An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Archbishop says
In an interview with the National Catholic Register, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, said that if the recent Synod on the Family showed him anything, it is that the Church needs to do a better job preparing engaged couples for the reality of life after marriage.
“I think the entire reality around, given the cultures we live in today, of marriage preparation is important. That’s been said by everybody, even in countries like in Africa or in Asia, which may have different issues than the West, than developed countries have,” Cardinal Daniel Di Dardo told the Register’s Edward Pentin. “That’s really significant. When you hear that coming from all over—and my group had like 15 different nations—you realize this is a pretty significant issue for everybody. I think that is good.”
DiNardo said that although the Synod was marked by strong differences in opinion over how to minister to Catholics whose marriages have already failed, “almost everyone agreed” that in order to prevent these failed marriages in the future, pre-marital formation will need a dramatically increased investment of both energy and time.
“Some bishops have gone so far as to say, in their ability to compare things, that we need a kind of marriage catechumenate,” DiNardo said. He said those bishops pointed out that while adults wishing to join the Catholic Church must go through a 9- to 12-month discernment process involving weekly classes and a sponsor, there is no similar requirement for engaged couples, even though the commitment they are undertaking is just as permanent and sacramental.
DiNardo himself favors a peer-to-peer approach like the one that has been implemented in his own archdiocese, but said that regardless of method, it is critical to make sure engaged couples know exactly what they are getting into before the Church gives them her blessing, as well as to stay close to those couples and guide them through the fledgling years of their marriages.
If we can go back home in the conferences, dioceses, whatever, and put some renewed emphasis on the long-term engagement of discipleship in what the sacrament of marriage is as a vocation and a call to holiness, yeah, I think that’s great. And I mean, that’s my real thinking: that we have to [have more] catechesis, allowing more families who are good [to] be of help to families struggling, and training people for marriage. We’ve already done this in my diocese. Couple-to-couple formation for those who are engaged is one of the best ways to teach and form a couple that is getting married. It’s far better than any course work you might do. But that family who’s training them has to be themselves well-formed. We do some work on that in our diocese. But the couple-to-couple experience has usually been proven for the engaged to be very good. Then, what we aren’t good at in most of the churches is the follow-up after they are married. We are discovering that the first five to eight years of marriage is tough. Frequently these couples are on their own. That’s probably not good. We’ve got to find ways when they move in to invite them to the parish right away. And you’ve got to stick with them and find ways in which you can support them in their married life. I think if we’ve heard this from one, we’ve heard this, you know, from 75 bishops or experts or even families saying: You’ve got to get to them once they are married. It’s probably a weakness.
To read more of what Cardinal DiNardo had to say about the Synod and Catholic marriages, read his full interview with the Registerhere.