Friday, January 09, 2009

Catholic Marriages in Decline

My bishop recently said you can't talk to young people about salvation, I am not sure what he meant, I am sure he will explain himself to his clergy at some stage soon.
The problem is that there are lots of other areas about which Catholics employed to teach the faith feel they cannot speak to young people. One area obvious to most priests, is marriage. I can understand a certain reticence when pupils come from what in the past might have been called "broken families", but it strikes me as a real failure in Catholic education that after eleven or thirteen years young people appear to have very little understanding of both why and what the New Testament and the Church teaches about marriage. I am not just thinking about the Theology of the Body which seems a closed book to young people, but basic things such as what constitutes a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church, and its relationship to Holy Communion.

I cannot help but think our failure to to teach, to speak ultimately results in people's unhappiness and has a knock on effect in society as a whole. I was horrified, but not entirely surprised by the following article in today's Telegraph:

This is a 24 per cent fall on the figure for 2000, when there were 13,029 Catholic marriages across England and Wales.
The rate of decline is twice as fast as the national rate, mainly because the Catholic church does not allow divorcees to re-marry in church.
In total there were 236,980 marriages in 2006 – the fewest since 1895 – but this has only fallen by about 12 per cent since 2000. Only one in three is now a religious ceremony.
The number of Catholic marriages is falling fastest in the diocese of Westminster, covering north London and Hertfordshire, which has seen figures drop by half in recent years, from 1,482 in 2001 to 795 in 2007.
The new Catholic Directory of England and Wales also shows there were 58,991 baptisms of children under seven in 2007, and that 915,556 worshippers attended Mass each week.


mafeking said...

Father, you should have been there. The catechesis was shocking when I think about it. So many missed opportunities. If only somebody had given me something like My Way Life by... (I forget who). I would have been alright. There ought to be some kind of Catholic O level which all Catholic schoolchildren have to take. At the moment it's just not taken seriously at Catholic schools and it's the most important subject of all. Maths, Biology and Chemistry yes - Religion no.

Laurence said...

Young men and women's perception of marriage has been shaped by the experience of their parents. The number of people I talk to about marriage who have said, "What's the point when they only break down?" is astonishing.

People think it is "safer" not to marry but to just have partnerships, so there are less complications later on should it fail.

In reality it is because of a lack of faith in our Lord, our Lady and the Sacraments of the Church to give people strength and trusting in God's love to oversee the marriage.

Too many from the previous generation from the 60s/70s/80s have set such a poor example that young men and women have lost all faith in the institution.

The same infection of bad faith which infected the seminaries, the liberalism and lack of conviction in the Magisterium, also infected families.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Perhaps the paedophile scandals have deterred non-practicing Catholics from using our facilities: it won't look good on the invitations … besides our churches are generally uglier than those of our Anglican counterparts. The rate of lapsation seems to have slowed but I suspect that this is because of immigration and secondly, we have hit a resistance from the Catholic population. In other words, we are down to a hardcore of ageing Catholics who are going to practice regardless of whether the Mass is EF or a traditional OF liturgy around the coffee table, complete with guitars and celebration hymnal.

Elizabeth said...

I feel that one of the main causes for the decrease in catholic marriages is the fact that many catholics do not realize that it is a source of and an increase in sanctifying grace for the spouses and a participation in the divine life of God Himself.

If someone was to tell them that they can have extra help in their marriage and in bringing up their children by marrying in a Catholic Church, there would definately be an increase in Catholic marriages. But parents and schools are failing. Our youngsters do not have a clue what sanctifying grace is, where it comes from, nor that they can call upon it in times of need.

Most Catholics marry, but too few understand that marriage is a sacrament to be lived. For those spouses who are faithful to Christ and His teaching, the Sacrament of Marriage is a source of grace to them and through them to their children. If more time was spent telling our youngsters the truth about THEIR FAITH and less about everybody else’s, marriage would not be in decline,

Looking at what is taught in schools today under the guise of sex education, then everything can be talked about to young people, (sorry i don't understand what the Bishop is saying). If the church doesn't do the talking then the secular world will. I think the following quote sums this up very accurately.

'Catholic couples need the grace of God to live out their marriage vows because contemporary Western culture is toxic to children, families, and marriage.Today, more than ever, Catholic couples need the grace of God to live out their marriage vows because contemporary Western culture is toxic to children, families, and marriage. The world preaches the values of the anti-gospel: praising sexual license, careerism, and various other forms of selfism. What is more, the West, despite its rhetoric, is in many ways anti-child—committed to a program of contracepting, aborting, and sundering those children who survive from their mothers and fathers’. John O’Connell

torchofthefaith said...

Dear Father Ray

We are back from a stressful computer 'meltdown' and can thus leave blog comments again!

Yes... these statistics make for rather sad reading.

You are right to say that 'our failure to teach has a knock-on effect in society as a whole.' Over the years we have gone out to give talks to young people across England and Wales on the dignity and value of chastity and of the Church teaching on marriage. We frequently handed out feedback forms and a common response we got was 'Why has no-one ever told us any of this before?'

When our young people have not even been given the truth we have failed them and all those they come into contact with later on - including their future spouses and children...

Some years ago in Newcastle a 15 year old lad raised his hand at the end and asked 'If what you say is true then how can it be that we were taught in our Catholic primary school, as young as aged 10, that it was alright to 'have sex' when we 'felt' ready?'

The failure to teach on all of this is a huge part of our European societal collapse... because the family is of course the base unit of society and the means for the Church to act as life-giving leaven.

The Theology of the Body can be used with success if we take and explain simply its main themes of the language of the body as an expression of the total gift of the self and the concept of not using self or others because of the dignity of the person in light of God's gift of life and salvation. Then we have seen that it can become an open and life giving book.

We have been able to give some help at marriage prep
days run by priests who wished to give authentic marriage prep rather than follow the dissenting programmes found in some places today...

We blogged about some of these issues surrounding a marriage and family policy recently - in which we did quote from your blog Father! - which is on page 2 of our blog, on December 4th and 5th under the titles Everbody's Welcome Except Jesus and Orthodox Catholics!... and also... Listen, Those Who Have Ears to Hear!

Thanks for posting on these vital issues and let us all work and pray for a renaissance of marriage and the family in the light of Christ!

We read on one of the comments on your blog last night that folks are now playfully suggesting that you are being considered for promotion. Let's just say, WE hope that you do. It is SO encouraging for the laity to find priests who stand up for the truth of the faith with clarity and conviction. You also bring a pastoral and compassionate heart to bear on the key issues... that is why people in society and the Church can still hear you Father. Thanks.

In Christ
Alan and Angeline

George said...

Alan and Angeline write that kids have responded on their hand-out leaflets, 'Why has no-one ever told us any of this before?'. Elizabeth says, 'If the church doesn't do the talking then the secular world will'. How right that is and it's 24/7 secular world talking. Please, parents, schools, church we must give our children the Truth and they will accept it!

Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Ottaviani said...

As I have always maintained, the rise in so-called mixed marriages has also been detrimental to the overall number of Catholic marriages. Before, the church used to wisely discourage these unions because of the chance that the Catholic may apostatize and that the children may not even be baptised and raised in the faith.

Now we have bishops giving dispensations left, right and centre. It's more fashionable in this "ecumenical age" we live in.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Well I have to agree with ottaviani in some respects...obviously everything Alan & Angeline say! My eldest daughter age 22 4th year med student has had 2 boyfriends..entirely chaste..but found them so removed from her deep Catholic faith as to be impossible to maintain. They were lovely young men but non-Catholic. Having said that anyone who marries into our large extended family have all become Catholic. I think we need the strong Catholic culture to be nurtured. Our 10 children speak volumes about what openess to life means. We all need to take personal point blaming priests & bishops. Having said that when one does find priests who explain what marriage really is..who can go to Holy Communion etc it is a wonderful gift. We personally have continual priestly support & direction & hopefully provide comfort & support for our priests in return.

Red Maria said...

It doesn't help that certain members of the hierarchy seem to take a decidedly tolerant view of rich recusants who abandon their wives and children to spend more time with their mistresses.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor didn't just offend when he invited T Bliar to give one of his lectures in Westminster Cathedral a few months ago but also by choosing Edward Stourton, who, having left his wife and kids, is now living in public and disgraceful adultery, to chair the event.

Let's be clear about this; Stourton is no better than a million babyfathers on council estates up and down the land. He and they are the reason we need such a thing as the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (formerly the Child Support Agency).

I doubt it would have entered the Cardinal's mind to invite Joe Blogs babyfather to chair his lectures but he happily gave the gig to a millionaire ex-Ampleforth babyfather. From this, one deduces that members of café society get a special pass when it comes to mortal sins like adultery and conversely that mortal sins aren't that mortal for members of café society. One would understand if Mrs Stourton felt a bit shortchanged by this. After all, she made her marriage vows in good faith and wasn't informed that the rules didn't apply to her husband.

Add to this the fact that some clerics look the other way, or even openly call for people in adulterous relationships to be given Communion. It seems as though adultery and worse, child abandonment aint that big a deal anymore.

Given that's the case, one can hardly blame young Catholics if they eschew a sacrament which a number of people in the Church clearly consider meaningless.

There's a way out of this mess for the Church. She should take firm, decisive action against any faction which denies the indissolubility of marriage and advocates giving Communion to adulterers.

I would also strongly urge a revision of the code of canon law which stipulates that someone seeking an annulment must first divorce their spouse. Clearly, that regulation does not apply to jurisdictions like Malta, which still, thankfully, prohibits divorce.

Divorce laws in the UK and elsewhere are grossly unjust in that they allow for people to be forcibly divorced. The Church should have nothing to do with them.

She should also clamp down strongly on annulment abuses in the West, particularly the USA. Around 60,000 annulments are granted in the USA each year, a figure which positively invites the derision implicit in the description of annulment as "divorce for Catholics".

Last but not least she should ensure that Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is clearly taught at all Catholic schools everywhere in the world.

If she does all this, if she treats marriage as being of the utmost value, then maybe, just maybe, young Catholics will start marrying again.

George said...

How about this for Catholic schools: get rid of the repugnant sex-education and instead teach the beauty of Fidelity, Dignity, Respect, Chastity, Love, Family and of course Marriage as a life-long adventure for husband and wife in partnership with God.

Give our children Truth and Hope for the future. Would this really be just too much to ask?

George said...

Sorry - re-reading my last post the word 'partnership' is probably a poor choice as it might sound as if I'm implying that husband and wife are on some kind of equal footing with God which is not what I meant to say at all.

Husband and wife are of course subject to God and should place their unconditional trust in Him.

One other thing of course is that the Holy Sacrament of a Catholic Marriage brings to the spouses the great gift of Marital Grace, upon which both my wife and I rely 100% to get us through each day!