In the NATIONAL PASTORAL INITIATIVE FOR MARRIAGE the U.S. Catholic bishops call attention to the meaning and value of married life for the Church and for society. Bringing Catholic belief into dialogue with contemporary needs, the bishops urge the Catholic Church to become a community of hope and help for marriages and to join others in building a culture of marriage. The Initiative weaves together the Catholic faith tradition and its pastoral practice, the data of social science, and the experience of married couples to offer guidance and resources, including a pastoral letter, in order to promote, strengthen, sustain and restore marriages.
- It will make a pastoral letter its centerpiece, emphasizing the bishops' teaching and pastoring responsibilities.
- It will respond to contemporary concerns about marriage on the basis of authentic Catholic doctrine and sound pastoral practice.
- It will draw from the experience and expertise of many, including engaged and married couples, pastors, social scientists, theologians, educators, communications experts, and others.
- It will address primarily the Catholic community, but will also offer a positive message and evangelizing witness to society.
- It will directly produce and also encourage others to produce resources that help local pastoral ministers to do more effective teaching and pastoral care.
- It will seek collaboration within the Bishops Conference and cooperative relationships with other groups that share similar values and concerns for the vitality of marriage.
In the Catholic community:
- Demonstrate pastoral concern for strengthening marriage at all its stages and in its many circumstances, particularly through listening to the experience of the Christian faithful;
- Offer authoritative teaching and pastoral guidance about marriage as a sacrament, a vocation, and a human institution;
- Connect authentic Catholic belief and teaching with the major issues present in marriage today;
- Promote more extensive and effective ministries to marriage, particularly in parishes.
- Offer a specific Catholic witness to the meaning, value, and sanctity of marriage;
- Join our efforts with those of others who are working in various social sectors to promote, preserve, and protect marriage;
- Encourage laws, public policies, and other social strategies that will strengthen marriage in light of its contribution to the common good and its benefit to individuals, families, and communities.
PHASE ONE: Development and Consultation (2005 -- 2007)
This phase includes research and consultative activities designed for two purposes: (a) to propose what topics and issues are most important to include in a pastoral letter, what audiences should be addressed, and what are ways of communicating the message faithfully and creatively; (b) to produce information and ideas that, even if they cannot be incorporated fully into a pastoral letter, can be shared with various audiences, e.g., diocesan and parish staffs, as resources for them to use in promoting and sustaining marriage and enhancing their pastoral ministries.
PHASE TWO: Preparation of Pastoral Letter (2007 -- 2008)
This phase includes processes for selecting themes, integrating data gathered in the consultative phase, creating an outline, writing drafts and getting feedback on them. The activities are sequenced according to the usual USCCB protocol for bringing a document to the vote of the full body of bishops. The phase concludes with the publication and initial dissemination of the pastoral letter.
PHASE THREE: Implementation of Pastoral Letter and Continuing Work (2008 -- )
This phase is directed toward the further development and application of the themes and messages contained in the pastoral letter. A broad range of implementation projects will be encouraged. Existing mechanisms can be employed for the follow-up and implementation activities and new ones might need to be created for this purpose.