Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop of Santa Fe has issued a pastorally letter on cohabitation and I say bravo. This is a subject rarely brought up and this is rather odd considering how rampant this is. The good bishop takes an excellent pastoral approach and contrary to what some think pastoral does not mean not calling a sin a sin. Besides condemning cohabitation he also talks about the remedies for the particular situations.
We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit; those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage; and those who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best – and this is, sadly, often the case – they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.
It is amazing how many terms we now use to describe cohabitation to make it sound better. Shacking up, living together, etc. I guess fornication and adultery don’t sound as nice. Many see this as a dress rehearsal for married life, when usually it is just an undressed rehearsal which if it actually leads to marriage most often leads to a failed marriage since they have a higher divorce rate than couples who don’t cohabit.
This might pick up some media attention and likely they will distort this. The part about “merely civil unions” applies only to Catholics which of course are the audience for this pastoral letter. Non-Catholics can be validly married in a civil ceremony, but Catholics much follow the form of Marriage as outlined by Canon law. At least this is how I think the bishop is using the term “civil union”.