Mixed Marriages: some Traditional questions with some Council seasonings

I’m a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College, and I am the product of a mixed marriage. My mom is an Irish Catholic, and my dad is an Indian Hindu. This has been tough at times, but has thus far helped my faith grow in unique and incredible ways, such that I wish to become a Dominican priest.

I published a note on Facebook taking some of my schoolmates (not personally, that would be uncharitable) to task regarding a prejudice about mixed marriages, namely, an active discouragement from pursuing one. Of all the people at TAC, I’m pretty familiar with the potential problems, and this let to some very awkward conversations with the upperclassmen, who became somewhat, shall we say, set in their ways regarding how they viewed such unions. I am more ecumenical (for the record, I hate that word, because of the abuses of its use) regarding mixed marriages, because I don’t buy that the Baltimore has the last word on it, tone wise. But just to be explicit, I will give the trend of the conversation resulting from this note.

I argued that while mixed marriages have special difficulties, more so than marriages between two Catholics, we ought not to be discouraged from thinking that one may not be in our calling. The size of the Cross does not exclude God from sending it to someone. I gave references to various examples of extraordinary vocations (like the prophet Amos in today’s reading, David fighting Goliath, and Christ asking Peter to walk on water.) All this was to say “Be not afraid” to those who feared to enter into a relationship with a non-Catholic.

A very good friend of mine, who is more familiar with Canon Law but more dissatisfied, shall we say, with the Novus Ordo and the Second Vatican Council, disagreed with my tone regarding the issue. He is a very good friend of mine, and we agree on a great many things, but this is a bone of contention. He quoted the Baltimore, saying that the priest is not supposed to wear his special vestments (stole, etc.) and that such a service is supposed to be trimmed down. He stated “to marry a non-Catholic is against Church law.”

I recognize that this is the case “as such”, but also that there are dispensations that allow this to happen, and he sees this also. Thus far we agree (both the Balt and the CCC warn against the possible dangers, they only happen under dispensation, and they are not for the faint of heart, so to speak.) The difficulty is that HE says we ought not to encourage Catholics to pursue them under ANY circumstance, whereas I am of the more CCC opinion that, they being a great grace, and besides which, a form of very intimate apostolate, should be recognized as something to which God might call someone and not, as my friend says because “some Catholics are stubborn SOBs and will persist in the will to do it and it is better to keep them in the Church.”

Now, he quoted the Baltimore, and it seems to agree with him in both matter and tone, at least the bits he quoted, which were full, contexted passages. I quoted Catholic Answers’ entire CCC reference on the subject, which appears to agree with me in both matter and tone as well. But I don’t want to discount the Baltimore entirely, just see which is RIGHT here. Or even whether I’m right about the CCC, or he’s right about the Baltimore. Whatever the Church teaches, I’ll submit to it, and think accordingly, but this is an issue, as you may imagine, of some concern to me.

clarification: This post is about Marriage, so some might think it goes in Family Life (and admittedly this is a disagreement with someone who is like a brother to me) but it’s about Marriage as an administered Sacrament and the etiquette regarding the encouragement of the said Sacrament under particular circumstances.

I will allow this thread in L&S as long as there is no denigration of either traditional/post Vatican II rites/persons, etc. Please confine the discussion to current norms regarding inter-religious marriage within the Catholic Church. Thank you all.

I didn’t actually mean to denigrate anyone if that was a response…but it is good advice anyway. Although no-one seems inclined to answer my question. :frowning:

It’s not completely clear to me what your question is.

Are you asking if we should look at mixed marriages /disparity of cult marriages in a neutral light? A positive light? Some other way?

And by the way, if you graduated from the St. Thomas Aquinas College in California then I envy you. That is a beautiful location.

I’m in a mixed marriage. My husband, who is baptised, but not Catholic and not educated in his own denomination as a child, is extremely supportive of my practice of my faith and teaches the faith to our children as fact (rather than as their mother’s opinion). Because he is baptised, we chose to be married within a nuptial Mass.

It is hard, and that fact shouldn’t be downplayed. Nevertheless, it is obvious to me that he provides less of a temptation towards lukewarmness in my faith than pretty much every Catholic man I ever dated. I would say that a non-Catholic who supports family practice of the faith fully, who teaches the faith to the children to the best of his ability and who is willing to support the Church is very much preferable to a Catholic who is lukewarm or unwilling to do these things.

I think it is wise to get away from the idea of RIGHT here, though. The Church doesn’t say “don’t”, the Church doesn’t say “can’t”, but the Church is right to say “take care.” And in my experience, saying “take care” doesn’t put much on in the way of brakes. Better that than a wailing of “why didn’t anyone tell us how hard this would be?” years later. Future pastors had better be aware, however–and make this point to your classmates!–that the respect they show to prospective spouses may be far more important than they think when it comes to how supportive that spouse will be towards the Catholic faith in the future. If they feel at all kicked around or treated as a second-rate marriage material, they may carry that resentment for years. This is very bad.

We ask a lot of Catholics who marry non-Catholics. I think it is better that the tone mostly have a very heavy dose of “do you know what your Catholic partner is asking of you?” and “are you sure you are willing to take this on, because we will think you a sort of hero if you do, but we don’t want to make you suffer because no one told you what you were in for.” Make sure the non-Catholic knows the precepts of the Church…are they willing to sacrifice so that their family can go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day? Are they willing to financially support the Church? And so on.

In other words, take the position that Catholics are notorious for getting a lot more serious about their faith when their kids arrive, and make certain the non-Catholic is ready for this very predictable turn in the road of his or her marriage. The Catholic, likewise, needs to be asked bluntly to be very certain that he or she is not going to either pull a bait-and-switch on their spouse or let his or her faith suffer when that might “keep the peace.”

Incidentally, this is something to say “take care” about when choosing whom to date…not just to take into account whether or not the person is Catholic, but also how serious the person is about his or her faith. It is wise to teach young people to ask very early on whether their faith is something that one can foresee sharing with the person they are considering dating. Once the courtship is started and other reasons for attraction come to the forefront, the decision becomes very much more difficult. By the time there is an engagement, the question is all but answered.

His statement is completely false.

See here for Pope Paul VI’s explanation when he changed the canon law on mixed marriages. Two sample paragraphs:

The Church is indeed aware that mixed marriages, precisely because they admit differences of religion and are a consequence of the division among Christians, do not, except in some cases, help in re-establishing unity among Christians. There are many difficulties inherent in a mixed marriage, since a certain division is introduced into the living cell of the Church, as the Christian family is rightly called. And in the family itself the fulfillment of the Gospel teachings is more difficult because of diversities in matters of religion, especially with regard to those matters which concern Christian worship and the education of the children.

For these reasons the Church, conscious of her duty, discourages the contracting of mixed marriages, for she is the most desirous that Catholics be able in matrimony to attain to perfect union of mind and full communion of life. However, since man has the natural right to marry and beget children, the Chruch, by her laws, which clearly show her pastoral concern, makes such arrangements that on the one hand the principles of divine law be scrupulously observed and that on the other the said right to contract marriages be respected.

See here for current Church regulations on mixed marriages, 143-160. For example:

  1. In all marriages, the primary concern of the Church is to uphold the strength and stability of the indissoluble marital union and the family life that flows from it. The perfect union of persons and full sharing of life which constitutes the married state are more easily assured when both partners belong to the same faith community. In addition, practical experience and the observations obtained in various dialogues between representatives of Churches and ecclesial Communities indicate that mixed marriages frequently present difficulties for the couples themselves, and for the children born to them, in maintaining their Christian faith and commitment and for the harmony of family life. For all these reasons, marriage between persons of the same ecclesial Community remains the objective to be recommended and encouraged.

I married someone who was not Baptized, but said he was a Christian. He went to a Baptist church as a child, but not with any regularity. We were married in a Catholic church, not a nuptual Mass, by the pastor and my cousin who was a monsignor. I figured they knew what was ok and what wasn’t.

That being said, it was the biggest mistake of my life. We are no longer married, but for 15 years every day was a trial. There were very important things we discussed in depth with my pastor before marriage, but when those things inconvenienced him, he changed his tune. Not being Catholic was only part of the problem, but it was a contributory factor. Even though we attempted to address these issues before marriage, he wasn’t truly committed to the same values and had no problem eschewing them.

So as far as encouraging one to marry outside the faith, no, I would not want to encourage someone to do that. I wouldn’t actively discourage him either. If someone asked me my thoughts on the subject I would tell them that marriage is hard enough without adding more stumbling blocks. You need to make sure that you both think the same way about the important things in life.

That person may be worth all the potential difficulties, but make sure you know who he really is deep down inside before you marry him. Or her.

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