mixed marriage question


#1

Hi…I am in great need of some help and advice. My husband and I are deciding whether or not we should stay married, and I really need some input from others who have experience with this.

I am a cradle Catholic. His parents were both raised Catholic, but left the church - he considers himself “nondenominational.” When we married in the Catholic church, I did sign the paper saying I would do all in my power to raise our children Catholic. However, at the time neither of us took it very seriously. I felt that as long as I taught my children about Catholicism and they saw me practicing my faith, that was enough. (By the way, we don’t have kids) My husband will never agree to raise kids exclusively Catholic; he believes that since the goal is to get to heaven, what does it matter how you get there? I know that the Catholic church doesn’t teach that non-Catholics can’t get to heaven, but I can’t explain why it is therefore important to have a clearly defined set of beliefs, much less why those beliefs should be Catholic. However, in the last couple of years of learning about my faith, it has become more and more important to me that my family is united in the Catholic faith! However, I know that faith is a gift, and no amount of logical reasoning on my part is going to convince him of something he doesn’t feel.

So, almost a year ago I went to discuss these things with the priest at the parish I was then attending. We discussed many things, but the biggest thing I came away with was that, although the Church of course wants me to raise my children Catholic, it is also highly interested in preserving the marriage. Therefore, if there is no other option, it would be permissible to allow my children to be raised in another Christian faith, provided I made it clear that 1) I wanted to raise my children Catholic, and 2) I was not going to stop my practice of the faith, which necessarily would mean that the kids would have SOME experience of Catholicism.

After reading the posts today on an earlier thread about mixed marriages, I have become discouraged. They all seemed to involve agreements to raise the children Catholic, which my situation did not, and this seems to often lead to the conversion of the non-Catholic partner!

Unfortunately, this is not our only marital problem. However, I need to get a grip on my desires in this matter before addressing the other major issue between us…which I will not touch here, since this is already too long. Advice from those who have been, if not this position, in a similar one, would be SO appreciated. I want to do God’s will for me, but I can’t figure out what that is!

Thank you so very much.
-Meg


#2

My first advice would be to pray for God’s guidance, Meg. This is a sensitive situation, and I strongly sympathize with you.

I can also relate. I’m a non-denominational christian, and I am marrying a Catholic in November. I think that my situation is easier, though, since I am committed to attending the Catholic church with her and her family. I am very found of the preist, and the congregation, and have no problem worshiping my Lord and Savior in that building. But that is me, I’m not certain how your husband feels.

Since I knew I was marrying someone who claims a denomination, i respected that and agreed not to take that from her. Me, I only claim Jesus, so I lost nothing. Your husband may be different. I can only speak for how I handled it. Only you and him can decide if you can agree on a place of worship.

I really hope you stay married though. Though you don’t share a denomination, you made vows in front of the same God, and I trust that he can see you through this. Maybe talk to clergy or counseling you both respect, and pray.

You’ll be in my prayers.


#3

Meg,

I would suggest two books:

John C. Bush and Patrick R. Cooney, eds. Catholic/Reformed Dialogue in the United States, Interchurch Families: Resources for Ecumenical Hope, (Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002).

Sandra L. Stanko, United in Heart, Divided in Faith: A Guide for Catholic-Protestant Couples (Allen, TX: Sun Creek Books, 2003)).

These books might give you a fresh start on the religion issue and some ideas on how to make it work for you.

The one thing I think that is unfair is that the Catholic spouse is supposed to respect the conscience of the non-Catholic spouse which is all well and good. When it comes to years after the wedding and the Protestant conscience can’t let the kids be Catholic where is the respct for the Catholic spouse’s conscience? As I told my wife we agreed to raise the kids Catholic even if you were not happy about it. It has to be a mutual agreement later on too to change the religious education of the children. Why isn’t the Protestant conscience awakened with the signing of the paper by the Catholic fiance?

One thing to remember is that there are certain things you can’t do(miss Sunday Mass or commune outside the RC church) but there are gray areas about attending his church together with your husband and letting the children attend Sunday School there in addition to Sunday Mass and parochial school or CCD.

I know the this is not what the ultra-traditionalists want to see posted but if you have a choice of getting divorced without kids, raising the kids strictly Protestant or trying to raise them Catholic yet ecumenically, I think the third option is better. It appears a strictly Catholic upbringing is NOT AN OPTION here.

You have to be comfortable with the choice you make and pray that God is understanding. You more than likely will not get any support from the parish or his congregation. While mixed marriages seem to be pretty common both sides are still taking an all or nothing approach once the kids arrive. Creighton University did a study that shows that after 5 years 50% of mixed marriages have converted to the same faith. Yes, we pick up some or more of “them” but we lose cradle Catholics who might go to hell for leaving the Church. Wouldn’t a more ecumenical approach to the kids keep more cradle Catholics in the church and preserve more marriages?

Good luck to you. Stanko’s book has useful questions to go through with your husband on our common faith as Christians,
differences in beliefs and mixed marriage questions. Both are available at Amazon.com


#4

THANK YOU so much for this reply. It is very heartening to me, and I will definitely check out those books!


#5

Meg,

I don’t have much advice for you, but I wanted you to know we are in the same boat. I am a convert to the Catholic faith, during college, but very poorly catechized. I had no idea of anything practical about the Catholic faith or the “why’s” of the faith. I married my unchurched but believing husband thinking “love is enough!” Well it isn’t, and especially after I catechized myself while I was pregnant with our first. Uugghh! If I could have only known or seen how important living the Catholic faith would be, and how the children just ADORE their father and will likely copy his faith habits, which are practically nil, how I pray daily for his conversion to the true faith for the sake of our CHILDREN’S faith. He does attend Mass if I ask him to or he “feels like it,” but any faith, protestant or Catholic is just not in his interest right now. I wish I could pray him out of his lukewarmness. I am thankful you yet do not have children to put through this confusion, it is very hard rowing the faith boat alone. I read your other post about his woman-friend, I think it’s very inappropriate behavior, and when one marries I always thought of it as marrying a best friend. Just as living together before marriage is playing with fire, so is his insistence on his girl-friend.

God Bless you,
I just prayed a Hail Mary for your situation.

Heather


#6

Hi Meg, you are in my prayers. I hope you don’t mind breaking down the different issues.

[quote=lacoloratura] My husband and I are deciding whether or not we should stay married
[/quote]

From other threads, I understand this is not your only problem.

[quote=lacoloratura] I am a cradle Catholic. he considers himself “nondenominational.”
[/quote]

Is he opposed to the Church or just not interested in it? In other words is he “anti-Catholic”? In either case there are excellent books he can read.

[quote=lacoloratura] When we married in the Catholic church, I did sign the paper saying I would do all in my power to raise our children Catholic. However, at the time neither of us took it very seriously. (By the way, we don’t have kids) My husband will never agree to raise kids exclusively Catholic
[/quote]

Is this a problem right now? Are you planning to have a child in the near future? If it’s not an immediate problem I’d advise concentrating on the immediate issues. Don’t bog yourself down with the “what ifs” right now. You’re absolutely sure he “will never agree to raise kids exclusively Catholic”? You’ve explained how important that is to you, as well as the fact that you each promised God you would do this?

[quote=lacoloratura] I know that the Catholic church doesn’t teach that non-Catholics can’t get to heaven, but I can’t explain why it is therefore important to have a clearly defined set of beliefs, much less why those beliefs should be Catholic.
[/quote]

There are excellent books to help you explain this also. Go to the catholic answers home page. The Catholic Church has the “fullness” of faith. Other churches are lacking. Why would you teach your children an incomplete faith?

[quote=lacoloratura] However, I know that faith is a gift, and no amount of logical reasoning on my part is going to convince him of something he doesn’t feel.
[/quote]

So untrue. Education can open your heart and mind. Look at yourself; several years ago you had little faith right? Don’t write him off so quickly.

[quote=lacoloratura] After reading the posts today on an earlier thread about mixed marriages, I have become discouraged.
[/quote]

Please don’t be discouraged. I think you’re making problems worse than they need to be. Relax, deep breath. Trust God.

[quote=lacoloratura] They all seemed to involve agreements to raise the children Catholic, which my situation did not,
[/quote]

Sorry for the confusion but didn’t you say “I did sign the paper saying I would do all in my power to raise our children Catholic.”? It seems to me your situation did involve an agreement.

[quote=lacoloratura] Unfortunately, this is not our only marital problem. However, I need to get a grip on my desires in this matter before addressing the other major issue between us
[/quote]

I recommend the opposite, this isn’t an immediate problem, you’ve got years to worry, don’t start now. Take care of the pressing problems. Save your marriage, don’t overload yourself.


#7

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