Conversion by default?

Okay so, let’s say that a person who is baptized Protestant marries a Catholic in a Catholic ceremony, and the two of them agree to raise their children in the Catholic Church. They attend Mass together every weekend, and the Protestant spouse never attends a Protestant service again, only attending Catholic Mass with the family. However, the Protestant spouse also receives the sacrament of the Eucharist weekly, without having gone through formal conversion to the Church.

Is it possible that, by having lived in the church for years after getting married, and having received the Eucharist, the Protestant spouse might have been de facto converted “by default?” Or is there still the necessity to convert formally in order to fully receive the benefits of the Eucharist and other Catholic Sacraments?

No. For re-entry into the Church, even if you were born outside it in a Christian group, you have to make a declaration of Faith, plus a reconciliation.

A formal conversion into the Catholic faith is mandatory. A baptised Protestant can never be a Catholic without formal acceptance into the Church and before that they must never go up to receive Communion.

Exactly correct.

Seems simple enough. Would the fact that the Protestant person has already received Communion hurt their ability to be accepted into the church formally?

Probably not. The non-Catholic would most likely just have to confess that sin and any others he is aware of at the time of his first confession before formally entering the Church.
One cannot become Catholic by default. Part of the conversion process is making an informed, public declaration of one’s intent to become Catholic and having a public welcoming and acceptance into the Church.

Makes sense, thanks. How grave of a sin would it be for the person to receive Communion without conversion?

It’s a grave sin if they know they’re not supposed to be recieving the Eucharist. Mortal sin has to be with full knowledge and consent. Their Catholic spouse needs to explain this to them and encourage them to enter RCIA!
If the Protestant doesn’t know the sin behind taking Communion without conversion and truly believs it is okay is still comitting a sin, but not mortal because that’s not really thier fault. They should go to confession still and take RCIA to become Catholic.

Yeah, I thought so. Thanks :slight_smile:

The bottom line is that the non catholic spouse should not receive the Eucharist.

My Lutheran wife attended the Catholic Church with me for over 20 years. She converted (taking the Tridentine Confession officially) recently in order to be able to make confession and receive the Eucharist with us.

I was a born and brought up Methodist. When I married my Catholic wife I stopped attending Methodist church and went to Mass every Sunday for 10 years and like your wife I did not go up to receive Communion. After 10 years of my wife praying daily for my conversion I joined the RCIA program and the following Easter I was formally accepted into the Catholic Church and could receive my first Communion.

I have to wonder in this case,the Catholic spouse certainly knows better and should have instructed their spouse not to take Communion and why. If the Catholic spouse didn`t do this, to me this is a grave sin for the Catholic spouse.

I agree with you but in this case I’m wondering if the OP is simply citing a hypothetical situation otherwise the Catholic spouse would have to be really ignorant about his faith to permit it.

Well, I presented it as a hypothetical situation but in reality it is true…this is the way my parents have been living ever since I was born. My father is very adamant about his faith and his belonging to the Catholic Church, and he comes from an Italian family deep-rooted in devout Catholicism. My mother is a Lutheran, and when she married my father she stopped attending Lutheran services and came to Mass weekly with my father…she still goes to Mass with us every week, and if you didn’t know her the way I do, you’d never guess she isn’t actually Catholic. She even taught CCD for a year or so at my parish. I’m a teenager, and being naive as many children are, I was unaware of the seriousness of this situation until recently, when I started researching the faith a bit more. Now that you mention it, I don’t know how my father allows my mother to continue to receive Communion…it makes me wonder if my father’s parents are completely oblivious to the fact that she was never converted. I think if my father’s parents knew, they’d be quite upset…

I really want my parents to be able to attend Church together, and I’m glad my mother comes to Mass with us, even if she isn’t Catholic…I don’t want to impose conversion on her, but I also don’t want to drive her away by telling her she can’t receive Communion anymore. If my father’s parents see that she isn’t receiving Communion, they’ll certainly have some questions…

I’m really bothered by the fact that I know my parents are going against the Church in what they’re doing, and I feel that I really should say something, but I don’t know how to go about doing that…:confused: :frowning:

Never mind your grandparents being upset - does the priest know that she isn’t a Catholic?

At this point, he needs to be the one to explain things to her - and to not ask her to do volunteer work in the Church, as well.

Most people, including the priest, probably just assume that she converted through the RCIA as part of her marriage preparation - or don’t realize that she was ever a Protestant.

I can see how it would be awkward for her to “out” herself at this late date, after living “as if” she were Catholic all this time.

I don’t think anyone outside of my mother’s side of the family knows. Like I said, if you didn’t know her the way I do, you never would have guessed she wasn’t Catholic…she just never told anyone, and neither did my dad. Hence, I would be incredibly surprised if our pastor knew. But I’m quite certain that he doesn’t know.

I’m really bothered by the fact that I know my parents are going against the Church in what they’re doing, and I feel that I really should say something, but I don’t know how to go about doing that.

Bamaster,I really feel for you, are in an awkward situation. After all ,these are your parents. When I read your post the first thing that came to my mind was an old line , I think from Shakespeare, “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. That seems to dedscribe your parents situation perfectly. Let me first say you bear no guilt here for your parents deception but now that it has become clear to you that the situation they have been living in all this time isnt right I think that hard as its as it`s going to be you need to approach at least one of them about it. You seem to have a properly informed Catholic conscience and you need to listen to that conscience now.

Whether you feel more comfortable (and this situation isnt going to be comfortable no matter how you do it)approaching your Mom or Dad or both together is up to you but I am sorry to say that now that you are aware you have an obligation in charity to bring this up to them. Maybe you could just start out by asking your Mom why she never just went through with the whole conversion process since she ended up getting so involved with the Catholic Church anyhow. My personal guess is her own families possible objections might have something to do with that but I wouldnt know:shrug:
In any case, and as you already know, someone does need to impress upon her the fact that is wrong for her to receive Communion unless she has been received into the Catholic Church ; which given her exposure to Catholicism she has got to know by now. But she is your Mom so of course a respectful approach is needed here, maybe just posed in the form of a question, like a 'Mom did you know " kind of approach.
Practically, they have painted themselves into an embarrassing corner at this stage of the game as far as the priest and parish go. Maybe they could switch parishes and she could attend RCIA and refrain from sacraments until she is formally received into the Church. There are really no easy answers here though and I`m afraid that a little embarrassment might just be a price they will have to pay for deception. Better for their souls they pay it now. Just make sure you go with your conscience here regarding their spiritual situation.
Prayers to you in a tough family situation

Thanks kitkatty. :slight_smile: Your prayers and advice are really appreciated.

I don’t know what her family’s reaction to her marrying a Catholic was, but her family is very loving and hospitable towards him, so I would imagine they were supportive. I think her reluctance to formally convert may be rooted in a personal objection to some of the Church’s teachings…I know that on some occasions she’s made comments that seemed to make her skepticism of some Catholic teaching clear, but she watered down her comments enough that they went over my father’s head. She’s definitely not anti-Catholic but I think her Protestant upbringing may have given her some ideas that she is still holding on to. Nevertheless, she was very supportive of my Confirmation into the Catholic Church, which I very much appreciated.

Yes, I realized this…luckily, I have the rest of the week before we go to Mass again, so I pray that in the time between now and then, I’m able to find a window when I can sit down and talk to her, or my father, or both of them. :slight_smile:

I just hope I did help you in some way, I by no means claim to have any perfect answers and I don`t pretend to have the best advice either but I do know you have an obligation to at least bring up the subject up and you know that too. Maybe someone else will come by with some more suggestions for you. One last piece of advice though and this is something we can never go wrong with; pray before speaking with them and it never hurts to ask the intercession of Our Blessed Mother either!

Most certainly, I will ask for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and pray for strength and guidance :slight_smile:

One other question though…how can my mother achieve penance/absolution once I bring it to her attention? Obviously, my father and I can confess at Reconciliation, but since she is not Catholic, she doesn’t qualify for the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation…

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