Vatican colloquium will explore male-female complementarity.
Big news this week is that the Vatican is hosting a major international, interreligious colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman. The gathering is called Humanum, and will feature religious leaders and scholars on marriage and family life from around the globe. There are several reasons why you should keep your eye on this event and what unfolds in its wake.
To begin, consider this striking for the colloquium.
Now, I am not entirely certain but I suspect there have not been many Vatican conferences with a video trailer – as if the colloquium itself were a sort of major motion picture. And this is interesting – what is the trailer for? It turns out that the conference organizers have produced a series of four videos that will "tell the story" of what the colloquium aims to explore.
These videos, 15 minutes each, will be released in sequence over two days:
- The Destiny of Humanity: On the Meaning of Marriage
- The Cradle of Life and Love: A Mother and Father for the World’s Children
- A Hidden Sweetness: The Power of Marriage Against Hardship
- Marriage, Culture and Civil Society
And if the videos are anything like the trailer, you can expect them to be very different from ordinary documentaries. They promise to be rich with music, imagery and personal testimonies that speak to the heart. If the videos are done well, it could be a moment of true genius – a turning point in the way the Church fosters understanding of what she is about.
There is a genius in great art that has the power to make us feel a truth of reason or revelation. This is the genius of the great masters: Raphael, Michaelangelo, Caravaggio. Of late it seems that very few true "masters" of the arts of our day are working for the Church. But this is what the Church most desperately needs.
Why? Because in the horserace between faith and reason, faith has the primary capacity to illuminate human life. Most people make choices based on impulses, feelings, and instincts about what is right and good and true. Reason is more often employed in the service of these beliefs, right or wrong, instead of the impartial informant of beliefs. This is why reason quickly becomes a slave, degraded in fact, without the light of faith. We have this of course from several sources. “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose” Shakespeare tells us, an elegant description of the sophistry of faithless logic. Blaise Pascal reminds us “the heart its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
But we also have the truth of this more recently from both Benedict and Francis. Before there was Evangelii Gaudium, there was a princely encyclical from the hand of both popes called Lumen Fidei. Speaking of some aspects of Enlightenment history, the popes write:
– Truth itself – in order to become content with smaller lights which illumine the fleeting moment but prove incapable of showing the way. Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused, it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere. (
Lumen Fidei No. 3)
This is why it is not clear that the crises of our day can be assuaged by clarity of reason and teaching alone. Teaching has to be correct, but forming the instincts and fundamental beliefs is even more important. What is needed is an education of the heart. And this raises an interesting question. If reason doesn’t educate the heart, what does?
Consider a child who is abused from his youngest days. He may be taught, as he grows up, that he is a beloved son of God – full of dignity. But his experience has schooled his heart in a different story. Experience shapes belief.