Catholics Marrying Non-Catholics

Marriage in the Catholic faith is a sacred union between a man and a woman in the eyes of God. But you might be wondering if Catholicism follows similar rules to many other religious beliefs, such as Mormonism and Islam for example, in that marriage is only permitted when both partners are of the same faith. Or you may be wondering if Catholics are free to marry whomever their heart belongs to, regardless of that person’s religious believes or upbringing.

In short… Yes, Catholics are free to marry outside of their faith. For Catholics, mixed-faith marriage is not a sin for us. We are not constrained by the notion that differing beliefs, race or cultures should prohibit the union of two souls that are in love. Nor do we require the other half to convert to Catholicism.

With that said, however, there are certain provisions that need to be taken into consideration should a member of the Catholic faith wish to marry a non-catholic.

What Are the Requirements for Marrying Outside of Your Faith

First and foremost, we need to address the fact that marriage is hard enough under normal circumstances. If either partner is not serious about marriage, or respectful enough of their partner’s wishes; the additional difference of religious views can become too much for their marriage to handle.

So with that aside, it is possible for a Catholic to marry a non-catholic, if they agree to the following conditions:

1) Marrying inside a Catholic Church

If possible, the Catholic spouse should attempt to have the wedding ceremony performed within a Catholic Church. For more information on the Catholic Wedding ceremony, please have a read of our article on Catholic Wedding Traditions.

When a Catholic marries a non-catholic within a Catholic Church, they will be required to sign a prenuptial declaration and promise. Don’t worry, this sounds more intimidating then it is.

The prenuptial declaration and promise breaks down into three parts. Each part reaffirming your faith and intentions to live a life in accordance with the teaching of Christ and the Church.

Part 1 – I’m Catholic and Plan on Remaining Catholic

I reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ, and with god’s help I intend to continue living out that faith in the Catholic Church.

You are acknowledging that in confirming this marriage, you are not abandoning your faith in God or the Catholic Church. That you will continue to live out your life as a proud and practicing Catholic, and that you will not let the beliefs or lack thereof, of your spouse to sway your own faith and beliefs.

Part 2 – I Will Respect My Future Spouse in Marriage

I acknowledge the respect I owe to the conscience of my future partner in marriage. They don’t believe what I believe, but I respect them and I honor them.

Essentially, you agree to be mindful of your partner’s views, opinions and beliefs when it comes to matters of faith. While they may not share the same views and beliefs as your own, this does not mean that they are any less than you, so you accept them for who they are.

You may try to offer them guidance and to have them included in various activities, but at no point should you try to force them into partaking in events that they do not want to be part of, try to change them, or force them to convert to Catholicism.

This is where most mixed-faith marriages fall apart. When two opposing lifestyles try to coincide with one another, there needs to be a little give and take from both sides. If you try to force your partner to abandon their own way of thinking and conform to your own, you are not being respectful of them as a person or as a partner. Similarly, if they refuse to honor your own beliefs and practices, then they are not respecting you either.

If either person can not understand the need for both parties to be malleable with one another, then it would be unwise to get married in the first place, as this could cause friction within the marriage over time.

Remember to both give and take, and where it has no impact upon each other’s beliefs and free will, find a compromise. For example, if consuming a particular food or beverage is to be avoided on specific days of the week/year (e.g. eating red meat on Good Friday), then adjusting one’s diet for that day is not asking for too much.

Part 3 – I Want My Future Children to be Raised Catholic

For my part I will see to it that I do everything I can to have our children baptized and educated as Catholics. Without taking any responsibility or authority away from my spouse.

By agreeing to do everything that you can to raise and educate your children as Catholics, you are confirming that you will guide your children on how to live in the light of the lord while being respectful of your partner’s wishes. Generally speaking, when a Catholic marries someone of a different Christian denomination, raising children together isn’t as difficult as raising a child with someone of a completely different religious belief or with someone who’s an Atheist.

With that said, the differences between Catholics and many of the other Christian denominations are only minor, but there are some denominations where these differences are not so trivial and could be enough to cause some tension.

Raising children requires input from both parents, it is not the sole responsibility of one or the other. Parents of differing faiths will naturally want their children to grow up following in their footsteps. In many mixed-faith relationships, both parents may agree to leave it up to their children to decide which religious faith or views they follow. Meaning that both parents will openly include their children in their religious discussions, traditions, and practices.

Having two parents with differing views and opinions can help to offer children a greater insight into the world, broadening their horizons. But having two parents with conflicting views and teachings, that are unable to find a healthy middle ground with one another, can result in children turning their back on God, the Catholic Church, or religion in general.

2) Marrying Outside of the Catholic Church

If the wedding ceremony is being witnessed by a civil celebrant/officiant, a none-catholic clergy member such as a priest, a rabbi or other religious leaders of a different faith, or in a location outside of a Catholic Church, you will need expressed permission from your bishop to be married according to another rite outside of the Catholic Church. This permission will allow the church to recognize the marriage as being valid, even though they themselves did not witness the ceremony.

Your bishop will confirm with you, that you are not being forced to do something you are not comfortable with. They will also check to confirm that you are maintaining your faith in Christ and the Catholic Church and that you intend on raising and educating your children as Catholics.

Unlike being married in a Catholic Church or witnessed by a member of the Catholic clergy, marriage outside of the Catholic Church does not grant the Church authority over the marriage. As such, there is no formal declaration or promise that can be made. Any and all promises made between you and your Bishop is between you and God.

Depending on the faith of the person that you intend to marry, there may be similar promises that they will need to make with the leaders of their own denomination or faith. You yourself may also need to make assurances of your own.

In worse case scenarios, you may be required to abandon your faith and convert to their’s in order for your marriage to be recognized within their own community. This is where civil celebrants/officiants can come in. While the marriage may not be recognized as being truly valid in some religious faiths, it can be viewed more favorably then if your partner would have been married in a Catholic Church, as that could be seen as your partner abandoning their own faith for yours.

Our Thoughts

Mixed marriages, be it mixed-faith, mixed-race/culture, or even blended families (children from previous relationships), can bring with them hurdles of their own.

As much as many of us wish it was, life is not a fairy-tale, and most marriages are difficult enough to being with. But should you truly care for the person you intend to marry, and are willing to give as much as you are willing to take, then mixed-faith marriages can work.

Be realistic and practical with your expectations. Have a candid discussion about all aspects of your lives together. If you can both agree to compromise, support one another’s beliefs, and respect each others faith and traditions, while also agreeing to be inclusive and take part in celebrations and events with each other, then as long as the two of you truly love one another, a mixed-faith marriage can be just as rich and rewarding as any other marriage.

Categories: The Sacraments
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View Comments (1)

  • I am a Catholic that has had a previous marriage annulled. I am interested in dating a former Catholic who was married to another Catholic (they divorced 20 years ago) but they were not married in a Catholic ceremony and I don't believe it was witnessed by a Catholic clergyman. Regarding the comment above about the Church not having authority over such a marriage does that mean he would not have to go thru an annullment in order to marry me? Thank you for your kind consideration and advice. Blessings, Tanya

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