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Could You Recommend Books on Marriage?

Dr. Horvat,

I came across Father Sretenovic’s contributions to your website on Marriage and I am hoping that you can suggest a solid book on the Church's teaching on marriage. I have read the sections on Marriage in the Catechism of the Council of Trent and as well as Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, but I am looking for something more practical, and at the same time, more in depth than what is in the Catechism.

The only book I am aware of is the book by Bishop Sheen, Three to Get Married, but I am concerned that this might be too modern for what I am trying to find. Could you please let me know if you recommend Bishop Sheen’s book on marriage, or could you direct me to a different recommended book.

Thank you so much and may God reward you.



P.S. – Also, I am still working on doing more research on modesty and wrestling. Besides the 4 or so references to wrestling made by Saint Ambrose, I have come across an anecdote of wrestling, in the story of the death of St Francis, from Saint Bonaventure’s The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. I will email you with some comments and continue to research the topic.


Dr. Horvat responds:

Mr. B.W.,

I certainly agree with you that something more practical is needed on the matters of marriage, especially today when there are so many abuses and misunderstandings among Catholics on this important topic.

The book you mention, Three to Get Married, by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, should not be considered traditional. It reflects well his liberal tendencies, as well as his penchant to be au currant in such matters. In short, even a brief preview of it will demonstrate he is in the vanguard of the current later led by John Paul II and his Theology of the Body.

Instead of addressing the first purpose of marriage – procreation and the formation of children to become citizens of Heaven – and then its secondary cause – the mutual assistance of husband and wife – Sheen immediately jumps into the question of “sex,” (p. 1) announcing astonishing things such as “Sex is one of the means God has instituted for the enrichment of personality,” (p. 4) which suggests the man who is celibate lacks personality, or at least is not so rich in it as the married person.

He then enters into a long discussion on that topic, with many catch phrases that became part of the progressivist diatribes on marriage: “Love is trinity; sex is duality." (p.6) "Sex rationalizes; love does not" (p. 7)... Love includes sex, but sex does not include love.” (p. 8) Arch. Sheen continues on for chapters before he even addresses the matter of procreation.

He wanders poetically on Freud (p. 3) and the “libido,” (p. 14) the “vital energies” (p. 11) and the object-subject theme (p. 11) so prevalent in the Theology of the Body: “Love concentrates on the object; sex concentrates on the subject," (p. 8) etc. None of this, in my view, offers responses to the practical questions about marriage that you are seeking.

Sheen also waxes eloquent on talk of mutual indwelling (p. 28), ecstasy (p. 32), love moving from eros to agape (pp. 49-53), and, of course, the “I-Thou” personalist relationship (pp. 70-73) which for most persons is beautiful gibberish: “Without a sense of Absolute Love, which is stronger than the independent love of each for the other, there is a false duality which ends in the absorption of the I into the Thou or the Thou into the I.” (p. 70)

Finally, Archbishop Sheen is obsessed with the notion of liberty in marriage, a very liberal and Americanist idea. He even goes so far as to call the children of love the “sacrament of freedom”: “Love exists only where there is freedom. To be forced to love is hell; to be free in love is heaven. Where love is, there is freedom. Since the child is the flower of love, it is earth's sacrament of freedom.”

I do not think that any of this is necessary or useful for a discussion on Catholic marriage. To the contrary it can be confusing and implant progressivist ideas of marriage. Even though this work is paradoxically being touted and sold in traditional Catholic organs, it should be avoided, as it is a preparation for “The Theology of the Body,” which is used today to justify free-love and even sodomite sins that call out to Heaven for vengeance.

There are several other books being promoted by traditional Catholic book companies that I also would not recommend, but rather would advise you to avoid because they have some sections that are tendentially leading towards Theology of the Body and do not inspire the true Catholic ideal of marriage, even if some good advice is offered. These are the following:
  • Christ in the Home by Raoul Plus, S.J.;
  • The Wife Desired by Fr. Leo J. Kinsella;
  • The Man for Her by Fr. Leo J. Kinsella.
Finally, I come to the few works I can recommend.

One of the better catechetical explanations of Matrimony can be found in The Catechism Explained by Francis Spirago and Richard Clark (Its full name: The Catechism Explained: An Exhaustive Exposition of the Christian Religion, with Special Reference to the Present State of Society and the Spirit of the Age, originally pub. in 1899; repub. by TAN Books and Publishers, Inc. 1993, pp. 649-671).

Other recommended books would include:
  • Popular Instructions on Marriage by V. Rev. Ferreol Girardey, C.S.S.R.;
  • The Mirror of True Womanhood by Rev. Bernard O'Reilly;
  • True Men as We Need Them by Rev. Bernard O'Reilly.
One book that you may find helpful in understanding the medieval concept of marriage is The Good Wife's Guide: A Medieval Household Book. Although this book is addressed to the woman, it was written by a man who was instructing his wife on how to behave correctly. In it, you will find the man presented as the true Lord of his wife and household, a status that should be reinstated in society in order to restore the proper hierarchical order.

Msgr. Henri Delassus, known for his important work about the Secret Forces titled The Antichristian Conspiracy and his recently translated to English work on Americanism, also wrote a book on the family titled, L'esprit familial dans la maison, dans la cité et dans l’Etat (Lille: Société Saint Augustin, Desclée de Brouwer, 1910. Unfortunately, this work has not been translated to English. While not addressing specifically the question of marriage, it does show what a properly constituted family is, something that is almost lost in today’s egalitarian world.

This question is also addressed by Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira in his articles on the Family in Organic Society, which could be interesting for you to study.

Marriage – its purposes, duties, abuses and goods – is clearly a topic that needs to be addressed in our times. Sadly there are few scholars or clergy with the competence to do so. Let us pray Our Lady inspires some holy soul to take up this important work.


     Dr. Marian T. Horvat
Posted on July 25, 2023


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