ASK FATHER: Wedding of Catholic and Protestant with priest and minister

From a reader…


Just last weekend, I attended the marriage of the oldest daughter of family friends (all of whom Catholics) to a Protestant man. The wedding occurred in the local Catholic Church, but both the local priest and the groom’s pastor officiated the marriage service. There was no Mass, nor any Eucharistic Service, but I wonder if this is technically a valid or licit wedding.

Weddings between a Catholic and a non-Catholic ordinarily should not take place within the context of a Mass.

Many Catholics have a misunderstanding of this and think that, for it to be a “real” wedding, there has to be a Mass.

Since the non-Catholic party cannot receive the Holy Eucharist, it can be awkward to celebrate the covenant between two people and then have only one receive.

Also, before weighing in on the validity or not of the wedding, clarification is needed about what you mean by “both the local priest and the groom’s pastor officiated.”

In interfaith weddings, the Ecumenical Directory, which governs these sorts of things states:

158. Upon request of the couple, the local Ordinary may permit the Catholic priest to invite the minister of the party of the other Church or ecclesial Community to participate in the celebration of the marriage, to read from the Scriptures, give a brief exhortation and bless the couple.

What is not permitted is mixing up the roles for administering the vows.

Only one minister should do that.

If the priest (or deacon) asks both parties for their “I do’s” we’re in the clear.

If the Protestant minister did it, we can presume that the Catholic party obtained a dispensation from canonical form, and we’re still in the clear.

If the Catholic priest asked the Catholic bride for her “I do” and the Protestant minister asked the Protestant groom for his “I do”,then, Houston, we have a problem.

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  1. Sword40 says:

    Along time ago, 1966 to be exact, my wife to be and myself were married in St.Cecelia’s Catholic church in Tustin, CA. She is a Catholic and I was a heathen. However, I took my required counceling from the priest, Fr. John F. Salmon the pastor. After my 30 days of lessons, Fr. Salmon told my wife-to-be and me that the Archdiocese had gievn permission for a Nuptial Mass. (I was not yet Catholic). The good Father told us that we were the very first to be given this dispensation from that Diocese. It was a very small wedding in a very big church. There had been a huge wedding 2 hours before ours so the priest asked that couple if they would mind leaving the flowers and they agreed. Then the organist volunteered to stay and play for us.

    Both of us were in the Marines and had little to no money. The wife’s parents couldn’t be there and neither could my parents. So we did the most with the least amount of financial help.

    In addition to this, my wife’s best friend and maid of honor (a Lutheran) and my best friend and best man (an evangelical) got married in the Lutheran church two hours after us and we were given permission to “stand” for them.

    That has been almost 50 years ago. The other couple has since pass away but my wife and I, with God’s Blessing. will make it to 50 years next April.

    Our priest, Fr. Salmon has since passed on. We were married just as the church began experimenting with the liturgy but still much of it was in Latin.

    Oh, I became Catholic almost 4 years after we were married.

  2. Prayerful says:

    Wasn’t the traditional thing to keep the wedding separate from the Mass rather than having it within the Mass like now?

  3. jlmorrell says:

    It’s a little known fact that this Ecumenical Directory was first issued as an addendum to Mortalium Animos. Very odd…it’s never made sense to me. But at least we can know for certain that this sort of thing is surely part of the authentic tradition of the Church.

  4. Joseph-Mary says:

    I had a beautiful wedding Mass and my husband was still protestant at the time. Now my son wants to marry a non-baptized person and they will not be able to have a Mass.

  5. ocleirbj says:

    We were married 38 years ago in my Anglican parish church, and had a dispensation to do so. As Father says, it would have been awkward to have a Mass where the bride couldn’t receive communion. We had three priests – the parish priest, my grandfather who was also an Anglican priest, and a Franciscan priest whom I knew from doing downtown street ministry with a “Jesus freak” group [another story!]. The parish priest did most of the service including the vows, my grandfather did the readings and the Franciscan gave us a wonderful homily on marriage. The best part was when all three of them wrapped their stoles around our clasped hands and said “What God has joined together let no man put asunder”. We felt very well married! PS, I converted three years later :-)

  6. Whenever there is a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, there is the option for the whole thing to take place outside a Catholic liturgy altogether: the bishop is asked for a dispensation from canonical form. In that event, the wedding takes place according to whatever ritual or form is dictated by the non-Catholic party’s faith or practice. Thus, it can take place in the non-Catholic’s place of worship, or else in some other place.

    In those circumstances, the Catholic minister (i.e., bishop, priest or deacon) can attend — but he need not; and if he attends, he can take a modest role, but the rubrics are crystal-clear that there is to be no suggestion whatsoever of “co-presiding” or of a mixed ritual…

    Which is exactly what many people ask for, and if the Catholic cleric isn’t careful, what people perceive happening.

    I haven’t been party to such weddings often, but when it comes up, I end up having to resist, politely, the efforts of the couple, and the officiant, to take part in some sort of hybrid. My preference is not to be “up at the podium,” not vested, and to take part very briefly.

    And when it’s a Catholic wedding, the same principles apply in reverse.

    Is there a need to explain the rationale at work here?

  7. frjim4321 says:

    Excellent response although I’ve never heard of a dispensation from form for a wedding that would take place within a Catholic Church. I guess if the minister was a parent/aunt/uncle of the Christian-but-not-Catholic party there could be a such a request. I’ve heard of a dispensation form form being given as a precaution, along the lines of dispensation from disparity of cult when even a slight possibility exists that one of the parties was not baptized.

    Splitting the vows between the ministers does call validity into question in the same way that confirmations at the Easter Vigil being done by a priest other than the minister of baptism are dubious in that only the priest doing the baptism enjoys the faculties to confirm.

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