Interfaith Relationships

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I am a Catholic student in a Seventh-Day Adventist school and I have recently started a relationship with a fellow student at the school who is SDA.  I am not sure if you are familiar with their beliefs, but there are some important issues that come into conflict when approached from these two sides.  For example, although it is not necessary to be a vegetarian to be part of the SDA church, he is a vegan and cannot imagine eating meat or fish.  He is especially abhorred at the idea of eating pork, an unclean meat.  I don't know how to discuss the differences, as I don't think I have enough knowledge of the scriptures to be able to back up the Catholic faith solely on them.  I also suspect that he has thought about whatever evidence there is in the Bible that contradicts his beliefs and he has come to reasonable conclusions to why that actually works with his beliefs.  I also am afraid to discuss these things because I don't want to encourage animosity, although I do realize that these background differences must be discussed if we plan to further our relationship.  Do you have any suggestions of books or articles that either I could read or he could read or we could read together that would help us confront our differences?  Also, what is the Catholic Church's stance on interfaith marriage?

Thank you for your time.

Alma

Dear Alma,

Adventists hold that the Ten Commandments express the principles of God's law and are exemplified by Jesus Christ in the Gospels. Of course, the overriding issue is the nature of the New Covenant. To complicate matters, consistent with latter day denominations (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, World Wide Church of God) is the belief that the early Church apostatized, meaning that the Catholic Church is not to be identified with the Christian Church of Bible.

This is an opportunity for you to ask yourself why you are Catholic. You should be able to give a personal testimony (1 Pet. 3:15: "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you."). Perhaps more importantly, your life should provide an ongoing witness so that he might be "won without a word" (1 Pet. 3).

This is also an opportunity to learn more about your faith. You need not have all of the answers to every question about Catholicism, but you should learn at least how to find them. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church "contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church's faith" and should be of good use.  

The "Catholic For A Reason" series provides Scripture-based explanations for why the teachings of the Church are reasonable and worthy of belief. The first volume "Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God" addresses the more frequent objections (e.g., Mary, the Eucharist, Baptism, and Purgatory). The second and third volumes are specifically about Mary and the Mass.

A marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian is called a "mixed marriage." There are numerous difficulties, especially regarding children, that arise from a mixed marriage. In light of these Paul VI said:

"For these reasons the Church, conscious of her duty, discourages the contracting of mixed marriages, for she is the most desirous that Catholics be able in matrimony to attain to perfect union of mind and full communion of life. However, since man has the natural right to marry and beget children, the Church, by her laws, which clearly show her pastoral concern, makes such arrangements that on the one hand the principles of divine law be scrupulously observed and that on the other the said right to contract marriages be respected."

This statement shows some movement on the guidance the Church has provided regarding mixed marriages. It used be that such marriages were forbidden, but note that Paul VI wrote that the Church "discourages the contracting of mixed marriages." John Paul II, in Familiaris Consortio, simply recognized the "growing number of mixed marriages" and pointed out difficulties and needs facing the couple. For example:

"There must be borne in mind the particular difficulties inherent in the relationships between husband and wife with regard to respect for religious freedom: this freedom could be violated either by undue pressure to make the partner change his or her beliefs, or by placing obstacles in the way of the free manifestation of these beliefs by religious practice."

John Paul II however went further to find positive elements in mixed marriages:

"Marriages between Catholics and other baptized persons have their own particular nature, but they contain numerous elements that could well be made good use of and developed, both for their intrinsic value and for the contribution that they can make to the ecumenical movement."

These are brief excerpts. I encourage you to read the entire apostolic exhortation, or at least the section on mixed marriages (no. 78).

Please feel free to call us at 1-800-MY FAITH (693-2484) or email us with any further questions on this or any other subject. If you have found this service to be helpful, please consider a donation to CUF to help sustain this service. You can call the toll-free line, visit us at http://www.cuf.org/, or send your contribution to the address below. Thank you for your support as we endeavor to "support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church."

United in the Faith,

Eric Stoutz
Information Specialist
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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  • Guest

    I once saw a seven-day Adventist preacher on TV who said that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon, and the pope is the anti-Christ. I think that this woman’s involvement with a man of that faith is potentially very dangerous ot her own faith.

  • Guest

    Also, a catholic may not in good consious fail to teach thier children the catholic faith. If you have children with someone from another faith they must:
    1) attend catholic church
    2) attend catholic religious education be baptized take first communion ect.

    If the child fails to be confirmed in the church this show that the parent has failed in thier duty towards thier children.

  • Guest

    As someone in a mixed marriage I would say that what is most essential is that both people can respect the other’s commitments and beliefs and not hound the other to change them.

    One of the first things was that was established when we were dating was my commitment to my faith and part of the reason I fell in love with him was his respect for my beliefs, his care not to cause me to do what as a Catholic I shouldn’t.

    During our courtship we discussed my religious commitments. The critical ones in our case being Sunday Mass, the raising of children and method of birth control. He know that if we married that I would expect that he would help me fulfil the commitments I had made and in over twelve years of marriage he has done so in the true spirit of Romans 14 (recommended reading for anyone in a mixed marriage).

    In a mixed marriage I have found that there is always an underlying concern and desire that the one I love deeply could be led further towards the truth while at the same time my respect for my husband and the need for family harmony means that I need to live my faith rather then preach it and I have accepted that this is something I need to leave to God. There is the need to raise our children as Catholics and dealing with their questions on why Daddy isn’t. It isn’t easy but it can be worthwhile.

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