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Jesse Gomez wrote:

Hello,

I am a 20-year-old, male Catholic and I am going to ask my girlfriend to marry me this Saturday.
She is a Presbyterian.

I was wondering if you could give me any advice on how I can get married in a Catholic Church down the road.

  • Is it OK if she's not Catholic?
  • Can I still get married in a Catholic Church?
  • Also, how would I go about asking for her to convert to Catholicism?

We've talked about it, but she really wants some good information about it and wants to talk to someone in the Church. It would mean the world to me to get married in the Church.

  • Can you help me?

Jesse

  { Can I marry a non-Catholic in the Catholic Church and how do I ask her to convert to Catholicism? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Jesse,

You are pretty young to get married these days! But I am happy for you and wish you the best.

To marry in the Church doesn't mean just to get married in a Catholic Church building. It means to contract a valid sacramental marriage as a baptized Catholic, following Catholic law on marriage. To marry as a Catholic:

  • you need to be a certain age and have certain pre-marriage preparation (generally, at least in the United States)
  • have an official witness (generally a priest or deacon)
  • be of sound mind — freely choosing the marriage
  • be able to consummate the marriage act, and
  • you must know and intend what marriage is, that is, to be married until death and to be open to new life in your sexual activity, thus fulfilling the ends of marriage, life and love.

To marry a Protestant, one would have to:

  1. get permission from the bishop (which your pastor would do for you), and

  2. the Protestant partner must agree not to interfere with your children being raised Catholic, which you will solemnly pledge to do.

That done, you may certainly marry in a Catholic ceremony, even a nuptial Mass (though the non-Catholic may not receive Communion, of course), and you marry in the Catholic Church building.

It seems that you might have some things a bit reversed. You might want to let your girlfriend see a bit about the Church, and see how she responds to it, because that way you will know a little bit about how she will respond to your faith life during your married years.

If she wishes to learn about the faith, she can read the Catechism or she can enroll in a RCIA class at the parish. As a matter of fact, that might be a good thing for you to do together.

In any case, if your girlfriend agrees to marry you, you will then contact your pastor. If you have not been confirmed, he may require that you prepare for and receive Confirmation. Otherwise, he will start you on your preparations for matrimony.

— Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Jesse —

I just wanted to add to what Mary Ann has said.

You said:

  • Also, how would I go about asking for her to convert to Catholicism?

I certainly would not say something like:

Can you convert for me?

Instead, I would share with her your desire to be united with her for life: in body and soul.

If she doesn't feel comfortable doing this right now, you have to accept this. No one can force anyone else to join a church against their own free will and there is no Church obligation for her to become a Catholic for both of you to get married in the Church.

As Mary Ann stated, she would at least have to agree to have your children raised Catholic and be a witness to your promise to raise your children as faithful Catholics.

In the same way, you have to respect her free will to believe what she wishes; she has to respect you and the Church's faith in contracting a valid sacramental marriage, via what Mary Ann has already stated above. You can't separate a person from their faith, unless that person really doesn't believe in that faith.

In a similar posting, my colleague Bob Kirby replied:

You should be having discussions with your girlfriend about marriage and how you envision raising a family.

  • What else is the point of dating if not to find a life mate?

You will need to be articulate and well informed with matters concerning your faith that she questions, and above all, be clear on what you want for you and your children's future.

It is not selfish to consider the long view and ask someone whether they are willing to share in it.

You are both free now to choose. The further you go along without addressing these matters, the more difficult it will become and your freedom will seem compromised by emotional attachment.

Consider some of the Scott Hahn books. He and his wife were both formerly Presbyterians, and he converted to Roman Catholicism before she did. I would especially recommend, Rome Sweet Home. Read it and share it with her.

If, over time, she does show an interest in joining or at least studying what Catholics believe,
suggest that she look into reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I used to run a free program that sent Catechisms to seeking Protestants and non-Christians but no longer have the financial or operational means to do this anymore. Nevertheless, if you wish to go deeper, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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