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Question
Hello Reverend David,

So a Catholic can marry a Lutheran in the Lutheran church without dispensation. But I thought dispensation was needed in order for the marriage to be recognized by the Catholic church? That's what I meant about being looked down upon. I don't want the Catholic church to think of him as not truly married or something.

I think his question about a political agenda was more hypothetical than anything. I have no doubt that he fully believes in the Bible. He's not the type to believe in conspiracy theories, so I honestly have no worries about that. I explained to him that the Old Testament was compiled and agreed upon by the Jews, and Jesus Himself taught from the Old Testament, so we know for sure that part is reliable. And as for the New Testament, it has been studied by scholars from every Christian denomination since the Catholic church decided on it, and there has never been any dispute. He does not think the Bible itself is corrupt, but rather he thinks that Rome is corrupt. I think you and I might agree that history shows it to be corrupt at least politically, if not spiritually

Speaking of the early church, what are your views on allegations that the Catholic church was infiltrated by paganism when Constantine Christianized his empire? I don't have much of an opinion in that way. But I do wonder what you think.

Is it true that a Catholic couple is not truly married if they remain celibate? That is what I was told. If Mary and Joseph could do it, and it was a good thing, why aren't other people allowed to? I think sexuality is more than just a small part of who we are, though. It is the basis of life.

Thank you again for your respect.

God bless,
Rachel

Answer
Without a dispensation your marriage would not be recognized by the Catholic Church. Your spouse can receive a dispensation easily but he must promise to raise his children Catholic.  This means the children must be Baptized and Confirmed Catholic taken to Mass, and take their CCD classes. They could not be Baptized or Confirmed in the Lutheran Church, but they could attend whenever they wanted and even be involved. Again, they would be Catholics who attend Lutheran Church, not Lutherans who attend Catholic Church.

You said your spouse is willing to do this, but you do not feel comfortable with this because your spouse does not believe many Catholic doctrines.  Also you said you find it rather hypocritical to send your children to CCD to learn about doctrines neither of you believes.  I told you I agree with you on this point, and I suggested that this is a conversation you and your spouse need to have.  When having children you are passing on the Faith to them.  In this case neither of you really believes the Catholic Faith.  Thus, it is difficult to pass on something you don't have.  You cannot give what you do not have.  You do have the Christian Faith, and you know Christ.  You can and will pass that on to your children, but neither of you has the Catholic Faith.  Your spouse is Catholic, but not in a meaningful way.  

I think your spouse needs to truly think about what he believes, and whether or not Catholicism is even something he wants to continue in given his beliefs.  Receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Faith is a very serious thing.  It is not to be taken lightly.  

Why does he want to raise his children in a religion where he rejects many of the things that make that religion that religion?  Why does he want to receive a Sacrament in a religion where he rejects many of the things that make that religion that religion.  Your spouse being Catholic and rejecting the teachings on Mary, the saints, the pope, etc, is like me being Lutheran and believing that I am saved through my Faith and my works, or being Lutheran and believing in Transubstantiation.  Being Lutheran and believing in those things is an oxymoron.  Being Catholic and rejecting the teachings on Mary, the saints, etc is likewise an oxymoron.  

Rome is most certainly corrupt, as is the rest of the Church----but so is the Lutheran Church and every other Christian sect.  One does not judge the merits of a religion by the leaders or that religion, or by the adherents, but by the founder. The holiness of the Church is based on Jesus, not her members.  Likewise the purity of the teaching from the pope and bishops is based on the authority of Jesus, not themselves.  In short: God can and does work through a corrupt people to ensure the Faith is passed on through the ages in its entirety and purity.  That a corrupt Church comprised the Bible is simply a testament to the glory of God.  Our sin is not greater than the power of God.

The notion that the Church was infiltrated by paganism when Constantine "Christianized" the empire is an old charge made by Protestant fundamentalists who do not know Church history, nor do they understand they role that culture plays in the Catholic Faith. The Church is a light to all nations.  Those things in culture whether pagan or otherwise that the Church can adapt to Christian piety the Church will, filtering out those things which are not comparable with her Faith.

The other thing I think you have to consider is that if the idea of similarity between some Catholic practices and Pagan practices is an argument against Catholicism, then the similarities between Christianity itself and pagan religions is an argument against Christianity.  You think the idea of a God taking on human form, dying and rising again is unique to Christianity? You think the creation accounts in Genesis are unique to Christianity?  You think the Flood story is unique?  You think the idea of Baptism, or the idea that we have to eat the body and blood of a deity to have his life is unique to Christianity?

Again, the role of the Church is to be a light to the nations.  This means adapt from culture what can be adapted and enlighten it with God's Truth.  Reject what the Light of God's Truth says is not compatible.  

If a Catholic couple marries but remains celibate they ARE truly married.  The marriage however because it has not been consummated can be dissolved.  A marriage that has been consummated cannot be dissolved.  Mary and Joseph were therefore truly married.  Sex does not create a marriage, it EXPRESSES the reality.  Do not confuse the MANIFESTATION of a reality with the reality itself.  Sex does not create marriage, marriage creates sex.  Marriage can exist without sex, but sex cannot exist without marriage.  #It can exist---but as a depravity because it is sinful.#  

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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