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Thomas J. wrote:

Hello,

I am a relatively young Catholic male (32). I come from a conservative Catholic family and have been dating a girl for 2.5 years. She was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, for most of her life, but does not follow the faith regularly anymore. She was also married in that faith about 12 years ago but was divorced several years later. I really like this girl but am concerned about the following issues and could use your guidance.

It is the wish of my family that I marry within the Catholic Church.

  • Is there anything about this scenario that would prevent that from happening?
  • Would the Catholic Church frown upon or not allow certain aspects of the Mass to occur because of her past?
  • If she chose, would she be eligible to join the Catholic faith at some point in the future?

My decisions in regards to moving forward with our relationship hinge largely on the ability to have a Catholic wedding and her being accepted in the Catholic Church (figuratively and literally), so your sincere reply is appreciated.

Thanks,

Thomas

  { Can I marry a lapsed Jehovah's Witness in the Church with Her blessings? }

John replied:

Hi Thomas,

For you to marry this girl, you'd need to get a dispensation from the Church.

There are some things to keep in mind. Marrying this girl is not like marrying another Christian. Jehovah's Witness are not Christians. The sociology and theology of the group is cultic, so this isn't like marrying:

  • a Baptist
  • a Lutheran
  • a Pentecostal
  • etc., etc.

Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Divinity of Christ and the Trinity. By definition, they are, therefore, not Christians.

You have to consider how these differences in belief will effect your entire life together.

  • Will she agree to have children that follow the Church's Teaching on matters of faith?
  • Will she agree to allowing all the children to be brought up as Catholics?
    (as the Church requires) and
  • Does she understand that the nature of Sacramental Marriage cannot be dissolved?

Then, there is the matter of her previous marriage to resolve.

I'm not sure if the Church would require an annulment given the circumstance of that marriage. (I'm not sure if the prior husband was a Christian or a Jehovah's Witnesses. Therefore, we don't know if this was a marriage between two non-Christians done in a non-Christian Church).

The good news is that she, like anyone else, is welcome in the Catholic Church. That would probably be the ideal solution, were she truly interested in becoming a Christian first of all, and then, much more, to enter the fullness of the Christian faith found in the Catholic Church.

If that is a possibility, it's an avenue I'd pursue. If she's willing to at least start seeking or looking into what the Church teaches then you should both seek out a good RCIA program you can attend together. You don't need to attend, but it would be beneficial for you to revisit what the Church teaches.

I hope this helps,

John D.

Mike replied:

Hi Thomas,

I just wanted to add to my colleague's fine remarks.

You are indeed blessed to have a family that wants you to marry within the Catholic Church.

  • How does a Catholic marriage differ from other marriages?

What I have told my niece and nephew, ages 5 to 18, is when two baptized Catholics marry in the Church, what the Church provides, if the proper intent and disposition of both parties is present, is the krazy glue that bonds their marriage for life.

Remember that commercial on T. V. for Krazy Glue?

The one with the construction worker suspended in mid air while grasping his construction helmet, which in turn, is bonded with Krazy Glue to a thick wooden beam.

The sacramental grace from a Catholic marriage is the Krazy Glue that bonds the couple for life. When combined with weekly reception of the Eucharist in a state of grace (regular Confession recommended), the couple is given the extra grace to keep the marriage together, when today, sadly, others are collapsing. This is a good reason for couples to consider becoming Catholic.

As John mentioned in his last paragraph, I would encourage you and your girl friend to look into the Church and Her Teachings. She wouldn't be making any commitment; she would just be discovering what the Catholic Faith really teachings.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said,

"There are not 100 people in America that hate the Catholic Church, but millions upon millions who hate "what they think" is the Catholic Church."

She can get a cheap Catechism of the Catholic Church on-line.

The following from the Catechism under Matrimony Consent. Your case involves a disparity of cult. I thought it may help as well:

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 non-baptized 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.

In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1124, 1086) 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. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1125)

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." (1 Corinthians 7:14) 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. (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:16) 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.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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