Thinking Out Loud

June 6, 2011

Son of Baptist Elder Feels Forced to Convert to Catholicism

I’ve long since given up reading advice columnists; in fact I now have some strong views as to why you should skip that part of the newspaper, or its vast online equivalent.  (It’s a serious “gateway drug” to other online diversions.) But each week, listeners to the Drew Marshall show get at least one shot at poking into the personal details of someone else’s life, and even get to write in or call in live to offer their two-cents’ worth of advice.  This one got debated on Saturday — the audio will be posted on Friday at this page* — and I sympathize with the young man who wrote in because I know this drama plays out on a regular basis…

“My fiancée and I are getting married soon and we’ve run into a bit of a problem. She’s from a Catholic family and her parents want her to be married in the Catholic Church. I am not a Catholic. As a matter of fact, I have a pretty hard time with a number of things the Catholic Church teaches, never mind the amount of respect I’ve lost for the way that church has handled the sex abuse scandals. I have no problem with her family, and my wife doesn’t want to make this a big deal for fear of hurting her parent’s feelings.

So we’ve decided to just go along with what they want in order to keep the peace, which means that I have to become Catholic. So I’m taking the courses with the family priest.

However, the further into this course I go, the more uncomfortable I am with basically “faking” becoming a Catholic. I’ve talked to my fiancée about my apprehension and she keeps telling me it’s no big deal and just to stick with it. She knows how much it would really mess up things with her family, let alone the wedding plans.

I feel unbelievably trapped. I’m basically pretending to believe something I don’t just to make my wife happy and it’s really messing with my head. Am making too big a deal out of this? I mean it’s not as though I’m changing religions, right? But knowing what I know about the Catholic Church, it sure feels like it!

Oh and here’s the other thing – even though my parents haven’t really said anything, I know they aren’t too impressed with me becoming Catholic either. My father is an elder in a Baptist church and this is putting him in a tough spot with his church. Any advice?”

So what advice would you offer him??

*You can listen to previous segments without waiting until Friday, the feature to look for is called “The Counsel of Many” and you’ll also find interviews with a number of well known Christian figures including authors, music artists and actors.  Here’s that link again! And here’s an article I did about Drew.


  1. Ouch. Hit close to home actually.

    Although I did not become a Catholic, I did allow my two infant sons to be baptized into the Catholic faith because my husbands devout Catholic parents were convinced (by their priest) that babies not held over that blessed font were doomed to hell. How could I do that to their grandsons!I justified it by telling myself that it meant nothing to me and everything to them. I was not required to mouth out the words that I would devote myself to rearing them in the tenants of the Catholic church, but I am certain that this was implicit in the action. So did I lie? Well,yes. Was I uncomfortable? Oh yes. Was it wrong? Of course. Would I , 13 years later, do it again? I want to say No. But with that “no” would come heartache for his parents, whom I love dearly and with whom I have forged a loving relationship. His mother invites me to her Catholic “small group” whenever we are visiting and I have been able to teach them the beauty of reading the Word, the grace that allows us personal relationship with Christ, and the intimacy of prayer.

    But back to the point of this post,this young man is going a step further than I was asked to go,yet it forces me to answer the question for myself. Looking back on the angst of having married a man raised in Catholicism (and not really in relationship with Christ), and as much as I love him with all my heart, if I were to turn back time, I would have let the relationship go and sought out a “man after God’s own heart”.The man in this story is also courting many future compromises. “Unequally yoked” has consequences that God can see but we, in the flush of love, are blinded to.

    BTW I totally agree with you concerning advice columns. The only advice column I am interested in lies between the two leather pages of my Bible and the conduit I find on my knees and in fellowship with my fellow Christ followers.

    Comment by Cynthia — June 6, 2011 @ 8:16 am

  2. The prior generation is trying to live out their convictions though the lives of their children.

    The young man has not said what he wants, in his own true heart.

    What would give him a clean conscience?

    Comment by Brian — June 6, 2011 @ 9:30 am

  3. Under the umbrella of Catholicism there are as many beliefs as there are within the whole of non-catholic christians. I wouldn’t worry. There’s room under the Catholic tent for you. Get past the paranoid feelings and jump into the Catholic circle. Remember at one time all protestants were Catholic. You have far more in common than you think. Skip the minor matters of doctrine and get on with your life.

    Comment by Taylor Samuel Lyen — June 12, 2011 @ 4:44 am

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