“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

November 24, 2009

My Advice to Catholic Parents: Don't Let Your Kids Date Non-Catholics



I know, this is hardly revolutionary or unique advice, but I was recently asked about this issue by a young Catholic man who called my "Open Line" radio show (heard every Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET). He had been dating a devoutly Presbyterian girl, and her father didn't like it one bit that the guy was Catholic.

I think my response to his "what do I do now?" question may have surprise him. (It apparently surprised and even dismayed a few of my listeners, judging from some of the e-mails that came in after that show.)

My basic premise, which I advert to in this audio segment is that, more often than not, mixed marriages (i.e., when a Catholic marries a non-Catholic) are a recipe for serious problems down the road in that marriage. My advice to Catholic parents is, teach your children well the importance of finding a devoutly Catholic spouse. Eventually, if you haven't taught them this maxim and they, as a result, do not act on it, you will very likely see problems springing up in your extended family due to your sons and daughters being, in a certain sense, unequally yoked with non-Catholics. Word to the wise.


49 comments:

  1. I'm not 19, I am Catholic (although a former devout Presbyterian), but my reaction to this is: duh!?

    OF COURSE it's not wise to court/date a Protestant, because of what you said. People who use their brains can figure out it doesn't work.

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  2. My wife and I do Catholic Engaged Encounters which is a weekend retreat marriage prep. More and more we are seeing mixed couples on the weekends. We've recognized this and have addressed it by having some materials available for them.

    I wholeheartedly agree that a mixed marriage is MUCH tougher. At first, the problems may not seem so bad but when children enter the picture, things can get sticky fast.

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  3. I'm on the fence, while I see the wisdom in the advice my own experience is as a fallen Catholic who started dating a devout Evangelical. Her devotion, which I respected and her family whose Christian identity is founded on 'not being Catholic' forced me to confront my beliefs and to their dismay brought me back to the Catholic Church along with my lovely wife.

    Has it been a rough ride? Absolutely. Do we still have problems with that side of the extended family? Yes. Do we regret our decision? No.

    Granted, I have an argumentative personality so when they started trying to 'convert' me their agreesive attacks against the Catholic Church put my back up against the wall and I dug in and started really studying what my faith was supposed to be all about.

    All that being said, I truly believe that God's plan was that we would should go through these trials together and it certainly isn't for everyone, it could have easily gone the other way.

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  4. I generally agree, but if the person in question is truly devout and strong in their faith, they may bring their boyfriend/girlfriend into the Church. I tried breaking up with my husband because he was "too Catholic" (I was Presbyterian). He thought that I should at least give him and the Church a fair shot--and I eventually went through RCIA. His younger sister brought her boyfriend into the Church as well. That being said, both had the expectation that if said significant other didn't convert, the relationship wasn't destined for marriage.

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  5. Well, I can't agree. If my husband hadn't married me I'd possibly still be an agnostic, possibly in a protesting church ... instead I'm a Happy Catholic. :-)

    Your viewpoint can't be applied across the board like that. It is the viewpoint of those who forget that Jesus didn't say stay home and don't marry those who aren't just like you. He told us to be the yeast ... which as any breadmaker knows, by getting mixed up with everything, winds up transforming a lump of dough into something delicious. :-)

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  6. I married a non-Catholic, and agree with Patrick. Date only Catholics, you'll save your self no end of trouble later.

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  7. Before Vatican II mixed marriages were strongly discouraged by the Church and only a few were permited with great caution and always on the undeerstanding that the children born of the union would grow in the Church and to be Cathlic.

    Cultural Catholicism that sees the Church as just so much cultural baggage along with other things like baseball and hot dogs doesn't really care about mixed marriages since most often than not neither parent practices their religion.

    But serious Catholics who want to follow Christ according to the precepts of the Church He left on Earth should be very cautious about letting their sons and daughters enter into unequally yoked marriages.

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  8. My advice to cahtolic parents: let them decide for themselves if you don;t want them to hat tthe church

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  9. Sure Catholics can marry non-Catholics, but only with a dispension if the spouse is of a different faith, because of the sacredness of the Sacrament of Matrimony, and they must rear the children in the Catholic Faith, again because of the sacredness of the Sacrament of Matrimony, for Matrimony is a wonderful sign of the love of Christ for His Church and the Church for Christ. For this same reason, a Catholic is encouraged to seek out a Catholic - but a Catholic isn't forbidden from seeking out non-Catholics, nor are non-Catholics discouraged because we consider them evil; rather, to quote a Jewish friend: "If you want to embrace Judaism, you must also embrace the suffering of God's People".

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  10. When my wife and I were courting, this was a huge deal (she was Catholic and I was a "Bible-thumping" Methodist). We didn't know that a dispensation was required, nor that we must raise our children in the Church. So, we argued about how to raise our kids, and how Sunday morning would look. We even discussed the merits of our relationship based on the fact that we were mixed: "do not be unequally yoked". Needless to say those problems all worked themselves out. It is much easier being Catholic.

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  11. Bright lines are never good; it really depends on the couple. I was a devout Episcopalian who dated and married a fallen away Catholic. We did discuss faith issues before we married - I told him if he every went back to being a practicing Catholic I would consider converting. And that is exactly what happened - my being a practicing Christian actually got my husband back to church. I converted and he came back into full communion after 20 years away. I don't think he would have returned to the church but for our relationship and what I brought to the table as a Protestant. It made him truly realize why being a Catholic Christian mattered.

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  12. My mother married a non Catholic and 26 years after they were married my father converted. However, the damage was already done: neither of my brothers saw any men practicing the faith while they were growing up and never had any religious role models. Both of them are mediocre at best Catholics and at least one of them is addicted to porn. I think things would have turned out much better if my father had always been Catholic.

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  13. I have only this to add to your words of wisdom: Parents, teach your children to pray for their future spouses, though they may have not yet met them; God knows who they are and your prays will be valuable as He prepares them to be fit husbands and wives. And one more bit of advice: only marry someone who loves God more than anyone or anything, including you. The one who puts God first is the only one worth having.

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  14. Mr. Madrid, I completely agree. In discussing this topic, many address the benefits or drawbacks to the two spouses, but I think it is even more important to consider the effects on the children that could result from the marriage. I have friends who grew up in a home with one Catholic parent, and one non-Catholic parent. No matter the faith of the non-Catholic parent, the children have to deal with conflicts at home and within themselves over which parent's religion to honor, or if they are a devoted Catholic, a barrier between their parent and their faith.
    Additionally, since the Catholic Church is really the only religion left that forbids artificial contraception, a mixed marriage can be an occasion of mortal sin. It would be very difficult to resist a spouse's pressure to use contraception.
    It angers me that the new norms for mixed marriages in the Church today are so approving of them. While I recognize that the authorities are the right to make these new norms, I do not think they have considered what is best for the families who would enter into these mixed marriages. If the Church herself makes no differentiation between a marriage with a Catholic vs. a non-Catholic, it cannot be expected for a young adult to perceive the difference on his or her own.

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  15. My parents were married for 64 happy years. My mother was Catholic and my father was a widower with three children and the son of a prominant Methodist minister. The next two children from the second marriage are Catholic.

    Strangely, it was my Methodist grandfather who encouraged me to explore and practice my faith. When I stayed with them, it was he who took me to Mass on Sundays.

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  16. Hmm..., well, the shoe fits on the other foot as well. Two of my sisters married non-Catholics. One was non-religious, so he perverted her ideas about God and faith and religion and prayer. The other married a Mormon, sort of. His parents were strict Mormons, but he had a serious disregard for any organized religion, and she sustained her faith regardless. He's in jail now. She's raising her children in faith. Finally, my other sister married a devout and practicing Catholic, he became Godfather to my nephew. Almost as soon as they were married, after a reasonably long engagement, after they had done everything just the right way - he began cheating on her. It destroyed her faith. Turned out he was actually trying to cheat on her (making propositions and such) even before they married. So, in which case, he was not actually married to her. Nevertheless, her faith is wrought. My brother, whose son was godson to the man, has had his faith shaken as well. They follow the routine, but do live their faith with any joy at all. All, except for the sister who married the damnable Mormon, have lost their religion. I entered the Seminary. Stayed three years and found out I have a nine year old son. I wouldn't have even guessed it. The woman ran off years ago with no explanation. Never heard from her. Now she wants money, I just want to raise a son. But I'm getting married myself. To a Lutheran, who is converting to the Catholic, Christian, Religion.

    In the end, I really think it has so little to do with the other person's faith, and far more to do with YOUR faith. Are you strong in your faith? Do you allow yourself weakness? If you do not, then the slightest obstacle will break you. You must first recognize that without Christ, you are nothing. With Christ, in your weakness, you are made strong, and for those who witness you, you mean everything to them, because you become christ to them. You must, as Paul did, count everything as a loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ.

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  17. When my grandfather met my grandmother, she was a Methodist and he a devout Catholic. When he reached a certain point in the relationship, he said to her, "I'm getting serious about you. If you want this to go any further, you need to talk to a priest." She did, and later converted to become a very devout Catholic herself. Eight children and nearly forty grandchildren later, they've spawned a small Catholic nation.

    My mother did the same for my father, who was a fallen away Catholic who had grown hostile to many of the views of the Church. He saw a priest to humor her, and found himself on his knees, in tears, giving his confession for the last decade. He always described it as a "miraculous conversion."

    I also brought my wife into the Church, her conversion marking the beginning of our real relationship, which until then was somewhat tenuous. I had family members warn me not to get involved with a non-Catholic, but my wife is an inspiration to me. As a cradle Catholic with a BA in theology, I look to her as the real Catholic in our marriage. What I was given, she chose for herself, though she might not have if I hadn't been willing to take the risk.

    As a policy, I wouldn't advise "missionary dating," but three generations of my family have proven it often works out for the best.

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  18. As a catholic who married a not only non-catholic but an unchurched husband who eventually converted I guess I would also say it depends on the couple. My husband's lack of any sort of anti-catholic (in fact he was pro-catholic in a strangely augustinian "lord make me good, but not yet" way) baggage helped a lot, in a way that I think protestant/catholic couples are not. Also we married in our 30s are weren't out to change one another into different people the way that some younger and immature couples are. We agreed on the basics of live like children, and on a division of labor. Truth be told, I always believed that he would convert at some point but that my only role would be to try to be a good example. He wasn't the kind of person to respond well to a deadline or nagging. If you've got two people with strong attachments to different religions that doesn't really sound like a good idea.

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  19. I totally agree. Some people might have great stories about how they were converted by a Catholic spouse but more times than most the reverse is true and it puts your children at risk of not being catholic by the influence of the non-catholic spouse.

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  20. When my husband and I married, I was Baptist and he was Catholic. Fortunately my parents were open to my marrying a Catholic, and even encouraged me to learn more about the Catholic faith. We had already agreed to raise our children Catholic, although we were unsure of how we would deal with the "Baptist" part--would we exspose them to both and let them decide for themselves? Deep down I knew this would spell disaster. I went through RCIA and decided to convert. It's wonderful to be a Catholic and to raise our children in the faith. I will say that what little tension my conversion has caused has been between myself and my brother, who is (I think I can safely say) anti-Catholic. We have had several uncomfortable conversations about it over the years, but generally we avoid discussing our differences. It seems we beat the odds! :)

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  21. Hmmm? Well, I have done a good number of marriage preps. Marriage has many mountains to climb, and if a man or woman marries outside the faith, that is one more very big mountain to climb. The Catholic party will have to confidently know and embrace Catholic teachings, or, there won't be a Catholic home. Marriage is about two persons, a man and a woman, pulling in the same direction. Faith is critical. I have heard conversion stories inside a mixed marriage, but I also have heard many disasters, often a loss of faith by both, which means loss of culture, and another source of vitality gone from society, the family. A mixed marriage may help the Catholic spouse to "get with it" and live the faith. Nevertheless, to yoke one's self to a person who does not accept the four marks of the Church, and the pro-life morality of the Catholic Faith is an invitation for suffering.

    James III. I have heard good stories like yours before. Sadly, it is becoming more difficult to find Methodists who believe in the fundamental principles of Christianity.

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  22. I am in a mixed marriage myself, I'm the Catholic and my husband belongs to the Church of Christ. We did go through the pre-marital meetings at my church, and I did the dispensations. Fortunately, he has quite a few friends at my parish, and I gained a few friends at his congregation, as well.

    I myself grew up in a mixed house, until Dad crossed the Tiber a couple of years ago.

    Based on my history, I feel the mixed dating thing depends on the induviduals in the relationship. Hubby and I ar making it work, and that is fine for us.

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  23. I was born in a good Catholic family myself, and when I got married at age 19 it was to a Mormon.

    If i knew my faith then I would have realized that this was wrong, it was not good for any of us. I was missing out receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. For 14 years i didnt go to church because he HATES the Catholic Church and I didnt want to 'rock the boat'. I tried.. I learned about his faith and just couldnt believe in the teachings and tried to compromise... anything but his church... but he would not have that.

    Finally, I needed to just go, and put up with whatever comments he made, and whatever dislike he has. (I know that they are thaught those things.. so I try to be understanding) Now, I go to mass at least every Sunday and sometimes more.
    Being in a mixed marriage like this MADE me learn about my faith to defend it.

    Since then, (thanks be to God) I had my marriage convalidated, and my children are all baptized and Catholic. But for a long time they struggled to understand both religions. Through God's grace, they see the truth. I have told my children to find a good Catholic husband/wife because then there is no question about faith, or beliefs - even in the most basic beliefs... such as the trinity, or the True Presence.

    My husband is a good man, but the real purpose of marriage is for the man and the woman to lead each other to God... any marriage with beliefs so different will prove difficult indeed.

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  24. I'm a sad example of the wisdom of the advice not to date non-Catholics. I dated non-Catholics in high school, one of whom decimated my weak, poorly instructed faith.

    While away from my faith, I met a "good" man in college, who was unchurched. I wrestled with whether or not to marry him--if I never regained my faith, would I regret not marrying him? What if I did regain my faith? I decided to marry him, and three years later, regained my faith.

    After we had two children, the religious differences between us, combined with job stresses, become enough to exacerbate some pre-existing mental health problems my husband suffered from. We're in the process of divorce right now, I'm in the process of applying for public assistance, and my children are struggling. I never thought I would regret attachment parenting, but having to wean and detach my clingy, family-bed toddler against her will in order to facilitate overnight visitaton is heartbreaking.

    If you could offer a prayer or two up for all of us, I'd be much obliged. And stay away from those non-Catholic dates! :-)

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  25. From the comments, it seems to me the problem is not interfaith marriage, it's ignoring the warning signs that you may not be compatible with your intended prior to the marriage. I'm surprised if the Pre-Cana doesn't draw any of this to light...
    I'm both the product of a succesfull interfaith marriage and am very much Catholic. Grandparents were only half Catholic as well (just to throw that on the pile of anecdotal evidence). So coming from that perspective, it doesn't seem very charitable to mark someone as unacceptable due to their faith alone.
    Incidentally, you will see the same "must be same faith to date" line promulgated in The Watchtower.

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  26. An interesting discussion about my comments has been generated on the "Happy Catholic" blog http://happycatholic.blogspot.com/2009/11/whoa-whoa-whoa-lets-not-say-something.html . My most recent post in response to Julie (who strongly disagrees with my advice) is, I think, worth sharing here:

    But see, Julie, that's the point I was making all along. As you admit, the Catechism warns about mixed marriages because there are inherent dangers to the faith of the Catholic spouse and to the children of that marriage. Why warn people about a danger that really doesn't exist? Or, if it does exist, do you say that it's really not a serious danger?

    100 years ago, before all the loosey-goosey attitudes toward marriage and religion that have swamped society these days, the Catholic Encyclopedia explained the problem at length here http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/...then/ 05037b.htm under the heading of "Origin of the Impediment." I'd suggest everyone who wants a wider view of this subject read through that section of the article.

    As for the Catechism, it does not really help you make your claim that I gave bad or misguided advice to the caller on my radio show, unless of course you just ignore all the warnings and reasons for the warnings and fixate only on the exception clauses:

    Don't forget 1634: "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."

    You see, the Church for the longest time flat-out prohibited mixed marriages because of the very dangers which I alluded to in my radio chat with the 19 year-old Catholic fellow. There were dispensations from that prohibition, to be sure, but they were not as common as you might think, and they were granted only for serious reasons.

    And that's why, while your "be not afraid" message is all very nice, and there are certainly exceptions to the rule, nothing you have said here in defense of your unbridled optimism on this point has really addressed (much less rebutted) the point I am making.

    How you can dismiss my reasoned, fact-laden, backed-up-by-longstanding-precedent argument as a "straw man argument" is a reaaaal stretch. The the "straw man" logical fallacy is actually something quite different than what I think you think it is.

    But anyway . . .

    If your "Be not afraid to date anyone of any religion or no religion at all because, golly, she is my true love, my soul mate" approach to marriage were really the wise approach, why do you think it is that the Catholic Church has never adopted that approach? Is the Church not wise in these matters? And the flip side is, if the approach that I espoused on my radio show and on my blog were really so wrong-headed that it would provoke someone to say, "I'm shaking my head in sorrow over such a fine man falling prey to this thinking," then why is it that the Catholic Church has essentially given many generations of Catholics that very same advice?

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  27. I am married to a non catholic (a truly good and kind man) and believe me it has been very difficult journey to peace and harmony ()and he does not even ever go to church...please take heed folks and knowthat for faithful catholics there arise very real and difficult problems...wish I had paid attention

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  28. Mr. Madrid, good response. I completely agree with you.

    But to play devil's advocate:
    --Though the Church used to frown on mixed marriages, now she shares my optimism. Why else would it be so easy to marry a non-Catholic? If a Catholic marries another Catholic, they get a complete nuptial Mass, just like I would if I married a non-Catholic. This change happened in the past 40 years. Also in the past 40 years the Church has radically adjusted her view of mixed marriage with her new understanding of ecumensim. This is taught in Familiaris Consortio by Pope John Paul II, who stated that these mixed marriages have a dynamism all their own, and that they contribute to the ecumenical movement.--

    Mr. Madrid, this seems to me to be a change in the way the Church presents this issue to the faithful. How does one respond when even some recent Church leaders and laws seem to contradict this?

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  29. I whole heartedly agree with Mr. Madrid. Something else to look out for is the Catholic spouse who has had little religious upbringing and now doesn't believe in any organized religion. Our children were raised to be good Catholics. When my daughter reached her teen years, she fell into a bad crowd. Eventually, she ended up marrying even though the young man was not practicing his faith.Now, 6 years later,she has become slipshod in her faith and gets defensive when I point things out...like he is causing her to commit mortal sins by demanding she use birth control (or the love supply is cut off). Their little one is now 4 and has yet to be taught his prayers etc. It just sickens me. My eldest child has dated Christian Scientists and agnostic Catholics, thankfully, he hasn't married yet, but he has been slowing down church wise. My youngest just married in June and she hit the jackpot. A religious young man whose family values growing up were the same as ours.Now they are expecting their first baby. I prayed constantly from their childhoods that they would meet the right spouses.It is so important that children raised to be faithful good Catholics meet and date and marry those who have been raised in similar fashion.

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  30. I grew up in a mixed marriage family, dad was Catholic and Mom was Baptist, although she attended Mass with us and did not go to a Baptist service. My mom converted when I was in college, after I had a conversion to practicing my faith. Growing up we went to Mass on Sunday (usually) but learned next to nothing about our faith. They had a good marriage, but faith was not a large part of it. One of my brothers is now a Baptist, my sister is sort of Catholic, divorced and remarried, and my other brother is a fallen away Catholic who married a fallen away Catholic. Not quite the best case scenario!
    By reading scripture, especially the O.T., and learning about my faith I realized that God did not like inter-marriage. How often did He tell the Israelites not to inter-marry? Plus, why would you want to spend your life with someone who you could not pray the Rosary with, consecrate your family with, share the most important thing in your life?
    When I did full time youth ministry I taught the kids that inter-marriage was not the best for these reasons, although the Church did make exceptions. The youth were very open to the idea and it made sense to them, except for a few from mixed marriage families. But boy did my wife and I take some heat from some of the parents!
    The problem is that modernity believes in falling in love (and out of it). When I taught the youth about what to look for in a spouse it was new information for most. The thought had never even crossed their mind, except for a few superficial qualities. If one falls (I always thought falling was a bad thing) in love they mean they have very strong attractions to a member of the opposite sex and their brain has been turned to mush by their emotions. Not exactly the best situation for making life long decisions. If, however, one goes searching for a spouse, why would they look for one that was not Catholic?

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  31. I grew up as a Fundamentalist Baptist with my dad as one of the pastors. My husband and I began dating, but we he let me know that marriage was not an option unless we were the same faith. This cause him to study his Catholic Faith and to become convinced that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church. He held my feet to the fire when it came to his questioning. After studying for 2 years, I became Catholic and not to please him, but from intellectual study and a conversion of the heart. We are now Latin Mass Catholics blessed with 3 children and 2 miscarriages in five years of marriage. We pray for my family's conversion everyday! So date, perhaps, but know your faith and have patience. Oh yeah, and stay pure, that's a given.

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  32. For the benefit of the readers of this blog, hers's my recent comment over at the "Happy Catholic" blog thread related to this issue:

    Thanks, Julie. I must say, though, that even after all your follow-up posts (God love ya), I'm even more certain than ever that you've come down on the wrong side of this issue. But I do have to give you an A for effort! Even though I disagree with your conclusions, I admire your moxie and your thoughtfulness.

    (What an excellent *friendly* public "debate" this would make in front of a live audience who could chime in during a Q & A session.)

    I'd like to once again respectfully suggest we keep in mind that emotion, optimism, and anecdotal evidence of situations where it worked out well, don't actually deal with the issue itself: Whether or not it is wise to let your children court/date non-Catholics.

    It seems quite clear to me that, in spite of all the "happy ending" stories that have been and could be multiplied here and on my blog post, which this one derives from, the Catholic Church has been ever wise in her longstanding warning that mixed marriages are not only not ideal, they are more likely than not to be the source of serious marital troubles down the road.

    I really do appreciate and rejoice over all the "happy ending" stories that some of you have been using in an attempt to defend Julie's sincere but misguided opinion on this, but as for me, I'll stick with the Catholic Church's historic approach to this issue, which is what I did my best to briefly enunciate on my radio show and on my blog.

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  33. I married a non catholic Nov 28th 1959. We are still married but the marriage has been one rough trip,and I still am catholic. All my side of the family have passed on so when I attend family gatherings of my children or my wifes side they are all non catholics. And as always you hear in the back ground non catholic remarks. Its realy a shame how unsure they are of their own belefs and have to bash the catholics faith. Please Marry in your own faith from one who knows.

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  34. Rita said...

    I married a non catholic in 1973. We married by the justice of the peace. for 15yrs we stayed that way. My husband had his first marriage annulled by the state. Finally we had his first marriage annulled by the church because he did get married in the Catholic Church as his wife was Catholic. We are now married in the Catholic church since 1988 and he became Catholic 9 years ago. He is a devout Catholic as I am also.

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  35. I've been reading this thread with interest, especially since there is a nice non-Catholic man whom I'm interested in and I would love for it to be OK. However, it doesn't look like it's the case :(

    There are many cases here where mixed marriages have worked, even brought them back to the faith. People survive head-on car collisions as well, some to say it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Perhaps so, but that doesn't make it a prudent action.

    I'm still not entirely convinced one shouldn't date a non-catholic at all. I'm looking for two qualities in a man; someone who loves God with all his heart and will love me enough to lay down his life for my salvation. Someone with those qualities would by their very nature be drawn to the Catholic Church and may convert.

    However I do believe that the courting must wait until afterward. I see dating as that initial period, getting to know them in groups and on occasion. But before a strong attachment happens he must be Catholic...

    I wonder if it is possible to split a relationship like that in reality? heh, I'm currently strongly attached to a guy I've never dated so I guess not.

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  36. I too have read this with interest, as I have become convinced for a while now that marrying non-*Christians* is a terrible idea, and funnily enough, I was convinced of this by my Evangelical friends when I was at University.

    I am generally in total agreement with the sentiment here, except with one caveat. The Scriptural quotation that some people have partially made but not seriously looked at, is:

    "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What accord has Christ with Beliar? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: "I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Therefore, come forth from them and be separate," says the Lord, "and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

    Unbelievers. I.e. Those who do not believe in Christianity. The context here is separating out from Pagans. Not those who believe in Christ and the Trinitarian sections of the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed, but do not possess the fullness of the Gospel.

    I think there should be an absolute rule here by the Church against the marrying of non-Christians, because of the testimony of Scripture, and all the prudential reasons, and others, which have been given here. In fact, I think it is a scandal that the Church has become so lax on this subject (as on so many others).

    However, I do not believe that this should apply to non-Catholic Christians absolutely. This should depend very much on individual situations.

    Some non-Catholics, particularly those who have brought up in an anti-Catholic atmosphere, or who are very doctrinally decided in their error, will merely muddy and dilute the faith of the non-Catholic, and make it extremely difficult to bring up faithful Catholic children. It will, in fact, very possibly lead to the very religious indifference that the Catechism warns us about.

    However, not every non-Catholic is going to be like this. I live in England, and the situation here is very different in many ways to America. There is a girl I really like who is really compatible with me in every way, but is an Evangelical. However, she only became a Christian a few years ago, and is not, so far as I can see, at all convincedly Protestant. She's not had the teaching to truly realise the differences between Christians yet. Moreover, she really likes G.K. Chesterton, and that's always a good sign.

    I plan to see if I can go out with her, because I think that to marry her would not pose the problems that have been described, and because I think there's a very good chance she could become Catholic.

    So, we can totally generalise on the marrying of Christians to non-Christians. To do that is utterly un-Scriptural and frankly *insane*. Having come from such a household (and yes, I realise the irony of me saying this), let me tell you it is a big mistake.

    However, let us judge on a case-by-case basis whether the marrying of Catholics to non-Catholic Christians is right or wrong.

    Otherwise, we can all agree on one thing: If you're Catholic, it's best to marry another Catholic. Ultimately, let's just abandon ourselves to Divine Providence, and give ourselves and our lives every day to God, that His will be done in our lives and not our wills. That way, He will lead us to what is best for us if we are faithful to Him, and prayerfully and humbly seek to discern whom He would have us marry.

    Domine, fiat voluntas tua!

    Sancte Raphael, ora pro nobis!

    Grace and Peace be with you,

    The Neo-Cavalier

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  37. Okay I have to jump in here. :) There are definitely exceptions to this, even though there is much general wisdom to what Patrick and others are saying here. The exception I can see is if it is clear that the non-Catholic spouse is fully supportive of the Catholic spouse's faith, and understands that and embraces the idea that they will raise their kids in the Catholic Church. This is what happened with my sister and brother-in-law. While I had my own reservations about the fact that my b-i-l wasn't Catholic, I could clearly see how much he supported my sister's faith. He went through Catholic marriage prep, agreed to live out a Catholic marriage (no contraception, etc). When they had their first 2 kids, he did not even hesitate to baptize them Catholic. He attended Mass every Sunday with the family, bringing his children up to the front for a blessing during Communion. 4 years into the marriage, he converted before the birth of their third child. It was a strange beginning, but it has worked out and my sister insisted when she married him that she felt peace, knew it was the right thing.

    I have another friend who was very successfully raised Catholic by a devout Catholic mom and a Protestant dad (who like my b-i-l was also fully supportive of his wife's Catholic faith and never wavered on raising his kids Catholic. He has yet to convert to Catholicism and his kids are fully grown and love being Catholic).

    So... I would say guide your kids to see marriage as a vocation, to seek out a fellow Catholic, etc. But don't be overbearing or forceful in saying they can't date a non-Catholic. When it comes to choosing your spouse, only you can make that choice... not even your parents, as much as they want what's best for you.

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  38. I'm just glad my mother and maternal grandmother didn't follow this advice. I'd have lost out on a wonderful Protestant father and a wonderful Protestant grandfather. (I'm a Catholic priest.)

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  39. It depends on the individuals. The Roman Catholic Church does NOT prohibit marriage between Catholic and non-Cathlics. So, let's not try to be "more Catholic than the Pope."

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  40. I'll be discussing my position about this dating issue in a radio interview today at 3:15 pm ET on the Drew Mariani show on Relevant radio. Check it out if you can. To listen online, just click here:

    http://www.relevantradio.com/Page.aspx?pid=3407

    Tun in if you can.

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  41. Patrick, I could not agree with your position more. Our son dated and married his non-baptized, and unchurched high school sweetheart - in the Church. After which following her example he discontinued the practice of his Faith. Four years later he divorced her and married civilly - without an annulment - a more devout non-denominational Christian. That was 8 years ago, he is now anti-Catholic and though he lives only 20 minutes away we only see or hear from him during Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have no relationship with our 3 grandchildren and it has been made quite clear the division in our family is because we devoutly practice our Catholic faith which they are against.

    I would even go as far to say - if you want to almost guarantee division in your family, stand back and watch your children date and marry a non-catholic.

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  42. The moral of the story here is that the RIGHT thing to do is to pray till conviction about your vocation and marry the person that _God_ has chosen for you, that your heart has sought, and that your mind has confronted in earnest.

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  43. We should try to hear our heart’s voice but also take care of our social boundaries!
    Religion Advice

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  44. I am a Methodist and about to marry a Catholic. I am not converting and reading comments like the ones above disturbs me because I believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and I believe we are all children of God. Growing up in a Methodist home we were NEVER taught to think any less of non-Methodists, but what I have read makes me sad to think that because I am not Catholic my future husband and I should not be married because we aren't the same-but that isn't what God teaches and I have never read that in the Bible. Jesus wanted all of us to be his children and to think that today we aren't because of rules and regulations is disheartening.

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  45. If you are Catholic and Love your Faith, you would never, ever even consider anyone to date outside the Catholic Church....this is why soooo many Marriages fail...not just because you are dating someone other than Catholic, but because your Faith is not strong either...it can only lead to disasterous results. And may I add, even if some good came out of this mixed realationship, it wwould only be by God's grace and we would still be responsible and accountable to God for choosing our will, instead of God's Will...to know and Love Our Catholic Faith and to nuture ours and others by associating with those of like minds, not excluding us to evangelize when God presents the opportunity to Spread the Catholic Faith to those outside the Catholic Faith.

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  46. Just wanted to say.. great post.. i really liked the reasons.

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  47. To bedforshire: Hang in there. God loves you and is pleased you sacrifice for your children.

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