Troubled Love (2018)

26 Apr
28 Apr

Troubled Love (2018)

26/04/2018 - 28/04/2018

International Symposium, Catholic University Leuven

Troubled Love: Theology and Pastoral Care for all Families

An international symposium under the title “Troubled Love: Theology and Pastoral Care for all Families" was held from 26-28 April 2018 at the Catholic University of Leuven. Organized by the INTAMS Chair for the Study of Marriage & Spirituality at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, the symposium addressed some major questions such as

  • How can the church welcome, support and guide families who do not live according to the ideal of formal, lifelong and heterosexual marriage and who cannot fall back on previous experiences or proven role models?
  • What social and spiritual resources are already present in these families?
  • How should one adequately value the commitment and resilience, the joys and hopes that characterize them?

Pope Francis' invitation to the Church in Amoris laetitia to "accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them the hope and confidence" (AL 291), provided the title and the starting point for the reflection and discussion at the symposium. Most participants agreed that the magisterium, theologians and pastors alike should rethink approaches that regard the traditional marriage-based family type as normative and other forms of couple and family life as deficient. What is needed in this regard is, on the one hand, the awareness and a proper discernment of the complexity of today's interpersonal relationships, and, on the other hand, theological frameworks that help recognizing that God's grace is also at work in relationships which do not conform to traditional standards.


In order to pave this double path, INTAMS had invited a number of experts who addressed these questions from a sociological, psychological and theological perspective (among the theologians were Susannah Cornwall from Exeter University, Jochen Sautermeister from the University of Bonn and Martina Kreidler-Kos from Münster/Osnabrück) but also gave the floor to testimonies from lived experience during a long panel session.


How these personal accounts of divorce and remarriage, of a newly constituted family, of a longstanding gay relationship, of a lesbian relationship with children and of deliberately chosen single motherhood can both challenge and enrich theological thinking and imagination became an ongoing topic of discussion during the whole conference.


Another highlight of the gathering was an evening conversation with Mgr. Johan Bonny, the bishop of Antwerp. Witnessing to his personal experience, the bishop reported how personal encounters with persons in non-traditional relationships had contributed to transforming his theological and pastoral approach.


The proceedings of the symposium (key note sessions, paper sessions,  testimonies) were published in the INTAMS Journal Marriage, Families & Spirituality, issue 24/2 (autumn 2018).