From a reader…
When a nondenominational Christian wishes to marry a Catholic, what must that Christian do if they do not wish to convert to Catholicism?
First, I must say that marrying a non-Catholic isn’t the very best of situations. Yes, yes. I know that this happens all the time. However, I’ll bet that if the Catholic and non-Catholic are in anyway serious about their respective identities, they would rapidly admit my point, especially as children come along.
If the “non-denominational Christian” … by the way, what an odd notion that is – “non-denominational Christian”! In one sense, Catholics are “non-denominational” because, as members of the Church founded by Christ, Catholics are not a mere denomination. We ARE Christians in the fullest sense of the word. Catholics are the denomination. We have it all. But I digress.
If the non-denominational Christian has received valid baptism, then, in order to marry a Catholic, the couple will need to participate in marriage preparation at the Catholic party’s parish. Subsequently, the pastor, if he believes the couple is adequately prepared for marriage and if he has the well-founded hope that this union will have sacramental potential, he will then request of the local ordinary (usually the bishop or vicar general) permission to perform an interfaith wedding.
Before that takes place, the Catholic party will need to promise to retain his or her Catholic Faith and to do all in his or her power to ensure that that Catholic Faith is handed on to the children of the union. The non-denominational Christian will not be asked to make these promises. Instead, he or she must be informed that his or her intended spouse has made them.
The marriage should not take place in the context of a Mass.
If the non-denominational Christian was not validly baptized, all of the above is the same, except that, instead of asking the local ordinary for mere permission, the pastor will need to ask the local ordinary for a dispensation from the law. Canon law (can. 1086 of the Latin Code and can. 803 of the Eastern Code, among other canons) requires that Catholics marry baptized persons. The bishop can dispense from this requirement, if there is a good reason.
By the way, I’m not convinced that, “I’m in love with Harvey, he’s sooooo cute and, and, like, he’s my souuulmaate” is a good reason, especially since many interreligious marriages fail. But the local ordinary is the one who gets to make that call!