This will be my first post on the site and I'm looking for some advice.
Me and my current girlfriend are having a baby and have decided to do so without being married. We are happy and that's all that matters to us. I am an atheist and she is Catholic and comes from a family that is very involved in their religion. I love her very much and respect her choices in life as she respects mine. We are both very aware of each others beliefs, with that we have talked about getting married eventually.
She has looked down the road many times and explained to me what she has always wanted, a traditional catholic wedding. Now from my understandings that means I must be approved and accepted into their religion ( Accepting Christ and all that he is ) to be a part of this ceremony. Like I stated before, I love the girl and she is a huge part of my life. I want her to have everything that she desires, but this one causes some issues. It's a ways down the road but I figured i would start getting some input on it now.
When looking to my options I run across a few personal and moral dilemmas. ( What's that you say? Atheists have morals? Why yes.... They do. haha) Do I tell her she can't have the wedding she wants and cause a rift in our almost perfect (so far) relationship? Or, do i go along with it even though I don't believe, perform their ceremonies to make her happy and just put on the show for her and the rest of the family?
Now you may say, where is the dilemma? Well, being that i don't believe in a god but i do believe in being a good person, I don't want to outright deceive people. That's not who I am. I don't believe in what they believe in and I'm absolutely positive I will not have fire and brimstone rained upon me because I said i believed so that she can have the day of her dreams. Overall I know it's a decision I have to make but i just wanted to have some advice or see if there was anyone else out here that had faced a similar situation.
Thanks for reading and i look forward to the advice.
Now from my understandings that means I must be approved and accepted into their religion ( Accepting Christ and all that he is ) to be a part of this ceremony.
The Catholic church allows marriages between a Catholic and a non-believer. Your girlfriend would need to obtain permission to do so, but you could be married in the church without converting or believing.
Of course this doesn't change the fact that you'd be taking part in a religious ceremony. That's an important discussion you may need to have continually with her. What are the basic reasons why she wants to be married in a traditional fashion? If you look up the Catholic vows and prayers during a wedding mass, could you respectfully attend or take part even if you do not believe? How would she feel about your part in it? Does she see this ceremony as something for both of you or is it mostly about her?
Lots of discussion to be had :)
Thanks for the info Godless Girl. It seems that they are not wanting to let me know that I am able to participate without being converted. Anymore information that you have on that aspect would be greatly appreciated.
To answer your questions...
She has a very strong commitment to her family and she is a religious person, but the reason we can get along so well is that neither of us have to push our beliefs on others. She wants the wedding because it's something that she's always dreamed os, and it's something that her family wants to see as well. I feel that I could respect the ways of their ceremony, I'm taking part in it for her and not anyone else. My ceremony still happens on the state recognized level so i feel satisfied that we are bonded (On paper, lol) to each other. She understands my views and doesn't try to persuade me to think otherwise. She see's it as something more for her, but she has also said that no matter what type of wedding me have it's generally for her more than me, and i agree with that.
This is correct. You do not need to convert or agree with their theology to get married in a Catholic Church. They will, however, ask that you agree to raise your children Catholic. (i.e. teach them that the Catholic Church's theology is real and true) Of course you can always agree to do this just for show, and then do whatever you want after the ceremony, as you said. The Catholic Church is pretty indifferent about that. They are more interested in getting your money than making waves.
You might want to ask your girlfriend if the decorations and atmosphere of the church are more important than the vows. If it's the scenery and atmosphere that is important, then you will be honoring your girlfriend's wishes just to go along with it. In this case, she wouldn't be taking all of the vows 100% seriously herself. However, if she sees the vows and duties to her god and church as being the main reason for having the wedding there, then you might need to talk with her about it. How can she ask you to take serious vows that you do not agree with and do not plan to keep? I agree with Godless Girl, you should make sure that the wedding is a celebration of your unity and future together and not merely a one-sided ceremony to appease a childhood fantasy of hers.
Well, if you feel that a catholic wedding would be a form of deceit, then don't do it. I'm Atheist, and my wife's agnostic, but we're both from Irish Catholic families, so we compromised. We had the wedding on my family's land, and gave a good show and a beautiful ceremony. We simply requested that the pastor leave out any religious lore, and he respected our wishes. You can give your vows and mean them, and you can fufill each other for the rest of your lives as you see fit. Happiness is all that really counts there. You don't need a God to be true to someone. And if her superstitious family doesn't like it, then tough shit. It's not their decision. The best thing to do would to reach a mutual agreement between your lady and you, because it's nobody else's business, and they'll need to face the facts that their opinion doesn't matter because they don't have any say in it. Remember, God did not create man. Man created God.
Can't help you with the ceremony but I find the Catholics in my life to be pretty flexible when it comes to day-to-day life outside the sacraments (Marriage is a sacrament). So that's something.
As for the the ceremony itself, they will not let you get married at a Catholic altar, at all, unless you have been confirmed (Another sacrament). Some churches might allow you to do a side altar.
So if you want to make her happy by having a traditional Catholic wedding, you will have to go through confirmation. And to do that you have to go through all those classes. Which I'm sure you'll ace, even if you think its nonsense.
The best you can do is be honest with her and her family, as you already have, and say, "okay, I'll do this for you, but I don't believe it and I have no intention of becoming a believing Catholic or a regular churchgoer" Then nobody can be angry with you when you lapse before you hit the dancefloor.
That's rough. Though she is asking you to do the impossible - an unreasonable request. Or she is asking you to lie, or she hopes you'll change your belief a few years down the road.
I come from a very religious family and am not out to them yet because my parents are aged and my mother would spend the rest of her days worrying, praying for my soul, and feeling like a failure. If I get married (which I may avoid all together), I expect there will be a semi-religious ceremony for the family but with vows written for each other. I am accustomed to going through the motions to appease them. Does it strike against my integrity? Perhaps...but pragmatically speaking there's a better outcome for everyone.
But...it doesn't bother me much because going to church with them on holidays is tradition and religious beliefs are just fantasies to me. Unimportant. Like going along with a kid's belief in Santa Claus. But it seems marriage ought to mean something. Does it to you? I think I'd feel uncomfortable lying in regards to what society dubs one fo the most important days of my life.
So can there be compromise? I question whether she will consent to a non-Catholic wedding (but with a church or priest) that may make references to God but does not insist you lie about your acceptance of them.
On the topic of being honest when asked to participate in a Sacrament, I have my own story. I was baptised Catholic, therefore I am qualified, on paper at least, to be a godfather (or a Pope!)
My sister asked me to be Godfather to her baby boy many years back. I told her I was honoured that she would choose me, but reminded her of my position on religious matters. I told her "Godparents are supposed to provide religious guidance, and if asked, the only religious guidance I can provide in good conscience is to guide him away from religion!"
She accepted that, and I'm a godfather!