Marriage in Our Contemporary World: Pastoral Observations from an African Perspective | John Cardinal Onaiyekan | CWR
In an exclusive excerpt from Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint, the archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria addresses challenges facing marriage from the perspective of African Christianity.
[Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint, which will be published by Ignatius Press September 15. The book also includes contributions by Cardinals Robert Sarah, Carlo Caffarra, Baselios Cleemis, Paul Josef Cordes, Dominik Duka, Joachim Meisner, Camillo Ruini, Antonio María Rouco Varela, Willem Jacobus Eijk, and Jorge L. Urosa Savino. Topics addressed in the book include marriage and family life, divorce and civil marriage, marriage preparation, and secular challenges to family life.]
Today, marriage has become a matter for great debate both within and outside the Church. The debate has come even right into the sacred places of the Church of God, to the extent that a lot of our Christians are getting worried even to the point of panic. A good demonstration was what happened during the first session of the synod on the family, which took place in Rome in October 2014. Somewhere along the line, the mass media became full of rumors to the effect that finally the Catholic Church was changing her rigid position and was at last catching up with the rest of the world, not only in the reconsideration of divorce and remarriage, but also with regard to homosexuality and same-sex unions.
I was not in Rome. I was in my house in Abuja. Phone calls were coming to me from both Nigeria and abroad from very concerned Catholics wondering what was happening to the Church. Interestingly enough, I receive calls from even non-Catholics, including Muslim friends, asking what was happening to our Church. My reply to them all was: “No need for panic. The boat of Peter may be in turbulence. But it will never sink. It will always arrive at its shores because Jesus is in it.” We must have faith in the Holy Spirit guiding his Church. We must believe especially in the special grace of the Holy Spirit guiding the Vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter, our pope. I was glad and thrilled the next day to receive reports of the proceedings from the synod hall that went on to confirm my faith in the Church and that I passed on to those who a day before had reached out to me. We are in much the same situation today. It is a question of whether, indeed, there is such a thing as a doctrine of the Church that is firm, solid, and immutable or whether the Church will have to follow the latest developments and trends around us rather than lead humanity to salvation.
1. Contemporary developments
The issues of marriage and family should be placed within the general context of developments in the world of our day, especially in those societies that claim to be developed.