Civilly married children--don't know what to do


#1

[FONT="Arial"][FONT="Arial"]I'll try to make this as brief as I can. Ten years ago my step-son (a baptized and confirmed Catholic) was married by a Justice of the Peace to a young woman who was baptized in the Catholic Church but not raised Catholic. Step-son was stationed in the military at the time, and when he told my husband he was thinking about getting married by a Justice of the Peace, my husband offered to come to the wedding...but then we never heard any more about it. When we went to visit him some months later, SS told us they had been married by a Justice of the Peace but hadn't told anyone yet. At the time, we were "Cafeteria Catholics" (for lack of a better word) and didn't know that this is considered serious sin for baptized Catholics, and so we simply congratulated them. Fast forward to two years ago...I had a conversion experience and began to learn all the things I should have learned about the Catholic faith previously but failed to. We have visited SS and DIL once since my conversion but we stayed in a hotel, and they stayed at DIL's sister's house because we were meeting in a state in between where we both lived. But right now they are visiting us...in our home. I have been nervous about this from day one due to not wanting to condone the sin of an invalid marriage. I have allowed them to stay in our home for several reasons. First, it would cause discord between my husband and me if I didn't allow them to stay b/c he still doesn't understand how serious it is himself. Secondly, if I were to suddenly after 10 years of civil marriage, say that they couldn't stay with us (or say they had to stay in separate rooms), I feel like it would damage my relationship with SS and DIL and push them further from the Church. When we asked them to go to Mass with us, they said "yes" but I felt that I should ask them if they knew that they shouldn't receive communion because they weren't married in the Church. SS said they didn't know, and DIL said, "I thought maybe that was so." They were receptive to my speaking with them, and we talked a little bit about convalidation. We do have a 20-year-old son at home who has not been confirmed and does not practice the faith or any faith at all. I haven't spoken to him about all of this. He doesn't date yet, so I'm not concerned about him getting married any time soon. Anyway, I wonder if I am committing mortal sin by allowing SS and DIL to stay in our home? I am going to try to speak to them before they leave about how if I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would have encouraged them to wait and get married in the Church. I will tell them that I didn't know getting married at the courthouse would cut them off from the Sacraments. I have reason to believe it will be fairly easy to bring the subject up again and believe that they will understand I am telling them in love. Is this enough for me to do? Or do I need to go to confession now? [/FONT][/FONT]


#2

Getting married by a justice of the peace is not a real marriage. You should inform him that as a Catholic it is a sin and to go to confession and get a real marriage. You aren’t committing any mortal sin by allowing them to stay in your home. Try and get your family up to date on its faith. As long as you do as much as you can to bring the truth to them then you aren’t at fault. But no it will not be necessary to go to confession for letting them stay in your house. Also I would ask a priest if a couple married by a justice of the peace is allowed to receive communion, that may be a sacrilege. As for your 20 yo son, do the most you can to bring him up to date with his faith before it is too late. God Bless.


#3

I would be very careful about how you approach this matter. If you come down too heavily on your kids, you could very well alienate them. By all means, let them know how you feel, but be calm and tactful. Under no circumstance do you want to put yourself in the position where they might consider you a hippocrite.
I suggest that you consult a priest in a parish near them, and follow his advice. Perhaps he or one of his parishioners can meet, visit and begin a discussion with them. Other than that, all you can do is pray.


#4

I have been and am in the same position as you are "thread starter". I have 5 kids--all were baptized Catholic--the oldest 2 were confirmed but the last 3 were raised pretty a-religiously. I was away from the church for 30+ years and have been back for 2 years +/-. It really sucks doesn't it--when we realize our contribution to the problems that our kids find themselves in (sigh). First of all, the church DOES recognize civil marriage as valid--though certainly not sacramentally blessed--and as you know, your SS and DIL can't receive the sacraments unless they have their marriage co-validated in the church. To do that, they would have to want to come back into the catholic church themselves--and they may or may not EVER choose that route one day in the future. They might have 6 kids and not have one of them baptized or they might end up joining a presbyterian church and remain there until they die. And yes, it will and does break a mother's heart. (sigh...) All we can do now is pray--and hope! THREE of my kids were married outside of the church and frankly, not one of my kids consider themselves Catholics. My oldest girl infact belongs to a protestant church and, at least so far, has absolutely zilch interest in becoming truly catholic--and she is one of the 2 that I got as far as confirmation! She has been married nearly 20 years--and was married by a protestant minister/judge.
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First of all, I'd speak to your priest as I think only then will you truly have a clear conscience. I can tell you what my priest told me though which was that he sees no sin in your attending their marriage (past history for you--it was present history for me at the time) and that just as you could allow a married couple of protestant friends to stay at your home--though they obviously weren't married in the church--you do not commit any sin by allowing your SS and DIL to do the same. The greater issue for you and I is that we wish we could get our kids to come back into the church--but that's a bit of a bugger, huh? We don't get a "re-do" do we?:(

Pope Francis almost speaks to us on things like this when he encourages us not to judge. If you suddenly make these kids feel uncomfortable in your home--what chance do you really think you'll ever have with getting them back into catholicism? I look at it this way: at least I had my 5 baptized. Thank heaven for that. I do NOT believe that mere baptism makes you a Catholic forever--believe me, it doesn't with several of my kids. They totally relate to other faiths--and in one case, no faith at all. So, with my priest's blessing, I approach them slowly and with love and hope, firstly by having said to each of them just how very sad I am now for what I failed to pass on to them then. I hope that if they watch my life now--see the faith at work in me-- it may serve as example and inspiration to them at some point in the future. Remember the story of St. Monica and St Augustine--her godless son---who, by her prayers and example, became one of the great saints of the church! God works in mysterious ways and in His own time!


#5

These problems can be the most difficult of all to sort out.

I will pray for you, Veronica, that you make a good decision.


#6

[quote="Starrsmother, post:4, topic:341795"]
First of all, the church DOES recognize civil marriage as valid--though certainly not sacramentally blessed--and as you know, your SS and DIL can't receive the sacraments unless they have their marriage co-validated in the church.

[/quote]

The Church does not recognizes the civil marriage of a Catholic as valid unless there was a dispensation from canonical form.

She recognizes that a legal marriage exists and if they were not Catholic, it would be a valid marriage. If the two were baptized non-Catholics it would also be sacramental.

But because they are Catholic, and our marriages must be celebrated in a very specific way (unless a dispensation from form is granted), their marriage is not considered valid by the Church.


#7

No, you have not committed a mortal sin.

And I agree with you, you will cause problems if you suddenly change how you treat this couple.


#8

[quote="Starrsmother, post:4, topic:341795"]
First of all, the church DOES recognize civil marriage as valid--though certainly not sacramentally blessed--
The Church DOES NOT recognize civil marriage they recognize it as a civil marriage but it is a mortal sin. As long as they are together without being married in the church then they are living in a state of mortal sin and receiving any sacraments would be a sacrilege.

[/quote]


#9

I may not have said it as well or quite like you did, but our meaning is the same I think. Certainly, the church feels that baptized catholics must be married in the catholic church and to do otherwise is a mortal sin. I hope God takes into consideration “ignorance” when He judges my 5 though. You see, the problem here far exceeds where the couple was married or who married them–infact of all the problems out there, that is probably the LEAST worrisome and the easiest to correct–if the couple in question wanted to be catholic and correct it in the first place!. They have probably also missed over 1000 masses on Sunday, not met their Easter duty in eons and possibly even had premarital sex to name only 3 things–all of which are mortal sins to a catholic who considers himself or herself catholic! And there you arrive at the true crux of the issue–these 2 young people do NOT consider themselves catholic at this time. I feel the mother’s pain as I have faced the same dilemna by not being more than as she described it, a “cafeteria catholic” myself during the years I raised my kids–I now am faced with 5 protestant (if that) adults–all of whom were baptized catholics–3 of whom never even made their first communion and if you think that where they marry or who married them is what I consider to be my biggest problem, think again. I will spend the rest of my life trying to get them to come back to the church period! One of mine is so involved in a baptist church–where she, I might add, had her own 2 kids baptized I’m ashamed to admit–that Mary herself is going to have to intercede to shake her lose.:eek:
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#10

[quote="George_Stegmeir, post:3, topic:341795"]
I would be very careful about how you approach this matter. If you come down too heavily on your kids, you could very well alienate them. By all means, let them know how you feel, but be calm and tactful. Under no circumstance do you want to put yourself in the position where they might consider you a hippocrite.
I suggest that you consult a priest in a parish near them, and follow his advice. Perhaps he or one of his parishioners can meet, visit and begin a discussion with them. Other than that, all you can do is pray.

[/quote]

Thanks. I will keep your suggestion of contacting a priest in mind. When my husband filed for his annulment almost 20 years ago, it was because our parish priest came to visit us at home (unexpectedly) and the next day we came home and found annulment papers on our back porch. That started the whole ball rolling. SS and DIL don't need annulments; however, a contact from a priest just might get the marriage ball rolling.


#11

[quote="Starrsmother, post:9, topic:341795"]

I feel your pain also. My husband and I were married 26 years ago without annulment. He was a baptized, confirmed Catholic who had been married to a baptized, confirmed Catholic in a Catholic church and had children. I was unbaptized and what little I knew about Jesus was a hodgepodge of teachings from various Protestant denominations. Ten years later, my husband got an anullment and we were married in the Catholic Church when our son was four years old. Then I was baptized and confirmed shortly after that. However, I continued to be influenced by my Protestant background and did not learn about the Catholic Faith the way I should have. Our son together received First Holy Communion but I dropped the ball on catechizing him b/c he was a very difficult child and we were struggling just to keep him from getting kicked out of elementary and middle school. Still, that's no excuse--I should have been praying for him and teaching him as best I could--even if it were just by example. Two years ago I had a reversion experience--brought on mostly by watching a couple of videos about Hell (as suggested by my Protestant brother). Within days I was in the confessional after having not been for 7 years! Since then I have been taking my Faith very seriously and have been praying and promoting the rosary to others. Every night I pray to St. Monica for my husband and son, I have scapulars under their mattresses, and I entrust all four of my children--our son together, step-son, step-daughter, and DIL to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I am getting ready to join the Confraternity of the Rosary in order that my prayers be joined with all of those in the Confraternity--in Heaven and on Earth. May I suggest you consider doing so also? God bless you!!

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#12

[quote="maryjk, post:7, topic:341795"]
No, you have not committed a mortal sin.

And I agree with you, you will cause problems if you suddenly change how you treat this couple.

[/quote]

Thank you. I feel I am walking a fine line between telling them the truth and not pushing them away. My husband is not happy that I told them they shouldn't receive Communion. He wants me to mind my own business. I told them b/c I didn't think they knew for certain, and I love them too much for them to commit sacrilige by receiving the Eucharist unworthily. (I didn't tell THEM they would be committing sacrilige--I'm just saying that's WHY I asked them if they knew they shouldn't receive until they have been remarried in the Church.) I told them I was not judging them but telling them out of love. I think they took it well but my husband thought his son was a little irritated. That's okay--sometimes the truth IS irritating. But another time we were at dinner and the subject of their wedding came up. I was silent b/c I didn't want to push them away. But IF the Lord gives me another opportunity to say something before they leave, I will tell them that I wish I had known at the time they got married that they would be cut off from the Sacraments--that if I could do it all over again, I would have encouraged them to wait and be married in the Church.


#13

[quote="maryjk, post:7, topic:341795"]

And I agree with you, you will cause problems if you suddenly change how you treat this couple.

[/quote]

I agree with this. I am (almost) the only practicing Catholic in my extended family, including my children, and I have to deal with such issues all the time. My general approach is avoid confronting or instructing others, unless it is very clear that I must do so.

So far, the only times I have pressed a Catholic position with my family has been when my grown up children have wanted to attend Mass with me, for the first time in years. I avoided any mention of lifestyle issues (such as sexual orientation, or pre-marital sex) and just explain that I would love them to attend Mass, and that they are very welcome in the Church, but because they have not been attending Mass they cannot receive communion until they go to confession. If they object then I remind them of Sunday Obligation to them. (I did explain Sunday Obligation when they stopped attending ten years ago, so they can't complain that they weren't informed).

I've heard that there's an old Catholic principle that when a moral choice has to be made, and it is not clear which way is "right", then make the choice which has the least risk.

In addition, we are not required to make life difficult for ourselves or others, or to cause offence. If one has thought about an issue, prayed about it, and sought advice, and it is still not clear, then you are entitled to do that which is safest or most comfortable, and, in my observation, usually should.

The time will come when there will be something you can't back down on, and perhaps must risk not only your comfort, but your life, and it will be clear.


#14

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