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Why Are People Granted Dispensation to Marry Outside of the Church?


In today’s podcast, a listener named Tina who works with engaged couples wonders why certain people are granted dispensations to marry outside of a Catholic Church.

Father Dave responds, “There are some situations in which a Catholic wedding may happen in some place other than a Catholic church, or even someplace other than a church. The most obvious of those and the most common across our listening area, (because some of this does vary by diocese), would be if a Catholic is marrying a non-baptized person. If somebody is marrying a non-baptized person like a Jew or Muslim, then permission is frequently granted for them to be married outside of a church.”

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“It could be outside, under the stars, by the beach, or in some sort of event center. It really is up to the bishop to grant a dispensation for whatever reason. This can also be granted for two Catholics — It’s called a dispensation from place. The normal ‘place’ is standing right around the altar inside a Catholic church. And then the normal form of the wedding is a priest witnessing and using the Catholic ritual that we have.” 

Father Dave reiterates that the most common reason for a dispensation is a marriage between a Catholic and non-Catholic. “The motivation or the reasoning behind allowing for dispensations is for the sake of the other party,  their family, and their tradition. It allows the marriage to happen and be recognized by the Church.”

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Father Dave explains that for the marriage to be a Sacrament, it can only take place between two baptized persons, “Let’s say one party isn’t baptized and they are married in front of the altar at Old St. Mary’s on Main Street. It still wouldn’t be a Sacrament, but the Church does recognize them as validly married and not living in sin. If they split, they would need an annulment because we’re recognizing it as a marriage.” (Original Air 9-23-21)