Can a Catholic Marry a Non-Catholic?

The Catholic Church does not forbid Catholics from marrying people who are not Catholic. It has been the practice of the Church to marry non-Catholics and Catholics for quite some time. The Church refers to these types of marriages as mixed-marriages.

Sometimes a future spouse will choose to go through a process called RCIA to become Catholic prior to marriage, but it is not necessary to become Catholic before marrying a Catholic. However, express permission of the local bishop is necessary. The Catholic person must uphold the obligation to preserve his or her own faith and “ensure the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1635).

One of the reasons that the Church exists is to safeguard the souls of those in its care. If a Catholic insists on marriage to a non-Catholic, the Church allows it, but wants to protect the soul of the Catholic in the marriage by making sure the non-Catholic understands the moral teaching and obligations of the Catholic party and assure that the Catholic is not in a position hostile to his or her faith.

Marriage to a Non-Baptized Person

The Catholic Church calls the union of a Catholic to someone who has not been baptized a disparity of cult. In the above example the two people are baptized Christians of different confessions (or denominations), but a non-baptized person is not a part of the Christian family. When it involves someone who has not been baptized then the marriage requires an express dispensation from the bishop in order for the union to be considered valid.

Scripture tells us that the unbelieving spouse is made holy through the believing spouse (1 Cor. 7:14). Sacramentally in marriage the spouses are the conduits of grace to each other and in a mixed-marriage of disparity of cult the Catholic is a conduit of grace to the non-believer. If this leads to a free conversion of belief by the non-believer then the church rejoices.

Concerns About Marrying Non-Catholics

For a mixed-marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic to work well it is important that the couple embraces what is common between their respective faith traditions and “to learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1634). This can be very difficult and trying, but can be overcome by mutual respect.

A marriage to a non-baptized person can be especially difficult because of the greater chasm in religious belief. In either case the disparities between faiths can lead to tension and gradually religious indifference. Attempting to convert one’s spouse can be interpreted as hostile and could lead to discord in the marriage. Humility and open and honest communication about expectations and the practical side of a mixed-marriage is important to making it succeed.

Comments

  1. says

    My husband and I were married in the Methodist Church 38 years ago. I converted to the Catholic faith 7 years ago, but my husband did not although he goes to mass with me occasionally. Can we renew our 40th wedding anniversary in the Catholic church and does the catholic church recognize our marriage in the Methodist church?

    • Shannon Downey says

      My husband and I were married in a Methodist church 38 years ago. I converted to the Catholic faith 7 years ago but my husband did not. He occasionally attends mass with me. Does the Catholic church recognize our marriage & can we renew our wedding vows in the Catholic church or have our marriage blessed in the Catholic church?

  2. Joy says

    Hi..im a roman catholic and single..im now engaged with a divorced non -christian (buddhist) and we are planning to have a church wedding..Is it possible?..does my fiance need to be converted to catholic? Thanks so much

  3. loret says

    Hi,i am a catholic but in love with a non-catholic and he wants to marry me..we are. currently courting and i love hum so much.the truth is that i can’t stop being a catholic.he dosent hav any problem with my prayers,mass and confession.he’s a good christian and we pray together most times.but he can’t give up his faith and i can’t give up mine.am so scared because i really love him and i really want my kids to grow up in the catholic faith.i need your advice

  4. Rich says

    I am not catholic and attend non denominational churches. I am a devout christian and am continuously growing in my faith and walking in the way Jesus calls us to act. One problem is that the girl I am dating is a catholic and very firm on the fact that she won’t marry a non catholic. She has actually even asked me if I would become catholic! I actually never even attended a catholic service because there was not a catholic church in my small hometown. (I went to a lutheran church as a child and then a non denominational through high school and college) I understand and really respect much of the catholic beliefs but really don’t know everything that I should about it. Reading info from this website has been helping my understanding of the catholic beliefs. Throughout all of this I have actually asked her before if I could go to a catholic service with her and she didn’t seem to be too interested so I am going to go with another friend of mine when she isn’t there. My intent is to do this because I want to learn more about it on my own not because she wants me to.

    Overall I know that God is telling me that for our relationship to build we both need to continue growing in our faith and that I need to know more about her beliefs to fully understand her and what it means to her. My beliefs are that all Christianity is good and that it is completely impossible for us to understand his wonder. (Differences between belief about purgatory) Though also understand and really respect much of the catholic traditions. (Sacraments etc) For now I do not want to be catholic, I love my faith and want to continue growing in it although I do want to consider this change due to the importance it has to her. My intent is not to change for her but that I actually believe that all Christians live a very similar life and can co-exist but I also don’t have a problem acknowledging the potential that there is purgatory and that confession is needed. (I confess my sins to close friends and believe that confessing with others that I respect spiritually is just as important!) Anyway how is it possible for her to understand my intent that I want to learn more about the catholic faith yet also allow it to happen as I feel God leads me?

    • Felicia says

      If you truly would like to learn about the faith, ask the deacon or priest about the R.C.I.A program. It stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. It is traditionally for converts but there are people who go to the classes simply to learn more about Catholicism. I have been married for over 6 years to a Catholic and I am attending it as soon as the next set begins in my parish. I was never baptized and my husband got away from the church for a long time. I have been struggling with belief in God for the last 3 years. My attendance has actually started to bring my husband back to the church as well. I think that you are doing the right thing simply by learning more about her faith so you can better understand her. I wish I had as much sense as you. And her beliefs aside, the Church does not prevent Catholics from marrying someone of another denomination. It just has to be approved by the Bishop since the Catholic member must understand the potential difficulties that may arise and be sure they are strong enough to endure them in their faith.

  5. Mary Grace says

    I am Catholic and my partner is non catholic. He respect and accept my religion. We agreed to stay with our religion. Now, the matters that keep worrying me if we have children, am I responsible to raise them as Catholics. I love to raise them as Catholics but I’m afraid that my partner disagree with it and saying I am selfish.. please give some advice.

  6. zid says

    hi..im catholic and my boyfriend is baptist..were planning to get married but the problem no one will give way in our religion..he asked me if can i convert to baptist but i said no,also he don’t want to be convert to catholic..our best option is to get civil wedding..but i want catholic church wedding and raise my children in catholic..he told me that if we just get married in civil ,he want me to go with him in baptist church and raise our children in baptist..but i don’t..our both family don’t want us to be convert in any religon..but we love each other ,religion conflict..
    please help me,what we should we do to overcome this conflict..please ,thank you..

    • says

      In short – consider not getting married until this is resolved! This could be a significant source of tension for you both during your marriage. Share the truth of your Catholic faith with your fiancĂ© – don’t leave the church founded by Jesus Christ for a man. It’s great that the both of you are talking about this. I encourage both of you to pray and I will pray for you as well. God bless.

  7. Andrea says

    My ex husband and I, both catholic, were married in the Catholic Church. We divorced after 17 yrs due to his alcoholism. I was only 18 and pregnant when we got married. We have been divorced 12 yrs now. He has been remarried now for the last 7 yrs. I am very active volunteering in my Catholic parish. I am also engaged to a wonderful non catholic and also divorced man. I am having a very emotional and hard time with even attempting to get a annulment as it would really be too much on my daughters and my Ex himself. Also, if I read right my fiancé would have to also get an annulment even though he was not married in the Catholic Church ? We have been together for 10 yrs living apart, and are truly in love, but neither one of us would wish the annulment emotions on either family. What are the consequences if we married outside of the church? Am I banned from all sacraments ? I have been raised catholic all my life, and if I really want a catholic funeral when I pass too.

    • says

      Hi Andrea. I am sorry to hear of the emotional pain of your past. These situations are never easy. If your fiancee is not Catholic I do not think he will need an annulment. I recommend you meet with your parish priest to discuss your specific situation. God bless.

  8. Ntumwa Gilbert says

    I have a born again girl friend and we so far have a one year old son together. I am still confused on whether we should get married because of the differences in faith. The most fatal issue being that she criticizes the Catholic way of prayer,
    1. That we worship Idols when we kneel in front of Mother Mary’s sculpture.
    2. That Mother Mary is completely irrelevant in Christian life and praying through her is devilish.

    With all the above and many other criticisms, she has vowed never to convert. This wouldn’t have been my problem, but the mockery and insults about Mother Mary is a pain in my heart. Advise please.

  9. frank says

    My wife and I were of different religions–I Roman Catholic, she Church of God. We were married in the rectory of the catholic church instead of main alter because of mixed marriage. Our daughter was brought up as a Catholic. My wife went through RCIA over 40 years after marriage and she converted to Catholicism and we have now been married over 55 years. On our 45th anniversary our marriage vows were renewed on the main altar of the Catholic church by our Bishop. A GREAT DAY FOR BOTH OF US! I believe we had the same kinds of problems any other couples had. We had few confrontations about religious differences. She read the St James version of bible and to her saw few differences with readings at mass. She attended mass with me (when I went) from day 1 of marriage. This is our story of mixed marriages–and have no idea how applicable it is to other peoples lives.

    • George says

      Thanks for sharing your experience Frank, I am currently in a 3yr+ relationship with my girlfriend who is non denominational Christian and I am Catholic myself. We would love to one day get married but have many questions about the easiest way to do so with a mixed marriage. Your experience gives me a lot of hope. God Bless you.

  10. Malia Tevaga says

    Hi there,

    I am Catholic myself but my partner is a Sikh. We would like to get married in the catholic church without my partner changing his religion. Is that possible or does he have to be Catholic to marry me in the catholic church?

    Other thing is we already had a Court wedding 2 months ago. Will this affect us from having a church wedding as well?

  11. Isadora says

    Hi,

    I am Catholic, but for the past 3 years, I have been going to an evangelical church. My boyfriend is not a believer. However, I would like to get married in a Catholic church. Is this possible?

    Thanks!

  12. Danielle says

    I am a non catholic- non denominational christian, my boyfriend is catholic, to be married in the catholic church I know he/I must vow to sustain his catholic faith and raise our children as well in the catholic church. But referencing the requirment to provided a baptismal certificate. Do catholics not consider a non- demoninational baptism valid? I have been baptized just not in the catholic church.

  13. Lissette says

    I’m engaged to a non catholic who has been studying our religion and our prayers for some time now. We find ourselves in a tight spot due to the fact that he wants to convert so we can marry and have a traditional catholic wedding but he is in the millatary he is gone for 5-6 months then visits for about two weeks. Is there a faster or easier way to convert him? HELP!!!

  14. says

    Hi, i m a non catholic married to a roman catholic. We have done a court marriage 2 yers back & we are planning to get married in church. Can you please guide me how to go about. My husband is quite tensed due to not havind his parents support. It would be great if you can help us out. Thank you.

    • says

      Hello Aarti. The first step is to contact your parish priest. He will be able to discuss the particulars of your situation and give you good direction on how to proceed. God bless.

  15. Amanda says

    I’m a Catholic. But I have a born again christian boyfriend and we are planning to get married sometime next year. Can we pursue our marriage despite of being in different religions? I do not want our religion to become a hindrance. He asked me if I am willing to convert into their religion, I said no but I’m willing to get married in their church and raise our kids as born again christian. Is my decision wrong?
    I have strong catholic faith and I will not turn my back from it. I’m afraid that our plans would shut down just because of being in different religion. Help!

  16. Jo says

    Does a non believer who was married to a Catholic believer in a church but now divorced need a declaration of nullity/anullment in order to get married again in a Catholic church to another believer?

  17. natasha says

    Hi,

    I am a catholic and follow my faith religiously. But I am set to marry a non catholic (hindhu). As per my talk with the parish priest, he says that a normal mass cannot happen.

    I am terribly upset and would like to have a wedding mass. Its a personal choice. I am ardent follower of Christ.

    Please share your advice.

    • sara says

      He believes in cows, dont u have respect for your faith? He will control u, u will see. Stay with Catholic lady.
      Why do u want mass? Why is it so important to u if he doesn’t believe in Jesus? I jave seen miserable Catholic women marrying other pp.

      • Mau says

        Sarah, that is incredibly disrespectful. There is an old Jewish saying that springs to mind: “Do not profane the name by which another man knows his god. For if you do it in Allah, you will do it in Adonai.”

        I hope it works out for you Natasha. As a Catholic-college educated person (who majored in Eastern Religions), I truly wish the best for you. Those of the Hindu faith can be incredibly respectful of religious differences and, as they call it, the many paths to God. (Thinking of Sri RamaKrisna here.)

        And in case some want to disparage my comment, yes, I am a Catholic and yes, while I would prefer to marry a Catholic myself, I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to judge whom God calls us to love.

  18. Cedric says

    I am a non denominational Christian and my girlfriend is Catholic. We would like to marry. I would rather my children be brought up non denominational until they are old enough to choose. What would be the church’s view on this?

    • sara says

      Make them Catholic, way more humble than others. I work with Protestant pp, but have been friends with many Catholic long before , I swear to God, I cant handle PROTESTANTS. They talk too much, wrong teaching from what they are told.bad.

      • Alina says

        Dear Sara,

        You are so horribly judgmental. Even you uttering the word humility is laughable. If you want to evangelize for the faith you should do it with love, not criticism and hate. You should tell your priest what you just said about protestants at your next confession. Hopefully, the holy spirit will enter you and you can stop being so critical.

  19. justin says

    Me and my girlfriend are planning to get married, I’m catholic she is from a different church as well and none of our parents want us to leave our respective churches… I need some advice please!!!

  20. Daniel says

    My wife to be has been working as a music teacher for 20 years at a catholic elementry school. We are getting married next month, I am a Christian man and belong to a non-denominational christian church. Basically she was told by the priest that if she doesn’t get married in the Catholic Church she would loose her teaching position. What are your thoughts ? To me I feel she is being discriminated against because she is marrying a non catholic.

  21. Eugene Venicia says

    I want to marry a Non-Christian (Hindu) but is it necessary that our children have to baptized and raised as Christians; can’t they take their own decision of their faith.

    • says

      Yes, as Catholics we believe that Jesus Christ is the one way to heaven, that he established the Catholic Church, and that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of God’s revealed truth. Since the Church cares deeply about the salvation of all the people of the earth, including your children, it asks its members to raise their children Catholic. Wouldn’t you want your children to have the same gift of faith that you have been given?

  22. Julia M says

    Hello ,I’m married to a Catholic man (civil wedding)I am not baptised and would like to be baptised. What are my options or what steps should I take to get baptised. I understand that our marrieage is not valid based on Catholic norms. Kindly assist. Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Julia. Typically you would go through a process where you take some classes to learn more about Catholicism and become baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass. However, there are exceptions to this process. Please speak to a priest at your husband’s parish to get the process started.

  23. says

    Please settle a discussion I am having with a widow friend. I am divorced and have an annulment and know I can marriage again. If he remarriages a divorced non Catholic he is commenting adultery. I say he is wrong. The other person only needs to get an annulment.? Who is right?

    • says

      Hi Kathleen. I assume when you refer to “he” remarrying you are speaking of your former husband. If this is the case, then no, he would would not be committing adultery if he remarries since your marriage to him has been annulled. However if he remarries another person who is considered married by the church then he would be in a sinful relationship with another married person. The other person would need to seek an annulment. I hope this helps.

  24. Mike says

    Can a catholic man born in korea but lived in america for a long time marry a non-baptized woman without a religion from South Korea?

  25. mitz says

    My fiance is an austrian baptized catholic but has not been paying church tax thus he cant be issues his baptismal certificate.. i am a filipina and we want a church wedding here in the philippines.. is this still possible?

    • says

      Yes, it might be possible. I am not familiar with all of the details of the church tax, but you will want to check with your priest to see what, if any, possibilities there are of getting married without your fiance’s baptismal certificate.

  26. says

    Can a married person who is not married in the Catholic Church marry a person who is Catholic and had their marriage anulled?

  27. Sammy says

    This issue of Catholics insisting of obtaining the permission of the Bishop prior to a non catholic marrying a lady from catholic has caused a lot of havoc in my town, Nanka, Nigeria. It breeds strive and bitterness among the catholics and non catholics. Just yesterday an Orthodox young man wedded a lady from the catholic church in the orthodox church. Many of the relations of the lady were absent at the wedding, because th local priest threatened to expel any catholic found at the wedding in orthodox from the catholic church. whats your stake on this? Secondly, the catholics in my locality sees and treats anyone who is not a catholic as an infidel, and those doomed for destruction.

    • sarablynn says

      I find this hard to believe, as my parish priest just told me that, any thing the Orthodox church does is permissible for Roman Catholics to do… such as the Nativity Fast. He said that since the two are so closely related, that if an Orthodox person converts to Roman Catholicism, they would not have to be baptized again. Surely he isn’t a liar. If those priests are acting that way, report them. The deacon, at my church, just told a story about when he went to a Baptist church.

      • Alina says

        Yes, but different cultures behave different regarding these issues. Not every diocese follows or interprets the same rules similarly.

    • says

      Yes, you can marry someone who is not Catholic, but the other person could not be married already. If you want to marry somewhere other than a Catholic church building you would need to discuss that with your priest.

  28. Jo says

    What is the catholic view about a catholic marrying an Adventist in the Adventist church?
    Does the catholic stand to loose any rights or relevance in his/her Catholic Church by virtue of marrying outside the church?

    • Alina says

      Your marriage will not be valid in the eyes of the church. Thusly, if you do not get a special dispensation to marry outside of your church you will be considered “living in sin.”

  29. J Thompson says

    It depends on what faith the “divorced” person was married in and I’m sure someone here more knowledgeable about Canon law can offer feedback. Generally speaking, only a Catholic marriage is valid. i the divorced preson was married in a non Christian faith (buddhism, judaism,, etc) than that is not considered a marriage and there is no problem converting to Catholicism and marrying a Catholic in the Church. If the person was married as a Christian you may (may..check with a priest) need the approval of the Catholic Bishop as protestants do have a valid sacrament of marriage. If the divorced person was married as a Catholic, FORGET IT, unless a valid annulment is in place.

  30. Lixtony Stephen says

    Thank you so much sir for such a comprehensive talk concerning a marriage between a catholic and non catholic

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