Marriage into a Catholic Family

Hello everyone,

I am engaged to be married to the love of my life, and have never been happier about anything. My fiance was raised in a catholic home, went to catholic highshcool, but is not practicing, does not consider herself a catholic, and does not believe in the eucharist. I have faith, and believe that many of the teachings of Jesus are good, yet I am not a christian and have not been baptized. We have had many discussions about faith, we each know where the other stands, and have had lengthy discussions on how we believe we should raise our children.

The big issue we are having is with one of her parents. The parent is adamantly for a Catholic wedding, and insistent that I go through RCIA. I love her mother and father, was raised to respect both my parents and elders, and would gladly go through with conversion out of respect, but both my Fiance and I know that I would be lying (and the parent knows it also). My Fiance on the other hand insists that I should not go through with the conversion, and insists that we should stand our ground, and refused to be married in the church. Do you all have any advice, on how to approach the situation? I want her parents and grandparents to know that I respect their tradition, and I want them to be an integral part of my family; What should I do?

Hello and welcome!
There’s a difference between attending RCIA and converting. RCIA is a class that is part of the cathechesis of new converts,* but* it also provides information about the Catholic faith. Not everyone who attends RCIA has to convert. You can’t be forced to convert, because that is contrary to the conversion process. If any RCIA director or priest learned you were being “forced” and that you didn’t really believe, then that would probably cause your full acceptance into the Catholic Church to be post-poned indefinately, (until at least such time as you believe, if ever you do.)

I suggest that since your willing to consider it out of respect for your future in-laws, you attend a few RCIA classes. Let the RCIA people know up-front that you are doing it at your in-laws request and that you don’t expect to convert. Leave yourself open to a possible change of heart, and go with the intention of simply learning a little more about the faith that your fiance was brought up in. You might invite your fiance to attend with you, as some Catholics who have walked away from their faith find attending classes as an adult teaches them things about the Catholic faith that they never knew.

God bless you on your journey!

Probably your future inlaws want you to take RCIA so you are aware of the teachings of the Church. RCIA doesn’t mean you have to convert. It is a serious issue for your fiance to marry outside of the Church without getting a dispensation and your inlaws have good reason to be concerned. Your marriage would be an impediment to your fiance coming back to full communion with the Church in the future. Rather than signing up for RCIA, it would probably be more effective for you and your fiance to make an appointment to speak with the priest and see if a dispensation is possible in your fiance’s situation. Your fiance is right, however, that you should not “fake a conversion”. It is not neccessary for you to convert in order for your finace to be given permission to marry you.

Is it acceptable then for us to move forward with getting married in the church for images sake. As I said My fiance has no desire to be married in the church, in fact she has an aversion to it. Instead I am the one left arguing for us to appease her parent.

You will not be allowed to get married in the Church without both of you telling a whole procession of bold-faced lies. It would be rediculous for you to expect your fiance to agree to this. Despite the fact that she no longer practices, she probably has at least an iota of respect left for her former faith, which she knows is so important to many of the people she cares for. Even if she doesn’t, if she’d still have a problem with it out of respect for herself.

Your fiancé is in a tough spot. Since she was (presumably) baptized into the Catholic faith she is bound but canon law to marry in the Church. That includes fully embracing what the Church teaches about marriage. This means a lifelong union ordered towards having children. This also means no contraception, no divorce, and an intent to practice and raise any children in the faith. She would also have to seek a dispensation to marry you since you are not a christian. This isn’t something most people would just fake. Also most priest would not preside over a wedding in this case.

The reason its a tough spot is that her parent could very well refuse to attend. Why? Because if she does not marry in the Church then it is not a valid marriage. It would be like asking someone to pretent to get married just so they can get legal benefits. Her parent could verywell see it as nothing but a lie. Marriage in the Catholic Church is not something taken lightly.

OP, your spouse-to-be is bound under canon law to marry according to the laws of the Church, which makes in reasonable that her parent feels duty-bound to remind her of her obligation to marry in the Church. You are not, however, required by the Church to convert in order to marry a Catholic, and because of the “disparity of cult” (that is, because this will not be the union of two baptized Christians), the rules for the wedding itself are somewhat different, too. No one has the right to pressure you into baptism, regardless of their position of respect. If her parent is implying that this is so, that is absolutely not true. That does not mean the parent is lying, however; there is a great deal of confusion among Catholics about these matters.

You and your spouse might profit from talking to her parent’s pastor about how to handle this. In that way, you’ll know what the Church actually requires, instead of taking her parent’s word for it. It may be that the pastor will have to explain the situation to her parents, too, so that the parents will allow themselves to believe that the situation is not what they think. I think that is your best bet.

Actually - you should not have a Catholic wedding -

AND - should you contact a local parish about getting married -providing that you are honest about your feelings - As stated in the OP … that your fiance is not practicing, does not intend to return to the faith, and who does not believe what the Catholic Church teaches on the Eucharist and other doctrines and dogmas And that you not interested in converting at all - the priest should refuse to witness the marriage …

Marriage is a Sacrament that has real meaning … everything you have stated is the antithesis of the Sacrament. No priest or deacon should preside at a farce … even if one party is Catholic and they are bound to be married in the church as some posters have mentioned … the being bound to marry in the Church is more then just the ceremony … its a vow before God and community - the ceremony means nothing if it is founded in a lie…

Should you have the “Catholic” ceremony under these conditions, have children, and then later divorce civilly and seek an annulment - one wonders how many people who would encourage you to go through the sham would then decry how easily the Church grants annulments …

If your fiance has no intention of leading a Catholic life - as a single or a married - then seriously- she is correct in her reluctance to perpetrate this farce and you are wrong to appease her parents in this lie … your relationship with these new relatives would be a lie

I’m liking this idea.

I think the responses you got tend to be an expression of viewpoints your fiances’ parents’ may have. I have seen confession guides list “Advising a Catholic to marry outside of the Church” listed in confession guides. I’ve seen mixed advise about whether or not Catholics can attend weddings that involve a Catholic party getting married outside of the Church.

However, i believe Catholics misunderstand this rule. You see, people have a tendency to attempt to work the system to get what they want. You see, Christ taught that whoever divorced and marries another, commits adultery. Marriage is indissoluble.

People have a tedency to work the system. Canon law specifically specifies that those who murder their spouse to legally free themselves to marry another person, cannot validly give matrimonial consent. It wouldn’t mention that if people didn’t try it. The priest who oversaw our formation said more recently there had been a case where a man had gotten himself rebaptize so that he’d have a sacramental free of the evidence of his former marriage.

Marrying outside of the Church can be similiar. Say I see that I have a young niece. We’re both Catholic. My niece doesn’t understand Church law regarding marriage, and I personally feel she needs an escape door out of the marriage. As such, I talk to my niece and advise her to get married outside of the Church. Why? Because if she marries outside of the Church, her marriage is considered putative. If she divorces and seeks to to entering her second marriage in the Catholic Church, the putative first marriage does not act as an impediment.

In regards to a Catholic who has lost their faith, forcing them to get married in the Church will not help. The spiritual danger is in the lost faith, not so much the form of the marriage at this point. Its not like being suspectible to manipulation is helpful on the road to Heaven.

As such, what I would say is that if either of you want your marriage recognized by the Catholic Church and don’t want to be barred from the sacraments, get married in the Cathoic Church. If right now, these aren’t things you care about, the door is still open for a return to the Catholic faith through convalidation. In regards to pleasing the family, its unlikely you’ll be able to do this. I’ve seen several brides online try to appease such families by trying to add Catholic “elements” into a non-Catholic ceremony. DO NOT DO THIS! THAT WILL ONLY BE SEEN AS MORE OFFENSIVE.

Thank you all for the advice. I am sorry if I offended any of you.

I don’t think you said anything offensive? :slight_smile:

I’m wondering why you are the one who’s stuck dealing with her family. It’s her family.

Why bother having a Catholic wedding? It really makes no sense, given what you’ve said.

Also, I can see why her mom and dad want you to know their faith. Faith is a huge part of their lives and they want you - as a future family member - to understand what their faith is about and really be a part of the family.

Take a few RCIA classes - again, you don’t have to convert. Maybe pick up a general book on Catholicism. You don’t have to convert, but I think that showing that you are willing to learn about and respect the traditions of Catholicism might go a long way with them. It’s obviously an important part of their lives and family. Conversion should come from the sincere desire to convert, not from outside pressure or a pending marriage.

I think that talking honestly with the priest and the parents is the best way to go. If the future bride doesn’t want to live the Catholic life or even be a Catholic, then it goes against what the Church teaches about marriage being a sacrament/vocation/sacred bond between man/woman/God. It would be a farce for everyone involved.

Have you ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It’s like that. It totally makes no sense until you fall into the rabbit hole, and then, well, you try to roll with the punches and pick your battles. And OP, if you have not seen it, you and your fiancé ought to see it. It won’t apply exactly, but at least you’ll have the comfort of knowing you’re not alone! (My favorite line? Aunt Voula, upon learning Ian is a vegetarian: “What do you mean, you don’t eat no meat? [The entire room registers shock.] …That’s okay, that’s okay. I make lamb!”)

But yes, it’s a good idea to talk to the pastor.

If you didn’t know already, the first part of RCIA is called Inquiry, for people who want to learn about Catholicism. After the Inquiry period, you discern if you want to go forth with the rest of RCIA or not. There is no pressure to join the church. So, if you were interested in learning more about Catholicism, RCIA Inquiry is a good start.

However, if neither of you believe, please don’t get married in the faith. Don’t stand before God and lie. :eek:

Good luck with whatever you decide.

People change.
I was a protestant, and married a Catholic (why not, it’s the same God?) and later discovered that I wanted to be Catholic. My husband is kind of lukewarm, but I try hard to live life as a Catholic pleasing to God.

I would suggest that both of you attend RCIA. You to understand the family you’re marrying into, and she to perhaps learn what she’s moving away from. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to separate themselves from the rich and valuable traditions of Catholicism in exchange for watered down Christianity, or even worse, nothing.
There may come a time when you care about the salvation of your children. Please take steps to learn more about the faith.

I will put you both into my prayers. What a mess. She is a Catholic by baptism but is in schism because she does not believe. At this point YOU are more concerned for the condition of her soul than she is, yet you’re not a Christian. I cannot recommend that she marry outside the Church, because in doing so, your marriage would not be valid. Yet if you marry in the Church at this point, her vows would be a lie which would also be an invalid marriage. She would be receiving the Eucharist during the wedding Mass and since she does not currently believe in transubstantiation, that in itself is a mortal sin.

If you were a friend of mine, I’d suggest in earnest that you postpone the wedding at the moment, until at least some of these issues are resolved.

I will just pray for you.

The best thing to do is to talk to a good priest and arange for dispensations first for her to marry a non-catholic and then a dispensation to have a non-catholic ceramony. Though her parents may not be happy at least you can say “The Church says this is ok, see the bishop has given us these dispensations.” If you do that then that may solve any issues with parental non-attendance etc. I agree it may be worth reading some books/attending some calsses on the faith, just so you can see where the parents are coming from, esp as the parents may want to be involved in the raising of any children.

Others have given good advice in this thread, there were a couple things you posted that I wanted to comment on. I edited your post for clarity’s sake.

  1. Jesus also taught that He is God. The important thing about Jesus is NOT what He taught, but WHO He is. If He is, then He is deserving of our worship and obedience. If He is not, then all His teachings are suspect.

  2. I would have some serious discussions with people who are parents. It is DRASTICALLY different when you actually become a parent, vs. what you plan and think before becoming a parent. When you start to realize that you are charged with caring for the eternal soul of another small human, it opens your eyes to what you should do. People are more cavalier about how they treat their own soul and care for it, vs how they treat and care for the soul of their children.

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Pray The Holy Rosary to Jesus and Our Lady Mary Mother of Jesus twice daily for a week while you are doing your RCIA Classes for your in-laws and see how you feel afterwards! Your Husband deep down will be most grateful to you for putting in the effort with his parents anyway!

I wish you Love Light and Blessings for your Marriage

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