A question of guilt by ommission


Before I post in general detail, I have a question. Would it be possible to ask to have this thread deleted after the discussion has run it’s course?

I also want to preface this with saying that I understand that I need to speak to a priest or deacon about this but at the moment I have two jobs, one full time and the second is very close to full time. So I just don’t have much time at all.

Ok finally to the question :o

A few years ago I ‘realized’ that someone in my family was not validly married. I did not know the church’s requirements for marriage and what exactly would constitute a valid marriage until I studied Catholicism more closely.
It finally dawned on me that one person in my family had skipped a few things in her journey towards marriage. She had planned on being married in the Church but the plans changed and they didn’t even start Pre-Cana classes.

I figured out that she did not know these requirements but I kept my mouth shut about it. There are many reasons but one of the ones I feel guilty about, is because this marriage was just not going to work out. It was such a bad situation and the spouses where so fluxuating when listening to reason that I felt it was going to end.

It did end just last month. I can’t help but be relieved (due to many reasons). My family member revealed that she had been preparing herself to end it for the past two and a half years.

Maybe if I had told her the truth about her marriage it might not have changed a thing but it is also possible that it could’ve.

So my question is, how guilty am I?

This was a mixed faith marriage that between an undereducated non-Catholic and undereducated (on subjects of faith) secular Catholic.

I had always boldly pointed out my criticisms of how they handled or talked about certain things when I was younger. But after I moved away and learned about Catholicism I just couldn’t ‘correct’ them with the same fervor I used to have…especially about Catholicism.


I would ask you if you are close enough to this relative to make an amends directly to her. What for? Well, because you feel you may have harmed her by not educating her regarding Catholic Teaching on Marriage. This may actually be a wonderful way to introduce her to the idea of applying for an annulment of her marriage, so that once she has been educated she can make a better choice in the future.

On the other hand, she may just tell you not to be concerned about it, that it would not have made a difference and blah blah blah. That’s cool. Then you can ask your confessor if this is truly a sin of ommission or if you are suffering from scruples.

You are in my prayers.


I may be able to tell her in the future and make amends but at this time it would be highly innappropriate. The divorce looks like it might turn out a bit ugly and she has so much to deal with at this time I could not pile this on top.

From my understanding of scrupulosity, that would be an overconcern with details as to lose sight of what a teaching or rule in the Church intends and giving way to anxiety over it.

I really don’t think I suffer from that.

I tend towards having an ideal of being bluntly honest with myself and having a sort of ‘work-in-progress’ intent when I try to grow in faith.

I know I had some good reasons for not telling her earlier (baby steps when it comes to Catholic teaching in certain volatile situations), but I also had a deliberate intent to keep this information from them in order to give her an easy ‘out’ when this relationship ended.

I might have ended up telling them after a few more years but I don’t want to let myself off the hook or white-wash my own intent.

But thank you so much for you reply, and your prayers. It’s really good to be able to bounce ideas off of others to get opinons from people that are not tied to the situation.


The primary issue, I think, is that you possibly should have told her about the Church’s requirement of a valid marriage, but if there’s no valid marriage, there can be no annulment. So, you can start educating your family member and ease your own conscience by urging her to go to confession for her invalid marriage. (You should probably go too, the priest can give you excellent advice).


Whoa…I’m confused:confused:

from my understanding, a valid marriage cannot be dissolved. It is until “death do us part”. Therefore, a decree of nullity would ONLY be for an invalid marriage, which it seems is the case here.



:o blushes profusely Thanks for the correction Malia, you are correct. I’m going to blame the exam period for mushifying my brain :stuck_out_tongue:
What I meant to express, and thinking it over, I should ask it as a question: How does the OP know that the marriage was invalid? Does a non-sacramental marriage need to be annulled?


Annulled is poor terminology. The correct form is that a marriage may be declared null [A Declaration of Nullity issued] if there was a flaw in the original ceremony, i.e. the marriage was invalid from the beginning.

A valid, non-sacramental marriage may be dissolved, not annulled, in Favor of the Faith; that is if it will allow one to better practice the Catholic Faith. It may be either Pauline Priviledge, if neither party was baptized, or Petrine if one party was baptized. These are rather complicated in definition, and I will not attempt to detail them here.


To answer this question. My relative (a Catholic) married outside the Catholic Church without a priest or deacon present and without the Church’s permission.

I want to thank everyone for your help.


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