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The Synod on the Family: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives from the American Context

This DSPT Symposium—part of the 2016 Convocation of the College of Fellows—considered the 2015 Synod on the Family in relation to our American context and explored the family in the USA from a variety of perspectives, seeking to more deeply understand the Church’s teaching on the family with an aim to discern how to creatively and faithfully apply it in our culture today.

For more information about the College of Fellows, visit dspt.edu/fellows.

The Family in US Law – Patrick Brennan

The family isn't what it used to be, and it never was.  To these two observations the family as shaped by the laws of the United States is no exception.  As Bernard Lonergan observed:  "The family, the state, the law, the economy, are not fixed and immutable entities.  They adapt to changing circumstance; they can be reconceived in the light of new ideas; they can be subjected to revolutionary change."

The current crest of the revolution in U.S. law concerning the family was marked by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the case declaring a right to same-sex marriage.  The late Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the Court's declaration of such a right, but an index of what is wrong with U.S. law as it concerns the family is this from Justice Scalia's dissent:  "The substance of today's decree is not of great importance to me.  The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes . . . ."  Even tradition-minded, devout Catholics, then, are sometimes inclined to imagine that law is whatever "the people" declare in a procedurally regular manner, as Justice Scalia demonstrated in Obergefell:  "[I]t is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage.  It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me.  Today's decree says that my Ruler [sic], and the Ruler [sic] of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers of the Supreme Court."  The trouble with Justice Scalia's theory of "law" is that it vetoes, if that were possible, in the name of democratic rule the public bindingness of the true Ruler's true law.

The U.S. Constitution will block an appropriately adaptive yet true law of the family until said Constitution no longer makes its Godless self "the supreme Law of the Land" (U.S. Const., Art. VI, Cl. 2).  The reasoning of Obergefell paves the way to legal recognition of polyamory.

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