“Is religion important in relationships?” When I am interviewed and get asked this question, usually on a Catholic program, I initially say that yes, religion is very important. I say this because in a lot of ways, it is, and frankly, I could get heckled if the audience is full of Catholics and I don’t enter the discussion with this answer up front. It is expected and in some scenes, demanded.
There is truth and simple logic in the answer. It’s much easier to arrange a wedding with someone who shares your faith. It’s also much easier to baptize and raise a child. With the divorce rate being what it is, anything that is shared and well, easier, the better off you are. It’s one less argument and one more thing you have in common. If you are looking for a spouse, it’s certainly worth the effort to attempt to find another Catholic if you are one yourself.
However, I try to follow up with a qualifier. While religion is important…it is also simultaneously true that you are really looking for someone with good human virtue. You want someone who is kind, generous, committed, who will be there through thick and thin. These people are good finds.
It’s hoped for that you find someone who shares your religion and has good human virtue. But sometimes, the overlap you hoped for is nowhere to be found.
And here’s where I may differ from other Catholic authors/speakers/personalities…or perhaps am simply one of the few who has decided that the message is worth promoting. If after years of effort, you cannot find someone who shares your religion and has excellent human virtue, I say go for the guy with human virtue. Keep practicing your faith, but go ahead and love the person who treats you the best.
I have come to think this bit of advice is common sense and not as controversial as it sounds. If you are a student in the cafeteria and a Catholic kid throws a tomato at you, yet the non-Catholic next to you is the one who stays behind and helps you clean yourself up, who are you going to be friends with? Duh! Now, you might say to yourself, “Gee, I really wish the nice kid was Catholic too.” But, guess what? Life isn’t a script that you get to write. Don’t pursue a friendship with the Catholic kid if it’s only going to end up in abuse.
This is probably the truthiest part of my answer, yet I tend to make it come second, just like I’ve done in this article, and nuance it. Marrying outside of the faith is still a sensitive topic. At the same time, I am learning that some of our Catholic media people do get it. When I did an interview with Lisa Hendey of Catholic Moments, she asked me this question, and low and behold, she married a non-Catholic. He converted after many years of marriage. She advised people in her situation to remember that they can’t go into the marriage expecting the guy to convert. It will happen if it’s meant to. I think that really loving someone entails accepting them as they are.
I don’t want to misguide people and have them think that they shouldn’t even try to find a Catholic when dating, because that’s not what I am saying. I married a Catholic. But, I am suggesting that people need to weigh the value of both traits, shared religion and human virtue, and recognize that while both are desirable, human virtue is more desirable. We don’t have forever on this planet, so hard choices sometimes need to be made. I feel very strongly that if this message was easier to get out, more Catholic women would be getting married to good guys.