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Amanda Quiroz wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am in a complex situation and would like to ask for your clarification, prayers, and advice:

I am in a three-year relationship with a male partner; we have been living together for two years. When we met, I was not a very informed Catholic and I considered myself very conflicted.

My partner does not identify himself as a believer and he did not grow up with spiritual or religious formation. He does not know Christ yet, but I love him in spite of it, and all the more even now, I pray for his heart and his mind to be open.

About a year ago, my faith had called me back to the Church. I went through the RCIA process and wanted to receive Confirmation, however, due to my living situation and relationship status, I am still waiting.

While I have not received the sacrament of Confirmation and am not currently disposed to receive the Body of Christ in the most Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, I feel a stronger call to strengthen my prayer life and religious education, including talking with:

  • priests
  • religious sisters, and
  • Catholic friends.

The strain of not being in full communion with the Church is becoming more and more painful and feels like an urgent problem. I pray for a spiritual communion and a healed heart. God has been drawing me and I definitely feel a personal confirmation and see my faith as a gift, but my struggle to make radical conversions in my relationship with my partner has been very difficult. I want to live chastely and do not want to damage my relationship with God or disobey Him out of love for Him; but I fall harder and harder every time.

Because I hadn't been confirmed as an adolescent, I was living my early adult life without a mature understanding of Catholic teaching or God's law, specifically on human sexuality.

Now that I am becoming aware through study and prayer, I see the sacredness and the true gift of marital love. I see what sex means beyond carnal concupiscence and I pray to one day share a true sacramental, covenantal marriage with my partner.

We are discerning our relationship very seriously to the point where both of us see the logic points from a Catholic view but our hearts aren't ready to abandon the love we have for one another and the life we've been building together — nevertheless, my heart cannot continue to offend God.

We want to continue to build a life with each other and enter into marriage but we realize the biggest difference between us is our fundamental beliefs:

  • Agnostic Atheism and
  • Catholic Christianity.

We both see the implications of current and future conflicts between what we believe but,
if possible, we are willing to work towards harmony.

I know we are in one another's lives for a reason and I can't stop having love for my partner because he doesn't yet know God. I sincerely want to share my life with him and help him get to Heaven. I care deeply for his soul and I trust God's Will for our relationship.

My questions from all of this are as follows:

  • If we believe we are being calling to marriage, when can I get confirmed?
  • Will living chastely before marriage, even though I am still cohabiting, be a remedy to my current situation?
  • Can a person who is ethnically Jewish but who has agnostic atheist beliefs even make the marriage vows according to our one, true Church?
  • Would they need a conversion of heart in order to make their marital vows?

I basically understand the marriage would need a dispensation and would be sacramental but not blessed or

  • Is it the other way around?
  • Would the husband be consecrated if he didn't believe?

By just being in a Marriage, I believe God would be at the center or our lives regardless of one of the spouse's lack of belief.

  • Is this naive or incorrect?

Thank you for your patience, prayers, and help.

Amanda Quiroz

  { Will this allow me to get confirmed and married while cohabiting and can I marry an atheist? }

Paul replied:

Dear Amanda,

I sympathize with you and your situation. You obviously are being drawn to God and to your partner (whom you have apparently been intimate with), and you know you will have to make difficult choices.

Difficult choices in our lives always serve as a test of our love for God. As with any potential marriage, one fundamental question must be asked:

  • Does my potential spouse love God more than me?

All other things in place:

  • If the answer is Yes, the marriage has a good shot at being a happy, fulfilling one.
  • If the answer is No, it has a good chance at being an empty, lonely one.

Although the natural purposes of marriage are union and procreation, the supernatural purpose is to get each other to Heaven.

  • Will this person help me get there?

A very important pre-marital question.

You are probably saying that if you knew these things earlier in life you would have oriented your life in a different way. Fair enough.

Now what to do?

First, understand that if you do marry this partner without his conversion it will be a non-sacramental marriage. Both spouses must be baptized Christians for it to be a sacramental marriage.

You will have to ask for a dispensation for something called disparity of cult, which simply means requesting permission from the Church to contract a natural marriage with someone who is not baptized into Christ.

The Church permits these non-sacramental, natural marriages, and blesses them, giving them the presumption of validity, however, the non-Christian must promise to raise their potential children Catholic and never get in the way of them flourishing as Catholics. The potential Catholic spouse must take a sobering look at the future and realize that the most important part of life, and of marriage, will not be intimately shared with a non-Catholic (worship, prayer, sacraments, theological/spiritual discussions, etc.). This loss tends to magnify itself as the years go on and the newness of the natural excitement wears off.

You are correct in assessing the unreasonableness in continuing a lifestyle gravely contrary to Christ and His Church while seeking union with Him in Confirmation. In Confirmation you are making the choice to live a Christian life, pleasing to God.

  • Could you receive Confirmation and even marry in the Church while cohabiting?

The ideal would be to move apart from each other during the remainder of the courtship and engagement but some pastors may grant leeway if this is unreasonably impractical and allow you to move forward with the promise to live as brother and sister in all respects before marriage.

Please make an appointment with your pastor to talk about these things.

Continue to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to make things clear to both of you and to give both of you strength.

May your love for each other be pure, whether or not you eventually choose to become spouses.

Peace,

Paul

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi Amanda,

I would only correct one thing in Paul's reply.

He said:

The Church permits these non-sacramental, natural marriages, and blesses them, giving them the presumption of validity, however, the non-Christian must promise to raise their potential children Catholic and never get in the way of them flourishing as Catholics.

For Paul's answer to be canonically correct I would change this to:

The Church permits these non-sacramental, natural marriages, and blesses them, giving them the presumption of validity, however, the non-Christian must be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party.

See number 2° below:

Canon 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

1° the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

2° the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;

3° both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

Note that the other party makes no promise but is only aware of the Catholic party’s promises.

Fr. Jonathan

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