Before I was appointed a bishop of the Catholic
Church, I worked eighteen years in the Tribunal for the Archdiocese of
Milwaukee that handled judgments on failed marriages of individuals who
desired contact with the Church following a divorce and/or hoping for a
church approved second marriage.
I estimate that in that time period our
canonical services handled about twelve thousand marriage cases. I was
inspired by the many men and women who came to the office to tell the church
about their hopes and dreams, failures and hurts.
The Church continues to bring enormous resources
and personnel to the ministries of marriage preparation and marriage
enrichment as evidenced by our recently revised procedures, titled, In the
Spirit of Cana, the Archdiocese of Chicago's Pastoral Outreach to Christian
Marriage: Formation, Preparation, Celebration and Continuing Education.
Marriage ministry is a ministry of great strides
and anguish; great strides for the desires of clergy and couples to improve
the faith of engaged couples and individuals we work with, and great anguish
in face of the rates of unsuccessful marriages and family breakdown and
current trends to re-define marriage outside of its traditional heterosexual
We are also aware of the popular trend to live
together without marriage and the option taken by many young couples not to
marry in the Church. All this would seem to point, in some part, to a lack
of faith in marriage and family life being the foundational support of
society and the church. One can speculate endlessly on the causal factors
behind these trends.
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