Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
25, 2011

First off, two important announcements. For many months the attendance at the 11 o'clock Sunday morning Mass here at St. John's has been thin. The archdiocesan liturgical committee has long recommended consolidation in the scheduling of weekend Masses when one or more of the Masses is lightly attended. In accord with this recommendation the two Sunday morning Masses here at St. John's will be consolidated into one Mass offered at half past nine, at 9:30 a.m., beginning on Sunday, October ninth. On October ninth and on all following Sundays no longer will a Mass be offered here at St. John's at  11:00 a.m. On October ninth and on all following Sundays the ONE Mass offered here will begin a little later than in the past, at half past nine, at 9:30 a.m., instead of at 9:00. Until October ninth our present schedule, providing two Masses on Sunday at nine and at eleven o'clock, will be maintained.

The second important announcement concerns our public observance of the 125th anniversary of the founding of our parish. Archbishop Nienstedt has graciously consented to be the chief celebrant and homilist at our Mass of celebration and thanksgiving at the late Saturday afternoon Mass, at 4:15, on October 22nd. By a felicitous coincidence October 22nd has been officially designated as the new feast day honoring Blessed Pope John Paul the Second, popularly (and properly) acclaimed as Pope John Paul the Great. The papal decree setting aside October 22nd as the day for special invocation of the intercessory powers of Pope John Paul as one who has been beatified, declared "Blessed", but not yet canonized, not yet honored with the title of "Saint", specified, as is normally Rome's practice, that celebration of Mass with the text proper to the feast is limited to the regions where the Blessed One lived, that is to say, in the instance of Pope John Paul, such celebration is limited to Poland and to the archdiocese of Rome. Nevertheless there is nothing to keep us from offering a special prayer in the course of our parish celebration asking Blessed John Paul to intercede with his (and our) dear Saviour on our behalf.
*          *         *         *         *
The damage to children in the wake of divorce is typically long-lasting and immense. Yet in the United States, since "No Fault Divorce" became the prevailing norm (since the 1970's), we seem to have acquiesced in the damage with a shrug of the shoulders. "It's just the way things are. What can I do about it?"

Movements are afoot to do something about it. The following report from the national edition of The Washington Times for August 22nd cites some of the recent studies of the impact of divorce on children, together with a brief sketch of remedial action currently being undertaken. The author of the report is Cheryl Wetzstein.
*          *         *         *         *
Boost Marriage, Reduce the Deficit
National Edition, The Washington Times
August 22, 2011
Cheryl Wetzstein

Now that government belt-tightening has become a national obsession, divorce reform advocates are making the argument that they can be part of the solution.

Divorce is costly for everyone, they argue, and encouraging troubled couples to try to work things out could benefit the national bottom line.

The average split costs a couple $2,500. A new single-parent family with children can cost the government $20,000 to $30,000 a year. That's $30 billion to $112 billion a year total in divorce-related social-service subsidies and lost revenue.

The country is "absolutely" ready for divorce reform, said Chris Gersten, founder and chairman of the nonpartisan Coalition for Divorce Reform.

If states pass the coalition's legislative model that aims at cutting the divorce rates by a third in five years, "the savings to taxpayers will be pretty dramatic," he said.

Even a "MODEST" reduction in the U.S. divorce rate likely would benefit 400,000 children and save taxpayers significant sums, wrote retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears and University of Minnesota professor William J. Doherty, proponents of a new "Second Chances" divorce reform.

"We have to rethink this 'easy-to-divorce' strategy," added Michael McManus, author and founder of Marriage Savers, which promotes a community marriage strategy that has been shown to reduce divorce rates by an average of 17.5 percent.

Americans have consistently supported more restrictive divorce laws. For more than 30 years, the General Social Survey asked Americans if divorce "easier" or "MORE difficult" to obtain than it is right now? The most popular answer is always "MORE, difficult," but 40 years of no-fault divorce have made marital formation, disruption and reformation so accepted that Americans have "a coming and going of partners on a scale seen NOWHERE else," Andrew J. Cherlin said in his 2009 book, "The Marriage Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today."

The Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), which has emerged as the preeminent source for marriage and divorce data because of its 2.2 million- household sample size, counted 1,087,920 divorces and a divorce rate of 8.2 per 1,000 population in 2008. This is higher than other federal figures because ACS has data from all states.

Serious divorce reform was last tried 14 years ago when Louisiana passed a "covenant-marriage" law. "Covenant couples" agree to premarital education and marriage counseling. However, only three states have adopted a covenant-marriage law, and only a tiny number of couples opt in.

In contrast, no-fault divorce recently EXPANDED into the one hold-out state.

In 2010, New York lawmakers passed a law dropping the need for a "grounds" trial in contested divorces, and instead freed spouses to divorce without assigning fault. The [New York] public responded enthusiastically to the speedier divorce law: in the first seven months after the law went into effect, divorces rose 12 percent, compared to the previous year, the Business Review said, citing data from New York courts....

Divorce reformers can't give up:
   * Children of divorce are often stunted economically and can't seem to work their way into higher-income levels, a 2010 study from Pew Charitable Trust says.
   * If the U.S. "enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960," there would be 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, 1.2 million fewer school suspensions, about 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, about 600,000 fewer children receiving therapy and 70,000 fewer suicides every year, writes W. Bradford Wilcox in a 2009 paper, referring to research done by Pennsylvania State University professors Paul Amato and Alan Booth.
   * Children of divorce have shorter life spans, by an average of five years, compared to children whose parents didn't divorce, according to a new study by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin.

That longevity data is "the most devastating analysis that we've seen [ ... ] of the impact of divorce on children.  They DON'T get over it," said Mr. Gersten, who was a Department of Health and Human Services official in the George W. Bush administration.

Mr. Gersten's coalition already has seen a victory: New Mexico state Sen. Mark Boitano introduced the Parental Divorce Reduction Act in this year's session, and Mr. Gersten expects lawmakers in a DOZEN states to do so in 2012.

The act requires parents of minor children who are contemplating divorce to first attend six hours of "divorce- reduction" education. They would then enter an eight-month "reflection" period with access to marriage-strengthening materials and workshops. After that, they can go ahead with a divorce, "and we let the lawyers take over," said Mr. Gersten, who added that couples in certain circumstances, such as domestic violence, would be exempted from the program.
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *