Two people, call them Jones (Catholic) and Fatima (Muslim), want to marry: first civilly and if the bishop gives a dispensation, religiously.

Fatima is from a Muslim country that prohibits Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men, threatening that "crime" with severe punishment. In order for the civil marriage to be approved in Fatima's country, Jones (from a western country) decides to convert to Islam formally, as it is the only way he and his wife can stay in contact with Fatima's (non-devotional) Muslim family in the theocratic country.

What is the Catholic position about the acceptability of Jones' mimicked conversion to Islam while he still considers himself to be Catholic?

  • 1
    There are a number of issues here and I can't address them fully. A key issue that cannot be ignored is the matter of marriage under deceptive or false pretenses. Have you spoken with a Catholic priest or deacon on this matter? Your situation is an edge case that probably needs special handling. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 0:49
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    That's a really difficult question. As there is several problems. If a child is born, or if there is sexual intercourse, Catholic position, as it has always been in our countries, is to "fix" the situation by a marriage. But on the other hand, lying about his faith is forbidden or discouraged for the Christians, so it's very difficult.Some other questions can arise, like the security of the person, and the threat of death. I don't think someone who is not theologian or priest could easily answer it. The answer will be probably a bit suggestive.
    – Quidam
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 12:16

2 Answers 2


According to canon law on mixed marriages (i.e., marriages between a Catholic and non-Catholic),

1917 Can. 1060 … if there is a danger of perversion to the Catholic spouse and children, that marriage is forbidden even by divine law.

Also—regarding the children, the procreation and education of whom is the primary purpose of marriage—it is required that

1983 Can. 868 §1. … 2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion…

Can that be said for a crypto-Catholic, pseudo-Muslim father living in an Islamic theocratic country? Wouldn't this be to tempt God?

The Church's laws on mixed marriages must be respected before attempting a clandestine marriage or a marriage under false pretenses.

  • The 1917 quote here appears as something similar in the 1983 Code at 1124–5, which actually requires the permission of the Ordinary for such a marriage. Given the apparent danger of Jones actually defecting from the faith, I'd guess permission would not be forthcoming. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:02
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    Moreover, formally speaking, it would be an apostasy, which is punishable by a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication (Can 1364). I doubt if the excommunication would actually apply in a case like this, but it shows that it would probably not be a good idea. (@AndrewLeach Just a canonical quibble for your otherwise excellent comment: a Catholic needs a dispensation from the impediment to marrying a non-baptized person. A dispensation, in Canon Law, is a disposition of the competent authority that sets aside a law; that is different from a permission, which sets a law in motion.) Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 16:44
  • @Athanasius Intruiging. The English translation of 1124-25 which I linked to does use "permission" and the Latin term is licentia. Commented May 17, 2016 at 7:10
  • Yes, but let's imagine a child is already there, or they have sexual intercourse?
    – Quidam
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 12:12

THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (pdf) is the doctrine summarizing the beliefs of the Catholic church. Its articles are listed below under their respective headings.

"The Freedom of Faith" (page 44)

To be human, man's response to God by faith must be free, and... therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will... Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it...

The Church's Relationship with the Muslims (page 223)

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst who are the Muslims.

"The Family and Society" (page 551)

The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and ensure especially

-the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family's own morals and religious convictions,

-the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family,

the freedom to profess one's faith, to hand it on and raise one's children in it, with the necessary means and institutions

"The Christian Family" (Page 561)

Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities** when they are contrary to the commands of the moral order. "We must obey God rather than men"** (Acts 5:29).

A priest receives holy orders, he is ordained, and he undergoes a rigorous educational process from the church in order to both teach and counsel those of the Catholic faith. Jones and Fatima could set an appointment with a priest and ask this same question, gaining a much more encompassing response because it would be personal and specific to their situation.

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