Interfaith Relationships

I’ve seen interfaith relationships function in terms of friendships… But I wonder if it’s possible for it to function in terms of romantic relationships or even as far as marriage. I’ve researched and spoken to several Catholic priests and nuns. Most of them typically discouraged romantically engaging non-Catholic individuals. They have points because the most important elements in any relationship include religion/faith system. My research turned up these passages though:

“The main predictive variable of a couple staying married is not their religious affiliations, but the communicative capacities of the partners. Some interreligious couples have a better chance of staying together than similarly-affiliated pairings because they have had to discuss their ‘predicament’ with honesty and depth, learning how to be both open and convicted with each other. Successful communication and conflict resolution is the greatest predictor for ‘marital success.’”

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Along with a rebuttal:

What about when you have kids, how will you raise them? Many people return to the faith of their youth when children enter their home. Suddenly, being Catholic and Atheist could matter. What will you teach your children? That one parent holds the truth and the other a lie? That these competing beliefs are both truth, as though black can be white at the same time?

When it comes to core values, I do not believe it is possible to be in a serious relationship with someone and not either compromise those values or become resentful at the fact that you’re not able to fully express and share in that experience.

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In essence, my question is this: is religion a deciding factor as to whether or not a romantic relationship or marriage will succeed?

I’m not sure if what church you go to will say if the relationship will fail or suceed. But I think it’s better if the other person shares your faith. Otherwise it would be too easy to walk away from your faith, perhaps into sin. Of course, I’ve heard of relationships between different faiths working out. But I think it’s a long shot. This is a subject to bring up with the other person fairly early in the relationship. Maybe not to start of with, but perhaps when it looks like it’s going to be a long term relationship. As a convert (and one who isn’t always faithful in practicing that faith), my faith is important to me. I don’t see dating someone who isn’t Catholic. But that’s a very personal choice.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It’s understandable. In a relationship, there have to be compromises right? Yes, faith is important and something that cannot be compromised for the sake of a relationship or anything for that matter. But what if both parties discuss the difference as you’ve suggested and reached a compromise that allows them to abstain from sin and continue following their respective faiths?

The trouble with that, Rivii, is that people change.

The couple concerned could have worked out their approach to the dilemma, gotten married, and a few years down the line, maybe after the birth of children, or some other significant event, feel differently about what they had decided; then what?

Two cases from my own life.

My parents decided to ‘follow’ my mom’s religion, since she did not speak the language my dad’s religion used. My sister and I grew up sort-of following my mom’s faith. In his late 50s my dad was involved in a serious car accident in which he came a hairsbreadth away from being a quadriplegic. The experience sent him back to his faith, but my mom still didn’t speak the language, so off they went on their individual religious paths.

My late husband and I. As a result of how I’d seen it in my parent’s lives, and as I wasn’t really attending church when I met my husband, I joined his church (as I see it now, evangelical, bordering on a cult). I simply acted as expected to and continued to believe what I believed in my heart. Then came children, I neither knew, nor wanted, to bring them up in that religious system. Back I went to my ‘own’ faith; caused lots of heartache.

It can end up very painful when one or both find themselves unable to continue to follow the agreement that seemed to offer a solution in the beginning.

I would say that, while interfaith relationships can work, it would be better to be of the same faith.

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry to read that you experienced immense heartache. You’re right that people change; it’s really a part of human nature. It would be safer and much less painful to be of the same faith, right? Homogeneity would hardly be breeding grounds for disagreements. One question though; please humor me. The first source I listed was from a doctorate anthropological study that found that a difference in religious affiliation would be held to the same degree as any other difference. Therefore, it can be addressed depending on the level of communicative capabilities of the parties involved. The difference of faith from other aspects in our life though is that faith is the root of all aspects of our life. Is it really truly impossible for interfaith relationships to work out then?

The Church prohibits marriage to non-Catholics. Marriage to a baptized non-Catholic requires permission from the bishop. To marry an unbaptized person requires a dispensation from the bishop.

This is because it is very dangerous to the faith of the Catholic and the children that come into the marriage.

I would suggest the papal document “On Mixed Marriage” as a reference regarding why the Church teaches that Catholics should not marry non-Catholics.

It is allowed when a Catholic insists upon embarking on that road, but it is certainly not preferred or encouraged precisely because of the serious issues that can arise.

Thank you.

Of course good communication is the key to solving most problems and differences that arise in marriage, whether addressed early in the relationship or later. Certainly, with good lines of communication, difficulties can be resolved.

However, no amount of open communication will fill the hole created when you each go to your own place of worship; or when you have to explain the significance of every meaningful piece of your belief system, and then your partner still does not really understand.

No interfaith relationships are not doomed to failure, but they will necessarily lack a certain depth and richness that would naturally be there if there was a common faith to share.

(Also note that the same difficulty can arise when one partner is strongly committed to the faith and the other is rather lukewarm.)

To Rivii,

Interfaith relationships and marriages do work. My parents had an interfaith marriage, it lasted for over 40 years. I am in an interfaith marriage, We will be celebrating 25 years in June of 2013. Will be going for another 25. God Bless!

To Rivii,

Interfaith relationships and marriages do work. My parents had an interfaith marriage, it lasted for over 40 years. I am in an interfaith marriage, We will be celebrating 25 years in June of 2013. Will be going for another 25. God Bless!


Yes, they do. I’m in a “mixed” marriage - my husband is Protestant & I’m Catholic. It works for us.

I find that even couples who share religious beliefs aren’t always on the same page when it comes to religion. I have known Catholics who openly disagreed with me about the Catholic faith. For instance when I said that as a Catholic I didn’t believe in premarital sex I was told “Well I’m Catholic and I see nothing wrong with it. Our faith is much more understanding now you should not follow such old beliefs.” :rolleyes:

I’ve heard arguments between parents over whether their daughter can be an alter server, one saying ‘girls don’t belong on the alter’ the other saying ‘the church allows this so it is fine if our daughter wants too’.

I’ve heard arguments over what is acceptable dress for church, “They care that you are there, not what you wear” vs. “Church is the house of God, dress like you would to meet the president, nice and formal.”

I invited a Catholic I knew to a Holy Day Mass and they told me “I never go to Holy Days, I just view them as extra church and who has time for that?” and I’ve known Catholics who make a point to attend daily Mass. I even knew some parents that got into an arugment over whether or not their children had to attend daily Mass with the parent who always attended.

Even Catholics need to talk about what their faith means to them and how they intend to live it. Afterall it can be just as hard for a practicing Catholic to have to constantly explain the Catholic faith to their Catholic spouse that was not well taught in those matters! Perhaps even more difficult if they say “I’m Catholic too and I don’t agree with that church teaching and refuse to follow it”. The only reason I say this is I think a lot of people assume that if they are both Catholic they are on the same page, but in reality every couple needs to have the “faith talk” if they want to avoid surprises and marital difficulty in those matters.

In my analysis, the main problem with interfaith relationships that when children are involved, one spouse has to say “yes” and the other “no” to their faith. How many faithful Catholics are willing to say “no” to their faith when raising children? And if not, why should you expect your non-Catholic spouse to do just that to their faith?

Thank you for responding!

This is from the papal encyclical, Casti Connubii, promulgated by Pope Pius XI:

  1. They, therefore, who rashly and heedlessly contract mixed marriages, from which the maternal love and providence of the Church dissuades her children for very sound reasons, fail conspicuously in this respect, sometimes with danger to their eternal salvation. This attitude of the Church to mixed marriages appears in many of her documents, all of which are summed up in the Code of Canon Law: “Everywhere and with the greatest strictness the Church forbids marriages between baptized persons, one of whom is a Catholic and the other a member of a schismatical or heretical sect; and if there is, add to this, the danger of the falling away of the Catholic party and the perversion of the children, such a marriage is forbidden also by the divine law.”[62] If the Church occasionally on account of circumstances does not refuse to grant a dispensation from these strict laws (provided that the divine law remains intact and the dangers above mentioned are provided against by suitable safeguards), it is unlikely that the Catholic party will not suffer some detriment from such a marriage.

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This is what you meant, right? I see your and the Church’s points about the serious issues that can arise. Thank you for the reference!

Thank you for responding! I see. I suppose the study was correct that, interfaith or not, a difference is a difference. The relationship’s success is truly up to the couple. But it’s true what you say about interfaith relationships perhaps lacking a certain depth and richness that would be there if the faith was shared.


Thank you both for sharing your success! I’m happy for you. May you elaborate please as to how and under what conditions you both were able to work your marriage out?

Thank you for sharing! You’re right. May you elaborate more on “fatih talks” please?

Thank you for sharing! I see what you mean. I read a lot of stories on interfaith marriages and how it was difficult to raise children. As Catholics, we have an obligation to baptize and raise our children as Catholics – something the non-Catholic spouse must be aware of and acknowledge. From those stories, it seemed the difficulty in performing that obligation took root in that the non-Catholic spouse still imposed their faith on the children despite the acknowledgement of Catholic obligation.

Communication involves much more than religion. I’m Catholic, my husband is a baptized Christian who does not affiliate with any particular denomination. As far as we are concerned, we are of one faith…Christianity. We raise our child Catholic, my dh goes to Mass with us, etc.

Yes, the church views my marriage as “interfaith”. I certainly didn’t have to “insist” on marrying him. We went to my priest, who my dh had already met, took the focus test just like any other couple, went on our EE weekend, just like anyone else. It was never an issue.

We just celebrated 12 amazing years of marriage. Our faith, our Christianity, our beliefs, are what keep us strong & unite us. There is no “interfaith” in our household. Just one…being the best Christians we can be. We simply do that in the Catholic denomination.

Obviously it isn’t this way for everyone. But I just hate to see it portrayed in such a negative light all the time. I never looked for anything in a man other than him being a good person. Limit yourself too much, & you could be missing out on the one God has in mind for you. Only God could’ve brought my dh & I together.

Thank you for sharing your story! I’m happy for you and your husband. Outside of faith and your standards, did you have to consider other factors? Like, how did your family feel? I’ve read that Catholic parents discourage marriage to a non-Catholic.

My mom has never hid from me that she’d be over the moon if my dh converted. Lol But they were never against us dating or marrying. They have loved him since we first started dating. He’s the son my dad never had.

Haha! That’s a lovely story. I’m very happy for you! Just another question, did you have to consider socioeconomic factors before you married?

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