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Australian vicar's ridiculous comments on marriage in the Herald Sun

By Sarah Lucas
Posted May 25, 2012 in
Father Tony Kerin, episcopal vicar for justice and social service in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, has a message for Australian women, god’s holy word channeled straight from heaven via the Herald Sun: 1) They should marry earlier, 2) They should not live with their partner before marriage.
Speaking on behalf of the archdiocese, Father Kerin told the Melbourne tabloid that Australian women are “too choosy” when it comes to selecting a future husband, and as a consequence miss out altogether. He warned against cohabitation before marriage, citing unreferenced statistics indicating de facto relationships were twice as likely to break down compared with married couples who had not lived together.
Father Kerin’s comments were prompted by the findings of demographer Bernard Salt’s recently published book Man Drought: And Other Social Issues of the New Century. As the Herald Sun puts it, there is a man drought in Australia so severe that “there are just 86,000 eligible blokes for 1.3 million females aged between 25 and 34.”
It is evident at first glance that these figures make an unfair comparison. 1.3 million represents the total number of women in the age bracket 25 to 34. 86,000 is the number of men in the same age range (1.3 million) minus those who are unavailable (485,000 who are married, 185,000 in a de facto relationship and 7,000 who are gay) and excluding those with characteristics that for the demographer deem them ineligible partners (those earning less than AU$60,000 per year and those who are single parents).
Once we subtract the similarly unavailable women from the pool of 1.3 million aged 25 to 34, we get a different picture. A careful reading of the press release for Man Drought notices that the study’s finding is that “there is an increasing difference between supply of men and women in one of the key reproductive age groups in Australia.” This “key reproductive age group” is aged 34 and over. In fact, Salt finds there are more single men than single women throughout the twenties and up to the age of 34, the greatest mismatch occurring at age 25 when there are 23% more single men than women. The man drought does not even exist until the mid-thirties, an age considered relatively late for a first marriage even by today’s norm.
The statistics do not support Father Kerin’s warning for women that they are likely to miss out if they spend longer finding the right partner. Nor do they reflect badly on cohabitation. Father Kerin says that de facto couples are 50% more likely to break down than married couples who have never lived together, but surely these break-ups reflect the desirable process of couples who have experimented and found that they are not suitable for marriage going their separate ways before it is too late.
The statistics are, however, convenient for pushing the Catholic agenda (if you doubt Father Kerin has a marriage agenda, check out the spookily Mormonesque website for the Catholic Society for Marriage Education, of which he is a former president). Apart from the standard non-acceptance of gay relationships, the Catholic Society discourages couples living together before marriage. Its counselling service advises young people that cohabitation before marriage is not good for their relationship.
Are they too choosy? Here’s what a sample of young Australian woman had to say in response to Father Kerin’s remarks:
I never realised that taking time to carefully choose the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is detrimental to marriage. Thanks for the enlightenment Reverend.
The Church likes the word “should”. It believes we ‘should’ do a lot of things. Being told to marry earlier (and why not a man being told to marry earlier?) implies a woman is desolate without a ring on her finger. Unless we are in Middle-earth, I’m not sure a ring will ever have that much power. Marriage is (we all hope for) a lifelong union: bring in “should” and it’s likely to be a very short union. Today women are less dependent on men: education, travel, independence – both financial and otherwise - are all very tangible however this doesn’t mean women shun marriage – it’s just that now, there is a choice. As there is for living with a partner before marriage. The Church doesn’t seem to understand how “choice” can enrich a person (man or woman). Kerin’s statements really just demonstrate the huge divide between the Church and society…maybe the Church really does exist in Middle-earth!
I feel that the current move away from marrying earlier is a conscious choice on the part of young Australians to take the institution of marriage more seriously. The 'traditional relationship' paradigm has shifted over the past 30 years to include a period of cohabitation and financial commitment before marriage, as a way to gauge whether the person you are romantically involved with is also capable of being your life partner and supporting you fully and maturely. Whether this is good or bad is not something that can be assessed until sufficient time has passed to see whether marriages of today, entered into after many years of commitment and cohabitation, do survive until death do them part.
I read this article when it was released with some amazement! Apart from the obvious bias, I just don't get the numbers. I thought that if you reduce the 'pool' by married men, you also have to reduce the female pool by the same number (assuming a 1:1 ratio; perhaps we have more bigamists than other countries??). Similarly the female pool has a representation of gay, committed or single parents - or are these only male traits, perhaps all the 'committed' are gay, in which case this would bias the numbers? I feel for the males out there who have been deemed unworthy of 'marriage' because of their income. Kerin’s comments are a joke, one which reiterates just how out of touch the Church is with todays social value. It does nothing to bring the Church closer to reality.
How is early marriage any different to living together? After all, what is a piece of paper? Surely commitment to a relationship is paramount. Women today are correctly focussed on their career and understand the responsibility of bringing children into the world. Surely any suggestion to the contrary is not beneficial.