I found out recently that someone I really care about was given really misleading and horribly tragic information from a priest about what would actually happen were she to marry her non Catholic fiance within the church. The encounter left her so bitter that she walked away from the church of her birth and never looked back and has held the Church in contempt ever since.
That happened thirty years ago, and at the time I was preparing for my own wedding. My then fiance and I were both Catholic, so we didn’t have any issues of “mixed marriage”, and we were also attending a different parish than the person, so we had a different priest. I know the priest she encountered, and I think he gave her misleading information about what a “mixed marriage” would entail. I am so sad that she felt so injured by this. How tragic that he caused her thirty years of pain and animosity towards the Church by not being more understanding. He really wasn’t much of a people person, and was most of the reason I didn’t attend that parish although we are taught not to church hop because of the personality of the clergy.
I know she got married in a Christian Church, but I always thought that it was because her in-laws wanted them to be married closer to his grandmother who was very old and lived not far from the quaint little church where their ceremony took place.
I want to apologize to her for the pain that she incurred. I realize that afafter 30 years it is probably too late to repair the damage. She doesn’t think there is any damage, but she still holds a lot of animosity towards the Church and people of Catholic faith. Not all people of Catholic faith, but in some instances she can become very defensive about her faith over against Catholicism; like saying that leaving the Church was the best decision she ever made.
I guess the reason I am writing this is to tell all priests and seminarians to please be very carefully pastoral when you are working with people who come to you seeking marriage. Life is messy and doesn’t always fit into the perfect check-box of two Catholics virgins seeking matrimony. If you want to help people grow in faith, help them to maintain their faith by teaching with a servant’s heart not a sledgehammer. If this couple had been led by a priest with a servant’s heart, they might have gotten married in the church and she might still be Catholic.