Our Sunday Visitor reports:
The number of marriages celebrated in the Church has fallen from 415,487 in 1972 to 168,400 in 2010 — a decrease of nearly 60 percent — while the U.S. Catholic population has increased by almost 17 million. To put this another way, this is a shift from 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010.
It’s not that Catholics are less likely to marry than non-Catholics. In 2010, 53 percent of Catholics surveyed in the General Social Survey (GSS) indicated that they were currently married. By comparison, 51 percent of non-Catholics surveyed were married (including 55 percent of Protestants and 43 percent of those without a religious affiliation). Instead, many Catholics are choosing to marry outside of the Church.
We can see this trend in polling data as well. In a 2007 survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, 46 percent of unmarried Catholics who indicated some likelihood of marrying in the future said it is “somewhat” or “very” important to them to marry in the Church.
Among the reasons for the falling rate are: smaller percentage marrying at all, waiting longer to marry, divorce and remarriage without annulment, and marrying spouses who are not Roman Catholic.
David Gibson comments on the Roman Catholic Church and marriage in The Church’s real marriage crisis.
The core problem seems to be that by the time young adults (in particular) think about marriage they don’t have the lifelong religious, spiritual and cultural connections to the church that would lead them to pursue a church wedding in the first place.
I’m not sure the bishops’ campaign against gay marriage is going to change that dynamic in any positive way. Indeed, it hurts the bishops’ witness against gay marriage when they can’t figure out how to promote straight marriage in their own house.