Can a Catholic Marry a Non-Catholic?

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Catholic | 0 comments

If you’re tying the knot at a Catholic ceremony, there’s something you have to check first: whether or not you can marry a non-Catholic. To help with this, here’s everything you need to know about marrying outside the Catholic faith. 

Catholics can marry non-Catholics if granted permission by the church. This includes both baptized and non-baptized Christians. To be given permission, the couple needs to fulfill certain conditions. So contrary to popular belief, one does not have to convert to Catholicism to marry a Catholic. 

Now, even those who wish to marry at the non-Catholic party’s church will still need to secure permission from the bishop for it to be valid in the eyes of the Church. So what are the conditions needed to be given permission? Continue reading to find out. 

Things to Do Before a Catholic Can Marry Someone Who Isn’t Catholic

According to the Code of Canon Law (#1124): “Marriage between two baptized persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism, and the other a member of a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church, cannot be celebrated without the express permission of the competent authority.”

The “competent authority” in this matter is the local ordinary or bishop. For him to grant the couple permission, the following conditions should be fulfilled as mentioned in the Code of Canon Law:

  • The Catholic party should declare that he/she is prepared to remove the dangers of defecting from the faith. This means making sure that you are still able to go to mass and receive the sacraments. 
  • The Catholic party should make a sincere promise to do all in his/her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church. 
  • The non-Catholic party should be informed about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he/she is truly aware of the obligation of the Catholic party. 
  • Both parties should be taught about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude. This is commonly called “Pre-Cana”, which is a preparation course and workshop for those who are planning to get married in the Catholic Church. 

The same rules apply if you are planning to get married in a non-Catholic party’s church. You’ll still need to secure permission from the bishop and fulfill the conditions mentioned above. To accomplish this, make sure to seek the help of your parish priest from the beginning of your wedding planning stages.

Now, you’re probably wondering why you have to obtain permission when marrying a non-Catholic. Well, it’s to make your marriage valid in the eyes of the Church. In addition, this whole process will help you overcome and prepare for the challenges caused by your obligations and differences in your own religious communities. 

What Happens If a Catholic Wants to Marry a Non-Catholic?

If you, as a Catholic, want to marry a non-catholic, then you will have to secure permission from your local bishop. The type of permission you will need to secure depends on whether or not your significant other is baptized. This is because if he/she is baptized, then you still belong to the same Christian church and follow the same core belief, which is centered around the life, death, and teachings of Jesus Christ. 

If the person you are planning to marry is a baptized non-Catholic, then you will have to get a “Permission to enter into a mixed marriage.” This includes Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Anglicans. Meanwhile, if you are marrying a non-Christian like a Muslim, Jew, or atheist, then you’ll need a “Dispensation from disparity of cult.” 

In both cases, once given permission or dispensation, your marriage is considered valid. Meaning, it will be recognized by the Church. Now, in the case of mixed marriages or if you’re marrying a baptized individual, then your marriage will also be sacramental. If you’re marrying a non-baptized person, however, then it won’t be a sacramental marriage. 

So what’s the difference between a sacramental and non-sacramental marriage? Well, both couples in a sacramental marriage are baptized. Remember, it is only after getting baptized that a person can receive the other sacraments, including marriage. That said, if a marriage is sacramental, then Christ is present in it. So it can’t be separated or dissolved by anything.

This can be seen in the Code of Canon Law (#1056), which says: “The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament.”

What About Catholics Marrying Non-Catholics and Non-Christians?

As mentioned, if a Catholic marries a non-Catholic and non-baptized individual, then a “Dispensation from disparity of cult” is needed. This is a stricter form of permission that you’ll need to get from your local bishop for your marriage to be valid. It will not, however, be considered sacramental. 

Now, why is the process more rigorous in such relationships?

Well, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1633): mixed marriages (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) require “particular attention on the part of the couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.” 

The differences in faith, religious mentalities, and even the very notion of marriage can become sources of tension between the couple. It gets even harder when you consider the education and religion of your future children. This is why there’s a particular task for the Catholic party in such situations, which is: 

“For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this ‘consecration’ should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1637)

So aside from the conditions mentioned above, the Catholic party should also try to encourage the non-baptized, non-Catholic party to convert to Catholicism. 

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About: Maurielle

Maurielle is a content writer who has covered a wide variety of topics, from clothes to children's toys, gadgets, weddings, kayaks, and more. But more recently, she has focused her efforts on writing about her journey as a Catholic, exploring her faith, and strengthening her relationship with God. Raised in a conservative Catholic home, spent her childhood and teenage years in a Catholic school, and got married in a Catholic ceremony, her religion is a huge part of her being. Catholicism has also been the most meaningful and rewarding experience of her life. Today, she writes full-time about Catholicism and religion in the hope to help others understand the Word of God and the teachings of the Church.
<a href="https://walkingcrossroads.com/author/maurielle/" target="_self">Maurielle</a>

Maurielle

Maurielle is a content writer who has covered a wide variety of topics, from clothes to children's toys, gadgets, weddings, kayaks, and more. But more recently, she has focused her efforts on writing about her journey as a Catholic, exploring her faith, and strengthening her relationship with God. Raised in a conservative Catholic home, spent her childhood and teenage years in a Catholic school, and got married in a Catholic ceremony, her religion is a huge part of her being. Catholicism has also been the most meaningful and rewarding experience of her life. Today, she writes full-time about Catholicism and religion in the hope to help others understand the Word of God and the teachings of the Church.

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