(Closed) raising a kid Catholic when I feel ambivalent about the faith…

posted 7 years ago in Catholic
Post # 3
1375 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

I’d seriously hesitate raising a child in a faith that I felt that way towards.  Have you looked into churches with more liberal teachings?  There are PLENTY out there – try googling United Church of Chirst or Unitarian Universalist and see what pops up in your are.  There’s a branch of baptists that are pretty liberal – I want to say either American or United Baptists, but not 100% on that one.

If you do decide to stay with Catholicism, I think presenting both sides of the church is perfectly fine.  It is within his rights to know that Catholic history wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and to to be able to make a decision to stay or go, depending on his own belief system.

Post # 5
607 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

 I totally hear everything you are saying!

I have three children that I am raising as agnostic. Spiritual but not religious.

My Fiance and I were both raised catholic, I went to an all girls catholic school as a teenager, and his father has had close relationships with many religious figures, as  he works for a catholic non-profit.

I teach tolerance, and I teach them the two sides to the story when appropriate. I let them explore religon on their own, and I act as a guide when they have questions, ones that I always answer honestly. They will come to thier own conclusions that will mirror what you have taught them, or not. You have no control over this.  You do have control over not brainwashing them, or saying “this is the way it is” and not allowing them to question it. Or teaching them hate.



Post # 6
942 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@marjojo:  I can offer your no advice, but Amen to your post. I’m in your boat too. 



Post # 7
412 posts
Helper bee

A friend’s in a similar boat and her plan is to (no offense to religious bees) treat it like Santa Claus. Teach the stories now, and as conflicts in teaching come up (ie. evolution), to layer/complexify it then. Just like when you’re learning chemistry or biology, what you learn is way less complex in elementary school, and then layered on in high school, and then again in university, you can think of the bible teachings as the first layer. To go back to the Santa Claus analogy, you teach the Santa Claus story, and when they get older, Santa Claus is just a representation of the spirit of giving. You can treat the bible similarly – they learn the stories, and as they get older, you can have conversations about individual stories about how some of the contents are more symbolic, and how people’s belief in the veracity of the stories lies along a spectrum, and they need to determine where they lie along it, and that that might change over time as they grows up. You can say tell them that yours has changed a lot over time but that there’s no real right or wrong, and that there are still lessons to be had from the stories, just as there are in childhood fables, that these stories can still serve as a guiding light in his life.

I personally think prayer is a great gift and parenting tool in a child’s life – since you pray out loud, you can teach them to be thankful for the people in their lives, and to wish positive things upon those they care about: whether it’s healing, luck, etc. And since you hear them pray out loud, you can get info on where their thoughts lie (ie. are they grateful for the good things? do they have positive relationships with all the people you think they do? if they start praying for friends, you have names of who they’re interacting with; if they reluctantly pray for certain extended family members, you can see that there might be some friction there, if they pray for certain troubles to disappear, you might get info they might be reluctant to bring up otherwise) Think of it more as generating good will/putting positive vibes into the world to hopefully get them back, with god serving as a medium.

I wouldn’t teach the dark side of the church until later… and then just frame it as noone’s perfect, that everybody makes mistakes, and needs to amend for them. That the intentions were good (they thought they were serving a greater power), but that the results and actions actually taken were really really bad. Obviously some intentions weren’t good (ie. when looking at individuals), and so you can teach that there is corruption everywhere and that people’s outward motivations aren’t necessarily their real ones, and that while the teachings of the church are good ones, they can be twisted and taken advantage of just like anything else… again, too complex for a small child, so save it for later, but I think to really have that conversation properly, they do need to have the basic teachings for a foundation/reference point. 

This post was a little all-over-the-place, but hopefully there’s bits that you will find helpful, or that will get at least serve as a jumping off point to whatever you will find works for you. (although if you do like the above, i wouldn’t tell your pastor all of it… just that you think the bible and its stories are important to developing good moral character and that you plan to bring him up in the faith)

Post # 8
1423 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2009

If that is really how you think about the Catholic church, I’m not sure why you would want to raise your kids Catholic.  It might be better to teach them what you actually think with respect to religion and then introduce them to Catholicism / invite them to join your church when they are older and able to decide for themselves.  They can still go through all the sacraments then, and they will mean much more to them because it is something they believe and want — not something their parents are forcing them to do. 

The church we went to when I was a kid was a bit more of a liberal Catholic church, but the people who taught religion classes/CCD  often were really hardcore and there certainly was a strong tenor of indoctrination.  For instance, in the 4th grade they made us watch an anit-abortion video with lots of pictures of aborted fetuses.  We heard over and over how having sex before you were married or using birth control were the worst things ever (imagine how that makes the many molested children out there feel), it’s a woman’s job to say no to sex because men can’t control themselves, etc.   And critical questions and discussion were certainly frowned upon.  It was also insinuated that if your parents tell you otherwise than what we say here they aren’t really true believers, and so on.  As you can probably tell, I did not enjoy the experience. (!)


Post # 9
1309 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

Just so you know, specifically with the creation story issue: even the Pope doesn’t believe that the Adam and Eve story is literally true… John Paul II said it in one of his books that he wrote. Catholicism is actually a pretty flexiible religion, you’re allowed to think the creation story is literally true, talking snake and all, if you want. But officially there is no problem at all with evolution.

Post # 11
4655 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

I’m not religious now, but my dad was raised catholic, and I had no trouble when I was a kid when he said, “Only god is smart enough to make something as cool as evolution.”

Nothing wrong with emphasizing bible stories as parables meant to teach a lesson. A children’s bible is great for that. It makes it MORE story-ish, and you can ask questions like “What do we learn from this story?” (Be kind to others, turn the other cheek, the value of sharing, bible stuff.)

I can’t remember a time when I was unable to understand the difference between myth and reality.

I do highly encourage you to show the other side — the dark side of the church, the bad things about it, the bad people in it, the bad things it’s done. (Priest molestations, blackmailing governments to ban gay marriage, etc.) It’s not fair to raise a kid with only one side of the story.

If your child wants to stop going to church as they get older, please do not force them to continue. Pushing back will only make the rebellious feeling stronger. Say that you’ll miss them in church and you’ll pray for them and they should feel welcome to come back at any time without feeling like they’re “giving in.” Give the option of not going EVERY week, just when they feel called to. They’ll return if it’s right for them.

When your child is going through confirmation classes, please try to have serious, open conversations that affirm that it’s what they really want and they don’t simply feel pressured to not disappoint. Nobody wants to see a sacrament entered into lighty or for the wrong reasons.

This is a very close issue to my heart, as both my future husband and my father were forcibly dragged through the motions of a religion that they didn’t agree with or approve of once they learned to understand it.

Both of them feel that that force really hurt them growing up and their lives are worse for having endured that. My fiance in particular has problems with some of his family relationships as a result of their inability to accept his religious decisions in his life.

I’m not saying anything against Catholics or the Church, just that people of all ages should come to it of their own free will. 

Post # 12
1900 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

There are many ways to raise a child as a free thinker! We plan on raising our children to make up their own mind about religion and you’d be surprised at what children can handle if their parents start early teaching them about it.

There are also plenty of books out there aimed a children teaching them about evolution, the big bang, death, etc. in a secular fashion, so if there is anything you’re unsure about, check out what resources are out there 🙂

Post # 13
1344 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

Honestly, I think it’s best to present all theories to children and let them make up their own minds. I will be honest, i’m agnostic, verging on aethiest and I would be a little disappointed if my future children believed in a god, but that’s not for me to choose. If you want a child to think critically, teach them how to think, not what to think.

Post # 14
642 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2013

So you’re not much of a Catholic, and your SO is not Catholic at all. It seems pretty obvious you shouldn’t attempt to raise your child Catholic. If Catholicism becomes more important to you later in your life, have your child baptized then.

Post # 16
642 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2013

Sorry I think I may have misread your post. I was under the impression that you weren’t practicing/attending mass. A careful re-read tells me otherwise. My apologies. 

I thought you were just kind of raised Catholic but don’t really agree with a lot of the teachings and didn’t go to church and that your husband wasn’t Catholic at all. Not sure where I got that from. I was out of it on Saturday. 

The advice I would pass on now is that it’s totally possible to raise a child religiously and have them turn out to be a critical thinker! I’m a practicing Catholic and a philosophy major. It’s ok to teach your son the bible stories and then later elaborate them. But hints while he’s growing up will help. For example, while reading a picture Bible’s version of Genesis, just say “that wasn’t exactly how it happened, but what’s important to know is that God made the world and that he loves it and everything in it very much.” Kind of a thing. Just don’t set up any false dichotomies and talk about the things he learns in school. If you encourage critical thinking in all areas of his life and you are open to him about talking critically about religion, you’ll be fine.

Congratulations on a baby boy!

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