In honor of National Marriage Week, the CatholicMatch Institute will be highlighting the exciting things that marriage and family life offices are doing all around the country in order to promote happier and holier Catholic marriages. The CatholicMatch Institute spoke with Bishop Kevin Rhoades about marriage, encouraging couples to take their vows more seriously, and about National Marriage Week. Bishop Rhoades is the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. He serves on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.
Why is it important for the well-being of the children for the parents to be married?
Social science shows that marriage benefits children, and that children tend to do best when raised by their married father and mother. Many studies show that children’s health, education, and general formation are best when they are raised by their married parents. Boys and girls benefit from fathers and mothers in different ways. Men and women typically have different strengths as parents, which means they bring different gifts to the vocation of parenting.
Our culture has devalued marriage. What can an individual do to change this attitude?
We see much damage to the institution of marriage in our culture. What can an individual do to change this attitude? I think it begins with every married person living their vocation with fidelity, witnessing to the truth and beauty of marriage. The crisis we are facing calls all to return to the truth about marriage according to the divine plan. We are faced with a crisis of social morals. We need to teach and proclaim the dignity of conjugal love, the dignity of marriage and the family, recognizing that the love of spouses makes them cooperators with the love of God the Creator. We must respect the divine law about marriage as assuring the good of the spouses, of the family, and of society. We have an urgent task of vigorously affirming that marriage is a great human value, a vocation to the service of life, an intimate communion of life and love that is willed by God Himself.
What impact do you think the National Marriage Week is having on the public?
I think that National Marriage Week is having a good impact by bringing the theme of marriage to the forefront. I think National Marriage Week gives us an opportunity to highlight the truth and beauty of the vocation to marriage. It is also an opportunity to teach the truth about marriage and to celebrate the vocation of marriage.
What do you think the future looks like for institution of marriage?
It is hard for me to predict the future about marriage. I think a lot depends on the progress of the new evangelization. Conversion is definitely needed, given the many threats to marriage in our culture today. Blessed John Paul II said that “the future of the Church passes by way of the family where the Gospel lives and is transmitted, because all Christian families must convert themselves into evangelizing forces for all other families.” I think we need to highlight this evangelizing mission of married couples and families. This can help to change the culture.
Do you think the Catholic Church is working more diligently to make sure that young couples are getting an optimal Pre-Cana experience to combat the divorce mentality?
I think that the Church is working more diligently in many places, but not everywhere, to make sure that young couples are getting an optimal Pre-Cana experience to combat the divorce mentality. Pre-Cana is very important, but so also is the more remote preparation for marriage that is done through good, strong, convincing catechesis of our adolescents and young adults. Ultimately, the best way to combat “the divorce mentality” is the experience of true conversion to Christ. The laws on marriage and divorce can seem like mere Church rules unless one experiences that the laws are gift from our loving God for our own welfare.
What are some of the specific things the Laity Marriage Family Life & Youth Committee (LMFLY ) has done to promote marriage and family?
In 2004, the body of bishops approved a National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage. Under the guidance of the Committee, fruits of the initiative included the development of the For Your Marriage initiative (or the sister website in Spanish). This website is not only to support the already married, but is for dating and engaged couples.
In 2009, the bishops’ wrote a Pastoral Letter on marriage titled: Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.
The LMFLY Committee (currently chaired by Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo) has a particular subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage (currently chaired by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco) dedicated to the work of promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage. The efforts of the Subcommittee comprise both catechesis and education and public policy advocacy. The Subcommittee’s catechetical initiative, begun in 2010, is Marriage: Unique for a Reason. Videos, written materials, and other resources are available on the MUR website.
Furthermore, both the LMFLY Committee and Subcommittee are collaborating in the promotion of the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.