Non-Catholic Christian Marriage as a Sacrament


I understand that when two baptized non-Catholic Christians marry that their union is assumed to be sacramental. But does it matter if they are married in a Protestant church or on a beach or by a judge? Would it be sacramental even if the name of the trinity isn’t mentioned? I realize that they are not bound to the Catholic form of marriage but if they lock God out of the ceremony (i.e. civil service) will the Holy Spirit still make them one?

God Bless,


Non-Catholic Christians are not bound by our rules for marriage, as you stated. As far as I know, none of the non-Catholic Christian churches have hard and fast rules as to how a marriage should take place. Since the sacrament is conferred by the bride and the groom making that commitment to each other, then they are made one, whether it is in a church, on a beach or in front of judge.


It helps to remember that the sacrament of marriage is not administered by the priest (we will except Eastern Catholic sacramental theology for this point) but is administered by the couple to each other; the priest is just the offical witness required by the Church. Since Protestants by definition are not official members of the Church, they are not bound by its laws.


Catholics can have sacremental marriages at beaches and in civil services, though not advised, it can be done with a dispensation from the Bishop’s office. God is present everywhere and to all people. Catholics attempt to teach the couple what marriage is, what it means, what is expected in the big scheme, these are not required for civil marriages.


All -

Yes I understand how Catholic marriage works and I understand the role of the priest in the sacrament. I also understand how a non-Catholic Christian’s marriage is sacramental. None of that addresses my question.

Just to restate: If two non-Catholic baptized Christians marry without inviting the Holy Spirit in to their union (civil ceremony, pagan marriage, whatever) is it still sacramental? And yes I’m assuming that they are both free to marry etc.



Can’t see why not. If by definition the marriage of two baptized persons, free to marry is sacramental, of course. It has nothing to do with the ritual followed only that vows are exchanged and the intent to be married is there.


I think the answer was given, but perhaps not understood because of the way it was stated.

Sacramentally, a husband and wife administer the sacrament to each other. So essentially, for those who are not bound by Canon law (and Protestants are not so bound), then the fact that it is not witnessed offically by a minister may be more a question of their laws and requirements - that is, what do the Anglicans, or the certain branch of the Lutherans require? Or the Four Square Gospel, and the Church of Christ; if they would recognize the marriage in front of a judge, that may be all that is needed to know; or if they do not have specific rules, then it would appear prima facia to be sufficient to be recognized as a sacramental marriage.

In short, there is not one overall answer to the question. The marriage would have to be reviewed by a Catholic tribunal if it were a later question (i.e. the parties subsequently get a divorce and one wants to marry a Catholic) to determine if there was a sacramental marriage - did they intend a permanent marriage? Do they recognize marriage as “before God” (I use the term because they may have no theological understanding of a sacrament, but may intend to follow God’s laws per the Bible).

As to whether they “invited the Holy Spirit”, that is a question for the tribunal to determine. The fact that they did not have a minister present is not necessarily determinitive of the issue; the question would be, what was their intent. The Church starts with the presumption that the marriage is a sacrament, and it must be proved that it was not. The fact that they get married in front of a JP is not particularly relevant. I don’t exactly know what you mean by a “pagan” ceremony, but I believe all states regulate who can perform a marriage ceremony; that normally includes judges, Justice of the Peace, and properly credentialed clergy.


My point isn’t regarding the external ceremony but the idea that generally speaking if you’re in the presense of a pastor you’re inviting God in to your union. In contrast, if you’re standing in front of a satanic priest who may legally (granted by the state) marry people one would assume that God will not be invited in to the union. As for a pagan marriage…I have no idea…do they ask the trees to bless them or mother earth? Your guess is as good as mine but I’m sure it’s not God.



Form, Matter and Intent. IF they say “I take you “ABC” to be my wife and I take you “XYZ” to be my husband” (Form). One Baptized male and one Baptized female. (Matter), They each intend to enter into a Sacramental Marriage. (Intent) It’s a Sacramental Marriage. Of course as long as they are free to Marry and are capable of Marriage and freely do so, etc.
You can’t accidentally celebrate a Sacrament, you must intend to do so.


Thank you to all who have replied.

God Bless,


In the first round you said Christians, and yes it is a sacrament. As for the pagan case, to understand the pagan you may want to read on Natural law. In general the pagans marry to fulfill God’s plan in their soul, so God is present even when they ask he not be.


I’m sorry that I didn’t make myself clear. There are many pagans who were baptized but no longer consider themselves Christians so that’s where I was going with that. Regardless, thanks for the input. I started this to help me talk to a pagan who feels drawn to the Church. Please pray for her.

God Bless,



The case of two baptized “pagans” approaching marriage is a complex issue. How does the absence of personal faith relate to the intention to marry properly, that is to the sacrament when two baptized are involved? How can the baptized intend marriage but exclude the sacrament? The Church believes these are not separable in the case of two baptized parties to a marriage.

Jurisprudence (the science and art of how to apply the law to cases) and theology are still working the details on this one out, and it is best to be very general and then say little more. So I won’t.

However, John Paul addresses the relationship between faith and marriage in Familiaris consortio. It can be found on the internet and should be read.

So the first caution is that since marriage enjoys the favor of law, a properly celebrated marriage between persons who are free to marry is considered valid.

A second caution should be made, that even though Protestants do not believe in marriage as sacrament, this belief would not necessarily affect the question of validity. More than a failure to include an intention toward the sacrament (a loose way of saying it) would be needed to affect validity. There’d need to be a positive type of exclusion at the time of consent. Again though this is a complex and developing area of theology and jurisprudence.

It’s best to focus on evangelization both for the unbaptized and the baptized but nominal Christian.

God’s speed on your endeavor to do that!

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