Interfaith marriage


If a Catholic falls in love with someone who is of a different religion, should they still get married?

If so, how should they proceed (assuming neither of them is convinced enough to convert to the other’s faith)?


The precepts of the Church forbid marriages between a Catholic and a non-Catholic. However, if the non-Catholic agrees to raise the children in the Catholic Faith, you can get dispensation from the Bishop and marry in the Church.


A Catholic can marry a non-Catholic with the proper dispensation. Note that there is a very large difference between 1. marrying a non-Christian and 2. marrying a non-Catholic Christian. Marriage to a non-Christian would not be something that most Catholics would consider wise, generally speaking. Even marriage to a Protestant is a danger to the faith of the Catholic and to the faith of the children of this marriage. In many mixed marriages, the couple ends up compromising by practicing neither faith.


I am married to a baptized non-Catholic Christian. In a nutshell, it was neither a good decision nor a bad one. I accepted there would be challenges, and there are. The Husband is still a good man and I don’t regret marrying a non-Catholic.

The first step in proceeding with an interfaith marriage is the same as for all marriage: speak to the Catholic party’s pastor.

During preparation, I was the one who promised to do “everything possible” to raise any eventual children in the Catholic faith. The Husband was informed of this promise (actually, he was present when I made it), but was not himself required to make the same promise. Afterwards, we requested canonical permission from the archbishop to marry. This was granted (obviously ;)), as was our request to marry within a Nuptial Mass.

Procedure may vary slightly, depending upon individual circumstance and/or (arch)diocese. I understand, for example, that in some (arch)dioceses marrying a non-Catholic in a Mass is left to the pastor’s discretion. I now live a different archdiocese from the one I married in. My current pastor would have denied us the Mass on account of The Husband’s non-Catholicism. So YMMV.

Marrying a non-Christian is another matter, though the procedure is largely the same IIRC. However, I’m one of the Catholics who consider this to be unwise, as Paul alluded to above. Non-Christian faiths hold to tenets that are in direct opposition to Christian beliefs. (I cannot think of one that doesn’t, but remain open to correction.) Not only does this put the faith of the Catholic half of the couple in potential jeopardy, it adds even more complexity to the already-difficult task of raising children in the Church.


Can they and should they are two different questions.

A Catholic **can **marry a non-Catholic or even a non-Christian. Marrying a non Catholic involves permission from the bishop, marrying a non-Christian involves a dispensation from the bishop. The Catholic has promises to make regarding their own faith and the raising of children. A dispensation wouldn’t be granted if there were solid reasons the bishop believed a member of his flock was in danger of losing their own faith or not being able to practice it freely and a lot of times that is the woman who is in danger). This happens in other countries (especially Muslim countries) more frequently than the US. In the US, barring any real serious issues identified by the pastor, permission for mixed marriage and dispensation for disparity of cult are usually granted.

Now, **should **a Catholic marry a non-Catholic is a different question all together. It has many perils, both for the Catholic and future children. There are literally thousands of threads on this forum, most in Family Life, of those who regret their mixed marriage or those who are still in their mixed marriage but are having significant difficulty due to issues over raising children in the faith.

The Church has many pastoral writings to assist pastors in counseling those who are contemplating or who are in a mixed marriage. It’s not easy, and should never be undertaken lightly. The ideal is, of course, to raise strong Catholic families. That is best done by two strong, Catholic parents.

With caution and with much counseling with the Catholic party’s pastor. The couple will be required to complete all of the Catholic premarital counseling, paperwork regarding freedom to marry, and will need to be married in Catholic form or properly dispensed by the Catholic bishop to be married in a non-Catholic ceremony.


The non-Catholic party makes no such promises. The Catholic party alone makes the promise to do all in their power to raise children Catholic. The non-Catholic is informed of the promises.

This changed with the 1983 code of canon law.


My wife is Jewish. And while I love her very much, it has become a major obstacle in our marriage since my reversion back to the faith.

While I do not wish I did anything different (because I wouldn’t have my kids) I do often wish and pray for my wive’s conversion, which she says will never happen.

My kids faith formation is severely lacking because my wife is 100% against them being Catholic, so I’m slowing trying to introduce her to the Hebrew Catholics and have been studying Jewish law to help my argument that the kids can be Hewbrew Catholics.

My personally recommendation is that Catholics should only marry Catholics. Otherwise, you are picking up an additional cross and potentially bringing kids into the world with a disadvantage.

God bless




Thank you for the correction. It seems that it goes the old way in some parishes still.


To be fair, there are also many couples in mixed marriages who are happy, content, have no problems, and wouldn’t trade their non-Catholic spouse for anyone else. At least that’s the line my Catholic wife gives me. I choose to believe her.


Mixed marriages and interfaith marriages are not really the same thing.

For example: not a Protestant and a Catholic marry and both take their faith seriously, they can get along as long as their differences are respected and as long as they respect each other’s Church. Also, at least the kids still get baptized and believe in Christ.

But if a Christian (esp a Catholic) and a non-Christian both take their faiths seriously, there are many more issues. Will the kids be Christian or not? What if the non-Christian is secular when they get married but has a change of heart when they have kids… Realizing they want the traditions that they had, etc.

No one is saying that it can’t work. But it makes things harder.


My husband is is an agnostic protestant. He is a great husband and father. I love being married to him. Sometimes I wish we could talk more about faith or even PRAY TOGETHER. He does come to mass with us on occasion and agreed to have the kids baptized. I pray that one day he will convert. Maybe finding each other was part of God’s plan for both of us!


But is someone is truly in love with their non-believer spouse, then surely it would be worth it.


This is the part of the thread when someone says something along the lines of: ‘if you are only marrying for love then you’re asking for trouble’.


What do you mean when you say “someone is truly in love” ?


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