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Title: Parental Blessing at a 'Marriage-in-Becoming'
Subtitle: A Pastoral Proposal
Author(s): SANDERS, Henk
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 16    Issue: 1   Date: 2010   
Pages: 13-26
DOI: 10.2143/INT.16.1.2056193

Abstract :
In 1981, the Catholic Church issued an official statement on unmarried cohabitation and gave advice on how best to minister to people in these situations. Since then, such living arrangements have become increasingly common in the western world and its structure and significance has changed. The essay addresses the situation of young believers who live with their partners without being married – whether they intend to marry or not – despite the unequivocal disapproval of the Church. The relevant church documents clearly show that, for the Church, marriage is the ideal: an exclusive, lasting, fruitful, and socially recognised project that is seen as the desirable incarnation of the love between a man and a woman. Such idealising has its own characteristic problems, in particular when the theological understanding of marriage overemphasizes the agape-dimension of marital love to the point that the Church’s official understanding of marriage, relationships, and sexuality comes across as rather naively unrealistic to the faithful. Thatcher and Lawler point to a possible impasse in the relationship between the younger generations of believers and the Magisterium due to a mutual lack of understanding of each other’s positions in regard to love and sexuality. They argue for a differentiated view of unmarried cohabitation and formulate a pastoral proposal founded on socio-historical findings. This essay further develops their insights, formulating its own proposal for a parental blessing for unmarried cohabitants, based on observations gathered from sociological research.

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