My girlfriend is Protestant (please advise)


#1

I’ve been dating a Protestant for well over a year. She’s a wonderful woman. We love each other dearly, and get along remarkably well. We both feel very blessed to have each other in our lives, and feel that God has put us together. However, me being Catholic has been a bit of a roadblock for her, as she grew up in a very devout Protestant household (where Catholics aren’t thought of very highly.) Her father once remarked to her that if she were to ever marry a Catholic, he wouldn’t attend her wedding. I think this has haunted her for a while, especially now that her father has passed away.

Luckily, my girlfriend is open-minded and even has some Catholic tendencies, however, she isn’t about to reconcile with the Catholic Church anytime soon. Surprisingly, we do tend to see eye-to-eye on many religious issues, but she’ll be quick to point out that she doesn’t agree on certain Catholic beliefs, as she wasn’t raised this way.

When we first started dating, I was definitely a cradle Catholic, and much more in tune with my spiritual side rather than the Biblical or religious aspect. She would begin to question me regarding my Catholic faith (i.e., “Why do Catholics pray to saints?”, “Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest instead of God?”, “Why do Catholics think good works will earn them Salvation?” etc.) All legitimate questions, unfortunately, I didn’t really have educated or official church answers, so my answers were based on personal beliefs. But her questions led me to research about Catholic and Protestant differences, as I wasn’t really sure what she believed and why she didn’t believe certain things I did. And I also needed to find out why I believed what I did.

I have spent most of this year researching and reading several apologetic books along with Scripture, to the point that it has become a bit of an obsesion and a major part of my life. It has deepend my faith, and led me to the conclusion that the ancient Church of Christ is indeed the one true Church of God. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to really share much of my discoveries and joy with her, due to our differences in faith (for fear that it may end up in an ugly heated debate.) Although, just a few nights ago I did bring up Salvation, and surprisingly, she actually agreed with my views. While I was on a roll, I also brought up the early reformers and how they removed 7 books from the OT, so that the Bible could fit their views on faith. And how Martin Luther even added the word “alone” following “faith”, and wanted to omit the Book of James all together. She was in shock and disbelief to learn this.

For her, it has always been very important that when she marries, her spouse be an integral part of her religious life (e.g., go to church with her.) At first, I used to think (as a solution) that we could simply alternate between both our churches, but when I proposed this idea to her, she wanted no part of it. Once, she even remarked that if we were to get married, our children would not be raised Catholic! In the past, she has gotten me to attend her church and a small group, but I never felt quite at “home”. Even though I met some really nice people there. However, now that I’ve grown closer to my faith, I want no part of a Protestant Church.

I don’t know how to break this to her. And perhaps I’d be wise not to, as the subject hasn’t come up in a while, and recently she has expressed openess to attending a Catholic Church. I never really thought of converting her to Catholicism, as it was never my intent, but now I think I’d really prefer this. I’ve hinted at wanting her to read some apologist books written by former Fundamentalist and Protestants, as this could be a real bridge between our faiths.

I’m not sure what to do. There’s a part of me that wishes to confront her about this, but fears losing her. And there’s another part of me that thinks I should just let her be and if the Holy Spirit pushes her towards Catholicism, then so be it.

Bless all of you who made it this far! :slight_smile:
I apologize for having written so much, but I think I really needed to get this off my shoulders. But more importantly, how do you all feel about this, and what are your thoughts and advice?


#2

Your situation sounds almost word for word identical to my situation…only I was the protestant girlfriend.

I’d advise you to do what my husband did. I’d make it clear that you want to raise your kids catholic, and that you aren’t about to change. She’ll have to eithr accept you or reject you. I can’t promise this will go well, but it will save you a lot of heartache should you choose to get married and things fall apart.

If she does accept you, pray for her. Pray long and hard and hold off making a decision on marriage until you figure things out. My husband and I dated for 3 years before we married.

Now, in our situation my husband was very open to discussion, and took me to church and helped me find people who could answer my questions. I studied catholicism in the protestant school I attended (I was in a seminary program to be a minister at a protestant church) and through time, patience, and all the prayers I later found out his family was saying, I found the truth. When I did, we were very shortly after engaged.

I can’t tell you that the same situation will happen for you. I can’t even say that there is a likely chance it will happen. But I also want you to know that it does sometimes happen. Just tell her exactly how you feel, and if God is willing that you two be together, he will soften her heart. It may take time (around a year of dating, my then boyfriend and I nearly broke up over the issue, but we agreed we loved each other and would try anything to work it out. I didn’t enter RCIA until the end of our 2nd year of dating.). The important thing is not to back down. As a former protestant I can tell you that while there is a lot of flash there, it lacks the wholeness and substance of the Catholic Church. It’s like eating a diet of chocolate bars. At first glance that seems VERY appealing, but after a week of it you feel extremely malnourished and ill. Don’t back down, and tell her how you feel. If you give in, or get wishy-washy, this can cause a rupture in marriage later which is FAR worse than suffering a loss now.

I’d also advise you to learn everything you can about the church, why it teaches it, and things of that nature. It will help her alot to understand, and it would be great if you can answer her questions. The book my husband’s mom got for me when she heard of our struggle was “Why Do Catholics Do That?” It answered all the remaining questions I had, and by the end of it I was in RCIA. I’d get it and read it yourself so you are prepared to answer questions.

I’m praying for you two!
Just remember to pray, pray, pray!


#3

God bless you for coming here and for sharing your story! Please know you will be in my most special prayers.

I think you know that you need to talk to her about this, and that you need to be kind and gentle but very firm in your faith convictions.

Your fears of losing her are legitimate and I will pray for you. However, please do not put this aside, there is a good chance if you do that you will be putting this problem off onto your future children.

Think of it this way, better for you to have heartbreak today if she breaks up with you; then for small children to have a lifetime of heartbreak as their parents pull them in two spiritual directions. You can do this, men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the home. You can be firm and be a leader, it is part of the wonderful gift of masculinity.

You cannot force her to convert of course, however you can be firm in that your future children will be raised in the Catholic church. Give her time to think about this but remain firm. I will pray for you, remember Jesus loves you so much and he will give you what you need. Take care, hope this helps a little.


#4

I can’t really offer much advise other than to say that, so long as she refuses to agree to raise the children catholic, this will be an impediment to marriage.

Actually I think that you are handling the issues pretty well. You both have your positions but are open to each other and willing to talk things through in order to reach accord if possible, but not compromise away what is important either.

You have not said if you feel any urgency about getting married but it does sound as though you would like to.

For now I think that you just need to hold the course, cintinue reading and bringing up things with your lady in a natural and nonthreatening way. You are both learning a lot and it sounds as though she may ultimately come home to the Church.
Perhaps she would like listening to other people who have come home to the Catholic Church. Scott Hahn has tapes out of his conversion. Steven Ray does also. I’m sure there are tons of them. Another nice resource is EWTN. Marcus Grodi’s program “The Journey Home” is wonderful.

Pray hard, keep studying and talking. If you two love each other and Love God above all else, he will show you the way.

Peace
James


#5

Pray Pray Pray. Pray for your girlfriend, that she would be open to listening to what you have to say and open to learning from others. Sometimes It needs to be someone outside of the relationship to share some of these things with her. Maybe you could invite her to an event at your parish or a bible study if you are in one. If you are not in one, I would join one through you local parish or even better, start one with some friends. One word of caution about inviting her to a bible study with a bunch of Catholics… Tell them that the person you are bringing is not Catholic and not to say anything that would offend a non-Catholic. The Navarre Study Bibles are probably the best for Bible Studies. My bible study group all purchased the Letter of St Paul and it is great. Here is a link to learn more about them. catholicshopper.com/products/Navarre_Bible.html

Whitacre_Girl gave you some really good advice. Learn more about why the Church teaches what it does. I love learning by listening to debates and conversion stories. If you have not heard the conversion stories of Scott Hahn, Tim Staples or Jeff Cavins, I highly recommend them. Also debates involving Patrick Madrid are really good sources of information. He has done a number of debates with a Protestant named James White that I have on cd and listen to every once and a while to strengthen my arguments when talking to a non-Catholic about different issues.

If she is not open and you do not see that changing, I would just think about a few things:

  1. If you get married, is this going to be a big source of arguing between the two of you?
  2. Can you agree on how you will raise the kids? You are asked in your wedding vows, if you agree to raise you children in the Catholic faith. Think about how you would answer that question.
  3. Do you want to marry someone that does not share the same religious beliefs. Is this a big enough part of you life, that the person you marry needs to be able to share that with you. ---- That being said, I know of a a few couples who are not the same religious beliefs and are happily married. They make it work. Of course there are also some that do not work.

Ask for the intersession of St Monica. St Monica prayed for the conversion of her husband for his entire life and her converted on his death bed.
americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1120 Info on St Monica

Anyways, I hope this helps. I will say a prayer for you and your girlfriend.


#6

Heed the statement above.

@orange2001: I am living the repercussions of not having taken my faith seriously prior to marriage and can tell you from personal experience that you must stand firm (with charity).

You have been blessed by the Holy Spirit and guided by your guardian angel to come more fully into the faith prior to making a bond of marriage either through the Church or, worse, outside of it.

Understand and accept your role in this relationship now so that you hide nothing, renege nothing and make clear all that is expected of her and understand from her what is expected of you. Do not, at this moment or ever, falter on your love for Christ for that will only lead to peril. However, God will always make good out of our poor decisions.

Check out the Catechism’s section on mixed marriages (CCC 1633-1636) and pick up the book When Only One Converts (it was recommended to me by Jim Burnham).

On a side note, you mentioned before that you had not considered her conversion, well God may not be working on her, so to speak. It may be that He is allowing you to strengthen your faith so that you may make a better husband and father to the bride who is truly intended for you. It may also be that He wishes to work through you to convert her…In any event, keep Him in the forefront.

My prayers are with you.


#7

My wife is a Baptist and we’ll be celebrating our 15th anniversary on October 22. I’m quite happily married despite the fact that she’s not a Catholic and has never showed any sign of being interested in RCIA.

Her family wanted her to marry a Christian and they don’t have any dislike for Catholics so the in-laws have never been a problem. She doesn’t attend Mass with me, but I told her that I would never require her to attend if she didn’t want to.

We talked about everything we could think of before getting engaged. The issue with how children will be raised is probably the biggest issue for any mixed faith couple. Canon Law no longer requires a non-Catholic who wants to marry a Catholic to sign a statement that they will agree to raise any children Catholic as a requirement for receiving a dispensation of cult. But Canon Law still requires the Catholic to do everything in their power to raise children in the faith, and the non-Catholic must be made aware of that obligation. I told my wife that it was an obligation and not a suggestion, so therefore it was not something on which compromise was possible. She agreed so that’s never been a problem for us.

Quite honestly, despite being a Baptist I could go into great detail about how she’s a better Catholic than many Catholics I know. I thank God on a regular basis for the blessing that she’s been :smiley:


#8

You mention apologetic books, have you read Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic by Currie? I’m a convert as well, almost a Presbyterian minister at one time but was raised Southern Baptist (so I was very familiar with the anti-Catholic fundamentalist teachings - in fact I still have a few of the books in my library I purchased at a teenager).

As a Presbyterian who had at one time been exposed to the Anti-Catholic rhetoric Scott Hahn’s “Home Sweet Rome” also had a lot of parts I could identify with completely.

My wife’s family as well as my own are both Baptist with Ministers on my wife’s side. We both came into full communion with the Church in 2008. While there were a few questions, which I was able to answer succinctly, we really haven’t had anyone bring up their anti-Catholic idea to us (at least not to our face, lol). At the same time my best friend, who is an “Bible Church Evangelical” has grown close to Catholicism as well. I’m not expecting him to convert but he left his anti-Catholicism during my conversion process.

Why am I stating all this? Because I believe 100% that is she studies and is open, and truly knows the Bible from a Dispensationalist standpoint… she will see the beauty and the Truth in the Church and in Covenant Theology. She needs to know that the way her Church interprets the Bible is based upon a dream from about 200 years ago (research John N. Darby) and that even most Protestant churches don’t use that interpretation outside the US (Catholics, Orthodox, Presbyterians, Methodist, Anglican, Epsicoal etc… all follow a covenant understanding). To me it helped me to see, one of the reasons I initially became a Presbyterian, why the Bible dosen’t seem to contradict itself. (it does IMO if you try to use dispensationalism).

Hail Holy Queen is also another good book as well as is The Lamb’s Supper, both by Hahn. Ray has a good book called Ipon this Rock and then there are the works by the Early Church Fathers as well, including the Didache. You may already have most of these but you need to begin sharing them with her.

As I’m sure you know, we as Catholics and our spouses have to agree to raise our children in the Catholic Faith (what a great gift right?). So if she is completely opposed to that, which is sounds like she may not be anymore, that could be a big show stopper.

Let me finally add this, my mother (who is 65 and has always been Baptist) is close but not there yet to becoming Catholic. My father was the one who studied the most, read the Bible etc… he and I studied all kinds of anti-catholic literature when I was growing up and my mom said one day he would die (he passed away 10 years ago) if he knew I became Catholic. I told her she was wrong. My father understood and was searcing for the Truth. He was even a 32nd Degree Mason who left the order due to his convictions. He never complained when I worked on a Catholic Youth Retreat back in High School and there is no doubt in my mind that had he been presenting with the evidence, he would have become Catholic. The few anti-Catholic feelings he has left were all based upon mis information and lies. I could have remedied that, I know he had some issues with certain things in his own faith the more he studied the Bible, my only regret is that I missed getting to share everythign with him.

As the Pope has said, there is no doubt that there are Protestants today how are able to find salvation (that’s not the excact quote but close). Thus if her father truly loved the Lord he may be in Heaven. If that is the case, then she can rest assured that her Father, no matter what his dying thoughts were on this Earth, KNOWs the Truth of the Church. Perhaps it’s actually her Father’s prayers that are leading her at this time.

Joe


#9

I have read everyone’s wonderful advice. Thank you all for responding!

I think I will incorporate a bit of everyone’s advice. But for now, I don’t want to come out all guns, firing bold statements like “our kid’s must be raised Catholic if we’re to marry at some point.” This would obviously catch her off guard, as it hasn’t been discussed in quite a while, and probably not lead to anything good. But I will definitely take a firm stance on this the next time the issue comes up again.

My strategy has been (and will be) to be as gentle and nurturing as possible. I understand that many of these ideas are new to her (i.e., she never knew Catholics believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, and therefore Jesus didn’t have any siblings.) I’ll continue bringing up topics, and present them in a non-threatening Catholic point of view. I’d like to discuss the Eucharist with her next, and hopefully that will go well. Truthfully, I have no idea how she feels about this.

As someone asked me before, I’m in no hurry to be married. I’m at least a year or two away. But keep in mind that she is a few years older than me, and she hears that biological clock ticking…

Some of you have mentioned apologist books by Hahn, Currie and others. BORN FUNDAMENTALIST, BORN AGAIN CATHOLIC by Currie is a terrific book, and I’d like to start her off on that one. I’ll drop it by soon. I don’t expect her to convert overnight, it’s usually a long and difficult journey–it’ll be especially difficult with her family and friends–but I plan to be there with her to help her along the way. I’ll keep her in my prayers. And pray that I be able to speak the truth of God.

I feel good about her becoming (even more) sympathetic towards Catholics. As I mentioned in my first post, she is open-minded and has remarked on things about the Catholic Church that she loves (primarily the activism), and wishes Protestants could be more like us, in that regard. Hopefully, I’ll bring her to my parrish in the next week or so.
(Btw, is she able to participate in the Eucharist? Or must she abstain from it? I know that I’ve taken communion at her church before, did I do bad?)

I’ll continue to pray for her journey back “home”. As someone else mentioned here, perhaps God has someone else in mind for me… I’m no one to question God, or what plans he has in store for me. I just hope to hear Him and be receptive, and do His will.

God bless you all! :slight_smile:


#10

Btw, I’m considering telling her about this thread, so that she may be able to read all the great and supportive feedback. She’s aware that I’ve signed up to a few forums in the past couple of weeks.

Bad idea?


#11

Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn…

Oooohhh yeaaahhh :cool:


#12

No, she may not receive communion. No you should not receive anywhere but in a Church that is in union with the Catholic Church.


#13

The old Code of Canon Law prior to 1983 required a non-Catholic marrying a Catholic to give assurance in writing that they would not obstruct the Catholic in teaching the faith to any children they might have. Both people in the couple also had to sign a statement that they would have any children baptized Catholic and taught Catholicism.

The current Code of Canon Law states that a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic is normally prohibited. That norm can be set aside by the bishop with a dispensation of cult. To receive that dispensation, the Catholic must promise to do all that is possible to baptize and raise the children Catholic. The non-Catholic is not required to make any promise on their part, but must be made aware of the promise the Catholic is required to make.

The obligation is still there, but it’s handled a lot better now. YOU the Catholic have to ensure they get to Mass. YOU the Catholic have to ensure they are taught the faith. The obligation is yours, not hers, and she must be made aware of this fact. She doesn’t have to take an active part in teaching them the Catholic faith, but has to be told what you are obligated to do.

It’s going to be mentioned at whatever marriage preparation program your diocese provides, so best to make sure she knows up front rather than having it come up out of nowhere. Better to talk about it now. I made sure my wife knew after we’d been dating for about a month, well before we got engaged.

It may be that she simply won’t accept this no matter what she hears from you or the Church. In that case, you will have done all that is possible and it didn’t end up being enough. Canon lawyers agree that when there is no way to win, sometimes you must partially concede for the sake of the family and allow the child to be taught the tenets of a different faith by your spouse. But that still doesn’t remove your obligation to at least try to get them baptized Catholic and present the Catholic faith against whatever your wife may teach. If that’s the situation, there’s no need to be confrontational. Just present the facts as they are, as charitably as possible, and leave it at that.

Being charitable is always a good idea. My wife doesn’t believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary either, or at least didn’t at some point in the past. She was also raised to believe that Jesus had siblings after he was born. I don’t know if she still does. We had that discussion a while back.

I explained the reasoning of the Catholic Church and invited her to read any of the books I have about the Early Fathers of the Church so she could learn what was taught in the early years of Christianity about such things as Mary, purgatory, intercessory prayer, Real Presence, etc. She has yet to take me up on that offer. But the topic of Jesus having siblings has never come up since. I don’t know if she still holds that view, agrees with the Church now, or isn’t sure what to believe.

Catholics are not permitted to receive in Protestant services because we are never permitted to receive from any group which lacks valid holy orders. Without valid holy orders, it’s not really Jesus you’re receiving. You did wrong, but that’s mitigated by the fact that you didn’t know it was wrong at the time. So don’t worry about it. Just don’t do it if you attend their services in the future :slight_smile:

She is not permitted to receive the Eucharist at Mass because she isn’t in full communion with the Church. When you tell that to her, it would be best to let her know that communion isn’t a right but a privilege, even among Catholics. That way she doesn’t think of it as some “No Protestants are welcome” rule. Let her know that if a Catholic is not in a state of grace, for example, then the Catholic is not properly disposed and therefore not in full communion with the Church either, and should not come forward to receive.

Likewise :slight_smile:


#14

Girlfriend of orange2001, if you are reading this thread then please give us the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Chances are slim that any post you read is from a degreed theologian, a canon lawyer, a professional apologist with years of experience, or a person who speaks with magisterial authority. Most of us are regular people just trying to do our best living and explaining the faith. So please don’t hold it against us if we make the occasional mistake. I’ve shoved my foot far down my own throat multiple times in the past, and most certainly will again multiple times in the future.

My wife probably has a numbered list to reference when the need arises :smiley:


#15

The OP is the one who has to promise to raise the children Catholic, not his wife. There is no impediment as long as he agrees to make an effort to raise them Catholic.


#16

I follow several Catholic blogs and many of the bloggers are converts from different Protestant denominations. I have learned from their writings that the main reason behind their conversion is learning how Biblical the Catholic faith really is. Tracing our beliefs to the early church is also crucial because it shows the continuity of faith that Protestants don’t have. You mentioned in one of your posts that your girlfriend was shocked to learn about modifications to the Bible done by Protestants. If I were you I’d focus on the Biblical foundations of the faith and show her how everything we believe and practice is based on it (for example confession, priesthood, etc.). Many “Bible-believing” Christians are shocked to find out that what they believe is not in fact based on the Bible and the faih of the Apostles. S. Hahn is really good for this because his apologetics is aimed at Protestant criticism.

I wouldn’t show this thread though. She might feel like a project and not appreciate it.

Good luck!


#17

My advice is to pray. Pray for your self, pray for her, ask her to pray for you and with you. And thank God for using this situation to lead you closer to him and his church!

Yes, invite her to Mass. Show her the readings ahead of time and let her look at your missal to see the prayers and profession of faith. They are all very Biblical and she may be very suprised. There are definately some very interesting conversion stories out there, so I would consider sharing some with her (like *Rome, Sweet Home *or *Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic *).

However, start guarding your heart to her. You now know how important it is to be ‘equally yoked’ in marriage. You will not want to attend different churches or be worried about how you present the faith to your children in your home live and how you will fulfill your promise to raise them as Catholics.


#18

when i met my husband i was a closed order brethern . i was engaged to a marage that the church had aranged for me as our church didnt like us dating the “heretical open brethren” whos only diference was the beleif that you could be converted in to being brethren you wernt just born one.
i confided in my aunt and she assured me that she would do her best to help unfortunatly this got her writen out of my grandfathers will and she now works as a missionary in papa new guinee. i had the front of my head shaved for my sins and was beaten servearly by the parish thugs . in the end i ran away my dh managed to find a catholic church whos preist was an ex methodist and had had dealings with the breathren in his teenyears. the preist welcomed me with open arms and adjusted the mas so that the hyms we sung were ones wich i recognised (i didnt know he was doing this at the time my dh had snuck him my hym book one mas) the simple fact that i was able to sing the hyms made me feal comfortable in a catholic church . where as only a month befor i couldnt enter for all the horror stories about catholics that had been pumped into me as a child . slowly i converted there was no presure from any one i just craved so mutch to be part of a loving church (they are now back to using their own hymnal:o). and as a bonus my running away has shoked the religeouce blinkers off my parents , they pulled both of my sisters out of their arranged marages (mutch to the disgust of our elders).

now im not advising your girlfriend to run away but rather that you should try to find a church that she would feal comfortable in. your preist will understand if it meens you have to change parish if she wont budge about the childrens upbringing try a compramise girl shes protestant boy hes catholic or visa versa your willingness to be flexable will be apreaciated and she wont feal like shes being pressganged . i have talked to alot of mixed denomanation couples and there seems to be an insecurity bred in to protistants that if there childrenn are catholic they will be forced into be ing catholic , strange then that catholics dont seem to be bothered if there kid have to be protistent then thats not threatening them . maybe we are just stronger in faith.
hope this helps


#19

Seeking light, I notice you are like myself living in the UK. Was this order of closed brethren operating in the UK? If so have the police been made aware of their activities?


#20

If you are an honest person you will tell her exactly as you feel; otherwise you are being deceptive in the eyes of the Lord, which is a sin. You will also be adding insult to injury by withholding those convictions, which both of you will reap at a later time.

So the real question is do you put your self-interest above your girl friends and God’s?

All of your research must have been from the Catholic wiew of history; otherwise you have to question the validity of many doctrines in view of Scripture.

Why don’t you ask your girlfriend to provide you with some resources that validate her faith? When you compare the two in all honoesty; then things may become clearer. Where one spends eternity is the most important choice we all make; many only have one chance to get it right; so all must be diligent in light of what the apostles, Jesus, the prophets and other writers have said and done.

I wish both of the best; regardless of the outcome.
rick


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