Your brother and his wife face a great challenge and responsibility. This issue concerning how children are to be raised is one of the most important to consider when a Catholic marries a non-Catholic. The Catholic Church requires that great care be taken before such a marriage occurs.
The current Code of Canon Law (1983) does not require the non-Catholic to make this promise. The Code states that, “the Catholic party… promises to do all in his or her power to have all the children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church,” but the non-Catholic party does not have to promise to have the children raised Catholic.
The non-Catholic party is not asked to violate his or her conscience if it requires him or her to refuse to promise to raise the children Catholic, but the Catholic party is required to do all that is possible to have the children raised in the Catholic faith. Canon law requires that all of this be understood by both parties before the marriage is contracted. Even though the final decision about how the children will be raised is to be a joint decision made by both parents, it must be made clear to the non-Catholic party that the Catholic party will be required to do everything is his or her power to see to it that the children be baptized and brought up in the Catholic faith.
It takes maturity and unselfishness on the part of both parents in order to raise children in a home where two religions are practiced. Children can become very confused. Great care needs to be taken when a situation like this exists. When sincere and strong love and respect exists between the parents, however, God can work miracles in that family.
These are most definitely the sorts of issues that a couple contemplating marriage need to think about and discuss openly and honestly. Their future life together and the lives of their children could and probably will depend on it.
© Copyright 2004 Grace D. MacKinnon
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Grace MacKinnon holds an MA in theology and is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: email@example.com. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.