out of the review, treating it almost like an imprimatur.

    If they’re going to stay in the movie review business (and I think this can be very helpful if done right), the bishops have to get reviewers with a better “Catholic sense.”

    We have other posts on our blog regarding The Golden Compass, and we also have a review/critique by Pete Vere coming up in the next issue of Lay Witness magazine. It certainly deserves separate treatment and scrutiny.

    The faithful should stay away from the movie, pure and simple. As a matter of tactics, I think a big “public stink” about the movie, though, would help sales at the box office, but that’s just my personal opinion. At the very least, though, we have the right to expect that the USCCB reviewer would get it right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *