As practicing Catholics who have lived, studied, and are in constant pursuit to embody the Word of God and his teachings, we have made it our mission to educate and share everything we know about Catholicism. We also try our best to answer and clear all the issues about our religion that often confuse other people. One of which is whether or not a Christian can marry a Catholic.
Christians can marry Catholics, granted that the Catholic party obtains permission from their local bishop. This is called a “mixed marriage” and can be held in the Catholic Church. If a couple wishes to marry at the non-Catholic party’s church, they will still need permission from the bishop for their marriage to be valid.
Now, you’re probably wondering why there’s a need for such an exhaustive process and whether or not you really need to go through it. You might be also wondering what you need to do to be granted permission. If so, then continue reading to know the answers to all these questions.
Things to Do Before a Catholic Can Marry a Christian
A marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic is called a mixed marriage. According to the law in force in the Latin Church, this type of marriage “needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority” as mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1635. Basically, this means that you (as the Catholic party) must seek permission from your local bishop before you can marry a Christian.
When you obtain official permission from your diocese and all stipulations are met, only then can you get married in the Catholic Church. That said, to be given permission, the following conditions as mentioned in the 1983 Code of Canon Law should be fulfilled:
- As the Catholic party, you must declare that you are ready to remove all dangers that may cause defection from the faith. For instance, you have to ensure that you are still able to attend mass and receive sacraments.
- As the Catholic party, you must make a sincere promise to do everything in your power so that all your offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.
- The other party shall be informed about the promises which the Catholic party is to make. This is to ensure that he/she is truly aware of the promises and obligations of the Catholic party.
- Both parties will be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage. While it isn’t its official term, this is usually called “Pre-Cana”.
So what if you want to get married in the Church of the non-Catholic party? Well, it’s the same. You still need to receive permission from the bishop and fulfill all conditions stated above. For this, you’ll need the assistance of your local priest as he would make the petition to the bishop on your behalf for a “Dispensation from Canonical Form” – which is permission to be married outside of the Catholic Church.
Why the need to obtain permission? Well, this is so your marriage can be considered valid in the eyes of the Church. This pastoral practice is also aimed to help you as a couple to overcome the tensions between your obligations to each other and towards your own religious communities. Furthermore, it is to help both of you to accept what is common in your faith and respect what is not. Simply put, it’s to make sure that both of you are ready for all the challenges that you might encounter, especially about your religious beliefs.
What’s the Difference Between Catholic and Christian Marriage?
Catholic and Christian weddings differ in terms of venue, organization, attendance, and the length of the ceremony. Here’s an in-depth look at these two marriages to help you understand their differences better.
As Catholics, we still obey tradition and our founders’ teachings that all marriages must be a sacred and sacramental affair, which is why they have to take place inside the church. This is also why a full and purely Catholic wedding typically takes place within a mass with a priest or bishop as the officiant or celebrant.
However, in a mixed marriage or when a Catholic marries a baptized non-Catholic, the wedding need not be held within a mass. This is still valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church and is considered a sacrament since both parties are baptized. Keep in mind that it is still possible for a mixed marriage to be held with a mass if the couple obtains permission from the bishop.
Whether held within or without a mass, all Catholic weddings follow a specific structure and order. There’s the Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, and Celebration of Matrimony. The main difference is that a wedding within a mass has a Liturgy of the Eucharist, which also makes it longer.
One important aspect of Catholic marriages is that the couple must make a sincere promise to have all their children baptized and follow the ways of the Catholic Church.
For most Christian demoninations, the most important part of their wedding is the exchange of rings and vows. Their ceremonies are usually straightforward and do not necessarily include a mass, which makes them shorter than full Catholic weddings. Furthermore, a Christian marriage can be held anywhere the couple prefers.
Additionally, an officiant or minister who is versed in wedding ceremonies can conduct the wedding. Plus, there are no conditions on how the couple’s children should be raised.
Can a Non-Christian Marry a Catholic?
Now that we’ve determined that Catholics can marry Christians, let’s move on to whether or not Catholics can marry non-Christians. Well, the short answer is: yes. Catholics and non-Christians can definitely get married. But because of the differences in faith and the very notion of marriage, it requires a greater circumspection or caution than marriages between a Catholic and a Christian. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1633)
In Catholicism, marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person or non-Christian is called “disparity of cult”. For it to be considered valid, an express dispensation from the bishop is required. This entails that both parties are aware of the purposes and importance of marriage as well as the obligations of the Catholic party regarding the “baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1635)
It is important to take note, however, that in this type of marriage, the Catholic party is given a particular task which is to try to encourage the non-Christian party to convert to the Christian faith.