People often have questions like:
- Can a Catholic marry a non-Catholic?
- Is there anything special we need to do to get married in the Church?
The simple answer is “yes“.
When a Catholic and a non-Catholic are preparing for marriage, the couple may start to hear one of two terms batting around; namely, “mixed marriage” and “interfaith marriage”. To say a person is “non-Catholic” can mean he or she is Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Presbyterian, non-denominational Christian, agnostic, atheist, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist…the list goes on. The terminology is simply used to help the Church determine the best course of pastoral care when helping a couple prepare for the Sacrament of Matrimony.
The term “mixed marriage” refers to the sacramental marriage of a Catholic and a non-Catholic baptized Christian (e.g. a Catholic and a baptized Presbyterian). This type of marriage typically requires a permission from the local ordinary (i.e. the Bishop). The priest or deacon working with a couple in marriage preparation can assist with that process. In this case, the wedding should be held in a church, oratory, or some other suitable place. The priest or deacon will give guidance on what is suitable or not.
The term “interfaith marriage” refers to the non-sacramental marriage of a Catholic and one who has not received valid baptism (e.g. a Catholic man and a Jewish woman). In this case, a special dispensation is required from the local ordinary (i.e. the Bishop). The priest or deacon working with a couple in marriage preparation can assist with that process.
In both cases, the permission and dispensation required are meant as safeguards to the faith, not as obstacles to personal fulfillment or the unity of believers. For Catholics, the Christian faith is the highest good, higher even than the good of marriage. Catholics are obliged to protect their faith as a precious gift from God, and to do everything in their power to pass that faith on to their children and to their husbands and wives.
It is important to consider that these two scenarios can present challenges within the context of a marriage. All too often, “different religious mentalities can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children” (CCC 1634). This is one of the reasons it is so important to provide pastoral care for a Catholic and non-Catholic couple preparing for marriage.
If any of this applies to you or someone you know, the Diocese of Richmond has a database of all parishes and pastors. You can find your local pastor here by simply typing in your zip code. It may also be helpful at some point to contact the Office of the Tribunal and speak to someone about your intentions.
For additional questions, tune into our Frequently Asked Questions.