Does this marriage need to be convalidated?


Does this marriage need to be convalidated?

The situation:

  • Husband: raised protestant, devout evangelical family

  • Wife: cradle Catholic, but was never confirmed due to very difficult childhood

  • Couple joined protestant/evangelical church while dating, were active members of protestant/evangelical church, were married in protestant/evangelical church.

  • First marriage for both, no children prior to marriage, etc.

  • After birth of child, couple were motivated to re-evaluated faith, make it as strong as possible for family and child’s future. Wife felt a desire to return to Catholic Church. Husband became disillusioned with Protestant/evangelical church. Husband really liked Catholic approach to Christianity (everything from sacraments, to Papal encyclicals, to Knights of Columbus).

  • Couple attended RCIA together. Couple became confirmed Catholics at end of RCIA (wife felt that she had “successfully returned” to Church; husband felt like he was a “new Catholic” and that Catholicism is the best, most pure form of Christianity.

  • Catholic Church’s paster never mentioned being “Re-married” to one another or having marriage “convalidated.” Wife now feels a need to convalidate marriage, and husband had never heard of this concept (after several years of marriage, no less).

*Husband objects to convalidation. He feels that several years of marriage do not need to be “validated” by anyone; he feels that it is ridiculous to say that couple have been “living in sin” because marriage wasn’t Catholic; he feels that Church/wife are basically saying that their children are “illegitimate”. He feels that if this were a civil union (no church marriage), that wife might have a point. But because it was a Christian (albeit non-Catholic Christian marriage), it is valid (ie- approved by God).

  • Husband wonders – if the Church requires divorced couples seeking 2nd marriages to have past marriages annulled (ie- their marriages exist and must be undone), then why doesn’t the Church feel that his one/only/Christian marriage “exists”??

*** BOTTOM LINE: This was not a civil union; It was a non-Catholic Christian marriage; does it need to be convalidated?


The person coordinating RCIA and the pastor receiving Catholics into the Church failed in their obligation of due diligence, and in their obligation to assist this couple.

The wife has always been subject to the laws of the Church. The wife failed to be married in the Catholic form or receive a dispensation from form. Therefore, the marriage is invalid.

By making a profession of faith and asking for reception into the Church and confirmation, the husband has voluntarily placed himself under the authority of the Church. So, at this point, the husband needs to get over it.

Regarding convalidation, YES this is necessary. The couple is absolutely not in a valid marriage right now. Convalidation can occur in two ways: simple convalidation in which the couple exchanges vows in the Catholic form or radical sanation which requires no new exchange of consent.

The wife should approach her pastor about the option of radical sanation if the husband remains opposed to exchange of consent in Catholic form. He entered the marriage in good faith, but that does not change the fact that his wife was bound by Catholic law as a baptized Catholic.



If husband obtains a divorce, and wife remarries, does wife need to have the first “invalid” marriage annulled before she can remarry? If so, why? In other words – why does the Church require the first marriage to be annulled before they’ll allow a second marriage to take place, even though the Church believes that the first marriage never really “existed”?

It seems that the Church is being very inconsistent in this case. The couple’s current marriage doesn’t really exist, unless a spouse wants to divorce/remarry. The divorce somehow seems to make the marriage suddenly exist/become valid – at that point, it exists for the sole purpose of being annulled. … How can the Church require something to be annulled that never really existed (ie- was not convalidated).

Also- are you saying that this couple’s children are illegitimate? If so, are all children born into non-Catholic marriages or into civil unions considered to be illegitimate?


The children are not illegitimate.

Possibly it will help if you look at convalidation as getting your marriage blessed, or even as renewing your marriage vows. It doesn’t need to cost any money or even consist of a ceremony. It can be done privately or at a regularly scheduled Mass.

I don’t think many of us (meaning Catholics) view your marriage as any less than ours. But I can tell you that my marriage became much stronger after we convalidated. My husband and I married at the courthouse and later at a Saturday evening Mass. I was skeptical about the necessity myself. We were happily married with kidsand saw no point in changing. It ended up meaning so much to us both.


Assuming you are talking about the original couple (wife, cradle Catholic - husband, Protestant), the Church would not require an annulment if they were to divorce and the wife to remarry. Their marriage is considered invalid due to lack of form. There is a process to formalize that in the Church’s records in order to confirm that the wife if free to marry “again”. But it’s not an annulment. (it’s confusing since in many locations, the paperwork process starts out the same way)


Husband felt that Catholicism is the best, most pure form of Christianity.

If he truly believes this then why does he not accept their teachings on marriage?


We were in same situation, except I was the former protestant and husband Catholic. At the time of our marriage my husband was not a practicing Catholic and we were married in my home church (Methodist). Not until 34 years later did we have a change in heart as to the Catholic church. Fortunately, my husband contacted our priest to say he wanted to have our marriage acknowledged by the Church and so he went to reconciliation, our vows were convalidated in the presence of our grown children, and I was received in full communion with the church (after RCIA). We will always consider our marriage vows said (36 yrs. ago) quite valid in the eyes of God (just not proper Catholic form) so that’s when we celebrate our anniversary. However, I want my husband in heaven so I will do whatever it takes to get him there!


For one thing, it appears that husband may not understand exactly what an annulment is. An annulment, more properly called a declaration of nullity, does not invalidate, cancel, or dissolve an existing marriage. Rather it means that after examining the circumstances, the Church declares that for some particular reason(s) a valid sacramental marriage never existed in the first place.

For a Catholic, cradle or otherwise, confirmed or unconfirmed, practicing or non-practicing, to be validly married in the eyes of the Church, the marriage must take place according to certain requirements, one of which is that it must be performed by a Catholic priest or deacon or performed by a minister with the specific permission of the Church. The OP indicates that this requirement was not met. That normally is a simple thing to establish and a simple thing to deal with.


Yes, it needs to be convalidated. The wife was baptized Catholic and as such she was required to marry in the Catholic Church or to get special permission to marry in another church (which the couple didn’t get).

I do not think the children are “illegitimate”… sometimes people believe the marriage was valid at the time of the ceremony and they didn’t know better. The wife was never Confirmed as a child and there is a good chance that she didn’t know her faith very well, considering the state of catechesis over the past few generations. The children of such marriages are not believed to be illegitimate. Plus, children can be legitimized if the parents marry later on. So this shouldn’t be an issue.


re: "The person coordinating RCIA and the pastor receiving Catholics into the Church failed in their obligation of due diligence, and in their obligation to assist this couple … The wife has always been subject to the laws of the Church. The wife failed to be married in the Catholic form or receive a dispensation from form. Therefore, the marriage is invalid …By making a profession of faith and asking for reception into the Church and confirmation, the husband has voluntarily placed himself under the authority of the Church. So, at this point, the husband needs to get over it … "

  • So you would have us believe that the wife is not able to exercise free will, because she was baptized at birth, but the husband is able to exercise free will (ie- evangelicals make a decision to be baptized later in life)?

  • Can the husband seek to have his confirmation “annulled”, because it was done incorrectly? That would seem to be consistent with your logic.


The wife was raised a Catholic so is under the rules of the Catholic Church. She has free will to do whatever she wants, she just has to know that there are consequence to her decisions and the consequence of not following the rules of the Church regarding marriage is being in an invalid marriage.

Civilly, the children are legitimate but they are illegitimate as far as the Church is concerned, though that has no impact on their lives whatsoever. They become legitimate as soon as the marriage is convalidated.

There is always the remote possibility that the Pastor where they did RCIA arranged for a radical sanation. They should check it out.

The husband’s Confirmation cannot be annulled. It wasn’t ‘done incorrectly’ as long as the minister used the approved rite to confer Confirmation.


Of course you both have free will and with it you are able to choose whether or not to accept and follow what the Church teaches.

A baptised non-Catholic becomes a Catholic by being “received” into the Church (the actual ceremony is called the Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians Into the Catholic Church).

Confirmation is something entirely different. Confirmation is a sacrament which completes one’s initiation which occurred at baptism. Most but not all Catholics receive the sacrament of Confirmation, some as infants (in the Eastern Catholic Churches), most while in grade school or high school, and for those who are “received” into the Church as part of the Rite of Reception. (As an aside, I have noticed that many here on CAF do refer to their reception as their “confirmation.”)

My point in all this is that if in some very rare instance the rite of confirmation was done incorrectly then one possibly did not receive the sacrament of Confirmation. I suppose you could ask for an official ruling which would have the same effect as a marriage annulment, namely, a declaration of the Church that you have not received the sacrament of Confirmation and are indeed free to do so in the future. Other than that I don’t see much value in it other than to carry on a contentious discussion.


Legitimacy is a civil concept only. The Church does NOT consider children born in a putative marriage (an invalid marriage that was entered into in good faith by at least one party) to be illegitimate.


JustinM, the marriage is invalid due to lack of form; namely, the wife, as a baptized Catholic, was required to have been married in the Church or to have received a dispensation to be married in her husband’s Protestant Church. Had this happened, the marriage would have been valid from the beginning.

If they were to divorce and the wife wanted to marry someone else, she would need to establish that she is free to marry by submitting lack of form paper work. Since she is not currently married, her freedom to marry would soon be established and she could be married in the Church.

The children were born in a putative marriage, so they are legitimate.


This is not a putative marriage. For a Catholic to be in a putative marriage it has to be celebrated in the Catholic Church or with a dispensation.


This is not a putative marriage. That was clarified in the 40s with a dubium.


I didn’t realize lack of form marriages were not putative. What’s a dubium?

Can you clarify what you mean when you say the Church considers the children illegitimate? I thought legitimate = legal and perhaps the term putative isn’t correct, but if a civil marriage existed, I thought the Church considered the children to be legitimate.


A dubium is a question that is asked to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which later receives a response.

The canons on legitimacy are clear that children are legitimate if they are the product of a valid or putative marriage. The canon defining ‘putative’ marriage has not changed between the 1917 code and the 1983 code of canon law.

In the 40s the question was posed as to whether or not a ‘putative marriage’ existed when the Catholic had not been married in the Church. The reply was ‘No’. So there is no presumption of validity when a Catholic marries outside the Church without a dispensation.


No. There is no presumption of validity in a marriage that lacks Catholic form. In the US and Canada, the wife would submit the marriage license, her baptismal certificate, and the divorce decree for a paperwork process called “lack of form” to the tribunal. In other countries, like Europe, there is not even that paperwork process as the pastor has authority to handle it during marriage preparation.

The Church is not inconsistent, you have made some assumptions that are not accurate.

This is not the case at all.

Civilly, no. According to canon law, it seems not.

However, illegitimate children are legitimated by the act of their parents validly marrying. And, legitimacy no longer has any impact in ecclesial law, such as in days past when it barred from certain offices in the Church.

No. You have made a leap to assuming that no civil or non-Catholic marriages are valid, which the Church does not teach at all.

The only reason this particular marriage is invalid is because the wife was baptized a Catholic and therefore remained bound by Catholic law on marriage. Two people who are and never have been Catholic, who are otherwise free to marry, validly contract marriage when they do so civilly.


We all have free will. We us it for good or for evil. We all have obligations. So, I am not sure what your point is.

If it was indeed done incorrectly-- which would mean by someone who did not have authority to confirm-- then yes, it could be declared invalid as could an ordination, a baptism, etc.

I am unsure what your point is. You seem to have some sort of major chip on your shoulder that I fail to understand.

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