home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted March 14, 2008

Major Findings On Catholic Attitudes Toward Sacramental Marriage

Taken from the CARA Report
Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate

Marital Status and Family

Two-thirds of currently married Catholics were married in the Church. Another 13 percent were not married in the Church but had their marriage convalidated by the Church. The remaining married Catholics indicate that they neither married in the Church nor had their marriage sanctioned. Those in the Pre-Vatican II Generation (born before 1943) are especially likely to say that they were married in the Church (84 percent, compared to 59 percent of Vatican II Generation respondents and 60 percent of Post-Vatican II and Millennium Generation respondents)

Twenty-three percent of adult Catholics have gone through a divorce. Eleven percent have divorced and are currently either remarried, living with a partner, or widowed. These proportions are generally similar to those for the U.S. population as a whole.

Seventy-two percent of married Catholics have a Catholic spouse. Unmarried Catholics who are living with a partner are significantly less likely to indicate that the person they are living with is Catholic (49 percent).

Respondents’ Views about Marriage

Eighty-four percent of Catholics say that the statement, “the sacrament of marriage extends beyond the wedding day” at least “somewhat closely” reflects their understanding of the sacrament.

Two-thirds of Catholics (67 percent) report that their views on marriage have been informed at least “somewhat” by their own family background or experience. More than half (55 percent) say their views have been at least “somewhat” informed by Church teaching. The more frequently Catholics attend mass, the more likely they are to report that their views on marriage have been “very” informed by these two sources.

Three-quarters of Catholics agree that a spouse should first and foremost be a soulmate. One-third agreed that it is important for spouses to share the same faith. Only about one in ten agree that marriage is an outdated institution or that personal freedom is more important than the companionship of marriage.

In response to the question, “What three or four values have helped most in sustaining your marriage?” 52 percent mentioned trust. The second most frequently cited set of values is related to faith, belief, or spirituality (27%), followed by communication (19 percent), and family, children, or parenting (18 percent).

Preparation for Marriage

Among married Catholics who were married in the Church, 90 percent say they recall that they and their spouse met with a Catholic priest before getting married. The most common forms of marriage preparation include a pre-marriage assessment inventory (48 percent) or reading books or brochures provided by the Church (47 percent).

Among married Catholics who participated in marriage preparation programs, those in a weekend program (28 percent), meeting with a Catholic mentor couple (26 percent), and participating in classes occurring over several nights (24 percent) were most likely to say they found the program to be “very helpful” to their marriage.

Marital Challenges and Seeking Help

Married Catholics tend to report that the biggest challenges they face in their relationship with their spouse are finances (40 percent citing this as having been “somewhat” or “very” challenging), finding quality time as a couple (33 percent), and communication issues (32 percent). Divorced and separated Catholics tend to cite communication issues (58 percent), trust and commitment issues (51 percent), and finances (48 percent).

Sixty-six percent of married Catholics say they would be at least “a little likely” to ask for help if they had marital troubles (35 percent said they would be “somewhat” or “very” likely to do so). Younger married Catholics are much more likely than older married Catholics to say they would be at least “a little likely” to seek this help if needed.

Single Catholics

Among Catholics who have never married, three-quarters say it is at least “a little likely” that they will marry in the future (25 percent “somewhat likely” and 29 percent “very likely”). Never-married Catholics attending Mass weekly or more often are more likely than those attending a few times a year or less often to say they are “very likely” to be married at some point in their life (41 percent compared to 25 percent).

Only 31 percent of never-married Catholics who say they are at least “a little likely” to be married in the future say it is either “somewhat” or “very important that their spouse be Catholic. Only 46 percent say it is either “somewhat” or “very” important that they be married in the Catholic Church.