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Bishops launched the National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage, a multi-year collaborative effort to promote, preserve, and protect marriage, understood as both a sacramental reality and a human institution.

The bishops directed their Committee on Marriage and Family to develop a pastoral letter on marriage as the centerpiece of the Initiative.

As one of the first steps in this process, the Committee asked the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth, which staffs the Committee, to collect and analyze diocesan marriage preparation policies. The purpose was twofold: This analysis looks at the marriage policies of Latin-rite dioceses.

It identifies common practices, significant differences, and current trends that are evolving, such as cultural adaptations, an emphasis on the total life cycle of the marriage, and liturgical rituals.

It references specific diocesan policies that are especially well-developed on particular topics. It also suggests sources for additional information and explanations.

This analysis was completed in the fall of The Committee recognizes that dioceses continue to revise their marriage policies in response to changing circumstances in society and in the Church.

As the Committee receives copies of these new policies, it will make every effort to keep this analysis up-to-date so that it remains a useful resource. Overview of Diocesan Policies Of the policies, a few were in revision and eight were over 15 years old.

Eight states had joint policies Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Wisconsin although sometimes dioceses had their own supplemental or updated policies. Generally, policies allowed parishes to add further specifics, as long as they did not conflict with the diocesan policy, i.

Dioceses looking for sample standard practices might start with neighboring dioceses, then look at state policies, since they are the product of several dioceses. Audience Most policies are directed primarily to the parish priest, deacon or lay minister who coordinates the couple's immediate marriage preparation.

Others involved in marriage preparation, including sponsor couples, Engaged Encounter leaders, natural family planning teachers, and Pre-Cana speakers, are not the direct audience, although policies usually outline the kinds of programs that are accepted and the general content of those programs.

Although the policies do not usually address the engaged couple directly, many dioceses offer a brochure that welcomes the couple and summarizes the important points of the policy that couples need to know.

Style of policies Policies range from brochure-length to over pages. The average comprehensive policy is about 75 pages. The discrepancy in length is often due to appendices that cover canon law, church documents, details regarding mixed marriages and second marriages, description of programmatic content, and liturgical guidelines.

Thus the core of each diocesan policy is usually about ten pages. Some policies state the policy and then add documentation such as canon law and pastoral tips.

Others simply state the policy, provide a brief explanation and put related information into an appendix. Others focus on canon law and impediments to a valid sacramental marriage.

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Sources Policies draw on Scripture, canon law, church documents, and the lived experience of generations of faithful Catholic married couples and their priests.

Sources that are foundational for marriage preparation ministry in the U. Almost all policies include these elements: Letter from the bishop promulgating the policy Overview of the purpose and goals of the policy Brief reference to the remote and proximate stages of marriage preparation Description and timing of the initial interview with the engaged couple Explanation of special circumstances that might need attention: It is brief, with a tone of welcome and pastoral care.

More broadly, the policy aims to strengthen marriage in the Catholic Church through effective formation, pastoral care, and celebration.

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Many dioceses also take this opportunity to give background on the theology of marriage and the Church's pastoral concern that couples make this commitment with as much wisdom and church support as possible.

This section is unique to each diocese as it lays out particular needs and emphasis. Many policies do point out that remote preparation begins at birth, e.I started using Twitter the day the CA3blog site crashed.

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