Expert Answer Forum
Interfaith remarriage QUESTION from Kitanna Hariss February 19, 2000 I am a divorced Presbyterian who was married by a judge years ago. I am involved with a divorced Catholic man who is in the process of annulment. Once his annulment is granted, is it possible for us to marry in his church, yet with me being represented by a Presbyterian minister? There will be no new children within our marriage. I have no intentions of converting to Catholism and he has no objections to that. Thank you.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on February 22, 2000 Dear Miss Hariss:
I am going to give you a LOT more of an answer than you have asked for primarily for the benefit of all our readers who may find themselves considering a mixed marriage.
First, although you are not Catholic and are not converting, you may need to get an decree of Nullity of your previous marriage. Whether or not this is needed depends on the circumstances of the previous marriage of the non-Catholic party. The Marriage Tribunal will be able to to determine if a Nullity is needed on the part of the non-Catholic party.
Second, mixed marriages are prohibited in the Catholic Church as a matter of course. A mixed marriage is marriage between a Catholic person and a batpized non-catholic person. A dispensation, however, is possible and required if the couple is to marry.
A bishop can grant a dispensation if there is just and reasonable cause, but only after the following conditions are fulfilled (according to Canon Law 1125):
the Catholic party declares that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of falling away from the faith and makes a sincere promise to do all in his or her power to have all the children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;
the other party (non-catholic party) is to be informed at an appropriate time of these promises which the Catholic party has to make, so that it is clear that the other party is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;
both parties are to be instructed on the essential ends and properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either party.
Permission to marry should not be automatic even if these conditions are met. There must be just and reasonable cause to allow the marriage. Just and reasonable cause is not because the parties want to be married. It may involve negative factors such as the danger of civil marriage or defection from the faith, or it may be positive factors of the strength of the couple outweighing the dangers and inherent problem of mixed marriages. The Bishop has the discretion to determine whether permission for the marriage should be granted or not.
One other factor before getting to your actual question. You state there WILL be no new children in the marriage. You don't say why that is the case and you don't need to tell us of course, but for the benefit of all our readers it should be noted that a marriage is not valid if the couple deliberately chooses to not have children. If a couple does not want children and intend to take all steps they can to prevent children, then that couple does not have a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church.
This is a good place to note that artificial contraception is forbidden and a sin if used. Each act of the marital bed must be open to life. If a couple refuse to acknowledge this end of marriage, then they cannot be married validly.
Now, of course there are reasons why a couple CANNOT have children -- due to sterility or age or other medical conditions that prevent pregnancy that are beyond the control of the couple. This note does not apply to that situation. Marriages between people who are sterile are valid as long as the parties inform each other of this.
But when a couple is fertile and capable of children and yet has no intention of having children, then that marriage is invalid.
This is a good place to note that artificial contraception is forbidden and a sin if used. Each act of the marital bed must be open to life. If a couple refuse to acknowledge this end of marriage (that is the end of marriage is to have children), then they cannot be married validly.
And since we have come this far I might as well mention something that most people are not aware of I think. Marriage is not valid when either the man or the women has antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercouse (that is, marriage is not valid if the man or woman is physically incapable of having intercourse).
Now to the question of the wedding ceremony.....
The marriage must take place in a Catholic Church unless permission from the bishop grants otherwise.
Canon law prohibits two ceremonies. The Ceremoney must be according to the Catholic Rite. It is not valid to also have, in addition to the Catholic Rite, a non-Catholic ceremony in which vows are exchanged and received. There must be only ONE ceremony with the exchange of vows and that must be the Catholic ceremony.
A separate non-Catholic ceremony in which a mere blessing is imparted but not an exchange of vows is permitted if the couple wants that.
At the Catholic Rite itself, a non-Catholic minister may be present, but the non-Catholic minister is forbidden to ask for and receive the vows of the non-Catholic. The Catholic minister must be the sole person to ask for and receive the vows of BOTH parties.
So yes, your pastor may stand with you at the wedding, but he cannot ask and receive your vows. Only the Catholic minister can do that for both of you.
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