Who can get married to whom in the Catholic Church? These guidelines attempt to give the answers to those who seek to marry in the Church.

(Important: These guidelines are not instead of consultation with the parish priest
or chaplain, or in extraordinary circumstances the local ordinary)

 

A. WHO CAN GET MARRIED IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

Any baptized Catholic can get married except:

- Those who have not yet reached the legal age of marriage. In Israel this is the age of 18.

- Those who are already married – this includes those Catholics married within the Church and anyone who has been married outside of the Church (whether civilly or according to the rites of another Christian confession or another religion).

- Those who are unable to undertake a marriage because of an insurmountable impediment (impotence for physical or psychological reasons, mental minors…).

- Those who are not exercising their own free will but are being forced in any way to get married (by others, by circumstances, etc).

A Catholic who has been married validly cannot remarry unless:

- the partner has died or

- the marriage has been declared null and void by the Church. It is not sufficient that the marriage has been dissolved by the civil authority.

Separation, desertion, infidelity or even the taking of another partner do not free the Catholic from the bond of a valid marriage.

B. WHOM CAN A CATHOLIC MARRY?

A Catholic can marry any person of the opposite sex who has attained the legal age of marriage except:

- Someone who is already legally married.

- Someone who cannot give their consent because of a mental impediment or who is coerced to be married against their will.

A Catholic can marry a non-Catholic on the following conditions:

- If the non-Catholic is a Christian from another Church (Orthodox or Eastern) or from a recognized Christian community (Protestant or Evangelical), then the marriage in church needs permission from the local ordinary and it will be a fully sacramental marriage. The non-Catholic partner must agree to respect the faith and commitment of the Catholic partner. Further, the Catholic partner must make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic faith.

- If the non-Catholic is a Jew or a Muslim, then the marriage in church needs a dispensation from the local ordinary and what happens in church is that the priest blesses the marriage. It cannot be fully sacramental because one of the two spouses is not baptized. The non-Catholic partner must agree to respect the faith and commitment of the Catholic partner. Further, the Catholic partner must make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic faith.

- If the non-Catholic Christian or non-Christian (Jew or Muslim) is divorced it is necessary to receive from the Church an adjudication that in the eyes of the Church the former marriage is indeed null and void.

- If the non-Catholic refuses to be married in a Catholic church, the Catholic can apply for a dispensation from marriage in the Church given by the local ordinary. This is given only in extraordinary circumstances. The marriage must however be celebrated in public with witnesses.

C. WHAT IS A CHURCH MARRIAGE?

A marriage between two Catholics in church is valid and sacramental.

A marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic who is baptized, with the necessary permission to marry in a church, is valid and sacramental.

A marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic who is not baptized, with the necessary dispensation, is valid but not sacramental.

A marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, without the necessary permission, is illicit but valid nonetheless.

D. OTHER RELATED MATTERS

A Catholic, who is free to marry, who lives with another person of the opposite sex, who is free to marry, can get married in Church.

Every Catholic who lives with a partner without being in a state of matrimony sanctified by the Church should feel free to consult the priest of his or her community. Often priests, canon lawyers and bishops have propositions to make that can bring people living in irregular relationships more closely into the Church.