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Cristian H. wrote:

Hi, guys —

Thanks for taking the time to read my question.

I met my wife a few years ago and we happily attended different churches. She's a Catholic and I'm a Protestant. We had a short courtship and we were told that we couldn't get married unless I converted and we got married in the Catholic Church.

The concept of a mixed marriage was presented but the paperwork and dispensations seemed so clinical to me that I decided to pray for willingness and open-mindedness. I went through RCIA, become a Catholic, and we got married.

Well, about six months into the practice of marriage and Catholicism, I started having serious concerns with Catholicism. I ached for the church of my singlehood and decided to return to the place in which I felt closest to God and to Christ basing my faith in Scripture rather than tradition.

My question and my dilemma:

I no longer recognize the Catholic Church as the authority over my marriage and my vows. Though I did say I would try to raise our children Catholic, I can no longer in good conscience do this and do feel like I tried.

  • How would a couple in our situation proceed?

I would like to renew (or rescript) our vows in a way that is real and meaningful to both of us. As it stands, I believe the devil uses the invalidated structure of our Catholic marriage to whisper to me that the entire thing is built on a weak foundation and is not valid at all.

I disagree and feel compelled to make a new commitment to my wife in which I feel like the vows (between a Catholic and a Protestant) have a long lasting and authentic power to help keep us together. I am filled with fear yet hopeful that our loving Lord will help us reach a place of unity and understanding.

Sincerely,

Cristian

  { If I no longer feel the Church has authority over my marriage and family, how should we proceed? }

Mike and Fr. Jonathan gave the following team answer:

Dear Christian,

You said:

  • How would a couple in our situation proceed?

First, from an early stage, Church councils forbade Catholic Christians from marrying non-Catholic Christians. This was due to the separation in beliefs among Christians and the concern for Catholic spouses risking the tragedy of Christian disunity within their heart and their own home among family members. By degrees, however, the Popes felt constrained to make various concessions for mixed marriages, though they were always careful to guard the essential principles on which the Church found her objections to such unions.

Since the early age of the Church, this non-doctrinal restriction has changed. The most recent Church legislation was in 1907 in the decree Ne Temere of Pope Pius X.

Paraphrasing the current Catholic Catechism, when both the Catholic and non-Catholic spouses 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, though difficult, a marriage can succeed.

So mixed marriages are accepted in our Church but the Catholic spouse is the one making the promise to raise the children Catholic. The non-Catholic spouse is only a witness to the promise that has been made by the Catholic spouse.

I would normally recommend that you pray about your current situation and make an appointment to talk with a priest but you don’t sound like you are willing to change your mind on these issues. Your theology of What it is to be a Catholic and of marriage is way off.

Church authority over your marriage only exists to the existent to which the Church witnesses both your vows. Both the groom and the bride administer the sacrament of marriage to each other. The Church is just the witness and, most importantly, provides the sacramental graces to keep your marriage together through sickness and health until death to you both.

You said:
[I] feel compelled to make a new commitment to my wife in which I feel like the vows (between a Catholic and a Protestant) have a long lasting and authentic power to help keep us together.

  • How can you do this without one of you dissenting from your respective faith in child rearing issues?
  • Have you had talks on how you plan to raise your children?

I will keep you and your wife in my prayers.

You may be interested in these pages too:

Mike

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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