Can a Catholic marry a Non-Catholic?

By Joanna Ong

In the Catholic church, marriage is seen as the union of a man and a woman for the whole of life, ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. (CCC 1601) In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. (CCC 1621). In matrimonial consent, both parties must be baptized and freely consent. 

However, there may be situations where a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. “It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.” (CCC 1633). 

A mixed marriage does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. Much of these difficulties come from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome, so the couple experiences the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. For mixed marriages and disparity of cult, other possible tensions could be:

  • Differences about the faith and notion of marriage
  • Different religious mentalities
  • Temptation to religious indifference 

(CCC 1634)


So how would a marriage between a Catholic and non-Catholic work in a Catholic church? 

“According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church.” (CCC 1635). 

Therefore, mixed marriages or disparity of cult are not wrong and in our diverse society, it is commonly seen. With the permission or dispensation of the Church, the couple is able to marry


What happens if the non-Christian converts?

A marriage is considered a Sacrament when both parties are validly baptized (whether Catholic or Christian). For marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized, the marriage is not considered a Sacrament. However, when the non-Christian gets baptized, the marriage automatically becomes a sacrament. 



1. Catechism of the Catholic Church



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