Four Factors That Fuel the Crisis in Marriage and Family

By Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil (Flickr)  Licensed under  CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
By Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil (Flickr) Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Many of you are aware that there is an Extraordinary Synod planned in Rome on the family.   There is surely no hiding the fact that the family is in real crisis, at least in the modern Western World, if not throughout many other parts as well. We do well to ponder the reasons and roots of this crisis, and develop strategies to begin to address the many problems.

At the recent Bishops Conference Meeting here in America, Cardinal Sean O’Malley made some remarks that I would like to draw upon, even as I make some remarks of my own. Basing my reflections on the Cardinal’s remarks, it would seem that there are at least four fundamental factors that contribute to our current difficulties regarding marriage and family. Lets look at each of them in turn, even if briefly and also interweave the Cardinals remarks.

I. Family history –  Two critical factors came together very difficult years of the late 1960s which together have had a very destructive effect on Holy Matrimony and the family.

The sexual revolution which began in the late 1950s picked up steam into the 60s and went boldly public in the year 1968, with the so-called “Summer of Love” in places like Haight Ashbury Park in San Francisco, and on many other college campuses and similar places.  At that time there were many who boldly shed any pretense of shame or guilt regarding open sexual sin and unchastity. What people used to whisper about as something shocking, was now boldly celebrated by increasing numbers in the culture.

The following year, in 1969 the first no-fault divorce laws began to be passed. Divorce, which until that time had been a difficult and lengthy process in America, now become something that could be accomplished in a matter of weeks.

These two very crucial events began a process which rather dramatically and quickly eroded Matrimony and and the family, such that we are now into the second, and in some cases, third generation of younger people, who have never known a world is stable marriages, and two-parent families. Large numbers of young people have never experienced living with both their father and mother for the duration of their formative years. More and more of them have no real models of faithful, stable, traditional marriages to look to. Is very clear, that without these sorts of models, even young people who want to embrace traditional marriage, struggle to do so, lacking any experience how exactly is done.

For all the Church’s attempts at marriage preparation, and pre-Cana classes, without strong family models it is hard to apply whatever might be learned in such classes and formation.

Cardinal O’Malley says, Half of the children born to that demographic [working class families] are born out of wedlock,” a statistic that Cardinal O’Malley said would have been “inconceivable” a few decades ago. [1]

Indeed, in the African American community which I have largely served, in 1961 (the year of my birth) 80% of Black children were raised in two-parent families, Today that number is 20%. The statistics in the wider culture, as noted, are not much better and continue to drop. The change is nothing short of astonishing.

All of this leads to a dynamic of family history and personal experience that are not promising for traditional Marriage or the family.

II. Fornication –  In the current cultural setting, following the sexual revolution that came out in the open in 1968, premarital sex, and cohabitation, have become epidemic. This has had a number of deleterious effects on Holy Matrimony and the family.

In the first place it takes away one of the stronger incentives to marriage that existed in the past, namely the desire of sexual intimacy and pleasure. Marriage in the culture of that time provided a context in which sexual intimacy was not only considered legitimate, but also honored and esteemed. Now, with the explosion of promiscuity and with such behavior no longer shunned, Marriage looses one of its draws. Most young people can obtain the sex they desire without the once demanded admission requirements.

Secondly a whole host of social ills accompanies fornication, and cohabitation (once called “shacking up” or living in sin). And these social evils and ills negatively impact Holy Matrimony.

Abortion has exploded on the scene. And whereas in the past a child conceived before marriage would move the couple to the sacred altar, now recourse to abortion, and even more viciously the expectation by men that women should “rid” them of the problem by abortion is the prevailing attitude.

AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, also make people less desirable as marriage partners.

And of course teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, etc, make many women less desirable for or prone to marriage and further the expectation that men should be able to move about sexually without commitment or responsibility.

Cohabitation also “permits” couples to play house, and the unwritten rule is that they can come as go as they please with little social repercussion to them.

Cardinal O’Malley says, The whole notion of family is so undercut by the cohabitation mentality, and these social trends are having a tremendous impact on the working-class communities who were once the backbone of the Church…This shift away from the bearing of children within wedlock is the “biggest threat to marriage. [2]

God lists fornication as among the sins that exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven (e.g. Eph 5:3-9; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, inter al). Given the dreadful impact fornication has on Holy Matrimony and the Family, one can see why God takes sins of these sorts seriously. Of course the ones who pay the price for all this adult sexual misconduct, are children.

God  links chastity to respect for Marriage, and promiscuity He regards as a dishonoring of Marriage: Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers  (Heb 13:4).

III. Finances – In this matter Cardinal O’Malley says succinctly: Part of the problems are economic…Our educational system is so expensive, people graduate from college or graduate school facing huge debts. If you have a $150,000 debt when you graduate law school, are you going to marry a girl that has a $130,000 debt and start off your marriage with over a quarter-million dollars’ debt? So people are postponing marriage – are postponing a decision to go into the seminary or religious life – because they’re saddled under this tremendous debts which former generations didn’t have. [3]

We have discussed and debated on this blog before the notion that college is overrated and obscenely expensive. And for all the talk from the social liberals who dominate faculties and administration in these colleges, they seldom lift a finger to cut the costs of their overrated product. Instead they scold us for not caring enough about the poor and their burdens, while they live quite well off the future income of their students who are increasingly too poor to marry or raise children.

Almost no one among those who lecture us about justice will talk about this.

Student debt is becoming a huge factor in postponing marriage and also vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

IV. Formation struggles – Cardinal O’Malley  says the Church needs “better marriage preparation” and outreach to help young people recover an understanding of marriage. He says the Church needs to “catechize our young people and instill in them a sense of vocation, and also to help them understand what courtship is about.”

He adds that this becomes even more important for: In combination with the misunderstanding of marriage, lack of attendance at Mass, and the shortcomings in the catechesis of young people, the Church also faces many challenges posed by the secularization of the culture. [4]

Indeed, the teachings of the Church on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony have been poorly conveyed to God’s people. And for many  people, what they do hear unintelligible. For example they may well hear: Marriage is forever, but if it doesn’t work out for you we will get you annulment, and remember, an annulment is NOT a divorce! Or again they may hear that even though Protestants can get married while skydiving with a Justice of the Peace, and it valid, if a Catholic gets married outside the Church, it is invalid. Etc…

People struggle to figure all this out. And while there ARE answers to these puzzlements, they remain difficult obstacles in speaking coherently to people who are poorly catechized and more influenced by the secular world than the Church in this regard.

A chief place for us to begin rebuilding the case for traditional Marriage is resetting the premise of the discussion. Marriage is not first and foremost about what is best and most pleasing to the adults in the equation. Marriage is about children and what is best for them. Marriage is not about the rights of adults per se, it is about what is justly due to children.

Marriage takes its structure and mission as an institution based on the fact that every child deserves and has a birthright to be raised by by a father and mother, who have committed themselves to a stable and loving union, so as to give their child a  stable an loving upbringing under the formative influence of both a male and female, that is their own parents.

This, it seems is where we must begin. More on this here: Getting the Marriage Conversation Right. Other things are surely required, but here is a good place to start, right where the modern secular premise goes 180° wrong.

And thus, in these four fundamental factors a perfect storm begins to brew that has severely damaged the understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the Institution of Traditional Marriage. Other factors also influence, but as we prepare to the Extraordinary Synod, Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks help frame a discussion of the problem and a way forward.

Later we can also discuss some of the questions put forward in the working document of the Synod.

119 Replies to “Four Factors That Fuel the Crisis in Marriage and Family”

  1. I would think number 0. (if there was a Roman zero!) would be Contraception and its effects.

      1. And let us not forget that “the pill” is considered a carcinogen (cancer-causing). It is taboo to discuss this, even in the medical field, because this carcinogen has become what our disordered culture considers a vital element of life (like water), because sexual freedom is viewed also as a vital element for life. The thought of eliminating it from our diet is now inconceivable. However, “the pill,” as well as surgical sterilizations, are essentially the weapons of women and men at war with their own bodies, at war with their very nature, at war with their offspring. The root, certainly, is sexual emancipation from the design of the Creator. I think that it has brought on such a darkness in the form of spiritual blindness that the harm to the physiological, psychological, and spiritual nature of the human person cannot be even be discerned anymore, even when the evidence is plainly apparent.

    1. If the Catholic Bishops would enforce cannon 1692 the horrible divorce rate of Catholics would slow.

      1. I attended a talk by George Weigel on the DePauw University campus a few years ago. He spoke about a recent publication of his, “The Cube and the Cathedral.” When asked what he thought was the single-most influential invention of the 20th century, he replied “The Pill.”

        1. I agree that the pill is a major problem. But it is very disconcerting that Cardinal O’Malley did not list it as one of the four major factors. I hate to say this, but I honestly believe that the Church beyond the Vatican (i.e., at the Diocesan level) does not seriously believe contraception to be a moral or societal problem.

          When I first saw the headline of this article re: the four factors, I immediately thought of birth control, the feminist movement (e.g., Mom’s no longer being at home as their children grow up), and no fault divorce. As I think about it now, I believe TV and the media are forming the minds of young people instead of this being done in the past at the family level). I’d probably have to throw the impact of pornography in there somewhere b/c it seems to be becoming an increasing destructive force in families and the treatment of women as a source for personal satisfaction rather temple of the Holy Spirit and a great gift from God.

    2. Your answer seems right on and; since I agree ,this reply most likely wont get published.So many of the folks at the top have no idea what’s really underneath the mountain. Lack of morals according to Thomas Jefferson( who didn’t seem to have many in his personal life) is what will destroy a country, a civilization, or any form of true religion.It is the foremost cause of the world’s problems.Lack of Love of God, or little love of neighbor and too much LOVE FOR ME…always ends om a a bad note in history.There is no need to talk theology if you see the forest for the trees.

  2. Thanks for a great article, Msgr. Pope.
    A great book on matrimony is one called Magnum Mysterium/The /Sacrament of Matrimony,
    by Fr. Mark Pilon. I think it would be a good book for engaged and married couples.

    God bless!

  3. The primary reason for the crisis is that Jesus and the Church are no longer a priority in the majority of people’s lives. I go to a half filled Church on Sunday with mostly the older generation and a handful of younger couples with kids. It is just not a priority for the majority and our society as a whole is going down the tubes because of it.

  4. It’s so easy to be sucked into the “new” revolution of freedom and selfish ambition, heck, Adam and Eve did it. So many evils, so little time… our Hope is God, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Every seemingly endless variety of evil weighs us down, One Hope lifts us up from all of this.

  5. I agree with everything here, would also add that the younger generations (millennials) are growing up with very selfish, self-centered, narcissist outlooks on life. They want instant gratification without responsibilities, and marriage & kids are the last thing they are seeking.

    1. YES, and the current group-think laden, sheltered, reclusive youth programs in the church are only exacerbating those problems

    2. Just like their parents/grandparents (the Boomers and Jonesers). This is not going to end well
      (FYI, I define boomers as people born between 1946 and 1957, Jonesers born between 1958 and 1963. 1946=end of WWII, 1957=peak number of people born during the boom. 1963=Kennedy assassination.)

      1. I agree. And what makes it even worse is that couples that do marry are having smaller families (typically two kids at most). These kids get spoiled by parents and grandparents with gifts and other things b/c available monies now have to be split only between two kids instead of five or six or more children as in the past. Even worse, when kids have two sets of parents due to divorce, they get even more spoiled and self focused.

  6. Great points. Also, be aware that our so called “youth ministry” in the Catholic Church is no ministry; it is a social group that plays games, adores in the chapel, talks superficially about sacraments and works-based worship, and everything under the social sun EXCEPT learn the GOSPEL and — as you explained — learn about relationships, married and daily life, respect for authority, communication and LEADERSHIP. When I brought this to attention of our pastor , he and his council pets looked at me like I was a complete nut job. They are fully convinced that their “youth ministry” is serving the kingdom. They are SO OUT OF TOUCH with the reality explained in the blog above it is SHOCKING. That’s why I shake my head when I hear Pope Francis waxing philosophical about how young people in the church need to evangelize. With what?? They can’t give what they don’t have ! They don’t even know the basics of their faith and “Life Teen” (telling name) is NOT improving their dire situation. Wake up Catholic leaders! You’re failing are young people! We need lay leaders who are TRUE MINISTERS who can teach young people THE GOSPEL or the conditions stated in this blog are NEVER going to change.

    1. Perhaps you are describing the situation in your own locality; fine. But that’s hardly the reality of youth ministry in the Church. Sure, there are lots of challenges, but many of us are doing a great job of calling kids on to discipleship to Jesus Christ. Even looking at your own list: are you telling me that teenagers going to EUCHARISTIC ADORATION is somehow a negative? But almost all of the youth ministers that I know 1) have degrees in theology and catechetics from Steubenville and therefore know the faith like the back of their hands, 2) know that making disciples is the heart of evangelization, 3) are calling kids to true faith in Jesus Christ, to authentic chastity and charity, to a deeper knowledge of Christ, and to service, and 4) genuinely love the youth of today sacrificially, and often live lives of radical poverty in order to spread the gospel, and 5) wear themselves thin in the service of the gospel.

      Guess what, it takes real guts to serve God with the youth of the Church today. There is a whole culture that is fighting against us, generations of parents who don’t know their faith and therefore can’t pass it on, and add to that all the difficulties that have always been inherent in working with adolescent. It’s a small wonder that kids don’t know their faith. Their parents never bothered to pass it on to them, and the 2 hours a week of LifeTeen that they go to is seen as an added burden. But, don’t blame it on the youth ministers – they’re doing the best that they can to fix the holes caused by a lack of family catechesis.

      The reason why it’s called “Life Teen” (and, I agree, it is a telling name) is because it tries to initiate TEENs into the LIFE of grace as found in Jesus Christ. Is it perfect? No. Could it use improvement? Of course. But, perhaps instead of crying foul to your pastor and pastoral council, you could join the fight to evangelize our teens and volunteer for your youth group’s core team.

      1. I agree with both you and Mark. OSV would not have done an article on what he describes were it not actually a problem.

        Youth Ministry is important. But not all Youth Ministry is equal. Teenagers going to Eucharistic Adoration is NEVER a negative. You want “counter-cultural”? That’s counter-cultural. The Eucharist– the Real Presence– is right at the center of the conversation that we’re not having, that the larger culture is incapable of having: the right relationship between matter and spirit. And it does take guts born and nurtured by humility. A solid prayer life is a good place to start. Moreover, given that we can’t solve all of the problems of any parish ministry on our own, this is where we get back to basics: letting Him speak.

        But it’s also true that in some Youth Ministries, what’s on offer in the parish isn’t enough, and not everybody feels drawn to most Youth Ministry’s emphasis on praise-and-worship music and the parish “Teen Mass.” This is not to say that they aren’t trying and aren’t sincere or should be denigrated for their efforts. But there needs to be some overhaul or redirection, if there isn’t already. There are also teens who feel frustrated that they are being denied the Church’s intellectual and musical tradition, because the guidelines for Youth Ministry often boils down to “adults who think they’re being cool telling young people what they ought to want.” Catholicism doesn’t need to be made “cool”; it just has to be truly itself.

        Moreover, I also question why we think we don’t have to heed the Church’s direction regarding music at Mass, and why we think it’s all about “taste.” There is something about learning the music the Church gives us, and why she gives it to us: it’s about reflecting and entering into the spiritual reality of the Mass and learning to think and live liturgically. It may not seem to us easy to “like,” if we’re not used to it, and if we have not yet been given that grace, but as with any fostering of cultural understanding, effort has to go both ways (why do we keep talking about “tolerance” and “respect for other cultures,” but the culture that often gets dissed among Catholics is the Latin Rite’s own tradition?). It’s also not necessarily uncharitable to note that there is indeed a place for praise-and-worship music in the Church, but to question if Mass is the appropriate place for it.

        Their parents never bothered to pass it on to them, and the 2 hours a week of LifeTeen that they go to is seen as an added burden. But, don’t blame it on the youth ministers – they’re doing the best that they can to fix the holes caused by a lack of family catechesis.

        Agreed. And here’s one of the reasons for that, which youth ministries can help alleviate, or make worse, though what I do think will help stop that tendency dead in its tracks is Eucharistic Adoration and well-formed youth leaders: that culture that you describe that is adamant in fighting us at every turn and on every level is one that separates faith from reason, when Catholicism does not. A lot of these parents who are uncatechized, who have not bothered to pass on the faith, have imbibed this assumption wholesale.

      2. The youth programs are horrid. If not for Holy Hour, they would be a total waste of time. The children need to learn the Catechism first. The Baltimore Catechism, although not perfect…is the most effective. Our children have a six second attention timespan…the current “manuals” do not work. .. They didn’t work when I was a teen either. They need to know, from third grade on, what the church teaches. They need to know that to Pick and choose is heresy. The parents cannot be blamed because as parents, we were entrusted to learn our Catechism from the Church CCD programs and we didn’t and we cannot teach what we do not know. The current CCD programs do not teach Catechism either. I just got into a lengthy discussion with a newly confirmed teen about why Gay marriage is incorrect…why should that even be an issue with a newly confirmed? All along he should have been learning that marriage is a true though pale reflection of the Holy Trinity…but yet he wanted to argue and call me a hater because I do not support anything other than God’s plan for marriage. If the children are taught the Faith and what we believe, the questions of why we believe will come into the discussion naturally…I think by bringing back the basics of the Baltimore Catechism and combine it with authentic church history (not public school world history) along with apologetics for the older teens, and of course Holy Hour…we would have a real program. But we don’t and I suspect much of it is intentional. Instead of starting CCD with a decade of the Rosary, the instructors are teaching the children to do a “centering prayer”…???? What ever happened to Jesus as the center, with Mary as our mother and intercessor? Our local church has attempted to solve this problem by handing the teaching over to the parents…however the only problem with this is that they tripled the workload, requiring us to teach a class, homework is assigned weekly, attend a group session with them once a month, and then another hour session with them on Tuesday evenings. This way when we fail, and we will fail because we have a million other things in our lives as well…they can blame us. Again, I cannot help but wonder if it is intentional because it is just that bad.

  7. In the 70’s, when I got divorced the sexual revolution was well underway. Free and easy sex was going to solve all the worlds problems. “Make love, not war” because we knew self control (we called it repression) made one neurotic and violent. Today it amazes me that a world view that has been so thoroughly disproven is still so widely believed. I supose it is because people don’t want to excercise self control. Not just in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but in all cultures around the world, people have realized that the primary purpose for marriage is to produce children. Sex is good because it provides some glue that helps to hold the couple together to raise their children. I was child day care provider for many years. I have seen first hand the harm the “new morality”does to children. Let’s pray and work to wake people up.

    1. If sex was the glue that held marriages together; there would be no divorce. God’s Grace and His Wisdom hold marraiges together – when the couples serve God.

      1. I believe Dianne said sex provides some glue that helps to hold the couple together. I believe this is absolutely true and in line with Church Teaching (i.e., the procreative and unitive aspects of sex).

  8. Thank you for this post, Monsignor. Marriage is the great prize in the culture wars, it’s what the fighting’s all about, the high ground that must be taken, and I imagine Catholic priests in the front lines tending to the wounded.

    (Actually, 1967 was the Summer of Love, as in the song Wear Flowers in Your Hair. The summer of 1968 saw not “love” but the riots in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention.)

    1. Nineteen Sixty-Eight also saw Humanae Vitae. How we laughed at it then — I particularly remember a graphic from the Mad Magazine of my youth — and how tragically its predictions have come to pass since.

  9. Monsignor, I think you are over-reaching when you say marriage is primarily about the kids and not the adults. That is flatly contradicted by Pius XI in Casti Connubii §24:

    “This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.”

    It is self-defeating, I think, to suppose that a couple not sincerely engaged toward a non-abusive relationship with each other will fix everything if they focus on the child. That is like saying promiscuous fornicators will fix everything if they just marry. Such seems to make achieving the good more important than the internal transformation that makes such a choice meritorious, or on that which perfects the agent in virtue. So I think the spousal focus needs to remain primarily on each other, 100% of the time. Kids should always and necessarily be secondary to that relationship, for no vows were made to them, and indeed they are ontologically posterior. No vows are made to parents, either, but we have a Commandment to respect them. We have no Commandment to revolve the world around kids in marriage, but 2 Commandments to focus on our spouses with exclusiveness.

    1. Marriage takes its structure on account of what is best for children. This does not deny the teachings that you were quoting, neither do I deny that there are other ends in marriage. Thus, I think it is you who overreact, by absolutizing my writing, and trying to school me in the writings of recent posts. I use qualifiers such as primarily, and per se for a reason, and you are overreacting by suggesting that somehow I am overreacting, I am not. It remains true that marriage has its structure based on what is what is best for children. There is no intrinsic reason that human beings should form stable relationships that bind them by vow for life if it is just about two adults being happy or fulfilled. The stable and heterosexual commands of marriage point to the work of marriage which is, as an institution, oriented to the bearing of children.

      1. Marriage is for family- … when a man and woman give themselves totally to each other, it’s for the good of themselves and any children that may, or may not, come from this union, but none the less it’s still family-

      2. Thanks for the feedback, Monsignor, and I apologize for my tone, which is often unduly harsh. While I work on that, however, I still think the brethren should sharpen each other before the enemy sharpens us.

        My only rebuttal, and a minor one, is that children are volitionally separable from the relationship, but not volitionally inseparable. We cannot will or reason their coming-to-be, and so we cannot rationally plan any relationship around their coming-to-be per se, since that’s out of our control. On the contrary, should we emphasize forming an adult relationship explicitly for the child, IVF loses its dehumanizing character, for one of the grave offenses of IVF is inviting a 3rd party into the dignified adult relationship that stands on its own. I think you and I agree that children are the rational end of marriage, but my point is that we can’t really choose the end, we can only choose the attempts, and the attempts are what are celebrated as sacrament, not the births.

        1. I appreciate your point on IVF. Unfortunately, my wife and I have been unable to conceive and our moral objections to IVF and other procedures have left us childless after over 3 years. It’s unfortunate that we sometimes feel like second class Catholics for this but I am certain that it not the intention of the Church.

          1. Jeff, there is no reason or need for you and your wife to think of yourself as second-class Catholics. The Church doesn’t. I understand the hurt that infertile couples can feel, and that it hurts terribly.

            But there’s an opportunity for sanctity here re the Church’s condemnation of IVF: I think we really do need to regain and re-cultivate a sense of detachment (one that I would argue is actually essential in any sense that we have in cultivating the Culture of Life): a child is a gift. And in the end, they are God’s children, not “our” children. We seem to place a lot of emphasis in our culture on having our “own” (read: biological) kids. Well, St. Joseph didn’t have his “own” kids, and he was as “real” a father as any. This sense of detachment is crucial even when we have our “own” kids, anyway– how many parents do we know have next to no sense of what their child’s best interests truly are (not least because they can’t tell the difference between Caritas and sentimentality when they talk about “love”)?

            Maybe the Lord wants you to adopt? And fertility can be a funny thing: some people adopt, thinking themselves infertile, then they find out that they’re pregnant. So whatever the Lord means for you is whatever He means for you.

    2. Henry: You need to respect God’s desire for Godly offspring (Malachi 2). Surely parents must cooperate together in humble, loving service to one another and to their children if such offspring are to become real.

      Many, many former Catholics have taught the priority of children in marriage, as God-Himself has made clear. Pope Pius XII codified this longstanding dogma in His Decree recorded in Denzinger 2295.

      Vatican II has tried to worm its way around the heresy of co-equal goods of children and spouses! Children will always lose-out when their priority is set-aside for their parents’ desires/”needs”. Just ask Adam Lanza, Kurt Cobain, etc.

      1. Gregory, I see heroin use not as a legitimate spousal need, but as an immoral act of body-self dualism, which I think harmed Cobain’s marriage and himself necessarily and primarily before it hurt his daughter. I think the majority of U.S. kids are well cared for, by parents who detest each other. Why not adjust this maleficent and damaging trend? The Church is not, to invite a crude analogy, some kind of offspring-factory. Christ suffered, died, and resurrected to redeem Judas, whether anyone would be baptized after that event or not. The relationship is one of dignity and personal volition; children are necessarily second in ontological and phenomenological priority, even if they constitute the primary rational end.

        1. I used Kurt and Adam as modern examples of children whose primacy was set-aside for their parents’ divorces. It is said they both decreased in stature after their parents’ family-abortion. The Longevity Project records that such children-of-divorce have lives shortened–on-average–by 5 yrs; husbands by 10 yrs., wives by 4 yrs.
          Henry you act as-though God’s (Malachi 2) stated-preference vs. 2500 yrs. of ignoring His preference is moot?
          The only way to craft Godly offspring is by the sweat of one’s brow and with the love between a couple working as one. Oh “Yes!”–the Cross is a necessary tool toward fashioning Godly offspring–by parental example! Both Kurt and Adam lost their biological fathers’ example/instruction/relationship/protection and suffered immediately/greatly for their losses.
          Cardinal O’Malley–and most-all clergy–ignore the Marital Commandment (1 Cor. 7:10-11) accepting civil divorce, remarriage, annulments, and blended families. Children want/need their biological families–God says He does too (Mal. 2)–not some artificial mockery created by divorce/remarriage. Where is the Church’s (Henry: ‘parents who detest each other’) “reconciliation ministry” commanded in 1 Cor.?
          I’m so very tired of so-called “Catholics” who ignore God’s stated preferences and laws of over 2500 years ago! He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow–regardless of human society and its customs! Moreover: He is Lord; not man.

          1. Kurt Cobain died married. He didn’t divorce. Since you, therefore, can appreciate the facility of confusing contemporary factoids, I’m sure you’ll allow the Pope to reference a catechism he personally remembered, without naming it explicitly. Such is standard practice in encyclicals. The link you provided is interesting, but in the end, the authors fiercely disagree with the interpretation because they desperately need to. The Pope ha(s) no such need to lean on one side of the distinction, because the truth is the truth: kids are the crown, which means the adults are the head of hair. As modern seminarians undergo a basic science and math curriculum to be world-literate, I think seminarians should also earn a minor in psychology/counseling, so that they can learn how important non-abuse is for every relationship. Important not just in a spiritual or moral sense, but important even for atheists: that non-abuse is the bedrock of all happiness, God being the bedrock of all meaning (which underlies happiness).

    3. Apparently there is either a typo, a corruption of text, a misguided derivation, or? of Pope Pius XI’s assertion regarding paragraph 24 of Casti Connubii:;wap2 !
      The arguments and confusion, however, are dispelled by Pope Pius XII’s clarification in his Decree of the Holy See of April 01, 1944, codified in Denzinger 2295–curiously-quoted in the above link!
      So–Henry Bowers–your challenge to Msgr. Pope is moot and based-upon a heresy per Denzinger 2295.

  10. And the German bishops, and possibly the Vatican, want to further destroy marriage by possibly recognizing second “marriages” and allowing them to receive Holy Communion?

    God help us.

    1. So for us sinners, who got called to The Lord AFTER our second or maybe third Marriage should not be forgiven of our sins? No longer to be called to Gods table, are we forever Dammed? Can anyone reading this cast the first stone? What is The Lord looking for? The righteous or the sinners?

      1. Well of course you’re answering Dale’s extremity with your own extremity here. There are German bishops who are in revolt in this matter and have departed from Church teaching, a teaching that is not going to change. That said, Phil you are not in the absolutely excluded category you claim, the Church does not consign these titles to you. Seek and annulment and go through the process, whatever the final result no one is calling you damned. Lets avoid the histrionics and get to work.

        1. Msgr. Pope, the phoney annulment factories run by the US bishops, rubber-stamping invalid invalidations, are fueling Catholic divorce, which then fuels all the social ills you just condemned. The cause of all the social ills you listed are that priests are not preaching against them, because the bishops don’t want them to.

  11. I have focused on bioethics in marriage and family in doing my licentiate and doctorate, and I have to say I agree with everything here.

    One of the difficulties we face, I think, is that there has been a long, patient, and very crafty attack on marriage and family. The godless secular attack on marriage began in a concerted way in the 19th century with the increasing emergence of civil marriages and easing of divorce particularly in Europe (necessitating the encyclical Arcanum in 1880), the growth in acceptance of birth control (necessitating Casti Connubii in 1930), the development of medical/chemical birth control in the late 1950s and approval by national health authorities in the 1960s and acceptance of it by influential Catholics (necessitating Humanae Vitae). I could go on and on – what necessitated Familiaris Consortio? The Theology of the Body? Mulieris Dignitatem?

    And there’s this: “Owing to the growth of cities, the changed relations between the sexes in social and industrial life, the decay of religion, and the relaxation of parental control, these evils [fornication, adultery, cohabitation, and all manner of deviations from marriage] have increased very greatly within the last one hundred years. The extent to which prostitution and venereal disease are sapping the mental, moral, and physical health of the nations, is of itself abundant proof that the strict and lofty standards of purity set up by the Catholic Church, both within and without the marriage relation, constitute the only adequate safeguard of society.” When do you think this was written? It is from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910, speaking of the 19th Century!

    We have been facing a crisis for a very long time, it seems.

    So, for me, I see a diabolic intelligence at work – crafty, patient, intentional, strategic, relentless – it is not only a competitive philosophy or forces in society, poor preparation, bad examples, and all that. It is a coordinated attack, and while Cardinal O’Malley’s prescriptions are necessary, we need also to know exactly what we’re up against here and combat it in a fundamental and broad and direct way.

    The good news is that if we remain steadfast, we win!

  12. This video should be shown as a commercial to bring home the point. To have it said out loud sometimes makes a difference. At least I can hope.

  13. When we get back to actually worshipping Almighty God and not ourselves and our feelings we may see some real families begin to really take root in the western world once more. Thank God He has preserved small pockets of strong pastors throughout the world. In JMJ Lee

      1. This is not your blog, and you don’t have some birthright to say anything you want to here. I edited your comment because your remarks were uncharitable and accusatory. This blog or it’s comments do not exist to give others the opportunity to speak in charitably for the pass blame unfairly. I deleted your second comment because it was uncharitable in toto, off to the trashbin it goes. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  14. This is soo true. As a young person who has experienced just about everything on your list, I can attest to how much pain and difficulty these things cause. It’s nearly impossible for a marriage to last when you’re trying to build it on a foundation of brokenness and sin and false ideas. I wish I could tell every young person out there to be chaste and patient and do things right the first time, because it will save you so much pain and misery in the long run!

  15. Father I see this in my students. They are graduating with large debts and so many of them say they can’t afford to marry, or they can’t afford to have children. And way too many of them have brought into our materialistic culture. My daughter has, sad to say and she thinks me odd and selfish for preferring to live simply. Mass is something she goes to when she thinks about it which is not often. All I can do is pray and hope and pray some more.

    1. Ellen, I’ll pray for your daughter. I hope you will pray for my daughter, who would like to be a Dominican nun, but sadly has about $25,000 in student loan debt. It’s increased since her graduation because she hasn’t found a good enough job, even though continuing to live with us, to even begin to pay it off. So much sadness caused by debt. God bless you.


  16. I was pleasantly surprised that this post mentioned finances, although I didn’t think to much of the example of someone getting a law degree, with its debts, marrying someone with some other else with large student loans. Most people aren’t in that situation. These are difficult financial times for blue-collar people who would like to get married and raise children.

  17. I would love to get married, I’m 41 now and haven’t gone on a date since 1993. It’s depressing. Many of us never-marrieds would love to find that someone and get married, but there really isn’t anyone out there and where are the good places to meet someone? I’m not setting foot in a bar and dating sites don’t work. As far as bars, due to my allergy to cigarette smoke, I can’t even attend Theology on Tap. Yes, even the Catholic sites don’t work. I’ve been told that my morals are out of date. I’m not a stick in the mud, but it’s depressing. Trying to find someone at church is a waste of time since the men my age are already married, and the only other men are elderly. What can I do? But I disagree that the younger generations are all selfish and self-centered. There are still a lot of wonderful kids in our country that have been raised correctly, but I would wager a guess that they’ll have trouble trying to find a spouse today. We’ve been told to join singles groups at church, but they’re either for the elderly, or the members are all female. I wouldn’t mind marrying someone who’s not a Catholic, but I’m not going to sell-out my Catholic faith for anyone. God comes first. Instead of having articles that complain about people not getting married, why not have some articles with sound advice for those of us who are still single? Why not give sound advice for women as to how to talk to men and vice-versa?

    1. Mary, I think your lament is one of the very real reasons why the priesthood and religious life should be mentioned in the same conversation as marriage– or at it should at least made clear that it’s part of the same conversation, even if it’s not the focus– and not something compartmentalized or off to the side.

      The Church does teach that marriage is very good. But she does not teach that it’s the “default” position, whereby anyone who doesn’t get married, and/or is single and celibate, is somehow… “weird” and “unloved.” I think this is a larger conversation that we need to have that a lot of the time, we’re not having.

      Not only will this actually better and more coherently enable the Church to witness, but it makes her better able to meet people where they are. Paradoxically, I’m thinking that a far more effective way to defend marriage– especially the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony– is to decenter it by knowing where the culture and the culture wars have their limits. For one thing, we have to be aware of the culture’s tendency to equate marriage with suburban-bourgeois consumerist “respectability.” Put in right perspective, some of that’s not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a good thing, so long as it’s not the ideal or what we see as the “end”– or purpose– of marriage. As Eve Tushnet once put it, if we defend marriage within this particular cultural box, we set ourselves up for failure, and we make ourselves look silly. If that sort of “lifestyle” with its requisite having of certain kinds of “nice stuff” is what marriage is primarily about, then why marry when you can shack up and play house?

      Each and every Sacrament is about Jesus, anyway, and it’s ultimately for God’s glory. And in the absence of a lot of good married-couple role models (i.e. someone who humbly strives to live what God gives them and who know that their marriage is about Him, and who isn’t some progressive liberal who blows off Church teaching or some providentialist conservative who thinks that everyone who doesn’t have as many children as he or she does is less holy, neither of which is what the Church teaches), I actually find the witness of the celibate priest, for example, a blessing as a married person: it means a lot to me that the celibate priest is husband father in his own right, thereby enabling me to seek healthy detachment in a culture that would have us believe that love is primarily an emotion, and the only real love is warm fuzzies, good sex, and nice stuff exchanged between two people. The virgin and the celibate reminds me that Holy Matrimony and the ultimate in love is about Jesus, and true unity between husband wife is only through, with, and in Jesus by pointing beyond himself or herself to God. Moreover, their pointing beyond themselves toward the Kingdom reminds us that human beings are matter and spirit, and must be cared for on both planes, lest we leave everything to the material plane alone (if this seems overly academic, then any and all discussions that Catholics tend to have about women and NFP should remind us how crucial this is).

      1. Thank you! We don’t need to enter marriage in order to acquire “nice stuff.” We can purchase things on our own. When I look at marriage, I don’t only think about sex. I think about the other aspects of marriage. I think our society has become very superficial in our wants and desires of the opposite sex. Just look at all of the eating disorders in our youth. If a woman is overweight, she is deemed as unsuitable by men. And yet these same men will marry a woman who looks like a model and they end up miserable with a woman who is too vain to love them for who they are. I think it’s wrong for women to reject a man because he isn’t wealthy. We really need to get past a person’s looks when finding a mate. My mom and dad will celebrate 50 years of marriage in August 15, 2014. Times were different 50+ years ago when it came to finding a mate. Like I said before, I don’t look to bars or the dating sites because I don’t know what I’m going to find. People lie like crazy on those sites. Just watch shows like “Who the Bleep did I marry?” and you’ll be sworn off of dating sites forever. I want to be happy in my future marriage,I refuse to marry just anyone out of desparation. Being single isn’t a problem for me when it’s not the holiday season. What I’m trying to say, is that our culture is really messed up and far too much pressure is put on people to marry.

        1. I agree with you. So I’m going to be charitably blunt: why do we need advice on love, sex, and marriage from a culture that stinks at all of the above? 😀

          I don’t only think about sex. I think about the other aspects of marriage.

          Didn’t say you were only thinking about sex. 🙂 I think you just want some room to just be, and to know that there’s that sort of room for you in the Church; that she doesn’t shunt you off to the side.

          The reason why I did bring up the Church’s teaching on sexuality is because it does go right to the heart of being, and sexual hedonism is related to the pressure to marry that you describe, though the ways in which they do relate are probably complex. But one of those areas is because we’ve reduced love essentially to Eros, and lust can therefore more easily mimic love when our sense of love isn’t ordered by Caritas. And when we don’t heed the Church’s teaching, we have this near… idolatry of marriage that tends to squeeze everybody in some rather cruel ways. What the Church’s teaching does is give us the detachment necessary for true freedom, inside and outside of marriage– we’re free, therefore, to see a spouse as a gift, and to give the gift of ourselves. That we lack this is why our sense of marriage and love are so superficial, and I also think it hampers our ability to lovingly reach out to and include those who are unmarried without reducing them to pity-cases in so many instances.

          The odd thing is that someone you might want to marry and who wants to marry you may well come along when you’re not actively looking. When my husband came along, I’d already accepted the possibility that I would never marry. Then, God showed me otherwise. So you never know what God has in mind for you. And when. A friend of mine is older, and she just got married. Desiring marriage is good, and it’s more than okay to take it to the Lord in prayer while saying, “be it done to me according to Thy Word.” To actually be happy in marriage, we have to know that we don’t “need” marriage to be happy. We also often talk about being in love, but not about living in Love (yes, that reference to the Gospel was deliberate), which actually is for everyone, whatever their state in life. So advice to singles telling them to “suck it up and offer it up” is rather terrible, for that reason.

          I actually have more than a bone to pick with both the pressure to marry and the fact that too many people make it about warm fuzzies between the physically attractive. I received a lot of well-meant advice while preparing for marriage that was nonetheless intellectually and spiritually insulting. What I found way more convincing and compelling regarding what it means to love and be loved was reading the blogs of Catholic priests (of which Monsignor Pope’s was one), and reading the blogs of faithful, gay Catholics (Steve Gershom and Eve Tushnet, for example). Also, Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict was a “wedding-planning companion” of sorts, and I leaned on our Blessed Mother. I had a hard time with Ephesians 5, and also with submission. Then, I saw Pope Benedict prostrate himself, and the penny dropped: this is a man who knows how to submit. And he’s brilliant precisely because He knows Who he obeys, since everybody obeys something or someone (who or what is the big question). I read what he wrote about what it means to obey the Magisterium and the role of the Pope, and I wanted to hug him.

          If a woman is overweight, she is deemed as unsuitable by men.

          Oh, ho, ho. Just wait until after she’s had a baby. Then she “looks great for someone who’s just had a baby,” having gone back to her “ideal weight.”

  18. I believe another factor contributing to living together and the destruction of marriage, and therefore the family is pornography and the easy almost limitless access to it. Through porn men have learned that women are mere disposable objects and women have gotten the message that they are only worth what they can do with their bodies. The sacredness of marriage is hard to explain to a porn consuming culture.

    1. Michael,
      In my opinion the mainstreaming of pornography by the likes of Hugh Hefner was the real opening salvo in the war on marriage, a sacrament which is meant to glorify the God’s gift of creation and honor the opportunity of man and woman to join with him in the act of creating new life. As the father of modern hedonism Hefner began the process of trivializing and objectifying human sexuality.Pornography is one of the oldest forms of the perversion of God’s design for our sexuality. It attacked the God given dignity of women and encourages the the selfish sexuality of men. The feminist movement, instead of joining in the battle to stem the tide eroding the honor of femininity chose to pursue and equal right to selfish sexuality. with God’s plan plan for the sexes made irrelevant by society the full blown sexual revolution was under way contraception and abortion became the natural extension of a society that is ever more inclined to worship the god of selfish sexual pleasure and “satisfaction”. while we must fight the battle to promote God’s plan for marriage in the family, it will be impossible to succeed in the long run if we don’t restore the God given dignity to our human sexuality. Pornography addiction must be called out and addressed if we are to win the battle for marriage and families.
      Keep up the fight!,

  19. I let the fear of school loan repayments (trusting God it would be paid for) stop the pursuit of the religious vocation. Now it greatly affects my home life and having my spouse be a homemaker.

  20. Thanks for the article. Now, the fix. Everyone–and I mean every person–who agrees with this assessment should be doing at least one of three things: 1) attending daily mass and receiving the Eucharist for all who fall into the categories listed above; 2) Fasting; 3) teaching at the local parish PSR class. If every single faithful Catholic would do at least one of the above, things would change. The climate in the Church would change. The world would change. By the Grace of God alone.

    1. Beth I agree. And I can’t help but think of how our Lord is sending his Mother to us with the solution but the Church much more often than not shuns private revelation. One example I can think of is Medjugorje. Our Blessed Mother has given us the solution of 1) Praying the Rosary daily, 2) Attending Mass/receiving the Eucharist as often as possible 3)At least monthly Confession 4)Fasting, and 5) Reading Scripture. I truly believe if we listen to Our Mother and start on these five things, Jesus – out of respect and Love for His Mother – pours abundant graces upon us.

  21. Msgr. Pope, I would think number 0 as well, contraception and its effects. I know you have written on this. Some areas to improve on immediately would be:
    1. Family History:
    a. Invite parents to attend confirmation class with their children in many cases they have not been well formed.
    b. Extend CCD to include all of the years of High School. Use the Framework that the USCCB has developed for HS. Persons are graduating (or so they think with confirmation) with an 8th grade education in their Faith and going on for Master degrees in other fields, so easily are they swept away by the culture.

    2. Fornication:
    a. Why is it that we never hear any sermons on this and other sexual sin? Why not?
    b. Have the Church promote and teach NFP or what I prefer to call FAM (Fertility Awareness Methods). Give people options. Explain that true happiness can be had in marriage. And do it early, in High School. My wife and I have promoted NFP in pre-Cana classes, by then it’s often too late, the couple is too often focused on all the trims of the wedding.

    3. Finances:
    a. Will somebody please stop so many Catholic High Schools from masquerading as catholic? These schools, in addition to charging 10K to 16K a year per student in HS, push the idea that if you don’t go to an big expensive school (they do this as self promotion) life just isn’t worth living.
    b. Open the school up, not to just families of one to two children, but those that have more than two. What about half formal class room and half home school? That might cut the costs in half? Is catholic high school about things Catholic or is it something else?

    4. Formation struggles:
    a. Again, people generally only have an 8th grade education in their Faith.
    b. Again, parents themselves have not been well formed.
    c. Again, if people understand that the Church has the answer, and stands alone against the world and it’s contraception, they will come to believe.. “ON THIS ROCK I WILL..”.
    d. And the more the bishops are inept at dealing with the problem, the more people will say it must be HIM in charge. 🙂 But I hope the bishops come to act soon.

    1. yes on 2.b.

      My wife and I, of course, did pre-cana classes but that was during our “cradle catholic attitudes” days. NFP was basically described in about 2 minutes by a couple with 5 kids. Not a confidence booster for the young folks. So we ignored it.

      Post, well, reversion (and after a bad incident with The Pill) we started doing NFP (sympto-thermal) and took a class. The class should’ve been required for Pre-Cana. Hands down.

      What we got in pre-cana over an afternoon was basically, “Here’s 5 minutes on the church’s rules, here’s a few hours of advice on being married, and now we take a test.” It’s theology of marriage (and the body and all that) was…lacking. And for God’s sake, put somebody up there to talk about NFP that doesn’t have kids yet or maybe just has one. They exist.

      In addition to Catholics taking pre-cana more seriously the church really does need to as well. It seemed like more of a checkbox, and I now wish it had been better. And the Church needs to be more willing to say, “No, we don’t think you’re ready for this.”

      1. I agree on your points about NFP, at least in part– i.e. “And for God’s sake, put somebody up there to talk about NFP that doesn’t have kids yet or maybe just has one. They exist.”

        First of all, I would advise a bit of caution here. You don’t know that that couple with five kids hasn’t spaced them by using NFP. Second of all, I have a non-Catholic friend from a family of five kids whose mother “planned” them all by using the pill. So I think we need to go further in terms of what NFP allows for, and not just what we can use it for to achieve certain physical qua visual results.

        But I will agree that for people who are used to making judgments based only on what their eyes tell them, we all the likely have to meet them where they are, and/or we need to be very careful about what we tell people during Pre-Cana (why not get two couples– one with a big family, and one with one or two children, or who doesn’t yet have children– who use NFP to talk about it?). Especially if we know that most Catholic couples are likely going to be contracepting. There is indeed a place for talking about the “effectiveness” rate of NFP, but we shouldn’t oversell that point for the simple reason that NFP involves a whole lot more. But know that some couples are going to be scared, and are deeply wounded by the culture. So they will need to know that NFP is “effective” as a way of first reorienting them before we take them further. The last thing they need is somebody who even implies that the reason why other people don’t have as many children as they do is because they “don’t have enough faith,” and are therefore not as “faithful,” “courageous,” or as “holy” as they are.

        I would contend that NFP allows God to change hearts. Grace enables the chastity necessary for self-gift, and it gives a couple room to breathe. It enables discernment as well as requires it.

        The thing about NFP is that it can go either way in terms of big families or small, and we have no way of judging anyone’s discernment (which is why we all– and some people in particular– should just back off). Moreover, some couples who thought they might only have one or two children might find, upon use of NFP, that they’re more willing to accept more children– more than they ever thought they could or would. Or if they find themselves in more difficult circumstances than they ever imagined, NFP does give them a licit way to space births– one that does not separate sexual intercourse from procreation.

        I think we’re truncating the conversation on NFP by making it primarily and almost exclusively about family size, whereby it’s only ever about more money and “stuff” vs. more children. Almost never in any such discussion do I ever read anything about grace and chastity. Where the providentialists and the contracepting folks oddly agree is that when they reduce everything to family size, they are both being materialistic, and they are therefore both wrong, albeit in different ways. Human beings are matter and spirit, and not matter or spirit. Reducing any and all conversation on NFP to size and holiness to headcount is reducing everything to the biological and material plane. Which the Church does not teach. So we have to be careful that we don’t do this.

        One of the reasons why I truly am bothered by the tendency to reduce almost every discussion of Joseph Ratzinger to liturgical matters is because he wrote so profoundly, beautifully, and lovingly about everything else with such a big heart– including the dignity of women (that he did write what he wrote comes as almost no surprise if one’s read his theology more holistically, including what he’s written on the liturgy. It’s why I would recommend that people read Introduction to Christianity as well as Spirit of the Liturgy, and to think about how they fit together), and he’s done so by writing about how virginity and celibacy speaks to the issue by forcing us to look beyond the biological and material, precisely because he knows that right relationship between matter and spirit is crucial. We can’t afford to get this wrong, and it lies at the very heart of why we’re hard of hearing when it comes to “Humanae Vitae.” Yet enough Catholics have not bothered to read what he’s written, either when they think that their “progressivism” makes them “too smart for Catholicism,” or when they think that behaving like misogynists who wish that Vatican II never happened makes them “orthodox.”

        We seem to forget that lust can actually make big families or small families, and big families and small families resulting from lust are arguably both irresponsible: those who don’t want to be bothered with the discipline needed for chastity while having a small family will hide behind some form of contraception, and call it “responsibility.” Those who don’t want to be bothered with the discipline needed for chastity while accepting a big family will hide behind “heroic parenthood.” “Be fruitful and multiply” isn’t to be used as an excuse for somebody who thinks they don’t have to have any self-control, just as the reasons for self-control are not because we want to buy more crap or put a career before all else. NFP actually puts that self-control and discipline on the table, and it’s a discipline that works hand in hand with the grace upon which a good, holy balance is contingent. Coming the other way, chastity and self-control will lead to both big families and small families, depending on what God gives any one couple. Responsibility is not about mere quantity in family size and the consumption of resources, but about balance and stewardship, and as men and women, husbands and wives, we are stewards who steward in different ways. What we are given needs to be integrated into the more holistic understanding of the vocation of wives and mothers and husbands and fathers that the Church gives us. And that includes our talents, and our work, including our careers. We integrate these things into our vocations, not the other way around. That can’t be done without chastity.

        NFP gives God the “in” that He needs for the Sacraments to work in a couple’s life that they will most certainly not get if they deliberately blow off Church teaching and contracept. For the love of God, we don’t want anyone receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin– this isn’t a mere “formality” meant to scare or “control” anyone; mortal sin kills off God’s grace in a person’s soul and deadens it. A soul that has become deadened risks not even knowing God at the end of its life, because it hasn’t– literally– kept Him in the loop, thus allowing Him to bring that soul into a loop that belongs to Him, not us, as it were. Within that “feedback loop of grace” provided by the Sacraments, discernment involves thinking with God; thinking with the Church, as opposed to how easily we compartmentalize our thinking. And what allows for right thinking is practicing the virtues that allow for the self-gift necessary in marriage. Sexuality isn’t meant to be repressed, but rather integrated more fully and more holistically into our persons. This is required of absolutely everyone.

    2. These are excellent suggestions, David.

      Under heading 1) and following up on point b), I’m going to suggest this very bluntly: what the Church has to make clear to every Catholic is the following: the Catholic tradition is bigger than you and smarter than you. And drum it in charitably, but repeatedly. The point being that it means that we can go as far and as deep as we want to. Catholicism is intellectually viable, because it is spiritually viable, and vice versa. We live in a culture that sees spirituality as something primarily emotional that doesn’t involve brains. That’s not what the Church teaches, and Catholics need to be aware of this. Humble questioning is also important: if God is who He is, then He not only can take our questions, but He loves our questions. Also, answers may not come all at once, but they will come. The second point I want to make on this score was made earlier by Benedict XVI and Francis: unless we believe, we will not understand. The culture has gotten this exactly backwards.

      I would also recommend that anyone involved in CCD and RCIA read Russell Shaw, American Church. Whether we want to argue for or against whether “Americanism” is a phantom heresy or not, American exceptionalism is nonetheless a problem. Moreover, what freedom actually means, and what’s meant by the public good (as opposed to a radical individualism) is a problem with a long history that the Founders grappled with. And it’s not going away.

      Under 2) NFP is a good start. But we have to go further in terms of the context in which we’re teaching it. And we have to know why couples contracept. A lot of them who want to follow what the Church teaches are also going to be scared– particularly if they’ve recently gotten off contraception (and some of them are getting squeezed by the progressive Cafeteria Catholics on the one hand, and conservative More Catholic Than The Pope Catholics on the other). Let NFP be the meeting ground, and let God take it from there. First of all, what might make teaching and embracing “Humanae Vitae” easier in our homes, in Pre-Cana, and from the pulpit is knowing that the Sacramental grace is what makes it possible to live what we are afraid is “too hard.” Go to Confession and receive the Eucharist regularly, and keep going. Moreover, if somebody “doesn’t get it,” then put Christ and the Eucharist at the center, and it should make more sense from there. That sort of understanding will unfold over time.

      Second, when addressing women, we have to tell them what’s possible within the boundaries of the Church’s prohibition on birth control: first of all, the Church welcomes big families. But she does not mandate them for everyone. Nothing wrong also with a woman being a stay-at-home mom– but the Church also does not teach that stay-at-home moms are the only holy wives and mothers or the only role models for what the Church finds acceptable. Discernment, however, is crucial and it’s different for everyone. Looking at the examples of St. Gianna Beretta and Dr. Elizabeth Anscombe, working isn’t going to prevent a woman from being a holy wife and mother, and from being a canonized saint, and having a large family isn’t going to stop her from having a brilliant career if God’s blessed her with a strong intellect. “Mulieris Dignitatem” and “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Cooperation of Men and Women in the Church and in the World” are a must– because I find that every time Catholics bicker and squawk about women and NFP, most of them have read neither of those documents while reducing almost every discussion of Joseph Ratzinger to the liturgy and the Latin Mass. Actually, thinking with the liturgy enables one to better join the dots. Our thinking has become way too compartmentalized.

      1. The blogger edits comments, mine was edited. How secular of the blogger, wow. Can we say narcissism anyone?

        1. Actually, this is Monsignor Pope’s blog. It is at his discretion to responsibly edit as he discerns is fit, wise, and prudent. This does not necessarily imply some sort of tyrannical censorship– as almost anyone who has ever submitted articles for edited volumes or peer-reviewed journals knows.

          The accusation of narcissism could be leveled back at each and every one of us. Why do we presume that we can and should write anything and everything under the sun willy nilly, with nobody holding us to any standard?

          Also, the standard of what is Catholic and what is not is determined by the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, which is responsible for listening to God and letting Him have His say. We, the people, may comprise the Body of Christ here on earth (the Church Militant), but the Church consists not only of us, but all souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) and all saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant). The Church is also Communion through, with, and in Christ, so yes, that also involves all clergy and hierarchy, who also partake of the Sacraments. We are no Body, no Church, without Christ; without the Sacraments, without the Eucharist. If we are to represent the Catholic Church, we need to represent her well. And yes, we make mistakes when we witness. But we get up and keep trying.

          If we’ve written something uncharitable or inaccurate, we actually owe our thanks to Monsignor Pope for his patience and care in editing those things out of the comments. One other priest didn’t post one of my comments, either, when I once wrote what I wrote in a fit of pique. I wasn’t nearly as nasty as I could’ve been or have been in some other circumstances in the past, but I’m glad he didn’t. My points might’ve been correct, but my manner of conveying them left a lot to be desired.

      2. WSquared, I am involved in CCD and I’ve just ordered “Russell Shaw, American Church”. Thanks for the tip. Agree on all your points. Being involved in NFP we are most often ridiculed by contracepting catholics for having four children, but also have been chided by staunch fertility couples for having so few(?) It is all about man/wife & discernment-

        Catholics need to know that the CHURCH is not against birth control (not the real meaning, self control and births..), not against responsible parenting, it’s called fertility awareness method, modern science can’t predict exactly when a woman is fertile but it can measure when she enters fertility and when it ends..

        Final note, I think that acting against the beginning (in english contra-ception) is much more evil than people know, Satan surely acted against the beginning, before he was a “murderer from the beginning”.

        1. One very last thing: where I live in the Northeast couples who use NFP/FAM have on average 3 or 4 children, couples who contracept have 1 or 2. It’s the contracepting couples who can afford to send their children to “catholic” school, especially the high schools. I think this is a scandal, the bishops must know, yet they appear to have their heads in the sand.

          1. David, I live in the Northeast, too.

            I hope you will find American Church a good book to think with. If you’re so inclined, I would also recommend Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America, Brad Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, any of Joseph Ratzinger’s interviews with Peter Seewald (which I would recommend for anyone teaching the Confirmation class, RCIA, or who are pondering gifts for their Catholic children going off to college), but perhaps one work that all Catholics should read– especially if they’ve recently read Lumen Fidei— is Introduction to Christianity. Or if you want bite-sized B16, I recommend Take Five: Meditations with Pope Benedict XVI, which is not only an excellent series of meditations, but also an excellent examination of conscience in a way that speaks to the experience of living in the modern/post-modern West.

            Being involved in NFP we are most often ridiculed by contracepting catholics for having four children, but also have been chided by staunch fertility couples for having so few(?)

            …precisely the kinds of Catholics who need to learn to mind their own business, and not think they can make choices for other people’s fertility.

            The question of fertility that you’ve raised is arguably an indication why we need to be careful in not using the Catholic faith to fight the culture wars on the latter’s terms. Because it’s one of the ways in which we’re “bringing the world into the Church.” The culture wars may point to particular questions. But the Church not only has better answers, but bigger ones, because she knows where the real battlefield is better than anyone. We need to know how and why this is the case– namely that for a society to serve people, instead of people getting served, it must have the fullness of the truth of the human person. If we get that wrong, we stand to get everything else wrong, too.

            It’s the contracepting couples who can afford to send their children to “catholic” school, especially the high schools. I think this is a scandal, the bishops must know, yet they appear to have their heads in the sand.

            I don’t know what to say about this, exactly, except that I’m of two minds about it, and it’s a multilevel problem where we can only do what we can. I’m not even sure if I can put my finger on the crux of this issue. But I’ll take a stab.

            On the one hand, I am of course very supportive of there being Catholic schools. But on the other hand, a good, solid Catholic formation for any Catholic can and must begin in the home. Just as many concerned parents rightly see potential for an assault on their children’s faith in more secular institutions, I am also aware of parents who send their children to Catholic schools, but who do not practice at home in ways that are subtle but harmful in important ways, and which can and do undermine the work of even good Catholic schools– going to Mass every week is necessary, but it’s the bare minimum. How many of those parents also don’t go to Confession regularly, and aren’t humble enough to allow their kids to be the people God means them to be, based on the gifts they’ve been given? Modeling the faith doesn’t just involve doing the right things qua ticking the right boxes. It also involves modeling how God changes us.

            Bad catechesis at Catholic schools, where that does happen, just compounds the problem: because if your parents have imbibed the larger culture, you have nowhere else to turn if what you think of as “Catholic school” is either too rigid or too lax, and/or teachers have a sense of teaching a subject that does not involve witness. If you’re questioning, as all young people can and must do, one of the most vital things you could ever know is that the Church is with you as you question, and will go to bat for you if you let her. Catholic orthodoxy isn’t about being “strict”; it’s about right orientation of the whole person.

            I look at the upbringing of many Catholics in North America, say, and in the West as a whole, I look at people like St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and the Ratzinger family, and I know that they’re seeing something that we aren’t– namely that being Catholic goes to the very core of what it truly means to be human. Moreover, I wouldn’t put it past the witness of well-formed Catholics on secular campuses, either– those who take the opportunity to avail themselves of FOCUS and the Newman Center. One such Catholic was a student of mine. What he said in my class one day was one of many way-points back to the Catholic Church for me. We shouldn’t underestimate young Catholics like that.

            I think what I would say in the end is this (and why Catholic schools being expensive are a problem): Catholic schools, from elementary schools to High Schools to colleges, exist for the mission of the Church, and not primarily or exclusively to “keep our kids Catholic”– if we don’t even know what it means to be Catholic, then that’s kind of meaningless, anyway. The reason for Catholic schools existing at all is that Catholicism is intellectually viable, because it is spiritually viable, and vice versa. It truly has something to offer, and not just to Catholics. Your example of families with less children being able to afford to send their kids to Catholic school probably indicates that there’s a problem at two levels: contracepting parents (if they are indeed contracepting) and a Church in America that in some areas has lost its sense of mission for having lost its sense of identity, because Catholicism must be allowed to be itself. People won’t put in the time, effort, and money without that sense.

            So we’re talking about some blockage not just at the hierarchical level, but also at the lay level: how many lay Catholics whine that they aren’t taught this, that, or the other thing from the pulpit– which is a serious problem in itself– but who also can’t be bothered to turn off the TV and read the Catechism, an encyclical, or a work of theology, and pray while doing so? This is not to say that the Bishops, the hierarchy, and the clergy are blameless and can do no wrong, but when I hear enough laypeople blame the Bishops one too many times as an excuse for their own failings while bragging about how smart and educated they are in the next breath, I begin to smell a rat. Bishops and all clergy must lead. But they also need to know that we have their backs. Moreover, when we talk about lay leadership, we often talk about leadership within the structure of the institutional Church, and we have next to no sense of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. So we’ve kind of narrowed our ecclesial field of vision, when we should be connecting the dots vertically as well as horizontally, and when we should be thinking “lifeline” when we talk about a viable and sustainable Catholic subculture as well as the Church as a “field hospital.”

    3. I agree on 2b. This sort of thing should be brought up in high school, and perhaps introductory stuff even at the late elementary (after all, the Jesuits used to say that what you learn at 7 can stay with you the rest of your life) Though the problem is that some will be scandalized at a Catholic school would essentially be teaching Sex Ed (actual sex ed, not the useless tripe most secular schools offer), others would think that FAM ‘doesnt work’ (based upon myths about the rhythm method no-one really promotes anymore) and then you have the extreme providentialists. All those critiques come from the seepage of non-Catholic culture into the American Catholic mind (fruits of the Americanist heresy the Popes have warned us of). A good priest, of course, should try to not let it bother him. But it’s hard.

      1. I really have to read that book on the American Catholic mind…. You are right about the myths, but there were some truth in rhythm not working.
        FAM is of course not Rhythm, the former measures fertility to give a very accurate awareness of it, beginning and ending; the latter tried to predict exactly when fertility was present. With modern science former can be accurately achieved, the latter still cannot without inaccuracy. Since abstinence is always 100% effective, the effectiveness of FAM is the effectiveness of awareness which is equal or better then the Pill. Awareness means appreciation, and that is also an appreciation of woman (not war on!)

        With Rhythm there were some women who had many more children than they expected. The reason is a woman’s fertility can be a moving target, especially when a woman is under stress. Having another child is often stressful, this led to a woman’s cycle being off, which meant in some cases Another sibling… Most women have experienced a delayed cycle, a shifted fertility period, under stress. Once the reason is explained to them –they get it.

        1. Apologies, meant that people conflate FAM with rhythm. Then there is the popular myth that the only onea who use it are ignorant Catholics, hippies and Muslims.

  22. You are right to put “family history” first. I call family history “the blueprint”.
    Without true conversion, many people walk around thinking that practicing the virtues is all good and well,–They admire lofty ideals like handsome words printed on a Hallmark card. –But their default mode of living, and coping with the pressures of life have more to do with what they witnessed day in and day out in the household they grew up in.

    I think it is important to recognize that while it was not as socially acceptable to divorce in 1960, there was plenty of really deforming abuse that children witnessed in marriages. It is often deceptively subtle. Men and women have objectified each other since there were men and women. People who abuse each other, by reducing their spouse to an object of utility may appear to be playing by the “rules” but they have children who grow up to abuse others in the same way–That is of course if they practice the faith lukewarmly, and there is no profound and radical conversion to Christ.

    Pope John Paul II was correct when he stated that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference/use.

  23. Jesus frequently scolded people about sexual sins, and about Satan the Great Liar, but this is largely ignored by our Materialistic, Hedonistic culture.

  24. 1) Contraception is undeniably a huge issue since it essentially takes the position that children are an undesirable outcome of sex. in fact contraception essentially treates fertility as a disease. Could anything more divert something from its natural end in a more overt manner ? Leaving aside for the moment “hard cases” in which the mother has a medical condition that makes pregnancy overtly dangerous ( such cases are relatively rare), this attitude is really pernicious and undermines the family in a unique manner. When I was a child of about 8 or 9 I saw a planned parenthood commerical with its stock line that it wanted every child to be a “wanted child” therefore they should be planned. I distinctly remember not fully understanding how one planned children, but being troubled by this commerical in that I instinctly knew I desired that my parents “want” me even if I was not planned. Sometimes in all the “theology of the body” talk, the down to earth straight forward reality that contraception ultimately sees children as parasitic is lost. Once one realizes that is the heart of the contraceptive mentality one can understand its sinfulness and the rot it ultimately unleashes.

    2) It is a really interesting point about the excessive cost of college forcing people to postpone marriage. This probably needs more attention, as it also forces them to be focused on money and delaying having children until they can “afford it”. This problem also includes Catholic colleges which are among the worst offenders. Has anyone checked out the tuition at say Loyolla University or Georgetown recently? ) That said I am not sure college can be considered a waste of time in most cases. For multiple kinds of careers that shape the culture it is indispensable. Think Doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, scientists, lawyers, accountants, etc.. Of course it is an incredible waste of time for the many liberal arts major ( like say an English literature or worse a “Womens studies” major who really are being indoctrinated in leftist group think.) Nonetheless for most people there is no good way around college. Not only in terms of your own income, but in terms of making an impact on the larger culture. There is nothing wrong with learning a trade or craft, but it is harder to make a positive global impact on society practicing a trade, as compared to an attorney. One of the problems we face is that the atheistic secularists would like nothing better to marginalize the Church intellectually. They care little if we are making cabinets and saying prayers it our little isolated Churches. What it really does not want is the spectacle of devout Catholics practicing medicine or law, publishing in scientific journals, making movies or teaching the next generation. As a first step a smart move would be for Catholics to begin funding serious Catholic educational institutions with donations aimed at bringing the cost down. Problem is hard to find these places.

    1. like say an English literature or worse a “Womens studies” major who really are being indoctrinated in leftist group think

      There also exist doctors and scientists who are being indoctrinated in materialist metaphysics, which involves its own group think. But do carry on about how the only worthwhile careers that make a difference and impact upon the larger culture is anything you find “useful”– whereas a cursory reading of Frankenstein in an English literature class might’ve pointed out how this sort of metaphysics is problematic, and a good course on Soviet history might also alert students to the fact that Science can be abused. But hey, I suppose anyone who doesn’t have the gifts to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist or teacher is just “useless.” Why, oh why, did Mortimer Adler bother with trying to promote the value of the Western Canon? The Church does not understand “intellectual” in the utilitarian way that you do, and if you want to talk about how Catholics can and should make a difference, it’s important to understand that.

      And anyhow, let’s not forget that fellowships and scholarships exist, as does working a summer job and not using the money you earn to buy more crap. The question is, if you’ve got a gift for English literature, because this is what God gave you, how do you ask Him to help you use it for His glory? How do you ask Him to use it to make you a saint? St. Therese of Lisieux didn’t do anything during her life that had an immediately noticeable “global impact.” She’s not only a saint, but a Doctor of the Church– and her “global impact” has come after her death.

      One of the problems we face is that the atheistic secularists would like nothing better to marginalize the Church intellectually.

      Which is why you should not call a major in English literature “useless” and a “waste of time.” If all truth is God’s truth, God finds a way in. The agnostic Roland Barthes, after all, was a strong advocate of the importance of the work of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a conclusion that he reached upon studying the language in the Spiritual Exercises. Moreover, please read Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, where he writes that neither the position of unbelief or belief is hermetically sealed. We don’t pray “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” for nothing, just as the atheist is never free of the question, “what if it’s true?”

      I also happen to have agnostic and atheist friends who do respect me as a Catholic without denigrating or condescending to what I profess to believe– and who are tired to the point of being outraged when it comes to the inability and unwillingness of some people to take religion and theology seriously, even if they don’t know if they could ever become a believer, let alone a Catholic. They have also been far more respectful of the Catholic faith than Catholic anti-Catholics, or those who trot out their Catholic “street cred,” starting with how many years of Catholic school they had, before they spout heresy and nonsense. So let’s not get too comfortable with the idea that atheists all think as a monolithic bloc, even though we have to be vigilant.

      And nothing, but nothing, makes one acutely critical than Catholic orthodoxy. So whatever our “lefty professors” may think, some of the more moderate ones respect and agree with us for making good, solid arguments, and do not uniformly exhibit ill will. As for those of us Catholics who are their students (and who strive to be devout), we’re not brainwashed, either– for the love of God, we’re not stupid.

  25. Dear Msgr Pope,
    1. There are many fine research books written on this issue. Two of the best are written by Charles Murray. His book “Losing Ground” is on the inner city family collapse. It was written 30 years ago; his most recent book “Coming Apart” (2012) shows how the decline of Christian practice in the inner cities was a key stabilizing factor, and its decline has further accelerated the family collapse.

    2. The young male is the main player in fornication. If he is properly socialized he will not fornicate—as much. The father is the only actor who can socialize the young male.
    Government education, welfare, and employment policies discourage fathers from raising their sons, and so fathers are unwilling to be part of the solution to the problem of the family.

  26. Monsignor, thank you for the space to discuss these factors in a reasonable discussion. All of our families (both personally and parish-wide) have been touched by these four factors. I’m very glad the Church is opening the door for this discussion, too. Every priest (and deacon) has been struggling with the answers — sometimes, too much ‘pastoral’ input satisfies no one.

    Regarding further education on pre-marriage, I’ve noticed that most of my Adult Confirmation students are already engaged and attend the classes to satisfy a requirement given to them by a pastor. God bless those pastors! Many pastors — afraid that the couple will marry elsewhere/without the sacrament — tell them they do NOT need to be confirmed — or can take the classes when they are not too overwhelmed with wedding plans. Believe me, if you give a couple that option, they’ll take it…and the opportunity to help them constructively is lost. I don’t even think that pastors ask the engaged couple to go to confession as the ultimate pre-wedding preparation.

    The Adult Confirmation students — without fail! — always tell me how important the 9-week 2-hour Confirmation classes and our Confirmation Retreat became for their journey towards marriage. Mind you, this is addition to the pre-Cana or “Engaged Encounter” retreat they must attend as an archdiocesan requirement. Our young people spend so much time/energy on their wedding plans yet none of it will help them develop the faith tools needed to sustain married life. I’m not declaring that this is the answer — more pre-wedding faith formation – but on a small scale, I have seen it greatly enhance the couple.

    Am praying much for answers for the whole Church on these intimate and heart-breaking matters.

  27. It’s impossible for people to marry confidently any longer unless they are debt free,which you mention, but the problems go beyond college debt. It used to be the case that husbands supported wives and children on one income. I know many women would love to be supported, stay-at-home moms, and that the Catholic tradition of a stable family home is dependent in large part on having a Mom who is present and available to the kids. This is impossible even without the burdens of student debt. The cost of living prohibits single-parent income support except in the most highly paid professions.

    Given this crushing economic uncertainty, women will not want to have more than one or at most two children when she must work full time to keep food on the table, as the childcare falls mostly on her shoulders and thus she is burdened not only with the hectic life of a full time job but also the stresses of raising children. The women I know who do it both are incredibly worn out and unhappy. Is it any wonder that women (and men) turn to birth control when the outlook for raising many children successfully in this economic climate is so difficult, so bleak? In my city virtually no one but the very rich can afford to buy a house, further dimming the prospect of raising children.

    Of course there are ways around this, but by and large, everyone is suffering in this economy and the effects are staggering for everyone involved, not just those Catholics who wish to see their culture revived.

    As for being an older single Catholic woman, I echo the comments by Mary above, so I have taken to being open to dating other Christians with the fond hope that perhaps they will convert to Catholicism over the long term. I still hold out faith that the right Catholic man will enter my life, but the successful Catholic men I have met who are older have been single their whole life and have no wish to share their financial success (usually hard won) with a woman . . . they seem perfectly content to remain single all their days. Many divorced Catholics simply leave a church that has no room for them in its sacraments, further depleting the pool of available single Catholcis. Nevertheless, Catholic men are the best in the world, and I am sorry I cannot find more of them around.

    Regarding the role of women in Catholic culture, I think that the recent demonstration by feminists in Buenos Aires, where stoical men protecting a cathedral were attacked with spray paint by topless women, while absolutely shocking and abhorrent, can be understood best as a failing on the part of the Church to teach women why chastity is not only morally good, but also a personal good for their lives and persons. This was never taught to me; I heard only that I shouldn’t get pregnant as a teenager. The idea of chastity as being a preserver of my dignity, of my sanity, of my most precious and sensitive feelings — this was never conveyed to me through the catechism classes I attended or from the pulpit. If you teach that sexuality is a sin and that chastity is the only way to avoid that sin, you will never sweep in the thousands of young women you could by just turning this teaching around on its head: chastity is a good because it creates good for men and women both, not because it is the only avoidance of a sin.

    Today, if I explain to a man that I don’t believe in sex before marriage, he is literally astounded and put out. He finds it incomprehensible and somehow sinister or perhaps manipulative. This is increasingly common and I fare on my lonely course ahead, knowing that I at least know where I stand, I have my boundaries, and I am only sorry this was not taught in a coherent, practical, and meaningful way when I was young. To the church’s credit, there are some newer young married Catholics on the chastity circuit really working this as a ministry, and drawing in large, enthusiastic crowds, crowds that dwarf any found in current Catholic churches.

    Finally, at the risk of offending some here, I wish to say bluntly that many people are put off by the heavy gay presence within the priesthood, and thus leave the church because they are being shepherded by openly gay men. The “gay lobby” within the Vatican has been referenced even by Pope Francis. I’ve known many gay men as friends, and I would estimate at perhaps 20 percent of them are actual misogynists who really are offended women and their role as mothers. Having a priesthood with even a small percentage of that mindset will actually destroy the family very quickly — after all, in their minds, heterosexuals are mere “breeders” worthy of secret contempt. I honestly would not think that very many priests are so corrupt as to feel this way, but I have met several priests who are openly gay and some who are hostile and contemptuous of women in general. This alone can be disconcerting to those who wish to raise families within the structure of the church. My father and mother, when I was young, would not let a musician of their acquaintance be around us kids once they discovered he was gay. That is unfair, and old-fashioned, but I wonder how many Catholics today still have that mindset and find openly gay priests troubling?

    It is critical that we view the decline of the family unflinchingly and see where the church has failed us. It is not only culture that has caused this debacle; it is the church itself, its leadership, its scandals, and finally, its painfully slow acceptance of women into true leadership positions. Let us clean up own own house first. One has only to listen to the EWTN ads on Catholic Answers and hear the insipid, chirpy, almost cartoonish voice of the female announcer to understand the cartoonish role to which women are assigned in the church. Almost all of the apologists I hear on Catholic radio are men, unless the subject is one having to do with women, dating, chastity, or New Ageism. Women are allowed to speak to these topics; otherwise, with the signal exception of Mother Angelica, the apologists are unrelentingly male. Colleen Campbell is a refreshing exception to the rule. We really need more like her to draw women back to the church and to keep younger women within the church. Otherwise, most will exit once they hit college, as I did, even with good Catholic parents who did their best.

    1. I agree with you Constance on what you have said. Thank God for our pets! 🙂 They keep us from becoming truly lonely. I will never compromise my beliefs for anyone.

    2. Interesting comment. I’m 31 and finding that women are more interested in me today than ever before in my life which is a somewhat fun situation to be in. I find myself however to be less interested in them than in my 20s. It’s a little humorous in a cynical sort of way. I’m getting less cynical about it as I’m becoming accustomed to the idea that I have a lot of options. A lot of women want to party and have fun and sleep around during their most desirable years, their early 20s, and then when they sense their age creeping up on them, then they want men like me to jump at the chance to marry them (“Wheres my knight in shining armor?!”) after they’ve had multiple sexual partners and who knows what all else. You can’t trust desperate women to be honest with you aboit their past. Then when it’s time to settle down they magically discover they have standards and what they gave away for less than nothing, someone like me would have to make a vow to the death, ie Holy Matrimony, to acquire. No thanks! I’d rather be single. Especially when you consider that most of them are just trying to say what you want to hear to get you in front of the altar. Then you’re locked in, and divorce and family courts are notoriously hard on men, so if she decides to end it, she can, and you pay a hefty fee for the rest of your life. I do sympathize with your difficulties, but on the whole, considering the junk their sisters have put me through, I mostly just chuckle at the privations of feminists and former feminists as their chickens come home to roost.

    3. It used to be the case that husbands supported wives and children on one income. I know many women would love to be supported, stay-at-home moms, and that the Catholic tradition of a stable family home is dependent in large part on having a Mom who is present and available to the kids.

      The Catholic Church does not teach that its tradition of a stable family home is dependent only on a stay-at-home mother, and being a mother who is present and available to kids isn’t exclusively about staying home, either. I’m not denigrating stay-at-home mothers. What I do question, however, is the all-or-nothing concepts of being a good mother that American Catholics tend to have, especially when it’s not what the Church actually teaches. Moreover, there tends to be this sense of “providing” and “headship” for men that boils down mostly to being the main breadwinner with the bigger paycheck, instead of stewardship and providing that is contingent upon neither of those things. Men and women steward differently the gifts that they’ve been given, and there is a very real spiritual sense to being a mother and a father that integrates everything. Hence the reason why the celibate and virgin provide such an important witness– and one that Americans, Catholics included, miss because we live in a culture that neither understands nor respects celibacy (and of course reading “be fruitful and multiply” like some biblical fundamentalist– thereby cherry-picking Scripture to interpret literally while ignoring others like the ones on the True Vine, the Bread of Life, and those who give up marriage for the Kingdom– doesn’t help).

      We need to think about the ways in which fulfilling work outside the home– for those who do– can make a particular woman a better mother, just as it’s more than okay to be a stay-at-home mother. This is not a one-model-fits-all deal. It’s what it means for a woman and a man to steward as wives and mothers and husbands and fathers what God has given them. And one of the ways that helps us see this as a matter of stewardship is knowing that the Church does not teach that the vocation of motherhood is exclusively biological.

      I’ll bring up St. Gianna Beretta Molla again for another reason: she worked and was a holy wife and mother. She was a pediatrician– in the 1940s, and born in the 1920s. There are two things that does teach a woman to be a good wife and mother before she has any children of her own: caring for other people’s children, and knowing how God parents us, whereby at the crux of it all is what a human being actually is. Moreover, maybe married couples with student debt should tackle that debt together, and always bring it before God. Furthermore, Catholics would do well to read John Paul II, “Mulieris Dignitatem” and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Cooperation of Men and Women in the Church and in the World.” These are two men who were born in the 1920s. Yet, for all the talk about “backward, celibate old white men in Rome,” what they’ve written is far more forward-seeing, loving, and charitable than what I read and hear from many– much younger– American Catholics.

      Also, I would point out that the mother of one of my priest friends is also a pediatrician. She had a husband who helped her out with the the kids. When she had the boys, she worked less and he worked more. When she did her residency in England, her husband looked after the boys. When the boys grew older, she worked more. And the elder son looked after the younger. Both of those boys are now men who are priests. That family moved here from India with almost nothing.

      Their family fits well within Church teaching about stable families, and it most certainly contests a narrative that I often see in the Catholic blogosphere, certainly among Americans– that we need stay-at-home mothers willing to be providentialists; that way, we’ll have more vocations– that are often advanced by those who think that having more children necessarily makes them more generous than those with smaller families, when oftentimes, what they say about “fostering more vocations” while having enough children to both have the grandchildren that they want while “giving God his due” discounts the fact that God could call all of their children to the priesthood and religious life, whereby they’d be worrying just as much as those with smaller families who may feel afraid of, say, their only son becoming a priest. If this is the way we think about these issues, then we’re far less generous than we imagine ourselves to be, and certainly not as generous as a working mother with two sons who gave both of them. Again, the issue here is detachment– something that our indulgent, sentimental, micromanaging culture isn’t very good at.

      He finds it incomprehensible and somehow sinister or perhaps manipulative.

      Oh, and this sort of man isn’t holding sinister, manipulative views, I suppose. That’s rich. One thing that did enable me to comfortably say that men like that could just take a hike was knowing that the Church has my back.

      If you teach that sexuality is a sin and that chastity is the only way to avoid that sin, you will never sweep in the thousands of young women you could by just turning this teaching around on its head: chastity is a good because it creates good for men and women both, not because it is the only avoidance of a sin.

      I get what you’re saying, but the Church does not teach that sexuality is a sin; rather, she teaches that disordered sexuality is a sin. This doesn’t just go for homosexual acts (which by the way, also apply to heterosexuals, too, if anyone knows what “slash fiction” is) and fornication. …and lust is sinful inside as well as outside of marriage, so those who think that marriage somehow makes lust “respectable” for somehow containing it have another thing coming (oddly enough, the proliferation of contraception makes this very, very clear). Moreover, I would suggest that you’ve got a false dichotomy going on here: sin is the absence of Love, the absence of God. That is precisely why chastity creates good for men and women, both. These things go together. Chastity enables us to live in God’s Love; to be filled up by Him as He dwells in us.

      Women are allowed to speak to these topics; otherwise, with the signal exception of Mother Angelica, the apologists are unrelentingly male.

      Google Dr. Helen Alvare, professor of Law at George Mason University. If you want to see apologetics in action through the way she contributes to her given field, check her out on YouTube. She is at the forefront of communicating what the Catholic position has to offer regarding women, and also in terms of challenging the HHS mandate. Another person I would google is Dr. Pia de Solenni, a theologian who studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University (?) in Rome, who writes on St. Thomas Aquinas, and has written on women and Pope Francis’s “theology of women.” If that’s not apologetics, I don’t know what is.

      Moreover, in terms of “leadership in the Church,” the reality of the “Church” goes way beyond the institutional structure. Maybe what we see as “painfully slow acceptance of women into true leadership positions” has a lot to do with our very limited sense of “Church.” Nothing to say that a woman can’t serve in some higher capacity in the Church’s institutional structure, which by no means equals women’s ordination. If I am, say, an academic who serves the Church in my profession by letting the Catholic faith inform my life and the way I conduct my work, I am putting my self and work at the service of the Church, and I am “in a leadership position in the Church” regarding the work and the people under my stewardship. If Lumen Gentium— which is about the laity– is any indication, then we lead where we can, and it’s wide open. Women lead in the world precisely by being mothers, which is a vocation that the Church understands both spiritually and materially. They are at the forefront of what it means to take the Church out into the world: how we steward what we are given includes, but is not exclusive to, what we “do,” and it’s how we share the faith with others.

    4. One more thing, statistically children stay with the Church when their father stays with the Church. That’s the main deciding factor. Focusing on women will only make things worse. Make men want to stay and then their daughters will want to stay. Putting women in charge will make the Church more uncomfortable for men, men will leave, and their sons and daughters will follow.

      1. Nobody is “focusing” on women, but women do have a voice in the Church– which is something we forget when we let the culture speak for women while we remain silent. We also forget that the Church is female. Moreover, it’s a serious problem when Catholics who are tired of feminists and feminism see that the only solution is complete withdrawal from the issue or some degree of misogyny, when the Church doesn’t teach any such thing, and has better answers.

        Nobody said anything about “putting women in charge.” I certainly didn’t. The Church also doesn’t teach anything about how any advancement of women means “putting them in charge” any more than she teaches that “being the head of the woman” means license to be an authoritarian neanderthal.

        I am interested in how often a father goes to Mass, but I am far, far more interested in how often he deigns to grace the inside of the Confessional and make that Confession a good one, and I am always leery when anybody at all tries to mandate what the Church does not, or doesn’t want to deal with their insecurities.
        You can “go to church every Sunday” all you want, but if you don’t model the faith, then nobody is going to be convinced that God is not only intimately near but does indeed exist, because you’ve already shown them that you don’t believe that what the Church teaches is true by refusing to submit to it. Most men who are bad Catholics aren’t bad Catholics or leave the Church because “the women are in charge.” They’re bad Catholics or leave the Church because they’re lazy, and should stop blaming other people for their own shortcomings– especially their bad ideas of manhood (the Church has far better ones).

        Men already have all the reason that they need to stay in the Church, the same as anyone else: ecce Angus Dei, ecce qui tollis Peccata Mundi. If that doesn’t convince them to stay, nothing– or next to nothing– will. Lord, to whom shall we go?

        1. I hadnt seen your comment when I wrote that. What are you talking about? Everyone is focusing on women and trying to come up with ways to increase their presence at every level of decision making in the Church and decrease or eliminate obedience to men. If that doesn’t qualify as “putting women in charge” tell me what does! Of course, ordination is off the table, but that won’t matter much if priests only serve a functional role in the Church or what was it Pope Francis said recently about that?

          It’s serious problem (for feminists) which is delightful. But I see your point, good men need to man up and put up with those strident harpies and marry those newly reformed party girls who have started to notice wrinkles and really need to lock down a man before her looks and fertility fail entirely. I don’t know what your ideas of manhood are, but claiming they are the Church’s doesn’t mean they are the Church’s. But I’d be interested in hearing your definition of manhood. What is it? Me personally, like I said above, I’m just enjoying being able to reject feminists who thought they had a perfect plan worked out. Haha. probably not unlike the older, successful, single men Constance mentioned. You feminists are on your own.

          1. That Pope Francis talked about how women are important wherever crucial decisions are made re a “theology of women” isn’t “putting women in charge.” Because he knows that men are given authority and headship by God to serve others and care for them in a way that women aren’t.

            It’s funny that Wojtyla, Ratzinger, and Bergoglio all write and say such beautiful things about women, because they are comfortable with their own masculinity and role as husbands and fathers. Too bad some Catholic men clearly aren’t. Actually, I had a lot of trouble with Ephesians 5 until I saw Pope Benedict XVI prostrate himself in front of that altar on Good Friday, and then the penny finally dropped. Without his example, I would’ve kept believing the feminist lie. A lot of Catholic men have dropped the ball big time. Catholic men who think that being a “real” man means lording it over everyone and behaving like neanderthals and petty tyrants who demand an unthinking obedience that the Church’s Magisterium and the Pope most certainly don’t demand are also on their own. A man’s authority is already given him by God. But he has another thing coming if he thinks he can abuse it and use it to crush others. The First Commandment tends to be a real doozy that way, and thank God for it.

            The definition of manhood I understand is that modeled by Christ– the perfect man. Most American Catholic mothers and fathers don’t encourage their sons to be this kind of man: the kind of man who can lay down his life for others, to whom a woman can and will submit, because it means submitting to the care of someone she can trust. And Joseph Ratzinger’s discussion of submission in Introduction to Christianity says it better than I.

            Some of us Catholic women don’t agree at all with what feminists think, feel, or want. But we also know that there do exist immature Catholic men who are creepy enough to make all women responsible for their own inability and unwillingness to put on their big-boy pants and deal with their own insecurities.

            Moreover, I went into marriage not needing a man to be happy, whereby I can be happy in marriage knowing that God gave me my husband as a gift. With God, I don’t “need” a man to be happy, and I don’t “need” marriage to be happy. But I can accept it gratefully and willingly as part of God’s loving plan for me, just as with His grace, I would be able to accept what He means for me, if, say, my husband should die.

            So I would neither need nor want a man who behaves like you, anyway.

  28. The perfect storm also came with an atomic bomb – The Pill and the dissent from Humanae Vitae.

  29. Thank you Msgr ., for drawing attention , to many areas where the faithful need to groan and call on The Spirit , to cast away much that is not of The Lord , trusting what a mighty intercessor we have in Him, in His Sacred Heart , to which He invites that we bring all receieve the manifold Father love , from the Holy Trinity , the Apostles and saints and of course the maternal comfort and guidance too , through esp. His Mother and Holy women !

    Thus , marriage and children too , to be domains for spiritual warfare and its fruits , trusting in The Lord that every act of putting trust in His power and goodness , can bring forth unimginable good !

    For those who find it hard to have a partner , to be more empowered by The Spirit ,thus to help make many others , to be prayer warriors !

    Thank you again, for invoking The Spirit , into the lives of all , to cleanse and strenghten all areas , so that greed at many levels get replaced by yearing for God , immorality by wanting the dominion of The Spirit ..and The Lord , who even used the sleep of Adam , hopefully would readily come to aid many , by the pleadings of many !


  30. What about the f word unspeakable in the Church–Feminism, and the annihilation of natural gender roles?

  31. Patrick, you seem so very angry at women! I think you must really despise us…perhaps you are a misogynist, even. I’m an ex feminist myself, having learned it at the knee of my divorced mother (who gave up on my dad after the fifth or sixth affair and the second or third baby he had with a mistress) and then at the knee of mother academia. Yes, women and men of these recent generations are all screwed up! But the cure is the love pouring forth from the heart of God. It resets priorities and re shapes egos and lives. Patrick, I hope you realize the joy you take in the sad life of the lonely ex feminist cannot be pleasing to God. It’s not kind to take joy in the misery of others. You don’t know why those women chose that path. Reducing them to the sum of that set of beliefs or behaviors leaves no room for understanding the pressures that might have led them to choose feminism. Being used by men one is in love with and then being discarded, becoming pregnant and then being pressured unrelentingly to abort…these are some common reasons that lead to women becoming hardened and cold. I ought to know since I lived through it. Both sexes can be cold and calculating when it comes down to it…and all this comes as a natural response to lives lived in a way that blocks access to grace. Happily, I finally received an annulment and then married one of those successful, older single men you spoke of. He saw I loved God and therefore overlooked a couple of age lines. I was also willing to overlook his age lines and his stubborn resistance to marriage. We worked it out and are now happily wed. I saw he loved the Church and believed in God and that made him a very good choice, not his success at work or anything else. It’s all about putting the Lord first. Then everything else seems to fall in line. Because I tried (imperfectly, it’s true) to put God first, He is remaking me from the inside out. And there’s hope for all of us in Him, including you, even with all the hurts you must have suffered in order to get to the angry place you are.

    1. @ Laura G
      Not at all. I despise feminists, who by my reckoning aren’t women. Possibly in much the same way women despise lazy cowards and buffoons but not men. Maybe feminists don’t realize they, along with the extremely overweight, are the equivalent, in the minds of most men, of the lazy buffoon on welfare with a fake back injury so he “can’t” work or cut his toenails.

      “3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

      That is the exact opposite of feminists, i.e. 95-99% of women today. So maybe I am a misogynist by feminist standards. I couldn’t care less.

  32. PS: thank you Monsignor Pope, for having created this compelling discussion and giving us the opportunity to share our thoughts.

  33. Thank you for your article. I enjoyed reading and exploring the possibilities presented there along with the numerous comments.

    I was surprised that the problem I (a boomer) experienced in my life was not addressed EVER. And I feel it is the major problem behind the breakdown in society, marriage, the family, the religious life, and relationships per say. I even thought as a young person the Women’s Rights campaign had a very valid point.

    We never stopped hearing about ‘obedience’ which amounted to women being expected to obey, honour, respect, support and put up with their husbands, even to performing when required the conjugal act and the outcome meant too often the woman left holding the baby.

    Oh well, we used to hear; women have to pay for the sin of Adam and Eve, Original sin was Eve’s fault and God expects women to live under the curse of Eve. Now Society and the church in particular are wondering why everything is gone down the plughole.

    When the Church makes the whole Gospel statement with as much rigor as the ‘obedience’ sermon, and men are made aware they have a Duty to Love their wives as much as they love themselves, the whole burden and responsibility will be back on track again.

    I don’t believe most people get into marriage for the sex. I believe most people are looking for a family or partner to help them through life and most of all everyone wants and needs to be loved, and the children that come along are another story, not to minimise their importance of course.

  34. Archdiocese of Washington — Four Factors That Fuel the Crisis in Marriage and Family, By: Msgr. Charles Pope
    December 8, 2013

    Msgr. Charles Pope,
    Archdiocese of Washington,
    Office of Communications,
    P.O. Box 29260,
    Washington, DC, 20017-0260,
    Ph: 301-853-4516
    E-mail: [email protected] ,

    cc: Spirit Daily

    THE PROCREATION OF CHILDREN: . . . .(JMS: mis-placed down in “Factor #4”)

    A chief place for us to begin rebuilding the case for traditional Marriage is resetting the premise of the discussion.

    Marriage is about children and what is best for them. Marriage is not about the rights of adults per se, it is about what is justly due to children.

    Marriage takes its structure and mission as an institution based on the fact that every child deserves and has a birthright to be raised by by a father and mother, who have committed themselves to a stable and loving union, so as to give their child a stable an loving upbringing under the formative influence of both a male and female, that is their own parents.


    (JMS: ) The inordinate problem of self-love over self-donation . . . .


    FOUE FACTORS per the article:

    I. Family history,

    II. Fornication,

    III. Finances,

    IV. Formation struggles


    (JMS:) A critical starting-point to influence “Western Civilization”

    . . . One-percent of men only — Catholic Schools

    . . . One-percent of men only — Jewish Day Schools

    . . . One-percent of men only — (North America) Conservative and Fundamental Baptist and Apostolic Protestant Day Schools


    (JMS:) Cardinal Wuerl’s “Pittsburgh” is a microcosm of “Western Civilization”, and its a good place to begin . . . .


    Sincerely yours,

    James Stafford
    Norton, OH
    St. Augustine Parish

    E-mail: [email protected]

    . . .

  35. The Bishops’ own Catholic University of America is one of the chief offenders for graduating people, at least graduate students, with scads of debt.

  36. Monsignor Pope, I really appreciate your postings but I am very disappointed that you could manage to write a piece like this on marriage without once mentioning contraception. It’s the elephant in the room and it forces every other factor into its own small corner. Are you following the lead of Bishops in avoiding the use of the word? Is it because Cardinal O’Malley failed altogether in his duty as Bishop to include it in his remarks? Truly, this is a disgraceful treatment of the subject at hand and serves only to further denigrate and marginalize Church teaching on fertility in marriage, the evil of contraception and the mortal danger to souls who practice sterile sex. Contraception itself altogether re-defines and perverts the marriage act and sows the seeds for such perversions as same-sex “marriage” yet the silence on this is deafening in your article.

    The open sexual sin which you noted and the accompanying unchastity which you noted could not exist in present form without the practice of contraception. Divorce was simply a symptom and natural outcome of the widespread use of contraception, and very little, if any, of these factors would have touched Catholic marriages if the Bishops had firmly promoted the traditional teaching of the Church, as reiterated in Humanae Vitae, and provided the discipline to their flocks that protection from this evil deserved. But here we are now, in the devastated vineyard, afraid to face the horror—yes, I said horror—of our rejection of God’s truth on human sexuality.

    Out of wedlock children are hardly possible on any noteworthy scale without contraception; epidemics of cohabitation, pre-marital sex, promiscuity likewise.

    It’s wonderful to talk of chastity and extol the beauties and precious fruits of that virtue but it’s absolutely disingenuous to altogether avoid the topic of contraception! God help us! The spiritual blindness is breathtaking!

    And again, God help us, but of all the bafflegab about factors fuelling the marriage and family crisis, finances should be the very last item to make such a list. Again, it must be difficult only for the blind to not see that the subject of finances only begs the question of a choice to use contraception. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? How then can finances make it to no. 3 spot?

    The Cardinal has no problem talking about the “cohabitation mentality” and I suppose that’s because we didn’t have a Humanae Vitae on the subject of cohabitation. We did, however, have one about contraception. You noted, “Cardinal O’Malley says, The whole notion of family is so undercut by the cohabitation mentality.” How is it possible that the Cardinal could not bring himself to mention the contraceptive mentality? God have mercy!

    It is no wonder the Church is practically irrelevant to our society at large. We refuse to share with the world one of God’s most precious truths about sexuality, the very truth that could help them grasp one of the major evils of our time and repair a gaping wound in society. We keep it a secret so the world will not condemn us for our own unbelief!

    And then how is it possible to bring up the subject of catechesis and not mention the reformation we truly need in our thinking regarding the role that Church teaching on contraception should take? Yes indeed, “People struggle to figure all this out” but I’m afraid most of the struggles are of our making because we refuse to address the elephant sitting next to us. How shameful and pathetic.

    Monsignor you are a priest of some influence in America and your posting has done a shocking disservice to Catholics and to the truth. In my opinion the proper penance would be at least one posting, if not a full series, correcting and amending this posting. Your posting only gives cover to 40 or more years of rebellion by church leaders—and the sheep that follow them—to the truth of Church teaching.

    If you would care to take the time to see what an honest discussion on this subject is like, why not read this article?

    1. This is NOT a comprehensive statement of the problem, only of FOUR fundamental factors. Did you miss my disclaimer? And of course we never want to miss an opportunity to bash bishops, EVEN when they step out and say what is right. NO we have to BASH them because they are NOT RIGHT ENOUGH. Come on y’all!

      Now we have discussed contraception and the cont. mentality at length on this blog, and Cardinal O’Malley has said a few other things on marriage too. Would you PLEASE read the title, “FOUR” does not equal “ALL” This nasty attitude and: “you didn’t check off all my favorite boxes” mentality is very discouraging and does encourage any clergy who might want to get out there. It’s bad enough to attacked by the seculars, but you, a brother in the Lord. c’mon…. Shame on you.

      Bring your nasty note to your confessor and see what he thinks of it. Five Paters, Aves and Gloria Patri’s for you

  37. One of the other reason not listed is religious who do not adhere to church teaching on contraception. I know of a couple who went to their priest after having five children & the priest said it was not a sin for the father to get a vasectomy. This priest is still a pastor at the church & there’s no telling how many poor souls have been misguided by this priest.
    St. Ambrose excommunicated the emperor in his time for killing innocent people, yet our leaders in the church refuse to do the same to political leaders who are cino’s & ignore church teaching on divorce, contraception, abortion & active homosexuallity.
    No wonder society is a cesspool of immortality & destroyed families. If folks come to believe that there are no consequences to their behavior, well, then everything is permissible. Too many have falsely come to believe that there are no consequences to living in sin. The heretical belief that all are going to heaven no matter what lifestyle one lives gives credence to “anything goes as long as it feels good & meets my needs” mentality that is prevalent in society.
    A question I pose: How many of the lawmakers in the past were catholic & went along with instituting no fault divorce, abortion, contraception & same-sex marriage? Were they excommunicated for voting yes on these issues?
    Some say we have to be pastoral. Well, if pastoral means we perpetually send them letters or meet with them personally to call them out of their sin & they refuse to do so, then why aren’t canon law procedures implemented?

  38. Over 20,000 words written (including 94 comments) and not a single reference to the key word: covenant. Folks it is all about the covenant, the Old Testament covenant (with Noah’s Family) and the New and Everlasting Covenant in Jesus Christ’s Blood, shed on Calvary. Covenant has been replaced by contract and there is a world of difference (by the way, great video on the cohabitation contract). The end result of this attack on the Sacrament of Marriage, the goal of those forces who want it redefined, is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Dr. Scott Hahn knows the connection well. It is the Lamb’s Supper (at Mass here on earth and in heaven) that they seek to destroy (consciously or not). One of the chief ways they do this is by co-opting the signs that God gave man that recall His covenant promise, and by twisting the original meaning for their own agenda.

    Do I dare mention the gay pride rainbow flag?
    Well they have it, because we do not…

    The rainbow is in Genesis and Revelation (Alpha and Omega) (also in Ezekiel and Ecclesiasticus)

    It surrounds Jesus Christ seated in glory in heaven! It just might precede Him as the sign of His Second Coming!

    They have the flag and they have a perverted six-color version.

    We need to peacefully rally under the word COVENANT, Jesus enthroned above the real ROYGBIV rainbow flag.

    Please watch this video and wake up to the music!

    Our Lady Ark of the New and Everlasting Covenant, Pray for us!

    1. Sorry we didn’t completely fulfill your agenda and articulate what you think using exact terminology. Was it really 20,000 words? Any rate this does not propose to be a full theology of marriage, just a brief discussion of SOME of the factors that trouble marriage today (did you miss my disclaimer?)

      1. No Monsignor I did not overlook your disclaimer. And I do not have an agenda, just a mission witness the Fullness of Truth. Do you see the biblical connection between Our Lord, Jesus Christ and the covenant rainbow?

        What I find troubling is the clinical approach, statistical or otherwise that seems to treat this huge problem as a matter that we can send to committee in order to program a solution. This is hubris and folly.

        What is needed is courageous mass witness. If we do not put first things first, we miss the ultimate truth in this battle and our ultimate responsibility to God and mankind as faithful Catholics.

        We laity know the score. States are falling like dominoes to the relentless pressure of toleration and ultimate acceptance of grave sin which leads to societal breakdown. Grave sin is institutionalized and codified into law and religious persecution is upon us.

        The Kingdom of Judah was destroyed and sent into exile in Babylon after one final breach of the covenant. (freeing of slaves and enslaving them again)

        Jeremiah 32:39-41 tells us what God desires:

        I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.

        If we do not pay attention to that historical moment of salvation history we too may lose God’s protection.

        It is with this grave lamentation that I write because I sense we are very close.

        (((the 20,000 words included the comments)))

  39. Back in 1966 the priest who married me and my husband said “birth control will lead to the legalization of abortion and euthanasia.” We thought he was over reacting but now we have to agree.

  40. Blessed Mother Teresa (and other modern saints) point to Contraception at the root of the breakdown of family. Of course culture doesn’t help, but the “summer of love,” in my opinion, was just a symptom of what was already underway . . .
    “In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception” Mother Teresa

  41. Yes, the horror of what has happened to our world is not lost upon us.
    Faith, leadership, example and recovery is vital if we are to reclaim some measure of sanity. Sadly we have not had a rallying call!
    Maybe because of embarrassment at the scandal of child abuse by clergy – further evidence of a slide into the abyss! Decrying the situation achieves nothing; leadership is vital. Let’s light a candle!

  42. Just an old uneducated grandpa writing, but a thinker. My mother had 13 kids and accepted them as God gave them to her, from the 1930s to the 1950s. Very difficult financial times but wonderful. A mother of great faith. If I think hard and truthful, is not NFP just another means of birth control? It is a little like stealing, steal $10 (NFP) steal $100 ( the pill), still stealing. Either one puts me in control, not God. If we had the faith of a mustard seed we would accept none or any number of children that God has planned for us. It is His plan, His world!

  43. There is something missing from this article that I believe is a catalist for the breakdown of the family.

    The Great Society that LBJ had proclaimed opened the door for people to be able to get assistance from the government and created a welfare class. While it did help some, it has also put people in positions where they do not need to depend on someone else to raise a child. The government can provide this. Those who have been most impacted by this are the black families, and the article points out how much the impact of 2 parent families have changed the dynamic.

    The effects of this have been devastating in our society and have caused a degradation of our education system, increased crime, and in the end I believe we have lost our moral compass.

    Many of the other points made here also contributed, but I believe that this was the catalyst and cannot be ignored.

  44. I have expetienced this myself so can answer the above is correct.However also it is lack of formation before and after marriage.On going catechist from marriage guidance can never solved the problems, if the couple are using artificle contraception I think.This leads to lack of commitment before and after marriage.Hence lack of big families.It is hard to live in society where everyone is expected to own a house/work/ pay bills so many couples resort to family planning.Tis is where I believe every parish should have a support/pastoral council for familes on a DAILY basis,not just when things are bad.That way the church can be part of the family not a solution when couples just turn up for weddings and christianing.

  45. I don’t mean to “pass the buck”, but I feel something that is being overlooked is the lack of courage or desire by our Catholic Bishops, priests, and religious to tell their people the “truth” and not what they want to hear! How many times do you hear religious talking about Hell or Purgatory? It seems like their afraid to upset their parishioners. And our Catholic schools,…wow!!! I put my five children through them to learn about God and the Church and all they seem to strive is academics, academics, academics (forget religion). And the girls’ dress codes? Well, we mustn’t talk about that. They’re aloud to wear skirts so short that it makes the girls from the public schools look old fashioned. Why doesn’t our Bishops and chaplains at the schools teach them “MODESTY”? It’s because the don’t want to loose the students and the MONEY their parents give. I worked (voluntarily) in the schools everyday for almost 18 years and RELIGION is the last thing the schools emphasize.

  46. Three to get married. Jesus, husband and wife. When you promise (covenant) in this way and when throughout your marriage you nourish this relationship from the cross and in the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist, you are provided the grace to sustain the bond of love through richer or poorer, sickness or health, til death do you part.

    Before my reversion (April 16, 1998) I would have never believed this. Now, fifteen years into marriage I am certain that it is the covenant that is crucial and it needs to be kept front and center. Out of sight, out of mind.

  47. I agree with Cardinal Sean O’Malley that couples do not get adequate preparation before marriage, therefore, most marriages fail. I would like to make a suggestion “The theology of the Body” by Blessed John Paul II.
    The study of it should be mandatory in all parishes especially to prepare couples. I am sure if they did that there would be far less divorces and annulments.

  48. Some thoughts:
    Feminism is a major cause that ought to be looked at. Two points here:
    (1), Feminism pushing careerism for women as an end in itself: there is nothing inherently wrong with wives working outside of the house, but … but … what is the emphasis of this working? Is it to place the career over the children? Or is it to aid the family in raising the children? I’d like to submit that the Proverbs 31 wife is a far better example of a wife working outside of the home than someone like Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook), Marissa Mayer (CEO, Yahoo), Marilyn Hewson (CEO, Lockheed Martin) or Janet Napolitano (UC Chancellor and former SecDHS). Yes these women are achievers … but they are also poor examples for a woman who wishes to connect with her family more than is called for in careers. Further, the Proverbs 31 wife is in a far better position to instruct younger women as called for in Titus 2.
    (2), feminism has pushed hard to support the current family court law environment and the unchaste expressions of chastity we’ve all seen out there, women as much as men. “If it feels good, do it!” Little wonder that single women far outvoted every other demographic in favor of Obama in the last election. Men, on the other hand, respond to negative incentives as well as positive ones. If they’re seeing major risk in marriages, many of them will stay away. Selfish, I know, but it’s hard for many men to voluntarily put their head on the block that is family law today and trust that their wives won’t take a swing at their necks.

    On the topic of chastity: though of course it is not the entire picture, there is a basis in biology for the preference of chastity before marriage: it is in that men and women often form the strongest bond with their first lovers. The glow of that first encounter often stays with them in their memories. Hence it is vitally important that this bonding be reserved to marriage for then that bond transforms into one of the bedrocks of a lifetime marriage along with faith in God and generosity in spirit toward spouse and family. Every time someone takes a lover outside of wedlock, that part of them that could bond in marriage gets rubbed away little by little until these people become undesirable candidates for marriage. No wonder there is so much coverup about past partners. For such a tainted person to be married takes true repentance and even then they may not escape the temporal consequences of their sexual sins. But that repentance is something many will pretend and very few will actually have. So we end up with a very messed up courtship scene…

    One more for the bishops: I’m not the most traditional Catholic, but I get really worked up when I see “alleged” Catholics like Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden and many of the Kennedy’s face no consequences from The Church for supporting abortion. Pelosi shouldn’t ever have an audience with the Pope, but she did! Cardinals Dolan and O’Malley should be calling her and other prominent Catholics out for this. Make a public show of refusing Communion to them. But they don’t. I think there is something seriously wrong there. Believe Benedict once said it may be necessary for the Church to go through a crisis to shrink in order to reduce itself to the true believers. Can’t find that quote so I’m paraphrasing as best as I can remember. But it makes sense. I think the Church loses some credibility here…

  49. Thx for this Mrgr. I haven’t had a chance to comment (our Archdiocese closed their web poll after a super brief 14 days before I remembered to go check it out!) But let me add this wee bit of folk-wisdom from the trenches:

    I. Family history – “which… have had a very destructive effect on Holy Matrimony and the family.” your dateline has a little premature ejaculation. According to the data at the NYTimes,
    marital discord maxed out in the 40s (see stats in divorce chart) as I can attest: my mother-in-law was my father-in-law’s third wife. War has consequences, very bad ones. Hubbie’s aunt was a war widow. Veteran’s benefit entitlements warp family relationships, warp whole economies: the “greatest generation” have sunk the nation into indentured servitude which narry a thought to who will pay the piper!

    II. Fornication – “…has had a number of deleterious effects on Holy Matrimony and the family.” you presume illiciit heterosexual libido on what grounds? Young adult libido found homosexual outlets in WWI, this is not something newly relevant but as old as the hills. Again “easy” military solutions to entrenched political problems has consequences: how many veterans come home as “damaged goods” emotionally deformed, exposed to venereal diseases, perhaps an absent father to offspring in distant lands? The libertine sixties weren’t especially novel: the twenties set a social trend for excess that collapsed in on itself in the Great Depression (see Waugh’s “Vile Bodies”)

    III. Finances – “…saddled under this tremendous debts which former generations didn’t have.” no but they were saddled with demeaning service in the CCC or conscription, and decades of profound deprivation. This geared up a generation to be focused on materialistic ambition above all else and economic progress to the detriment of spiritual reflection and growth in the virtues via detachment (heck living thru so much ‘detachment’ kinda put the kabosh on virtue, for their children and their childrens’ children too)

    IV. Formation struggles – “the Church needs to “catechize our young people and instill in them a sense of vocation, and also to help them understand what courtship is about.” there are TWO sacraments of service to communion, and formation of the presbyterite is as important: how many priests are willing to invest in the challenging work of accompanying couples through marriage strife and instill hope for healing? Prepping for the wedding is all well and good, but the theology of the sacrament of reconcilitaion demands that spousal sins, marital peccadilloes and serious infidelities can be, indeed must be, borne with equanimity for the good of the children. In courtship young people can take their leisure to seek a good partner. but in marriage we no longer have that luxury, spouses may only seek to BE a good partner, there’s no alternative game plan. How may priests are familiar with Retrouvaille ministry, or are trained to help couples find similar peer-to-peer programs that work via solidarity and subsidiatity (the minister of marriage is NOT a priest, it is the couple themselves)

    Gripe re: quality of media in social networking :
    your choice of video isn’t “good,” “beautiful” or “true” its simple snarky and as such not worthy of the Conjugal Balduchin of Holy Orders; would you have posted it if it were posed by a same-sex civilly shacked-up couple? Sarchasm tastes sour and never attracts.

  50. A covenant mentality and a culture that honors the covenant is the center point. When you make a willed covenant with the Triune God you make it the bedrock of your life. It changes everything. Covenant communion is what links us to all other human beings through with and in Jesus Christ. It is the triple cord bond that is hard to break (Eccl 4:12). When it is missing from the equation, when it is not taught, contemplated, and acted upon our faith becomes dead and relationships fall apart.

    Our Blessed Mother has a privileged bonded relationship with each person of the Holy Trinity. When we give our fiat in love to God: Father, So and Holy Spirit we imitate her and begin a life of bonded service in Jesus Christ. Our adoption at Baptism is made fruitful with our fiat. We are kin to God, we are family with each other.

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