Interfaith Marriage

To register for an Interfaith Pre-Cana Marriage Preparation class, go to www.pre-cana.org, call us at 718-281-9540 or email us at precana@diobrook.org.

FAQs:

Can a Catholic person marry a non-Catholic in the Catholic Church?
Of course, a Catholic person and a non-Catholic person can have their Marriage in the Catholic Church, providing that there are no impediments (like a previous marriage, for example). The bride and the groom should start by making an appointment at the parish of the Catholic person. The local priest or deacon should be notified about the difference in religious faith at the first meeting so that attention can be given to this area of the preparation for Marriage. He will guide the couple through the entire process and he will take care of the necessary paperwork.

What are the requirements for an Interfaith/Interchurch Marriage?
When a Catholic wishes to marry a non-Catholic, a dispensation or written permission must be obtained. These authorizations are not difficult to get and they are granted through the local parish by the Diocesan Bishop for either:

– A permission to marry a baptized non-Catholic Christian.
– A dispensation to marry an unbaptized non-Catholic.

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Catholic spouse in an interfaith Marriage is required to:
– Declare his/her intention of continuing practice of the Catholic faith. (“I reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ and, with God’s help, intend to continue living that faith in the Catholic Church.”)
– Promise to do all in his/her power to share his/her faith with the children born of the Marriage by having them baptized and raised as Catholics. (“I promise to do all in my power to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and reared as Catholics.”)
– No declarations or promises are required of the non-Catholic person, but he/she must be informed of the declaration and promise made by the Catholic partner. (See items 1 and 2)

The Catholic Church clarifies in the Decree on Ecumenism that the promise “to do all in one’s power” acknowledges the religious beliefs of the non-Catholic spouse and involves the willingness to respect them. It does not mean an unconditional promise that endangers the matrimonial covenant; it does not mean that the non-Catholic spouse has to convert to Catholicism either. The same applies for the religious upbringing of the children. The obligation of Catholics to share their faith with their children by having them baptized and raised as Catholics still remains, but if this is not possible, they can still pass down their faith by practicing Christian family values and maintaining a home environment where God is loved and respected. Despite the challenges interfaith couples face, they could learn from each other’s faith and foster spirituality in the home in a way that is suitable and beneficial to the entire family, without compromising their individual religious beliefs.

Are there any other requirements?
The interfaith engaged couple will be asked to attend a Pre-Cana class. We offer sessions for Interfaith/Interchurch couples. Although all our marriage preparation programs have a Catholic identity in their content, these sessions, while still Catholic, will address practical issues relevant to couples where either the bride or the groom is Catholic and the other spouse is not.

Are there any other important items to consider?
The presiding minister at an interfaith wedding is an ordained Catholic priest or deacon. A minister from another faith tradition may be present at the Catholic Church. He/she may also bless the couple and address the congregation; however, only the Catholic priest or deacon may receive the wedding vows in the name of the Church. The U.S. Bishops caution: “To the extent that Eucharistic sharing is not permitted by the general discipline of the Church, this is to be considered when plans are being made to have the interfaith marriage at Mass or not.” The wedding can take place in a ceremony that is not a Mass.

For Catholics, Marriage is not just a social or family event, but a church event. For this reason, the Church asks that marriages between Catholics, or between Catholics and people of other faiths, be celebrated in the Catholic parish church. However, with the proper permission from the Diocesan Bishop and with sufficient reason, weddings may be held in the place of worship of the non-Catholic spouse. For example, a Catholic seeks to marry a Methodist whose father is the pastor of a Methodist Church and the father wants to officiate at the wedding. In this case, the Bishop could permit the couple to marry in the Methodist church. A Catholic priest or deacon may attend a ceremony like this and may also bless the couple. However, it is not acceptable to have two religious services or to have a single service in which both the Catholic ritual and a non-Catholic ritual are celebrated jointly or successively. There should be only one Marriage Rite. Some exceptions apply to members of the Orthodox Church. The priest or deacon helping the couple in the preparation for Marriage will be able to assist them and answer any questions they might have.

Are all interfaith Marriages considered sacramental Marriages?
Let’s start with a definition of what a sacrament is:

– A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give us grace.
– The seven sacraments are a very important part of our Catholic faith; they make Christ present in our midst.

Catholics believe Jesus Himself gave us each of the sacraments; they give us God’s Grace and help us get closer to Him. Sacraments are conferred upon people who are Catholic, people who believe in Jesus Christ and follow the tenets of the Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church teaches that Marriage between a man and a woman who are baptized Christians is a sacrament, as long as there are no impediments. Baptized Christians include but are not limited to: Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Polish National Catholics. When the two Christian spouses consent to one another and exchange their wedding vows, a sacrament is conferred.

In the Latin Rite of Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Matrimony is administered by the bride and groom; the priest or deacon who presides at the wedding is the Catholic Church’s official witness to the Marriage. He does not bestow the sacrament; he simply witnesses the consent between the man and the woman and blesses them. The Old Testament prophets saw the Marriage of a man and woman as a symbol of the covenant relationship between God and His people. The permanent and exclusive union between husband and wife mirrors the mutual commitment between God and His people. St. Paul says that this union is a symbol of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Like the other sacraments, Marriage is an ecclesial event, not just for the good of the couple, but for them and the community as a whole.

When only one of the spouses is a baptized Christian, a sacramental Marriage does not occur simply because one of the spouses does not share the Christian beliefs. For example, in the same way a non-baptized person would not receive Holy Communion, would not go to confession nor would receive any of the other sacraments, the Marriage of a unbaptized person even if it is with a baptized Christian, cannot be a sacrament. However, a non-sacramental Marriage IS NOT SEEN AS “LESS” in the eyes of God or the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Natural Law when it comes to Marriage. Therefore, as long as husband and wife fulfill the requirements below, the Marriage of a baptized Christian with an unbaptized person is considered a perfectly valid, sacred and holy union. With the proper permissions, a priest or deacon may witness these marriages and they can take place in the Catholic Church.

Just as individual states have certain requirements for civil marriage (e.g., a marriage license, blood tests), the Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married. The requirements for a valid Catholic Marriage are:

– Husband and wife are free to marry, of adult age and not related by blood or marriage.
– They exchange their consent to marry, freely and without reservation.
– They have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children.
– Their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Catholic Church minister.