Inter-faith relationship


I really need some advice about my relationship.

I am a Catholic and my boyfriend is non-Catholic, we’re getting serious about each other and would like to get engaged soon. But I am having doubts because of our lack of a shared faith. For myself, I realise it will be a somewhat lonely journey but I think I could handle that. The thing that worries me is the spiritual health of any future children.

I’m not ultra-traditional about the ‘role of women’ etc but I do understand, there are differences between the sexes and for some reason children ‘take’ better to a religion if taught it by their father than their mother (obviously, it’s better to have both). I guess this is to do with men’s natural leadership qualities. I have heard of statistics about that and found it to be true in various families I know.

I’ve discussed this with my boyfriend and he says he is happy to bring up any children Catholic, including:

  1. teach them to say their prayers at night (though not, I suspect, distinctively Catholic prayers)

  2. come to a Catholic church every Sunday with me/us

  3. learn the basics about Catholicism so he can answer questions from any children (but of course not all his convictions would be Catholic e.g. about primacy of the pope, he presumably won’t want to teach them those things he disagrees with, just where it intercedes with mainstream anglicanism)

  4. encourage them in things like going to confession, first communion etc.

He does believe in God and we do sometimes pray together. I feel that all these things are positive, but will they be enough? Are there any ways I can compensate for his lack of Catholicism and ensure my children grow up with a really strong Catholic faith? I really really don’t want to break up with him because of this so I would appreciate advice on getting around it somehow.

By the way we are trying to save sex for marriage and have discussed NFP etc, he is ok with all of that. He has said though that he definitely won’t convert though. :nope:

Thanks for your help.



Personally, it’s not “enough” for me. I want to share the deepest part of me with my DH and vice versa. I did not want a spouse who would tolerate my religion, but one who embraced it and would share that love of the Catholic Faith with me and with any children.

He sounds like a nice man. But, being “nice” isn’t sufficient for a spouse.


Thanks for the response 1ke

But people do have mixed marriages at times and make them work don’t they? We are both Christians and we’re able to pray together… there’s more I’d like to be able to share but it’s not as if there’s no spiritual dimension.

I’m asking if there are ways to get round this issue, to bring up really Catholic children in a mixed-faith family (where the woman is the Catholic). Don’t you think that there are ways I could do that? My boyfriend is not anti-Catholic. Or do you just think the whole thing is doomed from the start?


I’ve been married to a non-Catholic for 32 years. We’ve always made it work. He supported me in raising three children in the Catholic faith, including learning the prayers in his second language so that he could say the prayers with them at bedtime on the odd time that I wasn’t there and coming to Mass with us so he could be with the kids while I performed whatever ministry I was involved with at the time.

Today he has started singing in our parish choir. Will he ever convert? Who knows, that’s a decision he has to come to on his own. There’s always hope.

FWIW I never saw the fathers as being the primary transmitter of the faith. The moms were the ones who did everything in that department when I was growing up.


Thank you Phemie! That is encouraging to hear. I’ve noticed that is often the case too, that mothers are more involved with their children’s faith and with church in general it seems to me.

I hope that we can be like you… May I ask, are your three children still very much practising Catholics? I’m not asking as a way of trying to ‘judge’ your situation, it just would be encouraging to know that it’s possible to do this. How did the children respond to their dad not being Catholic, did it confuse them? Did they get other good, male Catholic role models anywhere else?

Thanks for any insights you can share! :thumbsup:

  1. learn the basics about Catholicism so he can answer questions from any children (but of course not all his convictions would be Catholic e.g. about primacy of the pope, he presumably won’t want to teach them those things he disagrees with, just where it intercedes with mainstream anglicanism)

This is where I suggest you begin. If he is willing to learn about the Catholic faith (basics could turn into deeper studies), he should start now, before dates and places are discussed. It would be better to know now that there is a huge incompatiblity than know that later. And study it with him as well.


There are extraordinary couples with powerful personalities and powerful convictions who manage through sheer will-power to not get divorced over it.

But so far in my life, I have never met anyone in a mixed marriage who was able to raise the kids Catholic past the early teenage years - all of the ones I’ve seen stay Catholic until they hit high school, and then they leave the faith for a kind of feel-good agnosticism - “we can’t know, so we shouldn’t bother our heads about such things” is their attitude.

Part of the reason this happens is that the non-Catholic spouse sees the kids learning and repeating things he or she does not and cannot believe in - so they start to sabotage their child’s education.

One woman I know who was raised in a mixed marriage left her Catholic faith because every morning when her mother (who was the non-Catholic party to the marriage) dropped her off for school, she would say, “Now, remember - everything they tell you in those religion classes is a lie. Say the right things and pass the test, but don’t believe a word of it. And when your father asks you, say the right things. But don’t actually believe them.”

The other thing that happens is that the kids themselves get upset to find out that the Catholic Church does not accept one of their parents as a member of the Church. They are too young to understand the reasons - they think the Church should be able to do anything, so why wouldn’t it accept someone that they love so dearly? They feel a part of themselves being rejected, too, so they turn against the Church because of that.


My mother & father will be married 50 yrs this Dec. He wasn’t Catholic, as a child, all of kids went to Mass every Sunday with Mom & Dad. We all assumed he was Catholic too, until I made my Confirmation, kids on one side, the Adults on the other, and there sat my Dad !
He still has never missed a Mass, by the Grace of God, or a Holy Day !

One of my daughters, was married 7 yrs ago, to a man who is not Catholic, and yet he still comes to Mass with her and their child, and participates during Mass, even as far as going up to recieve a blessing from the Priest during Communion.

My oldest daughter, married a non-Catholic, and after a year of marriage he joined RCIA and is now also lectoring.

Like most engaged couples, at least where we live, they have to meet with the Priest several times and participate in a Engagement/Marriage Encounter Week-end Retreat., where all of these concerns you have are discussed…

Good luck to you !!!


Ah, the children. That is another matter.

It was not negotiable in our home, they went to Mass. The older two never questioned it but they left home at the end of high school. The youngest reached the age of 19 and said “OK, I’m an adult and I’m no longer going to church.”

I’m loathe to blame their lack of faith on our mixed marriage when I’m a product of a staunchly Catholic home with a dad who was an altar server for 30 years and my two brothers don’t darken the church door and both believe that I’m insane for having raised my kids in the Church.

Their lack of faith is so profound that when Dad was ill and unable to go to Mass and he’d ask my younger brother to go and bring back Communion for him, my brother would go out for coffee, pretend he’d been to Mass and go to his office to pick up one of the hosts he bought at the corner store and bring that home to Dad. I didn’t find that out until Dad was in the hospital where he received Communion regularly.

I see the same thing in a lot of my cousins who were raised the same way we were and no longer practice. Those my age who do practice the faith and have raised their kids in the church also have children who don’t practice and there is no mixed-marriage to blame there. I see the same thing occurring in the parish where I worship now.


Ok… thank you for the responses. I’m still really worried about the idea of being in a mixed-faith marriage although it’s good to hear at least some success stories. I’m really not happy at all about the idea of breaking up with my boyfriend :frowning: . I hope there’s another way.

Any suggestions of good books for us to read together, explaining the Catholic faith? I feel he needs to know more before he can commit to helping me raise any children Catholic… We’re already planning on reading The Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West together so hopefully he can understand Catholic ideas about sexuality. We’ll just have to see what he makes of it…


Sorry to be the ‘wet towel’ but I was raised by a mom who was catholic and a father that wasn’t. Personally, I feel that my dad’s lack of belief and interest did damage to our faith. There are 5 children out of the house now and only 2 of us are practicing, one is athiest, one is agnostic and the other one…??? there aren’t enough words to describe. Was that the only reason for the problems??? Absolutely not, but it WAS a big part. Both my sister and I that are practicing left the faith for awhile.

There were plenty of other issues but part of it is that your father should love you and from that love you will leearn to understand Christs love for you. I’m not saying that he won’t love your children but he will disagree with important beliefs that you are going to want to teach your kids. Kids are just small, not stupid. They will know the difference in my opinion.

The other issue I see is people say things when they are in love and having sappy gushy feelings and riding the wave of euphoria, then life comes along and things change. Prime example; my husband and I BOTH wanted a large family, we are talking BIG…and to homeschool! Well after almost 7 years of marriage, three kids and a miscarriage things have changed a bit. We are still open to life but other things have come into play and we have considered starting the kids in school. Now if you’d asked me if A)I would consider only having 3 kids and B) possibly put them in school; I would have told you that you musta been smokin’ some of the good stuff because that just WASN’T going to happen. The thing is my DH and I are on the same page morally, we may not be able to have more kids but we will lovingly practice NFP until the time comes that we can or my fertility leaves. When things get tough and you potentially need to space kids or refrain for a time, is he going to be heading for BC? Abstaining is much harder after you’re married (IMO), you KNOW what you are missing out on!:wink: It would be very hard for me personally if my DH wasn’t completely understanding.

I wish you the very best, I can’t imagine how hard of a decision this must be for you. But if it were me, I’d bail.:frowning:


Catholicism for Dummies is a great easy read. Another thing is the DVD series by Fr. Corapi on the Catechism. He is a GREAT speaker!


Catholicism for Dummies is a great easy read. Another thing is the DVD series by Fr. Corapi on the Catechism. He is a GREAT speaker!

Thanks! I have that book already, it is very accessible. I’m also planning on ordering a book called Unabridged Christianity by Fr Mario Romero. I saw it recommended on here by one of the apologists, has anyone read it?

Still very conflicted about this issue… it will be great if my boyfriend learns more and has no great objection to anything but I still don’t think he will convert. But the thoughy of breaking up…:crying: Help! What do I do??


If you were my daughter or sister, I would have advised you to not date outside of your Faith to begin with, so, marriage my advice would be even more the same.

You will find some marriages that have worked out with a non-Catholic or non-Christian spouse. Those are rare. For every one, you will come across dozens of disasters.

Marriage is not easy. Without the grace of a Sacramental marriage, I cannot see how anyone could make it.

Does sharing Faith give you an iorn clad promise of happiness, nope, but, it vastly improves the odds.

The purpose of marriage is to help get your spouse to heaven, and for the two of you to help your children get to heaven. A Marriage is an example of Christ and the Church to the whole world. Do you think that this man will help you get to heaven? Will a marriage to him be an example of Christ and the Church?


No one’s telling you to break up with him. You don’t have to, it can work. It takes work, but it’s been done, is being done and probably will be done for quite some time.

Introduce him to the ideas of Catholicism and have the answers to his questions. Learn why he thinks that way and if there are any mistakes in his thoughts [Catholics worship Mary or the like] show him the correct answer.

Forcing a conversion won’t do. Neither will a conversion done to please you. If he’s going to convert, God knows about it already and that will be the right time for him to come to know God as we are taught He is.

If he doesn’t convert-- there’s technically no problem with it, I don’t think, in relation to his soul. He was born into another religion and ignorance of our Faith doesn’t harm him. A rejection would, if he knew we were the True Church and then abandoned Her, but he can’t do that unless he knows the Church. A good person regardless of religion can get into Heaven.

With the children, I don’t think it’s all negative. With my boyfriend, I have to become a better Catholic when he’s around-- he asks questions and I then I have to look up answers. We debate constantly-- it’s a hobby that we both partake in. I think that differences in faith can strengthen one’s own if you use that to your advantage as a learning tool. Why do they think this way, what’s the correct answer… Having the children be given a different viewpoint and in that having to prove their point, that seems like a good thing. Not of course for young children, but for older one’s it doesn’t seem negative.

As for who becomes atheist as a teen-- I go to a Catholic school. Most of my friends are non-religious, Catholic in name only. I don’t think it has much to do with Catholic parents or not, I think it has more to do with being a teenager and the ideas of liberalism appealing to an unshaped mind. A strong Catholic will be Catholic. Everyone else will hear about gay marriage and see no problem with it * or find birth control a smashing idea [also didn’t know about the Church’s teaching on it until later, and while in 8th grade I plugged my ears and refused to believe it. It dawned on me while watching EWTN once that I was in fact wrong.]*


Sorry - I am a dissenting voice. I know it is not one you want to hear…you appear to be looking for affirmation. That this will work out and that so many relationships between interfaith couples work. You repeatedly state you do not want to break things off with him.

Those chiming in on this thread are rare cases. Can you be one of those rare cases? Yes - but what is the probability of such? Rare means not probable.

Those chiming in on this thread see your thread topic and know it applies to them, or to someone they know.

Oh you’ll hear the stories that my parents or grandparents have been successfully married for 50 years and they had an inter faith marriage. But honestly - even children will never know the true marital struggles of parents. Life is glamorized in a child’s point of view.

Marriage is hard work. I married a man who was Catholic, just not very devout. He did go to church with me, but dissented in other areas of Catholic living. It was confusing for the kids - dad sees no value in confession. Dad sees no value in XYZ.
It makes the marriage difficult. And that marriage was to another Catholic!

Marriage needs a unified front with both people working toward heaven - and both supporting each other.


Hi richardsgirl–aw, I’m sorry for your dilemma. I don’t think you need to break up…however, I would reflect on some things. For one, yes–people do make it work. But, if one spouse’s faith is different than the other–I would imagine that there could be obstacles in their marriage. Obstacles that yes, can be overcome-but is that how you would like to spend your marriage–always trying to ‘get around’ or overcome the gap of not sharing each other’s faith? On the other hand, you could serve as a great witness to him–and he might convert–not now, but maybe down the road. I can see both sides. My husband and I are cradle Catholics so it wasn’t an issue with us, but I have seen the problems that some of my friends have. For those friends of mine who are NOT devout Catholics, it’s not an issue…but for those who are–it has been an evergrowing source of angst in their marriages–mostly after children were born. So, think about what is most important to you–would not sharing your faith be a problem? How badly do you want to share your faith with a future spouse?

I would say that no matter what you choose–just never let anyone come between you and the Eucharist. I tell my kids this (they are 11 and 15) – I tell them that some day you may choose to marry someone who is not Catholic…but, never let that person come between you and the Eucharist or your faith. I say this because I have seen Catholics convert to Protesant faiths out of pressure from the spouse. Never a good idea. You sound like you are strong in your faith–but, after two people get married–things change. Expectations change. I have seen this from family and friends…and it’s a shame for those who have abandoned their faith out of fear of not pleasing his/her spouse. I will keep you and your bf in my prayers.


Though I strongly disagree with marrying one with the expectation that your witness is going to cause them to convert.

We shouldn’t marry someone with the hope of having them change. You should be content and satisfied in the person they are currently - in converting, you would only love them more - but not expect the conversion. What if it just never happens?

To marry someone and hope they change is setting yourself up for a rocky marriage.


First a good debating partner is one thing; a good spouse is an entirely different thing. People joke that the first thing you learn to say when you get married is “Yes, dear,” but it is a fact that married people do have to agree on things.

Second, the kids are going to be home a lot more, and listening to Mum and Dad a lot more, when they are little. When they get older, they’ll be out of the house a lot more, so the foundation has to be laid strongly when they are little. If all they hear when they are little is Mum and Dad debating religion, they’ll grow up to think that it’s okay to disagree with the Church.


Yup!!! :yup: 100% agree!!

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