Friday, 15 January 2010

Mixed marriages and disparity of cult

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), nn 1633-1637:

1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and about the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for Iiceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. (CIC, can. 1124) In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. (CIC, can. 1086) This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage and the obligations assumed by the Catholic party concerning the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church. (CIC, can. 1125)

1636 Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple's obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.

1637 In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task: "For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband." (1 Cor 7:14) It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this “consecration" should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith. (Cf 1 Cor 7:16) Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace or conversion.


1. The CCC does not exclude mixed marriages.
2. However, it does not regard them as a matter of indifference. The difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated, and disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. The difficulties include education of children and the temptation to religious indifference, and a slow drifting away from the faith.
3. The important thing in mixed marriages is the faith of the Catholic spouse, and here the CCC quotes 1 Cor 7:14. So the question is: is your faith strong? and is it strong enough to exert a positive influence on your partner?

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