Friend w/ common law wife and conversion

As a Catholic, I try to witness and evangelize in ways that seem best for whoever I am interacting with. I have a friend who is a former ordained Lutheran minister. We have a lot in common as far as past relationships go, painful experiences that brought us back to God and more.

I have share a great deal about my experiences with him, he is kind of a new friend. We talk a lot about theology and so on. He probably knows more about Catholicism than most non Catholics, and even some practicing Catholics. He is in a common law marriage right now, and his live in girlfriend / common law wife has some issue with getting married, I don’t know what it is.

Lately he has been getting closer to what I think of as a possible “inquiry stage.” I feel I am making inroads with him. I believe he loves God and we are making progress. Driving home tonight though after today’s conversation at work, I began to worry about the possibility of him falling in love with the Catholic Church, but not wanting to change the status of his relationship, should his girlfriend stick to her guns about not getting married. I know if she were willing to get married, he would tie the knot.

My hope is that if the Lord guides him into the fold so to speak and he enters RCIA, like me, he will make the right decision about his relationship. I did. I hope you can see where I am going here. I would hate for him to convert and make no changes to his living status. My hope is that he would make a change.

I don’t want to bring all this up just yet. He knows, I know he knows what the deal is with chastity outside of marriage. He seems very spiritual, but at the same time, I don’t want to set him up for sacrilege and scandal. I wanted to get input from you guys to “ground my thoughts” about this, if that makes sense.

Thanks for your input.

If he truly converts in heart mind and soul then he’d want to do what is right I think. So, keep at it, I say!

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My thinking as well so far. Thanks.

Which is she, girlfriend or common law wife?

Because a common law wife is a wife. A common law is a valid marriage.

Good question. My understanding of the legal term “common law wife” is, that is what you have when a man and a woman live together for more than 9 years. Is that incorrect? They have lived together for 19 years I believe he said.

Common law marriage varies by state, or if you are not in the states then whatever country you are in.

If she is his common law wife, then she is his wife not his girlfriend. And a common law marriage is a valid marriage.

If and when he decides to become a Catholic, he will discuss his marriage with the pastor. It’s not your place to get in the middle of it.

Valid in whose eyes?

The state and the church.

Since when is a common law marriage valid in the eyes of the Church?

since forever.

Please note the people involved are non-Catholics. There is no requirement of Catholic form here.


True, but my friend is taking a look at Catholicism right now.

As a former Lutheran minister, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume he has been baptized.

RCIA is for unbaptized people. Those who are already baptized will meet with Pastor who shall determine what preparation the person needs before they make a Profession of Faith, Confession and Confirmation.

Interesting. I was an Episcopalian and went through what we simply called OCI or order of Christian Initiation. My father is an Episcopal Priest and baptized me. In OCI, we had converts that were baptized and those who were not.

Yes and if he is in a common law marriage, his marriage is valid. There would be no impediment to entering the Church. I think you have some misconceptions maybe about his status. You are posting as if they are not married and would have to get married. I am trying to communicate to you that if he is married under state law, even common law, then he is validly married.


That is how your pastor or bishop decided to prepare folks for both RCIA and for Profession of Faith.

This isn’t accurate. The RCIA rites include rites for catechumens and for candidates. Catechumens and candidates are not to be treated the same way, but RCIA is most definitely for both.

I don’t know any parishes that bring candidates in through private instruction.

And I know several that do. In fact, there is a growing trend to stop calling the classes that prepare for the Rites “RCIA” and to use a clearer term “Instruction in the Catholic Faith”.

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Sure, catechesis can be accomplished in numerous ways, and RCIA does not equal catechesis.

But to say RCIA isn’t for the baptized is just not accurate.

I’ll phrase it as the USCCB does “. Although some preparation may be with Catechumens preparing for baptism, the preparation for Candidates is different since they have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ, and many have also been active members of other Christian communities.”

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