Confused about marraige status

Here’s the thing. There is no reason at all to presume that the Pauline Privilege might have been illicit. Please explain why you have said twice now that it might have been because I don’t understand that part. I could be missing something but I just don’t see it.

She was not free to marry (in the eyes of the Church) until after PP dissolved the first marriage; however the 2nd marriage occured before PP was granted. The fact that the second marriage occured while the wife was still bound by the first marriage means that the second marriage no longer enjoys the favor of the law–because something objective is obviously present which prevented the marriage from happening in the first place. Any marriage enjoys the favor of the law, but only until something to the contrary is proven. A simple admission by one spouse that this is a second marriage is proof enough.

When an annulment is sought on grounds of “lack of consent” or “lack of form” or other criteria, it is up to the competent authority to decree that it was invalid–no one else can make this determination. However in the case of a person marrying for the second time, while the first spouse is still alive, the Church treats as a given that this second marriage attempt is invalid. If a 3rd marriage is sought, then a formal decree of nullity would be necessary but that’s a whole different topic and not germain to this one.

That’s the part where I’m getting confused. The whole idea behind Pauline Privilege is that this is granted specifically because the person desires to become Catholic. That means that the pastor and the appropriate marriage-office officials would have had to be aware of the situation, and very much conscious of it. The possibility that no one noticed, or no one bothered to do the proper thing (intentional or not, as I’m not trying to judge anyone), seems extremely unlikely.

Now the priest is making them do marriage prep but refuses to convalidate for at least a year b/c of personal marital issues they are having. They have been legally married for 5 years. The same priest who is doing the marriage prep & counseling is the one who baptized husband #2. It is a small parish in a small town, there is only one priest. If there had been a radical sanation before her baptism then a convalidation would not be needed now, correct?

Correct. A radical sanation is a type of convalidation. Since the priest is preparing them for convalidation, it seems that this was not done, so don’t put too much emphasis on the sanation idea.

This whole situation brought out the lawyer in me and I have been seeking out trying to make sense of it. The person involved is the only other Catholic in my (Mormon) family and she asks me for advice. I am trying to help her just figure out what to ask the priest.

One thing to ask the priest is to request that he consult the files and see if a sanation had ever been done (even though this is only a remote possibility). Given that the diocese was already involved before she became Catholic it would be worthwhile to check those files (at the diocese, not only the parish) and see just what they did.


Your sister is best advised to contact the diocesan tribunal and to ask to speak to a canon lawyer. In our tribunal, we have encountered virtually identical circumstances in need of such evaluation. I suspect this is true elsewhere. From my point of view, it should not a complicated matter once the facts are laid out comprehensively, and quite within the competence of canonists to clarify.

God bless you in your effort to assist her.

I think these issues are one in the same. Rather than a stack of errors suppose the tribunal actually issued a finding of annulment for attempt 1, while she was married in attempt 2, would that not change everything? Would that indicate the church is cranking along correctly?

Just too specifically answer FrDavid96 we are being asked to believe the celebrant issued a Pauline Privilege to a non Christian (error 1) and then conferred sacraments to that woman acting married, while knowledge she was not married (error2). If that occurred the misled recipient should be held valid while the celebrant’s action should be held illicit, at least that is my understanding. ( the more she writes the less I think this is likely)

Regarding the bold portion, that may be my fault in the writing. I assumed (and we all know where that gets ya) that the Privilege would have had to have been invoked BEFORE the baptism, otherwise the baptism wouldn’t have been permitted. It could have been done after. I also assumed that they wouldn’t have permitted husband #2 to be baptized if the present “marriage” was invalid. Either way this seems like a big mess.

Thanks to you all for assisting me in understanding better. I will encourage her to get this whole thing reviewed by the tribunal so that they can get squared away ASAP.

deleting message sorry for mixup

Yes, please do, unless this has already happened and they have instructed the local pastor to do what he is now doing.

Please realize that our discussions here are meant to be nothing more than an exchange of information, ideas, and sometimes an intellectual exercise. For your close family member this is reality, and very important reality at that. If you “learn” anything at all by posting your original question I hope it is that you come away with the understanding that in matters of marriage the person’s pastor and if necessary the diocese should be treated as the only real, reliable sources. We can share some information, but in the end it carries no weight. That’s not to say that anyone has given you wrong information, but you, and more importantly your relative, should view this information as nothing more than a tool to help you understand what the pastor and diocese offices are doing.

Well if you can afford the time I would like to clear up a few things

Does the Pauline Privilege not have as it’s intend that a spouse may if necessary leave a marriage to become Christian? So question 1) Since the spouse is absent the spouse is not impeding the Christian conversion so is the use of the Pauline Privilege proper?

** Question 2) Does the Pauline Privilege not require Baptism? **Without baptism the recipient is not under canonical form so under what authority can the Church act, while the baptism itself would move the recipient to a celibate state to comply with canonical form as she is no longer married.

**Question 3) under what authority can the church rule marriage 1 as legal? Or marriage 2 invalid? **We have no reason to assume marriage 1 was real, or occurred between consenting adults, who has authority to say they were free to contract that marriage. Paul seems to speak of adults presently married, one spouse presenting themself to the church as married; not actions of past marriages.

Now to conferring licit sacraments **Question 4) Can a licit baptism occur if the recipient is living in sin through cohabitation (or invalid [catholic ]marriage if you like) before during and after the sacrament? **Would not the state of sin impede a licit baptism? Remember we are told both marriage attempts precede any baptisms.

Now let’s address the celebrant baptized with an understanding the recipient will return to celibacy until convalidation, (this seems to be where we disagree, and yet it is unlikely to be the case in the thread) We have two condition A) recipient is not actually attempting celibacy despite the promise to do so, and B) the celibate recipient (with repenting if needed is occurring). In condition A it would seem to be an invalid sacrament. We simple flip the earlier posts, thus the celebrant acted properly and the recipient knowingly refused to follow (misrepresented to receive a sacrament). However condition B (celibacy) is both licit and valid they are civilly married, but not married within the church and living celibate. None of us can evaluate if the current pair have been living celibate since the first baptism.

Now having said all that the statistician in me says “ I’ll bet the Pauline Privilege was not actually used, UF probably thinks it was used” second why are we second guessing the Priest involved?

And last why use the term celebrant(?) because deacons, priests, tribunals, and the bishop could be involved at varied levels so the term celebrant covers the sacraments conferred without regard to which party confers the sacrament. I do not suspect any ordained catholic performed any marriage between two unbaptized applicants

Thanks in advance for your time

See here for an application form for the Pauline Privilege. Notice that it is very different from the standard annulment paperwork. According to this form, the conditions for the Pauline Privilege are:

What must be proven:

  1. The petitioner has never been baptized or has only been baptized since the parties to the prior marriage stopped living together.

  2. The respondent has never been baptized in any form recognized by the Catholic Church, up to the present time.

  3. The respondent does not wish to receive baptism.

  4. The petitioner was not the direct cause of the failure of the prior marriage.

Q1: The bishop granted a dissolution of the marriage by PP–so that means we (here) must assume that it was proper.

Q2: As a catechumen, she was under canon law. (was, because she is now baptised).

Q3: The Church is saying that marriage 1 (2 unbaptised persons married according to civil law) is a natural marriage. It is not a sacrament. The parties in such a marriage are bound by that marriage unless and until something happens to the contrary; death of the other spouse, declaration of nullity, or Pauline/Petrine privilege. I keep repeating this point: Because she was bound by marriage1, marriage2 is objectively impossible until M1 is somehow dissolved. Marriage 1 enjoys the favor of the law. Marriage 2 does not, specifically because of M1 (at least not until M1 has been somehow dissolved). And keep in mind that once PP was granted, marriage1 was in fact dissolved, but this did not happen until after marriage2 was contracted under the laws of the state (not Church).

Q4: it can impede the licit celebration of baptism, but does not affect validity. The baptism itself is still valid.

Any promise of celibacy was never mentioned by the person describing this real-life scenario.

There was no marriage performed by any Catholic cleric. That might be a point you’re missing. That’s why I asked about your use of “celebrant” with regard to marriage 2.

We’re not so much second guessing the priest, as we are trying to understand what is happening.

Sorry to be so uninformed, but what is the Pauline Privilege?

If two unbaptised persons are married (in a civil or other non-Catholic ceremony) and one converts after the marriage, and they have been seperated by a civil divorce, and the non-Catholic party has no intention of being baptised, then the marriage (already dissolved in civil law) can be declared dissolved by the bishop if the now-Catholic party makes such a request. This allows the now-Catholic party to enter into a new, sacramental marriage. It’s not an annulment because it isn’t a statement that the marriage never existed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit