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Neil Wilson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I started dating someone about two months ago and she and I are really great together. There seems to be a future with her. I am aware that our relationship is in the very early stages but my parents are already not happy that she is Jewish.

  • How might I continue my relationship without causing a rift in my family based upon a difference in religion?
  • Are my parents right that I'm wasting my time?

Neil

  { Are my parents right in saying that I am wasting time dating a non-Catholic girlfriend? }

Mike replied:

Hi Neil,

As my colleague Mary Ann has stated in the past, we should never date someone that we wouldn't consider marrying. That's the purpose of dating. Some dating gets serious and leads to marriage. When it doesn't, it should at least strive for a pleasant separation. I was fortunate to have dated my girl for two years before it ended peacefully.

As Catholics, we believe faith is an important part of any life long commitment. Your parents are probably concerned because of this close link between dating and marriage. The Catechism states:

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.

That said, your parents have no right to tell you who you should, and should not, date. If they have raised their children to value the importance of their faith, the children will be looking for people to date who are of the same faith. If you are really getting along great with this women, you can make this an opportunity to share with her what we believe as Catholic Christians; that we are fulfilled Jews of Jesus, the God-Man, who is both Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Joseph.

For a Catholic to have a valid marriage, they have to marry according to form. Meaning:

  • they must marry in the Church (easy)
  • if they marry a non-Catholic, they must get a disposition from the local bishop
    (pretty easy), and
  • though, the non-Catholic spouse does not have to change their faith, they must agree not to interfere with the children of their marriage being raised Catholic.

These are important things dating, Catholic Christians, of any age, should keep in mind.

Your parents may have a good intention — (your well-being), but the decision, if you are of age,
is yours.

Check out these resources for more:

Hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Neil —

I would also add some Scripture to what my colleague has said. St. Paul warns us "not be unequally yoked with or (joined to) a non-believer." (2 Corinthians 6:14)

A Jewish person is not a complete unbeliever, in that she accepts the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but she is still not a Christian. Therefore, it could present problems down the line, when it comes to the kind of decisions you make with respect to your children. As Mike pointed out, she must agree to not interfere in your raising the children to be Roman Catholic. That also means she needs to agree to follow the Churches teaching on artificial contraception, because as a Catholic you can't participate in its use.

  • It's one thing to agree to do all these things in order to get a dispensation from the bishop to marry.
  • It's another to actually follow through on these things.

Once the children get older, the natural tendency is for a parent to raise their children with the traditions they held dear. While most Jewish traditions don't directly contradict the Christian faith, you will run into problems over the issue of Jesus and you will, no doubt, run in to other problems when it comes to the Church's moral Teachings. If this girl marries you, she's more than likely a Reform Jew and not Orthodox or Conservative, otherwise she wouldn't be dating a
non-Jew. The moral tradition of many Reform Jews is very liberal, so when you try and bring up your child to believe that:

  • abortion is always wrong
  • marriage is strictly between one man and one woman
  • sex is reserved for marriage, or
  • that artificial contraception is wrong

you will find it difficult. Although she may have said she wouldn't interfere with the Catholic upbringing of the children, it's only natural for her to express her opinion on these matters.
If they conflict with the Teachings of the Church, then you've got a problem.

So while it's not impossible for things to work out, it's not easy. At some point in your life together, it will bring about a crisis. This can be overcome, but in many cases, it leads to either:

  • someone having to betray their faith, or
  • the marriage going through very tough times.

John

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