Blessed Are the Shack-Ups

September 2007By James F. Csank

James F. Csank is a retired attorney living in Seven Hills, Ohio. His writings have appeared in The St. Croix Review and The Human Life Review.

The June 2007 issue of U.S. Catholic magazine contains an article titled "A Betrothal Proposal." It is written by Michael J. Lawler and Gail S. Risch, who are described as "two respected family ministry researchers" at the "Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University, Nebraska, where they also teach theology." The article's headline asks, "Are cohabiting Catholics always ‘living in sin'?" Lawler and Risch's answer has two parts: (1) not always, and (2) let's change the rules so that they never are.

The authors acknowledge that cohabitation -- you know, shacking up -- is on the rise, and has become "a conventional and socially endorsed reality." Catholics have not been immune to this trend: "Recent focus groups of young Catholic adults on ‘problematic aspects of church teaching' found that they disagreed with church teaching on premarital sex and cohabitation and do not see a fundamental difference in a loving relationship before and after a wedding."

When Lawler and Risch say "recent focus groups" they mean young, unmarried Catholic adults who want to enjoy sex without marriage and without feeling the guilt brought on by Church teachings that, our authors assert, "ignore the variety and complexity of the intentions, situations, and meanings couples give to cohabitation and its morality." Notice that, for Lawler and Risch, the morality of an act is given to it by the actors, not by God, not by His Natural Law, and not by the Church.

Exit sin.

Notice, too, that to these "Catholic" adults, a wedding adds nothing to their relationship.

Exit the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Lawler and Risch want to smooth over these problematic aspects and disagreements. They are concerned because the "current pastoral responses to cohabiting couples" are "both uninformed and outdated," which are very bad things to be. Their "pastoral response" does not involve counseling such people to avoid sin, but rationalizing sinners' behavior so that they view themselves as not actually sinning. Thus, Lawler and Risch proclaim: "Our experience with young adults leads us to doubt the claim that they are living in sin." Do Lawler and Risch claim the ability to see into souls, as God does? Their statement means nothing more than: We don't believe premarital sex is wrong.

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So typical of today's american (and catholic if you want to call them catholic) that there are no absolutes. The PC world enables one to adjust responsibilities aside in order to enjoy the moment. Too bad for them, however, when the last day of their life comes and they find that the Good Lord meant what he said and what the church teaches. Otherwise, why do we need a church? or a government? or law? or law enforcement? Posted by: wunsch
September 26, 2007 07:53 PM EDT
Up until the time of Paul VI, the Church taught that: “The primary end of matrimony is the procreation and education of offspring; the secondary end is mutual help and the remedy of concupiscence.” Although this specific formulation first appeared in the 1917 Code of Cannon Law, it did not expound a new doctrine, but one taught by the Church from the time of the Apostles. Then came the Second Vatican Council and by slight-of-pen, the traditional distinction of the primary and secondary ends of marriage were dispensed with, and a new formulation created – the unitive and the procreative ends of marriage – the latter institutionalized by John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with its heavy personalist emphasis on conjugal sex as a form of interpersonal relationships. The inevitable result of this seemingly benign juxtaposition/inversion of words (fully intended by the architects of the New Theology) is now evident in the practice of cohabitation by Catholic couples. Words are important. After all, Saint Athanasius went to war against Arius and turned an empire upside down over just one word “homoousios” – the one word that could not be understood to mean what the Arians meant. When and if the Church takes steps to repair the collateral damage done to Catholic Faith and morals by Vatican II, I trust a return to the original formulation on the ends of marriage will be given top priority. Randy Engel, author, “John Paul II and the ‘Theology of the Body’ – A Study in Modernism.” Posted by: randyengel
February 23, 2010 02:34 PM EST
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