Is convalidation needed?


I have recently returned to the Church, after thirty years. I spent many years outside of any chuch but I ultimately landed in a conservative Presbyterian church where I joined as a member 12 years ago. I married my wife in that church 11 years ago. After much study and seeking, I returned to the true Church. I have received the Rite of Reconciliation and have begun attending Mass. My wife is a life long Presbyterian. I am praying the Holy Spirit will use my example to lead her to the Church - she knows how much effort (years) I put into my study and research, and generally trusts my decisions.

I have just learned of the concept of convalidation, and was wondering how this impacts my situation. I am concerned how my wife will receive the news if it is determined that we do not have a valid marriage. Could you also explain the process of convalidation?

Thank you for your response.


Dear Once,

We rejoice at the good news of your return to the Catholic Church! It does sound like you formally embraced membership in another church. If this is the case, then you formally left the Catholic Church. Therefore the Catholic Church would accept your marriage as valid. It would be the marriage of two Protestants. If this is the case, then you do not have to have your marriage convalidated. But you need to see your pastor about this. It would be best to not receive Holy Communion until you are sure of this matter.

Convalidation is the remaking of the marriage vows with the blessing of the Catholic Church. It can be done privately.

If your marriage were not recognized by the Catholic Church, the only way you would be allowed to receive Holy Communion would be by living as a celibate until the marriage was convalidated. This is because you would be having relations with someone you were not married to which is a mortal sin.

But as I said, it doesn’t look like you will need a convalidation. You and your wife are in our prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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