Can a marriage in the Orthodox Church be accepted in the Catholic Church?

My son is planning to marry a girl of the Orthodox faith. I do not know yet what faith they are planning to marry in. But I would like to know what is accepted and what is not accepted on either Church.

Thank You,
Maria Villafana

A Guide on Catholic-Orthodox Marriages for Catholic Clergy and Other Pastoral Ministers by the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, 1997.

See also:

A Pastoral Statement on Orthodox/Roman Catholic Marriages by a Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, 1990.

Read those excellent sources posted below. I’ll pick it up from the Catholic perspective though.

As a rule, for a Roman Catholic like your son to marry validly, he must marry in the Catholic Church. Such a marriage in the Roman Catholic Church requires the active assistance of an authorized priest or deacon who asks for the parties to exchange consent and who receives it on behalf of the Church. It also requires two witnesses. This canon 1108 is called the “canonical form of marriage” for Roman rite Catholics. (Catholics of the Eastern Churches are bound to a somewhat different form of the celebration in which the blessing of the priest is emphasized.)

However, canon 1127 is an exception to this. If your son married an Orthodox woman in a sacred rite according to the laws of the particular Orthodox Church with the customary wedding blessing of its priest, the Catholic Church would recognize it as valid, and a sacrament — but unlawful. I urge them not to do that.

Even so, canon 1108 is an ecclesiastical (Church made) rather than divine law. So, the Catholic bishop, for a just cause, can dispense from the canonical form of marriage which is required of your Catholic son for a lawful marriage.

A dispensation is an act of competent Church authority that relaxes a Church law. This would allow a valid and lawful wedding before the Orthodox Church priest. However he must conduct the sacred rite according to the laws of that particular Orthodox Church and give the customary wedding blessing to the couple.

Assuming both your son and his fiancee are otherwise free to marry, either a Catholic or an Orthodox wedding with the dispensation could be permissible from the Catholic perspective.

Be aware that the Orthodox Churches have a different outlook on freedom to marry. They may allow people who have been married before and then divorced, to marry again.

For a Catholic or someone who wants to marry a Catholic, the Church would require the annulment process or something similar by the Catholic Church to determine such freedom. It does not accept the Orthodox equivalent of a Catholic annulment.

Catholics may ask their bishop for permission to be married in a Greek Orthodox church.If granted,the wedding would be recognised as fully vailid & licit .

There are, as Deacon John notes, canonical issues to be addressed. There are also pastoral issues that are quite serious here. Because of the nature of the Orthodox Church it is generally held that marriages between a Catholic and a member of the Orthodox Church should take place in the Orthodox Church after the appropriate canonical dispensations have been granted.

The reason for this is quite simple when viewed from an Orthodox perspective. The Orthodox believe that the Orthodox Church is the true Church and that grace is present in their Church. Since they do not know if grace is present in any other Church they choose to err on the side of being conservative and, therefore, do not recognize (with some exceptions) the sacraments of the Catholic Church (baptism is clearly an exception and, in the case of some Orthodox Churches, so is confirmation and holy orders).

Most of the Orthodox Churches in the United States will consider an Orthodox Christian excommunicated for celebrating one of the mysteries (sacraments) with Catholics. For this reason the Catholic Church generally permits marriages between Catholics and Orthodox to take place in the Orthodox Church.

As Deacon John has noted, a dispensation from canonical form is required before the marriage takes place. Also, the marriage should be recorded in both the Catholic and Orthodox parishes of the parties involved.

Deacon Ed

Roman Catholics may obtain a dispensation from his or her Bishop to be married to an Orthodox Christian by an Orthodox Priest. This is possible because the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the orders and Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. This is also possible because in Roman Catholic theology the couple is the minister of the Sacrament and the Bishop, Priest or Deacon, a witness. In such cases, a Roman Catholic Priest may be invited to offer words of encouragement and give a blessing to the couple after the conclusion of the Orthodox ceremony.
However, the Orthodox Church considers the Bishop or Priest the minister of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, a Deacon could not preside over an Orthodox marriage. Therefore, an Orthodox Christian must be married by an Orthodox Bishop or Priest because Orthodox Christians may not receive Sacraments from non-Orthodox clergy. Therefore if an Orthodox Christian is married in a Catholic or any other kind of non-Orthodox ceremony, they will not be allowed to take Holy Communion until they have been married by an Orthodox Priest.
I should also mention that an Orthodox Christian may only marry another Christian who was Baptized “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Archpriest John W. Morris

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