|“We must promote and communicate and catechize a ‘Catholic vision of marriage,'" said Mike Allen, director of Family Life Ministries for the diocese of Lexington.|
LEXINGTON, KY - “Catholic families, become what you are –
live the truth!”
This challenge was issued by Mike Allen, Director
of Family Life Ministries for the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.
He addressed those attending the National Marriage Conference on Aug.
7, 2009, at Lexington Catholic High School.
“We must promote
and communicate and catechize a ‘Catholic vision of marriage,’” he
said in his talk entitled “Becoming a Marriage-Building Church.” “We
need practical, tangible measures to address this challenge,” he said.
is the sacrament that embodies the love of Christ and
his Church, and the effort to support and uphold this
institution is “not just a little issue.”
Allen referenced the National
Pastoral Initiative on Marriage from the United States College of
Catholic Bishops (USCCB.) The effort was a multi-year initiative that
began in 2005. Its goal was to go beyond the
debate on same sex marriage and look at the problems
grown out of a weakening of an understanding of marriage.
USCCB suggested that the opinions of many in our culture
-- that marriage is a human construct that can be
defined however we like, and the belief that what others
do in this respect does not affect “me and my
marriage” -- are very “simplistic views.”
But our culture’s misunderstandings
about the truth of marriage and its importance are definitely
affecting others, especially children.
Allen referenced a recent Time Magazine article
“Unfaithfully Yours” written by Caitlin Flanagan in the July 13,
2009 issue. In the article, she stated: “On every single
significant outcome related to short term well being and long
term success, children from intact, two parent families outperform those
from single parent households. Longevity, drug abuse, school performance and
dropout rates, teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and incarceration – if
you can measure it, a sociologist has; and in all
cases, the kids living with both parents drastically outperform the
Allen points out how Flanagan’s article supports the statement by
Pope John Paul II that the future of humanity passes
by way of the family. (Familiaris Consortio #86.) He also
quoted #65 from the same document: “It must be emphasized
once more that the pastoral intervention of the Church in
support of the family is a matter of urgency…”
that we must be aware the phrase “troubled marriage” is
a misnomer, since it implies this situation is unique. “All
marriages are troubled marriages, and need support,” he said.
Bishop of Savannah GA, Kevin Boland, Allen said, “This is
a pastoral moment we should seize upon.”
Below are some
of the pressing social concerns and some practical suggestions Allen
Questions asked by the USCCB in their 2005 Initiative:
• Why has marriage rate declined more than 40% in the
past 30 years, with Catholic rate declining just as rapidly?
• What are the consequences of young adults delaying marriage until
older or indefinitely?
• Why have cohabitating relationships come to be
seen as preparation for marriage or an alternative to marriage?
• What have decades of high divorce rates done to children,
families, and society, and to a person’s ability to make
a lifetime commitment in marriage or to any vocation?
do we preach and teach commitment, when 35% of those
who were ever married have been divorced at least once?
• What beliefs and behaviors contribute to strong, happy marriages and
which ones increase divorce?
Sobering statistics on the state of marriage
in United States today:
• Married couples are now in the
minority of households for the first time in US history.
• In 2005, the average age for marriage is 26 for
women, and 27 for men, compared to 20 for women
and 23 for men in 1960.
• Between 1960 and 2005,
the number of unmarried couples living together increased 1000%.
CDC recently reported that 39.7% of US births are to
unmarried women, compared to 5% in 1960.
• In a recent
Pew Research Center survey, children were ranked as the 8th
most important factor for a successful marriage by 41 percent
of those responding, as opposed to 3rd in 1990.
social benefits to marriage as defined by the USCCB’s document,
“Making a Case for Marriage. ”(www.usccb.org/laity/marriage/makingacase.shtml)
• Marriage is the
“seedbed” for pro-social behavior that fosters social connections, civil and
religious involvement and charitable giving.
• Marriage connects men and women
to the larger community and encourages personal responsibility, family commitment,
community voluntarism and social altruism.
• Marriage is the greatest social
educator of children. It is the institution that most effectively
teaches the civic virtues of honesty, loyalty, trust, self-sacrifice, personal
responsibility and respect for others.
• Children raised in intact families
are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally
healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol and
to commit delinquent behaviors, have a decreased risk of divorcing
when they get married, are less likely to become pregnant
or impregnate someone as a teenager, and are less likely
to be raised in poverty.
• Marriage is a wealth generating
institution. The commitment of husband and wife fosters economic specialization
and economies of scale (two can live as cheaply as
one.) The link between divorce and unwed childbirth and child
poverty, as well as the rising government expense for welfare
programs, testify to the economic benefits of marriage.
Vision of Marriage contrasted with the views of popular culture:
• Marriage is a divinely created institution, and not a human
construct open to redefinition.
• The family is fundamental to society,
not the individual.
• Sex and marriage are “social” and not
• Sexual intercourse is a marital act, rather than
the belief that marriage is not needed to justify sexual
• Marriage is intrinsically oriented toward having and raising children,
and not primarily about personal fulfillment.
• Marriage is permanent and
• Love is an act of the will, not a
feeling beyond human control.
How can the Church communicate
this Catholic Vision of Marriage?
• We must encourage, enrich and
support reasonably healthy marriages.
• We need a marriage ministry team
to lead a marriage ministry.
• We need to have a
special focus on Theology of the Body, as taught in
age-appropriate ways across the entire lifespan.
• Marital couples should serve
the Church together in various roles.
• We must offer opportunities
for married couples to attend formation classes together. We must
offer classes, workshops, and enrichment events on marriage.
• Couples should
be connected to one another in like to like groups
for mutual support
• Married couples should act as teachers to
the young and young adults about the sacrament. Parish couples
need to be trained as marriage coaches and mentors.
parish must provide marriage preparation instruction with trained sponsor couples
or pre-Cana classes.
• We must remind and equip parents for
their role as primary catechists.
• Homilies must regularly focus on
the Church’s theology of marriage, and connect Scripture to marital
troubles and triumphs.
• Anniversaries and engagements should be recognized at
• We must offer prayers of petition for marital concerns.
• We should use bulletins inserts to offer marriage insights.
should promote Marriage Encounter and other opportunities in the bulletin.
• We must minister to hurting marriages with parish support and
• We must have an up to date referral list
for couples seeking counseling.
• We should promote Retrouvaille in bulletin.
married couples need most:
• Ongoing conversion
• Practical instruction
• Spiritual formation
• Friendship and community
• Involvement in service
• Enrichment and support offered throughout all stages of
marriage: early years, birth of first child, early mid-life, late
mid-life, empty nest, retirement and elderly.