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When Catholics Marry Protestants

Q: Can a practicing Catholic marry a Protestant in that person’s church, before his or her minister? Regarding the Baptism and education of children from that marriage, may the Catholic party accept either Catholic or Protestant Baptism?

A: The marriage of a Catholic to a Protestant in a Protestant church and before that minister is considered a valid, sacramental marriage if the Catholic party has requested and received from the local Catholic bishop a dispensation “from canonical form” (the requirement that a Catholic marry before a Catholic priest or deacon).

In fact, in the situation that you described, a Catholic priest or deacon could be present as a witness. The person leading the service, however, would be considered the minister and would be responsible for filing the necessary paperwork with the local government office.

The couple will be encouraged to meet several times with a Catholic priest or deacon before requesting from the local bishop a dispensation from canonical form.

Regarding the Baptism and religious education of children born in a mixed marriage, the Catholic party is asked beforehand by the Catholic Church if he or she will try to raise any children as Catholics. The Protestant spouse is informed of that request but is not required to make any promise about this—as was previously the case.

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3 thoughts on “When Catholics Marry Protestants”

  1. I do not understand why the Church would permit a Catholic to marry outside the Church because in Catholic weddings we promise to raise our children Catholic. The Protestant tradition is completely different from Catholic so why would the Church let the Catholic marry into this kind of situation where one parent is raising the children according to beliefs that contradict the other parent. If it is that the Catholic doesn’t really accept the Catholic doctrine but doesn’t want to formally recognize that by leaving the Church and joining the Protestant Church then they are not living truthfully.

  2. Jennifer Grady

    I agree with the commenter above. How can it be allowed, when it used to not be, especially when statistics show that many who later seek annulment are cases of mixed marriage. I am teaching my children that they should only date and marry Catholics. The difficulty that comes from being in a mixed marriage should be emphasized when counseling or catechizing young people in my opinion. The idea that allowing mixed marriages is an opportunity to convert the non-Catholic spouse is also not a good reason. In my experience in my family, more leave the faith than convert their spouse.

  3. When a Catholic promises to raise their children Catholic what does that really mean? I hope that I am not a Cafeteria Catholic and one who picks which teachings of the Church to follow. I want my son to become a Catholic because he believes in is the one true Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and not because I believe this to be true.

    I am a convert to the faith and as a convert it has been my observation that many Catholics don’t fully know their faith and/or they are ignorant of scripture.

    Some suggest that a Catholic who marries a Protestant will more than likely leave the Church and become Protestant in order to appease their spouse. I would argue in those cases that the spouse who left the Church to become Protestant never understood their faith in the first place.

    I have been married to a Protestant for almost 35 years. My wife has studied scripture for over 45 years. Most Protestants have been told falsehoods about the Church and those falsehoods have been reinforced by people who have left the Church.

    I teach my son about the the Catholic faith and he understands that ideas like Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are not true. He came to this understanding not by formal Church education but by his inquiries about why I attend a different Church than Mom.

    The bottom line is you can drag your children to Mass against their will but if you first don’t understand your own faith your child will see the hypocrisy in you and fall away.

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