Religious dilemma


#1

Hello, guys. I am in the process of getting married, and me and my catholic fiancée are soon to be finished with marriage preparation classes. However, I do still have some concerns. These concerns relates to religious issues. Over the last couple of months, I have tried to learn about Catholicism, but this seems counterproductive. Let me explain how that is. Before I began this learning-process, my views about Catholicism were largely neutral. I didn’t know much, and I didn’t have much of an opinion either way. As I read, I find myself getting discouraged. My views seems to become negative more than positive.

I can see positives in some of the cultural and social aspects of the religion, but intellectually I find it dissatisfying. This should probably not come as a surprise, seen as I am agnostic, but there is a difference between encountering a belief-system that doesn’t describe reality and life in a satisfying way, and encountering a belief-system I find to make little sense on its own merit. For different reasons, I do not think these issues have important practical consequences for our relationship. For instance, we are able to agree on issues even though we are coming from different places. As an example: we are both on the political left, but we have different reasons (she: partly religion. Me: happiness economics). My recent concerns are not a deal-breakers for me. We have already agreed on how to deal with our difference in a practical sense, and I am still willing to stand by my compromises.

For those who have read some of my previous threads, you might remember that my fiancée has had issues with her faith. She lost her faith some time into our relationship, and didn’t take it well. She has since returned to the faith, but I think her faith is still somewhat unstable. My dilemma is this:

Should I shut up (risking issues further down the line), or should I voice my newfound concerns now? Based on non-catholic advice and my own thinking (I don’t really know any Catholics besides my fiancée), I am leaning towards keeping my mouth shut and just see how it plays out. Would you, as a Catholic, see my concerns as important, or would it not matter that much?


#2

To marry someone, when you don’t share the most important thing in life - your religious beliefs - is a recipe for pain, lonliness, disaster. Find a nice athiest girl and let this woman find a nice catholic boy.


#3

Personally I would see it as a concern. The reason I see it as such is that I know a few Catholics that were not practicing the Faith - married- and then came Home. Well, then they had many disagreements with their spouse and mainly that began to center on how their children to be raised. Ouch. Mom goes to Church - Mom wants kids to go to save their immortal souls - Dad tells them they don’t have too. It creates drama to say the least. :mad:

Please don’t get me wrong - I am not taking sides or treating like any less of a person for your beliefs. I am just stating how it could turn out and preparing you for that. If she is married then she will be wed for life (assuming valid sacrament). Anything else would be adultery. There is a great article I read on here about a man such as you. And I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you and you keep an open mind.

I truly believe this is an intellectual conversion story - feel free to PM me.

catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0005conv.asp

Also it does concern me that you say she is on the left due to religious ideals. Most of us are on the right. I guess this would depend on which particular issues you are speaking of. If they are the ones that I am thinking of well- then you may be in trouble if she has a change of heart and comes back to the Faith.

All in all I wish you luck no matter what your decisions are. I believe the gift of free will was the greatest gift of all because it allows us to choose Him. Without it we would be robots. Maybe this is God’s way of bringing you to Him someday.


#4

[quote="joandarc2008, post:3, topic:192039"]
Personally I would see it as a concern. The reason I see it as such is that I know a few Catholics that were not practicing the Faith - married- and then came Home. Well, then they had many disagreements with their spouse and mainly that began to center on how their children to be raised. Ouch. Mom goes to Church - Mom wants kids to go to save their immortal souls - Dad tells them they don't have too. It creates drama to say the least. :mad:

Also it does concern me that you say she is on the left due to religious ideals. Most of us are on the right. I guess this would depend on which particular issues you are speaking of. If they are the ones that I am thinking of well- then you may be in trouble if she has a change of heart and comes back to the Faith.

[/quote]

As far as practical issues like raising children are concerned, we have already compromised on those (as I said in the OP). If that were not the case, I agree that it would be a huge concern. Do you think it is a concern even though the practical issues are agreed upon? Would it still be something you felt was important to know? Certainly, she already knows I am not Catholic. I am thinking maybe it isn't that important that she knows all the reasons for why that is.

On social and economic issues she is on the left. She is on the "right" on some of the value-related issues.


#5

I don’t think getting into the specific details of why you aren’t Catholic adds any new information (unless you previously told her that you like Catholicism and that is a big part of why she considers you a suitable partner).


#6

persuader,

since the day you first posted, it's been suggested (both gently and forcefully) that you and your fiance are wrong for each other. you've usually responded to direct reccomendations by focusing on oblique details and alternatives.

here's what's true: because it's based on relationship with God (or lack of it) no one's spiritual life ever remains static. **just like other relationships, which are living realities, faith either grows or wanes. *right now, with her faith returned somewhat, you find your fiance to be mostly manageable. but a year from now, she won't be who she is today. you've seen the unpleasant results of your fiance's waning faith. you'll probably really dislike *any **increas in her faith life. (you disliked it so much in the past, you determined to strip her of its power.)

because you hope for little more than a few years of happy marriage, because you expect (you'd argue: resonably expect) little more than to become a divorce statistic, the very real possibility of marital doom is acceptable to you. in her heart, it's not acceptable to your finace. i guarantee this too: no matter how many divorced families your future kids will know, divorce won't be all right with your kids, either.

in a nutshell: yes, this is a big problem. no, you don't really care.


#7

OK these are the things (If it were me) that I would consider IMHO to be an absolute must:

  1. Children receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) and Reconcilliation.

  2. Artificial Birth Control would not be an option. Would you be willing to learn Natural Family Planning if she wanted to stay within the Church’s teaching?

  3. Would you be willing to enforce things like Mass attendance in your home for your children if they do not want to go even though you may not be going?

Some things you need to look at from a moral/honor standpoint:

  1. Right now you are young- as things happen in our lives we tend to go right with our beliefs and get closer not more to the left and further - especially after the miracle of childbirth. It is a very old story. If you read these through these threads you will see story after story of women that married when they weren’t close to their Faith and then ended up coming back. On these issues there is no “compromise” - they are issues of morality.

  2. Also, when you marry in the Church with a disparity of cult you make an agreement to raise your children in the Catholic Faith.

Here is the doctrine that you are agreeing to:

Mixed marriages and disparity of cult

1633 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.135 In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage.136 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.137

1636 Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple’s obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.

1637 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."138 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.139 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.

Can you freely based on your morals - whether or not believe in God- enter into an agreement that you will raise these children as Catholic and not do it? Because that is what you will be doing if any children are not raised Catholic and you are not open to life within your marriage.


#8

[quote="kage_ar, post:2, topic:192039"]
To marry someone, when you don't share the most important thing in life - your religious beliefs - is a recipe for pain, loneliness, disaster. Find a nice atheist girl and let this woman find a nice catholic boy.

[/quote]


#9

[quote="Persuader, post:1, topic:192039"]

Should I shut up (risking issues further down the line), or should I voice my newfound concerns now? Based on non-catholic advice and my own thinking (I don’t really know any Catholics besides my fiancée), I am leaning towards keeping my mouth shut and just see how it plays out. Would you, as a Catholic, see my concerns as important, or would it not matter that much?

[/quote]

Don't keep your mouth shut, sooner or later, six months, ten years or thirty years from now you will not be able to keep it in any longer. something will happen that will force you to talk about your doubts.

Depending on your fiancee it might be irrelevant or it might be important. it might be harmless or it might be destructive. Try to talk about it with her if you talk about, then it is possible that a solution to your doubts will present itself. Of course you might disagree with this, but, I recommend talking to a priest about your doubts.


#10

[quote="joandarc2008, post:7, topic:192039"]
OK these are the things (If it were me) that I would consider IMHO to be an absolute must:

1) Children receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) and Reconcilliation.

2) Artificial Birth Control would not be an option. Would you be willing to learn Natural Family Planning if she wanted to stay within the Church's teaching?

3) Would you be willing to enforce things like Mass attendance in your home for your children if they do not want to go even though you may not be going?

Some things you need to look at from a moral/honor standpoint:

1) Right now you are young- as things happen in our lives we tend to go right with our beliefs and get closer not more to the left and further - especially after the miracle of childbirth. It is a very old story. If you read these through these threads you will see story after story of women that married when they weren't close to their Faith and then ended up coming back. On these issues there is no "compromise" - they are issues of morality.

2) Also, when you marry in the Church with a disparity of cult you make an agreement to raise your children in the Catholic Faith.

Here is the doctrine that you are agreeing to:

Can you freely based on your morals - whether or not believe in God- enter into an agreement that you will raise these children as Catholic and not do it? Because that is what you will be doing if any children are not raised Catholic and you are not open to life within your marriage.

[/quote]

Add to this list..

4) To vow never to mock or make disparaging comments about the Faith to or around our children.


#11

I would say it is the single most critical thing you are facing regarding this proposed marriage. YOu are contemplating marrying someone who should be placing her Catholic Faith and love of Christ and obedience to His Church above every other earthly consideration. You do not share that fundamental orientation. That spells trouble.

You have made a good faith effort to at least understand the basics of her beliefs and Catholic culture. You have naturally found a lot you cannot accept or agree with at least at this time. You are quite right to listen to your alarm bells ring. These beliefs and practices will, or should, color every aspect of decisions you make together on how to live, children, finances, work, even where to live and other priorities. It is a mystery to me how a couple with such differences in fundamentals could even consider living and making choices together without either endless arguments, or unsatisfactory begrudging compromises that can blow up later.


#12

What everyone else said..

Good luck discerning.


#13

what if the issue was finances, and you have just found out your fiance has a lot of debt, but has promised to cut up her credit cards, but you know she still is a shopaholic, and does not believe in saving and thrift as you do. Would you just ignore it and keep your trap shut?

what if the issue was she is attached to her family and would never move far away from them, but you know your career path is going to require travel, job transfers, even jobs in a foreign country. Would you keep your mouth shut and deal with issues as they arise?


#14

As a former Catholic not agnostic, if I were in your situation I would have to say something. Here are a couple of my concerns: (1) You are just learning about Catholicism and it is upsetting you. Now consider that you are agreeing to raise your kids in this faith. Might this not bother you a lot later on, especially as you learn more about doctrines you will no doubt disagree with? It would me. I couldn’t do it. (2) And speaking of kids, what about the birth control thing? As it will have direct and perhaps immediate and frequent affect on your life, you really need to consider it seriously. Again, personally, I couldn’t go along with this.


#15

Swan, thank you for sharing from the other side of the fence. I know it can be hard to share things like that on here. Please understand anything that may be shared later will be out of love for the OP and his fiancee and not as an attack on you.


#16

Thank you for your concern. :slight_smile: Now, some of you are mentioning practical things like raising children and birth-control. We have reached a compromise on those practical issues. My main concern is not that – that we have discussed with the priest extensively. What I would like to know is whether or not there is some religious reason for why she should know my intellectual concern? She already knows that I do not believe, but as I said, it is a difference between disagreeing with how something is describing reality, and finding the whole endeavor unsatisfactory. It’s a bit like the difference between reading a book describing a city, thinking the book got it wrong, and reading a book describing a city in a way that seems self-contradictory. She already knows that I do not believe her faith describes reality, the question is if she should know that I find the description lacking on its own merit.

I am beginning to realize that faith is an important element in her life, and I guess it could be even more important in the future. Maybe it is because I just cannot relate to that kind of element in a life. I understand it intellectually. I can see, understand, and know that she thinks it is important, but in some way it still feels alien to me. It’s a bit like a friend of mine, who has an avid interest in special types of cars. I can see, understand, and know that he thinks it is important, but it still feels kind of alien because I don’t share it or really understand it. My enthusiasm can only come by encouragement and a sense of obligation. I don’t think this is a problem that I cannot overcome. Certainly, I can be friends with the car-guy without sharing his interest. Similarly, I think I can be with my fiancée without sharing her faith. But I do not know if I should tell her of my newfound concerns. It would be a bit like pointing out what I consider to be faults in the cars my friend is interested in. Certainly, he knows I do not share his interest, but should I subject him to this kind of criticism? I think not, and at the moment this is how I feel about my fiancée as well.


#17

I don’t think it matters. It seems to be a very technical distinction. She already knows you think Catholicism gets it wrong, what difference would it make to her if she knew you believe Catholicism is self contradictory?

I think discussing it with her would be counterproductive, and could shake her faith. In the last thread you made you said that she became quite unhappy when she lost her faith, if she hears you detailing the reasons why you think Catholicism contradicts itself she might start doubting again and become unhappy again.

I think this kind of thing should only be discussed if you are both interested in talking about your beliefs about the universe, not because you feel an obligation to tell her precisely what you find wrong about Catholicism.


#18

I think if you can find the three things I mentioned above and the one that Kage added OK then you will be fine. I think some of these other things will come out as you go through the FOCUS test or have you already?


#19

What I would like to know is whether or not there is some religious reason for why she should know my intellectual concern? She already knows that I do not believe, but as I said, it is a difference between disagreeing with how something is describing reality, and finding the whole endeavor unsatisfactory. It’s a bit like the difference between reading a book describing a city, thinking the book got it wrong, and reading a book describing a city in a way that seems self-contradictory. She already knows that I do not believe her faith describes reality, the question is if she should know that I find the description lacking on its own merit.

how about an ethical responsibility? yes. you have an ethical responsibility.

is it possible you can view her seemingly unmerited response to her faith without a sense, however polite, of superiority? so far, persuader, you have demonstrated otherwise.

marrying someone over whom you feel superior-- especially re issues so*** integral ***to her person, is a terrible idea.

and the problems with your car analogy are several and significant: friends are not spouses. autocraze isn’t faith.

look, at the very HEART of your Catholic girlfriend’s vocation to marry will be to help her spouse achieve heaven. and she deserves a spouse who likewise understands that his vocation is to help her achieve eternal life.

persuader, by marrying you, you are asking your fiance to be so much less than she was baptized for. and you are asking yourself to be so much more than you believe in or aspire to.

this is why the Church calls it “disparity of cult.” in ancient language, it is called “unequally yoked.” the real problem is this: you think her faith is the burden in your relationship. but your unbelief is a bigger burden. and your intellectual hubris is the biggest burden.


#20

Persuader. Listening to you reminds me of something I remember reading, something that Evelyn Waugh borrowed from GK Chesterton. Read to the bottom of this page for it...the bit about the hook and all...

catholicauthors.com/waugh.html


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