Understanding Families' Realities - Evangelii Gaudium Series #5

Evangelii Gaudium expresses a deep sensitivity to the challenges people are facing, even in their closest relationships: “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself, if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice” (EG 24).  The social reality is that today is that the two-parent, nuclear family has become less prevalent, and alternative family forms have become more common.[1]

The 2007 CARA study, Marriage in America, found that Catholics are very similar to the U.S. population as a whole in terms of the demography of marriage, such as marital status, age at first marriage, and having been divorced.  Fifty-three percent of adult Catholics (age 18 and older) are currently married, and two-thirds of that group was married in the Church. Five percent are widowed.[2] One-quarter of respondents to the CARA study have never been married. They also belong to families, and they have gifts to share with the community. Many single adults need help caring for parents.

Pope Francis observes that marriage tends to be viewed as “a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will” rather than the Catholic definition as a vocation of the spouses “who accept to enter a total communion of life” (EG 66). This cultural shift in marriage has far reaching consequences for the spread of the Gospel. With fewer marrying in church, the connection to the sacramental life continues to weaken. According to the CARA Study, as the number of Catholic marriages has declined, so have the number of infant baptisms. In 1970, there were 23 marriages and 9 baptisms per 1000 Catholics. In 2009, there were 12.7 marriages and 2.7 baptisms per 1000 Catholics.[3]


[1] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, 2008, Catholic Marriage in America, http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=31256

[2] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Marriage in the Catholic Church: A Survey of U.S. Catholics, (Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., October 2007), http://cara.georgetown.edu/MarriageReport.pdf

[3] Nineteen Sixty-four research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), (Georgetown University, Mark M. Gray, ed.), October 2010,  http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2010/08/there-will-likely-be-fewer-catholic.html