“Ask a Priest: What If My Girlfriend Wouldn’t Want Our Kids Raised Catholic?”

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Q: My girlfriend of five months is the sweetest girl and truly has a deep love for Jesus. Despite marriage being far away, I wanted to talk to her about some of the aspects of a Catholic marriage. She’s open to marrying in a Catholic church. However, she doesn’t see herself being Catholic and isn’t sure if she wants our kids to be Catholic. As the Catholic in the relationship, I understand it is my duty to do everything I can to have our kids baptized in the faith and raise them as Catholics. I know God has a plan, but I’ve never loved anyone like I do her, and I believe she is definitely someone I would want to marry. Questions: What if she is unwilling to be open to having our kids baptized and raised Catholic? Do I need to end the relationship? What does it mean that I have to do my best to have them raised in the faith and baptized Catholic? Thanks, Father! – L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that are facing these questions now. As you seem to realize, you have to make a commitment to raise the children in the Catholic faith. Your friend would need to be informed of your duty.

This is spelled out in canon law in the section on mixed marriages.

Canon 1125 says, “(1) the Catholic party declares that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of falling away from the faith and makes a sincere promise to do all in his or her power to have all the children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

“(2) the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time of these promises which the Catholic party has to make, so that it is clear that the other party is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party.”

Now, if you have a duty before God, and your friend has no plans to help you fulfill that duty, what might that say about the prospects for a happy marriage?

Here, it seems to come down to a question of who comes first in your life: God or your friend?

In any case, it’s possible the Church might not approve the wedding if your friend is adamant in her opposition to raising the children Catholic.

As for the second question: It might be a moot issue based on how you answer the question above. If you don’t have your friend’s support, you would have to be prepared to override her decision at every step, from having the children baptized to having them catechized. Is that the kind of marriage you would want?

You are only five months into the relationship. Your friend’s sweetness might have its appeal now, but it would be good for the “glow” of the relationship to dim, so that you can look at it more realistically and spiritually.

The Church in general does not recommend mixed marriages. Religious differences can cause lots of tension as the years go on. It is worth reading the Catechism on this issue.

None of this is rules out the possibility of your friend converting or at least having a change of heart about how to the raise the children. But that is hypothetical and not something you can count on happening.

Our Retreat Guide “Three Hearts” could help you to prayerfully reflect on the reality of marriage from God’s perspective.

You might want to take some of this to prayer. And remember: someday you would have to answer before God for how you raised your children in the faith. Count on my prayers.

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