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The Busted Halo Question Box
Ask our spiritual experts virtually anything!
This is the place where you can ask all of those burning questions that you wouldn't dare ask in person. We will post questions here (using your byline only with permission); we guarantee an answer to everyone.

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Our readers asked:

If we are of different religions, who should take charge of the children’s religious education?

Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D. Answers:

Since you are writing a Catholic website, I’m assuming that either you or your fiancé is Catholic, so I’m going to answer the question with that in mind. You also don’t mention whether the proposed marriage is between two Christians or between a Catholic and someone from another religion, so I’ll answer both.

It’s important to remember that strictly speaking, the Church prohibits mixed marriages (between a Catholic and a Christian of another tradition, also called “interchurch marriages”) and interreligious marriages (between a Catholic and an unbaptized person). Dispensation from this prohibition by the competent diocesan authority is possible, but is certainly not guaranteed (it certainly happens often enough, but indeed there are lots of paperwork and discussion involved). This is because of the very significant challenges facing people in such marriages, including what to do about the religious education of children. Experience has shown this to be a major point of conflict if it is not resolved before the marriage takes place.

As part of the application for a dispensation for an interchurch or interreligious marriage, the Catholic party must make a solemn promise to remain active in their Catholic faith. They also pledge to do all in their power to have the children baptized in the Catholic Church and to raise them in the Catholic faith. Accordingly, the non-Catholic fiancé must be informed of the Catholic party’s obligations in this regard. If he or she has serious reservations about their Catholic fiancé’s solemn obligation to raise the children in the Catholic Faith, then it is vitally important that the matter be resolved before they continue with marriage preparation.

The Author : Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D.
The Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D., formerly the Interreligious Affairs specialist at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is now pastor of St. Benedict's Parish in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo Credit: Bob Roller, Catholic News Service (CNS).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Susan

    I am a Catholic who married a non-Catholic Christian 20 years ago. I certainly don’t remember much discussion or paperwork. The priest talked to each of us alone for about 10 minutes to get our points of view without the other one there and then he signed a one-page form. Was this unusual? We married in a part of the country (rural Southeast) that has very, very few Catholics – could this be why we “got off easy?”

  • Jessica

    I just read over the response again as well as Fr.Neil Draves-Arpaia’s response and I have to also agree that I don’t feel the question was fully addressed. We sadly can’t just email Jesus or send Him a text but I would like to hear a more grounded and spiritual answer other than talking about the “red tape” it takes to get married.

  • Fr. Neil Draves-Arpaia

    Fr. Walsh, I read your response and I can’t say I think you responded to the question. I think the questioner is asking something more deeply than simple what are the canonical regs….In other words, I think you talked around the question. I don’t mean this as a put-down,or a criticism … just an observation.

  • Jessica

    I’ve been actually asking myself this very question because recently I’ve become involved with a Catholic. Not a very practicing Catholic but a Catholic non the less. I am a Seventh Day Adventist with NO chance of a conversion. I have a 10 year old son that has been raised a SDA from birth and I also was raised this way from birth. Our doctrines are obviously very very different.
    My boyfriend and I have discussed marriage and children and my personal opinion has been that whoever is the most practicing in their religion should have the greatest say on how the children are primarily raised. I have studied every doctrine only because I am interested in that type of thing and I don’t feel it wrong to teach children the same way so they have a right to choose. To me however there are certain things such as the Seventh Day Sabbath, The State of the Dead, and the 2nd Coming that are not debatable and not something I will budge on. Bottom line to me though is if you are both believers and you both love Christ and agree to put Him first in your life and your marriage everything else will fall into place. It’s much easier when the two people believe at least in God as opposed to a believer and a non believer.

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