Catholic Marriage Counseling Is Driving Couples Away

I have always thought that one terrific thing churches provide is counseling for engaged couples before they marry, to make sure they are ready for the rigors of "til death do us part." That is, until this weekend when an acquaintance of mine described her own premarital weekend retreat at a Catholic campus.

I am revealing neither her name nor the campus where the retreat was held nor the name of the priest who ran the weekend meeting. I'm still sure, despite what I'm about to recount, there are premarital programs offered by Catholic and other churches that are incredibly beneficial and that truly do strive to prepare young people for long-lasting, loving relationships.

I was expecting to hear the church would offer couples advice on how to resolve money differences or how to raise children in a loving environment, even when parents are not getting along. I hoped to hear about how church officials counseled young lovers to overcome the inevitable stage of marriage where the romance dies, but inspire them that even if it recedes temporarily, it comes back, while a deeper and deeper friendship, companionship, and relationship develops.

There was little or none of that. The majority of the weekend retreat was spent telling the young couples they were to produce as many children as possible, pounding them with the multitude of sins they were likely to commit and for which they would go to hell, and treating them like would-be criminals instead of hopeful ingénues about to enter a sacred relationship.

My acquaintance is a bit of a fallen-away Catholic, as is her now-husband. They agreed to marry in the church to satisfy the wishes of an elderly, beloved relative. They hoped the retreat would woo them back into the church's fold. Instead they both left it promising never to set food inside a church again after the wedding ceremony.

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By Bonnie Erbe