Many Christians no longer view marriage as a lifelong commitment, says Mary Hasson, director of the Catholic Women's Forum at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington D.C., who agrees with Pope Francis' assertion that couples often fail to understand the sacred vows they are making to each other.
"It's individual consumerism applied to sexuality — what I want, when I want it, and only for as long as I want it," said Hasson, who has over a decade of experience in marriage preparation work for the Catholic Church, to The Christian Post. "It's meaningful only from a 'what's in it for me' perspective. Relationships often take on the same quality — they are vehicles for personal fulfillment (however defined) and, like an old car, they can be traded or dumped when the repair costs get too high or a new model appears on the scene."
The majority of couples she meets who are preparing for marriage frequently tell her that they want to commit for life, she said, "but they often have their own personal asterisks — the unspoken 'exceptions' that they believe will justify divorce and remarriage later on."
"That mindset is toxic to marriage, where couples need a unified vision, a capacity for sacrifice, a willingness to compromise, and a commitment to the good of the marriage, spouse, and children."
Last Thursday, Pope Francis told participants at the Diocese of Rome's annual pastoral conference that most Catholic marriages are effectively void because couples don't understand that the marital union is a lifelong commitment.
"A large majority of sacramental marriages are null," the pope said, according to the Catholic News Service. "They say 'yes, for my whole life,' but they do not know what they are saying because they have a different culture."
The notion that marriage is a temporary obligation is a manifestation of a larger societal problem where everything is provisional, the pontiff added.