Raising children in mixed marriages

So, in another thread there is discussion of raising children of mixed marriages (Catholic and non-Catholic). I don’t want to derail the original thread with this somewhat of a tangent, so let me start a new one. A relative of mine, she is Catholic, she married a Muslim man. They were married in the mosque, without any Catholic priest present; but I understand she got a dispensation from disparity of cult from the local diocese, so her marriage in the mosque is recognised by the Catholic Church. Now, the condition of this dispensation, was they had to agree to raise the children Catholic, and they agreed to that.

But, my question then comes, what does it actually mean to “raise the children Catholic”? They were baptised and confirmed, they were sent to Catholic schools, they went to Mass on Sundays. The husband was okay with all of this, so long as he could take them to mosque sometimes (he only went irregularly), and the sons were circumcised. I don’t think either parent tried to convince the children “my religion is right and yours is wrong”, rather the attitude was “expose the children to the religions of both parents, and as adults they can decide what (if any) religion they want to believe”. Both parents are believers in their respective faiths, but neither is particularly devout, and both subscribe to the viewpoint that the similarities between their faiths are more important than the differences.

So, does it sound like they actually lived up to the commitment they made to the Church to “raise the children Catholic”? Is exposing the children to both parent’s religions compatible with this? Is not telling them the other parent’s religion is wrong (which might be bad for family harmony) compatible with this?

In some ways I think this is easier with Islam in that there is a lack of rites of passage like baptism. If it was another Christian denomination, the question would come up - which Church to baptise the children in? With Islam, that question never arises, because there are no specific ceremonies expected for children/adolescents in Islam.

Interestingly, from the viewpoints of both religions, the children are members. Under Catholic canon law, the children are Catholic because they were baptised in the Catholic Church. Under Islamic Sharia law, the children are Muslims because they were born to a Muslim father.

I know for Baha’is if they are contemplating marriage with a Catholic we are generally opposed to agreeing to raising the children in the Catholic Faith… How it is for Muslims I do not know.

I would say that “raising your children in the faith” is not merely going through the rites of passage, but having the faith by a integral part of your home and family. It means teaching your children to pray by getting on your knees yourself, reading the holy words with them, telling them of the joy faith brings to your life, and trying your best to future that faith in their lives.

(Says the Mormon married to an Evangelical)

lol right on, you got the Catholic position perfectly!

It’s tricky because it actually says that the Catholic has to promise, but the non-Catholic does not have to promise. The Non-Catholic simply has to be aware of the promise.

Also, the promise is “I will do everything in my power to raise the children in the Catholic Faith”

However, the Catholic cannot allow this to tear the marriage apart. This is where the issue comes in. If the non-Catholic changes his/her mind, then the Catholic is forced to balance doing everything he/she can do to raise the child in the faith with not doing anything to damage the marriage.

If the spouse decides to say “my kids will not be Catholic” then it really causes an issue.

But even if the spouse allows the Catholic to raise the child Catholic, the non-catholic spouse will most likely not be ok with bringing the faith home. IE, no statues, no family Rosaries, no family Catholic prayers, no family TV night watching EWTN, etc.

The truth is, is the faith is taught at home, and not at CCD or Catholic School. CCD and Catholic School reinforce the teachings you are supposed to receive at home. If you are in a mixed marriage, most likely the children will learn very little at home, compared to have two practicing Catholic parents.

My wife is Jewish, so I have a lot of experience with this. This is why my personal recommendation is to only marry a Catholic.

God Bless

Even having two practicing Catholic parents is no guarantee of that :wink: My parents were both raised Catholic by two Catholic parents respectively, Catholic grand parents, both went to Catholic primary school. I’d even go so far as to say my old man is more of a pre-Vatican II Catholic (he holds more tightly to the rules of not receiving communion absent having confessed than anyone I know). But even being raised in a family like that I was not taught much of anything “Catholic” or even religious at home. Teaching came almost exclusively from Catholic School, church itself or my own explorations.

But to the OP’s point I’m at somewhat of a crossroads myself regarding this. My wife is an agnostic having been raised totally a-religious other than her grandmother taking her to the occasional Methodist service and attending a Catholic university (where we met) and going to the occasional mass there with friends. And she remains more or less agnostic today. I was raised Catholic drifted out of the church for a litany of reasons I won’t get into, retained my faith in Christ though and ultimately ended up landing with the Episcopalians.

None of which was of any concern one way or the other until recently when we found out my wife is pregnant. We’d always left open the possibility of having kids but it had never been something we’d considered likely due to circumstances outside our control. As usual though God works in mysterious ways and now we’re just wading into discussing religious upbringing for our soon to be son/daughter. I can definitely say that had I still been a practicing Catholic that those conversations would be far more difficult than they have been in no small part due to “raise the children Catholic”. At the very least I would have found myself constantly questioning if I was living up to that and felt torn about it when I wasn’t doing so and I honestly doubt my wife would have responded very positively to the pressure that demand places on the upbringing.

And it isn’t easy to do. I’ve seen it happen in my own extended family with my Catholic uncle who married a non-practicing Methodist (at a Catholic service meaning he did commit to raising the kids Catholic) and neither of his kids were ultimately raised Catholic (and both kids ended up atheist). And my Catholic aunt who married my more devout Armenian Orthodox uncle, they both ended up leaving their respective churches, raised their kids at a non-denominational church, and now one kid is atheist and the other is Lutheran (he converted to Lutheranism so that his Lutheran wife and he could raise their kids Lutheran). So in my own family I’ve never seen it work out to the intent of the “raise the children Catholic” in a mixed marriage. Heck it doesn’t seem to even work out too well in my family in recent generations when the immediate family is all Catholic with my brother being more or less agnostic now and my sister being atheist.

To the op, I think your relatives did a lot more than many Catholics do when it comes to raising the children in the faith. Do you know if prayers were said at home? Going to church together regularly is a big thing and sending them to Catholic school was probably their way of making sure the children were given the teachings of the church. They made sure the kids received the sacraments. The example she set by doing the above shows she raised them in the church. Her example was very important.

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