MOSAIC Fall 2015 - Page 14

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE As the Parish Goes, so Goes the Family The family is in crisis. Is it time to look to parishes for greater support? Dr. Michael McCallion R eligion and family are strongly intertwined. Indeed, some social scientists argue that as the family goes, so goes religion (Wilcox, 2005; Eberstadt, 2013). In other words, the family factor is the independent variable most responsible for the decline in religious participation. Why is this so? Because, as the above argument suggests, as the institution of the family has deteriorated over the past fifty years, religion has declined respectively—at least in terms of regular participation in mainline churches. (Not all churches have declined, but many have, including the Archdiocese of Detroit’s fourteen percent decline between 2000 and 2014.) Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (2013), expresses a similar concern when he states, “The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds” (no. 66). Given this situation of the family in crisis, I suggest the parish needs to live out its life in God even more intensely. In other words, the local parish needs to take the lead in rejuvenating the family and so reverse the variables above, so that the Church can begin to say: As local religion goes, so goes the family. Privatization of Family The “as local religion goes, so goes the family” thesis argues that local parishes must ratchet up their parish offerings for all age groups within the parish, rather than cut back offerings (easier said than done, I realize). Sociologists have argued that since the processes of suburbanization started in the 1940s and 1950s, the family has become more privatized and nuclear, which has led to greater disconnectedness from extended kin and community. In addition, research shows suburban families spend less time in civil and religious activities than do rural and urban 12 Sacred Heart Major Seminary | Mosaic | Fall 2015 families (Putnam, 2000). Indeed, for the most part, when nuclear families move to the suburbs, they become more isolated, especially those families moving to what sociologists now call “edge cities”—cities beyond the suburbs. This demographic shift deepens the familial privatization pattern and increases the likelihood of divorce and family break-ups (e.g., affluent families tend toward less social cooperation and connectedness in these edge cities, see Sloan-Wilson, 2013). Why are there more family break-ups? Because people need larger communal connections than