I was alerted to the following CNS Article on a recent CARA survey of Catholic Attitudes on Marriage. I post excerpts of it here below with some comments in red by yours truly.
Catholic attitudes about marriage differ by generation, says survey
By Maria Wiering, Catholic News Service
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Catholic attitudes on marriage in the church are different among generational groups, according to results of a 2007 survey of U.S. Catholics by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.
Social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead talked about the survey results in a keynote address June 25 in St. Paul at the annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.
The survey showed that older Catholics — those who were adults before the Second Vatican Council — are more likely to look to the Church as the source for meaning and expectations for marriage than are baby boomers or members of Generation X or the millennial generation. Older Catholics also are more likely to be familiar with the Church’s teaching on marriage, to believe in marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman, and to think of marriage as a sacrament that extends beyond the wedding day, it said. Whitehead attributed this attitude to being raised in a time of a distinct Catholic identity that included an emphasis on the church’s teachings on sex, procreation and marriage. (I have commented before on this blog that, beginning in the 1960s many began to reinterpret the basic meaning of marriage. No longer were children and raising a family the central focus. The focus came to center on the happiness of the spouses. Hence easier divorce came to be seen as “essential” since without it happiness might be hindered. Prior to that time, when children were the essential focus, divorce was seen as highly problematic since it so negatively impacted children. Likewise in the 1960s sex became no longer associated with the procreation of children but, again, only associated with the happiness of the spouses. If children were a part of that happiness fine, if not, fine too. With children out of the picture as the central purpose of marriage many distortions follow such as easy divorce and now even “gay” marriage. If marriage is just about the happiness of the couple and children are merely a possible “accessory”, not an essential component, then who is to say two gay people can’t be happy together – or so the argument goes)
Generation Xers — ages 25 to 35 — … are confused about marriage, and their attitudes are closer to those of the general population, Whitehead said. “[Generation Xer] Catholics want to marry a soul mate, and they’re much less likely to see marriage in these broader, institutional [family] terms,” she said. Sixty-nine percent of Catholics [from this generation] believe that marriage is whatever two people want it to be, and the sacramental understanding does not figure as prominently into their understanding, she said. (So there it is. Depart from the Biblical and Church teaching on marriage and we are left with a designer marriage. Such widely variable definitions of marriage cannot be the basis for a strong or united civilization, country or Church. The privatization of marriage and the anything goes notion are not a stable basis on which to build. Hence we are left with the modern experience of a balkanized (divided) vision for marriage, family, basic values and moral teaching. Unity decays and the basis for country Church and even civilzation is lost).
….However…the youngest generation — the millennial generation (ages 18 to 24) — is showing a swing toward traditional ideas. “The youngest Catholics … look a lot more like the pre-Vatican II, Vatican II or post-Vatican II cohorts,” she said. “Huge majorities — 80 percent or more — of these youngest Catholics believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment and that people don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is readily available.” Many children of this generation have experienced divorce in their own families, and they are determined not to divorce themselves, Whitehead said. “This is a hopeful change,” she said. (Indeed it is a hopeful change! I too have encountered children and young adults in their 20s who are saddened, even disgusted with the broken down situation they have had to endure from their parents and grandparents. They know first hand the bankrupcy of the “designer marriage” easy divorce and confused atmosphere of the current climate. There is a knod of backlash setting in wherein the youngest couples I prepare for marriage are eager to be taught the Scriptural and Church teaching on Marriage. Thus THERE IS HOPE!)
Whitehead urged family ministers to share the social science evidence to dispel misconceptions, she said….”In these times when we have a culture that is so really difficult for people to remain faithful in their marriages, there must be a polar recognition of the circumstances of life and the need of support to help people live out the teachings of their faith,” she said.