June 21, 2007

Remember When the Air Was Clean and "Pastoral" Was a Good Thing?

Lord knows we need a less litigious culture, but suing U.S. Catholic for defaming U.S. Catholics seems appealing. At the very least the name is wrong; it's like calling a socialist magazine U.S. Capitalist.

In a recent article they condone/recommend living together before marriage. One might call it "betrothal with benefits". Found the article via Alicia and Curt Jester, and Alicia & Jeff & the commenters have covered most of the interesting ground. (One woman writes, "it came to me that the truth of a man's love is IN his commitment through marriage and in his care for her and their family 'as his own body', and not in his physical responses." Another, who'd lived together before marriage, attested: "I can tell you there was an immediate and large difference in our feelings and our commitment to each other after our wedding.")

But to take a step back to look at general philosophies: if there are two fringe poles around which many gather, one pole being "sin is just the breaking of arbitrary cultural norms" (heresy) and the other "my sins are more than God will put up with" (scrupulosity), then how does either lead to love of Christ? In both cases doesn't that lead to a sense of ingratitude for His death on the Cross?

Ah but I don't have a research study to back that up.

One of the first points the authors make is relying on the empirical:
Many Catholics believe living together before marriage is “living in sin” and associate premarital cohabitation with an increased divorce rate, but recent research reports a more detailed picture of the relationship between cohabitation and marital instability.
This smacks of putting science before God. What do research studies to do with determing God's will for us? Studies seem to prove one thing today, the opposite tomorrow, but even if it were true does it matter? Does a good end tell us the means getting there was therefore good?

It's not like orthodox Catholics don't do it too. We say that couples using NFP have an incredibly low divorce rate, something like 4%. But a doctrine is either true or false independent of results. Perhaps this citing of statistics is a sort of gospel enculturation thing, meant to reach us where we are, which is to say that we like research studies and statistics.

Now, doing the right thing will lead to good, no question. It's God's will that marriages last and it is acting in accordance with God's will that causes anything to last.

A bad thing about living in the midst of a therapeutic culture that worships peace, health and happiness and relies on research studies more than God as a pathway to those things is that you can begin to suspect peace, health and happiness by default, as if God doesn't want those things for us. Which is silly too.

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