What is the National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage?
In November, 2004 the U.S. Bishops voted overwhelmingly to make marriage a priority. They launched the National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage (NPIM), a multi-year effort to communicate the meaning and value of married life for the Church and for society. The Initiative brings together Catholic teaching and pastoral practice, social science research, and the experience of married couples. It offers guidance and resources, including a pastoral letter and a website, to promote and strengthen marriage.
Is Marriage and Family a priority for the Bishops’ Conference?
Yes. Beginning in 2008, the Bishops identified Marriage and Family as one of five priority areas. Intensive work on the priority areas will continue through the current planning cycle, which runs through 2012.
What do the Bishops hope to accomplish by making marriage a priority?
The bishops want to strengthen marriage as both a human institution and a Christian sacrament. Specifically, they wish to:
- offer a Catholic witness to the meaning, value, and sanctity of marriage;
- connect Catholic belief and teaching with current marriage issues;
- strengthen marriage through the life cycle by listening to the experience of the Christian faithful;
- work with our fellow citizens to promote marriage-friendly laws, public policies, and other social strategies;
- promote more and better ministries to marriage, particularly in parishes;
- help couples themselves to witness to the value of marriage;
- encourage dioceses, national church organizations and movements to provide leadership and resources on behalf of marriage.
Why are the bishops acting now?
Marriage as an institution has suffered in recent years. The persistent high rate of divorce, rapid rise of non-marital cohabitation, and falling marriage rate testify to its social decline. In addition, the issue of same-sex unions has produced heated debate about the nature and purposes of marriage. This is a critical moment to join with others who seek to strengthen marriage. The bishops believe that the Catholic Church can make a distinct contribution to shaping public awareness about the value of marriage.
What activities have been undertaken?
A few examples:
- A pastoral letter on marriage, Love and Life in the Divine Plan, plus an accompanying Leader’s Guide
- Focus groups with married couples (including interfaith couples), separated or divorced persons, single young adults, and couples in a second marriage, plus focus groups with priests
- Dialogues with social scientists and theologians
- Consultation on “best practices” for marriage preparation and marriage enrichment
- National research project on Catholics’ understanding of marriage
- A public service advertising campaign linked to this website began in 2007 with the theme “What have you done for your marriage today?”
What activities are current or planned?
- A second public service advertising campaign was launched in September, 2011 with the theme “A good marriage goes a long way.” The first ad in this series is viewable on the homepage of this site.
- A website, Marriage: Unique for a Reason, offers resources to help explain why marriage is the permanent, faithful union of one man and one woman
- A series of brochures addresses specific marriage-related topics (the For Your Marriage Series)
- Consultation is continuing with the leaders of national marriage and family organizations and movement.
Are the bishops consulting with married couples?
Yes. Couples at every stage of marriage were represented in the 200 focus groups that were conducted in 64 dioceses during 2005-2006. Leaders of diocesan offices and national groups and movements, most of whom are married, continue to have a voice in the Initiative. Married theologians and resource persons have been invited to consult with the bishops.
What can dioceses and parishes do to promote marriage locally?
The Bishops’ Conference is working with dioceses, parishes and organizations to publicize the National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage and to promote marriage locally. Click here for a list of suggestions.
How can I keep informed?