Friday, December 17, 2010

Is A Catholic + Atheist Marriage Valid?

Q  - Is it possible for a Catholic and an Athiest to get married in the Catholic Church so that the marriage is valid in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of God?

A - Thanks for the question. Yes, a non-Christian and a Catholic can be validly married, but the marriage will not be Sacramental. Marriage is not only for Christians, but for all people. Thus, marriage can be validly entered into. But, for it to be a Sacrament, both spouses must be Christian (i.e. validly baptized). This is because the spouses confer the Sacrament upon one another and to be disposed to receive any other Sacrament, you must be baptized first. Thus, the Church believes that any valid marriage between any two Christians is a Sacramental marriage in addition to being valid.

For a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, they must first get permission from the Bishop. There are two different kinds of permission needed. If you are marrying a non-Catholic Christian, then you need "permission to enter into a mixed marriage." If the person is a non-Christian, then you need "dispensation from disparity of cult."

As for an atheist, the same rules apply. Just because they lack belief, the Church doesn't see them any differently than any other non-Christian.

From the US Bishops:
A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements:
  1. the spouses are free to marry;
  2. they freely exchange their consent;
  3. in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and
  4. their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister.
Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.
If an atheist and a Catholic both are able to have these conditions met, then they can marry validly in a Catholic Church - though the marriage won't be Sacramental.

I hope this helps.


Peggy said...

I would think the provision to raise any children they procreate as Catholic would also apply.

Marcel said...

The non-Catholic spouse does not have to promise to raise the kids Catholics. That promise is only for the Catholic spouse.

Peggy said...

But is it not still a condition to be met to be married in the Catholic Church? Or at least agree to by the Catholic spouse?

Peggy said...

I thought that to be married in the Church that the Catholic spouse would have to promise that the children be raised Catholic? I understand that the non Catholic does not have to. It was a condition my brother had to agree to.

Marcel said...

I should have been more precise. Even the Catholic does not have to make an absolute promise to raise the kids Catholic now. They have to “promise to do all in his or her power” to have the child baptized and raised in the faith. The non-Catholic spouse is not bound by this at all.

This is a change in the Code of Canon Law in 1983.

Thus, it is conceivable that a valid marriage can exist even when a Catholic marries someone who refuses to allow the children to be raised Catholic. This is why it isn't one of the requirements anymore.

Peggy said...

I just read Canon 1125.1 so it is a 'promise' as you state above. Thanks!