Given the vast experience I’ve learned in dating non-Catholics over the years, I thought I might pass along to other daters what is Non-Negotiable for Catholics when considering a mixed marriage. These are questions that you need to ask within the first 40 days of dating. You must ask your person of interest these question before entering into a courtship with them. Too often when our feelings get involved we are willing to compromise on things that shouldn’t be compromised. Therefore, again, ask these questions before things go too far. The response you get to these questions will go a long way to help you discern whether this is the person whom you have been called to forsake all others for.
The Non-Negotiable Questions when Dating a Non-Catholic:
1. Are we too closely related? Many states already prohibit intermarriage between close relatives, but in the case of first cousins you would need a dispensation from the Church to marry that person, as it is strongly discouraged.
2. Are you Free to Marry? There are some wonderful men and women out there who have been divorced, some multiple times, who you may want to marry, but unless their marriage has been granted nullity by the Church, you can’t marry them and have it recognized as legitimate. The process of having the Catholic Church examine whether your previous marriage(s) was/were valid isn’t difficult at all, but what you want to make sure is that your person of interest is willing to go through the process to possibly have their previous marriage(s) annulled. They may not believe in the process, but they don’t have to, because what is important is that you believe in it and they should respect that. If they don’t want to go through the process then I would take that as a red flag and walk away.
3. Are you of the Opposite Sex as me? I know it sounds like a ridiculous question, but you just never know in this day and age. The Catholic Church defines marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman. It does not recognize, even as a civil marriage, a contracted relationship between persons of the same gender. So if they had a sex change operation you better find out!
4. Are you willing to get married in the Catholic Church or have our marriage blessed or Convalidated (if it was a civil marriage)? If your marriage hasn’t been approved by the Church, then you aren’t married in the eyes of the Church, and you could have committed a mortal sin by doing so. It’s not untypical for a non-Catholic to not want to be married in the Catholic Church, but if they are giving you a hard time about even having it blessed then that is a red flag for you.
5. Are you willing to go through Catholic marriage preparation classes or R.C.I.A? Marriage preparation classes are required (mixed marriage or not) in every Diocese; whether you you are going to be married inside or outside of the Catholic Church. Some priests often recommend that the non-Catholic partner take the R.C.I.A classes just to learn about the faith, whether they decide to enter the Church or not, because it is expected that the couple will raise their children in the faith.
6. Are you willing to have our children Baptized and raised Catholic? How are we going to raise our children? This is probably one of the more difficult questions, but prior to having your marriage approved the Catholic partner will be asked to be faithful to his or her faith and to “promise to do all in his or her power” to have their children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. Likewise, the non-Catholic partner will be asked “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.” It will be a challenge and, perhaps, not ideal to raise children in a mixed household, most especially if they aren’t even Christian. The answer to these questions should not be taken lightly! You should also get to know how his/her family feels about the Catholic faith, as they may apply pressure on them not to have their grandchildren Baptized or raised Catholic.
7. Are you Baptized? It is permissible to marry a non-Baptized person, you’ll just have to get a dispensation from your Bishop. The Catholic Priest will not be able to marry you, but he will be able to witness your wedding and bless it. The Catholic Church teaches that the marriage of a Catholic to someone who is not a baptized Christian is impeded (blocked) by “disparity of cult”; that is, the difference in their religious backgrounds (including atheist and agnostic). To have this dispensation granted:
- The Catholic party must promise to do all in his or her power to have all children baptized and raised in the Catholic Church.
- The Catholic party must declare that she or he is prepared to remove all dangers that might cause him or her to fall away from the faith (e.g. the Catholic person might want to ensure that he/she is not prevented from attending Mass or receiving sacraments).
- The non-Catholic person must be informed about the Catholic party’s promises and obligation to fulfill them.
- The couple must be informed of the ends and properties of marriage (e.g. the purpose of marriage is the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children, and its essential properties are its unity and indissolubility).
Of course there are a myriad of other important questions that need to be discussed in a mixed marriage, but these are the Non-Negotiable ones, and the ones that will require assistance from your local priest and/or bishop to help you resolve.
For more helpful information about the Sacrament and Marriage and Marriage Preparation please visit the links below from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
– About your Marriage FAQ
– Church Teachings on Inter-Faith Marriage