Catholic Father, Jewish Daughter, Part Two

The Joseph Reyes case that we blogged about a month ago is in the news again – there is a court hearing today on whether he should be punished for violating a court order that he not expose his daughter to any religion other than Judaism.

I’m concerned about the news slant on this story – on the ABC website part of the headline is “Afghanistan War Vet Faces Jail Time For Taking His Daughter To Church.” If you don’t know more, it makes the Jewish mother look bad, objecting to her child being exposed to the father’s religion.

The child’s best interests are paramount in a divorce case. Joseph Reyes converted to Judaism and obviously he and his wife must have agreed to raise their child as a Jew. Courts should require parents to live up to their agreements in a divorce. I would feel the same way if the mother were Catholic, the father converted to Catholicism, then divorced and wanted to expose the child to Judaism.

Plenty of intermarried parents have written for us that they are raising their children Jewish but on occasion take them to a church service. If the Reyes’ child were older, I don’t think there would be any problem with doing that, and don’t think the mother would have a good reason to object if her ex-husband requested her agreement. But baptizing a young child seems to clearly indicate an intention to raise the child as a Catholic, contravening the parents’ earlier agreement.

I would never say that it is a mistake to convert just prior to a marriage or in order to get married, because in many cases when that happens the conversion is sincere. But apparently, Joseph Reyes’ conversion was not – he is quoted as saying he did so because his in-laws wouldn’t accept him otherwise. If that was the case, it certainly was not a good way for the marriage to get started.

There are other parts of this story that strongly suggest that Reyes’ motivation is not one of sincere religious conviction, but instead just part of a bitter divorce struggle. Reyes, a law student, says that Catholicism “falls under the umbrella of Judaism”? That he was just taking his daughter to hear the teachings of the greatest Jewish rabbi ever? Please. He called a reporter to film him going to church in violation of the court order?

Again, the child’s best interests should be paramount to both parents. Exposing children to conflict like this between two trusted parents is the worst possible thing. And to repeat, I’m not disapproving of Reyes’ conduct because he is trying to raise a child Catholic who would otherwise be Jewish – if he were trying to raise a child Jewish who would otherwise be Catholic, I’d feel the same way.

This post originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission.