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Is someone you know Getting Married?

(one partner Roman Catholic, the other not?)

But don't Catholics have to...?

There are a lot of misunderstandings about the Catholic Church's attitude to marriage, which may be even greater when one partner is not a Catholic, in a so-called 'mixed' marriage. The Catholic Church's attitude and practice have changed enormously in recent years; many couples have needless difficulties due to lack of up-to-date information. Even priests and ministers sometimes have to check up on the latest rulings.

Are there many mixed marriages?

Yes. In England and Wales over two thirds of the marriages involving a Catholic each year are mixed marriages.

Are they regarded as 'second class' marriages by the Church?

No. All Christian denominations teach that the love of a husband and wife is a precious gift from God. God does not give second class gifts.

Is it best to make religion a 'no-go' area to avoid arguments which cannot be resolved?

Certainly not. Religion is one of many areas where husband and wife may differ. They wouldn't marry if they weren't different! Even two Catholics need to find out and understand each other's expectations about religion, along with money, sex, in-laws, children, who does the washing up and all the other subjects which need to be talked through in a living and caring way before and throughout married life.

Does the Catholic Church insist that children be brought up as Catholics?

No. Catholic partners undertake "to do all I can within the unity of our (marriage) partnership to have all the children baptised and brought up in Catholic church". (the Revised Directory) Couples who are of different Christian denominations have found that far from excluding other ideas from their children's upbringing, their family life is enriched by sharing and becoming involved in both denominations.

Are there any other undertakings?

Yes. The Catholic partner has to declare a readiness to uphold his or her Catholic faith. The other partner is not asked for any undertakings.

Are there any forms which have to be signed?

No. The Catholic can choose to give the undertakings by signing the form or verbally in the presence of the priest.

Does a Catholic need permission to marry a 'non-catholic'?

Yes. This is usually granted by the parish priest when the above undertakings have been given. he cannot refuse permission - should he feel unable to grant it, the bishop must decide. This process can unfortunately cause much irritation and give an impression of religious arrogance. Ideally it can be used by a couple to talk through their attitudes and differing beliefs in a loving and caring way without being hurtful or making each other feel attacked.

Do Catholics have to get married in a Catholic Church?

No. A common practice is for the marriage to be in a Catholic Church. However the marriage may be in another Christian Church and still have the full blessing of the Catholic Church. A separate permission is needed for this and is usually granted.

Can other Churches be involved?

Yes. This is a matter for couples to discuss with their parish priest and his equivalent in the other Church. It can be helpful to have background information before talking to them. There have been many examples of weddings in which a priest and the minister of another Christian denomination have participated at the couple's request.

Produced by:

The Association of Interchurch Families
Bastille Court
2 Paris Garden
London SE1 8ND

Direct telephone (AIF): 020 7654 7251
Switchboard (CTBI): 020 7654 7254
Fax: 020 7654 7222
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