Review of the New Marriage Preparation Document

August 04, 2022

On June 15, 2022,  the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life published a document entitled “Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life. New pastoral guidelines for local churches.” Five years after the publication of the controversial exhortation Amoris Laetitia, these “Catechumenal Itineraries for married life” are one of the fruits of the special Amoris Laetitia Family Year, writes Pope Francis in the preface.

“It is a pastoral tool developed by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, following an indication that I have expressed on several occasions, namely “the need for a ‘new catechumenate’ for the preparation for marriage,” explains the Sovereign Pontiff.

Indeed, he specifies, a “too superficial preparation” leads to the risk of “celebrating a null marriage” or with “foundations so weak that it does not resist the first inevitable crises.”

The 100-page document is structured around three phases: preparation for marriage; the solemnization of marriage; support for the first years of married life. The authors recommend setting up a formation addressed to children and adolescents “from a vocational perspective both in marriage and in religious life.”

So that “adolescents and young people do not arrive at the decision to marry almost by chance.” It is a question of helping young people to overcome “immaturity,” to live “relationships of friendship and love, not possessive or narcissistic, but free, generous and selfless.”

Faced with “the constant and generalized experience of requests for preparation for sacramental marriage by couples who already live together, have celebrated a civil marriage and have children,” the dicastery explains the need for accompaniment in view of a Christian marriage, “through the rediscovery of the faith of baptism and the progressive understanding of the meaning of the rite and the sacrament of marriage.”

This “matrimonial catechumenate,” a true itinerary of faith, will make it possible to “rediscover the Christian message, reproduced in its eternal novelty and freshness.” At the same time, the sacraments, the Holy Scriptures will be presented, and “candidates for marriage will also be gradually introduced to Christian prayer - individual, community and couple prayer - in order to acquire a habit of prayer which will be of great support for their future married life, especially in difficult times.”

The dicastery recommends calling on experts for certain topics such as bioethical questions related to sexuality. These can indeed present “problematic moral aspects,” which require “specific training and clear ideas.”

It will be appropriate, the document specifies, to recall the essential conditions of freedom (in the couple and of the couple) and full awareness of the commitments linked to the essential characteristics of marriage (indissolubility, unity, fidelity, fertility) and which will be the specific subject of canonically scheduled interviews with the parish priest. It will also be useful to recall the doctrinal, moral, and spiritual aspects of marriage.

A spiritual retreat is strongly recommended, and the importance of confession before receiving the sacrament of marriage is emphasized: “confession on the occasion of marriage, sometimes after years of 'avoiding’ the sacrament of reconciliation, is for many a moment of return to sacramental practice.”

The authors of the text also urge the “courage” to propose chastity, “although it is today in direct conflict with the common mentality.”

This formation in Christian marriage is undoubtedly indispensable in a completely dechristianized society, but it will only be effective if it is based on the traditional doctrine of the Church, and not on the conciliar vagueness about the order of the ends of marriage (1. procreation and education of children; 2. mutual support of spouses), an order often reversed, with a cowardly silence on contraception, when it is not a complicit silence.

This pre-marriage formation continues with an accompaniment for the life of the newlyweds. It is indeed an attempt to help the bride and groom when they go through “crises and moments of discouragement,” to overcome the first difficulties.

And Francis clarified: “I ardently hope that this first Document will be followed as soon as possible by another, in which will be indicated the concrete pastoral methods and the possible itineraries of accompaniment specifically dedicated to couples who have experienced the failure of their marriage and who live in a new union or are civilly remarried.”

– This is where we will see the reappearance of Amoris Laetitia, which recalls the doctrine of the indissoluble nature of Christian marriage, while opening the door to “pastoral” exceptions that contradict this doctrine, authorizing communion on a case-by-case basis for civilly remarried divorcees.