Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

What does your religion have to say about marriage to someone outside your faith?

It is possible in our rite for Catholics to marry outside their faith. Marriages between baptized Christians are called mixed marriages; those with non-baptized persons are referred to as having a disparity of cult.

The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium (no. 15), acknowledges that the Catholic Church is joined in many ways to all the baptized. From this perspective, Catholics see that there is a real, even if yet imperfect, communion which unites all baptized Christians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in no. 1634, states that "Difference of confession between the spouses does not contribute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they place 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".

Marriage to a non-baptized person also allows for couples to grow in genuine married love within the patient and persevering exercise of traditional family values. In these cases, the Catholic spouse has the particular task of doing everything to bring up the children in the practice of the faith all the while maintaining harmony in the family.

It is now possible to obtain dispensations from certain traditional forms of marriage and for Catholic priests and deacons to join with or be joined by other ministers. When the churches and religious communities show themselves united in prayer and support for a couple entering such marriages, a strong and hope-filled message is conveyed to all, especially to the couple, their families and friends. In these cases there are strict rules for observing the canonical form of Catholic marriage. This includes obtaining the permission of the Bishop and an important recommendation that pastoral care be taken in their preparation. As you can see, the celebration of such marriages has evolved greatly over the years.