I’ve been trying to post this most helpful pastoral letter from my pastor for over a week now, and I’m glad to do so now. I don’t believe I know anyone who hasn’t suffered terribly in some manner or another from the prevailing divorce culture of these past 50 years or so; Do you? I truly support my pastor and all bishops in their addressing the issues surrounding marriage and their acts in helping to restore once again the state of holy matrimony in the United States, and thus, the restoration of our families–the basic cell that sustains the life of all societies… Let us all strengthen what remains.
Monsignor Moys is the pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Dear Parish Community,
In his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI told the American Bishops about his great concern for the state of the institution of marriage in our society, a subject that he has addressed publicly more than 100 times during his pontificate:
“To some young Catholics, the sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond, or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another person.” He went on to cite an alarming decrease of Catholic marriage in the United States along with an increase in cohabitation outside of marriage. According to the Official Catholic Directory published each year in the United States, there has been a significant drop in the number of Catholic marriages each year in the United States. For example, there were 315,387 Catholic weddings in 1994; in 2007, there were only 199,805, even though the Catholic population in the country rose by more than 7 million during the same period of time. In the National Marriage Project study conducted by Rutgers University, cohabitation precedes over half of today’s marriages compared with 50 years ago when almost no marriages were preceded by cohabitation.
Couples cohabitate for various reasons. Some couples are fearful of divorce. Others think it a safe trial period for marriage. Others find it a convenient alternative to living alone. For others, especially among young couples, there is a reluctance to marry as a result of being exposed to their parents broken marriages. Greg Popcak, a Catholic marriage counselor and author, notes that: “We are living in the second generation of the divorce culture. Many couples marrying today have not seen either their parents or grandparents model a successful, lifelong relationship. This makes committing to marriage an especially difficult proposition for many young people.”
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development notes that “Cohabitating relationships are less stable than marriages and that instability is increasing.” Recent studies show that cohabitating is more stressful than marriage; about 50% of first time cohabitating couples never get married; couples who live together before marriage are at a greater risk for divorce than non-cohabitating couples; and couples who live together before marriage tend to divorce early in their subsequent marriage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “human love does not tolerate ‘trial marriages.’ It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another.” (CCC No. 2391)
The good news is that the Millennial Generation (Catholics born after 1981), according to a recent study by CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate), are more likely among all Catholics to say that the sacrament of marriage is the “most meaningful” sacrament to them personally and that 86% of young adult Catholics (18-35) are either married or say it is somewhat likely they will marry in the future. Also, four years ago, the American bishops approved a National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage to counter the decline in the number of Catholic marriages, the increase in cohabitation outside of marriage and the need for more pre-marriage preparation for engaged couples. They have created a marriage website, www.foryourmarriage.orgwith many helpful tips and resources for everyone from engaged couples to golden jubilarians. A pastoral letter is planned for next year.
Sincerely yours in Christ our King,
Monsignor Gregory Moys, Pastor