I am Methodist and my Fiance is Catholic, what are our options for an interfaith ceremony? Can we have Mass and Communion or do we just have to have the marriage blessed by both priest and pastor?

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I am Methodist and my fiance is Catholic. What rules are there about interfaith ceremonies? Can we have mass and communion or just a ceremony that blesses the marriage?

-- Abby Gregalis (agregalis@hotmail.com), September 26, 2002


Response to I am Methodist and my Fiance is Catholic, what are our options for an interfaith ceremony? Can we have mass and communion or do we just have to have the marriage blessed by both priest and pastor?

Hello, Abby. Thanks for visiting.

It will be possible for you to celebrate the sacrament of Marriage in one of three ways, depending on a decision to be made by the Catholic bishop:
(1) within the context of a Catholic nuptial Mass (in which Holy Communion is distributed) or ...
(2) within the context of a simpler Catholic liturgy that is not a Mass (and in which Holy Communion is not distributed) or ...
(3) within the context of a non-Catholic Christian ceremony (e.g., in your Methodist church building).

You have probably heard that the marriage of a Catholic and a non-Cathoic is called a "mixed marriage." Most couples entering into a mixed marriage celebrate the sacrament outside of Mass, for either or both of two reasons: (1) the non-Catholic spouse and his/her non-Catholic family and friends will usually not be permitted to receive Holy Communion; (2) the non-Catholic spouse is concerned that the other non-Catholics would be bewildered by, or would object to, the sacrificial nature of the Mass.

I would like to quote some official information on the subject of mixed marriages from a papally-approved Vatican documents. It is called the "Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism" (published in 1993 by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity). This is pretty long, but I think that you will find it quite helpful:

"143. This section of the Ecumenical Directory does not attempt to give an extended treatment of all the pastoral and canonical questions connected with either the actual celebration of the sacrament of Christian marriage or the pastoral care to be given to Christian families, since such questions form part of the general pastoral care of every Bishop or regional Conference of Bishops. What follows below focuses on specific issues related to mixed marriages and should be understood in that context. The term "mixed marriage" refers to any marriage between a Catholic and a baptized Christian who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. ...

"146. It is the abiding responsibility of all, especially priests and deacons and those who assist them in pastoral ministry, to provide special instruction and support for the Catholic party in living his or her faith as well as for the couples in mixed marriages both in the preparation for the marriage, in its sacramental celebration and for the life together that follows the marriage ceremony. This pastoral care should take into account the concrete spiritual condition of each partner, their formation in their faith and their practice of it. At the same time, respect should be shown for the particular circumstances of each couple's situation, the conscience of each partner and the holiness of the state of sacramental marriage itself. Where judged useful, diocesan Bishops, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches or Episcopal Conferences could draw up more specific guidelines for this pastoral care.

"147. In fulfilling this responsibility, where the situation warrants it, positive steps should be taken, if possible, to establish contacts with the minister of the other Church or ecclesial Community, even if this may not always prove easy. In general, mutual consultation between Christian pastors for supporting such marriages and upholding their values can be a fruitful field of ecumenical collaboration.

"148. In preparing the necessary marriage preparation programmes, the priest or deacon, and those who assist him, should stress the positive aspects of what the couple share together as Christians in the life of grace, in faith, hope and love, along with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each party, while continuing to be faithful to his or her Christian commitment and to the practice of it, should seek to foster all that can lead to unity and harmony, without minimizing real differences and while avoiding an attitude of religious indifference.

"149. In the interest of greater understanding and unity, both parties should learn more about their partner's religious convictions and the teaching and religious practices of the Church or ecclesial Community to which he or she belongs. To help them live the Christian inheritance they have in common, they should be reminded that prayer together is essential for their spiritual harmony and that reading and study of the Sacred Scriptures are especially important. In the period of preparation, the couple's effort to understand their individual religious and ecclesial traditions, and serious consideration of the differences that exist, can lead to greater honesty, charity and understanding of these realities and also of the marriage itself.

"150. When, for a just and reasonable cause, permission for a mixed marriage is requested, both parties are to be instructed on the essential ends and properties of marriage which are not to be excluded by either party. Furthermore, the Catholic party will be asked to affirm, in the form established by the particular law of the Eastern Catholic Churches or by the Episcopal Conference, that he or she is prepared to avoid the dangers of abandoning the faith and to promise sincerely to do all in his/her power to see that the children of the marriage be baptized and educated in the Catholic Church. The other partner is to be informed of these promises and responsibilities. At the same time, it should be recognized that the non-Catholic partner may feel a like obligation because of his/her own Christian commitment. It is to be noted that no formal written or oral promise is required of this partner in Canon Law. Those who wish to enter into a mixed marriage should, in the course of the contacts that are made in this connection, be invited and encouraged to discuss the Catholic baptism and education of the children they will have, and where possible come to a decision on this question before the marriage. In order to judge the existence or otherwise of a "just and reasonable cause" with regard to granting permission for this mixed marriage, the local Ordinary [Catholic bishop] will take account, among other things, of an explicit refusal on the part of the non-Catholic party.

"151. In carrying out this duty of transmitting the Catholic faith to the children, the Catholic parent will do so with respect for the religious freedom and conscience of the other parent and with due regard for the unity and permanence of the marriage and for the maintenance of the communion of the family. If, notwithstanding the Catholic's best efforts, the children are not baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church, the Catholic parent does not fall subject to the censure of Canon Law. At the same time, his/her obligation to share the Catholic faith with the children does not cease. It continues to make its demands, which could be met, for example, by playing an active part in contributing to the Christian atmosphere of the home; doing all that is possible by word and example to enable the other members of the family to appreciate the specific values of the Catholic tradition; taking whatever steps are necessary to be well informed about his/her own faith so as to be able to explain and discuss it with them; praying with the family for the grace of Christian unity as the Lord wills it.

"153-154. ... Canonical form is required for the validity of marriages between Catholics and Christians of Churches and ecclesial communities [e.g., Protestants]. The local Ordinary of the Catholic partner, after having consulted the local Ordinary of the place where the marriage will be celebrated, may for grave reasons ... dispense the Catholic partner from the observance of the canonical form of marriage. Among these reasons for dispensation may be considered the maintaining of family harmony, obtaining parental consent to the marriage, the recognition of the particular religious commitment of the non-Catholic partner or his/her blood relationship with a minister of another Church or ecclesial community. Episcopal Conferences are to issue norms by which such a dispensation may be granted in accordance with a common practice. [In case that was cryptic, it said that normally a mixed marriage must be done according to Catholic Canon Law ("canonical form") -- i.e., celebrated in a Catholic church, etc.. However, the Catholic bishop can give special permission, depending on the situation, for a mixed marriage to take place partly against canonical form -- e.g., celebrated in a Protestant church, in a ceremony led by a minister. JFG]

"155. The obligation imposed by some Churches or ecclesial communities for the observance of their own form of marriage is not a motive for automatic dispensation from the Catholic canonical form. Such particular situations should form the subject of dialogue between the Churches, at least at the local level.

"156. One must keep in mind that, if the wedding is celebrated with a dispensation from canonical form, some public form of celebration is still required for validity. To emphasize the unity of marriage, it is not permitted to have two separate religious services in which the exchange of consent would be expressed twice, or even one service which would celebrate two such exchanges of consent jointly or successively.

"157. With the previous authorisation of the local Ordinary, and if invited to do so, a Catholic priest or deacon may attend or participate in some way in the celebration of mixed marriages, in situations where the dispensation from canonical form has been granted. In these cases, there may be only one ceremony in which the presiding person receives the marriage vows. At the invitation of this celebrant, the Catholic priest or deacon may offer other appropriate prayers, read from the Scriptures, give a brief exhortation and bless the couple.

"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.

"159. Because of problems concerning Eucharistic sharing which may arise from the presence of non-Catholic witnesses and guests, a mixed marriage celebrated according to the Catholic form ordinarily takes place outside the Eucharistic liturgy. For a just cause, however, the diocesan Bishop may permit the celebration of the Eucharist. ...

"160. Although the spouses in a mixed marriage share the sacraments of baptism and marriage, Eucharistic sharing can only be exceptional and, in each case, the norms ... concerning the admission of a non-Catholic Christian to Eucharistic communion, as well as those concerning the participation of a Catholic in Eucharistic communion in another Church, must be observed."

Abby, if anything in these quoted paragraphs was confusing to you, please feel free to ask questions about it.
God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (jfgecik@hotmail.com), September 26, 2002.

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