Though Pentecostals and Catholics agree about certain doctrines like the Trinity and share many values such as the importance of family, the differences in their belief systems raise compatibility questions when it comes to marriage.
Pentecostals have the freedom to marry a member of the Catholic Church, but some argue that it may not be a wise choice because of the tensions and conflicts that could arise. Furthermore, the Catholic Church has specific regulations for members who marry outside the church that a Pentecostal may find disagreeable.
Would Pentecostals lose good standing in their church if they married a Catholic? Is it wise for a Pentecostal to marry a Catholic? What are the Catholic Church’s regulations for members marrying non-Catholics?
Would a Pentecostal lose good standing in their church if they married a Catholic?
First, the term “Pentecostal” doesn’t describe a denomination, but a theological belief system to which certain denominations are committed. The largest Pentecostal denomination in the world is the Assemblies of God.
Pentecostals, like other Christians, believe in the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their belief system also has unique emphases such as:
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit: All Christians believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Non-Pentecostals believe that it occurs at conversion. Pentecostals believe that baptism of the Holy Spirit is a subsequent experience that occurs sometime after a person converts to Christ.
- Speaking in tongues: Another unique emphasis of Pentecostal theology is that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals believe that the stories of people speaking in tongues, especially those recorded in the book of Acts, are — or should be — the normal and expected experience for every believer.
Don’t some Christians in non-Pentecostal churches speak in tongues? Yes, but the doctrine and practice aren’t an emphasis of their denomination’s stated theological beliefs. There are people in Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and even Catholic churches that speak in tongues and generally hold to the framework of Pentecostal theology.
Would marrying a Catholic cause a Pentecostal to lose their church membership? In the majority of cases, including those with membership in the Assemblies of God denomination, it wouldn’t. Some Pentecostal churches are autonomous, so it’s possible that there are exceptions. It’s also important to realize that a person’s membership could be suspended due to a prolonged absence if they were to make a sustained commitment to another church.
Is it wise for a Pentecostal to marry a Catholic?
For many Christians, not all decisions are a matter of “black and white,” “right or wrong,” or “sinful or righteous.” Some decisions are matters of wisdom. What is practical for my life? What is harmonious for my relationships with extended family and friends? What is peaceful to my heart and mind?
Questions like these may not always have a right or wrong answer, but whatever choice a person makes may affect their health, for example, if there is increased tension in their extended family, parenting, and marriage.
Is Pentecostal parenting and Catholic parenting compatible? In many cases, the answer to this question depends on each married couple. One may be more active in their church than the other, which may lessen certain tensions. If both are active and committed to their churches, a husband and wife will need to make decisions about matters that aren’t easily reconciled. For example:
In which church will the children be baptized? Baptism signifies membership in the church for Pentecostal denominations like the Assemblies of God as well as in the Catholic Church. Infant baptism is a critical practice in the Catholic Church, yet it’s the strong conviction of Pentecostal churches to only baptize professing believers. Pentecostal and Catholic convictions about baptism aren’t compatible.
Baptism is connected to salvation in Catholicism, but not in Pentecostalism. Baptism is directly connected to salvation in the Catholic church, but it’s a symbolic public display of conversion and commitment to Christ in Pentecostal churches. A spouse who is Catholic may see baptism as directly affecting the salvation of their child. The spouse who is Pentecostal may believe that the child should have a say in their baptism and understand the significance of it.
How is Pentecostal and Catholic marriage different theologically?
Even though Pentecostals wouldn’t lose membership in their church for marrying a Catholic, it’s important for couples to consider the Catholic Church’s regulations for members that marry outside the church.
One of the most important doctrinal differences between Protestants, including Pentecostals, and Catholics is that the latter believe that marriage is a sacrament.
What does it mean that marriage is a sacrament in Catholicism? In Catholicism, sacraments are practices that serve as channels of God’s grace. Besides marriage, baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance and reconciliation, extreme unction, and holy orders are also sacraments.
Protestants uphold marriage as an institution that God created that mirrors the Trinity and reverently do their best to obey the instructions that the Bible gives to husbands and wives. However, Protestants don’t believe marriage is a channel of God’s grace because of the lack of biblical teaching about it. Catholicism’s Code of Canon Law teaches,
“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.”Canon law 1055, emphasis added
In Pentecostalism, marriage isn’t a sacrament. The only two sacraments in Protestantism, including Pentecostalism, are the Lord’s Supper and water baptism.
What are the Catholic Church’s regulations for members marrying non-Catholics?
According to the Code of Canon Law, a Catholic can marry a non-Catholic as long as they agree to certain regulations:
Canon 1125: The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:
- The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;
- The other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;
- Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.
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