A SURVEY by an evangelical church magazine has revealed voluntary church activities as a major cause of maritial stress.
The survey, conducted by Family magazine among its own
readers and published this month, indicated that more than one in three families identified church responsibility as a major pressure point in their marriage.
Commenting on the report, Mr Gavin Reid of the Church Pastoral Aid Society criticised ministers who overburdened helpers to keep them involved, but he expressed concern that the work burden was shouldered by too few people.
"The cost can be far more than the odd row and continual over tiredness. It can mean ill health. It can mean embittered children who grow away from their parents' faith. It can even lead to broken marriages. I have seen it happen", said Mr Reid, From the Catholic side, precise details have been more difficult to pinpoint. Professor Michael Hornsby-Smith of the University of Surrey, whose study of Roman Catholics in England and Wales was published a year ago, said there was "no hard quantitative data" on Catholic marital stress, but his survey had indicated that divorce statistics for Catholics were not very different from those for the population as a whole.
Regarding marital stress. he said "one hears every now and
then of specific cases, but these cannot be inferred from our own data".
His survey revealed that membership of parish organisations was greater among married people than single.
Dr Jack Dominian, director of the Middlesex Hospital's Marriage Research Centre, and a Catholic. cautioned against easy answers to the stress syndrome.
"Couples could be avoiding their own marital problems" by getting involved with church responsibilities, he said. This often explained difficulties at home.
This view was echoed by Fr Peter Rudman, Chief Officer of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council. He said the phenomenon did occur some times, but added: "One gets the impression in such cases that church activity is an escape". He thought the statistic of one marriage in three suffering from this factor would be an exaggeration for Catholics.
Dr Anne Townsend. editor of Family, said about 2 per cent of readers had answered their questionnaire, and she thought they comprised largely of "those who like filling in forms-. She said they had analysed the first 500 returns, Dr Townsend said their readers came from the evangelical wing of the Church of England, where "people feel. guilty if they are not committed to church activities." ln such families, she added. the term "meetings" often became a swear word among the children.