Question:

Dear Minister,

I have just read your page regarding the question "Do you think a Protestant can marry a Catholic?" It answered some facets of my own question, but it is not exactly what I need to know.

I was born and raised a Catholic, but never felt any deep and abiding spiritual nourishment from my faith. It didn't call to me; it made me weary. At the age of 15 or 16 (I am now in my twenties) I stopped considering myself a member of the Catholic church. I only attended mass at my mother's request, but my prayer happened elsewhere.

What never wavered was my faith in God. I prayed only to Him, and tried to find other ways to Him that were not Mass. It wasn't until this year that those prayers were answered. I met a girl through class who is a Christian, and with a few months of studying the Bible with her, and asking for her guidance, I too became a Christian. I've started going to a church, (Protestant, non-denominational) and it makes my heart sing. My relationship with God and Jesus has grown so much and I feel so fulfilled, and I can hear what I might be called to do with my faith in my life.

So, to the crux of the matter: I am in love with a young man who has been raised in a Presbyterian Christian household all his life. We worked together as teens, went to the same university within a year of each other, and now work in the same city and live together as flatmates.

He feels for me as deeply as I do for him, but his mother forbade him and his sister from ever dating a Catholic. Now, she doesn't know about my spiritual growth, and it wouldn't change her mind if she did. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic in her eyes. We were together and spent the better part of three years falling for each other, but we finally raised the issue of taking it further. We talked about marriage, about children, and he went home and without naming me raised the possibility of a relationship. She obviously realized who he meant, and reinforced her ban on Catholics. He is too afraid of annoying his mother to pursue "us" anymore. He is terrified of the backlash of upsetting her. But it means that now we are living in a state of perpetual misery, having each other at arm's distance away and having to act as friends and flatmates, nothing more. I am so saddened that here in Northern Ireland (where people are trying hard to forget and move on from the division of the past) that she should be outspoken about her prejudices, sufficiently so that she would sabotage both of her children's relationships. (Her daughter is seeing a Catholic too.)

I am not offering him a mixed marriage, which is what she fears. I would gladly attend Presbyterian church with him, I am only non-denominational at the minute as the church I do attend is so lovely and educational for a new Christian. I want to marry him in his home church, and raise my children as Christians with Sunday school and Bible study. I want them to be educated spiritually in the way I was not.

We believe the same things. We hold dear the same values, we care about the same issues, we are good to and for each other. We talk of faith together. We care for each other and want to share all we have together.

So I suppose my question for you is: Is this situation reconcilable? Shall I continue to pray, as I have been doing, that God may grant him the strength to be brave for us, even in the face of maternal disapproval? Or must I, despite the pain and sadness it is causing us both, let her break both our hearts, despite us wanting to live a life of faith together?

Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.

God Bless,


Answer:

It is unfortunate that there are unreasonable people in the world. You can't change a person against their will. If he really loved you, he would tell his mother who he was going to marry and if she didn't like it, shrug his shoulders and prepare for a life that his mother was no longer involved in. You see, righteousness is not dictated by parents. Righteousness is defined by God.

What is missing is that people can change. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18). But what is also missing is that any change is not the right thing to do. You talk about becoming a Presbyterian, not because you believe that their teachings are the truth, but because your boyfriend is one. I know the common belief that all churches are basically alike, but you already know that is not true. There were good reasons why you left Catholicism. I would rather hear that both you and your boyfriend, whoever it might be, worship together at a church you know is teaching the truth. See: Cafeteria-Style Religion.

Similarly, when a person is dedicated to living by God's standards, she shouldn't put herself in potentially compromising situations. It isn't proper for two people of the opposite sex to be living together in the same apartment. Temptation is difficult enough to resist without making it convenient.