Red vs. Blue Families

Tuesday, May 11, AD 2010

It’s fairly common for advocates of more liberal social policies to point out that “red states” tend to have higher rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, etc than “blue states”. This is taken to suggest that, however much conservatives may go on about “family values”, it is actually more liberal social values which are best for families. Ross Douthat does a good job of addressing this mentality in his column from last Sunday, in which he takes a closer look at some of these “family values” statistics.

Today, couples with college and (especially) graduate degrees tend to cohabit early and marry late, delaying childbirth and raising smaller families than their parents, while enjoying low divorce rates and bearing relatively few children out of wedlock.

For the rest of the country, this comfortable equilibrium remains out of reach. In the underclass (black, white and Hispanic alike), intact families are now an endangered species. For middle America, the ideal of the two-parent family endures, but the reality is much more chaotic: early marriages coexist with frequent divorces, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate keeps inching upward.

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20 Responses to Red vs. Blue Families

  • There are more problems with this book that I’ll outline in about a week. I have the post 3/4’s written but have to run some regressions and what not. I imagine you and your fellow travelers will largely be in agreement with me.

  • You read Douthat’s piece and came away with a completely different impression of it than I did. Of course, in my blog post on the subject, I did acknowledge that I may have been reading Douthat’s piece through my Ross-colored glasses, which probably tends to somewhat negatively distort anything written by the guy.

    I probably could have just let this one go, but for his gratuitous swipe at Bristol Palin.

  • I probably could have just let this one go, but for his gratuitous swipe at Bristol Palin.

    I thought it was pretty obvious from the context that he was characterizing the authors of the book as the kind of people who would make such a comment rather than taking a swipe at her himself. Judge for yourself:

    This is one of the themes of “Red Families v. Blue Families,” a provocative new book by two law professors, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. The authors depict a culturally conservative “red America” that’s stuck trying to sustain an outdated social model. By insisting (unrealistically) on chastity before marriage, Cahn and Carbone argue, social conservatives guarantee that their children will get pregnant early and often (see Palin, Bristol), leading to teen childbirth, shotgun marriages and high divorce rates.

    I could be wrong, but it never occurred to me to read it otherwise. He is laying out their argument in that paragraph; and the rest of the editorial is critical of that simplistic portrayal of Red America, and (implicitly) the kind of people who would cite Bristol Palin as the exemplar of backwards redstate America. Notice, the conclusion of the piece:

    By comparison, the “red family” model can look dysfunctional — an uneasy mix of rigor and permissiveness, whose ideals don’t always match up with the facts of contemporary life. But it reflects something else as well: an attempt, however compromised, to navigate post-sexual revolution America without relying on abortion.

    Translation: Red State America does not take abortion as an easy way out; this decision has consequences that aren’t always pretty, but it also reflects a lived moral conviction.

  • MZ,

    Sounds interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for it. (In the mean time, I’ll try to figure out if I should be flattered or perplexed at having “fellow travelers”.)


    Yeah, I didn’t get that he was rolling over to the book’s thesis at all, but rather refuting it. But while I want to argue with anything Rod Dreher says, Ross Douthat doesn’t fall in that camp for me.

  • Yeah, I didn’t get that he was rolling over to the book’s thesis at all, but rather refuting it.

    I’m with Jay on this one – it sounded like it was Ross himself backing the authors’s thesis.

    There is an easy way out of this morass, of course. Douthat could have, at some point, made an affirmative denunciation of the thesis and spelled out why the authors were mistaken. Instead we get a subtle jab that leaves the reader perplexed as to what exactly Douthat’s personal point of view is.

  • It was pretty clear as written, Paul; certainly Darwin and most of the commenters at the New York Times picked it up quickly enough. Douthat’s point is that attitudes toward abortion – not abstinence education or an emphasis on marriage or the simple stupidity of people in Red America – account for most of the differences we see in out-of-wedlock birth, early marriage (and accompanying divorce), etc.

    The contemporary liberal narrative downplays this fact. Abortion is becoming increasingly unpopular, so liberals want to argue that increased access to contraceptives will reduce the need for abortion, and that it is cultural conservatism that, in effect, increases the abortion rate. Douthat just points out this argument doesn’t square with the facts; teen pregnancy is lower in blue states primarily because abortion is more prevalent. That’s why Darwin and Chris Burgwald flagged the article; it refutes a central part of the contemporary liberal diagnosis of red state America – the myth of social conservatism increasing the abortion rate.

  • Jay:

    I’m normally a Douthat fan, but I did think this article was weirdly written for some reason so while I noted as Darwin did that he ultimately refuted the thesis, that I didn’t feel great about him doing so. Not sure why.

  • The whole concept of the book is wrong-headed I think in its analysis of Red and Blue states. There are really very few states that fit in that category. For example I live in Blue Illinois. Outside of Chicago and some of the suburbs, most of Illinois has life conducted along the lines of a Red State by the lights of the book. The reverse is true of Red States, Texas for example, with large urban enclaves. This mixed quality of the states would have to be taken into consideration when looking at statistics regarding marriage and divorce. Additionally, I think we are at the beginning of a political era where the Red and Blue divisions may soon seem like relics as much as the divisions between the Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats do today. The political landscape is changing rapidly, as I think Illinois will demonstrate in the fall.

  • “teen pregnancy is lower in blue states because abortion is more prevalent”

    Well, actually it would be teen BIRTH rates that would be lower in those states. I have seen lists of nations with the lowest teen pregnancy rates and the lowest teen birth rates side by side, and they are NOT identical, so statisticians do have a way to compile those statistics separately. (Switzerland, for example, is in the bottom five nations as far as teen birth rate, but does not have the same ranking for teen pregnancy rate.)

    If Douthat’s theory is true, blue states would have the same or possibly even higher teen PREGNANCY rates, but lower teen birth rates, the difference being due primarily to abortion.

    The only other possible cause for such a disparity would be a high rate of miscarriage or stillbirth due to poverty or poor medical care; that might be a factor in some Third World countries but probably not so much in the U.S., even in areas of extreme urban decay.

  • Also, figures in some of the red states may be considerably skewed by the impact of (illegal) immigration.

  • There is an easy way out of this morass, of course. Douthat could have, at some point, made an affirmative denunciation of the thesis and spelled out why the authors were mistaken.

    There is little indication from his writing that Ross Douthat has the background to have much critical engagement with a piece of quantitative social research, so he would be advised to tread rather carefully in commenting on that. It’s regrettably been years, but I have done this sort of work on this sort of topic and (judging from the literature I reviewed and my own analyses) you generally get ambiguous results.

    Of course, the book could be flawed in all kinds of ways that a layman could spot quite readily. Awful lot of groupthink in academe.

    But while I want to argue with anything Rod Dreher says,

    The bulk of what Brother Dreher has to say is he is upset. No point to arguing with that.

  • Well, actually it would be teen BIRTH rates

    Yeah, mistyped.

    The bulk of what Brother Dreher has to say is he is upset. No point to arguing with that.

    Heh. A little harsh, but there’s a lot of truth there.

  • If Douthat’s theory is true, blue states would have the same or possibly even higher teen PREGNANCY rates, but lower teen birth rates, the difference being due primarily to abortion.

    While the terms are being used a bit interchangeably in the comments here, Douthat does successfully make the distinction, and the data he links to does indeed bear this out. For instance:

    Alabama has a pregnancy rate for 15-19 year olds of 73 out of every 1000 women. Connecticut has a rate of 57. For in Alabama only 20% of those pregnancies end in abortion, while in Connecticut 53% do. West Virginia has a teen pregnancy rate of 62, which is the same a Rhode Island’s rate of 62 — but in West Virginia only 17% of those pregnancies end in abortion while in Rhode Island 42% do.

  • Regardless of whether Douthat was using her as an example of the kind of people the authors were talking about, Bristol Palin should not have been brought up at all.

  • The bigger point might be the supposed connection between morality and whether one is red or blue. As much as either side tries to convince that it is more moral than the other, neither the public examples, nor the statistics are there.

    If you wanted to analyze the big picture on abortion or divorce, you’d have to draw in economics, religion, and education, among other factors. They used to say the moral majority is neither. It’s still true.

  • Regardless of whether Douthat was using her as an example of the kind of people the authors were talking about

    It’s not that she typifies the type of people the authors were writing about (although she does in some respects). It’s that she is a common example cited by people like the authors. Douthat is laying out the lefty worldview; and Bristol and Sarah Palin references are common. Is that unfair to Bristol? Sure. But I don’t think re-stating the blue state critique of red-state America in its own terms makes Douthat morally reprehensible.

  • Todd,

    I’m not clear that moral conservatives necessarily claim to be more moral than social progressives, they just claim that they continue to espouse morality while their opponents consider it “repressed” or “outdated”.

    Of course, the other point here is that claimed moral beliefs are certainly not the only difference between the populations of “red” and “blue” states. In this sense, although it’s an oft used distinction, trying to make these distinctions is overly broad.

    As I’m sure you’d agree “red” and “blue” (there’s a certain late-Roman quality to how attached we are to these color designations) in the sense of left-politics/right-politics can contain a whole host of contradictory groups within one label. I would imagine that you share much more in moral/cultural outlook with those in the Moral Majority (however distasteful you may find their politics) than you do with the sort of folks who write long self-examining essays about how monogamous marriage doesn’t make sense in the modern world for The Atlantic, even if you might share some of the same favorite politicians.

    Data that I have seen which is more explicitly broken down by actual stated moral beliefs does show that, while as should come as no surprise to anyone those who espouse traditional moral beliefs are far from perfect in their practice of them, people who claim to believe in traditional morality, attend some sort of religious services regularly, etc. do tend to have fewer sexual partners, “wait” longer as teenagers, etc. Whether people claim allegiance to moral norms is not irrelevent to their behavior, even though many do not life up to their own stated ideals.

  • I suspect those on the left have their own moral positions though they may deny that. Just look at the furor over such issues as immigration restrictions, global warming etc. And like those on the right, there are many on the left that do not live up to their moral positions.
    No one is the equal of their ideals. The problem is what ideals are the right ones. Then, how to implement them.

  • Thanks for the comment, Darwin. I suspect that “researchers” on this topic go after their perception of hypocrisy from the Right. In a way, all they have to do is point to select developments in Republican-leaning regions, say “gotcha!” and move on. Point proved.

    I have yet to see a serious across-the-board study that would link abortion, divorce, and other issues with geography, politics, wealth, education, race, etc.. Unfortunately, any serious sociologist who attempted one would either be too biased from the outset, given the polarization of the culture, or would get hammered from both sides of the ideological divide. For now, I think we exist in a state of ignorance when it comes to other people’s morality. And maybe it’s better that way. Heaven knows I have my hands full with my own moral temptations.

    I’m not sure I would equate this situation too much with the parable of the two sons, the one who promised to work then didn’t (conservatives) and the one who declined to give lip service, but then reconsidered and labored (liberals). But we do know there are prominent folk who do not live up to their stated guiding principles. I’m disinclined to credit that as a torpedo to the movement, even ones I disagree with.

    I know, for example, a number of homosexuals who are highly moral people. For some people on the Right, they would trip over the sex and not get any further.

    Sex is a big part of morality, in part because of our culture’s fixation on it, but it’s not the only factor.

  • I grew up in New York and raise my family in NJ, the statistics in this book challenge stereotypes of both liberals and conservatives. However, I just read Frank Luntz’s book, “What Americans Really Want…Really”. Based on polls taken in the U.S. it states that families who regularly attend church and children who are brought up conscious of God and family life are often more aware about the consequences of their decisions and how a religious family life is beneficial to children. Luntz states that children who attend church, eat dinner as a family, take family vacations etc are less likely to take drugs. He also states parents should go over their children’s homework daily. There are tips that can benefit both red and blue families. If rural America and poor areas tend to have higher teen birth rates and unstable families then the U.S. Govt should be working harder to bring quality education and jobs and rescources to these areas especially. Also, many jobs that illegals hold may be desirable to poorer and less educated Americans. Hence, the unfortunate recent bias attacks in Staten Island where people in poorer areas were hostile as illegals came to their neighborhoods and took the jobs available in a sluggish job market. Also, since contraception is so widely accepted since the 60’s the governments role in promoting (politically or financially) contraceptives doesn’t seem so vital in blue states. Teens in middle class blue states are educated and now have the access they need.

Some Advice Before You Get Married

Monday, November 2, AD 2009

I am a single man that believes that my vocation is that for marriage.  So when I came across this article I thought it prudent to read it since I have much, much to learn about marriage.  Me being the type that I would like to prepare for it the best I can rather than “learn on the job”.

Regardless, this struck home, not because of any past sin, but because it is rare to see a good priest speak truth to power.  Once cloning technology gets perfected I plan on mass-producing this priest.  Yeah, I know, cloning destroys the dignity of man so I was only speaking rhetorically.

So here is a warning for you all before you read the article.  Of course the author issues his own warning, but it is best to be safe than sorry!

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30 Responses to Some Advice Before You Get Married

  • I have seen/been to weddings like this – well, maybe not so caricatured – thankfully though, not in the Catholic Church. Mainly the garden variety wedding.

    But don’t let your own post put you off Tito. It doesn’t have to cost $29,000 you know.

    I would have thought that an articulate dude such as yourself would have been hitched by now anyway. 🙂

  • Don the Kiwi,

    I’ve learned that it will be on God’s time! 🙂

    But, yes, I’ll be keeping an eye on costs if I ever get there. It probably won’t be that much since I’m nowhere near where I need to be to afford something like that!

    I gave up on credit long time ago. I only use credit for home and car loans. (and sadly I need to have a credit card because rental car agencies don’t accept cash, debit cards, nor checks anymore.)

  • My wife and I had our wedding reception at the Parish Hall of Saint Mary’s in Paris, Illinois with food supplied by my Mom and her friends. I doubt if more than $500.00 was spent for the whole thing. 27 years later, I’d say my wife and I have gotten our money’s worth.

  • Getting married in January, I will say it’s very very difficult to keep costs down. You can’t find bridesmaids dresses for much less then 200, and when you do you have to pay for alterations to put sleeves on them to make it proper for churches. Having a rehearsal dinner & a large family for guests at the reception racks up very quickly. In the end, I think we’ll be under 10,000 but we’ve had to be real smart about it.

    Of course, if you can get away with a small wedding, then the costs will be much cheaper, as you can ditch the large cots with catering i.e. Donald

  • I agree some of the absurdities of modern weddings, but I have to take issue with this:

    “All this tells me that the photographs are over one hundred times more important than the grace of the sacrament, in most peoples’ estimation.”

    If a priest really held that opinion, I would harbor serious doubts about his orthodoxy. Would he then expect people to pay big dollars to the priest every week for all the sacraments?

  • Michael,

    You can get the materials for the sleeves by cutting out the mid-riff area. You see girls showing their belly buttons as being the fashion now, so you can be hip and cost effective at the same time!

  • This was certainly tongue in cheek; however, it is sadly quite true.

    Our modern culture has elevated the wedding far above the marriage. I think that may be one reason why we are tempted to have multiple weddings and virtually no marriage.

    My wife and I paid for our own wedding, our bridal party was no help because most people think the job of the bridal party is to plan the debauched bachelor and the worse bachelorette party, rather than host the wedding so the bride and groom can celebrate the sacramental union.

    We didn’t spend much money because I didn’t have it. Thank God for that – it can be a waste of money – not that money shouldn’t be spent but it should only be spent in honoring Christ and sharing the best wine, not on frivolous and vain trimmings. Our marriage has been great because of Grace and not any of my doing. We were so hip when we did it that I convinced my wife that we did not need the sacrament so we had a civil wedding. No one in the family objected and I wouldn’t have put up with it anyway because I was going to give my wife her day because I was an arrogant prick.

    God had different plans, as He always does. He allowed us to be married because He ordained the union even though this prideful sinner had no idea at the time. We so easily blind ourselves. Bridezillas and $10,000 dresses institutionalize the vanity of that pride. God breaks it down.

    Thanks be to God we enjoyed the convalidation of our wedding without fanfare, without a million people who could care less about the sacrament or about Jesus and we had a nice (albeit expensive) dinner following with both of our fathers and a couple of close friends and relatives. It was amazing and I cried. I didn’t cry the first time. It was just a contract that I was going to will to keep because I was my own god. This time it was a sacrament and I was called to climb on the cross for my bride and she was called to submit to me. Without the acknowledgment of sacrifice in a marriage instituted at the wedding, it is just a mere modern convenience (or is that inconvenience). Why would I be emotionally caught up in that? I didn’t. I love my wife. That is with MY OWN love for her the first time.

    When we did it right I loved and love her more today with His Love, He is Love and without that, the marriage is dead before it starts.

    Before anyone is to think that our marriage worked or didn’t until we came back to the Church let me clarify. Our marriage worked but not because of our wedding, it worked only because of our convalidation. Since God is not subject to time, He must have graced us in advance of our convalidation prior to our own knowledge of the convalidation. He knows that we were coming back home.

    I tell you these things because I want you, especially Tito, to know that He has blessed you with a wife or He has blessed you without a wife. What transpires doesn’t matter. All that counts is that you turn to Him, He’ll do the rest. I thank Him everyday for my wife and more importantly, I think Him for Him. Without Him I don’t know how long I would have had a wife (or for that matter a living soul), not that we had any shattering problems, but I am sure we eventually would have. He married us. I used to think I did that. Pride and arrogance lead to envy and vanity. The modern wedding is vain, the modern marriage is empty, the modern family is dead.

    We must have strong sacramental weddings, which lead to stronger trinitarian marriages. A marriage in which the purpose is to help each other get to the third person in the marriage – God. It is not a 50/50 (partnership) split. It is 100% (communion)! Either you are all in, sacrificially, or you may as well be all out. Strong marriages make for even stronger families and authentically orthodox Catholic families are what this vanishing country, this dying civilization and this decadent world needs to be lifted up out of the mire and set on a hill.

  • Tito:

    Between telling me to have the bridesmaid bare their midriffs (which would cause a heart attack for the poor priest at whose church-which has mandated Latin hymns at all weddings there, god bless them-we’re having the wedding) and telling me to move to Houston on facebook, you’re just full of terrible ideas.


  • And people wonder why kids these days are just living together.

    Let’s see….

    “Dear ignorant slut;
    How dare you ask about something like how long the main isle is? I will proceed to assume that it is to prolong “your” section of the ceremony, which you have somehow managed to bully the poor idiot you’ve been sleeping with into going through with, and which you only want because it’s the Done Thing.

    What kind of creature are you, to hold a once in a lifetime event as somehow special, or something to be daydream about? You are obviously totally ignorant about anything to do with the Church, and you don’t even care about the actual sacrament, because I won’t charge you as much as the photographer or DJ will.

    (Nevermind man hours invested, material investment, supply and demand or any other things that change price– it’s purely an expression of what you value, and you can set the price at will!)

    There is no way you could actually have everything not related to the location under control and just want to know how long the isle is; you can’t actually both be Catholic, or give a damn enough to have researched what’s required to be married in the Church. Because you’re an ignorant slut trying to get married to the first guy who didn’t run away fast enough.

    -Yours truly, Rev. Know-it-all
    PS- why are so few people getting married in the Church, and why do the young not follow the Church’s teachings on sex?”

    Yeah, totally not offensive to those folks who actually grew up faithful, and fought against the assumption that they were going to have sex with anyone they dated for more than a month, or for that matter that they screwed anyone male they were around socially for more than a month.

    How dare a young woman dream about a celebration of her unity with the man she loves, before God and all? What, does she think marriage is special or something?

  • I’ve heard it said that many women these days get divorce only so that they can get married again simply because of how they’re so infatuated, not with the Sacrament of Marriage itself as any such sacred institution (obviously), but because of the very experience behind all the big hoopla of a wedding event.

    As regarding how non-Catholics view the Catholic version of Marriage, it’s often a common complaint that Catholics take marriage too seriously by requiring too many things prior to an actual marriage (e.g., Cana, etc.). Those non-Catholics I’ve met who’ve married Catholics (including the Catholic herself) often complain why the Catholic Church can behave so unreasonably.

    Whenever I hear such things from non-Catholic acquaintances, in the back of my own mind, I often wonder if only marriages were taken as seriously as the Catholic Church does, then perhaps their marriage might perhaps live up to the Sacrament that it actually is.

  • Foxfier, I’m mostly with you. I saw this linked elsewhere and did find it entertaining at first — and was very surprised that it was on a real parish website! But it laid on the sarcasm so thick that I started to think that rather than shedding new light for anyone, it would serve mainly to inspire pride and self-righteousness like I started to feel in myself reading it (because I mostly don’t see myself in the negative description, although I was hardly the ideal bride,) or to alienate those who either have not been taught or have rejected the different and better way and who are being so harshly characterized.

  • Clearly this was ‘sarcastic’ and somewhat tongue in cheek. Perhaps that isn’t the best approach. Nevertheless, it is precisely because the Church is ‘strict’ that makes her attractive. When I decided to come back to the Church the difficulty I had was in accepting Christ; choosing which church was easy. There is only one Church. If I had found the Church lax in the application of the teaching of Jesus Christ or in her sacraments or precepts then why would I waste my time?

    The Church is attractive because she is strict. If I had found the church to be relaxed or I had stumbled into a liberal parish I am not so sure I’d be Catholic today and I may not have brought my marriage into the Church. I found no appeal in any of the Protestant churches and I may as well have remained totally democratic in the church of me.

    I had a good marriage and I thought that was because I made it so. Marriage is only good in Christ. Can someone stay married and maybe even seem ‘happy’ without? Probably, but it is not real and the purpose becomes to exult each other rather than help each other get to Heaven. It degrades into hate or idolatry. Ultimately, it is a loss. Deep down inside we know that; so if we know it is a loss anyway, then why bother keeping it when it gets hard. Why not just get a do-over?

    Weddings do overshadow marriages in the modern culture and it is the responsibility of the Church and her clergy to remain faithful to the sacrament else marriage will fall apart. Look at what is being proposed now. Men marrying men, women marrying women, multiple partners seeking the same ‘right’. It is falling apart and the only constant seems to be the ever expensive ‘virginal’ white dress worn by non-virgins marrying drunk grooms after sleeping with the bridesmaid – that may be the groom or the bride – hard to tell these days.

    Marriage has become a joke and the wedding just another debauched party. If we want weddings back and we want wedding feasts back we have to restore marriage to what it is supposed to be. I have never been happier, more in love or had a clearer sense of purpose and duty in my marriage than now after bringing the marriage back into the Church. How many more are out there? Unless the Church offers a true solution, who cares?

    Human freedom is broad, but it has limits. Those limits, set by God through His Catholic Church are what set us free to become who we are supposed to be. Without those limits, our priorities get skewed and we fall into slavery disguised as freedom. The married state is for the purpose of bringing the bride and the groom to Heaven where they can be united, all in all, eternally. Without that intent it is just a legal contract and headed toward disaster even if it is not legally dissolved.

    Stable marriages, even those without a huge reception and expensive accessories, may be especially those, build stable families and stable families build stable communities. It is absolutely necessary. Additionally children from sacramental marriages and stable families make for single people who are more likely to choose the priesthood, religious life, consecrated virginity or matrimony. Why? Everyone of those is a lifelong commitment, you know, like a sacramental marriage. We have been too lax and careless about this for too long.

    We cannot confuse the message and the messenger. I am a sarcastic person so this letter appealed to me. You may not be so it won’t. The message is still accurate.

    There is money to be made in weddings, marriages lead to families and that is a burden on our government and Mother Earth. If we could just kill all the married people before they are born, we’d solve the problem and then Fred and John can walk down the isle and act like bridezillas with virginal dresses by Vera Wang and drive off in a Humasine. How cute?

  • There is a world of difference between being abrasive or sarcastic, and being flatly insulting to someone who has shown no sign of deserving it.

    Again, I’ll point at the assumption that the Rev. puts forth that anyone who would be interested in being married in his church is a slut. Amazing how when my mom was growing up, that was a major insult– and now, it’s a defended base assumption against any young woman interested in a wedding.

    Maybe if folks showed the least hint of respect for chastity, it would be a bit more common, instead of being a punchline in both secular and, apparently, religious media.

  • “it is the responsibility of the Church and her clergy to remain faithful to the sacrament else marriage will fall apart.”

    It is not the responsibility of the Church and her clergy to remain faithful to the sacrament or else marriage itself falls apart.

    The responsibility lies where it has always been in the first place: both spouses.

    This is why the sacrament of marriage itself is actually not conferred by the priest but by the spouses themselves. As the Catechsim itself teaches:

    1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the priests (bishops or presbyters) are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses,124 but for the validity of the sacrament their blessing is also necessary.125

    The only reason why the ceremony has to take place in the Church in the presence of a priest is precisely because:

    1621 In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ.120 In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up.121 It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but “one body” in Christ.122

  • I was just wondering what the point is for most people who already have basically good Catholic marriages to sit around reading this stuff. It’s not full of particularly fresh observations, though perhaps a particularly bold statement of them. Like I said, I read it at first with some feeling of enjoyment — and superiority, essentially, not really gratitude to God for His grace that my life isn’t like that. I already know the writer’s point and it’s not giving me ideas on how to evangelize those who don’t. I’m not saying there’s no place for this kind of commentary anywhere, but seriously, what is its effect on most of the people reading it?

  • It made my laugh.

    e., you are right, perhaps faithful wasn’t the right choice of words. However, most lay people look to the clergy for guidance and cathechesis, so the clergy’s committment to the sacredness of all the sacraments including matrimony will guide the flock.

    Reverence for marriage is essential for society to fucntion. The bride pursuing her wedding based on popular media, modernist cultural (de)values and the peer pressure of prurient minds is not going to respond to a ‘nice’, PC message about how holy marriage is. And young men don’t even want to bother – why should they? They get all the sexual benefits of marriage and they can hang out with their buds, drink beer and play video games without ever growing up. If they have an ‘oops’ there’s always abortion.

    Some people, especially stupid young ones and their hippie parents need an in your face approach. Or I could be wrong, but it is worth a shot.

  • “I was just wondering what the point is for most people who already have basically good Catholic marriages to sit around reading this stuff. It’s not full of particularly fresh observations, though perhaps a particularly bold statement of them.”

    Foxfier’s comments more than made up for it:

    “Maybe if folks showed the least hint of respect for chastity, it would be a bit more common, instead of being a punchline in both secular and, apparently, religious media.”

    American Knight may have a point here:

    “And young men don’t even want to bother; why should they? They get all the sexual benefits of marriage and they can hang out with their buds…”

    I remember some saying that goes: why buy the cow when you’re already milking it? Or something like that.

    Anyway, most acquaintances I know from university practically utter the same: that is, why marry your girlfriend when you’re already receiving fringe benefits from her already?

    Sad, but true.

  • Why would anyone marry in the Catholic Church when annulments are so easily obtained that “counting” on a life long commitment has become a farce?

    It is a sad state of “affairs”, quite literally.

  • Karl,

    The easy access to annullments is a problem, no doubt. But why would someone want to marry in the Church? I married outside of the Church and I can tell you the grace we have been freely given since we married in the Church is amazing. The reason to marry in the Church is to be married to each other in Christ, the bridegroom supreme. It makes a difference and those who do not beleive are missing out on the beauty of this world and I shudder to think what awaits in the next.

  • One of the best articles I ever read on this topic was “The Wedding Merchants” by Caitlin Flanagan, in the February 2001 issue of The Atlantic. You can read it at this link:

    I wish I’d read it before my own wedding in 1994. I tried very hard to do everything on the cheap and be elegant but not extravagant. In the end we (me and my parents) spent just under $5,000 on the whole thing, well below the national average to be sure, but in retrospect, even THAT amount of spending probably wasn’t necessary.

    The formal wedding as we know it today is really a relic of early 20th-century high society culture, in which 1) brides married very young and went directly from living with their parents to living with their husbands; 2) they were presumed to be innocent, not only of sexual experience, but also of experience in running a household; 3) women didn’t work outside the home, and so could devote all their time to planning and attending social events like weddings; 4) attending and giving formal parties was a routine part of life, so they didn’t have to learn the etiquette involved from scratch.

    As Flanagan says, there was a time when a girl who “aped the ways of rich folk on her wedding day” would have been ridiculed, not admired.

    Perhaps more Catholic couples should consider getting married during regularly scheduled parish Masses… it CAN be done, sometimes very beautifully; it saves money on flowers and church decorations since they are already there; and it enables an otherwise tiny wedding party to enjoy the presence of a packed church.

    This story contains a wonderful example of how it can be done:

  • Dear Am Knight,

    I was married in the Catholic Church and once believed as you do. In theory, only, I still do.
    Pray for the Church and if you have time left over, for my family as well. Thank you.

    My snide remarks come from heartbreaking experience, not bigotry against the Church. I appreciate the kindness of your response.

  • Karl,

    You will be in our prayers. Life can be painful and we are all looking for healing and you are already in the right place to receive it even if the perception is that the problems are caused by the Church – God only allows that which sanctifies us; that is probably going to hurt.

    I didn’t find your remarks ‘snide’; I think you are accurate re: annullments. The question we have to ask is why bother getting married at all? It is biologically possible to have children without marriage and these days a willing partner for ‘just sex’, ‘friends with benefits’, ‘I don’t want a husband just give me a baby’, etc. are easily found. If you do bother, why stick through the rough spots? I can just get marriage 2.0, you know, an upgrade.

    There is only one reason – Christ. We can keep our marriage vows to our spouse even if they do not reciprocate. Remember that our disposition at judgment is in how we directed our will, selfishly or conformed to God’s. Will there be pain and damage? Yes. Will there be grace? Of course.

    God bless you.

  • It thought the article was a hoot. I somehow missed the slut part, but the opening question is just plain funny. “I visited your church *once* and am thinking about having my wedding there ….” That alone is worth a chuckle, and then punctuated with “how long is your main aisle”? Come on, that is just classic display of superficiality.
    Sarcasm and parody can be effective. Many people who are invincible to measured reason (often due to their own arrogance) are quite vulnerable to well-placed ridicule. Like the fellow who insists on wearing white socks with dress trousers because he thinks the conventions of dress are just stupid anachronisms. He’ll stop only after folks point at him and giggle.

  • I guess horribly superficial things like “I’d like my parents to be able to come to my wedding” never crossed your mind, Mike.
    Most of the folks I know who aren’t getting married near a parent’s home do get married at a different place than the one they live– so that people can actually make it to the celebration.

    Silly, superficial things like “airports” and “hotels” come into play, though occasionally “the church is breathtakingly gorgeous” or “my grandparents were married in that church” will influence such a desire.

    Oh, and when you accuse a lady of routinely sleeping with whoever they’re dating, you’re calling them a slut. First block-quote in, second line.

    I must say, I didn’t know that we had so many mind readers around! To know that Mary is a shallow, materialistic person who knows nothing of her faith from a single line? And to know the only thing she’ll respond to, from a two-line note, is to be publicly mocked and accused of multiple violations of binding Catholic teachings?

    So, where’s the “funny” and “effective” accusation against the lady of having had a couple of abortions?

  • Another issue I’ve seen discussed in other forums is the difficulty of finding MODEST wedding dresses that aren’t strapless or cut extremely low in front or back. Apparently designers assume that all brides want to look “sexy,” which creates problems for those who want to show proper reverence in church.

    One way to get around this problem is to shop at a store or website that sells Quinceanera dresses (for Hispanic girls celebrating their 15th birthdays). The online stores carry all sizes (up to size 28!), most styles are available in white or off-white, and most come with matching jackets or shawls to solve the problem of dressing modestly in church.

    There are also stores and websites that cater to Mormon brides who need modest dresses for their temple weddings. I don’t think there’s any law against non-Mormons shopping there 🙂

  • Elaine,

    That is what I see among my friends as well.

    The difficulty of finding modest wedding gowns. It’s amazing how our culture have degenerated.

    Like I joked before, but it’s true, I’ve noticed now bare mid-riffs at wedding ceremony’s.

  • Tito:

    Now, come on.

    What precisely can be a better way of celebrating the Sacrament of marriage than having your to-be-wife dressed up as a crack whore, except without the dignity?

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  • e.,

    I hear the crack *#ore look is in!