The Catholic University of America

Oral Presentation of D.Min. Treatise

Henry Sweeney, Ph.D.

for the degree of

Doctor of Ministry

Monday, April 7, 2014

3:15p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 414




a methodology for strengthening couples’ relationships uSing foccus prior to marriage in the catholic church


Director: Rev. Romauld Meogrossi, O.F.M. Conv., Ph.D.


Between 1981 and 2006, the divorce rate among adult Catholics in the United States had increased from approximately 16% to 25%.  Overall, one-third of married adults have experienced divorce in the U.S.  Among the “Baby Boom” generation, the rate is 48%.  Recent family and marriage research has identified areas most predictive of marital success, namely:  expectations, personality issues, communication, conflict resolution and religious orientation, all influenced, for better or for worse, by one’s family of origin.  There is a need, therefore, for premarital preparation to address all of the above to increase the likelihood of marital success.

Taking their cue for improved premarital preparation from Blessed Pope John Paul II and the Pontifical Council for the Family’s document, Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University developed a premarital inventory called Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study (FOCCUS).  This inventory has enjoyed wide use around the United States but it was learned that many facilitators of the inventory were not responding to the authors’ recommendation that all responses not coinciding with the “preferred” response be followed up with the couples. 

In response to this, the candidate worked with 10 voluntary couples preparing for marriage and went over with each couple each item from their responses to the FOCCUS inventory in which they deviated individually or as a couple from the preferred response.  He used as his guides for his interactions with these couples Blessed John Paul II’s The Acting Person, Love and Responsibility, The Theology of the Body, Human Love in the Divine Plan and Familiaris Consortio.  

To validate his work, the candidate asked every individual within the 10 couples to complete the inventory a second time using a T-test to determine the significance of the differences.  The result showed a very high significance (p=<0.0005) of learning the "preferred" response among the individuals of each of the ten couples.  Although "social desirability" may have played a role in the responses and the results of having a separated though matched control group of ten couples would have added to the credibility of the overall results, it is believed, nevertheless, that, as a pilot project, this bit of research provides evidence to encourange larger studies in support of the detailed use of the FOCCUS inventory.