Spring-Summer 2012

Christian Personalism and the Debate Over the Nature and Ends of Marriage

Nicholas J. Healy Jr.

“Spousal love involves a total gift of self that, by its very nature, founds a form and is itself a form.”

The distinguishing feature and organic center of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council is trinitarian Christocentrism. In terms of the council’s teaching on the meaning of Revelation, the nature of sacred liturgy, the mystery of the Church, and above all, the Church’s missionary opening to the world—the figure of Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father, is presented as the beginning, the middle, and the end.1 He is at once the fullness of the Godhead and the deepest truth of creation: the one for whom all things were made and the one in whom all things hold together (cf. Col 1:15–20 and Heb 2:10). This trinitarian Christocentrism is the reason why John Paul II could describe the Second Vatican Council as “the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century . . . [and] a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”2

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1. Pope Paul VI’s “Opening Address” at the start of the second session on 29 September 1963 exemplifies the Christocentric orientation of the council: “From what point, dear brethren, do we set out? . . . What is the road we intend to follow? What is the goal we propose to ourselves? These three very simple and at the same time very important questions have, as we well know, only one answer, namely that here at this very hour we should proclaim Christ to ourselves and to the world around us; Christ our beginning, Christ our life and guide, Christ our hope and our end. . . . Let no other light be shed on this Council, but Christ the light of the world! Let no other truth be of interest to our minds, but the words of the Lord, our only Master! Let no other aspiration guide us but to be absolutely faithful to him!”

2. John Paul II, Novo millenio ineuente, 57.