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 will offer guidance and resources, including a pastoral letter, to promote and strengthen marriage.
What is the timeline for the Initiative?
The NPIM began in early 2005 and will run through 2011. The Initiative is finishing up a research and consultation phase. The current phase includes the writing of a bishops’ pastoral letter. The final phase will see the development of pastoral resources.
What does the Initiative hope to accomplish?
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 has the Initiative undertaken?
A few examples:
- Focus groups with married couples (including interfaith couples), separated or divorced persons, single young adults, and couples in a second marriage
- 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
- Reports on most of these activities are on the USCCB website
What activities are current or planned?
- A public service advertising campaign linked with this website began in June, 2007. The ads are based on the theme “What have you done for your marriage today?”
- A bishops’ pastoral letter on marriage was approved in November 2009
- 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.
Once the pastoral letter on marriage is approved, what follow-up is planned?
The Bishops’ Conference has identified marriage as a priority and will continue its intense work in this area through 2011.
Work will also continue with diocesan offices and national groups, including seminaries, colleges and universities, to promote and improve pastoral ministries that strengthen marriage and family life. There will be particular emphasis on ministries and outreach that can take place in parishes.
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.
How can I keep informed?
Visit the NPIM section of the USCCB.org website and sign up for e-mail alerts from ForYourMarriage.org here. This site is continually updated to include all the research and consultation reports, current information, and related documentation.