Church's Vision Can Sustain Spouses, Say US Bishops

Prelates to Vote on Pastoral Letter on Marriage

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- It's the Church's vision of marriage that can help spouses find happiness and holiness in their marriage, and get through good times and bad, the U.S. bishops are affirming.



The prelates are set to vote on a new pastoral letter on marriage when they convene next month in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Love and Life in the Divine Plan," once approved, will be part of the bishops' national pastoral initiative on marriage.

That campaign, www.foryourmarriage.org, has been going on since 2004.

According to the bishops' Catholic News Service, the 57-page document "cites four 'fundamental challenges to the nature and purpose of marriage' -- contraception, same-sex unions, easy divorce and cohabitation."

"Calling both contraception and cohabitation 'intrinsically evil,' the bishops say that although couples who use contraception 'may think that they are doing nothing harmful to their marriages' they are in reality causing many negative consequences, both personal and societal," CNS reported.

The agency characterized paragraphs on those who live together outside of marriage as "some of the strongest statements in the document."

"To have sexual intercourse outside the covenant of marriage is gravely immoral because it communicates physically the gift of oneself to another when, at the same time, one is not willing or able to make a total and permanent commitment," the draft says, as reported by CNS.

"Our pastoral letter is an invitation to discover, or perhaps rediscover, the blessing given when God first established marriage as a natural institution and when Christ restored and elevated it as a sacramental sign of salvation," the bishops write.

Lost art?

The chairman of the conference's Subcommittee on Marriage and the Family, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, noted that more than ever, people ask if it is even possible to be married for a lifetime.

"The Catholic Church has a vision for marriage that can sustain spouses in good times and in bad times -- one that can lead them to happiness and holiness in their relationship," he affirmed. "This message is based on both reason and faith; it is God's plan for the good of the spouses, their children and family, and society as a whole."

At the conclusion of the letter the bishops make a "pledge to be a marriage-building Church, drawing strength from God’s grace while creatively using the gifts and resources entrusted to us."

Also at the November meeting, the bishops will conclude their work on the new translation of the texts for Mass. They will vote on five items, which subsequently must be sent to the Holy See for final approval.

"A process of catechesis follows now," explained Monsignor Anthony Sherman, executive director of the conference's Office of Divine Worship, "so that everyone is ready to move along when we get the final text from the Vatican."