Dating Non-Catholics by Rev. George Kelly (Part One)


This is not meant to be an attack on non-Catholics. What Father is pointing out is the differences between religions and the conflict that entails. Also, quite often there are unfounded prejudices on both sides…

From The Catholic Family Handbook, Rev. George Kelly, 1950’s

Part Two is here.

Fourteen-year-old Pete was talking to his freshman pal. “I don’t know why the Church keeps harping on mixed marriages,” he said. “I know Protestant girls who are just as nice as Catholic ones. What’s wrong with marrying one?”

Pete’s argument isn’t unusual. Many other Catholics—adults as well as teenagers—have the same view. They know non-Catholics who obey God’s laws and who are decent, respectable grownups.

We all probably know Protestants and Jews who are a greater credit to their religion than some who claim to be Catholics. So why does the Church continually warn against marrying them?

If the problem were as simple as Pete thinks, the teachings of the Church would have no justification. But this is one of those cases I spoke of earlier—a case where you should consider the experience of older people.

Against the fourteen years Pete has to support his viewpoint, the Church has almost two thousand years plus the opportunity to study the results of millions of marriages. Surely she knows more about this subject than anyone. And she has found that the Catholic entering a mixed marriage takes a terrible chance…

Suppose you’re married to a non-Catholic. What’s life like?

You and your mate hold conflicting ideas over the most basic beliefs of your existence. Frequently, there is little agreement on what life is all about—why you were born, what kind of life you’re supposed to lead on earth, what you are supposed to do in marriage, what will happen to you after you die. On these, the most important questions in your life, your non-Catholic partner has been taught beliefs different from the ones you hold.

Other differences arise almost every day of your life…

You must abstain from meat on Friday in memory of Our Lord’s sacrifice in giving His life for mankind. Your non-Catholic partner thinks your practice is silly.

You want to arise early on Sunday to attend Mass. Your partner urges you to roll over and go back to sleep. It sometimes calls for great sacrifice on your part to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. Instead of encouraging such sacrifices, your partner by word or deed indicates that they’re totally unnecessary.

When your children are born, your problems multiply. When you were married in the Church, your partner solemnly agreed to bring up the children as Catholics. But this promise is much harder to keep than to make.

For instance, the baby must receive a saint’s name. Your mate wants to name him after a favorite uncle. It’s a major irritation when that can’t be done.

As your child grows older, his relationship with God, his point of view on life and its problems, his conduct will depend on what he learned in his own home.

Both parents in a mixed marriage promise to see that the child is made into a good Christian. But how often will the non-Catholic sit by complacently while his boy or girl is taught to view Christ through Catholic eyes only? Can you easily teach him that the Catholic Church is Christ in the world today?

What about Catholic worship? We participate in the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ to our heavenly Father daily, and weekly under pain of sin. Can a child of a mixed marriage embrace this mystery and this worship, if either pop or mom never goes to Mass?

How can your son, for example, learn how important it is to acknowledge the supremacy of God, if your spouse indicates that morning and night prayers are unnecessary?

Being brought up as a Catholic, he’ll often ask one or both of you to hear his Catechism lessons. Will your partner help your child to learn principles which may conflict with those cherished by non-Catholics?

These are just a few of the sticky situations which repeatedly arise in a mixed marriage.

Have you fond memories of how your parents celebrated the great feast days like Christmas and Easter? Most people do. As a parent, you want to give the same happy memories to your children.

In many families, for instance, parents and children attend early Christmas Mass and receive Holy Communion together. This practice unites the family on this great feast day. But when the parents have different religions, the mother may go to one church and the father to another. The family is separated at the very moment it should be together. And it is togetherness on basic things that really makes a family. Separateness does not belong in the home.

Prejudice in Mixed Marriages…

Differences over religious beliefs aren’t the only problems in a mixed marriage. Let’s face it; millions of Americans have deep prejudices against Catholics. They might not discriminate against us, wouldn’t mind living next to us, might even elect us to political office.

But some have believed that Catholics stored guns in their cellars, awaiting word from the Pope to rise up and take over the government; others still think Catholics are ignorant and superstitious, the lowest class in the population; that Catholics are the pawns of priests and must do everything their pastor tells them about any subject.

You’d be astonished at the many wrong notions held even by educated non-Catholics.

Of course, this prejudice is not one-sided. Many Catholics feel antagonistic toward Protestants and Jews. And their objections are equally emotional, based on prejudice.

The wrongness of prejudice, even unspoken prejudice, does not change the fact that people have to deal with it; and the last place one should have to experience it is in your own household.

If you marry a non-Catholic, his mother and father may give you the deep-freeze treatment, and your parents may give him the same. Even if they don’t, you may sense it in your spouse every time something religious comes up. The alternative is perpetual silence, and this last state is worse than the first.

Can love overcome the animosity of in-laws? Think twice before you answer yes. You’ve lived with your parents all your life and have absorbed their ideas, and you certainly owe them love and gratitude. Can you turn your back on what they deeply believe and repudiate their teachings?

You may think you can, but in every marriage there are disagreements and difficulties. If you feel that your parents disapprove of your choice, you may be strongly tempted to run to them whenever you have trouble with your mate. There’s less reason to try to keep a marriage running smoothly when your parents disapprove of it.

Experts who have studied such matters have found that getting along with your in-laws is one of the best ways to insure your happiness. Then your spouse feels no pressure to choose, no need to turn against the parents to live with you.

Maybe the non-Catholic parents of someone you know treat you courteously and respectfully. They may have no prejudice against Catholics as individuals. But it’s a sad fact that few people grow up without some prejudices. So even if they accept you as a person, they may remain prejudiced against your Church or may have a bias against your priests. You’d still find yourself a stranger in their midst.

Your partner would probably experience similar discomfort among your relatives. If the arguments I’ve cited against mixed marriages are true, they would be as bad for non-Catholics as for Catholics.

You’d find ministers, rabbis and marriage experts taking the same stand as does the Church. And that’s exactly the case. You could start at one end of town, knock on the door of every minister or rabbi, and probably reach the other end without finding one who would recommend marriages between persons of different faiths.

They oppose them be-cause there are more divorces, more desertions, more legal separations, more failure; to get along well together in mixed marriages than in those where both husband and wife practice the same religion. It’s not narrow-minded bigotry that causes the Church to warn against mixed marriages. It’s plain common sense.

Your happy marriage will be the foundation of a happy home in which the entire family benefits. If you find it hard to understand how to make your husband number one in priority, without neglecting your children, keep this rule in mind: Don’t put the comforts and whims of your children ahead of your husband’s basic needs.
– Helen Andelin

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