Is my marriage valid?

My husband and I have been married 23 years. We were married in the Presbyterian Church. I went through RCIA 3 years ago but my husband did not. While going through RCIA, my husband was never really mentioned. They asked me if I had been married before and I haven’t, my husband had been “married” for 2 weeks in order to gain legal rights of a child that he was told was his, but may very likely not have been. The 2 week marriage was performed by a JP, only my husband was baptized as a baby, the woman was not baptized. The RCIA people never asked me about my husband. I have attended daily mass for the last 2 years. Now my husband is going through RCIA and they are telling him that I am not allowed to take communion because of his previous marriage. Is this true? And if so if I go to reconciliation and remain chaste until his annulment goes through, can I still go to daily mass? Do we have to be remarried in the Catholic church to make our marriage valid?

Your husband’s first marriage is presumed valid until proven otherwise. Given the circumstances you describe, I don’t think it will be too difficult to prove.

There are a few issues in play here. For starters, we need to remember that there are two types of marriages. There are natural marriages and sacramental marriages. A natural marriage is when at least one person is not baptized. A sacramental marriage is when both persons are baptized. A natural marriage can be dissolved for a just cause. A sacramental marriage that is consummated is indissoluble. Because your husband’s first wife is unbaptized, it is considered a natural marriage.

If he never consummated the marriage he could petition the Church to dissolve it. He may also petition for a Petrine Privilege, which would also dissolve his first marriage. Or he could apply for an annulment and try to prove his marriage was invalid from the beginning (most likely grounds appears to be lack of intention for permanence). Which road to take is best discussed with his local parish priest and a canon lawyer. They will be able to navigate the details.

If his first marriage is declared invalid (i.e. an annulment), then you will not need to be remarried. This is because your husband would not have been validly married to his first spouse, therefore he had no existing bond of marriage to invalidate his marriage vows to you.

However, if his first marriage is dissolved that means it is presumed to have been valid and therefore he did have a prior bond of marriage which would invalidate the vows he made with you. At that point you may either simply recite your vows in a valid Catholic ceremony or you can apply for a radical sanation (in which the Bishop would retroactively accept your original marriage vows).

Hopefully that is not too confusing… But the first step is for your husband to sit down with his local priest and iron out the details.

As for you, yes, you may continue to attend Mass.

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