Do I have a valid Marriage?


I have been married for almost 6 years. When we got married, I was attending tje independent traditional chapel that my parents attended, where the priest didn’t have faculties with the local bishop. I was not very well informed about the controversies regarding validity of the sacraments except that some said that Confession and Marriage were invalid and they were “wrong”.
Fast forward to current day, we attend the indult mass in our city. Recently our pastor found out that we were married by a priest who didn’t have faculties with the bishop and suggested that our marriage was invalid. This was, obviously, extremely upsetting.
In school, I was always taught that a valid sacrament of marriage consists of two baptized Christians, and the exchange of vows. As long as proper consent is given and there are no impediments, the sacrament is valid, and the people confer it on each other. The church in a sense “witnesses” and blesses it, and it is a sin to knowingly be married outside of that blessing, but it doesn’t necessarily invalidate the marriage.
However, according to Canon Law, if the priest witnessing the marriage does not have faculties, the marriage is invalid. (Very first sentence.)

Can anyone explain to me how the faculties of the priest effect the Form of the sacrament?
I was under the impression the the couple were the Matter and the vows were the Form.


What is “extremely upsetting” about it? :confused:

I would really suggest you discuss this with your priest and ask him to explain. He can give you specific details for your case as well, but I’d think you will most likely just need a convalidation (a “blessing” of your marriage).

As for your question, perhaps this will help:


This posting from “Fr. Z” may help explain:

An excerpt:

The priest or deacon or bishop who officiates at a Catholic wedding is there, necessarily, as the Church’s official witness to ensure that the proper form is followed, etc. The Church tightly restricts the ability of clergy to officiate at weddings. Priests who have the ordinary faculty, the jurisdiction, the permission from the Church, to witness marriages, are limited to doing so within the territory of the parish where they are the pastor, the parish priest. If they go outside their territory, they need the express permission of the pastor in whose territory they are witnessing a marriage. If they don’t have that permission, the marriage would be invalid because it would lack one of the essential requirements for marriage. The pastor of the parish (or the bishop, the vicar general, or an episcopal vicar with jurisdiction in the area) can delegate to another priest the jurisdiction, the faculty, to witness the marriage. He should do so in writing. If the delegation cannot be proven, the marriage might well be invalid!

Let’s track back to the question.

The priests of the Society of Pius X, may be holy, generous, stalwart, good men and priests. I have met some. I have been favorably impressed. However, they lack the jurisdiction to hear confessions or officiate at weddings. No proper authority has given them the faculties to act for the Church. When it comes to certain sacraments that are also juridic acts, that makes all the difference.


Please call and make an appointment with that priest (or any priest) to discuss your marriage validity concerns. He will be in the best position to help you. If it turns out that your marriage is invalid, it can be easily fixed.


Catholics are bound to follow “canonical form” when they marry, to not do so invalidates the marriage. If you, or your spouse, were baptized Catholic when your got married, and you married outside the Church without permission from your ordinary (your local bishop), your marriage is likely invalid. The obligation to follow “canonical form” isn’t a part of the natural law, it is a law the Church chooses currently to place on her children. She has a right to do so, just the government has a right to regulate speed limits on its roads. There has been some talk of this requirement being dropped in the current debates surrounding the Synod on the Family (and I hope it is). My sympathies are with you. My own marriage was invalid for the first 5 yrs because I failed to follow “canonical form” (I was baptized Catholic, but wasn’t raised in the Faith and didn’t believe when I was married). It stinks and is very upsetting, but luckily it is easily fixed. A good priest will take you through a short “convalidation” ceremony which will set you up right in the eyes of God.


as long as there are no impediments…

lack of form or defect of form are impediments to valid marriage. the chucrh has the authority to estabish form and require it of her members.

what you were taught in school is true as far as it goes, but remember religious education in school is going to give you the basics not all the advanced canon law and certainly not one-off scenarios such as SSPX. the expectation is that a Catholic will approach their pastor when they desire the sacrament of marriage. the pastor then guides the couple.

to answer your question, it is likely your marriage is invalid. You don’t say whether you were baptized into the Catholic Church or if you were baptized by the SSPX or elsewherenor do you comment on the baptismal status of your spouse. that could be a factor in whether or not you contracted marriage validly, but it is something a competent canonist will have to investigate.

Please make an appointment to sit down with your pastor and get it sorted out.


There are two forms: canonical and liturgical (celebration rite).

The canonical form must exist for validity. It is possible that the usual Catholic liturgical form will not be present because of a dispensation or because it is allowed by law (such as marriage before witnesses only Can. 1116).

The canonical form includes that the “The person who assists at a marriage is understood to be only that person who is present, asks for the manifestation of the consent of the contracting parties, and receives it in the name of the Church.” - Can. 1108 §2. Only those that have jurisdiction or that have been delegated “receives it in the name of the Church”.

You should be able to get a radical sanation from your proper ordinary to correct the lack of jurisdiction of the priest.


With your pastor of the parish where you are a resident or any pastor of the OF.


Maybe I should have clarified… The thing that’s “extremely upsetting” is the fact that my marriage of 6 years may not be valid. And yes I will obviously be discussing it further with our priest. I still feel the need to educate myself on the matter.


Thank you!!
Your explanation was very informative and helpful!!
I understand better now about the “form” part.


Actually none of this happened via SSPX.
The priest is one of the old priests who was ordained pre VII and never switched over to the new liturgy. He had faculties at one time, but when he moved cities the bishop refused him faculties and he continued to celebrate Mass.
Either way I believe the issue of faculties remains the same.
I was baptized in a diocesan parish church so no issues there.


We are both baptized Catholics in the Ordinary Rite, so no issues there, thankfully.

I feel like I was deceived, because when we talked to the priest about faculties he brushed it off and stated that he was acting under the faculties of his previous bishop, which… I now see was very misleading and just flat out wrong now that I understand what it actually means to have faculties.
However we believed him because he was the priest and seemed to give soundly Catholic answers to everything. My guess is he was very personally conflicted about his status and I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but he wasn’t honest.
We would have not been married by the SSPX or other groups like them, but we were led to believe that his situation was different.

I am very grateful to our parish priest for pointing out something we had no idea of, and I’m sure that receiving the canonical blessing can only be for the good.
I just really want to understand the specifics of it because it really seemed far fetched to me that two baptized Catholics with no hidden impediments, married in a church could have an invalid marriage… I guess it’s possible though.


*There is a possibility that the marriage is valid but was illicit.

New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law*, p. 193 has:39 Thus, if a priest that is not properly delegated assists at a wedding, the mere fact that he is a priest is not a sufficient reason for the Church to supply the faculty. There must be some degree of common error. In other words, there must be a congregation or at least a few witnesses who assume the priest is duly authorized, otherwise he would not be up there at the altar. Canonical form (cc. 1108-1118) is to be observed, but when the common good calls for it, the Church will supply the faculty.

That footnote is in the section on CIC:
**Can. 144 **
§1. In factual or legal common error and in positive and probable doubt of law or of fact, the Church supplies executive power of governance for both the external and internal forum. §2. The same norm is applied to the faculties mentioned in cann. 882, 883, 966, and 1111, §1.


Just let it be noted that only a canon lawyer/marriage tribunal is competent to rule specifically in the OP’s case, and not any opinion on this form, no matter how educated it is.

It’s just as likely that the marriage is completely invalid. None of us here are competent to determine if sufficient common error existed during the original ceremony.

That said, the OP has already mentioned that he/she has spoken with his/her pastor, who is an authority on the matter. He should help them iron this out.


Definitely a case that needs review of all facts and likely guidance from the diocese.


Therefore it is only a *possibility *as mentioned.


Just posted the clarification to ensure the OP does not get false hope.


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