Marriage and Beliefs

The Question: Ron, are you married to a Catholic woman? 

My Response: Indeed I am. My wife was born and raised in Mexico, where Catholic beliefs and practices often differ significantly from what one may consider 'normal' Roman Catholicism. Though not terribly long ago, priests and religious were persecuted and driven into seclusion or out of Mexico, the many Mexicans continued to consider themselves as Catholics and clung to a mixture of native religions and Romanism.

When my wife and I married, law forbade public religious display and, so far as I know that prohibition remains in effect. In those days, priests and religious were forbidden to wear in public clothing that identified their religious status. None of this, however, seemed to prevent carrying religious idols and banners along the streets, usually to the accompaniment of peculiarly high-pitched singing of religious music. Of particular significance were the Mexican observances of All Saints Day and December 12, when Mexican Catholics take idols of the Virgin of Guadalupe for walks around their towns or neighborhoods.

Catholicism as I have seen it practiced in Mexico includes a number of beliefs and observances peculiar to the ancient religions of the various regions. Ancient deities and demons are well-known to just about every one of the hundreds of members of my Mexican family, many of whom seem always conscious of the possibility that one of these might pop up to harm them. This seems to be the case with just about everyone else I know in that country, though the better-educated folks seem to have shaken many of those olds ways.

I have attended a number of Masses and other religious activities in Mexico over the nearly 50 years of our marriage. Four of our six children were baptized in Catholic churches in Mexico. During the nearly four years of my pro-life activism in Mexico, I taught and met with congregations in a multitude of Catholic churches across that nation. In that time, I spent long hours with dozens of priests and thousands of communicants and, looking back, not a one of them appears to have had more than a surface knowledge of Catholicism. Among the priests I met, liberation theology or some similar social agenda was the focus of their teaching and preaching.

All this to say that, while my Mexican wife and members of her family attend Catholic worship services and consider themselves to be Catholic, I seriously doubt that any of them would survive should an old-fashion Inquisition be enacted today.

I ask because I am married to a Catholic man, and at times my heart grieves unbearably at the decision to marry him, without understanding his religion. 

Because my wife and I married at a time in my life when I hated God and all things religious, I cannot relate directly to your concern. We married for love, not because of any religious consideration. At the time, she was, and generally tends to be, a non-observant Catholic.

Christy, I believe that marriages are indeed made in Heaven, or at least confirmed there. Granted, a couple might be drawn to one another for a variety of reasons. When couples are united by their faith, I do not doubt that God blesses and solemnifies their marriage from on high. By the same token, I do not doubt that in marriages built on other reasons, whether or not pre-ordained by the Lord, the husband and wife do become one flesh (Matthew 19:1-6) with the result that the union is blessed and solemnified by God. I am aware that any number of preachers, priests and pious people will surely disagree with me on that. Ultimately, it is God who judges the validity of any union between man and woman, for no man has the mind of the Father (Romans 11:33-34)

May I ask, if you are indeed married to a Catholic woman, how you deal with religious topics? 

An excellent question. Christ did not enter my life until 1987, so religious discussions were mostly one-way, from here to me, and were few. No real issues then. After my regeneration, she attended Protestant worship services with me for a time. When health considerations militated a change in my out-of-the house activity, she began to drift back to Catholicism. To this day, her involvement with the local Catholic church appears to be a social one—the majority of her friends hang out there and they spend 30 or so minutes at Mass before hitting Duncan Donuts or the malls. When at home, she devotes an hour or more every day to reading in her Bible or, which saddens me greatly, reading those syrupy canned prayers that are so dear to Catholics. I often discuss God's truth as I am given to understand it with her. She listens eagerly and asks questions as she feels necessary. After a while, she will change the subject and the discussion ends. When her friends come over to chat or to take her with them, I do not object.

Why do I permit her to involve herself in Catholic matters and practices? And why do I not pound her over the head with my Bible in an effort to 'bring her to Christ?' Because I understand that it is not man, but God, who calls the lost to salvation. Nothing I can do can bring about a sea change in anyone's relationship with our God. My responsibility, and one that I take very seriously, is to share the Gospel of Salvation with her, and to do what I am able to enlighten her concerning my Christian faith.

I attended my step-daughters graduation yesterday, which was a full mass.  I was literally ill, watching the priest worship the wafer that he believes to be God.  If I had been able to move, I would have run from the church. 

I know precisely what you are talking about. There must be a million aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc., in my wife's family. Every time one of them is baptized, confirmed, graduates from Kindergarten, etc., a gathering at the local Catholic church for Mass is a necessary part of the observation. Then, of course, there are weddings, funerals, quinceanieras and the like. (A quinceaniera is a coming of age ceremony for girls—marking her entry into womanhood.) In what might be considered a mixed blessing, for it is but a four-hour drive to my wife's hometown, her family understand that the state of my health is such that such frequent trips are not possible.

I wanted to not attend, but felt I should go and support her, though she and my husband understand my disagreements with their religion.  When events come up which include the church, what do you do?  Thank you for your response.

When I do join with my wife and members of here family in these pagan celebrations, it is well-known by all her relatives that I am not Catholic and am there only as an interested but not involved observer. The events I choose to attend, when I am able, are those involving members of the family who are particularly dear to me. They and I understand that it is the ties of love binding me to them that are responsible for my being there, and that is just fine with all of us.

I see no reason to cause hurt or emotional suffering to either my wife or members of her family simply because I do not share their pagan religious beliefs. I recall from my days as a cradle Catholic, being taught that to even send a gift or card to a Catholic (even a close relative) who marries a non-Catholic or even a Catholic not before a priest is to be punished by excommunication. Now that I no longer am restrained by the chains of Catholicism, I have no wish to emulate the ways of the Catholic Church. (Note: That old teaching appears to have been discretely shoved under the carpet since Vatican II)

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