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At the moment, couples in Spain who want to get married have 20 hours of spiritual guidance before having a church wedding. The problem is that the Spanish Episcopal Conference says that is not enough. On Thursday, the conference announced a much longer, voluntary program called “On the Path Together” to reduce the divorce rate which is very high. Divorce was illegal until 1981 in Spain, but now its rate of 57 divorces per 100 marriages is one of the highest in the European Union.
“Marriage training cannot be done in 20 hours. To become a priest requires seven years in the seminary, so how can we say it’s 20 hours to become a husband, wife, father and mother?” remarked Mario Iceta, the bishop of Bilbao and chair of the Spanish Episcopal Conference’s (CEE) family committee, on presenting the initiative. Iceta also said that when he was a parish priest, he used to tell couples that the course was about more than obtaining permission to get married in church.
“I used to say, ‘That’s not true. You’re here because, according to the statistics, 40% of marriages break down within five years and 60% within 15 years – and that’s what we’re here to prevent,’” stated Mario Iceta.
As the Guardian reports, divided into 12 areas — such as “communication”, “fidelity”, “the beauty of sexuality” and “conflict resolution”— the course is intended to “accompany, prepare and help young couples towards the matrimonial vocation.” The course’s guidance counsels against pornography, which “commercializes and falsifies the beauty of the conjugal gift” and can become addictive. Similarly to driving training but still the driving can really be learned, while marriage is much more complex lesson.
Media reports suggested the one of the deleted paragraphs in original guidance reportedly said: “On the days when he wants to have sex, the man should make a bigger effort and take on certain tasks (like taking the children out to the park or off for a walk for a couple of hours so that the woman can have a siesta). The woman should free herself up from certain work tasks and rest so that both can be ready for the sexual encounter when the time comes.”
Many in Spain attribute the high divorce rate to the “express divorce” law introduced 15 years ago which sped up the divorce process by doing away with the need for couples to be physically separated for a period before legal proceedings could begin.