Civil wedding/ confession question

Hi, I married my non-Catholic wife in a civil ceremony. At the time I was not taking my faith as seriously as I should, and so made the compromise. However, now I want to return to my faith fully, I realise I have been drifting in sin for way too long and I need to get a grip of my spiritual life.

But what is my situation with regards to my marriage and sacraments? How is my marriage viewed by the Church? I have some pretty serious sins I need to confess but am I now barred from sacraments? I dont think my wife will become Catholic (she was baptised Catholic but fell into another Christian group and has renounced her Catholicism), but I desperately want to repent of my sins, gain forgiveness and start living my life right.

Can someone help me please?

Hi Chris,
What I believe you would need to do first and foremost is speak with your priest and get your marriage Convalidated. Because you and your wife are Catholic you were both required to be married in the Church and because you didn’t marry in the Church you’re marriage isn’t valid (I just went through all this myself).
What I did when I found out that my marriage wasn’t valid is my husband and I lived as brother/sister while we prepared for our Convalidation.
I hope this helps :slight_smile: It’s not difficult process and you and your wife will feel great when your marriage is Convalidated :slight_smile:

Thanks for your reply!

I would love that, but what if my wife is unwilling? She has no intention of going back to being a Catholic, and might be quite hostile to the idea.

Is there anything I can do myself? Or do I need her permission?

Talk to your priest. There are two avenues to pursue, convalidation and radical sanation.

Convalidation is a giving of consent and exchange of vows in the Catholic form.

Radical sanation does not require new exchange of consent. But, it is not available in all situations.

Talk to the priest about what can be done. The priest will help you.

First of all, know that you can always go to Confession. Unfortunately, many people in situations like yours hear things like “you are banned from the Sacraments” (not a very helpful comment but it happens) and think they can’t go to Confession–that’s not the case. You can go to Confession anytime.

If either the husband or wife is (or was) Catholic, a civil ceremony alone is not a valid sacrament. You have 2 options, as 1ke pointed-out: convalidation or a sanation. Convalidation is when the couple exchanges vows in front of a priest or deacon. Sanation is an administrative act of the bishop which can make the marriage a sacrament without the couple having a ceremony (caution: this is a very rare thing). I’ll also reinforce what 1ke said that you need to speak with your own priest about this. This kind of conversation needs to happen in-person because it’s a very personal matter.

Just for clarification…the OP can go to Confession, but if he does not intend to stop committing the sin (ie marital relations with someone who is not his wife) then he cannot be absolved, right? You have to be repentant and have the intent to not commit the sin anymore right?

It’s my understanding that she doesn’t have to be Catholic or even agree to go back to her Catholic faith. Would she do it because it’s meaningful to you? Maybe if she understands that it doesn’t mean that she has to go back to being Catholic? I’ll be praying for you.

I’m having my marriage convalidated on Saturday!

In very general terms, yes that’s true. However when it comes to the OP, that’s something that has to be addressed by the priest-confessor in the confessional, because he’s the only one who can decide whether or not the repentance is sincere.

This is how I handled it with my non Catholic husband. I asked him to “renew his vows” to me in Church so that our marriage becomes a valid Sacrament.
My husband is still not Catholic so there would be no expectations for your wife to go to Church either.

Rachel, your situation is slightly different as your husband is a non-Catholic. The OP’s wife is a Catholic.

From the Catholic Church’s perspective, she **IS **a Catholic. And, is therefore subject to Church law on marriage and the sacraments.

There are canons in canon law dealing with a marriage situation in which one party has defected from the Church or fallen into apostacy, schism, heresy, etc.

A matter of curiosity:

Ive head occasionally nightmare stories about annulments (one recently of it taking 7 years to get one) but about how long does it take to get a convalidation once you have requested one (in this case Catholic and Protestant had a Protestant Wedding (no annulments needed)

Thanks I am working with a friend about returning to the Catholic Church but he is worred abuot how many hopes he will have to come through, espically since his wife who is accepting of his become Catholing but isnt thrilled about it and is willing to do what needs to be done for it to be convalidated but he doesnt wanna push her to hard on it.

Apreciate it.

He IS Catholic or he wants to be Catholic? I’m a little unclear. If he never was Catholic, there isn’t a need for a convalidation as their marriage is presumed valid AND Sacramental if both are baptized Christians.

He is Catholic, sorry i mispoke, hes got quite a complicated story, in a nut shell hes the only Catholic in his family and hers and to appease them and his wife just got married in the Protestant church and wants to get it sorted out.

The big thing he is telling me is he wants to do as much of it as he can without her (because she thinks its all silly, but is willing to do the convalidation ceremony for him) so he is wanting to know how long the whole process will take and in how much of it (besides the ceremony of course) he can do on his own and not have to push her into doing a bunch of stuff.

As you can see its kinda a prickly situation

There’s no mention of any children here. It may be that the wife in this case has no desire, or will not accept, the idea of her own faith taking a backseat to Catholicism. That could complicate the situation.

I reposted 1ke’s post because she spoke about the options available to a person in this situation. I think his first step should be to speak with his Pastor, he is who will help him to get it all sorted out. :thumbsup:

What difference would it make? I’m Catholic…and come to find out my husband was baptized Catholic…we are still having our marriage convalidated tomorrow…

And when I first was asking our priest about my marriage after coming back to the Church…he mentioned the convalidation and said that my husband did not have to be
Catholic to do this.

So…I can’t see from my experience where it makes any difference in the convalidation. Yes–she would have been obligated to marry in the church before…but that did not happen…hence the convalidation…

Lets see—been talking about it since April…we had to fill out the same forms as a marriage…so 2 witnesses for each as well as your own form…baptismal certificate…copy of marriage license. done…tomorrow the convalidation…and only this long because it’s close to our original wedding anniversary.

I am in this same situation. When my wife and I were married 3 years ago (she was baptized Catholic, but never practiced because her parents were not practicing). I was wrestling with my own demons and was not practicing either 3 years ago. My wife is agnostic. Within the last year, I have returned the Catholic church. We attend Mass every week, but I do not take part in communion, because I learned I cannot since the marriage was never blessed. I have not attended confession in a while because I cannot promise to stop being with my wife. My wife said she is willing to do whatever she needs to do because she knows I have such a strong desire to take communion. But even if it were a possibility, I do feel it is right since the promises she would be making (like helping each other in their faith) would be a lie in my opinion. I seems someone without faith cannot help someone else in their faith. I am seeing things wrong here?

Although helping each other grow in faith is certainly one of the things we should strive for in Christian marriage, that is not a promise made when exchanging vows. These are the questions answered in the statement of intentions:

N. and N., have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

(The following question may be omitted if, for example, the couple is advanced in years.)

Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?

These are the vows:

I, N., take you, N., to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.


I, N., take you, N., for my lawful wife (husband), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

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