Archbishop Severs Ties with University’s Center over Sex before Marriage Proposal

The Archdiocese of Omaha severed ties with the Center for Marriage and Family (CMF), a ministry center at Creighton University (CU), for its proposal in support of premarital cohabitation.

In the June issue of US Catholic magazine, CMF director Michael Lawler and CU researcher Gail Risch wrote a proposal for the cohabitation of unmarried Catholic couples. The article says that there are two types of cohabiting couples — those that are committed to marriage, so-called "nuptial cohabitors," and those that are not committed to marriage, or "non-nuptial cohabitors." Quoting Pope John Paul II's 1981 encyclical, Familiaris Consortio (On the Family), the proposal claims that the Pope's description of committed conjugal love describes nuptial cohabitors as well as wedded couples.

The heart of the article argues, "Our pastoral proposal is straightforward: a return to the marital sequence of betrothal (with appropriate ritual to ensure community involvement), sexual intercourse, possible fertility, then ritual wedding to acknowledge and mark the consummation of both valid marriage and sacrament."

The article continues, "Such a process would meet the legitimate Catholic and social requirement that the sexual act must take place only within a stable relationship."

Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss of the Omaha archdiocese forcefully rejected CMF's creative interpretation of Catholic teaching in a letter to US Catholic. In his letter, the Omaha World-Herald reports, the Archbishop reaffirmed that, "Couples who live together without marriage do in fact live in sin objectively."

In addition, he said, "Because the position of the authors is contrary to Church teaching about the intrinsic evil of fornication, I have disassociated the Omaha Archdiocese from the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University."

When asked if the severance with the CMF was permanent, Rev. Joseph C. Taphorn, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, told, "If we felt comfortable with the Center's theological approach, we might consider working with them in future, but clearly substantial changes would have to be made before we would cooperate with them on future projects."

University spokeswoman Deb Dailey gave the university's official statement, saying that as a Catholic and Jesuit university, Creighton "has a very positive relationship with the archbishop." Moreover, she continued, "As a university, Creighton respects the academic freedom of its faculty to dialogue on societal issues, and we recognize that the archbishop has the final say with regard to the moral theology of the Catholic Church."

The official teaching of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also backs the Archbishop's condemnation of premarital cohabitation. The USCCB explains, "Every act of sexual intercourse is intended by God to express love, commitment and openness to life in the total, unreserved gift of the spouses to each other. Premarital sexual intercourse is sinful because it violates the dignity of persons and the nuptial meaning and purpose of sexuality" (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 406).

"It (premarital intercourse) cannot express what God intended. Rather, it says something false — a total commitment that the couple does not yet have. This total commitment is possible only in marriage, ‘the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby a man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God himself'" (Familiaris Consortio, #11).

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Guest

    Is this the same Creighton as the originator of the fertility system used by Dr. Hilgers? If so, this is particularly disturbing.

  • Guest

    Dr. Hilgers severed his ties with Creighton many years ago. Though the name Creighton is still used, he now directs his work at Paul VI Institute, still in Omaha.

  • Guest

    Thank you for clarifying. I was concerned, because his methods are often referred to as the "Creighton method."

  • Guest

    This is really discouraging to me as a Creighton graduate. I have taken theology courses from Dr. Mike Lawler before and it is not the first time I have had difficulty with his teaching being contrary to the Catholic Church. I can understand Creighton's stand on academic freedom until it collides with Catholic Church teaching. As a Catholic university, it has a responsibility to protect its students who believe they will hear the truth.


  • Guest

    for a catholic university there can be no such thing as academic freedom if it is in contrast with church teaching.


    by definition direct opposition to church teaching is sin and sin is in no way free but slavery.