It is no secret that most couples undergoing marriage preparation in Catholic parishes these days are living together. That is to say, they are committing the mortal sin of fornication - quite openly - while ostensibly preparing for a Catholic marriage. Yet those who conduct these sessions, by and large, say nothing of the proverbial "elephants in the living room" that sit before them.
Studies show that cohabitation before marriage is prejudicial to the success of that marriage. "But wait a minute!", one might say. "They're seeking God's grace!" Are they? By continuing in disobedience to His Commandments? Let's speak of grace in general. We know that when one is in mortal sin, he or she can receive no sacramental grace from reception of any of the sacraments - with the obvious exception of the Sacrament of Penance. Thus, a fornicating couple receiving the sacrament of matrimony can expect no grace or the attendant benefits until they end the sinful situation and go to Confession.
Yet by and large, those conducting the marriage prep courses turn a blind eye, failing miserably to do what would arguably be the most important work in helping truly Catholic marriages to come about and to succeed.
That's why I was pleasantly surprised to read this announcement in a recent weekly bulletin from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bethesda MD. It reads: (begin announcement)
Sacrament of Matrimony In accord with the regulations of the Arcdiocese of Washington, couples must contact a priest and begin preparation at least six months prior to a wedding. Parish registration and active participation for a minimum of three months is required before preparation may begin. Living together before marriage is sinful and harmful to the future marriage. Couples who are living together will be asked to live separately during the preparation time. (end announcement)
While I might have added that couples living together should go to Confession, this is indeed much more than I've seen in any other bulletin. God bless those of Our Lady of Lourdes who are conducting this course.