Catholics Marry, Just Not at Church

The National Vital Statistics System estimates that there were 2,118,000 marriages celebrated in the United States in 2011. Only 163,775 marriages were celebrated in U.S. Catholic churches. That is just 7.7 percent of all marriages, Mark Gray, of Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, points out on his blog, “1964.” Catholics make up nearly a quarter of the population and are no less likely to marry than those of other affiliations. “This means,” says Gray, “that Catholics marrying these days are just as likely...to celebrate their marriages at the beach or country club than in their parish.” What impact does being married outside of the church have on divorce odds? “We don’t know,” he writes. “We need another survey!” At 27 percent, Catholics who “experience divorce” (from other Catholics) are far fewer than in other U.S. denominations. That is still a daunting figure, he says. “It is important to remember that the percentage represents more than 11 million individuals,” Gray writes. “Some are likely in need of more outreach and ongoing ministry from the church.”

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William Atkinson
4 years 2 months ago
You can double and even triple Catholic marriages if like Pope Francis says, hit the streets, in other words you don't need the church building to perform marriages in, how about resorts, parks, the beach, schools, ball fields and even peoples homes. Even Knights of Columbus, Elks, Moose, lodges. How about city hall with Priest/Deacon/Bishop performing the wedding.
Joe Mcmahon
4 years 2 months ago
The "1964" blog does not accept comments for discussion, and this topic deserves discussion, especially outside the rectories. Among friends and relatives it is gauche to inquire why these two particular young Catholics are not getting married in the church community. I wonder (locally, not nationally) what percentage do not even make an inquiry. I wonder what percentage get negative vibes when they attempt to set up a church wedding, then simply choose not to put up with what they see as hassles.
Stephanie Barrett
4 years 2 months ago
There are rules in most US dioceses that a couple wanting to get married in the Catholic Church, must notify the parish a year in advance. These couples are required to go through pre-Cana counseling be it at the parish level or on a retreat format. Lastly it has gotten expensive to have a wedding in a church. Besides the usual flowers, there is the time and talents of lectors, organists, and cantors, as well as a stipend for the priest. I personally had an issue with a parish liturgy minister as to why the costs are so high. Her answer was the practice and the wedding day use of the church, as well as all of the above mentioned issues need to be considered. Is it possible that the church has out priced itself in the marriage ceremony field? A marriage to my knowledge can be blessed later on, do not know exactly what that involves?
Doug Renick
4 years 2 months ago
I am one of those 11million that have gone through the trauma of divorce. I want to come back to the church, yet my only option seems to be the hypocrisy of an annulment. It is so difficult for me to understand why my punishment for a decision made over 35 years ago, that produced 3 fantastic children and a lifetime of great memories, is more severe than mobsters, murderers, pedophiles and cheaters. Because of my remarriage to a fantastic woman it seems I can't be a member of the Knights of Columbus, receive the comfort of the sacraments or be part of the parish community that I long for. I feel like I'm doing something sinister attending Bible study or attending retreats. What are my limitations and will help ever arrive for me?
Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago
Doug - I am moved by your situation and would only say that there are many people who have personal situations in life that are an obstacle to full communion (including relationships that cannot be blessed by the Church because they conflict with prior vows, present practices or future plans). But, I believe God listens to all heartfelt prayers and will answer them, even if not in our time or according to our desires or understanding. So, I will say a prayer for you too. It is always great to hear of one who truly desires holiness. Just one thought: If you think an annulment in your case would be hypocritical, it must mean that you believe you really and fully did promise to stay married until death to your wife of 35 years ago (full knowledge and maturity, etc.) and that you are somehow still married to her. In marriage, the Church acts mainly as a witness to your promise, and blesses that vow. It is its duty to be the permanent witness even when others might forget or falter. For a life-long promise by its nature must be life-long. It might be worth reflecting further on what the Church means by an annulment and see if it is possible for you, after all?
David Pasinski
4 years 2 months ago
Tim I believe that most annulments are what he public always thought... "Catholic divorce." I was an Advocate for nearly 100 cases years ago never losta case-- and I knew one phrase of Canon Law. eople are forced to belie their past or compromise in the present with our canonical current system. Plus I think you are making some presumptions about Doug's marraige or his partner and their state of mind of 35 years ago!!!! His marraige ended for whatever reasons. It was at one point "real," presumably happy, complete... but it ended - perhaps with great pain or effort by one or both. Let's not pretend about "full lnowledge and maturity.. exactly when do we have that? Certainly not in early 20's!
Tim O'Leary
4 years 2 months ago
David - You presume to know Doug had a happy marriage but I only asked Doug the questions and didn't presume. Specifically, I wondered in my question if he was convinced he made a vow with full maturity and knowledge. You may well be right that Doug wasn't mature then but only he knows that. I have often heard that some people use the annulment process as a form of divorce, but that is for their consciences and not my judgment. Here is the question for you and for all of us. Are even mature humans capable of giving a vow or promise for a lifetime (unto death) when it comes to faith, love or commitment? Religious have that challenge as well with their celibate vows. It seems Jesus thought so and taught so ("what God has joined together...). He also called us to "be perfect" (Mt 5:48), which surely is harder than staying faithful in a failing or faltering marriage? Or, are all vows of love provisional and ephemeral, with a built in option for changing one' mind (fingers crossed)? The Church too, as a community of clergy and laity, has to ask herself if we too can stay for the duration of our lives with a vow (faith promise) to "hold steadfast and unmovable" (1 Cor 15:58) in the faith when the culture calls us to an easier life.
David Pasinski
4 years 2 months ago
Tim Thank you for your response. Sam Keen in his first book, "To A Dancing God," has a fine reflection on vows and promises... and there are many other texts... Sr. Margaret Farley also has a fine book whose title I forget... The obviously subjective judgment one makes about whether or not one was "mature enough" to make a vow is simply that ... subjective. And it is met with an impression that some expert or tribunal many years late can assess that judgement-- pish posh! Let's be honest and simply say something like "Maybe I could have done more... maybe s/he could have done more...and I'm sorry for he pain and loss of commitment and love (and perhsp the anger or betayal involved).. but it is over.. I regreat it.. ask forgiveness... and wish to blessed in what I will surely try to be new commitment with more knowledge and sense of sacrifice.." No tribunal is going to assess that.. Furthermore, the easier dispensation for religious and ghe more complex one for priests in laicization (sic) show that the church has develpoed many ways for deling with promises and vows... and some of it seems very remote and unfair to some re-married persons who rightly ask the common sense question "If sister can be dispensed of her promises, why can't we when we both have agreed to it?" I know the aspects of canon law and the scramental theology involved, but on the human level, it is afair and correct question.
Stephanie Barrett
4 years 2 months ago
Doug, I have heard your story many times. Yes an annulment may seem daunting. We have counselors in our parish who are trained to walk you through the process. Just because your marriage failed, in my parish no one is denied Communion. Do you know any kind and understanding priests that you could talk to? Possible they could give you a good solid feeling about attending mass and receiving the sacraments? Good luck, will be praying for peace that is found in God, in your life.
David Pasinski
4 years 2 months ago
Perhaps his marriage "ended" but didn't fail... just like some relationships end despite the wishes of one or both...Let's not brand it as failure as well. There's enough stigma out there.
Stephanie Barrett
4 years 2 months ago
You are right David calling a divorce a failed marriage was not well thought out wording. Since I have no idea what brought about the end. The rest of my comments are my feelings, correct or not.
ed gleason
4 years 2 months ago
As a couple who prepared over 2000 couples for marriage in the 70s 80s and 90s,at home, on EE, and church basements we heard many couples say they wanted a church wedding 'because grandpa and grandma would not come to a wedding not in held in a Church' Couples talked to laypeople because we held no keys to the Church.. . So the short answer now about why so few are having marriage in Church is that now grandma is living with her boyfriend with no marriage but in a state of financial bliss. simple as that.
JENNIFER KING
4 years 2 months ago
i read this article and comments with interest and hungering for more analysis, frankly. i am planning to get married (first time) in the catholic church in a few months, despite the fact that i had been away from the church for many years. it was actually tough for me to approach my parish and request to begin the process because there are so many rules and i felt as if there is a great deal of judgement and at any moment we might fail a 'test.' luckily, my monsignor did not try to use any of the rules as a bludgeon against us but very delicately attempted to focus and clarify the seriousness of our intentions. i was very relieved. i think the glaring issue here is the lack of involvement of young people in their catholic churches, perhaps people like me who have felt ostracized. i'm not sure divorce rates would magically go down if more people chose to marry in the church, but i think a lot of people could sure use a compassionate community of faith when going through both painful and joyful life experiences.

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