Considering Inter-Faith Marriage


#1

I’ve been dating a Baptist for about 11 months now, which put us at the position of having to decide if we get married or go our separate ways. This is obviously a decision we need to make together, so I thought it would be helpful if I could come to our discussion with a list of the responsibilities I, as a Catholic, would bring to the marriage.

I’ve looked through the Catechism and followed its links to Canon Law, but I’m worried I’ll miss something without a nice list.

I’ve taken note of the need for approval by the bishop for a marriage to take place in such a situation, and since she doesn’t want to be married in a Catholic church, that we’d need special permission for that.

In addition, I’ve made it clear that I have a responsibility to raise the children Catholic and all that entails: infant Baptism, First Eucharist, regular Confession and Confirmation. (All of which she does not believe in. I also pointed out that I cannot endorse or condone a “re-Baptism” in her Church when the kids get older.) I’ve also told her that I wouldn’t feel comfortable raising kids as both Catholic and Baptist. In addition, I’ve told her that once the kids were old enough to be obliged to attend Mass, it would fall to her to make sure they did if I were away on a Sunday or Holy Day. And that the children would be encouraged to be altar servers, consider a religious vocation and referably attend Catholic schools.

I’ve pointed out too that it will be my responsibility to explain and make sure they agree with Catholic doctrine that she doesn’t believe: prayer to the Saints, all the Mary stuff, infaliibility of the Church and the Pope, etc.

I’ve made sure to note the prohibition of contraception, and the whole contraceptive mentality even if done through natural means.

Are there other issues I need to consider that I’m overlooking? I’m aware of the trouble that I’m asking for in an inter-faith marriage (I’ve searched the archives here already and seen the warnings), so I’m just looking for issues we need to discuss and make a mutual decision on before deciding to get engaged. (I don’t want to get engaged, just to call things off. I’d rather make all our decisions now.)

Thanks for any help you can provide.


#2

How will the faith life be handled in the home? It’s not enough to take the kids to Mass on Sunday.

Are you going to pray the Rosary as a family? Pray the meal prayer before meals-- including making the sign of the cross? Will you celebrate Advent and Lent, etc, with traditional Catholic activities such as a family Advent Wreath and prayer, Lenten meditations and Stations? Meatless Fridays in Lent?

Who will read them bible stories, and ensure it’s from the Catholic bible? Who will teach them their prayers? Who will help them with their CCD lessons or religion assignments from school? Who will make their Saint costume for All Saints Day? Who will do all the little *daily *things that instill a Catholic world view?

Your wife will control the household in so many ways by virtue of being the wife and mother-- and you need to **seriously **think through this if you think everything will just be peachy if you baptize your kids Catholic and take them to Mass on Sundays.

She may not *actively *undermine what you teach them, but then again she might. At a minimum she may reject having Catholic art, crucifixes, prayers, devotions, etc, in your home. She will likely reject participating in any distinctively Catholic prayers or family devotions. You will also have to answer questions such as “why doesn’t Mommy go to Mass?”

What sort of life is that for Catholic children?

Talk through all of this very thoroughly and carefully.


#3

Welcome to the Forum and congratz on your first post.

So you have been dating this non-Catholic 11 months and you are thinking about marriage. What’s your rush?

How do you expect to grow spiritually? since Baptists do not beliefe the same things Catholics do?

You are making all the demands (oh and you forgot about being married in the Catholic Church). Does she have a say about anything?

When and how is she going to explain her faith to the children? How are the two of you going to explain to the children why you don’t go to Church together…or even to the same church? At what point will let the children decide where they want to go to Church?


#4

Personally, I think that you have comprised a great list to use. If you were to put together a list of all of the differences between the religions, you may never get finished in time to make a decision. I admire you for your support of the faith and for “sticking to your gun” (for lack of a better term). I know that there a lot of “inter-faith marriages” that work, but that is why I am so blessed to have married a good Catholic woman!

What do you think that her reaction will be to all of this? You already stated that “In addition, I’ve made it clear that I have a responsibility to raise the children Catholic and all that entails: infant Baptism, First Eucharist, regular Confession and Confirmation. (All of which she does not believe in” so that would lead me to question what else she does not believe in. I think that you may have a rough road ahead of you. Mind you she may say that she will conform to what you have said and then change her mind later. That is for you to know if she is being truthful.

I think that you have to have a serious talk about this, which you are planning on, and decide if she takes your faith as serious as you do and if she will be supportive. If not, it could be a tough road.

I wish you the best, prayers on this end for you. Keep us updated!


#5

There is a wonderful new website that was just launched by the US Catholic bishops…
foryourmarriage.org/interior_template.asp?id=20398787
This is the link to explore interfaith marriages…hope it helps.
but I hope you will check out the entire site.
Keep praying on this.


#6

I would suggest purchasing some books about the Catholic faith and reading them out loud together. (if you attend a Pre Cana conference they will give you some or you could ask your priest). This way you can discuss teachings from the Church and what is expected, and any questions she may have, you can look for answers together. It will also be a good refresher for you. While we were engaged and now that we are married, my husband and I still do this and it has really helped him (he’s Jewish) to understand the Catholic faith. It has also been amazing to grow spiritually together, this is something that can bring the two of you unexplainable joy and will strengthen your relationship - what’s more beautiful that watching someone grow closer to God. And lots and lots of prayers! Pray like you’ve never prayed before! Pray every time before you start discussing faith issues, I always ask that God softens my husband’s heart and allows him to learn and believe and that God gives me patience. And of course always praying for conversion. I hope this helps!


#7

Hey Paul, I’m really glad to see that you are taking this seriously and looking ahead on things.

I had a Catholic roomate who started dating a Methodist girl, she is very sweet and very devoted to Christian living.
After just a couple weeks they started attending each other’s Sunday worship services. Both were good about respecting the other’s faith, so when my roomate said she couldn’t recieve the Eucharist and additionally that he couldn’t recieve her communion wafer, she responded with impressive understanding.

So as the first couple months went by he told me these little divisions weren’t that problematic, and were really a way to express their love. But after a year, he would tell me that he would day dream about their being able to recieve the Eucharist together. In some way’s it’s awesome cause his devotion to the Eucharist has never been greater, but now he suffers a bit in wondering if he will never be able to share that with her.

They are still together now after about 2 years and still go to both sercives every Sunday. He’s happy and loves her…but also wishes she accepted the fullness of the truth (she probably thinks the same for him :slight_smile: ).

If these 2 very devoted Christians do get married, I think they will struggle mightly on how to instruct their children, as they each think the other’s faith system is good but errant (and who would honestly teach their kids something they thought incorrect?).

I don’t have any question to add to you list. Nor, will I say that such relationships are universally wrong. But I do think that they are universally challenging, and that the challenge will grow exponentially when kids arrive.
I just wanted to reaffirm that much prayer, consideration, and advising should preceed this decision on both your and your girlfriends part.

Paul, good luck and God Bless.


#8

I would only add that you would be instructing your children on the true nature of the Eucharist, Eucharistic adoration, the indissolvability of marriage.

It is wonderful that you are clarifying what you are looking for in a marriage at this point in the relationship. It will give more time for preparation if the relationship is to continue, and not let false assumptions take place to be discovered after emotions interfere/engagement/marriage.

You seem very involved in your faith and intending on your children being raised in this Truth (good for you :D)


#9

Talking about it is one thing.

Living it day to day is another.

Who’s going to be home with the kids?

I seriously don’t understand how anyone commited to their faith can accept that their children are taught that another faith is the “real truth”.

Many children from this type of family end up choosing “no faith”, I mean…even their parents couldn’t agree on truth.

I’m not trying to be mean, just speaking from what I’ve seen and experienced.

If both parents practice a faith, kids tend to go with Mom’s, or no faith at all.

If Catholicism is that important to you, find a woman who shares the faith, or wait until the woman you love converts of her own will, because she believes it is the right thing to do, not just to “snag her man”.

Catholicism is not a faith that mixes or bends or makes concessions. This can become a huge issue. Read other posts on interfaith marriage and children.

best to you.

I married a man of a differing faith. We have three kids and five religions among us. Just something to think about.

cheddar


#10

Kids are very smart creatures - and they have a profoundly simple view of things. Something is either wrong or right to a child.

How will you explain to these children the very opposite views of central Faith issues:

Catholic: Eucharist is Body Blood Real Presence
Baptist: Eucharist is not Body Blood Real Presence

Catholic: Mary was ever Virgin
Baptist: Mary was not ever Virgin

Catholic: Christ started a visible Church
Baptist: Christ did not start a visible Church

Catholic: Peter was made the head of the Visible Church
Baptist: Peter was not made the head…

Catholic: Mortal Sin
Baptist: No mortal sin

Catholic: Confession to a Priest
Baptist: No confession to a Priest

Etc. kids will want to know - who is right about God, mommy or daddy? When you try to tell them that both are right, you run a risk of telling them that these beliefs are unimportant.


#11

Well, what is her response to raising the family Catholic, taking kids to church, etc, etc, etc? Does she seem entirely willing or even a slightest bit reluctant?

I’ve seen inter-faith marriages work, but it is a long and hard road to walk, and remember, your kid’s salvation could ride on this. Make your decision very carefully…

Is she at all up to converting herself? Just a thought :shrug:


#12

I recommend that you read the following books:

When Only One Converts by Lynn Nordhagen

This book contains true stories of what happened in marriages where one spouse converted to Catholicism. Although it is intended primarily for couples who are already married it does an excellent job of explaining the problems that may arise when husband and wife practice different faiths. Each story provides the viewpoint of both spouses.

When a Catholic Marries a Non-Catholic by Robert J. Hater

I haven’t read this one but it looks interesting. It is written by a priest and covers many issues from how to plan the wedding to how to keep the faith at home.


#13

All these posts are incredibly good in the warnings and advice given. :slight_smile: It shows alot of forethought on the part of the OP to not only come up with the list but to ask for imput about it.

I just want to caution any future posters, due to what I’ve seen on other threads, not to set oneself as authority over the Catholic Church.

There are many many practicing Catholics that would not marry a non-Catholic (due to many good reasons) and would also personally advise others not to. But there is a real danger in giving advise that is very close to ‘stating’ the Catholic is wrong or heterodox in marring a non-Catholic. If the Catholic is given permission by the Catholic Church to marry a non-Catholic in the Church or outside of the Church, then it is incorrect to state that this is ‘wrong’ according to Catholic teaching.

I haven’t seen this in any posts so far that I’ve read but sometimes on this board there is a game played called ‘Pile on the OP’, that ends up straying into statements that are not Catholic teaching.

Ok, I’ve said my peace. :slight_smile:


#14

My Catholic brother married a Baptist 6 years ago. They go to both churches every Sunday. It hasn’t been a problem for them.


#15

Just reading your list is a great disincentive to enter a mixed marriage. Because you two may be head over heels in love or infatuation right now. And I have seen many couples promise the sun and the moon when it comes to raising children as members of a church. And then that all flies out the window when they are holding the baby and the families all of a sudden have very strong opinions.

In some ways, Catholics and Jews have more in common I think than Catholics and Baptists. And the Jews are right about one thing. In the marriage ceremony they pile the whole family under the tent. Not two people kneeling alone on an altar. The Jews understand the reality.

Are you ready to do battle with a whole pack of Baptist in-laws who insist the kids go to Christmas services with them? What happens when you want to go to Good Friday services and she wants to take the kids to her family’s for Easter weekend?

There are many good Catholic women out there. You are wise to ask these questions now. But marriage is hard. My xh converted, but in name only. When my family deeply needed him to live as he said he believed, all of a sudden Church teaching on fidelity and the indissolubility of marriage, and church attendance and other important matters didn’t mean anything to him.

Proceed with extreme caution. Love doesn’t always conquer all. Sorry to be the voice of doom.

My brother married a Lutheran, but she became Catholic. She had always felt a draw toward Catholicism even before she met him. But trying to pull a Baptist from that tradition… you are already going into this surrendering your right to have a Catholic wedding mass. What else will you have to compromise to be married to this girl? Yes, the Church allows for dispensation from canonical form. But that is just the first of hundreds of differences you will have to negotiate.


#16

Liberan hit on something important. Holidays!

For Baptists, if Christmas comes on Saturday or Sunday, many will not have services.

For Catholics, when Christmas falls on a Sunday, you are going to Mass. When Christmas falls on Saturday, you are going to go to Mass on Saturday and again on Sunday. This will put a crimp in Baptist inlaws Holiday plans.

Then comes Easter. We have such special services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstainence - while many Evangelicals look at Good Friday/Holy Saturday as a party day - coloring eggs and going shopping.

For Easter itself, Baptist Spouse/Inlaws will expect you to be there Sunday morning all decked out. You and the children will have to fit in Mass, unless you go to the Vigil.

We have enough fun dealing with non-Catholic family understanding our Catholic obligations on these holy days - and both DH and I are converts. I can just imagine how it would be if DH were not also a practicing Catholic!


#17

Get these three books and discuss what they contain.

Christopher Wests The Good News about Sex and Marriage

Fulton Sheen, Three To Get Married

William May, Marriage The Rock

What is the reason we get married. There are lots of worldy ones. The Catholic reason is because this person is the best person we believe we will ever meet who will help us to grow into the person that God wants us to become.We marry the peron who can help us get to heaven. Can she do that ?

Good for you to be thinking this through.


#18

Some interesting points regarding the inlaws.

Marriage is not just you and her, no matter how much we all like to think it is.

This will involve her family, as well as yours. I am going through this now, and my daughter is not even their biological granddaughter!
I made it a point, when DH and I were dating, that I have my religion, and that is it. I went to service once or twice, and haven’t seen since. I don’t follow that, I don’t like that, period.

You have to really think about this. I would say walk away, unless she is going to convert.

The only reason DH and I work is because he is agnostic, so we don’t fight about which Church to attend. He goes with us, he says prayers, etc. It is his heart that is cold right now.


#19

Since the OP has not been on since he posted this thread, I would be interested to know if anything that was said was even read by him (maybe he did not log in to read the replies).

:hmmm:


#20

I often wonder about this w/my own boyfriend. We’re a little young to be thinking about marriage and we’re long distance, so we’re taking it slowly, but the Catholic/Protestant thing is something we have to face. He knows how Catholic I am and that regardless of who the lucky groom is, I would still be obliged to marry in the Church and raise children in the Faith. However, it is difficult, especially explaining all the different doctrines of the Church (the good thing is though, he forces me to be on top of my faith and to always act as a good Christian would). Thankfully, I know his family well and they encourage me in my faith, while also joking that I might end up being a part of their family in a few years.

Is your girlfriend willing to allow you to raise the children Catholic and to marry you in the Church? How about her family? I got lucky with the fact that my boyfriend’s family is understanding. However, I know that isn’t always the case. What about birth control? I know they don’t have the same views that we hold about it. Also, be sure to maintain a strong prayer life, in order to know if God is calling you to marriage with this girl. I know my relationship takes a lot of discernment and you really do have to see past the stars in your eyes.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.