D. Phoenix raises the bar on time and extent of marriage preparation

People have a natural right to marry.  Despite that, I have from time to time heard smart people, including priests, opine that while perhaps it ought to be relatively easy to get a divorce, it should be really hard to get married.  That seems to set the issue on its head, but perhaps there is some useful point in framing it that way.

I read this on azcentral.com from Phoenix, AZ.

My emphases and comments.

Phoenix Diocese pushes to make stronger marriage bonds
Rules on training, prep time may lead to fewer weddings

by Michael Clancy – Jan. 25, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

With the definition of marriage being challenged nationwide, the Catholic Church in Phoenix has introduced significant changes in its program for couples who want a church wedding, lengthening the preparation time from six to nine months.

Partly in response to efforts promoting gay marriage and a growing trend of unwed couples living together, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has decided to intensify the church’s teaching for people planning a Catholic marriage. The new rules for pre-marriage preparation include more time and deeper education. [First thought: Some would think that in the face of challenges from the outside (perverted unions and casual to unblessed unions) the Church would try to make it easier to be married rather than more difficult.  Instead, D. Phoenix is raising the bar.  This is probably the right response.  Consider that divorce tears apart the bonds of society and weakens the concept of the marriage bond.  The prevalence of divorce, easy or hard, has also weakened the concept of marriage.  Better prep could lead to a stronger marriage.  Stronger marriages are less likely to end in divorce. Better prep could raise militate against that particular erosion of marriage.]

The goal is to strengthen marriages and a couple’s Catholic faith at a time when marriage is on the decline in the United States. Few dispute the value of marriage-preparation programs. Studies indicate that a solid course of marriage preparation, particularly one based on developing interpersonal skills, succeeds in reducing divorces.

But some in the church fear the changes detailed in the bishop’s July pastoral letter, "Covenant of Love," which became mandatory this month, may result in even fewer church weddings[Which leads us in a circle back to a fundamental point.  People have a right to marry.]

The letter points to four "concerns" that led to the updated policies, which will include post-wedding marriage classes [The prep had better be pretty darn interesting and well-executed if they think couples are going to come back after the wedding.] and ongoing education about marriage. They are:

• Fewer marriage role models and increased cohabitation.

• A high divorce rate.

• A growing number of single-parent families.

• "Increasing confusion" over the meaning of marriage in society because of efforts to legalize gay marriage.

The changes, Olmsted hopes, will help counteract those trends.

"Many young people know little about their call to be married in the church and to receive the grace of that sacrament," said Michael Phelan, a layman who leads the diocese’s Office of Marriage and Respect Life. [The reason for this is obvious: we have fumbled the ball on catechesis and preaching about fundamentals worse than the Vikings did against the Saints.]

"It could be compared to a dearth of culinary knowledge. If I know little about the difference between eating at a fast-food restaurant and a four-star feast, I won’t value the whole experience." 

Among the changes being instituted are:

Nine months of pre-marriage preparation time instead of six. Several methods of preparation will remain available, including intensive weekend sessions or a series of weeknight meetings, but the time will be lengthened.

A full course in Natural Family Planning, a type of family planning that does not use artificial forms of birth control. The church opposes use of contraceptives, from condoms to pills.

• More comprehensive courses on practical skills and the theology of marriage, including the reasons for the church’s position on gay marriage. The church believes marriage can only be a union between a man and a woman.  [The article sure seems to be focused on this state sanctioned sodomy thing, which I suspect overstresses the point.  As far as practical skills are concerned, I wonder if that won’t have something to do with, for example, family finances, time management, talking to couples who have raised children, etc.  And… and… it just occurred to me… if families weren’t so very shredded these days, the Church wouldn’t have to be the provider of this help.  The same seems to apply to "sex education" in Catholic schools.  Parents are the primary educators of children.  Should the Church be involved in any sort of sex ed?  Perhaps… when it is clear that most parents don’t give their children adequate formation.  Thorny questions.]

Andrew Junker, a reporter for the Catholic Sun diocese newspaper, recently went through the marriage-preparation courses and said he found them worthwhile, even though he was skeptical at first.

"For a lot of people, it seems like a lot of hoops to jump through," he said. "But once we started getting into it, the vast majority was really helpful just on the level of communication."

An increased emphasis on the theological underpinnings of marriage may be helpful to the numerous people seeking Catholic weddings but who are not really practicing the faith, Junker said.

"They presented the theology very positively, not as arcane rules devised to make your life miserable," he said. [Sort of like the Ten Commandments.]

Still, he said, most of his friends are not and would not consider a Catholic marriage if they are considering marriage at all. They are part of a nationwide trend of fewer people getting married. Since 1980, marriage rates in the United States have dropped from 11 per thousand people in 1980 to 7.1 per thousand in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau[Good grief!]


Church weddings have been on the decline in the Phoenix Diocese, officials say. The diocese covers Maricopa, Yavapai, Coconino and Mohave counties in Arizona.

Out of an average of 27,000 marriage licenses issued a year in those counties – a number that has held steady for 15 years despite population growth – the number of weddings conducted in a Catholic church has dropped from 1,542 in 1993 to 1,389 last year, according to figures provided by the diocese. The numbers have rarely topped 1,800 in the 40-year history of the diocese.

Even though about 15 percent of diocese residents profess to be Catholic, only 5 percent of marriages take place in church.

The decline has occurred even as the diocese has grown at a rate exceeding the population generally, from an estimated 355,000 members in 1993 to 644,000 today.

Mark Gray of Georgetown University, who has researched Catholic marriage in the United States, says the trend is not restricted to Phoenix.

Overall, he said, the number of Catholic marriages has declined from 10 or more per 1,000 Catholics in the 1940s and ’50s to 3.5 today. The number in the Phoenix area for 2008 was 1.9 marriages per 1,000 Catholics.

The reasons, Gray said, may have to do with the rise in divorce and second marriages, which the church may not allow, the trend to getting married later in life, increased numbers of interfaith marriages and a preference for other marriage venues such as resorts or beaches. The latter trend is especially pronounced in Sun Belt states, he said.


Not everyone agrees with the new policy for Catholics.

[Get this… they had to go out and find a wacko to be the dissenting voice?] Roberta Meehan, an acknowledged foe of Olmsted’s conservative approach who is [pretending to be] ordained as part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, said the diocese should offer marriage preparation, but one size does not fit everyone.  [No doubt if the diocese said the sky was blue she would say it was lime green.]

"What works for two Ph.D. scientists is not the same for a couple of 19-year-olds just out of high school," she said. "Each couple should be counseled on an individual basis."  [And the sun still rises at dawn… film at 11.]

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  1. MarkJ says:

    I think that Marriage Prep is a good time to catch lapsed Catholics and encourage them to live their Faith in its fullest sense – but this will only work if the Catechesis is solid and completely in line with Catholic Tradition. As a precursor to a solid marriage preparation program, what is needed is a solid and living Catholic Faith, based in Tradition, and throroughly entrenched in the life and Liturgy of every parish in the diocese. When people are truly living and breathing the Catholic Faith as it has been handed down to us, marriage vocations (and other vocations!) will naturally be produced. As St. Paul said to the Romans “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep you spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” And everything else will fall into place.

    Saints will have a natural desire to be married in the Church…

  2. TNCath says:

    An old priest I knew, when faced with a wedding in which he was to officiate, would say, “Oh, for the coming of the kingdom when they are neither given nor taken in marriage!”

    That said, part of his “pre-marriage instruction” was to require the prospective bride and groom to find an attorney who would prepare the couple’s Last Will and Testament and get life insurance policies that would name each other beneficiaries. Then, and only then, would he allow them to begin preparation for marriage.

    As strange as that may seem, the point was that the couple needed to be brought back down to earth about the realities of marriage and family life. The Diocese of Phoenix seems to be recognizing this as well in its “raising the bar” on who and who cannot marry. For years, I have believed that the percentage of people getting married is still much too high. The average person (Catholic or not) hasn’t the slightest clue about basing a marriage on the expression of the love of Christ to His Church. This effort on the part of Bishop Olmstead is a good start. I hope other bishops follow suit.

    Unfortunately, I fear that this might lead to a temporary increase in couples who will attempt to marry “extra ecclesiae,” with the false premise that it is “OUR wedding” and “WE can do whatever WE want.” Parce Domine!

  3. Anthony OPL says:

    TNCath, I like that old priest. Nothing brings a young man (or woman) to his senses like a good old fashioned “memento mori”.

  4. Andy F. says:

    Years in the seminary, months for marriage and we wonder why the divorce rate is so high. Kudos to the Dioceses that understand we have to work harder to fight for ALL vocations.

  5. Fr. Andrew says:

    On some of the changes, I’m not sure how innovative they are. I know Denver, under Archbishop Chaput, has increased to 9 months and Fargo, under Bishop Aquila requires a full NFP course.

  6. DavidJ says:

    Increasing the time delay before marriage is a moot point unless the quality of the pre-marriage counseling is increased. It sounds like that’s what they’re trying to do, which is great. The thing is, though, is that here in Atlanta, my wife and I had to attend 1) about 8 hours of “classes” which, though good, were really just a “reading of the menu” of what it means/takes to be married. That’s not to say what was presented wasn’t useful at all…for what it was, it was good. However, I think my now-wife and I were the only couple in the room out of maybe 8 couples which weren’t cohabiting and weren’t shocked by some of the “radical” ideas (that is, solid Church teachings) on marriage. The priest who did our marriage and our FOCCUS test was my spiritual director and a close friend of my wife and I. He was great at talking about things with us and some of the harsher realities of marriage and living with a person. Thank God for a solid priest!

    As it is, Fr is right…the sad state of catechesis is such that more time has to be spent going over the basics rather than the meat of what it is to be a married Catholic. Everything starts and ends with solid education on the basics!

  7. atraturris says:

    At the parish I am assigned, we have a one year waiting time for marriages. With this is included the marriage FOCCUS and about 5 – 6 meetings with myself or the pastor, as well as a marriage prep program. This does lead to initially fewer marriages, but for myself and the couple it tends towards more fruitful marriages. The people in the parish are used to this as well and know the rule, the ones who complain are the ones just looking for a nice venue ultimately for their wedding.
    Fr. PJ

  8. Agnes says:

    I just went to a timely talk at St. Agnes. Fr. Peter Laird and a local Catholic lawyer gave a moving and very well-informed presentation on the theological and biblical aspects of marriage, as well as the cultural and legal challenges we face. For the state of MN, interestingly, you get a discount off your marriage license if you take marriage prep. It is in the state’s interest that marriages succeed.


    A longer discerning period, better catechesis – certainly these things would help. If it takes eight years for a man to discern his way through seminary to the priesthood, and if marriage is to be recognized as an equally important vocation (though different in kind), shouldn’t a bit more preparation before the plunge make sense?

    So many people suffer terribly in their marriages. I want to see some remediation too! Retrouvaille is helpful, though what they did to the Mass we attended on our retreat was rot – we need the fullness of faith! In any case, it’s about all the recourse couples have and they do give couples some good tools for dialoging. http://www.retrouvaille.org/

  9. avecrux says:

    People who are serious about a Sacramental Marriage will not be deterred by the education. It will help them. Those who are not serious about a Sacramental Marriage may walk away because of the requirements – but better now than after saying the vows.

  10. Jana says:

    Horrible. I am glad I do not live there. I spent only a couple of days with my future husband, than we wrote to each other, living in different countries, and then we got married. We are still married, 12 years now. Should we have gone through this, we would possibly never got married.
    What is next? A preparation for the last anointment?
    Marriage is a simple thing. One just have to know – no divorce, ever.

  11. Laurinda1230 says:

    I’m afraid that they are right that there will be less marriages in the Church and not because people discern that they aren’t ready for marriage, but because they don’t want to jump through all the new hoops. They will find it easier to get civilly married and later get their marriage blessed. Or attend another church who won’t make them do so much. I’m speaking of people who are not as solid in their faith or understand completely what it means to be Catholic. And maybe we don’t want to be marrying people in those situations. However, everyone has a different journey of faith and some people take longer than others. I’ve known many friends who have one Catholic parent marry a non-Catholic who later on enters the Church. I feel people of these situations would slip through the cracks.

    I am going through marriage prep myself and my fiancee and I are very excited about everything. We are going through a 7 week program, taking the FOCCUS test, meeting with our priest here in Austin a few times and then meeting with our celebrant (whom I’ve known since I was 9) three times before the wedding. I don’t know much about the weekend marriage prep program but I know we prefer the longer, more in-depth class but that is only because Matthew and I are “holy-rollers” as some might say. Not all engaged people are like us. It is a shame. I do believe in a longer marriage prep program supporting a successful marriage but I don’t think others will see it that way.

  12. RichardT says:

    Unfotunately the dissenting “womynpiest” has a point – although she’s wrong (and rather snobbish) to link it to the couple’s level of secular education.

    The collapse of catechesis and meaningfully Catholic education mean that these courses are going to have to be ridiculously basic – which is going to be very frustrating for those who already know something about their faith.

    No, the aims may be worthy but I think this is the wrong approach.

    Can you really deny a Catholic couple a Catholic marriage just because they haven’t done a course? Or make them wait 9 months – with all the temptations that will bring – while they go to classes? (And what if they only run the course a couple of times a year in your area? That 9 months could easily be 12). I’m not a canon lawyer, but that sounds like a denial of their rights. Not only does it put people into temptation, but there could be messy appeals to Rome about this.

    However, can you make a couple attend a course first because they show little or no understanding of what a Catholic marriage is? That sounds much more reasonable.

    Shouldn’t this be the parish priest’s decision? He is best placed to decide what instruction each couple needs before they are ready for marriage. By all means let the diocese run courses that he can send couples on if they need it, but let the priests decide what instruction each couple needs.

    And if the priests aren’t doing their job, then it’s the priests who need extra training, not the people.

  13. RichardT says:

    avecrux says:

    “At the parish I am assigned, we have a one year waiting time for marriages … People who are serious about a Sacramental Marriage will not be deterred by the education.”

    That’s fine for the saintly. But I wonder how many other couples, who might have had perfectly good marriages, have fallen into the temptation of fornication (with or without a non-Church marriage) by your attitude?

  14. RichardT says:

    As for the idea that the course will help everyone – I doubt it.

    It may help some, it may irritate others. People are different, and even successful marriages come in many different sorts. To impose a single approach on the entire diocese is naive.

  15. RichardT says:

    The other danger is that in practice this course will end up being run by the same lay people who are already responsible for the poor catechesis – and the quality of instruction is going to be very variable.

    I’d be worried that some of these couples are going to end up with a very strange idea of Catholic marriage – but think that they know it because they’ve done the course.

  16. avecrux says:

    They are taking the right approach.
    Yes, catechesis has been terrible. Most couples attending marriage prep in the Diocese in which I was involved were already living together and thought the Church’s teaching on contraception was draconian, etc. Which is why a Sacramental Marriage is not what they should be seeking – at least, not yet. Often, it is just for the beautiful Church photo op or because Grandma would be really upset if it wasn’t in a Church. Sad but true. Then divorce happens, one partner grows up, decides to get serious about the Faith – but meets someone else. You encounter them when they bring their children to Sacramental prep. They have married for a second time outside the Church – can’t get an annulment – live a very frustrated life – because they committed to a Sacramental Marriage the first time round when it really wasn’t a good idea.
    We can’t really protect people from their own choices. If 9 months of prep makes them walk away – so be it. Perhaps they will return when they have a more mature mindset. The Church can merely indicate what she perceives as necessary to couples today. The Church cannot dictate who can or cannot enter into a legal bond, but she does maintain judgment over what a valid Sacramental marriage is. If a couple doesn’t think a life long covenant is worth investing 9 months of prep, why do they think preparing for a career is worth 4 years (or more) of college? Some students are smarter than others – but they all have to take the same Bar exam or MCAT, etc and have the same number of credits. A uniform standard for marriage prep in a Diocese sets a bar of expectation and responsibility.

  17. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Cannot believe I am agreeing with a womynpriest on something, but my husband and I were married five months after our engagement, and no regrets. We were both in our late thirties, both attend Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation, I have an M.Div. and my husband was a recent convert to Catholicism from devout, High Church Anglicanism, and you better believe he knew his stuff. As we lived in different countries, a delay in our case would have been pointless and cruel. It would have also been, as RichardT above notes in general, a serious occasion for sin.

    Different circumstances for different people, at the discretion of the parish priest. Canon law is our friend, and marriage is our laypeople’s right. And it is insulting for people who have read church documents on marriage, and have studied the theology of marriage to be told, like a seven year old, that marriage is “not a contract but a covenant.” Yes, some of us already know. Try to recruit us for future marriage prep classes instead of talking down to us, please.

    One thing, though: university education has exactly NOTHING to do with it. Those who drop out of high school might lead more mature, devout and moral lives than university professors and would therefore be better prepared than thehy for the sacrament of marriage.

  18. RichardT says:

    Sorry for ranting, Father (and readers), but I would have gone ballistic if someone had insisted I went on a course like this. I really fear that it will badly damage some couples, and turn them away from the Church and towards sin.

    Yes, people need to understand the basis of Catholic marriage, but that doesn’t need to take 9 months. This bishop is proposing to deny people an important sacrament unless they wait nearly a year and attend classes on “practical skills”.

  19. avecrux says:

    I said nothing about a one year waiting period.
    There are many ways of avoiding fornication before marriage. Obviously avoiding occasions of sin is key. The most important step is frequenting the Sacraments. Frequenting the Sacraments is for sinners. That’s the point. What is “saintly” Richard? It is bizarre to me when people speak of daily Mass goers or those who make use of frequent Confession as being “saintly”. No, it just means they acknowledge how messed up they are and do something about it and get the help they need. Everyone can avail themselves of the Sacraments. Saints get tempted – they just call on Christ so they get help not to give in.

  20. Choirmaster says:

    Is natural family planning really something that should be stressed during marriage preparation?

    Does it really foster an openness toward procreation and a harmony between the unifying and procreating aspects of marital relations?

    I’m sorry, but there is no form of birth control (or “family planning”) that is in harmony with a natural-law concept of marriage: (1) you must have relations to prove/preserve the marriage bond and (2) said relations must always remain opened to the possibility (blessing) of children.

    Natural family planning puts constraints upon the marriage act that intend to mitigate the possibility of pregnancy. Maybe all of this NFP is a curse upon the marriage preparation and formation in the Catholic Church in the U.S.A.

    There’s no getting around it: If you’re married you must… engage. If you’re… engaging… you must be open to children.

  21. Jana says:

    Priests used to advise young people to get married AT ONCE. To wait is a stupid modern approach.
    If you want to get thihngs right, always look at how they were done before. Never fails.

  22. Carolina Geo says:

    And yet my parents, who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, never took a “marriage prep” course. And what is the percentage of Catholics nowadays who go through such classes and still have their marriages end in divorce?

    Putting a bigger band-aid on the problem is not the same as fixing the problem.

  23. RichardT says:


    Yes, instuction will be essential for some people – you need to understand what Catholic marriage is before you enter into it.

    But instruction at this length isn’t necessary for everyone; this is a sacrament, not a Bar exam.

    Moreover, this goes much further than sacramental instruction – it insists on practical teaching, relationship counselling and all sorts of other things that are nothing to do with sacramental marriage. People are different, marriages are different, and what is helpful for one couple will be useless – and may even be harmful – for another couple.

  24. avecrux says:

    I am really surprised by the intensity of the opposition to this. 9 months is not a long time. It is not “denying” a Sacrament! In this Diocese, Holy Communion prep and Confirmation prep is TWO YEARS. Some families feel like that is way too much, too – but the Church has the obligation to safeguard the Sacraments. Passion fades. That which seems heartless and cruel in the midst of passion can be recognized for what it is in the cold light of day – PRUDENT. Even Catholics who “know their stuff” do not necessarily have the affective maturity to enter into a covenant with their eyes completely open. It serves all of us when people take a humble approach to the reception of a Sacrament. I think our consumerist society has an impact – I want this NOW and no one should deny me. The Church’s collective wisdom says otherwise. The plague of Catholics seeking annulments says otherwise.

  25. John V says:

    Marriage Preparation was the subject of paragraph 66 of Familiaris Consortio, the 1981 Apostolic Exhortation of Venerable John Paul II. Some excerpts:

    “Marriage preparation has to be seen and put into practice as a gradual and continuous process. It includes three main stages: remote, proximate and immediate preparation.”

    “Remote preparation begins in early childhood . . . It is the period when esteem for all authentic human values is instilled, both in interpersonal and in social relationships, with all that this signifies for the formation of character, for the control and right use of one’s inclinations, for the manner of regarding and meeting people of the opposite sex, and so on.”

    “Upon this basis there will subsequently and gradually be built up the proximate preparation, which-from the suitable age and with adequate catechesis, as in a catechumenal process-involves a more specific preparation for the sacraments, as it were, a rediscovery of them.”

    “The immediate preparation for the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony should take place in the months and weeks immediately preceding the wedding, so as to give a new meaning, content and form to the so-called premarital enquiry required by Canon Law. This preparation is not only necessary in every case, but is also more urgently needed for engaged couples that still manifest shortcomings or difficulties in Christian doctrine and practice.”

    “It is to be hoped that the Episcopal Conferences, just as they are concerned with appropriate initiatives to help engaged couples to be more aware of the seriousness of their choice and also to help pastors of souls to make sure of the couples’ proper dispositions, so they will also take steps to see that there is issued a Directory for the Pastoral Care of the Family. In this they should lay down, in the first place, the minimum content, duration and method of the “Preparation Courses,” balancing the different aspects-doctrinal, pedagogical, legal and medical-concerning marriage, and structuring them in such a way that those preparing for marriage will not only receive an intellectual training but will also feel a desire to enter actively into the ecclesial community.”

    “Although one must not underestimate the necessity and obligation of the immediate preparation for marriage-which would happen if dispensations from it were easily given-nevertheless such preparation must always be set forth and put into practice in such a way that omitting it is not an impediment to the celebration of marriage.”

  26. RichardT says:

    avecrux, sorry re the 12 months – that was someone else a few posts above with a similar name, and I misread. My other comments stand.

    Seraphic Spouse (12:05pm) has said it much better than I.

  27. Nathan says:

    This is a thorny one.

    It is certainly good to provide more through catechesis prior to marriage. It’s also good to give couples time to think about their commitment. It’s excellent for a priest to have the couple get the life insurance and prepare wills. Bishop Olmsted’s heart and head seem to be in the right place on this.

    At the same time, I worry about the bureacratization of getting married in the Church. Not so much because it’s red tape, but because it seems to provide incentives to seek “how to get by with the minimum required.”

    In our culture, marriage seems to be about shopping. It seems that many couples “shop” for a church for their marriage. In some cases (particularly if the home parish is an ugly modern church), couples “shop” for a pretty place, or try to get a priest to join them on the beach at Maui. Others (especially if the marriage is taking place under some parental pressure) “shop” for a parish priest that will look the other way while the couple cohabitates. Some might even “shop” for a parish with an organist that will play the couple’s favorite pop song at the Nuptial Mass. I think it is made even more difficult by parents who try to drive bargains with their pastors to allow cohabitating couples to marry in their parishes.

    Does a dioscesan program such as in Phoenix increase the likelihood that marginally practicing couples would either 1) marry outside the Church because of the cost in time and energy, or 2) seek out the “tolerant” pastors/priests to get around the intent of the Bishop’s program?

    In any case, Bishop Olmsted is much wiser than I. I hope, though, that the program isn’t so bureaucratic that it leads to some unanticipated negative conequences for souls.

    In Christ,

  28. avecrux says:

    This is a case where looking at our grandparent’s practice is not going to help. Catechesis in the Church has been decimated since then. The sexualization of our society is unprecedented. Modern media makes instant gratification the norm. We are not, on a practical level, dealing with couples who are chastely courting – nor are we dealing with males who know how to be men – many of these couples have never seen an intact marriage. That which was self-evident to our grandparents no longer is. The couples who come for a Church wedding often do think they know it all and that the Church has nothing to say. A majority will end up divorced – and it is generally because “practical” things are not given a moral context – like raising children and using money, etc. Also, they bear wounds from their upbringing. These are not exclusive to those seeking marriage. It happens to those entering religious life or Priesthood, as well.

  29. RichardT says:

    Avecrux, if “Catechesis in the Church has been decimated”, then the place to start is improving the catechesis, not making young couples sit through 9 months of patronising twaddle about relationship-building.

    Frankly, having experienced some Church courses, in my case the first sin I would have been tempted to if forced into that would not be premature sex with my wife-to-be but murder of the course leader.

  30. marinaio says:

    I’m proud to announce that my wife and I only knew each other for about 6 months before we married; most of that time spent apart due to service in the USN. We were married 43 years ago and have no plans to sever that relationship until death do us part as the vow goes. As much as the Church likes to think so, the Church cannot instill a sense of honor to sacred vows or regulate behavior within a marriage by inflicting 6 to 9 months of what must be excruciatingly boring lectures upon the candidates. The sense of reverent respect and obedience to one’s sacred vows must begin during early childhood to take root.

  31. avecrux says:

    I will conclude by saying that at some point, we have to allow people to choose against the Church if they are going to. If this thoughtful Bishop has laid out an appropriate Pastoral plan for his Diocese, his people can either obey it or not – and the consequences are theirs. Our society is pretty short on humility. And patience.

  32. Alice says:

    The diocese in which I live requires 8-12 months of marriage prep, so I’m not sure that this is anything new. Most couples have to plan their weddings at least that far in advance to get the hall they want for their reception, the DJ, the caterer, and the photographer. It takes 8 months to order a wedding dress, so if anyone is going to be inconvenienced, it’s not the “culture-only” Catholics! Priests are allowed to make exceptions for older couples and couples who have extenuating circumstances such as long distance relationships.

    The monthly meetings with our priest and the FOCCUS test were very helpful, but I take issue with the way that these kinds of preparation measures tend to be directed towards Catholics who don’t come from religious families, skipped out on CCD except for the sacrament years, and are marrying non-Catholics. When my husband and I got married, I had to take a Saturday off work and, while the class was orthodox, there was nothing in it that was above the 7th Grade level in the diocesan religious education standards. Since the diocese has been encouraging orthodox catechesis for 20 years now, someone will decide to change some things about marriage prep by the time my children are getting married.

  33. Alice says:

    *I hope someone will decide to change….

  34. avecrux says:

    Why assume these classes will be “excruciatingly boring” or “patronising twaddle”? This is an attempt to improve catechesis, my friend. God bless the Bishop! To All – pray for your catechists. These are the attitudes we have to put up with day in and day out, even from the “good” families.

  35. JonM says:

    This is a tough one.

    First, it seems clear that the Diocese of Phoenix is genuinely trying to improve understanding of what marriage is (Step One: It is NOT about a fancy wedding).

    And, it is the prerogative of the Bishop to set these requirements.

    And with that in mind, I am glad I will not be in that Diocese when (God willing soon) I begin prep. Here are my reasons for, in a very qualified manner, agreeing with the heretical woman who needs our prayers (and some Marian lessons).

    When a man and woman are preparing for marriage, if it is being done correctly, it is an organic and messy affair. It has to be. Both have to be challenged in some way so as to prepare them for the reality that marriage is not some absurd TV sitcom, fantastic romance novel, or pornographic dimension. Every time together is enjoyable but also a struggle: Is she really the right one? Will he always love me? Will I always be able to support her? How do we show affection, but only as friends who are first among others?

    Both pray hard for guidance, patience, and help.

    So, those of us who practice patience and really meditate on what marriage is and announce an engagement seem to get rewarded with only unnecessary obstacles. I say unnecessary because many dioceses in the US perform marriage prep by letting lay heretics scramble minds of those at particular risk of temptation.

    There is also the risk of this strategy backfiring because it seems to be predicated on the notion that an adult man and adult woman, in good standing at their parishes no less, cannot enjoy a valid and licit marriage without a training program. This mentality has been exploited in the US by councils that dissolve marriages that would never have been considered invalid a century ago.

    Thus there is the risk that as we treat adults more like children, they will act like it in response.

    Now, in this screwed up country called the United States, unless we are up for canonization, we could all benefit from good, orthodox guidance by a priest. I know one of our priests asks the question, ‘So, why her? Why do you choose her over all the other women in the world?’ Another priest gives the man a scenario to consider at the end of marriage prep: ‘You are married. You come home from your honeymoon. Next week, your wife is in a horrible automobile accident and is now paralyzed. You, her husband, are going to be totally devoted to her, her care, and her love, correct?’

    I have to emphasize that with this in mind, we cannot disobey the bishop. We have no choice; if my bishop were to order this kind of preparation and I were in need of marriage prep, I would do it because we need to follow the bishops even if we have a difference of approach.

    Whatever the efficacy of this, it is good that a bishop is trying to shepherd his flock. We need better catechesis across the board starting with a reminder that while death is a birthright, entrance to heaven is not.

  36. marinaio says:

    “These are the attitudes we have to put up with day in and day out, even from the “good” families.”

    Correction; these are the attitudes of those who, having payed attention to their faith from the start, truly understand the importance of a sacred vow at the time they take the vow. I’m concerned that anyone, Christian or otherwise, reaches the age of marriage without a proper reverence of the vow he or she is about to take but I don’t believe a few months of classes will make a huge or lasting difference.

  37. marinaio says:

    OOPS, paid not payed!

  38. Alice says:

    Choirmaster said: There’s no getting around it: If you’re married you must… engage.

    Umm, that’s not Catholic teaching. The Church recognizes “Josephite marriages,” like, oh, Mary and Joseph’s. Plus, plenty of canonized saints either never consummated their marriages or vowed continence after a certain point. If my husband and I choose to abstain, the Church calls it continence, which is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we choose to engage in our marital rights according to the dictates of the Law of God, the Church calls it married chastity.

  39. Peggy R says:

    While 9 mos might be an issue, the policy sounds akin to what we experienced at an orthodox parish in NoVa. One party (or his/her parents) had to be a parishioner to marry there as well. The parish was in a trendy historic area and got booked quickly even though one had to have a marriage prep class that included NFP discussion. There were all kinds of regulations about weddings at the parish b/c it was an historic structure, plus requirements to have sacred music. No “Sunrise, Sunset” or whatever they sing nowadays. It had to be from Catholic liturgical music. No problem for us. Limiting the scope of options helps when so many decisions are to be made in wedding planning.

    Also, 6 mos was quite long enough to agonize over all the decisions to be made in planning a wedding. I am glad to never have to go through it again. [We have sons.]

  40. John 6:54 says:

    The increased time will only reduce the number of folks who will end up getting married within the church. For the most part nominal Catholics see no difference between getting married in the church or getting “married” on an island.

    I think it is great to raise the bar for whats required to get married within the church but increasing the waiting period will just reduce the numbers of those who do.

  41. avecrux says:

    Marinaio – I don’t really know if a correction is in order, rather than simply a statement from a different point of view. if those who “understand the importance of a sacred vow” would be more supportive of their Bishops who are trying to improve catechesis and not assume – outright – that a few months of catechesis will not make “a huge or lasting difference” – your change in attitude would benefit your catechists. I speak as a catechist – this is simply a fact.

  42. RichardT says:

    Avecrux, they might not be excruciatingly boring or patronising twaddle, but frankly from what I’ve experienced of Catholic adult education, marriage preperation and relationship training, it’s highly likely.

    I’ve been doing a bit of Googling, and found a Catholic programme called “pre-Cana” (even the name makes me want to vomit). Yes, some people seem to get a lot out of it, and it seems that the actual instruction on Catholic marriage is fine, but many people (especially those who don’t like discussing their private feelings in front of a group of strangers) really hate the relationships part. As I said, couples are different and a course isn’t going to suit everyone.

    A few comments that I found from people who had suffered through it:
    ” NOT wanting to share our sexual expectations in marriage with our 75 year old priest”
    “completely useless”
    “torture session”
    “directed by couples who share way too much information”
    “We listen as they divulge to a room of 100 engaged strangers their most intimate conflicts”
    ” way too much personal revelation”

  43. Jord says:

    If a couple is prepared (perhaps knowing more spiritually, emotionally, doctrinally and even financially than their priest or even bishop, they have a right to be sacramentally married immediately.

    I wonder if, for instance, some Catholic homeschoolers from BIG families and who are absolutely NOT interested in NFP, would be right to take their vows to each other because of what is an effectively invalidating requirement to wait so long. Of course, one cannot add an invalidating requirement to the reception of a sacrament in such manner as this.

    Group punishment of individuals for the stupidity of our Catholic schools and catechetical programs is not the way to go. Give each couple what they need, not more, not less.

  44. padredana says:

    I am very happy to see Bishops taking the current state of affairs regaring Marriage seriously. I know from experience how much most marriage prep programs need to be beefed up.

  45. avecrux says:

    Jord, I don’t think you are aware of the problems in that attitude… Vows to each other? What is the role of the Church? An effectively invalidating requirement to wait so long? What do you think about requirements for other Sacraments – Holy Communion, Confirmation, Reconciliation… is the Church not entitled to safeguard the Sacraments? The labeling of catechesis as group punishment is not going to help implement Pope Benedict’s Marshall Plan. It really isn’t. Just because a family is big and homeschools does not mean there isn’t more to learn – and I speak as the mother of a big, at one time homeschooling family.

  46. bnaasko says:

    Well at least those nominal catholics who opt out because they don’t want to jump through all of these hoops will be able to easily get their annulments later due to lack of cannonical form.

    They will have the oportunity to get serious about their faith later in life when they have settled down and married somone else. They will then have their “big catholic family” of four kids in their late 30’s and early 40’s when the libio has greatly subsided after having spent their most fertile years contracepting in an invalid union.

    They will then be able to smugly share their great wisdom with 20 year olds about what a beautiful thing it is to wait a year or longer for consummation when they have really and truly found the person they will spend the rest of their lives with. Delays are a good thing after all, if people get married too young, they might have 14 children!

  47. Jord says:

    Of course, there are problems with that point of view, avecrux. But, but, the law of the Church, which cannot be changed by the bishop, is that IF the faithful are in fact prepared, they have a right to receive such a sacrament. If they have no interest in NFP, why should that be a requirement for getting married?

  48. Kimberly says:

    I think Bishop Olmsted is right on. I can’t buy into the arguement that waiting another three months will cause “temptation”. Good heavens, what has happened with controling our selves? I think much more harm has come from trying to make everyone happy. God didn’t give us a list of different commandments so that we could pick and choose and FEEL good about it. I do agree that we need better catechetical programs but to hurry marriage along because some one CAN”T wait, well, I’ve got news for you – marriage is all about patience!

  49. RichardT says:

    Avecrux, you’re arguing against a position that no-one is taking.

    We’re not objecting to making sure that people know the basics of Catholic marriage before they enter into it. Nor is anyone claiming that “there isn’t more to learn”.

    But there are two huge problems with these courses:

    1) Someone with a reasonable knowledge of their faith is unlikely to learn anything from a mass programme aimed at those who haven’t even been in a Church since they were baptised. They would benefit much more from a couple of personal sessions with their parish priest – as I did before I was married.

    2) A large part of these courses is not Catholic teaching but secular relationship counselling. First, that has nothing to do with “safeguarding the Sacraments”. Second, any decent counsellor will agree that these don’t work – one size doesn’t fit all.

  50. Jord says:

    Of course, we make a distinction between those who want the sacrament because they are “hot” and those who want the sacrament because, well, they want this sacrament… because they know that their marriage, in the Lord’s grace, will be a reflection of Christ’s marriage with His bride, the Church, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They are not to be treated as hot, ignorant, merely cultural Catholics. Many are to be treated that way, but not the one’s who are devout and understanding and yearning for the sacrament.

  51. Choirmaster says:

    @Alice: Good point. Allow me to clarify: “continence” is not a birth-control method. I think the focus on Natural Family Planning is morally dubious (at best), but it remains an integral part of the several diocesan marriage prep programs that I have evaluated.

    My understanding is that marriage must be open to the possibility of children. NFP has as a premise the express rejection of the possibility of children as a result of marital activities, but nuanced to exclude such methods as barrier (prophylactics, etc.) and abortifacients (“the pill” and “the morning-after pill”).

    When the chancery has such a distorted view of marriage (or what subjects are admissible into marriage-prep curricula) then I don’t find any utility conflating those programs, but, instead, scrapping them all-together (the same goes for RCIA and the present incarnation of CCD).

  52. Joshua08 says:

    1. The 9 months period does seem excessive…virtually every moral theologian has warned against lengthy engagements. I tend to think that the problem is precisely a warped and egoistic view of discernment, and while in a few cases here and there the immature ones will tire of the choice and not get married, I don’t think that you are going to, by imposing a lengthy engagement, make anyone more mature. However, I do not think that it is major, as an extra three months is not a major addition. As long as they make reasonable exceptions in light of both prudence (sometimes marriages have to happen sooner, like when one party is being deployed, or because of pregnancy) and of the right of faithful to receive the sacrament if they are prepared…a right which Rome has said superceded age requirements for confirmation…In which case I think if a priest sat down with them and could verify they were prepared they should be dispensed from any program.

    2. My major worry is the NFP course. Obviously Catholics should be both aware of the sinfulness of contraception, and the licitness of NFP when there are serious and grave reasons for its use. So the doctrinal element should be taught. But NFP itself ought not be an requirement. I am with Fr. Ripperger on this one…

  53. avecrux says:

    Bishop Olmsted is a good Pastor. Just that fact alone combined with the opposition from a “wymmnpriest” should give those opposing this initiative pause. The Bishop sees the much bigger picture. Even working in a Parish gives a depth of perspective… it IS about safeguarding the Sacraments – preferably by evangelizing and converting those who approach. That takes time. For those who think they don’t need conversion – perhaps the humility of obedience and patience required will be good for them, if received.

  54. bnaasko says:

    I think that many here are forgetting just what it is like to be 20 years old and have a vocation to marriage.

    St. Paul says,

    “if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt”

    Now think on how much more difficult it must be for a 20 year old man to contain himself in today’s pornographic world than it would have been 50 years ago when the common wisdom said that such young men a long wait of more than a couple of months called for more than ordinary virtue. Especially when he is in an NFP class with his intended speaking graphically about her reproductive organs.

    9-12 months is not a long wait for a 40 year old, but it is indeed a long wait for a 20 year old, especially in this culture.

    Marriage norms must be written with normal, healthy and virile 18-25 year olds in mind. They can’t be written supposing the hormone level of a 40 year old.

  55. Leonius says:

    Marriage prep wouldn’t be necessary if people were actually catechised in the first place.

    The time for marriage prep is before people even start courting, otherwise how are they supposed to know what kind of spouse to look for in the first place?

  56. avecrux says:

    Choirmaster – there are people working inside these programs right now (RCIA, “CCD”, etc.) to try to make them into what they should be – namely, an aid to parents who were poorly catechized and need help in order to become the primary catechists of their children – however, we get assailed on every side – including harsh critique by those who want solid catechesis but do not always understand how difficult a process it is to reverse the catechetical trend. Pope Benedict is proceeding slowly, but proceeding nonetheless. The same is underway in the field of catechesis. That is why I am saying – SUPPORT THE BISHOP.
    bnaasko – “more than ordinary virtue” is possible by frequenting the Sacraments, fasting, avoiding occasions of sin, etc.

  57. RichardT says:

    Perhaps we’re just more personal on this side of the ocean. From the website of the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales:

    “There are many good and useful resources for marriage preparation … but none of these should substitute parish-based formation”

  58. RichardT says:


    If this was just about making sure that people understood Catholic marriage I wouldn’t be making so much fuss. I agree that the Bishop can – indeed should – insist that everyone getting married understands what Catholic marriage is. That might take 9 months in some cases, but shouldn’t always.

    But the Bishop has no proper authority to insist on a particular type of pre-marriage relationship counselling, nor to delay and withhold the sacrament until the couple has done so.

  59. RichardT says:

    And yes, of course it is possible to resist temptation, and the other sacraments assist us in this. But we shouldn’t be putting obstacles in the way of a young couple who want to do what is right.

  60. bnaasko says:


    The norms can’t expect heroic virtue. The baptized have a right to the sacrament.

    The avoidance of the near occaision of sin is the whole point. Long engangements, especially for young men, ARE near occaisions of sin. Prior to the last 40 years, nearly all moral theologians understood that.

  61. Bill Haley says:

    Fr. Z.,

    You were right to pick up on Clancy’s bias. He has been harping on the Church here in Phoenix for years. My father has been in CUF for decades and he has difficulty hearing his name without rolling his eyes and a slight scoff. “Argh, Clancy!”

    I would recommend that those who wish to critique the new policy would do well to read it rather than settle for the offered summary, which was actually quite staid for Clancy.

  62. 61 comments…

    This hit a nerve.

  63. Supertradmom says:

    Several points in answer to some of those listed above. Firstly, I helped a priest with marriage preparation many years ago, as he was old and little squeamish about asking certain questions of those engaged. He was very clear about finding out about previous marriages, orthodoxy of the two involved, and the right reasons for getting married. Long engagements are necessary today as one can only truly find out certain things, such as previous histories in one’s intended’s background over a period of time.

    I heartily disagree that long (and is one year “long”) engagements are an occasion of sin. During married life, there are some very good reasons for restraining one’s sexual needs for long periods of time, such as illness. If men or women cannot control themselves during engagement, they will not do so during marriage. One does not learn continence and chastity overnight.

    Also, in many years past, long engagements were the rule. I think the problem is unlimited access to one’s intended. Some university students see each other everyday. This is difficult.

    In addition, the idea of “mixed marriages”, so prevalent after Vatican II and hardly discouraged by most priests today, causes great problems which catechesis can point out. Many marriages fail because of the differences of faith and non-faith, especially in the rearing of children.

    Also, as one involved for many years in RCIA, I heartily welcome anything which slows down the wedding process. A “Catholic” marriage is not the same as any marriage, as it is a sacrament and a life-long commitment. One of the great things I have covered in RCIA to either newly married or engaged couples is the primary need for prayer together. So many couples never pray together.

    I have also taught NFP. This must be taught to engaged couples and if one of those two do not want to go to classes, I see this as an impediment to marriage. Strong feelings against NFP, unless the couple is open to not practicing any family planning, indicate a resistance to the teaching of the Church and mutual respect. I know of one annulment where the woman changed her mind after marriage and told her husband she really did not want children. If they had been in NFP classes before marriage, this may not have happened. She may have seen the beauty of children in the process.

    One last comment from experience; it is the duty of the priest or those helping in the marriage preparation to insure that the couples are not living together during the prep. This is also true of RCIA. Some priests do not insist on this, and this allows for a statistical breakup to happen later, as we all know. Some priests do not want to insist on couples living in different places during prep. This to me is essential and part of marriage preparation.

    In other words, a Catholic marriage is not like any other union. It is holy by definition and the lead-up should be a time of great grace.

  64. bnaasko says:

    Thanks for the link Mr. Haley.

    Is there a separate policy for engaged couples who are already practicing catholic christians?

  65. Papabile says:

    If this is true, I find it interesting, AND annoying.

    1) I don’t think anyone can disagree with the premise that people are LESS ready to be married than before. However, there are a VERY MANY people whom are ready to be married almost immediately.

    2) The NFP requirement is somewhat obnoxious. While continence is always permitted, NFP is never a required component of marriage. Strong encouragement, and explanation of the Church’s teachings are always welcome. However, I have often found that many of the NFP crowd almost insist upon its relevance to being a “good Catholic.

    But give me a break. In my own marriage we have not had recourse to NFP, because we have found no need for it.

    What annoys me the most is these courses are usually imposed in a non-canonically sound approach. Please understand, I am not speaking about this particular program, because I do NOT know the details of it (and I never trust the press). But, for some of us, this program acts as an impediment to the Sacrament, which should never be the case.

  66. Jack Hughes says:

    perhaps the level and time of marriage prep should be at the discretion of the Priest? After all Bl Louis and Zellie Matin had a very successful and loving marriage despite the fact that they were only engaged for 3 months

  67. RichardT says:

    I read the full document via the link, and was horrified that it calls for lay people to question the couple about pre-marital sexual relationships. Surely that should be done ONLY by the priest, and preferably in confession.

    bnaasko, I agree. The document covers all sorts of different situations, but seens unable to even contemplate a couple who are practising, understanding Catholics. Perhaps there aren’t any in Phoenix.

  68. Supertradmom says:

    One more comment, please. Most weddings take at least one year of preparation,getting the Church date, renting the hall for the reception, finding a place to live, getting the dresses, etc. I cannot see a family-oriented and family involved wedding happening in less than six months in most cases, and definitely needing at least nine months. A year seems reasonable. I wonder if there is a gender difference here. I think most women would not mind waiting and taking classes. Maybe we need a gender poll!

  69. Supertradmom says:

    Sorry, I would like to add to the comment above about twenty-year-olds. In over twenty-five years of working part-time with college and university students and RCIA, as well as marriage prep, I only met one twenty-year old who was savvy and mature enough to be married. We are in the age of extended adolescence, which means that most young people do not really mature until thirty or thirty-five. Granted, that some home-schooled youth, who have had the advantage of marriage prep in their high school courses, as I know from experience in home-schooling groups I belonged to, may be more ready than others who have never read or discussed the Church’s view on marriage.

    We need to be very realistic about the ignorance of most of our young Catholics on the Catholic view of marriage and children.

    Obviously, I think the classes and year long wait are excellent ideas. God bless that Bishop.

  70. RichardT says:

    Supertradmom, I’ll just quote what my wife said to her mother, who had suggested that we delay getting married because five months wasn’t enough time to organise it, “a funeral only takes a week to organise – why should a wedding need longer?” Sixteen years later, we’re still married.

  71. Papabile says:

    The biggest problem I had with my wedding is the Pastor kept wanting us to DESIGN our own wedding, and we had to keep reiterating we only wanted what was in the Missal, so we didn’t have to “plan” extensively. Sum total of 1.5 hours planning the liturgy. 1 Hour to buy dress, 1 hour to get tux, 2 days to come up with guest list. The hotel for guests required 1 month notice to block rooms. 2 Hours for planning and contracting with the caterer for the reception.

    I would have been happy to get married at a side altar and avoid all that planning….. but it takes a year?

    Give me a break.

  72. Supertradmom says:

    Again, sorry for the addition. My parents have been married for 62 years as of January 3rd. They had marriage prep-in the family and in good Catholic education in grade school and high school and in those days, college. I cannot believe the comments above which think that people “just got married” in the past. My parents had to wait until after World War II, and be chaste! They had to wait for an apartment, as the post-war housing shortage meant that youth stayed at home until married, not in cohabitation, of course. Those in the “greatest generation” knew how to wait and plan.

    Also, I agree that NFP is less desirable than complete openness to children. However, the classes bring up important points for discussion and indicate an attitude of chastity and continence in marriage. In addition, lay people have been advising young couples for years regarding marriage, only in families. Families today have relegated that duty to the Church groups, and most young people would rather talk with a fellow, sympathetic Catholic, than their own parents, in my experience. As to couples sharing about their past or present living arrangements, this must be addressed in RCIA as well as in marriage prep. and most young people are quite open about these things. Sometimes the young couples only go to Confession after discussing these things with a trained lay-person, who can share the need to break-up and the importance of repentance. Not all priests want or have time to deal with the numbers, either. This happens every year in RCIA, every year……

  73. Supertradmom says:

    Richard T and Papbile,

    Obviously, you do not live in very large parishes or cities where such planning takes nine months to a year just to get a date for the wedding in the Church and a hall for the reception. Also, if you are having a large family or two families come, it takes that long to get everyone together.

  74. B Knotts says:

    Sorry…I have a lot of respect for Bp. Olmsted, but this doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. The problem is catechesis. I suppose one could argue that this program will help to recatechize people, but if they receive bad information in their parishes to begin with, how will that be solved by spending additional time in a parish-run program?

    I went through these classes years ago, and while they weren’t useless, they were of limited value, in my opinion. This year will be our 20th anniversary, but I don’t chalk that up to the marriage prep classes.

  75. bnaasko says:

    All I can say is that I couldn’t disagree more with Supertradmom. I’d say that as a general rule, delaying marriage until the 30’s is unnatural.

    I have nothing but respect for the WWII generation, but I think we can agree that world war is unnatural as well and that having to wage it was an evil suffered by your parents.

    What allows for 10-15 years of protracted adolescence in this society is that 20-somethings aren’t busy raising kids. I feel sorry for people who aren’t married by 30 and I pray for them. Life is too short. When we know our vocation, we should answer as soon as we can.

    I can appreciate that things might be different for people just entering the Church, indeed the Phoenix norms seem tailor made for them. But surely we can’t make norms for faithful, lifelong, practicing catholics on the basis of the pastoral needs of converts.

  76. Papabile says:


    I live in Washington, DC. My Parish has almost 2000 families in it. It’s pretty easy to get a Saturday morning, never mind a weekday for a wedding.

    I come from a VERY large family. Additionally, I have had 5 kids of my own in the last seven years.

    I honestly would have liked my family to attend, but it was not the priority, as I was looking to cleave to my fiance. I would have been happy with a Wednesday wedding at a side altar.

    DC is the third most expensive wedding city in the United States, and we managed to do ours for about 5K, $32,000 below the average price.

    It all depends on what one prioritizes.

  77. JonM says:

    This hit a nerve.


    My 4 o’clock cancelled on me, so I’m reading the scores of comments. I think I need some popcorn to continue.

    Root canals are painful but no less necessary. Thanks, Father, for promoting solid discussion.

  78. Supertradmom says:

    Dear bnaasko,

    I did not say that marriage should be delayed until the thirties. I only pointed out that because of the culture, our youth are not mature usually until those years, as education and insecurities about jobs delays maturity. This is not my idea, but that of sixty years of psychology in the Western cultures.

    My son is going into the seminary in September, and he will not be ordained for six to seven years. He will be twenty-three when he enters theology and must wait until he is 29 or 30 for ordination. The same principle of maturity enters into this plan, created by the Bishop in his diocese and not by me. Did you know that 50% of seminarians who join seminaries at the age of 18 drop out? The drop out rate is much less for older vocations and for programs which delay entrance. You can find these statistics online. If 50% of 18-22 year olds drop out of priestly training, how many more young people will drop out of marriage because of poor preparation? Our Catholic youth are not prepared for marriage on the whole, except, I would add, for perhaps the 10% who have been home schooled.

  79. Supertradmom says:

    Dere Papabile,

    In the big city with which I am familiar, one cannot get married on a weekday, except by permission from a bishop, usually on a Friday evening. In most dioceses where I have worked, the young people must wait at least nine months to get a date, as most priests do not perform weekday weddings. In all the years I have worked in RCIA and marriage prep, I have not witnessed one weekday marriage. I am surprised that you did not think your family was a priority, but many young people do. I worked with university students, who usually wanted to get married in the college Church or in their home parishes. Most wait one to two years. They want the families to meet each other as well, and plan engagement gatherings, such as picnics for the family, etc. My son went to Thomas Aguinas College, where engagements many times last one to two years, especially in the Latin Mass group, who wait for Latin Mass weddings. Also, the young men are responsible about getting jobs first, in order to raise Catholic families where Mom can stay at home. Such things take time. My experience again shows that the youth who planned and waited are still married. By the way, the divorce rate for PhD students is 90%, not a good time be in a covenant or to start a family.

  80. RichardT says:


    I’ll leave Papabile to argue about how long it takes to buy a dress – something I have no expertise in. But I like her style – spending a year planning the practicalities suggests that the couple are more concerned with the externalities than the true meaning of marriage. As for family, if you give them three months notice, and they really care about you, there’s not much that will keep them away.

    But I’m shocked at your claim that in 25 years of working in marriage preparation etc. you have only found one 21 year old who you thought was mature enough to marry. My students are that age, and I’d say that a large majority of them (probably 80%) are fully mature enough. They may not all agree with our views of marriage, but that’s a different issue.

    Either there’s a huge difference between England and America (which I doubt), or you’ve got an unusual demographic amongst the ones you’re dealing with (mine is a normal college, nothing exceptional), or your view of young people is so skewed that you should be kept away from marriage preparation.

    As for it being better to marry in your 30s, most of my friends who stayed married until their 30s found that by then they were too set in their ways and no longer felt capable of sharing their home and life with someone to marry. Most of them bitterly regret nothaving married earlier.

  81. Nathan says:

    Wow. It sounds from the discussion as if a minimum of year is required to get on many parish calendars for a wedding. That leads me to think that current custom is almost entirely the Nuptial Mass. From what I’ve heard from my parents’ generation, the norm fifty to ninety years ago was a wedding in the rectory or a side chapel, no Nuptial Mass, with only the official witnesses present.

    Is it permissible in the OF to get married outside of Mass? On a weekday? I realize that’s countercultural, but might it be a way to get out of the stress on both couples and priests associated with the big wedding? Not to mention the cost in tough times?

    I know full well that’s not for everybody, or even a large majority, of Catholic weddings. But is the option even discussed anymore?

    In Christ,

  82. Supertradmom says:

    Where I live, slightly over 50% of the graduates will not have full-time jobs at graduation and either must go on for more education, or wait for marriage until they can afford a house and family. Among college students and recent graduates, the unemployment rate is higher than the society at large.

    As to mature, I mean those who can take responsibility for children and the financial needs of a traditional Catholic family, as well as being able to educate those children in the Catholic Faith. If you are stating that not all agree on our view of marriage, which is, I assume, the Catholic view, then they are “immature” in their faith and the realities of marriage. A mature Catholic is one who is living the Catholic Faith and not compromising or living in delusion about what marriage really is. I find those from strong Catholic families the most mature. As to my experience, it is working both in England and in America, and frankly, I do not see any difference in the youth culture overall.

  83. RichardT says:

    And what is ths business of “one cannot get married on a weekday, except by permission from a bishop”? Has anyone else ever heard of this? What reason is given for this restriction?

    Yes, traditionally one cannot have a nuptial Mass during Lent or Advent, or on major feast days. But to restrict it on a normal weekday seems bizarre.

  84. RichardT says:

    Supertradmom, I’m not going to start arguing over your definition of “mature”, but it’s not one that I would have thought of.

  85. bnaasko says:

    It can’t be that by immature you mean poor, can it?

    Surely poor apartment dwellers who makle a bad wage have the right to marry don’t they?

  86. moon1234 says:

    requires a full NFP course.

    And I wonder how much of that NFP course covers truely grave scenerios for it’s use to avoid children? All of the couples I know outside of our Traditional circle understand NFP to mean avoiding children for any reason under the sun.

    More emphesis should be placed on the sacrament of Marriage and less on the “how to avoid children” aspect. All of the people that actively use NFP to avoid children (that I know personally) are not happy couples. The male friends of these couples let on that their wife never wants to be intimate unless it is “that safe time” as dictated by a calendar. This seems to drive a wedge between people.

    As Father Rocky said today on relavant radio, in marriage each spouse gives permission to the other to welcome children at any time. The ability comes from God, the openess from each other.

    NFP as taught to many of my friends is nothing other than “Catholic Birth Control”. I sure am glad that our instruction was given by a priest on the proper way to welcome children into this world and not by some guy at the NFP pre-cana class telling us how to avoid children.

  87. Supertradmom says:

    I apologize for the statement regarding days of marriage. It is true only for our
    Cathedral and not for other churches in the diocese. However, in a neighboring diocese, the diocesan
    planning document indicated that weddings would be restricted to so many per parish per year,
    as some priests have been overwhelmed with requests and cannot meet the needs. The parish where I worked
    as the RCIA director, weddings were only on Fridays and Saturdays because the priest simply
    did not have time during the week.

  88. moon1234 says:


    All I can say is I am sure glad I did not live your neck of the woods. You have a very poor view of young adults to the point of seeing them as children. I would have been VERY put off had I been your “class”

    I was 21 and my wife was 19 when we were married. We did not need to wait for 9 months to get married. We met with a priest friend of our family who did all instruction. My wife (convert) received first communion, confirmation, marriage prep and marriage all within 6 months of us being married. We were young, but properly disposed and had good instruction.

    We NEVER had ANY NFP instruction, but were instructed on what properly welcoming children was. My wife read a few books on how to know when she was fertile (so we could have children) and gave me the cliff notes version. Since we have been married we have never found need to use NFP to AVOID children. We have been married almost 11 years now and have five children with number six on the way.

    We don’t need to know everything before we are married. Some of the fun is learning along the way. We always trusted in God and when we had questions, we asked out parents and our Priests. They are both excellent sources of information. Try having a little faith in the younger generation.

  89. Bill Haley says:


    As one who works in a parish, having faith in the younger generation is not always that easy. It is left to the pastor of souls, and in many cases his delegate, to ensure the preparedness of those who wish to receive any Holy Sacrament from the Church.

    The spectrum can be from a 16 year old who has been pregnant already to a 65 year old whose annulment was finally granted. Making that determination is not a walk in the park.

    When you consider the CARA report that just came out, the number of Catholics who hold the value of sentire cum Ecclesia in any regard has dwindled to depressingly low levels in recent decades. And, really, the younger generations (I have been married about the same as you) are some of the ones suffering from a lack of good catechesis the most.

  90. Supertradmom says:

    In one of my “classes”, the first four young people to talk to me had lost their innocence at the age of twelve. Two were victims of sexual child abuse. The other two grew up in promiscuous homes. All went to the same Catholic high school. Wake up and realize that our kids, who I love deeply and respect, have grown up in the world of sex on cell phones and the bombardment of this culture of death. I think if you did a little research on those who are coming into the Church in RCIA and those who want to be married in the Catholic Church, you will find that they have tremendous grace to walk away from the culture of death. As to NFP, as I stated earlier, I do not think at all it is the most perfect way of marriage and it is not part of my marriage, but it does allow for the teaching of the Church to be discussed in a respectful way. And, although there are many views of the Theology of the Body of the late John Paul II, it does allow for opening the needed discussion on the Church’s teaching.

    We are all called to perfection, but by steps.

  91. avecrux says:

    Supertradmom is in the field. She knows what we are up against.

  92. Margaret says:

    I think it is important for marriage prep to include a pretty thorough instruction in NFP, along with a proper understanding of when its use is appropriate. I had me a lovely little health scare about a year ago, and while it was being sorted out, it was critical that I not get pregnant because of some of the testing that was involved. I was deeply grateful that we didn’t have to add the stress of an indefinite period of total abstinence (as opposed to periodic required by NFP) on top of the nerve-wracking health issues. There is no need to wait until there is a crisis looming before learning how to use NFP. On the positive side, it’s given me many opportunities to surprise my midwife and OB by giving them very accurate dates of conception in spite of long, irregular cycles. (And kept one of my babies from being induced a full month early just because that’s what the little wheel in the doctor’s office said when my LMP date was entered.)

  93. bookworm says:

    Marriage preparation classes might be much more effective if they were offered long before couples get engaged — perhaps in Catholic high schools or, better yet, university Newman Centers. They could also be offered as part of RCIA instruction to anyone who is interested regardless of their marital status.

    Maybe Catholics in their senior year of high school or in their college years could be given the chance to enroll in one-semester classes covering all the stuff normally included in marriage prep — the church’s theology of marriage, the requirements for a valid marriage, etc. Some basic information on NFP could be thrown in as well. (NFP charting is a useful thing for a woman to know purely for health reasons, regardless of whether she is sexually active or intends to have children. It can tip you off to potential fertility or health problems or cycle irregularities.)

    Those who have completed such a course ahead of time could then be dispensed from going through the full marriage prep courses when they do finally decide to marry. If both bride and groom took the course ahead of time, they could skip marriage prep altogether, except for necessary meetings with their pastor. If only one did, the prep time could be reduced but not completely eliminated.

    A system like this would reward young Catholics who are serious enough about their faith to study these things when they don’t “have to,” and save the last-minute crash courses for those who really need them.

  94. cheekypinkgirl says:

    I would just like to state that the potential good of 9 months of preparation depends on the type and kind of preparation.

    For my husband and I, in the Milwaukee archdiocese, the sole presentation at our required marriage prep weekend on communication consisted of a 12 minute video showing a couple dressed in Green Bay Packer jerseys arguing on the couch in front of TV. We were then supposed to discuss how the couple could have been kinder and more specific with another. It was nothing but total rubbish designed to make the masses laugh.

    And while I am not a big fan of NFP – when we left the final session of the weekend, one of the presenters called out to everyone as they left the room – “Oh, and there’s some pamphlets on NFP in the back of the room! Be sure to take one!” No one did. And why would they, it was an after-thought.

    If this is what 9 months of preparation would entail, count me out.

  95. Laurinda1230 says:

    I can’t believe some people would be opposed to NFP!

    We are taught in the Creighton-Model method about the woman’s health and how to get pregnant and how to ensure healthy pregnancies!

    Due to our diets and other genetic and environmental factors many women are prone to miscarriages which if they understood how their fertility worked they could counteract those symptoms and never have the disheartening miscarriage. I know many people who have lots of fertility problems and never know what is going on. Practicing NFP will help a woman diagnose cervical inflammation before it gets serious (which leads to cancer), can help women who have very long periods, very short periods, can help women who suffer from all types of problems that gynecologists have no idea about. I’ve mentioned an issue with three different gyno that I have been to and all three told me that it is just that way with some women. From our NFP classes I have been able to fix that issue completely without taking a prescription drug.

    NFP is certainly not birth control and that is horrible to accuse it to be so. You can use it avoid getting pregnant sure but you are not in any way violating Natural Law and that is what we are to follow, God’s Natural Law. We are understanding our fertility not trying to control it. If you choose not to have sex on the fertile days that is a choice that God gave you.

    Anyway, it is really upsetting what some of you have said. I pray for those of you who know nothing about NFP and are dissenters. If we don’t teach NFP then every woman will just take the pill because it is convenient. Not teaching NFP is just encouraging couples to control their fertility by the pill. Gee, they can go down to Planned Parenthood and get a prescription today! I hear they even give out free condoms there. Planned Parenthood, they fix all of our “problems”.

  96. cheekypinkgirl says:

    One more thing: I’d also like to add that all this discussion of NFP here is truly amusing to me. I know there are some dioceses where NFP is a required part of marriage prep. But in most places, it’s not even a thought. In other words, most young Catholics being prepared for marriage might get 2 minutes of lip service as to how the pill is wrong, but after that, they are left to their own devices and decisions – which means using the contraception method of choice. Thus, the people here arguing about whether or not NFP is a sin and should or should not be taught in a marital prep course – well, those people are just orthodox/conservative Catholics arguing with other orthodox/conservative Catholics. That argument will likely never reach the students of these classes.

  97. cheekypinkgirl says:

    Laurinda – the people here who are against NFP – I’ve got news for you – they DO know about NFP. And plenty. I’m not taking sides here, since I used to be super pro-NFP and now have doubts (but not for the same reasons as many of the people here.) But I think YOU need to acquaint yourself with the reasons many of these people are anti-NFP.

  98. Jack Hughes says:

    Perhaps the problem is that well meaning Bishops and Priests think that there is a one size fits all type of Marriage prep, perhaps as I suggested earlier there should be some discretion left to the Parish Priest(the problem being that SOME parish priests can be a little wacky)

    As for NFP I’m not the biggest fan but I’m sure that its a good thing WHEN its used properly, we’re not all called to have sixty thousand kids but some of us are ment to have large families and we know that God will provide.

  99. mother undercover says:

    Wow! So, what exactly are the prerequisites for the sacrament of marriage these days? Is there a list in the CCC? How much does one have to earn to support a family in proper Catholic style? How much education must one have to be an upstanding Catholic father? As far as proper catechesis goes, is there a test one has to pass to get married? How about a test of purity? Is there a grace-o-meter? And what happens if you flunk? Poor, ignorant sinners need not apply?

    I understand that the people in the pews are poorly catechized. I understand that we need people in the pews, period. What I don’t understand is the Church holding our sacraments hostage while we complete a set of very arbitrary prerequisites. It’s ludicrous and smacks of simony.

    Marriage is under attack. Why are we denying people sacramental grace?

  100. bookworm says:

    “From what I’ve heard from my parents’ generation, the norm fifty to ninety years ago was a wedding in the rectory or a side chapel, no Nuptial Mass, with only the official witnesses present.”

    Weddings in the rectory were the norm in those days if a Catholic was marrying a non-Catholic. I know (from my mom) that it was forbidden in most places to celebrate a “mixed marriage” at a Nuptial Mass or at a main altar, and some priests wouldn’t marry a mixed couple inside the church at all. Of course the idea was to discourage mixed marriages.

    What if priests had a similar policy for cohabiting couples or couples who are not practicing Catholics (unless they change their ways before the wedding, they can only be married outside of Mass, at a side altar or in the rectory)? It might weed out the CINO couples who are ONLY interested in a big fancy wedding, but still allow those who care about receiving the sacrament of marriage to do so. It also would prevent scandal to others and reception of the Eucharist by those in a state of manifest grave sin.

  101. tygirwulf says:

    I kind of feel that this 9-month marriage prep is only a bandaid on the real problems. We have an immature, me-first, instant-gratification type of society, and the number of Catholics who are poorly catechized, on top of that, is mind-boggling. The people who would benefit the most from nine months of good-quality marriage prep are likely not going to care about what the Church says or wait that long to get married in the first place. I have a hard time believing that a couple who care about what the Church teaches would be uninformed about the actual teachings or theological reasoning behind them. I don’t really see how a nine-month class is going to transform the first group of people into the second.

    The only part I see as being useful to me personally would be the NFP. While personally I don’t know yet if I would use its contraceptive potential, I do think it is important for women to know as much as possible about our reproductive health and how to notice signs of trouble.

    Still, if I were going to get married in that diocese, I would patiently go through the prep, even though I would most likely hate going through it. I understand the intent behind this decision, and whether I agree with the methods the bishop is trying has nothing to do with my obedience to him.

  102. avecrux says:

    mother undercover –
    I don’t think this is a case at all of poor ignorant sinners not applying. It is acknowledging that we are poor ignorant sinners and need formation before taking a VOW that is IRREVOCABLE. To suggest simony really is inappropriate. You are correct that marriage is under attack – but no one is being denied sacramental grace here. A couple only receive the grace if they are not in a state of mortal sin in the first place – so, in fact, it may be the marriage preparation and conversion of life that may stem from it which ENABLES them to receive sacramental grace. How is it holding a sacrament hostage to try to assist people to be well prepared to receive? It may prevent some sacrilege as well.

  103. avecrux says:

    bookworm – the problem there would be that the couple will not receive the graces of the sacrament of marriage while they are in a state of mortal sin (cohabiting or not practicing). I know that this is already going on in so many Church weddings anyway… but I still wouldn’t want to endorse the practice.

  104. Jahaza says:

    “9-12 months is not a long wait for a 40 year old”

    For someone in their 40’s, it could make the difference in whether they’ll ever be able to have children at all.

  105. Kate says:

    Jana has an excellent point – never divorce.

    I agree that Supertradmom is “in the field” and seeing reality, but after working in social services for years, I know that being “in the field” can make a person very jaded.

    I was 22 when I married, and I know for sure that it is due to the grace of God that my husband and I just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. We were immature, but we’ve grown over the years through the grace of God.

    A good priest instructed me to have Masses offered for my husband and my marriage. Our marriage has gotten stronger with every day that goes by since I first started this practice. It’s advice that I give to every couple I know who is in peril of divorce. I can honestly tell you that the friends who have not offered Masses have gotten divorced, and the (only!) two (so far!) who have requested Masses for their marriage are still married. God is great!

  106. JonM says:

    Again, this is the Bishop’s right. He can require this sort of preparation. Further, we have every reason to assume this is the result of earnest prayer and thought on how to improve the institution and sacrament of marriage. The Bishop deserves our thanks and prayers because he is leading his flock.

    And again, to require such a long wait for orthodox Catholics is just not fair. It would seem some flexibility should be built into this program so that exceptions for the right reasons can be made.

    As others have pointed out, tradition is against long wait times. For that small minority of Catholics who actually regularly attend Mass and Confession, we just can’t rightly be lumped in with cohabitating ‘Catholics’ who last went to Mass when Clinton was President.

  107. JonM says:

    I just read that there is a disagreement of what constitutes maturity, especially in terms of financial position.

    I know we have to take responsibility for our actions. However, I think that we might narrowly assess this competancy. As Pope Benedict has written, the false god Mammon has a strangle hold over much of the world, especially the United States.

    This is a tricky issue. And it will not get better as the economy continues to falter particularly for recent college graduates. In my analysis, I don’t see any improvement for the better part of this coming decade. Of course, families don’t just run on air so men have to have some productive capacity – or at least as a bare minimum, some access to financial support.

    There is a dramatic difference between someone who is a lazy, unmotivated guy who doesn’t try and one who comes up short but constantly gives his best. The latter person, even though he is having work trouble, should have the right to marry I would hope.

    Perhaps Father could chime in as to how we determine our financial readiness for marriage.

  108. Mary Bruno says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is with the 9 month period before getting married. While some of this might be regional most people I know wait at least a year to get married in order to book a hall and make all the other preparations. 20 yrs ago when I got married we had to book our hall 13 months before the wedding because it was in December when many Christmas parties are also booked.

    We had to go to the priest first to make sure we could use the date we wanted and then to the hall to see if the date was available.

    I don’t think I ever met anyone in my peer group (and I’m 45 yrs old) who was married with less than a year’s preparation. Except for a few rushing in due to an unexpected out of wedlock pregnancy finding a priest who would marry them before the baby was born. My parish required 6 months and was known to refuse marriages in a rush due to pregnancy.

    I would have liked more info on NFP. The couple who counseled us said due to medical reasons they did not have to use NFP or “worry about it” and handed me a pamphlet with vague information and a phone number to the diocese–not even a personal contact.

    I think it would be great for people getting married to be taught about the Theology of the Body and what NFP really means.

    If I knew more maybe I would have understood why artificial birth control was wrong instead of thinking being open to life meant if artificial birth control failed that we’d welcome a baby.

  109. Ulsterian says:

    It seems to me that the whole marriage question is tied up with a) a true understanding of the Real Presence and b) worthy reception of Holy Communion. In larger parishes, because of the row by row approach to Holy Communion, it should not be underestimated how many Catholic couples who are co-habiting or civilly married join the line for Holy Communion without much thought. Priests would serve their parishioners better by reminding them regularly and in simple language (rather than the overly sensitive language of the USCCB) who may and may not receive Holy Communion. To that end, co-habituating couples and civilly married Catholics might wake up and hopefully develop a big enough hunger for Holy Communion that they might think twice about their state of life. When receiving Holy Communion is simply following the person in front and not wanting to look odd being left behind in an empty pew, not only does it encourage the attitude of “what’s the big deal, everyone’s doing it”, but encourages casual relationships of convenience on all fronts. Without attention being given to the Real Presence of the true Bridegroom, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and worthy reception of Holy Communion, a diocese can provide marriage programs until kingdom come and still find her children impoverished in their relationships, but especially with the Lord. Although there is a natural right to be married, for Catholics divine revelation trumps natural law any day.

  110. Supertradmom says:

    One more point. I am not in the least jaded. There is nothing more exciting and wonderful than seeing young people come into the Church and prepare for good, Catholic marriages. Catechesis is necessary, as we are living in a pagan world and many youth come to us knowing absolutely nothing. They have met good, loving Catholics, or have a thirst for the Truth, or both. The Church has such a gift of understanding about relationships and real love, which the world cannot give.

    I thank God for this Bishop and others,such as in the Wichita Diocese, who ask more of their Catholics. To be a Catholic should never be “easy”, but a challenge and a call to holiness. As to financial readiness for marriage, one needs to ask if the marriage will be in the image and likeness of secular marriages-no kids, dual incomes, or a readiness to sacrifice many things for the sake of having children. Poverty is one thing, but abject penury another. Historically, difficult financial times has impacted marriage. Marriages build up society, but society has to support the family as well, which it always does not do now.

    No one has addressed the comment I made much earlier about why we make our priests prepare for such a long time, but not our married people. Both the Sacrament of Matrimony and the Sacrament of Holy Orders demands preparation, as do all the Sacraments.

    And, some parishes are moving towards a two year RCIA course,in order to cover the basics more thoroughly; just to throw another spanner into the works.

    For Jahaza, two of my friends had babies at 47 (number six) and 49 (number five), all perfectly healthy and beautiful. God provides…I had my first at almost 40, after being told for years I had only a 33% chance of conceiving for health reasons. Trust in God.

  111. Kate says:

    I agree with Mary Bruno’s comments: “I think it would be great for people getting married to be taught about the Theology of the Body and what NFP really means.
    If I knew more maybe I would have understood why artificial birth control was wrong instead of thinking being open to life meant if artificial birth control failed that we’d welcome a baby.”

    And I support the bishop in his desire to inform and instruct couples and any diocese that can help in the areas that Mary Bruno points out will do a tremendous service to their young couples.

    I apologize for implying Supertradmom is jaded. I simply feel that the idea that couples in their early 20’s are too young to marry -because of immaturity or financial reasons is false. That some –“must go on for more education, or wait for marriage until they can afford a house and family-” means what, exactly?

    We rented a three room apartment and sometimes had cereal for dinner in our early marriage – I don’t think any mature, financially solvent person would have advised us to marry, but we’re glad we married. God has never abandoned us.

  112. avecrux says:

    Kate – I understand what your saying about money. I think our society is so materialistic that it is easy for a devout Catholic couple to see that, recognize the worldliness and then go to the other extreme. God will provide. It is true. But I think JonM hit the nail on the head above when he spoke about the difference between a lazy unmotivated guy and a guy who gives his best but comes up short. I would add to that the points Supertradmom gave about extended adolescence. Not only do many young men today really not know how to work – they also don’t know what to do… they are looking for work they can be “passionate” about. I can’t tell you how many couples I know – especially devout Catholic couples – who have been very unstable because the man can’t figure out what to do with himself. Popping in and out of school, trying different jobs in different fields, moving from place to place to try something new, etc. It makes it very hard for a young family to get a mortgage (even harder in this economic climate), very hard for a stay at home mom who is faithful to the Church’s teaching on human sexuality to raise an ever increasing family in a little apartment – and if the cycle persists, it can have a bed impact on the children, who do not experience a sense of stability and security in their family life. There is great wisdom in waiting until a young man has at least chosen a career path, landed a job and has demonstrated a basic level of competence, hard work and satisfaction as a provider.

  113. RichardT says:

    Avecrux, I’m not arguing about the Bishop’s right (duty?) to withhold marriage from couples who do not have a proper understanding of Catholic marriage. Nor am I arguing against the need for teaching and changing their ways when a couple are cohabiting or not practicing.

    But if a couple are practising, and do have a reasonable understanding of Catholic marriage, and are of age and not obviously incapable (all of which could be determined in a couple of short meetings with their parish priest), then they have a RIGHT to get married and it is wrong for the bishop to stand in their way.

    I also cannot see how compulsory relationship counselling is a necessary precondition to a Catholic marriage.

  114. Lisa says:

    Supertradmom said:
    “In over twenty-five years of working part-time with college and university students and RCIA, as well as marriage prep, I only met one twenty-year old who was savvy and mature enough to be married.”

    Wow. What a statement. My husband and I were both 20 when we were engaged, 21 when we were married. This was 5 years ago. Perhaps we were too immature to be married. I know our very strict, Catholic parents thought we were ready…but I’d don’t think that we were THAT much more mature than all but one of the students you’ve worked with in over 25 years…
    I agree that most of the young people getting married today don’t understand what marriage is, and perhaps many of them aren’t mature enough. But some are. When I was engaged, I was forced to pay a lot of money to attend courses that in no way prepared me for marriage. They were a complete and total joke. The preparation I needed for marriage I received from our parish priests, and my parents, who raised me as a stong Catholic, and had a good, solid marriage themselves. The same can be said of my husband. The same can be said of nearly all my friends, many of whom were married within a couple years of 20 (sometimes earlier), and all of whom have wonderful marriages today.
    I admit that we are probably the exception. But there are quite a few of us out there. I think much of the decisions as to how much marriage prep one needs should be made by the pastor of the parish. Now, if a couple comes in who the priest has never seen before, either because they never attend Mass, or because they want to get married at that church simply because it’s pretty, maybe they need a little more preparation. But it should be good prep, unlike what we got. Not “communication” classes that cost about $65 so a couple (both of whom had been divorced previously) can teach other couples how to fight effectively (by handing back and forth a magnet the has “the floor” written on it, and no interrupting the person with “the floor.”) And if the priest determines that the couple understands enough about marriage to enter it without these classes, and without the waiting period, they should be allowed to. Maybe the priest could take a little time a few days during the engagement to explain certain things. But that really is enough for some couples out there.

  115. Lisa says:

    As far as NFP goes, that was perhaps the only worthwhile class I was required to take when engaged. But even that could have, and probably should have, been done differently. I think it’s good for engaged couples to be taught, on no uncertain terms, the Church’s teaching on birth control. I also think it’s very important for women to understand their bodies well enough to be able to chart their cycles, not, in large part, to avoid pregnancy, but to achieve it (NFP has helped me get pregnant a few times), and to simply know what going on in our bodies. With that being said, when my now husband I were engaged, we were made to listen to very sexually explicit discussions, and so that NFP was a joint effort, and not something I kept track of by myself, I was told that I should call my fiance every night, and tell him of the type and amount of my “dischage” so that he could chart it. There. Joint effort. But I find this to be incredibly immodest. We weren’t married yet!
    I think NFP should be a joint effort after marriage, but for engaged couples, I think men and womenm should be given separate coures, a quick overview for the men, and detailed instructions for the women.

  116. RichardT says:

    Avecrux, your 6:48am post is disgraceful. Catholic marriage values do not equate to those of middle-class suburbia.

    Fortunately I have enough sense of humour not to be offended, but your description of the feckless man who should not be allowed to get married describes me perfectly. “a lazy unmotivated guy” [why else would I be here on a working day] … “don’t know what to do … looking for work they can be “passionate” about … popping in and out of school [I’ve just started a part-time PhD], trying different jobs in different fields”

    That’s me. I even free-lance a lot so that I can do interesting work and avoid the dull stuff. And yes, it does mean I can’t get a mortgage (we rent; it’s not the end of the world). Oh, and it’s just after lunch over here and I’m typing this in my dressing-gown because I can’t be bothered to get showered yet.

    But we’ve been married 16 years, my wife hasn’t worked since we had children (and before they started school I was often around for them during the day as well), we’ve never claimed welfare, the children are happy, well-fed and properly clothed and don’t miss out on anything.

    I’m glad that you (or supertradmum) weren’t runing marriage prep 16 years ago, or you’d have tried to stop us getting married. Fortunately the parish priest did our marriage prep, and he wasn’t so narrow-minded.

  117. dreamergal says:

    I’ve often thought it might be useful if, as part of the pre-Cana marriage prep, the engaged couple were to attempt to fill out the documents necessary for an annulment in order to really examine the relationship and to make sure there AREN’T any impediments there.

  118. moon1234 says:

    Supertradmom is in the field. She knows what we are up against.

    I guess my neck of the woods just is not as bad. I teach eigth grade catechism to the public school CCD students. I use the Baltimore Catechism. ALL of my guys (I only teach males) understand their faith. (I know, I give written exams).

    Granted these are young men, I do cover the proper way to see and interact with the opposite sex. I explain the pitfalls of being in a mixed marriage or in no marriage at all. Some of the kids come from these types of homes and do admit it is very hard for the spouse who does not attend Mass or is not Catholic to provide any type of good Catholic witness.

    We cover what chaste behaviour is and how our actions can lead ourselves and others to sin. They understand these things. Whether they take them to heart is another thing.

    The most off-putting part of so many posts that talk about NFP is that they want to think it is REQUIRED. I have sent several couples who have just wanted to get married (and who know their faith) to the ICRSS apostolates. They happily marry there without all of the Pre-Cana class mess that exists in so many diocese. These couples always tell me when they met with Father he was VERY detailed in examing them both to make sure they understood what they were doing and their faith. NFP is NOT a requirement of the faith and it’s teaching is used as an impediment to marriage in many places.

    Happily the traditional minded orders have not been influenced by this thought patters. As for Theology of the Body, there are many, many problems with that document without also including a 150 page church history book so one can extrapolate where some of these “liberating” ideas come from.

  119. Alice says:

    In our diocese at least, the first appointment with the priest includes a section where the priest questions both prospective spouses trying to uncover anything that might make the marriage null. Both spouses are required to sign a document saying that they have answered the questions truthfully. If nothing is uncovered in this questioning, the parents of both the bride and the groom are questioned as well. The questions for the parents include questions about the readiness of the spouses for marriage. If these questions uncover issues that need to be addressed before the couple can marry, the wedding cannot take place until they are addressed. Obviously, this is not fool proof, since people can lie and certain impediments may be unknown.

  120. cheekypinkgirl says:

    So now you’re saying that Mommy and Daddy need to be on-board for the couple to get married? I cannot agree with that. There are aspects of a person’s behavior and personality that may appear to be an impediment to marriage by one’s parents, but that may disappear alogether or change/bloom in a different direction once a person enters into their true vocation.

  121. Alice says:

    The parents of the bride and groom do not have the last say in the matter, but they can offer valuable insights into whether their child is denying the goods of marriage outside the priest’s office. If Mom or Dad says that their child has no intention, say, of ever having children, then the truth needs to come out before the couple attempts to marry.

  122. Agnes says:

    Remember it’s a vocation. With everything the culture throws at couples, some careful guidance from the Church is absolutely necessary. The quality of the catechesis though, is problematic. If you’re going to do it, pastors, do it right. You have a grave responsibility to ensure they have the tools, but it is up to the couple, ultimately, to use them.

    Young couples, the problem I see is the attitude of “I want it, and I want it NOW!” As if this other person were a possession. Patience. You’ll have your whole life and God willing spend your heaven together. Take your time. Take the classes. Talk with the priest. True love waits.

  123. avecrux says:

    RichardT – it is not “middle class suburbia” for a woman and children to expect a husband and father to provide for them – and to put proper provision for them above his own likes and dislikes. By proper provision, it does not mean a fancy house, a bedroom each or a brand new car – there is truly noble simplicity and poverty – but if he is capable of giving them more and rejects that opportunity due to his own laziness, lack of focus or drive, he is selfish. A man should always be seeking stability and security for his family at his own expense. Perhaps that sounds shocking, but it is true – the man is called to lay down his life for his bride. We hear it time and time again, but it can have incredibly practical ramifications… which is why it is the place of the Church to address these issues. It is a genuine need for women and children to be properly cared for if they are to be psychologically at peace. I’m not saying a man with those issues should not get married, but perhaps a 9 month course would help him realize that he needs to get a handle on the degree of his responsibility in a marriage and start habituating himself to being more selfless before tying the knot.

  124. cheekypinkgirl says:

    While I generally agree with you in what you just said, I disagree that these young couples have their whole lives in front of them. No one knows that.

  125. John 6:54 says:

    So 9 months for Marriage, and 1 hour for Communion. I think increasing the the communion fast would be a better idea.

  126. Jana says:

    you are just the man I would marry – if we were not both married already:-)Both happy, with children, without preparation classes.
    Greetings to you and your lucky wife!

  127. RichardT says:

    John 6:54 – a 9 month Communion fast? Well, it would cut down on the need for Extraordinary Ministers!

  128. RichardT says:

    Avecrux, it wasn’t the idea of a husband providing for his family that I criticised as suburban, but the specifics that YOU listed as to how he should do it.

    But you STILL haven’t answered my two main questions:

    1) If a couple are practising Catholics, with a reasonable understanding of Catholic marriage, and are of age and not obviously incapable, why can they not get married straight away after just a couple of short meetings with their parish priest?

    2) Why is compulsory relationship counselling a necessary precondition to a Catholic marriage?

  129. RichardT says:

    Thank you Jana!

  130. bnaasko says:


    I like your last post on how a man must be ready to lay down his life for his wife. Clearly, such is the implication of Eph 5:25. But I think that it might take more than 9 months to teach women the truth of Eph 5:22!

    I hope that’s part of the Phoenix program!

  131. Jack Hughes says:

    Bl Zellie and Louis Matin didn’t have ‘the whole of their lives together’ as if my memory serves me correctly Mdme Matin died when the little flower was four and Monsiour Matin lived for a further 17 years before he was called home.

    Supertradmom and Avecrux
    Dear Ladies, from your comments both of you seem to regard young men as simple minded imbicles who are incapable of providing for their families, perhaps you should remember that being an single Orthodox Devout Catholic man is extremely difficult in this day and age (even more so in Britain where I live)and living chaste lives in conformity with our faith is quite hard enough without being slandered by the likes of you. If you wish to be constructive I would suggest that you pray for single Catholic Men that those who are called to marriage would be worthy imitators of Christ and St Joeseph in thier familie lives

  132. amdg123 says:

    I just want to go on record as an NFP instructor, that about 75% of my clients are trying to achieve pregnancy or avoid miscarriage. Many could have avoided much suffering at the hands of doctors if they had at least a basic understanding of their own cycles. I don’t think a full course is necessary for engaged couples, but a good two hour introduction would be helpful for most couples so they know who to turn to if problems with their fertility do occur.

  133. Kate says:


    I’ve been thinking about this all day. I believe I understand your intended meaning about a father providing for his family, and I agree that you bring up a strong point. In my situation, my husband had not yet earned his degree, and we struggled for a few years with classes and temporary work, but he did keep working toward a goal, and, thank God, found work that supports his family. I realize there are other men who are not so motivated. God bless the bishop for trying to find a way to help young couples; I can’t begin to imagine his challenges.

  134. Joshua08 says:

    For the record, many posters here are opposed to the requirement of a full course on NFP given to unwed couples. Leaving aside issues of modesty that have been alleged in some presentations, the practice of NFP is hardly integral to a Catholic marriage as such. Certainly the Church;’s teachings on contraception and the doctrinal foundation for NFP should be taught…indeed a basic understanding of what it is including, especially, uses other than spacing or avoiding pregnancy would be good, as well as some sort of primer about when it is legitimate to use to space or prevent pregnancy and when not…obviously in concrete cases that needs to be discerned in a way that is more individual, hopefully with a confessor. But some guidelines to help form consciences would be good.

    But a full NFP course seems to go beyond what the Church requires and place unnecessary obligations on those seeking a sacrament. Rome has decreed in the past that a bishop had to confirm a child significantly under his age requirement, since that child was prepared according to the understanding of the Church. If a couple is properly disposed, then further requirements go against their right to the sacrament. (Canon 213). Now I am not a canon lawyer, and am open to correction from one who is, but it seems that it is not possible to place any further requirement upon some seeking a sacrament, other than that he be able to receive it (no impediments to marriage e.g.), is in the Faith and sufficiently catechised, except where laid down by canon law (such as the age requirement). Time requirements might be something allowable as a general rule, but I cannot see them being absolute without violation of 213…but then again I am not a canon lawyer

  135. RichardT says:

    I see subsequent topics have pushed this off the front page, but my thanks to Fr Z for raising this and for allowing a sometimes passionate debate.

    I wonder if the next mention of this topic will be news of an appeal to Rome by a devout couple from Phoenix diocese who want to marry within less than nine months.

  136. JonM says:

    I think we have to all take a step back and avoid personalizing this issue.

    SuperTradMom, AveCruz I am sure want nothing more than busting nets of orthdox young people marrying and having babies. Just because we might not agree with their approach does not accord us the right to make this a debate about our own lives.

    As Father said, this hit a nerve. I think multiple actually. We all know that marriage is suffering and the latest figures of Confession/Mass attendance are disheartening (how many souls are at risk…I think and pray about this daily regarding my own family).

    On the other hand a great number of us here on Father’s blog really do try to make the Church the rock of our lives: Adoration, frequent Confession, reading the Church’s documents, deep contemplative prayer, etc. With temptation oozing through the walls, a lot of us have broken free of terrible problems. And then after a lot of ‘courting’ we buck up and ask. But we are met with bureaucracy that delays things significantly?

    And I think we are all sensative when it comes to financial matters; the economy is horrible and this adds a whole other layer of concern for prospective husbands.

    However, and I leave myself open to correction here, I do think that a priest has a duty to determine whether a man intends to bust his — for his family rather than watch Jerry Springer. The man has to, must, is required to try. But we should not think that we need to have a 70k income with plush benefits in order to marry. Honestly, I don’t think unemployment should prevent a marriage (again, as long as the man is trying).

    Let’s not put the swords at each other. We’re all on the same team of Christian Restoration.

  137. Supertradmom says:

    For the record, our family does not live in middle-class suburbia and we rent, as we cannot afford to buy. We have one car. We do not go on holidays or vacations, ever. To equate financial responsibility with middle class suburbia is an over-statement. The number of children living in real poverty has risen both in the United States and in Great Britain (see yesterday’s news). Poverty means not enough food and clothing, not being able to go to college, not having proper health and dental care.

    A home for children should be safe and secure. I agree with Avecrux that many young people do not understand finances, responsibility and the real needs of a family. As to parent’s being involved, we are only one-hundred years beyond arranged marriages. The modern romantic find-your-own-spouse is relatively new in history. Parents should be part of the courting process and many young people I have spoken with wished their parents had given them more input, not less, in their dating choices. One reason why the “new” Catholic colleges are so popular is that parents can send their children to a place where meeting a practicing Catholic is most likely.

    Anything which the Bishops decide to help catechize and aid youth in making a real Catholic marriage is great! I really cannot understand the animosity to further learn one’s faith and to learn about one’s physicality, a la John Paul II. We all learn all the time as adult Catholics. Perhaps the majority of those who comment here are lucky to be in orthodox families. For the vast majority of Catholics, or new Catholics, this is not the case. And, Catholics are divorcing at the same rate as non-Catholics. The statistics alone would convince most people that there is a need for marriage preparation.

  138. Supertradmom: “Parents should be part of the courting process and many young people I have spoken with wished their parents had given them more input, not less, in their dating choices. One reason why the “new” Catholic colleges are so popular is that parents can send their children to a place where meeting a practicing Catholic is most likely.”
    I agree.
    I think families and parents have a real responsibility in this whole thing.
    “Perhaps the majority of those who comment here are lucky to be in orthodox families. For the vast majority of Catholics, or new Catholics, this is not the case.”
    I agree, also.
    We have to be very careful about assigning all kinds of “intentions” or “judgments”; a lot of young people, for the most part, are messed up in this whole issue…big-time.
    The pastoral issues here are complex yet simple. Bishops and priests have their duties and responsibilities to “speak the truth in love” even when it is difficult, rejected or scorned.
    But parents have an equal responsibility to teach their children what a sacramental marriage is by example, and with words.
    “Perhaps the majority of those who comment here are lucky to be in orthodox families. For the vast majority of Catholics, or new Catholics, this is not the case.”
    You can’t “undo” a lifetime of “brainwashing” from the culture in which we live in a couple of pre-marriage classes. Pastors have a great responsibility to inform, counsel and teach the meaning of Catholic marriage and not side-step the real issues here. No doubt about it.

  139. bookworm says:

    Regarding the financial side of marriage and what constitutes real maturity: my diocese offers Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (one four-hour session) as part of its marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programs. It is not mandatory for marriage prep, but is one of several options couples can choose from; and already married couples or any interested persons are welcome to attend.

    While Ramsey is well known in the secular world, his advice is based on Christian principles and very family friendly. Simply learning how to save, how to live debt-free or with as little debt as possible, and how to get rid of debt quickly if you find yourself in it, might help many couples who otherwise would have assumed they couldn’t afford to have children right away, or couldn’t afford to have more than one or two, to discover that they can.

  140. Joshua08 says:

    We had a two year required preparation for confirmation, because that was supposed to address the problems with lack of catechesis…guess what, it was a utter waste of my time (I ended up explaining more things than the teacher did), and showed the problem with en masse attempts at people 16+…those there each needed very different things.

    Just tacking on more time and teaching the non essential NFP stuff is not any solution. I applaud the effort, but really? And teaching controversial theology of the body? Sorry I would refuse such classes, especially if West was used to the point of petitioning Rome.

    In any case, cases should be made on a more individual level…either the couple is suitably prepared and has a right which cannot be denied or they are not suitably prepared for a sacrament and must do what they must to get to that point. For some marriages could happen next week, for others perhaps they never marry in the Church, others could use instruction. I am generally amazed that the consensus of saints and moral theologians have just been tossed at the window for modern solutions which have “really” worked “well” in other things, yeah? God-willing when I get engaged the marriage will be soon thereafter (within 6 months), with no NFP classes or the like. Just like my friends who have gotten married recently…oh and they are all 20’s, early 20’s. Few meetings with the priest, and they were married and that was that and I would bet money on any of them that they are still together 50 years from now, God willing that none of them die before then

  141. Jack Hughes says:


    I agree that in an ideal world parents should be part of the courting process (perhaps introducing young people to each other – I’m not a fan of strictly aranged marriages), however that does raise the problem of converts being frozen out of ‘the game’ for no other reason that they didn’t know maryjane when they were 13/14, how would you propose to deal with that?