Emma Green takes note of a puzzling trend:
In 1970, there were roughly 426,000 Catholic weddings, accounting for 20 percent of all marriages in the United States that year. Beginning in 1970, however, Catholic marriages went into decades of steady decline, until the turn of the new century – when that decline started to become precipitous: Between 2000 and 2012, Church weddings dropped by 40 percent, according to new data from the Official Catholic Directory. Given other demographic trends in the denomination, this pattern is question-raising: As of 2012, there were an estimated 76.7 million Catholics in the United States, a number that has been growing for at least four decades.
One reason, Green suggests, is “a lack of awareness about the specific doctrinal importance the Church places on marriage”:
“More people are choosing to get married in country clubs and at the beach,” said [the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate’s Mark] Gray. “A lot of people are unaware of the importance of marriage and the place it has in Church sacramental life … Younger Catholics are probably not going to have a deep awareness about the sacrament of marriage, even if they self-identify as Catholic and [have] religious beliefs.”