(If this is in the wrong section, please whisk it away to where it belongs. Upon cursory examination, it looks like this topic hasn't been brought up here yet, so I'm not sure where to put it.)
In the Diocese of Phoenix, word about the new marriage preparation guidelines hit the Catholic Sun in about October of last year. Now that it's implemented, though, it's starting to get discussed on the main Catholic blogosphere, with Father Z and Creative Minority Report (via a guest post by Erin) weighing in. If you know of anyone else, please tell me; I'd love to read it. I've been reading the comments on the aforementioned blog with interest, but several days have passed and I have a lot to say, so I'm putting it here in the hopes of getting more feedback.
I live in the Diocese of Phoenix, and started going through marriage prep a couple years ago (didn't complete it - we broke up for sundry reasons). I found out the breadth of marriage prep at the time - all the classes we had to take, and all the money we had to pay.
I definitely think that marriage prep needed a strong shot in the arm. However, I don't think that the present band-aid is anything like a solution. I see it as analogous to schools catering their education to the slowest kids in class, thus frustrating to no end the more advanced students.
Here's the breakdown of everything couples need to do under the new marriage prep guidelines:
1. Initial interview: 1 day
2. Prenuptual inquiry: 1-2 days; getting necessary paperwork (baptismal certificates, affidavits): maybe a week or so.
3. FOCCUS test: 1 day; maybe a month for processing and setting an appointment to discuss the results
4. Results discussion: 3 days generous estimate
5. Married Life Skills classes/Love for Life engaged weekend/other approved Preparation Workshop I class: 2-3 days
6. Preparation Workshop II (God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage): 1-2 days (it can also be completed online in some cases)
7. Preparation Workshop III (Natural Family Planning instruction): 4 days
8. Immediate Preparation: 1-3 days (meet with the priest once, suggested confession, suggested wedding liturgy planning - but what bride would wait for the last two months of a nine month prep process to begin planning her wedding?)
This compilation comes from:
Covenant of Love (http://www.diocesephoenix.org/mfrl/docu ... Letter.pdf
) (the source)
God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage main site (http://www.joyfilledmarriage.com/
Diocese of Phoenix Office of Natural Family Planning (http://www.phxnfp.org/index.php
So by adding up the generous estimates, that's 19 day's worth of actually doing something, a week for collecting paperwork, and perhaps a month of waiting for FOCCUS results (that's how long I had to wait, ymmv). Let's be generous again and say that totals two months, leaving seven months of... twiddling thumbs. All right, for many couples it would be allowing things to sink in, finding free days, talking and praying, all that good stuff. I'm still not sure how seven months of thumb-twiddling is so much better than four months of it.
Most of the old-six-months, new-nine-months time is eaten up by the fact that these classes are not offered very often, so if a couple gets engaged just in time to miss the last one, they have to sit down and twiddle their thumbs until the next one rolls around.
I fully understand the benefits of being able to corner uncatechized, non-Mass-going Catholics and pound into their heads the Truth About Love and Marriage, and the Church While We're At It. I truly agree that the classes we had under the old process were... lacking.
But. Let's look at what's really happening. We're adding more classes, without improving them. We're adding three months of dead air
. And that's supposed to herald a dramatic change? What if we made Confirmation classes three months longer, added some more fees, and kept the same terrible (occasionally nonexistent) catechesis? Would anyone be jumping up and down about how that's fixed too?
In brief, I think what we should have done is overhaul the classes themselves, which are the actual stumbling block. Maybe add one or two more if they'll be necessary, high-quality classes.
Also, referring to my initial analogy, what about the Catholics who have been faithful practicing Catholics most of their lives (including converts of course), know a thing or two about Church teachings and accept them, have a working grasp of NFP, and who just plain gosh darn want to get married? We can't be *that* tiny of a demographic! (I know we're tiny but please, we're still here.) In fact for adult converts it might even be more annoying, depending on how good of an RCIA program they went through, because they *just learned* about what marriage should be, what Church teachings are and why they should be followed, et cetera, et cetera, and now they have to go over the same thing warmed over.
I'm facing having to go through this in a few months. Right now my FH-to-be is finishing up RCIA and doesn't want to begin until after he receives his sacraments in Easter. As it stands, I'm not looking forward to it. People get engaged because they want to get married. Nine months is a darn long time to keep the brakes on, when the train really, really wants to go full steam ahead.
I guess what I'm looking for is someone who can convince me that this was all an excellent idea, and it will not backfire or be mind-numbingly frustrating. When April comes knocking, I'd like to be able to be excited about all this preparation, not bonking my head against a brick wall because we already are against contraception, we already are against cohabitation and premarital sex, we already have learned about marriage from RCIA/Father Corapi/Gregory Popcak/our parents/the catechism/thirteen years of Catholic schooling/other orthodox Catholic sources, we already are open to NFP, we already are talking about finances, kids, education, chores, running the home, sex, et cetera... and still have to sit through expensive classes to tell us just that. I'm not saying we know everything. I'm just dreading being treated like we know nothing
... for nine months.