Marriage Confusion

Hi all. I have a question that is weighing very heavily on me. My wife and I (first marriage for both of us) were married in a Pentacostal church. Neither of us were Catholic. We’ve been married for 17 years. Last year I started RCIA, and am close to finishing RCIA this Easter. It has been my understanding that since neither of us were Catholic when we got married, our marriage is valid in the eyes of the Church. I also asked the Priest for clarification on that about a month ago and was told that yes, our marriage was valid. I asked him if the fact that my wife is not going through RCIA with me would be a hindrance on my ability to partake of the Eucharist at the Easter vigil. He told me that the marriage was in fact valid, and that I would be able to take Communion.

Tonight my RCIA director handed me a little note to see him after class, which I did. He looked at the paper I had filled out when first starting RCIA, and asked whether or not my wife had ever been baptized. I told him that I wasn’t sure, that if she was it would have most likely been in a Pentecostal church, and that we had no baptismal certificate to show. He told me that he would have to have a talk with Father about it, because it was “out of his jurisdiction”. Now I’m very concerned. I’ve been looking forward to Easter so much, and the thought that my marriage may keep me from fully coming into the church is very disheartening to me.

Can anyone please shed some light on this for me?

If you wife is baptized, you have a valid sacramental marriage.

If she is unbaptized, you have a valid natural marriage.

Both are valid.

Ok, so our marriage is valid. Does that mean that I have nothing to worry about and will be able to fully join the Church and take communion at the Easter vigil?

It means a sit-down meeting with your Priest is needed. Explain that neither of you have ever been married before or every baptized Catholic. Then, once he understands this, your Priest will make everything clear to your RCIA director. Call and schedule an office appointment wiht Father.

From the information you give it would certainly appear that you are validly married and your wife’s baptism, or lack thereof, should be not a problem. You are the one converting, not your wife so I fail to see what the RCIA person was concerned about.

Dennis, my understanding (& I could be wrong!) is that Pentecostals don’t baptize with the Trinitarian formula: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Is this true? If it is, then the baptisms you received at the Pentecostal church are not valid. The Catholic Church (& many other Protestant churches, too) teach that the exact wording must be used, calling on all 3 Persons of the Trinity.


The RCIA director said that he will talk to Father about it. I guess it just came as a little bit of a shock that it would even come up this late, and it seriously confused and concerned me. If, however, the RCIA director tells me that it is, in fact, going to be an issue, I will certainly make an appointment with the Priest. Thank you.

I didn’t think there was a problem, either. Granted, I’m still learning, and I certainly don’t presume to know or even understand all the laws of the Church. But after the class on the Sacrament of Marriage I specifically voiced my concern to the Priest and was assured that there was no problem. I guess just the fact that it was even brought up has me second-guessing and feeling pretty bummed. Thanks for the insight.

“Talk to Father” about what? Your wife’s Baptism has nothing to do with your reception into the Catholic Church. It would of course determine if your Marriage is a Sacrament or Natural Marriage.

I wasn’t baptized. I’m not sure that my wife was, either. I merely stated that if she WAS, it would probably have been in a Pentecostal church. However, I’m unsure, and as we have no baptismal certificate or anything to show otherwise, I’m assuming that she wasn’t validly baptized.

As far as the Pentecostal church not using the Trinitarian formula, I have no clue. We were married in a Pentecostal church 17 years ago, because that’s the church we went to at that time. The reason we went to that church is because my wife’s mother went to that church. At that time I really didn’t have much interest in things of God, and if I went, it was only because it was expected of me. After that I spent the next 17 years claiming to be pagan, denying the existence of God, and generally doing my best to bash the beliefs of anyone who told me they believed in God. In late 2008, I was at a very VERY low point in my life. No reason to live, who cares, nobody loves me, etc. That sort of thing.

Then one day I changed. I wasn’t worthy, but God finally managed to get my attention and I listened. And I listened some more. And I prayed, and now here I am.

Sorry for the long post, just felt the need to put that out there. Of course, there’s alot more to my “conversion story” than that lol.

Not really sure. All he told me was “I’ll have to talk to Father and get back to you, because this is out of my jurisdiction.” Granted, the RCIA director is a brand-new deacon, so maybe he’s just unsure of the implications? Perhaps he’s going to talk to Father to make sure that the marriage is in fact valid (perhaps not Sacramental, but if valid that’s an easy fix, no? Convalidation?).

Sounds like you are currently in a valid natural marriage. Convalidation would not make your marriage sacramental, you and your wife both being baptized would make a sacramental marriage (as a sacramental marriage is a valid marriage between 2 baptized persons), a valid natural marriage is between 2 unbaptized persons or 1 baptized and 1 unbaptized person.

Also since neither you or your wife where catholic at the time of your wedding and it from what you have told us your marriage is valid, no convalidation is required.

I see. So what are the implications of having a valid but non-sacramental marriage? Does that prevent me from completely enjoying the other Sacraments (ie the Eucharist)?

Being in a natural marriage instead of a sacremental marriage does not stop you from receiving any of the other sacraments as it is a valid marriage.

Excellent. I’ve been so bummed and afraid that it was going to hold me back. Very good to know that my fear was for nothing :slight_smile: Thank you.

he is right, it is up to the priest to make this determination, which he did, but failed to communicate with the RCIA director, who is the one doing the paper work. He should have asked the priest first before bothering you. Hopefully they have this resolved now.

welcome home

The validity of the Marriage would not be in question. (based on what you posted)

Just a little update:

I’ve discussed this with my wife today, and she informed me that she was baptized at age “7 or 8” in a Baptist church in Norwalk, California. She says she thinks it was a First Baptist Church. She says she does remember them using the Trinitarian formula. Of course, we have no proof, and both of her parents are deceased. We’re currently looking online to see if we can actually find what church it was, to see if maybe there are records. However, that may not be possible. How does this affect my hopefully-upcoming baptism/confirmation/first communion?

It’s been stated already by everone that’s posted that our marriage is valid, and I’m sure that would still be the case. If she was in fact baptized using the Trinitarian formula (but how can we prove that?), then she is already validly baptized, and our marriage would become sacramental when I am baptized, correct? Again, it would come down to proof. So, if we are unable to obtain the proof we need, what can be done? I read somewhere that she should be able to fill out a form and sign it was her own witness that she does remember it being that way, and that the Priest could then do a conditional baptism?

EDIT: Just as an FYI, I do already plan to call tomorrow to try to make an appointment with the Priest and discuss this with him.

It’s my understanding that most Baptists would baptize using a Trinitarian formula but if you want to know for sure then you would need to do some investigating. Some ecclesial communities like the Oneness Pentecostal churches do NOT use a Trinitarian formula. But I’m not sure why this is important to know now, in spite of what your RCIA director said. You are just as free to enter the Catholic Church when validly married to an unbaptized person as when entering while validly married to a baptized person.

It’s true that your wife’s baptismal state will impact whether or not your marriage becomes sacramental when you are baptized. Perhaps your parish throws special parties when marriages become sacramental… :smiley:

But I guess you should follow up on things. It may be that your parish needs to record the sacramental/non sacramental status of your marriage on your baptismal record. The more that I think about it, that may be the case.

Now if your wife decides to become Catholic her baptismal status will be important. If you think that is a possibility down the road then you might want to see if you can obtain a baptismal certificate.

Actually, she does plan to start RCIA this September and join the church. The only reason I didn’t already mention that is because at this moment that doesn’t have any bearing on my joining really (that I know of, anyway). So yes, we are going to continue trying to investigate, but she said it was when she was 7 or 8, which was almost 30 years ago. Memories falter a bit, so the specifics are a little sketchy at the moment.

Sacramental marriage has grace that a natural marriage does not. Prayers for you!

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