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.

About Ed Case

Ed Case is Founder of InterfaithFamily and works at IFF Headquarters in Newton, MA.

2 thoughts on “Catholic Father, Jewish Daughter, Part Two”

  • The part that had me lol’ing the hardest in the poorly written ABC piece, was when he said his conversion wasn’t voluntary. Really? He was almost 30 years old at the time, living in America and someone forced him to to change his religion? Really? Throughout the months long process, where he had to say he was converting of his own free will, he was being forced? This guy is such an obvious liar and fraud!

    Lol, someone forced him, a grown man, to convert to Judaism, but then nobody bothered to decide what religion the child was going to be raised in? His response, just ignore the jewish ceremonies they had for her after her birth.

    So he says he has one forced or at best insincere conversion. Now, in his sincere Catholic reversion, he does not even mention it to nor invite the child’s mother to the baptism? What did he tell the priest about why the child’s mother wasn’t there? Godparents vow to care and protect the child if the parents are unavailable, didn’t they ask if the Mom was ok with that? Especially since the mother had sole custody, and the father only had visitation on alternating weekends? I guess the tv reporter and camera crew he had at the ceremony stood in the spot reserved for the other parent. Did the PR firm he hired send out the invitations to the baptism too?

    It’s clear that he doesn’t give two craps about religion, he’ll just say or do whatever gets him what he wants at the moment. Right now it seems he wants attention and to hurt his ex.

  • I think it’s quite possible that the father is a major jerk, but I also don’t think the court order is justified or that it’s appropriate for a judge to order the man not to take a toddler to church or expose her to Catholicism. The dad claims he never agreed to raise the child exclusively Jewish, so there’s a disagreement over what the parents actually agreed to. Even if they did agree on one religion, people change their minds and this little girl is young enough to adapt. I think the court order will be overturned because it interferes with the father’s free exercise of religion. You can’t prevent parents from exposing their children to their own religion during custodial time if it isn’t damaging the child and this isn’t going to hurt the child.

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