Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Catholic-Bahai marriage

The question was asked


“I am a catholic, wanting to marry a bahai, can that happen without either of us converting?
We are worried about problems occurring later in life if we decide to get married. Is there any way that we could marry each other and neither of us have to convert?”

On the Catholic side, talk to your priest. I that doesn’t work, talk to a different one! Seriously, there are some points about raising children that you need to work out between you – but when a child is born, things may work out differently. You can tell each other where you stand now, but a child changes you, and both. What seems a big deal now may not loom so large compared to an actual baby with his/her own personality, in your arms.

On the Bahai side, you don’t need to convert. You will need to have a Bahai ceremony on the same day as the Catholic and/or civil ceremony, and you will need permission from all living parents. The background to this is in Islamic law, where a woman marrying for the first time (or in some schools of law, at any time) is required to have permission from her father or grandfather. Baha’u’llah turned this upside down rather than abolishing it: he gave the mother the same status as the father, and said the groom needs permission too! In other words, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Apart from making a dramatic point about the equality of men and women, the Bahai law is also designed to preserve unity between the families and therefore increase the chance that the marriage will survive. It gives the in-laws no excuse to grumble after the fact.

And that raises another issue: maybe the first people you should talk to are your families. If they start out by hating the idea and work against it all the way, that will be another strain on the marriage.

Don’t be too frightened by the number of Catholic mixed marriages that fail; the relevant statistic would be the proportion of Catholic-Bahai marriages that succeed.

Have a look at “Romeo and Juliet” on my blog at
http://tinyurl.com/interfaithRomeo
It was written for a Bahai wanting to marry a Christian. If you think she would like it, show it to her.

~~ Sen

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11 Responses to “Catholic-Bahai marriage”

  1. Sen, the problem is that the bahá’í father or mother “should” educate his/her children in the bahá’í faith. The parents have the “responsability” before God. So I guess the couple should talk and decide about the religious education of their future children before marriage.
    One problem I see is cultural celebrations such as Christmas and other religious duties as baptism, first communion and so on.

  2. Sen said

    I do not think that the Bahai partner is obliged to educate his/her children only in the Bahai faith, but certainly this should be discussed. There is no prohibition on individual Bahais celebrating Christmas and Easter etc.., it is only said that these should not be part of the community calendar.

  3. Hasan Elías said

    Sen, this is on Lights of Guidance compilation:

    1297. Two Essential Obligations Regarding Education of Children

    “In all cases of marriage of Bahá’ís to followers of other religions the Bahá’í has two essential obligations as regards the children:

    a. He must not educate or assume a vow to educate the children of the marriage in a religion other than his own.

    b. He must do whatever he can to provide for the training of the children in the Bahá’í teachings.

    “…Bearing in mind the obligation of the Bahá’í parent to offer his child a Bahá’í education, there is no objection to the attendance of the child of a Bahá’í parent, or even a Bahá’í child, at a parochial school if circumstances require.”

    (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, May 10, 1966)

    Also this:

    470. A Bahá’í Cannot Take Vow to Educate Adopted Child in Another Religion

    “A Bahá’í may not undertake a vow which commits him to any action contrary to the principles of the Faith. In other words, Mrs. … cannot agree to rear a child in the Catholic Faith.

    “Furthermore, if it is necessary to go through the Catholic marriage ceremony for the sake of the adoption, Mrs. … must make it clear to the church authorities that she is a Bahá’í, intends to remain a Bahá’í, and that she cannot undertake any vow which is contrary to the laws and principles of her Faith.”

    (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, November 26, 1964)

    475. A Bahá’í May Become Godparent of a Non-Bahá’í Child if Conditions Are Clear

    “You ask whether a Bahá’í may ‘become the godparent of the child of a non-Bahá’í if he made it clear that he is a Bahá’í, cannot promise to bring up the child in the Catholic religion, is not affiliated with the Church…’. He may do so, for in such a case all concerned are informed of his beliefs. If called for, an agreement may be drawn up, through the Local Assembly or a lawyer, which would define the social elements of the co-parental relationship while omitting the religious ones.”

    (Ibid.)

    771. Father Who Fails to Educate His Children Forfeits Rights of Fatherhood

    “These are all relationships within the family, but there is a much wider sphere of relationships between men and women than in the home, and this too we should consider in the context of Bahá’í society, not in that of past or present social norms. For example, although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children, and this responsibility is so weighty that Bahá’u’lláh has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood….”

    (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of New Zealand, December 28, 1980)

  4. desir0101 said

    Hi,
    Love know no barriers, creeds, races, religions, obstacles.
    Love is universally impregnated in everything.
    But human has put a label on it with the complicity of religion.
    Each partner will have a different culture, religious practice and belief.
    Communication itself will be out of phase.
    At time the child will learn contradictory version from each parent.
    Which one is the Truth?.
    One will consider his faith more trustworthy than the partner.
    Love and Faith in God have no color but we have put one on them with the help of religion.
    Some have succeeded but most have failed.

    Good Luck.

  5. Sen said

    True: but true love involves respect for the other as someone different; infatuation is merely fascination with a projection. If there is true love, one loves these differences, including different understandings of truth and different cultures and traditions.

  6. desir0101 said

    You are right Sen.

    When we are talking about love between a man and a woman and about to marry things is different.
    Surely something have struck the person, either his/her manner, beauty or any things that have sparked that love in the person that will cause that love to flourish.

    But I feel this is egocentric love.
    Because the subject was attracted and fall in love with the things in his/her partner that suit his/her requirement, feelings etc.
    When I love something or someone to suit my person then that is not true love.
    And it is that kind of love that exist among couple.

    BYE.

  7. This is a nice post on irreligious marriage. When a Baha’i marries a non-Baha’i, two religious ceremonies and a civil ceremony (in countries where religious ceremonies don’t have civil legal power to grant marriage licensees unlike the United States where they do, examples would include places like Europe) are involved.

    The article does assume that the inter religious marriages are traditional heterosexual marriages. What about same sex marriages between Baha’is and non Baha’is or even between two Baha’is for that matter? Let’s say a gay or bi Baha’i falls in love with and marries a gay or bi Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Unitarian, Eckist, Raelian, or whatever else religion who either in whole or in part via some denominations would perform marriages for same sex couples. It’s leads to a potential paradox given that all Baha’is are required to have Baha’i marriages or else have their administrative rights revoked and the fact that Baha’i marriage are only for heterosexual traditional couples. They can have both the civil ceremony and the other religious ceremony. The issue of conversion may invetibably happen even if it isn’t required as LGBT people tend to gravitate towards affirming religions like Paganism, Unitarian Universalism, Eckankar, Raelism, and affirming denominations within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. There are LGBT people who stay in their non affirming religions because they feel attached to it, but statistically LGBT people gravitate to the affirming religions listed and affirming groups within five of the biggest world religions.

    I know LGBT Baha’is are supposed to be celibate in theory, but there are lots of stories online about same sex marriages and administrative rights revocations as well.

  8. Sen said

    This is an undeveloped corner of Bahai community practice Stephen. There are individual cases of acceptance of same-sex couples, and rather more cases of Bahais in same-sex marriages losing their administrative rights in the Bahai community. But the policy seems to lean rather towards avoiding the problem by not allowing gays to enroll in the first place. In 1999 the UHJ wrote:

    … if persons involved in homosexual relationships express an interest in the Faith, they should not be instructed by Baha’i institutions to separate …. The Baha’i position should be patiently explained to such persons, who should also be given to understand that although in their hearts they may accept Baha’u’llah, they cannot join the Baha’i community in the current condition of their relationship. They will then be free to draw their own conclusions and act accordingly. Within this context, the question you pose about the possibility of the removal of administrative rights should, therefore, not arise.
    (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual 5 March 1999)

    On the one hand, this looks negative in so far as it is saying that people in homosexual relationships should not be enrolled. However it does not refer to homosexual marriages, only to relationships, and it is impossible to say how heavily the two factors of ‘homosexual’ and ‘outside marriage’ may have weighed for the UHJ, in formulating this policy. As more and more countries recognize same-sex marriages, the policy will have to be revisited to address such situations.

  9. Hi Sen,

    Do you know if this policy (gays cannot join the Baha’i community) is actually practiced? In my country it is not, so far I know.

  10. Sen said

    I do not know if that policy is even widely known. The letter is written to an individual, but that is not to say that it has no wider currency, since Counsellors and ABMs keep files of such letters and can share them if they think it appropriate (or quietly file them in the round bin if they think the letter is inappropriate to their local setting). So I really do not know whether NSAs and LSAs and ABMs and their assistants know about this, or not.

  11. Craig said

    The Catholic Church has become remarkably open-minded about mixed marriages in recent decades. I have a high school Baha’i friend, now an ABM, who (eventually) married his Catholic sweetheart. Her parents were aghast that their daughter wanted to marry a heathen. Both her priest and bishop had to quote papal statements in support of mixed marriages and the importance of interreligious dialogue and do some pretty hard talking to get especially the mother to come around.

    25+ years on, this is a wonderful marriage with now young adult children who have grown up to respect both traditions and who are true world citizens. I wish all marriages could be so successful and loving.

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