February 28, 2020


The case for happy marriages

This issue of The Criterion is our Spring Marriage issue. We invite you to read about the couples who are planning their weddings in our parishes, or those who recently did so.

We congratulate these couples, and we thank them for their public witness of the teachings of the Church regarding marriage because fewer and fewer couples are doing so. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University recently released results of a poll that showed the number of Catholic sacramental weddings in 2017 in the United States at 144,000.

That’s a 50 percent decrease since 2000—despite the fact that the Catholic population grew by almost 3 million people during that time. Why has that happened?

Some of it can be attributed to cohabitation. Living together before marriage has become so popular in our society that, as we editorialized in our Dec. 6, 2019, issue, a Pew Research study determined that 60 percent of Americans under age 45 have cohabitated.

Part of the reason this practice has increased is that young couples wait to get married until they are settled professionally. Therefore, the average age for marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men.

No matter the reason, the fact remains that what the Church teaches about marriage isn’t getting across to all of our young people. And it is a compelling case, both spiritually and secularly.

Every society—since the beginning of time, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated—has accepted marriage as the best way to raise a family.

We know that children who are reared in sacramental marriages are less likely to belong to gangs, get involved with drugs, become victims of sexual abuse, or become pregnant as teenagers.

Spiritually, the Church teaches that the grace in the sacrament of marriage protects the essential purposes of marriage, which the Church sees as the good of the couple and the generation and education of children.

The Church also teaches that a validly contracted and consummated marriage is indissoluble: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:9). This, too, is countercultural in our society where, according to a Feb. 7 article in Our Sunday Visitor, up to 40 percent of marriages result in divorce during the first five years. With statistics like that, we need the graces of a sacramental marriage.

Since the Church feels so strongly about the importance of marriage, it tries to make sure that couples are prepared to receive this sacrament. In our archdiocese, there are numerous opportunities for couples to prepare, which is why couples are asked to have their initial interview with their pastor several months or a year before the wedding ceremony.

Most parishes have a sponsor-couple program that pairs the couple with a married couple who will meet with them several times to talk about marriage. During those meetings, the couple is asked to fill out an inventory to determine where some problems might arise.

Couples are encouraged to participate in a Pre Cana conference, a Tobit weekend or a One in Christ marriage preparation weekend. The Pre Cana conferences are named for the place where Jesus attended a wedding, Cana in Galilee. The retreats are scheduled for Saturdays, and they include sessions led by married couples, marriage professionals and priests.

Tobit weekends are a bit longer. Since 1976, about 8,000 couples have attended these weekends at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. They offer couples a unique opportunity to relax in a beautiful setting while focusing on communication in all aspects of the marriage relationship, aided by married couples. Sometimes couples who are asked to attend hesitate about devoting a full weekend to this, but invariably they come away happy they did so.

One in Christ marriage preparation, which includes a medical panel to address questions regarding reproduction and fertility, is a three-day program spanning a weekend and the following Saturday.

Couples preparing for marriage are also asked to take a course on Catholic teachings about sexuality, including the Theology of the Body developed by St. Pope John Paul II, and natural family planning.

Happy and healthy marriages must be a priority in our society.

—John F. Fink

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