Requirements for Mixed Marriages

Q: What are the requirements for a mixed marriage?

A: Entering a mixed marriage is highly unadvisable. Speaking as one who has had personal experience with them (having been the then-Protestant member of a marriage with a Catholic), mixed marriages always involve pain for both of the parties unless neither spouse cares about religion. These problems can be very grave, threaten the survival of the marriage, and may not emerge for years (as, for example, when the children reach the age of being religiously educated and one partner changes his or her mind about the agreements that were made about the children at the beginning of the marriage).

For this reason, whenever people ask me about mixed marriages, I always tell them that the non-Catholic party should seriously look at the Catholic faith and the possibility of becoming Catholic. Simply on a human level (quite apart from the benefits to the person’s soul), this solves an enormous number of problems that would otherwise plague the marriage.

I therefore invite any non-Catholic who is contemplating a mixed marriage or is in a mixed marriage to email me, and I will be more than happy to help them conduct an investigation of the Catholic faith.

That said, here is what the Catholic Almanac records concerning the requirements for a mixed marriage:

“Pastoral experience, which the Catholic Church shares with other religious bodies, confirms the fact that marriages of persons of different beliefs involve special problems related to the continuing religious practice of the concerned persons and to the religious education and formation of the children.

“Pastoral measures to minimize these problems include instruction of a non-Catholic party in essentials of the Catholic faith for purposes of understanding. Desirably, some instruction should also be given to the Catholic party regarding his or her partner’s beliefs.

Requirements

“The Catholic party to a mixed marriage is required to declare his (her) intention of continuing practice of the Catholic faith and to 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. No declarations or promises are required of the non-Catholic party, but he (she) must be informed of the declaration and promise made by the Catholic.

“Notice of the Catholic’s declaration and promise is an essential part of the application made to a bishop for (1) permission to marry a baptized non-Catholic or (2) a dispensation to marry an unbaptized non-Catholic.

“A mixed marriage can take place with a Nuptial Mass. (The [U.S.] bishops’ statement [on the subject] added this 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 mixed marriage at Mass or not.’)

“The ordinary minister at a mixed marriage is an authorized priest or deacon, and the ordinary place is the parish church of the Catholic party. A non-Catholic minister may not only attend the marriage ceremony but may also address, pray with, and bless the couple.

“For appropriate pastoral reasons, a bishop can grant a dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage and can permit the marriage to take place in a non-Catholic church with a non-Catholic minister as the officiating minister. A priest may not only attend such a ceremony but may also address, pray with, and bless the couple.

“‘It is not permitted,’ however, the [U.S.] bishops’ statement declared, ‘to have two religious services or to have a single service in which both the Catholic marriage ritual and a non-Catholic marriage ritual are celebrated jointly or successively'”
(1995 Catholic Almanac [Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1995], 233-4).

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