Catholics marrying non-Catholics

Can a Catholic marry a non-Catholic, non-Christian, in a (non-sacramental) “Catholic” union? I heard things about Canon Law exclusions, but I would like to know more.

To give an example: Catholic man wishes to marry a Christian-inspired, yet never baptized, woman.

Get her into an RCIA program, then there should be no problem. If she is unwilling, perhaps you should find a nice Catholic girl.

I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as a non-sacramental Catholic union between a man and woman.


I don’t know what you mean by “non-sacramental, Catholic union”; but I am a Protestant, and my husband is a Catholic, and there did not seem to be a problem with our getting married. I have been baptized, and the priest had to have a part in our ceremony; but our ceremony was not in a Catholic church. He is still allowed to take communion in the Church. Don’t know if this helps. . .?

This is incorrect

2 non baptized people, or a baptized person and a non-baptized person can enter into a valid natural marriage. If the baptized person is Catholic, they must receive permission for disparity of cult, and are still bound by canonical form unless also receiving a dispensation from form.

I’m sure someone will post the Canon law references, but here is the simple answer as I understand it. With propert permission and/or dispensation, a Catholis can marry a non-Catholic. However there are some differences depending on whether the non-Catholic party has been baptized:

  1. When a Catholic marries a baptized non-Catholic this requires permission from the bishop. Marriage to a non-baptized person requires dispensation. As a practical matter, I;m not sure I understand the difference, but that is a “lingo” used. I understand dispensation to be a higher bar.

  2. When the marriage between a Catholic and a baptized Catholic takes place according to church norms, the Church recognizes this marriage a valid and a sacrament. When the marriage is between a Catholic and a non-baptized person it can be valid, but is not a sacrament. This is referreed to as a “valid natural marriage.”

My understanding is that since Baptism is required to receive any other sacrament, the sacrament of marriage cannot be conferred on one who is not baptized.

CCC - “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.”

CCC - “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.”

(bold print is mine)

Yes, it is possible although not prudent.

The Catholic would start by approaching his priest for assistance. The priest would work with them in the premarital preparation process, including all the necessary paperwork.

The Catholic must meet all obligations and requirements under Canon Law, and must obtain a dispensation from disparity of cult to marry an unbaptized person.

A Catholic marrying a non-Catholic Christianrequires permission from the bishop and marrying a non-Christian requires a dispensation from the Bishop. In the USA permission and dispensations for such cases are rarely refused. I can’t speak for how freely Belgium Bishops issue permissions for such relationships.

A Catholic marrying a baptized non-Catholic Christian would enter into a sacramental marraige.

A Catholic marrying a non-baptized non-Christian would enter into what’s called a natural marriage (which is not a sacrament).

yes a Catholic can validly marry an unbaptized person with the proper dispensation, but no it will not be sacramental marriage unless or until she is baptized, because only the baptized can receive the other sacraments.


A friend of mine, who is also on CAF, was not Catholic when she married her husband, but completed RCIA after the marriage. :slight_smile:

So, when my Catholic fiancee’ and I marry (I am Baptist, we are marrying in the Catholic church) it will be a sacramental marriage for him? or for both of us? How do we word that on the invitation?? (it is ceremony only - not a Eucharistic Mass)

If one of the parties to the marriage is not baptized, then the marriage is not sacramental. It may be valid, with dispensation, but not sacramental.

If both parties are baptized, the marriage is a sacrament. If one or both are unbaptized, it is a natural marriage. If it is a sacrament, it is a sacrament for both.

Wording for marriage outside of the Mass:

Mr. and Mrs. Ron Smith
request the honour of your presence
as their daughter

Gertie Mae
Robert Steven Jones

are united in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony
on Saturday, the first of October
two thousand and eleven
at half past two in the afternoon
St. Rita Catholic Church

Yes, it will be a sacramental marriage as you are both baptized. There really is no need to word that on your invitation. You are simply not having a Nuptial Mass, one reason being that you are not Catholic, and the Mass would include the Eucharistic celebration. Since non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist, it would not be a good way to begin your new lives together having one of you not able to receive the Holy Eucharist.

Excellent - Thank you VERY much - is there a forum where all of the details regarding the ceremony are? I have a couple more questions but don’t want to post here if it’s the wrong place.

I’m assuming you’re baptized so it’s a sacrament for both of you. It can’t be otherwise since the sacrament is not divisible; it is conferred on both of you and it can’t be a sacrament for one and not a sacrament for the other. If you were Buddhist, it wouldn’t be a sacrament for either of you.

You can word your invite as “as we are united in the Sacrament of Marriage”.

You should meet with the priest to discuss it as your particular diocese may have certain rules or procedures. For general info on planning the ceremony, I suggest this workbook by Fr. Champlin:

Thanks Ike - we meet with our Deacon Wednesday evening :slight_smile:

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