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The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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A majority of couples planning to marry in the Catholic Church view it as a lifelong sacrament open to children but nearly all of them are already living together and use artificial contraception, a leading charity has told the Vatican.
Catholic Marriage Care, which prepared 3,000 couples for marriage in the year to the end of March 2013, made their remarks in a response to a questionnaire sent out to local Churches in preparation for next year’s synod on marriage and family life.
“Nearly all couples attending our marriage preparation courses are already cohabiting and many have children,” the charity stated. They added that cohabiting was for some a deliberate choice while for others “an almost un-thought through evolution in their relationships”.
The charity described the take-up of natural family planning as “negligible” and that most couples had decided to use artificial contraception before starting a preparation course. The charity added that it refers to trained experts those couples seeking guidance on natural family planning – a means for couples to regulate the number of children they have that is permitted by the Church.
But the charity also stressed that marriage is widely understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman.
“Couples coming to our marriage preparation courses want and expect their marriages to last a lifetime … we would say that so far as this aspect of the Church’s teaching is concerned it is fully accepted,” it said. The charity’s president is the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. It was founded in 1946 as the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.