Cohabitation’s Dirty Little Secret

Back the 1970s there was a lot of talk that living together before marriage was a “wise” thing to do. After all, said its proponents, “You need to try a shoe on before buying it” and “You take a car for a test ride before negotiating the deal.” Never mind that human beings are a little more dignified and complicated than shoes or cars, and that we don’t “buy” one another. Never mind all that, according to the proponent of this theory, we were supposed to bow our heads to the obvious wisdom of “shacking up.”

Further, this little bit of post sexual revolution “wisdom” was obviously something that previous generations had never considered (since they were all sexually repressed after all), neither had they tried it and found it wanting and thus rightly discarded it. No, no this was a brand new insight  of a brave new world, and who could really argue that cohabitation was both sensible and “wise?” Or so they said.

But the dirty little secret about cohabitation (aka “shacking up) is that it doesn’t work like its proponents claim. Cohabitors have higher divorces rates when they do later marry. They are less prepared for marriage, not more prepared.

In a recent article in the New York Times (of all places),  Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia shares some statistics and insights as to why cohabitation does not work. As usual why I share articles, the excerpts from the original article are in bold black italic print. My remarks are in red plain text. Pardon the somewhat cynical, ironic and playful tone of my remarks. But sometimes when you can’t cry, you laugh or play the fool.

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis. (Prophylaxis is a fancy clinical term for “preventative,” as in “preventative of divorce.” And this is the dirty little lie about cohabitation, it doesn’t prevent it). I would also add to the list of causes: a general decline in religious observance, the decline moral standards, decline of the family, and the decline of maturity and ability to make commitments. While some will prefer to call my additions judgmental, it is hard to argue that widespread promiscuity and the unwillingness to make and keep commitments, having babies outside of marriage or aborting them, are signs of a healthy culture. No there is something basically wrong with us.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. Deep down I think all these young people know better and that pre-maritial sex is wrong and stupid. But there is so much stinking thinking today that it is possible to play games with yourself and rationalize. Pair this with the silence of many pulpits on such matters. I wonder how many Catholic teens and young adults have ever been explicitly taught by their parents, pastors and/or catechists that living together outside of marriage is a sin or that, as the Scriptures clearly attest, “fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.” I strive to make this clear to the young people in my parish from 7th grade up. One of the tools I use is this list of scripture quotes I put together as I reason with them from Scripture: BIBLICAL TEXTS ON FORNICATION OTHER SEXUAL MATTERS

But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect. Oops where did these inconvenient facts come from? Imagine that, something modern being wrong?! Well, let’s at least appear smart by giving it a smart-sounding name like “Cohabitation effect.”

Researchers originally attributed the cohabitation effect to selection, or the idea that cohabitors were less conventional about marriage and thus more open to divorce….Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself. You don’t mean to tell me!

[Regarding cohabitation] most couples say it “just happened.” “We were sleeping over at each other’s places all the time,”…“We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.” [This is] what researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean….. Actually, the concept of drifting is a very important insight. Most people do not up-and-leave the Lord or the Church in a huff. Most do not simply wake up one day and dive into serious sin. Rather, more subtly, and thus more dangerously, they just drift away from God and into sin. The book of Hebrews warns: We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (Heb 2:1). The drifter goes quietly, often imperceptibly off course, and often comes to his senses way down the road when the journey back is tough. And thus many young people simply drift from the Church and from moral virtue. Thank God for those campus and parish programs that DO reach at least some of them, to keep the drifting to a minimum. Thank God too for parents who take the spiritual life of their teens and twenty-somes seriously, and help to keep them on course. Because, drifting these days, leads way down stream and eventually over the falls.

One thing men and women do agree on, however, is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse. Imagine that, thinking less of a shack-up honey than a spouse. How can these young people be so judgmental? And how dare they think higher of marriage than any other form of relationship people wish to dream up. Hmm…but they DO think this way. I wonder why? Could it be that deep down inside, in the conscience, under all the justifications, rationalizations and stinking thinking, they know better?

Sliding into cohabitation wouldn’t be a problem if sliding out were as easy. [Actually it would still a problem, a problem known theologically as sin, and sociologically known as stabbing the traditional family in the heart, making life very difficult for the children born into all the chaos or threatening those children by abortion] But it isn’t. Too often, young adults enter into what they imagine will be low-cost, low-risk living situations only to find themselves unable to get out months, even years, later. It’s like signing up for a credit card with 0 percent interest. At the end of 12 months when the interest goes up to 23 percent you feel stuck because your balance is too high to pay off. In fact, cohabitation can be exactly like that. In behavioral economics, it’s called consumer lock-in.

Lock-in is the decreased likelihood to search for, or change to, another option once an investment in something has been made….Cohabitation is loaded with setup and switching costs. Back to the buying a selling paradigms again. But the point makes sense.

…[They] have furniture…dogs and all the same friends. It just [makes] it really difficult to break up.

I’ve had [many] clients who also wish they hadn’t sunk years of their 20s into relationships that would have lasted only months had they not been living together.

Founding relationships on convenience or ambiguity can interfere with the process of claiming the people we love. A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment or marriage. Wow, you don’t mean to tell me after all these years that our ancestors might have actually been on to something do you? I mean I thought they were just sexually repressed and juvenile, and that we were liberated and come of age. You don’t mean to tell me that maybe previous generations developed the system of dating and marriage to help us guard our hearts or something, or to help us be more happy? Well since that is not possible, we’re going to have to get the sociologists to study a lot harder to figure out some better explanation!

I am not for or against living together, (but you ought to be based on what you’ve just said) but I am for young adults knowing that, far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake — or of spending too much time on a mistake.  – Yes, facts are stubborn things…

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — and How to Make the Most of Them Now.” These remarks are excerpts of her longer article which is here: The Downside of Cohabiting

On a more serious note from me, the problem of Marriage and family in our culture is an ominous one. Frankly, it doesn’t take a degree in sociology or anthropology to understand that kind of crisis in the family we are currently experiencing is a civilization killer. The numbers regarding marriage are very alarming:

The number of marriages celebrated in the Church has fallen from 415,487 in 1972 to 168,400 in 2010 — a decrease of nearly 60 percent — while the U.S. Catholic population has increased by almost 17 million. To put this another way, this is a shift from 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010…

[In this Catholics reflect the general social trend]. In 2010, 53 percent of Catholics surveyed in the General Social Survey (GSS) indicated that they were currently married. By comparison, 51 percent of non-Catholics surveyed were married. [But this an astonishing drop from 1972 when 79% of Catholics were married. Among younger adults 18-40 the number is even more shocking: Only 38% are married!]

Some of [the low numbers]  can be explained by Catholics waiting longer to marry, but the shift here has been slight. In 1972, the average age at first marriage reported in the GSS for Catholics ages 18 to 40 was 20.9. In 2006 (the last time this question was asked), it was 23.9.

Thus, the decline in Church marriages is more about not marrying at all than marrying older. [Our Sunday Visitor 6/26/2011]

The sexual and social revolution thrown by our culture is having its effect. We have sown in the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. And what seems most remarkable, even with all the data coming in, we have no will or ability as a culture to reform ourselves on any wide scale. As St. Paul put it so well well: Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and their senseless minds were darkened (Romans 1:21-22)

Thank God for the faithful remnant. It is hard to know where our culture will go, but as for the Church, though reduced in numbers, she will remain, by God’s promise and will we shall endure, even this.

58 Replies to “Cohabitation’s Dirty Little Secret”

  1. Economics. A lot of it is economics. With rent and other living expenses so high, it is logical to conclude that renting one bedroom or one apartment is cheaper than renting two. So it is easy to get into.

    But — it is also very easy to get out of. Very easy. You just wait until the lease is up. Contrary to this article, 20-somethings do not bother to invest years and years in some relationship. Months and months maybe. And at that age, they haven’t acquired a lot of goods. So, if one wants out, she (or he) secretly starts looking for a new place shortly before the lease is up and then, “see ya.” It is even easier if the other person is the only one on the lease. In that case, it is a very easy case of “I’m moving out. I don’t want to see you, I don’t want you to call me, and if you do, I’ll get a restraining order.”

    Cohabitation is, by its very nature, disposable. Relationships made for tossing in the trash whenever you get tired of them.

    And if the other party is emotionally invested, too bad. If they didn’t see it coming, too bad. If it leaves them broken because they were actually foolish enough to fall for the lie, to think that it was love, too bad.

    And that is what is really wrong about it. Not that those who do it are “bad people” and “sinners” and “fornicators” who are going to “burn in hell” because of it (all of which is true, but not all that helpful). Rather, that it leaves both parties injured and wounded, it leaves them broken.

    Telling couples that it is a sin isn’t going to dissuade them — they already know, even if know one tells them. But they think that their “love” overcomes the sin, or they ignore that it is a sin and intentionally don’t think about it much.

    So the condemnations, the fire-and-damnation approach, telling them that they are bad if they touch the hot stove isn’t going to work. What might work, instead, is the warning, the friendly advice, the caution that if they do, they are going to get burned, that it is only going to end badly, with them getting hurt and perhaps deeply depressed. Thankfully, Jesus the healer is here to help, but better not to be injured in the first place.

    1. Hmm….Bender. You make a lot of statements about the causality etc. but do not really present the statistics to measure them. The article on the other hand has a lot of info. So what are your sources? As for your pastoral advice to avoid using the word sin etc. I have 25 years of pastoral practice to dispute that. I Have had a good bit of sucess reasoning with couples from the scripture and many have reformed, your more sanguine attitude notwithstanding. I say there are many approaches to dealing with this problem, but failing to call it sin is not wise or good pastoral practice

      1. Bender sounds more realistic than sanguine to me. I agree with him here in that a person-centered approach is more likely to reach the individuals involved than focusing on an abstract concept of “sin”. At the center of the cohabitation problem are human beings who are afraid. Our job as Church involves bringing Jesus’ Good News (“Do not be afraid”) to them. Not to say speaking of sin is bad (their fear-directed life choices impact the whole community negatively), but I suspect that in spite of your optimism about a good bit of success there are many more whom you never had the opportunity to address since the Mass attendance rate is even lower than the marriage rate. Perhaps having models of successful marriage, and even testimonials like Mandy’s (below) would be an effective way to show young people what happiness (struggles and all) actually looks like in reality, beyond a Scriptural reference or a statement about Natural Law. Your talks may have some impact certainly, but I think many young people are inherently distrustful of institutional Church, and are cynical about celibates. This change is going to take the whole village…How can we foster a family and marriage ministry in parishes in such a way that young people are enticed and feel welcome?

        1. Rare for you and Bender to agree. But I am not at all surprised to hear your opinion Daniel. It’s funny too since while calling on others to be less critical, you are the Critic in Chief. Physician heal thyself.

          Bottom line of my response to you is that no one will follow an uncertain trumpet. Jesus never got your memo Daniel because he had plenty of recourse to warning sinners. In fact, no one preached more on Hell than Jesus. Why mass attendance is low is a complicated matter but one might well argue that the smiley face “lets soft pedal the sin stuff” is the reason our churches have emptied. It seems to me we have tried this method for 40 years now and our Church’s just get emptier. So I am dubious of the “more of the same” approach. For who goes to a doctor, those who are sick or those who are well. Thus Jesus didn’t just say “Good News” he said Repent and believe the Good News. Also, Daniel, I am not sure of your age but a lot of young people I know are unimpressed with a weak and uncertain Church which is vague and speaks only in soft focus. When I go to Theology on Tap and other young adult functions the young people I meet want clear doctrine. Surely the Church can and should be the place of mercy as well. But I don’t go want to go to a doctor who is not willing to talk to me clearly about what ails me and where I need to make changes. I may not like what I hear but I don’t go to the doctor to smooth-talked or patted on the hand. I want answers and a doctor who is a clear enemy of disease, not one who has settled down with the notion that disease can’t be so bad since after all everybody gets sick and dies eventually.

          As for your flippant comment about “celibates” I suspect this says more about you than anyone else Daniel. I don’t need my doctor to have had cancer or to have had every experience in life to advise me on healthcare and what is healthy and what is not.

          As for you perhaps you can get started on your idea to foster a family and marriage ministry in parishes in such a way that young people are enticed and feel welcome and don’t presume that this does not happen in parishes (mine or others) even if it doesn’t happen in yours. You may actually discover that people need more than hugs to be drawn to Church life. Jesus knew how to say “woe to you” just as well as how to say “blessed are you” The Church needs this same balance.

          1. I know we have a history of disagreement on theological and especially ecclesiological topics, but in my response to Bender (if you read carefully) I didn’t speak against any of your attempts to deal with the problem of cohabitation- hence there is no need for defensive sarcasm.
            Obviously your statement “no one preached more on hell than Jesus” is hyperbolic, since there are many modern day preachers who spend far more time talking about it than Jesus ever did. As you say, balance is needed. After all, Jesus was most notorious not for his condemnations, but for actually associating with “tax collectors and sinners” and probably lost many followers for his refusal to simply condemn.
            Also, I don’t doubt that many of the young people you know are unimpressed with a weak and uncertain Church—I hope we all would be—but wherein lies the strength of the Church? Surely it involves bringing grace (which is indeed Good News) into the actual lives of people living in fear, pain, and sin. I do not say in my previous response that speaking about sin is bad, and I admit that your approach has merit, but I suggest that more is needed. In the end, I agree that a doctor needs to be seriously intent on finding a cure (at least based on the best medical knowledge available), and the doctor doesn’t need to have a specific illness in order to cure it. But so often it is a support group which gives the greatest comfort to someone deep in illness. Support groups are made up of people who have actually suffered a particular illness and survived, at least for a time, and who want to compassionately help others who are in a similar situation. This is the premise behind my suggestion that the testimony and companionship of married people would be effective in directing young people toward a happier life than cohabitation.
            BTW The comment about celibacy is not from me but from what I have often heard younger people say. To be sure it is not flippant—it is a real attitude and a serious issue which effects this situation immensely.

          2. That no one spoke of hell is not hyperbolic. Biblically the references to Hell are more numerously from Jesus’ own lips than any other biblical source. Yes, Jesus hung with sinners, but he did not nice-nice them. He spoke the truth in love. It is my view that you have the proper balance in these matters based on a long history of your comments here. But, as for you and me, we’re both here and I’ll take my path and you yours, some how the Church is able to embrace us both.

          3. Fr Pope said –
            . … a lot of young people I know are unimpressed with a weak and uncertain Church which is vague and speaks only in soft focus.

            AMEN! That is exactly how this young man feels. Away with the vaccilating, ambiguous, double talk, proportionalism and moral relativism. Give it to me straight!

          4. Also, young people in situations like this know very well what they are choosing. So far I have at least four personal friends who have co-habituated and three have failed. This valentines day my friend called me up and told me he was going to kill himself. Why? A couple months earlier his live in girlfriend just up and told him “I’m not happy anymore, so get out.” My friend knew very well what he was risking by killing himself, obviously that is not the time to give a sermon on hell. Luckily he did not take his own life.

            My other friend? Well he doesn’t talk to most of his friends anymore and has openly said that his current girlfriend is extremely annoying, the only reason he is with her is because of her vagina.

            Young people know very much what path they are going down, I am a “young person” I know. The thing is it’s easy to ignore the warnings when at the begging. Priests, parents, and anyone else need to realize that you have to preach the truth way before it gets to this point. You have to combat the lies of the sexual revolution with the Truth of Christianity.

        2. @Daniel: Mgr. Pope is supposed to share Christ’s teachings on marriage with couples, not than his own; his personal celibacy is a moot point. As for married couples giving examples, well, consider this: we’ve been married 27 years. Neither of us cohabitated prior to our marriage. We skipped the sexual revolution, chose the path less travelled and are better for it. There is a mandatory marriage preparatory program for couples getting married in the Catholic Church–it is called Pre-Cana. It speaks to young people about chastity, married life, fidelity, children, expenses, etc.using real life parish couples in honest discussion. Pre-Cana has been around for decades–at least since the 1970s that I’m aware. Today, there are very few couples around anymore to “give testimony.” Just like those flippant remarks made about distrusting Mgr. Pope because he is celebate, others mock our fidelty and marital logevity. Here are some comments I’ve received: we missed out on the “fun” of the sexual revolution; we must be from another planet to stay married that long; why are we are still together after all these years; we aren’t qualified to say anything about marriage because we’re not psychologists. So who do you think young people seek as role models today? Take a guess. Celebrities and reality TV stars, who are notorious fornicators, adulterers and divorcees. Bloggers, who show off homes & fine goods, using Hallmark-style quotes about married life. Bloggers who aren’t necessarily married but appear to be. Bloggers who may have married three times in 10 years. I insist that Mgr. Pope is right on about Natural Law, sin, man’s nature, and Jesus’ teachings. Self-help guru mentoring only goes so far and married couples as examples aren’t respected either. Plain truth works whenever couples are challenged to rise to meet Jesus’ expectations. If they won’t accept and live by the truth, too bad. They’ll fall away like atheists, and we shall pray for them.

    2. You make it *sound* very easy, but for actual people involved it really isn’t. When I was a twenty-something, just a few years ago actually, the vast majority of folks I knew were cohabitating, myself included. You don’t realize how quickly you can become extremely financially entangled, making it more complicated and risky to get out, and emotionally entangled as well. It’s very easy to purchase things jointly when things are going well- under the assumption that neither person is going anywhere any time soon so you’ve got lots of time to work ownership and financial responsibility for those possessions out- and then be in a mess when you need/want to get out. It’s also an easy source for emotional comfort and validation, which is an enticement to use the other person. And for those who did end up married (the few), a lot of those folks did so because they didn’t know how to get out of the financial mess or the woman ends up pregnant and they have all these children out of wedlock and so they figured the logical thing was to get married. And most of them are all pretty miserable and/or now divorced. I realize that’s all anecdotal, but it certainly fits with what the author Msgr. Pope quoted from has observed.

      I cohabitated with my husband for six years before getting married and I will tell you from experience that it is not a good idea. We are literally the only couple we know that lived together prior to marriage that is stable and still happy together. But it wasn’t all roses for us while we were living together and had we not worked out our differences we would probably not gotten married to begin with. The cohabitation itself caused a lot of turmoil- what belongs to whom? if he/she leaves what am I going to do financially? is this person ever going to marry me or am I going to be a live-in lover forever? is this person just using me because im convenient?, etc., and so on. And things between us are vastly different since getting married and having children (in the right order). But even as joyful as we are together now (and this year we *finally* passed the number of years cohabitating in marriages years) if I had a chance to go back and do it over again I would absolutely insist that we wait until marriage to move in.

      1. I will be 65 in July, and my wife will be 60 in May; we will cwlebrate 40 years of marriage (to each other) in June. We lived together in ’72 for several months, until we could get married.

        Like you, if we had it to do over, we would have waited for marriage. But I guess we were caught up in the ‘sexual revolution.’ Big mistake.

        BTW, we entered the Church in 1997, mostly because she held to the bible and her always-held doctrines; we just could no longer stomach the touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy, worldly communities we’d tried.

        Thank you for this post, Msgr. Young folks need to think long-term, and not just for next year.

  2. The paragraph about “sliding, not deciding” made me think of the Casting Crowns song “Slow Fade.” It says:
    “It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
    It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
    Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
    When you give yourself away
    People never crumble in a day”
    Sometimes that fade happens so slowly that even faithful people slide into these decisions without realizing they are sinning. Heaven help us!

  3. Great post! Amazing that the New York Times published this article. It is very instructive to go to the NYT web site and read the responses to this article…very sad and a bit shocking how living together is defended by so many.
    Msgr. Pope how would you advise family members to deal with relatives who are living with someone? My children’s aunt has had a very long term live in arrangement with her boyfriend. They are secular Jewish. We are somewhat estranged and I felt it would be harmful to my children to visit as if this arrangement was acceptable. The children would be forced, in a way, at an impressionable age to have the confusion of seeing a living together arrangement and being a part of it in a sense. The couple have been together for many years.

    What if it is your son or daughter who is doing this. Do you visit the couple’s house? Or do you not?

    We need guidance as to how to deal with this. We want to be faithful Catholics. What is allowed in terms of visiting etc. and what should we do about impressionable children who have aunts, uncles, older brother or sisters, or (yes it happens) even a grandparent who are cohabiting?

    Thank You. Anne

  4. Gosh, who would have thought that ethical beliefs could have practical effects?

    1. Strictly speaking ‘Ethics’ is practicality and it in the absolute sense does not equate with ‘Morality’. In this way, ethics is always and only predictible-practicality whereas morality not-neccessarily practical is the cake of intangibile-humanity with a bonus of practicality-creamcheese frosting.

  5. JPII was right with the Theology of the Body as one would expect. The Church teaches us the ideal of Love that involves wanting the best for the other not just the easy for myself. If we don’t have something to strive for we get blah. Love even with the sacrifices it requires is so much more beautiful than love. Jesus loved us so much he died for us but, our society promotes a love that is really just laziness and license.

    Thank you again Msgr. Pope for helping to raise the bar for humanity. Let’s re-define the norm of marriage to be what it could and should be. We then use the Sacraments to give us the Grace to at least approach the norm.

    1. Daniel (9:30) — At the center of the cohabitation problem are human beings who are afraid.

      That is partly it. But more than that, you have human beings who are desperately thirsty for love.

      You also have sexuality, which is a very powerful dynamic, powerful enough to distort one’s judgment and impair his will. In conjunction with that, we have the very powerful dynamic of the inherent desire and need that we have for love. We need love. And all too often, especially in this modern day, people confuse sex with love.

      Ideally, of course, sex and love should go hand-in-hand. But not necessarily. It is possible to have non-loving sex. But even in hedonistic, recreational, utilitarian, casual sex, often times there is still a person who is actually looking for love. Looking for love in all the wrong places. They fool themselves into believing that they will find love in someone’s bed or backseat.

      To be sure, all too often unmarried sex is an occasion of pure exploitation and using the other as a sex object, but not always, and not always on both sides. What does the greasy and sleezy guy say to get the girl in bed? “Come on baby, I love you, if you love me, you would.” And she does. Why? Because she is STARVING for love. She is desperate for a little bit of care and affection. (You even have teenaged girls who purposely get pregnant. Why? Because they are starving for love and they want a little baby who can be the object of their love.)

      Much of the time it is a case of people wanting a good thing, but in the wrong way. Indeed, sex itself is a GOOD. It was made by God and God doesn’t make things that are not good. But that inherent good of sex has been distorted and perverted to something that is not good, just as the inherent and greatest good of love has been distorted and perverted to something that is not good. The desire for love is a good, but in our fallen world, it ends up off-track, people end up doing the wrong thing in pursuit of that good.

      And so to tell people “what you are doing is bad and you are bad for doing it” generally is not going to go over very well because the root of what they want is not bad, it is good, even if expressed and pursued in a very wrong way. The better way, and the reason I responded down here and not up after Daniel’s comment, is that suggested by Bl. Pope John Paul II, which emphasizes the positive, which promotes a better option for love, a better option for sexuality, which is the complete gift of self in the fullness of a spousal love that is unitive and fruitful.

      In that light, Pope Benedict also put it very well when he said
      Christianity, Catholicism, is not a collection of prohibitions: it is a positive option. It is very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We have heard so much about what is not allowed that now it is time to say: we have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and it is in this way that marriage develops, first of all as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then, the family, which guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet.

      So, firstly, it is important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we do not want some things. I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it is not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. As far as abortion is concerned, it is part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: “You shall not kill!”. We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother’s womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. The human person must always be respected as a human person. But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way.

      It is only after emphasizing the positive, after drawing people in with the carrot of the fullness of love, the greatest good and the highest Good News that they could possibly hear, that it might be useful to bring out the stick and say “besides, it’s a mortal sin and you risk the loss of your soul if you persist in this.”

      1. Bender, You have been reading this blog too long to so oversimplify me or my position ala “what you are doing is bad and you are bad for doing it”. Your sermon, and quoting the Pope to me is highly unfair and not at all appreciative of the wide range and tone of this blog or me. Of course we speak of the positive and you and I have been allies on doing just that. But it also remains true that what is wrong is wrong and you’ve served up more than a few dishes of that here as well. So what’s the deal Bender, why are you acting so strange all of a sudden? I have 25 years of pastoral practice, a vibrant parish community and a lot of great things going on this parish and at this blog. I don’t need you to quote the Pope to remind me that Catholicism is more than a bunch of prohibitions. I have said that many times here. We use everything from humor to serious commentary, satire, biblical commentary, video, music, art, poetry, history etc., etc., etc. But the simple fact is that cohabitation is wrong and it is not wrong to say that or teach it, as the Church does. Neither is it wrong to negatively comment or raise questions on a trend in our culture that is very serious in its deleterious effects. But I am more than this one post Bender, and so is the Church. Usually you get that. But I ask you to recall, that this a conversation of almost 3 years duration on this blog with all the variety I have cited and one post cannot contain all you ask any more than one of your comments should define you.

        1. My two cents on Bender’s comments is that he was devolving a component of the discussion. It is very real that many people are desperately seeking love and will seek it in the wrong places. The fact that these people are frantically seeking love does not void the sin they commit but points to the need of the Church and the individuals to teach true love or in another way the norm of love. Personally, I agree completely that soft petaling has contributed to emptyng churches. Very simply if it is not that important then it is not that important. If we teach people that sin is over stated or if you commit a sin but you had a good reason then eventually there is no sin because everyone will have a great reason. Cognitive Dissonance is very powerful. I am sure that Bender was simply focusing into this specific aspect without the intent of dismissing the need to be truthful about the sin. Yesterday on our local Catholic radio channel, a priest talked about marriage and that our parents start teaching us about marriage on the day we are born by their actions. So many people live in chaotic homes and will not have the benefit of this teaching. How can we provide a replacement teaching on the the truth of love while teaching that certain actions are simply wrong I think is probably where Bender was heading.

        2. I’m sorry, Monsignor, I did not intend to come across as chastising or criticizing you or oversimplifying your position. Rather, it was iintended, as Steve more or less says, to advance the discussion beyond what you said. Unfortunately, sometimes (often times) I sound harsher than I mean to be and I apologize. It also was not my intent to quote the Pope to you or otherwise tell you what the faith is or should be, but rather my comments were directed toward the others at large.

          Yes, it would be an oversimplification of your position to reduce it to “what you are doing is bad,” etc., but it is not an oversimplification of what many other people do say. The Pope’s remarks bear this out. I would merely intend to offer a different approach than that.

          Before coming here, I used to comment over at the website of my blog-friend Dawn Eden (whom sadly I’ve been out of touch for too long), back when she was writing on these very issues (and preparing to write her book The Thrill of the Chaste) and I remember the various contracepting and sexually active singles accusing me of attacking them and accusing the Church of being negative and mean and judgmental. I tried to assure them that it was none of these, all the while insisting however on speaking moral truth, even if it was hard to hear. But it was clear that what was involved was broken people who had a faulty idea of what love is, not bad people. Dawn herself has written often about how she was one of those “looking for love in the wrong places.”

          So it is from that background and perspective that colors my comments, and not to contradict or challenge or dispute anything that you have said here, Monsignor. Again, I apologize for not being as clear in that respect as I might have been.

        3. Each write a letter eixpainlng about the way you feel about things.Marriage is never easy it’s a matter of talking and compromising.Sometimes when your young though, it’s difficult to discuss things without it turning into a heated arguement because your both shouting at each other.By writing it down and you both sitting quietly on your own reading what the other person has to say about the situation, you will find that what is written sinks in and you will think about it more carefully than if these things were said face to face. You can also be totally honest without embarrassment.It works, believe me do try it.

      2. Thank you, Bender. That is a truth about human beings that I have been ferreting out for myself in recent years.

        1. Bender,
          Why would you put a positive spin on something that is objectively wrong? Why would you want to deflect from the truth of its harm which is apparent in society? True love for others mean giving people the truth. It is a spirtual work of mercy. Your position seems less having to do with pastoral concerns, and more having to do with the convienient avoidance of difficult situations where honesty is needed. Time to concern youself with people’s spiritual and physical well being instead of playing dress up with morality so as to not hurt someones feelings.

          1. Why would you put a positive spin on something that is objectively wrong?

            There is nothing objectively wrong with love. Love is to be commended. It should be positively spinned.

            But the problem with our present-day sexuality is that it too often involves a counterfeit love. A false love. A distorted love. It is this counterfeit love which is objectively wrong. And that I do not say is a positive.

            Rather, we should encourage people to want and desire the real thing, the real and authentic love, and not the false one that only leaves people hurt and damaged.

            And if you think that I, Bender, have a problem with bashing people over the head with truth, that I am not constantly reminding people that real charity involves truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be to them, you have not been reading what I have been saying for years, here and elsewhere. (Which is OK, there is no requirement that you read some nobody like me, but anyone who has will tell you that I am fairly zealous in speaking about truth and morality and sin and hell, etc.)

            In any event, what is most important, what is most charitable, is that in engaging others, that we do what is effective. It is all well and good to smash people between the eyes with a 2×4 of moral truth, but if instead of knocking some sense into them, it only drives them away, then that is an ineffective and destructive method. I am for whatever works. I am for the best arguments and apologetics that work, that are persuasive. That is why I have said before that merely quoting passages from the works of some 13th century theologian is not going to convince a world that no longer has any interest in listening to him.

            Merely issuing anathemas and syllibi of errors is not going to work (certainly they are not going to work any more than they were effective in stopping the steady march of modernity). We need new methods, more positive methods — a new Pentecost, a new springtime, a New Evangelization.

            Yes, the many negative “thou shall nots” of the Ten Commandments are still necessary, but as Jesus illustrated, what is more necessary and important are the positive commandments of “Love God and love one another.”

            We should be encouraging love. We should be encouraging REAL love, letting people know that they are not going to find it in someone’s back seat. Love by its very nature is fruitful. So if we promote true authentic love, such an approach will bear fruit in combatting the errors of modern human sexuality.

            (Speaking of real love, once upon a time I also knew personally Mary Beth Bonacci (but I lost touch with her years ago), who writes regular columns in Catholic newspapers and has written a book (due to be republished with an updated version soon), Real Love: The Ultimate Dating, Marriage and Sex Question Book. She writes very well, from a plain-speaking perspective that is, again, positive on the matter of chastity and human sexuality.)

  6. I’ve read that the divorce rate of cohabitors who marry is 80%. Recently I heard it was 90% after 3 years, 95% after 5 years. I’d like to be able to give people I know who are living together a scientific study that says what the rate really is to back up my words, but can’t find one. Do you know if one exists?

  7. IT’S THE LIBIDO!!!!!

    Or at a minimum, the libido is a very major part of the problem of cohabitation and divorce.

    When chaste courtship was the norm, a man and a woman had to develop a relationship that was not dominated by lust. They had to learn to control their selfish desires. They had to learn to communicate. They has to learn what non-sexual activities they found fulfilling.Because so many people (I’d even say most people) are subject to sexual compulsion, when chastity in courtship is disregarded, the relationship is based up satisfying lust. When lust wears off, as it always does, the relationship has no lasting foundation to sustain it.

    1. I think that’s some of it. There really is a TON of pressure on people now to have sex almost immediately in any relationship. It’s the expected thing to do and folks who don’t are looked at as weird and have a much harder time finding people who are interested in them. I would argue the last bit is a plus, as I wouldn’t want to be with anyone who was so put off by my abstinence that they would disregard me right off the bat. But unfortunately a lot of folks don’t think that way anymore. There really is an illness our culture right now.

  8. I know this just anecdotal evidence and can not be used to describe a larger pattern but I still want to throw it out there. My wife and I lived together before marriage and in doing so, we found a renewed sense of faith and have become regular participant in the life our parish, are raising a happy family in a happy, healthy and fulfilling marriage (that will be convalidated next yea.) All in all, life is good and cohabitation doesn’t seem to have messed that up.

    1. Yeah, but that is your own story. Overall the statistics on cohabitation is negative, so don’t be promoting sin!
      You said that by living together before marriage you “found a renewed sense of faith and have become regular participant in the life our parish.” Talk about being the DEVIL’S advocates. Did you confess your cohabitating sin before you got married? Please do me a favor, don’t celebrate your stupid sin and don’t be leading people into hell.

  9. For the longest time I thought that cohabitation wasn’t such a bad thing, then I converted to the Church, and I still couldn’t figure out why the Church took such a strong stance against the practice. I trusted that the Church knew what was best as She has had 2000 years of observing humanity in all of its great successes, and all of its horrible failures, and everything in between, so I was going to give Her the benefit of the doubt on this subject.

    Recently though, I read about a couple who was cohabiting. He cheated on her, then she in a fit of righteous rage demanded that he leave the apartment. He said no. He argued that his name was also on the lease, and he had been paying his half of the rent, and he had just as much right to live there as she did.

    And right as I read that post from this anonymous young woman asking for help, sicut fulgor de caelo cadentem (Luke 10:18) in one instant I knew and understood why the Church was against cohabitation.

    People would be better off following the teachings of the Church if they weren’t Catholic… Or better yet, they’d be better off following the teachings of the Church even if there is absolutely no God. Life is hard enough, why make it harder…?

  10. I cohabitated for a year before signing the official paperwork to declare our relationship a common-law marriage, and then six months later we convalidated that marriage in the Church. It caused so many problems with trust in our relationship. I felt used by him, uncertain of whether he loved me or loved the easy access to sex. Our sex life wasn’t very good because I couldn’t fully open up to him emotionally as well as physically. Took us years, and a lot of help from above, to get to the point in our lives where I find it just as easy to be emotionally naked in front of him as I did to be physically naked.

    Moving in with your girlfriend before you marry her says: I’m happy with you for the moment, and I really enjoy our time together, but I want an exit just in case.
    Marrying your girlfriend before you move in with her says: I just can’t imagine my life without you, and there’s nobody I’d rather be with that you.

    Cohabitation is playing poker cautiously because you aren’t sure you’ve got a hand that’s strong enough. Marrying a woman is putting all your chips in because you’ve got a sure bet.

    1. If I can jag off from your comments, cohabitating avoids the responsibility of love toward the other. “I don’t want to commit myself just in case” is really what is happening. Simply replacing cohabitation with marriage to me doesn’t fix the root problem. A thorough teaching on marriage and true love plus extensive marriage preparation with a priest willing to speak honestly to the couple is essential. It has taken my wife 26 years of constant retraining to bring me to the current state. A lot of growing up was required on my part to truly embrace the responsibility of my portion of our relationship. A patient wife and priest have been essential. If one does not understand that the first responsibility of love is a willingness to sacrifice for the good of the other should learn from my mistakes.

    2. Time to beat the “Women Are Responsible For This” drum again. My favorite thing to do!

      Good comments so far – I would say that most of us can identify with most of these situations, one way or another.

      With some exceptions, women used to be the victims of immoral behavior; now they invite it. We are just as likely to invite a man into our beds, or homes to live, as they are us. (What’s changed? Well, the definition or “moral” for one thing)

      The current number of women (and girls) in the workforce and the advent of contraception has produced a societal disaster that can’t be overcome. All we can do is pass on our morals and values to our kids and hope like h*** they listen…for their own sake’s.

  11. wonderfully powerful post and some very thoughtful , provocative comments & counter posts. Tip of the hat Mnsgr. for your deflecting the bait to get into an ad hominem situation. in total it Just proves to me again that Christ really knew what He was doing ; and His church is remarkable for the options She provides us for fruitful, happy living while on our earthly journey to Paradise, with Him.

  12. I want to add my 2 cents into this discussion because while I enjoy reading many of Msgr’s blogs, this one I am especially emotionally invested.

    I am currently married but cohabitated for years. I would like to think my backstory is different then what is presented here. I did not go into cohabitation for sex nor for trying out my future spouse. I went into one, and was the person that initiated it, because I saw myself as already married, already committed. But I did not get married in the Church till years later. I was a poor college student and met a wonderful girl. I first approached her as a caring friend then the relationship became a great deal deeper. Before I knew it I was both emotionally dependent on her as well as foundering in the rest of my life. I asked her to marry me a number of times and never got a reply. Then at one point in our relationship, I convinced her to let me move in since that was economically smart. If we are going to be together in the future, why not save money now. And so we did. We lived together for years and go to know each other’s families but did not marry then.

    I admit, my view of marriage was wrong. I valued marriage deeply and valued my then girlfriend now wife truly. But I was naive, immature, and uneducated on basics of life. But how do I fit into this general picture of cohabitation and how will my marriage proceed in the future?

    For me, cohabitation was my “going all in” because that was the only choice I had to be with this wonderful lady.

  13. Regardless of one’s position on living together, perhaps, before or instead of marriage, the fact is the America has become a cohabitation nation. Years of condemnation and negative research studies have had no effect on slowly the rate of cohabitation since most couples reject the guilt-laden, fear-mongering attempts to discourage their living arrangement.

    Instead, most cohabiters fear a failed marriage even more than the criticism, so opt to live together despite the odds. Now over 60% of all couples who marry will cohabit first and while the rate of marriage continues to decline, the rate of cohabitation will skyrocket since 75% of high school students believe living together is worthwhile and harmless.

    Additionally, many of the latest blogs and newspaper stories like this one that is critical of cohabiting are either using old research, in some cases going back years or the researchers are being quoted, out of context, to substantiate the reporter’s personal bias. Regardless of the results from the studies on cohabitation, please show me one couple who falls in love, decides to cohabit but as a result of a study on the downside of cohabiting, cancel their plans. Furthermore, if you consider the decades long trend… did you know that getting married increases the possibility of getting divorced to nearly 50%. However, when was the latest time you talked to someone who was planning a wedding but called it off due to the often-quoted, well known 50% failure rate of marriage?

    Like it or not, for many, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the new family role model and cohabitation has become a viable institution for over 12 million Americans. Furthermore, if you base your anti-cohabitation opinion on concerns about children and family stability… here’s an interesting little known fact. A child born to a cohabiting couple in Sweden is more likely to grow to adulthood in the same stable home with the same unmarried parents than a child born to a married couple in America.

    Cohabitation does not destabilize marriages or families… people who do not understand commitment do. The goal needs to be teaching the meaning of commitment and walking down the aisle does NOT mean commitment. Another recent study found that among newlyweds… the ones who DID walk down the aisle, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women had an affair within two years of the wedding. Obviously, for millions of newlyweds, the wedding did not increase their commitment.

    The point here is that while many promote marriage as the “gold standard” for what ails American families, keep in mind that ANYONE of legal age can marry. On the other hand, I think we need to be putting more of an emphasis on building COMMITTED relationships which is something that requires lots of hard work and emotional maturity and can happen WITHOUT marriage, as evidenced by the Swedes.

    Yes, let’s keep pushing for changes that range from city initiatives by the clergy to educate couples before marrying, to changes in tax laws or to elimination of no-fault divorce. At the same time, let’s work to develop a productive response to the millions of cohabiting couples who are far too often judged, condemned and ignored by society.

    I think we must “re-invent” and raise our expectations of cohabitation, and our attitudes toward those who decide to live together. There is a commonly held myth that marriage means you will “live happily ever-after.” However, there is no similar assumption of cohabitation other than “it won’t last” which helps create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    It’s time to take a serious and non-judgmental look at cohabitating couples of all ages and help them strengthen and sustain their relationship whether they ever plan to marry. Let’s consider finding a new approach to this reality.

      1. I t doesn’t work. Without getting as emotional as I did the last time I posted about my two failed marriages and as respectfully as I can, let me say that I did everything “by the book” in both marriages. Yet, they failed. The divorces weren’t cheap, either and they weren’t contested. What I learned is that a marriage license does, is give one an “illusion of security”. If the other spouse is not committed, NO piece of paper or ceremony can force or impose committment. I work in the court system and every day I see the real world of marriage as it is now. I see the men disappearing to other states or taking job that pay in cash so they can avoid paying child support. Likewise I see the mothers spending their child support money on everyhting, but their children or getting paid in cash form their exes and then saying they didn’t pay. Or, when I worked in domestic violence court, I heard the stories of the battered wives who stayed and dropped charges because they had no skills or resources to leave or care for their children. They traded physical safety for economic security.
        A lawyer I know who represents accused murders did ONE divorce and said never again. This is WHY cohabitation is attractive. Several of the female deputies I work with who are married, lived with their spouses for a number of years before marrying and all of them told me that they wouldn’t even consider marrying anyone without cohabiting, based on their experiences both in the court house and on the street. As one said to me, a divorce only prolongs the legal agony.
        The other thing they told me they did was run a backgorund check on prospective boyfriends and spouses.
        For the rest of us, “Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer chances”. There ARE no gurantees.

  14. Good article. I have seen over the last 30+ years the damage that cohabitation has done to the people involved. The one who gets hurt the most is the women, in my experience. I have seen this pattern over and over in the course of these years of where the couple lives together, usually for a long time, the woman supports the guy who is either: trying to figure out what to do with his life, in grad. school, medical school, law school or working toward his career. Then when he completes the above, he is gone, split. The women is left behind in my experience have been devastated. She then figures out that she is getting on in years and wants to start a family and starts to look for a mate. The men seem to come out of it better shape for the most part.
    These break-ups are NOT easy.
    No, I have not conducted a research project on this with statistical methods, but this is what I have observed. The number of couples I am talking about is not a small number, includes family, friends, coworkers and/or the children of the above. I have seen much sadness come out of these situations.
    Even more sad is the number of Catholics that have bought into this. I am not sure what the Church can do to stem this tide.

  15. Msgr, as an unmarried twenty something I find posts like this and the statistics in them depressing. Tomorrow is only Wednesday I know, but can you post one of your light-hearted ones to make up for it?

  16. There is a great amount of sweeping generalizations in this article, in the video, and in the comments listed above. Not all people cohabitate “in the name of sex, options, and selfishness”. My boyfriend and I have been living together for almost a year, and it is NOT out of convenience, selfishness, lust, fear of commitment, or any of those things. We both have every intention of getting married. We are completely committed to eachother and we are extremely happy! I realize that coabitation is a sin and morally unaccepable in the Catholic faith, but don’t assume every couple is destined to fail if they live together before marriage. Have you ever thought that maybe the couple is living together because they love eachother and want to spend as much time as they can together? Have you ever thought a couple is having sex because they actually love eachother? Not all of these couples are unfaithful, cheap, and selfish. My future husband and I truly want the best for eachother, and we want one another to be happy. Maybe we are just an exception to the statistics, but I have seen people around me living the same way as I do and are just as happy. I do the best I can everyday to improve myself with my faith, family, fitness, freedom, following, friendship, and fun. My boyfriend does the same, we encourage eachother and build eachother up to reach our full potential. I do not understand how I am living in sin and going to hell for living with my boyfriend when I’m doing everything i can to be my best and serve others by helping them achieve their best, too. My point = I believe there are genuinely good hearted people that cohabitate and eventually marry and live happy, blessed lives.

    1. You say I realize that coabitation is a sin and morally unaccepable in the Catholic faith, Ok then why do it? All your explanations about love do not hold since love does not rejoice in what is wrong, it rejoices in the truth.

      You say but don’t assume every couple is destined to fail if they live together before marriage. Just reporting the data

  17. Well, one thing seems equally true of both the NYT and this blog, if it’s a matter of the groin, it gets attention in the comments!!

    My newly acquired spiritual litmus test is ‘as my rage approaches 1 at reading an article by Msgr. Pope, its likelihood to be true also approaches 1’. Because the flesh makes war against the spirit.

    As to the lively debate between Msgr, Bender, and Daniel, I think you’re both preaching the same truth? I get the logic of ‘meet them where they are’, Jesus certainly does this. But this cannot be at the expense of sacrificing the truth. The ideals are the ideals, no matter how inconvenient they are to one’s current situation in life (this coming from a fornicator who was [very] unexpectedly drawn back into life). I can tell you certainly of one thing, a watered down form of the truth would not have been nearly as persuasive in calling me home as a hard dose of reality. In all things charity. My guess would be that Msgr would tailor his pastoral approach differently working with someone one on one, but in the context of preaching the Truth to the world through this blog, I would be confused if it wasn’t the straight goods.

  18. We know that God wills that a man and a woman get married, cleave together and become one flesh, and in this way they will form a family, a stable environment into which children will be welcomed. I have always believed that God established marriage for the benefit of children. If the Church believes this is part of the Good News that Jesus wants us to know, then the Church must preach it in season and out, whether people believe it or not. The world is telling young people that cohabitation is fine, and for many young people, that is “good news”. Abortion and birth control are what make cohabitation feasible for many and the sad truth is, the children who are born to single mothers are often liable to suffer abuse and even if they don’t, they are at a disadvantage. Sure, we can try to find ways to make this teaching palatable, but even if we don’t succeed we still have to stand firm in the truth.

  19. During a young adults bible study at my parish, our associate pastor mentioned the Rutgers study. One thing I remembered he mentioned was the attitude that develops for cohabiting couples is “I can leave anytime.” Even if the couple marries, that attitude remains.

  20. Excellent article. But I have a question concerning the New Testament condemnations of fornication: where did Msgr Pope find his excerpts in the Bible? What translation did he use?
    A few months ago, a friend asked me to find where in the Bible there is any condemnation of living together prior to marriage. I said that I’d easily find citations from NT which condemned fornication. But guess what? I could NOT find any such references when I consulted my New American Bible, which is the standard translation preferred by the Church for the Lectionary. In all cases where I expected to come across the word fornication, I could not find that word. instead, a word such as “immorality” was substituted. The word immorality can include all kinds of things (e.g. social immorality could include failure to feed the poor). But the word fornication is very specific: it is also very absent from NAB.
    The outcome is clear: even Catholics who go to Mass on Sunday will never hear specific condemnation of pre-marital sex (using the specific word fornication) in the readings from scripture.
    So the big questions in my mind are: who gave authorization to remove the word “fornication” from the NAB? And who can restore the word to its rightful place in the Lectionary?

  21. Msgr Pope,

    Wow! What a rich and informative discourse here! Thank you for your sage insights.

    My wife and I are speaking to 20 engaged couples, most cohabitating, at our parish’s Engaged Couples Conference soon. I will draw on many points from your post, and commentary from some of the others.

    What are the most important questions we can pose to them for private discussion or even small group, for the 2 hrs we have them? What can we realistically accomplish in such a short time? What do we want them walking out of there remembering and thinking about?

    God bless.


  22. Last month NPR had an article updating many of the secular facts about living together before marriage:

    “The study found those who were engaged and living together before the wedding were about as likely to have marriages that lasted 15 years as couples who hadn’t lived together.”

    The key difference being that the couples in the NPR study were already committed to each other (like some of the commenters here), not living together for purely convenience.

  23. Once again it the blame is being placed wrongly. “No, there is something basically wrong with us”. Yes, it is called immaturity. We try to look to things through the eyes of statistics, but it skew the reality because we inflict causality. As a Catholic I am increasingly frustrated at this need to sell morality.
    We tell young people, don’t shack up because it is a cause of divorce. No, it is not. We tell young couples that you must use NFP because contraception objectifies the other. No, it does not. We arm the masses with statistics and we send them into battle with the evil ‘other side’. But then they face reality and everything falls apart. Because, guess what? You can objectify someone while using NFP and you can get divorced after living chastely and then getting married. That was never really the problem. And changing our behavior to fit the statistics was never really the answer.
    And seriously? “though reduced in numbers, she will remain, by God’s promise and we shall endure, even this.” Our goal: endure (everyone who isn’t in the ‘faithful remnant’ club) Oh, I thought that we were meant to be Love. I think that at this point in history, that means to look with a critical eye and an open heart at the idea that perhaps our interpertation of what the Church is saying is not as pure as we think it is.

  24. In a Carmel, California restaurant my Yale-educated son and Navy fighter pilot opined that you ought to live with a girl before marriage to determine if you were compatible and I thought to myself that to make really, really stupid decisions you need a really, really “good” education.

  25. Thank you, Father. It all needs to be said. We facilitate marriage preparation for our diocese and the pain is real for these couples, as you know. They can see how and where they have failed, but feel powerless to change anything “before the wedding”. They think that actually making the motions of entering into a sacramental marriage will make things easier, and it surely will not, and more courage than ever will be required in the years to come. I’m sure you know too, that they should have heard the Truth before we told them, from their pastors, their Catholic school teachers, the Catholic media, and from their parents, who were also misled decades ago. I could go on and on, but I do want to tell you THANK YOU. If only we had more courageous priests and bishops, who really did care for the flock of Christ.

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