Dear Pope Francis,
We’ve already covered how pumped I was when you got elected, so now I want to talk about where your focus has been since then. Later this year you’ll be meeting with bishops and cardinals from around the world to talk about Catholic family life and the pastoral challenges which come from the vastly different realities of church teaching and lives lived.It’s been a big year for the Catholic Church. First time in my life I can recall having seen more positive headlines than negatives and heard people talking about things other than the tragedy of sexual assaults by priests.
I didn’t respond to the survey. I would have liked to, but it wasn’t accessible in my diocese the week I was really interested and had time, so when I couldn’t find it easily I gave up. Sorry about that.
What I have done is followed all the news to come out from around the world regarding the findings of the survey. It’s been an enriching experience for me, and so encouraging to see dissent in the ranks. (Can’t use the word protest, or the anti-protestant crowd will be after my head.)
The bishops in Germany issued a statement pointing out the disconnect between church teaching about cohabitation before marriage and the reality – most young couples do live together before marriage and see it as irresponsible not to. It also discussed homosexuality, birth control and divorce, but I want to talk about cohabitation.
It’s not just that people think it’s irresponsible not to live with a partner before marrying them, part of it is also a difference between the economic situations of young adults today and young adults forty years ago. Forty years ago, it was possible to be a young professional and also afford to live outside your parent’s home. You didn’t necessarily need a university degree to get a decent paying job, and if you did have post-secondary education the debt load you graduated with was a lot less.
I don’t think it’s ever been particularly easy for young adults starting out, but I do think it was easier for my parents’ generation. The economic differences, in North America at least, play a bigger role in a young couple choosing to cohabitate than any of the reading I’ve done so far suggests.
I’m going to be 25 this summer. I don’t mind having room mates, they’ve been part of my life for the last five years. But for me, and for a lot of young adults, there comes a point where you don’t want to live with room mates but you can’t afford to live alone.
As we finish university and get started in actual careers, room mates change more frequently. Sometimes people are great friends but just aren’t suited to living together. Other times, long standing arrangements leftover from university fall apart as job opportunities crop up elsewhere, or as room mates get involved in long-term relationships.
In my experience it’s also not common for the man or woman a young adult ends up dating seriously to already be a part of the Catholic Church. A lot of young Catholics end up dating Christians of other denominations, or people who don’t belong to a church, or Catholics who simply aren’t practicing. For a lot of those partners, the prohibition on cohabitation doesn’t make sense. They interpret not wanting to live together as not wanting to be together long term, and reject the idea of “living in sin” as outdated and impractical, especially in light of how common common-law marriages have become.
For myself, I’m very blessed to be with a man who isn’t bothered by my not wanting to live with him just yet. Thing is, I’m not sold on holding off on moving in until we’re married. For me, engaged with a date set makes sense, especially if one of us gets offered a job in another city, or if we don’t want to do long distance when I move back to Ontario this summer.
I love my parents very much, and I want to live close enough that I can go to the same church as them again and be part of impromptu family gatherings. I want to be able to drop in just because I was in the neighbourhood, and I want them to be able to do the same. If I don’t get asked to go on NET this year, I’m going to move back in with them until I can find a job and afford to have my own place again.
But, for me and most of my generation, moving back in with Mom and Dad after university doesn’t hold a lot of appeal because it feels like giving up your independence. It’s not that we don’t want to stay in touch with our parents and siblings, just that in a lot of cases we get along better and have closer relationships when we’re not in each other’s space all the time.
Which brings us back to the room mate dilemma: move in with strangers and hope for the best, or move in with a significant other with the intent of marrying them in the not-distant future.
The other option being get married sooner, but the overall trend is towards marrying after post-secondary and after getting somewhat established in a career.
Unmarried and independent(ish),