R.E. 3.3 Marriage and the family

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How attitudes have changed in the UK

1960s:

Young people only had sex after marriage. Most married young, in church, for life. Families were nuclear families. Male homosexuality was a criminal offense.

Now:

Most people have sex before marriage. Many couples cohabit rather than marry. The average age for marraige has increased. Most marriages do not take place in a church. Divorce is accepted as normal. There are more divorces, single-parent families and re-constituted families. More extended families as more mothers are in employment. More children being brought up by cohabiting parents. Society treats homosexual sex the same as heterosexual sex. Civil partnerships mean that homosexual couples can have the same rights as a heterosexual married couple.

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Reasons for the change in attitudes

Cohabitation and marriage: Effective contraception means it is safer to have sex before marriage without getting pregnant. Fewer people want to church so were not encouraged to wait until marriage to have sex. The media and celebrities made cohabitation look respectable and so it became more popular. The media showed that sexual relationships outside marriage was normal so more people have them.

Divorce: New laws made divorce easier and cheaper. Increased equality for women means women will get a divorce if their husband treats them badly. Women can be financially independent instead of relying on their husband, so can support themselves after a divorce. More people have shorter marriages.

Family life: Popularity in cohabitation means there are more families where the parents are not married. The increase in divorce means there is also an increase in re-marriage and re-constituted families. More mothers are in employment and use extended family to look after the children. Increase in divorce and acceptance of unmarried mothers means there are more single-parent families.

Homosexuality: Change in laws mean that it is easier to be openly homosexual. Medical research shows it is natural. Homosexual celebrities has lead to a greater acceptance. The work of gay rights organisations has lead to a greater acceptance of equal status and rights for homosexuals.

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Christian attitudes to sex outside marriage

Most Christians believe it is wrong because:

  • God gave sex for procreation and children should only be brought up in a family, therefore sex should only be within marriage.
  • Christians follow the Bible, which teaches that sex outside marriage is sinful.
  • The Catechism says that pre-marrital sex is wrong.
  • All Christians are against adultery as it breaks the wedding vows and is against the Ten Commandments.
  • Adultery is also condemned by Jesus.

Some accept that couples may live together before marriage if it is in a long-term relationship leading to marriage.

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The purpose of marriage for Catholics

What:

It is a sacrament to unite a man and a woman so that: the couple can have a life-long relationship of love and faithfulness; the couple can have the support and comfort of each other; they can have children and bring them up in a Christian family; and they can recieve God's grace and strength throught the sacrament.

How this is shown in the wedding ceronomy:

Love and faithfulness: exchange in vows, Bible readings on the nature of Christian marriage.

Support and comfort: the preparation course before marriage, exchange in vows.

Procreation of children: the preparation course, the priest asking the couple if they will accept children from God, Bible readings (and homily and prayers) which refer to accepting children as a part of marriage.

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Christian attitudes to divorce

Catholic:

What: The Catholic Church does not allow religious divorce or re-marriage. The marriage ends at the death of one of the partners. Civil divorces can happen if it is better for the children, but they cannot remarry. Annulments can happen if the marriage was never true, they are free to re-marry.

Why: Jesus taught that divorce is wrong. The couple have made a covenant with God which cannot be broken. The Catechism teaches that a marriage cannot be dissolved so religious divorce is impossible and re-marriage would be bigamy and adultary.

Non-Catholic Christians:

What: It is wrong but it is better to divorce than to live in a broken marriage. Divorced people can remarry once more if the second marriage will be for life.

Why: Jesus allowed a divorce when someone's partner had committed adultary (Matthew 19). The effects of a broken marriage (hatred and quarrels) are worse than divorce (lesser of two evils). Sins can be forgiven, so a person should be allowed to remarry after repenting.

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Why family life is important for Catholics

  • One of the main purposes of Catholic marriage is to have children and bring them up in a Catholic environment so that they become good Catholics.
  • Catholicism teaches that the family was created b God as the basis of society and the only place for the bringing up of children.
  • Catholic teaching on divorce show that the family is too important to be broken up by divorce.
  • Without the family, children would not learn the difference between right and wrong.
  • The family is where children learn about the faith through the sacraments. So the family is very important for the faith to continue and grow as it is the family that brings children into the faith.
  • However, the Church traches that the Chirstian family is the most important family which is why Catholic priests, nuns and monks leave thier families so that they can serve God.
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How parishes help to bring up children

  • Most parishes have Catholic primary and secondary schools connected to them.
  • Parishes run classes to prepare children for First Confession, Communion and Confirmation.
  • Some parishes run children's liturgies which gives children the spiritual strength of the Mass.
  • Some parishes also run youth clubs and youth activities so that children are kept of the streets amd away from bad influences.
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Catholic parishes keeping families together

  • During Mass the priest may remind parents of their marriage vows and other reasons not to divorce.
  • The parish priest has a duty to give help and advice to couples having family problems.
  • The Church has a national programme of support for marriage and family life and provides support to parishes to keep families together.
  • The Church has provided resources for parishes to be more family friendly so that family life can be strengthened by families celebrating Mass together.
  • The Church has produced a series of leaflets to help parishes understand and meet the needs of families facing challenges such as divorce and re-marriage, bereavement, disability and gay or lesbian family members.
  • Many parishes also provide financial support for families in need and have links to national Catholic charities such as Catholic Marriage Care.
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Catholic attitudes to homosexuality

Catholic:

What: Being a homosexual is not a sin but homosexual sexual activity is a sin. The Catholic Church asks homosexuals to live without any sexual activity and believes that they will be helped to do this by sacraments of the Church. The Church believes that it is sinful to criticise homosexuals or attack their behaviour.

Why: The Bible condemns homosexual sexual activity. It is the tradition of the Church that any sexual activity should have the possibility of creating children. It is the teaching of the Magisterium which Catholics should believe. The Church teaches that people cannot help their sexual orientation, but they can control their sexual activity. Discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation is similar to racism, which is sinful.

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Protestant attitudes to homosexuality

Evangelical Protestant:

What: Homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why: The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin and they believe that the Bible is the direct word of God. They believe that the salvation of Christ can remove all sins including homosexuality. All the Churches have taught that homosexuality is wrong even if they now say it is not. However, homophobia is condemned and churches should welcome homosexuals.

Liberal Protestant:

What: They welcome homosexuals into the Church and accept homosexual relationships. They provide blessings for civil partnerships.

Why: The Bible condemning homosexuality show beliefs at the time not the word of God. A major Christian belief is love which means homosexuals must be accepted. Many homosexual Christians feel the Holy Spirit approving of their homosexuality, and if this is true then homosexuals must be accepted. Christians should be open and honest and so homosexual Christians should not pretend to be heterosexual.

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Different methods of contraception

Natural methods of contraception:

Natural family planning (NFP) means that a couple only has sex when the woman is at her most infertile. Another method is to measure hormone levels in urine. These methods require a couple to be in a loving, stable relationship. They do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases but this should not affect a married couple who are faithful.

Artificial methods of contraception:

There are several types of artificial contraception: condoms, the pill, the coil, morning-after pill. Artifical methods can be used in any form of sexual relationship, however casual. Condoms are also effective in preventing the transmission of sexual transmitted diseases (especially AIDS).

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Christian attitudes to contraception

Catholic - Couples should limit family size through using natural family planning rather than artificial methods of contraception.

  • Pope Pius XI condemned all forms of artificial contraception.
  • Pope Pius XII declared that Catholics could use natural methods of contraception.
  • Pope Paul VI stated that the only allowable forms of contraception are natural methods, and this teaching has been confirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • The Church teaches that all sex should be unitive and (pro)creative.
  • Some artificial contraceptives bring about a very early abortion (abortifacient).

Non-Catholic Christians - All forms of contraception are permissible.

  • Christianity is about love and justice, and contraception improves women's health and raises the standard of living.
  • God created sex for enjoyment and to strengthen marriage so it does not have to be procreative.
  • There is nothing in the Bible that forbids the use of contraception.
  • All the non-Catholic Churches say Christians can use contraception to limit family size.
  • The believe condoms are the best way to combat HIV/AIDS.
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