MARRIAGE: The Rock on Which the Family is Built
by William E. May
(Ignatius Press, 2009, 178 pp, $29.90. ISBN: 978-1-58617-258-9. Available from Freedom Publishing)
This is an edifying book that focuses on many aspects of married love as explained by Pope John-Paul II in his Theology of the Body teachings.
The author, William E. May, is Professor of Moral Theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, DC, and Senior Fellow of the Culture of Life Foundation. Dr May has written numerous works in moral theology and ethics, has served on the Vatican's International Theological Commission and was also an advisor to its Congregation for the Clergy.
This updated edition includes new chapters: "Man and Woman He Created Them: Pope John Paul II's Catechesis on Human Sexuality"; and "Pope Benedict XVI and Marriage," the latter summarising Benedict's thoughts on marriage, particularly as found in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est. Pope John Paul II's Letter to Families is also included.
Professor May develops the theme of marriage as the foundational pillar of the "domestic church" on which the entire Catholic Church's structure is built. In keeping with the traditional papal teachings on marriage and the family since Pope Pius XII, the author explains persuasively how Christian marriage creates not only a stable institution from which to raise children, but also the embodiment of the call to sanctification and holiness which all faithful Catholics have as their primary vocation.
Dr May reminds us how aspects of procreation and the development of mutual love between the married couple define marriage as the consummate union between a man and a woman.
Calls for same-sex relationships and marriages are ruled out in a pastoral, practical and theologically sound argument that dismisses these as condemned in the Old and New Testaments and in the undivided Church until the Reformation, and subsequently in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches at least.
The author uses the teaching of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI to illustrate very clearly the complex dignity marriage and the conjugal act bring to husband and wife as the primary foundation for a living faith and the development of the Church's next generation of committed Catholics.
Dr May argues convincingly that the institution of marriage is an enduring and exclusive institution that is the only true and proper context within which to raise children.
Reproductive technologies are also critically examined and the author argues that human beings need to be begotten in an act of spousal love, not made through in vitro fertilisation.
The book's approach is strongly pastoral with the text easy to read. Doctrinal and historical evidence, along with solid scriptural references, are provided to support the author's presentation of Catholic teaching.