Review: The Hope of the Family

Review: The Hope of the Family October 2, 2014

Cardinal Gerhard Müller who is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has a new book coming out on October 10th during the Synod of Bishops as they discuss ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.’ The Hope of the Family: A Dialogue with Cardinal Gerhard Müller. This book is done in the interview format with questions from Spanish journalist Carlos Granados.

I’ve never read any of Cardinal Müller’s writings so I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed what he had to say. As a rather short book of under a 100 pages, still there is much to reflect on and I copied out a bunch of notes to further reflect on.

Due to all the punditry regarding the upcoming synod you would think it was called “The Divorced Receiving Communion.” You would have no idea of the breadth of the schema to be discussed as specified in Instrumentum Laboris. The actual interview involves a range of issues regarding the family. The hot buttons issue regarding divorced Catholics is addressed in part, and it is obvious the interviewer tried to draw out more on this. This gives just a taste of his reply which is much broader.

Cardinal Müller: Saint Thomas Aquinas said that mercy is precisely the fulfillment of justice, since God thereby justifies and renews his creature man (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 21, a. 3). Therefore, it should never be used as a justification to suspend or invalidate the commandments and the sacraments. To do that would be a crude manipulation of genuine mercy and, therefore, a vain attempt to justify our own indifference toward God and man. — Page 54

If we turn to the Gospel, we observe how Jesus, in his dialogue with the Pharisees concerning divorce, also has recourse to the two terms “divorce” and “mercy” (cf. Mt 19:3–12). Precisely in this passage he accuses the Pharisees of “hardness of heart”, of being unmerciful, since in their tortured interpretation of the Law they have concluded that Moses supposedly granted permission for them to dismiss their wives. Jesus reminds them that God’s mercy is contrary to our human weakness. — Page 55

What struck me the most was what he had to say about the individual in the context of the family and how “our society exalts individual rights.”

The individualistic family is another typically modern category: how many families languish because they are confined to themselves! — Page 38

There is much in that simple statement and category of “individualistic family” that is an accurate diagnosis of the state of the family. Maybe this simple statement hits me because of my own self-absorption.

As for pastoral practices, in my former archdiocese of Regensburg, it is quite common to offer Eucharistic liturgies for families with very young children. This seems to me to be a very good idea. We no longer talk about “a children’s Mass” but, rather, more accurately, about “a family Mass” since the attempt to introduce a child to the faith is useless and even counterproductive if this is done behind the back of his family. — Page 40

Throughout I could see his sense of urgency and his concerns for the family.

As a pastor, I tell myself: This cannot be! Someone will have to present the truth to them! Someone will have to open their eyes and tell them that they have been cruelly deceived by a false anthropology that leads only to disaster! — Page 78

Another unfortunate trend lately has been the “Cardinal vs. Cardinal” narrative. No doubt there has been a very lively debate and at times even name-calling, still there has also been simply discussion and critique without that stain. This book avoids that narrative and while the Cardinal critiques ideas and the manipulation of citations from the Church Fathers, he does not mention specific people.

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