“Ask a Priest: Can My Son Receive the Sacraments If He Married in a Baptist Church?”

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Q: I have a son who married a Baptist lady in a Baptist church but continues to call himself a Catholic. He accompanied me to confession one day and went himself. After confession we attended Mass, and when I went to receive the Eucharist, he was right behind me and also received. After Mass I told him he should not have gone to receive Communion because he was not practicing his Catholic faith. Was I wrong? He apologized and said he did not want to do anything wrong. Also, if he began attending weekly Mass and taking the sacraments, but still remain married to his Protestant wife, would this make any difference? My son is really interested in the Catholic faith. In fact, I have given him a catechism and he frequently asks questions. – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I gather that your son did not have permission for the wedding in the Baptist church, and that his marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church.

The fact that your son went to confession (at least outwardly) and that he has interest in the Catholic faith, is a promising sign. He seems to show a lot of good will. You want to build on that.

If in the confession he agreed to live as brother and sister with his wife until they could get their marriage regularized, then he might be able to receive Communion. That could be the case, in theory at least. This is a delicate area, since you won’t have all the facts.

The fact that he didn’t have a ready answer for you when you confronted him would indicate that perhaps he didn’t fully explain his situation to the confessor, or else didn’t understand the advice given. It is impossible to say what happened in the confessional. Your questioning him about receiving Communion likely sprang from your motherly concern for his spiritual well-being. As such it might have been an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Far be it from me to want to squelch the workings of the Spirit. (You may find our Retreat Guides Food for the Journey and From Sorrow to Joy helpful resources regarding these sacraments).

Perhaps your son didn’t learn the faith very well when he was growing up and simply doesn’t know the basic tenets of the faith.

What you might consider is encouraging him to speak to a priest about having his marriage convalidated (“blessed”). If his marital situation can be made regular, he would be able to receive the sacraments again. His partner would not be required to convert.

All this might take time and patience. But again, there seems to be lots of good will – a positive sign.

Perhaps your comment to him about receiving Communion was an inspiration that will prompt him to go deeper into understanding what the faith requires of those baptized into the Catholic Church.

In the meantime you might want to intensify your prayers and sacrifices for him. And remind him of your love for him at every opportunity.

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