February 8, 2008


God’s plan for marriage

This issue contains our semi-annual Marriage Supplement. We congratulate those who are announcing their wedding plans, particularly since traditional marriage according to the teachings of the Catholic Church has been taking a real beating in our society during recent years.

Gone are the days when marriage was considered a natural stage of adult development. The percentage of couples who live together outside of marriage, either temporarily or permanently, continues to grow and has become socially acceptable. More and more unmarried women are having children, also without social stigma. Marriage in U.S. society has become just one option among others.

The way that Catholics have assimilated into U.S. society, it is hard to find evidence that members of our Church have a different attitude toward marriage. Yet every study shows beyond a doubt that the Catholic principles and teachings about marriage are best for society.

Those studies consistently show that couples who live together before marriage are much more likely to divorce after marriage, but young people don’t seem to believe that. They tend to look at cohabitation as a “trial marriage,” to see if they can successfully live with one another before actually marrying.

It is true that the people who cohabit have different characteristics than those who don’t, and that partially explains the high divorce rate among those who cohabit before marriage, but studies that take those differences into consideration still report that cohabitation itself contributes to problems in marriage.

One of those different characteristics, of course, is the belief that sexual relations outside of marriage are morally wrong—that it involves mortal sin.

U.S. society glorifies fornication throughout our media, and children are exposed to that propaganda from an early age. The Church still teaches that sexual activities are moral only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.

Obviously, one of the consequences of sex outside of marriage is the explosion in the number of children born to unmarried women. This is particularly a serious problem among African-Americans where almost 70 percent of children are born to, and raised by, single women, but it is a growing problem among all segments of the population.

The result is an increase in the number of children living in poverty and those drawn to criminal activity. Not all children born to a single woman are destined to grow up like that, of course, but the absence of a father in a family while the children are growing up presents a tremendous challenge to the mother.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults comments on all this as it points out the need for marriage preparation programs: “These programs are all the more necessary because cultural changes in recent times have undermined God’s will for marriage.

“The so-called sexual revolution, aided by artificial contraception, has made it more culturally acceptable for men and women to have sexual relations without having to marry each other. The legalization of abortion has reduced the pressure on men and women to worry about the consequences of unwanted pregnancies.

“The casual acceptance of unmarried cohabitation—and of couples’ entering marriage without a permanent commitment—contradicts the very nature of marriage. The political pressure for the legalization of same-sex unions is yet another step in the erosion of God’s plan for marriage and the understanding of marriage in the natural order of creation” (pp. 285-286).

Marriage is indeed part of God’s plan, not only a social construct.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes” (CCC, #1603).

It is Catholic Church teaching that God is the author of marriage. It is his plan for what is best for the couple as well as for the generation and education of children.

Cohabitation, single motherhood or any other modern substitutes for marriage simply can’t match God’s plan.

We can count on the Church to continue to emphasize the importance of marriage despite our society’s efforts to minimize it.

—John F. Fink

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