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Problems Created By Mixed Faith Marriages

Aug 17, 2007
Those contemplating a mixed-religion marriage should consider the problems relating to the ideals of marriage before they take their vows. There is a big difference, for instance, between a Catholic and a non-Catholic's viewpoint of marriage. A Catholic recognizes marriage as a sacrament as well as a contract. This is not always the case with the non-Catholic, who more often than not permits divorce and remarriage.

In mixed Catholic-Protestant marriages the rate of divorce and separation is about three times higher than in marriages where both parties are of the same faith. Three separate studies in Michigan, Maryland, and Washington, covering a total of 24,184 families have verified this condition. Mixed marriages are unstable and should be avoided at all costs.

Marriages between Catholics provide the children with a common spiritual relationship to their parents.

Dr. Clifford Adams, directing the Marriage Counseling Service at Pennsylvania State College, School of Education, stated several years ago in an article in the Woman's Home Companion that "My records show that 70 per cent of mixed marriages now end in divorce or separation." And Dr. Adams ought to know about this, for he counsels over 4000 students a year.

Another problem soon to raise its head in marriage is the problem of birth control and the means used in spacing children. For the Catholic, contraception of any kind is forbidden under pain of mortal sin. The only method of birth control a Catholic may practice is self-control or rhythm (which shall be discussed in detail later). In contrast to this position, a non-Catholic frequently condones contraceptive measures of family limitation.

The marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic is a rather drab affair, liturgically speaking. The priest officiating at the ceremony wears no liturgical vestments. There is no nuptial Mass, no nuptial blessing, and no mutual reception of Holy Communion. Not even the wedding rings are blessed before they are exchanged. Only the brief ceremony of pronouncing the mutual vows of marriage takes place before the communion rail (if in church) or in the rectory. All of this is the Church's way of expressing her disapproval of such a union.

A mixed marriage creates many problems of living in marriage. The reason is that Catholicism permeates the entire life of the Catholic party. It is not just a Sunday affair. The use of sacramentals such as holy water, statues, crucifix, and religious pictures are commonly found in Catholic homes. In a mixed marriage, these religious articles and outward symbols of Catholicism could prove distasteful and embarrassing to the non-Catholic spouse. Even if they are accepted, they are tolerated, never fully understood by the non-Catholic party. This could have repercussions on the children's attitude toward sacramentals.

No matter how kind and considerate the couple may be, religious differences will eventually lead to quarrels. Intellectual disputes are bound to occur when two individuals differ in such an important life factor as religion. A popular non-Catholic columnist of some years ago pointed up the seriousness of this problem: "It is merely a fact that just as no wars have been so bloody as holy wars and no persecutions so cruel as those done in the name of religion, so there is nothing about which husbands and wives can quarrel so bitterly, nothing which can so completely estrange them as a difference in creed."

Before you follow through with a mixed marriage, sit down with your partner and weigh the costs and benefits of living as a mixed marriage couple.
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