Marriage Survey Finds Significant Generational Differences – But Wait There’s Hope!

I was alerted to the following CNS Article on a recent CARA survey of Catholic Attitudes on Marriage. I post excerpts of it here below with some comments in red by yours truly.

Catholic attitudes about marriage differ by generation, says survey

By Maria Wiering, Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Catholic attitudes on marriage in the church are different among generational groups, according to results of a 2007 survey of U.S. Catholics by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.

Social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead talked about the survey results in a keynote address June 25 in St. Paul at the annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.

The survey showed that older Catholics — those who were adults before the Second Vatican Council — are more likely to look to the Church as the source for meaning and expectations for marriage than are baby boomers or members of Generation X or the millennial generation. Older Catholics also are more likely to be familiar with the Church’s teaching on marriage, to believe in marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman, and to think of marriage as a sacrament that extends beyond the wedding day, it said. Whitehead attributed this attitude to being raised in a time of a distinct Catholic identity that included an emphasis on the church’s teachings on sex, procreation and marriage. (I have commented before on this blog that, beginning in the 1960s many began to reinterpret the basic meaning of marriage. No longer were children and raising a family the central focus. The focus came to center on the happiness of the spouses. Hence easier divorce came to be seen as “essential” since without it happiness might be hindered. Prior to that time, when children were the essential focus, divorce was seen as highly problematic since it so negatively impacted children. Likewise in the 1960s sex became no longer associated with the procreation of children but, again, only associated with the happiness of the spouses. If children were a part of that happiness fine, if not, fine too. With children out  of the picture as the central purpose of marriage many distortions follow such as easy divorce and now even “gay” marriage. If marriage is just about the happiness of the couple and children are merely a possible “accessory”, not an essential component, then who is to say two gay people can’t be happy together – or so the argument goes)

Generation Xers — ages 25 to 35 — … are confused about marriage, and their attitudes are closer to those of the general population, Whitehead said. “[Generation  Xer] Catholics want to marry a soul mate, and they’re much less likely to see marriage in these broader, institutional [family] terms,” she said. Sixty-nine percent of Catholics [from this generation] believe that marriage is whatever two people want it to be, and the sacramental understanding does not figure as prominently into their understanding, she said. (So there it is. Depart from the Biblical and Church teaching on marriage and we are left with a designer marriage. Such widely variable definitions of marriage cannot be the basis for a strong or united civilization, country or Church. The privatization of marriage and the anything goes notion are not a stable basis on which to build. Hence we are left with the modern experience of a balkanized (divided) vision for marriage, family, basic values and moral teaching. Unity decays and the basis for country Church and even civilzation is lost).

….However…the youngest generation — the millennial generation (ages 18 to 24)  — is showing a swing toward traditional ideas.  “The youngest Catholics … look a lot more like the pre-Vatican II, Vatican II or post-Vatican II cohorts,” she said. “Huge majorities — 80 percent or more — of these youngest Catholics believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment and that people don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is readily available.” Many children of this generation have experienced divorce in their own families, and they are determined not to divorce themselves, Whitehead said. “This is a hopeful change,” she said. (Indeed it is a hopeful change! I too have encountered children  and young adults in their 20s who are saddened, even disgusted with the broken down situation they have had to endure from their parents and grandparents. They know first hand the bankrupcy of the “designer marriage” easy divorce and confused atmosphere of the current climate. There is a knod of backlash setting in wherein the youngest couples I prepare for marriage are eager to be taught the Scriptural and Church teaching on Marriage. Thus THERE IS HOPE!)

Whitehead urged family ministers to share the social science evidence to dispel misconceptions, she said….”In these times when we have a culture that is so really difficult for people to remain faithful in their marriages, there must be a polar recognition of the circumstances of life and the need of support to help people live out the teachings of their faith,” she said.


mm-logo_rgb3003This summer, the Archdiocese of Washington is marriage-minded! Check out these resources as well as events sponsored by the Office of Young Adult Ministry.

Marriage Matters Webpage:

Join the conversation at the Blog

Attend a Series of Talks
Sundays July 12, July 19, and July 26 at 6:30pm
Relationship Speaker and Discussion Series
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle North Conference Room
6:30pm (after the 5:30pm Mass) Light Dinner Included

July 12 Dr. Andre Leyva

“Dating and Mating from a Catholic Perspective”

Dr. Andre Leyva is the President and founder of the Psychology Center in Montgomery County, Maryland and a member of National Association of Hispanic Psychologists. He is a nationally and internationally recognized trainer, consultant, and key note speaker. His doctoral dissertation on Conflict Resolution was published and requested by mental health professionals in Europe and South America. He has written for two family magazines and has authored articles and workbooks. He is a frequent speaker at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Theology on Tap and Marriage Preparation program. Dr. Leyva has been married for 25 years and has six children.

July 19 Dr. Catherine Yohe
“The Essential Groundwork of Friendship”

Dr. Catherine Yohe received her Ph.D. in Historical Theology with a focus on spirituality from Catholic University of America. Her dissertation was on human friendship as a means to grow in union with God, and most of her publications and lectures have centered on the lay vocation or friendship. She has taught at Catholic University and LaSalle University and is presently teaching Scripture and Catholic Doctrine at Trinity School at Meadow View. She has been married for fifteen years and has a thirteen year-old son.

July 26 Deacon Al Turner
“While I’m Single: Living Life to the Fullest”

Deacon Al Douglas Turner is the Director of the Office of Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington. He is assigned to the Church of the Nativity in Washington, DC. and was recently appointed to the Maryland Catholic Conference Respect Life Committee by Archbishop Donald Wuerl. Deacon Turner received a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction in 2006 and a Master of Theological Studies degree in 2007 from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. Before his retirement from ABC News in 2007, Deacon Turner was employed for more than 28 years as a broadcast technician/ cameraman covering the White House, Capitol Hill, and news events around the world.

Marriage Can Wait??

Young boy proposing a woman at the parkOK guys, time to man up and ask her out on a date! Too many of you men are slow in looking for a bride. When I was ordained twenty years ago I had a lot of marriages. Today there are far fewer, and those that marry are much older. Perhaps maturity is a good thing PRIOR to marriage but couples are really waiting a long time these days. Now I was not born yesterday and I know that part of the reason for the delay is that couples are often fornicating and are just plain shacked up as well. True marriage is delayed as false notions of sexuality and marriage are indulged.

But there is also another phenomenon that is harder to understand. I have quite a number of young women, who are very attractive I might add, tell me that they are seldom asked out on dates, that young men don’t seem very good at taking initiative when it comes to dating and marriage. Now come on guys, be a man and get out there and ask her out!

I remember back in high school and college when I was a dating man, prior to discovering my call to be a priest, I remember that there were risks that you took when you asked a girl out. She might say no. She might even laugh. I might feel humiliated or depressed. Well? Welcome to life! Some of the more embarrassing moments of my life are related to the dating game. So I understand guys. But do what I did: get out there anyway! Take the risk, ask her out! Forget about your fragile little ego, be man and make the ask. You might be surprised. Many attractive young ladies are just waiting for some one man enough to ask them out on a serious date. I’m not talking about some vague thing like, “Maybe I’ll see you at the social tomorrow.” Ask her out on a real date. Just you and her.  Spend  a little money on her and dress well for the occasion.

It is odd that today with so many ways to communicate, it seems harder than ever for men and women to meet. Though our ways of communicating are more than ever, real and actual communication seems hard to come by. The simple fact is that we need to work on this, actually get out there and meet, communicate, date and marry.  Interestingly enough, a number of the recent marriages I have celebrated began on the internet, at a Catholic dating service. It’s not all that bad. Individuals signal their intention and wish to meet members of the opposite sex, share a significant amount of their values and expectations, and then meet to begin the process discernment. The Catholic faith is the starting point.

There is a lot of focus today on the issue of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, a good thing. But we need to wake up to the fact that marriage is on hard times. The statistics are sobering. In 1974 there were 46 Million Catholics in the USA and 400,000 marriages. In 2004 there were 70 million Catholics and only 200,000 marriages. Most priests know this personally. We just do a lot less marriages today. Further, the birthrate has dropped significantly for Catholics. One explanation: we are aborting and contracepting ourselves out of existence (the future world will feature a lot of Muslims and far fewer Catholics). But  another explanation is that marriage rates are dropping and many delay marriage far into the years when fertility is diminished and limited.

There is also a lot of talk about evangelization so let me recommend a fundamental pillar to the Church’s Evangelization Plan: Let’s have a lot of young Catholics get married FIRST, have lots of babies and raise them Catholic. 🙂

Alright young men, get out there on the field, MAN-UP and ask her for a date!  Young men and women, get serious about marriage. It is a holy institution established by God himself. It will make you holy, enrich the Church and ensure that we have a future. Are you up to it? We’re depending on you. Young men, don’t make the ladies wait and DON’T make me come out there and force you!

Here’s a fun video about the “Adventures” of Internet dating entitled “WEB SITE STORY”

Sweeping the Nation?

mm-logo_rgb3003In conversation and in the media you get the sense that redefining marriage is something that is sweeping the nation, that the majority of Americans are in favor of rewriting the definition of marriage and making a new definition law. This is simply not true. As California demonstrated when people are asked to vote on whether the state should define marriage as the union of one and one woman, people usually vote “yes”. Californians are not alone in this opinion. Do you know that 30 states have defined marriage through a constitutional amendment as the union of one man and one woman ? An additional eleven states prohibit same-sex marriage by statute. Only six states have legalized same sex marriage and three states do not prohibit same- sex marriage. Interestingly, in the six states that legalized same-sex marriage, it was through legal activism and through the courts that the legislation was created, not as a result of a ballot initiative or other voting opportunity.

The issue of marriage, specifically same-sex marriage has been featured prominently in the news as the D.C. Council seeks to recognize the marriage of same-sex couples who have been married in other states. Indeed, this will become law on July 7.

As the issue moves to the front page in the local papers it is all the more important to have the correct facts and to realize that the fight is far from over.

The Archdiocese of Washington has launched an initiative called MarriageMatters® with a WebPage that features articles and information about the Church’s teaching on marriage and the importance of marriage to family and society. The webpage also has links to helpful information from other Catholic sources. Please take advantage of its resources so that you can participate in one of the most important questions of this generation.

Archdiocese of Washington Offers a New Feature on Website:”Marriage Matters”

marriage_logoIf wedding bells are ringing in your near future, getting spiritually prepared is essential. Getting married isn’t just about preparing for a ceremony or a reception. It isn’t just even about preparing for a live together. It is ultimately about preparing for eternal life. Marriage is a call to holiness. What are some of the things you should know? When should you call the Church. What does the process of preparing look like?  What are some “must have” conversations? What exactly in the Christian and Catholic understanding of marriage?

Questions like these and more are dealt with at the Marriage Matters web page at the Website of the Archdiocese of Washington. You can find it here: MARRIAGE MATTERS.

At the site are links to other sites and resources including the Bishop’s Website on Marriage: FOR YOUR MARRIAGE

Websites such as these are efforts to spend extended time teaching on Marriage. It is clear today that many marriages are in crisis. Further there are attempts to redefine marriage. It is essential that we return to teaching on Biblical and doctrinal roots of this sacrament for many have more secular notions of marriage. In the predominant secular view the earthly happiness of the couple is paramount and children are more of a way of “accessorizing”  marriage should this enhance the couple’s happiness. Missing from this notion is any concept of sacrifice, self-giving, the common good, and the call to holiness (as distinct from mere emotional happiness).

It is to be hoped that we can begin to more systematically and creatively teach on the Sacrament of Marriage and recover a more Biblical, traditionally and doctrinally correct understanding of marriage. If you are married, or thinking of getting married or if you know of anyone in these categories visit the site, click on the Links and spread the Word: Marriage Matters!

In Marriages, little sacrifices can mean a lot and make a big difference. This video from the Bishop’s Website makes that point


wedding-feastI was reading the newspaper, enjoying a cup of coffee in a café on Capitol Hill when the conversation between two 30something women caught my attention. One woman was saying to the other that though she couldn’t be happier with her husband and she loves being married, she doubted she would remain married to him her entire life. Well, needless to say, I couldn’t help but keep listening. She went on to say that marriage was invented at a time when people did not live past 50 or so, and so one could imagine being married for twenty or thirty years but today, when people live to be ninety, you can’t really expect people to stay married to the same person for the rest of their lives.

Well, tell that to the more than 550 couples in the Archdiocese who will come together on Sunday at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate being married twenty-five years or more. 272 of these couples have been married fifty or more years. One couple, who can’t be at Mass on Sunday, but who will be honored at their parish has been married 75 years!

It’s probably safe to say that none of these marriages are perfect but all of the couples and have experienced the beauty of married love that has stood the test of time. As Helen Sewell, married 59 years shared “I know he’d do anything for me.”

If you are wondering what makes a marriage work, these are the people to ask. I think that they would have a multitude of reasons for what has made their love so enduring. If I had to guess, I would bet learning how to forgive, the importance of family life, praying together, laughter and not taking the small stuff too seriously would all be on the list.

While not a fan of country music, when flipping through channels one night, the refrain of the song that was playing was “saying I do, means saying “I will…” I’m not sure who sings that song but the couples we will honor on Sunday are the best proof we have that marriage is made to last a lifetime.

Bipartisan Congressional Response to DC”Same-Sex Marriage”Bill

The DC Catholic Conference issued a statement today in support of recent Congressional efforts to address the recent actions of the DC City Council recognizing same-sex marriages contracted in other states. The statement follows. Then after that if you will indulge me, my own remarks follow in red.

The D.C. Catholic Conference applauds efforts by members of Congress to support marriage in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 2608) was introduced by Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and more than thirty co-sponsors that recognizes in the District of Columbia, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

Marriage is a natural institution established by God and written in the very nature of man and woman and is therefore endowed with its own proper laws. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or a creation by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in human nature and experience. Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society.

Earlier this month, the District of Columbia City Council voted to recognize same sex “marriages” from other states, and did so through an amendment process that prevented residents of the city from having a voice. The vote indicated a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage.

I think the most important wording in this statement is this: Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. There has already been commentary on this blog that the procreation and rearing of children is an essential (not incidental) end of marriage (e.g.  HERE) As long as we continue to think of marriage as only about the happiness of adults involved and only incidentally about children we will continue to see high divorce rates, and confusions like “same-sex marriage” proliferate. We will also fail to see why marriage deserves special protection or privileges if children are only thought of as incidental and secondary aspects of marriage. This statement goes a long way to recover that fundamental insight. Marriage is fundamentally about children. The happiness and wishes of adults are secondary (though not unimportant). The fundamental and traditional structure of marriage is oriented to the good of children. Get this point right and a lot of other things fall in place. Of course marriages need to be stable and divorce frowned upon, children need stability. Of course marriage deserves a place of honor and should be accorded special privilege. Not for the adults, but for the children. Of course marriage should be heterosexual, this is how children are concieved. Finally, as the statement also makes clear: Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society. The best environment for a child to grow up in is a stable home with proper influence and example from a resident mother and father, both a male and female influence. even if this best environemnt is not possible in every case it remains best for children and should be enshrined and protected in law.

Pertinent to this discussion is teaching from the Church document The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons cf. in this video seven minutes and beyond:

The Miracle of Marriage

cep-nlg-wedding-05Today is the 50th Wedding Anniversary of my Parents, Charles and Nancy Pope. Both of them have passed away, my mother in 2005 and my Father in 2007. When I consider my parent’s marriage  I have come to know that I witnessed a miracle.

Their marriage was far from ideal in terms of the unrealistic notions of marriage the world dreams of. One of their children, Mary Ann my sister, was mentally ill and died tragically in 1991. My parents also had many personal struggles of their own and these placed great strains on their marriage. Years later my mother hinted that there were thoughts of divorce when they were both in their 40s but events and family duties intervened. (Praise the Lord). Yet over the years my parents grew to love one another quite intensely. They were seldom apart in their last 15 years. They traveled frequently and loved cruises. My Father had a conversion in 1989  (My mother had prayed years for that) and they went to daily Mass, almost never missed a day. My Father often said he had some Masses to make up for missed masses of his wayward years!

Shortly after my sister’s death in 1991, my mother, who was broken-hearted, suffered many set backs with her alcoholism.  She  struggled mightily to stay sober and most days she won, but there were stretches of great pain for her and all of us. Through it all my father stood steadfastly by her. He kept his eye on her strove never to leave her side when she got sore afflicted. He had struggled earlier in the marriage with alcohol and she had stood by him. Now it was his turn and he never gave up.

Sadly my mother lost her battle in 2005 and died as a result of her alcoholism. My Father  never really recovered. How can you live when half of you is gone? Within two years he was also dead. He died of a broken heart, literally and figuratively. Congestive heart failure and other complications along with renal failure was the medical cause but by now you know the truer cause.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I saw a miracle in my parents. God took two people and made them one. And it was not easy work, but God did it. In their latter years they showed a miraculous love, loyalty and unity. Grace can do that. My mother’s prayer and love brought my Father’s conversion back to the faith by God’s grace. My Father’s love and faith helped him stand by my mother and care for her in an illness that causes many to walk away.

Marriage isn’t always easy, but it is holy because God is its author. And God can take two people, two struggling and  imperfect people and make them one. I saw him do that with my parents. I saw a miracle. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad, Rest in peace with God.