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Catholic Dating a Non-Catholic? The 7 Non-Negotiables


bviously in His own bloodline Christ Jesus had a number of women who were not born Jews, but I do appreciate greatly why Jews and Catholics alike have always encouraged the members of their communities to marry within the faith; simply to safeguard against the dangers that can occur in a religiously mixed marriage, especially concerning the raising of children.

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

Catholic Dating a Non-Catholic? The 7 Non-Negotiables
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Catholic Dating a Non-Catholic? The 7 Non-Negotiables
If you are a Catholic dating a non-Catholic or a non-Catholic dating a Catholic in hopes of marriage, these are the 7 non-negotiable questions you need to know.
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Saint Dominic's Media, Inc.
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  • Ioanees Patricius

    I have simpler advice:

    Just. Don’t. Do. It.

    Wait. God will find you a good Catholic if he wants you to be married.

    “Despite the fact that mixed marriages are not, in themselves, true vocations and are inherently flawed, the Church sometimes does grant a dispensation to such a couple for”

    ‘the same reason that a prudent mother would prefer to see a wayward daughter do a bad thing than a worse thing. What parent would not prefer to see a child sick than dead? There is some hope for the life of a man hanging over a precipice and clinging even to a handful of grass, but there is no hope when his brains are dashed out on the rocks beneath. When persons have fully made up their minds to enter mixed marriage, they are so blinded by their passions and preferences that, if the Church should not tolerate their step, many of them would marry out of the Church, and thus commit mortal sin, and in most cases incur excommunication. The only difference, then, is this: There is at least a possible hope of salvation when mixed marriages are tolerated by the Church; whereas, if these persons should die in their rebellion against the Church, their damnation would be certain. The Church, like a prudent mother, would prefer the less of these two evils’. (“Vocations Explained: Matrimony, Virginity, The Religious State, and the Priesthood,” Benziger Brothers, 1897).”

  • Ioannes Patricius

    Sorry. That sounded harsh, shouldn’t have been.

    I was in a long mixed- relationship. I do not recommend them. I came across that quote when I was in it, and I thought, ‘Oh that’s rubbish, I love X’. Now I can see clearly that the post makes a lot of sense. She was a lovely girl though.

    • Yeah, thanks Ioannes – I don’t think it is an ideal situation either, but the grace of God has worked in mixed marriages and the non-Catholic became Catholic, who may never have otherwise. We also know the danger of lukewarm Catholics compromising too far and abandoning their faith to keep false peace in the home.

  • Frank A.

    Mixed marriages are definitely a mixed bag. I am fortunate to have married a Protestant woman who questioned and probed the lukewarmness right out of me. Now that my faith has been strengthened, I have even changed my major to theology for crying out loud, there is no turning back. By Gods good grace my wife is slowly seeing the beauty, more importantly the truth, of the fullness of faith. As we get closer to con validating our marriage the gravity of love that emanates from our Lord brings us closer together and to his Church. Amen!

    For those of you who are considering dating someone outside the faith take heed because, just like this ex-indifferent Catholic experienced, you will be put to the test and if in the end you cleave to the rock your faith will become an issue big enough to separate you two (and rightly so, if you are dating that is).

    • Thanks so much for those words of inspiration and warning Frank!!!

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  • Bob

    I have been a priest for twenty years serving in two dioceses and I have never had to seek the bishop’s permission to marry a Catholic and a non baptized person. The bishops have delegated to the priests the ability to give dispensations from the desparity of cult.

  • Richard

    The reason why arranged marriages worked so much better back in the day was because the upbringing socially and spiritually was so close. Italian Catholics only marrying Italian Catholics, Irish Catholics marrying only Irish Catholics, etc. They were brought up the same and had parents that were like-minded before their children were betrothed.

  • Michael S Clifford

    My girlfriend hasn’t yet been catechized let alone baptized, but she wants to someday. She’s even agreed to get married in the Catholic Church. I’m the only reason her mom knows Catholics are Christians. They even have Douay-Rheims Version copies of the Holy Bible.

  • Michael S Clifford

    Just so you know, I researched all Bible translations. Even some Catholic translations are corrupted. There are only two uncorrupted English translations: the Douay-Rheims Version and the Catholic Public Domain Version. And, of those two, only the Douay-Rheims Version has an imprimatur.

  • Michael S Clifford

    That’s not true. God doesn’t punish those who don’t know any better. My grandma was Catholic. My grandpa was Baptist Protestant. There was no divorce. Christians don’t get divorced. Most Protestants are Christians but some are. And in this case my grandpa was a Christian.

  • Olga Zurova

    And do your children practice the Faith?