The National Catholic Register (US) posted the following headline April 15/2011: 'Marriage 101: Societal decline of traditional marriage and rise of cohabitation and 'hooking up' affect students’ values, according to Catholic experts.'
This summary was based on a presentation by associate professor W. Bradford Wilcox during a recent symposium at the Catholic University of America. According to Prof. Wilcox ‘the decline of traditional marriage in America continues to affect students’ education and the welfare of the Catholic Church’. Wilcox and other experts maintain that traditional marriage is on the decline due to:
· The nation’s retreat on marriage
· cohabitation is on the increase
· universities need to do a better job of preparing students for marriage
· Students from unmarried families are prone to more drinking and “hooking up,” or engaging in casual sex
· The creation of the birth control pill
· The government has set up programs encouraging sexual abstinence but still hands out birth control
· the decline in traditional families is affecting the future of the Catholic Church
· unmarried families with children rarely attend church
What should be immediately evident from these expert opinions is that the problem(s) seem to be something or someone else's fault. This begs the question: 'Should this symposium not have redirected its focus on learning to take individual responsibilities instead?'
Accordingly, should we not be teaching our children, students, etc. the importance of being responsible for our own individual actions? Surely we cannot blame ‘others’ for our own mistakes. Each of the issues presented above merely provide an excuse for following the crowd. At the same time it is highly unlikely that these influences are likely to change. What really needs and can be changed are our individual choices and decisions. So, here follow some recommendation for the church today. Teach people that they too are connected directly to the Creator and that their salvation is not dependent on the church. The church too must accept that God dwells within each individual, regardless of our understanding of the faith. The church can no longer afford to dictate to the people how they must live out their life and spirituality. It is the hierarchy in the church that must also change if it hopes to survive - although that may already be too late. The current church teaching on human sexuality is hopelessly outdated since it is almost entirely based on the 4th. century understanding of St. Augustine who himself struggled with sexuality throughout his entire life. In its own struggle to deal with the growing sexual scandal the church has revealed its own battle with its understanding on the subject.
If the purpose of the symposium was simply a call to return to the traditional form of marriage as defined by the church the decline will most certainly continue for the reasons I have already stated.
Rather than complain about failures of society let us pass on the importance of learning to accept personal responsibility for our actions and toward others through the unconditional love of God. The following scriptural passages may be of help:
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. ... Deuteronomy 28:1-68 ESV
For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:5 ESV
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20 ESV