My husband is catholic and i am not. Will it create issues during our life together? We receive similar questions almost every day.
Yes, it’s best if both the groom and bride are baptized Catholics when partaking in a holy matrimony. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes accomodations for mixed marriages (between a baptized catholic and a baptized non-catholic) and disparity of cult (between a baptized catholic and a non-baptized person).
As long as one of the partners is a baptized catholic, you can partake in the sacrament of matrimony. So it’s not uncommon to find a wife married to a non-catholic husband or the other way round.
While the catholic church still recognizes your marriage as valid, this disparity in faith can have serious consequences on your partnership and, most importantly, your children.
Christian Disunity At Home
The biggest concerns by the catholic church in regards to mixed marriages is the weight and friction of christian disunity in the family.
A long time ago, Catholics referred to protestants as heretics, a loaded term that many say as insulting and causing wider divides in Christianity.
While the Second Vatican Council got rid of the term in preference for ‘sisters and brothers in Christ’ or ‘separated brethren’, there are still some serious divisions between Catholics and Protestants.
The problems usually start even before the marriage, e.g. living together while not married. However, there’s concern that a mixed marriage brings this division to a home, and this disunity can have serious consequences.
Take the issue of raising children, for example. If your husband is catholic, he’ll insist on having the children baptized, something you may be opposed to (Note: Infant baptism needs the consent of just one parent, so your husband may secretly have the baby baptized).
Another area of potential disunity is contraception. As a non-catholic woman, you may want to use some form of contraception. However, your husband may disagree because the church only allows natural birth control.
Even seemingly small matters may cause friction. For example, on obligatory days of fasting (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), you’ll not be able to enjoy family meals together.
During lent, your catholic partner may decide to abstain from sex as part of their fasting, another potential cause of problems in your marriage.
Faith is an integral part of our lives. It informs what we do and what we say at every moment of the day. So there is no way to put aside one’s catholic faith momentarily to please your non-catholic partner.
In all likelihood, you’ll have to deal with serious obstacles in your marriage.
How To Thrive In A Mixed Marriage
Just because it is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live in a mixed marriage.
Obviously, the easiest thing would be for the non-catholic partner to convert and become a member of the catholic church. You’d need to get baptized (if you are not) and go through various other steps.
Here’s a passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church;
For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband.” It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this “consecration” should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith.
If conversion is not possible, the Vatican recommends that the parish priest advise the couple on how to handle the situation. Your priest will ask both of you to promise to bring up your children in the catholic church and have them baptised.
The catholic partner will also be advised on how to avoid endangered their faith. As the non-catholic partner, you’ll also be asked to not do anything to obstruct the catholic upbringing of your children.
In mixed marriages, the church has a duty to…
”…help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple’s obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.” (CCC 1636)
Support & Respect
All this comes down to supporting each other and respecting individual beliefs.
Understand that your husband being a catholic comes with certain obligations for him. Particularly, he is obligated to bring up your children in the Catholic faith.
Even if you are not catholic, help your husband fulfill these obligations. In many cases, simply consenting to things like baptism is all you need to do.
I highly recommend staying in close communication with the local pastor or priest. He’ll help you sort out any number of problems that may arise as a result of your different faiths.