Julie Hanlon RUBIO, A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2003. pp.241. S19.95 pb. ISBN 0-8091-4118-3.
Reviewed by Gaile POHLHAUS, Villanova University, VILLANOVA, PA 19087

Rubio claims that she "attempts to encourage a serious conversation among lay Christians about the relationship between theology and family; it attempts to fill in some of the details." (p.23) She sells herself short. This book will encourage such a conversation either in small parish groups of married couples or in a college classroom. And it amply fills in details. She is well aware of the many conflicting points of view in both Church and society as to what constitutes "a family"; she remains content to talk about "families".

The book is divided into two parts: theoretical considerations (Foundation) and ways to work out practicalities (Applications.) She writes from her own experience as a wife and mother; she writes from her reading of magisterial documents; she writes using the work of sociologists and anthropologists, conservatives and liberals; the work of feminists. In a unique presentation she first lays out contemporary problems and then goes immediately to the Catholic marriage liturgy. From there she looks at the New Testament and concludes part I with examining the traditional ways of speaking about marriage. She is truly presenting a Christian view since she does not confine herself to simply the Roman Catholic view.

Part II is equally balanced when presenting the practical questions of living out a marriage and within a family. Nor does she omit the basic questions of social justice in her treatment. This book is not a navel gazing of an intimate relationship which is sweetness and light but addresses the serious questions of dual vocation, working parents, stereo typical gender roles (there are separate chapters on mothering and fathering), divorce, and the necessity of the family unit to extend itself into the community.

There are ten chapters which make it a useful length for an undergraduate class. Each chapter is followed by discussion questions which are truly questions. Some even invite the reader to critique the position which Rubio holds herself. The book is well footnoted and the bibliography is excellent (what else can one say about a bibliography which gives us both Dorothy Day and Mary Daly, not to mention Pope John Paul II?)

This is a book I will use myself in the classroom. In over 25 years of teaching the marriage course there is only one other that I would have placed above this one, Partnership by Edward Dufresne, also published by Paulist in the 1970's which is, unfortunately, out of print. Both of these books rightly see marriage and the family as responsible actors in both civil and religious society.


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