My thoughts on marrying a non-believer


#1

please share your agreement or disagreement…

(i am thinking of my atheist boyfriend)
here is what i think -

when people say “my faith is the most important thing to me, i want to share that with my spouse” my feeling is that with a non-believer spouse i* would* be sharing my faith with him. every day i would show him Christian love and caring and what it is to have God in your life. deeper than that, my walk with God is my walk, i don’t need a Catholic man to share it with. besides, i always have my mother and family and fellow parishoners.

when people say “mommy and daddy will disagree, mommy will go to church while daddy stays home” - that is not the end of the world. my parents got divorced and i had stepparents. no one agreed on anything. but my mom’s faith was strong, i went to catholic elementary school and high school and we went to church every sunday so i knew what was right no matter what everyone else was doing, whether dad disagreed, stepdad didn’t care, etc. the foundation of church, my mom and catholic education brought me back from any straying or confusion.
i know how strong my faith is and how i plan to immerse my children in catholicism. that plus the grace of God and the fact that it’s THE TRUTH do i really have to be afraid? no, i will keep my faith, my children will grow in love and faith and my husband will be blessed to be a part of this (and maybe somehow someday convert).

as i think of it, the truth is the truth. Christ is the truth. if someone is an unbeliever it is because of some problem/difficulty/lack. marrying a catholic will expose the person to the truth and to God’s love. how can that be bad?

thoughts?


#2

That’s not what people mean by “share” in this context.

You are talking about evangelization, which we should all do in all circumstances by word and by deed.

What is meant in this context is to be on the same page as, to be able to build a shared faith life and live out the call to holiness together (equally yoked) and to co-participate in the formation of a holy family, the domestic church, as the two become three, and four, and etc, as children come along.

Forming a domestic church with a non-believer is not possible.

Well, it should be.

I think you underestimate both the role of the parents in the formation of their children and the impact of witnessing such an example.

An exception, not the rule. The research is very clear on the matter through numerous studies of mixed religion households.

Yes. You do.

These are all assumptions, not facts.

Evangelization is not a bad thing. But it is not the purpose of marriage.


#3

Dating a non-believer or a non-Catholic: after my conversion, I would never do so. Simply because of the ultimate reason of dating: to discern if my God-given vocation is married life, and if so, if this is the right person, and if so, to lead her to heaven as she leads me to heaven, and to procreate and have children which are to become saints.

After my conversion, my entire viewpoint on dating changed radically. I only see trouble in dating a non-believer. I also see myself inflicting suffering on her, for there would be a great many things in my life (and, if we marry, in our family life) that she would not be able to comprehend and thus would feel hurt about. I do not think such a marriage would last (but I tend to be a pessimist).

This is what the Church officially teaches on the matter (and it matches what I had already mustered in my personal reflections, though in much better terms). Also please note that atheism, unlike agnosticism, is in fact a form of religious mindset, with its dogmas and its preachers.

Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. …]

Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church.

In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task: “For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband” (1 Cor. 7:16). It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this “consecration” should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith. Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.

Things are harder for you as a future wife, for “the husband is the head of the wife” in our faith. You would then be in a peculiar situation, forced constantly to obstacle your husband’s authority in order to have the religion respected, not only in regards to your children, but even in matters regarding your personal relationship. I am thinking of our beliefs regarding the sacredness of life and the fact that the marital embrace must always be open to life - something that a non-believer would probably not understand or not agree with, since the only option, natural family planning, does require quite a bit of work on the side of both.


#4

I don’t know what it’s liked to be married to an athiest. But I do know there is joy in knowing that my husband and I share a common understanding of the purpose of life and the goal of marriage. We know that we’re both striving towards the same ends - heaven with each other and our children. We make weekend plans under the assumption that we’ll attend Mass as a family (and often go out to eat afterwards). We mark the liturgical seasons with special advent and lenten prayers. And it’s truly heart-warming to hear a three-year-old ask your spouse an innocent question about God or the Holy Family or death or anything really and to hear him answer in a way that demonstrates his understanding of the Truth and his love for the Lord.

Good luck with your discernment. God bless.


#5

Dear OP,
please listen and consider what Ike says.
So true.
I know from personal experience.
My late husband said many times he didn’t care what faith me and our children practiced.
Indeed, he didn’t. He didn’t feel obligated to act in any way remotely akin to Christian. He liked to think himself a great “enlightened” citizen of the world, but in the end, he sent so many mixed messages though his words, his intolerance of anyone who disagreed with him…etc…

I have no idea what your boyfriend is like. But the bottom line is:
If he does not feel as you do on matters that are so important, you can be sure that there will be problems. And in times of trouble you will turn to your faith, and he will be upset that you don’t turn to agree with him.

I realize all this sounds harsh, since you clearly are in love with him.
Stepping back and looking hard at the situation, I think you know that it could be less than what you desire for your life. And certainly less than what the Lord desires for you.
That’s why you posted, most likely. What others have said makes sense to you. I wish I could say something more positive, but I’ve walked that road. It’s hard, lonely, and not good for children.
Be assured of my prayers.
:gopray:


#6

Your idealism is showing. Real life marriage has lots of ups and downs and bumpy patches throughout. You have been given very realistic and good advise. Being unequally yoked is very difficult, indeed. I am living it. A professed atheist has his own brand of religion and it is diametrically opposed to our faith. I hope and pray you will see the light on this and make a different choice for a life time covenant.


#7

As a nonbeliever, I couldn’t be married to anyone who was devoutly religious for a lot of reasons, but there’s a big one, and although Catholics don’t usually bring it up, from the perspective of a nonbeliever it’s huge…it’s the very nature of marriage.

I believe very strongly that spouses are to love each other above all else and always put each other first, no matter what.

Religious people, Catholics included, believe that god should come first, and then your spouse. How could I be married to someone that I was giving everything to, only to be second in their lives? How would that imbalance impact my self-esteem and security in my marriage? What kind of resentment would build over the years? Would I feel like I had married someone selfish? Would I feel like nothing I ever did was good enough and that I was bending over backwards trying to force someone to love me in a way that they can’t?

Those are things that you need to discuss very clearly with your boyfriend.


#8

you might consider - asking Jesus and the Holy Spirit - who it is you should marry- and if you do not have experience in hearing the prophetic voice of God the Holy Spirit- then now is a good time to start-

personally the longest i had to wait – for an answer – on a life changing move-- was 2 days–

and the Holy Spirit said “well i didn’t tell you it was ok to move” now


#9

As a nonbeliever, I couldn’t be married to anyone who was devoutly religious for a lot of reasons, but there’s a big one, and although Catholics don’t usually bring it up, from the perspective of a nonbeliever it’s huge…it’s the very nature of marriage.

I believe very strongly that spouses are to love each other above all else and always put each other first, no matter what.

Religious people, Catholics included, believe that god should come first, and then your spouse. How could I be married to someone that I was giving everything to, only to be second in their lives? How would that imbalance impact my self-esteem and security in my marriage? What kind of resentment would build over the years? Would I feel like I had married someone selfish? Would I feel like nothing I ever did was good enough and that I was bending over backwards trying to force someone to love me in a way that they can’t?

Those are things that you need to discuss very clearly with your boyfriend.


#10

Kittyplant,

Let me be your ray of sunshine in an otherwise very gloomy and somewhat pessimistic thread so far. When my boyfriend and I started dating he was very Catholic and I was a non-baptized, non-denominational, non-church-goer with a nominally Christian upbringing. I had basically started defining myself as a deist – I believed there had to be a god, but I didn’t really want to come down on one side or another as to who that God was or what he wanted.

Eighteen months later, he’s still very Catholic and I’ve been attending Mass every Sunday for a full year. I’m in RCIA, but still wrestling with whether the Church is right for me. While we’re not officially engaged yet, he’s made it clear he plans to marry me regardless of where I finally land on the religion map.

I think with an out-and-out atheist, things might be a bit harder. But let’s be honest – marrying a Catholic doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy. And marrying a non-Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t be. There are a lot of ways people can be “on the same page” – lifestyle, life goals, moral philosophy, attitude, etc. – that are just as important to the compatibility equation as religious affiliation.

I think as long as you’re both very clear about your expectations – and that those expectations aren’t mutually exclusive – that you’ll be fine. We, for example, have talked at length about contraceptive issues and NFP. We have an understanding that has nothing to do with me actually believing it’s a sin and everything to do with me a) respecting his beliefs and b) thinking long and hard about whether it was something I could live with.

I think that’s the kind of discussion you two would need to have. And I wouldn’t wait to have it – we started talking about this stuff within a few months of dating because we knew it could be an issue down the road and wanted to get out in front of it.

As for the person who said her and her husband’s shared goal is to be in heaven together when it’s all over, check your wedding vows – “till death do us part.” You won’t be husband and wife when you get to heaven anyway.


#11

It will be a tremendous cross for you to bear, so I strongly advise against it.


#12

I don’t expect to be married to my dear departed husband in Heaven, but he will certainly be my best friend among those I have known in this life! He converted after we married, but agreed to conversion PRIOR to marriage. In fact, it was something he already wanted to do! If he had not, since he was also a devout Christian Protestant with great respect for the Catholic faith, and agreeable to my living the Faith, and attending Mass every week with me, I probably still would have married him. Had he been a non-believer, or an atheist, much as I loved him, I would not have married him. I would have returned either to the Convent I had just been in for several years or entered the Carmelites (cloistered) who had also accepted me for entry. I would not have married him at all if he did not at least share faith in Christ, and respect for my faith as well as the willingness to accompany me to Mass and encouraging me to practice my own Catholic faith and beliefs.


#13

There is much to what you say. But you are choosing
the more difficult route for yourself and children.
My husband and I were both raised Catholic. However
both of our mothers were Catholics who married atheists. Both
of our fathers went through RCIA and converted and
were baptized but not until they were in their seventies!
My father actually was baptized ten years after my mother
died but he was strongly supportive if us throughout his
lifetime. My father in law was baptized before his wife
died but not before he joined the Masons and the Mormon
Church. He would drop her and the kids at their parish church
for Mass then drive to his Mormon classes at
the Ward then come pick them up after Mass and talk about what he
learned about Mormons on the way home lol!

Fast forward 25 years and both of our Catholic kids
have married outside the Church- one to a kid of
apostate Carholic parents turned Assembly of God!!
and one engaged to an atheist girl from Germany
whose mother doesn’t like Catholic or Jews and
has often stated Hitler was a good guy who got
a bum rap!!! I counseled both of my children to
marry within the faith because obviously it would
easier for them snd of course for my husband and me lol.

Their spouses/fiancée run the gamut from veiled
hostility to actual anger when around my husband
and myself.

I finally came to a partial resolution just three weeks
ago. We decided to view our children,both graduates of Catholic elementary
and high school as if they are “on a mission” in foreign lands.

So my husband and I pray the World Mission Rosary
every Saturday for the their success. Lol. Not
much else to do but hope.

I don’t know if this helps or not. It can be done, what
you propose, but it’s quite a bit more difficult.

Good luck.


#14

I will not tell you if you should or shouldn’t, but you owe it to your faith to consider this: at pre-cana they told us, statistically, children look to their father for guidance on if and how they will practice their faith. This makes sense as the father is the spiritual leader of the house.

I have a friend who’s mother is a faithful, practicing Catholic, taught CCD etc. My friend and his brother do not practice at all. Their father is Baptist but not a church attender. The other day a woman called CA Live and asked Father Serpa what to do because her young child doesn’t want to go to Mass anymore because Dad doesn’t have to. On the other hand, I have another friend who’s father is a Catholic Deacon. My friend is in his late twenties and has kept the faith all his life.

[quote=CCC 1666]The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church,” a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.
[/quote]


#15

If we get to heaven, right? :slight_smile:

There’s no marriage in heaven, but it’s because I love my husband that I want him to be in heaven, not for my sake, but for his. And likewise, I want to be married to someone who is working to get me to eternal life with God. So, yes, I want us to both get to heaven together (rather than one of us make it and the other end up damned).


#16

Two situations require some thought, per the Catholic Church teachings, mixed marriage and disparity of cult. So much so that today, mixed marriage requires permission and disparity of cult requires dispensation. These tensions may exist even with married Catholics if one is fallen away from the faith. The Church discourages these because it is less than the ideal of perfect union of mind and full communion of life.

There was a time when Catholics were not approved for a mixed marriage or disparity of cult. Changes were made in 1965 for Eastern Catholics and in March 25, 1967 for Latin Catholics allowing Catholic marriage to Orthodox, with a dispensation. Then in 1970 other mixed marriages were allowed only through a dispensation. The Catholic party is obligated to stay steadfast to the faith, raise the children in the Catholic faith. The Catholic should not be in proximal danger or loosing the faith.

Catechism of the Catholic Church1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a nonbaptized person) requires even greater circumspection.

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. 137 In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. 138 This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church. 139


#17

Let me put a bit of a different spin on this.

My mother was Catholic and she married my Anglican father in 1955, with dispensation and an agreement that I was to be brought up Catholic (Vico I’m not sure where you got your dates but my parents definitely married in 1955 with dispensation; perhaps the Canadian Church was more lenient). I was but fell away from the faith when I was 17. My parents had a very solid marriage; my father took his promise to have me raised Catholic so seriously, that when my mother wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t take me to Mass, he did. Their marriage lasted until he died.

Fast forward, I married a woman, while I was an atheist, who was an unbaptized believer who eventually became Anglican; 17 years ago I reverted to the faith when we had been married 9 years. I then became a Benedictine Oblate. Although she’s not Catholic and I am, she has great respect for my faith and interest in monasticism and I for hers. We certainly do have, as 1ke puts it, a “domestic church”. It’s not perfect but it works and I feel my wife is slowly being drawn closer to Catholicism (she positively adores Pope Francis and has become very drawn by Benedictine spirituality). So she pulled me into Christianity, and now I am pulling her closer to my spiritual values, not by proselytism, but simply by having barriers melt away through prayer and finding common ground; last year she came with me to the World Oblate’s Congress in Rome and participated in some discussion workshops that I led.

If it wasn’t for my wife’s constant witness and constant prayer for me, I sincerely doubt I would have reverted to the faith, and if not for mine, she would have gone on misunderstanding Catholicism.

God’s plan is mysterious. He may put us on the path of non-believers, and have us marry non-believers, for His own purposes. To say that one can never form a “domestic church” with a non-believer strikes me as devoid of hope and minimizes the power of prayer and God.

I realize my experiences are anecdotal, but I also know I’m not alone to have converted in marriage, due to a wonderful wife never giving up hope for me.


#18

I know a Catholic man who married some years back, had a few children. I met his wife somewhere and she said she couldn’t believe how difficult life was raising children and being married. She left and divorced her husband. It’s been over 10 years since she’s left and he still goes to Mass every Sunday, maybe more often, and continues to wear his wedding band. What an amazing example of faithfulness, one that mirrors God, and it’s amazing to me. I would not wish that heart ache on anyone, for all involved. That faithfulness comes from a man who knows how to come before God on his knees and ask for graces. We don’t know the end of the story yet but I look forward to eternity to hear what he accomplished for the glory of God.

A practicing Catholic husband and father teaches his children how to pray. He goes to Church faithfully and kneels reverently. He stands in line to go to confession and instructs his children how to walk with God. He shuts off the tv and has a rosary in his hand. When things go bad, as they do to everyone, he is plugged into the power of God to see miracles happen. A man like this is worth his weight in gold, and so is a wife and mother. I am so sorry that you can’t appreciate this. It might be that life has been pretty good so far. Those days in the future when you are praying for a miracle, you will be very grateful to have a life partner kneeling with you. There is the power of God present when a husband and wife are in a holy covenant of marriage and honor God. Who would choose to be married without this awesome grace? It makes me shiver to consider it. God bless you.


#19

It might seem fine at first, then later feel very lonely. Even with children. A piece of the puzzle would be missing. It might seem okay to have that hole for awhile, because you are focused on the big picture and not seeing the hole. Later, the hole will become more evident and you will question what is missing from your marriage without knowing why. You might think it is something else and try to fix things not realizing it.

In my mind, it would eventually feel almost uneven. You would be “unevenly yoked”. Here is what that means: Picture two ox pulling a heavy cart. That is you and him going through life together. A yoke needs to go over them to pull as a team. If the yoke is uneven, neither ox can pull straight and one or both will fall down.

If I had to put my thoughts into one word it would be “lonely”.


#20

The 1983 canon laws still require a dispensation for disparity of cult. It was possible to get a dispensation earlier than I listed. Some conditions were required, and a grave cause. Three publications occurred on the topic:

[LIST]
*]The instruction on mixed marriages, Matrimonii sacramentum (1966)
*]Legislation on marriages between Catholics and Orthodox, Crescens matrimoniorum (1967)
*]The Apostolic Letter of Paul VI on mixed marriages, Matrimonia mixta (1970)
[/LIST]

The 1917 canon law had canon 1060: “The Church everywhere prohibits the marriage between two baptized persons, one of whom is a Catholic, the other of whom belongs to a heretical or schismatic sect, which if there exists one of the danger of the perversion of the Catholic spouse and children, marriage is forbidden by divine law itself also." Can 1060. Severissime Ecclesia ubique prohibet ne matrimonium ineatur inter duas personas baptizatas, quarum altera sit catholica, altera vero sectae haereticae seu schismaticae adscripta; quod si adsit perversionis periculum coniugis catholici et prolis, coniugium ipsa etiam lege divina vetatur.

Can 1061 §1. Ecclesia super impedimento mixtae i religionis non dispensat, nisi:
1º Urgeant iustae ac graves causae;
2º Cautionem praestiterit coniux acatholicus de amovendo a coniuge catholico perversionis periculo, et uterque coniux de universa prole catholice tantum baptizanda et educanda;
3º Moralis habeatur certitudo de cautionum implemento.
§2. Cautiones regulariter in scriptis exigantur.


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