After the last post (on the difference between Lutheran and Catholic doctrines of absolution), in which I remarked that my daughter recently did her first confession with her Lutheran pastor, following preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation at her Catholic primary school, Eulogos left a significant comment which I thought I might address in a separate blog entry. Here are the comments and my replies:
This is a sensitive subject, I am sure, but if you had been a Catholic before you married someone not Catholic, you would have had to promise to do your best to raise your child as a Catholic. (in past days, the non Catholic spouse had to promise, which makes more sense to me, because just to ask the Catholic to promise to try might be an invitation to an ongoing battle…)
In fact, nothing has changed, and yes, I made the promise too at the time of my reception. But the promise for the Catholic party is and always has been to do everything their power to raise their children as Catholic Christians, and the non-Catholic spouse is asked (not required to promise or sign or anything) that they will not obstruct the Catholic partner’s resolve to do so. Now, given that my children were already baptised members of the Lutheran Church, I am not morally obliged to forcibly convert my children to the Catholic faith. To do so would be a gross violation of their religious freedom. So what do I see as my moral obligation to them?
1) to ensure that they are raised in the Christian faith in such a way that they will continue to be active Christians in their adult life
2) to ensure that they know, understand and love the Catholic Church and her teachings.
I remain quietly confident that there is a much greater chance of my children growing up to be faithful Catholics if I continue to support their full involvement in their Lutheran parish now. This is simply because the Lutherans have a much better track record (statistically proven in this country) of retaining their young people than the Catholic Church does. Put it down to the fact that Lutheran parishes do a much better job in catechising and including the young than Catholics do. By supporting my daughters’ inclusion in their initiation programs, I am (I believe) acting to strengthen her faith in the most effective way possible at this stage of her life.
I don’t know how it is with you and your wife and how she feels about this subject. But here is one case where it is clear that not being Catholic is depriving your child of something.
My oldest daughter did in fact ask at one point whether she could become Catholic, and I said to her that nothing would make me happier, but that for the moment it would be wiser if she continued in the life of her own parish. I am not “depriving” her, although I agree that all who are not in communion with the Catholic Church are “deprived”. Yet we each have our road to walk, and sometimes the best way of reaching a destination may not be the most direct one.
Because although I am sure God forgives whatever sins your child might have when she confesses to the Lutheran pastor, this is not sacramental confession to a priest.
Yes, I know that. But I encourage her to do it because:
1) It means she develops a practice is essential to the Christian life and which (I pray) she will continue if she becomes a Catholic when she is older (something few of her Catholic class mates are likely to do)
2) It integrates what she is learning about the Catholic faith at home and at school with her Lutheran parish life
3) It teaches her the value of repentance for specific sins and gives her the opportunity to hear a highly personalised proclamation of the gospel.
Yes, we can’t limit God, and I think He will be there in Anglican and Lutheran eucharists…and confessions, for those who expect him, (which is much more than many Catholics would say) but still, there isn’t that rock solid certainty about this that one can have as a Catholic in the sacraments. In a way I would say that in the sacraments God is there even more than we expect with graces that we didn’t even know how to ask for. As she gets older, how can you be content with less than that for your child?
Well, obviously I am not. But as with her practice of receiving holy communion (which she does in her Lutheran Parish), I am not about to tell her “Sorry darling, what you receive there is only bread and not Jesus’ body”. I want her to know and believe that in the Eucharist Christ is truly present. I am teaching her a Catholic Eucharistic faith, even if she is not receiving Catholic communion. Why? Because I believe this is the best way to strengthen her faith now and to prepare her for the greater reality which it is my prayer that she will come to know in the future.
I understand that an ongoing battle is worse for the child and if that is the only alternative I understand why you wouldn’t press the point.
It’s not a battle. Quite the contrary. There are difficulties, as in challenges, about integrating Catholic and Lutheran spirituality and prayer life, but this is not a battle, such that one or the other is a winner. If she grows up to be a faithful Lutheran and dies in that faith, well, thanks be to God! If she grows up to be a faithful Catholic and dies in that faith, even greater thanks! But the battle would only be lost if we allowed the evil one to find a chink in the armour of the Spirit by opposing Lutheran and Catholic faiths and playing them off one against the other.
Maybe you will get to that on the other blog. But the way you put it here it came across as something that wasn’t even an issue, which was startling. Maybe you discussed this at the earlier post you referred to, which I didn’t see. Please don’t take this the wrong way.
Well, you see now how we are handling it and why we are. Remember, I was the one who converted, and the best way I can “convert” my family is to be a good witness for the Catholic faith in what is, after all “the domestic Church” of the family. We may be divided at the altar of the Eucharistic table, but we are one at the table of prayer in our house (except for praying the Hail Mary, of course, which my wife doesn’t join in on!).