Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

September 14, 2015

Cardinal Marc Ouellet's latest book on marriage reveals how doctrine has developed since the Second Vatican Council but not in the direction of opening up Communion for those in irregular relationships.

Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization is the English translation of a book Ouellet first published in Italian in 2007.

The cardinal, former rector of Edmonton's St. Joseph Seminary and archbishop of Quebec, is now prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

Updated in light of the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family, the book provides a challenge to both progressive and traditionalist interpretations of Vatican II's teachings on marriage.

In the preface, Ouellet notes Pope Francis launched the two-year synod process to address the challenges facing the family and has called the entire Church to a pastoral conversion.

Those who argue in favour of innovations such as a penitential path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion or, as some theologians have suggested - a greater openness to same-sex unions - will find no support in this book.

Ouellet shows how the teachings of the council, along with subsequent teaching by St. John Paul II, developed the Church's understanding of marriage.

That understanding leads to a view of the natures of man and woman as complementary.

Christian marriage reflects the divine-human love of Christ for the Church as well as the nuptial relationship of God as bridegroom and the Church as bride, the cardinal wrote.

For the Church, "it is not a matter of being more or less 'merciful' with regard to persons in irregular situations, but of taking seriously the truth of the sacraments (the gifts of the bridegroom) and their missionary dimension," he writes.

"Eucharistic communion is not only spiritual nourishment for an individual soul that has subjectively repented; within the life of the community, it is an objective sign that sacramentally expresses personal union with Christ, indeed it is a witness to Christ in the world."

However, "Those who have divorced and remarried are in a situation that objectively contradicts the indissoluble ecclesial bond that they solemnly expressed before the community."


At the same time, Ouellet urges the Church to help those in irregular situations to find "other means of expressing their faith and belonging to the community."

Ouellet's book also provides a challenge to traditionalist interpretations that see procreation as the chief end of marriage, with love having lesser importance.

Instead, the cardinal proposes that married love be understood in the light of the "fruitful love of the Trinity."

"Those couples who love each other in faith, and thus in and through God, want nothing more than to correspond to love's triune nature," he writes.

The main thrust of Ouellet's book is the family as the domestic church.


In his view, a married couple's participation in the love within the Holy Trinity can be an ongoing sanctification of the couple and engine of new evangelization.

"The spouses are taken up into the love of Christ and the Church so that the God who is love might be loved, served and glorified, and so that the world might believe in love."

Ouellet says a theological conversion is required of couples, and muses that something like a catechumenate might be useful to prepare people for marriage.