Catholic marrying in Protestant church - advice please

A quick back story. I am a practising Catholic. I am marrying a girl who has, by happen chance, been baptised but not raised as a Catholic and is profoundly agnostic. She has accompanied me to Church of late but does not participate. She is happy that any offspring be raised as Catholics.

I am a serving soldier in the Army - which I am shortly leaving - and so do not know the parish priest of the place where we have bought a house together, and wherein we intend to live upon marriage.

I have stipulated that the marriage or service must be a Catholic one. My gf is content with this but is adament we should be married in the Protestant church in the village. She does this on the grounds of aesthetics and of the fact that this is where we will be living, as to her denominations are irrelevant. It is worth pointing out that prior to the reformation the Church was a Catholic one.

The vicar of the church in which we hope to marry has given us the thumbs up. He says that we are ok to have a Catholic mass and a Catholic wedding service. However, from what I can make out, she says that for legal reasons he would have to oversee the vows and signing of the book. **Question 1: would this compromise the validity of the sacrament?

** I approached the local parish priest, who due to a coincidence of diocesan is actually fairly removed from our village. He represented my case to the diocesan tribunal, who he then informed me have rejected the petition. This was on the grounds that we were both baptised Catholics. However, this does not reflect the reality of the situation, where I have been bought up practising and believing and my fiance has had no connection with the Church and considers her baptism a curiosity made to placate dead relatives, and not imparted on her subsequent sisters. I am trying to bring her round to the faith, but this knee jerk reaction has made her consider officially renouncing her baptism as she now considers it an impediment of what, from her perspective, is a very reasonable request. This is clearly not what I want nor what is good for her or the Catholic church. Question 2: how can I make a formal representation for myself? Is there any way i can appeal this decision? Do you consider this decision to be fair and just? Are there other examples of Catholic services being carried out in Protestant churches**

I hope you can spare the time to give me some advice as this threatens to be very harmful for both our relationship and her attitude towards Catholicims at a crucial time in our relationship, and could have big ramifications down the line, paricularly as elements of her family are quite unfavourably disposed towards the Faith and will use this to back up their viewpoint.**

Question 3: Do you consider I am trying to achieve something unreasonable here?

The Church was previously Catholic and was built by Catholics to glorify God? Surely the opportunity to celebrate the trues Mass and religion here is an opportune one.

The place must also be a Catholic one. Two Catholics (which she is) must marry in Catholic form, and canon law stipulates that this includes being married in one or the other’s parish Church, or another Catholic church or oratory. A non-Catholic church is not an option. It is theoretically possible if the Catholic bishop of the place were to give permission but this is highly unlikely so do not get your hopes up.

Not gonna happen.

Not worth mentioning because it’s totally irrelevant.

He is not the one you need permission from. You need permission from your Catholic bishop.

Uh, yeah.

This is an invalid marriage. Do not attempt such a thing.

That is the end of it. You must be married in the Catholic Church. So, get this other idea out of your head and stop trying to figure out a way to marry in this other church building.

Yep. As I said, canon law is very clear on this point, and “because of aesthetics” is not a reason the bishop is going to waste his time on.

It IS the reality. Your girlfriend may refuse to acknowledge reality, but she is a Catholic.

Has no one mentioned that marrying a non-practicing Catholic who claims to be agnostic is a bad idea?

It is not a reasonable request, it is not a knee jerk reaction (canon law is crystal clear on Catholic marriage) and “renouncing” her baptism will do nothing-- it will not change the fact she is Catholic nor will it change the bishop’s decision.

No. There is no appeal.

And yes, it is entirely “fair and just” as again the law on Catholic marriage is quite clear and you must follow it.

I would suggest that you consider the future of a mixed religion household in which one member claims not to believe in God. Perhaps all of this ruckus is an opportunity for you to discern what is truly important in a Catholic marriage, and perhaps make a different choice.

Everything 1ke said. :smiley:

It should be noted that in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Baptism leaves an indelible mark on the soul. It is permanent, and cannot be removed no matter what. There is no such thing as “officially” renouncing her baptism. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, she will ALWAYS be Catholic. Now, if she morally objects to that, she can have her name “officially” removed from any and all data counting her as an “active” member of the church, but her Baptismal record will remain. For example, she wouldn’t be counted in parish records for census data and the like. However, her Baptismal certificate would remain, but with an asterisk or something like that. The Catholic Church doesn’t really consider this an issue, because if a person doesn’t believe they’re Catholic anymore, or they belong to another denomination, then it doesn’t really matter anymore WHAT the Catholic Church says in their eyes since the Catholic Church is just wrong. However, from the Catholic point of view, Baptism is simply permanent. You cannot remove something imparted by God. Even excommunication or what used to be called a formal defection from the church still leaves the person technically a Catholic, just not one in good standing. These simply ban a person from church activities and sacraments, except Confession. Confession isn’t banned because since they are STILL Catholic, they can always be forgiven and return to good standing.

I also agree with all 1ke’s comments and would like to add a few comments of my own.

If she says she is all behind you raising your children Catholic but won’t even get married in a Catholic Church, I question her sincerity. You can get married, literally, anywhere. If she doesn’t like how one Catholic Church looks, you can marry in another that you prefer. However, she is already winning her position. To me, it’s like she’s already going back on her word and not doing as she seemed to suggest, and isn’t cooperating with you on matters of faith.

You aren’t even married and are already having serious issues over religion. What would it be later on?

Now, she says she will go along with the issues, the Catholic Church, but hasn’t gone along with getting married in a Catholic Church. So, I’m already seeing red flags serious enough to a point I’d really wish you’d reconsider this marriage.

Okay, let’s say she does let you raise your children Catholic. What will that look like in the future. You go, with the kids, to Church on Sundays. She stays home?

Now, if she has been unwilling to flex on this issue of marrying in a Catholic Church, why do you think she would suddenly begin to cooperate with you on issues of faith later on? This is setting a precedent that she probably won’t. She is calling the shots, not you. It doesn’t even seem to be really a joint decision, even.

If she won’t marry in a Catholic Church, how can you think she will cooperate when, one day, you ask her to help you out with Natural Family Planning, since you believe contraception to be sinful?

Has she gone with you to Catholic marriage preparation, precana?

If she is not into marrying in the Catholic Church for aesthetic reasons, would she also decide that you shouldn’t be allowed to have a crucifix in your place, rosary, statues, or religious items for “aesthetic reasons”?

To me, marrying in the Church is primary, paramount. “Aesthetic reasons” is a much more superficial reason which leads me to believe she has no clue of the importance of this. Or, if she does, she doesn’t care and just needs to have her way.

What kind of example will it be to your children to have a mother who will never go to mass, receive any of the sacraments, or adhere to any of the beliefs.

What will you respond when they they say, “We don’t want to go to Church, today. Mommy doesn’t?”

The best example by far is to lead by example. If you have half of a couple going against it, it will split the family into two pieces!

Your example will say, “This is very important”. Hers will say, “It doesn’t matter”.

I think it’s a VERY good thing this is happening now so you can get the smallest taste of what you can expect for your future life with her… your ENTIRE life. If this is any indication, you will NOT be on the same page on the most important things, matters of faith.

What if, when you want your children baptized, she comes up with other excuse to try to get out of that, as well?

Although some couples can make a go of it, given this, do you really think you would be one of them?

I am going to hazard a guess that based on the original post the OP lives in the UK. English Catholics ironically campaigned hard to be allowed the right to marry in their own Churches which was removed from them for nearly a century.

The fact of the Church been originally built by Catholics is irrelevant, it is not used by the Catholic Church now at this point in time.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that lately there have been a number of these type of threads, ie: getting married in non Catholic settings, either two Catholics or one Catholic and one non Catholic or needing to have such marriages convalidated? And they all seem to be testing the waters to see what response they get?’


I’ve always thought that a couple married in the church selected by the bride --or even an out-door wedding. But that aside – she’s stated she’s an agnostic – and you’re a practicing Catholic. Can You see a problem? I can. A Big one. Marriage is complicated enough when both people are heading in the Same direction religiously. And you’ve said you’re military. Sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen. As close as you are to being married – you haven’t made that final commitment. And I would NOT continue with marriage plans. God created marriage to be a life-long commitment – a Serious commitment to Him and to each other.

If the parties are non-Catholic, then yes this would typically be the case. But, Catholic marriage is governed by Catholic law.

When I married my wife I was a lapsed cradle Catholic/Agnostic. We married in a civil ceremony. She was a non-denominational, non-baptized “searching” Christian. I eventually reverted to my Catholicism, and she became Protestant, and was baptized.

We eventually had our marriage convalidated. We’ve been married 25 years but have known each other for 36 years.

Has it always been easy? No and at many times it seemed like we were heading in opposite directions. But it has been possible, and we are rewarded in our soon-to-be golden years by having become very close to each other.

The Holy Spirit moves us in mysterious ways. Perhaps their situation won’t work, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility that God brought them together for a reason.

At a dark time in our marriage my wife was quite anti-Catholic. As a Benedictine Oblate I’ve exposed her to monastic tradition, and though still Protestant she has become very defensive of the CC in general, and monastic tradition and the current Holy Father in particular, and uses mostly Catholic web sites for her on-line spiritual nourishment (she’s particularly fond of Sacred Space by the Irish Jesuits).

The odd thing is that I’m doing NOTHING to actively convert her other than praying for her. The Holy Spirit is doing the rest. Perhaps she won’t convert, or perhaps she won’t make it all the way, who knows, but it doesn’t matter, she’s growing closer to God by the day.

Of course you may be right and they’re setting up for a monumental fail.

But it could be He wants him to subtly evangelize her.

I’d like to just begin by pointing that out that, in addition to consulting with this website, I have canvassed the opinion of a number of priests on the issue. These are men whose I consider to be intelligent and certainly not believers in watering down faith - most were tridentine mass sayers. The general response I received was that this was something of a grey area but that such arrangements certainly have and continue to take place. In the light of this, perhaps 1ke would put some canon law flesh on the bones of his abrupt responses, or admonishments.

A number of people have shoehorned in broader questions about my choice in bride. Despite my better judgement, I would like to mention, then, that my fiance has given me her word our children will be brought up as Catholics. She has agreed to the pre marriage instruction. She comes with me to Mass fairly regularly, and has agreed to do so every Sunday upon our marriage, although she does not partake as she feels to do so would be hypocritical. She is also perhaps one of the most morally upright people I have ever met, and it is my sincere hope that her natural inclination for good, protected from the worst manifestations of its followers, will lead her with gentle exposure to the one true faith.

On that note I would like to say that by and large you come across as a most unpleasant and unhelpful lot. Mike30 appears to be implying my involvement in some form of conspiracy! Crochet lady, your opinion on who I have chosen to marry was not sought after, please do keep it to yourself. Likewise Clearwater. JharekCarnelian, I studied under Eamon Duffy at university so I do grasp the basics thank you very much. I think your observation, aside from being put in an unmannerly fashion, is trite. Have a think about whether or not it actually would be a good thing if a wonderful church, built painstakingly by Catholics and for hundreds of years taken from them, was once more the setting for Holy Mass. And most of all 1ke: I am not sure whether it is deliberate but your tone comes across to me as being grating and priggish in the extreme, despite the fact that there was nothing in my question to give offence - either you have made some mistaken assumption about me or you are just a habitually rude individual.

If you grasp the basics then you knew very well what the probable answers to your questions were. I am am a partner in a mixed marriage myself and the Church’s suggestion in my case was to marry in my wife’s Church as the Catholic Church recognises marriages carried out there as sacramental but her Church does not recognise marriages where the faithful of that Church marry outside her Church.

You cannot make an Anglican Church Catholic again just to suit feelings. It does not become magically so if a Mass is said and that seems to me to be disrespectful to both Anglicans and Catholics.

I read your original post and the following responses. Having read your follow-up, I’ve changed my opinion. I’d say, “Go for it! Sounds as though the two of you deserve each other.”

I meant that I know the basics about the history of the reformation in England. I can confirm my intention is not to make an Anglican Church magically Catholic again just to suit feelings. I can also confirm the Vicar of the church in question did not find the idea disrespectful. :slight_smile:

Wonderful :slight_smile:

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

It is a grey area in the sense that the Bishop can allow it, and some bishops may allow it for a specific reason in an individual case. You asked, and the request was denied. You then asked how you can appeal or get around it. You cannot. I know that is not what you wanted to hear.

I apologize if I came across harshly. I am a she, not a he. But, the answer is the same. In Catholic marriage preparation your pastor will work with you to prepare you for marriage in Catholic form. You have already received your response to your request so you need to move on with your preparations choosing a Catholic parish.

Again, I apologize if I came across wrong. You came here asking, basically, for a way around your bishop’s decision asking if we thought it was “fair” that your request was denied.

The answer remains: no you cannot circumvent your bishop and yes it is ‘fair’ in that it is within the Bishop’s authority to deny or approve. You indicated that it was the aesthetics of the church that was the central reason for the choice-- that is not a valid reason to dispense Church law which states Catholics marry in the Catholic parish in which one or the other has a domicile or with permission another Catholic place.

You are the one who brought up your fiancee’s threats to “renounce” the faith over this, to which many responded that perhaps then you should be cautious with her promises of raising children Catholic.

You have a difficult road ahead in a mixed marriage. I do wish you well. We here can do nothing to change your bishop’s decision. The best course at this point is to go to marriage preparation with your Catholic pastor and talk it out there, finding a place suitable for Catholic marriage that is approved in your diocese.

Good for the vicar but you are Catholic and not Anglcian, therefore the vicar’s feelings are ultimately not the deciding factor.

Well the thing is I am just not convinced this is the decision of the bishop, because one priest i have spoken to has told me the parish priest pretty much makes the decision! I’m in the Army so I don’t know the parish priest in question. I phoned him briefly and sent a brief email about the issue. As I thought it would be a black or white decision - ie it is written down somewhere that it is ok or it it is not - I didn’t make a very full representation of our case. He said he would take it up and then came back with a negative, which I don’t think is fair because I haven’t had a chance to properly represent our case. However, you are quite correct that whinging on a forum isn’t going to help things. But I have now the answer to my question: that such an arrangement can be allowed, however it is only granted for specific reasons. Being in the Army we also have the bishopric of the forces, so maybe I can try down that road … Anyway thanks for your help.

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