A Question: Marriage


Hello, I am the child of two people with a very complicated situation.
My mother was “married” by the Justice of the Peace, to a man before marrying my dad.
She wasn’t married in the Church. She got a divorce.
My dad was “married” in the Church to a “lesbian”.
They “divorced” and he got an annulment, but this annulment was obtained long after “marrying” my mother.
They were “married” by my father’s cousin, who was a protestant pastor (I think Baptist).
My mother was raised Catholic and has had her first Communion.
My dad was born into a Catholic family, never received his first communion, and was then raised halfway Baptist halfway Catholic, if that makes sense. He as an adult does not attend Baptist services and refused to get baptized in the Baptist “church”, and identifies as Catholic. He was baptized in the Catholic Church but no sacraments beyond that. He once went to a confessional despite this, so he had an invalid confession.

So, does anyone (perhaps a priest or cannon lawyer?) know if this means their marriage is invalid, or does it fall under any “natural” marriage clauses or something like that?
Their relationship is much better when they have “relations” and are bad if they don’t, so I really don’t want them to be fornicating when that is when their relationship is best. They’ve been “married” about twenty years.

My mother went to confession for the first time in years and gave a little bit of an overview of it, and the priest said she shouldn’t recieve any sacraments, but obviously that was in the confessional and probably wasn’t a detailed overview.

EDIT: I apologize if this is too much info, we are very open, and I don’t realize what’s socially appropriate sometimes.


Sound more married than most folks in my humble opinion. I don’t understand and don’t want to how you know what happened in that Confession that probably cleared everything up. Forgive and get on with it.


You can google the name of your Diocese + Office of the Tribunal to get the contact information. Then, your mom can speak to someone in the Tribunal office. They will likely give her the name of a local advocate, that is a person - often a layperson - who has been trained to help folks navigate the paperwork.

You can love and support your mom through this process. She is going to need to get things like copies of her sacramental records, marriage license, divorce decree, etc and you can help out with that part!

Another GREAT resource is Rose Sweet’s group http://www.catholicsdivorce.com/ or the USCCB http://www.foryourmarriage.org/


I appreciate that you love your parents, but this is really their issue to sort out, including whether or not they have relations. Pray for them, encourage them gently to make their marriage valid if it isn’t, honor them as your parents, and try to live your own life according to Church rules. That’s all you can do. MYOB about the rest.


My mother simply told me the priest said she shouldn’t recieve sacraments, though of course it was most likely not a very detailed summary of the issue and could get “misdiagnosed”


Will bet you a ham sandwich he meant to say “best not to receive the Eucharist until we can get this sorted out. Give the office a call and they will help you locate the Tribunal advocate”


It’s difficult because they gave life to me, so naturally I want them to have life themselves.
I know I can’t force people, but sometimes I am quite worried. My parents will be together and I want the least offense to God, which is why I want to know if their relations would be sinful.
Sometimes my mother especially sounds very protestanty, but what really hurts is that this whole ordeal is caused from poor cathechesis most likely. As in, they didn’t know that a pastor in a protestant church might not have the authority to marry, or that marriages not sacramental or natural are bad.

I know it gets really complicated, like two not baptized can be married by a not priest but it is valid marriage as it is natural but sometimes a Christian and a Catholic aren’t validly naturally married in a ceremony that is not Catholic but sometimes can be.


No the priest was right. Your mother has a presumptive previous valid marriage and until it is sorted out she must not take the sacraments. Likely it can be sorted out quickly but she still has to wait.


Remember this is the child in this circumstance. She will not receive information about her mother’s annulment. I agree with you on what the priest most likely said but the OP is not a petitioner to the annulment and therefore is not entitled to information about it.


Hm? Even though it wasn’t a Catholic marriage, but done by a justice of the peace and she has divorced?


Based on what you say, my guess is that their marriage is invalid, but one that can possibly be easily regularized.

The fact that your Mom & Dad were both baptized Catholic means that they were both bound to follow canon law.

Since your dad has an annulment, he’s good. And your mother should be able to have her previous marriage annulled due to lack of form.

Once she does that, then your parents should be able to get married for free in the Church (at mass, in the Rectory, in the Chapel with priest or deacon, etc) and come into full communion (though Father MIGHT want to have your parents confirmed first)

If they want to regularize their relationship with the Church, it should not be too hard (assuming everything you say here is correct and there are no other things we are unaware of).

I would suggest they speak to the priest about taking steps to have their marriage recognized by the church.

God Bless


A Catholic is obligated to marry in the Catholic Church. Your mother did not do this. But it is not an automatic pass. There is still some investigation to be done. She just needs to be patient until the priest sorts it all out. Then your parents will need to have their marriage convalidated for it to be sacramental.


There are questions that your description doesn’t answer, which are relevant to the answer you’re seeking.

If I understand you correctly, your mother is Catholic, as is your father.

Your mother was married outside of the form of the Church, which would mean that her first marriage might be characterized as a “lack of form” marriage. If there are no other relevant facts to be considered, then we might say that these types of marriages can receive a decree of nullity through a documentary process.

(You don’t mention whether your mom’s first husband was Catholic, or a baptized non-Catholic Christian, or unbaptized. You also didn’t mention whether his marriage to your mom was his first attempt at marriage. These are relevant questions.)

You mention that your dad had a first marriage, too. However, you didn’t mention whether his first wife is Catholic, non-Catholic baptized Christian, or unbaptized, nor whether this was her first attempt at marriage. However, you do say that his first attempt at marriage with her was declared null by the Church.

Finally, you mention that the marriage of your parents was not in line with the requirements of ‘form’ of marriage according to the Catholic Church.

(Whether or not he was well catechized as a child does not make his approach to the sacrament of reconciliation ‘invalid’, by the way.)

If your parents are interested in examining the validity of their marriage and eliminating anything that might stand in the way of a valid marriage, they should set up an appointment with their pastor.


Her first husband, I believe it was his first marriage as well, and he was born in what was a Catholic family but by that time they were “nondenominational” Christians. So I suppose this would make them baptized Christians and not Catholic?

I’m not sure on my dad’s first wife.
My dad never quite finished the rcia classes he took on account of the marriage thing (this was years ago, and this led him to obtain the annulment), and there are various reasons his first confession was most likely invalid, but I haven’t included them all as they aren’t relevant to the marriage question.

Growing up, I don’t know if we would be considered practicing Catholics. Sometimes we went to mass but not nearly every week, and my mother never went to confession and continued to take the Eucharist until relatively recently when she realized she shouldn’t be taking the Sacraments.
My father never (that I explicitly remember) took the Eucharist as he never had his first communion.
We certainly considered ourselves Catholics though we essentially just went to church every now and again and said grace before meals, and that was about it. My mother and sister had a JW pair of twins who would “Bible study”, though they never considered becoming JW.

I hope things can soon be set straight with the Church.


It sounds like the first “marriages” were invalid, you mother’s was Lack of Proper Form and your father’s was found to be invalid by the Church. So they were theoretically capable of getting married.

But it sounds like they didn’t get married in the Church and so right now they are in an invalid union, and neither of them is married or has ever been married. Easy fix: convalidate the marriage in the Church. There doesn’t seem to be any actual impediments to them being married. Based on the information you’ve given they are both still single.


Four assumptions, from what you wrote:

  1. Your parents were baptized Catholics prior to any marriages.
  2. Your father was married in the Church but has a decree of nullity.
  3. Your mother married outside the Church without a dispensation and later divorced.
  4. Your parents were married outside the Church without a dispensation.

Catholics are required to marry following Catholic form, so neither of your mother’s marriages are recognized by the Church. Your mother can get a “lack of form” decree of nullity for her first marriage fairly easily. Your parents could then convalidate their marriage in the Church and return to the Sacraments.

I know that you just want to help, but children should generally not get involved in their parents’ marital issues. Encourage them to talk to their pastor. This can be fixed and they can return to the Church very soon, in all likelihood.

Pray for them daily. Set a good example.


Thanks. I try. It can be difficult.

But if I give them alone time (we are all visiting my sister for the holidays), is that helping them to sin?


What’s the alternative? Set up a pup tent in their bedroom and refuse to leave them alone? :wink:


As I said, the child can walk with her mom, give her support and love, help with footwork of running down the papers…


No. What your parents do when they are alone is their decision.

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