(Closed) A Non-Catholic, Looking for Advice From Catholics

posted 8 years ago in Catholic
Post # 3
7976 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: July 2013 - UK

I am not a Catholic, but I sympathise because I have a similar (but perhaps not so serious) problem. Fiance is Catholic. I am non-conformist. We wanted to get married in a church, and I didn’t mind which denomination, so I said it could be Catholic. However, FIs Mum wants a full mass, which none of my family could take part in. I could only take part if I received a dispensation. I do not want to receive this if my family (who are religious, but not Catholic) could not receive mass with me. Fiance does not think non-Catholics should ever receive Catholic mass, and that I should not receive a dispensation. It would also not be appropriate for myself or my family to receive a blessing in lieu because of our beliefs (which I won’t bore you with here) to do with baptisms and blessings. Her attitude seems to be “well, when in Rome” to which I have to hold back from responding “yes, but we’re only in bloody Rome in the first place because I want an easy life… give me a break!”.

The catechism of the Catholic church agrees with me, incidentally, that marriage between a Catholic and a baptised non-Catholic should not have a mass. In fact, I’m hoping to bring it up with the priest and get him to break it to her… maybe she’ll listen to him. Priests have lots of experience with this sort of thing.

Now, maybe you could do the same… just go to her priest, and tell him the whole dilemma. He will almost certainly agree with you that you should not be hypocrites in your ceremony, and as he knows her then he might have an idea on how to break the news to her. Then you can all discuss it together. Don’t assume that the priest will automatically take her side… I think you will be surprised. He is, after all, a man of conscience due to his profession.

You could also suggest a Catholic ceremony the day before or the day after the wedding so that her Catholic family members who never get the opportunity to worship together can do so. Of course, she probably won’t be very happy with you regardless of how much you give her, but it won’t ever be enough, I think. And it is your wedding, not hers… regardless of how hard that is…

Post # 4
1900 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

You sound very similar to my fiance and I – I was raised an atheist, and my fiance was raised Catholic (moderately strict, not as crazy as you Future Mother-In-Law sounds), but he’s more of an atheist/deist/humanist now. His parents are still pretty Catholic though….

Would it be possible for you to be married by some kind of religious officiant in your particular location? I know you’re not entirely comfortable with it, but there are priests out there who do secular weddings (I think the Uniting church is pretty open about it?), if that’s something you would consider. Failing that, maybe just tell you Future Mother-In-Law that you feel a deeper spiritual connection with being outdoors or something?

Another thing that was suggested to me when we had this issue is just not talking about it for a few months (tell family that you’re taking a break from wedding stuff and just want to enjoy your engagement), then organising it and telling everyone it’s already set in stone and too late to change. I personally don’t like deception or not consulting with people, but it may save you a lot of heartache.

Ultimately though, I think it’s up to your fiance how you procede here – it’s his mother and he’s the one that will be most affected if she refuses to attend your wedding. Besides, he knows her better, so knows how to handle her (hopefully).

Good luck with it all! Hope it goes well

Post # 5
3 posts
  • Wedding: May 2014

@Bebealways:  I am a devout Catholic, so I can see where your Future Mother-In-Law is coming from. If her son, who was raised Catholic, marries in a non-Catholic ceremony, then the marriage is seen as not having God’s blessing. and is invalid in the eyes of the Church (the Church is not saying it is legally invalid, but invalid in the eyes of God). It is seen as turning away from his faith, and including a Bible reading in your ceremony is not the same thing as having your marriage blessed in the Church. For her to attend places her in a delicate situation, because, by attending, she is in the appearance of condoning her son in not marrying with God’s blessing. Depending on the circumstances, this could actually could then become a sin on her part if she attends. So, if you follow through on your wedding plans, and she does not attend, try to understand that she does not want to sin, and that she may very well believe that by attending your wedding she would be sinning.

For a better understanding of the principles a Catholic may be considering when he or she declines to attend a wedding, these sites have good discussions: http://www.cuf.org/faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=137, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=167154.

I would not advise you to ask for a dispensation if you do not intend to live out raising your children in the Catholic faith, since basing your marriage on dishonesty is not right, and the Catholic church would not wish you to do this falsely. As a Catholic, I am sad that you and your fiance do not wish to have a Catholic wedding, but it is better to be honest about your current beliefs than to lie about them. I will pray for you, your fiance, and your Future Mother-In-Law in this difficult situation. 🙂

Post # 6
3696 posts
Sugar bee

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MissRaphaela gives good advice up above; unfortunately, this is going to be something that your Future Mother-In-Law won’t really see a way to compromise on. Unlike many other Christian denominations, Catholicism regards marriage as a sacrament. So, even though most Christian weddings are religious occasions and often held in churches, other denominations often have more “wiggle room” for adjusting the form of the ceremony, holding it outside, including or excluding certain prayers, etc.

For Catholics, since marriage is a sacrament, we are supposed to receive it in the Church and only within the Church, and it has to follow the prescribed ritual – it’s pretty much an all-or-nothing proposition, and to marry outside of the Church is a sin because it’s seen as a rejection of the sacrament. For you guys, it sounds like the most intellectually honest option is clearly “nothing.” For your Future Mother-In-Law, anything other than “all” boils down to “helping a fellow Catholic – who happens to be her son – reject the sacrament of marriage,” i.e. the way she sees it, it makes her complicit in a sin.

It’s too bad, but it looks like the most intellectually honest thing for you guys to do is marry outside the Church and try to respect the fact that the most intellectually honest thing for your Future Mother-In-Law to do is to not participate.

Post # 7
5091 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: January 2012

I think

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@MissRaphaela: and
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@KCKnd2: give good advice.  I’m Catholic, and it sounds to me like there’s no way your Future Mother-In-Law will compromise.  It sounds like she isn’t accepting that your Fiance no longer considers himself to be part of the faith.  My advice to you it to just keep on keeping on.  Be courteous and kind to your Mother-In-Law, but also prepare yourself for the fact that she may not accept the wedding you want.  If so, you may just not be able to have her there on your wedding day.  🙁

Post # 8
752 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

I definitely agree with just keep on your same track.  You are not going to make her happy and that’s just something your Future Mother-In-Law is going to have to accept.

PS:  While I understand her faith is important to her, it’s also important to not force your views on other people.  That is part of being a good Christian/Catholic.

Post # 9
4800 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

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@KCKnd2:  +1, unfortunately there is just no compromising on this, because this post is absolutely right aout marriage being seen as a sacrament. But I disagree with the idea tha it’s a sin for the Future Mother-In-Law to not attend. My very Catholic family all attended my secular wedding – they’re not denouncing the church or anything, they’re attending someone’s wedding, that is certainly not a sin, and I’m sure if the Future Mother-In-Law talked it over with her priest he would agree that it’s not a sin for her to attend this wedding, and that non-believers should not have a church ceremony.

No Catholic priest is going to marry you without it being in a church and the two of you being of Catholic faith, going through premarital counseling, etc. And I agree with you, OP, that it would be wrong to lie about such a thing. My entire family is Catholic and I know my mom wishes I would get married in the church, but I didn’t. I knew that if I had a conversation with her about it, there would be a big teary dramatic blow up, so I didn’t. We just told her that we were excited about our gorgeous outdoor ceremony space, and when she started to express that she wished it was religious I just said, “I know that’s what you would choose mom, but this is what we want and we’re really excited about it.” Repeat as often as necessary. And that would be your FI’s part to say since it is his mother – you shouldn’t be in the middle here.


Post # 10
899 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

Hi! I know you asked for Catholic perspective, but I was in the exact same situation as you are, so I think maybe my perspective would be helpful – feel free to pm me if you want to vent 🙂

We had a secular wedding – no God or religion, but there were a few sections where we left it open for people to bring in their own religion if they wanted. We had a ring warming which let some guests say a silent prayer over our rings. We also did a group reading/blessing which evoked the feeling of a group prayer, but it wasn’t religious. This helped my parents a bit – who wanted a relgious ceremony (I was raised united church of christ) but I don’t think it did anything for DH’s parents. 

But, they did attend, as did most of his Catholic family. 

I don’t think there is much you can do. I think your Fiance needs to explain firmly to his mom that he is NOT Catholic and anything involving the church would be dishonest (and a sin). My huband told his mother that he is so thankful that she raised him to be honest, loving, and caring – and that he was so thankful that he was able to find his own truth – and he was sorry it wasn’t the same truth as her. But he respects her faith and wants her to respect his. 

My in-laws did attend a Catholic ceremony in our honor the morning before the wedding and included us in prayers of the faithful. (We did not attend) Maybe that is something your Future Mother-In-Law would like to do. 

Post # 11
3696 posts
Sugar bee

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@Wonderstruck:  And I think most Catholics (including myself) would agree with you (about attending the wedding not being a sin). From the OP’s description of her Future Mother-In-Law, though, it sounds like she belongs to the very conservative, doctrinaire, ultra-orthodox end of the Catholic spectrum, and I know that at least some Catholics of that persuasion would find it problematic.

As another PP said, it would be best for the Fiance to explain clearly to his mom that he no longer identifies as Catholic. It might make a difference to the Future Mother-In-Law: she might regard it as a sin to support a wedding that takes place outside the church & involves a Catholic, but if the son makes it clear that he is not Catholic, then it’s not a sin for her to attend his outside-the-Church wedding. (Again, I’m not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with that, just saying that’s how she might see it.)

Post # 12
3770 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: December 1999

I am Catholic and for personal reasons we got married outside of the church. I did have family members decline to come since it was not in the church. Some people are still very traditional in their beliefs.

OP: Please do not get married in the catholic church if it is not something you believe, and please don’t lie on the dispensation form. If you don’t share the same beliefs as your Future Mother-In-Law that is ok, but it kind of seems like making a mockery of the chruch when you lie about it just to appease her.

I think in the end she will end up coming to the wedding. You and your Fiance need to have a wedding that is honest and starts you off on your life together. If the church doesn’t reflect the two of you as a couple, than stick with what you have planned.

Post # 13
1576 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

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@KCKnd2:  +1


OP, that’s the best way to explain it to a non-catholic. It’s all or nothing. You can’t offer an olive branch becuase it’s meaningless. You either do it exactly the way the catholic church says and it’s a sacrament, or it’s not. Any other way of doing it makes it an invalid marriage in the eyes of the god that she believes so strongly in. There’s no middle ground to be had, no olive branch to offer.

I’m not catholic, but my Fiance is. He takes his faith somewhat seriously and I really never have, so we’re going to have a catholic wedding. I don’t mind him pledging to raise the potential future kids catholic. I was never going to be the one to bring them to church, and I don’t mind if he does. But that’s our situation – which is totally different from yours…

The only responsible thing to do is sit down with her and have Fiance admit that he no longer identifies with the teaching of the church and that it’s not important to him to have his marriage recognized by the church. Whichever Bee suggested doing this with FMIL’s  priest as a third party had a good idea. That may help.

However, there are many people on the planet that can’t bring themselves to do this to their mothers or grandmothers. I’d advise you to not lie, and to not go through with a marriage that doesn’t reflect what you believe in. But if you give in to the pressure – you aren’t alone.

Post # 14
312 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2012 - Prairie Production- Chicago (loft)

To please her you could do something similar to what I plan on doing. We want a ceremony that is personalized to us, not just tradition because that’s the way it is supposed to be. So…although I was raised Catholic and my fiance Baptist- neither one of us is seriously super religious…. we decided to have an officiant (used to be a priest, but left the church to get married and now perfomrs wedding ceremonies)….. come to our site nad perform a ceremony that combines some slightly religious readings, and love readings. Nothin more than the mention of God here and there and nothing that specifically screams Catholic.


To please my older family members who prefer things traditional, we may be going to the church on our 1st year anniversary to have the wedding blessed…etc. with a few people involved.

Could that be the big day for her? Where she plans it all out and then just the immediate family members go out todinner afterwards? To us we still get the wedding day we want, but also have found a way to make others happy.

With Catholics it is all or nothing- so have yor day the way you want, but share a day with her the way she wants too.

Post # 15
4334 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

I agree with most of the above posters – definitely do not lie to have a Catholic wedding! If he hasn’t already, your Fiance needs to sit down with his mother and tell her himself that he no longer considers himself a Catholic, and so to get married in the Catholic Church and promise to raise children Catholic would be a lie– doesn’t that bother her? If, however, he has already expressed that to her, then I like the idea of you both talking to a priest (preferablly FMIL’s parish priest) and telling him how you feel, and asking for not only his opinion (I highly doubt he would still encourage you to get married inthe Church,) but also to see if he might be able to himself convey to Future Mother-In-Law the reasons why it would not be good for you to get married in the Catholic Church if you don’t believe in any of it.

Post # 16
424 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@Bebealways:  The advice that’s been given here is great.  I wanted to add (as a Catholic who is going to be having a Catholic ceremony) that if a Catholic person gets married outside of the Church or without a dispensation/convalidation, they are not even supposed to receive communion.  So it’s a pretty big deal to a devout Catholic.

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