Contrary to the popular notion that it provides couples a chance to “test drive” marriage, it actually results in lower marriage rates, more break-ups, harms women (who almost always get the short end of the deal), and generally creates a terrible human mess for a couple trying to live as one while not actually committing to live as one or to make the sacrifices that are necessary to become one in marriage. (Just look at this infographic.)
And yet, young Catholic couples will tell you how often in Catholic pre-Cana retreats and preparation the presumption of the staff who runs them is that the couples are already sleeping together (and cohabiting). Often the matter is not even raised seriously.
Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Sante Fe, NM, however, is trying to do something about this state of affairs (ahem). My father writes about it:
Abp. Sheehan has written a clear and concise letter on the ‘Pastoral Care of Couples Who Are Cohabiting’ (PDF). I understand that he had it read from the pulpits of his churches last weekend. I think it a solid summation of the Church’s teaching on Catholic marriage, Christian witness, and ecclesiastical participation.
Father Z has a helpful commentary on the Archbishop’s pastoral letter.
I would recommend reading the letter if you are a) contemplating cohabitation b) want to bolster your resolve not to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend c) want to strengthen your courage to cease cohabiting d) want to discuss with Catholic pre-cana staff why the issue of cohabitation should be discussed or e) care about promoting a healthy marriage culture.
This isn’t about judging, this is about showing people the best way to be happy and fulfilled.