MARRIAGE AND CHRISTIAN LIFE: A THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE, by Daniel Hauser, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Scarecrow Press, University Press of America, 2005, 196 pages, $30
Dr. Hauser is a professor of theology at the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Illinois. His work is indebted to the writings of Pope John Paul II and Father Donald Keefe, S.J. His basic position is that marriage and human sexuality are looked at by many today who do not accept the existence of a transcendent reality and therefore have a relativist and individualist mentality on the subject, whereas the truth is that, to understand marriage and human sexuality correctly, one must believe in God and, indeed, in the Christian God.
Marriage is either given to us by God with the nature God has planned for us, or we, whether as individuals or groups, are free to make of it what we want and what we can. If we are in charge of the matter, with no God to consider, we are able to argue for change in the traditional notion of marriage. Today there are many people who think that society has a right to effect such a change. And, of course, even though all of society does not agree on what to do, each person or group can try to live, and even bring about, a private version of marriage. The truth is thus relative to each person or each group.
As for individualism, the traditional notion of marriage is communitarian, involving the spouses, their children, their relatives, and the whole of society. Today some people have a selfish notion of it, and think that it is all right to dispense with having children and the relationships they would entail. This view is basically selfish, displaying a disinclination to sacrifice oneself for one’s children or for others. It places more value on jobs, social freedom, and any variety of pleasures.
It is possible to accept marriage according to the traditional model, even to quite an extent, without accepting Christian revelation. In this view it has a permanent and exclusive and heterosexual nature, and is naturally ordained to maximize human happiness for spouses, children, relatives, and society. Children can be seen as being means by which parents are led into greater love for others.
But, for the author, the full value of marriage is seen only by Christians, and to a great extent only by certain Christians, especially Catholics. It must be seen as part of a whole metaphysics. One must see God as infinitely good. One must realize that humans are fallen creatures and stand in need of redemption. And redemption is brought about only by the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This redemption is continued through history through the Church, which Christ founded. The teaching of the Church, and the Sacraments founded by Christ, are necessary for redemption. Marriage is a sacrament, a vocation, a divinely planned way of salvation.
Salvation comes from the love of God. And the love of God, for parents, is greatly helped by their caring for their children, as the love of God, for children, is greatly helped by their being cared for by their parents. The perfection of human beings, be they parents or children, is sharing in love, which is what makes human beings human. Marriage is a sharing in the love of the members of the Blessed Trinity for each other. It is a sharing in the love of the Heavenly Bridegroom for his Church.
Marriage requires the complementary natures of spouses, and is the criterion of the proper use of sexuality. It is the only redemptive use of the sexual powers. It is holy and thus sexuality can be made holy.
Marriage is an act of faith, a major religious event, the primary way of salvation for most people. It is a vocation aimed at the salvation of oneself, one’s spouse, one’s children, those affected by these, and the whole of society.
Rev. Leonard A. Kennedy, C.S.B.
Academy of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom
Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada