Why are baptisms outside the Catholic church valid, but not marriages?"


The priest I talked to said because there is “only 1 baptism, 1 faith.” But there is only 1 marriage to so why any different if it’s done by a Christian pastor?


As I understand it, the Catholic church recognizes a marriage between a non-Catholics man and woman as a valid marriage, whether contracted by a civil authority or in another religious tradition. If the marriage is between two baptized non-Catholics, the Church even recognizes it as sacramental.

However, the Catholic Church expects its own members to follow the Church’s marriage laws, which normally requires the marriage to occur in a Catholic Church and be witnessed by a priest or deacon. If a Catholic fails to follow these requirements (by marrying in a civil ceremony or before a non-Catholic minister) or does not receive the proper dispensation, then the Catholic Church does not recognize that marriage as valid.


I suppose, and I might get into trouble here, it is because under certain circumstances anyone can baptize. If someone in danger of dying any good catholic can baptize them.

The church does not recognize ALL baptisms. It as to be a water baptism, it has to be in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not all so called christian churches do this. Some baptize in the name of Jesus, some baptize in the name of God. These would not valid in the eyes of the church and would require a valid baptism. It would not be correct to say that it is a re-baptism because a valid one never took place.

A priest or a deacon is required to witness a Catholic marriage and a Catholic marriage is a sacrement in the church. Not all christian churches view the sacrements the same, Some have one sacrement; baptism, some have a few more.
If a Catholic marries in another church or a JP or some other ceremony it is not considered valid because it is not considered sacremental. The sacred sacrementality of the marriage is the key.


I would venture it is because it is sacramental… almost all churches believe baptism is sacramental and use the trinitarian formula when baptizing. Very few Protestant faiths believe that marriage is a sacrament. You also have to qualify between valid and sacramental here…The Catholic Church recognizes Protestant marriages as valid but not sacramental because of the differences in our beliefs about whether it is sacramental or not.


I’m not sure what difference it is that you are seeing. :confused: If anything, marriage and Baptism are the most similar in that they are the only two sacraments that do not require a priest in order to be valid (although, ordinarily for Catholics, they do). The other five sacraments cannot be celebrated at all without priests.

The Church does recognize as valid those marriages contracted by non-Catholics outside the Catholic Church. Those marriages by baptized non-Catholics are even recognized as valid and sacramental. On the other hand, Baptized Catholics are obligated by Canon Law to be married in a Catholic Church with a Catholic priest to witness, unless they request and receive (in advance) a dispensation of form.

Note, it is not the priest nor a “Christian Pastor” that confers marriage. The spouses themselves confer the sacrament on each other. But Catholics are still bound by Canon Law by virtue of their being Catholic. Non-Catholics are not bound and thus they can get married on a beach by an Elvis impersonator and it can still be valid (although it might not be valid depending upon the vows and other things).

And, just an aside, I’m not sure what you mean by saying there is “one marriage”, but you could also just as easily say there is one Eucharist. But that doesn’t mean any person can do it. Priests are ordained. They are not the same as a Christian pastor.

Edit: I just noticed in your profile that you are not yet Catholic but are trying to learn more about the Catholic faith. I think now I understand your question better!


It would be incorrect to say that Marriages are not valid outside the Catholic Church. A Marriage between a Validly Baptized Man who is free to Marry and a Validly Baptized Woman who is free to Marry and when the Marriage takes place following the proper and valid Form for the religion of the Man and Woman. That Marriage would be a valid Sacramental Marriage.


That’s not quite true. A valid marriage between two baptized, non-Catholics is also sacramental. The sacramentality hinges on the fact that they are baptized, not on their belief in whether or not it is a sacrament:

Canon 1055 §2. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.


Thank you for the correction…


OK, if Catholics are supposed to know better, and disobey, I understand why it’d have to be “redone.” But, in my case, my husband was baptized and confirmed Catholic but those were almost the only times he went to church. His family was not spiritual or religious. They didn’t pray much either. WHen I met him, I taught him about God, the Bible, Jesus, etc.and he became more of a believer. We started going to my Mennonite Church together, where we were married a year or so later. Later we switched to a closer, more young Baptist Church where we spent the past 10 yrs. He’s never considered himself catholic since I’ve know him, and never knew the Catholic teachings anyway. So would he be under the same rule? He’s not even considering joining the Catholics now that I am.


marriages contracted by non-Catholics outside the Catholic Church are valid (presuming the parties are free, willing and able to marry). If both parties are baptized, the marriage is sacramental as well.

Baptisms of non-Catholics, by non-Catholics outside the Catholic Church are valid. The trouble comes when Catholics approach sacraments w/o following Catholic law binding on themselves.


Unless he formally left the Catholic church, he is still a member. As a Catholic he is obligated to obey Catholic marriage laws in order to enter into a valid marriage. One of those laws is that he either needs to be married by a priest or deacon, or receive a dispensation to be married elsewhere.


“Once a Catholic always a Catholic.” Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit works through the Sacraments. I realize this teaching is different than that of Mennonites who teach a Believer’s Baptism and see Baptism as an outward sign of an inner conversion. When I completed the fact sheet I created as a class assignment, I mailed a copy to the Mennonites. I also asked for verification that the accountability is the same as the Catholic age of discernment. A person must meet the age of discernment in order to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. The fact that he was confirmed tells me that he did learn something about the Faith since it is an adult decision and the final Sacrament of Initiation.
Be that as it may, there are families that are Catholic by tradition, rather than actual belief. You do not want him to return to the Catholic Church because you are becoming Catholic. You want him to return because he believes with his heart what the Catholic Church teaches. It is by virtue of his Confirmation that you are hearing about the need for convalidation of your marriage.


You should probably call your diocesan Marriage Tribunal about that one. In most cases, once a person is baptized Catholic, they are always considered Catholic and thus still bound by canon law. But it would be best to speak to your diocesan Marriage Tribunal about your specific situation to find out what (if anything) you would need to do.

Once you approach a priest about wanting to become Catholic, all these questions will be raised and addressed anyway (at least, they should be). So it might be best to start with a local priest.

Not to be nitpicky (;)), but that’s not entirely accurate. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the Sacrament that completes Christian Initiation, not Confirmation (CCC 1322). Traditionally, Confirmation always came before First Communion (and, even today, in the Eastern Catholic Churches, all three Sacraments of Initiation are given to infants). See also CCC 1308.


Not to be nitpicky (), but that’s not entirely accurate. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the Sacrament that completes Christian Initiation, not Confirmation (CCC 1322). Traditionally, Confirmation always came before First Communion (and, even today, in the Eastern Catholic Churches, all three Sacraments of Initiation are given to infants). See also CCC 1308.

I know that within the Orthodox Church, the three Sacraments of Initiation are administered at the same time.
CCC1289…In the West,Confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace–both fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles received the their First Eucharist at the Last Supper. Their Confirmation would be the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. When adults come into the Church at the Easter Vigil, they do receive first Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist.

One of the laments of my parish priest in WI was the number of young people who see Confirmation as a form of graduation from the Church rather than an initiation into the Church.


I’m not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with what I said (or maybe some of each!). :wink:

It is true that Confirmation completes Baptism, but the Eucharist completes initiation. I think I see the problem, though. You’re using the 1st edition of the Catechism and I’m using the 2nd edition. The Catechism was originally written in French and then later translated into Latin (which then became the definitive edition). The first English edition is based on the French. The second is based on the Latin. Here’s a list of the differences (including a change in CCC 1289 which removes the line “completing Christian initiation”). So I guess we’re both right, depending upon which edition of the Catechism you use. :wink:

The whole reason I brought it up was because I share your parish priest’s lament that Confirmation is seen as “Catholic graduation”. IMO, viewing Confirmation as the completion of initiation contributes to this view. Confirmation is, after all, a sacrament we receive only once. The Eucharist, on the other hand, is something we can receive daily.


The main point I was raising, in light of the OPs having been a Mennonite, is the receipt of Confirmation at the age of discernment. This corresponds to the Anabaptist age of accountabilty (CCC 1307). It is sometimes called the “sacrament of Christian maturity” (CCC1308). While I have not known anybody who regretted receiving Confirmation as a regular part of their cathechesis, I have known people who were glad they waited until they had a better understanding of the Sacrament.
One of the good things coming out of Vatican II is the requirement that those who receive Confirmation attend a retreat beforehand. In my current parish, the age at which Confirmation is received is 14, at the end of eigth grade. Living in Wisconsin, the Sacrament was not administered until hight school.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is received at the age of reason, generally accepted as being seven years old. The Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith. CCC1322 does say The holy Eucharist completes Christian Initiation.
The other Sacraments, and all ecclesiatical ministries are bound up in the Eucharist and are oriented toward it (CCC1324).

CCC1285…It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.

Before Vatican II, receipt of Confirmation meant a slap on the face symbolizing our role of soldiers of Christ.(CCC1294) and the strict obligation to defend the faith.

**CCC1272…**Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation…
CCC1301 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.


Vatican II didn’t bring about a requirement for a retreat before Confirmation. It may be a requirement of your diocese, but it’s not a Church requirement.

Confirmation is the second sacrament of initiation and not a sacrament of maturity: it’s to be administered to infants in danger of death while Communion may not be administered to children unless they are capable of understanding what it is and show reverence.


I realize the documents of Vatican II do not specifically require Confirmation retreats. Nevertheless, it is common practice throughout the United States begun in the 1970’s.
How often, except in Eastern rites, is Confirmation conferred on infants? Except in special circumstances, such as the Easter Vigil, the Bishop bestows the gift of Confirmation. This Sacrament is generally not administered without prior instruction
Any of us, on the other hand, can bapize another person in mortal danger. The CCC does say that Confirmation can administered in an emergency prior to the age of discernment. Nevertheless that is not the norm.
Nobody has denied Communion being reserved for those who understand what it all means.
It is true that many within the Catholic Church have been poorly cathecized. This was noted by laymen in Spain prior to WWII who sought permission to create Cursillo, a short course in Christianity to help lay people grow in knowledge and practice of their faith.



Your husband is a Catholic by virtue of his baptism. And therefore the laws of the Church apply to him.

So you will need to discuss this situation with the priest in the parish where you are attending RCIA and you will need to seek convalidation of your marriage.


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