Sacrament of Matrimony

Cathy Caridi, J.C.L. Print This Article Print This Article ·ShareThis

Q: We Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament. So how is it possible for a Catholic and a non-Catholic to get married in the Catholic Church? Doesn’t that mean that somehow, a protestant or even a non-Christian is receiving a Catholic sacrament? How does that work? –Brian

A: This is an extremely good question, as it illustrates one of the great theological difficulties involved when people of different faiths want to marry. The Church recognizes that in general, marriage is a natural right, which is certainly not reserved exclusively to Catholics or to Christians. At the same time, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is one of the seven sacraments. So how can these apparently conflicting teachings be reconciled? Let’s look first at marriages involving non-Catholic, baptized Christians, and then at marriages of the unbaptized.

Canon 1055.1 echoes the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes 48) when it asserts that the marriage covenant has, between the baptized, been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. The following paragraph is even more precise: a valid marriage cannot exist between two baptized persons without it being by that very fact a sacrament (c. 1055.2).
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