Marriage Preparation

If a Catholic marries someone who is Greek Orthodox in the Greek church (and gets a dispensation to do so), do they still need to do marriage preparation with the Catholic parish? If they’re not required to do so, are they invited to if they would like to?

Usually a Bishop will require the Pastor to conduct the normal Marriage Preparation before he requests the Bishops Dispensation or Permission. He would want to be sure that the Latin Catholic is solid in their faith and the other party is aware of the obligation of the Catholic to have all children Baptized and raised in the Catholic Faith, and that the other party understands that they are not to interfere in the Catholic’s practice of their faith.

I am Catholic and married a Greek Orthodox. We had a few meetings with an Orthodox priest for prep and attended an NFP class (which was at the Catholic Church). We were welcome to do all the prep at the Catholic parish if we had wanted to; I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t be welcome to do that (although it’s possible the Orthodox priest may ask you to do their prep as well). I came away with the idea that both organizations required some kind of marriage prep but everyone was very reasonable in terms of working things out - and we had additional complexities of living in a different state (and archdioceses) from where we married.

It’s my understanding that the Greek Orthodox can’t be married outside of their church, so in addition to the dispensation for the mixed marriage (not disparity of cult - the Orthodox are recognized as baptized Christians), the Catholic will need permission to be married in the Orthodox church. The non-Catholic party is not asked to sign any agreements to raise the children Catholic. The Catholic party is to do all he/she can to have the children baptized and reared in the Catholic faith (it’s not a promise to raise the children in the Catholic faith) and to remain a practicing Catholic; the non-Catholic party is to be aware of these obligations.

It would raise some questions about validity I believe if the Catholic entered into the Marriage with the intent of not raising the children Catholic, in other words agreeing before the Marriage to Baptize and raise the children Orthodox.

In the case described:

  1. dispensation from the Catholic canonical form of marriage is only required for lawfulness on the basis of canon 1127 §1: The prescriptions of can. 1108 are to be observed concerning the form to be employed in a mixed marriage; if a Catholic party contracts marriage with a non-Catholic of an oriental rite, the canonical form of celebration is to be observed only for liceity. . . and

  2. the required permission in canon for mixed religion in canon 1124 (i.e., to a baptized non Catholic) pertains to lawfulness rather than validity. Even though that canon uses the term “forbidden,” it does not impose the burden of invalidity. This is different from the impediment of disparity of cult in canon 1086 (marriage to the unbaptized), and is not itself listed among the diriment impediments.

If the Catholic manifested an intention, despite the required prenuptial promises, to raise the children Orthodox, I should think the local ordinary might withhold both the permission and the dispensation. Without them, the marriage would then be celebrated validly on the basis of those canons, but unlawfully.

the pastor of the Catholic in question is the administrator of sacraments for that person, and as such the one to assure that he or she has been properly prepared and is worthily disposed for the sacrament, so he will undertake whatever is required. That is not to say the orthodox priest will also insist on their own preparation.

You might find When a Catholic Marries an Orthodox Christian from the USCCB useful reading as well. Also from The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops “A Pastoral Statement on Orthodox/Roman Catholic Marriages”.

So for clarity (for myself) If the local Ordinary does not give his Permission or grant a Dispensation, and the couple goes ahead anyway. The Catholic Church would not recognize the Marriage?

Assuming the couple is otherwise free to marry, the marriage of a Catholic to a member of an Orthodox Church according to the sacred rite of the Orthodox but without dispensation from Catholic form of marriage and without permission for mixed religion, it would be “recognized” as valid but it would be illicit.

This is all very helpful. Both traditions are important to the couple (she’s Roman, he’s Orthodox), and they wish to comply with the requirements of both traditions. Her question comes from the fact that she thinks marriage preparation is a good idea (“if couples spent as much time preparing for their marriage as they did preparing for their wedding, the divorce rate would fall through the floor”) and wants to know if they can still do it if they get married in his church. I sent her the two documents that 5Loaves posted, and I think they will be enlightening.


I’m not sure what effect it would have. I may be overly sensitive to the wording of what the Catholic promises due to my own situation (mixed marriage with an Orthodox). I absolutely prefer to raise any children Catholic but I won’t be breaking any promises or oaths if they are raised Orthodox. It might seem a little silly to mention, but I do run into people (family members) who think I left the church because I got married in an Orthodox church; there aren’t many mixed marriages in my family and I try to be extra careful with the wording.

With regard to the original posting, both Churches absolutely support marriage prep. I would be shocked if either didn’t welcome the couple to whatever programs are in place. Also, I don’t know how much the bride and groom know about their intended’s religion. I would encourage them to learn, maybe taking an intro class or reading some basic books.

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