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.
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).
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