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The Pope’s comments about modern marriage have raised eyebrows – but he has a point

The Pope’s recent comments on marriage, which have raised a few eyebrows, do at least contain one statement with which I wholeheartedly agree. It is this: “Marriage is the most difficult area of pastoral work.”

As for the rest of what the Pope has said, most of this raises a “Yes, but…” response from me.

But one thing has to be underlined: our marriage preparation is not doing its job. There are lots of people who are entering marriage ill-prepared for it and with little understanding of the sacrament.

I myself have known engaged couples who simply should not have got married. I was not, needless to say, presiding at their weddings. If I had been it would have been the cause of a considerable crisis of conscience on my part.

But even if I had been charged with “marrying” them, it would have been next to impossible to have intervened and stopped the wedding. Couples determined to marry may have little self-knowledge; one party may be self-deluded and the other party deluded; but the only way out of those delusions may be the school of bitter experience.

So how do we prepare people for marriage? Here are a few thoughts.

By the time the engaged couple present themselves, saying they want to get married in Church, it is already too late to start preparation. Preparation for marriage needs to start before the couple have met; it needs to start in childhood, or even, to be on the safe side, at birth. After all, whom you marry is the most important decision you will ever make.

Young children need to be educated in such a way that, when they grow up, they will make good choices of future spouses. They need to be educated to spot moral worth in other people, and to have a reasoned, balanced and healthy appreciation of sexuality and a proper understanding of what marriage is about, and, in particular, that it is designed for the raising of children.

Readers do not need to be told that in the world of contemporary Europe and North America all this is very hard, simply because the truth about marriage is being drowned out by the world’s counter-narrative. This insists that sex is just another leisure activity, and has little or nothing to do with procreation.

Moreover, the world insists that women and men are to be desired for the most superficial of reasons, and the ubiquity of pornography reinforces this stereotyping. Again, the world tells us that one partner for life is simply not realistic.

Finally, the triumph of contraception has deformed our understanding of the human person. Men and women nowadays get together for pleasure, not for the long-term project of procreation. Fertility, once considered a blessing, is now a curse, and the world admires thin and undernourished looking women rather than prospective mothers, and men whose qualities do not immediately suggest that they would make good fathers.

In practical terms, the Church has not helped its own cause because our response to marriage preparation has been stymied by what is often perceived as our opposition to sex education. The Church cannot be opposed to sex education, provided it is sex education of the correct type – that is to say, the sort of education that prepares people for marriage.

Moreover, this sex education must start as early as possible. Our children are looking at porn at an increasingly young age. Their education about sexuality needs to start before the poison of porn affects them; afterwards is too late. Our children are sexualised at an increasingly early age: just ask anyone who works in a mobile phone shop and has had to repair a teenager’s mobile, the contents of which can cause grown ups’ hearts to quail.

So we need to start talking to children in Catholic schools about mothers and fathers at the age of five; and parents need to do the same. As for older children and teenagers, large parishes, deaneries or dioceses need to hold summer camps in which the message of the Church about human sexuality (which is, let us remember, an integral part of the Good News) can be explored and learned.

But waiting for the engaged couple to walk thought the door before you begin talking of marriage? No, that is the current approach, and it is not working.

by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith




    The message is well sent if some body don’t get it they missing a piece in their mine that need to be replace by god.

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    First, I think it’s interesting that every time the pope says something, he is quickly followed by articles such as this one, explaining that he didn’t necessarily mean what he said. I wonder if he ever reads these articles…
    As for this article, like so much else in the Catholicism, it all boils down to sex. Sex is bad. Sex is how the mythological original sin is passed on. Sex is so bad that Jesus had to be born of a virgin, and once it was figured out that women contributed to the genetic makeup of offspring, Mary had to be immaculately conceived (though if Yahweh could do that for Mary, why can’t He do that for everyone?).
    It all comes down to sex. Back in the Bronze and Iron Ages, maybe there was more justification for the obsession the Abrahamic religions have with sex. Back then, the strength of a tribe was measured by the number of members it had. Inheritance rights were all-important. Human evolution had brought us to bond in pairs for a lifetime to care for the young – but back then a lifetime was 30 – 35 years or so. Back then women were property, and didn’t have any opportunity beyond the family, so marriage was all-important, otherwise she, and the children would starve. Rules were put in place to ensure the strength and continuity of the tribe – these rules became religious and continue to this day, but they don’t necessarily make sense any longer.
    Despite opposition from the Church, women are no longer property, they can raise kids and have an entire career, given that the average human lifespan is over twice as long now. Remaining married for life is unnecessary for raising of the kids or for the strength of the tribe. Indeed, what was once an evolutionary benefit, is now a burden as overpopulation pushes us to extinction. Yet the RCC insists that those least able to afford large families be required to do so under penalty of eternal torment if they use contraception. Look out for Zika – lots of shrunken headed Catholics on the way…
    The RCC frequently refers to LGBTs as “disordered” while they, themselves, are an organization of celibate, virgin men dressed in robes. These ‘disordered’ men want to tell us how to raise our children, but what qualifies them for this when they have decided to remove their ‘disordered’ selves from the gene pool? (And we thank them for that!). We should take that as a warning sign. These disordered men living in an unnatural fashion, and their obsession with sex that they aren’t supposed to participate in, have no place in our world today. Their primary purpose is to use it to invoke shame, guilt and fear of eternal punishment in order to keep the pews and coffers full.
    Yes there are issues with pornography and the deleterious effects viewing too much of it can have on the brain, but you can’t treat these issues by telling people they are going to burn in Hell for eternity, you have to treat it as a medical health issue, and in order to get these folks to turn to mental health professionals, you have to stop telling them how shameful, guilty and fearful they should be – but that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do, would it? The article is all about indoctrinating innocent children with guilt, shame and fear of eternal torment, in order to protect them from themselves. My word for that is “psychological child abuse” and one day, when we’re civilized, it will be illegal.
    For a final “shudder,” that whole idea of these supposedly celibate, virgin men in robes talking about sexuality at summer camps…. No, no, no… Catholic summer camp – though I was not sexually abused – was a place where I first learned how cruel and ungodly these disordered men could be… the last thing we want is a bunch of them thinking and talking about sex around kids! That makes my skin crawl.
    Whether there are gods or afterlives is unknown, but what does survive us, is our genome. The RCC has opted out of contributing the human genome. Given that, I don’t see why they should even have them a voice in how the rest of us conduct our affairs…

  3. Eleanor Reply

    So many people can now have their marriages annulled. They can just say, they may not have given a full consent to the marraige. And some people who have just been cohab iting for years do not need to have the sacrament of marriage anymore as they are still love each other and so have already received the sacrament according to the pope.

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