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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Mixed Marriage

by Catherine Frakas 19 Aug 2001

Mixed Marriage QUESTION from Angie January 8, 2001 Dear Mr. Miskell,
Thank you for this wonderful forum. I recently became engaged to a man I have been dating for a little more than a year. He is not Catholic, but attends Mass with me, and is considering being baptized into the faith. We inquired at our church about being married there, and I was a bit taken aback by the response. Our priest told me that since my boyfriend is unable to have children, that this marriage could never fulfill it’s duties, and that had I read my catechism, I would know that being sent a non-Catholic is a sign that I am called to a single vocation. Although he did not explicitly refuse to marry us, I doubt that he would be willing to do so, and I would be uncomforable if he were to marry us. Also, as a result, I feel unwelcome in this church. Obviously, one solution is to find another church in which to be married. Most churches only marry parishioners, and I would like to become a parishioner in the church in which we marry. We would even be willing to drive a distance to do so. However, I feel torn, as this would require shopping around for a church which I know is frowned on, and which you have decried in your writings in this forum. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on March 19, 2001 Dear Miss Angie:
Your question was transferred to me since it does not really deal with liturgy. Sorry for the long delay.
Let me start with your last question first. Although it is best to attend Mass in the geographical Parish that one lives in, the Church does not prohibit you from attending Mass in a different Parish. Indeed, and unfortunately so, in this day and age, one may have to shop around to find a parish that respects and is loyal to the Pope and who obedient to Church law.
To attend another parish merely to get married is stretching things. However, one could still attend the local parish, while getting married in another parish -- however, technically, permission from the pastor of the local parish is required I believe.
Even if you were to join a distant parish, your local pastor would still have to give permission for you to marry in the distant parish. The reason for this is that regardless of which parish you attend, as far as the Church is concerned you are a citizen of the parish in which you geographically reside. Getting permission is usually not a problem. The priest who will marry you cna simply telephone pastor of your geographical parish and ask.
As to the issue of sterility, your pastor is wrong, sterility DOES NOT impede a marriage.
Canon 1084.3 states:
Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of canon 1098. Canon 1098 refers to a situation in which the marriage partner lied about the sterility, or kept that information from the potential marriage partner. This does not apply in your case since you already know about your friend's condition.
The condition that disallows a marriage to take place validly is impotence (inability to have sex). If a either party is importent and thereby unable to have sex and this condition is permanent, then according to Canon 1084.1-2 one cannot be validly married.
On the issue of your husband not being Christian, you cannot validly be married without the Bishop's permission, unless he were to convert BEFORE your marriage. Marrying a person who is Christian, but not Catholic, or a person who is non-Christian, requires the Bishop's permission.
However, if your boyfriend converts BEFORE you get married there is no problem, unless there is some other impediment, such as a previous marriage that had not be annulled or whatever.
Bottom line: sterility is not a problem. One can still get married if both parties are Catholic. If one is Catholic and the other not, then the Bishop will have to give permission.
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