Marriage of Non Christians


What is church teaching regarding the marriage of two non christians, who subsequent to that marriage have one of the parties convert to the Catholic faith ? Is the marriage recognized in the eyes of the church as valid ?

Likewise what if two non christians marry and divorce and then one joins the Catholic church. Is that non christian marriage by two non christians an impediment to a subsequent Catholic wedding ?

Everything I run into online deals with conversion of Christians from various protestant groups or mixed marriage. I’m interested in general info about marriages where neither is even remotely christian and how that relates.



Non-Catholics and non-Christians marry validly when they marry each other, assuming there are no impediments (like a prior valid marriage, fraud, etc.)

Of course.

Divorce is not an impediment to entering the Church.

Yes. Like all people approaching the Church, they would need to be declared free to marry in order to marry in the Church.

When one or both parties to the marriage are unbaptized, in addition to investigating whether the marriage was valid (annulment process) the person may also have recourse to the Pauline or Petrine Privilege to dissolve the natural marriage if it is valid.

If the non-Christian converting to the Faith is found to have been in an invalid marriage, or if they receive a dissolution of the bond via Pauline or Petrine Privilege, then they would be free to marry in the Catholic Church.

The unbaptized enter into valid, natural marriages when they marry each other (again, providing no impediments).


I’m not sure a *valid prior marriage *constitutes an impediment to a natural marriage among non-Christians? Canon 1148 speaks of *several non-baptized *spouses simultaneously, and even speaks to the justice of caring for the temporal needs of any which may be dismissed. (Though there is implication that the first spouse holds some priority, but that in any case, if any spouse is retained, marriage must be contracted in legitimate form)

Can. 1148 §1. When he receives baptism in the Catholic Church, a non-baptized man who has several non-baptized wives at the same time can retain one of them after the others have been dismissed, if it is hard for him to remain with the first one. The same is valid for a non-baptized woman who has several non-baptized husbands at the same time.
§2. In the cases mentioned in §1, marriage must be contracted in legitimate form after baptism has been received, and the prescripts about mixed marriages, if necessary, and other matters required by the law are to be observed.
§3. Keeping in mind the moral, social, and economic conditions of places and of persons, the local ordinary is to take care that the needs of the first wife and the others dismissed are sufficiently provided for according to the norms of justice, Christian charity, and natural equity.

Disclaimer: I Am Not A Canon Lawyer


Yes, it does. However, when one or both parties are unbaptized, the dissolution of the bond is also a possibility. Dissolution of the bond is the dissolution of a valid marriage and must be done before the party is free to marry. In absence of dissolution of the bond, a prior bond impediment exists.

In the case you site, polygamy, if the convert is choosing a wife other than the first, then that first marriage is being *dissolved *via the Pauline Privilege. Hence the requirement to contract marriage anew with the chosen spouse.



It is not that such a person always has to contract marriage in a legitimate form but only when he choses a wife other than the first. If he decides to “dismiss” the subsequent wives, he can remain with the first and does not have to go through another wedding ceremony. If he choses a subsequent wife, then he must observe a legitimate form and the marriage to the first wife is dissolved (as 1ke correctly stated). Only these are “the cases mentioned in §1” of c. 1148.

Whether this dissolution is an expression of the Pauline or “Petrine” privilege is an interesting question. It has elements of both…



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