I am going to marry a Lutheran girl next year, and we would like to have a Tridentine wedding celebrated within mass. However, I was warned that, because of Universae Ecclesiae, some current laws may not apply, and it may not be permissible. However, the 1970 Matrimonia mixta allows wedding to be celebrated within mass with the permission of the bishop. Does this apply on the Tridentine wedding, or do we need to consider 1962 Canon law? What does it say about the case?
I have to be blunt. May I be blunt? I’m going to be really blunt because I must be blunt. Okay… I will be indirectly blunt. Here is some juridical stuff that will blunt my bluntness.
The provisions of current universal (and particular) law apply, even when we use the 1962 rite.
The diocesan bishop can permit the celebration of a Nuptial Mass. However, the marriage rite, according to the 1962 Missal, does not take place within Mass. The marriage rite is celebrated prior to Mass. The alterations pertaining to the Nuptial Mass include the couple being within the sanctuary, the nuptial blessing after the Pater Noster, and the blessing of the couple before to the conclusion of the Mass.
I don’t know if the Ritual permits a non-Catholic bride to receive the nuptial blessing, or sit within the sanctuary. Both, to me, seem … odd.
There are many reasons why a mixed marriage is not normally celebrated within a Mass (EF or OF). The most important reason is that a crowning moment of the Nuptial Mass is the reception of Holy Communion by both spouses.
Do we want this moment of great grace to be a moment of awkwardness? One spouse receives the Blessed Sacrament – THE sacrament of unity – while the other spouse is excluded. This seems contradictory to the unitive dimension of marriage itself.
Moreover, such a division in Communion would underscore the division between the two families. The Catholic family receives. The non-Catholic family does not.
That said. It is possible – with the bishop’s permission.
May I at last be a little blunt?
Were I the bishop, and many thank God each day that I am not, I would be reluctant to give this permission.
“But Father! Er.. Your Excellency! You are mean! They luuuuuv each other! They should be able to do anything they want. You want to keep them in the Church, right? Do what they want!”
Some terrible dilemmas can’t be avoided. In this case we are faced with unpleasant situations.
First, the non-Catholic spouse and her family will feel some sort of pressure to receive the Blessed Sacrament.
Second, they will feel excluded during the celebration of a sacrament which symbolizes, not only the union of the man and the woman, but the union of two families.
The choice between sacrilege or hurt feelings is not one I would want to lay upon a couple on the day of their wedding.
There are so many cases of mixed marriage today, and there is a strong probability that people won’t understand hard decisions. But I think we have to make hard decisions. And I think that if the decisions are explained well, people will respect them.
Bluntly… I can’t imagine making a mixed marriage work. It seems to me that this whole issue is a symptom of a greater imprudence.
Thank you for this, Father. The young man would do well to heed your advice. My prayer for this young couple would be that they postpone their marriage while the young lady takes an inquirer’s class and RCIA (hopefully a good one). Knowing what I know now, I would never enter into a mixed marriage. I would also recommend to the young man that he and the young lady read Kimberly Hahn’s book “Rome, Sweet Home” about the pain and heartache associated with mixed marriage. This situation is difficult enough for converts to go through; it’s very foolish to deliberately start out in life with such a heavy burden to bear. I’m praying for them to make the wise decision!
We were granted permission for an OF Nuptial Mass (before Summorum Pontificum) and no difficulties ensued. I think it depends a lot on the individual circumstances of the families involved.
I was (am) a practising Catholic, my husband is a baptised but never-practising Anglican. His family had no problems with being excluded from communion since they didn’t ordinarily receive in any other church. I don’t think they understood exactly WHY they were asked not to receive, but they complied and there have been no hard feeling about it in the intervening years. They have continued to attend Mass occasionally (e.g. baptisms, Christmas) and I’ve never had to mention it again.
There were odd things about the Nuptial Mass, but not connected with this. For example, I had chosen Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence as one of the hymns and it turns out that hardly anyone (Catholic, Anglican or nothing) knew it. I was surprised as I thought it was fairly common.
“Knowing what I know now, I would never have entered a mixed marriage.”
I can understand that point of view, but truth be told, marrying a practicing Catholic just like yourself is no guarantee that you won’t end up having a ‘mixed’ marriage of sorts in the future. My spouse was a newly reverted practicing Catholic when I met him, and we got married with a full Nuptial Mass and both received Communion. Years later he got all soured on the Church and stopped going to Mass, and he flirted with the idea of becoming Greek Orthodox for a time. I might as well be in a ‘mixed marriage’ after all.
Many years ago, I can remember my mother (raised Methodist, converted to Catholic after she met and married my dad) saying that in her opinion, a good Catholic (meaning one who truly cared about his/her relationship with God) would be better off married to a “good Protestant” than a “bad Catholic.” The reason she gave was that a good, committed Catholic has much more in common with a Protestant who regards his/her faith as an important part of life, than with a nominal or fallen away Catholic who regards religion as unimportant. (Of course, that’s assuming the Protestant isn’t a hard core anti-Catholic who thinks Catholics worship idols and all that.)
I would think a Lutheran spouse (especially if she is from one of the more conservative traditions like the Missouri Synod) would be fairly compatible with a Catholic, even a traditionalist Catholic. Same for a conservative Anglican. An Assembly of God, Southern Baptist, or Unitarian…. not so much.
In my experience, mixed marriages don’t work. I saw a few to say this (first of all my parents). In the beginning, everything seems fine, but after a certain turning point in the couples life, in all cases I saw, the catholic part either eventually joined the spouse’s club, or they eventually both became cultural christians/atheists, and here is why:
In a marriage, (traditionally) at some time, kids start to pop out of the (traditionally) female spouse. If this happens, the following questions arise, and eventually the answer given to these questions will set the trend for the whole family’s spiritual life: Baptism? Should we, or shouldn’t we? Catholic or protestant?
Now here’s the thing: Catholics are obliged by canon law, to baptise their children Catholic, even in a mixed marriege, no matter what!
The ideal would be, that Protestant Spouse would agree, the children would be baptised Catholic, and through Catholic Spouse’s cathechesis for the children, Protestant Spouse would get to know the faith and hopefully convert.
Sadly most of the time, what happens is anything but this. And sadly all other possibilities lead to frustration. Frustration about religion inside a family is the most effective way, to destroy a marriage, leave the Church, and to show your children the worst possible example about “being religious”. Been there, saw that! In my opinion, if the conversion of the Protesant Spouse isn’t desired by anyone in the mixed marriage, it won’t work.
Father’s advice is my experience. My wife and I were married before she converted to Catholicism. We had the ceremony in a Catholic Church without the Eucharist. It worked well. But I think it really only applies if the non-Catholics take their father seriously, as my wife’s family did.
Bookworm: what I actually said was: “Knowing what I know now, I would never enter into a mixed marriage”. Your quote sounded as if I regretted my own marriage which is not the case. I converted nearly 30 years after marriage, and while my Anglican husband respects my choice, it has been difficult for both of us at times. He feels very sad and left out when we attend Mass and I go up for communion without him. Of course, I point out that there is a remedy for that! I continue to pray that he will join me in the Church.
But what I meant was that I would never deliberately enter into a situation like that in the first place, knowing what a struggle it can be. All marriages have their challenges, but religious differences can be monumental. Maybe it will all work out and maybe it won’t. Were I single, I wouldn’t choose a partner who isn’t Catholic, because the problems that could arise are very serious. That was what I meant.
I sympathise with you Father. But, in my experience, what you suggest about a Nuptial Mass and ‘divisions’ need not necessarily occur, even if the Catholic partner receives Holy Communion, while the other non-Catholic partner may not. They will have to spend the rest of their lives joined in Holy Matrimony, so they should get used to the idea that the Catholic partner will continue in the practice of their Faith, and that s/he has to ensure that future children are brought up in the Catholic Faith (we should continue to press this home as an ideal which has to become a reality). Incidently, in my own family, two of my sisters married Protestants, and both had a Nuptial Mass. A few years later both men were received into the Church (Deo gratias). In other circumstances one does wonder if one should have a Nuptial Mass when many of those in the congregation are ‘quasi-in name only ‘ Catholics or people who are completely secularised, who lack proper respect for the Catholic Mass. Mind you, a number of practising Catholics also lack respect for the Holy Mass. Perhaps they should be allowed to encounter ‘the Sacred’ in the liturgy.
My Episcopalian husband and I were married in a Catholic nuptial Mass twenty-five years ago, and, thanks be to Our Lord, are still happily married, and I am still serving the Lord as a Catholic. I continue to pray for my darling’s conversion to our faith, but honestly, it’s very apparent to me that even after all those Holy Communions, all those Rosaries, all those Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament, I have plenty of room for improvement in my own soul, before I worry about any faults or shortcomings that he may have.
Here’s a story about the sort of man my mixed-marriage husband is, and his attitude toward my practice of the Catholic faith: About six years ago, we were vacationing in a town thousands of miles from home. It was our first visit to Colorado, and we were just beginning to get an idea where the local churches and shopping were located. Me, I tend to get lost while driving. Easily. Even at home, even with GPS: my sense of direction is so bad, it reaches out and subtracts from the sense of direction of other drivers around me. Knowing I needed to get to Sunday Mass, my husband decided early that morning to scope out the easiest route I could take to the nearest church. His plan was to come back to the hotel, explain it to me, and let me write it down. Bill was quite late coming back from his dry-run. It seems that just as he arrived at the church driveway, he witnessed a terrible auto accident: a car making a left turn into the parking lot was struck at full speed by an oncoming truck. Both people in the car were ejected onto the pavement, and Bill saw it happen just as he was coming up the hill behind the car that was hit. The driver of the truck was unhurt, but in a complete daze. Bill parked his car, ran to the woman lying on the roadway, saw that she had been killed instantly, then ran to the man who was also lying in the roadway, bleeding from the head. Bill removed the T-shirt he was wearing and used it as a compress to try to stop the bleeding. He also reassured the man that an ambulance was on its way. We learned from the newspapers the next day, that unfortunately the man passed away in the hospital. I helped Bill to dispose of the blood-soaked T-shirt that the EMTs had tossed into the trunk of his car.
My Protestant husband literally gave the shirt off his back to assist a stranger in need. I had prayed God for years to send the right man for me to marry, and I believe to this day that He did. He is my hero, and in many ways a better Christian than I am. Which perhaps isn’t saying much.
I think we can all point to anecdotal examples of cases where it worked out fine between two decent people of Christian goodwill. The question is not “can it ever work?” For me, the real issue is: are the odds in your favor if you are contemplating life-long marriage with a non-Catholic? My grandfather used to say that “marriage is a gamble”. Before you marry, you have no way of knowing if it’s going to be a great choice or less-so. So, it seems to me that the wise course is to maximize the odds in your favor to the degree possible. Mixed marriages can work out well; many of us can attest to that from personal experience. A mixed marriage can also be a crucible of pain. If someone not yet married asked my advice, I’d suggest he try to maximize areas of compatibility, starting with marrying a Catholic.
Father Z, I agree with you 100%. What suffering I have seen working with couples and divorced people coming into the Church which many, many times could have been avoidable if the person had not married a non-Catholic. The number of couples in mixed marriage who do not raise their children Catholic, do not have family rosary, do not go to Mass together, and practice contraception, as a compromise, is beyond my counting.
I am so glad you have had the courage to state the Church’s real position on this. There is an automatic lack of unity. In addition, as the man is head of the family both spiritually and physically, materially and socially, why would any woman put her children and her own soul in jeopardy through a mixed marriage?
Before I was in a position to work with people trying to come into the Church with very sad tales of divorce owing to mixed marriages, and children leaving, or never being introduced to the Faith on a daily basis because of mixed marriages, I really did not understand the devastating effect this had on marriages, although I knew Church law. All my many friends who are divorced are so because they married men who were not Catholics and the ensuing problems involved pressure to contracept, or the lack of prayer and religion on a daily basis in the family, or the refusal to instruct the children in the Catholic Faith. Children suffer.
I only know of one couple where the other person converted. Even in RCIA prep, when I was a coordinator and lecturer, group discussion leader and facilitator, this problem came up over and over again. As you can see, I have strong feelings on this subject.
False ecumenism and a false hope children will automatically take after the Catholic parent have led to great suffering.
Personally, as in the old days, the Church should speak out against mixed marriages. As a woman, I cannot think of yoking myself with someone who is not Catholic, and a traditional one at that. There are enough difficulties in marriage without adding obstacles from the beginning.
My wife was baptized and raised as a Presbyterian. When we got married, we had a Catholic priest celebrate a Catholic wedding without a Mass. We did that for the very reasons that Fr. Z articulates so well here: we were getting united in marriage, and we didn’t want the issue of communion to divide us or divide our families.
Some members of my (Catholic) family were a little shocked by our decision, but most people understood why we were making it. And human nature being what it is, most people actually ended up being pleased – they were expecting a long nuptial Mass, so they were delighted when the wedding rite was over in well under an hour, allowing them to get to the bar at the reception that much sooner!
Eleven years and four kids later, my wife is a Catholic and in many ways a better one than I am. But I think it took her time – and seeing me try to work out my salvation with fear and trembling – to make the decision to join the Church. If we had waited to get married so that she could convert first, or if I had tried to impose Catholicism on her and her family beginning with a nuptial Mass, I think things would have worked out very differently, and probably much less well.
I really wish the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would establish a website with liturgical questions and answers, allowing priests to submit the questions. As things are now, we all just give our best guesses to most questions pertaining to the traditional liturgical usage, occasionally stumbling upon a reasonable answer on someone’s blog, especially WDTPRS.
Personally I am not in favor of mixed marriages, but my extended family has had experience with this: my mom and 4 of her sisters married non-Catholics (my dad was Lutheran) and they all converted…they’re all Traditional Catholic now. One of my uncles took 13 years to convert, one took just 3 months…my dad was somewhere in-between that (not sure how long it took the other two uncles). So…it can (and does) work…whether it is advisable, I leave that to Fr Z (and I think his answer was very good).
My wife and I were married in 1986. She was an RC, and I was a MS Lutheran. We had a Nuptial Mass without the Eucharist. I converted to RC in 2000. Five of our children were born prior to my conversion and one after. All were baptized RC.
We have had the benefit of attending a Traditional parish since 1995 that has celebrated the EF since 2007, and prior to that had a Latin OF.
My counsel to anyone considering a mixed marriage would be “Don’t do it”. There are so many difficulties to go through without the difficulties of juggling church on the weekend. I have told all of my children that they can have all sorts of friends, but their spouse should be RC.
Supertradmum: Amen. I was a product of a different type of mixed marriage. My mother is a protestant and my father is a Jehovah’s Witness. The compromise they reached is that none of us children ever received any spiritual education of any kind (a blessing since I avoided being indoctrinated in the JW cult!). But in a Catholic – non-Catholic context, the children are to be raised Catholic. It seems to me that a non-Catholic young lady who is mature and serious about her commitment would want to learn about the teachings of the Church before she makes such a promise. I hardly see how waiting to go through an RCIA or similar program before marriage would hurt. My advice is still that marrying within the faith is the prudential choice for all the excellent reasons Supertradmum has enunciated so well. Again , it isn’t that it can’t work out; the issue is whether or not it is BEST. We do have choices about to whom and when we will marry. C. S. Lewis has a good little essay on this topic in his book The Four Loves. He comments that, finding ourselves unequally yoked after the fact, we find ways to grow spiritually by working through the conflicts. But, he adds “only a fool would deliberately choose it”.
Dad of Six,
Tough advice for your six kids considering that they are the result of a mixed marraige! My guess is that you deliver the message with a little more nuance…
Sissy, one forgets that we need to work towards perfection, as only the perfect go to Heaven at death. The rest of us have to endure purgatory. When one places all one’s decisions in the light of this question, “Is this the act which will lead me to perfection?”, we all can avoid less than good decisions. For all the good conversions which are being shared, to God’s Glory on this page, there are 1,000 of divorces owing to mixed marriages.
Why cannot the non-Catholic fiance or fiancee become a Catholic before marriage? If one does not want to consider converting, going through the process for unity and share Faith, there is a problem.
Agreed Fr. Z. I tell couples of mixed marriage that there will NOT be a Mass. Not only does it display a sign of division for the couple, but it often put the priest in an awkward situation.
[Thanks, Father, for keeping your eye on the actual topic. The question was not about whether or not mixed marriages were a good idea. The question about about a TLM Nuptial Mass.]
By the way, I have an entire, long list of traditional Catholic and holy women, who are my friends, who would love to get married. To lighten up the conversation a bit, I realize that love seems to just happen, but it doesn’t really. We are open or not open to certain people and situations. I would hope that the trad guys would all find lovely trad women. And, may I add that I know two families where the sons in each had vocations to the priesthood, but because of mixed marriages and family objections to vocations, they both changed their minds. The dads were against these vocations, and the dads’ non-Catholic families very against the vocations. I have thought for some time that the lack of priestly vocations could be connected, in part, to mixed marriages. In 2011, 50% of the men ordained in the Spring, in the States, admitted that they had obstacles in their own families-that is-their families were against their becoming priests. It is in last year’s report on national ordinations.
If the question is how to merge 2012 novus ordo rules with the 1962 books, then that is yet another case of a square-peg-in-round-hole mess that will likely not be resolved.
The better thing to do is to simply crack open the Roman Ritual, which is also online here:
The third item in the matrimony section involves so-called mixed marriages.
Although I would add my voice to those who said better to wait until conversion for the wedding. A more diffcult option, but well, well worth it in the end.
And, for those who say, well post-Vatican II rules say anything goes with marriage: it’s not working out so well, is it?
We were a mixed marriage — fallen-away ‘high church’ Episcopalian and fallen-away Southern Methodist (college seems to do that to people – it certainly did to both of us). We did not have a Mass at the wedding, for the reasons cited here. It was after we got married (and started thinking about kids) that we got serious and went back to the Episcopal church, and he joined up. When all the trouble started with the Piskies, he surprised me a bit by having absolutely no objection to becoming Catholic. He’s an easy-going guy but he cannot be pushed – one thing 35 years of marriage have taught me is to wait and pray.
. . . and the kids are engaged to or already married to Catholics, so we must have done something right in spite of all our mis-steps.
I wish more priests were as charitable as you in providing people the truth. Not just the style but the substance as well.
May Our Lady always watch over you.
Please correct me if I am wrong but the practice of “sacrament within sacrament” is common in the OF, but not EF. By this I mean that it is quite common to have “Baptism within Mass,” “Confirmation within Mass,” “Marriage within Mass,” “Oridination within Mass,” even “Anointing of the Sick within Mass” with the Ordinary Form. But I do not recall seeing these other sacraments administered within the EF Mass. The Mass is just the Mass, and the other sacraments are other sacraments, which happen at other times.
While this could be to emphasize the centrality of the Eucharist, the “source and summit,” can it also lead to thought that the Eucharist is a “container” for the other sacraments?
Just some sacramental musings. (Mixed marriages are, IMHO, a recipe for disaster.)
It seems to me Bookworm has a good point.
My knee jerk reaction is that common sense tells you that to become involved with someone not Catholic can be less than wise, that in “dating”, etc., you should always have in mind marriage and that marriage with someone who believes in a different religion is setting yourself up for a life of contradiction. If your spouse to be takes his faith seriously, he is unlikely to convert. If he doesn’t take it seriously, that’s a poor sign in itself, no?
However, I then look at my experiences in the real world. My husband is not Catholic. He attends Mass every week. He instructs our kids in religious and moral matters in a manner consistent with Catholicism. He has agreed to NFP. And he does these things not as a concession, but because he respects my beliefs, because he understands and is coming to see good in my beliefs, and because he agreed to raise the children Catholic when he married me (that’s in the rules, eh?) and he is a guy who keeps his promises. Of course, I think we’ve had it “easy” because he did not come from a religious background at all, so there were no contradicting beliefs to overcome. That is a big deal.
Then I see marriages where two Catholics marry and both grow away from the Church together. Or I see marriages where two Catholics marry and one decides not to be Catholic any more, so that gives him/her free license to divorce a spouse that is left alone and who cannot remarry, who never thought he/she would be in that situation because Catholics don’t divorce. Or, better yet, marriages where two Catholics marry and both stay Catholics, but one divorces and remarries and the new family is welcomed with open arms in the parish while the true spouse sits in the pew alone, wondering what the heck happened.
Frankly, it seems to me that if you search for a spouse solely within the modern American Roman Catholic Church, you may be limiting yourself too much. All marriage involves compromise, and you may find yourself compromising in other areas in order to “secure” the area of faith. As an extreme example, a young Catholic man determined to marry a Catholic young woman may find himself faced with a group that includes 20 pro-abortion Catholics, 2 faithful Catholic women that already have young men they are going to marry, and 1 young woman going into the religious life. Should he sign up for Catholic singles online? Parish hop? Just pray? Move into a community with more Catholics? Or should he go ahead and date one of the 20, even though he just met this woman in class who loves God, has demonstrated love of neighbor, etc.? It would seem there are many situations in which a faithful young Catholic who is determined to only marry another faithful young Catholic will find him or herself unwed. Of course, with God all things are possible, but I’m not sure it’s not presumption to figure that if God wants you to get married he’ll put a Catholic girl in your path. I guess it would take a lot of prayer to discern what is right for any individual.
As for the Mass, it seems very prudent and charitable not make sure a wedding was not an occasion of strife among two families.
Please consider very, very carefully the decision to marry before the non-Catholic converts. A mixed marriage can cause terrible strife, grief, loneliness, confusion, and so on with the spouses and much worse for the children. Not saying it always does. Consider the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and so forth and how they might react to all sorts of things in 20 years. Marriage is tough enough, family life is tough enough, without starting out with such a huge division. I know what I am talking about. The song “All you Need is Love” is a lie.
Awesome story. Sad, but awesome too in regard to your spouse!
Fr. Z. hits the nail on the head. When I was in my early 20’s, I too, was convinced that I was in luuuuv with someone. He was the son of a Southern Baptist preacher and I had been raised Catholic, though ended up a pretty lost and confused Catholic as a result of liberal Catholic education. He had been married before as a Christian and tried unsuccessfully to get an annulment, so no Church wedding was possible. What a Blessing that turned out to be! We ended up getting married by a J.P. on a local tourist cruise ship. Having thought we were lucky to have dodged the Catholic pre-Cana classes, we each tried to attend the other’s Church once. We each hated the other person’s Church and ended up at a non-denominational Church. That felt equally empty to both of us so that too was short-lived. The rest of the marriage was void of any religion whatsoever and ended after 13 months. Thankfully, there were no children or real estate so the dissolution was “only” messy emotional and spiritually.
It wasn’t until I became engaged to the real Mr. Right, also a Catholic, that I finally understood the poor choices I had made previously. I thank God that my first “marriage” had been performed by a J.P. because it was a quick, easy process through the Diocesan marriage tribunal to nullify it. We did go on a pre-Cana retreat which forced us to discuss some aspects of a Catholic marriage that previously weren’t even on our radar. And we had a gorgeous Catholic OF Mass, during which, we held a crucifix together when making our vows to make it clear to us and to our guests that marriage involves three, not two. Jesus is not the third wheel, He is the center.
That was 15 years and four children ago. My prayer for the couple that wrote to Father Z (and any other couples) echoes what Supertradmum said: Is this the decision that will bring me to perfection? If you really aren’t sure, don’t marry unless and until your answer is a resounding “yes”. A broken marriage is far more painful than a broken engagement.
Though I recognize and repect this rule – my own personal experience could not be further from the truth. My husband was raised Methodist in a not very church going family. I was and am deeply Catholic. We “courted” for 4 years (age 18-22) agreeing with both sets of parents to “wait” for our college graduations. During that time my husband attended Catholic mass whenever he was at school or we were together (we attended college in different states) but as he had not transportation continued to not demand his parents take him when at their home. His conversion was a process over time. We planned our wedding immediately following graduation( adulthood/ free to make decisions apart from our parents wishes). We did not co-habitate but recognized the need to wait for marriage. My husband knew how much it meant to me to be married at Mass and recieve our Lord on that day. We recieved permission from the Bishop for our mixed marriage though I do not recall any special permission for the Mass – we simply requested it. At Communion, all members of the wedding party approached communion in pairs so not to call attention to any division , though only the Catholics recieved – myself and my husband included. Three years later, My husband completed RCIA and converted. We have been married for 28 years and our children raised and married in the faith. In retospect, we are both very glad we were married at Mass, though my husband could not recieve communion on that day. There have also been additional conversions among other non-Catholic members of our wedding party.
I will pray for the couple and particularly the conversion of the Bride. It seems to me if she desires TLM and a Nuptial Mass … Well then her heart must be close to conversion. Otherwise how could a Lutheran of all Protestants be marrying a devout Carholic? Seems to me that’d be quite a chasm if both were faithful to their ‘denomination’. The simplest answer is the conversion of the Bride – it will be better for their children. If her family would support a TLM wedding … I reckon they’d not disown her over conversion. If they did – to God be our devotion.
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and because he agreed to raise the children Catholic when he married me (that’s in the rules, eh?)
He would have had to make that promise if you were married before 1983, but not since then. Now he only needs to be aware that you have agreed to do all that you can to raise the children as Catholics.
This thread makes it sound like good faithful practicing single Catholic men who aren’t in the seminary or are of too much of an age difference (it’s either illegal, or creepy) are a dime a dozen, thus women should have no need to enter into a mixed marriage or should resort to the “Flirt to Convert” tactic. Looking at the situation at my own parish, the number of single women is far greater than the number of single men within the same reasonable age range, and then there is the issue of finding someone who is actually attracted to you. I think I’ll go back to seeking out non-practicing LDS men. All the ones I’ve met and been friends with are closer to being practicing Catholics than most of the Catholic guys I went to school with.
Why would you want to marry a non-Catholic? It just shows you don’t know what marriage really is. You’ve probably bought the liberal media’s notion of marriage.
Why does the new Codex even allow this with the permission of the diocesan bishop? This looks like one of those idiotic post-Vatican II changes. The only sensible excuse I can think of would be if it were a marriage arranged by your non-Catholic parents before your conversion to the Faith, which obviously isn’t the case.
“Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness?” (II Corinthians VI, 14)
Unfortunately, in current times, even using the term ‘mixed marriage’ makes some queasy. Truth=triumphalism. Relativism=comfort.
Really? That’s interesting. I wonder if our priest got it wrong or if we just made an assumption? I wonder why that was changed. It seems like as tough as that promise might be, it certainly might make someone think about the consequences of entering a marriage with a Catholic, give the couple a little encouragement to foresight.
APX, you make me laugh!
M. D. ,
I agree — but just a note, having grown up in the South, some folks think “mixed marriage” means mixed race, so having a big public conversation about what a bad idea mixed marriage is could get you some heated glares!
I am praying for the original questioner that he will wait until his fiancee is in and through — through — RCIA. If she is amenable, he will know what he needs to know. Hail Mary.
While I appreciate the comments from those who have managed to “make it work” in the context of a mixed marriage, the ability to make it work misses the point altogether. Marriage is the only sacramental lifelong commitment a person voluntarily enters into with another person. It should not be entered into even in part as an exercise to convert the spouse to Catholicism. There is only one shot at marriage and it is far too great a gamble that the result will be frustration and discord. This an obvious risk when spouses view love for one another on par with the love that is due to God. The Father is first. Thus, marriage involves three parties–husband, wife and God. How can the husband and the wife draw closer to God when they don’t share the same fundamental beliefs about Him? My wife and I can discuss and debate the relative good of a mantilla at Mass, but our marriage–our sacramental bond–most certainly is not strengthened by debating whether “this rock” in Matthew 16:18 refers to Peter’s confession of faith or the definition of Peter as head of the Church on earth.
Marriage is hard enough without voluntarily introducing contrary views about the One who joined the spouses together into the marriage from the start.
My husband was Anglican when we married and we had a full mass (OF). That said, my husband understood fully that he could not receive communion. We also communicated clearly in both our wedding program, and a statement by the priest, that non-Catholics (including my husband’s relatives) could not receive communion. I think some were a bit offended by that, but I really didn’t care. We had a wonderful, traditional priest who was honest with us, but also very supportive. My husband converted to Catholicism with the help of that priest about a year later.
In response to some comments here, I don’t think that anyone should automatically rule out marrying a non-Catholic. Had I held that attitude, the world would have two fewer Catholics–my husband, and our son. My husband has fully embraced the faith. He does an hour of adoration each week and has done a wonderful job educating our son in the faith. He helps me to be a better Catholic, too. Prior to meeting me he had stopped going to church altogether. After meeting me he started going to church again on his own, but to a Catholic church instead of an Anglican one. I was steadfast in my belief, and prayed a lot about our relationship. God works in mysterious ways.
Ditto Cosmos and Joe Magarac. My (ex baptist) husband and I were married in the Catholic rite without a full Mass. The Latin Mass led to his conversion. Now we are a family of five, happy traddies! Sometimes the Lord’s ways are unfathomable.
There are great stories here of how the Lord, in His infinite mercy, brings good out of sub-optimal situations. But I don’t think we should go so far as to view marriage as being primarily a tool of evangelism. That it often happens after the fact is glorious. But why seek it?
At all the mixed marriages I have attended, the non-Catholic spouse has received communion. The only time I questioned this, the priest told me that this was allowed as a special exception if the spouse was baptised.
I have regularly seen non-Catholics receive at weddings, and seldom heard them asked not to.
When I was married, I was still an Anglican. We had an English Missal High Mass. I noticed all the Catholics there received but very few of the Protestants of other denominations. This despite a note in the order of worship asking people to respect the discipline of their own churches — the Anglicans allowed baptised Christians in good standing with their denominations to receive.
There really needs to be public clarity about Communion, regularly repeated and enforced.
I suggest you visit traditional Latin Mass churches and chapels. My experience over the last 20 years is they are about 10:1 single male to single female. Not saying all the guys are socially normal and such, but the ratio is far different than the typical parish.
“…“only a fool would deliberately choose it”.
Call me a fool, then. I bow to CS Lewis for his intellect (even though he was an Anglican) but the path of folly has been pretty well trod. In our case, for nearly 29 years. Fingers crossed, it will continue even longer – largely through my (Anglican, but far more attendant at Catholic Church) wife’s tolerance, I suspect!
Peter Rother states that marriage “should not be entered into even in part as an exercise to convert the spouse to Catholicism.”
Sissy states that “I don’t think we should go so far as to view marriage as being primarily a tool of evangelism.”
I agree. But I don’t think that those of us who have had successful mixed marriages, especially ones in which our spouse later joined the Church, are suggesting that we got married with evangelism as a goal.
I would like to suggest that the key to any Catholic marriage – be it between two Catholics or be it mixed – is whether both parties understand what obligations a Catholic marriage requires, and intend to work to meet those obligations with the grace of God – which they have been seeking and seem likely to continue to seek.
There are lots of failed Catholic marriages in which one or both spouses didn’t understand what the Church considers marriage to be or didn’t live a life of prayer prior to marriage. Priests should look at those situations with a gimlet eye. But if a non-Catholic spouse is or wants to be a religious person and fully commits to a Catholic marriage with a clear understanding of what that entails, then there is no reason to consider the situation “sub-optimal” or undesirable. As some have rightly noted, marrying a bad Catholic is probably worse than marrying a good non-Catholic.
@Sissy Who said anything about seeking it? I, and I assume others here, are talking about being receptive to God’s plan rather than stubbornly refusing the possibility of a situation we deem “sub-optimal”. I know many Good Catholics who are still single in their 30’s because of their stringent standards.
Amen! I entered into my marriage knowing that my husband may never convert to Catholicism. However, he had been attending Catholic mass for years by the time we were married, would continue attending with me, and we planned to raise our children Catholic. The decision to convert was completely his, and that made it all the more special and significant to me. I think sitting in the pew during communion really bothered him after a while. I felt strongly that marrying my husband was part of God’s plan for my life, without fully knowing where it would lead.
I suggest you visit traditional Latin Mass churches and chapels.
I go to one. We don’t have ratios like that unless maybe if we include the single men in their 40s+. Doesn’t really work when you’re in your 20s.
The fact that the Church has allowed it (if not encouraged it) for this whole time would say that there is nothing objectively wrong with a mixed marriage. It would be a decision not to be entered into lightly, but, then again, neither is a regular marriage.
With the divorce rates being what they are today, even among people who claim to be Catholic, I do not think that merely having a Catholic spouse is good enough. You might both be Catholic, but there is a wide chasm between a solid orthodox Catholic and a cultural Catholic (even one that could be said to be properly practicising) and even more so between a CINO or a C&E Catholic. In my experience, there can also be a wide chasm between a Traditionalist and a Neo-Con even if on paper they seem pretty close because its not a formula. There are still all the personal, tempermental, personality, attraction, etc. issues as well.
It would seem that in the world of today, where there are almost no homogenous communities of Catholics, especially not at the level of nation states, mixed marriage is going to be a given. I also think at the time when Catholic lands were actually Catholic, the situations in which mixed marriages actually might come up proved to be especially problematic because of the nature of the cultures of the time. Say, if a Catholic girl married a Lutheran guy, they both probably lived somewhere like the border between Bavaria and Prussia. If she goes to live in Prussia, probably fat chance finding a Catholic parish in the area and thus fat (practical) chance being Catholic. It *could* work, she *could* manage to remain Catholic but it would not be very likely at all. In such a situation, the marriage would practically also entail falling away from the Church-and that is the big problem. Today, we are all mixed together in such a way that this almost inevitable apostasizing would not happen in that same way. Now, the problem is more likely to be apathy-and that is something much more individualistic. I’ve seen in happen with mixed marriages, neither one of them continues any religious practice. Is that really the fault of “mixed marriage” in general? No. If someone is just crusing along on autopilot and happening to “be” Catholic, they would probably quit practicing anyway and the quality of their “practice” isn’t that high on autopilot.
This is all a very highly individualized situation. While we can *generally* say mixed marriage might not be a good idea, there are so many factors involved that I wouldn’t even advise against it in general to particular people. It just depends!
The problem then is not so much the mixed marriage, but is the Catholic party really Catholic? It would seem that one who is truly Catholic will know how to handle the situation should it come up, i.e. a Scientologist might be a nice person, but is it smart to marry into a cult? The Lutheran you meet and are considering marrying is religious, but not dogmatically attached to their sect and are willing to let you raise the kids Catholic et al.-this might be a relatively “good” situation. The “Catholic” you meet might even be “religious” but are Catholics of a “Secularist-Catholic Rite” (to borrow someone else’s term) type which would be more detrimental than marrying the non-dogmatically Lutheran Lutheran!
Back in the day it was a lot simpler…at least for my mom and dad. Mom was a cradle Catholic, grew up in a French-Canadian ‘enclave’ in Fall River MA, parishoner of Ste. Anne’s Shrine (even though they lived next door to the ‘Polish’ parish, St. Stan’s…), parochial school, in the 30s and 40s. Dad was baptised as a Presbyterian, grew up Methodist, and met my mom while he was in the Navy.
Well…hard to imagine your parents dating, falling in love, the whole bit (I guess that’s part of the defense mechanisms we all have…)…but what it came down to was Mom wasn’t going to have nothing of that mixed marriage thingie. My dad took instruction with the priest on board his Navy destroyer in the middle of the Korean War while on station, was baptised a Catholic (when they did that sort of thing, not knowing whether the protestant baptism ‘took’), rest of his sacraments when he was on shore again (in Ste. Anne’s, of course…), and the rest, well, here I am, they’ve been together as husband and wife since 1955. Guess who is the stronger and more devout? That’s right. Dad.
She put her foot down, Dad complied out of a sense of duty and honor towards his fiancee, and came to embrace the Faith beyond what anyone could have imagined. (and my ancestors were quite active in the ‘Know Nothings’ and other anti-Catholic movements of the 19th century, to boot…bet they’re still spinning in their graves…:))
I hate to say ‘you do what you have to’, and my family’s experiences are probably not applicable to today…but, once my Dad embraced the Faith, the road ahead opened up in ways he never could have expected, good and bad. And maybe that’s the lesson.
Please pray for him, as he’s battling the slow decline of poor health and old age…and for mom and myself as we accompany him on this journey.
Joe Magarac and mamajen,
Again, I am happy to hear that you either “lucked out” or that God’s grace abounded. My point, however, is that marriage is hard enough without infusing fundamental contrarian views of the utmost importance into what is supposed to be a sacramental sign of unity with respect to that Person who is Truth and Unity in Himself. Love for God precedes love for spouse and love for spouse prescinds from God. I intend no disrespect, but–for reasons I’ve stated above–I would never counsel marriage of a Catholic to a person who is not Catholic. I wish your spouses and you happiness here and with God when you are called to meet Him.
LisaP, see here for a more detailed answer:
The fact that the Church has allowed it (if not encouraged it) for this whole time would say that there is nothing objectively wrong with a mixed marriage.
My understanding was that it was something the Church “tolerated” as a medicinal means to attempt to prevent Catholics from being married outside the Church.
From what I’m noticing, it appears that parishes are presenting a Sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church as an option, not a requirement. My understanding was that if a Catholic is getting married in a mixed marriage that isn’t in the Catholic Church, he/she is still required to contact the parish priest to complete paperwork (ie: dispensation/disparity of cult) and to ensure the Catholic agrees to raise the children as Catholics to the best of their ability, and to ensure proper marriage prep is completed. Instead, now I read things like this in bulletins:
“Couples wishing to celebrate a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church are required to contact their parish priest and participate in a Marriage Preparation Program.”
The Sacrament of Marriage is being turned into a joke. I can’t recall the last time I even attended a Nuptial Mass. It appears to me that the focus is placed on the reception rather than the actual ceremony, which is just getting in the way of pictures and drinking. The shorter you can make it, the better, lest your guests start getting bored or lose focus during the ceremony.
mamajen, I didn’t mean to give offense by using the term “sub-optimal.” I beg your pardon for an inelegant word choice. I was just speaking in the abstract that for an orthodox Catholic, marrying another orthodox Catholic would be the ideal situation.
I observe with interest that there seem to be two camps addressing this question. One camp seems to assume that people “fall in love” and that the resulting relationship is not the result of conscious will. Others seem to take the position that choosing a life mate for Catholic marriage is a matter of deliberate choice. I married whom I pleased with very little discernment decades before I was Catholic, and it has worked out beautifully. But if I were single and in my twenties today, and an orthodox Catholic worshipping in a TLM parish, I would only date Catholics. And I believe that is the optimal situation for young orthodox Catholics, regardless of how well it works for other people who don’t follow that advice. They aren’t guaranteeing success, but they are minimizing potential sources of conflict and maximizing their odds. That seems prudential to me.
As someone who is in a successful mix marriage that greatly strengthened my faith and forced me to dig deep into my faith, I have a few cautions.
First, what type of person are you. Are you the type of a person that needs good soil to flower and dies in bad soil, or are you the type of person that becomes complacent in good soil and in bad soil forces yourself to dig deep roots that ultimately gives you an unshakeable faith. If you’re the former, then stay out of mixed marriages, especially if your wife is a good and faithful Protestant. If you’re the latter, then its okay to consider it, but keep in mind that there are faithful Catholic women who will challenge you too.
Let’s assume that you’re the latter type and you find a good and faithful Protestant that only wants prayer, scripture, and living a Christian life to be a part of you and your (future) children’s life and sees Catholicism is a valid form of Christianity (many denominations don’t or see some aspects of Catholicism as leading people to apostasy) and you don’t mind or like being in an environment where Protestants daily try to convert you since it gives you an opportunity to convert them and forces you to learn more about your faith. This is the ideal (my marriage).
There are a few questions you need to ask:
* Can you pray the family rosary together?
* Can you go to mass together as a family even if you have to go to your wife’s services?
* If you go to your wife’s services, can refuse accepting “communion” since you are not in communion?
* How do you handle going to mass during your vacations, since its tough enough finding a Catholic church in some foreign cities, let alone a good Protestant one?
* How do you handle donations? Note, some donations will inevitably go to trying to convert Catholics. It’s possible to avoid obvious donations (e.g. Latin American missions), but you won’t be able to restrict all options without banning all donations at her Church (something a faithful Protestant will not accept).
* How comfortable is yours spouse with Mary and statues and icons? Can you kneel before a statue or icon and kiss it in front of your spouse without either of you feeling uncomfortable?
* Can you set up a family altar without causing a fuss? Will your spouse respect it?
* Even if you sincerely believe that your spouse will ultimately convert (I honestly believe that she will before my death), will you be willing to accept that she might not or that it might take 30 or 40 years of seeing your and your children’s faith blossom before it happens. In the mean time, do you know what you’re going to tell your children when they ask “Will mom/dad go to heaven, since she/he knows what Catholic teach but doesn’t want to be Catholic?” Can you give an answer without teaching your children Indifferentism or causing strife with your spouse?
In short, can your marriage flourish and you practice your full Catholic faith and pass on your Catholic faith to your children and have the faith of you and your children strengthened because of your marriage?
Mixed marriages can work but they should not be taken lightly.
Tons good in what you say and much to learn in your experiences, but wanted to clarify — I’m not inclined to the “love has its own reason”, “you fall in love with who you fall in love with, you can’t help it”, any of that stuff. Certainly the “one true soul mate out there” thing makes me gag! I did not have a well formed conscience or character when I was dating, but God gave me the grace to begin (after many mistakes) to use discernment in the men I “dated”. I stopped dating men that seemed to not fit with my point of view on right and wrong, love and compassion, all sorts of important things. My parents were actually very disapproving of the relationship I eventually formed with my now husband, because they felt it wasn’t roses and rainbows enough! They liked flashier guys for me! But I could tell he was a good man. My husband could never have been a Catholic, he grew up in a place where he didn’t even know any Catholics. But he had a sensibility, a moral character, that fits well with the Church.
I don’t think folks “fall” into mixed marriages just because they think of marriage too secularly, or not sacramentally. We are living in a world where the Church has lost most of the globe, so there are many, many, many good people who are not Catholic. There is also a great deal of corruption and disorder within the Church, so there are naturally many, many corrupted people who are Catholic. I think when someone is trying to discern a vocation to marriage — and it is a vocation, if you are called to it I think you have some obligation not to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of its fulfillment — these factors can make the question of mixed marriages complicated even for the very thoughtful!
dominic, I think you’ve identified a lot of important points on this issue.
LisaP, I think you make a great deal of sense in terms of what actually happens to real people. I was only addressing what the ideal to shoot for would be in my perfect world (and the perfect worlds of the young folks in my life would might foolishly ask my advice!). Where I come from, the oystermen have a saying “Don’t cull ’em too close, or you’ll never a bushel”. What you say about putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of following the vocation of marriage is wise. I suppose the only point where I might quibble with you just a bit is, how do you define “unnecessary”. That’s going to vary from person to person, obviously. Some are going to feel more strongly about establishing a thoroughly orthodox, traditional-minded home right from the get-go than others. If I were 24 and single, I think that would be my preference. But others mileage may vary. That’s what makes it an interesting world!
Great comment, anilwang.
I think all things being equal it would be better for Catholics to marry Catholics. However many times all things are not equal. I live in the South. I am in a third generation mixed marriage. My grandparents were in a mixed marriage. My parents are in a mixed marriage. In high school I knew about five Catholic boys around my age. In college I knew one. Those aren’t good odds so we do the best we can. I suspect my father will someday convert. I suspect that my husband will someday convert. Please pray for their conversions!
Peter Rother states that “My point, however, is that marriage is hard enough without infusing fundamental contrarian views of the utmost importance into what is supposed to be a sacramental sign of unity with respect to that Person who is Truth and Unity in Himself.”
Agreed. I tried to address this in my prior comment by stating that what matters isn’t whether the spouses are nominally Catholic, but whether they both understand what a Catholic marriage is and requires. If a non-Catholic spouse demonstrates, prior to marrying, that he or she understands the Catholic sacrament of marriage and agrees to marriage on those terms, then there are no “fundamental contrarian views” and your concerns are unfounded. On the other hand, if two nominal Catholics, neither of whom has given much thought to divorce or birth control and both of whom dozed off during their pre-Cana classes, get married, they may have the same completely inaccurate view of marriage and wind up in divorce court a decade later.
You seem to be assuming that when a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, the Catholic party will have a Catholic view of marriage (e.g., divorce and birth control are out of bounds) and the non-Catholic party will have a non-Catholic view of marriage (e.g., contraception is fine and divorce is an acceptable last resort). That’s not how it was with me and I don’t think it’s how it is with many mixed marriages. For example, take the guy who asked Fr. Z the question that started this thread – i.e., a traditionalist Catholic who is proposing to marry a Lutheran – does it seem likely to you that this Lutheran woman, who has apparently been to the EF Mass and is willing to have one at her wedding, knows nothing about what Catholic marriage is and requires?
In short, I agree with you that mixed marriages are dangerous. But the dangerous “mix” is a mix of two people, one of whom believes in Catholic marriage and one of whom does not. Sadly, a marriage between two baptized Catholics could be “mixed” under this definition.
Thanks for your kind words in closing regarding my marital happiness and others’.
I am still astonished by the first comment: JonathanCatholic says “I can’t imagine making a mixed marriage work.”
That suggests a failure of imagination and a very limited knowledge of people.
I won’t add to the anecdotes of successful mixed marriages, except to say that I am a third generation one (myself, my parents and my Catholic grandparents). None of those marriages failed, all raised Catholic children. Better than one can say for many marriages between two Catholics over the last few decades.
Sadly today, if someone is nominally Catholic (and so entitled to a Nuptial Mass) it is no guarantee that they are Catholic minded or even know anything of the Faith.
Imagine two marriages five years ago – one to an Anglican who is now joining the Ordinariate, one to a laicised former member of the LCWR. Are we saying that the first, as a mixed marriage, was doomed to failure, while the second was a good Catholic wedding?
Thanks for the additional thoughts. May Our Lord bless your family for He is truly good.
My story is similar to Bookworm’s. I reached the point where I knew I could not date a non-Catholic, and I wanted to marry. We met and married in a conservative diocese; our children were baptized there. My husband was very enthusiastic and committed. We have since relocated. The relocation to a less rigorous parish has dampened his enthusiasm, one might say. I don’t push too much and aggravate the situation, but we have young children to raise. (I’m not thrilled with the parish, but I have made my peace with this for now in our lives.)
Yeah, a mixed marriage might work, but I think it depends on the character of the spouses, as in any marriage.
A Mass at a mixed marriage is a bit odd as Fr. Z has pointed out. I am, however, also reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians concerning the natural marriage between a Christian and pagan: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother.” (1Cor. 7:14) And guess what? Grace works. Modern historical interpretations of the early Church show a great value in Christian women married to Roman (pagan) husbands to help temper persecutions and to spread the faith. It is not something relegated to the past either. One of my brothers married a Protestant woman. Seven years later when my niece was preparing for her First Communion she could not understand why her mother did not receive the Eucharist. When she put the question to her mother, she did not have a good answer. She was reconciled to the Church the following Easter. As the preparations for marriage are supposed to make clear, it is the responsibility of the Catholic spouse to raise the children in the faith. If then the Catholic spouse is a good witness to the faith, how can it not but have a positive impact upon the other spouse – leading them both to greater unity and holiness. And unless I missed something in Sacramental Theology class at the seminary, along with procreation, it is the purpose of the married life. Marriage is to bring people to God – spouse, children, and God willing neighbors.
My wife is a convert, and we were married last year with an EF Nuptial Mass. (My wife had converted long before she and I met.) We were able to receive Communion together, but no one else in her family is Catholic, so no one on that side of the aisle went to receive Communion. But we were married in an FSSP parish, and the priest was gently but firmly clear that only baptized Catholics in a state of grace were invited to receive Communion. I don’t recall hearing any complaints from her side of the family; we had told them beforehand what to expect, and they were all willing to respect the “rules of the house”, so to speak.
BTW, she and I often joke that we have a mixed marriage: she has a Macbook and an iPhone, while I have a PC and a Droid phone. ;-)
My advice after 19 years of a mixed marriage… think about it. Okay… good. Go think about it some more! Seriously. Yes, it can work and it can be wonderful… but it is an awful lot of work. Even more work than a “non-mixed” marriage. Especially when children are involved (and no one, who does not have children, has NO idea what that is like, until they do have children!).
I do have to point out, that my marriage wasn’t mixed to start out with. My husband has been Lutheran the entire time… I converted several years into our marriage. Since then, I’ve thought there should be some sort of manual for spouses (especially husbands) in this situation – “Help! I’m Married to a Catholic Wife (or Mother)!” – along the lines of the one for homeschoolers: “Help! I’m Married to a Homeschooling Mom!” by Todd Wilson.
Like Peggy R. above me pointed out… it does depend on the character of the spouses. I’ve seen Catholic marriages fall apart too – because the two people in question were immature and selfish. I’ve seen other mixed marriages fall apart too, for the same reasons.
With regard to the rite of marriage itself, that can be done, and is always outside the Mass in the EF, sometimes the Mass immediately follows, sometimes it is months later, sometime no Mass and blessing are given. Historically, mixed marriages were done outside the Church, often in the rectory (many old rectories have a parlor because of this)
I think Father is right in that there would no longer be a restriction against having the wedding in a Church (provided of course that proper dispensation was granted to deviate from the law against mixed marriages. Otherwise, provided form is observed, the marriage is illicit even though valid)
However, it would not be possible to respect the rubrics for the nuptial Mass and blessing. The blessing especially is aimed at the woman, and is not allowed to be given to a non Catholic, or someone previously wed (if the wife has never been wed before it may be given even if the husband has, but not vice versa). Further, it is presumed by the rubrics that they should receive holy communion. Now perhaps the rubrical prescriptions are merely repeating canonical (and since changed ones), but I would certainly not go ahead with an EF nuptial blessing and Mass without consulting perhaps a canonist, or maybe an FSSP priest or similar (who may have had to dealt with that situation)
I would love to read all the comments here, but I only have time for the first 20 or so. I am (or was) from a mixed marriage, including a Catholic. I was the non-Catholic party. I say “was” because eventually I joined the Church. We are no longer mixed, but now both Catholics.
However, the issues brought up here are directly relevant to our wedding ceremony. I’m now embarrassed to tell this, but I was given communion in that mass. We were both entirely unaware that there was anything wrong with this. Other than this mistake (which I now deeply regret) our mixed marriage turned out well because I was more than eager to have our kids baptized, take them to mass, etc. I was already very interested in Catholicism, but just not ready to make the leap.
The most important result of being given permission by the bishop to have a mixed marriage was that it eventually lead to me joining the Church. A few years later, in a conversation with a different priest who had hired me to teach in English in the parish school (in Mexico) it turned up that I had been given communion at our wedding, before I joined the Church; he immediately pointed out (in a caring and pastoral way, but very directly) that that was wrong. Fortunately, this conversation made me want to know why it was wrong, and how I could fix it. This, in turn, and the conversations I had with that priest afterwards lead me to join the Church. The way I like to see it, the big mistake by the priest who presided over our wedding was fixed by God through this excellent parish priest I met a few years later. If the priest at our wedding had denied me communion and explained to me carefully why, it may have led me to join the Church sooner – probably not immediately, since I’m slow to make big decisions, but probably sooner than 4 years.
I believe care should be taken in granting permission for mixed marriages (probably greater care than often is taken,) but provided that both parties are well informed on how it works and why (which I wasn’t), there can be really good outcomes (which there were for me, despite the lack of care from that priest.)
On the other hand, this is all tied closely to catechesis; if my wife had been given better catechesis as a girl growing up in the Church, she would have realized that there was something wrong at the wedding ceremony. If the priests in the area were the kind who promoted good catechesis, I suspect they wouldn’t have given me permission to take communion, and I’m sure they would’ve taken some time to explain the situation to me and the meaning of the Eucharist in Catholicsm, etc. I’m just very, very thankful that that parish (where I worked in the school) is a parish where the priests take catechesis, instruction and (most importantly) the Eucharist seriously, opening the door for me to learn about and join the Church.
re iPadre’s comment, and Fr. Z’s comment in reply to it.
I would be interested to know what would have been correct in our wedding ceremony (and I wish that the priest had done what was more correct!) My wedding ceremony had nothing to do with the TLM, but I think it was a clear example of the symptoms of misunderstanding these issues. It actually shows the difference Fr. Z pointed clearly; the mixed marriage had a really good result (I eventually became Catholic) but having our wedding ceremony as a part of Mass led to real confusion in a bad way (I was given communion before I was Catholic.)
Perhaps if more priests (and even laypeople) started distinguishing these two items (if a mixed marriage can be good vs. if a mixed wedding should have a mass) these situations could actually open up more opportunities to instruct both parties of the wedding (Catholic and non-Catholic) – i.e. “You can’t have mass at your mixed wedding because …” hopefully leading to a better awareness of what the Eucharist means in Catholicism. This would be good for the non-Catholic party because it may spark their interest to delve deeper, and it would be good for the Catholic party because they would be reminded (or taught for the first time) how all-important the Eucharist is. I’ve only been Catholic for a bit over a year, but sadly I can say with a fair bit of confidence that most Catholics I know aren’t aware of the importance of the Eucharist in any real way. Situations like this need to be used to instruct, among other things.
As I’ve said before, my mother is Catholic and my father is United Methodist. They were married with a pre-1970 Nuptial Mass, thanks to the then-archbishop’s kind permission and my maternal grandfather’s incessant lobbying. My dad took my mom’s faith very seriously and studied up on Catholicism and the Fathers; I remember reading those books in junior high and high school and having my faith strengthened.
Back then, the non-Catholic spouse still had to sign a promise that he’d let the kids be raised Catholic; and my dad always abided by the spirit as well as the letter. Very few people in our parishes have ever realized that Dad wasn’t Catholic, in fact, because he almost always goes to Mass as well as attending his own church’s services. Heck, he goes to Mass more than a good chunk of Catholic men! (And when you consider the many eras he’s been going to Mass through,
of his own free will….)
Mind you, the other side of the coin is that my mother is very stubborn and determined, and my dad is not a pushover. Neither of them are stupid or ill-informed about their own beliefs. They always knew that about each other. So I don’t think that either of them ever played any unfair religion influence games with each other. Not everyone can say the same.
Mixed marriages have inherent disadvantages, but they can work. My father and mother are getting close to 50 years of happy marriage. Not perfect, but better than average. If people really do what is right, it can work. If they aren’t ready to sacrifice for God and each other, then it won’t.
And of course my dad didn’t receive at the Nuptial Mass. He hasn’t received at any other Masses, either.
Our RCIA program – 30 strong each year, usually at least half of whom are non-Catholic fiances and fiancees – gives out just such a book as part of the course materials. I will try to track down the title and author and post in here within the next day or two.
In the past such a mixed marriage was merely tolerated by the Church in order to prevent the Catholic spouse from leaving the Church or attempting marriage outside the Church.
The older liturgical rites were reserved for the marriage of two Catholics, with a mixed marriage witnessed by the priest without any liturgical or para-liturgical rites. Often, this was a small ceremony in the rectory or the vestibule of the Church. Sometimes, where pastorally beneficial, the couple could exchange vows in the Church, but the priest did not wear any liturgical garment and no liturgical ceremony, aside from perhaps blessing the rings, was done.
That all may sound harsh, but it shows the Church’s concern for the maintenance of the Faith and that She merely tolerated mixed marriages.
Regarding Catholic marriages, it is not correct to have the couple in the Sanctuary during the Mass. The former principle was that women were not permitted in the Sanctuary during any liturgical ceremony. That principle was not abandoned just because it was a couple’s wedding day.
The custom of having the couple in the Sanctuary seems to have originated out of convenience for the Nuptial Blessing given after the Pater Noster and at the end of the Mass. Logistically, however, the couple could stay at the rail except for the last part of the blessing where the priest sprinkles them with lustral water, and in many churches they would need to be closer to the altar.
Having been involved with dozens of traditional (EF) weddings on the serving side, and on the organizational side, I can say that it works and looks far better to keep the couple out of the Sanctuary, and is more liturgically fitting and correct.
Suburbanbanshee says “Back then, the non-Catholic spouse still had to sign a promise that he’d let the kids be raised Catholic.” At least this much was true for me as well – a condition for the permission for our mixed marriage was a promise to let the kids be raised Catholic. As I already mentioned, I was fairly eager to do this anyway.
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