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Anglicans invited to round two of Vatican’s fight on the family

Round two of the Catholic Church’s debate on human sexuality and the family has been set for 17 Nov 2014 at the Vatican in Rome. But among the speakers at this session will be the primate of the largest church of the Anglican Communion and two leading bishops of the Church of England.


Less than a month after proposals to change the Catholic Church’s doctrines of marriage, human sexuality and conciliar authority brought conservatives to the brink of open revolt, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria will speak along with Bishops Michael Nazir Ali and N.T. Wright at the a three day conference.

Sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Councils on Interreligious Dialogue and the Family, the gathering will focus on “complementarity” of men and women in the family, in marriage, and in the life of the Church.

Pope Francis will deliver the opening address to the Humanum conference, which will include speakers from a cross section of denominations and religions. In addition to the three Anglican invitees, among the other 32 speakers from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, and Buddhist faiths are Pastor Rick Warren, Cardinals Gerhard Müller of the CDF, Kurt Koch the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Jean-Louis Tauran of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

According the meeting’s website, the purpose of the gathering is to focus on “complementarity” of men and women.

The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.

Witnesses will draw from
the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work
of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.

One of the organizers of the event, Prof. Helen Alvare, told Anglican Ink the decision to include non-Catholic speakers at the colloquium was that marriage was not solely a Catholic concern.

The Holy See offices who chose these speakers believed that they would have a strong interest in looking closely at the relationship between the man and the woman in marriage.  In nearly every culture around the world, and most religions too, the question of what is true, what is beautiful, what is the lived experience of this relationship we hold to be “image of God” and crucial to learning love/the meaning of life, …is often discussed but still too little understood. The matter is usually discussed only under the headings of the sexual relationship between men and women, or “why people despair” this union. This gathering, it is hoped, will answer a need to find beautiful, new, creative language and images to attract people to the beauty of the relationship that is the heart of the family…one hopes to attract those even who despair of it, or who believe it is nothing special anymore.  

Not only in Evangelium Gaudii, but also in the Synod documents it was offered that because marriage is a human institution experiencing real suffering, the Church should interact with cultures and religions, each of which has knowledge of this human institution, has a theology with reflections on marriage, has charisms respecting the treatment of marriage, has practical wisdom and insights. This is an inspiration for the gathering.

Each session of the conference will open with the screening of a short film, the organizers say, that will examine men and women and marriage from round the world. “Each film features a variety of illuminating interviews with young and old, single and married, women and men, lay and religious, from many cultures, continents and religions. Topics range from the beauty of the union between the man and the woman, to the loss of confidence in marital permanence, to the cultural and economic woes that follow upon the disappearance of marriage.”

Asked by Crux magazine to comment on the apparent conservative orientation of the invited guests, Prof. Alvare said Anglo-American political labels were not appropriate. Those invited to speak were chosen by the Vatican because of their work in this area.

“[W]hen you start knocking on doors, asking who’s working on this, you end up with people who look to those who use this political categories, I think, incorrectly, as conservative,” she said. “But those doing the groundwork don’t see their work on this regard in this particular way. Their work crosses across all political labels.”

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