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Joan wrote:

Hi, guys—

I am 30 and my fiancé is 31. He was raised Catholic and I belong to the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS). Just so you have some background, he is now a born-again Christian
(non-denominational) and I'm a born-again Pentecostal (Assembly of God).

Here are my questions:

  1. We found a beautiful Catholic church we love. Can we marry in it?
    It would not be a Catholic ceremony and the pastor who would marry us wouldn't be Catholic either.
  2. Would the Catholic priest of that parish allow this or will he want to be there as well?

Thank you!

Joan

  { Can we have a non-Catholic ceremony performed by a non-Catholic minister in a Catholic Church? }

Mike replied:

Dear Joan,

Based on your question, I don't think, either you or your fiancé understand how serious the Catholic Church takes the sacrament of marriage.

Most of the time, a Catholic parish is not:

  • a hallway
  • a music hall
  • an auditorium
  • a gym
  • a beach, or
  • anything else

Liturgical celebrations happen in a Catholic parish; it is a sacred place where Catholics receive sacramental or sanctifying grace. The importance, for a Catholic, of having a marriage in the Catholic Church is that a strong sacramental bond is made.

The sacraments of the Church are the dynamite that:

  • remove our sins and sinful habits from our souls, through Confession, and
  • guide us morally to make holy choices throughout the week, by receiving the Eucharist.

Marriage is a "covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman", which is ordered to:

  • the well-being of the spouses, and
  • the procreation and upbringing of children.

When any man and any woman consent to each other before someone hearing their vows and are in the presence of two witnesses, the Church considers their marriage a valid (from God), natural marriage, but a not sacramental one.

What makes it the Marriage a sacramental one is if both parties are baptized (e.g. two baptized Lutherans who marry in this way) even though they are not Catholic.

It's important to know that Catholics are bound by the obligation to be married before a priest or deacon (or have a dispensation from their bishop to not be) otherwise their Marriages are manifestly invalid because they did not follow the proper form.

Non-Catholics are not bound by proper form so almost all marriage ceremonies are valid ceremonies whether they be Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, or atheists.

You wouldn't be able to have a non-Catholic ceremony performed by a non-Catholic minister in a Catholic Church because this would make a mockery of the sacrament of matrimony as seen by the Church, especially seeing your fiancé doesn't practice the faith anymore or worst has repudiated it.

In my opinion, you and your fiancé should be focused on having a valid marriage in the Church by a Catholic priest rather than focusing on the beauty of any Catholic Church for one day.

Marriage in the Church will help both, you and your fiancé, through the tough times, as well as the good times in your life together.

The last thing you want is to be another divorce stat!

If you are interested in having a sacramental marriage in the Church performed by a Catholic priest, I would recommend you and your fiancé make an appointment with the pastor or a priest at the parish to discuss all the issues involved in your current and future life together.

You said:
Just so you have some background, he is now a born-again Christian
(non-denominational) and I'm a born-again Pentecostal (Assembly of God).


Every member of the Catholic Church is born again; we are born from above (this is what born again means) by the Holy Spirit at Baptism.

It sounds like your fiancé was never catechized very well in the faith. If you are interested, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to bring up a little.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Joan —

Sorry, the answer will be “no” to this request. Your fiancé is someone who we consider to be a Catholic since he was baptized a Catholic, but who has chosen not to be a practicing member of the Catholic Church. Allowing the non-Catholic Marriage to be held in the Church would sending the wrong message to all of the friends and family, i.e. the Church endorses this Marriage, which sadly it does not.

Perhaps you and your fiancé are interested in exploring the Catholic faith — if so, we are very willing to help you find the right forum for that.

Mike's answer is fine but on a technicality: on rare occasions, Bishops sometimes open our Churches up in an Ecumenical way to non-Catholics (especially for Funerals), but the fact that he is a Catholic who is being married outside of the Church makes this a “no way” situation.

I hope this is helpful,

Fr. Jonathan

Joan replied:

Mike,

Thank-you for your reply and Father's reply.

I have no problem obeying someone else's practices, even if I don't follow nor believe in them myself. I talked this over with my fiancé, and here's where it hurts us:

  1. Catholics, Protestants, the Orthodox, etc.: we are all God's children. We are not some strange sect that believes something totally different aka Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons. We all believe in:
    • the same Jesus Christ
    • Who He is
    • what He stands for, and
    • what He did on The Cross for us.

    If Jesus were "here" today would He wouldn't want His children divided like this: determining who could get married where and by whom. Jesus was not about division among those who called themselves followers of Him. He never intended for His children to act this way; this is a human thing. Please do not think I'm "attacking" you or am mad.
    I completely respect what you said and believe; I'm just trying to get you to look at the bigger picture.
  1. I know no pastor knows everything about everyone who gets married in his church.

    • If my fiancé and I had lied, which we would not do, and said [we/he] [were/was] Catholic, would we have been allowed to marry in a Catholic Church?

    I know of so many people who just because they were raised Catholic, but definitely are
    not practicing Catholics, have been allowed to marry in a Catholic Church even though
    they have been living together and having premarital sex, etc. My fiancé's cousin and his
    then-wife were dating for ten years, lived together, having sex, and then got married in a Catholic Church. They separated two months later when she left him.

    Paul, my fiancé, and I are trying to honor God with our lives and bodies. We are not having sex, not living together, and waiting to do all those things married couples do. This is very difficult for two people in their early 30's who have been dating for four years, and who, back in the day (before knowing Christ) have had sex.

    It makes me upset that if I was the "correct" religion, I would be allowed to be married in the Catholic Church. I know you could say it is the pastor's responsibility to know who he's marrying and what they do, but so many places nowadays just don't care because it is
    "the norm". My pastor would not marry us if he knew any of the above were happening, and I hope (and am sure) there are priests out there who wouldn't do the same, but the sad fact is, too many knowingly turn a blind eye and that is what bothers me.

    Again, I'm not mad and respect everything you said.

I just hope you understand where we're coming from.

Joan

Mike replied:

Hi, Joan —

Let me chip in a few thoughts from your reply below.

You said:

  1. Catholics, Protestants, the Orthodox, etc.: we are all God's children. We are not some strange sect that believes something totally different aka Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons. We all believe in:

    • the same Jesus Christ
    • Who He is
    • what He stands for, and
    • what He did on The Cross for us.

You're overlooking some of the vital issues that separate us:

  • the value of life e.g. abortion
  • the value of traditional marriage and discouragement of same-sex unions which destroy family culture.
  • some of the basic creeds of the faith like:
    • the importance of the sacraments, like Confession
    • what the Eucharist is, and
    • the importance of a valid priesthood.

You said:

  • If my fiancé and I had lied, which we would not do, and said [we/he] [were/was] Catholic, would we have been allowed to marry in a Catholic Church?
[further down you said.]
It makes me upset that if I was the "correct" religion, I would be allowed to be married in the Catholic Church.


I think I'm missing something. Your original question was:
  • Can we have a non-Catholic ceremony performed by a non-Catholic minister in a Catholic Church?

This is different than asking whether a non-Catholic can get married in the Catholic Church.
<The answer being "Yes!"> Again, the Church takes the sacrament of marriage very seriously, because Jesus took it very seriously.

A non-Catholic can marry a Catholic in the Church but the non-Catholic has to have the proper intentions:

  • the well-being of the spouses, and
  • the procreation and upbringing of children
    • the non-Catholic spouse has to agree not to interfere with their children being raised Catholic, and
    • has to get a dispensation from the local bishop

But there's another problem: your fiancé doesn't seem interested in practicing the faith any more.

  • Why would the Church allow couples to marry in the Church, if She knew their was no good hope that the children would be raised Catholic?

That would be a public scandalous for the Church!

It's like telling the Baptists that you wish to get married in their congregation and expect them to allow you to promise to raise your children Catholic. It would make no sense.

On the behavior of the other couples and priests you referred to below:

The Church doesn't condone any scandalous behavior on the part of the members of Her church, whether they are parishioners or clergy. The individual Catholic has the choice to grow in grace, or not; the Church doesn't force it down their throat.

We should all keep in my our individual, particular judgments and we should focus on our own grown in holiness and the faith before we start looking at others. If we compare our situation to other scandalous examples and use their example as the standard; our basis for Christian morality will be way off!

  • ... and since Jesus in the Ultimate Judge, what if the basis of our morality was on a group of people who were judged not worthy of Heaven?
  • What will be our "excuse"?

Hope my feedback helps.

Mike

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