What’s Up With All Those Catholic “Rules” About Marriage?

My latest for OSV Newsweekly…



I recently received the following question about the Church’s requirements for weddings and marriages:

“My girlfriend is a Protestant, and her mother recently asked her a question that I haven’t been able to find much information on. She asked, ‘Why can’t a Protestant and a Catholic have a Protestant marriage recognized by the Catholic Church?’ My understanding is with the proper dispensation, it is possible. I couldn’t really explain, though, why a dispensation is required or what that entails. Can you enlighten me on how to explain what the rule is and why it is that way?”

The most common way to answer this is in terms of the canonical rules or sacramental requirements, but I think these sorts of answers, while being technically correct, miss the point. What does it really mean to say to a person that a “dispensation from form” is required for a Catholic to get married in a non-Catholic church? That often ends up sounding like this: “Catholics have a bunch of rules that have to be followed by everyone regardless of whether or not they’re Catholic … so there!” It doesn’t really move the conversation forward in any personally meaningful way.

I would like to suggest a more pastoral and practical answer. READ MORE

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