A non-Catholic with a Catholic Marriage Sacrament question.

Hello everyone. First I want to say how much I have learned so far from reading the questions and answers on this forum. I was raised as a Baptist. As I am getting older, I am becoming more and more curious about religon. I married a Catholic man. We were married in civil court and not in church. This marriage is regonized by my church and by law. All of my husbands family are also Catholic and it has never been a problem. We have 2 children together. Recently we have been asked to be Godparents by 2 different people. It has sparked an intrest in me. Before I take such an important role I wanted to know what it was all about. I have done much research. These couples are going to raise their children as Catholics and it is very important to me that I have a clear understanding.

I am very confused. I attended Church with them a few times so far and we have taken the first class required by the Church before the Baptisism is preformed. It was mentioned there that the Godparents had to be married and that a civil marriage IS regonized by the church. They explained that eventhough a marriage in the Church is encouraged, that the man and woman getting married are infact the ministers theirselves and that a Preist doesn’t have to be present. All the research I have done I see that a civil marriage is not recognized. But after the class I asked the lady her opinion. She said that as long as we were both Baptised Christians and that we keep our promise to God, then we are OK to be the Godparents.

As I said before I was raised as a Baptist and our beliefs are different. But I also do not want to disrespect anyone elses beliefs or Religon by standing up there at the Baptism if it is wrong. My husband and the couple ensure me that this is the Church’s policy, but the more I read, the more I am confused. I also want to mention that I am very proud to be the Godparents and I do NOT believe that just because I promised to God that I will cherish my marriage in a court room and not in a Church means I will be less of a Godmother. It is an honor to have someone trust me so much to name me Godmother. I just want to feel right about this.

Any insight would be very helpful. Thank you so much.

I take it that you are not raising your children as Catholics? Because you don’t mention taking your children to Mass or even your husband going to Mass. If you had married your husband in a Catholic Church, you would have been asked to agree to raise your children as Catholics, whether or not you convert then or at some point down the road.

I have no idea where the idea that the couple getting married are “their own ministers” would have come from. This is not a Catholic precept. Really I have never heard of such a thing. A Catholic is supposed to be married in a church, in front of a priest, who stands in for God, who is the 3rd party in the covenant sacrament of marriage.

I do not mean to be negative. I applaud you for taking the role of Godparent seriously. But if you and your husband are not currently practicing Catholics, the people who are asking you to be godparents are making a mistake. Being a godparent means that you will come alongside that little one and help him or her in his faith walk. How can you do that if you are not even Catholic? How can your husband do that if he is not practicing?

A very tricky situation indeed. It would be good if you both would go and talk to your parish priest about this situation. You can get your marriage convalidated but that would mean you would have to agree to raise the children as Catholics. If you did that, then you would have to teach them the Catholic faith, as you certainly would also have to support your godchildren.

Got to run at the moment…but to briefly answer.

If he got a dispensation from the Catholic form at the time…then the civil marriage can then be valid (so long as one was not already married)…a Catholic needs to get married according to the Catholic form or get a dispensation in order for the marriage to be valid.

As to being God Parent…a non-Catholic Christian can be a “Christian witness” but not a God Parent per se…and a Catholic yes must be in good standing in the Church to be a God Parent (for they need to be able to carry out that responsibility).

If the marriage was not valid (no dispensation) then such can be rather easily rectified…he needs to give a call to his pastor (the local Catholic Church)…the Pastor can get the ball rolling…then once things are rectified…he can return happily to living his Catholic Faith (the Sacraments…being a God Parent perhaps etc)…

Welcome to the forum by the way… I was a Baptist…I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church years ago … if I can be of any further help let me know.

Praised be Jesus Christ our common Lord!

Sometimes I wonder how such misinformed people are put in positions of teaching anything.

First, unless you’ve left out information (i.e. your husband had a dispensation from his bishop to marry in a non-Catholic ceremony), no, the Catholic Church does not recognize your marriage because your Catholic husband had an obligation to follow the rules of his Church.

Second, as a non-Catholic, you cannot be a godparent at a Catholic Baptism. If you are a baptized Baptist, you can be a Christian witness but not a godparent. You would have to be with a Catholic godparent.

Third, your invalid marriage would mean that neither of you meet what is required of all godparents: 3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who** leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.

**Did she mean that the godfather and godmother had to be married to each other or just that they had to be married, as opposed to living common-law? Or did she mean that you couldn’t be a godparent at all unless you were married?

All that said, if the people teaching the classes don’t know any of this, odds are the questions will never be asked in that parish and you’ll just show up on Baptism day and all will go ahead as planned.

Just be aware that in many other parishes you would not be allowed to do so.
Here is the relevant canon (law) about who can be a godparent/sponsor:

Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must: 1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;
2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.
§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

Bookcat is right, but I will just add that it may be possible you misunderstood the comment that a civil marriage is considered valid by the Church. The Church does usually consider a civil marriage valid if it is the marriage of two non-Catholics (even the Catholic Church doesn’t expect non-Catholic to marry in a Catholic Church!). Basically, civil marriage can be valid, but it would not be in your situation, unless your husband had obtained a dispensation.

The thing about being your own ministers is Catholic teaching but doesn’t dispense with the need for a priest. It simply means that marriage is the only sacrament in which the ordinary ministers are not ordained. A couple marries one another and confers the sacrament (in the case of a sacramental marriage) on one another, the priest is there as the figurehead of the community and to symbolise God’s presence as the third party in the marriage, he is not the one who marries the couple, but he should still be there (unless a dispensation has been obtained, as previously stated).

From the Catechism:

1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.

I fear that when you have to fill in the official paperwork for the baptism, the fact that you are not Catholic (and therefore would have to be a Christian witness rather than godmother) and are probably in an invalid marriage will come to light and the priest will have to intervene (although, as Phemie said, some more liberal priests would do nothing). To pre-empt that, I would ‘come clean’ with him now. Politely ask the lady who’s leading the class for a meeting with the priest and explain your situation to him…he may even get you on the path towards convalidating your marriage!

Just as an aside, it seems weird and discriminatory that they would insist on the godparents being married. If you’re sure that’s right, I would definitely put in a complaint about that cos it’s completely wrong as well as pointless.

I can see why you are confused. The others who have already posted are correct in saying that the marriage has to be validated by the Church in order for your husband to function as a godparent; i.e. for the Church to allow him to participate in such an important faith role. However, TheRealJuliane was wrong to say that “their own ministers” is not a Catholic idea. Paragraph 1623 of the Catechism states: “According to the Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church”; Paragraph 1630 reads “The priest (or deacon) who assists…receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church.” Paragraph 1631 goes on to say explain that this is why the Church “normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form”. In other words, no one can contest that you and your husband are married, as you in fact, are. The question is not whether the Church recognizes that you are married (it does), but whether your union was blessed by the Church (it was not because it did not follow the form).

This person is just flat wrong, all the way around. She should not be in charge of a baptism class.

(a) A non-Catholic cannot be a Godparent to a Catholic child. They can be a Christian witness to the baptism in conjunction with a Catholic who is the actual sponsor.

(b) A Catholic who is in an invalid marriage is not eligible to be a Godparent.

© You and your husband should approach the parish priest about having your marriage convalidated so that he can resume the sacraments.

That is very nice of you.

Canon law on sponsors:


Wow, so much information. I do appreciate it very much.

First let me say that I do not feel mis-infromed, because I am trying to learn more about the Catholic religon out of curiosity and respect for Catholics. I am a Baptist who respect EVERYONE’s beliefs. But, the more I learn, the more I understand and the curiosity grows and make a lot of sense to me. The lady who was teaching the class was very nice and inviting. Sense I am not Catholic, I can not say she was misinformed, but this was a huge class and a huge Church and no one questioned her class. When I said we had to be married I meant My husband and I. She said that my husband and I needed to be married to be the Godparents. That we couldn’t be just together.

Bubblelady- Thank you so much. I was hoping that was not something else I mis-understood. Thank you for the explanation of not being blessed by the Church. That makes alot more sense to me now. I see myself as married. I promised TO God that I would honor my vowels and truely believe that He recognizes my marriage. I now know what it means to Catholics to be blessed by the Church!

Batfink- That is just the thing. We have done all the paper work, attended the first class and have a date set. This was all before I started to study the meaning of Godparents for Catholics. For us, Godparents are someone whom will assist in raising your child to be a good Christian. Someone who will be able to love the child and want and do what is best for the child. So I figured it was basically the same. That’s why I am here. I wanted to make sure (now I see it is not). All the forms were submitted and excepted. How could that be? I did not lie on anything.

So if I am reading right. We are not supose to me Godparents period. 1- because my Husband is not right by marrying me the right way? and 2 because I am a baptised Baptist (which means I could be a witness only with a Catholic Godparent, just not my husband because he is wrong in the eyes of the Church because of our marriage?)

My oh my. I am begining to think that even a lot of practicing Catholics have this wrong or have a misunderstanding.

Could it be different if this is a Spanish speaking church? I know it shouldn’t be, but it seems to be.

Bookcat- Thank you. I can see some of the reasoning behind your converting to Catholicism. I am just finding this a hard one to comprehend and wish it would be easier. Being taught that we are to live our lives by the Bible is what has got me confused on the marriage sacrament and the baptism. I have went back to my Bible a hundred times over the past couple of weeks looking for these answers. And I usually find all my answers there. It is just very hard for me to accept, per se, a rule of a Church that God Himself did not make. I hope that does not offend anyone. I am not trying to. I just want to understand. I am sure I am missing something. But I do know that just because I was not married in a Cathoilic Church does not mean my marriage is less than or should be ignored by Catholics. How did you overcome things you were taught as a Baptist, that are taught differently as a Catholic.

Oh, to answer a question. My children are raised to be Christains, to believe in God and his word, To live their life by the Bible and to be good respectful people. They attend Baptist church, because that is where I go.

One more question my friends? But I need to state something I realise I didn’t already say and is probably very important. My husband was Baptised as Catholic. He does not go to Church nearly as much as he should. I am really wanting him to. I guess you can consider me a Baptist considering converting into a Catholic, but with some uncertainity. I want more than anything for our family to be united on a religon standpoint. I would love that so much.

I know I should go to the Catholic church and talk to a priest, but how serious would they take me? With my marriage situation and not being sure that Catholic is what I want to be?

I hope I am making sense. I’m sure I am not since I am so confused. Being raised to believe one thing and then seeing that maybe I believe another is kind of scary.

So to convalidate our marriage does not mean I have to be a Catholic? Then the Catholic church will recognize our marriage?

I just really really dislike the term Invalid Marriage. It is the biggest thing that is keeping me from wanting to find out more. It’s like saying only Catholics are married and the rest of us (other religons) are not. I can’t seem to get past that.



Two non-Catholic marry validly when they marry each other. There is nothing invalid about non-Catholic marriages.

A Catholic is required to follow Church law in order to marry. Your husband did not do so. That is the source of the invalidity. He can remedy this through convalidation or possibly another process called radical sanation.

This is an option that hasn’t been discussed here. I could not find it anywhere on the forum either…


“Occasionally it happens that one spouse does not wish to participate in a convalidation ceremony, considering in his or her own mind that the marriage is already valid because the two have publicly exchanged their mutual consent previously.
In such cases, the Church can recognize the marriage on paper in what is known as sanatio in radice, which means “healing in the root.” The necessary documents are assembled and the diocesan bishop proclaims in writing that the union is indeed valid.”

I made reference to radical sanation above. It is a type of convalidation and is an option in some circumstances. Your husband should speak to his priest to determine whether radical sanation can be used or if simple convalidation is needed.

Here are the canons on simple convalidation:


And here are the canons on radical sanation:


However, they are technical in nature and have Church law jargon in them, so I don’t know how helpful they will be.

That is the other option that the poster above you spoke of. I think a priest would take you very seriously…especially as it seems that you are trying to be respectful…not only of the role of possible godparent…but with your husband as well.

I myself liked the convalidation…sort of like a renewal of vows…or a completion of our marriage in the Church. My husband was not Catholic…I was the one who was Catholic but did not understand the marriage laws of the Church. It made our marriage more complete.

Such is not the case…if a couple is not validly married…the Church does not recognize them as married. A Catholic is required to follow the Catholic form of marriage or get a dispensation from form…(to be married in some other way…like before a non Catholic minister etc) …or the marriage will not be valid.

Of course a couple can have acted all in good faith…not knowing such…but once they realize such things will need to be regularized for the marriage to be valid…

1KE- I am sorry. I think we might have been posting at the same time. I did not see that one. Thank you! Even so, it seems as if radical sanation would not be an option. I do not refuse to respect the religon and beliefs of my husband and would be more than happy to be blessed by The Church. I have been reading until my eyes ache, but I can not stop, I am to the point of excitment by the beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage and the whole meaning. At first this was a question about Godparents, but now I can see why and how this is so important.

I am going to continue to sit in Mass. I am going to try to learn as much as possible. I truely appreciate everyone’s help. I hope I can work up the nerve to talk to the Priest. I know this is important to my husband and I want us both to feel whole with God. And I do believe that us being blessed and him feeling we have done what he is supose to do will bring us closer spiritualy. Thank you.

We very much recognize…we presume as valid the marriages of Baptists, Lutherans (these being sacraments even if they are baptized)…even atheists…or various natural marriages… But a Catholic is bound to do it a certain way…similar to if I am a resident of say New Jersey (I am not by the way if any are wondering)…or a Citizen in general of the USA…in order for me to get married in those places…certain things need to be done in order for it to be a marriage.

So one can sort of compare it to citizenship…(it is a necessary thing).

As to you…i did not have time to read more…I have to go down for dinner…but things can be worked out for him …he needs to give Priest a call…

I can understand your difficultly in not finding things in the Bible…but it is important to note (will sincere respect) that* Jesus never intended his followers to just go to the Bible*. It is certainly the written Word of God but even the Bible recognizes and presupposes him forming a Church with particular leaders with a certain authority …and the New Testament documents are actually quite “partial in nature” even…letters to certain communities etc presupposing lots of things …they are not written as a systematic guide etc…and it was of course not something the early Christians had actually …for what makes up the New Testament and the Old was not decided for a few hundred years …and it was decided by the Church. This is not to say that they did not have the texts…for such were used in Liturgy…and at least likely had various of the books or letters etc…or fragments of them…(and the knew them…such as the sayings of Jesus) but they did not have “the Bible” as a book or always know what was inspired or not. And this is not to down play the Bible…by no means! It is the written inspired Word of God. But we are not the people of the book…but the people of the Word …that is the Logos…the Word made Flesh…Jesus Christ.

He formed a people…a Church…with the Apostles and their successors being given a very important role…especially that of Peter…and yes from that body came forth the Bible…but he did not just leave us a book. A very large part of my coming into full communion with Catholic Church was my discovery (such as from reading the early Christians who were disciples of the Apostles) that this is the same Church that he formed with the Apostles. That the fullness of what he gave us for an abundant life is there…

(here is an interesting book steveraysstore.com/books/crossing-the-tiber.html) (and perhaps another ignatius.com/Products/FWEC-P/four-witnesses.aspx)

Ok…back to Marriage…

We very much recognize…we presume as valid the marriages of Baptists, Lutherans (these being sacraments if they are baptized)…even atheists…or various natural marriages…including civil marriages . But a Catholic is bound to do it a certain way…similar to if I am a resident of say New Jersey (I am not by the way if any are wondering)…or a Citizen in general of the USA…in order for me to get married in those places…certain things need to be done.

So one can sort of compare it to citizenship…(it is a necessary thing). Of course with the Church …the Church was given the authority to bind and loose by Christ…so there is a big difference…but perhaps that can help a bit.

Things can be worked out for him …he needs to give Priest a call…

Oh…I just read the last part of your post…interested in coming into full communion with the Catholic Church??


If can be of help let me know ( not only was I received years ago myself…but I have also a degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville)

oh…and get right on this…one does not have to be Catholic for the (civil) marriage to become a valid marriage (and presuming your validly baptized…a sacrament).

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