Hello, I have a question about soteriology. I'm an atheist dating a nice Catholic boy. We've been dating for a year and a half, so we're at the point where we're trying to talk about points of conflicts between our religious beliefs to discern whether we can find a way to make this work out in the long term.
The primary impediment is my boyfriend's interpretation of Catholic theology surrounding damnation. He believes that, if we were to one day marry and have children, those children would be pretty much automatically damned because they would have an awareness of Catholic teachings, but having an atheist for a mother would poison their faith. Regardless of whether they attended catechism class, my boyfriend believes any hypothetical children would be lost unless I pretended I was a Catholic and lied about my true beliefs.
Is this what the Catholic church asks of an atheist who ends up with a Catholic? I am uncomfortable engaging in a complex, long-term deception. I also wonder, if my boyfriend's interpretation of theology is correct, why the Catholic Church would ever sanction this kind of marriage under any circumstances.
I wonder if you could point us to any resources/teachings on this topic. It's hard for my boyfriend to get spiritual guidance on campus, since the priests are very liberal (well-nigh universalists) so he's not sure they think anyone is in danger of Hell.
Well, there's a year and a half down the drain.
There's no Catholic rule against a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic or an atheist. But any priest worth his salt will try to discourage such a union, or at the very least, make the Church's teachings very clear.
Children born to a Catholic parent must be raised as Catholics. No "we'll go to your church every other Sunday". And very, very certainly not, "you'll just pretend you believe as I do, Mom, and we'll fool the kids."
Ultimately, it is about the danger of Hell, but before that, it's also about what constitutes a Catholic marriage in the first place, which is this: the union of a man and a woman who are responsible for each other's salvation and the salvation of their children. This is not your boyfriend's "interpretation" of Catholic theology. That IS the teaching of the Catholic Church.
How are you going to handle not using birth control, by the way? The reason Catholics may not use birth control is that they are leaving themselves open to God's will. You don't believe in God. How's that going to work?
And how are your going to actually GET married? You would be lying during your vows if you do it in Church, as you are pledging your troth before God. Very silly for you. Surely, your Catholic boyfriend who fears for his and his children's salvation, will wish to be married by a priest performing the Sacrament of Matrimony.
I don't agree with your boyfriend that the children are automatically damned because of their atheist mother. He doesn't give himself much credit. Their faith will meet many challenges. But the idea that you'll have to lie to the children about your beliefs? Lying is a sin. He's asking you to sin. That's crazy. And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with helping out with your salvation, which is also his job as a spouse.
Marriage and raising a family is about trust. It can't be sitting on the eroding riverbank of lies.
The Catholic church would sanction the marriage, but only if you agree to raise the children as Catholics. The Church has sanctioned marriages between Catholics and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, etc. But the Church does warn against such unions, as the non-Catholic spouse must agree to raise the children as Catholics. I don't know how couples work that out, but they often do. For some, Episcopals ( or Catholic lite as we like to call it) say, it wouldn't be such a stretch. A Catholic with another Christian will at least agree on the teachings of Jesus, if not the veneration of Mary. and how much we love statues of saints. A Catholic with a Jewish spouse....well, Jesus was Jewish after all and we can agree on many of the things that God wants from us.
But a Catholic and an atheist? Good luck with that. You realize, of course, that Catholics don't believe in luck.