On Thursday, in some off-the-cuff responses (as is the Pope’s style, ya know), Francis said that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.”
Why? Well, because we live in “a culture of the provisional,” where committing to anything takes too much energy.
“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null,” Francis said, according to the Catholic News Agency.
In the last twenty year I have been a priest. I have personally seen the number of people seeking marriage in the Church drop dramatically. Parishes that used to have 100 marriage a year now have 7. In the Arlington Catholic Herald they recently gave the numbers of baptisms in the diocese (by the way between 2004-2014 the number of people getting baptized in the United States fell by 1/4.) This mean that the numbers of Confirmations, First Communions will also fall. Not only did the number of baptism fall by a full twenty five percent in these ten years the rate of decrease is continuing.
The number of marriage has also fallen by fifty percent in the last 17 years in the Arlington Diocese. By the same token, the Catholic population has grown by a full 30 percent during the same time. This makes the rate of decrease all the more notable.
We are now in the 3rd generation of a divorce culture. A generation ago a couple might have gotten married because they wanted to do the right thing. There parents might have been married in the Church but no longer went to mass. But there was enough connection that their children still wanted to get married in the Church. Today we see a new phenomena. Young people today have parents who were divorced and their parents were divorced. This has created a whole generation of young people who are just plain scared to get married. One of the effects of this is that living together in the new marriage.
There are many effects of all this, but I just want to point out just a couple. First, the greatest number of people in RCIA are people that want to become Catholic because their spouse is a catholic. So this phenomena will be reflected in the smaller and smaller RCIA classes in our churches. Secondly, because fewer and fewer people are getting married in the church their links with the church are become weaker and weaker. There used to be a time when a couple would start to go back to church when their child needed to be baptized. This will happen less and less in the future.
This mean that because of the falling number of people getting married in the Church we have a new generation of people that have little to no link with the Church. Most of these people are simply not going to come back as a matter of course. This is one of the reasons we need a new evangelization to bring these people back to an encounter with Jesus in the Church.