Hello all,

My years in a heathen wilderness are beginning to hit home! I naturally didn’t get married in a church, preferring a simple civil ceremony.

Since I have rediscovered my faith again, I have been reading about the Catholic Church to enable me to better understand the religion of my youth.

I have however, stumbled on something today that I was unaware of, and which is quite unsettling. I was under the impression that I would have to get my marriage ‘blessed’ before God, but didn’t know that my marriage to date is not recognised by my Church!

Though Convalidation that does not represent too much of a problem - other than getting a copy of my baptism from my original country of residence. But it has dawned on me that my son - in the eyes of the Church - is a bastard, born outside the Sacrament of Matrimony.

After Convalidation, what is the Church view of him? I want him to be baptised (he is four years old), but that will need some further discussions with my non-Catholic wife! However, regardless of Baptism, is he destined to be regarded as a child born out of wedlock for the rest of his natural???

he would be legitimized (thta was writtten on the decree form the Bishop), but not Catholic. He would have to be baptized and go through RCIA, the sacraments, etc. I had my marriage convalidated a few years back when I returned to the faith.

Good luck & may God Bless you.

As far as I know, the Church recognizes children born in a civil marriage as legitimate. Even if your marriage is not valid in the eyes of the Church, your child is not considered illegitimate. From the code of Canon Law:

Can. 1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate.


Putative means that the marriage was entered in good faith and believed by at least one of the parties to be valid. For a full definition as it applies to Catholic marriages, see here.

So no, your children are not illegitimate in the eyes of the Church. :slight_smile: Hope this helps!

Thanks for the answers - I see perhaps I’ve painted a rather dark picture of his legitimacy. If it is possible, then I am happy!

But I’m realising that this will not be easy - purely from a point of logistics! You see, I live in rural northern Sweden (although we are an English family). There is no Catholic Church or Priest within a few hours of car travel.

I have found out that one Sunday in every month, there is a Catholic Mass in one of the churches in town. Unfortunately this is in Swedish (I am still learning the language), but that is a problem I’ll have to live with. I hope I can meet with the Priest and talk over some of my concerns with him (like that I want Convalidation to enable me to partake in the Eucharist again, Confession, the legitimacy issue, Baptism of my boy, etc).

The long-term problem is the lack of a Catholic education for my boy, or feeling like a member of a ‘living’ Parish. It is largely atheist or agnostic here, although there are strong communities of Lutheran, Pentecostal and Philadelphian worshippers hereabouts. Apparently the Catholic Mass once a month is low in numbers - simply because there are a lack of Catholics here!

Hello ThomasDoubter,

When you are married in the Church, that act will “legitimize” your son (see the Code of Canon Law, canon 1139). There are no negative consequences to being “illigitimate.” So, there really is nothing to worry about in that regard. The more pressing issue is you being able to “regularize” your marital status.

A technical point is that you are currently not in what is called a putative marriage. So, c. 1137 would not apply.

Regarding logistics, that is a hurdle. I hope and pray it is not too difficult to surmount. It seems to me that much of the basic preparation/discussion could be handled over the phone. But, I am not sure the local priest would be agreeable to that arrangement. You’d just have to talk to him, as other posts have said.

Thanks for your time.

My suggestion would be for you to contact the bishopric in your area. Since the priest is travelling and trying to cover a large area if might be difficult to “pin him down” so to speak for consultation without an advance appointment. By contacting the Bshopric with these questions they will be able to, 1) Provide you with accurate information on returning to the Church and 2) Put you in contact with the priest so that you can set up a time and place to meet, or perhaps communicate by e-mail or whatever.

As for getting your child educated in the faith, there is a ton of material on the internet, books etc that you can access. The strongest teaching he iwll need is going to be your example. Is your wife also Catholic and/or is she with you on this journey back into the Church?
Living away from other catholics certainly can be an issue, but know that you are a member of a worldwide, universal community. Create within your home a “sanctuary” of Catholic faith. You may also be able to engender relationships with other catholics in your extended parish via e-mail or even a “parish website”…

Be encouraged my friend.


Hello Thomas. If the Priest in your area does not speak English, you may want to call your Consulate, and see if they can help you locate an English speaking Catholic church which you can then call for guidance. I will keep you and your lovely family in my prayers.

Heavenly Father, thank You for helping Thomas and his lovely family as they seek You and Your word. Thank You Father for smoothing over the road for them. Amen.

The boy is 4 years old so as far as the Church is concerned he is an infant. He would simply be baptized as though he were a baby. Only if he remains unbaptized until he reaches the age of reason (around 7) would RCIA come into play.

Thanks to one and all!

I will contact the Parish Priest and see if he can allot me any time to meet and talk, when he is next in town. If not, then I think a call to the Diocese will be next, to see if they can help me. I mean, it’s a remote part of the world but where there is a will, there’s a way!

My wife is non-Catholic, but in our discussions on faith she would not be averse to our son being baptised a Catholic. It’s surprising though, how many unfounded prejudices surfaced against the Catholic Church. Having researched and hopefully answered certain doubts my wife had regarding Catholicism (with the help of this forum, I may add!), she seems more hospitable to the idea. The fear of ‘Papists’ that was instilled in the British hundreds of years ago is alive and kicking, I’ve found!

One question to Dans0622 though - why would my current marital status not be described as putative? Does that apply to any marriage ceremony without religious significance? Is a putative marriage one say, that happened in a Church of England place of worship?

What is the impact of it not being putative? I assume a Convalidation will still suffice for the Church to recognise my marriage?

Hello again,

When a Catholic attempts a “civil marriage” without any regard for canonical form (i.e., does not marry “in the Church”), the Church views such a union as “inexistent” from a canonical perspective. Such a union does not even reach the level of an “invalid marriage.” Now, this is all strictly canonical. Practically, these distinctions tend to lose value.

There is no impact because, yes, convalidation will take care of the situation as it would with the case of any marriage that is not valid in the perspective of the Church.

Thanks again for your time and I hope and pray you can quickly resolve this “situation.”


In the context of Canon Law, a putative marriage is one which is **presumed to be valid **by the Catholic Church.

The marriage of a Catholic who marries outside the Church without a dispensation, whether that marriage takes place in front of a judge or in front of a minister of another religion, is not presumed valid.

Yes, a convalidation (which is really a marriage in the Church) will make everything OK.

As has already been pointed out to you, in the eyes of the Church, your son already IS legitimate. There is nothing to discuss, he is just as legitimate as he would be if you had a Catholic marriage.

The Church does NOT pick on the innocent. Your child is innocent of your sin. He will not be punished, ostracised or in any way discriminated against because of the fact that his Roman Catholic father chose to leave the church and marry outside of it.

**My parish priest told me before my marriage was convalidated that our children were NOT nor were they EVER considered bastards…our marriage was recognized as valid…that said…I did go through a lengthy process of having my first marriage declared invalid by the Marriage Tribunal.

But your children are NOT bastards in no way shape or form.


This may not be as nice as having the Sacraments in an English speaking country but remember when receiving Sacraments the important things are the matter and the form. Possibly if there is no English speaking priest - you can get an interpreter or an English speaker who would stand in as a God parent who would be willing to interpret. Call the diocese about this as they may be able to help you. Regardless of the language the Sacraments will be valid.

also you can catechize your own son - as long as you are willing to learn at the same time - not as easy but it can be done.

God bless you and welcome home.

Pax et bonum.

Still praying for Thomas and his family.

Can. 1061 §3. An invalid marriage is called putative if at least one party celebrated it in good faith, until both parties become certain of its nullity.

So I guess it boils down to what “good faith” means.


This is a trivial footnote to my original query, but quite an eye-opener on the relationship between Catholicism and my adopted country!

I have come to write an email to my Diocese as a starting point, and just found out that the Diocese in question consists of forty-two parishes and covers the whole of Sweden! Only two per cent of the population is Catholic. The leader of the Church here - the Bishop of Stockholm - is actually the first ethnically Swedish Bishop since the Reformation!

Not quite the set-up I was expecting… :eek:

…and the Catholic Mass is only available Sept-May. I can’t remember the Church in England having a ‘shutdown’ period. It’s normal for business here, but the Church? :confused:

Oh wow, that is indeed a sad state of affairs! I thought Holland was bad (only 40% of Dutch people claim to be religious, Catholics’ Sunday Mass attendance is I believe around 6%, and Confession is unheard of except by a select few traditional Catholics) but this makes my homeland look pretty good. :frowning:

With regards to the term “putative”: from your original post I understood that you did not realize at the time that your civil marriage would be invalid in the Church’s eyes. If that was the case, that constitutes “in good faith” and that means that yes, your marriage is a putative marriage.
If you did realize that you needed a dispensation from your Bishop, then the term “putative” does not apply.

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