I do post a lot of things about Catholic life, in part because that was my former faith, and in part because I have so many Catholic friends on social media who send me things. Leslie Fain passes along this Maggie Gallagher piece about how awful the Catholic Church in the US is about creating a marriage culture within its ranks. Maggie, incidentally, is Catholic. Excerpts:
As far as attitudes and values, the situation is bleak. Take cohabitation: When asked whether it is a good idea for couples considering marriage to cohabit first, just 48 percent of churchgoing Catholics firmly disagree, compared with 79 percent of Evangelicals. When asked whether it is “okay” for two people to get together for casual sex, 86 percent of churchgoing Evangelicals disagree, compared with just 65 percent of traditional Catholics.
The Catholic Church is unique in teaching that a sacramental Christian marriage is literally impossible to dissolve. Yet when asked whether married couples with children should stay married, just 45 percent of traditional Catholics who attend Mass regularly definitely agree, compared with 58 percent of churchgoing Evangelicals.
Why this weakness? I invite my readers, especially Catholic converts who can compare and contrast, to help me speculate on why.
Pope Francis has clearly been urging his fellow bishops to refocus on reaching out to the suffering, and on avoiding a narrow and rigid legalism. The experience of both Mormons and Evangelicals suggests that there is a great deal of practical wisdom in this approach. But the Catholic Church is not very good at reaching out warmly and helping people feel they belong, and it is doing a much worse job at “preaching to the converted.” When large chunks of Mass-going traditional Catholics don’t believe in basic doctrines of the Church, something is going very wrong at the most basic level. My guess from 30 years of Mass-going is that they seldom or never hear what the Church teaches.
I don’t know for sure, and neither do you. I will come back to this question in later posts.
Thoughts, Catholic and ex-Catholic readers? Me, I think Anonymous’s essay on First Things is the story for a lot of parishes.