Can a Christian and a Catholic Say “I Do”?

Defining Christians and Catholics

In general, the term “Christian” refers to someone who professes belief in Jesus Christ but is not Catholic. This primarily encompasses Protestants, including denominations such as Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and nondenominational churches. Meanwhile, Catholics belong to the Roman Catholic Church led by the Pope in Rome. They share core beliefs with other Christians but also hold some different views, primarily on issues like the authority of the Pope, veneration of Mary and the saints, purgatory, and transubstantiation.

Historically, Catholics and Protestants diverged during the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe. Many Protestant groups split from the Catholic Church over disagreements about doctrines, rituals, church structures and hierarchy. This created divisions between Catholics and most other groups identifying as Christian (Source 1).

Historical Tensions

There is a long history of conflict and tension between Protestants and Catholics dating back to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers criticized practices of the Catholic Church and split to form new Protestant denominations (Source 1). This sparked years of religious wars and persecution between the two groups. Catholics saw Protestants as heretics, while Protestants viewed the Catholic Church as corrupt (Source 2). Even after the Reformation ended, tensions continued in places like Ireland, where Protestant discrimination against Catholics led to uprisings and violence (Source 3). While relations have improved dramatically in modern times, the historical divide still influences how some Catholics and Protestants view each other today.

Shared Beliefs

Catholics and Protestants are both Christian faiths who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of humanity. Though the two denominations split during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, they share fundamental Christian beliefs based on the Bible and early church traditions.

Both Catholics and Protestants believe in one God, revealed as three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They affirm that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human, and that through His death and resurrection, Christ restored humanity’s broken relationship with God. Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, not by human effort.

Catholics and Protestants uphold the 66 books of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. They believe the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation and spiritual growth.

Other common beliefs include the Trinity, original sin, baptism, the afterlife and Christ’s second coming. Both denominations affirm the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, early statements of Christian doctrine.

Though differences emerged during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Catholics and Protestants share core tenets of the Christian faith dating back centuries. These common beliefs are based on the Bible and traditions of the early church.


Key Differences

Catholics and Protestants have several theological differences that originated during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Here are some of the main differences:

Views on saints – Catholics pray to saints as intercessors, while Protestants believe in praying directly to God (

Views on Mary – Catholics hold Mary in high regard as the Mother of God, while Protestants do not emphasize her veneration (

Views on papacy – Catholics see the pope as the authority on earth, while Protestants do not believe in papal authority (

Views on salvation – Catholics believe faith and good works are needed, while Protestants believe in salvation through faith alone (

Interfaith Marriages

Interfaith marriages are becoming more common in the United States, although they still face some challenges compared to same-faith unions. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 18% of U.S. adults who married since 2010 are in interfaith marriages between a Christian and a religiously unaffiliated spouse. Rates of intermarriage vary based on religious tradition, with Catholics and Jews having higher rates of interfaith marriage compared to Protestants and Latter-day Saints.

Interfaith couples may face disapproval from family members who want them to marry within their faith tradition. They also have to navigate differences in beliefs, practices, and values. Some interfaith couples choose to raise their children in one faith, while others expose them to multiple religions. With compromise and understanding, many interfaith marriages find ways to blend their backgrounds into a unified family.

Making It Work

For a Catholic and Christian marriage to work, compromise and open communication are essential. Both spouses need to be understanding of each other’s beliefs and respectful during discussions of faith. According to the Diocese of Trenton, practicing “love, inclusiveness and compassion for each other” is key, rather than emphasizing differences in faith traditions.

Patheos notes that avoiding controversial topics and finding common ground in shared Christian beliefs and values can help reduce tensions. The spouses should focus on worshipping together when possible and having mutual respect for each other’s personal faith and convictions.

Planning ahead for important milestones like baptisms, first communions, and other sacraments is advised, so disagreements don’t arise later. Most importantly, the couple should appreciate their relationship first and demonstrate their shared faith through actions of love and service.

Religious Views

Religious leaders and institutions have varying perspectives when it comes to interfaith marriages between Christians and Catholics. Some are accepting while others discourage it.

The Catholic Church has become more open to Catholics marrying other Christians over the past 50 years. Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Church has encouraged ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. While the Church still hopes that the Catholic spouse will do their best to have any children raised Catholic, they accept the validity of marriages between Catholics and other baptized Christians (

However, some conservative Protestant groups discourage interfaith marriages with Catholics. They cite theological differences over issues like the authority of the Pope, praying to saints, and transubstantiation. Some Strict Lutherans and Reformed Christians see it as prohibited by scripture (

So acceptance of Christian-Catholic interfaith marriage depends on the specific denomination and church. Some are open, others cautious, and a minority prohibit it entirely.

Raising Children

One of the most important conversations for an interfaith couple to have is how they will raise their children religiously. There are several approaches that can be taken:

– Raise the children in one faith exclusively. Historically in Catholic-Protestant marriages, there was an expectation that the children would be raised Catholic. However, today couples have more freedom to decide this jointly.

– Expose children to both faiths and allow them to choose when they are older. This allows children to experience both parents’ traditions but can be confusing for young children.

– Raise children ‘interfaith’ not adhering strictly to one faith but teaching general Christian principles. Some couples create their own family faith blend.

– Choose a non-religious upbringing. Some couples decide not to raise children in any particular faith.

Making a decision involves understanding each spouse’s level of commitment to their faith. A priest advises, this needs to be resolved before marriage to avoid issues later. Though challenging, focusing on shared Christian values can help find common ground.


One major consideration for interfaith marriages between Christians and Catholics is whether one spouse will convert to the other’s faith. This is a deeply personal decision that requires much thought, prayer, and discussion between the couple. According to the Catholic Church, the Catholic party is required to do all in their power to have the children raised Catholic and to refrain from interfering with the non-Catholic spouse’s religious practices or obligations. However, the non-Catholic spouse is not required to convert (Source).

Some spouses choose to convert prior to marriage through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process. Others maintain their original faith throughout the marriage. An interfaith union can work if there is open communication, mutual understanding, and respect for each person’s beliefs. With compromise and placing the marriage first, couples can find unity even with differing religious convictions.

Making a Decision

When deciding whether a Catholic-Christian union can work, you must carefully assess your compatibility and ability to navigate the challenges. Consider the following:

  • Are you both committed to making religious compromises and accommodating each other’s beliefs and practices?
  • Are your core values aligned despite theological differences? Do you share a similar vision for marriage and family?
  • Are you open and accepting of each other’s traditions and willing to participate?
  • Can you agree on an approach to raising children religiously?
  • Are you willing to patiently work through disagreements over faith matters?
  • Do you fully accept and love each other regardless of religious labels?

A cross-faith marriage requires extra empathy, understanding, and conflict resolution skills. But with mutual respect and open communication, Christian-Catholic couples can build a loving, lasting relationship.

Scroll to Top