What would be St. Augustine's reaction if he returned to the world at this start of the third millennium, and had to evaluate the modern attitude toward marriage and toward human sexuality?
I believe that (with surprise, or perhaps without it) he would identify two phenomena that he experienced in his own time (even if under somewhat different modulations); two attitudes that he combatted; two valuations, seemingly located at opposite poles, and nevertheless intimately related to each other.
Disesteem for marriage; exaltation of sex
Self-esteem: Why?; Why not?
There is a proper mode of self-esteem which is beneficial to each individual, and there is a mode or model being propagated worldwide today which can be very harmful. First let us take a summary look at this latter mode which has in a short time come to dominate the psychological and educational thinking under which most modern young people are formed. Then we will note 1) the growing secular criticism being directed towards it, 2) analyze its fundamental anthropological defectiveness and, 3) see how a realistic self-esteem, in which positive and negative elements combine, is necessary to each person if he or she is to have psychic and spiritual health - and that this distinctive form of self-esteem is in fact inherent in a Christian spirit properly assimilated. Finally we will consider, with some concrete examples, how harmful self-esteem philosophy can make its way into Catholic religious education manuals.
As my title suggests, I propose to look at several aspects connected with the topic of annulments, none of which has to do directly with canonical procedures. But a prior word may not be out of place on two questions that I am at times asked. One is, if I am in favor or against annulments? Perhaps a somewhat naive question, since naturally I am in favor; very strongly so, when a proper judicial process shows that a declaration of nullity corresponds to the facts. Then one is dealing with a matter of justice, of the upholding of ecclesial rights.
Christian optimism: and God's logic (Homiletic and Pastoral Review: May 2010, pp. 26-41)
For the Christian mind, today's world appears to offer little that is encouraging. To all appearances, the most fundamental institutions and values are in rapid disintegration: marriage and the family, human sexuality, the sense of the unique dignity of human life and of the respect due to it before birth and at the moment of death. Moreover, our modern society seems dominated by a lack of solidarity, growing suspicion, distrust, separation, alienation, opposition and even hatred.
Modern man seems to have turned away from God, and to no longer care about him. "European culture", according to John Paul II, "gives the impression of a 'silent apostasy' on the part of men who are sated, who live as if God did not exist" (Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, no. 9). In the last few years the apostasy has become less and less silent.