Should I marry a man of a different religion?

My boyfriend and I have discussed many times the option of marriage. I am Catholic and he is Hindu. I understand this is a very different religion, and I will never convert. We have decided that we will raise the children as Catholics and are still confused as to how we would tell them their father doesn’t believe in the same religion. First, is this approved by the Church – interreligious marriages? Secondly, what are some suggestions as to better smooth the way for this future marriage?

The Church does allow for a Catholic to marry an unbaptized person. You would need to obtain a dispensation from your local bishop to marry a non-Christian. If the wedding is not according to the Catholic ritual, then you would also need a dispensation to marry in a non-Catholic ritual.

That said, the Church does not *recommend *interreligious marriage for many reasons, among them those you have begun to encounter. Marriage is not merely an official stamp on a romance; it is a vocation intended to form the spouses for heaven and to allow for the spouses to raise children for heaven. If the spouses differ in their understanding of what is necessary for them to enter heaven – indeed, in your case, in the understanding of what the afterlife entails in the first place – it is going to make their vocation difficult to fulfill.

Your boyfriend will not be required by the Church to agree in writing to raise his children Catholic; he will be informed of your obligation to promise in writing to do your best to do this. Once children come along, people tend to want to pass on to those children their heritage and their beliefs. Your boyfriend may not have those feelings now, but they may arise once a child is in the picture. Although he may have the best of intentions now, his feelings could change and he may not feel obligated not to interfere in your raising the children Catholic. At the very least, your children will not have their father’s guidance in their faith – something that can be critically important.

Although some couples are admirably capable of making an interfaith marriage work, they are the exceptions to the general rule that such marriages tend to cause great strain among spouses and erode the faith of children who do not see their parents united in their religious faith. While it is possible for you to be an exception, as well, my hope is that you will carefully consider whether this proposed marriage will help or hinder you, your boyfriend, and your children in your journeys to God. If it will not help but be a hindrance, then now is the time to commit yourself to marrying a fellow Catholic who can better help you on that journey and to free your boyfriend to find someone who will help him to heaven.

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