Husband's Cousin is Marrying a Muslim Man

Hi everyone,

I figured I would just do my own thread on this instead of continuing to take over two others. I posted originally about the scenario in these threads since they related to this situation:

Hindu Wedding?

Two Wedding Ceremonies?

But to sum up the situation:

My husband’s cousin, who considers herself a practicing Catholic, is engaged to a Muslim man. At Thanksgiving this year, they told us a bit more about their wedding plans - namely, that they are intending on having two ceremonies: a Muslim wedding in a mosque with her, her fiance, and her father being the only people present (I don’t know if this is customary or not), and then, several months later, a Catholic wedding that families would be invited to, although this would not be taking place in church. When I asked where the Catholic wedding would be, the bride explained to me that they were just going to have it at their planned reception hall because they didn’t want to make the groom’s family “uncomfortable.”

They stated that they have spoken to priests about their situation and that although the necessary dispensations have not been granted yet, that this was an appropriate way to handle the situation so they could be validly married according to both traditions. I have been on the fence about them marrying since hearing of their engagement, even though I really like the groom, because it’s really not going to work for both of them to continue practicing their religion, especially once children come along. But I figured it was not my place to say anything and it looked like they were “doing it right” so at least they would be validly married.

At Thanksgiving dinner, they asked us if our son would be the ringbearer (for the Catholic ceremony) and we agreed (my husband enthusiastically, me reluctantly but it was at the table with a lot of guests present…blergh). But after reading the two linked threads, I learned that the way they are going about things is actually not going to have them be validly married at all (the canons are cited there). So now I’m at a loss for what to do. My husband is nervous too, but he also doesn’t want to create family drama. I think at the minimum we need to say that our son can’t assist, in whatever small and cute way, at an invalid wedding. But I don’t know a tactful way of doing so (and even if we manage to do it tactfully I know that’s no guarantee of avoiding drama).

Thoughts or suggestions on what to do? :confused: I am thinking I will make an appointment with my priest to discuss it with him, but this is a busy time of year so it may be a while before I can see him.

When are they getting married? You may still have time to speak to your priest after the New Year. I would also ask them again about the dispensation - asking in a way that implies you are sure they are very concerned about doing things right in the Catholic church.

I will be praying for your cousin. It is a difficult path she is taking. I only know of one successful Catholic-Muslim marriage and even then the couple will say that many things have been very, very difficult for them because of the disparity.

Well, this priest is way out in left field, but I guess he’s banking on his bishop allowing everything and giving all the necessary dispensations and permissions.

If they marry legally in the Muslim ceremony (which I expect that they would be doing if in the US) then the exchange of vows in the Catholic form would actually be a convalidation. So, they would be exchanging consent in the required Catholic form and making their invalid civil marriage a valid natural marriage. It is up to the discretion of the pastor whether this is a small private exchange of consent or a large one.

If this Muslim ceremony is not a legal ceremony, then they would not be married at all until the Catholic ceremony.

I don’t understand the priest’s approach, but I’m not privvy to all the details. I have no idea why he would encourage them to go forward with an invalid marriage and the convalidate later. Seems he is ignoring the very serious issues of a Muslim-Catholic wedding.

The Catholic ceremony (I guess a convalidation) is taking place in October, but I don’t know when the Muslim one is, only that it’s “several months” before.

I wanted to have an idea of how to have this conversation because I will be seeing the bride and groom next week, and then don’t know when I’ll see them again (they live in another city, though not together.) I feel like it would be best to talk face to face, though at the same time, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s Christmas. :frowning:

What’s funny is that they have given the impression that they have spoken to multiple priests and have been told the same thing. I can check this. It may also be a problem because the bride has so far only consulted with priests who don’t reside in the diocese where they are planning on marrying (ones she knows here, because this is where she grew up, and a family friend - she was planning on asking him to marry them, but I don’t know if he agreed to or not - IIRC this also requires permission) I know that some bishops would be very reluctant to grant a dispensation to marry a Muslim.

The Muslim ceremony would be the legal one, and they would live as husband and wife at that point. I am clear on that, although I don’t approve of that aspect.

One thing I’m confused about, 1ke, is that based on my interpretation of the earlier threads it would be wrong to go through two ceremonies like this and might affect validity, but here I am interpreting you as saying that once the marriage is convalidated, it would be fine. What am I missing?

You care about your cousin and her future husband, you were curious about Catholic wedding rules and procedures, and you did some checking, right? So, just tell your cousin that and let her know what your research uncovered. After that, it’s up to her.

At this moment, they don’t know if the Catholic ceremony is going to happen or be approved? That is what I read from the post. Then they ask in front of everyone for your son to be part of the wedding party which in essence nullifies any objections or concerns by people like yourself because you don’t want to seem difficult or non-accepting. That is a trick and a manipulation. I am not sure what a “practicing Catholic” is doing marrying a “practicing Muslim” but Islam is kinda clear about the rolls of men and women in marriages and the priest needs to speak up here instead of wimping out and leaving it to the bishop. I read a good book “Till Faith do us Part” and it is about mixed faith marriages.
It isn’t written by a Catholic but the Jewish woman and she does cover Muslim/Christian marriages as being very difficult. Likewise, she points out in the book that of all the combos of Catholic/other faiths, the Catholic Church usually strongly discourages Catholic women from marrying Muslim men do to the way Islam views and treats women. I am wondering if this cousin would be open to reading the book to give her food for thought and caution which she might not be open to otherwise.

Pensmama87 said:

“What’s funny is that they have given the impression that they have spoken to multiple priests and have been told the same thing. I can check this. It may also be a problem because the bride has so far only consulted with priests who don’t reside in the diocese where they are planning on marrying (ones she knows here, because this is where she grew up, and a family friend - she was planning on asking him to marry them, but I don’t know if he agreed to or not - IIRC this also requires permission) I know that some bishops would be very reluctant to grant a dispensation to marry a Muslim.”

Obviously, you can’t say a lot more in this situation, but I think I would point out to the cousin-in-law that unless she actually talks to priests in her actual diocese or the actual diocese, nothing that has been said so far is going to hold water if there’s a different situation in her diocese. I think that she can get a valid marriage out of this eventually if she wants to and persists (which is probably what her priest informants are counting on), but I think she is setting herself up for a situation where she does the Muslim wedding and then makes contact with her local diocese and somebody says something “insensitive” or there’s some bureaucratic foot-dragging and then she decides that she is going to show them…Etc. That is the situation I would be eager to avoid. I would maybe even blame the diocese a little to spare her feelings, “You know how slow and bureaucratic everything Catholic is. It’s really important to start early and dot all the is and cross all the ts, so there aren’t any last minute surprises. I want your wedding to be perfect!”

Also, you can ask what she and her fiance are doing for marriage prep (which seems really crucial in her situation). If she does marriage prep under Catholic auspices and starts now, the wedding stuff will probably all get ironed out pretty quickly. Even if she doesn’t do marriage prep under Catholic auspices, it would still be a really good idea.

Best wishes! This is very difficult, but you can save your cousin-in-law a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings if you say something now.

I’m likewise concerned about this marriage. She is marrying a man who denies Christ, possibly with the rigor of deeply-held lifelong faith. How solid is she in her faith? What Muslims and Christians share in terms of moral living and desire for spiritual closeness with the Lord can make us fine neighbors and friends, but I don’t think it sufficient for marital happiness. Either she or both of them will drift from their faith, either into apostasy or towards the other.

I know a handful of such marriages, but I don’t know if I can call any of them successes. The one I’m closest to, a friend of my wife’s, her friend was raised Catholic and had said that, coming into her marriage with her Muslim husband, that they’d keep their separate faith traditions and raise their children in both and let them choose (not the worst way to do it but probably the most equitable to both parents). She now has an 8-year-old and 4-year-old daughter, both are Muslim and she’s not allowed by her husband to take them to Mass, nor will he let her send them to Catholic school. He also is strict with her socializing - she and my wife are in a local club for mothers (they mostly do fundraising for the schools and set up a support network for stay-at-home and single moms) and her friend is berated by her husband for going to a bar with the mothers’ group after their meetings, though that’s commonly what they do.

Please don’t take my comments to mean that all Muslim men are dominating in this way and intolerant of Christianity in their homes. It is, however, impossible to reconcile the faith of Muhammed (m.s.a.c.) with our Hope in Jesus Christ, and a man who adheres to his Muslim faith will not easily tolerate another in his home.

I’m optimistic that the priest has met with this young man and found that he’s open to conversion, and sincerely desires for his bride-to-be to practice her faith deeply. This is where I’ve seen such mixed marriages work, where each encourages the other and shares their own intimate love of their own faith. OP, if your cousin isn’t free to do so, she shouldn’t marry him, no matter how much she loves him.

The conversation about the legality of a Muslim civil marriage versus a Catholic sacramental marriage is interesting - especially since there will be no sacramental marriage. If the OP’s cousin were my daughter, I’d think it incredibly unfair that she must marry him in his mosque - and first - but he doesn’t ever have to set foot in our parish Church, even though that is where I would baptize my grandchildren (without his consent if need be).

This is an extraordinarily important point. A simple ceremony without legal merit (under US law) would have the couple living in sin.

No. If you go back and read the posts of the OP, the bride has “talked to” several priests outside the diocese. It does not appear that they have done any actual required marriage preparation nor met with an actual priest who will actually marry them and actually petition the bishop.

There are many assumptions here, and a lot of bad advice from some priests who do not have any authority at all in the matter. I think she is being set up for a lot of disappointment.

From the other thread (about a Catholic-Hindu wedding):

No, I mean that traditionally the official stance within Islam is that Muslim men are to allow their Christian or Jewish wives to practice their faith. Muslim men are allowed to marry* chaste *Jewish or Christian women, because in Islam it is assumed that children will be brought up in the faith of their fathers. No other marrying outside Islam is allowed–no Hindus, no agostics, no Buddhists, but only the two monotheistic religions that existed when Islam began, and absolutely no unchaste women. Although it is OK to marry a woman who has previously been married, it is not permissible to marry if the woman has been unchaste, even if the unchastity took the form of relations with the Muslim man who wants to marry her. Muslim women are not traditionally allowed to marry non-Muslim men at all. (Mind you, I do not intend to make any blanket statements about what all Muslims teach or that this is everything traditionally taught about mixed marriages, but only relate a limited amount of what is purportedly traditional.)

There really aren’t any religions that encourage marriages outside their faith, because the chances that the children will not be raised in the faith, probably with no real faith at all, are too high.

The bride’s confirmation sponsor definitely has the place to ask the bride if she realizes she is not allowed to marry anyone who will not allow her to raise her children Catholic, as a Muslim man most certainly is not. If he says that he is willing to do this, she needs to ask him say it in front of his relatives and religious leader in her presence, so that the couple can listen to their response to his plan, because the raising of the children will itself most certainly done right in front of them. If he will not do this, she must unfortunately assume that his promise is utterly false. Even if he does not mean to lie to her, if he won’t say it in front of those others, it must be assumed he does not have the courage and conviction to keep the promise. In that case, her marriage will not be valid. If he does do this, the chances are that they won’t be having an Islamic wedding, and probably not a marriage recognized as valid from the Islamic point of view.

In other words: Let them choose a religion for their children, and let them be open about their choice to both families before marriage. The question is going to come up; it is better to have courage now than to suffer from having put off the day for courage until later.

Always suspect an opinion that took some “priest shopping” to obtain. Again: the person one chose to be a confirmation sponsor has the standing to bring up these things. They were chosen for that purpose, and given that place of fraternal correction in the candidate’s life, a somewhat heightened authority and duty to speak out in favor of the faith. If he isn’t allowed to speak up, she needs to be confronted about exactly who she will hear correction from!

Is there a big age difference between these two and are they both citizens of the same country?

Op,
it sounds like she went priest shopping outside of the diocese probably because she might have been turned down inside the diocese but isn’t going to admit it to the thanksgiving dinner crowd. That is probably why she asked about your son publicly. I am not sure what the attraction is to marrying a Muslim man. People are so willing to throw out their faith or not training their children in it just to have someone? Be honest and tell her that you are not comfortable with this and your son will not be serving in a wedding you have major concerns about.

I am not sure of his exact age, but he is not much older than she is. Both mid-late 20s. They are both American citizens (not sure if he has dual citizenship or not, but his family is from Egypt and they visit on a regular basis - or did before the big uprising there. But he could do that just with an American passport.)

Thanks for clarifying. I get what you mean now. :slight_smile:

He is definitely more what would be called a “moderate,” I guess. He does attend services and prays the required number of times per day, and eats according to the dietary laws. But he has vacationed alone with the bride, before their engagement (he proposed on such a vacation), and I know that she would not qualify as “chaste” to the standards you posted (which I don’t say to be judgmental…I wouldn’t either), but I don’t know if he knows that, regardless of what they have done together.

I think what you say about children is really good. I may ask my husband if he would venture to ask them about this. Because one of them is going to have to cave. They can’t both promise to raise their children in their own religion, knowing that at least one of them won’t be able to keep that promise. Regardless of the multiple ceremony issue, that’s going to affect validity.

Easter Joy said:

"The bride’s confirmation sponsor definitely has the place to ask the bride if she realizes she is not allowed to marry anyone who will not allow her to raise her children Catholic, as a Muslim man most certainly is not. If he says that he is willing to do this, she needs to ask him say it in front of his relatives and religious leader in her presence, so that the couple can listen to their response to his plan, because the raising of the children will itself most certainly done right in front of them. If he will not do this, she must unfortunately assume that his promise is utterly false. Even if he does not mean to lie to her, if he won’t say it in front of those others, it must be assumed he does not have the courage and conviction to keep the promise. In that case, her marriage will not be valid. If he does do this, the chances are that they won’t be having an Islamic wedding, and probably not a marriage recognized as valid from the Islamic point of view.

“In other words: Let them choose a religion for their children, and let them be open about their choice to both families before marriage. The question is going to come up; it is better to have courage now than to suffer from having put off the day for courage until later.”

That’s all very good.

My reading of the Muslim fiance is that he is “moderate,” but that that will mean nothing in the face of family pressure from his side.

If his family would be “uncomfortable” with the couple marrying under Catholic auspices, they will certainly be “uncomfortable” with future children being baptized, receiving First Communion, being confirmed, etc. And she’s not going to have more leverage after they get married.

Of course, she herself may have a very tenuous connection to her Catholic faith at this point and may be thinking of eventually converting in the interests of family unity.

Excuse me if this was answered but I did not read it in any of the post. My question is what are the children going to be raised as? Many couples do not take this question seriously until they have kids. You cannot be both a practicing Muslim and Catholic.

I’ve seen the following in enough references that I think it’s correct:

This is logical and it is common across faiths to insist that children are raised in the faith of the parents. Perhaps twice have I seen someone actually suggest “it is wrong for parents to raise their children in their own religion. Let the kids raise themselves and decide what to believe.”

I concur. It is fair to ask. I would not want to participate in Islamic worship, nor would I think that a Muslim man would approve of his children being baptized in the Trinitarian Formula.

This is such good advice. I’ll only add that most couples underestimate how important it is when they’re first married - and it “suddenly” becomes a major issue when the first child is born. Both parents invariably assume, at least at some point, that the other will see his or her point of view. In Islam it is common that, when a child is born, the father and his family take the baby and immediately whisper the Allahu Akbar into the child’s ears so that the first words the baby hears are those of the Islamic faith.

I concur with this as well. I’ll note that every married couple has to deal with pressure from their families of origin. It’s part of being married, and the best advice I can give is that,a married couple must give themselves permission to write their own “scripts”, so to speak, to decide together to adopt traditions and customs and make family decisions that have to do with the family, not necessarily to please the relatives.

OP, a hard question to ask, but perhaps one that will present itself, is this - will your cousin’s fiancee handle his parents’ insistence that the children be brought up Muslim, or that she observe Muslim practices such as abstaining from drinking or cooking pork in the house?

I got this impression, as well, sad to say how many folks are Catholic when they’re 13, Catholic when they marry, but otherwise Catholics in name alone. Falling into lukewarmness in faith is bad enough (see Rev 3:15), but to reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - as all Muslims do as a matter of belief - I do not understand how one who has tasted of the Lord’s compassion and known His forgiveness could ever turn their back on Jesus Christ. A Muslim co-worker likes to talk religion (that’s an understatement, he is fond of debating) and he never says “Jesus” without “Prophet” first, and he thinks himself as holding Jesus Christ in high esteem. I have made a point of correcting him - for every “Prophet Jesus” he says, I respond “LORD Jesus”.

I concur. Islam not only teaches that Jesus Christ is not Jesus Christ, but that this man they call Issa bin Yosef will be given the task by their god, Allah, to rebuke and punish all Christians at the end of time. In Islam, Issa bin Yosef was born of Miryam and performed miraculous healings, but he was never crucified (another, made to look like Issa, was crucified), never died (he was taken to Heaven directly), and infused with the Spirit of God (not coequal with the Holy Spirit as we know God to have revealed Himself in the true Christian Scriptures) so that there was Issa the man and Issa the Son of God.

By contorting Christian teaching, Muhammed (m.s.a.c.) has attempted to take away salvation in Christian theology - if Jesus Christ was not divine and was not crucified, there is no means of salvation, no redemption won on the Cross by our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no Eucharist, then, for Jesus’ Body and Blood were never offered, and the Son cannot hear prayer for He is, in Islam, only an exalted human being. According to Muhammed (m.s.a.c.), Issa will return to marry and have children and live 19 years on the earth, then die; nevermind the truth that Jesus Christ will defeat Satan and rule eternally with the Father and Spirit over a new Heaven and a new Earth, entirely renewed.

No, Muslim theology is a gross distortion of Christian truth when it comes to understanding Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as with contemporary Christians, it is not uncommon for Muslims to play somewhat fast and loose with marriage customs. My point is that their faith is even more strict than ours when it comes to pre-marital chastity, at least on paper.

The most important thing is to really consider the issue of raising children in a religious faith. To do both is to do neither, particularly when the creeds are as different as these two, where the nature of God and the identity of Jesus isn’t even a common ground. It isn’t religious training; it is an anthropology class with your ancestors as the subjects. They shouldn’t deceive themselves on that point. If one parent is willing to be the anthropology subject, that could possibly work, but in the case you’re describing it is not clear if that will turn out to be the bride or the groom. It is not a good situation, because neither spouse gives their own observance a purely cultural status. A clash is inevitable, either between the spouses or within the heart of at least one of them. That is gambling with the ground they each stand on.

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