Equal but not really


I will make this as short as possible.

My husband and I are married for 18years and have 6 children. He is a cradle Catholic but only for the big things (baptism, First Communion, etc.) I was baptized as a teenager and have always been active Christian, but protestant. Since we’ve been married, we’ve raised our kids as protestant Christian and have always had a God centered marriage and family.

This past fall, I listened to the call I’ve heard for years to come home, to the one true Church. My husband is thrilled and was surprised at how much he realized he missed it when we attended our first mass together. I’m in RCIA and continue to learn and grow in my faith. I don’t really struggle with the difference in doctrines because I never felt “right” in my protestant denominations. I’ve fully accepted the teachings of the Catholic Church and look forward to mass each week.

So where’s the problem, right? Well, my husband was married briefly over 20 years ago before we met (to a Catholic in a Catholic Church). The marriage was a disaster for many reasons. But the main issue was kids. She didn’t want any, couldn’t stand them actually. He made the choice to marry her rather than be alone so they both lied to the priest and said they were open to kids when they knew they weren’t. He had only been confirmed a month before in a super liberal parish, so he did not realize how big of a deal it really was to lie about it (beyond the obvious sin of lying. And to a priest :tsktsk:) Later, long after the divorce, he said he thought thought he could change her mind someday, though he knew that he was now lying to himself. She’s since been married and divorced at least once and has no children, not even step children. So he has applied for a decree of nullity, it’s been accepted, witnesses have sent in their statements, no idea if she has responded because our priest travels frequently and he’s the advocate, all communication goes through him.

I understand the process, am fine with allowing it to happen as it happens, etc. However, I am now aware, after 6 months of RCIA, that I am not allowed to be confirmed until if/when an affirmative decree of nullity is given. No confirmation also means I am forbidden communion, confession and Anointing of the sick (the last of which is a very urgent need right now). And we thought my husband was also forbidden. Until today when the other priest said that my husband can return to full communion by making a good confession and vowing to live chastely with me. We don’t have to separate because we have several young children and I don’t work because I’m in renal failure with a serious critical issue pending.

My question is : How is my husband allowed to return to full grace in the church and with God just by making a confession and a vow to live as brother and sister with me? But I, also a baptized Christian who has made her intentions regarding the Catholic Church very clear, not only forbidden any sacraments but in even being confirmed. All because of something that happened long ago when I didn’t even know the people involved, and I wasn’t even Catholic nor did I have any idea what the rules were when I married my husband. In my heart and mind, I was doing everything the right way according to my moral belief I had learned in my Christian life. We were chaste before marriage, didn’t live together until after our ceremony, we had children, didn’t abort or contracept, keep God first, etc. What am I not understanding? Why am I punished (for lack of a better word) when it’s not my former marriage being annulled. My sin was marriage to a person who the church says wasn’t eligible for marriage, I know that now, 18 years later. But why am I not also allowed to go to confession? Why can’t I agree to live chastely so I may be confirmed?

Did I answer the call to come home too early? My husband feels awful because he sees his mistake from long ago causing suffering for us both. Please be kind when responding, this is really, really upsetting, confusing and distressing to me, both spiritually and physically. I just don’t understand.


That is scandalous and ridiculous. Are you sure that this is really canon law and not just the messed-up way your parish is applying the rule? It seems to me that a lot of parishes don’t even consider the “living as brother and sister” possibility because they assume people won’t do it, so they just say “you must get an annulment.” Did you ask the priest (the one who said your husband could receive communion) if you could be confirmed, or are you just assuming this based on what you were told earlier?

I agree with Catholic principles on marriage and divorce, but the way those principles are applied is totally messed up, and your story is just the latest of many examples.



You have alot going on, I would go talk to a priest about your concerns. I dont know much about this but I am confused why you would have to be confirmed to go to confession and recieve the Eucharist. Maybe because RCIA wants you to do it all at once?

If you do have to wait due to the laws of the Church then I would joyfully be patient. It may not be easy but it will be worth it.


It is not the lack of Confirmation that is preventing her from reception of the Eucharist but reception into the Church. As a baptized non-Catholic in RCIA, three things typically happen at the Easter Vigil. Reception into the Church, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion. As a non-Catholic she is not eligible for the sacraments until reception into the Church and this will all happen in the same ceremony, so sometimes it is confusing about what precisely happens and what they mean.


I see, thanks for clearing that up. :slight_smile:


You might want to contact the diocese about it. You might get a more definitive answer to the question. If you are living chastely, you are not sinning, so it doesn’t seem to make sense that you could not enter the Church. But what do I know? :slight_smile: I’m not an expert. But if you called the diocese, and the information that you have been given is correct, they would probably be able to explain why it is, as well.

I’m not saying anything against your parish priest, just that you can’t expect a parish priest to be as much of an expert on unusual situations as someone in the diocesan marriage office.

God bless!



OP, have you brought this question directly to your pastor? You are right; the way it is being handled does not seem according to Hoyle. Circumstances do matter. For instance, a person in formation for baptism but waiting until Easter Vigil but who dies before baptism is normally given an ecclesiastical funeral identical to that of a baptized person.

To be honest, if I got an answer from my pastor that did not make sense to me, I’d go to the diocesan office and try to find out what was up. Sometimes pastors make mistakes about how to apply the rules the bishop has in place. I would want to confirm to myself that this was not one of those times.


I am very sorry to hear about this situation. I am not an expert on these matters, but I have to say, this does not seem right to me. You might need to contact your bishop about this matter. I don’t see how this could be right, I have never heard of a similar situation. You should be able to enter the Church.

I am sorry to hear about this and will pray for you.


i see great reasons to be up set;
so i give a story-how can i persuade you that a hint of self blame is momentary? worries passing? both in spiritual and physical issues soon to be resolved? i know you wish for an answer to legalities to the church, as due process-maybe other catholics-may advise;

here is a story;
many years ago
there were two americans as visitors to mexico; they went to visit-those stepped pyrimids;back then, tourists could climb those high towers by steps/

this actually happened; there was a man and a women; he did not know that she had fear of heights; upon reaching the top; she broke down, lay down-he observed her to take off her shoes/ this was only a momentary reaction as it got worse/ she-in panic-began to not being able to talk well, (it was certain death to tumble )she had a physical reaction to her fear/ to complicate things-the steps were so steep, that the first one was not even visible; so the man got down on all fours, like a pet dog, to talk to her in a calm voice/ he told her that follow me, inch by inch, his back to her;“hey look i am near the first step.” what is reports that he had done was to sit per step from top to bottom as she would cling to his back/ this had not occured unless-a calm voice would confront the fear-to share that moment…apparently, both did not really look back upon the initial ascent…i am convinced…that jesus works as much–i should myself ask as self inquiry if i would take another souls hand even if she were in a volcano-to pull her out of the depths of hell-(per personal definition)-yes, i would at risk of my own soul/ if there is a man of whom must visit the depths of of the land of the dead-jesus-in the tomb, so to he knows-God is a living God-and speaks in a calm manner/ i think there are people who risk…and the Lord who rescues-i would call that unconditional love-and you , and your soul, have came to the right place, the catholic church-despite the urgency on the calendar…


Thank you all so much for answering me and for being kind. I have spoken to the priest, this is how I learned this information. Not being Catholic definitely puts me at a disadvantage because I trust 100% what the official types tell me the rules are. I was also really surprised when we asked about baptizing two of our kids (they aren’t baptized because they were foster children and that’s not allowed, but we’ve adopted them) and the education director told me they couldn’t be baptized until we were members and they went through catechism classes. So they have to remain unbaptized for more than a year because of rules. But if they were babies, we could just schedule it for the next time available. I think this is really weird and very sad. :frowning: Why would you want to deny baptism to children? Especially considering the reason we didn’t do it when they were babies.

Just hearing others tell me that none of this sounds right makes a world of difference. Firstly it tells me that it’s not the Catholic Church putting up roadblocks, it’s just this particular situation. And I really do have a lot going on. I feel weak physically which is disheartening on its own, so when yet another road block turns up, I get so discouraged. I sit and break it down in my mind to make some sense of it and I can’t ignore the voice that keeps telling me “Grace, don’t be discouraged. Jesus would not withhold His mercy if you came to him asking for help” I will work harder to find the strength & courage to not give up and not allow all of these feelings of rejection & confusion deter me or take the joy out of what should be a wonderful time of spiritual growth and anticipation.

I am confused about how someone is received into the church if not through confirmation? We are all treated exactly the same, I don’t know which people are baptized and which are not. We’re all told to leave mass before the Eucharist and go downstairs to talk about Bible verses. We all are required to go to RCIA and we all have to wait until Easter for confirmation. The emails that the priest sends out regarding our schedules is sent to everyone so there are things about scrutinies that I have no idea about but when I read about them online, they don’t seem like something that someone who is already baptized should be doing.

So how does a baptized Christian be received into the Catholic Church? I hear you saying that confirmation is not required for confession or communion but that reception into the church is required but the only way to be received is through confirmation? So doesn’t that mean confirmation is required to take receive communion and make a confession??


I can’t find anything in canon law about this situation. I can’t imagine I’m the first protestant spouse of a divorced Catholic who wishes to convert. I completely agree and understand that our marriage can’t be convalidated until the nullity of his first marriage. And knowing him and the situation, I feel hopeful it will happen. Eventually.

I understand that we’re living in an irregular marriage. I don’t think telling a couple who have been married 18 years and fulfilled every requirement of a valid marriage (in the eyes of society and from what canon law does say creates a valid marriage) that they are committing adultery because the husband made a mistake in judgment 20 years ago is kind, supportive or what God wants. Or that any suggestions that one of us should move out and practice celibacy aren’t ridiculous and even harmful.

It confuses me greatly and actually is painful when I hear it. All these years we thought we lived a life God blessed and approved of. That we had a strong marriage and were a good family honoring Him. It feels dark and like we are dirty. I


I think it is hard thing to understand sometimes. I am sorry it is so vexing.*

The minimum for a Christian to come into full union with the Catholic Church is the profession of faith. But to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony requires first the sacrament of Penance. So it makes sense that you be able to receive first Penance under the same conditions as your (legally married) husband.* It is extraordinary that your husband could return to the sacraments.*

Archbishop Muller wrote: It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion. This argument, based on a problematical concept of “conscience”, was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994.

Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment. 

At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.  In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it” (Veritatis Splendor, 64).  

If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals.  Marriage is not simply about the relationship of two people to God, it is also a reality of the Church, a sacrament, and it is not for the individuals concerned to decide on its validity, but rather for the Church, into which the individuals are incorporated by faith and baptism.  
 “If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible.  The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth” L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)


Please read this by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later, Pope Benedict XVI).


It is because the valid marriage of two Christians is indissoluble while living, and a Catholic must have the approval of the Church to marry. Since the validity of the marriage between two non-Catholic Christians follows the norms of their Christian church for form of marriage and it must be perpetual, exclusive, and with mutual grant of conjugal relations, and with no blocking impediments.

You wrote about your husbands wife not wanting children. It is not necessary to desire children, but not exclude. That is, if they occur will be accepted (and raised as Catholic for a Catholic marriage). Marriage is valid even when a couple is sterile or do not consummate it.

*] For desire, it is not necessary to want children.

*]For intention, (a) when conjugal relations occur one must be open to any children that result, and (b) in general there must not be the intention to totally exclude children from the marriage, but this is assured by the positive intention to grant conjugal rights to the spouse, which if not intended makes the marriage invalid.

*]For action (a) it is not wrong to abstain from conjugal relations when mutually agreed on because there is no denial to grant the conjugal rights when asked for (when charitable and just), but (b) it is wrong to commit the marital act itself when corrupted.


Churches generally don’t baptize babies, or anyone else, who are not members of their parish. I would speak directly to the priest regarding this. How old are they? Are they going through RCIC(hildren)?

Just hearing others tell me that none of this sounds right makes a world of difference. Firstly it tells me that it’s not the Catholic Church putting up roadblocks, it’s just this particular situation. And I really do have a lot going on. I feel weak physically which is disheartening on its own, so when yet another road block turns up, I get so discouraged. I sit and break it down in my mind to make some sense of it and I can’t ignore the voice that keeps telling me “Grace, don’t be discouraged. Jesus would not withhold His mercy if you came to him asking for help” I will work harder to find the strength & courage to not give up and not allow all of these feelings of rejection & confusion deter me or take the joy out of what should be a wonderful time of spiritual growth and anticipation.

Please accept my condolence on your health. You have a cross to bear both physically and emotionally, and that must be very hard. I can assure you that it will be worth it.

So how does a baptized Christian be received into the Catholic Church? I hear you saying that confirmation is not required for confession or communion but that reception into the church is required but the only way to be received is through confirmation? So doesn’t that mean confirmation is required to take receive communion and make a confession??

In order to receive Communion, one must be first be 1) baptized validly and 2) make a Confession to the priest, in addition to class. To make the confession, there must be instruction first (Catechism classes) that will teach about the Church. For many of us, this was at age 6 or 7. I received Confirmation at age 14. I have received Communion and went to Confession since I was 6 or 7.

However, and I’m not sure of this, you may have to have been Confirmed in order to receive the Sacrament of Marriage.

When we joined our parish, I don’t recall that I had to produce any documentation, or even dates, of our Sacraments. I did have to produce them when we were married (different parish). My children were baptized in my hometown parish where I grew up, but I don’t think my husband had to produce anything for that.

Now that I think about, while much of this seems not confusing for lifelong Catholics, all these new words (Sacraments, Confirmation, Confession, Communion, RCIA, not to mention their synonyms!) must be confusing for others.

Would, perhaps, it be easier if your priest could draw you a chart, or give you a ‘chain of process’ in writing? I know that sometimes that is easier for me, if I can see it and refer to it, and write notes and questions on it.

This is how it would make sense to me:
Join parish. (Usually just a form that gives address and family members)
Husband receives annulment; he makes a sincere confession and is able to receive Communion, if he remains in a state of Grace (without mortal sin). If the priest has advised you to live in chastity until you join the Church and/or have your marriage blessed, he should do so.
(Okay, maybe put join parish here if preferred by priest)
Since you are members (or husband is) of the parish, young children possibly baptized; if they are older, the Sacraments may be combined into RCIC. If adults who join the Church who aren’t yet baptized, their Sacraments are also combined (at least here) with Confirmation at Easter. I have seen families who join the Church and receive them all together.

God bless you. I hope some of this makes sense and doesn’t cause additional confusion. I admire your determination. Welcome to the Catholic Church. May you receive abundant blessings and graces during and after your journey to the Faith.


Dear friend

Hoping to provide some helpful information, please understand that I am addressing only your questions about how an already baptized person is received into (becomes a member of) the Catholic Church.

In the rite of reception the individual makes a brief statement profession to believe all that the Church believes and teaches and laying his hands on the individual’s head the priest declares that he/she is received by the Lord into the Church. If the individual has not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation the priest then administers it. This can take place during or outside a Mass. The US Catholic bishops recommend that this occur at some time other than the Easter Vigil.

But because of the requirement that persons are properly catechized before being received into the Church, many if not most US parishes for convenience sake combine the catechizing of the already baptized (technically, the candidates) with the catechizing and formation of the unbaptized (the catechumens) in the RCIA . Even so it is strongly encouraged however that a very clear distinction be made between the unbaptized catechumens and the baptized candidates through the RCIA including all the ceremonies.

And many if not most US parishes then combine the Christian Initiation of the unbaptized catechumens
(who receive the Sacraments of Baptism), Confirmation, and Eucharist with the reception of the baptized candidates (who receive Confirmation and/or Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. Why? Perhaps it’s due long standing custom, convenience, or some’s personal preference. My hunch is it’s primarily because it’s viewed as the culmination of everyone having gone through RCIA together. However this combined ceremony at the Easter Vigil is definitely permitted.

To answer your specific questions, a person is not received into the Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation but through the rite of reception. However because they were confirmed during their rite of reception I have noticed that many people refer to their reception into the Church as their “confirmation.” Also, the Sacrament of Confirmation is not required to receive the Sacraments of Eucharist or Penance (confession) and in fact most Catholic today who were baptized as infants received Eucharist and Penance before Confirmation. Finally as you surmised, the scrutinies are intended only for the catechumens.

I realize that sometimes things can sound awfully technical, that no two parishes and no two pastors approach
RCIA exactly the same way, that things can get muddled and fall through the cracks. Nothing that you have shared should make your journey into the Church impossible. I pray that all this will get sorted out in a timely way.


I would like to add one thing to the answers already given.

In addition to getting clarification from your priest, he may want you to wait because if your husband’s first marriage is not found nul (annulment), that would put you in a awkward position - living as brother and sister for the rest of your life. Maybe that is something you are willing to do and going over the “what ifs” with your pastor will help.
We have had those in similar situations, one spouse previously married/waiting on annulment, to come fully into the Church only to receive a negative decision. With this negative decision, and until they can appeal, you are presented with two things: living as brother and sister OR if you do not do that, you are committing a mortal sin by having relations with is worse.
So, it could be what I just mentioned. I pray that your journey is not interrupted unduly and God grant you the grace to persevere.


I can see how that can be confusing.

The reception at the Easter Vigil is intended for the unbaptized, not the previously-baptized. What happens (in practical terms) is that many parishes combine the two forms of RCIA, one RCIA for the unbaptized and one RCIA for the baptized into a single group. This is done for practical reasons. It often makes sense, but it presents its own problems—like the communications you’re receiving about the scrutinies. Your situation is a good illustration of why it is generally not a good idea to combine the 2 forms of RCIA into a single group. Many parishes do it out of necessity, and I don’t fault them for it, but the fact is that it also causes other problems.

This is also what’s confusing you. A person is first received into the Church, then confirmed. They are 2 separate events, even though confirmation usually happens immediately after being received. So a person is not received into the Church by Confirmation, but a person is received into the Church by being received into the Church; Confirmation follows that. Even though they might happen at the same Mass, and within minutes of each other, they’re still 2 separate events.

The reason why you are not yet eligible for Confession is because you are not yet a full member of the Church—NOT because you haven’t yet been Confirmed. Absolution reconciles us to the Church, and restores our full membership in the Church (to a lesser or greater degree according to the need of the individual), and in order to be reconciled to any community one must first be a member of that community. For example, I cannot be reconciled and restored to full membership in the Raccoon Lodge because I am not a member of the Raccoon Lodge. Only a member who loses his “good standing” with the Lodge can then be reconciled back to full membership.


Are you sure that is not backwards? I thought that a baptized Christian needs formal reception into the Church, while for an unbaptized person, it is baptism itself which receives him into the Church and no formal separate rite is necessary.


I think as long as you and your husband are not having sex until the annulment comes through, you can go ahead and become Catholic (or whatever the proper wording is).

This has been discussed many times before on this forum and this is what I recall the apologists and other priests saying.



Yes, I’m absolutely certain that it’s not backwards.

The Easter Vigil rites are intended for Baptism of new Christians, not the previously baptized.

You are correct in the rest of your text though:
One who is baptized outside of the Church needs formal reception into the Church. This is done via RCIA for the previously-baptized.

An adult who was never baptized comes into the Church (usually nowadays) via RCIA which culminates in Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass. It’s not a separate rite (although this possibility is not excluded), but it is part of the Easter Vigil.

I’m a bit puzzled by your post. Why would you first think that I have it backwards, then go on to repeat essentially the same thing I posted?

Perhaps it’s my use of “reception” that’s confusing you.
The meaning is “the manner of receiving an unbaptized person into the Church” is via Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass.


The Raccoon Lodge analogy is a good one when you use it with the word reconciliation which I do understand is the name of the sacrament, thank you. You confess to receive absolution and then be reconciled, is that right?

I guess I was thinking that it would make sense to be “clear” of your sins before being received into the church. I didn’t realize they don’t allow you to do that until you’re already a member /received. Last night I found out that in our class of 20, everyone is baptized validly (mostly Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopalian - there is one Xenos person ghough, I’m not sure about them) except for two people. So the RCIA is being adapted for them (the unbaptized) , which I guess is why we all have to leave mass during the communion. He also told us that those who were going to be baptized didn’t have to go to confession because the baptism fixed it for them to be clear of sin. So I am absolutely clueless as to how those of us who are baptized will be clear of sin before being received since we can’t do reconciliation? It is all so confusing. I understand why priests go to school for so many years, I have graduate education and can’t figure it :nope:

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