Another RCIA question

I’m involved with my parish’s RCIA program. The other day we had a question that I don’t know if I answered properly. It has to do with an impediment to receiving the sacraments. Specifically, the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. When the individual recites the oath or vows of the Sacrament and they lie is the Sacrament valid? Is the man actually a priest or is the couple actually married? I mean Sacramentally. I said no because of the impediment to the Sacrament.

Next question, if there wasn’t a valid Sacrament and the priest or couple realizes their mistake and “rectify” it would the Sacrament become valid.

I realize the next question is to define “rectify”. I don’t have an answer for that one.

Some speculations could be that the priest go through the ordination again or the couple go through the wedding again, in private. I didn’t have an answer for that one.

Any help?

When asked questions that you don’t know, don’t speculate. There is nothing wrong in saying that “I don’t know, but anyone with that type of problem should consult their Priest immediately”.
Don’t let the class speculate either.
If someone in your class has the type of problems you described, tell them to talk to their Priest.
There are too many variables to the questions presented. You could spend an entire class discussing variables. The Priest will ask specifics.
In the case of Holy Orders, the person may be directed to his Bishop.

Question 1.

From the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church

Canon 1097.1 Error about a person renders a marriage invalid.

Canon 1098 A person contracts invalidly who enters marriage inveigled by deceit, perpetrated in order to secure consent, concerning some quality of the other party, which of its very nature can seriously disrupt the partnership of conjugal life.

Question 2

For Retroactive Validation go to the same link and read Canons 1161.1 to 1165.2

You may not understand the nature of RCIA. We try to answer the questions there. Its not a place for council. When I don’t know the answer I tell them and then we speculate from there. I can’t answer a question by saying go ask a priest. A lot of times, they aren’t even fully Catholic yet, so your suggestion would not be appropriate.

I don’t see anything wrong with what you are doing there. RCIA requires all, especially the leaders, to be able to think on their feet. If the person asking the question and you don’t know the answer perhaps somebody else in the room would know and at that point things wouldn’t be so speculative. I’d say you’re fine as long as everybody knows you’re speculating and that it doesn’t constitute legal advice, as it were.


Thanks. That answers a lot on marriage and I assume the same could apply to Holy Orders.

When teaching the faith to someone, and you do not know the proper answer, PLEASE do not speculate. I know of many people who when discussing matters of faith say “well I learned this in RCIA” and it is completely wrong, sometimes if the Catechism had been read, the answer would have beeen obvious. Speculation can cause someone to error in faith, and spread it from there. You should definitely say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.”


Please. I address this to you as well as anyone else. Please understand the nature of RCIA before you issue your warnings. There is nothing wrong with speculation as long as everyone knows its speculation and not absolute truth.

It would be a good thing if all of you issuing warnings to lead some RCIA classes. Then perhaps you’d understand my point.

In the RCIA group I help with our priest has told us in no uncertain terms that we are not to ask about any previous marriages or their canonical status. That is a private matter and up to the candidate and priest to resolve. If questions arose I think most RCIA leaders and team members are smart enough to know when they are out of their area of competency and to refer people either to the priest or the diocesan tribunal. From what I’ve seen in this thread the speculation is an attempt to reach the truth and if found out to be erroneous later on would change what was discussed. They aren’t using it as an excuse to dissent or question the authority of the Church.

The Catechism is a great source to use in RCIA, but I imagine it would be of little use in resolving the questions that are being speculated upon too. I doubt many parishes or RCIA leaders have canon law books handy enough to settle things once and fo all at the time.

Cut this RCIA leader some slack and realize that they are doing the best they can and not intentionally trying to lead somebody astray, even if that’s what is happening and we haven’t seen one thing to indicate that.


Thank you.

I assume you are talking about inquiry as phase in the RCIA process and as questions come up throughout the sessions. Yes you do your best at the time, but a group consensus is not an answer. The best way is to show them how to find answers, and you do this by investigating yourself, as you have done by coming here. Show them for instance how in the gospel Christ initiates the sacraments, the CCC gives the essential teaching, let them know there is canon law whereby the Church interprets and applies those teachings in practical ways and resolves issues.

No we do not discuss individual marriage issues (or other personal areas that may be matter for confession) of the class participants in the class. We can use hypothetical cases for illustration, but we don’t get into specifics of individuals cases.

In this instance, when you go back to the class, refer them back to the initial teaching on the sacraments, specifically the concept of valid matter and form and the ordinary minister of the sacrament. Since the ordinary minister of ordination is the bishop, and the matter and form are his words and actions and use of chrism, with proper intent, those are the basis for judging validity, not the outward actions of the recipient. If the candidate undertook ordination without the proper disposition or intent his actions may be illicit but he is still a priest. The graces of the sacraments may not be available to him if he was in a state of mortal sin at the time, but the objective reality of ordination has taken place. At such time when he returns to a state of grace and assumes the proper disposition, rights and duties of his ordination, he is endowed with the grace to carry them out.

In marriage the matter and form are the vows with proper intention and capacity, and the persons themselves, who must therefore be free to marry, and are themselves the ordinary minister of the sacrament to each other. Therefore not only their own intent and disposition as recipients of a sacrament are essential, but also their intention and proper adherence to the form, words and actions, as the ministers. The matter is the persons themselves who give themselves entirely and freely to each other. In this matrimony differs from the other sacraments where the persons are both ministers and recipients of the sacramental graces and effects.

That is why judging the validity of either sacrament is investigated, explored and judged along different lines.

Should a couple enter into what is outwardly a valid sacramental marriage with faulty intent, or improper disposition, if they later remedy the defect–return to the state of sanctifying grace and will the intended effects and responsibilities of the sacrament–it can become valid at that point. For instance a couple marries in the Church, having been cohabiting for some time, including using ABC, and fully intending to claim the benefits of Christian marriage without accepting all the duties of the state, and even with mental reservations about Church teaching on the sacrament. Later in their life together they come to new appreciation and even without formally renewing their vows, intend total fidelity, openness to life, and mature self-giving the sacrament demands. What was lacking at the beginning of their marriage has now been supplied and anything that was a barrier to valid intent, capacity and disposition has been removed, the marriage, which was presumptively valid before, is now valid in fact, and the abundant graces of the sacrament available to them.

The best use of these questions in the RCIA session is as you are doing, generating discussion, not with the outcome of everyone coming to their own conclusions, but to have an opportunity to restate the teachings in a way that applies them to the matter raised. This is how Jesus taught, when someone asked him a question, he gave a story, analogy, or example to illustrate his teaching.

puzzleannie, the link above was real helpful in answering my question regarding marriage. In the CCL, Chapter X: THE VALIDATION OF MARRIAGE, article 1 - Simple Validation and article 2 - Retroactive Validation shows part of what you are saying. As I understand it, there are times where the couple can validate an invalid marriage by themselves and other times where they need to renew it in the canonical form. I’m a little confused on the distinction between the two circumstances.

Also, I agree with you on the conditions of Holy Orders. Form and matter. Mortal sin can prevent the graces of the Sacrament to flow into the soul but not the transformation of the soul. (Which is what happens to a man during the Sacrament.) However, if either the form or matter is not present then the Sacrament is invalid. Such an example would be another priest ordaining a man to priesthood or a woman who has altered her gender tries to be ordained.

good going, you combined very well the two ways to address such questions, how to find the answer in the Church documents, and how to apply the teaching by using examples, and it is a short but accurate answer, and invites those who are interested to look more deeply if they wish, using the links and resources you give them.

I’m an RCIA director and I couldn’t disagree with you more.

If I don’t know what the Church says on something I’ll find out. Making things up or speculating on what might or might not be doesn’t serve anyone well.

It called critical thinking. Learn it. Love it. Live it.

Oh, and I’m not “making it up.” As I’ve uncovered, I was right on the target.

Sorry. I read your original post wrong and I assumed that you were simply speculating yourself and stating it as an answer. I have heard of that happening before.
Again, sorry.


I actually just went through RCIA and I can tell you, as someone who was just in it, I showed up day 1 with a huge list of questions hoping for answers but was told to hold the questions till the end because most would be covered in the lessons.
There were also times in the midst of RCIA that I had a question such as this relating to the lesson and they had no problem not speculating and saying if something such as this happens go talk to the priest… why? just as another poster said, too many variables and the situation could be different for different people, it would just depend on that individual’s situation.
There is nothing wrong with saying you don’t know the answer but you’ll see if you can’t find it by next week (even if you have to look up canon law or ask your priest, and honestly, your class will respect you for that.
In my class I had two different teachers and at one point one of them gave me speculation which to me didn’t sound right (while the other weeks before covered almost the same thing and told me something opposite)… I went home myself and looked up canon law to see which was right. It turned out that the one RCIA instructor had told me to do something that would have been mortal sin.
Now, I realize most in RCIA won’t do this, they depend on you to give them the correct answers, so please if you don’t know, don’t guess.

I’d like to chime in here as a former RCIA member.

Two things:

(1) Sometimes RCIA members might just be tossing out a question that they don’t really care about but that occurred to them once and now they have an opportunity to ask someone who might know the answer.

Example: “Do monks wear jeans under their habits?”

And the RCIA teachers might spend hours making phone calls or looking on the internet for the answer when it really wasn’t crucial to that questioner’s learning about our faith. I heard some bizarre questions from my RCIA classmates and many of the questions had little relevance to learning about Catholicism or increasing one’s faith and understanding. They were just “questions”. Like the one about what a monk wears underneath his habit. No one is going to say “Well, I thought about becoming a Catholic but that thing about what monks wear underneath their habits really made me think twice.”

(2) I was familiar with the Catechism prior to entering RCIA and I knew that the Code of Canon Law existed somewhere. If I had wanted official instruction and exact answers, I could have looked them up. That’s not what RCIA is about, in my opinion. It’s about sharing and discussing and conversing about topics of interest and relevance to people who are considering becoming Catholic. With the internet, anyone can Google a topic and find an official answer. What they won’t get is personal instruction, give-n-take, and compassion.

Ok, then. My 2 cents are spent!

:clapping::tiphat:Thank you.

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