Olympia, (Wash) -When the World Meeting on Families, the world’s largest event for Catholic families at 18,000 registrants, opens September 25, with Pope Francis in attendance, one of the breakout session panelists will be esteemed marriage historian and Evergreen faculty member Stephanie Coontz.
Coontz is a nationally recognized expert on contemporary families, whose work was recently cited in the Supreme Court of the United States’ landmark decision on same-sex marriage.
“The Catholic Church, at this point in its history, really elevates the family as a central part of people’s commitments and morality – and I think I was asked to be on this panel just to remind people that the traditional two-parent nuclear family was not always idyllic,” said Coontz. “I’ve been asked to explain how we should not romanticize the family of the past. As the Catholic Church and its believers go on to improve their marriages in the present, they should not delude themselves that people of the past did marriage much better.”
Coontz went on to say that present-day marriages are, ideally, unions based on love and mutual respect, where a past history of marriage shows they were made for considerations of status and the subordination of women.
Coontz is unlikely to meet Pope Francis in Philadelphia, but she says, “I very much welcome this pope’s openness and his emphasis on policies that speak to the needs of the more disadvantaged members of society.” She hopes she can reach people with her message, and that she can, “help them without in any way asking them to change their world views? How can I help them expand their world views to help all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike?”
Pope Francis' six-day, three-city tour of the U.S. was originally centered around this event, which had been scheduled in 2006. Pope Francis had promised to be at the closing concert, the Festival of Families on Saturday, September 26, which is expected to draw 500,000 participants, and to celebrate Mass on Sunday, September 27, with one million attendees. The conference is billed as a blend of prayer, religious instruction and faith-themed lectures.