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notes that two extremes are to be avoided: (1) Immediately confronting the couple and condemning their behavior and (2) Ignoring the cohabitation aspect of their relationship. In the decade following the document's publication, pastoral experience and diocesan policies have borne out the wisdom of this approach. The majority of policies and practices follow a middle way between the two extremes, one that integrates general correction with understanding and compassion. The U.S. bishops' plan for young adult ministry, Sons and Daughters of the Light , points out that during marriage preparation the Church connects with more young adults than at any other time outside Sunday Mass. "For some, this may be their first step back into church life" ( Sons and Daughters of the Light , p. 30). Marriage preparation is an opportunity for evangelization and catechesis. The Gary Diocese points out that "this is a ?teachable moment' and the parish priest must be cautious lest he alienate the couple from the church community. This calls for pastoral support in the couple's plans for the future rather than chastising them for the past" ( Guidelines for Marriage as a Sacrament, Diocese of Gary, 1996). While couples need to be welcomed with the gospel values of love, understanding, and acceptance, they also need to be challenged by the gospel message of commitment and faithfulness. Faithful to Each Other Forever points out that in the past pastoral ministers often overlooked the cohabitation, not pressing the couple too hard for fear of alienating them from the church. Because of the awkwardness of dealing with the situation, some chose to ignore the entire issue. Increasingly, however, pastoral ministers have abandoned this approach in favor of addressing the cohabitation gently but directly. The Church has consistently taught that human love "demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another" that can only be made in marriage ( Catechism of the Catholic Church , #2391). Since cohabitation violates the Church's teaching about sexual love and marriage, church ministers must speak and teach about it. Doing so, as one diocese points out, "is an act of love for the couple in the process of spiritual growth" ( Pastoral Care of Sexually Active/Co-Habiting Couples Before Marriage, Diocese of Peoria, 1997). How can pastoral ministers know if a couple is cohabiting? This can be a delicate situation. Very few diocesan policies offer suggestions for surfacing this issue during marriage preparation. Given the potentially harmful effects of cohabitation on marital stability, however, pastoral ministers are beginning to recognize a responsibility to raise the issue. Certain tip-offs (e.g., giving the same address and/or telephone number) can alert the pastoral minister that the couple may be cohabiting. Some couples are quite open about their living arrangements. A pastoral minister who is sensitive but straightforward can encourage a similarly candid attitude on the part of the couple. Some pastoral ministers discuss cohabitation in general terms, noting the issues it raises and the potentially harmful effects on the marriage. However it surfaces, cohabitation should be discussed early in the marriage preparation process. If it is not possible or advisable to discuss it immediately, it should be flagged as an issue to be addressed at a subsequent face-to-face meeting. Some marriage preparation programs use the pre-marital inventory FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study). FOCCUS now includes discussion questions for cohabiting couples, and the FOCCUS Manual includes additional material on facilitating discussion with this group.

Preparation for marriage begins long before the couple approaches the priest or pastoral minister. In his Apostolic Exhortation On the Family ( Familiaris Consortio, #81), Pope John Paul II strongly urges that young people be educated about chastity, fidelity, and the meaning of marriage as a sacrament. Religious education, parish based catechetical programs, and chastity curricula in elementary schools are all part of this effort. The Catholic Chastity Curriculum Directory (NCCB/USCC, Fall 1999), a directory of available materials that follow Catholic teaching, can be a helpful resource.

(b) For purposes of this chapter only,

Example research paper topics: Cohabitation


For example, one study involved extensive questionnaires and concluded that the average scores attained from the children were within normal ranges when compared to children of intact families (Armistead et al., 1998).

Cohabitors identify themselves or the relationship as poor risk for long-term happiness more often than do non-cohabitors. There is evidence that some cohabitors do have more problematic, lower-quality relationships with more individual and couple problems than noncohabitors. Often this is why they feel the need to test the relationship through cohabitation. There is the probability that some of these significant problems will carry over into the marriage relationship. (Lillard, Brien, Waite, 1995; Thomson & Colella, 1991; Booth & Johnson, 1988)

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This, they say, is more important to the outcome of the child than the family structure, meaning that parenting practices have a greater effect on children than marital status.

Research papers cohabitation before marriage

To assist the NCCB Committee on Marriage and Family in developing this paper, diocesan family life offices were asked to provide copies of their marriage preparation policies. Some policies were already on file in the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth. A total of 76 policies were reviewed. Since some of these are common policies, covering several dioceses in one state (Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, Missouri, and Michigan), a total of 129 dioceses were represented.

Of the 76 policies, 43 address cohabitation. The discussion ranges from a paragraph to several pages. Minimally, the policies identify cohabitation as a "special circumstance" that should be addressed during marriage preparation. Other policies offer extended and explicit guidance to those who are preparing couples for marriage.

The diocesan policies cited in the paper were chosen because, for the most part, they articulate what other policies also say about a particular issue related to cohabitation. They represent a position that is taken by several--in some cases many--dioceses.

Of the policies reviewed, the following address cohabitation:

Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin

Arlington, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Charlotte, Cleveland, Corpus Christi, Denver, Dubuque, Fargo, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Galveston-Houston, Gary, Helena, Juneau, Lincoln, Memphis, Miami, New Ulm, Oakland, Omaha, Peoria, Phoenix, Portland (ME), Rapid City, Rockford, Salina, San Angelo, San Diego, San Jose, Scranton, Sioux Falls, Spokane, Springfield (IL), Wilmington, Youngstown

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An essay or paper on The Phenomenon of Cohabitation

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(5) Requiring a party to make available to his or her spouse designated personal property and/or fixtures, even though titled in such party's name alone or jointly with someone else, upon such terms and conditions as the Court may impose;

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Since widespread cohabitation is a fairly recent phenomenon, many pastoral ministers are still learning how to address the issue in marriage preparation. The Committee on Marriage and Family hopes that this paper provides helpful guidance, but it acknowledges that more can be done. One challenge is to provide additional formation for those who prepare couples for marriage so that they can more effectively handle the issues raised by cohabitation. Another challenge is learning how to discuss cohabitation in the various settings in which marriage preparation takes place.

Above all, when cohabiting couples approach the church for marriage we encourage pastoral ministers to recognize this as a teachable moment. Here is a unique opportunity to help couples understand the Catholic vision of marriage. Here, too, is an opportunity for evangelization. By supporting the couple's plans for the future rather than chastising them for the past, the pastoral minister can draw a couple more deeply into the church community and the practice of their faith. Treated with sensitivity and respect, couples can be helped to understand and live the vocation of Christian marriage.

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A few diocesan policies suggest that a simple wedding ceremony is most appropriate for cohabiting couples. (Those policies that explain "simple" usually do so in terms of number of people in the wedding party.) This is the most common consequence of a failure to separate. One policy states that since the couple is choosing to appear as husband and wife to the community, then their wedding ceremony should reflect this choice and be small and simple. Others (e.g., Memphis) state that a large wedding raises the possibility of serious scandal. The Code of Canon Law gives no special consideration for marriages of cohabiting couples. The general norm states that the pastor and the ecclesial community are to see that the couple has a "fruitful liturgical celebration of marriage clarifying that the spouses signify and share in the mystery of unity and of fruitful love that exists between Christ and the Church" (c. 1063, 3�). The Catechism states: "Since marriage establishes the couple in a public state of life in the Church, it is fitting that its celebration be public, in the framework of a liturgical celebration, before the priest (or a witness authorized by the Church), the witnesses, and the assembly of the faithful" (1663). Some pastoral ministers are concerned that a simple celebration hinders the couple's ability to understand the communal dimension of the sacrament. They point out that cohabiting couples are the least likely to realize the involvement of the Christian community in their marriage. Having a wedding with only immediate family and witnesses simply underscores their impression that marriage is a private event. They need to appreciate the reciprocal commitment between the couple and the Christian community. The Archdiocese of Omaha points out that even for cohabiting couples the celebration of marriage is an act of the Church's public worship. It states: "The same liturgical principles and norms apply for a cohabiting couple as for any other couple. Marriage preparation for cohabiting couples should not begin with or be based upon a decision about the kind or size of the wedding ceremony that will be allowed."

Cohabitation - A Biblical, Christian Worldview Perspective

Whenever there is exhibited to any duly authorized sheriff, constable or police officer a certified copy of an order issued by the Court in an action for divorce, or annulment, enjoining any person from threatening, beating, striking, assaulting any other person, or requiring the person to remove himself or herself from certain premises and to refrain from loitering, entering or remaining near the premises thereafter and the copy of the order shows under signature of the person so serving that a copy of the order has been properly served upon the person named in the order and the person named commits an apparent violation of its terms, it shall be the duty of the sheriff, constable or police officer to take him or her immediately before the Court issuing the order or if that Court is not in session then to the nearest jail until bail is fixed and provided or until the convening of its next session, to await further action for the violation.

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Many diocesan marriage preparation policies note the possibility of scandal. Scandal is a multi-faceted reality. In society as a whole, cohabitation neither carries the stigma nor causes the scandal that it did just two generations ago. As the bishops of Kansas point out, "As society no longer adheres to traditional moral values and norms, scandal becomes less and less a concern to many people" ( A Better Way, p. 9). The burden of scandal falls not just on the cohabiting couple, but on our sexually permissive society. The cohabiting couple is living contrary to the Church's teaching on marriage and sexual love. By acting as if they are married when they are not, they risk scandalizing the believing community. It is also possible to cause scandal, however, through a lack of understanding and compassion for couples in irregular situations. Whether and how couples are welcomed can mean the difference between alienation from the Church or renewed involvement. Moreover, parents and pastoral ministers may have a different opinion of how scandal occurs. Parents who were deeply distressed by their children's cohabitation are relieved when the son or daughter approaches the Church for marriage. They believe that the scandal is easing. At this point, however, priests and pastoral ministers fear that the scandal is about to start. Both viewpoints have some merit, and point to the need for understanding different perspectives on scandal.

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