Catholic weddings in my future? It's less likely than you think!
November 6, 2007 8:09 AM   Subscribe

She wants to get married in a Catholic church, I fundamentally disagree. What to do?

We are soon graduating college, and entering the adult sphere soon at the age of 23. We have been in a steady, stable relationship for close to seven years with no fighting or what have you. Things are great, we've known we wanted to get married for a long time but the situation hasn't been right.

Things might be right soon. What has been a remote consideration for what feels like as long as I can remember is rushing in from the horizon like a freight train--she's Catholic, I'm a staunch Christian who has a laundry list of dislikes concerning the Catholic church. I object to their very existence on virtually every level. The word here is "anathema".

Now, getting married there would be a total non-issue, (it's just a building, after all) but they require counseling for prospective marriages. Catholic marriage counseling. Can you hear my blood boiling?

She understands my position, as she herself is far from a devout Catholic. Her parents, however...well, there's a Catholic corner in their house. They jokingly refer to one of her aunts as a nun. They regularly host priests in their spare bedroom. They had the house blessed when they moved into it, all the cars have crucifixes hanging on the mirror, and you should see some of the events they attend...all the trappings of full-bore Philippine-class Catholicism. Plus.

The problem is, really, she's stuck in between us and I know it's hard for her. On one hand there's her own parents and their expectations...on the other, there's me that can't conscion a compromise. And yes, dear reader, it would be exponentially harder for her if I tried to broach the topic with her parents myself. They are great people, really, but this would not go well. There is a sometimes-wide cultural barrier in addition to a slight language barrier that keeps us from a genuinely natural conversation. And what's more, they don't believe in confrontations; in other words, they would never talk about something like this with me. They might be furious with me but she would catch all of it and I would only hear it from her, not from them. At best.

I'm not worried for our relationship, but I would love some way to resolve this situation. She genuinely wants a Catholic wedding (even apart from her parents) so far as I can tell, but that's a line I can't justify crossing. Help!
posted by Phyltre to Religion & Philosophy (95 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You're screwed. No, seriously. This is a battle you will not win. Suck it up and deal with the frippery, or you will be paying for it the rest of your natural life.
posted by aramaic at 8:13 AM on November 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

There are Christian denominations that have very similar liturgy and traditions to Catholicism (we joke at my ELCA church that we're "Catholic Light"). What about having a ceremony at a church like that?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:15 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you researched all the churches? The counseling requirements vary church-to-church. Not all of them require it.

Also, I think there are priests who will do non-church wedding ceremonies. I'm not sure how that works but I know that for weddings where the couples have been divorced, they are available. That can be a compromise.
posted by rsol44 at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2007

Catholic wedding in a non-church arena? Is that possible?
posted by ian1977 at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2007

Catholic wedding in a non-church arena? Is that possible?

You need a special dispensation to do so.
posted by mkb at 8:18 AM on November 6, 2007

I felt exactly like you, but my wife's church required counseling. So I did counseling, in order to make her happy. It actually helped us to clarify a few things, we hadn't thought about and wasn't some draconian ritual. Really, it was more of a "Hey, you guys are about to take a big step, have you thought about this and this and this?". I think somewhere it there we pledged to to raise children within the faith, which I cheerfully signed off, knowing we'd do as we pleased. We've been married 5 years and I haven't thought of those counseling sections at all 'till your question.

In short, been there, done that, it's no big deal. The larger issue, though, is her Catholic family wanting the child to brough up within the Catholic church and it's rituations. Decide how you feel about that and establish your position upfront now and follow through on it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:18 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Decide who are you getting married for.

1. The two of you?
2. Her parents?
3. God?

Also, unwaivering and uncompromising faith that is not shared between two people planning on getting married? I don't see a long, happy future.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:19 AM on November 6, 2007

Others will invariably disagree, but I vote for sucking up your doctrinal issues and going through the motions for the sake of your girlfriend and to keep things smooth with her family.

Keep in mind that your own flavor of Christianity (like all Protestant factions--which is my assumption here, as you haven't been specific) has roots in hers.

The counseling sessions might be a drag, but how likely is it that they will touch on the doctrinal reservations you have with her faith? Do Catholics and whatever flavor of Protestant you are see marriage in starkly different terms (other than the obvious caveats about divorce)?

I put love of my wife far above our religious differences. It sounds like you do, too. This sounds like something you're contemplating doing to make her life easier and to start off on a good foot with your future in-laws. And I would submit to you that keeping things smooth with the in-laws is probably worth your consideration.
posted by wheat at 8:24 AM on November 6, 2007

Catholic marriage counseling. Can you hear my blood boiling?

Yes, but I'm unsure why. You can always venue shop and the majority of Catholic wedding counseling is around making a marriage work. The stuff about eating heathen babies and molesting children is after Confirmation.
posted by yerfatma at 8:24 AM on November 6, 2007 [12 favorites]

Weddings aren't held for the couple as much as they are for the parents; particularly parents with strong religious views (so says every married person I know and my father, who is a minister).

In light of this, my advice is to suck it up and get married in a Catholic church. Let her parents be pleased with you and you will reap the benefits of their goodwill both firsthand and through their daughter. I understand having beefs with the Catholic church, but that's no reason to insult your future wife's parents and make her life hell.

This is hardly the worst that could happen. Take a deep breath, count to ten...
posted by Pecinpah at 8:24 AM on November 6, 2007

Unfortunately Catholics are great at drawing lines in the sand and making it count. Your future wife and her family are doing exactly that. I guarantee you that you do not want to deal with the fallout of her family's dissatisfaction with not having a Catholic wedding, because it's going to cause huge consequences for her and you down the line. Really, this is not a good way to start your lives together. Marriage really is a new start for you two (in a way I could not have imagined), and to start it off on the wrong foot like this is going to have serious repercussions later on down the line.

Sorry buddy, it's a shit sandwich and you're going to have to take a huge bite. In the name of love. Once you get it over with, though, you're going to have a happy wife and a happy family, and your wife will love you and understand your commitment to her that much more, since surely she knows how fundamentally objectionable you find this. What better way to express the depth of your commitment to her than to make such an incredible sacrifice?
posted by baphomet at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2007

Sometimes you have to suck it up for the sake of peace in the valley. When Wife & I got married, we both went through Religous Marriage Counselling though we were/are both agnostic/atheists. It was expected and all our parents wanted us to get hitched in a church. It wasn't so bad.

It wasn't a catholic church, so I may be wrong about this, but I suspect the Catholic Marriage Counselling wouldn't be too different from what we went through...It wasn't much more than "Hey this is a Big Step, have you all thought about it?" ice cream with some chopped dogma sprinkled on top. Hold your nose and eat that sundae!

Its good marriage practice anyhow. You're going to have to get used to keeping your trap shut and saying you might be wrong (even when you don't really think you are, but you let it go because she's more important than any silly argument.)
posted by Wink Ricketts at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2007

Suck it up. Who cares if you are being indoctrinated by some crazy catholic priest. Just tune out and go on about your life.
posted by chunking express at 8:27 AM on November 6, 2007

On preview, what Greg Nog said.
posted by wheat at 8:28 AM on November 6, 2007

This counselling has compleatly changed. You being a strong Christian would be welcomed by the priest doing the counselling. You're allowing your hatred for an institution to overwhelm your ration as you clearly have no idea what truly goes on in these sessions. Read that previous thread.
They are not asking you to convert ferchissakes! The strongest thing you will be asked is "will you agree to bring any children up in a Christian tradition, get that Christian- not Catholic. So be a Christian, and get informed and it won't be such a stressor on your relationship with your girl or her fa,mily.
posted by Wilder at 8:28 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Catholic marriage counseling. Can you hear my blood boiling?

I think you need to understand what goes into the marriage counseling a bit more before you boil over. Granted I am coming from this where my better half and I are both Catholic but the wedding counseling was extremely useful and I could recommend 95% of it to athesists let alone two Christians.
posted by mmascolino at 8:33 AM on November 6, 2007

I vote you actually do the pre-marital counseling the Catholic church offers and then decide. If you have profound doctrinal differences, that's a good idea anyway: you'll need to work through how you're planning on raising your children, how you plan to worship in your home, etc.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:33 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

You'll be ok (eat it up) - my wife wanted to be married in a Baptist church and that required counselling.

Me, I'm sometimes agnostic, sometimes atheist ;-)

I survived, and it's been 13 years so far...
posted by jkaczor at 8:33 AM on November 6, 2007

PS, Nthing that you don't seem to know what Catholic pre-marital counseling entails. Maybe find out about that before writing it off so emphatically.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:34 AM on November 6, 2007

I know and have heard of several people who have done Catholic marriage counseling. The general feeling seems to be that it's not at all that bad, and that most priests will concentrate on more secular issues, and indeed you will probably come out having learned something useful. I really recommend that you suck it up and do it, unless you're one of those horrible people who can't stop talking about how they hate religion every time they see a priest.
posted by anaelith at 8:34 AM on November 6, 2007

So, if I'm understanding correctly, your desire to avoid Catholic prenuptial counseling is so strong that you 'can't conscion a compromise'? If you're being sincere, I don't think you have a choice. You can't marry her. Doing the right thing isn't always easy or pleasant.

On the other hand, it's also possible that you're not being sincere at all. Maybe you're being overdramatic, or selfish, or stubborn. Maybe your relationship with your fiancee is more important than your feelings about Catholicism. Life is a series of compromises. Something to consider, anyway.
posted by box at 8:35 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

You aren't being asked to convert. You're being asked to donate a small portion of your time to something that you may not necessarily agree with, but that will make your girlfriend happy.

If this were an issue of you being asked to do something that goes against every fiber of your moral being, then okay, maybe it's time to stand your ground. But thing is , you knew her religious background when you decided to be with her. The time to think about whether or not this was something you could live with was right before you decided you wanted to marry her. This will come up again, in one form or another. Is your distate for Catholicism or what have you so strong that you can't budge? If so, then think of this incident multiplied over the rest of your married life. If you love her enough to look past that religious background, then this is one of those times where you are being called upon to put aside your level of distate for something that is important to her. The short answer is: "pick your battles".
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:39 AM on November 6, 2007

Who's paying for the wedding? If it's the two of you, you should get married in a place that you are *both* comfortable in, and try to respectfully end the conversation with her parents about having a Catholic wedding.

If it's her parents, then you're probably just going to have to suck it up and cross your fingers behind your back when they make you promise to raise your children Catholic.

(I know it sucks, but with weddings it seems that whoever puts the most cash in has the most say. This is why I always caution my friends about letting their parents pay for their weddings ... whether they pretend it's a "gift" or not, they almost always use it as an advantage to get their way on a few issues. )

My best friend who is Lutheran recently married a guy who is Catholic. Their compromise was to get married in a Unitarian church and have both his neighborhood priest and her family's minster both do parts of the ceremony. The minister associated with the actual church that the ceremony was held in simply said a few words to start the ceremony. It was really lovely, actually, and seemed to please everyone's families as much as they could be pleased. This sort of thing might be a nice compromise for the two of you.

While I don't believe you would be able to call it a "Catholic" wedding and you'd probably still have to do counseling (even my Unitarian minster made my husband & I do some counseling with her - it's really not THAT bad), at least you would know that you're both able to compromise on what seems like a strong issue to you.
posted by tastybrains at 8:42 AM on November 6, 2007

seriously. It's her bloody wedding. Here's a tip: cave into every decision that the bride wants on her wedding! You can rule the dominion for the rest of your natural born life, but seriously, on that day? Let her do what the hell she wants.

If she wants flying pigs, give her flying pigs. It's her WEDDING. She only wants one of those. Maybe, since you're being so stubborn now, she'll decide in the future that she wants a second one...with someone more accomodating.

And seriously, in-laws? Weddings are a bloody minefield. Look at the other wedding questions day. Don't get started on the wrong foot. You're going to have to see those guys every major holiday, over and over again. Remember: Catholics remember everything!!!
posted by unexpected at 8:45 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

My cousin (Presbetyrian, if anything) got married last year to a Catholic. She was nervous, but did the pre-wedding counseling. Questions were along the lines of "Are there thing that bother you about your fiance/e?" In the course of the discussion they discovered that she had a whole list and he thought off the top of his head that he couldn't possibly think of anything, and was a bit miffed that she had such a list. And so the priest guided that conversation to work out those issues. The questions are not, to my understanding, "You believe in transubstantiation, right? RIGHT? And remember condoms are for heathens." These priests (assuming you live in a reasonably diverse area) are very used to exactly your sort of situation, and a good one will make sure you're comfortable.

The bigger question I'd ask is if part of the required vows involve agreeing to raise your children Catholic. I have been to weddings where that was required as part of the agreement to get married in the church.
posted by olinerd at 8:47 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

You have a clear choice: make a valiant stand for what you feel is right, or have happy and loving relationships with your fiancé and in-laws. If you love her and want to be with her for a long time, sometimes you are going to have to superglue a smile on your face and go along with stuff that you don't really love, and she will do the same. There is a reason that in-laws are the staple of stand-up comedians -- these relationships are often incredibly difficult, and you are stuck making nice with these people for as long as you are with your partner.

As long as you aren't being asked to convert, all that is needed from you is a couple of hours chatting with a priest (where all you need to do is be polite and try to avoid getting into arguments no matter how stupid the endeavor seems to you -- treat it as an anthropological exercise if that helps, your ethnographic fieldwork in the land of the Pope), and then dressing up and having the wedding in a Catholic ceremony. You may need to, for your own sense of honesty, be clear about what you can and can't promise (eg -- can you say "yes, I will bring up my kids as Catholics" even if that may not be what ends up happening?), but overall all you are doing is participating in a set of rituals that make your wife and her family very, very happy, and don't really damage anything other than your need for a dramatic line in the sand.

But if that sort of compromise is totally unacceptable to you, reconsider getting married -- there are plenty more compromises with the in-laws in your future, and if you can't do it, she needs a different husband who can. It would be deeply unfair to her to put her in the middle of that kind of corrosive conflict -- either you be the good guy, or move on. Don't put her in the position of having to lie, or to have to choose between you and them.
posted by Forktine at 8:49 AM on November 6, 2007

It is not simply a stereotype that a wedding day is the most important day in a woman's life. Heck, I wanted to elope in Hawaii, but for the sake of my fiancée, we're doing the whole ceremony thing. If you really respect your future wife as much as it seems, you really shouldn't have a question about whether or not to do the ceremony the way she wants.

Regarding the consultation, I wouldn't sweat it. I fully understand your aversions to the Catholic church and I have had them myself, but you have to realize that the Catholic church as it exists today, no matter what her parents are like, is not nearly as draconian as it once was. Even if you go to this counseling and it turns out to be completely bonkers, well, no one is forcing you to actually follow through with the doctrine/beliefs of the people that will be "counseling" you. Just sit there and nod like a nice little boy.
posted by joshrholloway at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2007

I went through the marriage counselling before my wedding in a Catholic Church and there was nothing about doctrine in it. We were upfront about the fact that we lived together and were pregnant. Really, our discussions were about how comfortable we were with each other's sexuality (worded in such a way that kinks/homosexuality were okay as long as we were okay with them) and discussions about what we thought about money and financial planning. I think you should book an appointment together with her priest and have a talk about what a Catholic wedding and counselling entails and THEN make up your mind. Right now your hatred is blinding you. My husband is a Protestant and he also seems to have a lot of difficulty understanding the post-Vatican II church. I think he gets a lot of his information from bad hollywood films. I'm an atheist so I had an easier time accepting that the Catholic Church is just a building and the priest marrying us was just a person who was no better than me.
posted by saucysault at 9:00 AM on November 6, 2007

If I had to make a guess, I'd say that maybe you're more afraid that it won't be as horrifying as you expect (or hope?) it will be, which would mean that if you're an honest person you'd have to tone down your inner dialog about the OMGCATHOLICS stuff. So much easier to hang onto the biases when one has never been confronted with an actual, real-world example that they're irrational or imagined, amirite? Really, I think you're overreacting.

Plus, Nthing those before me who took pains to mention how much more the details of a wedding day resonate with the female partner. For you, it is turning into the day when you take your principled stand against all which you despise, but for her, it's just an hour in a church. And some private and very rational counseling beforehand. You can't do that for your wife?
posted by brain cloud at 9:02 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Catholic marriage counseling is not, not, not not religious education. Like olinerd says: it's exploring whether or not you've looked at some issues in your relationship, whether you've figured out how to argue, whether you're on the same page with living together issues (cleanliness, noise, finances). The parish you're in may bring more or less doctrine into the discussion and may emphasize the religious education of your future children, but it is entirely just trying to make couples think about what they're doing to try to prevent hasty or bad marriages. If you can't do that, just because there's a priest in the room, I wonder if there's a different problem here.

box is saying something very very important. If your religious differences aren't an impediment to being married, how can they be an impediment to the wedding? If you're just venting, fine. But think about this seriously.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:03 AM on November 6, 2007

She genuinely wants a Catholic wedding (even apart from her parents) so far as I can tell

This is the bottom line. First find out if you're right about this--is this really what she, the bride, wants?

If the answer is yes, do it for her. If the answer is no, forget the parents and elope. Or do whatever you both do want.

I'm having a hard time imagining what you think is going to go on at these counselling sessions that's going to be so repulsive to you. And I am really not into Catholicism, either. I don't begrudge your feelings toward the Catholic Church, but the priest you'll meet with isn't the very embodiment of that institution anymore than your own minister is the embodiment of all the dark periods in your own religion's history. He's a human being, and a trained therapist at that. He won't burn you.

Here's an idea: commit to at least one session, which you will attend on a trial basis, with an open mind. Also see if you can schedule one with a minister at your own church. I bet you'll both see that they are pretty much the same, and neither one is a big deal at all.

If you can't compromise on this, I'm sorry, but I really don't think you're ready to marry. I don't see how you can want to marry a Catholic girl with a Catholic family but be totally unwilling to budge on this counselling thing. It seems like such a small thing, in the face of all the compromises you'll have to make down the line, especially with such important differences in your faiths.

I've gotten down on my knees for the evening prayer when visiting my Mormon friends. I don't pray, but I go through the motions to show respect for their faith. It doesn't change anything in me because to me, it's not real. A Catholic wedding, if that's what your bride really wants, is a bigger version of the same type of thing.
posted by lampoil at 9:07 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is not simply a stereotype that a wedding day is the most important day in a woman's life.

Bullshit. I'm the one who wanted to run off to Vegas and use the wedding cash for a great vacation & a down payment on a house - my now-husband is the one who wanted to have a "real" wedding with all the frilly stupid bullshit.

My sister is going through the same thing with her fiance - he is the princess and she just wants to get on with things so they can enjoy their marriage.

Yes, MANY women view it as the most important day in their lives. And many women are very detail oriented and want everything just so, from the favors to the flowers to the invitations, etc.

However, it does sound to me that religion is important to you. And for people who are religious, it is a fundamental part of their lives. And I do think that she should be willing to work with you on finding a solution that you're both comfortable with...otherwise imagine how awful this is going to be when you have kids and have to deal with her parents pushing you to have your children baptized in a Catholic church?

It's not going to end. So either you need to give in, she needs to give in a little, or maybe you two aren't going to work out. I hope you guys can find a compromise.
posted by tastybrains at 9:10 AM on November 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Nthing what's been said, generally.

I come from a (large) Catholic family where about half of my sibs got the prewedding counseling (only one of them married a Catholic - their spouses ranged from noncommittal agnostics to Protestants). From what I've heard, it does vary from parish to parish, and it consists mostly of very general "you're going to be married" stuff (with an emphasis on "you're going to be married for the rest of your life," which is the Catholic part). Anything that will be particularly Catholic probably will mostly relate to your children; my guess is that most priests will be happy if you get your kid baptized, and won't do much more than gently nudge you (or just state the Church's position) on raising the kids Catholic. They aren't going to demand conversion. If they do, they're nuts, and you can find another priest who will be happy to do the counseling.
posted by dismas at 9:14 AM on November 6, 2007

I object to their [Catholics'] very existence on virtually every level = "I object to her parents' existence on virtually every level" = you need to step off this freight train" before you run somebody over.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 9:24 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

(Me raised Catholic + Wife raised Baptist) * Baby = United Methodist
A compromise may be in your future?

PS - we were married by a justice of the peace.

Good luck - the religion thing will work itself out.
posted by doorsfan at 9:27 AM on November 6, 2007

This is a really important moment in your relationship, because this same issue is going to come up again if/when you guys have kids. Baptism, bringing them up with a religion, on and on.

You say you all have been in this relationship since you both were 16 without any fights. If that's true, you should use this as an opportunity to learn how to fight about something that's really important -- really!

Don't conceptualize this as a fight to the death where someone has to give in. Learning how to think through this conflict will strengthen your relationship. Counseling could be a magnificent gift that would help you learn how to have this kind of disagreement, think through its implications, and grow stronger.

I've known people who have benefitted from Catholic marriage counseling and I've known people who've been bored out of their minds by it and just sucked it up and got it over with. Whereever you go, I'd strongly recommend that the two of you get some help thinking through these issues.
posted by jasper411 at 9:32 AM on November 6, 2007

I hate to be the louse in the woodpile here, but you should probably also give a serious thought or two towards how Catholic your fiance is now versus how Catholic she may become in the future, and how you would reconcile that with your beliefs in terms of childrearing, churchgoing, holidays, schooling, etc.

If it's just the wedding, suck it up boyo. If it's an ongoing lifestyle that you're not prepared to accept, well then, that's another apple entirely.
posted by Aquaman at 9:35 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Ooh, yeah, A Long and Troublesome Lameness has both an excellent point and username. If you want the marriage to succeed, assuming you can't cut your in-laws out of the picture (which I don't think is a good idea - they're free babysitters!), you're probably going to have to get over idea that the existence of Catholicism is grotesque.
posted by dismas at 9:35 AM on November 6, 2007

I see your visceral revulsion for the Church as the biggest obstacle here ('anathema' is a term that places you far out on the tail of the distribution), and I think you should try to counter it by looking into the history of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

It's my impression that, whatever its present drawbacks may be, the Church was the main force which saved the original inhabitants of those islands from being exterminated by the savage, relentless, and inhumanly sadistic exploitation that destroyed the Indians of Hispanola, or exterminated as obstructive vermin, the way the Indians of North America mainly were. In other words, perhaps the Church has richly earned (and then some) the regard in which your fiance's family holds it. Contemplating this would help me get through the worst moments, I think.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

what's the big deal? you don't mind getting married in a catholic church (it's just a bulding), so it really comes down to the pre-marital lessons. as far as i know you can do a one-day accelerated course (for something like 8 hours - although friends who have done it were released after 5 or so) and you can entertain yourself through it - write down stupid quotes from people who are not quite qualified to talk to you about marriage or sex, unless you believe that they are married to god and making love to god... nevermind. in the end, it's just one day, right? and you're doing this for the woman you love? whose dream this is? what's one day? i actually think you should do it for the entertainment value and the stories to tell afterwards, if nothing else.
posted by barrakuda at 9:40 AM on November 6, 2007

You guys met when you were 16, and have never been apart? And you can't have an open conversation about something as basic as the venue for a wedding? Don't get married -- both of you should go live a little first. Then come back and see if it still sounds like it makes sense.

Also, a little set theory for people who aren't familiar with this: There are Catholics, and there are Protestants, and both are Christian. Distinguishing oneself from Catholicism by saying you're "Christian" is like saying, "I'm not a woman, I'm a person."
posted by anildash at 9:47 AM on November 6, 2007 [6 favorites]

I object to their very existence on virtually every level. The word here is "anathema".

This sounds like bigotry, frankly. Perhaps participating in the inconsequential formality they're asking of you would be a useful exercise in peace and equanimity? How would Christ approach the matter? Have you concluded that every Catholic priest is a money changer to be driven from the temple?

Roughly speaking, I'm an atheist who does Buddhist meditation, not a Catholic, but my spiritual practice has been heavily influenced by a few Catholics. You might try engaging them. I think many of them have a lot to offer. If a Buddhist atheist can get something out of engaging Catholics, any Christian ought to be able to, too.
posted by Coventry at 9:51 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

The problem is, really, she's stuck in between us and I know it's hard for her.

So why don't you compromise and do the counseling thing? You "know it's hard" for this person you supposedly love, yet you continue to contribute to her being in this crappy position? WTF?
posted by oneirodynia at 9:52 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, a little set theory for people who aren't familiar with this: There are Catholics, and there are Protestants, and both are Christian

Not all Christian denominations acknowledge Catholics are Christian, so while that's what you think, it's not true for all people.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:55 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Not all Christian denominations acknowledge Catholics are Christian, so while that's what you think, it's not true for all people.

TPS--I had no idea this body of thought existed. Odd, but fascinating.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 10:00 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

she's not asking you to convert. the Catholic wedding is very, very important for her. suck it up. marriage is about giving up on things that are less important for you than they are for your spouse. it's a good lesson.

slight derail

also, you might want to gather more information on the fact that the use you're making of the term "Christian" is in fact a hijacking of a word that came to be long before your quite recent brand of Protestantisim came into existence -- there are Christians who are Catholic, Christians who are Greek Orthodox, Christians who are Maronites, Chrsitians who are Protestant (of oh so many denominations), and so forth. your future wife is a Christian, too, as much as you might dislike that fact.

Christianity is a very large (more than 2 billion followers) religion whose adherents believe -- based on the New Testament narratives -- that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Messiah whose coming was announced in the Hebrew Bible. You belong to one of its branches -- a branch that, ironically, is much smaller and came to be much more recently than the Catholic Church itself.
posted by matteo at 10:01 AM on November 6, 2007 [12 favorites]

TPS--I had no idea this body of thought existed. Odd, but fascinating.

You clearly did not grow up in Southern Baptist churches.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:02 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

You'd better figure out how you can deal with her family's religion *now* (besides by being judgmental and dismissive), because this isn't a one-time thing. It's not like you make it through the wedding and they're suddenly not Catholic. This is going to come up again and again, and if you can't find some way to deal with it , you guys are through.
posted by MsMolly at 10:09 AM on November 6, 2007

so while that's what you think, it's not true for all people.

as I mentioned above, tell that to 2 billion + Catholics whose history goes back at the very least to the 3rd Century of the Common Era and, with a bit of a stretch of the imagination, to the historical Jesus himself. their churches are also sitting on Peter's tomb, and very likely on Paul's as well. not to mention, the Vatican has custody of some of the oldest drafts of the Gospels some Protestant Christians consider to be the literal word of, you know who
posted by matteo at 10:10 AM on November 6, 2007

I have to disagree with those who are telling the OP to "suck it up".
The OP has a fundamental problem with getting married in a Catholic church. She may prefer a Catholic marriage, but "she herself is far from a devout Catholic".

The main obstacle is her parents.

Research your options (a "Catholic lite" church? A non-religious ceremony?) and talk about the options with your wife. Her parents are not getting married; the denomination of the church reflects the religion of the bride and groom, not their parents.

Quite simply, unless the parents are paying for the wedding, don't let them trample your religious convictions in the wedding ceremony. Politely make it clear that you respect the faith of the family of the bride, but that it would be impossible for you to marry in a Catholic church. This isn't rude, and it does not need to be confrontational. I am sure that the bride and her family would rather see you happy and comfortable with the wedding (rather than awkward, unhappy, uncomfortable and with boiling blood).

If your bride and her family adamantly refuse to compromise, I think you might both be best served by putting the marriage on hold for now. Marriage is a big step, and you should enter it the right way (cooperatively, respectfully and in a wedding that you can both be happy with).
posted by Count Ziggurat at 10:15 AM on November 6, 2007

On preview, my parenthetical comment below that you won't be required to promise to raise your kids as Catholics, but your wife will be under this obligation needs to be empasized. You may in some places be required to sign a form stating that you have been informed of this obligation on _her_ part.

There is in the Catholic Church (as anywhere else) a wide variety of adherence to norms and requirements.

Assuming you get the strictest most full-on pre-marital counseling out there it will likely amount to three things to which you could object:

1. You'll be told that marraiges where the spouses don't agree on religious matters are more difficult (something you're already experiencing).

2. You'll be told that the Catholic Church believes contraception is sinful. Depending on what type of staunch protestant you are you may even agree with this, that view has become more and more common among Protestants in the last several decades (and until the early 1900's was held by such demoniations as the Episcopal Church). If your fiancee holds to this belief and you don't you have bigger problems than the counselibg sessions.

3. You'll be told that your wife has an obligation to raise your children as Catholics. Again, it's not the counseling here that is the issue, but the actual problem if there's a difference of opinion on this point. (You will no longer be required to promise yourself to raise the kids Catholic as was formerly required.)

There are a couple of practical issues. For instance some protestants have scruples about calling priests "Father" because of the bible verse: "call no man on earth your father, you have but one Father in heavan". Just call him Sir or "Bill" depending on the priest and you'll be fine.
As for the wedding itself, if you are baptized you'll be required to get permission from the Bishop to marry. It's called a dispensation for disparity of cult (meaning form of worship). There's a different dispensation if you're not baptized. In principle, these kinds of dispensation for your not being Catholic don't have to be granted, but in practice I've never heard of them being denied.

As for the ceremony itself, you will probably be discouraged from having a Mass (since you couldn't receive communion and it makes for a strange disunity at a wedding) instead just having readings from the scriptures (called a Liturgy of the Word) and the exchange of vows. You are required to have a priest or deacon witness the exchange of vows, but he doesn't marry you in Catholic doctrine, you marry each other However, this doesn't mean you can marry each other w/o this official witness, the Church believes it has the authority to make laws about the form of marraige and requires this official witness. It's purpose is similar to that of the state, they want to make sure that people aren't marrying repeatedly and dishonestly in secret.

If you don't want to get married by a priest, you can ask the Bishop for a dispensation for form. THIS is less automatic than a dispensation for disparity of cult, however it is pretty routinely granted if you want to get married by your clergy in your Church. Other situations will be less likely to be granted, say if you wanted to exchange vows by sign language while scuba diving. One exception to be aware of is that the requirement that Catholic weddings witnessed by Catholic clergy cannot be performed outdoors by Church law and exceptions (dispensations) to this rule are very rarely and in some dioceses never granted.
posted by Jahaza at 10:20 AM on November 6, 2007

What would Jesus do?

I don't mean to be flip, but seriously, it's two styles of worshipping the same guy. "Catholicism is a cult" as protestant doctrine is troubling to me. "All things are made by him" and all that. I say get your intolerance checked in this useful therapeutic and relationship strengthening opportunity. What outcome is best for your family? Take charge of this situation and do the bending yourself before someone else breaks.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:32 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I assume you posted here because you're really interested in finding a solution to your problem, and you haven't ruled out learning things that may challenge the assumptions you now hold.

If she's not a "devout" Catholic and is primarily doing this to please her parents, then you should be able to make that sacrifice for her. Regardless of her personal devotion to the Church, her family background makes her Catholicism part of who she is, and you knew, or should have known, this before you decided to marry her. Getting between your wife and her family is the surest way to guarantee conflict for years around every holiday, wedding, funeral, and eventually the birth and raising of your children. Accept that, even if she's not a "devout" Catholic, she *is* Catholic - unless she converts to your faith - and you cannot in fairness ask her to deny that part of her identity.

In order to ease your own acceptance of what you must do to make this wedding - and the marriage - work, you should arm yourself with knowledge about what to expect. Here's on thing you might do that no one else has suggested:

Go talk to a priest.

Seriously. Most modern priests - especially the younger ones - deal with this kind of problem all the time. Many are more liberal than you might expect. Find one you can talk to, and express your doubts about the process that you have shared here. A good priest will be able to soothe most of your fears, or at least give you some honest advice about what to expect.

Note that I'm not talking about your doctrinal objections to the Church. I mean your fears about premarital counseling - what will be expected of you? - and about marrying in the Church - what if you don't want to raise your kids as Catholic?

Maybe the priest will tell you not to get married in the Church. Maybe he can be the one to break the news to your wife and her parents. (Better him than you!) Probably, he'll help you figure out a way for you to get married in the Church without compromising your morals.
posted by mikewas at 10:40 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but why is no one suggesting that the bride do some compromising? I am in the OP's corner on not wanting to get married (or get counseling) from someone whose beliefs are "anathema" to him. When I got married, you either had to have a church wedding or a city hall wedding unless you happened to know a judge who would do it in your living room (or wherever). I am virulently anti-organized religion; no religious institution will marry you without it being a religious ceremony, and they make you go through counseling, and believe me the dogma will come up, because we asked. We had good friends who were clergy and were willing to marry us, but only if we "accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts." We ended up in a Unitarian ceremony, and even there they made us use vows that brought in every damned religion they could think of. (Although the counseling was really soft-pedal there.) So the OP's got some good points.

Here's some things to think about:
Will the church require a mass to be part of the wedding? This might be a deal-breaker if you do not hold with the catholic mass.

Will the priest require you to pledge that you will forgo birth control and raise the children catholic? My B-in law and his wife had to make this pledge, so they just lied. Lying might be okay with you, (many friends suggested I do this, but I couldn't), but think about this.

What everyone said about children. You need to talk about this so you can present a united front to her parents when it comes up. I will say that I spent large chunks of my childhood in various churches (including catholic ones) while my many Christian friends and catholic relatives attempted to save me from my commie parents. It had no ill effects (I don't think...) So if her parents attempt to turn them into catholics behind your back, don't worry about it.

Will the bride's parents refuse to attend the wedding or recognize the marriage if it's not a Catholic wedding? This would be the only deal-breaker I could see in this situation.

Otherwise, it's your wedding. The parents, even if they are paying for it, really should not have the final say. Your bride needs to understand how important this is to you. If both sides feel equally strongly, compromise compromise compromise. It won't be the last time. What about having a Christian non-demon ceremony at a non-catholic church with both her priest and your clergyman officiating. You two need to make a decision, and then present as strong a bulwark against the guilt (catholics are the masters of laying on the guilt) as you can.

Good luck!
posted by nax at 10:48 AM on November 6, 2007

Think of fibbing to the counselors about raising the kids catholic as your way of putting one over on the church you hate. Then move far away from her parents before you do have kids so they won't see up close the kids being raised as heathens.

(Assuming she agrees with you about how to raise the kids... if she doesn't, then you really shouldn't be getting married.)
posted by happyturtle at 10:51 AM on November 6, 2007

Phyltre: "Things might be right soon. What has been a remote consideration for what feels like as long as I can remember is rushing in from the horizon like a freight train--she's Catholic, I'm a staunch Christian who has a laundry list of dislikes concerning the Catholic church. I object to their very existence on virtually every level. The word here is 'anathema'."

Oh, come now. Don't be coy. Just go ahead and ask for an orthodox wedding; I don't think they'll object too much. Orthodoxy isn't really scary to most Catholics; it's just weird.

And if Orthodoxy is too scary for you, too, then I suggest you're just succumbing to Protestant jitters. That can be cured by a little education. Maybe you can explain your laundry list a little.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on November 6, 2007

The main obstacle is her parents.

it's a different culture when it comes to relationship with one's parents, the bride is from the Philippines, this is an important fact.
posted by matteo at 10:53 AM on November 6, 2007

nax: "... a Christian non-demon ceremony..."

That's what my wife and I had. Worked very well.

posted by koeselitz at 10:54 AM on November 6, 2007

I'm nthing everyone else who says that you really have no clue what catholic marriage counseling is. In fact, I'd guess that you're demonizing a practice and basing the demonization on your own religious insituational practices that you grew up with. You saw the catholic bashing as a child, you saw how your community expressed its feeling for a different denomination of Christianity and you automatically are assuming that this instituation will act the same way towards you. It won't. In fact, it will be thrilled that you even showed up.

My brother who is borderline atheist recently when through this experience and it is really "have you talked about this stuff?" kind of counseling. Money, likes/dislikes, etc are what is pushed. The priest did not care that they both live together and were well aware that they weren't planning on having kids. The only dogma that you will get will be when it comes to kids where the church might (and this varies from parish to parish) ask that the kids be raised catholic which means baptizing at birth, communion, confirmation, etc etc. This probably the area that you will object to the most. And this is probably the area that you and your fiancee really need to talk about because this argument is going to rear it's ugly head once a newborn arrives.

Your fiancee is Catholic and you need to understand what that means. You seem to not realize that being Catholic is not only religious - it also comes with a lot of cultural baggage. Your future wife comes from a heavy Catholic family, where certain traditions, rituals and ideas are pushed and have been soaked into her life. She wants to get married in a Catholic church, she wants to get married in a Catholic institution - I wouldn't doubt that she's framing this whole thing as a "my parents want this" when she herself is really drawn to the idea - much more than you have seen.

Now, once kids arrive, there is a chance that she is going to want them raised the way she was - catholic church, sunday school, confirmation - the whole nine yards. And she might not even agree dogmatically with the teachings of Catholism but she'll be drawn to these concepts because "That's how I was raised". That idea, and feeling, is much much more powerful than people claim and you really really really need to discuss this now or else your future marriage is going to be an unhappy one.

Also, don't forget that you can shop for a catholic diochese that will work for you! As long as there is no requirement to be married in one specific church, call around and schedule appointments with priests. Dicuss your concerns. Remember that priests are probably extremely aware of people with your beliefs and have dealt with this behavior for a long time. The more liberal of a catholic church, the less catholic dogma you are going to receive. And if you are unable to even do this one little thing, if your beliefs and opinions of Catholism are such that you are unwilling to talk to priests or even approach this situation as objectively as possible, you really should rethink what you're doing because I hate to break it to you, no matter how you sugar coat this, you are marrying a Catholic. Don't ignore that.
posted by Stynxno at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Stynxno makes an excellent point, too, I'm quite sure counseling is not really indoctrination, unless the priest's an asshole -- esp. in the USA they must see mixed marriages all the time, I bet they'll be happy you've shown up
posted by matteo at 11:10 AM on November 6, 2007

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but why is no one suggesting that the bride do some compromising?

Because we're not talking to her. If you're smart enough to ask for help, you're smart enough to be the bigger one here, Phyltre. Ideally, both bride and groom would find ways to contribute to a compromise, but for the groom's part, that looks like it means doing the counseling as due dilligence and being more tolerant of his bride's background and beliefs.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:13 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

nax: "... a Christian non-demon ceremony..."

I meant Christian non-denom but that was a really beautiful typo, and I am very proud of my subconcious mind right now.
posted by nax at 11:21 AM on November 6, 2007

If you are Christian, but this anti-Catholic, I am going to go out on a limb and guess that you are part of a faith community that doesn't have bishops like the Roman Catholic church does.

If I'm right, keep reading.

Yet, the New Testament does not envision a church without bishops (the KJV mentions the office some five times), so on this one, her church is more scripturally correct that yours. You might even learn something from her church that enriches your relationship from God in yours.

I only say that so I can say this, and I say it was a fellow brother in Christ: We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our only hope as Christian people comes from our belief that Christ will redeem God's fallen creation, which includes the church. Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament agree that "Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Catholics call upon the name of the same Lord as you (and me). Doesn't that mean something?
posted by 4ster at 11:26 AM on November 6, 2007

I'm with Aquaman, above. You need to figure out whether this is just a wedding related, I-wanna-be-a-princess-and-get-married-in-a-Church thing, or whether you and she have fundamental religious differences that might become an issue in the future.

If it's just the wedding, well, suck it up. It sucks, but weddings are apparently for the bride and her parents; everybody else is just there for the cake, and that includes you. Unless you decide to elope. Just say 'whatever,' put on your tux, and do what the guy in the funny hat tells you to do.

That said, you really need to consider her Catholic-ness, and keep in mind that people can change. If you met her when she was 16, that's kind of the height of rebelliousness -- and it might have also been a lifetime lull in her religiousness. It could be more and more of the Church for the rest of her life, and you're signing up for the whole damn ride, so figure out if you want to get off now.

(I say this as a person who was once involved with a perfectly nice girl who seemed to be a lapsed and totally reasonable Catholic, who suddenly became un-lapsed, and in my opinion, unglued. Hilarity did not ensue.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:01 PM on November 6, 2007

You mentioned your fiancee's "full-bore Philippine-class Catholicism", and speaking as a Filipino atheist, I imagine that family and Catholicism are two of the biggest things in her life. (She may downplay the latter to your face, but trust me, until she's stopped going to Mass she's still Catholic, big-time!) She can't just drop either of them, especially for her wedding. Don't force her to, trust me, it's more trouble than it's worth.

She has family and tradition behind her. What do you have?

This is one of those times when you can leave doctrine by the wayside for the sake of your future life with your wife. Don't fall victim to an orthodoxy that destroys lives, not enhances them, in much the same way as what happened with this person. Don't go there.
posted by micketymoc at 12:25 PM on November 6, 2007

One wonders where you got all that hatred for a church you seem to know little or nothing about. Man up. Go to the counseling and tell the priest what your reservations are.
posted by Cranberry at 12:32 PM on November 6, 2007

on the other, there's me that can't conscion a compromise.

you are not mature enough for marriage. in any church.
posted by quonsar at 12:38 PM on November 6, 2007 [5 favorites]

Unless I missed it in a previous post, I should mention that it is likely that your marriage prep won't even be conducted by a priest. My wife and I had a 15 minute chat with a priest, but the actual class was led by a married couple.
posted by turbodog at 12:48 PM on November 6, 2007

Rereading your question, it seems like there's really only on solution. Some experience in the ways of marriage has taught me that compromise is always necessary, and you're only permitted to choose some of the terms. Go ahead, have the Catholic wedding-- but in the process, try to find some aspects of Catholicism that you do like. They might be aspects that her parents haven't even heard of, or aspects that they weren't aware of; but it counts, so long as it's a way of getting a little closer to them.

You'll have to do this. Honestly. It's better than if they were Jehovah's Witnesses, believe me. And there are aspects of Catholicism that you'll learn to like, if you're open enough. That's what marriage takes: openness.
posted by koeselitz at 12:49 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife and I went through catholic pre-marriage counseling, and while it varies by diocese, our FOCCUS session was with a couple where the husband was Catholic and the wife wasn't.

The questions aren't a subtle attempt to convert you to the Catholic faith, and are really designed to determine things you and your wife may need to discuss going into the wedding (finances, religion, children). My wife and I flew through it, because we had already went through the book The Hard Questions.

There was a workshop too, and aside from some info about Natural Family Planning, some prayers, and a sacrifice of a protestant baby, it was really geared towards making sure your marriage worked.

There was even a great food tray.
posted by drezdn at 1:34 PM on November 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Pre-Cana isn't so bad. I'm an atheist and I didn't think it was horrible (or without merit). If you're bent on hating it, well, that's got more to do with you than with Catholicism. Might want to examine that.
Whether or not you get married in a church, though, you'll have to do Pre-Cana in order to be married in The Church. That latter part is probably what's important to your fiancee and especially to her family.
If Catholics are to be so reviled, though, I do wonder why you're so interested in marrying one.
posted by willpie at 1:48 PM on November 6, 2007

fandango_matt: "No, you don't have to do this. Marriage is also about compromise, and about what you and your wife-to-be want, not what her parents or your parents want you to be. Talk with your fiancee."

...and this is very true. The point, I guess, is that this is the beginning of your married life, and will reflect the whole of it. Personally, I insisted on a non-church, non-religious wedding, and I'm happier for the way it distanced myself from my own family and from my wife's family. You'll have to keep in mind that this is a new thing, and represents a separation from your family and your past. She'll have to realize the same thing.

So: no matter what you do, make sure you both do some compromising, and make sure it's not your parents who make you do that compromising.
posted by koeselitz at 2:10 PM on November 6, 2007

she's Catholic, I'm a staunch Christian who has a laundry list of dislikes concerning the Catholic church. I object to their very existence on virtually every level. The word here is "anathema".

You object to her existence on virtually every level? That's an ideal foundation for getting married.
posted by juv3nal at 2:18 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was raised Catholic. My wife was not. We met when we were 16 and got married 8 years later. The counseling was something both of us were dreading (I'm Catholic, sure, but pretty much lapsed). It wasn't so bad. Do yourself a favor and shop around. Find a priest in a university community if you can. You'll find them to be a lot more easy-going.

You will need to come down off of your pedestal for the thing, though. If you can't give your future wife this much, you aren't ready to get married to her. Remember that you are marrying her and her family. Remember that you will need to interact with her family for a very long time. Remember that a honeymoon without sex is going to be about as much fun as it sounds. Stop being an ass.

You might be surprised to find out how much better your relationship can get when you go home and say "Look, I know this is important to you, so let's just do it. I can deal with the Catholic ceremony, because I love you." She is planning a wedding. She is probably stressing over the whole event way, way more than you are. You agreeing to do it Catholic, counseling and all, will take a load of stress off of her, relieve a possibly huge amount of pressure from her parents, and best of all you will be winning points with both your wife-to-be and future in-laws. Major points. Points that can be cashed in some day, like when you have a kid.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:19 PM on November 6, 2007

I think lampoil has the most eloquent and true answer here.

It would be downright cruel to insist, because of your aversion to the Catholic Church, that you and your fiance get married outside the Catholic Church. For a Catholic, for a marriage to be a marriage it must be done in the Church. Insisting, for the vague reasons you have set forth, that it be done elsewhere is a big slap in the face to her (and her family, but maybe they don't count much in the equation).

If the Church is anathema to you, and yet the woman you are marrying is Catholic, there's a disconnect here. For you to bend your principles to get married to a Catholic, and yet you're standing on your principles in not being willing to get married in the church where she worships, doesn't make a lot a sense.
posted by jayder at 2:41 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hate, hate, hate the Catholic Church. But I've never heard anything terribly objectionable about the premarital counseling, which 2 of my siblings and 4 of my friends have told me about in detail. The two things that are most likely to bother a pope-hater are admonitions not to use birth control and firmness on the importance of raising your kids in The Church. But even these are often soft-pedaled. The rest of it is useful, common-sense discussions of issues that everyone ought to talk about before marriage, including comparing your families' genetic histories, defining what fidelity means to each of you, pointing out differences in how the couple handle finances, etc.

Why don't you two show up for the counseling once? Then decide if you'll go a second time. Every priest puts his own spin on it; it's not always one way.
posted by wryly at 2:44 PM on November 6, 2007

Phyltre: It would be polite to drop by the thread and give us some feedback. In particular, it would be nice to hear a response to caution live frog's point that "If you can't give your future wife this much, you aren't ready to get married to her."
posted by languagehat at 3:17 PM on November 6, 2007

Phyltre - The real problem you need to confront if you want this marriage to work is not whether to go through the counseling sessions but rather your own ingrained anti-Catholic bigotry. It's one thing to object to the actions of an organization and quite another to have such a visceral reaction that you object to something's very existence.

And if it is such a big part of your girlfriend's family's life you're going to have to deal with this sooner or later. I guarantee you that before the wedding is better than afterwards.
posted by Justinian at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2007

Seconding languagehat.
posted by Justinian at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2007

pre-wedding counseling: won't be as Catholic/bad as you think
Catholic Wedding Day: will be hard to swallow but it's only one day

Fiancee is Catholic, parents are super-Catholic, fiancee can't discuss/negotiate religious matters with her parents, you can't accept her parents' decisions on religious matters: this is a pretty serious problem when kids come into the picture (assuming you plan to have kids).

I think you need to talk about how religion is going to fit into your marriage as a whole, not just on your wedding day. A wedding is just one day but if the parents insist to your fiancee that you take the kids to Mass so they don't go to hell, then that's a big and ongoing problem.
posted by underwater at 3:46 PM on November 6, 2007

Hey! Don't listen to the mollycoddlers. "This religion thing" may not "work itself out." Maybe things'll be fine here in this earthly realm, but what about The Undiscovered Country? C'mon! Either we're religious or we're not. If we are, then we can't be making mixed marriages--somebody has to frikkin convert. What is this watered down pap passing for Xtian doctrine nowadays? Last I heard there were consequences for raising your kids out of the One True Church. Thou shalt not have any other God before me, or something like that. Hell to pay.

You can't have a mixed faith marriage if both parties are actually faithful to their respective gods and doctrines. If the children will burn if they're raised believing in the wrong God and you will burn for raising them that way, then you obviously can't have children together. You can't marry. You can't remain with one another. You can't walk into the infidel church and blaspheme and string your inlaws along for the duration of the marriage and think yourself a Christian, I don't think. All you can do is bid the poor woman farewell and pray for her immortal soul and hope she'll convert and come back to you.

The wages of sin is death and the wages of not sinning is worse: giving up all that you love on earth that is not God. That has ever been the covenent. If that is all changed, now, and you can be all ecumenical all day because the Unitarians say so, then what's the point? I'm with Flannery O'Connor: I say to hell with it.

You'll have to either convert your girlfriend, dump your girlfriend or dump your faith. It's too bad you met when you were too young to think and then waited 'til you had seven years' love and intimacy riding on this question. Now your love for another person is rivaling your love for God. You must fish or cut bait Christwise and choose: if your eternal soul and those of your future children are at stake, say goodbye to your girlfriend. If your girlfriend is more important and your children will be fine, then I guess it's communion time. Wash down the body of Christ with a long, cynical slug of His blood and welcome to the wide, wonderful world of secular humanist living.
posted by Don Pepino at 4:49 PM on November 6, 2007

If this issue is really only just now coming up in the wedding plans, if these allegedly really really important differences of faith did not come up before, if you're really unwilling to compromise, if the idea of marriage counseling under a different faith really makes your "blood boil," then you should not marry this woman. You should not have children with this woman. You should leave her and go find someone who either believes what you believe or who doesn't care as much and who will pretty much do what you want. But wait awhile before you go looking for her, because you're not ready to get married yet.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:20 PM on November 6, 2007

He's Catholic, I'm not.

We went through the premarital counseling, and really didn't have a problem with it. It was mostly things like, "Have you discussed how many kids you want to have," and "How will you handle finances?"

We both sat through the "natural family planning' session with straight faces and then dissolved into laughter afterward. seriously.

I actually thought about converting for him, but I am adamantly pro-choice, and would not, could not, accept the priest's statement that legalized abortion is akin to "another holocaust."

Something I have learned: Many Catholics who are born into the faith simply ignore those tenets they see as outrageous, though still continuing to consider themselves Catholic, whereas, for me at least, entering into the faith meant that I would have to swallow the whole deal, hook, line and sinker, or be a hypocrite.

So, I understand where you are coming from. You don't want to attest to something you don't believe, especially in a religious ceremony. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to. You can usually write your own vows, and, as I said, the counseling is no big deal. If you consider yourself a Christian, then you probably figured on being married by a religious figurehead of some sort, and that's what the priest is for.

I think you can do this--be married by a priest-- without compromising who you really are, while allowing her to be herself as well. Marriage is full of smaller compromises--might as well accept that now.

SERIOUS CONSIDERATION, and yes, it does deserve all caps: if she doesn't marry in the Catholic faith and you have children, the Catholic faith will not accept that they are the result of a legitimate union. My SIL went through this. This will freak your girl out, regardless of how ridiculous it might seem to you. That's one of the reasons I suggest you, well, suck it up and get married in the church.

By the way, if you can't bend at all on the Catholic ceremony issue, consider Episcopalian. Though her family may very well still be affronted, the denomination is similar enough that they may come around in the long run.
posted by misha at 5:34 PM on November 6, 2007

Oh, and we've been married 18 years.
posted by misha at 5:41 PM on November 6, 2007

Why do you want to marry someone you loathe? You seem to hold disdain for her faith, her family, and her ethnicity. She may not be a devout Catholic, but according to the original question she wants a Catholic wedding.

Get SOME kind of premarital counseling.
posted by 26.2 at 7:38 PM on November 6, 2007

Underwater: if they actively plan not to have kids the marriage will not be considered valid by the Catholic church.

Misha: in a normal Catholic wedding there are many things that can be customized, but if someone is letting people write their own vows they're breaking the rules (not that breaking the rules doesn't happen all the time).

IANACL (canon lawyer), but as for the issue of illegitmacy, at least since the code of canon law was revised in 1983, children born of a putative marriage are considered legitimate under Church law. So assuming there was some kind of marraige ceremony, even civil, the only way for the children would not be legitimate would be if the couple got an annulment from the Church w/o divorcing and then had another kid together.
What is more likely is that the marriage will be considered invalid if there is no dispensation for form and/or no dispensation for disparity of cult. This by itself can freak out Catholics. Where illegitimacy frequently becomes an issue is when people consider asking for an annulment (a judgment by a church court that because of some defect a marriage never existed in the first place). People worry this will make their children illegitimate, which it won't, as the marriage still putatively existed when the children were born.

There are also for the most part no longer any legal restrictions on Church life even if you are illegitimate. (For instance in the past you couldn't become a diocesan priest w/o first receiving a dispenstion.)
posted by Jahaza at 7:54 PM on November 6, 2007

Response by poster: First off, thanks for all the responses. At the request of a few posters, I'm revisiting this question.

Addressing the point that I'm an uncompromising oaf: Well, not really. I have choices: I can be insincere, or truthful. I could go through the thing just fine like some posters have described. But I'm not going to lie, fib, or pander on something like this. And if it comes down to me holding to my principles or buckling under to those of an authoritarian body, and they refuse to allow the marriage...then it's probably a messier situation than if we'd just eloped. I agree, that's an "if" and some of you are suggesting it is a small if. Is it a legitimate concern?

Also, to get at the root of things here, some of the details concerning my significant other were glossed over a bit, since this is a public forum. But, here goes: Her parents themselves eloped when they were young, and had a Church wedding later. One was rich, one was poor. (I'm sure it was romantic, forbidden-type love although asking them would be unthinkable.) But they've both grown up since then, and have seemingly forgotten what it is like to be young (long story.) They do not seem well-educated relgiously in any sense that I can determine, and don't even seem to understand their own faith on any deep level. They're just followers, although their intentions are surely good.

As for the girl that matters, she is superficially Catholic. She was taught that it is right, but lacks basically all understanding of her faith. ...In other words, it's not her faith in any meaningful sense. We have spoken about this at length, several times, and she understands my side of things but is afraid of her parents who tend to overreact to any signs of independence in their children (another long story.) I don't fear them a jot or tittle but at the same time, I respect them. I don't understand, but she wants a Catholic service--I guess maybe it just feels right to her, since that is what is expected of her by the people she loves. And I understand that. This isn't something WE couldn't compromise over...the problem is, it includes a millenia-old institution, her family, her relatives, and everyone else as a matter of course. That's why I came here for help, it's over my head.
posted by Phyltre at 8:07 PM on November 6, 2007

If you refuse to consider compromising and just sitting through the dang counseling, what help is there to give? It sounds to me like you're just hoping for positive feedback on the idea of not compromising and holding to your guns.

Really... what help can we possibly offer except for moral support if you've already flat out ruled anything but sticking to your guns and not doing the counseling?
posted by Justinian at 11:22 PM on November 6, 2007

I'm a Catholic, married to a Protestant.

We did the pre-marital counselling with his pastor, and got married in a Catholic ceremony by a priest who has strong connections to my family, in my (very catholic) high school chapel.

Whilst I am a somewhat lapsed and occasionally heretical Catholic, and my husband has issues with the Catholic church, it was important that we get married in the Catholic fashion, as otherwise I would not be considered to be actually married by my family, but living in sin. Several of my husband's extended family members are Baptists, and had some issue with the format of the ceremony, but as we invited along my husband's pastor as well, that allayed some of their concerns. Of course, we broke several wedding traditions - I was in a colour that could not in any sense be considered white, and we each had a male and female attendant, and both of my parents walked me down the aisle.

We did do a short session with the priest before we were married - we were asked if we had discussed a bunch of things, and we had, amongst them the children thing. We said that we would have children if and when we were ready, and bring them up as Christians, and that was cool.

I know a lot of Catholics and other Christians who lack depth to their faith. I am not one such. However, I'm related to a lot of them, and since I do have to deal with them rather frequently, it was easier to just deal and have the wedding as it was.
posted by ysabet at 11:23 PM on November 6, 2007

Phyltre, you write: "But I'm not going to lie, fib, or pander on something like this."

But it's not clear why you'd need to do that in the first place.

Heck, it's not even clear what it is about the Catholic Church you object to.

"the problem is, it includes a millenia-old institution, her family, her relatives, and everyone else as a matter of course."

Not really.... that's not a problem, those are just facts. It's only a problem if it includes something like "I won't have anything to do with a Catholic institution as a matter of principle." But we know that's not the case since you said you were fine w/ getting married in a Catholic Church... so perhaps we can help you with your problem if you clarify what the problem is?

"And if it comes down to me holding to my principles or buckling under to those of an authoritarian body, and they refuse to allow the marriage...then it's probably a messier situation than if we'd just eloped. I agree, that's an "if" and some of you are suggesting it is a small if. Is it a legitimate concern?"

No. If you elope w/o permission you won't be considered married in the view of the Church (and perhaps in the view of her family.) This is a very messy situation.

What principle precisely are you afraid you'll be asked to compromise?
posted by Jahaza at 1:50 AM on November 7, 2007

What principle precisely are you afraid you'll be asked to compromise?

This is a very important question, Phyltre. How does simply sitting around while a guy asks if you've thought about how you're going to handle financial concerns or whatever screw with your principles? I could understand if you were being asked to convert, or repeat the catechism or something but that isn't the case, is it?
posted by Justinian at 2:34 AM on November 7, 2007

I should say, Phyltre, that what's bothering a lot of us about this is right here:

Phyltre: "As for the girl that matters, she is superficially Catholic. She was taught that it is right, but lacks basically all understanding of her faith. ...In other words, it's not her faith in any meaningful sense. We have spoken about this at length, several times, and she understands my side of things but is afraid of her parents who tend to overreact to any signs of independence in their children (another long story.) I don't fear them a jot or tittle but at the same time, I respect them. I don't understand, but she wants a Catholic service--I guess maybe it just feels right to her, since that is what is expected of her by the people she loves."

There are two or three things here that are somewhat worrisome. You say that this girl is "superficially catholic" and that she "lacks basically all understanding of her faith." Now, it wouldn't bother me if you'd said that she was sort of a lapsed catholic, or that she's come to understand that she doesn't believe a lot of the things catholics believe in. However, you say that she doesn't understand her faith, which indicates to me that you simply feel as though she's very immature in her faith, or that she puts herself behind things that she doesn't understand. This might be a natural sense for you to have, given that you believe that catholicism has something fundamentally wrong with it; it's likely that, of course, you'll believe that she holds to it it because she really doesn't understand it.

But you should understand, Phyltre, that that's not how a married couple can approach matters like this. Does she know that you think she's being foolishly led along in this religion? Does she know that you think it's an utterly false and evil one? Yes, you may have mentioned it in passing to her, or discussed briefly where you come from, but I have a feeling you haven't discussed with her what this means about your married life with her. You don't mention whether she goes to mass, although it seems, from the way you're talking, that she doesn't. Will you two go to mass together when you're married? Will your children?

Religion and family might be the battlegrounds on which marriages live and die. It may seem dramatic to say so, but seriously, Phyltre, this isn't merely an issue of where your wedding will happen. You begin to make it sound as though you two really haven't communicated about this much at all. The bottom line is: you two are the only ones who can figure this out, and until she's the first one you go to with a problem like this, you might not be ready for marriage. Think about it: will her parents dictate every aspect of your marriage? Will your whims dictate every aspect of your marriage? How will you two work it out when, years from now, her parents want to bring your children to mass every week? How will you work it out when you decide where you'll celebrate Christmas, or other holidays? And don't forget the day-to-day things; do you aim to be just like your parents, or to improve on them? Does she want to inherit the bad things or the good things her parents did?

Trust me, these are important issues. The only thing you can do is talk to her. I think that many of us here have initially wanted to counsel you to compromise mostly because it sounds as though you aren't willing to discuss this with her too much, but she's the only one you can work this out with. If you marry her, then she'll be the one you'll be working this sort of thing out with for the rest of your life.
posted by koeselitz at 7:19 AM on November 7, 2007

And I think you're asking this here because, in your heart of hearts, you have some sense that this is deeply important. That's why you say that you don't mind having the wedding itself in a Catholic church, but say vaguely that you don't want to "lie or fib." Again I say: talk to her about it. It's the only way to be clear and to be happy.
posted by koeselitz at 7:21 AM on November 7, 2007

Geez! You're making me feel bad for the poor papist. You don't seem to respect her at all:

"...she is superficially Catholic."

"She... lacks basically all understanding of her faith."

"'s not her faith in any meaningful sense."

Furthermore, "I don't fear [her parents] a jot or tittle but at the same time, I respect them"--no, you don't, or if you do, you're unbelievably bad at expressing it and an absolute crackerjack at expressing the exact opposite: "They do not seem well-educated relgiously in any sense that I can determine, and don't even seem to understand their own faith on any deep level. They're just followers. You should see some of the events they attend...all the trappings of full-bore Philippine-class Catholicism."

Why are you considering marrying this Caliban and joining her barely sentient clan? If you do marry her, you must make clear to her that you consider her a primitive creature incapable of thinking clearly about her own religious faith. If she's fine with that and you're fine with that and her parents don't mind that you think they're a couple of hottentots, then... then I guess it's a match made in heaven.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

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