Q. I am a lifelong Catholic. My wife was raised Lutheran and converted to the Catholic faith after we were married 35 years ago. We raised our four kids in the Catholic Church.
Our daughter, who is 24, joined a Protestant church about a year ago. She met a young man at church, and they recently became engaged. It breaks my heart that she will not be married in the Catholic Church. (I voiced my concerns to her before they became engaged.) My wife is more understanding, since she was raised a Lutheran.
I have to admit that my daughter and her fiance are very involved in their church — in fact, they lead Bible studies. They made the decision not to live together before being married because of their deep moral convictions.
I grew up during the era when we were taught that the Catholic Church was the only church. So I toss and turn at night and struggle every day with how to show my daughter love and support as she plans her wedding, even though I am hurting inside. I don’t want to damage our relationship nor do anything that would spoil her big day. Any advice would be appreciated. (St. Paul, Minn.)
A. Like you, I believe that the Catholic Church is the true church, that for all its human faults it is — among the Christian religions — the closest approximation to what Jesus came to establish and thus (especially because of the sacraments) the most effective way to salvation.
Daily I thank God that I am a Catholic. Like you, I would be deeply saddened if I had a daughter and she decided to leave the embrace of the Catholic Church.
At the same time, the church acknowledges that there are elements of sanctification and of truth in other religions, including non-Christian ones. That is to say, it is possible that people can reach heaven without being Catholic.
Referencing the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out in No. 819 that the word of God and the life of grace can be found in other religions and that “Christ’s Spirit uses these churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation.”
I would forego, certainly, for now, any attempt to talk your daughter out of her religious choice. You’ve made your feelings known. She is an adult and has made her decision.
If I were you I would be comforted, even excited, by the fact that she is actively putting her faith to work and that she is living out her moral convictions. I am confident that she is on the path to heaven, so you can peacefully leave the rest in God’s hands and sleep soundly while you continue to show your daughter the love and respect for her that you clearly feel.
Q. I have been encouraging my sister, a lapsed Catholic, to start going to Mass again, especially now that she has a young son. Recently she moved and attended a new church close to her home in northern Kentucky. But the priest’s sermon, she said, was all about the negative qualities of Islam, with a bit of anti-Mormonism thrown in at the end.
She said that his hateful words caused her to question her Catholic identity further. While we discussed the possibility of her trying a different parish, I’m afraid this will stand as another setback. Her husband is not a Catholic and doesn’t understand. What can I say to encourage her that the Catholic Church as a whole is not anti-Islamic? (St. Louis, Mo.)
A. The Second Vatican Council in 1965 said this in “Nostra Aetate,” No. 3: “The church has also a high regard for the Muslims. … They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God. … Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, his Virgin Mother they also honor. … They highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.”
Fast-forward nearly 50 years and hear Pope Francis in his first apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.” In No. 253, we read that “our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.”
Tell your sister that you would give the nod to the council and to the pope over a priest from northern Kentucky and continue to suggest that she try a different parish.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.