Marriage: Roman Catholic and Buddhist

Hello,

I am looking for some help. I am a Southeast Asian man who has grown up a Buddhist with my family. I recent got engaged and my girlfriend is from a Roman Catholic family. We have been able to respectfully “deal” with the difference in our religions, traditions, and heritage for the couple of years we have been dating. Now that we’re engaged, her family is almost essentially throwing out ultimatums that we have to do the wedding in a Catholic church and that I should do what it takes to make that happen. It all seems to be regardless of my own faith and preference at this point, at least what I can surmise from the tone and language used (“grandpa will not go if it’s not in a Catholic church,” "grandpa didn’t talk to his sister for 50 years because she didn’t get married in a church.’)

To be clear, I have absolutely no problems compromising and getting married in a church. My family loves my fiance and understands that we have different faiths and different upbringings and that if church is what will make her happy, they will be there to support us. What I’m not willing to compromise on is my faith, just as I would not want her to change or compromise her beliefs. In my opinion, if my family, or I, are not asking her to convert or do anything against her faith for a Buddhist or Southeast Asian traditional wedding, I don’t see how it’s fair that I would be asked to do so.

From what I understand, in order to make this happen, most times the non-Catholic takes cannon classes, or even converts. This is understandably a relatively simpler task if you’re going from a different sect of Christianity.

Basically, I’m asking to see what anyone else’s experience with this has been and what our other options are. I just want her to have her dream wedding and to make her happy for the rest of our lives. However, for this one day in our lives, I am not willing to compromise who I am and what I believe, just as I would not ask her to do the same.

Hmm… you seem to be conflating two ideas here:
[list]*]Having a wedding service at a Catholic church
*]Converting to Catholicism
[/list]

The Church does not require you to convert, in order to marry a Catholic. The Church requires a Catholic, however, in most cases, to be married in a Catholic church by a Catholic priest or deacon.

What do you mean when you say “I am not willing to compromise who I am and what I believe, just as I would not ask her to do the same.” Is having a wedding in a Catholic church – which you seem to identify as part of your fiancee’s notion of a ‘dream wedding’ – something that compromises who you are?

Or, is it that your fiancee – or her family – is telling you that you must convert to Catholicism?

(If so, it may be out of a mistaken notion that only Catholics can get married in a church. That’s not true: a Catholic can marry another Catholic, or a baptized non-Catholic Christian, or an unbaptized person in a Catholic wedding ceremony. You two should plan to schedule a meeting with her Catholic pastor, to talk about the wedding. He’ll be able to clear up that confusion for you.)

In a way, by not having a Catholic wedding, it is asking her to compromise or change her beliefs as well - even though she may not be currently practicing her religion fully.

From what I understand, in order to make this happen, most times the non-Catholic takes cannon classes, or even converts. This is understandably a relatively simpler task if you’re going from a different sect of Christianity.

It depends if you are planning to convert or just get married. If you are only getting married, there will probably be classes or meetings with the priest on the basics of Christian Marriage and what is expected of you as a non-Catholic and what is expected of your fiancee as a Catholic.

However, for this one day in our lives, I am not willing to compromise who I am and what I believe, just as I would not ask her to do the same.

You don’t need to compromise who you are, however, as a husband - and any husband or wife her can verify this - you will be asked to compromise your firm stance on different things every day. This may be a good step 1 to introduce you to what it’s like to be a husband - someone who sacrifices everything, even your position on certain matters - as long as it isn’t a matter of Divine Revelation or grave doctrine - for love of your wife.

That clears it up a bit. I was getting confused with what I was being told by her family with what was supposed to happen from a religious stand point. There seems to be a good amount of pressure to convert (being that I’m hell-bound from their perspective because i’m not a Catholic, or even a Christian). There was something mentioned about canon classes or pre-cana (?), where we would have to explain certain things like our plans and with me not being Catholic, it sounds like we’ll have to explain how we’ll raise our kids (Catholic, Buddhist, etc).

I was a religious studies major and touched a lot on Christian history, but not so much on practice and traditions. This pre-cana practice or tradition was where I started to become uneasy about whether or not anyone would try and convert me especially when we talk about how we’d live and how we’d raise our children. For me, it seems a little scary from previous discussions and experiences with her family and a few other Catholics that it could be a foray into a conversation like “well it’s your fiance/wife’s duty as the Catholic member of your family to raise good Catholic children–don’t you want to be a part of that?” I know not all folks are like that, but it’s never a good experience when those conversations do “pop” up.

Right. Catholics are obligated by Church law to have a Catholic wedding. If only one person in the wedding party is Catholic, he/she must vow to raise the children Catholic. And I think that’s where the problem lies. Since it is her duty (per the Catholic Church) to raise the children Catholic, you may end up feeling like your own religious views are, well, being frowned upon. We don’t force conversion on anyone, but it still may cause you to be uncomfortable. If I were you, I’d discuss this at length with your fiancee, and see if you two should stay together or not.

There is no explaining how you are going to raise your children. She’ll have to raise them Catholic.

Seems like you two need to sit down with the priest and discuss all of this. Y’all should have had serious conversations about all of this before the proposal.

Catholics are REQUIRED to be married according to the Catholic Wedding Rites. There is no room for compromise. If you ask your spouse to marry outside the church, she will no longer be in good standing with the church, the church will not recognize your marriage as valid, and she will be excluded from recieving the sacraments. Sorry.

Moreover, you will both be REQUIRED to take pre-marriage classes (not for you to convert) and she will be REQUIRED to do everything in her power to raise your children as Catholics. You will be asked to consent to raising the children Catholic. Again, sorry, but those are the rules.

A “non-denominational Christian wedding” is out of the question. HOWEVER, it may be possible, as you suggest, to include some Asian traditions. I don’t think a blessing from both parents would be objectionable. A string for “good luck” smacks of superstition and may be problematic. Talk to the pastor of the Catholic Catholic Church you intend to be wed at.

Asking your spouse to “compromise” any of these requirements is, in effect, asking her to completely foresake her faith, because absent any of these requirements, she will not be considered to be in good standing with the church, and will not be permitted to partake of the sacramental life of the church, and the Catholic Church is all about sacraments.
[/quote]

We’ve already had this discussion. A Catholic priest just may not like the compromise/answer we came up with. We will raise our children with teachings from both religions. Much of the ideology does not conflict, and learning buddhist things will not conflict with any of the commandments since there isn’t a god in buddhism for the kids to hold as false idols. The particular sect of Buddhism is, in the most basic way of explaining it, a guide/philosophy on how to live a healthier life with yourself, your family, and the people in the world around you. And then, when the children are old enough to make informed decisions on their own lives, they can choose what path they want to take. She agrees fully, and in fact, this was her idea after we developed a basic understanding of each religion.

Perhaps you would benefit from a deeper understanding of Catholicism. Since your fiancé is Catholic, asking her to marry outside the Catholic Church would indeed be asking her to compromise what she believes, and in a most fundamental way. However, you do not say what she believes about marriage outside of the Catholic Church. It is the essential question.

Im afraid my understanding of Buddhism is limited. I’ve always thought it was more a philosophy than a religion. Are there any requirements of you in a Buddhist wedding?

You are not required to convert and the pre marriage course is not for this reason.

A catholic is required to marry in a catholic church and is required to raise their children catholic. If she doesn’t do this, she will not be in good standing with the church and won’t be able to partake in the Eucharist.

If my understanding of Buddhism is right, it is a far greater compromise/sacrifice on her part to not get married in a catholic church than it would be for you to marry in the catholic church.

I’m not catholic, but I would imagine some of your traditions would be able to be incorporated into the ceremony.

In many parts of the U.S. it is traditional to marry in the females church. This is easy to accept if both are catholic or both are of other christian communities. What you face is something different.

If you are as principled as you assert here may I suggest that you break up with her. Maybe look for somebody of your religion or for somebody who is not so religiously principled.

:confused:

Ottomatik, just to be clear, could you specify these points for those of us unfamiliar with Buddhist weddings:

  1. What makes a wedding ceremony religiously valid in Buddhism?

  2. Which parts of the ceremony don’t affect it’s validity, but are traditions that you would personally want at your wedding?

This is not, strictly speaking, true.

From canon 1127:

§2. If grave difficulties hinder the observance of canonical form, the local ordinary of the Catholic party has the right of dispensing from the form in individual cases, after having consulted the ordinary of the place in which the marriage is celebrated and with some public form of celebration for validity.

This would be uncommon, but it’s possible, per se.

If you ask your spouse to marry outside the church

That is, outside the rules that the Catholic Church has set for marriage and without a permission or dispensation from these rules – not “outside a church building”.

Canon 1118 states:

Can. 1118 §1. A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.

§2. The local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.

§3. A marriage between a Catholic party and a non-baptized party can be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.

In the case of disparity of cult (i.e., a Catholic marrying an unbaptized person), the bishop (or his delegate – e.g., in the Office for Matrimonial Concerns) must give his permission in order for the marriage to be valid. It is also possible – but rare – to be given permission for the wedding to be held “in another suitable place.”

she will be REQUIRED to do everything in her power to raise your children as Catholics.

Right. True_Faith13’s and Kendra’s and powerofk’s assertions that any children from this marriage must be baptized in the Catholic Church is not accurate.

You will be asked to consent to raising the children Catholic.

No; prior to 1983, I believe, the non-Catholic party was asked to make promises. Today, however, the non-Catholic party is only to be made aware of the promises that the Catholic party has made.

A “non-denominational Christian wedding” is out of the question.

In this case, that sounds about right. If the groom was ‘non-denominational Christian’, then perhaps there might be sufficient cause to grant such a request; merely doing it as some sort of ‘middle ground’ or ‘compromise’ wouldn’t justify such an approach.

That’s regrettable, since that isn’t even what the Church teaches. :nope:

There was something mentioned about canon classes or pre-cana (?), where we would have to explain certain things like our plans and with me not being Catholic, it sounds like we’ll have to explain how we’ll raise our kids (Catholic, Buddhist, etc).

Right. Part of the rationale behind the pre-Cana program is to make sure that you two have talked through all the relevant issues prior to marriage and come to a joint decision, and that you know what the Catholic Church really does ask of you.

For me, it seems a little scary from previous discussions and experiences with her family and a few other Catholics that it could be a foray into a conversation like “well it’s your fiance/wife’s duty as the Catholic member of your family to raise good Catholic children–don’t you want to be a part of that?” I know not all folks are like that, but it’s never a good experience when those conversations do “pop” up.

Hmm… if the experience of just having the discussions is ‘scary’, have you thought about what the experience of actually having children and raising them will be like? That is, you will be in contact with Catholics and Christians, and questions are bound to be brought up (whether politely or not, or well-intentioned or not). If simply raising the question is stressful, are you prepared for living out a marriage with a Catholic? (No judgment here – just asking the question… :))

I agree, the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala, as well as Latin, Orthodox and some Protestants in the region have Christianized the local Hindu practices. It wouldn’t be impossible to un-‘superstize’ the string by explaining the practice with a Christian meaning - like having the priest bless the string with a Trinitarian blessing and explaining the meaning as God literally tying the knot with you both.
[/quote]

Congratulations on your Engagement. I wish you both every happiness.

If it helps at all, I offer the following :- A couple I am proud to have as close friends, have been Married for 35 years. She is a practising Catholic and he is a Buddhist. Their love and respect for each other’s beliefs is beautiful to see. I can’t reveal any details of their life together as it would be an abuse of friendship, but they are very special people.

My own Father described himself as an Agnostic. My Mother was a devout Catholic. They Married in a Catholic Church - the only requirement at that time being that their children must be brought up as Catholics, which we were.

To me there seem to be many similarities between Buddhism and Catholicism. Please don’t be daunted by anyone. God loves us all equally and I believe implicitly that it doesn’t matter at all what we call Him or what path we each choose to follow spiritually.

Metta and God bless you both.

Let me correct that: §3 doesn’t stipulate that, in a non-sacramental valid wedding, the ordinary explicitly grants permission, per se (although the minister might essentially veto it by asserting “nope; I’m not gonna marry you there…”!). One would still presume that the proper Ordo was being used, but still…

And since I’m already correcting myself, let me ask this of Deacon Jeff: when you wrote “married according to the Catholic Wedding Rites”, were you speaking of form or ritual? (I presumed that you meant ‘form’.) If a Catholic priest or deacon is presiding, then naturally, the rite would be the Catholic one.

Quite frankly, I don’t see much difference in saying she’ll have to raise them catholic or saying she is required to do everything in her power to raise them catholic. Because if you actually do everything in your power, those kids are totally going to be raised Catholic. :shrug:

You are wrong. Of course its different.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.