The Catholic Faith Video Series: Your Tough Questions Answered [Video #5]

Question: My daughter’s boyfriend is Christian, he is not catholic, can they still marry in the Catholic Church?
Please watch video below for answer:
If you prefer to read, below is Fr. Mark’s Answer:

This question clearly came from a parent who is concerned about their child.  Parents are concerned about the happiness and future life of their children.  In this question we see two of those desires parents have for their children.  First, they want them to be in a healthy and happy marriage.  Secondly,  they hope that they will maintain their faith and relationship with God.

For the Catholic Church, we speak of marriage as a covenant.  This is rooted in the Scriptural concept of covenant, referring to the relationship of God with the people of God.  The best definition of covenant I have ever heard is very short and simple.  Covenant is the “promise to remain.”  The unconditional love of God ultimately revealed in the self-giving love of God shown by Jesus on the Cross.  In marriage, two people are committing to enter into a covenant.  In fact, St. Paul uses marriage as a symbol for the covenant relationship between Jesus and the Church.  The Church as the bride of Christ.  For this reason, two Christians who enter into marriage, enter into a Sacrament in which they are to reflect the unity of Christ and the Church.

But, marriage is a natural reality, rooted in creation itself.  Every marriage is a human and good reality.  So, a Catholic is able to enter into marriage with someone who is not baptized and obviously with someone who is a baptized Christian but not Catholic.

In the case of a Catholic marrying someone who is not baptized, when they meet with the parish to prepare for the wedding ceremony, a dispensation will be arranged for them to be validly married in the church.  The church sees this marriage as having a natural goodness and they make that same commitment in their vows, “I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honour you all the days of my life.”

When a Catholic is marrying a baptized Christian from another church, then the parish will arrange for permission and this marriage is considered to be sacramental.  When it is desired and possible, the minister of the other spouse’s church may participate in the marriage ceremony.  A Catholic may also obtain a special dispensation to have the marriage ceremony celebrated in the church of their spouse if that is required.  In fact, I have assisted with weddings in a few cases in other Christian churches for the sake of one of my parishioners.

When a Catholic is marrying someone who is not Catholic, we will normally open up discussion to be sure that they have thought about the implications.  It is important of course that the couple honestly discuss future plans around practicing their faith and about how they plan to raise any future children.  The Catholic partner is asked to do all in their power to have their children baptized and raised in the faith.  This, of course, requires the agreement of both partners.  So, it is important that this issue be addressed openly before they marry.

So, back to the original question, yes, any Catholic is encouraged and invited to celebrate their marriage within the church.  As a parish we welcome each Catholic planning to enter into marriage.  We will welcome them and assist them in entering into marriage in a good and healthy way.  Our goal, like the goal of parents, is that they will make a good and lasting commitment and that this marriage will be nurtured by their faith.  During the wedding celebration, the priest or deacon will offer a special Nuptial Blessing over the couple.  One optional Nuptial Blessing concludes with these words, “… and after a happy old age, together with the circle of friends that surrounds them, may they come to the Kingdom of Heaven.”  This is what parents surely desire for their children and it is ultimately the desire of the church for the couple as well.

Thank you for listening in to this Question and Answer series.  If you have follow up questions to this answer or have other questions send them in to us.

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