Convalidation needed?

A convert-friend recently asked me this and I didn’t know how to reply: if a couple gets married and one spouse has an addiction, but years later that spouse gets over the addiction… was their marriage invalid and is it now in need of convalidation before a priest? Or does the grace of the sacrament just kick in once the addiction is gone?

There is probably not enough info in your question (or rather your friend’s) to answer it. Are either of the couple catholics at the time of the marriage? Were they married in the church? In any other church? Civilly?
Also (and forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted your question due to scant detail), but if you are asking whether the non-specificied addiction would cause one party to have not been in a state of grace at the time of the marriage then only that party’s priest can advise and only God can know. We understand that addiction and habit may lessen the gravity of sins but neither we, as random forum posters, nor you, can possibly answer the specific question around an actual case. I believe (and will happily stand corrected by any of our forum clergy) that the graces from a sacrament will flow once a person returns to a state of grace so, if the marriage was valid at the time it doesn’t need ‘making valid’ later but the party in question would do well to go to confession.

Re convalidation itself and when it is required:
or even the Wiki page is quite helpful.

If one of them is Catholic they should talk to a priest, because it is possible for them to get their marriage blessed/convalidated, which will impart the grace of that Sacrament to them. This will help to strengthen the bond of their marriage and keep them both on the path to Christ.

No, I don’t think that the question is about whether the spouse was “in a state of grace”. Rather, it would seem to be whether – due to the person’s substance abuse problem – they were able to give consent at the time of the wedding. (We’ll presume all else was in order, since @Jen7’s friend didn’t mention anything else that might be relevant. So, we’re presuming that the marriage had the proper form or the permission to marry outside of form, etc, etc.)

They should talk to their parish priest, and ask him to consult the folks who work in the marriage part of the canon law office, if necessary.

One would think that the priest or deacon celebrant would have been aware if Jen’s friend was incapacitated and unable to consent at the time of the wedding. Given that he allowed the wedding to happen, we might presume that the answer is that he thought consent was possible.

However, for the sake of the peace of mind of the couple, a meeting with their priest is a good idea.

(BTW – whether the other spouse knew about the addiction at the time of the wedding (and whether he would have deferred marriage if he knew) isn’t relevant unless they’re divorced and he’s looking for an annulment.)

There is the simple answer, and the more complex answer.

The simple answer: marriage enjoys the favor of law. They’re married. Therefore, the marriage is valid unless proven otherwise.

The more complex answer: an addiction could give rise to questions regarding valid consent between the couple. But much more context and detail would be needed. For example, was the person actually impaired during the ceremony itself? Addiction per se is not an impediment to valid marriage. A hidden addiction certainly could be. Impaired ability to give valid consent during the ceremony certainly could be.

If there is a true concern about the validity of the marriage on the part of the couple, or one of the parties, they can renew their consent privately.


1ke provided a good answer. I would just add that the “grace of the sacrament kicking in” is a totally separate issue from whether the marriage is valid.

If a Catholic in a state of mortal sin gets married in the Catholic church, then all that happens is the sacramental grace doesn’t flow to the couple. When the Catholic in mortal sin confesses and is absolved, then the “grace of the sacrament kicks in” and flows to the couple. There is no need for any sort of convalidation for the sacramental grace to flow. The marriage is valid and licit unless there’s some other issue apart from whether one or both spouses was in mortal sin at the time of the marriage; in this case, the other issue might possibly be the consent issues noted by 1ke.


As per my original response, until the OP explains their question in a bit more detail we can only speculate and so we are all responding to our interpretations until then…

This is correct!

To be honest, “state of grace” doesn’t enter into the question of a valid marriage. :man_shrugging:

Correct, as I just said also.

Furthermore 1ke’s post is correct regarding the possible consent issues.

Neither 1ke’s post, my post, or Gorgias’ post are “speculation” or “interpretation” as they are general responses based on Church teaching.

No one was impaired during the ceremony. It was a private/personal addiction that became known to her later and was then dealt with. I’d rather not give more details for their sake.

I can give an example from my own life, though: I was anorexic as a teen. That is most definitely an addiction to self-harm in the form of starvation - similar to cutting. I had been free from this issue for almost a decade before I got married… but let’s imagine I wasn’t. Obviously I wouldn’t have approached the altar intoxicated or high on drugs… I would have appeared perfectly self-possessed! Even my own parents didn’t know I was self-starving for years, after all. But in my private life I would have been in bondage to my unhealthy compulsion. Would it have invalidated my marriage? This experience of mine is what brought me to this board to ask the question for my friend… because I don’t readily know. I could see an addiction invalidating a marriage carte blanc. Addictions aren’t harmless things even if they’re hidden & you look happy and healthy from the outside. On the other hand, we all have issues that beset us with recurrent struggles & when the addiction is not so easy to “see” as alcohol abuse or drug use where the ill-effects are clear to an observer, the line seems harder to define. Is a habitual over-eater addicted? A habitual shop-aholic? A workaholic? Someone who pulls their hair out?

And lastly I’m asking y’all because this group thinks about things more deeply than the average bear. :slight_smile: I know my friend is seeking an answer but I myself am also seeking to understand this topic. It’s close to my heart due to my past.

Can you or they cite the church teaching? Not being oppositional - truly curious!

I know this to be true.

This begs the question, though… if the marriage COULD be proven invalid, IS it then invalid? Shouldn’t we all make sure our marriages COULDNT be proven invalid?!

I would greatly love to know where the Church says this or explains this matter.

As 1ke said, the issue is not that somebody had an addiction, it’s whether that addiction impaired the consent to the marriage.

Was the person who had the addiction able to freely consent to be married, or was their consent impaired because they were under the influence of some substance, or mentally unwell, or coerced because their addiction made them weak? If they didn’t freely consent, then the marriage may be invalid. However, just because a person has an addiction, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t freely consent to be married.

Was the person who didn’t have the addiction/ mental condition aware that their fiance(e) had an addiction/ mental condition? Did the person with the addiction/ mental condition know s/he had it before the marriage, and hide that fact from the other person? When I married my husband, to my knowledge he had no addictions or mental conditions. If indeed he had one, and knew he had one, and hid it from me, then that could have made our marriage invalid because I would not have consented to marry someone who had that particular addiction or condition. (I had no interest in marrying an addict and in the recent past I had ended a serious long-term relationship with an alcoholic and my husband-to-be knew that.)

I hope this is making it more clear.

Yes that helps a lot! I can see where it’s a case by case thing & there’s no blanket answer. It really depends on each couple and what they knew and found a “deal breaker.”

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While the general principles are always the same, as someone said marriages are always “presumed valid”. So even if my husband had an addiction and he hid it from me and I found out later on and was upset about it, if we decided to stay married and not seek an annulment, our marriage would continue to enjoy the presumption of validity. And we would not have to get a priest to convalidate it or anything. We would not even have to tell a priest or anyone else about it.



Your friend is married. There is nothing to indicate her marriage isn’t valid. She needs to quit dwelling on these thoughts.


See: canon law, list of impediments to valid marriage

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