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The conversation on cohabitation continues

My Truth & Charity article on cohabitation has garnered nearly 10,000 views and 550 likes on Facebook. As is expected, when an article gets a lot of circulation the critics will eventually come out. One commenter, Monica, dismisses my article because she says new research shows cohabitation does not play as large a role in divorce. Other factors come into play.

I think Monica missed the whole point of the article. As I explained in my response:
I stand by the facts presented in this article. Nowhere did I state that cohabitation is the only factor contributing to the increased divorce rate. And the point of this article is not that cohabitation contributes to divorce. Rather, the issue is what do Catholics believe about cohabitation and marriage and do Catholic weddings reflect this belief. Catholics who faithfully wait until after the wedding to live together should be supported and encouraged by celebrating their wedding with the full Nuptial Mass. It is an injustice to these Catholics to make no distinction between their faithful preparation and those who flagrantly flout Church teaching by cohabitating before marriage. It also sends a mixed message about Church teaching on marriage and undermines the dignity of marriage to equate cohabitating couples with those who wait until after the wedding to live as a married couple.
Every time we "normalize" an aberrant practice we undermine the institution of marriage. Cohabitation is not in line with Catholic teaching. Divorce is not in line with Catholic teaching. Contraception is not in line with Catholic teaching. We are facing the threat of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples precisely because we did not hold the line on these previous threats. It is time to get serious about defending marriage from all assaults, not just the latest.

What do you think about making a distinction between couples who wait to live together until after they are married and those who cohabitate before marriage?

UPDATE A new comment at the Truth & Charity forum bears repeating:

Augustine:  Having been there done that in regards to cohabitation, I can honestly say that I would never advise a couple to go this route. It is truly a selfish existence shrouded in the appearance of being a couple. There is lack of genuine intimacy as no soulful commitment has been made. I commend your parish priest. May more priests man up and defend the sacrament. May more men man up and treat their future spouse and mother of their children with the dignity and respect they deserve. May more women grow a spine and tell men to take a hike when they try to pressure them into such relationships.


RAnn said…
Unfortunately, there is no really good answer to this question. You say the priest limits the choices of those who cohabitate. Does he limit the choices of those who fornicate but maintain separate residences? If so, does one episode disqualify you from the big wedding, or does it have to be habitual? What about other sins? If neither party has been attending mass regularly and they aren't cohabitating, can they have the big wedding (I realize this question may be more hypothetical than actual)? I understand your priest's point, I don't disagree with it, but on the other hand, I wonder if he is keeping any couples from fornication or if he is just getting them mad at the church (or at least him).
Denise Hunnell said…
I think you have to look at this policy from two perspectives. First, how does it affect individual couples. Hopefully, it will give them pause and some will reconsider their decision to cohabitate. Secondly, you have to look at it as a teaching tool for the community. It tells the community that marriage is so important and cohabitation is such a serious affront to marriage that our pastor makes a distinction in the wedding of those who do and those who don't cohabitate. Now there is no question that those who do not cohabitate are guilty of other sins. We are all sinners. But it is the public nature of cohabitation that causes scandal. It is similar to the scenario with Communion. Many folks are probably receiving Communion who are not properly disposed to do so. The priest and others do their best to educate the congregation on what it means to be properly disposed and then for the most part, let God sort it out. However, those who are publicly not in communion with the Church due to public statements of dissent or irregular marital situations (divorced and remarried without an annulment) are not allowed to receive Communion. It is the public scandal (using this term as the Church uses it) that necessitates the different treatments.

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