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Catholic marriage rate falling dramatically in US

June 17, 2011

The number of weddings celebrated in American Catholic churches has dropped by 60% in the past generation, at a time when the overall Catholic population was growing by almost 17 million.

A study by Mark Gray for Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) finds that the number of Catholics choosing to marry in the Church has plummeted dramatically. Gray finds “a shift from 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010.”

An OSV editorial refers to the decline in Catholic marriages as “another fidelity crisis,” with implications comparable to those of the sex-abuse crisis. “Many Catholics seem unaware of what the Church means by a sacramental marriage, of its opportunities for grace and its advantages over civil marriage,” the editors argue. They conclude that a proper response will require, as a first step, recognizing that this is “a true Church crisis.”


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  • Posted by: bnewman - Jun. 19, 2011 10:57 PM ET USA

    My cousin, a Protestant minister, has the same issue with marriage in his denomination. Catholic bishops are important to proposed solutions: for Catholics. But the problem is bigger. It is a general societal phenomenon and not restricted to the USA. As parents, we are the generation that faltered and did not pass on our faith to our children as did previous generations for nearly 2000 years. We failed to meet the challenge posed to Christianity in our basic institutions.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jun. 18, 2011 11:26 PM ET USA

    The scandal is the lack of formation in faith. This is the fruit of the neglect by parents for a generation. The failure starts with people like me who were aware of the problem but were ineffective in engaging the culture to oppose the growing indifference to belief in Jesus Christ and his teaching. It is a crisis.

  • Posted by: unum - Jun. 18, 2011 9:05 AM ET USA

    OSV says, “Many Catholics seem unaware of what the Church means by a sacramental marriage, of its opportunities for grace and its advantages over civil marriage”. That's because our bishops are messing with politics instead of teaching as Jesus did. The preaching I hear in area parishes is "bible study", rather than applying the teachings of Christ to modern life. If the bishops have a coherent message for the laity, the people in the pews are not hearing it.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 17, 2011 7:27 PM ET USA

    These are shallow articles. Cohabitation, which used to be known as the sin of fornication, is not discussed. Another failure to teach by the US bishops?? See the message in your accompanying article about Cardinal Pell urging that bishops need to TEACH, with COURAGE.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Jun. 17, 2011 6:42 PM ET USA

    Most Catholics used to get a good, orthodox Catholic education, from orthodox priests, brothers, and nuns, at least k-12. Now most Catholics attend secular schools, and get little, no, or poor (CCD) religious education. One cannot, therefore, be surprised by the result. We reap what we sow. The bishops need to wake up and find a way to get Catholics back into affordable, solidly orthodox Catholic schools. They seem to be asleep at the wheel.