Catholic friend dating an athiest


I hope I’m posting this in the right place, I’m not quite sute what subject thsi would fall under on this site.
I have a friend who is catholic. Not a close friend, but someone I know at church. She is very devoted to her faith, goes to mass a few times a week, and lives a very moral life.
She’s been dating a guy for a few months that admits that he’s an athiest. Now I have to admit that this guy is actually very nice. He’s not the kind of athiest that bashes Christianity, or makes fun of the church. He was just raised by parents who didn’t believe in God, so therefore he doesn’t believe either. He doesn’t really understand it, but has nothing but respect for what others believe.
He also seems to really love this girl. He’s going to far as to respect her wish to remain a virgin till marriage.
I’ve talked with her, and we both believe that this guy is probably going to ask her to marry him. She loves him and wants to marry him, but isn’t sure if the church would allow it. I didn’t really know what to tell her as I’m fairly new to the church.
Does anyone know whether a Catholic can marry an athiest?


I can send you some info on proofs for the existence of God and the church’s claim to be the one true church if you PM me with an email address. It may help him. If I were her I would not marry, but see if he’ll become a catholic. It really affects the children badly in every case I’ve seen. And the catholic spouse suffers too.


How can a Christian marriage be a sacramental one without both people entering willingly into a Covenant relationship with each other and Christ?


From the catechism
Mixed marriages and disparity of cult
1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.
1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.
1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority.137 In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage.138 This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church.139
1636 Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple’s obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them. 1637 In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task: "For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband."140 It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this “consecration” should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith.141 Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.


This is something i don’t understand. If her faith means so much to her then how can she feel complete with someone who doesn’t share those beliefs? I mean when she wants to talk about confession or going to adoration is her spouse going to truly support her or is she going to have to hide her joy and then slowly over the years not allow him to see that part of herself simple because he doesn’t understand that side of her? Wouldn’t it be living a double life? Not saying she couldn’t be the light in his life to bring him to christ but what if they have childern and she dies? Is he going to respect her wishes and continue to have the childern raised catholic? So many questions…


I believe the church will allow it. Our priest’s sister is married to an atheist, and the priest has had many conversations with him. Our priest (who is admittedly a bit liberal) considers faith to be a gift that not everybody is blessed with. He thinks very highly of his brother and law and says that many “Christians” can learn a lot from his brother in law. The best thing you can do for your friend is offer her your love and support. You will not be able to convert her soon to be fiance or change her mind, and any attempts to do so will probably drive her away, as will passing judgment on her relationship. (I’m not saying that you will, just making a suggestion). It sounds like your friend has found a great man who will offer a lot to her faith development despite his beliefs and obviously loves her very much. Good luck to her.


It’s a bad idea and she hasn’t thought this through at all.

The Church “allows” it if all of the criteria set forth by the church can be met, and the pastor is convinced that the Catholic will not come to spiritual harm, but the Church discourages it.

She needs to think very carefully about her future children.


This topic (or a version of it) comes up once in awhile on CAF.

I married an “agnostic”. He didn’t grow up with religion but has respect for Christianity and the Catholic Church.

Who is to say that he will not one day become Catholic? Nobody out there is perfect. You might marry a faithful Catholic and he or you might fall away from the Church. You never know for sure.

I agree that she needs to really think about her future and what his lack of faith means for their future family. One big issue can be Natural Family Planning. There will be others too and they should be discussed ahead of time before marriage.

Pray for this man that he may come to the Church.



My question is…why is she asking you? If she attends daily Mass a few times a week, she undoubtedly knows her priest, and she should be comfortable talking to him about this stuff. Then, she could get an authoritative answer, instead of having you ask some strangers on the internet.

Also, I’m wondering why she started dating the guy in the first place, if she had doubts that she would be allowed to marry him. This is something to resolve BEFORE beginning to date someone…


Why does it bother you if she asked me? She knows I’m a mature women, and at the time felt a little more comfortable asking me. That wasn’t even the point of this thread.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit