Interfaith marriage - Hindu & Catholic - Infant Baptism Question

Hi all,

I am VERY happily married for three years now. My wife is catholic and I am hindu (but more so a believer in eastern spiritual philosophy). We recently learned some exciting news that my wife is pregnant and are now trying to figure out how to raise the children. We normally take turns going to church or my prayer group together and are generally very supportive and respectful of each others religion.

I have a more passionate stance against infant baptism, as I want to raise our children with the belief that there are many pathways to god. This obviously goes against the very purpose of baptism.

Is anyone in the same boat, or have advice on raising children in an interfaith marriage. We’re both more concerned with raising good children (as opposed to protecting either one of our dogmas), but want to retain and pass down elements of our culture.


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We recently learned some exciting news that my wife is pregnant and are now trying to figure out how to raise the children.

This really should have been something that the both of you worked out before marriage. This is, I think, the biggest problem in interfaith marriages and it frustrates me that so many people don’t even take it into consideration. “Letting them decide when they are older” is a poor solution. More often than not it results in confused, indifferent children who don’t practice any religion. I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but there it is.

Did you get married in a Catholic church?

You should know that your wife, as a Catholic, has an obligation to baptize her children and raise her children Catholic. Now, she may be indifferent to this obligation, but it still exists.

Thanks for the response.

Do you honestly believe that every detail of marriage needs to be worked out before the wedding? My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next weekend. To say their view of the world, religion, relationships, etc. has evolved over the years would be an understatement - however, they do have an incredible amount of love and respect for each other and that’s the secret to a good marriage…not agreeing to be on the same page about every topic. Many of my wife’s relatives have gotten divorces over the years and they didn’t have any differences on religion.

I disagree with your premise that w/o religion, children are confused. Who says religion clears confusion? I have a very liberal view of religion and am very confident in my relationship with god.

We were married in the Church (as well as a Hindu ceremony). The Church doesn’t obligate you to raise your children Catholic. That changed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. It does require her to do her best to try…which is why I am asking for advice on this board and continuing to have a discussion and debate with my wife on the topic.

Just from personal experience, I have never known someone who was raised with little or no religion that later “chooses for themselves.” People are much more likely to change religions than to go from living their lives beholden to no God to choosing to live life under the “rules” of a supreme being. Perhaps I would suggest baptizing the child Catholic and attending Mass regularly, but also having the child pray with you and go to your prayer groups. If your wife and you manage to do this, I can see no reason why a child cannot. Or maybe even starting with one and then if the child shows signs of faltering in their faith to introduce the second one as another option. Though, blending Hinduism which is polytheistic and Catholicism which is monotheistic might be a bit of a toughie.

the Catholic party promised to do all in her power to raise her children Catholic, including baptizing them, educating them in the faith, and bringing them to the sacraments at the appropriate age, and bringing them to Mass every Sunday (not off and on) once they have made first communion. The non-Catholic party was informed of this promise before the wedding. If that party is now going to renege, that means he is placing substantial obstacles in the path of the Catholic who wants to adhere to the laws of her faith. That in and of itself is a very serious threat to a good marriage, when one person wants to limit the faith expression of the other party. It is that control issue that will probably cause even more trouble down the road for the marriage. If the child is brought up to believe “there are many paths to God” why on earth would they have any motivation to choose one path or another. There is only one path to God. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light. There is no other. That is what Catholics believe and any Catholic who does not teach this truth to her children has already abandoned the faith.

Adrianna - I like that idea. We’re leaning towards something like that, but my problem with baptism is that implicit in it is an acceptance the Jesus would be their ONLY savior. This obviously undermines my belief that all earnest spiritual seekers have a valid pathway to god.

Is there any blessing ceremony in the Catholic faith that welcomes the baby but doesn’t require an actual baptism?

As an aside, it’s a common misconception that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. It’s actually one of the largest monotheistic religions. The multitude of forms are thought of by Hindu’s as attributes of the one god, which is formless.

If you hang around this forum long enough you’ll notice that certain topics keep coming up time after time after time. And the issue is what to do with children in the case of parents with different religions is one of those topics. In fact it isn’t just something you’ll see here. It’s a topic of books, talk radio, television, etc.

And most people will agree that is is one of those issues that DOES need to be discussed before marriage because it is a such a big source of conflict. It sounds like you and your wife are already running into this (based on you using the word “debate”).

My guess is that your wife always assumed that the children would be baptized and instructed in the Catholic Faith and is puzzled as to why you are objecting “now”. You probably thought talk about raising children Catholic were mere marriage prep technicalities and wonder why she is “suddenly” so insistent that baptism is important.

I won’t say much more about Catholic beliefs because others have already done so. But I will say that one of the most important Catholic teachings is that Christ is the only means to salvation, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, or anything else.

I couldn’t let this one go.

We are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan with people who have as much religious intolerance as your statement (albeit more violent). I think God prefers world peace over an army of churchgoers, but that’s my opinion. People who believe in ideological supremacy have been proven wrong time and time again throughout the years, whether it is racial supremacy, political supremacy or otherwise.

“The arc of history is long…but bends toward justice”.

Do you honestly believe that every detail of marriage needs to be worked out before the wedding?

If you would be so kind as to not be sarcastic with me, I would appreciate it. I don’t consider the religion of my children to be a minor detail. For me it would be a huge priority to have that worked out before marriage, since marriage is for life. However, for someone with an indifferent attitude towards faith, or of the view that “all religions are the same,” I can see how it would not be a priority.

I don’t think equating Catholic belief to “religious intolerance” and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is the way to get off to a good start in this forum. I find your statement extremely disrespectful. Like it or not, this is what Catholics believe. Jesus himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

I would think if you came to a forum called Catholic Answers, you would expect a Catholic answer.

This is again my personal opinion. We are to know Jesus to obtain salvation, what “knowing Jesus” constitutes is another matter. Do I believe Ghandi to be in heaven? Absolutely. I believe one can be spiritually close and intimate with Jesus perhaps without even knowing it, for if Jesus is God then closeness to God would mean closeness to Jesus. I know that this is not the most conservative of Catholic views, but I am not the first Catholic to hold this view, nor will I be the last.

There is, as a fact, no ‘blessing’ ceremony for babies equal to Baptism. You sound like you investigated at least the bare-roots of the religion of the person you plan on spending your life with, so you should know that Baptism is what makes one a Catholic. There’s no ‘half-way’ point. It’s arguably the most important Sacrament, possibly even before Holy Communion as without Baptism you cannot receive Holy Communion.

You complained about religious intolerance and I’ll tell you flat out - Catholicism is a Christ’s way or the highway religion. You cannot ‘mix and match’ Catholicism to fit your lifestyle, Catholicism IS a lifestyle.

Every Catholic poster here will tell you that your spouse promised to Baptize her child, and that you promised to support her in raising her children in the faith. Now, if you want to pretend that this never happened, or pretend that you can alter Catholicism to fit with your nonCatholic faith, then you pretend that, and don’t instruct your child in your wife’s faith, but in order for your child to experience anything of Catholicism (including Salvation, Grace, CCD, First Holy Communion, etc) s/he must be Baptized.

If all religions are a path to God, why care if your child is raised devout Catholic? Is it not a path to God?

Blunt, but honest.

Good point, but I believe reaching God is through an awakening. It is only meaningful when your free will chooses an inward path, not because water was sprinkled on them as an infant. I would be thrilled if my child decided to become a devout Catholic if that is the spiritual awakening that spoke to him/her. Not because it’s what I believe, but because I want them to be passionate about their personal connection to God and the only way that occurs is through self-inquiry. Many religious parishioners just go through the motions. Also, if devout Catholicism means downgrading the validity of other faiths without having any clue about the realities of afterlife and “salvation”, I could never raise a child that way.

Blunt, but true.

I am very sorry if a solid statement of truth offends your own deeply held convictions, but that does not change the fact that it is true and that this truth has been revealed by God. I sense that your purpose however is not to debate the truth, but to deny that objective truth exists, the only logical explanation for your belief. Whatever has happened in history to people who use (as Satan did) God’s word twisted for their own political ends, that does not change the underlying truth.

Whether or not you admit the truths of your wife’s religion, you must admit that one of you is going to have their beliefs challenged in regard to your child, and honesty must also compel you to admit that if you married according to the laws of the Church, as she was required to do, you knew of her promise regarding children when you married. You will have to decide what is ultimately a marriage issue–full freedom of conscience for both parties–rather than a religious issue. Hopefully this will be resolved without making the child the scapegoat for conflicts between the parents on fundamentals.

If you were married in the Catholic church didn’t you agree to raise the children Catholic? As you said before you didn’t “think” so but now may be a good time to look it over.

Why be so opposed to Baptism? If it dosn’t hurt anything why not. You will be vaccinating your child, right?

It’s unclear to me at this point what your wife’s intent is regarding baptism of your child. Is it to “retain and pass down elements of our culture” or is it in one mind with what the Church imparts at baptism-- regeneration and rebirth in Christ, incorporation into the Church, and active participation in the Faith?

What is your wife’s vision of the religious upbringing of your child and what is yours? Have you articulated these points, maybe put them down on paper? Have you looked to see where your points of agreement are and where you differ? And, then are any of the places you differ reconcilable or are they mutually exclusive?

Have you engaged a priest in this discussion? A baptism is to be postponed unless the priest has a “well founded hope” that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith (per Canon Law). So, your and your wife’s intent regarding what happens after baptism is important.

(And I too am just flabbergasted that you didn’t think this significant enough to discuss and agree before marriage, and frankly I think the Catholic premarital preparation you received was defective if it did not specifically address this issue in order for your wife to receive the dispensation for disparity of cult).

Hi indo_searcher

Welcome to the forums! And congratulations to you and your wife on the upcoming birth of your first child.

From reading your posts, I gather that you are not exactly opposed to having your
child(ren) raised in the Catholic faith. . .but you have some concerns, specifically related to infant baptism. I understand your concerns as follows:

  1. You believe that true religious experience comes from a personal awkening to God. You see people in the Church who just “go through the motions” without exhibiting any deeper relationship to God. Therefore, you worry about Baptism being nothing more than an empty ritual, especially for an infant.

Catholics talk about the Sacraments as being an “efficacious sign” of God’s grace. In other words, it should both reflect that deeper reality of our relationship with God (a sign) and help bring it about (efficacious). Baptism is the gateway to all of the other Sacraments and the graces we receive through them. This is why the Church (including your wife) consider it so important.

In the case of infant baptism, the Catholic parent is essentially promising to bring their child up in the Church, raising him or her with an awareness of God’s love, and with access the Sacraments that express that grace but also help bring it about. While people can come to an experience of God later in life with no upbringing in faith, it is far more likely to hap;en when children are raised in an environment of faith.

  1. Your second concern deals more broadly with claims of Christian exclusivity, which conflict with your belief that many faiths offer valid paths to God. You want your child to be raised with an awareness and appreciation for the beauty and truth which many religious traditions contain, and not to be closed-minded, intolerant, or arrogant about their faith.

There is a tension about this in the Church that runs back to biblical times. We know that Christ is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:16). But St. Peter also tells us that “God shows no partiality. Rather in every nation, whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35).

The Catholic Church strikes a balance by recognizing that elements of valid truth, sanctification, and holiness can exist in all religious traditions. Nostra Aetae the Vatican II document dealing with the church’s relation to non-Christian religions speaks eloquently about this. There are conservative Protestants who object to the Catholic Church for being too accepting of non-Christian religions. But ultimately, we believe that all truth, all peace, all love (all other spiritual gifts) which are found anywhere in the world flow from Christ. However, the grace of Christ is not limited to the visible boundaries of his Church.

I hope some of this is helpful to you and I hope that ultimately you will be comfortable with having your child(ren) baptised. I want to echo 1ke’s suggestion above that you and your wife talk and maybe write out your respective visions for how to raise your children, to see where there is overlap and where there are conflicts. I also agree that it may be helpful to talk through some of your concerns with a priest, preferably one who is experienced in working with inter-faith couples. Perhaps the priest who married you would be a good person to start with? Talking with someone in person who knows your particular situation can be much more helpful than an anonymous internet board.

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