A Hmong couple celebrate their wedding service in Sung Do Church in 2020. (Photo: UCA News)

Dec 16 2021

Parents feel more secure entrusting their children to families of the same faith

The wedding season in Vietnam runs from the end of the year to early next year before the lunar new year festival, cheering up those getting ready to marry and their families. Many people of other faiths willingly convert to their Catholic spouse’s faith, attend courses in marriage preparations and hold their wedding ceremonies in churches, where their relatives are also present.

Many followers of other faiths put a pointed question as to why Catholicism compels people of other faiths to follow the religion before they marry Catholics.

In fact, the Church does not force anyone to convert to Catholicism. The general term theo dao or “follow Catholicism” refers to receiving baptism and becoming a member of the Church. More precisely, it is a person receiving the gift of faith through the sacraments and being incorporated into Christ’s new life. But since faith is a gift from God, and requires the free will of the recipient, coercion or compulsion becomes meaningless and childish.

Those who agree to receive baptism just because they are getting hitched and without a sense and desire to live the faith are merely Christians on paper, not true Christians.

Why do Catholic parents always desire their children to marry Catholics?

All parents are concerned for their children’s happiness. As they come from the Christian environment, they will have real confidence in young people who are also brought up in that environment. They will feel more secure in entrusting their children to Catholic families.

Catholics who marry people of other faiths can face the grave risk of neglecting faith practice or losing their faith

If both parties of the marriage are Catholic, they will easily share the same views, lifestyle and ways of educating children.

In addition, religion is not the only factor that determines a couple’s wedded bliss, but if they share the same religious beliefs their married life will be in more favorable conditions.

The Catholic environment is a really stimulating environment to support them. If both spouses regularly pray together, offer prayers to God, attend Masses, receive sacraments, partake in parish-based activities and follow church instructions, they will not feel alone in their marriage journey, and their children will also be well educated in knowledge, faith and humanity. Whenever they encounter difficulties, they have a place to solicit both spiritual and material support.

It will be quite hard for couples who express their beliefs in two different religions to gain these enormous advantages.

On the contrary, Catholics who marry people of other faiths can face the grave risk of neglecting faith practice or losing their faith. Catholic women who have to live in their non-Catholic spouse’s home will bear the full brunt of those disadvantages.

If their spouses embrace other faiths and are involved in different spiritual work, Catholics could not stand a cat in hell’s chance of fulfilling their Christian duties, and their young families are hardly given opportunities to receive good education in a pure spiritual environment.

In short, the fact that parents require their children to marry people of the same Catholic faith is only their serious concern about their children’s faith life. If all family members worship God, gather for prayers and have their children be properly educated, they must be happy families.

Meanwhile, differences in their faiths will result in other disagreements on their point of views and lifestyle, creating disharmony and affecting their marriage life.

Therefore, non-Catholic people are encouraged, not forced, to learn about Catholicism and study catechism in order to have the same religion as their spouses.

What does the Church do with marriages of different faiths?

The Church wants her children to continuously receive God’s blessings. In a marriage, which is the most essential period in people’s life, the Church even wants both spouses to have their love and future plans blessed and sanctified. Divine grace is bestowed upon them through the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is celebrated by the couple before a matrimonial assistant and two marriage witnesses.

To do this, both must be Christians, that is, they already belong to the Church’s family. Therefore, a marriage between a baptized person and an unbaptized person is declared null and void.

The non-Catholic party has to be told Catholic duties and promises so that they can understand and do not cause problems

However, in case the other party insists on not embracing Catholicism for some reason, the Church willingly accepts them to marry, with the permission of diocesan bishop, so as not to hinder their legitimate love, not to cause difficulties to the Catholic party but to ensure the Catholic party has opportunities to practice faith.

However, the local ordinary can only grant permission of this kind when he or she fulfills the conditions set forth in Canon 1125: Catholics solemnly promise to fulfil their Christian duties, steer clear of dangers of defecting from the faith, and try their best to have their children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.

The non-Catholic party has to be told Catholic duties and promises so that they can understand and do not cause problems.

Both parties have to attend courses in marriage preparations so that they can understand and live out “the primary purpose and character of Catholic marriage.”

Thus, those who want to marry people of other faiths must follow official procedures and meet parish priests to ask for the bishop’s permission.

The Church issues these regulations only for the sake of her children’s faith and has no intention of asking anyone to convert to Catholicism before a wedding.

It is clear that church regulations aim at protecting the faith of Catholics and their children. The Church does not want to lose any of her children but is also not too demanding to seriously affect their happiness.

Pr Le Hoang Nam is a Jesuit in Vietnam. This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published here on hdgmvietnam.com. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News. – UCANews