You are here: Home > Frequently asked questions about marriage

Contents

If you feel that you would like to financially help the work of this Centre, please donate through PayPal by using the button below.

Frequently asked questions about marriage

How Can We Save Our Marriage? book coverAdditional help is also available through our recently published book How Can We Save Our Marriage?, a self-help guide for troubled marriages, featuring chapters on the spirituality of marriage, the wounded past, confused emotions, communication, priorities in married life, gender differences, and natural family planning. This is available from www.amazon.co.uk or www.fast-print.net/bookshop.

Questions

Q. I am a Catholic, but I have not been confirmed. I wish to get married, and I have been told that I must be confirmed first, is this so?

Q. What are the rules of Catholic marriage with regards to a marriage between a man and a woman of 16 and 17 respectively? We are concerned that for a purely Catholic marriage ceremony (NOT a civil ceremony) parental consent maybe required.

Q. I am hoping to get married next year to my husband to be. We have never been married previously but my problem is that he is Catholic and I am not. My partner would love to get married in the Catholic Church and I would love this as well for the fact that I respect his wish. I do not have a religion at all. I was never christened or baptised etc. Does this cause us a problem for getting married in the Catholic Church?

Q. I am due to be getting married at the end of the year but the ceremony is causing some problems. My fiancée is Church of England and I am a Catholic. My partner wants us to be married in a Church of England Church and I want us to be married in a Catholic Church. What are the implications for me, if I where to ask if I could be married in a Church of England Church? Where would I stand in the eyes of the Catholic Church in the future and what would this entail if we were to have children? I would appreciate your views and advice on this matter as to the best way to move forward.

Q. I am a Muslim and I wish to marry my girl friend, and she wants to get married in her Catholic church. Is this possible, what do I have to do, and what happens?

Q. My fiancé and I are both Catholic, and we would like to get married in a Catholic church, however, I am a divorcee. Is it still possible for us to marry in a Catholic church in the UK?

Q. My fiancé and I are both Catholics and we would like to get married in a Catholic church. However, I am a divorcee, previously married in an Anglican church in Australia. Is it still possible for us to marry in a Catholic Church in the UK?

Q. I am a divorced Catholic who originally married a non-Catholic; he committed adultery and wanted a divorce. Could I remarry in a Catholic church as I have read that the Church would not consider the marriage a sacrament, as he was a non-Catholic?

Q. My girlfriend and myself would like to get married. However she is a non-Catholic, although very interested in the Catholic faith, whilst I am a Catholic. Additionally she is divorced and was married to her previous husband in a Church of England Church. I have never been married. Both of us are baptised. I do understand that it would not be possible for us to marry in the Catholic Church, however I do have a couple of questions. If it were possible for us to marry in a Church of England Church is there any dispensation from the Catholic Church for me to do so? By marrying would I still be able to receive communion? So, would any of the above make any difference if she were to become a Catholic? Could she become a Catholic? We very much want to be together for the rest of our lives and yet it all seems to be so very complicated and difficult.

Q. My fiancé and I are planning to marry abroad in the summer, having a hotel wedding. We are not entirely clear on the process, we can register it there or at home, however if it is not registered there they cannot provide us with a marriage certificate therefore we will not actually be married! We would prefer to register it there and then but I am concerned over, if or how we will be married in the eyes of the Catholic Church? We are both confirmed, practicing Catholics so from this point of view there is no problem. Please can you advise me further because I'm not clear at all.

Q. Friends of mine wish to marry in the Catholic Church, but the woman has had a former civil marriage, which subsequently ended in divorce. Can they still get married in the Catholic Church?

Q. I wonder if you can help me, I am planning my first wedding and I want to have certain prayers or readings on the Order of Service so that everyone can join in. Can you advise me on a web site to use?

Q. Is it possible to get married during Lent with a Nuptial Mass, and have flowers and organ music?

Q. Recently I was at a Sunday Mass when someone got married. Can you do this? Can all the sacraments be celebrated during Sunday Mass?

Q. I have been with John since 2003. I love him. I really do. He asked me to marry him last year and I accepted. I love him and that is what I feel in my heart. Nevertheless, he is a New Zealander and I am French. I am very close to my family. I feel that I have a responsibility towards my parents to look after them in their old age when it comes. I also feel that John has a responsibility towards his parents because he is the only child. We tried to break up last year so that we could ‘set each other free’ to return to New Zealand and France, but we love each other so much that we could not stay away for long. I don't know what to do. I need your advice.

Q. I’ve been living happily with my girl friend for two years now, why should I get married in the Catholic Church? What difference will it make?

Answers

Q. I am a Catholic, but I have not been confirmed. I wish to get married, and I have been told that I must be confirmed first, is this so?

A. Yes. Catholic Canon Law states: (Canon 1065 §1) "Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage, if this can be done without grave inconvenience"

See your local Catholic priest to see what is involved for you. Confirmation strengthens your faith and enables you to lead a more fulfilled Christian life, and will support you in your future sacramental marriage.

[ Top of page ]

Q. What are the rules of Catholic marriage with regards to a marriage between a man and a woman of 16 and 17 respectively? We are concerned that for a purely Catholic marriage ceremony (NOT a civil ceremony) parental consent maybe required.

A. The Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church says the following concerning your query:
Canon 1083. A man cannot validly enter marriage before the completion of his sixteenth year of age, nor a woman before the completion of her fourteenth year.
Canon 1072. Pastors of souls are to see to it that they dissuade young people from entering marriage before the age customarily accepted in the region.
Canon 1071.1. ... no one is to assist without the permission of the local Ordinary (bishop) at: a marriage of a minor (under 18 years of age), whose parents are either unaware of it or are reasonably opposed to it.

Normally a priest would at least want you to let your parents know about your plans, and would probably insist that they have no reasonable objections to your marriage.

It is worth thinking of your parents' point of view. They are most likely looking forward to their children getting married (even if they are not absolutely happy about the chosen partner, but after all that's not their decision to make). Give a thought to the future: marriage is difficult enough without having really serious in-law problems: when children come along, grand parents are invaluable. I strongly recommend that you have a friendly talk to your parents, saying why you think it is important to get married soon. I am sure they will listen to your point of view, and if you have their blessing, what a great start to married life.

[ Top of page ]

Q. I am hoping to get married next year to my husband to be. We have never been married previously but my problem is that he is Catholic and I am not. My partner would love to get married in the Catholic Church and I would love this as well for the fact that I respect his wish. I do not have a religion at all. I was never christened or baptised etc. Does this cause us a problem for getting married in the Catholic Church?

A. Based on the information you have given, you should be able to get married in a Catholic church, but a dispensation from the local Catholic bishop is required, and this will only be given if certain conditions are fulfilled. I quote the official 'rules' below. In practical terms, I suggest your husband to be, approaches his local Catholic priest as soon as possible, and gives him all the details; he will then arrange for the dispensation from the Bishop and talk about the conditions, etc. The relevant canons from the Code of Canon Law state:
Canon 1086 §1. A marriage is invalid when one of the two persons was baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not by a formal act defected from it, and the other was not baptised.
Canon 1086 §2. This impediment is not to be dispensed unless the conditions mentioned in canon 1125 and 1126 have been fulfilled.
Canon 1125. The local ordinary (bishop) can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
1. The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church;
2. The other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the Catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the Catholic party.
3. Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant.
Canon 1126. It is for the Episcopal Conference to prescribe the manner in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, and to determine how they are to be established in the external forum, and how the non-catholic party is to be informed of them.
(This last canon is saying the Bishop's Conference in this country decides how the promises etc. are carried out in practice.)

[ Top of page ]

Q. I am due to be getting married at the end of the year but the ceremony is causing some problems. My fiancée is Church of England and I am a Catholic. My partner wants us to be married in a Church of England Church and I want us to be married in a Catholic Church. What are the implications for me, if I where to ask if I could be married in a Church of England Church? Where would I stand in the eyes of the Catholic Church in the future and what would this entail if we were to have children? I would appreciate your views and advice on this matter as to the best way to move forward.

A. Firstly, in a Catholic marriage, if one party is Catholic and the other a baptised member of another Christian denomination, they must get permission to marry in the Catholic Church, (there is usually no difficulty in getting this). The following Canons of the Church apply:

Canon 1124: ‘Without the express permission of the competent authority, marriage is prohibited between two baptised persons, one of whom was baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act, the other of whom belongs to a church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.’
Canon 1125: ‘The local ordinary (bishop) can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
1. The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church.
2. The other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the Catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the Catholic party.
3. Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant’.
Canon 1126: It is for the Episcopal Conference to prescribe the manner in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, and to determine how they are to be established in the external forum, and how the non-catholic party is to be informed of them.’ (The last canon is saying the Bishop's Conference in this country decides how the promises etc. are carried out in practice.)

Secondly, Canon 1118 §1 states that 'A marriage… between a Catholic party and a baptised non-Catholic, is to be celebrated in the parish church. By permission of the local ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory.

So in summary, there should be no Catholic 'legal' problem in you getting married in a non-Catholic church, your local Catholic priest can get the required legalities sorted out. It is a normal requirement for the Catholic priest or his delegate to be in attendance as witnesses, although the non-Catholic minister will, according to his rite, ask for the consent of the parties.

As you are, no doubt, a devout practising Catholic, you are probably seeing warning flags flying regarding children from the marriage. This is something you both are advised to discuss in depth, and why the Catholic Church makes the stipulations in Canons 1124-1126. Problems can arise, even if agreements are made now, when it comes to the times for the children to receive the sacraments, because parents and in-laws can exert strong pressures either way; similarly, the choice of schools, not to forget the separation likely on Sunday observances, need to be discussed and agreed.

I think it would be a good idea to talk about the Catholic view on sex, contraception and natural family planning too, at this stage. I would recommend reading together Christopher West's 'Good News About Sex & Marriage’. (ISBN 0-56955-214-2) available from the Catholic Truth Society. This gives simple explanations of why the Church's teachings reflect God's truth.

[ Top of page ]

Q. I am a Muslim and I wish to marry my girl friend, and she wants to get married in her Catholic church. Is this possible, what do I have to do, and what happens?

A. Firstly, the Catholic Church refers to a marriage between a baptised Catholic and a non-baptised person (e.g. a Muslim, etc.), as a "disparity of cult" and as such requires a specific dispensation from the local Catholic Bishop. This would normally be obtained through the Catholic Party's parish priest. This dispensation would normally be granted, if the following conditions were fulfilled:

1. The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her own power in order that all children be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church.

2. The other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the Catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the Catholic party. 3. Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant. (Code of Canon Law: Canon1125)

Secondly, what you have to do is: 1. Both visit your girlfriend’s parish priest and explain that you wish to get married. He will, no doubt, question you both on your being free to marry, and any other points he needs clarifying. He will explain that he needs to seek your dispensation from his bishop as mentioned above.

2. You will both be required to attend a marriage preparation course, which will explain the Catholic teaching on marriage, as well as giving practical relationship skills.

3. The priest will, at another time, instruct you both regarding the format of the marriage service.

4. During the marriage service itself you will be formally asked your intentions. Basically, that is, the priest will ask you both in turn:

· "Are you ready freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”
· "Are you ready to love and honour each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”
· "Are you ready to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”
· Then you will both be asked to solemnly declare that you know of no lawful impediment to your both being married.
· After that you both declare your consent to being married, followed by you both exchanging your marriage vows.

It is very important that you both consider carefully potential problems that your different religions and cultures might present. (Such as religious festivals and seasons, in-laws, family customs, children's education, etc. etc.) To help you in this, it is strongly recommended that you both work through the book:

"LOVE ACROSS LATITUDES A Workbook on Cross-cultural Marriages " by Janet Fraser-Smith. ISBN: 0 904971 05 8 This is available from: C/o AWM UK, P.O. Box 51, LOUGHBOROUGH, Leicestershire. LE11 0ZQ The cost is approximately £10.

This book deals with the problems mentioned, and many more, as it is so important that you deal with these before you get married.

[ Top of page ]

Q. My fiancé and I are both Catholic, and we would like to get married in a Catholic church, however, I am a divorcee. Is it still possible for us to marry in a Catholic church in the UK?

A. If your first marriage was valid, and marriage is said to ‘have the favour of law’ that is, it is assumed valid until it is legally proved otherwise, then you are not free to marry again. I quote from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church No.349:
'The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognise the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11-12). The Church manifests an attentive solicitude towards such people and encourages them to a life of faith, prayer, works of charity and the Christian education of their children. However, they cannot receive sacramental absolution, take Holy Communion, or exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities as long as their situation, which objectively contravenes God's law, persists.'

[ Top of page ]

Q. My fiancé and I are both Catholics and we would like to get married in a Catholic church. However, I am a divorcee, previously married in an Anglican church in Australia. Is it still possible for us to marry in a Catholic Church in the UK?

A. If you were a Catholic at the time of your marriage in the Anglican Church, and you married without the permission of the Catholic Church, and without the presence of a Catholic priest or deacon to witness your exchange of vows, then that marriage was not valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. This means you are probably free to marry in the Catholic Church as you would not be, and have not been, married. Your local catholic priest would need to be satisfied of all the relevant information.

If, however, you received permission to marry in an Anglican church, and the appropriate stipulations of the Catholic Church were met, then that would have been a valid marriage; and despite a civil divorce, you would not be free to marry again.

[ Top of page ]

Q. I am a divorced Catholic who originally married a non-Catholic; he committed adultery and wanted a divorce. Could I remarry in a Catholic church as I have read that the Church would not consider the marriage a sacrament, as he was a non-Catholic?

A. The question of whether or not you can 'remarry' in a Catholic church is dependent on whether or not your first marriage was valid, not on its sacramentality as such.

If you were married in a Catholic church, it would be assumed that your marriage was valid, and therefore that you are still married and not free to enter into another marriage. That your husband was not a Catholic does not of itself make the marriage invalid, and in fact if he had been baptised the marriage would have been sacramental.

If you were married in a protestant church without permission of the local Catholic bishop, and according to the requirements of the Catholic Church, the marriage would not have been valid, and neither would a marriage in a registry office have been valid. In these cases you would be free to marry in a Catholic church, as you would not have been, nor are, married.

I hope this clarifies the general situation. There are other factors, which can invalidate a marriage, for example, one spouse refusing to have children. To look into that area, you would need to talk to your local Catholic priest, to see if there were likely to be grounds for your marriage to be declared null or not valid (often called an annulment).

[ Top of page ]

Q. My girlfriend and myself would like to get married. However she is a non-Catholic, although very interested in the Catholic faith, whilst I am a Catholic. Additionally she is divorced and was married to her previous husband in a Church of England Church. I have never been married. Both of us are baptised. I do understand that it would not be possible for us to marry in the Catholic Church, however I do have a couple of questions. If it were possible for us to marry in a Church of England Church is there any dispensation from the Catholic Church for me to do so? By marrying would I still be able to receive communion? So, would any of the above make any difference if she were to become a Catholic? Could she become a Catholic? We very much want to be together for the rest of our lives and yet it all seems to be so very complicated and difficult.

A. The marriage of your girl friend in the Church of England church was most probably a valid marriage, unless it can be proved otherwise. That she has had a civil divorce is not recognised by the Catholic Church, which means that in the eyes of the Catholic Church and God, if that marriage was valid, she is still married. This fact, of course, affects all the questions you ask; because, sadly, if you married her, you both would enter into an adulterous relationship. Adultery is a sin against the natural law as well as the divine. It always involves deception and dishonesty and is a form of theft. To commit adultery is to break the sixth commandment. St John Chrysostom said 'the adulterer is a more grievous offender than the thief'. Clearly, the Catholic Church could not of course give you a dispensation to do that!

Your girl friend could not become a Catholic under these circumstances, that is if she 'married' you, because if would involve the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). Although the Lord, of course, will forgive any sin, it must always depend on the sinner making a genuine resolve to try not to sin again (a 'firm purpose of amendment'); therefore, clearly in an adulterous situation forgiveness can only be received if the couple cease living adulterously. You can see then why, if you married your girl friend, you would not be allowed to receive Holy Communion. I would earnestly suggest that you pray to the Lord to give you discernment on your path to marriage, clarity to see the situation as it really is, in His eyes.

An excellent and cheap book to read on the God's plan for marriage is: "The Good News about Sex and Marriage" by Christopher West (ISBN 0-56955-214-2) available from the Catholic Truth Society.

[ Top of page ]

Q. My fiancé and I are planning to marry abroad in the summer, having a hotel wedding. We are not entirely clear on the process, we can register it there or at home, however if it is not registered there, they cannot provide us with a marriage certificate therefore we will not actually be married! We would prefer to register it there and then, but I am concerned over, if or how we will be married in the eyes of the Catholic Church? We are both confirmed, practicing Catholics so from this point of view there is no problem. Please can you advise me further, because I'm not clear at all.

A. I cannot advise you on the legal implications of registering abroad versus registering at home, you may find the website: http://www.weddings.co.uk/info/abroad.htm useful, otherwise contact the Home Office. However, I can comment on your question concerning being married in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Marriage is an important sacrament of the Church, and two practising Catholics would normally want their marriage to be solemnised during a nuptial Mass, recognising the full beauty and significance of the occasion in the eyes of God and man. A hotel (even if it were permissible) is hardly a suitable place (see below) for such a momentous event in your life, where you promise to love each other as Christ loved his Church and to be a sign of his love till death parts you. It is a life-changing event, probably the most important in your life. The Code of Canon law of the Church states: Canon 1115 'Marriages are to be celebrated in the parish in which either of the contracting parties has a domicile or a quasi-domicile or a month's residence... With the permission of the proper Ordinary or the proper parish priest, marriages may be celebrated elsewhere.' Canon 1118 §1 'A marriage between Catholics...is to be celebrated in the parish church. By permission of the local Ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory.' Canon1118 §2 'The local Ordinary can allow a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.' (The local ordinary is the local Bishop).

[ Top of page ]

Q. Friends of mine wish to marry in the Catholic Church, but the woman has had a former civil marriage, which subsequently ended in divorce. Can they still get married in the Catholic Church?

A. The answers to your questions depend on a number of factors, to which you have not provided the necessary information. However I’ve covered the most important of these, and you will know, of course, which apply.

1. If one or both parties in the civil marriage were Catholic, and had not by a formal act defected from the Catholic faith, and were married outside the Catholic Church (without permission), that marriage would not be valid, as it did not conform to the requirements of Canon Law. So the woman would be free to marry, after a civil divorce, as she is not, and has not, been married.

2. If both parties were non-Catholic, and married outside the Catholic Church (they wouldn't of course marry in a Catholic church anyway), their marriage is assumed to be valid. Marriage is said to ‘have the favour of law’ that is, it is assumed valid until it is legally proved otherwise, therefore the woman would not be free to marry again, even if the marriage ended in a civil divorce; as she would still be married in the eyes of God and the Church. I quote from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church No.349: 'The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognise the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11-12).

3. If the present couple (your friends) are not married (bearing in mind 1 & 2 above), and one party is Catholic and the other a baptised member of another Christian denomination, they must get permission to marry in the Catholic Church, (there is usually no difficulty in getting this). The following Canons apply:
Canon 1124: Without the express permission of the competent authority, marriage is prohibited between two baptised persons, one of whom was baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act, the other of whom belongs to a church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
Canon 1125: The local ordinary (bishop) can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled: 1. The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church; 2. The other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the Catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the Catholic party; 3. Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant.
Canon 1126: It is for the Episcopal Conference to prescribe the manner in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, and to determine how they are to be established in the external forum, and how the non-catholic party is to be informed of them. (The last canon is saying the Bishop's Conference in this country decides how the promises etc. are carried out in practice.)

4. If the couple are not married (again bearing in mind 1 & 2 above) and one party was baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not by a formal act defected from it, and the other was not baptised, this impediment can only be dispensed if the conditions in Canons 1125 and 1126 (above) have been fulfilled.

I hope this clarifies the various situations for you. It would be expected that the couple take pre-marriage instruction on the meaning and understanding of marriage in the Catholic Church. The local Catholic priest would need to be approached to arrange this, and to get the necessary permissions to marry if marriage is permissible.

[ Top of page ]

Q. I wonder if you can help me, I am planning my first wedding and I want to have certain prayers or readings on the Order of Service so that everyone can join in. Can you advise me on a web site to use?

A. The website http://www.gettingmarried.ie is a good general site for information. The following two sites have readings of various kinds (From the Old and New Testament, religious readings and non-religious readings). http://www.weddings.co.uk/info/ ,and http://www.confetti.co.uk/article/view/5076-7611-0-Plan_the_perfect__wedding_readings_Readings.do

Hopefully you will be able to find something appropriate, with which your priest or vicar will be happy to include in the service.

[ Top of page ]

Q. Is it possible to get married during Lent with a Nuptial Mass, and have flowers and organ music?

A. Yes you can get married in Lent with a Nuptial Mass, as there is now no canonical prohibition; although Holy week would be inappropriate, and during the Sacred Triduum it would not be possible. Regarding flowers and music, this is left to the parish priest’s discretion.

[ Top of page ]

Q. Recently I was at a Sunday Mass when someone got married. Can you do this? Can all the sacraments be celebrated during Sunday Mass?

A. Yes. The only sacrament that cannot be celebrated during the Sunday Eucharist, or any other Mass is the Rite of Penance, whether Rite 1, 2 or 3.

[ Top of page ]

Q. I have been with John since 2003. I love him. I really do. He asked me to marry him last year and I accepted. I love him and that is what I feel in my heart. Nevertheless, he is a New Zealander and I am French. I am very close to my family. I feel that I have a responsibility towards my parents to look after them in their old age when it comes. I also feel that John has a responsibility towards his parents because he is the only child. We tried to break up last year so that we could ‘set each other free’ to return to New Zealand and France, but we love each other so much that we could not stay away for long. I don't know what to do. I need your advice.

A. You don't say whether you are actually married, or intend to get married. However, if you are married then you will have made vows to one another, before God, 'to freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage' and also 'to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church'. This means that your priority in relationship (after that with God) is to your husband and after that when children come along, also with them. Parents, although we are called to do what we can for them, must come after our responsibilities to our spouse and children. Together you could think of practicable ways to help them if and when that becomes necessary.

If you are not married, before you make any decisions, I strongly suggest that you read together and discuss in depth the following book: LOVE ACROSS LATITUDES A Workbook on Cross-cultural Marriages by Janet Fraser-Smith. ISBN: 0 904971 058. Available from: C/o AWM UK P.O. Box 51, LOUGHBOROUGH, Leicestershire.LE11 0ZQ. It costs about £10 (€15). Then decide whether you still want to get married!

[ Top of page ]

Q. I’ve been living happily with my girl friend for two years now, why should I get married in the Catholic Church? What difference will it make?

A. You ask what difference should it make to a couple that has lived together for 2 years, to then get married in the Catholic Church? The answer should be ‘all the difference in the world, greater than you could ever imagine!’ However, it could be none at all! There is nothing magic about getting married, nor is there anything magic about getting married in the Catholic Church. By that I mean that it depends, not so much on just superficially following out rituals, but on the depth of your faith, your belief in Christianity and an understanding and belief in God’s plan and purpose for marriage and life.

Not knowing whether you are a Christian or not, and if a Christian, whether a Catholic or not, makes answering your question extremely difficult to say the least. However, based on the Bible and apostolic tradition, the Catholic Church sees God’s plan for marriage as being a reflection of God’s love for us. We know what God’s love for us is like, because Jesus (Son of God) lived among us and died for us. So we can see that his love was free, because he died as a free act of his will for our sins. His love was faithful to the end, as he kept strictly to his Father’s purpose of freeing us from the consequences of sin by dying for us. His love was total, as he gave his whole life up for us; and his love was fruitful, as it made possible once again for us to enjoy life ever lasting with the Godhead in Heaven.

So if marriage is to reflect God’s love it must reflect, in the love of the spouses for each other, a love, which is free, faithful, total and fruitful. That is, the love must be totally self-giving, requiring a relationship, which is exclusive and faithful until death parts the spouses, and must be seen as such by a public commitment. The relationship must also be such that it is always open to be fruitful (that is to the possibility of having children). The Catholic Church sees a marriage between two baptised Christians as being a sacrament. This means that if the marriage truly reflects God’s love, the spouses receive special graces (help) from God to live their married life together (which is not always easy).

This gives only a glimpse of the potential beauty of marriage, but it needs more knowledge of what the Catholic Church says about why are we here, what life is about and what we should be doing, to fully comprehend it all.

By your question, I guess your partner, parents or parents-in-law have suggested you get married in the Catholic Church presumably because your spouse-to-be (or maybe yourself) are Catholics. If so, this is already high-lighting a potential problem in your relationship, which needs talking through at depth, to see what your true feelings are about marriage and the Catholic faith. If you don’t, it will re-surface in the future, when it will be more difficult to deal with it.

[ Top of page ]