“Ask a Priest: Should I Leave My Non-Christian Husband?”

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Q: I am a Catholic, and when I realized that God was real, I wanted to change my life. I had married my husband in a civil ceremony 10 years ago. I started going to church again and realized that my marriage was not valid. I recently had my marriage convalidated, but the priest had to get a dispensation from the bishop because my husband is not Christian. I am worried that what I have done is a sin. Ezra made the Jewish men who returned to build the Second Temple give up their foreign wives. I was too weak to do this. Also, Jesus is very angry at one of the churches in Revelation for following the doctrine of Balaam. Balaam taught the Moabites how to make the Jews stray by tempting them into marrying pagan women. What if the doctrine of Balaam refers to the union of a Christian with a non-Christian? What if this enrages Jesus? I beg my husband all the time to get baptized. It’s like talking to a wall. He refuses. Even if he did get baptized, I worry that this might be adding to our sins because I know he wouldn’t really mean it. I wonder if I should separate from my husband, then I think this is another sin because we are married now. I feel guiltier now than I did before my priest convalidated our marriage. Please help me. – N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I don’t think you have to worry about your marriage. You had the bishop’s permission, which is crucial. He has the authority to dispense a Catholic from certain norms.

So you should be at peace. The Bible has to be interpreted in the light of Tradition (the oral transmission of the teachings of Christ and the apostle), which what the bishop is doing.

Another biblical passage that might bring you comfort is 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 — “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife.”

Perhaps your mission now is to be a witness of the faith to your husband. Don’t try to nag him into the Church. That will likely backfire. Rather, be patient with him. Pray for him. Offer up sacrifices.

To help you go deeper in the spiritual life, consider some of the RC Spirituality resources, such as the retreat guides and the RC Daily Meditations. Other helpful resources could include “The Better Part” and “A Guide to Christian Meditation.”

Stay close to the sacraments yourself. And cultivate a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, too. She is a great intercessor. I hope some of this helps.

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