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Marriage to a Catholic?

dcointin

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I am in a serious relationship with a Catholic girl that is headed toward engagement.  We began to research our church's marriage regulations, and found that Orthodoxy requires its member to marry in an Orthodox wedding.  I asked my priest about this, who is Antiochian, and he confirmed this.  I asked what the penalty would be if I were to marry in a Catholic wedding, or if we were to be married in both, and he said it would be excommunication for at least several years, with the possibility of readmittance by confession.  My girlfriend's uncle is a Catholic priest, who baptized and confirmed her, and whom she would like to marry her as well.  I find it very difficult to insist to her that she forego the wedding plans she has had since she was a child and be married in a ceremony that is completely foreign to her.  She is more than willing to be married in both an Orthodox and a Catholic wedding however, just not only an Orthodox one.  There is also a rule that the Best Man and Maid of Honor must be Orthodox, which neither of ours would be if we made our natural choice.  I'm having a very hard time coming to grips with these rules, and would appreciate some advice on how to handle it.  I don't understand why the Church insists on an Orthodox wedding or would penalize me so heavily for indulging her desire in this matter.  There is no danger that I would appear to be agreeing with Catholic dogma by my participation, as there would be for example in the Eucharist.  Thank you for your help,

Don
 

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dcointin said:
I am in a serious relationship with a Catholic girl that is headed toward engagement.  We began to research our church's marriage regulations, and found that Orthodoxy requires its member to marry in an Orthodox wedding.  I asked my priest about this, who is Antiochian, and he confirmed this.  I asked what the penalty would be if I were to marry in a Catholic wedding, or if we were to be married in both, and he said it would be excommunication for at least several years, with the possibility of readmittance by confession.  My girlfriend's uncle is a Catholic priest, who baptized and confirmed her, and whom she would like to marry her as well.  I find it very difficult to insist to her that she forego the wedding plans she has had since she was a child and be married in a ceremony that is completely foreign to her.  She is more than willing to be married in both an Orthodox and a Catholic wedding however, just not only an Orthodox one.  There is also a rule that the Best Man and Maid of Honor must be Orthodox, which neither of ours would be if we made our natural choice.  I'm having a very hard time coming to grips with these rules, and would appreciate some advice on how to handle it.  I don't understand why the Church insists on an Orthodox wedding or would penalize me so heavily for indulging her desire in this matter.  There is no danger that I would appear to be agreeing with Catholic dogma by my participation, as there would be for example in the Eucharist.  Thank you for your help,

Don
I think it's possible to get married in both, since your potential spouse is baptized in the name of the Trinity.

The Orthodox wedding should precede the RC wedding (or you don't cohabitate or begin marital relations until after the Orthodox wedding has been completed, since the RC wedding has no sacramental import in the Church), and the Orthodox party never communes in the RC church. 

However, the RC spouse must agree to raise all of the children in the Orthodox Church and only the Orthodox Church.  This is not negotiable.

As for the "best man" and "maid of honor" rules, these are because in an Orthodox wedding, these people are like the godparents of your marriage.
 

LBK

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Check this with your priest, of course, but I know several couples where one is Orthodox and one is RC. In all of them, the RC spouse had a "blessing" at their church shortly before the Orthodox wedding. I am unsure as to whether this blessing occurs on the day of the Orthodox wedding but prior to it, or whether the Orthodox spouse is also present for it. Having never attended an RC blessing myself, I can't comment on the form it takes.

The problem for the Orthodox spouse with having a "full" RC wedding ceremony, even if it is held before the Orthodox one, is that, like most RC sacramental services (including funerals), Eucharist is served, taken first by the bride and groom, then by the rest of the congregation. It is also the norm as part of preparation for an Orthodox wedding, for the Orthodox spouse(s) to have confession and communion before the wedding, anywhere from the preceding Sunday, or up to the wedding day itself. The difficulties this poses should be obvious.

Re best man and maid of honor: If the Antiochian custom is like the Greek, in that the best man stands next to the couple as a witness, and performs the exchange of the crowns/wreaths on the couple's heads, and accompanies them during the "Dance for joy, O Isaiah", then he should indeed be Orthodox, as he is an active participant in the service. On the other hand, I've not come across the insistence that the maid/matron of honor be also Orthodox, probably because she is there essentially as an attendant to the bride, and plays no active part in the ceremony itself.
 

LBK

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Orual said:
As for the "best man" and "maid of honor" rules, these are because in an Orthodox wedding, these people are like the godparents of your marriage.
It is indeed a pious custom in some Orthodox cultures that the best man and maid/matron of honor become the Godparents of the couple's first child, but to equate them as "like Godparents of the marriage" is not true. Unlike the Orthodox baptism service, where the Godparent(s) are mentioned by name and specifically prayed for in the course of the ceremony, no such mention is made for the best man or maid/matron of honor. This distinction is significant.
 

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LBK said:
Check this with your priest, of course, but I know several couples where one is Orthodox and one is RC. In all of them, the RC spouse had a "blessing" at their church shortly before the Orthodox wedding. I am unsure as to whether this blessing occurs on the day of the Orthodox wedding but prior to it, or whether the Orthodox spouse is also present for it. Having never attended an RC blessing myself, I can't comment on the form it takes.

The problem for the Orthodox spouse with having a "full" RC wedding ceremony, even if it is held before the Orthodox one, is that, like most RC sacramental services (including funerals), Eucharist is served, taken first by the bride and groom, then by the rest of the congregation.
The RC church has a wedding rite that does not include mass, intended for couples in which one party is not RC.  The nuptial mass is usually only for couples where both are RC.  On the rare occasion that it is done for a mixed couple, the non-RC party doesn't receive their communion.
 

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LBK said:
Orual said:
As for the "best man" and "maid of honor" rules, these are because in an Orthodox wedding, these people are like the godparents of your marriage.
It is indeed a pious custom in some Orthodox cultures that the best man and maid/matron of honor become the Godparents of the couple's first child, but to equate them as "like Godparents of the marriage" is not true. Unlike the Orthodox baptism service, where the Godparent(s) are mentioned by name and specifically prayed for in the course of the ceremony, no such mention is made for the best man or maid/matron of honor. This distinction is significant.
Hence the presence of the qualifier "like", not only the verb "are".  There's a distinction.
 

genesisone

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LBK said:
The problem for the Orthodox spouse with having a "full" RC wedding ceremony, even if it is held before the Orthodox one, is that, like most RC sacramental services (including funerals), Eucharist is served, taken first by the bride and groom, then by the rest of the congregation.
This is not the case. My son (Protestant) was married to his RC bride in an RC wedding service last November. There was no communion for anyone. My son explained to me that they were told that there are two forms of wedding services. When one spouse is not RC (with no intention to convert) the simpler service without the Eucharist is done.

Of course, that could be a local situation, under direction of the local bishop.

The wedding took place in Niagara Falls, NY (RC Diocese of Buffalo).

Also, he was not required to promise to raise any children - yes, we're hoping for more grandchildren  :) - all that came up in the wedding service was the question: "Do you promise to raise your children according to the laws of Christ and His church?" Admittedly open to interpretation.

Oh - just about to post when I see the same thing has already been mentioned - anyway I'll let this stand as a specific example.
 

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Orual said:
However, the RC spouse must agree to raise all of the children in the Orthodox Church and only the Orthodox Church.  This is not negotiable.
Doesn't the RCC have the same rule?
 

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wynd said:
Orual said:
However, the RC spouse must agree to raise all of the children in the Orthodox Church and only the Orthodox Church.  This is not negotiable.
Doesn't the RCC have the same rule?
Yeah, although they may be willing to tolerate the kids being raised Orthodox, since the Orthodox have "valid sacraments" in their reckoning.
 

theistgal

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Yes, it does. But even if it doesn't, you and your fiancee should sit down and seriously discuss issues like this - which church to raise children in, etc. - BEFORE you get married. 
 

dcointin

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Thank you all for your responses  :)

My problem is that I don't know how to make her happy with the wedding she wants, *and* satisfy the rule of my church.  I feel like I'm stuck between two things, and if I chose one I could lose the other.  Is there any possibility of an accomodation on this issue, or is that entirely up to my bishop and priest?
 

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dcointin said:
Thank you all for your responses  :)

My problem is that I don't know how to make her happy with the wedding she wants, *and* satisfy the rule of my church.  I feel like I'm stuck between two things, and if I chose one I could lose the other.  Is there any possibility of an accomodation on this issue, or is that entirely up to my bishop and priest?
What about the wedding you want?  Weddings are not about the bride, and certainly not about her childhood dreams.  They are about both of you starting your lives together as a married couple.  If she's truly the marryin' kind, she will not force you to excommunicate yourself from the Orthodox Church.  There is no way that you can have only an RC wedding and hope to remain in good standing with the Orthodox Church.  

Surely if you are willing to have a service in the RC church, she could consent to have a service in the Orthodox Church.  Orthodox weddings do not allow for "interfaith" participation, but the weddings can even be scheduled for the same day to save on costs.  Many couples have one wedding ceremony in one church, then everyone follows them to the next ceremony in the other church, and finally the reception at the end.  

You will need your bishop's permission to participate in the RC wedding (and don't commune, of course), but this sort of thing happens all the time.
 

theistgal

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May I suggest you both speak to the priests at your respective churches (both the EO and the RC) and find out exactly what each of them says your options are? Better yet, if possible try to arrange for both of you to talk with both priests together? Because really, no matter what anyone here might tell you to do, we're not the ones with any authority - they are!
 

katherineofdixie

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dcointin said:
My problem is that I don't know how to make her happy with the wedding she wants, *and* satisfy the rule of my church.  I feel like I'm stuck between two things, and if I chose one I could lose the other. 
IMHO, this might just be where you find yourself for the rest of your married life, unless you and your fiancee sit down and discuss it, and come to some sort of understanding.

These differences are going to keep coming up.
 
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katherineofdixie said:
dcointin said:
My problem is that I don't know how to make her happy with the wedding she wants, *and* satisfy the rule of my church.  I feel like I'm stuck between two things, and if I chose one I could lose the other. 
IMHO, this might just be where you find yourself for the rest of your married life, unless you and your fiancee sit down and discuss it, and come to some sort of understanding.

These differences are going to keep coming up.
Agreed.
Based on my personal experiences, FWIW, don't compromise your religious beliefs for your wedding.  You'll regret it later.  Your views of how important your faith are to you may be skewed by that euphoria of being in love right now.  There will be times where you'll need to rely on your faith and won't be able to rely on your wife.
  It may seem like these are annoying "rules" but they're there for a reason and especially important for those getting married.

I agree with the previous post that it's not all about her... but making her happy is important too  ;)
Seriously though, you shouldn't compromise your religious integrity...
If neither of you is really into your faith right now, there may be time in the future where one of you gets interested in your respective religions and some polemics fly.  You don't want to get caught up later in thinking "I compromised my values"...
 

Thomas

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I have seen a couple who were married in the Roman Catholic Church one day and returned to the home of their parents and the next day had a full Orthodox wedding . As I understand it, the Orthodox Wedding is viewed as just that the sacramental wedding. technically, the Orthodox spouse is excommunicated (unable to take communion) until the orthodox spouse regularizes the marriage by having a crowning service or an Orthodox blessing of the marriage. The marriage was consumated after the Orthodx wedding.

If one has an Orthodox wedding and then has a Roman Catholic Wedding, it could be surmised by the guests that the Orthodox Wedding was not seen as sacramental and thus should be avoided.

Thomas
 

katherineofdixie

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Dave in McKinney said:
Based on my personal experiences, FWIW, don't compromise your religious beliefs for your wedding.  You'll regret it later.  Your views of how important your faith are to you may be skewed by that euphoria of being in love right now.  There will be times where you'll need to rely on your faith and won't be able to rely on your wife.
...Seriously though, you shouldn't compromise your religious integrity...
If neither of you is really into your faith right now, there may be time in the future where one of you gets interested in your respective religions and some polemics fly.  You don't want to get caught up later in thinking "I compromised my values"...
I've seen it happen often. When people get married, their faith is not really that important to them, and a serious discussion about beliefs, faith, values and expectations just gets brushed aside with the idea that "love will find a way." Then as they get older, life happens, children come along, and suddenly or gradually, what didn't seem that important, becomes extremely important.
Often of course, love can find a way, but not without difficulty or compromise. And sometimes, there is just too much conflict or compromise for either party to accept.
 

dcointin

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I may have not been clear: she is more than willing to have *both* weddings, she just objects to having *only* an Orthodox wedding.  My priest told me that I would not be able to participate in a Catholic wedding, period, and if I did I would be excommunicated.
 

Alveus Lacuna

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dcointin said:
My priest told me that I would not be able to participate in a Catholic wedding, period, and if I did I would be excommunicated.
You priest sounds pretty awesome.
 

Shanghaiski

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Are you and your fiancee going through pre-marital counseling with your priest?  It may help things of she is able to talk with your priest about her concerns herself. Is she also aware that your future children will need to be raised in the Orthodox Church? This will need to be discussed between you as well for she might want her uncle to be involved in baptisms, etc.

Hopefully, it is not too late for you to work things out with prayer and humility. That the Church allows you to marry someone who is not Orthodox is a concession of economia. She does not put these rules in place to exercise blind authority, but out of love for her communicants because marriage is a sacrament that establishes a kind of domestic church involving you, your wife, any future children, and, most importantly Jesus Christ.

I know this will probably appear to sound harsh, but the Lord Himself says this. If, at baptism, we make vows to be ready always to suffer and die for the love of Christ, we must also be ready to leave whatever or whoever is near and dear to us for His sake--be it our parents, families, lands, position, or love of our life. I pray it never comes to this, but one needs to be prepared.

The non-Orthodox spouse of an Orthodox Christian should be as much as possible on the same page and have deference to the Orthodox Church and her teaching and praxis. If there is fighting, friction, misunderstanding, etc., this could pose a huge problem.

I'm not sure how much time you have allowed yourselves before the wedding, but I would encourage you not to rush into anything. Perhaps you did not think to investigate the requirements of the Orthodox Church regarding marriage until you had already come to  an understanding towards marriage with your fiancee. This is understandable. But, in my opinion, it would be better to delay the wedding until you are both comfortable and dedicated to the same purpose, than for her to go along with just an Orthodox wedding grudgingly, or for you to excommunicate yourself. Something as important as marriage is worth the time spent in proper preparation.

God be with you and give you wisdom!
 

pensateomnia

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dcointin said:
I may have not been clear: she is more than willing to have *both* weddings, she just objects to having *only* an Orthodox wedding.  My priest told me that I would not be able to participate in a Catholic wedding, period, and if I did I would be excommunicated.
Even if you were to have a Catholic wedding (with no Eucharist), followed immediately by an Orthodox wedding? Did you specifically discuss that option?

According to the Guidelines for Orthodox Christians in Ecumenical Relationships, published by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, "In the event of a mixed marriage, double performances in both the Orthodox Church and some other Church are not to be encouraged, except when it is required by the necessity of regularizing the proper canonical standing of the Orthodox spouse."

So, such an arrangement is theoretically possible, if you have the approval of your Bishop. However, not every Bishop will allow that to happen, and, in many cases, it's not encouraged because it's important for you and your future spouse to make a decision about the religious convictions of your future household. Research from all sorts of social scientists shows that "mixed" marriages (where the couple does not share the same faith) have an increased risk of divorce.

For some resources on preparing for marriage (especially "interfaith" marriage), see http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/marriage/interfaith
 

dcointin

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I did, yes.  He said that he would email the bishop regarding the matter, and he responded to him with a document called "An Agreed Statement On Mixed Marriage."  The document states:

"According to the view of the Orthodox Church the marriage of an Orthodox can only be performed by an Orthodox priest as the minister of the sacrament. In the view of the Catholic Church the contracting partners are the ministers of the sacrament, and the required presence of a Catholic major cleric as witness of the Church can be dispensed with for weighty reasons. In view of this, we recommend that the Catholic Church, as a normative practice, allow the Catholic party of a proposed marriage with an Orthodox to be married with the Orthodox priest officiating. This procedure should, however, take place only after consultation by the partners with both pastors" [bold mine].

He said that he would also call the bishop and speak with him about it, specifically about the idea of two marriages, one Orthodox and one Catholic, but I haven't heard a response yet.
 
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