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Old Mar 11, '08, 7:26 am
Wayne62682 Wayne62682 is offline
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Join Date: March 11, 2008
Posts: 1
Default Must I convert in order to get married?

Good morning,

I have a question, and I'm not sure where else to turn. I am very much in love with my girlfriend, and we have talked about marriage. She is Roman Catholic - I am not (I'm not really sure what I am. I believe in God, and while I consider myself Christian and I have read the Bible, I have not gone to Church, nor have I been baptized or anything). My girlfriend has a daughter out of wedlock, however neither her family nor her church hold it against her. She wants to raise the child Catholic - I have no problem with this, but whenever I mention marriage, she proceeds to tell me how her church will want me to convert, or else they won't see it as a "true" marriage. Her family is very traditional (Italian-Irish).

I'm not sure if I want to convert, because I do not want to convert only for her, and to be perfectly honest I'm not 100% certain that I believe all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, so I don't wish to make a false conversion and state that I believe, when in reality I don't. I hope that doesn't offend anyone here - I'm trying to be truthful, and I need help.

I once spoke to a priest, and he had told me that as long as one person was Catholic, and that we agreed to raise the child (whom I do consider my own, although I am not the biological father) as a Catholic, that we could marry without me having to convert first. Now, she tells me that her church won't condone it. I really love her, and I really do want to marry her, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to go through a conversion.
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Old Mar 11, '08, 7:31 am
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
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Join Date: September 7, 2004
Posts: 37,469
Religion: Catholic no adjectives
Default Re: Must I convert in order to get married?

no, you are not obligated to convert in order for the two of you to get married in the Catholic Church. your gf has some other misinformation that needs to be sorted out, so first stop is a meeting with the parish priest. sounds like she is getting wrong info from friends and family, so go to the expert.

you both must be instructed on the nature of the sacrament of marriage--which, if you are both baptized, is what you are receiving--including laws binding on Catholics, law binding on everyone, and acceptance of all the duties and fruits of marriage (fidelity, children etc).

she must promise to raise the children Catholic, and you must be informed of her duty in this regard.

see the priest no later than 6 months before the planned wedding.

couples who are already living together will be (or should be) instructed that they must separate until after the wedding, and the Catholic party must be in a state of grace to receive the sacrament, which means sacramental confession of any grave sins, as well as amendment of anything in life that is a gateway to sin. her child is not an issue, but do inform yourself of the laws of your state about adoption etc.

forgot to add your gf needs to get permission from the bishop to marry a non-Catholic, but priest will take care of that paperwork

you will not be encouraged to convert if you have doubts and reservations, and indeed would go through a learning and formation process before you would be accepted, to make sure your conversion is genuine, not forced.
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, on heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Ps. 135
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Old Mar 11, '08, 7:47 am
1ke 1ke is offline
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Join Date: May 25, 2004
Posts: 29,411
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Must I convert in order to get married?

Sounds like your girlfriend needs to brush up on the basics of the Catholic faith. Perhaps you could both take a class together, since it would help you learn about the faith and help her learn what she has missed along the way.

No, you do not have to convert to be married validly in the Catholic Church. There is paperwork that must be completed for her to receive permission to marry a non-baptized person. You will have marriage preparation classes. She will have to promise to raise all children (current and future) as Catholics.

You two need to meet with the priest and discuss everything with him.
Pax, ke

ke's universal disclaimer: In my posts, when I post about marriage, canon law, or sacraments I am talking about Latin Rite only, not the Orthodox and Eastern Rites. These are exceptions that confuse the issue and I am not talking about those.
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Old Mar 11, '08, 7:51 am
Sina Sina is offline
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Join Date: February 12, 2006
Posts: 2,783
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Must I convert in order to get married?

Puzzle answered this really well. I also wanted to add my own experience.

I am Catholic ( converted when I was 19 and like you, considered myself a Christian but was never baptised as my parents didn't chose this for me as an infant ). I wanted to be baptised in the one true faith.

Anyways, my husband is not baptised and he comes with me to mass and believes most of what the church says except some issues, which perhaps he hasn't fully explored.

When we went to speak with a priest about marriage, the priest said one can be spiritual and not necessarily religious and that this too was important. Basically he said that no conversion was required, and the church does have a somewhat lengthly process to convert. (not painful though!! very englightening and wonderful). The priest said maybe one day my husband would convert ( and maybe not ).

The married technically has to be allowed by the local bishop due to "disparity of cult" is what I think it is called. This process is so common that I doubt the Bishop actually looks at each case individually and an interview with the couple by the presiding priest is likely sufficient in most dioceses.

The only thing our marriage isn't, is "sacramental" because my husband is not baptised. Should he ever be baptised, in any Christian faith, it will immediately become so.

Be honest with your wife about how you feel about your spirituality, and the church and Christ. Do you two pray together? Just because you aren't Catholic, doesn't mean you can't do spiritual things together.

Don't of course lead her on that you may convert one day. You may one day be moved by the Holy Spirit to convert but there should be no pressure on you.

A lot of people on this board, and elsewhere in the Catholic community do warn against mixed faith marriage. It isn't easy.

One of the common stumbling blocks is NFP... whether to use articificial birth control or not. (ABC). You have to discuss all the tricky issues with each before marriage to ensure an understanding of what your life is going to be like after marriage.

Congrats on the engagement and all the best to you!
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Old Mar 11, '08, 7:53 am
agapewolf agapewolf is offline
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Join Date: November 5, 2006
Posts: 3,794
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Must I convert in order to get married?

What your girlfriend might be thinking is the fact that because you aren't Baptized, that the marriage will not be a Sacrament.

It can be a valid natural marriage, and with the correct permissions, can be done.

Thank you for having the integrity regarding conversion. Do you think that maybe this might be something important to your girlfriend and so she is using the church's rules to try to get you to think about it?

You don't have to answer...just a thought.
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Old Mar 12, '08, 8:41 pm
CountryMom27 CountryMom27 is offline
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Join Date: February 29, 2008
Posts: 160
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Must I convert in order to get married?

You've gotten this answer many times, but no you don't (and shouldn't). I was raised Protestant, was active in my church, had no intention to convert. DH was an active Catholic. We went through pre-marital counseling (including Engagement Encounters weekend) with both churches under the guise that the more premarital counseling the better! It was all good. Our priest and minister agreed to co-officiate at my church, and we chose passages and hymns that reflected the commonality between the Christian faiths, rather than the divisions. The highlight of the ceremony is when everyone stood in the pews and "crossed over" to hold hands with people across the way as we said the Our Father together (with Catholics using Trespasses and Protestants using Sins). It was an incredibly personal and beautiful ceremony and we got many complements on it, plus lots of tears at how meaningful it was.

Long story short, we've been married almost 9 years and I converted last year, at my own volition. I was studying Catholicism to teach our children, and I began to feel as though I was being called to become Catholic. Now that I am Catholic, I am happier than ever.

I would encourage you to meet with your minister and priest, and also for you to become more active in your church before the marriage. Also reading a book or two about Catholicism will help (the Catholicism for Dummies book is actually excellent).

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