During my formative childhood years, as a conservative Protestant evangelical, I was taught that a Catholic-Protestant marriage was actually an “interfaith” wedding and thus it should never happen. I was taught that both sides would compromise their faith in such an arrangement and the results would almost never be good. On our side, we simply did not see Catholics as Christians so this was an “unequal yoke” in our circles. (Pre-Vatican II many Catholics did not see us as Christians either! We were outside the church, thus outside salvation.)
My mother once dated a Catholic boy (she was a Baptist) for a short time. She regularly told her sons why she could never marry him, thus they broke up in due time. She sometimes reminded me, “You could have had a Catholic father.” This was meant to make me thankful that I had been spared the terrible fate of having a Catholic father since this would have confused and harmed me spiritually. (I wasn’t sure what to make of my Episcopal neighbor but I was assured he was at least a Protestant!)
Well, I am very thankful I had the father I did. He was a good and godly man. And marriages, at least in those days, between Catholics and Protestants were often marriages with profound difficulties. These marriages often resulted in a compromised family faith at best, or even no faith at all. And my father’s deep love for Christ, and simple humble devotion, gained from his grandmother’s rather stern Methodist life and faith, were all very important to my life. I am also grateful that I had a pious Baptist mother as well, a mother who taught me the Bible powerfully. Through these two parents God showed me the love of Christ as a small child and I came to understand the importance of repentance and faith at a very early stage of life. My foundation in piety was rich and real.
But what about today? Should Catholics and Protestants ever marry? Does such a wedding constitute an “interfaith” marriage, as we called it in my childhood? My friend Andrew Sandlin recently officiated such a wedding and wrote a great blog about it this week. His nuanced and helpful answer is one that I urge you to read at http://www/andrewsandlin.net/?p=199
I believe Andrew has stated this question correctly and answered it with real pastoral care. In some ways, your response to Andrew’s comments will tell you just how open you really are to confessing Christian faith in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” One could say that this question poses the ultimate sectarian test. Read it and see how you respond. Pass or fail?