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Archives Dr. Maura Fehlner to keynote 'Loving Authentically'

July 3, 2019

By Suzanne Pietropaoli
Staff Writer

Dr. Maura Hearden Fehlner will bring an unusually rich and diverse background to the marriage-building workshopFehlner scheduled for July 27 at Fr. Amyot Parish Center in Norfolk. Author, teacher, public speaker, and radio talk show hostess, Dr. Fehlner earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Marquette University after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater; she has been teaching theology to college students for nearly two decades.

But five years ago, theory met experience when Dr. Maura Hearden married Deacon John Fehlner. As she explained in a recent NCC interview, “Being married to John involves the challenges of sharing your life with someone else – something that might be especially difficult for two people who get married when they are older and set in their ways, as we did. But being married to John has let me experience the incredible gift of facing those challenges with the help of sacramental grace and a spouse who is willing to give his life for me. I am amazed at God’s goodness every day of my life with John, and I am privileged to be able to tell people from first-hand experience, “Hey! The Church’s approach to marriage really works! We really are happy, and this is why!

“The Church teaches that sacramental marriage is all about imaging the self-giving love that flows between Christ and his Church. It’s about living this kind of sacrificial love and receptivity so that you and your spouse grow spiritually, to advance toward your ultimate home in heaven; it’s about extending that love to children and the community at large, making everyone’s quest for holiness that much easier. I never knew the profound joy and peace of having someone in your life who was really, consciously dedicated to doing just that.”

Yet if Church teaching about marriage is such a blessing for couples, then why do so many people find it so difficult? Dr. Fehlner particularly cites both cultural influences and fallen human nature. “Popular culture has embraced a sexual ethic that, in many ways is the polar opposite of Church teaching – and cultural movers and shakers who have their own dogmatism are working hard to spread their message. We are bombarded with a steady diet of lies and misconceptions about human sexuality coming at us from public education curricula; entertainment, news, and social media; politicians, activists, and a host of other public figures.”

At the same time, Dr. Fehlner asks, “What do these same sources say about the Catholic Church? According to them, the Catholic hierarchy is the enemy of liberty: the retrograde, oppressive, sexually repressed and perverted institution that produces nothing but pedophiles and a bunch of rules created by old white guys who want to amass power and spoil your good time. Obviously, if you do not make a special effort to counteract this bombardment, you will succumb to the brainwashing.” Then, too, we are all affected by the lure of sin. “We have to be honest,” Dr. Fehlner reminds us. “We sin because we like it. Any sin we commit, sexual or not, we commit because, at least in that moment, we genuinely think that the pleasure of sin outweighs any long-term difficulties. Sin is like addiction. We see the prize. We want it, and we will rationalize that having it is actually good.”

Dr. Fehlner explains that her varied experiences have not confined her to “an ivory tower, away from all the ‘complicated’ realities of the world. I am, in fact, quite familiar with them, I know what it is to care deeply about people who reject Catholic moral teaching, and I know how hard it is to try to witness to the truth without alienating them. I also know how destructive certain behaviors can be to the people we love, and how important it is to offer them a life-giving alternative. To that end, we need to support each other in our quest for truth amid the confusion all around us. And we need to come together to study and pray so that we know we’re not alone.”

These are exactly the opportunities that the July 27th workshop offers. According to Dr. Fehlner, “This conference will be helpful to adults of all ages who want to deepen their understanding of the reasons behind Church teaching on human sexuality. Maybe you have children, grandchildren or other family members or friends who challenge Church teaching. Maybe you’re a little puzzled about the reasons for Church teaching and you’d like to know more. Or maybe you already understand the teaching and just want to know that you are not alone. If any of these scenarios fit you, you’re going to want to come to this conference.”

Dr. Fehlner will open the day by laying out a few key principles to help people understand and explain Church teaching. “You might be surprised,” she notes, “to find out how logical and clear these principles are! That’s what my talk, ‘How to Set Your Moral Compass,’ is about. It’s critically important to have the reliable, rock-solid tools you need to set your moral compass correctly.”

“The day will also feature a powerful movie,” Unprotected, Dr. Fehlner concludes, “that gets into some specifics of the sexual revolution and the Church’s response. There will also be discussion time to allow people to ask questions about the presentations and/or anything else weighing on their minds. It’s going to be a great day! And bring the kids as they will have their own activities.”

“Loving Authentically: Creating Thriving Relationships in Trying Times” will run from 9 a.m.. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. There is no charge for the day; lunch will be provided. For info/to register, call Family Life Director Steve Tartaglia at 315-393-2920 EXT. 1420/email startaglia@rcdony.org. You may also register at rcdony.org/relationships.


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