Is my marriage valid?


#1

My husband and I met on a public transit bus that we both rode to and from college. I was 21 and had never had a boyfriend or been in any kind of romantic relationship. He was 19 and had been in a few relationships before me.
On our “first date” I went over to his apartment, took off my clothes and gave my virginity to him. It was very impulsive on my part. Afterwards we watched a movie. We didn’t see each other again for three months when I informally moved in with him for a month. During that month we were sexually active and I became pregnant. Before I knew I was pregnant, I moved home to my parents across the state. When I found out I was pregnant my first thought was to give our child up for adoption because I felt woefully unprepared to be a mother and thought it would be for the best. I felt terribly guilty about my sexual sin and deeply regretted the relationship. My husband wanted to marry me and raise the baby.
A few months went by and my husband started attending a Protestant church again. He started to feel guilty about our sexual relationship too. At the urging of one of the pastors of the church, I decided to move back across the state and work things out with my husband. I lived at a maternity home and we started premarital counseling. We repented and decided that we weren’t going to have sex until we were married.
Unfortunately, we chose to give into temptation and ended up having sex one night. The next day we felt so guilty and wanted to “fix” what we had done by getting married right then and there. We impulsively applied for a marriage license and that same day got married.
We’ve been married for four years (it will be five years this November). We have two little boys (our son who was born three months after we got married, and another son who was born two years later). Our marriage has been through Hell but we’ve survived. We’ve experienced some fantastically difficult trials and have hurt each other deeply and at times just wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but we haven’t. We’ve forgiven each other and stuck it out. I wouldn’t imagine that many marriages survive what our marriage has been through, but here we are.
Neither one of us was Catholic at the time of our marriage but we were both baptized Christians and neither one of us had been married before. I converted to Catholicism earlier this year. It’s my understanding that marriages involving non-Catholic but baptized parties are sacramental and are presumed valid until proven otherwise. However, given the circumstances surrounding my marriage, I am very concerned about its validity. I think that if a case was presented to a marriage tribunal there would be plenty of grounds for annulment. My husband and I don’t want that: we want to have a valid marriage. So my question is: is my marriage valid? And if not, how do we go about making the marriage valid?


#2

Hello there,
It is my understanding that sacramental marriages for Catholics are only performed by priests in catholic churches. I have recently returned to the catholic church. During my lapse of faith, I married my current wife who isn't catholic. Our marriage was a civil ceremony held in the courthouse and hence non-sacramental. Since my wife was baptized christian (non-catholic) and I am catholic, all we needed to do is to get our marriage blessed by the church (my wife doesn't need to be catholic only baptized christian). We are currently waiting for paperwork from the diocese to finish the process. Of course, during my lapse of faith, I was living a life of sin. So I needed to confess all of my sins. You will need to do this before having your marriage blessed. I would say talk to your priest. He can fill you in on the details of what needs to be done in order to get your marriage blessed. Welcome home!

:)


#3

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:302637"]
My husband and I met on a public transit bus that we both rode to and from college. I was 21 and had never had a boyfriend or been in any kind of romantic relationship. He was 19 and had been in a few relationships before me.
On our “first date” I went over to his apartment, took off my clothes and gave my virginity to him. It was very impulsive on my part. Afterwards we watched a movie. We didn’t see each other again for three months when I informally moved in with him for a month. During that month we were sexually active and I became pregnant. Before I knew I was pregnant, I moved home to my parents across the state. When I found out I was pregnant my first thought was to give our child up for adoption because I felt woefully unprepared to be a mother and thought it would be for the best. I felt terribly guilty about my sexual sin and deeply regretted the relationship. My husband wanted to marry me and raise the baby.
A few months went by and my husband started attending a Protestant church again. He started to feel guilty about our sexual relationship too. At the urging of one of the pastors of the church, I decided to move back across the state and work things out with my husband. I lived at a maternity home and we started premarital counseling. We repented and decided that we weren’t going to have sex until we were married.
Unfortunately, we chose to give into temptation and ended up having sex one night. The next day we felt so guilty and wanted to “fix” what we had done by getting married right then and there. We impulsively applied for a marriage license and that same day got married.
We’ve been married for four years (it will be five years this November). We have two little boys (our son who was born three months after we got married, and another son who was born two years later). Our marriage has been through Hell but we’ve survived. We’ve experienced some fantastically difficult trials and have hurt each other deeply and at times just wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but we haven’t. We’ve forgiven each other and stuck it out. I wouldn’t imagine that ma My husband and I don’t want that: we want to have a valid marriage. So my question is: is my marriage valid? And if not, how do we go about making the marriage valid?

[/quote]


#4

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:302637"]
My husband and I don’t want that: we want to have a valid marriage. So my question is: is my marriage valid? And if not, how do we go about making the marriage valid?

[/quote]

[quote="pr0digal_s0n, post:2, topic:302637"]
Hello there,
It is my understanding that sacramental marriages for Catholics are only performed by priests in catholic churches. I have recently returned to the catholic church. During my lapse of faith, I married my current wife who isn't catholic. Our marriage was a civil ceremony held in the courthouse and hence non-sacramental. Since my wife was baptized christian (non-catholic) and I am catholic, all we needed to do is to get our marriage blessed by the church (my wife doesn't need to be catholic only baptized christian). We are currently waiting for paperwork from the diocese to finish the process. Of course, during my lapse of faith, I was living a life of sin. So I needed to confess all of my sins. You will need to do this before having your marriage blessed. I would say talk to your priest. He can fill you in on the details of what needs to be done in order to get your marriage blessed. Welcome home!

:)

[/quote]

Note one should refrain from marital relations until such blessing takes place.

Op if your husband and you are willing to go the extra yard he could convert as well, but as prodigal pointed out it is not needed.


#5

Hey hopeful,

Catholic Answers is a great resource as there are a lot of Catholics (and others) here. But this is a question to talk to a priest about. May priests even know more than I do.:D

Trust in God that things will work out according to His most Holy Will. Whatever happens it is for the good of your immortal souls.

God be with you.
- Reg.

P.S. Welcome home to the Church!!! And welcome to CAF.


#6

[quote="fbl9, post:4, topic:302637"]
Note one should refrain from marital relations until such blessing takes place.

[/quote]

fbl9, you are absolutely correct about this. My parish priest has made me promise that my "wife" (technically fiancee at this point) live as brother and sister. So I've been sleeping on the futon in the living room with the cat :tada: My wife has been very supportive of my wishes to refrain from sinful behaviors until the blessing is completed.


#7

I have to throw the B.S. flag on this story. It was a compelling narrative until I read “I converted to Catholicism earlier this year”. If you went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) all of this should have been explained to you (unless you were less than honest with your sponsors). You should not have been allowed to become a member of the Catholic Church with all of this weighing on your soul.

However, this is all fixable and it does not take a Canon Lawyer to figure out what needs to be done. You need to confess your previous sinful actions as you are not sacramentally married in the Catholic Church. It is confusing as to just how many “husbands” you have. You need to seek out the advice of a competent ecclesial authority and live as brother and sister (no sex) with your current husband until the validity of your present marriage can be ascertained.


#8

[quote="The_Sojourner, post:7, topic:302637"]
It is confusing as to just how many “husbands” you have.

[/quote]

This statement makes absolutely no sense to me. My husband is the only man I’ve ever had a sexual relationship with and the only person I’ve been legally (or otherwise) “married” to. My husband unfortunately had previous sexual relationships with other women but he has never been legally married to anyone but me. It was a first marriage for both of us. How could I have multiple husbands?


#9

Something I just want to make clear and I’m not sure if I made it clear in my original post is that** at the time of our marriage,neither my husband nor I was Catholic**. Both my husband and I were baptized as children in Protestant churches, so at the time of our marriage we were both baptized Christians. I’m Catholic now (I converted earlier this year).
When I went through RCIA I did fill out a form asking for the date and location of our marriage and if it was the first marriage for both of us (it is). No one asked us about the circumstances surrounding our marriage I think because neither one of us was Catholic at the time of the marriage and it is first marriage for both of us.
My understanding is that a marriage between baptized non-Catholics is presumed valid (and sacramental) until proven otherwise. The problem with our marriage would not have been one of form (we weren’t required to be married in the Catholic Church because we weren’t Catholic) but rather our capacity to validly consent to the marriage. That is what I question; I think I may have lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage because it was such an impulsive decision and I was motivated primarily by guilt and shame.


#10

[quote="hopeful3542, post:9, topic:302637"]
Something I just want to make clear and I’m not sure if I made it clear in my original post is that** at the time of our marriage,neither my husband nor I was Catholic**. Both my husband and I were baptized as children in Protestant churches, so at the time of our marriage we were both baptized Christians. I’m Catholic now (I converted earlier this year).
When I went through RCIA I did fill out a form asking for the date and location of our marriage and if it was the first marriage for both of us (it is). No one asked us about the circumstances surrounding our marriage I think because neither one of us was Catholic at the time of the marriage and it is first marriage for both of us.
My understanding is that a marriage between baptized non-Catholics is presumed valid (and sacramental) until proven otherwise. The problem with our marriage would not have been one of form (we weren’t required to be married in the Catholic Church because we weren’t Catholic) but rather our capacity to validly consent to the marriage. That is what I question; I think I may have lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage because it was such an impulsive decision and I was motivated primarily by guilt and shame.

[/quote]

Well, neither were Catholic then so form is not an issue, if there are no impediments, then it is acceptable to and presumed that your consent matched the outward expression: lifelong, exclusive, and open to children. If either of you privately had imperfect consent then, and is has been subsequently privately corrected, then it is corrected without Church involvement (such as convalidation). Also, for a Catholic, to raise the Children in the Catholic faith is an important obligation. Hopefully there is no conflict on that issue.

Yes, sacramental for two baptiszed, and the efficacy of the sacrament will come individually with proper individual disposition (no state of mortal sin).


#11

:ehh:

A more charitable tone would have been nice. Who knows how her RCIA program was or how comfortable she was talking about this stuff.

OP: I echo those who are encouraging you to talk to a priest ASAP. This can all get worked out at the level of your pastor I’m sure :smiley:

And welcome to the Church!


#12

Like you, OP, my husband and I were baptized Protestants when we married. We neither of us had been married before. Our marriage was acknowledged as both valid and sacramental when we were received into the Church in 2005.

Any private impediments that have been privately resolved are now corrected without involvement by the Church.

You and your husband are married, so there is no need to refrain from conjugal relations.


#13

[quote="Vico, post:10, topic:302637"]
Well, neither were Catholic then so form is not an issue, if there are no impediments, then it is acceptable to and presumed that your consent matched the outward expression: lifelong, exclusive, and open to children. If either of you privately had imperfect consent then, and is has been subsequently privately corrected, then it is corrected without Church involvement (such as convalidation). Also, for a Catholic, to raise the Children in the Catholic faith is an important obligation. Hopefully there is no conflict on that issue.

Yes, sacramental for two baptiszed, and the efficacy of the sacrament will come individually with proper individual disposition (no state of mortal sin).

[/quote]

I think that this is an excellent summation.

Original poster, I do think that your marriage is considered valid and sacramental by the Church. However, it would be wise to consult your pastor about this. You may benefit from some Christian marital counseling that you would have received before marriage if you had been Catholic. You may be able to restate your vows in the Church to clear up any residual doubt in your or your husband's minds.

Otherwise, confess those old mistakes if you have not done so already, and accept God's absolution.


#14

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:302637"]
My husband and I met on a public transit bus that we both rode to and from college. I was 21 and had never had a boyfriend or been in any kind of romantic relationship. He was 19 and had been in a few relationships before me.
(snip)
However, given the circumstances surrounding my marriage, I am very concerned about its validity. I think that if a case was presented to a marriage tribunal there would be plenty of grounds for annulment. My husband and I don’t want that: we want to have a valid marriage. So my question is: is my marriage valid? And if not, how do we go about making the marriage valid?

[/quote]

There is no public impediment that makes your marriage invalid so there is nothing that requires you to publicly do anything.

If your marriage broke down and you divorced the one thing that could possibly be looked at was a defect in consent, IOW you were married under duress because you were pregnant. A defect in consent is not something that is public but something that could be known to one person or to both. Such a defect can be remedied by privately renewing consent and the Church considers that that happens by simply choosing to remain married. Your husband's and your desire to be in a valid marriage and stay together is that private consent. I think you can rest easy.


#15

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:302637"]
My husband and I met on a public transit bus that we both rode to and from college. I was 21 and had never had a boyfriend or been in any kind of romantic relationship. He was 19 and had been in a few relationships before me.
On our “first date” I went over to his apartment, took off my clothes and gave my virginity to him. It was very impulsive on my part. Afterwards we watched a movie. We didn’t see each other again for three months when I informally moved in with him for a month. During that month we were sexually active and I became pregnant. Before I knew I was pregnant, I moved home to my parents across the state. When I found out I was pregnant my first thought was to give our child up for adoption because I felt woefully unprepared to be a mother and thought it would be for the best. I felt terribly guilty about my sexual sin and deeply regretted the relationship. My husband wanted to marry me and raise the baby.
A few months went by and my husband started attending a Protestant church again. He started to feel guilty about our sexual relationship too. At the urging of one of the pastors of the church, I decided to move back across the state and work things out with my husband. I lived at a maternity home and we started premarital counseling. We repented and decided that we weren’t going to have sex until we were married.
Unfortunately, we chose to give into temptation and ended up having sex one night. The next day we felt so guilty and wanted to “fix” what we had done by getting married right then and there. We impulsively applied for a marriage license and that same day got married.
We’ve been married for four years (it will be five years this November). We have two little boys (our son who was born three months after we got married, and another son who was born two years later). Our marriage has been through Hell but we’ve survived. We’ve experienced some fantastically difficult trials and have hurt each other deeply and at times just wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but we haven’t. We’ve forgiven each other and stuck it out. I wouldn’t imagine that many marriages survive what our marriage has been through, but here we are.
Neither one of us was Catholic at the time of our marriage but we were both baptized Christians and neither one of us had been married before. I converted to Catholicism earlier this year. It’s my understanding that marriages involving non-Catholic but baptized parties are sacramental and are presumed valid until proven otherwise. However, given the circumstances surrounding my marriage, I am very concerned about its validity. I think that if a case was presented to a marriage tribunal there would be plenty of grounds for annulment. My husband and I don’t want that: we want to have a valid marriage. So my question is: is my marriage valid? And if not, how do we go about making the marriage valid?

[/quote]

Because neither of you was Catholic when you married you were NOT bound by Catholic Church ecclesiastical law. Therefore, your marriage is valid in accordance with Church law. Because you were both baptised your marriage is a sacrament.

Welcome home to the Catholic Church! It is heartwarming to hear a couple working through and resolving their problems rather than just running off to the divorce lawyer.

Could a tribunal of the Church find your marriage was invalid. Perhaps it could. There may be concerns about consent. Did you enter into the marriage freely or did external forces pressurise you into marriage. Those were rhetorical rather than direct questions.

I would not torment yourself about the validity of our marriage. Concentrate on loving each other, continue working on your marriage, and bring up your children.:)


#16

You are correct. Your marriage is 100% valid and 100% a sacrament. Nothing further needed.

And therefore you DO have a valid marriage.

Yes
[/quote]


#17

This is not correct. The OP was not a Catholic when she married. She is a Catholic now.

Her marriage is valid. There is no convalidation. There is no abstaining from relations. There is no confession. None of this applies to the OP.


#18

[quote="The_Sojourner, post:7, topic:302637"]
I have to throw the B.S. flag on this story. It was a compelling narrative until I read “I converted to Catholicism earlier this year”. If you went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) all of this should have been explained to you (unless you were less than honest with your sponsors). You should not have been allowed to become a member of the Catholic Church with all of this weighing on your soul.

However, this is all fixable and it does not take a Canon Lawyer to figure out what needs to be done. You need to confess your previous sinful actions as you are not sacramentally married in the Catholic Church. It is confusing as to just how many “husbands” you have. You need to seek out the advice of a competent ecclesial authority and live as brother and sister (no sex) with your current husband until the validity of your present marriage can be ascertained.

[/quote]

NO NO NO.

She has nothing to do. She is VALIDLY married.


#19

[quote="1ke, post:17, topic:302637"]
This is not correct. The OP was not a Catholic when she married. She is a Catholic now.

Her marriage is valid. There is no convalidation. There is no abstaining from relations. There is no confession. None of this applies to the OP.

[/quote]

2 of the three priests i know personally agree with you 1ke and the third agrees with prodigal.


#20

[quote="fbl9, post:19, topic:302637"]
2 of the three priests i know personally agree with you 1ke and the third agrees with prodigal.

[/quote]

It all depends on what prodigal is saying. Let's clear up several points.

Only Catholics are required to be married in accordance with canonical form for their marriage to be valid. Therefore, two Methodists could be married in a civil ceremony and have a valid marriage. Validity of marriage is not the sole preserve of Catholics.

Catholics can apply for and be granted dispensation from canonical form. This demonstrates that canonical form is not a requirement of Divine Law. It is only required by the Catholic Church for Catholics. The Church can grant permission to a Catholic to be married in a non-Catholic religious ceremony or in a civil ceremony.

Whether a marriage is a sacrament depends on whether the spouses are baptised. If two non-Christians marry, e.g. two Hindus, the marriage is not a sacrament. If a non-Chrisitan, e.g. a Jew, and a Christian, e.g. a Catholic, marry the marriage is not a sacrament. If two baptised Christians marry, e.g. two Lutherans, the marriage is a sacrament. In the second example I gave, if the Jew converted to Christianity the marriage would become sacramental. A marriage does not have to be Catholic to be sacramental; it just has to be between two Christians.

I would be interested to know what it is that prodigal said which the third priest agrees with.


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