Pope Francis’ comments about marriage make 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. Continue reading

  • Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith is a Catholic priest, doctor of moral theology and consulting editor of The Catholic Herald.
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