Conversion, civil marriage, communion


I am a protestant married to a catholic. We are civilliy married since 25 years.
I have been following conversion instructions since last summer and I am about to convert to catholicism this spring, but I have not been aware of the problem with the civil marriage until now.

I would like us to to get married in the catholic church, but sadly my wife now considers herself a lapsed catholic. I believe we both want to remain faithful to each other till death do us part, but my wife does not want to make that promise in church. So for the moment a church marriage is not possible.

Does anyone see a way forward for me to join the mother church and maybe even receive communion?

In principle our marriage could be annulled, but that would be tragic for all of us.

If she will not give new consent, then it may be possible for you to receive a retroactive convalidation (radical sanation), which utilizes the prior consent with a dispensation from the canonical form of marriage. The main issue to resolve is:

  1. If there were any prior marriages for either of you, are you both free to marry now?
  2. Does proper consent still exist (which is presumed without proof)?
  3. Do you both intend to continue in conjugal life?

welcome home.

perhaps you can talk to a priest about it. i’m sure they are more knowledgable about these procedures than the rest of us

  1. No prior marriages
  2. I think so (a little unsure about what constitutes “proper consent”)
  3. Yes

She doesn’t want to promise to remain faithful til death? Or she doesn’t want to promise in a church?

If the first, then you have some serious issues that need a good counselor. I’m hoping it is the second. If so, I would approach her asking her if she could do so for you, out of respect and love for you.

Proper consent would be lacking with any of the following:

An intention against children (prolis), i.e., withholding the right to sexual acts open to the begetting of children and/or withholding the right to the education of offspring not only academically but also religiously.
An intention against fidelity, or exclusivity (fidei), i.e.,withholding of the right to fidelity by not recognizing that fidelity is essential to marriage and by not intending to keep the vow of fidelity.
An intention against the permanence (sacramenti) of marriage, i.e.,withholding the right to perpetuity; that is, entering the marriage with the idea that one had the right to divorce and remarry.
An intention against the good of the spouse (coniugum), i.e.,not being mutually giving and accepting of one another.

She saw other marriages gone very very bad,bitter and destructive, where they’d stay together because of the vow, or the fear of scandal. I believe she wants to remain faithful, but not if our marriage would turn out like those. She would feel trapped by her promise and she feels emotionally blackmailed that my conversion and eucharistic participation would depend on her personal choice.

I had and I have proper consent then. We have 4 children, 1 gravely handicapped boy, 2 catholic girls and a protestant boy (all adult). We both intend lifelong fidelity and permanence, though my wife has a reservation as mentioned in the previous reply. We intend coniugum as I see it.

If she does not intend the marriage to be lifelong and exclusive, and you are certain of it, and it is provable, then the marriage could not be truthfully convalidated.

The retroactive convalidation can be granted by meeting with a priest and supplying the answers to various questions, even without the participation or your wife. Due to needing various forms witnessed, it may take six months.

So I cannot convert unless she overcomes her fear of us turning into monsters? She does intend lifelong, exclusive marriage, but she cannot make herself promise it irrevocably in church.

Is it really true, that I cannot convert, unless she changes her mind?

Make an appointment with your pastor or priest guiding your RCIA program. You should be able to resolve this with radical sanation based upon the above.

It sounds like she does not intend it if she would not promise it. If she does intend it would that be provable? There are affidavits required when getting married, could the witnesses attest to her intentions, or has she spoken out against some part of what is required? (See red below.) She would not have to fill out and sign the paperwork herself.

I can tell you what happens from my knowledge of the process of radial sanation. First, this may not be exactly how it is administered in every diocese. The process is:The priest, deacon, or other pastoral minister assists the couple (on one of them) in completing the Petition for Radical Sanation, gathering the related documents, and sending them to the Office for the Tribunal.

  1. Petition for Radical Sanation of a Merely Civil Marriage
  2. Civil marriage license
  3. Usual prenuptial investigation forms (completed as throughly as possible if one party refuses to cooperate), together with the usual dispensation/permission petition forms
  4. Baptismal certificate(s) of the Catholic(s)
  5. Any other appropriate documents (e.g., declarations of nullity, decrees of dissolution, death certificates, etc.)

When the Office for the Tribunal receives these documents (completed appropriately), they are forwarded to the diocesan bishop (or, if necessary, to the Apostolic See). A document attesting to the favor granted is sent to the couple.

Prenuptial investigation forms include the freedom to marry affadavit with these questions (to be filled out - with witness signature - by various people that knew both of you):

Name of 􀀀 Bride or 􀀀 Groom: _______________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Do you agree to answer the following questions truthfully insofar as you are aware?
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No
    How are you related to this person? __________________________________ Year you met this person: __________________________
    (father, mother, brother, sister, friend, etc.)

  2. Does this person intend in this marriage:
    a) To give sacrificially of self for the total well being of each other and the marital partnership? (c. 1055, §1)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No*
    b) To accept children lovingly from God and see to their upbringing? (c. 1055, §1)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No*
    c) To make an unconditional, permanent commitment, lasting until the death of his/her spouse? (cc. 1056; 1102, §1)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No*
    d) To be faithful to his/her spouse? (c. 1056)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No*

  3. Was this person ever baptized? (c. 1086)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No 􀀀 Uncertain If yes, which denomination? ____________________________________________________________

  4. Has this person ever been married at any time in his/her life by a priest, deacon, minister, rabbi, civil official, common law, etc.? (c. 1085)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No If yes, how many times? ______________________________
    List the full name(s) of previous spouse(s): _________________________________________________________________________________
    How did the marriage(s) end? 􀀀 Divorce 􀀀 Death of spouse 􀀀 Catholic annulment 􀀀 Other: ________________________
    If married previously, is this person meeting his/her moral/civil responsibilities to the former spouse(s) and any child/children? (c. 1071, §1, 3º)
    􀀀 Yes 􀀀 No*

  5. Is this person related to his/her intended spouse by blood, marriage or legal adoption? (cc. 1091-1092; 1094)
    􀀀 Yes* 􀀀 No

  6. Has this person been ordained a Catholic priest/deacon or been in a Catholic religious community? (cc. 1087-1088)
    􀀀 Yes* 􀀀 No

  7. Is any person or circumstance forcing or putting pressure upon the bride/groom to marry? (cc. 1057; 1103)
    􀀀 Yes* 􀀀 No

  8. Does this person have or has ever had any physical, mental or emotional, alcohol and/or drug related difficulties? (cc. 1057; 1084; 1095)
    􀀀 Yes* 􀀀 No

  9. Do the parents (guardians) of the bride/groom have any reservations about this marriage?
    􀀀 Yes* 􀀀 No

Explain any previous response that included an asterisk ().
If you know any reason(s) why this marriage should not occur or information you believe should be made known about this proposed union, explain:

Thanks to all who spent their time kindly answering my questions. I have but a few more. If a radical sanation cannot obtain, what are my possibilities?

Could I still convert by the sacrament of confirmation?
Would I be unable to receive any of the sacraments?
Would I be required to leave my wife or stop making love with her?

From The Apostolic Exhortation* Familiaris Consortio* – issued by Pope John Paul II on 22 November 1981:c) Catholics in Civil Marriages

  1. There are increasing cases of Catholics who for ideological or practical reasons, prefer to contract a merely civil marriage, and who reject or at least defer religious marriage. Their situation cannot of course be likened to that of people simply living together without any bond at all, because in the present case there is at least a certain commitment to a properly-defined and probably stable state of life, even though the possibility of a future divorce is often present in the minds of those entering a civil marriage. By seeking public recognition of their bond on the part of the State, such couples show that they are ready to accept not only its advantages but also its obligations. Nevertheless, not even this situation is acceptable to the Church.

The aim of pastoral action will be to make these people understand the need for consistency between their choice of life and the faith that they profess, and to try to do everything possible to induce them to regularize their situation in the light of Christian principle. While treating them with great charity and bringing them into the life of the respective communities, the pastors of the Church will regrettably not be able to admit them to the sacraments.

Thanks for the text and link, which I have read. I do not wish to nit-pick, but it seems to address my wife’s situation rather than mine. I am not the catholic part yet, and I am already committed to honor the catholic marriage obligations. As I cannot marry her unilaterally in church, what is then required of me? If, hypothetically, I left her and lived in celibacy henceforth, would I then be admittable to the church and its sacraments?

In order to enter the Catholic Church you need to be able to receive the sacraments. Since you would not, entry would be prohibited. That said, you should speak to your pastor about this.

Also about the celibacy issue. I believe that if you confessed your “marriage” (confession for your RCIA group should happen a little before entering the Church) and you lived a chaste life then, you would be able to receive the sacraments. But ask your pastor. Make sure you have told him clearly what you ask. Asking a huge amount of questions is just likely to confuse him and you.

Because you live together as husband and wife, in a civil marriage contracted without the mutual intention of lifelong exclusivity, and are both baptized Christians, it provides scandal to any Christian that knows of it (and to your children), and also for any Catholics that know that it did not have required form. Neither of you would be able to live as husband and wife and receive the sacraments in the Catholic church. If you did not live as husband and wife with her, and lived separately, then you would be able to receive the sacraments, if you become Catholic, and she could, once again. (Of course with proper contrition.)

I wish to thank Vico and all the other contributers to this thread for kindly taking their time to illuminate me. I have contact with my (hopefully) coming parish priest, he is in the committee dealing with marriage/divorce affairs and I am taking an appointment in the weeks to come.

I purposely wanted a place to vent my many questions and insecurity as a preparation for my meeting(s) so as to not confuse him and me unnecessarily (I tend to do that as you can imagine)

Please believe that I did not intend any scandal and that I wholly wish to rectify the situation for better of all and the glory of God. My family in law is very conservative and it was for them already a scandal that she fled to another country and got married civilly. Because of the health problems of some of our 4 children, she never worked and has no income herself. Two of our children are very vulnerable and are still living at home, causing lots of work and worries. Another one is now in full time care. She has had long and deep depressions. My income is stable but far from making us at ease even now - I would have real trouble affording two households.

How could she ever be free from “pressure from circumstances” to marry me? If we lived separately, her family would ask why and they would not understand her refusal to marry me, further complicating her situation.

So my last request is if you could mention us in prayer. It doesn’t look easy from my point of view, but I know that our Lord loves us and works for us in ways we can’t imagine. Perhaps He’d even call her back to faith!

I pray for a resolution.

You asked “How could she ever be free from “pressure from circumstances” to marry me?”

The canon law, shown below, indicates force or grave fear from which the person has no escape. Canon 1103 concerns only those influences which are **external, **for example, resulting from threats or intimidation. This does not seem to be the situation you describe. Are you saying she has grave fear, from which she has no escape, about marrying you?CIC
Canon 1103

A marriage is invalid which was entered into by reason of force or of grave fear imposed from outside, even if not purposely, from which the person has no escape other than by choosing marriage.

Re:Are you saying she has grave fear, from which she has no escape, about marrying you?

What I meant to ask was: Are you saying she has grave fear, from which she has no escape, that she must marry you? (Rather than fear that she **must not **marry you.)

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