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In “A Modus Vivendi?” (January 13), the editors of Commonweal speak impersonally, not to say a bit evasively: “There seems little chance that the teaching [of the Catholic Church on sex and marriage] will change in the foreseeable future.” But one can scarcely avoid hearing this as equivalently the more personal, not to say faintly confrontational “There seems little chance that the pope and bishops will change the teaching [of the Catholic Church on sex and marriage] in the foreseeable future.”

Catholic moral theologians and ethicists may be prepared for a change, but change, by the rules of the church, is not theirs to make. Much or most of the Catholic laity, Commonweal is honest to report, no longer abides by church teaching. In good numbers, Catholics still attend services, but there the subjects of sex and marriage are by and large avoided. Avoidance, silence, seems in fact to be the deeper subject that the Commonweal symposium really seeks to address. Eamon Duffy, Paul Baumann, and the other notables assembled for the occasion seem in considerable agreement that “the church finds it difficult to speak compellingly about the real satisfactions and graces of marriage.” But is there any way to avoid the inference that this very state of affairs will continue...

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