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Andrea wrote:

Hi, guys —

I need some serious guidance. I am an atheist who plans to marry a non-practicing Catholic in three weeks. We have decided to have a self-uniting, secret ceremony in our state but he wants to get married in his family's local Catholic church later. He comes from a very strict household of Catholics who say they will refuse to acknowledge our marriage until we are married in their church and he doesn't want to lose his heritage.

That said, I cannot reconcile moving into a religion I despise. We cannot have children, so that is not an issue, but if we did, I would not raise them Catholic.

We have been together for six years, engaged for three, and cohabitating for two. I am not comfortable taking vows within a church yet.

Since we:

  1. are not being married by an officiant
  2. are not getting married legally in the Church, and
  3. not inviting any family (we have no plans to tell them until after the Catholic wedding),
  • What would our options be for his Catholic wedding idea later to fulfill his familial obligation?

I was confirmed Catholic; however, I am now an atheist and have no intention of going back.
I will do whatever it takes to make him happy though even if it means a Catholic ceremony after our self-uniting one.

Please give as much advice as possible. I only have three weeks to stop this wedding if it will ruin his dreams of following his family tradition.


  { What would our options be for a Catholic wedding idea later, to fulfill his familial obligation? }

Bob replied:


Thank you for your can do and earnestly in addressing this fragile situation.

My gut reaction right out of the box is stop the wedding, or at the very least, put it off until such a time as all issues are worked out. Right now disaster looms. Three weeks is just adding pressure and may cloud both of your's best judgement.

Your boyfriend has to come to grips with his own decisions about having a Catholic family or not. Besides the risk of alienation from his family, there is the greater risk that you are not on the same page about raising children, which for Catholics, is probably the primary function of the institution of Marriage. Fertility is not always static, and adoption allows for parenting when natural conception is not possible. That has been the case in my family.

Marriage is something that transcends a contractual agreement, love, feelings, companionship, sex, and economic stability, and it must have a unified purpose. So whether you are Catholic or an atheist, if you are not aligned in your fundamental conceptualization or purpose for Marriage, you will eventually fail. If he wants to be Catholic he cannot marry without openness to children and the obligation to raise them as such. From what you said, you are not aligned in this. You are right to see a red flag.

More soul searching is warranted. I know you don't believe but I'll pray for you both anyway.

Hit the brakes and maybe call it off permanently if there in an impasse.


Bob Kirby

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Andrea,

One does not marry in the Church to appease parents.

If you both went at this time in your life to the priest to validate the marriage and were honest with him, the priest would not do it because you cannot commit to what is required in the Church.

I wish you well in your journeys.

Please know you are always welcome back.

Fr. Jonathan

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