Skip to comments.Measuring Divorce Rates is More Difficult. Whatever the measure, Practicing Catholics Fare Better
Posted on 10/29/2013 2:09:52 PM PDT by NYer
It would seem that figuring the divorce rate would be a rather simple thing. But like most sociological phenomena, there are many complicating factors (especially today when even simple definitions are breaking down). But however you measure divorce, it would seem that practicing Catholics fare far finer than any other group, believer or non-believer.
I recently read a CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) study and would like to share a few thoughts from it. The fuller commentary by Mark Gray is over at the CARA blog here: Divorce Still Less Likely Among Catholics
First, the question arises as to how best to measure the divorce “rate.” There have been several methods used over the years, some of which have lost accuracy since fewer and fewer people are ever getting married in the first place. Hence, some problems have arisen in referencing traditional divorce measures:
Problem 1 – The “Crude rate” numbers have become skewed. The “crude rate” is the total number of divorces in a year per 1,000 of the population. But the problem with this number is that the number and percentage of Americans who are married has dropped significantly in the past thirty years. In the 1970s nearly three-quarters of the adult population was married. In 2012, only 52% of U.S. adults were married. Quite a remarkable drop that we have commented on before on this blog.
And thus, the crude marriage rate in 2011 was 6.8 new marriages per 1,000 of the U.S. population. And the number of divorces that same year were 3.6 per 1,000 of the U.S. population (so the “divorce rate” using this statistic was that 53% marriages failed).
Note however, in the 1980s this measure peaked above 5 per 1,000. Now this makes it seem that the divorce rate has dropped (from 5 to 3.6). But that is illusive since the number of Americans getting married at all has dropped dramatically. Which such a dramatic social shift, the “crude divorce rate” provides only a snapshot in time, but is no longer very helpful in comparing to previous decades.
Problem 2 – The Divorce rate or “percentage” compares two unrelated numbers. Thus to use the 2011 data from above, we see that the divorce rate was 53%. But that is a rather inaccurate way of putting it, since the number of marriages and divorces in any single year are for the most part unrelated. It is rare that people marry and divorce in the same year.
Thus, the divorces in any given year are accumulated from marriages that took place any and varied number of years ago in the past. Thus, one number (the divorces filed in 2011) is an accumulated number and the other number, (the number of marriages in 2011), is data for just one year.
To say that “half of all marriages in 2011 failed” does not actually address the reality of 2011, but a rather complex series of years in the past, that also includes some recent and dramatic sociological shifts that are difficult to factor in.
This does not mean that the 53% number has no meaning, only that its meaning is a little more complicated that is usually reported.
Problem 3 – Simply Counting Divorces is ambiguous - This is for the reasons stated. Namely that so many never get married in the first place today or, get married quite a bit later in life. Without marriage you won’t ever end up in the divorce statistics. And so, simply counting how many have divorced is becoming a less meaningful number since it less often means that they have thereby been and successfully stayed married.
Thus, another common number, the number of Americans who have ever divorced, is becoming an increasingly meaningless number. It can provide a snap shot for the year, but what does in mean to say that XX% of Americans have been affected by divorce when the overall percentage of Americans ever getting married is plummeting? And even if some of those Americans are simply postponing marriage by some ten to twenty years, that still has a profound effect on how numbers can or should be interpreted.
For the record however, the percentages in 2010 of Americans who had ever been divorced are these:
1. Americans in General: 26%
2. Protestants 31%
3. Other religious Affiliation 26%
4. No religious affiliation 24%
5. Catholics 20%
Thus, using this number Catholics are less likely divorce. But does this number possibly reflect other trends too, such that that Catholics are less likely to enter Holy Matrimony in the first place? It is difficult to say. We Do put more delaying tactics in place for couples that approach us for Matrimony, is that a factor? Does it have an effect on the number of Catholics not marrying or delaying marriage?
So what is the best metric to gauge the divorce rate? Mark Gray at CARA offers that the most meaningful statistic measures the percentage of Americans who have ever married that experience a divorce. It is still just a snapshot, and does not fully exclude those who have divorced more than once, but it does provide the most helpful view of something close to the “odds of divorce.”
If this be the case, here too, Catholics rank quite well. Here are the percentages of those who have ever been married who have experienced a divorce :
1. Americans in general: 36%
2. No religious affiliation 42%
2. Protestants 39%
4. Other religious Affiliation 35%
5. Catholics 28%
So again, Catholics fare better in this second and probably most helpful divorce statistic.
There is one other statistic worth considering within the Catholic number, that further erodes the divorce rate for a Catholic. And that is that when a Catholic enters Matrimony with a Catholic, the divorce likelihood is far less than if a Catholic marries out side the faith.
Note the Chart from the CARA Study at left.
As will be noted, divorce is almost twice as likely when a Catholic marries a Protestant or non-believing person instead of a Catholic.
As a pastor, I notice a real difference, although my “data” is anecdotal, when the Catholic enters Matrimony with a Protestant who is devout. Frankly, in most mixed marriages I celebrate, the Protestant is not devout or even practicing their faith to any real degree. However, in the cases where they are, I must say, the situation is often quite difficult the notions that love will simply conquer all is a conclusion that lacks sobriety for the most part.
As a general norm and experience, when a Catholic who is reasonably devout, marries a Protestant who is likewise devout, my experience tells me that there is trouble and pain ahead. I have less experience with Muslims, but the data is similar.
That said, I have also experienced that many mixed marriages (where intense devotion by the non-Catholic is not an overriding factor) are rich sources of converts. I have even seen happily, some Muslims come to the Catholic faith on account of their believing spouse.
So, bottom line, the Faith matters! Practicing Catholics, especially those who enter Matrimony with a practicing Catholic, have significantly lower divorce rates. Of course it makes sense doesn’t it? The faith lived seeks God’s help, the power of the Sacraments, is rooted in God’s Word and teaching, insists on forgiveness as one of the highest virtues, and calls for regular self-examination in the Sacrament of Confession. Those who root their life in God are going to be more rooted themselves in the commitments they make.
The divorce rate, even among practicing Catholics is still too high. But, the solution of faith remains a strong remedy and a healing help.
Another factor that keeps Catholic marriages together is explained in the linked article.
No doubt about it:
The number one cause of screwed up statistics favoring Catholics is the inclusion of every dimweed cult as a protestant. Let’s look at the number of Catholic “priests” who have fondled little boys versus the number of reformed elders. My bet it is 1000 to 1.
A Sacrament makes the difference!
Actually the non-Catholic numbers for sexual abuse of minors is higher.
You failed to factor into your bet that "protestant" churches are not under a singular leadership like the Catholic Church. Be that as it may ... Here you go .. Sexual Abuse of Minors by Protestant Ministers.
Absolutely...there are more non-Catholics than Catholics. That is like saying there are more Chinese than there are Americans. So what? Read my post and notice I am referring to a different group than “non-Catholics”.
LOL! Great point.
You failed to read my post....but that explains a lot about the RCC.
You can’t assume to know what I factored in. This is against the mind-reading rules.
I read your post. Mine was a comment on your initial post which was inappropriate to this thread.
I suspect in many areas this is the case. a 6-8 week commitment of meeting with the priest is a pretty steep thing for many people. I know a few have married in a different church to avoid it.
Kind of odd.
Church-going Catholics actually believe in the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is taken serious by the Church. Most protestants get married outside a church, most by a justice who pronounces them man and wife. What has killed marriage in the protestant faith is no-fault marriages. You can get a divorce as easy as buying a coke, and get married as easy as buying a coke.
I thought many protestants, since King Henry VIII, were not opposed to divorce. I am not sure how that factors in but I don’t know how to even quantify how many protestants are actually against it so the whole thing seems apples and oranges to me.
My wife and I, both Catholic have been married 29 years.
I tend to agree that Catholic’s put enormous emphasis on marriage and it even seems to me that the whole of the faith beautifully revolves around Jesus and the marriage / family theme.
Divorce is such a terrible thing especially when there are young children involved, it is often just the beginning of a lifetime of grief and heartache, as a nation we should be ashamed of the way we treat each other.
The divorce stats in both are very similar for active church goers (I think the Catholic one is a touch higher, but they are larger in the US and that only can slightly shift the percentages).
In both, the pre marriage process is very similar in conservative dioceses/ regions. A test, followed by a relatively long period of counseling. The priest or pastor can and does limit who gets the privilege of getting married in the church.
The leads to a lot of self selection. Couples who do not want to go to that type of Pre Cana preparation will get married elsewhere. Often times, those are the ones most at risk for divorce later. In short, the ones who will not commit to a lengthy pre marriage process may have issues committing to married life at all.
I would love to see a break down of couples who were say, Catholic (or one partner was) and decided to get married elsewhere. I suspect they would tip the stats heavily to the divorced side.
The article touched on this.
The Anglican church put a high cost on getting divorced. Prince Charles did not have a big wedding because of his divorce.
In previous decades, it could make you loose your title. There was a crown prince that married a divorced woman, and lost his shot at the crown.
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