Can a non-Catholic marry a Catholic in the Catholic church?

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July 25, 2012 6:54PM

A Catholic may marry another Christian (a 'mixed marriage') so long as he/she promises to do his/her best to raise any children in the Catholic faith; the non-Catholic is to be aware of this promise. It is normally sufficient for the priest or deacon acting as Church witness to fill out some brief paper work. The ceremony normally takes place within the church building and it is courtesy to invite the Protestant minister to participate (no permisson is needed).

It is also possible for the ceremony to be conducted in the church of the Protestant party; this would normally be granted by the bishop, especially if the Protestant had a strong connection to his/her church e.g. a relative who is a pastor.

A Catholic may also marry a person who is not a Christian, with the promise regarding children being made. However, such a marriage is called a "Disparity of Cult" and permission must be obtained from the local bishop. In such cases, it is permitted for the ceremony to take place somewhere other than in a church building.


Catholic Answer

Normally a Catholic is forbidden to marry outside the faith. For a "mixed marriage" as you describe, you need to have permission from your Bishop. You would need to speak with your pastor and discuss your reasons for doing this. If you have good enough reasons - which should be very good, then the non-Catholic can apply for the permission you need if the two of you go through pre-Cana classes, and are showing good faith. You need to be sure that you can live your faith and raise the children in the faith. As one man I used to work with used to say, "you're going to be dead for a long time." Although I wouldn't use his phrasing, the point is that you are only on earth for a short period of time. The reason God put you on earth is to serve Him and to prepare yourself to enter heaven. In other words, the reason you would marry a non-Catholic is that you somehow discern that it is God's Will for you do so, and that in doing so, you will be furthering the chances of your eternal salvation AND his or hers. Remember, marriage means that you are responsible for helping your spouse attain heaven, as well as working out your own salvation. My personal advice is to take this very slowly. Take a year or more to make sure that your faith is firmly established, and to get to know this person better so that you are absolutely positive that you are not endangering your soul, or your childrens' souls. Any person that is worthwhile and really loves a Catholic person should be more than willing to genuinely convert and then the two of you would be working together towards the same end.


from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, English translation 1994

1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A Case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. (Cf. CIC, can. 1124) In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. (Cf. CIC, can. 1086.) This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude essentials ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church. (Cf. CIC, can 1125)

Note: In other words, you need to speak with your pastor right away, if he approves of the marriage, he will seek the appropriate dispensations from the Bishop.