ROME, APRIL 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A colloquium here showed that the family is of great concern both to Catholics and Jews.
For the first time, the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family and the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem agreed to address jointly the subject of marriage and responsible procreation.
The purpose of the meeting, held March 26-27 under the auspices of the Israeli Embassy to the Vatican, was to develop dialogue between Jews and Christians on the topic.
Professor Noam Zohar, of Bar Illan University of Tel Aviv, addressed the concept of responsible procreation from the Jewish point of view, centered on the command to procreate but not limiting it strictly to this aspect.
Procreation is not the only function of marriage, Zohar said. According to the view expressed in Genesis, “it is good for man not to be alone,” he added. This “goodness” of companionship is seen as normative in Jewish tradition, and its value is independent of the task of procreation.
In the final session, Monsignor Livio Melina, professor of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute at the Lateran University, illustrated the Church’s thought on the matter of reproduction.
He explained that the criterion must always be the fundamental dignity of the child, which “demands that he not be conceived as the product of medical or biological techniques.”
Monsignor Melina said that “medical intervention” in the area of reproduction “can be morally licit if it serves to help nature, making up for its deficiencies, but it cannot substitute the conjugal act.”
“In face of the trivialization of sexuality, reduced to a mere consumer good, robbed of responsibility, the challenge is to show that only in the perspective of the divine plan can human love by fully realized,” Monsignor Melina concluded.
On the topic of marriage, Noam Zion gave a talk on “The Rabbinical Understanding of Marriage.” Using anecdotes and biblical and literary references, he explained the “ketubah,” or Jewish marriage contract, as a “model of needs and expectations of a lifetime marriage contract.”
Michael Waldstein, of the International Theological Institute of Gaming, Austria, explained the concept of Catholic marriage, which he linked to the idea of “family and communion.”
It is hoped that the colloquium can be held in Jerusalem next year. Philip Milligan, organizer of the event, said that the purpose is to engage “in a profound theological debate between Catholics and Jews on family questions.”