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Jennifer Stewart wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Why is the Catholic faith so exclusive?

Non-Catholics cannot be wed in a Catholic Church and non-Catholics are not allowed to participate in Holy Communion.

  • Shouldn't we be open to other forms of Christianity in order to spread the true Word of God?

Jennifer

  { Why is the Catholic faith so exclusive to non-Catholics and other forms of Christianity? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jenn,

You said:

  • Why is the Catholic faith so exclusive?

Because truth is exclusive and the Catholic Church is a truth-telling Church on issues of faith and morals.

You said:
Non-Catholics cannot be wed in a Catholic Church

This is not true; it is possible, but it has it's challenges.

What you are referring to is either a mixed marriage or disparity of cult. This is what the Catechism says.

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.

What I italicized in paragraph 1634 is especially true for couples that feel very strong about their beliefs like a practicing Catholic and a militant atheist. Faith issues should be resolved early, before marriage and having children.

You said:
and non-Catholics are not allowed to participate in Holy Communion.

Yes! Because they don't believe what Catholic Christians believe about Holy Communion — that we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the appearance of wheat bread and grape wine. When we are in communion with Our Lord at Mass, we are also saying we are in communion with the teachings of His Church. A Protestant can't say they are in communion with the teachings of the Church.

If there is a non-Catholic that does believe, what we believe, they should seriously consider being a Catholic Christian. We are one of very few Churches that offer the Real Presence. They can just make an appointment with the local priest or pastor at their nearest Catholic parish.

You said:

  • Shouldn't we be open to other forms of Christianity in order to spread the true Word of God?

Sure we should, but we should do so without compromising our teachings and what we believe as practicing Catholics. (Different Protestant denominations define "the Word of God" differently than the Catholic Church does.) As I cardinal in Rome put it:

The most ecumenical thing a Catholic can do is be unmistakably Catholic!

What other forms of Christianity believe about Jesus and the one Church He founded on St. Peter and his successors is usually far different than what we believe as Catholic Christians.

The Eastern Orthodox and similar religions are the closest to us in faith.

I hope this helps,

Mike

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