.- Church teaching on the permanence of marriage helps married couples live out their marital commitment, reveals a focus group study sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life.
The study included nearly 200 focus groups and over 1,500 participants in 64 dioceses and one eparchy. Participants discussed their personal experience of marriage, Church teaching about marriage, and parish and diocesan support for married couples.
The focus groups are part of the multi-year National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage, which the U.S. bishops launched in 2004. The intention of the initiative is to call attention to the meaning and value of marriage. It invites parishes to become local communities of hope and help for marriages.
The findings indicate that couples found the Church teaching on marriage as a sacrament and a vocation very helpful. While some focus group participants considered the teaching on contraception as a challenge, others spoke positively about the value of Natural Family Planning.
Some divorced participants said that the annulment process has brought them healing and closure.
In general, participants did not see their parish as a source of direct support for marriage; however, they found that involvement in parish ministries often strengthened their marriage.
Participants wanted pastors to raise awareness about marriage, especially through preaching. They suggested training for clergy and parish staff so that they can better respond to couples in trouble.
People asked for more opportunities for adult faith formation, small groups and support groups, retreats and days of reflection for married couples, mentoring, and resources and referrals for couples with marital difficulties.
The focus group results will used to develop a pastoral letter on marriage. The full results are available at www.usccb.org/npim