Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 31, 1950

Why Shouldn't I Marry A Roman Catholic?

Leonard Mullens, Dallas, Texas

Here is a question that is sometimes asked by those who are members of the body of Christ, and it deserves an answer. There is certainly nothing in America today that would keep a member of the Lord's church from falling in love with a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Our children associate quite freely in the schools and in their social contacts with those who are Catholics. It is only natural that some who belong to Christ should be attracted to others who belong to Romanism. When this happens, the question comes, "Why shouldn't I marry a Roman Catholic?"

The realistic approach is always the best one in such a matter. The facts ought not to be ignored, and it is true that a large proportion of such marriages will fail, and end in heartbreak and in sorrow. There are reasons why this is so, and the presenting of these reasons does not indicate a prejudice towards the Catholics as individuals, but does mean that the truth needs to be set forth.

First, what is the official Roman Catholic view of marriage? The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is one of the seven sacraments, and that Jesus raised it to this position, although marriage began in the day of Adam and Eve. Say they, "Matrimony is the sacrament by which baptized persons bind themselves for life in a lawful marriage, and receive the grace to discharge their duties." Now, this does not mean that the Catholics are saying that all marriages are sacred, just because the persons contracting marriage have been baptized. This really has reference to those who contract marriage within the confines of the Catholic Church, having received Catholic baptism. This is to the Catholic the highest form of marriage. It is true that at just this time the Pope has agreed to recognize certain kinds of baptism, leading to marriage with non-Catholics, but such a marriage is decidedly only a second-rate affair, in Catholic eyes. And it has been only since 1908 that the Pope of Rome has recognized that anyone who has been married out of the Catholic Church, that is, when one member of the church of Christ is married to another member of the church, is married at all. Prior to that time, the two were living in fornication, and their children were illegitimate. Catholic canon law No. 1060 declares, "Everywhere and with the greatest strictness the church forbids marriages between baptized persons, one of whom is a Catholic and the other a member of a schismatical or heretical sect; and if there is, add to this, the danger of the falling away of the Catholic party and the perversion of the children, such a marriage is forbidden by divine law." On this Pope Pius XI comments, "If the church occasionally on account of circumstances does not refuse to grant a dispensation from these strict laws (provided that the divine law remains intact and the dangers above mentioned are provided against by suitable safeguards), it is unlikely that the Catholic party will not suffer some detriment from such a marriage." Further, the Catholics maintain that "a Catholic can be validly married only before a Catholic priest." ("Why Not a Mixed Marriage?" by John A. O'Brien, Paulist Press, page 11) Thus, we can now see that a mixed marriage is not a valid marriage, according to Romanism, unless a special dispensation has been granted by the Catholic Church; unless the rite is performed according to the Catholic ceremony, and unless a Catholic priest presides.

When a non-Catholic desires to marry a Catholic, the priest first attempts to make a convert of the non-Catholic party. Failing on this, the ante-nuptial agreement is presented for both of the parties to the marriage to sign, and then, the local priest makes application to the bishop for a dispensation to perform the marriage. In our country, the dispensation is granted without much trouble, although the Pope has expressed disapproval of the increase of mixed marriages in America, provided that the ante-nuptial agreement is signed. It is in this agreement that we are now especially concerned. A copy of this agreement follows:

"I, the undersigned, not a member of the Catholic Church, wishing to contract marriage with________, a member of the Catholic Church, propose to do so with the understanding that the marriage bond thus contracted is indissoluble, except by death. I promise on my word and honor that I will not in any way hinder or obstruct __________,the said in the exercise of ___________

religion and that all children of either sex born of our marriage shall be baptized and educated in the Catholic faith and according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, even though the_______ should be taken away by death. I further promise that I will marry

only according to the marriage rite of the Catholic Church; that I will not either before or after the Catholic ceremony, present myself with_______ for marriage before a civil magistrate or minister of the gospel.

Signature ___________

Signed in the presence of Rev. ___________

Place _________ Date________

In such an agreement, the Catholic party makes about four promises that are usually found on the reverse side of the agreement given above. Two of them, those providing for the baptism and the education of the children born within the Catholic fold, are the same as those made by the non-Catholic, while the third promise is the one concerning any ceremony outside of the Catholic Church. The fourth one is that the Catholic partner is to do all he or she can do to bring about the conversion of the non-Catholic to the Roman Catholic Church.

Looking at the agreement shown above, we also see the non-Catholic making four promises. First, he or she enters the relation of marriage with the understanding that the marriage can be terminated only by death. Regardless of the infidelity of the other partner, still the non-Catholic is bound by the signed agreement not to get a divorce from that person. Second, the promise is made that he or she will not in any way hinder or obstruct the Catholic in the exercise of his or her religion. This would mean that the member of the church would be obligated by the agreement to offer no protest to anything within and without the home that the Catholic party was told to do in the exercise of his or her religion by the Catholic priests. For example, a member of the church, married to a Catholic wife under such a bond, would be expected to pay for the support of the Catholic Church, and to see his partner bowing to images within the home circle. The third promise is really a hard one to swallow, for it provides that all children, of either sex, who are born to the union shall be baptized and educated in the Catholic faith. This means that a member of the body of Christ has promised that her son shall be sprinkled with holy water (???) in a Catholic christening. This third promise further demands that even though the Catholic party should die, still the children belong to the Catholic Church for baptism and for education. Finally the promise is made by the member of the Lord's church that the marriage shall be performed only according to the Catholic marriage rite, as performed by a priest, and that no other form of ceremony shall take place, either before or after the Catholic version has occurred.

It is an important matter, then, when a member of the body of Christ begins to contemplate marriage with a Catholic. You must submit yourself to the Catholic priesthood in many ways through the rest of your life, unless the Catholic is taught the truth, but according to the promise made in the marriage agreement, you have agreed to do nothing to hinder the Catholic in his or her religion. This really means that you have promised not to try to convert your life companion to the gospel of Christ. At the same time that you have obligated yourself to say nothing in regard to your partner's religious practice and faith, your life companion has obligated himself or herself to do all that can be done to bring you into the Catholic fold. Truly, this is an unequal "yoking together." Further, the agreement means that you, as a member of the kingdom of God, the church of Jesus, cannot instruct your child or children in the way of the Lord as contained in the New Testament. This agreement means that you are trying to establish a home and build a life on the foundation of two systems of religion that are diametrically opposed to each other, for one partner is to be loyal to Christ, while the other is to be loyal to the Pope.

Surely no real Christian who loves the Lord and the truth would ever sign such an ungodly bond as the one we have discussed. This is why a follower of Jesus ought not to marry a member of the Roman Catholic Church. You cannot make the promises demanded by the Roman Church, and be loyal to Christ. The price is too great, and the points surrendered cannot be tolerated by one who has been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.

But, say you, "What if the Catholic party agrees to marry without the signing of this agreement?" Let us see where that leaves us. If you go ahead and marry by having a non-Catholic ceremony, this means that the Catholic Church regards the marriage as illegal, null and void. According to the Catholic Church, you and your companion are living in fornication. If you have children, in Catholic eyes, they are illegitimate. Further, if your Catholic partner ever becomes tired of the marriage, he or she can go to the priest, confess sin, and have the whole marriage dissolved by getting a divorce from the civil government. The Catholic party is then free to re-marry within the fold of Catholicism, of course. But in what a position does this leave you? Truly, there are too many grave consequences to be considered. The children born still have a Catholic father or mother, perhaps married to another person, and so you can see the heartbreak and the sorrow that you have brought upon yourself and your children. And even if the Catholic partner continues to live with you, he or she will always be unhappy because they have violated their religious teachings and this will make the home life a very miserable affair indeed.

Let us continue to impress upon the church members who are of marriageable age and status that they consider very seriously before they marry anyone who is Catholic, or anyone who might in any way tend to lead them away from the Master whose life was sacrificed that we might live forever.