Is interfaith marriage advisable?


#1

Hello,
first time writer.
I am very much in love with the greatest woman on earth! i have asked her hand in marriage, and she said yes. she is jewish, i am catholic. I believe this can be a good thing. i believe in my faith very much, i also want to respect her traditions. we both wanted a catholic priest and rabbi at the ceremony. the wedding will take place in new york, and we have run into problems with finding a priest and rabbi to do the ceremony. We have also encountered a rabbi telling my fiance that if she does marry me, and we have children, her kids will no longer be jewish, and that a priest will make her go to class and basically give up her children to christianity. is this true? she is very nervous and i believe wrong about this. I myself love my faith, and like many catholics, have asked tough questions, and researched many things. Can anyone help with this issue? I’m sure i’m not explaining very well, but a little insight will help.


#2

[quote=mmurphy]I am very much in love with the greatest woman on earth! I have asked her hand in marriage, and she said yes. She is Jewish, I am Catholic. I believe this can be a good thing.
[/quote]

Yes, it can be possible for an interfaith marriage to work; but you should be warned that it is also very, very difficult on both parties. Perhaps the only time when there is no difficulty at all is when neither party cares about their respective tradition (and, even then, apathy toward religious heritage can often change when children come along). Your post makes clear that you both care about your respective religions very much.

Marriage’s ultimate purpose is for the spouses to lead each other and their children to heaven. Romantic feelings make it immeasurably easier for that goal to be accomplished but they are not an end in and of themselves and often come and go over the course of years and decades. Love, on the other hand, is an act of the will that sacrifices for the sake of the beloved and for the sake of leading the beloved to God.

When the couple does not share their beliefs in God it makes it hard for them to work together in their joint mission to lead each other and their children to God. Think of a yoke of oxen. Marriage is the yoke but the oxen must work together under the yoke. If they try to go in opposite directions they will often hurt themselves and each other and usually not get the work done because they are fighting against the restraints.

[quote=mmurphy]I believe in my faith very much, I also want to respect her traditions. We both wanted a Catholic priest and rabbi at the ceremony. The wedding will take place in New York, and we have run into problems with finding a priest and rabbi to do the ceremony.
[/quote]

You will need to obtain a dispensation from your bishop to marry a non-Christian. If the wedding is not according to the Catholic ritual, you will also need a dispensation from form. Your diocese can help you find a priest who will help you.

Your fiancee though is going to have a difficult row to hoe. Most rabbis will not preside at an interfaith marriage, particularly if they are traditionally oriented. One reason is because the traditional Jewish vows are not binding upon non-Jews. Non-participating rabbis will sometimes suggest that the couple have a civil official preside. Those rabbis who do participate usually will not preside in a church or with a Christian priest or minister co-presiding. They will also often want the couple to commit to raising the children as Jews. Like Catholic officials concerned to protect the Catholic faith of families, when rabbis participate their pastoral concern is to do their best to ensure that families will maintain Judaism.

[quote=mmurphy]We have also encountered a rabbi telling my fiance that if she does marry me, and we have children, her kids will no longer be Jewish, and that a priest will make her go to class and basically give up her children to Christianity. Is this true?
[/quote]

Assuming your account of his statements is accurate, this rabbi’s understanding of identity descent is not common in modern Judaism. Jews usually consider Jewish identity to be passed through the mother. The children of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father are usually considered to be Jewish. A priest will not “make” your fiancee go to a class or “give up her children to Christianity.” He will make sure that she realizes your obligation to promise that you will remain Catholic and that you will do your best to raise the children Catholic.

[quote=mmurphy]She is very nervous and I believe wrong about this. I myself love my faith, and like many Catholics, have asked tough questions, and researched many things. Can anyone help with this issue? I’m sure I’m not explaining very well, but a little insight will help.
[/quote]

You and your fiancee have some hard decisions to make. It will not be easy, but you must both be true to your consciences and follow God to the best of your abilities according to what you each understand him to require of you. It may be that you can work it out together and be an exception to the general rule that interfaith marriages compromise the faith of one or the other of the parties and leave the children without a firm belief in either faith. But it may also be that love, the action of the will that sacrifices for the sake of the ultimate happiness (God) of the beloved, may lead you to sacrifice marriage together for the sake of finding partners who can help lead both of you to heaven.

You and your fiancee will be in our prayers here at Catholic Answers and we ask forum participants to keep you both in prayer as well. God bless.


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