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February 07, 2007



Hi Jimmy,

Your post generated a question about my own marriage. I was not baptized before my marriage but we were married by a priest in a Catholic Church. From what you've said - this means my marriage was not sacramental. I can understand that, but since then I have converted and been baptized as an adult through the RCIA. Is my marriage sacramental now? I believe it is - but my intuition is a poor substitute for the canon.


Jimmy Akin

The standard teaching is that natural marriages automatically become sacramental ones as soon as the second party is baptized. Your marriage thus would be sacramental.

My recollection is that for a catholic to marry a non-christian in a church, the Bishop needs to give a dispensation. Is this what the dispensation is really for? Can.1118.3 seems to imply the opposite. Am I readiing this correctly.

Jimmy's post seems to imply that there is no dispensation required in a non-sacramental marriage. Or.... that the dispensation is only required when the baptised and non-baptised request a church wedding or perhaps a wedding within a mass.

Can somebody sort this out??


I’ve been looking for a really solid explanation of why Catholic weddings are ordinarily required to be in a Church.

The Catholic marriage ceremony was designed before the invention of television.

paul zummo

Related question to the one David posed, but with a different take - my fiance is Jewish, but is currently a catechumen. We'll be getting married next week, thus before she is baptized. Is the marriage sacramental if she is a catechumen, or will that not happen until she is fully baptized?

As for the quesiton asked by anon at 7:22, I can answer that we needed a dispensation for disparity of cult, though that was handled by the Priest. And that probably answers my own question above.

Ed Peters

The green CLSA commentary. :)


Once upon a time, there was no requirement that weddings be celebrated in churches. In fact, there was no requirement that they be celebrated in the presence of witnesses.

The consequence of that was a lot of wrangling about whether given couples were or were not married. This is one reason why the Church began writing such canon law to cover weddings.


Even before weddings had to be in churches, they were often celebrated on the front steps of the church -- visibility to the public and sacred ground! (But at the mercy of the weather.)


Speaking as a Catholic married to a non-Christian... As I read his post, Jimmy was talking about permission (not the same as a dispensation) to marry in a place other than a Catholic Church. The Catholic still needs a dispensation just to marry a non-baptized person, as the absence of baptism is an impediment to marriage for a Catholic ("Disparity of Cult").

I did get the necessary dispensation from my bishop, but I was interested to hear the priest who married us comment that priests are able to give an "emergency dispensation" in emergency situations, which he said are usually given when the wedding day has arrived but some bureaucratic snafu has prevented the dispensation from being issued yet. I gather there must be some sort of conditionality on the marriage in those circumstances.


Invalid or illicit?

If a Catholic party (assume no formal act of defect) fails to obtain a dispensation and attempts to marry another baptised party without following the form defined by Canon 1108, the marriage is invalid (with certain exceptions) for failing to follow the canonical form of marriage.

Canon 1127 makes an exception where the other baptised party is of an Eastern rite, in which case the marriage is not valid, but only illicit.

Moroever, as implied above, the Catholic party may obtain a dispensation from the local ordinary from the canonical form.

It seems, therefore, that the failure to follow canonical form does not intristically invalidate the Sacrament. Indeed, the form can be dispensed, and in the case of an Eastern rite party, the marriage is rendered illicit, but not invalid.

I'm wondering whether, perhaps, there is a distinction between canoncial form (affecting leceity) and sacramental form (affecting validity)?

Why does failure to follow the canonical norm affect validity, rather than mere liceity, under the circumstances? There must be another rationale for rendering the Sacrament invalid that I'm missing.

Tim M.

I heard on the weekend that a sacramental marriage between two Catholics must have been performed in a Catholic church or else with a dispensation in another church. But, marriage in a park is not considered a valid marriage.

What about a sacramental marriage between two baptized non-Catholics? I came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2004 and I am filling out annulment papers for my previous marriage. We were both baptized when married but we were married on the beach.

Is this considered an invalid marriage? I understand that if this is so, then I do not need to go through the entire annulment process, but rather, there are some forms to be filled out and submitted about a non-valid location.

Can you please give me some guidance on this? I don't know who else to ask?

Ms. Anonymous

I was not baptised, and am getting married to a baptised Christian in the fall. He is Baptist. We both desire to become Catholic and have began the RCIA program. I know that every parish is different, but do you think the Catholic church will let us be married in the church itself??


A friend of mine wants to have his Catholic ceremony outside the physical building of the church but on the church grounds. He was told the Pope would have to approve his request. I always beleived that God was everywhere. What difference should it make where the ceremony is held. Man made the rule about the cannon, not God.


What difference should it make where the ceremony is held.

What difference does it make to you?

Some Day

God gave authority to the Church.

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