Question Corner
With Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. We are Roman Catholics, and our daughter has received all the sacraments, up to and including confirmation. Sometime soon, I expect, she will be getting married to a wonderful young man she met in college. My concern is that he is a practicing Protestant and neither wants to change denominations at this time. Is it possible for them to marry with the approval of the Catholic Church if each has a priest of their own faith presiding over the Mass? Also, they are currently considering getting married in a nondenominational chapel on the college campus. (Virginia)

A. Assuming your daughter and her fiance are free to marry, the local Catholic bishop may grant them permission to marry in a nondenominational chapel. The situation you describe — where their college chapel would have meaning for both of them as a sacred space — is one in which such permission is typically granted.

Regarding the religion of any children from the marriage, your daughter, as the Catholic party, will be required to promise (orally) that she will continue to practice her faith within the Catholic Christian community. Additionally, she will promise “to do all in my power to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and reared as Catholics.”

Significantly, some commentators are quick to explain (as does the Diocese of Brooklyn’s website) that “the Decree on Ecumenism No.3 clarifies that ‘to do all in one’s power’ recognizes the religious convictions of the non-Catholic party and implies that a decision is reached that respects those beliefs. “It does not mean an absolute promise at the risk of jeopardizing the marriage.”

No promise is required from the non-Catholic party, but he is required to be informed of the pledge made by his future spouse. Neither has to convert to the other’s faith for the marriage ceremony to be recognized by the Catholic Church.

As to the nature of the wedding ceremony, it is imprecise to suggest that each might have “a priest of their own faith presiding over the Mass.” I’m sure what you mean to ask is whether a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister can share duties at the wedding.

Only a Catholic priest can celebrate a Mass. Most interdenominational weddings involve only the marriage ceremony and not a eucharistic celebration. Again, with the proper permission, either the priest or the minister could receive the couple’s vows (but not both, in order to satisfy both the civil and religious requirement of a single officiant). The two clergy could divide the other responsibilities, such as prayers, Scriptural readings and blessings.

My suggestion is for your daughter and her fiance to speak with a local Catholic priest — perhaps the college chaplain — to discuss their options and to begin the necessary preparation and paperwork.