A Phenomenology of marital discernment: Applying key principles from Paul Ricoeur and Karol Wojtyła to resolve family conflicts
Keywords:marital discernment, family, conflict resolution, Paul Ricoeur, Karol Wojtyła
In Gaudium et Spes, the Catholic Church describes marital discernment as the married couple’s “common reflection and effort… [that] involves a consideration of their own good and the good of their children” and also as “an estimation of the good of the family… [that necessitates] prudent reflection and common decision.” With this description, we can say that the Catholic Church expects and desires married couples to resolve marital and family conflicts by coming together in discernment. And yet, how should married couples discern? How should they exercise marital discernment? Since one cannot just go on discerning blindly without minding some rules, without following some basic steps, Ricoeur would emphasize that “discernment calls for a hermeneutics.” But how should hermeneutics be integrated into the process of marital discernment? This paper makes an attempt to integrate hermeneutics into the process of marital discernment by drawing some key principles from Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenology and Karol Wojtyła’s phenomenology of spousal love. In so doing, this paper considers how the dynamics of marital discernment can be rendered more balanced, and hence more effective, in attaining conflict resolution within the family.