Pre-Cana for Non-Catholic Fiance


Just have a question re: Pre-Cana. Our daughter’s fiance is Christian but not Catholic. His friend told him that he had a horrible experience going to pre-Cana before he got married to a Catholic because the people giving the Pre-Cana kept “putting down” the non-Catholics in attendance big-time. Now our future son-in-law is having reservations about whether to even go through it from what he’s heard. They have reserved a Catholic Church for the wedding, but I’m praying they don’t change their minds and decide to get married in his non-Catholic Church instead.
Has anyone had any similar experience with this or can anyone possibly give any advice?


My daughter and son-in-law went to pre-Cana counselling even though they aren’t Catholic.

One of the reasons they went is because a PROTESTANT pastor recommended it to them as some of the best Christian pre-marital counselling available!

They didn’t have any problems with Protestant-bashing. But the weekend was rather a disappointment to them. Perhaps because they had been dating for seven years, some of the material was too shallow for them.


When we did our Engaged Encounter I hadn’t yet converted. I felt a little uncomfortable a couple times (not because anything anyone said, the people putting it on were all great), mainly because I felt really uncomfortable when we had to write prayers for each other and read them out loud to a priest (now it seems silly, but at the time I was freaked out…). Truthfully I didn’t hear one negative thing about the non-Catholics who were there and I am so incredibly glad we went through it and were married in the Church.


I am having a hard time imagining that there is true “non-Catholic bashing” unless it is specific to the individuals giving the particular Pre-Cana sessions. And that would certainly be a problem.

What there might be are prayers and teachings which non-Catholics find to be uncomfortable or objectionable while Catholics consider such things “routine”. Non-Catholics might consider the idea that a wedding should be held in a Catholic Church rather than the non-Catholic family’s garden to be “non-Catholic bashing”. Likewise the idea that the Catholic is required to do all in his power to raise the children as Catholics. Some non-Catholic Christians might find readings from the deuterocanonical books or prayers to saints to be “non-Catholic bashing.” And chances are the non-Catholic will find the concept that the Catholic cannot attend the services of the other in lieu of Mass on Sunday as bashing.

A non-Catholic who will attend Pre-Cana needs to know that this is CATHOLIC and that the Church expects Catholics to STAY Catholics.


Convince your daughter to marry a Catholic.


Maybe there’s something to this, but maybe the friend was just sensitive. Maybe the friend tried to defend his faith and others in Pre-Cana debated with him. Who knows.

I’m not sure it’s relevant. Your daughter is Catholic, and presumably the Church is important to her. If that’s so, he shouldn’t base his willingness to be married in the Church on whether or not he can handle a weekend of people saying things he’s uncomfortable with.

Catholics often find themselves in places where they unexpectedly come up against anti-Catholicism. It’s part of life. While I would hope the majority of Catholics he meets in Pre-Cana or elsewhere are not putting down non-Catholics, it shouldn’t have anything to do with his willingness to go to Pre-Cana. It would bother me, as a mom or as a potential wife, to see them get married outside of the Church just because he was afraid of some short-term conflict. What does that say for when things get much more difficult?


My husband and I, both practicing Catholics, felt uncomfortable at the Catholic Pre-Cana we went to! The deacon’s whole aspect was secular. The only part of it that reminded you it was a Catholic marriage talk was the opening prayer with everyone crossing themselves. Talk about a disappointing experience and, frankly, waste of time for us!

Anyway, my only question to you is that if you or your CATHOLIC daughter are concerned about her fiance being offended at a CATHOLIC marriage talk, then how is she going to be comfortable openly practicing her faith throughout their married life? How will she have the strength and courage to raise their children Catholic if he’s offended by it or even against it?


That’s very encouraging - thank you, RSW.
When my husband and I were married decades ago, Pre-Cana was totally different, so I’m trying to find out from others what it’s really like now so that I can possibly pass on some words of “encouragement” to them. I’m guessing from these threads and also a few others I’ve talked to that just about every Pre-Cana session seems to be different, depending on the presenters - some wonderful, and some not so terrific. I’m thinking there must be some type of basic “curriculum” to follow that is handed down from the Catholic Church, but maybe not. Does anyone out there know?
Our future son-in-law is a wonderful person, and I know he wants to do “the right thing”, but I also know that if other Christian religions are bashed during the sessions he is going to be very offended (I would be also if I were him). I just hope and pray this doesn’t happen. I feel as if the Catholic Church should be lovingly embracing other Christians in the true spirit of Jesus’s teachings rather than chastising them as in the case of his friend who had the very difficult experience.


I’m glad to hear he’s a wonderful person. I totally agree that there shouldn’t be Christian-bashing there, and that of course that would offend him. I think some of us were responding to the implication that you’re afraid they would get married in a non-Catholic church because he doesn’t want to face the possibility of being offended or uncomfortable. At least, that’s the part that concerned me.


Preparing for marriage is a requirement of the Church. How that is implemented in each diocese is the decision of the Bishop. And, yes, it is different in every diocese.

“Pre-Cana” is not a generic term. It is a specific program. It’s used in many diocese. Engaged Encounter is another program that is used in many diocese. Sponsor couple programs (where the engaged couple meets with a married couple one-on-one a certain number of times) is yet another form marriage preparation can take.

In our diocese, the marriage preparation program is none of these national programs (Pre Cana or Enagaged Encounter) and is instead a curriculum written by diocesan staff.

No matter what form it takes, the classes typically cover the Sacrament of Marriage/Catholic theology, practical aspects of marrying and expectations/finances/inlaws, etc. And, also natural family planning, at least an introduction to the topic.

In all these programs, there is typically a combination of trained lay volunteers and religious (a deacon or priest).

In addition to going to some sort of retreat, program, or sponsor couple program, the couple will meet individually with the priest. In some diocese, they also administer the FOCCUS instrument as a basis for discussion on potential problem areas.

In all these various programs, there are likely to be variations from “great” to “downright awful.” It depends some on the materials, but more on the volunteers themselves.

The Church in no way supports “bashing” other faiths. If something like this occurs, he should be confident it is **not **the Church but rather an **individual **who thinks this way. And, he should say something, like “I am a Protestant and I am offended by your comments. Please refrain from making derogatory remarks about your fellow Christians.”

The Church certainly does embrace our fellow baptized brothers and sisters, and approaches them in charity.

Please do not refer to this as “the Church” doing such-and-such. It is not. Every document on ecumenism and regarding our separated brethren is available on the Vatican website. You will find nothing derogatory there. The Church works hard to have dialog with many denominations.

It is not “the Church.”

Look, ignorant people are everywhere. Bigots take many forms-- those who have prejudices against Protestants, blacks, Jews, and you-name-it. Your future son in law needs to be an adult about this and recognize the difference between “the Church” and someone “in” the Church who very much needs praying for.

And, if they have a bad experience, they should report it to the pastor, the diocesan Family Life office or the Bishop.


Frankly, your future SIL should not rely on second hand stories about what someone experienced. You don’t know what was said that offended this person.

Was there really “bashing” or in the course of teaching Catholic doctrine was someone offended? For example, contraception is a sin. A non-Catholic could view this as “bashing” non Catholics because the Church teaches it is wrong to contracept. Often when people are presented with Church teaching on morality they jump right to playing the “someone is judging me” card and get offended.

Many young couples going to marriage prep are NOT living a Catholic lifestyle. They are cohabiting. They are engaging in premarital sex. Many don’t go to Mass. Couple that with a mixed marriage, and I would bet they get offended at a LOT of things said at marriage prep. In many cases just about everything they are doing is a moral evil. After hearing the truth-- most will just roll their eyes and keep on sinning. Others will walk away offended. A few will change their lives. Only a very few are already living an authentically Catholic lifestyle going into marriage prep.


My Pre-Cana was dreadful. All I remember about it is that the priest who led it showed up in jeans and a tee shirt and got into an argument with the pastor about his attire! (It was the 70’s). My non-Catholic husband was a good sport about going to it though, and if there had been any non-Catholic bashing, he would have walked out. :wink:


Thanks for that information - it definitely helps my understanding of the process and gives me some things to talk about with them and recommend if their particular Pre-Cana session ends up being “un-welcoming” toward non-Catholics.
It’s a real shame how the words and actions of a select few can so significantly adversely affect so many other’s attitudes toward our beautiful religion - all through history, and even today.


Bet you a cookie this wonderful guy will also have problems when it is time to baptize the babies, go to Mass every week, go to Mass on Christmas when it is not Sunday, observe Lent and especially Holy Week/Good Friday (that is time to party and decorate easter eggs and you want to fast and go to Mass???).


I would echo what 1ke said above - not all Catholic marriage preparation programs are the same. All will generally be required to cover certain topics, but they will differ in how they do it, how well they do it, and how much they will appeal to different types of people.

I would advise your daughter and her fiance to find out what programs are offered in their diocese. Ask around (especially among their friends/family/co-workers/parishioners who have recently been married in the Church) about what program they did, and what they thought were the advantages and disadvantages. Would they recommend it? If the friend who had a bad experience participated in one of the programs that is still offered in their diocese, they may want to avoid that one.

My wife and I did our marriage preparation courses and got married earlier this year. In our diocese, there are about a half dozen programs to choose from. My wife had a co-worker who had a negative experience with one program, so we avoided that one. The program we selected was pretty good. We both felt like we gained something from the process. I will also note that my wife is non-Catholic. One of the presenting couples at our marriage preparation sessions was also a mixed-faith couple (husband was Catholic, wife Methodist). I don’t think my wife felt that the process “put down” her faith at all.


Yes, that’s a constructive comment. Because it’s not like these people have invested a lot of time and love into each other, or that that God may have brought them together, or that they may have a mutually beneficial relationship. Yes, changing a fiance is as simple as changing a hat.

This is along the the same lines as the comments “leave him and find someone else” whenever a person posts that her husband did something wrong. With little to no information about a situation and without even meeting the person involved, you are qualified to make a life changing decision that will forever impact the poster and his/her family for the rest of their lives.

I’ll bet you a cookie that there are more people on this website that have had positive experiences in a mixed marriage (including many that converted a spouse) than not. So the inference that a marriage to a non-Catholic is inherently wrong is not just false - it’s irresponsible.

His friend told him that he had a horrible experience going to pre-Cana before he got married to a Catholic because the people giving the Pre-Cana kept “putting down” the non-Catholics in attendance big-time.

As you’ve seen, there are some people that have the opinion that marriage to a non-Catholic is inherently wrong, doomed to fail, and “less of a marriage”. If one of these people ran the pre-Cana, I could understand having a bad experience.

However, in my pre-Cana, they had folders marked with different colors so you could see which marriages were between two Catholics and which were between a Catholic and a non-Catholic. The room was evenly split (and a statistic I read recently say that 40% of all Catholic marriages are mixed marriages). In such an environment, it is difficult to put down non-Catholics. After talking to some non-Catholics that attended, the only thing they didn’t agree with was the NFP portion (and they didn’t feel that was “putting them down” as much as it was “strange” or “funny”).


It is comments like that, that must lead to the “Catholic-bashing” I keep hearing about but have yet to see. Yet whenever I attend and help with Catholic Church/School function with my wife of 15 years there is always someone there more than willing to make some snide remark or simply refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a non-Catholic is present. I have had my beliefs openly ridiculed by both clergy and lay people at Catholic functions and it has been a very disheartening experience. I have gotten to the point that I will publicly call people on the carpet for it since the private asides and emails did no good. I devote more time, money and material to the local Catholic school and am often called to help with marketing materials, communications, etc. (that is my former career) than many in the parish. Yet, many will say loudly in front of me: “It sure would be nice if we could get the protestant influences out of here.” Of course many of these same people give the school or church nothing but 40 minutes of their time a week


I think it is very difficult for most people to separate the belief from the person expressing that belief. This is true whether one is discussing religion, politics, the worth of animals, the value of child safety seats, or any number of other topics.

If I say your opinion is in error you are going to feel somewhat bashed just as I will feel bashed if you say my opinion is in error. This is even more the case if one of us considers this a matter of opinion versus opinion and the other a matter of opinion versus fact. Catholics and non-Catholic Christians have some doctrinal ideas that are mathematically exclusive. To me that’s an easy recipe for perceived bashing.

I do think that when one attends an event sponsored by a religion other than one’s own one has to be prepared to hear that one’s personal beliefs are deficient and/or wrong. But hopefully the message is delivered charitably.


I would somewhat agree, and I don’t expect anyone to bend over backwards to accommodate. At the same time I don’t feel anyone needs to go out of the way (which some have done) to purposely insult someone.


That sounds like excellent advice - will pass it on to them. Glad to hear your final program choice was a smart one with no “put downs” of your wife’s faith. We’re hoping and praying for a similar good experience for them, and if they ask around enough and avoid the potentially problematic ones, hopefully it will happen!

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