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Some Sober Reflection on Matrimony, Sexuality and the Family. A Call to Prayer for...
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | 12/15/2013 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 12/16/2013 4:03:35 AM PST by markomalley

We’ve talked a good deal about the decline of marriage on this blog over the years. And our discussion must continue as the Synod on the family is planned in Rome.

In my short 25 years as a priest I have experienced a major drop off in marriages. In my early years, I had about thirty weddings a year; now, about five or six. In this urban parish in which I have ministered for the larger part of 20 years, a beautiful and picturesque setting for a matrimonial sacrament, we used to have to turn couples away who were not members. Some Saturdays featured two weddings back to back. Beginning in 2000, weddings plummeted.

And lest you think this just unique to me in my urban parish, note that in 1973 there just over 400,000 weddings in Catholic parishes in this country. In 2003, there were 199,645, more that a 50% drop in thirty years. Last year, 2012, there 166,991 weddings in the Church. Compare that to the 419,278 funerals and you have a pretty good picture of a Church and a culture that are in real trouble and of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony that is “dying.” Thus my anecdotal experience matches the national trends and numbers.

Recently Mona Charen offered some thoughtful reflections on Marriage in National Review. I would like to offer her comments along with some of my own. Note that I am excerpting her article, the full version of which is here: The Marriage Divide.  In that article she speaks of the sources of some of her statistics and offers context that these excerpts may not include. Hence I recommend the full article as well. As usual, her comments are in Black, bold, italics. My remarks are in plain red text.

Marriage is decaying very fast. As recently as the 1980s, …only 13 percent of the children of moderately educated mothers…were born outside of marriage. Today, it is 44 percent. Even more disturbing are the recent data showing that 53 percent of babies born to women under age 30 are non-marital.

I will only add that these sorts of number are simply shocking, not just for their real impact but also for how swiftly this revolution has come upon us. One struggles not to see outright demonic along with the usual human sinfulness that produces cultural ailments.

If you graduate from college, you are likely to choose a family life similar to, if not quite identical to, the 1950s ideal. (I suspect eve this is beginning to change for the worse). If you are a high-school dropout, you are unlikely to marry at all. If you have a high-school diploma or some college, your family life in many cases is going to be chaotic, featuring cohabitation, short marriages, and high rates of instability….cohabiting couples have a much higher breakup rate than do married couples, a lower level of household income, and a higher level of child abuse and domestic violence. (She speaks to some of the sources of these sober trends in her article).

[C]ohabitation is a very bad deal for all concerned — especially women and children. The children of cohabiting couples do worse than those living with a single mother if the boyfriend is not the biological father of the children. The break-up rate among unmarried cohabiting couples is much higher than among married couples, with all that that entails for disruption, poverty, and pathology.

And again, it is the children who pay most and first for all this adult misbehavior. But the damage does not stop there, as can be seen.

I would also like to say that regarding the cohabitation problem, there are two levels to the problem: the young who do it, and the parents and grandparents who actively or passively approve of it. Once upon a time, even in my short 52 years, this behavior was not only frowned upon, it was punished at both the family and cultural level. Folk who “shacked up” received significant pressure: financial, social, familial and cultural, to stop “living in sin.”

The sexual revolution, with a thinking strongly tied in with a lot of hallucinogenic drugs, sold us a bill of goods that it was really “better” for a couple to “take a test ride” before tying the knot. For at least two decades now the data have exposed this as a lie. But the lie continues.

Bottom line, cohabitation harms everyone: man, woman, child, society, culture, the Church, the family, everyone. We stamp out smoking but celebrate something that causes even more harm. Time to wake up. Cohabitation is sinful and harmful.

In a 2001 survey, two-thirds of respondents approved of living together before marriage. Even then, data suggested that couples who cohabited before marriage were more likely to divorce than those who went straight to the altar….

Men cohabit with less expectation of permanence than women do. Many couples not destined for marriage waste good years in impermanent arrangements, often becoming parents….

Ms. Charen also developed the economic implications of cohabitation:

President Obama addressed income inequality in a recent address but failed to mention one of the most significant contributors to rising inequality in America — the marriage gap. Jobs are changing, international competition has driven down wages, top executives are pulling down enormous salaries, but it is cultural patterns, specifically personal decisions about cohabitation and marriage, that are most responsible for deepening the divide between haves and have-nots in America.

There is perhaps no greater correlation than the one between poverty and single-motherhood (absent fatherhood). And so many of the other social ills that we lament and decry come from irresponsible sexual activity.

Unlike trust funds, marriage is available to everyone and confers the same benefits on rich and poor. There is no substitute for two married parents who care for one another in sickness, help each other in child and elder care, watch the kids while a spouse takes night classes, and contribute to thriving communities. In-laws give loans, jobs, and other support that they are unlikely to extend to live-in “significant others.

Without the basics of security and permanence in their personal lives, people find it much more difficult to rise out of poverty or to maintain a middle-class life. They are also far less happy. If you care about the poor and the middle class, you ought to worry about marriage.

Amen. And yet many of those who most claim to care about the poor are loathe to discuss marriage or sexuality as factors in poverty.

I remember once being at a meeting of largely socially liberal clergy who were arguing that one of the “greatest threats” that young people face and the reason for dropping test scores and higher dropout rates in our city was lead paint and roach feces in the homes and schools. And thus the city should spend money to abate these things and (theoretically) the lower test scores etc., would rebound.

When I spoke, I said it would nice to get rid of these problems, but I thought there were bigger issues at work than lead paint and roach droppings. Perhaps, I stated, that single motherhood and teenage pregnancy were likely bigger factors in low test scores, higher dropout rates, and growing juvenile crime.

Well,  I received a scorn you can only imagine. I was passed a note by one of the leaders that I was “off message” and that I should keep my moral opinions to myself.

Somehow I figured that clergy might “get” what I was saying. Though scorned, I stood my ground, and insisted that the social devastation of sexual irresponsibility far out weighed many of the other things people obsess about. Fine, lets remove lead paint and clean up after the roaches and even stamp out smoking. But how about working to restore families? What of preaching and teaching God’s plan for marriage and sexuality? What of the extremely deleterious effects of sexual irresponsibility, cohabitation, divorce, and so many other trends that are out of control?

Even as we pass laws forbidding smoking almost everywhere, we seem to forget that before 1969 it was pretty hard to get a divorce in this country. People were generally expected to work their difficulties out, and be married to the father or mother of their children.

While there are rumors that some in the Church are going to pressure to Synod Fathers to change Church Law in the admittance of divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, I rather doubt that will happen. It is my prayer that the Synod Fathers and members will focus rather on fixing the problems rather than lowering standards. We have a lot to answer for in the Church for the horrifying confusion today about marriage. We have not been clear on marriage and too many clergy don’t want to upset people who haven’t been able to attain to, or keep stable and marriages and families after God’s own design. We have been to silent. And to what degree people do know of our teachings, many find them unintelligible when we hand out annulments in the numbers we do,  and have so many complicated rules about the wedding ceremony but so little followup after the wedding day.

That said, I don’t think it fair to blame the Church wholly for the mess. Our culture clearly went over the cliff in 1968 and 1969 with the sexual revolution and no fault divorce. Contraception celebrated the lie that there was “no necessary connection” between sex and procreation, and also furthered the lie of sex without consequences. 55 million abortions later (Since 1973), our families in the shredder, and the lie is manifest, but many still choose to believe it. Sex without consequences? No such thing.

Pray for the Synod upcoming. Pray for clarity and prophetic teaching. Pray.

TOPICS: Catholic
KEYWORDS: family; fornication; matrimony; msgrcharlespope; sexuality; shackingup; sin
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Full title: Some Sober Reflection on Matrimony, Sexuality and the Family. A Call to Prayer for the Upcoming Synod.

Msgr Pope made a statement: That said, I don’t think it fair to blame the Church wholly for the mess. Our culture clearly went over the cliff in 1968 and 1969 with the sexual revolution and no fault divorce.

While he is correct that the culture went over the cliff, the Church did (and does) very little to hit the brakes: the tendency to be "nice" and "loving" and the "de facto" abandonment of all standards of individual moral conduct did and does not help matters at all.

1 posted on 12/16/2013 4:03:35 AM PST by markomalley
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To: Biggirl; ConorMacNessa; Heart-Rest; Mrs. Don-o; Nervous Tick; Salvation; NYer; Tax-chick

Msgr Pope ping!

2 posted on 12/16/2013 4:03:57 AM PST by markomalley (Nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good -- Leo XIII)
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To: markomalley

Truths long repudiated by the American people, and so shall it remain.

3 posted on 12/16/2013 4:11:55 AM PST by Theodore R. (The grand pooh-bahs are flirting with Christie, but it's Jebbie's turn!" to LOSE!)
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To: markomalley

I agree with what you say, and with what the Msgr says.

Much as the libertine part of me says yes to free sex, the moral intelligent part of me sees it as a trap and a nightmare for the participants and our society.

The trick to fixing this is getting peopel to think with their heads and their spirits and not with their genitals.

I just wanted to point out how cool it would be if he were elevated to the pontiff. Pope Pope!

4 posted on 12/16/2013 4:51:46 AM PST by John O (God Save America (Please))
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To: markomalley

I don’t mean to cause a flame war, but I wanted to ask a serious question among FReepers who are older and wiser than my 33 years.

What about cohabitation is sinful insomuch as the act itself? Is it that cohabitation between a man and a woman is immediately considered sexual and therefore assumed to be sinful, or is there actual scriptural or canonical law that states that a man and a woman not ever live together before they wed?

I ask, because many young adults find it necessary if not convenient to “shack up” with another person, regardless of gender, leading to an overall lower cost of living, shared responsibilities, and the ability to be “free” of their parents while whittling social skills. I’m not saying that these young adults are not without sin, as it’s universally understood among youth culture that a man and a woman can’t just “be friends,” and if you’re living with someone of the opposite sex, it’s no holds barred.

My now-wife and I were living together for several years before we were married. She was in an abusive marriage before we met, and she could not find security in a home of her own, as her ex was a felon and had people who always knew where to find her. I drove a few vagabonds off my porch with a shotgun when she first moved in, but the situation ultimately benefited us both in the end; as she had the physical and financial security blanket in me and I had a house frau and friend in her. The first year was a very cordial, very innocent relationship that blossomed into a loving friendship and ultimately a marriage after her ex was found dead of a drug overdose.

My point is that it seems to me, as an outsider, that there are assumptions being made as to the relationship between cohabitating adults of dissimilar gender. I wonder if there are exceptions permitted when it benefits the life of a person or if the ultimate assumption is that they’re going to have sex at some point so why even bother cohabitating in the first place?

Inquiring minds genuinely want to know.

5 posted on 12/16/2013 4:52:34 AM PST by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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To: PatriotGirl827


6 posted on 12/16/2013 5:21:01 AM PST by PatriotGirl827 (O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee)
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To: rarestia

Your experience excepted, I think that “cohabitation” can usually be assumed to include sexual relations. We live in an age where sexual relations are to be sought exclusively within marriage no longer exists. But even in purely “plutonic” cohabitation there are two dangers. The first is that the temptations set up in such a relationship are just too great. The second is, even if chastity is maintained, it postpones the goal of a true marriage. Especially for women, given the biological realities, this can be a serious risk. Contrary to the present expectations, young adults should be encouraged to find a spouse, marry and start a family earlier rather than latter.

7 posted on 12/16/2013 5:37:30 AM PST by Petrosius
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To: markomalley

A big problem is that Christians, generally speaking, have lost confidence in the truth of the Gospel. As a result there is the temptation to compromise with the society or at least to remain mute against popular societal trends. This goes across denominational lines. It is time for all Christians to stand up and proclaim that the gospel teaching about sexual morality is the truth and that it comes from God. This was something that, despite the dogmatic divisions, once united all Christians. This unity and self-confidence started to break down with the acceptance of birth control by the Church of England at the Lambeth Conference in 1930. The rest has been a logical outcome of that decision.

8 posted on 12/16/2013 5:47:18 AM PST by Petrosius
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To: Theodore R.

.....But as the saying goes, “what is old is new again.”

9 posted on 12/16/2013 5:59:06 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: rarestia
It's the psychology of trust.

Even in legal, political, and (some) service occupations where trust is crucial, an oath is taken as a public acknowledgement that there is a foundation of trust.

If everyone in the world was psychologically stable and emotionally secure, you'd be right, there'd be no need for a formal oath-taking; but when women and men completely expose their physical and emotional needs, they introduce insecurity into their conscious thinking. And we all know that insecurity is debilitating.

A person involved in a formally committed relationship - whether it be a man, a woman, or the child of two parents - has a better chance of successfully managing his/her life because they deal with challenges and difficulties at a higher, more focused level.

With respect to a belief in God, this trust is more accurately termed "faith".

10 posted on 12/16/2013 6:01:30 AM PST by LoveUSA (God employs Man's strength; Satan exploits Man's weakness.)
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To: markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; ...


11 posted on 12/16/2013 6:12:51 AM PST by NYer ("The wise man is the one who can save his soul. - St. Nimatullah Al-Hardini)
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To: rarestia
What about cohabitation is sinful insomuch as the act itself? Is it that cohabitation between a man and a woman is immediately considered sexual and therefore assumed to be sinful, or is there actual scriptural or canonical law that states that a man and a woman not ever live together before they wed?

You have asked a huge question for which you will find much ‘opinion’ here from Freepers and elsewhere. Since you have asked specifically about the ‘sin’ aspect of this, what you need to do is to first find out exactly what the Bible says about this matter. Start by studying these verses…. Hebrews 13:4 “ Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” 1 Corinthians 6:16 “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” Matthew 5:32 “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Mark 11:11 “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Matthew 19:4 “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”p/p>

And once you’ve considered those verses, go to a good Bible resource like bible gateway and do a search on the word ‘adultery’ since you will very quickly see that this ties in quite closely with your question. Here’s the link for bible gateway…. . And once you’ve done all that, go to 1 Corinthians 7 and use this as a start for how God states is the proper way that mankind is to view marriage.

Back to your original question, there has to be an understanding of some basic principles and terminology here before you can go further with this…… First, understand that God treats marriage very very seriously. Marriage in the Bible is not defined as being the relationship that happens after a wedding ceremony… is defined in terms of being ‘one flesh’ and that implies the sexual relationship. Every culture has its ways of doing things with regards to marriage….the common denominator is that the sexual relationship is what defines marriage, nothing else. Thus if you belong to a culture which didn’t do the practice of wedding ceremonies etc. at all and the man and the woman just started living together as husband and wife, the Bible has no problem with this if it is very clear that this is a couple who were virgins but and have mutually decided to take that step to be the exclusive sexual partners of each other. In other words, this is simple a marriage without a wedding ceremony. From the first time the couple has sex, they are indeed permanently married. The implications of this understanding are profound…. The verse in 1 Corinthians 6 effectively is saying that if a person has sex with a prostitute, he has married the prostitute. And in the case of living or marrying somebody who was previously married, the individual is committing adultery…. This goes back to the seriousness with which God treats the subject as laid out from the very beginning in Genesis “…what God has joined together, let not many put asunder” (and that includes the couple themselves). Also have a look at the answer to these two questions which were found on Focus on the Family…. and Note in the answer to the second question the argument that is laid out…. Technically speaking, you’ve raised a very interesting question. Consistent with the point you’ve made in connection with Genesis 2:25 and 1 Corinthians 6:16, Jesus appears to teach (in Matthew 19:6) that divorce in the absolute sense is a physical and spiritual impossibility. In other words, He seems to say that the union created through sexual intercourse is in some sense unbreakable: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” In the verses that follow, Christ expands on this idea by suggesting that, in actuality, divorce has never been anything but a sort of “legal fiction.” It’s a formal concession to human sin, weakness, and hardness of heart that can never really undo the organic connection established when a man and woman become “one flesh.” If this is true, then the answer to your question is that, in God’s eyes, a divorce can never “begin” at all. It can’t begin if it doesn’t actually exist.

If you want to discuss this further offline, send me a private reply...

12 posted on 12/16/2013 6:28:47 AM PST by hecticskeptic
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To: hecticskeptic

This is all very good information, skeptic, thank you. I will do additional research as you requested, but I am of the belief, especially by the support of your concluding paragraph, that Biblical disdain for cohabitation is struck from the idea that cohabitation means sex. If, for the purposes of this argument, cohabitation is truly platonic and presents at no time the temptation of intercourse, then there’s nothing wrong with the act, at least by my reading of it.

For the purposes of modernity and cultural significance, I believe that the idea of cohabitation is one where sex is assumed and guaranteed. For that argument, I agree that the temptation is too great and the reasoning sour. In my case, however, I felt the obligation to protect a woman who was in need and offer her my home as sanctuary. A relationship blossomed, our lives became ever more entwined, and we eventually wed. From what I’ve read, the idea of intercourse is not explicitly forbidden but should only be shared with one person in your lifetime. Since my wife and I wound up wed, I feel that while I did cohabitate, I did so with a woman with whom I intended to marry after a long period of courtship. The mutual financial benefits were great, and the eventual physical relationship further bolstered our faith in each other and our love for one another.

I make no excuses, and I know that I one day will have to answer for my actions, but I feel that if a couple is mature and capable of committing to one another for life, the idea of cohabitation before the receipt of sacrament or bless is not explicitly sinful but regarded as such only if the love for one another is not bound in terms of God’s wish for marriage between the two.

13 posted on 12/16/2013 6:41:53 AM PST by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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To: rarestia
I make no excuses, and I know that I one day will have to answer for my actions, but I feel that….

Yes, we all stand before God to give an account of our actions. However, none of what we ‘feel’ matters…. It’s only what God says that matters and in your case, what He says about marriage. Fortunately, there is no sin that is too great that He can’t forgive it… the caveat is that the individual first has to acknowledge that it is a sin and then ask for forgiveness for it. God will look after the rest but that is where the matter stands for you and your wife.

14 posted on 12/16/2013 6:58:52 AM PST by hecticskeptic
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To: LoveUSA; rarestia

**It’s the psychology of trust.**

And the psychology of a covenant.

And if people don’t know what a covenant is, then they should not be getting married.

15 posted on 12/16/2013 7:58:07 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: markomalley

Yet another thread by Catholics about sex? Sheesh!

16 posted on 12/16/2013 8:09:27 AM PST by CynicalBear (For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ)
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To: Petrosius; rarestia
>> Your experience excepted, I think that “cohabitation” can usually be assumed to include sexual relations.<<

Should we then also make that assumption with all roommates whether male or female? No, I am not advocating cohabitation but just pointing out what appears to be a double standard.

17 posted on 12/16/2013 8:14:43 AM PST by CynicalBear (For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ)
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To: CynicalBear

That was my hesitation as well, Bear, but I also don’t believe there’s a clear line of delineation. If there was something that specifically stated that two unmarried people of opposite gender not live together under the same roof, I would understand. Otherwise, it seems the preconception in this is that sexual intercourse will occur between an unwed man and woman under the same roof, and I’m not sure if that’s always the case though it could lead to that.

18 posted on 12/16/2013 8:19:36 AM PST by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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To: markomalley
Marriage is becoming a luxury good. Most of the lower and lower middle class don't marry. Either because they can't afford the expectations of the wedding (party, big church, etc), or they can't afford the hit in benefits that comes from being married.

There is a real cost in getting married legally. I know some who have gone the “Married in the church but not the state” route, but that is the minority.

19 posted on 12/16/2013 9:57:45 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: rarestia

If you had sex with her before her husband died you committed adultery. After her husband died when you first had sex with her (if you did) you became married to her.

The real problem with cohabitation for the Christian is that everyone assumes that if you are living with a person of the opposite sex then you are having sex with them. (Which I’d hazard is true more often than not)

So even if you are not sinning you are leading others to think that sin is OK (After all, if rarestia is getting laid every day I may as well too. He’s a Christian so it must be alright).

This is why 1 THES 5:22 tells us “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Our witness is important and must be protected.

20 posted on 12/16/2013 10:28:21 AM PST by John O (God Save America (Please))
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