Converting When There Are Family Problems

Q: I am convinced in my heart that I must become a Catholic, but my family is very troubled, and my becoming Catholic could lead to divorce. Is it permissible for me to delay converting until a better time?

A: If necessary, your local priest can receive you into the Church privately. That is often done for those who are in situations where a public reception would pose a grave familial or financial problem for the person. However, he would want to be assured that the stakes really are high and that waiting a reasonable length of time would not change them.

If waiting a reasonable length of time to be received could prevent grave sins from being committed by others, then waiting could be permitted. However, it could not alter the basic decision to convert since we are bound by divine law on that point and it would be a grave sin for a person who has recognized the truth of the Catholic faith to not join the Church.

The fact that you have recognized the truth of the faith thus settles the question of whether to convert, but the circumstances of one’s life help settle when and how to the reception into the Church is to be done (immediately or after a period, at Easter or at some other time, publicly or privately, etc.).

What counts as a reasonable length of time also varies by a person’s situation. What is a reasonable length of time for a person in a normal situation is not the same as what is a reasonable length of time for a person on his deathbed.

However, a reasonable length of time is not an indefinite period that could stretch on for years and years with no end in sight. Once a reasonable period has elapsed, one is bound to go ahead and enter the Church anyway, whether this is done publicly or privately.

 

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