November 23, 2014, Sunday — Final Message of Humanum Conference

“Why do weddings still move us?” —Rev. Dr. Eugene Rivers and his wife Dr. Jacqueline Rivers, speaking together in a moving statement at the close of a Vatican conference on the complementarity of men and women, on November 19, 2014

A New Affirmation on Marriage

In this letter, I would like to bring your attention to a remarkable video, which merits going “viral” (that is, to be seen by tens of thousands; up until now there are only about 700 “views” on the Youtube version I am linking to here: New Affirmation on Marriage.)

This was the final speech of the three-day November 17-19 Vatican conference on The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage, entitled Humanum (the word refers to the human essence, in which male and female are complementary).

The conference gathered speakers from many religions: Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, from around the world.

Clearly, this is part of a larger effort by the Vatican to begin to form a global pro-family alliance, and to make that alliance more effective by extending it beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church.

(Click on this link for a video on marriage prepared by the conference itself: Humanum video on marriage)

We will have a full dossier on the Humanum conference in our December issue of Inside the Vatican magazine. (Click on this link if you would like to subscribe to our magazine — which would be helpful, of course, as print publications are costly and many are going out of business(!):

This Vatican colloquium ended, not surprisingly, with an affirmation of marriage.

One observer called this closing statement “pure poetry.” (Link:

The statement explains why wedding celebrations are joyful.

This final talk was in two voices. Rev. Dr. Eugene Rivers, pastor of a Pentecostal Protestant Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and his wife, Dr. Jacqueline Rivers, together read a text they had composed.

Here again is a link to a video of their common address: New Affirmation on Marriage.

Here is a transcript of the text:


By Dr. Eugene Rivers and Dr. Jacqueline Rivers

Why do weddings still move us? We do not become emotional when business partners strike a deal. We shed no tears at a friendly handshake. We feel no such joy to hear of “casual” mating.

A wedding is different. Here stand a man and woman, entering together into a new life.

And yet it is more than this. They are about to enter the generations. Their union proclaims life: their parents and grandparents still live within them. Humankind lives within them. The cultures and creeds of the world live within them. They are there—in the blood. Those bearing witness know this truth. They too have been born from a union of man and woman.

See the grandmother who looks on, now frail. She was once that bride, and the memory of her own mother and father dwells within her still.

See the brother who welcomes guests—he will one day be that bridegroom, and he too will enter in a new way the long history into which he was born.

See their friends and neighbors. They are more essential than any might guess. For it is they who will help make this marriage flourish. Their investment will return to them, for marriage is a cup that runs over.

See the mother of the bridegroom, hugging her son amid smiles and tears. He was once a helpless baby whom she nursed at the breast. Now he stands tall above her, and his voice is deep, and his shoulders broad. She remembers his birth. He who was once her child will one day be a father.

See the father of the bride, holding her by the hand. He recalls when her mother bore her, and he envisions in her what is so hard to believe, the mother-to-be. She is the bearer of a future. She is irreplaceable.

See man and woman together. They are not just two people. He is for her, and she for him; it is inscribed in their bodies. Their union will bring life that binds and mingles families, encourages faith to flourish, and brings humankind and the world’s diverse cultures to flower again.

Both are eager to undertake their new responsibilities—their gift of self to the other—and think little about what is owed them. They know nothing yet of the difficulty of the years ahead, only of their desire to travel it together.

It is hard now to speak of such obvious and beautiful things, but they are there. All the witnesses know it. It is the music of man and of woman. Man with woman brings out the finest in him, directing his blood and his mind toward what makes life possible; and woman with man brings out the finest in her, directing her love and her care toward what makes life sweet.

Today, however, the homes that marriage makes are exposed to an army of distractions, and to the thief and the enemy who comes to steal and destroy. Weddings are rarer and children fewer. Where poverty erodes, marriage feels out of reach. Where war afflicts, families are crushed. Anywhere marriage recedes, we lose the transcendent and material goods that all human beings should enjoy.

And we too are at fault, for when marriages are exposed to the wind and the rain, we have paid little attention. When the needs of children succumb to the wishes of adults, we have often remained silent. Love is reduced to a consumer item, an airbrushed image, or a slogan to export. It will not work. We will not flourish.

For marriage is no mere symbol of achievement, but the very foundation—a base from which to build a family and from there a community. For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh. This is not ours to alter. It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate.

And so it is that we rejoice at weddings.

This we affirm.

—Rev. Eugene Rivers, Pastor of the Azusa Christian Community in Boston, Massachusetts, and his wife, Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers, Director of Harvard’s Seymour Institute for Black Church Studies

Other Reflections on the Humanum Conference

“The secular world and press have convinced themselves that Christians in the West are surrendering on marriage. They are not.” —Erick Erickson,

The Humanum conference was important. Therefore, here are a couple of further reflections on an “event” which was a key first step in the Vatican’s effort to build a global alliance in favor of the traditional family.

In America, writer Erick Erickson wrote on the political website:

While You’re Distracted, Humanum is Happening

By Erick Erickson (Diary)

November 19th, 2014


There are more important things in life than politics. One of those things is happening as I write. Most of the world is oblivious to it. The press corps has completely ignored it. But it may be one of the most consequential events in the early twenty-first century. It is called Humanum.

In Rome, at the Vatican, an interfaith gathering is occurring to discus marriage. Leading voices in the Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, and Christian communities have gathered to support and strengthen each other in the struggle against growing anti-faith norms toward marriage and family. Pope Francis opened the gathering with a strong speech. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke as did Rick Warren of Saddleback, whose speech earned a standing ovation.

The secular world and press have convinced themselves that Christians in the West are surrendering on marriage. They are not. While the mainline churches members of the press may attend are caving on the issue, the ever growing population of evangelicals in Europe and the Americas continue to hold firm on the definition of marriage. They are being joined globally by other Christians, the Church in Rome, and even other faiths.

Humanum is an exceptionally big deal largely ignored by the press. You should not ignore it. And if I could urge you to listen to one speech on the importance of heterosexual marriage and the nuclear family, it would be this from Dr. Rick Warren.

(Link: Rick Warren address at Humanum)

Archbishop Chaput on the World Meeting of Families in September, 2105, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Archbishop Charles Chaput also spoke toward the end of the Humanum meeting on the preparations for the World Meeting of Families which will be held in Philadelphia in September 2015.

That meeting will be the last and most important forum prior to the second part of the Bishops’ Synod on the Family, which will follow the following month, in October 2015, in Rome.

So all of us should watch closely as that meeting is prepared and held.

Here is a link to a video of his talk: Archbishop Chaput talk at Humanum

And here is an interesting interview with Archbishop Chaput, done by a friend, Diane Montagna, and published on the Aleteia website, which is the work of another friend, Jesus Colina, and his team.

Archbishop Chaput: The Church Needs to Say Any Kind of Extra-Marital Sex is “Disordered”

Leader of Philadelphia Church discusses plans for World Meeting of Families, to be attended by Pope Francis

By Diane Montagna

November 21, 2014

The Holy See confirmed this week that Pope Francis will visit the United States for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, September 22-27, 2015. The historic visit will fall just one week before the opening of the General Synod of Bishops on the Family to be held in Vatican City, October 4-25, 2015.

When the announcement came, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia was on hand at at the Vatican attending the Humanum Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage. The archbishop spoke to some 350 participants about next year’s World Meeting of Families at the colloquium’s final session.

Aleteia sat down with the archbishop to discuss the Humanum Colloquium, how the Church should care pastorally for people who have been abandoned by their spouses through a culture of no fault divorce, and his hopes for the upcoming World Meeting of Families.

Archbishop Chaput, today you began your remarks by saying: “This is the most interesting colloquium I’ve ever attended in my life.” Why?

Archbishop Charles Chaput: Well, it was interesting on three levels: the content was extraordinary, always extraordinary; the composition of the crowd was unique in terms of its religious and cultural dimensions; and we were all on the same page in terms of the complementarity of man and woman being at the root of what marriage and family is all about. And to experience a gathering where people are on the same page, where people come from varied backgrounds, you just don’t experience that.

The quality of the presentations was extraordinary. For just one of those things to take place at a conference is good. For all three of them to take place is just amazing.

What do you think is the significance of having this colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage here at the Vatican?

Chaput: It’s the best place in the world to have anything when it comes to religious dialogue, because even for those who aren’t Christians, the Pope is certainly the most prominent religious spokesperson in the world. For those of us who are Christians — Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox alike — everybody acknowledges a unique role of the Pope in the life of the Christian community. And then, for those of us who are Catholics, we are very proud of being able to pull something like this off in this kind of setting.

How do you think this Colloquium might pave the way for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia?

Chaput: I hope it will lead to a greater participation on the part of people who aren’t Christians. I went out of my way to welcome them, as I thought it would feel strange to them to attend a Christian event. But as I mentioned about our speakers, we even have an atheist speaking. We simply looked for the best speakers. Now, we’ve asked him to speak about subjects in a way that would not be contrary to Church teaching, but our goal was to have the best quality presentations and the best knowledge available.

Twenty-four percent of our speakers are not Catholic. Most of them are Christians. A significant number are Jews. We have a Mormon leader who is talking about how Mormons keep families together, because they have a great reputation when it comes to family life, and we have an atheist who is speaking, which is very interesting.

There was a fair amount of controversy at the recent synod regarding Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow those who are divorced and “remarried” to received Holy Communion.

Chaput: I think there are many more people who are divorced and remarried who go to Communion anyway. If you want to be just clear about it, that seems to be the more prominent position. They kind of ignore the Church’s position that you shouldn’t receive Communion if you’re in a second “marriage.”

What should be done for Catholics who are divorced against their will, in a culture of no fault divorce?

Chaput: I think we must do our best to support them. Spousal abandonment is a big issue. That’s what this is about, spousal abandonment. And it’s very important for those people to have a voice in this dialogue. There are many people who are faithful to their spouse even after being abandoned, because they believe in the Church’s teaching. And to say that their sacrifice and their heroic witness isn’t of value would be a stupid kind of thing to do.

But what do you do about the fact that there are many, many people who ignore the Church’s teaching on this altogether, and are very casual about receiving Communion? No one seems to talk about that issue.

What do you think should be done?

Chaput: What can be done in all of this is to accompany people pastorally. In all cases, you don’t just give a principle and say, “Follow it.” It never works. But you don’t help them by not articulating what you believe to be true. So I think you articulate what you believe to be true, but at the same time you accompany them, and encourage them, and help them every step along the way.

Does the Church need to be clearer?

Chaput: Imitating the Holy Father, [I’d say] I think the devil is very active in the world. And we know that the great tactic of the devil is to be confusing. Because when you’re confused you can do anything you want, because you’re not sure what’s right and what’s wrong.

I think confusion is of the devil. I really believe that. So we should do everything we can to make sure that the Church’s teaching is clear and loving, and that we live that doctrine clearly and lovingly and not just talk about it. But that doesn’t mean that you reject anybody, and that doesn’t mean that you chase people away or condemn them. It means you accompany them in all this, but you do it with clarity.

If we don’t evangelize clearly, the world will evangelize in our place. And that leads to disaster.

How does this apply with regard to someone who is homosexual? The Catechism states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and that the homosexual tendency is “objectively disordered.” How does one lovingly explain this to a young man, for instance, who finds this tendency within himself, who perhaps feels shame, and who doesn’t know who to turn to? How does the Church talk to him?

Chaput: Well, first of all the Church has to talk to the person about it. And often that’s not the case. I don’t think in my whole life as a priest I’ve ever heard a homily on homosexuality. I talk to people, and they say they’ve never heard one either. So the thing is we’re not sitting around condemning people. We’re not talking about it at all.

I think it’s very, very important to talk about the fact that any kind of extramarital sex is wrong, and not just focus on homosexual sex. Any kind of misuse of our sexual powers is wrong. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is disordered. So I think if we use this vocabulary, we have to use it about all of human sexuality and not just focus on people with same-sex attraction. So it has to be in that context. But at the same time, I think we have to make it very clear that, no matter what your struggles are, you’re loved by the Church.

Some people will use our teaching against us. They’ll beat us over the head and say, “You don’t love me, because you don’t let me do what I want to do.” And there’s nothing we can do about that but to keep loving people, and not be terrified or put off by that kind of hostility.

You know, kids do that to their parents all the time. They get mad at them and call them names. But their parents shouldn’t stop speaking to and loving their children.

What’s your hope for the World Meeting of Families next September?

Chaput: That it transforms family life in the Church and in world through a very dynamic message. It’s going to be a learning experience, a supportive experience, and I hope the papal visit puts a cap on that.

Do you think there is a significance to the World Meeting of Families being held in Philadelphia, where the United States Declaration of Independence was signed?

Chaput: Amen.

What’s the link?

Chaput: It’s a providential link. I don’t know that that was on anybody’s mind in the planning stage, but we hope to make that connection. We hope to have a workshop on what the notions of marriage and family life were like at the founding of the country. What was it like in 1776? What did they think about marriage and family life then? That will be an interesting presentation.

See for more about the World Meeting of Families 2015.

The Anthropological Question

“You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because, in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.” —Walker Percy (1916-1990), American Catholic convert and writer, author of The Message in the Bottle and Lost in the Cosmos

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