Marriage Question


My wife and I recently celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. We were both born and raised Catholic (though she was confirmed but I was not). I left the Catholic Church when I was about 13 years of age and my wife did when she was 16. We both left the Church for evangelical churches. We are now both 29 years old and have been married for five years. Due to immigration issues that popped up at literally the last minute, we ditched our wedding plan in NZ to be married by a Judge in the courthouse in the city we live in the US (my wife is American and I am from New Zealand).

I am curious as to whether, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, our marriage would be considered valid. I’ve heard that the Church recognizes any marriage between two baptized Christians (whether they be Catholic or not) as valid, even if the marriage was only performed by a judge rather than a minister or priest. On the other hand, I have heard that the Church would still consider us Catholic (or at least my wife since she was confirmed), thus our marriage would not be valid in the eyes of the Church. What is the truth of the matter? Also, if we were to seek communion with the Church, would that entail having to getting married again through a Priest?

Thanks for any responses!


Catholics – meaning those who have been baptized Catholic – must be married according to Catholic form or receive a dispensation. You and your wife did not do this.

If either or both of you wish to start practicing your Catholic faith again, you will need to bring your marriage into the Church. The term for this is “convalidation.” Priests are totally familiar with this situation and will know what you need to do and guide you through it. See the priest at your local parish to get things started.

And welcome home!


Oh yes, welcome home! :thumbsup: It will be well worth it to talk to a priest.


Marriage is a sacrament. “What God has put together, let no-man put assunder”

The wedding ceremony should be held before God and before Man. You and your wife are Christians, yet you omitted bringing your marriage to God and asking for His Blessing on it.

The Catholic Church would teach that 2 Athiests or Pagans who had married in a Civil or culturally normal ceremony for their region would be in a valid “Natural Marriage”.

You however, are both baptized Catholics. You are subject to God’s Law. You are required to marry before God. You did not do this.
From a sacramental and cannon law point of view the Justice of the Peace or Judge had no more authority to marry you than your class-mate did wen you played pretend weddings in the school play-ground. If you wanted an annulment because your relationship fell apart you would get it automatically.

Assuming this is not the case, and you do want to be married to your legal (in civil law) wife - you would be strongly advised to seek a con-validation for your marriage. This involves asking a Priest to witness you making your marriage vows in the Church in front of 2 witnesses and the Priest or Deacon. You will need to obtain a recently produced copy of your baptismal certificates. These will testify to the fact that you have not previously been married in the Church.

It is normal to not make a big deal out of this ceremony, but it is appropriate to invite some of your close friends and family and celebrate your marriage.

This process is strongly advised whether or not you choose to re-join the Church. If you do choose to re-join, it is a pre-requisite of entering full communion and receiving the other Sacraments.

Welcome Home. God Bless you.


Assuming you were both free to marry (for most people this is the case when it’s the first marriage for both parties) then is a simple matter to resolve and can be handled by your pastor.


It presents a problem sometimes when the couple have some sort of impediment or a different idea of what matrimony is: livelong, exclusive, and mutually granting the gift of moral conjugal relations when reasonably requested.

Excepting that they were married before becoming Catholic, or the desert island scenario for a month long period, or having formally defected (only effective between Nov 26, 1983 and Dec 21, 2010), Catholics are not married unless it is with the approval of the Catholic Church.


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