The Choice of the Family, published in 2015, by Image, a division of Penguin Random House, is an extended interview of Bishop Jean Lafitte, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Bishop Lafitte completed his philosophical and theological studies, first at the Gregorian University, and then at the John Paul II Institute for his licentiate and doctorate in moral theology. Prior to entering the seminary, he spent two years teaching French, history and geography in Cameroon; later he set about learning languages in Germany, Italy, and Scotland. Bishop Lafitte’s life experiences and education shine through the interview, giving the reader confidence in the insights and observations Bishop Lafitte offers on the family and society.
The Choice of a Family is an important and timely book, a much-needed articulation of the nature of the family and the threats it faces. Bishop Lafitte elucidates a number of fundamental truths stated in the preface by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Archbishop of Philadelphia: “marriage is a permanent sacramental covenant between one man and one woman; two persons becoming one flesh. That covenant is ordered toward procreation, and toward mutual love and holiness. And within it, God plays a very active role as a third partner.”
“The marital covenant provides the kind of reassurance to both spouses that enables them to surrender themselves fully to each other. In doing that, they become the most basic living cell of society. Marriage is the foundation and guarantee of the family, and the family is the foundation and guarantee of society.” Nothing else will serve as a grounding for the common good—not government, not technology, not shared economic interests. This is why St. John Paul II wrote, in his 1994 Letter to Families. ‘No human society can run the risk of permissiveness on fundamental issues regarding the nature of marriage and the family. Such moral permissiveness can only damage the authentic requirements of peace and communion among people.’”
The traditional family unit is under severe attack by those who want to redefine marriage to mean a civil union of two persons of the same sex, by those who want all the rights and privileges of a married couple without qualifying for that status, by those who want public approval of unnatural expressions of human sexuality, and by those who propose a new creed based on the mistaken idea that what they do in the privacy of their own home is nobody’s business but their own. The moral permissiveness spoken of by St. John Paul II is the root of this mistaken idea and the cause of the attacks on the family. The stakes are high: destruction of the family and family values will lead to desolation. We already see the effects of this moral decline in our society—and upon our society—by ISIS and other extremists who see Western culture as the Great Satan because of our moral permissiveness, which threatens them and provides them with fuel for their recruiting efforts.
Bishop Lafitte addresses all these and many other issues. As such, it is a book with appeal to a wide audience. From this book those considering marriage will learn much about what they are entering into; those already married will learn how to overcome the inevitable difficulties that arise during marriage and how to raise their children to become free, yet responsible, adults; those who are divorced will learns how to survive the trauma of divorce. Indeed, anyone interested in the family and society will profit much from reading Bishop Lafitte’s articulation of the fundamental truths of human nature and divine revelation that underlie and support our family and society.
Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.