July 3, 2010

Phooey On The Pretense of Piety

Originally posted February 18, 2010

It was bound to happen.

In my world of “what-ifs,” I’ve always wondered about the range of   unique problems that might befall an interfaith couple.  Should one partner convert to the other’s faith?  Should they decorate their home with the icons of one religion, or the other, or both, or none?  How should they raise their children?  Should their families be involved in these decisions, or is it none of their business?

In the course of human history, no single issue has ever united people – or divided them – quite like the realm of religion.  And when I ponder the foolishness of trying to reconcile two faiths under one roof, it makes my head hurt. But even in my ever-so-fertile imagination I never saw this one coming.

When Joseph and Rebecca Reyes became engaged, he was Catholic and she was Jewish.  So in order to appease his in-laws, Joseph converted to Judaism before their wedding in 2004.  And they subsequently agreed that their children would be raised in a synagogue, not a cathedral.  Apparently, that arrangement worked out just fine – that is, until they actually had a child to raise and teach.

Now the Reyeses are separated and headed for a divorce.  Mom has custody of their three year-old daughter, and Dad has regularly scheduled visitations.  And under the terms of a court order, Dad is forbidden to expose the child to any religion other than Judaism.  After all, that was the deal they agreed to years ago.

Then, just recently, Dad took his daughter to a local Catholic parish and had her baptized.  Mom is furious, and demands that he be thrown in jail for violating the court order.  Dad complained that the judge was Jewish, therefore biased against him.  Mom, religion notwithstanding, feels betrayed.  Dad is quick to point out that Mom and her family aren’t religious anyway; they don’t keep kosher, they don’t observe the Sabbath, etc., from whence now cometh such righteous indignation? Constitutional scholars are debating whether any court has the right to dictate the religious instruction of children.

Whew.  Hold the phone.

Mr. and Mrs. Reyes alike, it seems, need a refresher course in their theologies.  For when they entered into marriage, they both betrayed the religions they now so zealously defend.  Under Catholic teaching, a Catholic should only marry a Catholic.  And pursuant to the dictates of the Torah, a Jew should only marry a Jew.  Mr. Reyes went through the motions of a Jewish conversion, but he now says it was only under duress, and in his heart he remained Catholic all along.  In other words, his deceitfulness then proves that he’s being honest now.  Ummmm…yeah, sure, I buy that one.

And now they seek a divorce, something that both religions prohibit.

Curiously, Dad doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  In an interview with Fox News, he testified that “Catholicism is just a radicalized form of Judaism. And there are a lot of theologists that will agree with me on that point.”


Well I don’t know what a “theologist” is, but I’d be eager to meet one sometime and hear his/her explanation.  Plus, somehow, I doubt that any rabbi or priest would ever agree with such a comparison.  And if he truly believes his own words – implicitly, that Judaism is simply a purer form of Catholicism – then why the rush to the baptismal pool?  The kid was better off at her Jewish preschool.

Let’s face it: This debate isn’t really about religion, and it’s a lousy test for any new case law.  At best, by all accounts, the Reyeses observe their respective religions only half-heartedly in the first place; their claims to piety are dishonest and transparent.  With the typical Latin benediction, I doubt that the little girl’s mind was polluted with any evil Gentile heresies.  No, this story is about two people who can’t along, yet feel the need to blame something outside of themselves to explain it all away.

Mr. and Mrs. Reyes, you’re not defending Moses, or Jesus, or God, or anyone or anything else.  You’re just making fools of yourselves.  Get over it.


  1. I have followed the issue closely, appeared at the s Reyeses' hearings and spoken briefly to both. Your facts are all wrong. First, Mr. Reyes did not convert until well after the child was born. Second, there was no agreement to raise the child in either faith. Mrs. Reyes did not even pursue an "implied contract theory" in court because the facts did not support it. Third, Mrs. Reyes' parents, Howard and Ruth Shapiro are just miserable people who heckled Mr. Reyes while he tried to testify. Fourth, Mr. Reyes never took the position that his daughter should be exposed or brought up in one religion or another. He actually made ever concession. This is about one thing - control, and Mrs. Reyes wants it. She gives all moms a bad rap.

  2. Which I suppose still supports my main premise: It's not really about religion.