Synod: what about unmarried couples living together?

The working document on the upcoming Synod paints a stark picture:

From every part of the world, the responses note an increasing number of couples who live together ad experimentum (“on an experimental basis”) in unions which have not been religiously or civilly recognized nor officially registered in any way. The terms “experiment” or “trial period” are really not appropriate, since, especially in Europe and America, they often refer to a permanent form of life. Sometimes marriage takes place after the birth of their first child and the wedding and baptism are celebrated together. Statistics show a high incidence of these unions, though with some qualification between rural areas, where cohabitation is rarer and urban areas, e.g., in Europe, Asia and Latin America, where the practice is more widespread. Generally speaking, cohabitation is more commonly seen in Europe and North America, increasingly witnessed in Latin America and almost non-existent in Arab countries and Asia minor. In some regions of Latin America, cohabitation is more of a tradition in rural areas, integrated into the indigenous culture (servinacuy: “trial marriage”). In Africa marriage is practiced in stages and associated with verifying the fertility of the woman, which implies a sort of bond between the two families in question. In Europe, a variety of situations exist, which, in some cases, are influenced by a Marxist ideology, and, in others, are increasingly claimed to be simply a moral choice.

…Any possible response to this situation through pastoral care must assist young people overcome an overly romantic idea that love is only an intense feeling towards each other and teach them that it is, instead, a personal response to another person as part of a joint project of life, which reveals a great mystery and great promise.

What’s the answer?

Check out this ambitious program happening in my own backyard, the Diocese of Brooklyn:

As Mexicans, we have a natural love for our Lady of Guadalupe who opened the doors to the new evangelization by allowing a massive conversion of indigenous Mexicans from paganism to Christianity, a task that Franciscan Friar Toribio de Motolinia thought impossible. Such an impressive event draws to Church a whole nation each December 12thto remember the unmatchable favor God had to Mexico and America.

Created by Bishop DiMarzio in 2013 and inspired by our Lady, the Mexican Apostolate—directed by Fr. Jorge Ortiz-Garay—has launched several initiatives. One of these, “Marriage in Guadalupe,” aims to bring twelve cohabiting couples to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in communal weddings to take place December 6th and 7th (the weekend before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) at Brooklyn’s newly-consecrated Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph. During the six months prior to the big events, couples will be catechized—growing in faith and communion with God, as spouses and community.

Our work is simple but diligent in order to spread the word and invite couples to receive the Sacrament of Marriage. We go to the seven key parishes of the Mexican Apostolate in Brooklyn and Queens, meet with the priests and listen to the Mexican community of the parishes to acquaint ourselves with their needs. We aim to build a fraternal relationship and we extend invitations to workshops and events. We hand out flyers and keep parishes in the loop through their Facebook pages.

In this way we reach both the faithful who are active in the parish and those who have walked away from Church.

Great idea. Read more. 

This is just one contribution from our Summer Symposium on the Synod. Check out the landing page to read more compelling ideas about family, about faith, and about the future of our church.

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