The Root Problem Causing all the Turmoil in Marriages and Families
Fr. Daniel McCaffrey STD
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB PhD
We wish to offer our assessment of the problem facing marriage and family today. We speak from much experience. For the past 15 years we, Fr. Daniel McCaffrey and Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB, have been promoting God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family, which includes NFP, in parishes throughout the USA. We have seen how well congregations respond to a faithful presentation of God’s plan when presented in a loving and respectful way. When couples who live NFP give their living testimonies at the end of Mass, they are invariably given a spontaneous applause.
There is a common thread among all the dysfunctions and problems found in marriages and family life today. That thread is the abuse of sex, of the marriage act. We cannot expect matters to improve until we begin to address the problem of contraception and sterilization. Every strong marriage and healthy, happy family has discovered God’s plan for marriage and spousal love, and they live it. On the other hand, almost every marriage dysfunction has a connection with contraception.
There is a solution that is within the reach of every pastor. The solution is using the pulpit for what it was intended. People need to hear, to have proposed to them, God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family. Everyone wants a strong marriage and a happy family, but they do not know how to acquire them. They don’t know the plan.
We would be pleased to help clergy in their efforts to proclaim God’s plan clearly and effectively. When this happens, then a chain of events begin which can lead to a restoration of marriage and family life.
It is wonderful to experience strong marriages and healthy, happy families. They are an inspiration to all who know them, and they are a reflection of God’s plan for marriage and family.
Everyone knows that there are many problems in marriage and family life today. They continue to unravel.
The recent Synod on the Family correctly saw the problem as the loss of, and departure from, God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family. If people don’t know the plan, then they cannot live it, or benefit from it.
Strong marriages and healthy families do not just happen. They must be fostered and worked at according to a basic plan. In every good marriage and family you can see certain basic dynamics in place: commitment, self-sacrifice, a virtuous life and openness to life.
Where will people learn this plan? Not from the government or from secular society. Pursuing self-fulfillment, comfort, and security is not enough to make a marriage work. Secularists stay completely at the horizontal, humanistic level. They speak of a happy, or unhappy, marriage as if that were decreed by fate or chance.
If marriage involves making a life-time commitment to one’s spouse, then that is a huge task which exceeds merely human strengths and abilities. Problems are bound to rise in any relationship. Add the diverse personalities of children and in-laws to the mix, and you have the formula for impending disaster.
Couples need help in the fostering of their relationship. The natural virtues of consideration, patience and understanding help, but they are insufficient. The couple need the help and grace of God. And God promises his help to every couple when they are united to Him through the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Every couple faces problems. No one is exempt from problems. If not addressed, these problems will create barriers, and personal hurts and resentments which continue to fester. Love finds a way. If the couple face their problems, and faithfully work at them, then they will gradually gain a mastery over their problems. Problems help couples move out of their comfort zones and into higher levels of maturity.
People need to hear God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family. They need to understand why that plan makes such good sense, and is within the grasp of all who attempt to live by it.
Our pulpits have been silent for many years on these topics, especially after 1968 and Humanae Vitae. When massive numbers of priests, religious, educators and shapers of opinion rejected Humanae Vitae, then the vast majority of Catholics followed them. Along with massive contraception and sterilization, came massive abortions.
When the secular world (Planned Parenthood, feminists, pharmaceuticals and the medical professions) championed contraception and abortion, they recognized that the Catholic Church was their greatest opponent, at least the teaching Church was. So their winning strategy was to unite with dissenting Catholics and to convince the regular Catholics that the Church was wrong and that they could decide for themselves what to do. You make your own rules.
The clergy became gun-shy. They did not want to be rejected or criticized. Good priests were targeted and publicly ridiculed. Bishops did not lead. Then came pandemonium. More pre-marital and extra-marital sex. More abortions. More divorce. More cases of clerical sexual abuse. Fewer vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Then fewer marriages and more cohabitation. More departures from the Church: laity, priests and religious. 1/10th of all adults in the USA are ex- Catholics.
The deterioration continues. Fornication begins at earlier ages. Parents place their teenage daughters on the Pill when puberty begins. Having babies without a husband is accepted. Nationwide, 40% of all babies are born to single moms today. Parents who contracept can’t teach chastity to their teens.
Catholic schools and religious education programs touch lightly, or skip over, formation of character and growth in the virtues. This is the area of morality. Catholic teaching on chastity conflicts with many young people’s parents, who are contracepting.
When marriage and family life are in such disarray, it is to be expected that alternate life-styles become more acceptable. The gay lobby pushes hard for redefining marriage and wants to silence any opposition by calling this a “hate crime” or “homophobia.”
The only solution is to begin re-proposing God’s plan for us as bodied persons, male and female, sexual and fertile.
Silence and wishful thinking has not worked. It has brought us the mess we are in. Ignoring God’s plan has not made people freer. It has made them slaves to their passions, and incapable of making the nuptial gift. Pretending that the Church and Humanae Vitae were wrong only prolongs the unraveling of marriage and family life. Some groups have too much pride invested in their dissent. They cannot admit that they were wrong.
Where to begin? There are problems at every stage of life: marriages, families, youth, young couples, cohabiting couples, divorced and remarried. We need to diagnose the symptoms of the dilemma we are in, and get to the root of the problem. People don’t know God’s plan. They don’t understand the reasonableness of that plan – how human and natural it is. They are not encouraged to acquire self-possession, self-governance. They are not encouraged to use all the helps that God provides us to live out his Plan.
Thus, we must retrieve and re-propose God’s plan. First and foremost, this happens at the pulpit where everyone hears it. Faith comes through hearing. So does morality. When people hear the truth, they delight in it, and want it. They want to have the benefits of God’s plan. They are moved by the Holy Spirit to begin the conversion process.
Contraception is at the heart of the problem. Contraception facilitates and promotes all the dysfunctions we see today in young people, young couples and marriages. Contraception feeds abortion. Contraception is the taproot of the entire culture of death.
You can’t have chastity if there is contraception. You can’t have spousal love if there is contraception. You can’t have commitment if there is contraception. You can’t remove abortion if there is contraception. You can’t remove sexually transmitted diseases if there is contraception.
Components of the Solution
- Preaching on the themes of God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family.
- Making good use of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
- Teaching NFP to every couple.
- Good marriage prep programs.
- Good catechesis for adolescents and young adults.
- Coaching young couples, helping them get over the bumps of early marriage.
- Bring Catholic doctors and nurses back on board to accept God’s plan for spousal love and to refuse to prescribe contraception and do sterilizations. 99% prescribe contraception.
- Help couples and parents to get off contraception.