Is it okay for a Catholic to preside over a marriage of atheists?

My fiancee and I are currently looking for an official to perform our wedding ceremony in a chapel we have rented for the event later this year.

Yesterday we met with a younger gentleman who I think we will likely hire. The interesting thing is he is Catholic. He is certified as a wedding minister through one of those ministries that will certify basically anyone. After speaking to him for a while we learned that he is a very devout Catholic. He is very involved with youth groups at his church and it seems that his faith is a large part of his life.

He did not say so but he seemed slightly disappointed when we told him that we are both atheists and do not want religious references in our ceremony. He also said that he is fine with this.

I have absolutely no problem with his faith. He seems like a very nice man and that is all I really care about. I don’t want to make him uncomfortable by asking him to perform a non-religious ceremony.

Do you think it is appropriate for a Catholic to marry two atheists? I was also wondering if he is violating anything within the church by being a minister for another organization and marrying people.

If he is a marriage commissioner, he acts for the State. As such he can marry anyone who requests his services – except that as a Catholic he shouldn’t be marrying same sex couples or Catholics who are marrying outside the Church without a dispensation. Atheists, as long as they are one man, one woman, have every right to get married and someone has to do it.

Marriage is an institution created by God, not man, so it is not tied to a particular Church or group of people. God has the same intentions and laws for marriage for all human beings, which is why, for instance, the Catholic Church recognizes a marriage between two protestants as a valid marriage even though the Church had no part in witnessing that marriage. It was God who brought them together and joined them.

I am not an expert on the particular laws regarding the Church and marriage, but I don’t think there is any reason a Catholic could not perform a marriage ceremony between two athiests. As long as the marriage would be valid (i.e., they are not a same sex couple, neither is still married to someone else, etc.) there should be no problem. What makes a marriage valid is the same for all human beings regardless of religion.

I see nothing wrong with it. Congratulations on getting married. All the best, and I say this to all my atheist friends (I have several) GOD BLESS YOU! :smiley:

I do have a problem with a Catholic being basically a justice of the peace and marrying anyone who wants to be married.

To me it’s along the same lines as taking communion at a Lutheran Church, as a Catholic. It sends mixed messages about your faith.

Not to mention I respect the sacrifices that priests make to be ordained and thus certain duties and rites are given to them to preside over as a part of their vows to the Church.

Not only that, but as a Catholic how could you even want to preside over a marriage that you know isn’t valid under your faith?

From the OP’s POV I see nothing wrong with it, but I think a Catholic should think they are stepping over their bounds by presiding over a wedding.

He told us that he started doing it by accident. He had friends that were an interfaith couple; he wanted their ceremony to have more meaning than a justice of the peace could provide so he became ordained in order to perform their wedding. Ten years later he is still doing it.

I asked this question simply because I’m curious as to how Catholics would view this. I truly don’t want him to do anything he is uncomfortable with. I appreciate your comments/viewpoint.

For me, it’s not about you being atheist but what it should mean to his faith.

The question I would have for him is: Why would you doing the wedding mean more to your interfaith friends? If one of the two was Catholic, they should want a Catholic wedding or least one recognized by the church. If they were belonged to another church(s) you’d think they’d want the ceremony done by the pastor of one of the churches. I find it hard to believe that it would really mean more than having the service in their own church resided over by their pastor. I could see where some might find it neat to get married by one of their friends but this seems like the wrong reason to do it.

I answered “Yes” because a Justice of the Peace serves the public. But as long at neither of the persons are or were Catholic he can according to my sources (Catholic Answers radio). Who would marry such people if they aren’t represented. Their marriage is considered valid, assuming they are not actually Catholics in hiding. Of course, the Catholic JP can not justify presiding over a same sex marriage or one that would go against natural law or prudence, viz., 10 year old marrying a 60 year old.

Sure it sound peculiar but when you really look into it, but the reality is that it’s comforting that atheists even feel strong enough about the institution of marriage that they would commit to it. And who better than a Christian to preside over the marriage than someone with the Graces from God through his baptism? Maybe the Holy Spirit will use this to work in the lives of the atheists.

Man, I see everything wrong with it.

Or maybe there must be something wrong with me.

But then…Paul did say in 2 Corinthians 6:14

“14Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?”

I’m not saying that the Catholic man having a wedding with an atheist woman, or vice versa, should divorce. Cause it is written in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

“12To the rest I say–I and not the Lord–that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. 16Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.”

If people here actually believe that putting scripture aside is for the best, I’m in the wrong forum.


Taking communion in a Lurtheran Church sends the wrong messege in that Lutherans don’t believe in the transubstantiation. So, they don’t believe that you are actually taking in the body and blood of Christ but that it’s just a symbolic jesture. IMO, if you are Catholic and take part in a Protestant communion you are not taking in the body and blood and therefore it is an invalid Echarist. Furthermore, the Catholic church teaches that only a Eucharist presided over by an ordained Catholic priest can include transubstantiation. So, by that logic you are not and cannot be recieving a valid Eucharist at any church but a Catholic church.

By taking part in an invalid Eucharist, IMO, you are sending a mixed messege. You are saying I believe that in the transubstantiation during the Eucharist but it’s OK to “pretend” sometimes. IMO, the Eucharist is the #1 and most important sacrament and shouldn’t be something people do to play “pretend”. I think if you take part in an invalid Eucharist, you are basically playing down the importance of a valid Eucharist.

On the other hand, performing a marriage when you are not an ordained priest or deacon or with special permission of the Bishop, you are also sending a mixed messege about one of the holy sacraments.

As for the marriage being valid, it depends. Some Bishops chose not to recoginize certain churches for this purpose. Generally speaking, most of the long standing, established protestant churches (Lurthern,Methodist…ect) are considered valid as far as marriages go. All marriages between baptised people are valid by definition but not all marriages are recognized by the church. This is why if you are married by a justice of the peace or a non-approved denomination you may still need to have your marriage recognized formally by the Church. However, it doesn’t require a new wedding just a small ceremony with a priest (in the case of a civil marriage or unapproved denomination). I would guess if you are a mail-order ordained pastor, you’d not be performing Church recognized marriages. However, if he was a Lutheran pastor, it would be 100% valid and recognized by the Church.

I’m currently going through this process myself having been married by a local pastor in Jamaica some years ago before deciding to become Catholic. These are the explainations our Priest gave us. Our marriage was valid (we’re both baptised), but it’s not recognized by the Church.

Sorry, I used the wrong term in my previous post. I should have used “recognized” instead of “valid”.

You are cherry picking verses here.

You have to read that verse in context of the entire book of 1st Corinthians. It was a letter from Paul to the Corinthians about their faith falling by the wayside. It was also in response to several false apostles who were active in the area at the time and were challenging Paul’s apostleship.

So, the verse you are quoting is actually refering to the false apostles saying do not associate with them. He is not saying don’t associate with non-believers. While you are interpreting the correct sentiment, you have the wrong target for the sentiment.

Just because we’re atheists doesn’t mean we don’t want to declare our lifelong love and commitment to eachother in front of our family and friends :slight_smile:

[quote=mcrow]I do have a problem with a Catholic being basically a justice of the peace and marrying anyone who wants to be married.

First of all, the couple marries themselves. Justices of the Peace, even *priests *for that matter, do not *marry *people. They only preside.

To me it’s along the same lines as taking communion at a Lutheran Church, as a Catholic. It sends mixed messages about your faith.

If the couple is not Catholic, and in this case not even Christian, what message would it possibly send?

Not to mention I respect the sacrifices that priests make to be ordained and thus certain duties and rites are given to them to preside over as a part of their vows to the Church.

Presiding over marriage is not a priestly duty. Even a deacon can do that. Even a pastor in a non-Catholic church, so long as the Catholic party has a dispensation, can do that. Priestly duties, *specific *to ordination, are confecting the Eucharist and absolving sins.

Not only that, but as a Catholic how could you even want to preside over a marriage that you know isn’t valid under your faith?

The marriage of two atheists is a valid, natural marriage. Not sacramental, but valid, even in the Catholic Church’s eyes (provided there was no earlier marriage and divorce).

For further info, read: and

OK, let’s not get snappy with semantics. You knew what I meant, not need to go on lecturing on the basics of life here. Of course I didn’t mean what you are suggesting this is simply you trying to be elitist and “show me”.

Read my next post in the thread, it further explains my position.

Also, one of the links you posted the good Father seems to have confused “valid” and “recognized” as I did in my previous post. All marriages between baptised people are valid but not all are recognized by the church.

This is why you have to have your marriage recognized by the church if you are married by a justice of the peace.

The other link justifies parts of what I said about being ordained in some mail order church to preside over a marriage. If you happend to be a justice of the peace and catholic, it’s OK to reside over a marriage even if you are not ordained but it does not mean it’s recognized by the Church.

There’s quite a lot of religious vocabulary there: “wedding minister”, “ordained”, “chapel”, while it’s clear that this gentleman we’re talking about is not a member of the Catholic clergy. Could you please clarify who hires him and what is the nature of the weddings he officiates at?

And there’s no reason why a Catholic justice of the peace (or some other official authorised to officiate at weddings by the state) should feel bad about performing ceremonies for atheists. In fact, he should be the most comfortable doing just that, actually, as Catholics are not allowed to marry civilly (i.e. secular wedding) without marrying religiously.

Is he perhaps a layman authorised by the bishop to officiate at religious weddings?

I don’t see anything wrong with a Catholic performing a civil ceremony. I’m just curious as why you would want to get married in a chapel?

I hope you don’t take this question hostily… I’m curious too. Is it because it’s a pretty location? Is it a REAL chapel (what denomination), or a building made to look like one that anyone can use? I remember seeing one such place in Portland Or. In fact I think they used the place to stage Tony & Tina’s Wedding…

For example you couldn’t pick a Catholic church, as an atheist, and make arrangements to get married there. I don’t actually know of any religions, (though I don’t study others) that would allow someone to use their facilities, who disbelieves. It seems hypocrytical, and disrespectful.

And finally, I just attended a wedding in a hotel environment. The bride of no faith, and the groom a proclaimed ex-catholic… and they chose some sort of preacher ( who was dressed much like a priest. And then, tons of bible verses and readings… It was so odd. It just did not represent. And the religious friends I told of this wedding, all found it “odd”, whereas the non religious people think I’m NUTZ for suggesting so. Because in their words… The bible means what you want it to… :shrug:

So, here’s my suggestion or input… It’s YOUR wedding. Do as you feel represents you. If you get married in a chapel, I suspect others, (especially any guest with a religious affiliation) will think you’re leaning a wee bit towards God. Others, may just think it a pretty location.

I wouldn’t worry about a man that says he’s fine officating your wedding. He knows his comfort zone. I suspect if you were looking to sacrafice a goat or something the guy would hit the bricks! If he says he’s ok with it, then I suspect he sees two people truly in love… and that’s what matters.

Congratz on your empending wedding, and well, I hope your future is Blessed!

This shows a misunderstand of the whole Catholic Church.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches for the Sacrament of Marriage to be valid it must be blessed by a priest.

What you are speaking of is the Roman Catholic Church, which granted is the largest and what most people know of but it is very hard to speak of things such as this when the other Catholic Churches are a little different.

Just a question as I am trying to understand this.

You say you are atheists and do not want any religious references in your ceremony yet you have chosen a “chapel” with will have religious symbology within the ceremony.

Is this a non-Christian, or non-Religious Chapel?

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