Is My Marriage Valid?

I was baptised in the eastern orthodox church at the insistence of my maternal grandparents. My home was not a Christian one. I occasionally went to these eastern orthodox services with my grandparents. They were in a foreign language which I did not and do not know. I did not receive a catechism. I had never heard the words sacrament, Eucharist, mortal or venial sins.

I met my future husband at age 18. He was raised Catholic but was not practicing in any recognizable sense when we met and in our subsequent relationship. We conducted our relationship in the modern, secular sense and became intimately involved within a few months of meeting. He was my first and only in this regard then and to this day.

I had been raised to disdain and delay the thought of marriage. We had a long “dating” period. We co-habitated off and on for several years.

Ultimately, we decided it was time to marry. My future H made known almost immediately that he expected to marry in the Catholic church. In his families’ parish church. We went right away to talk to the priest about our intentions. He sat and talked with us then and I think a few more times before we married. He asked me if I knew what the bread and wine were at Communion, and I reflexively said, “The Body and Blood of Jesus.” I guess I had picked up some things from the church services I’d attended.

He did not ask us about pre-marital relations or co-habitation. He told us to go to the pre-cana weekend, which we did. I do not remember anyone talking about pre-marital relations, contraception or co-habitation.

We were allowed to have a Catholic Nuptial Mass, I was allowed to receive Communion.

Only years later, did I learn that my H had gone to Confession before our wedding. He’d never mentioned it to me. He never talked to me about us being in Mortal Sin. I didn’t know for many years there was such a thing as Mortal Sin, as I’ve said.

Now, if you asked me then about whether it was right or wrong to have relations before marriage according to the Christian Faith, I’d have to say I had to know it wasn’t a good thing to do. The right thing to do. But the overriding education I’d had all those years came from my non Christian parents and the culture at large: all the movies and t.v. and every thing that came into my eyes and ears for over 2 decades before marriage.

I literally knew in high school that I wanted to get married … that I preferred not to have relations before marriage … but in an act of weakness and desperation, I’d made a decision to “give in” in that regard because I felt I had no choice. “Everyone” was involved that way, and everyone I knew by my early 20’s had lived with their boyfriend/girlfriend before or instead of getting married.

I ultimately was drawn into Christianity, and ultimately Catholicism by the Grace of God a few years after we married and had children. Eventually I realized that I had “sinned” and had to make things right. I was allowed to confess to a priest, even though I wasn’t Catholic yet, as I was not near an orthodox church … I learned later that the practice of allowing eastern orthodox to receive Communion or go to Confession if they weren’t near a church of their own, was a relatively new thing and not reciprocated by the orthodox.

I confessed to fornication 8 years after marriage. I don’t remember if I was asked or if I mentioned living together.

Finally, my question is this: are we validly married considering that I was in a state of mortal sin at the time we exchanged our vows and received Communion? I did not know that I was in a state of mortal sin, per se, by according to the knowledge of Natural Law, I must have known it wasn’t preferable.

Yes, your marriage is valid. A valid marriage arises from the couples’ exchange of consent. Unless the sin directly affects someone’s ability to consent to marriage then it has no bearing on the validity of the marriage. Being in a state of grace is required to be able to make use of the sacrament of marriage, however it does not affect the validity of the exchange of consent.

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