Love Your Marriage retreats help marriages to thrive, remain holy

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Updated on January 15, 2020

Richard and Megan Burks’ marriage was good: They served as Eucharistic minsters at Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Aurora, and while there was nothing necessarily wrong with their relationship, they knew God was calling them to more. This is why they chose to attend a “Love Your Marriage” retreat. With an enriched family life, they recommend the retreat to any couple of any age who wishes to love God and one another in a deeper way.

“We wanted to go and continue to invest in our marriage,” Richard said. “We wanted to figure out more ways to love each other.”

Among the practices they incorporated into their marriage and family was an intentional time for communication.

“[Now], we do a weekly recap of what were some good and not-so-good things during the week to help our communication and make sure we’re focusing on each other and making sure we’re keeping our relationship strong,” Megan said.

This also gives them accountability in praying together and passing on their faith to their two children, Richard added.

“It wasn’t just ideas, but specific examples. Being able to walk away with tangible things [from the retreat] was very helpful,” Megan said.

The “Love Your Marriage” retreats are part of an archdiocesan initiative to help couples accomplish their mission amid the strains of life.

“We need strong marriages.  With the demands of our daily lives, it can be hard to fit in quality time with our spouses, but it is so important,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver. “The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries wanted to create retreats around the archdiocese that would serve marriages, bringing them closer to each other as well as to God.”

“We have parish host sites for ‘Love Your Marriage’ retreats.  They provide couples an easy way to invest in their marriage,” Keating explained. “We wanted it to be accessible on lots of levels: affordable, half-day time commitment, with food included.  ‘Love Your Marriage’ retreats also have wonderful content developed by trusted experts in the relationship field — St. Raphael Counseling and Catholic Marriage Encounter.”

“The format is wonderful!” Megan said. “It’s so easy to attend and not too overwhelming like a whole weekend. Also, you meet other couples who try to live out their faith, and to hear what they have implemented in their own families and what they are doing is very helpful.”

“[These retreats] are good whether your marriage is good or not, no matter where your marriage is at, no matter where you are at in your faith journey,” Richard said. “People get the impression that you should go only if you’re in trouble, but it’s good even if you’re not, like it was for us.”

Love Your Marriage Retreats
Upcoming Retreats in 2020: Jan. 25, Feb. 8, and Feb. 29
Learn more or register online at archden.org/loveyourmarriage

COMING UP: Opinion: There is cause for hope amid dire reports of clergy sexual abuse of minors

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By Vincent Carroll

This Dec. 13, 2019 opinion column was originally published by the Denver Post.

When will it end, many Catholics must wearily wonder. And not only Catholics. Anyone who reads or listens to the news must wonder when the Catholic church sex scandals will ever be over.

But in one major sense, the crisis already has passed and what we’re witnessing — and will continue to witness for years — is the aftermath.

To see what I mean, go to Appendix 4 in the report on sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Colorado issued in October by investigators led by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. There’s a bar graph highlighting the “number of victims by decade the abuse or misconduct began.” Towering above all other decades for the archdiocese of Denver is the bar for the 1960s, representing 74 victims. In second place is the 1970s with 25 victims, and the 1950s is third with 14. The 1990s had 11 victims and the 1980s three.

As the report observes, “Roman Catholic clergy child sex abuse in Colorado peaked in the 1960s and appears to have declined since. In fact, the last of the Colorado child sex abuse incidents we saw in the files were 1 in July 1990 and 4 in May 1998.”

In other words, nearly 70 percent of all the abuse documented in the attorney general’s report within the Denver archdiocese occurred a half-century or more ago.

Denver’s history differs somewhat from the national experience, but not wildly so. Researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice concluded in 2004 after examining the national data on accusations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy between 1950 and 2002 that “more abuse occurred in the 1970s than any other decade.” The 1960s were also atrocious years for Catholic youth and so was the first half or so of the 1980s.

It appears that accusations in the years since have held to the same chronological profile. Mark Gray, a survey researcher at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, reported recently that CARA has analyzed 8,694 accusations of abuse made between 2004 and 2017 (compared to 10,667 earlier allegations studied by John Jay researchers). The result: The distribution of cases is “nearly identical to the distribution of cases, over time, in John Jay’s results.”

In other words, a large majority of the accusations of abuse that have surfaced in this century are also dated to the horrible era of 1960 to 1985.

This pattern even holds for incidents in last year’s Pennsylvania grand jury report, although news coverage often left the impression that it recounted a fresh flood of new incidents. The report’s scope and details were certainly new and devastating, but most (not all) of the incidents and perpetrators were old (or dead). Those accused of abuse in the Pennsylvania report, for example, were on average “ordained as priests in 1961,” according to Gray.

Given this context, it’s hardly surprising that “the most prolific clergy child sex abuser in Colorado history,” according to the special investigator’s report, namely Father Harold Robert White, was also ordained in 1961.  His depredations “continued for at least 21 years,” the heyday of sexual abuse and church complacency, during which time he “sexually abused at least 63 children.”

Chilling.

I am perfectly aware that the Colorado investigation hardly exhausts the number of victims of clergy sexual abuse. It covers diocesan priests but not those who served in religious orders. Records are likely incomplete and some perhaps destroyed. And the actual number of victims certainly exceeds the number who have come forward.

There is also the question of a reporting time lag — the fact that victims often don’t muster the courage to come forward for years. But if this had been a major factor in the reduced number of incidents after 1985 at the time of John Jay College’s 2004 report, that number would surely have seen a disproportionate surge by now. And yet it has not.

The authors of the state investigation emphasize that they are unable to reliably say that “no clergy child sex abuse has occurred in Colorado since 1998,” and warn against concluding that clergy child sexual abuse is “solved” given ongoing weaknesses they outline regarding how the church handles allegations.

Their caution is understandable given the church’s history in the past century (in the report’s words) of “silence, self-protection and secrecy empowered by euphemism,” and their recommendations to strengthen the diocese’s procedures are for the most part on point. But it is also true that child sexual abuse will never be “solved” in the sense of it being eradicated — not in religious denominations, and not in schools, daycare centers, scout troops, youth sports, and juvenile social service and detention facilities, to cite just some of the venues that predators unfortunately exploit and where an accounting for the lax standards of the past has not been undertaken.

John Jay College researchers also released a followup study in 2011 in which they noted, “the available evidence suggests that sexual abuse in institutional settings . . .  is a serious and underestimated problem, although it is substantially understudied.” Meanwhile, “no other institution has undertaken a public study of sexual abuse and, as a result, there are no comparable data to those collected and reported by the Catholic Church.”

Early this month, Bishop Richard J. Malone resigned from the Buffalo Diocese over gross mishandling of sexual abuse claims. He likely won’t be the last. Meanwhile, Catholics still await the Vatican’s promised explanation for how defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who allegedly preyed on seminarians for decades, could have been promoted time and again. Is there any credible defense?

So the bad news hasn’t stopped. But behavior in the priestly trenches actually is much improved, and that is surely cause for hope.

Email Vincent Carroll at [email protected]