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Mike Smith wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a soldier who is currently deployed to Afghanistan. During my mid tour leave I chose to marry my girlfriend. She is Catholic and I am not. When we get home, we intend to have an "official" wedding ceremony.

  • Will this be possible since we are already married?
  • Will the fact that I'm not Catholic prevent us from being married in the Church?

Mike

  { Married before being deployed to Afghanistan, but want to know if we can make it official. }

Mike replied:

Hi, Mike —

First, thank-you for your service to our country; you give us the freedom to perform our work on the site. Please tell your fellow soldiers their safety and the safety of their families are in our prayers at AskACatholic.com.

There are certain issues you left out of your question that we need in order to give you an accurate answer. Because of this, let me give you what the Church teaches on situations similar to yours and my colleagues can fill in anything I've missed.

Any baptized Catholic who wishes to enter into a valid sacramental marriage has to marry according to a Catholic form.

What does this mean?

  • This means they have to be married in the Church.
  • If their spouse, you, is a non-Catholic, the Catholic spouse just needs to get a dispensation from the local bishop, and
  • the non-Catholic spouse has to promise to:
    • not interfere with the Catholic spouse raising the children of their marriage Catholic.
    • both parties also have to enter the marriage with the proper understand of the marriage consent and the purposes of marriage.

The underlying assumption is that the Catholic spouse practices her faith and follows the teachings of the Church including those against artificial contraception. The Church does promote natural contraception — also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP)

Part of my answer was taken from this posting:

When you get back from your tour of duty, I would encourage both of you to sit down with a priest faithful to the Church to talk about being married in the Church.

The fact you are not Catholic would not prevent you from being married in the Church, but differences in the faith among spouses can be a issue of division for your future family.

This is what the Catechism states on the issue:

Mixed marriages and disparity of cult

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses 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. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult (a marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

If you are ever interested in, what faithful Catholics believe, or going deeper into the faith, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Tell everyone in your command that you, your fellow soldiers, and commanders are in our prayers praying you get home safely.

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Mike —

I'll simplify my answer: “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, and when you have a chance you should set up an appointment with a priest.

The priest would be responsible for the Marriage prep and the ins and outs of this particular relationship.

Fr. Jonathan

Mary Ann replied:

Mike —

God bless you for your service, and your choice to marry. If you married in a civil ceremony only, the Church does not consider your girlfriend married at all yet, so there will be no problem with having and official Church wedding.

Your being Catholic is not a problem, but she will need to get some information from her pastor, starting now, because in most dioceses in America there is a 6 month wait to marry so that people can make, learn and prepare for marriage.

Mary Ann

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