“Ask a Priest: Could I Marry Validly If I Don’t Want Kids?”

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Q: I was raised in a practicing Catholic household. I strongly believe in God but haven’t always agreed with everything that the Catholic faith teaches. Since graduating school, I have not been attending religious services as often as I probably should have. Recently, my boyfriend and I have been thinking about getting married. So far, we have been practicing spirituality and living our lives in accordance with Catholic morals, so I feel strong in my faith in that respect. However, when it comes to wedding planning I feel a bit torn. I do appreciate the religious community of the Church, and I want my wedding to be recognized in the eyes of the Church. However, I just can’t bring myself to agree 100% with the Church’s views on marriage requirements, such as being open to have children, when that is something I don’t want. I just don’t know if I can go through a ceremony agreeing to values I wouldn’t want to practice. I want to live my life in a manner that is pleasing to God, and it worries me that my marriage would be sinful if not in the Church. I feel that would upset my family as well. I’ve been praying to try to ask God what he wants for me, but I’m still conflicted. What is the right thing to do in this situation? – N.B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are honest enough to admit that you don’t want children.

Not being open to children would normally be an impediment to a Church wedding.

Marriage is created by God with a twofold dimension: unitive for the spouses, and procreative.

That means that a couple has to be open to life in order to enter a valid marriage.

To deliberately rule out children would be, in effect, to slam the door on God’s beautiful and wise plan for marriage.

At a deeper level, perhaps, the fear of children can reflect a lack of hope in the future. Or a lack of trust in God’s providence. It could also reflect selfishness, though I am not sure of the reasons behind your own thoughts on the issue.

It might be good to step back and look at the big picture. You say that you strongly believe in God, but that you don’t agree with all the Church’s teachings. Jesus founded the Church, in part, to teach us the truths revealed by God.

So to have a problem with Church teaching on marriage is to have a problem with God’s teaching on marriage.

It might be good to try to go a little deeper into the theology of marriage.

You and your friend might want to view our “Three Hearts” online retreat together.

You might want to read a few Catholic books on marriage. Websites such as this one recommend many fine books.

In the meantime it might help to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life (including regular Mass attendance), and to find a solid, regular confessor or spiritual director to guide you.

And be open with any priest or deacon or layperson you might encounter in a marriage-prep course. Count on my prayers, OK?

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