A Pauline Privileged Wedding...w/Traditionalist Catholic parents


Hi, everyone.

I’ve been granted a Pauline Privilege through my archdiocese to marry my intended, who has never married. I became Catholic in 2005 (coming from no faith in particular, although I was far from being Christian or atheist).

All is well in the wedding planning except in how to announce the news of the engagement to my fiance’s parents. They are traditionalist Catholics in that they don’t ‘believe’ in divorce, and have threatened my fiance’ in conversations past with being “disowned” for being associated with a divorced man. They are the type of folks who think the Pope is “too liberal” and that everyone should attend the Extraordinary Mass. Most importantly, my fiance’ fears that her parents will hate me because I have been divorced from a non-sacramental, natural marriage and shun us both. They’re otherwise good people (they did raise a lovely daughter).

Obviously we’d like my fiance’s parents at the wedding. We’ve considered getting letters from a Latin Rite pastor as well as our own to help the parents understand that their salvation (or our own) is not in jeopardy, but also indicate in a charitable way that everything is in order (both canonically, scripturally and administrative) and for them to not accept the Church’s decision is “tarnishing” their own Catholicism somewhat.

Not long ago, I’ve asked this question on CAL with Jimmy but I don’t think I emphasized the importance of getting aid on how to manage this problem as best as we can. Are there any tips anyone can provide in convincing or appeasing matters? Thanks in advance.


I believe that you are going about it in the right way. Make sure they have all of the information that you have given in your post and remind them of Jesus telling the apostles that what they bind on Earth will be bound in heaven. If all of that fails don’t worry. I can give you guys an almost 100% assurance that you will not be disowned…Start having grand babies…I am as sure as anything that Grandma and Grandpa will change their tune :thumbsup:


St. Paul specifically allows divorce in such cases, as described in 1 Corinthians 7:15, hence the name “Pauline” privilege. The Catholic Church has followed this practice from the time of the apostles. Why would traditionalist Catholics have a problem with that?


“Lurking” and Dye: Thanks. Both of you hit the nail on the head. In fact, last time my fiance’ visited, she told me that her friend (who went with her on the trip) told her that my fiance’s mom asked if she would ever have grandchildren. Doesn’t sound like the attitude of a woman who would disown her daughter to me.

And yes, I would think that the scriptural source (thanks for the specific one; I’m still working on my Bible study) would be quite clear in the matter for this case. Our only worry is that she will still dislike matters merely because she doesn’t like them–and follow her own will, rather than the will of the Church through Sacred Scripture.


Maybe it’s just rubbing me the wrong way that there is so much stress about what her parents will do, but I wouldn’t defend myself to them at all. It’s not their business!

I wouldn’t have letters for them. I wouldn’t do anything special at all. I’d announce the engagement and let the chips fall. You don’t know that they will have a problem at all.

You’ve met them, right? They know you are serious, right? Have they said anything to her about you? From your post it almost sounds like they’ve never met you. How could you be engaged to their daughter and have never met?

Do they know you were married previously? If not, I can’t imagine them actually interrogating you about this subject. All you need to do is announce you are being married in the Catholic Church.

Because your canonical status of freedom to marry is really not their business at all, I would not discuss the particulars. The fact that you are canonically free is all that matters-- and getting married in the Church demonstrates canonical freedom to marry. That’s all they need to know. They don’t need to know the particulars of your case.

What I *might *do is suggest that they talk to their own priest about the Pauline Privilege. *Maybe *I would do that.

You need to start in the way you will go in this marriage, and if it’s all about pleasing her parents… well, to me that’s a bad way to start out. If you have to tip-toe around them now, you will have to do it forever.


1ke, thank you very much for your for your comments.

On my fiance’s insistance, no, I have not met her parents as yet because of my fiance’s fears of their reaction. I’ve respected that because, obviously, the parent’s interaction isn’t a requirement (although it would have been preferable) and such an encounter before all things were squared away would not have been helpful. I agree that we really don’t know what the parent’s reaction would be.

Yes, you bring up a point I’ve tried to make to my fiance–that sharing “too much information”, albeit true, is not helpful here. As you imply, the downside of bringing in letters and pointing out this-and-that is that we automatically put our engagement on the defensive when there is nothing to really defend.

What would complicate the idea of keeping information to the bare facts of being free to marry is my 13-year son from the first marriage, who is someone that deserves attention and recognition and not scorn over his parent’s decisions. To take Mike Dye’s comment to a positive spin for the parents: With our wedding, my fiance’s parents become instant grandparents!

I do agree and have done what I can in terms of having her fiance face her fears: continuous capitulation to her parents’ will is a serious detriment. As I’ve told her, I would appreciate the parent’s blessings–but we do not require their permissions. My fiance’ has greater attachments (inheritances and a few possessions, as well as some other non-material “baggage”) of her family. I do stress that she is about to become the head of a new family, and that sometimes you cannot bring the old family along (Ephesians 5:31).


You’re engaged to be married and you’ve never met your fiancee’s family???

This doesn’t say anything good about your fiancee, her maturity, her relationship with her family, or her relationship with you.


Ouch now that is a little harsh. We don’t know all the backstory of why she doesn’t get along with her family and why she fears them in some sense. Some people have to disconnect with people because the hurt and strain on them gets to be too harsh. I am sure the OP has had this discussion with his future wife. I have to hand it to him for reaching out to the church to find out his status before asking for her hand in marriage unlike some catholics. Lets give them some benefit of doubt on why he hasn’t meet her family.

To the OP. Sometimes the fear is worst then the reality of what will happen. Let her know that you will be there for her. As the head of the family you will need to step up to the plate and lead. Leading in some sense may just be being there or actaully just talking to her father and letting him know your status. I would just adivse to not be passive agressive about it. Prayer on it and remember to ask your guardian angels to speak with their angels before you start talking!


I suggest you stand up for YOU and for your son. If she is so terrified of her parents (or so embarrassed by her relationship with you) that she has hidden this relationship from them, you are in for a long haul of trouble. She honestly doesn’t sound ready to be married to ANYONE.

I suggest that you get all of this out on the table BEFORE you set a date for the wedding and BEFORE you yoke yourself to this woman and her family for life.

I can tell you that parents who disdain divorce may not welcome your son into their family. Everyone is different, but I will share my experience. My mother married young and had me. She and my father divorced when I was 4 and her marriage was annulled (lack of form). She married my step dad a couple of years later in the Catholic Church. His mother never recognized me as a grandchild. I was not allowed to call her “grandma,” she told me to call her by her first name. I was treated as a second class citizen in my family by this woman. When my mom and stepdad had children she lavished attention and gifts and such on them, and never once acknowledged me as a grandchild. Not one card. Not one gift.

If this is the treatment your child will receive, I urge you to reconsider marraige into this family, at least until your 13 year old is an 18 year old. This is a tender age for a boy. It would be really ugly were he to be rejected by her parents.

Not saying it will happen, just saying you better be sure BEFORE you marry this girl.

You have a serious problem. I think your future wife is still too tied to the apron strings. I would not recommend going into marriage with this unresolved. Get counseling. Make her deal with her parents ON HER OWN. If she can’t or won’t stand up to them, I think you’re making a bad decision to marry her. I think you underestimate their influence on her, and I think you underestimate how difficult it is to cut a relationship with family.


But she’s not disconnected from her family. If she were disconnected she would simply tell them she’s getting married and that’s it. Instead they have such control over her that she’s afraid to even introduce her fiancee.

What happens if they don’t approve of him? Will she tell him to get lost? Or will she suddenly discover a spine that is not currently evident?


This has trouble written all over it.

I find that people who are “more Catholic than the Pope” eventually end up being less Catholic than the Pope.

Your fiancee’s relationship with her parents is unresolved. She will resolve it in her marriage to you. That might not go so well.

It’s disturbing you haven’t even met them yet.


We all have fears. I am not marrying her parents, nor it is always true that a parent’s children takes up the behaviors of the parent. Many people marry in good conscience and with Catholic counseling and discernment, living happily in matrimony for their lifetimes with never meeting their spouse’s birth families. Sometimes they have passed on (as my father has). Others may be of a different faith and/or have other serious issues. In any case, the parents will be a part of my family if they choose to be. While my fiance’s fear of them is only that, there is a reality to it for her that I continually aid her in. Her parents are her only “obstacle” in her mind. My goal is to show her that her parents are not to be feared, only respected. But respect is not the same as strict obedience. It’s a matter of how she was raised, and since I wasn’t there (nor am I a cradle Catholic), I will be there as she needs me to know that I will be her family as well–one that will never leave her side.

That’s exactly what I’ve have done from the start, per the famous words of St. Paul to the Ephesians. Yes, her fears and the reality definitely differ, and I remind her of this when she frets. Thank you for your charity and thoughts.

My son is my family, of course, and my fiance’ will be as well. I have and will always defend them. I know for a fact that my fiance’ is not at all ashamed of me or my son or our relationship–far from it. But her parents mean much to her, and I must respect that even as I build a new family. She believes it’s an either/or situation where she will be forced to pick. I know it’s not the case. It would be her parents, in the worst case, who may choose not to communicate out of some level of misguided self-piety (heaven forbid). My family’s door will always be open to them. As for parents who disdain divorce and children from divorce and what her parents could do (in the worst case), I do not worry. My child has many other grandparents in his large family, and understands (through genealogy and by experience) that some people just don’t “play well” with others. He’s very mature for his age and will never lack someone older to look up to. (As an aside, my fiance’ is a woman. “Girl” implies a certain immaturity that I would never take as a bride. I’m sure you didn’t mean that to be an offense.)

And counseling is a part of every good marriage preparation. No one on this earth has ever entered any friendship or romantic relationship without some level of baggage. The testament to a good friendship or marriage is how the two people not only manage such baggage, but offer it up to the Lord as a sign that they endure and thrive despite of it. If I were to wait for the perfect woman, I’d need the lifetime of several Adams to find her. :slight_smile: But I have found her, because God appears to have sent her to guide me to Him and to the Church (long story for another thread/forum).

As noted before, many people marry and lead fruitful lifetimes together without meeting or receiving the aid and counsel of their mutual parents. I am old enough now that more years are appearing behind me than in front of me, which gives me a thimbles-full more wisdom than years before, with one parent long deceased and another aging. My fiance’s situation is a special case and I acknowledge that. In fact, I appreciate it more than you may realize. Her parents are very good people, and I know it in my heart. I will know it personally soon when I meet them in the coming weeks. There is no rush and if my fiance’ and I can help them cope in understanding, all the better. My own fear involved getting the freedom to marry through the Church in the first place. I applied around the start of Advent of last year. The Pauline Privilege response arrived on Good Friday, very suddenly. I saw that as a good sign. After that ordeal, helping my fiance’ with her fears of her parents (most of them unfounded) will be rewarding, for the Lord continues to bless me with many riches–including thoughts from posters like yourself. Thanks.


Spencerian, you sound like a very thoughtful person who has passed on his wisdom to his child. As long as you don’t internalize your wife’s reactions and take her parents’ reaction to you and your son personally, you are halfway there. As long as you don’t make it a “choose me or them” situation, and you have the patience to ride out the long road she has ahead of her of learning to balance her love and respect for her parents with a sense of maturity and psychological separation from them and their hold on her, then you just may make it. :thumbsup:

I’ve seen too many times people divorce and that divorce is really “divorcing one or both parents” but the spouse is the battleground for the real struggle. Our choice of spouse is often a response to our relationship with one or both parents (either finding one just like, or the opposite…) and I just hope your fiancee has the courage to learn how to distinguish love for her parents and what they gave her from her responsibility to take hold of her own relationship with God and others and move on as an adult herself.


Are you sure there isn’t more to this story that is keeping your fiance from allowing you to meet her parents? Is there perhaps also a significant age delta between you that would cause her parents to worry?


Interesting, Paul. You’re right. If his son is 13… is he in his mid-late 30s? If she’s so young her parents still have such a sway over her… how many years difference is that?

Is she looking for a “father” figure? Does she have daddy issues? (See my comments on “marrying a parent” to resolve life issues.)

Makes me wonder what else is going on here. OP? Fill in the blanks! :wink:


To answer:

There’s a six-year difference. We are both over 35 years of age.

Before the engagement, the primary reason I haven’t met her parents was that I was merely a friend, and later, boyfriend. Such a meeting would just complicate matters given the parent’s general opinion about divorcees. Now, with the Pauline declaration, there’s no impediment that would make the meeting more awkward, for lack of a better term.

Another thing about meeting the parents: They do live in another state. Combined with our mutual work schedules and other duties, it makes it a little hard to drive down to see them.

And no, there are no “daddy issues” or similar problems other than what was posted at the start of the thread. Respectfully, it may not be a particularly charitable thing to imply that my fiancee has secondary motives or psychological issues outside of the emotions I’ve stated here. If there are any (and I am not aware of any) that’s a matter between ourselves and our pastor. I really don’t want this to be a gossip-filled topic, so I’ll be like Jack Webb and keep it to “just the facts.” :slight_smile:


Not trying to impugn motives. It’s just sometimes we aren’t even aware of our own secondary motives for things so it’s harder to know other people’s motives. Over age 35 a 6 year age difference isn’t as major as it would be if you were 23 and she was 17 or something like that. I do wonder about someone who is 35 and seems afraid to introduce you to her parents and what their reaction would be. Not trying to be uncharitable. Just pointing out that her relationship with her parents seems to be very dependent and a bit conflicted. You are going in trying to appease them, when instead they should be happy that their daughter has found a man who wants to live a faith-filled life with her. You are aiming to live your life as regular Roman Catholics. They live as “better than Roman Catholics.” She’s going to need boundaries. Or it will be a problem. Everything you do to raise children will be subject to their judgments and comments. She will need a thick skin. Just saying. No uncharitableness there, just an observation.

Good luck! :thumbsup:


Look, if you are both over 35 years old, this takes on a completely different light. At this point, you have both been on your own for years and have been making your own decisions. Her parent’s expectations might be much different than you think. They will probably be very happy that you can at least be legally married in the church. While I’m sure that they would prefer their daughter marry someone that has never been married, there aren’t a lot of options for that when you are over 35. They certainly will come to grips with that. They will also, certainly recognize that their influence in the decision at this point is negligible and I suspect that they will go with the flow because of that. You should meet them as soon as possible and your fiance should preface the meeting with them by telling them that she found the man she loves, he’ Catholic, he was previously married and has a 13 year old son but has been granted the right to marry within the Chruch through the pauline principle. While they may not be ecstatic, If you make an effort to love them, the parents will come around. and if they don’t, it will really be their problem if you’ve done everything you can.


I definitely agree. I’m optimistic that the parent’s reactions will be far less dire than my fiancee’s fears make them out to be. I can only be what I can be. I’m sure now, with the help of the Church and the teachings that guide me, that I will serve my fiancee and her family well. I particularly agree with you, Paul C., in that the parents will likely not care about perfection as much as my fiancee’ believes.

I’m particularly sensitive of the results of a positive outcome, yes, where the parents could become too involved. But that’s something for which I shouldn’t need much advice; I’ll be happy to have an involved family and the “problems” it creates.

Appeasing is not the plan, of course; it certainly will lead to greater issues. Love and care will help a lot here. Tooting my own horn here might have its benefits. My fiancee’ definitely has a larger attachment or concern for her parent’s opinions, yes, but I’m sure she will work out her fears.

Thanks to everyone again for their comments and observations.


I agree that there is trouble written all over it. It will be much easier to not have enmity with the families, unless one plans to have no contact with families. But what kind of family life is that?

Baloney. There are people over 35 that have never been married that are crying for compatible spouses; however, I don’t know what part of the country these two are in.

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