Non Baptized Groom marrying Baptized Bride

Non Baptized Groom marrying Baptized Bride
Question from Marie on 6/5/2008:

Good day!

I had a couple questions regarding my engagement.

First off, I was baptized into the RC Church and grew up in a very devout Catholic home.

I am currently engaged to a man who is not baptized however he does believe in God. He was married by a JP over 12 years ago to a baptized Catholic woman.

They have been legally divorced for over 3 years and my fiancee has no interest in becoming or being baptized Catholic.

I went to our local Catholic Church to see what was needed to be married in the church.

The priest stated because his ex-wife was a baptized Catholic; they would need a copy of her baptismal record (which is going to be hard to obtain with her permission - if she grants it) along with their marriage license and divorce decree. Once all was finally settled, we'd have to take the classes and before the ceremony my fiance would have to sign some form of 'disparity of cult' stating he would agree raising our children Catholic and will not interfere in converting me outside of My Faith.

When I had mentioned all of this to my fiancee, he was NOT happy. Considering they were most certainly NOT married in the church, why is such documentation needed? Due to the "ordeal" - now my fiancee doesn't not wish to go through with a Catholic wedding. Why must the church make things like this so difficult for to young people trying to get married in the Church?

Wouldn't the divorce decree suffice - as it lists who they were married by and it would certainly show a JP -not a Catholic priest!

This has put a damper on our wedding plans and I know now if we get married by a JP most of my family will not attend. I love my fiance with my whole heart and now I'm just stuck. Do you have any sound advice? Would us getting married by a JP and then having the wedding blessed (in a smaller ceremony) after a little while be ok in the eyes of the church?

I would appreciate any sound advice and your prayers.

Thank you and God Bless!

Answer by Jason Morin on 6/10/2008:

Hello Marie,

Two issues are of great importance here:

1) Signing the declaration, a promise not to hinder your Faith nor the Faith the children

2) Getting married outside the Church.

To the first, the reason the process seems difficult and unduely complicated is because in our day and age, most people feel they should be able to do whatever they want forgetting that every action results in some consequence be it good or bad. In this case, you are requesting to be married in the Church. This is not only a good thing it is the proper action from a Catholic. The Catholic Church does not absolutely forbid marrying someone who is not Catholic nor someone who is not Christian; however, as in all things, the Church is ultimately worried about saving souls - your soul, your childrens' souls and the soul of your fiance. In fact, the final canon in the Code of Canon Law speaks to this very fact. The highest law in the land is that the Catholic Church should do everything it can to save souls, it is the ultimate objective. One such means of doing so is by placing checks and balances between a couple and marriage. Marriage is a difficult enough prospect for most people, particularly living in today's society. Adding the difficulty of multiple faiths brings many possible complications for the marriage which the Church struggles to curtail prior to vows.

So here is what the Church has written into law:

Can. 1086 §1. A marriage between two persons, one of whom has been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid.

§2. A person is not to be dispensed from this impediment unless the conditions mentioned in cann. ⇒ 1125 and ⇒ 1126 have been fulfilled.

§3. If at the time the marriage was contracted one party was commonly held to have been baptized or the baptism was doubtful, the validity of the marriage must be presumed according to the norm of ⇒ can. 1060 until it is proven with certainty that one party was baptized but the other was not.

Here is canon 1125: The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

§1 the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

§2 the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;

§3 both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

Note also Can. 1128: Local ordinaries and other pastors of souls are to take care that the Catholic spouse and the children born of a mixed marriage do not lack the spiritual help to fulfill their obligations and are to help spouses foster the unity of conjugal and family life.

If your fiance does believe in God and loves you and desires that you remain yourself throughout your life together then signing the form should be something he will lovingly do for you. This is akin to a promise before God that he will in no way influence you or make your life difficult regarding your Faith and that of your children. You are already having doubts whether or not to get married in the Church or in a purely civil ceremony. If there is such pressure now that you would even consider marrying outside your Faith, then isn't it reasonable for the Church to fear that upon serious pressure from your future husband, you might fall away from your Faith or discontinue practicing alone or with your children? Might it seem quite reasonable that the Church would fear that the children would be harmed spiritually?

This goes directly to the second point:

When marrying someone who is not Christian, the Catholic Church must issue special permission as a safeguard for the souls in question, as listed in the above canons. This is a safety measure and the hope is that the Catholic party will be honest enough with themselves that they will not fall away from Christ nor will they deny Christ and His Church to any children.

Like any Catholic, if you marry outside the Church it will not be a sacramental marriage, meaning it will not be a Catholic marriage. You will be married in the eyes of the civil law but not in the eyes of God. Getting the marriage "blessed" will in no way make it sacramentally valid. You will need to be properly married in the Church for it to be a sacrament. The local Bishop might give you permission to celebrate outside of an actual Catholic Church but it would have to be a Catholic ceremony else your marriage would be invalid due to the defect of canonical form. It is this same defect of form that invalidates the sacramental marriage between your fiance and his former wife.

My advice then comes in two parts. The first, with regards to the baptismal certificate...I'm not clear on why your priest requires it. I do understand the need to see the marriage license and the documents from the civil divorce but otherwise, if your fiance was never married in a Catholic ceremony he is free to marry you and merely needs to be informed of your promise to continue to remain Catholic and raise your children Catholic. He will be asked whether he will oppose you in any way and if the priest or local Bishop deems his declaration sincere, then permission to marry him will be granted. I would speak with your local tribunal or Chancery Office and request why they feel the need to have her baptismal certificate. It is more documentation than they need and it is causing problems with your wedding preparations. The only reason I can think of is that they want to ensure no Catholic ceremony ever took place but this is quite a stretch, not believing the party. Best to enquire about this directly with the Bishop or through the various offices.

However, it is paramount that you have a sacramental marriage if you wish to remain a Catholic in good standing. Have you started the marriage preparation course? If not, start as soon as possible and ideally your fiance will come to understand the nature of a Catholic marriage and what it means to marry a Catholic. Hopefully he will come to appreciate your commitment to your Faith and value this as a good facet of your personality. Communication is the key. In the end, as difficult as it may be, you will have to decide for yourself: "God or my fiance" "My Faith or my civil marriage.:

These are not easy decisions and my heart does go out to you because being in love complicates matters greatly. Christ never indicated being His follower, His servant would be easy, but He did say it was the only path to Heaven.

As a final thought: if your fiance is willing perahps even urging you to compromise your Faith, what else in the future will he also urge you to compromise. Your Faith ought to be the most important aspect of your life...

God Bless,

Jason, JCL

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