marriage question

What happens if two non practising Catholics approach a priest wanting to get married in the Church, but because of family wanting this?

If they get married outside the Church it would be invalid… If they marry in the Church what would happen with Communion? Would they simply not get a Mass? Would the priest ask them questions to see if they are practising?

Thank you!

The idea behind sacraments is recieving grace to love God and neighbour. Sacraments are simply floods of grace for christian living. If you don’t wish to practice the faith why go for the sacrament?

Sacraments are not for show or to please parents, if the two people are non practicing and do not wish to practice their faith but simply wants a churchy-looking ritual which they don’t even believe to please their parents then I think a priest will be right to ask them to reconsider.

I do not know any priest who will baptised an unbelieving adult, or give communion to one who surely isnt in a state of grace or doesn’t believe in the real presence, similarly I do not know any priest who will wed couples who do not believe or wish to practice their faith.

On the other hand, a priest might use the opportunity to evangelize them, get them to go to confession, and try to get them to reconsider their position.

It wouldn’t be the first time that “love of family” led to “return to the practice of the faith” … :wink:

Consider this canon law for mixed marriages (CIC):

Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

Now, one fallen away from practice of the Catholic faith make the promise that is required in a mixed marriage?

I see what you all are saying… I’m not sure what to think in this case because if they get married outside the Church it wouldn’t even be valid… But I see the problems with giving a Sacrament to someone not in a state of grace. Its very confusing… Maybe I’ll ask a priest… This isn’t about me personally but someone else.

That would be great if they agree to get married in the church.

Whatever it is, they are still Catholics. They have to go through the process like everybody else, which possibly include going for Confession before the matrimonial mass so that they can receive Holy Communion.

It’s a great gift for Catholics that they have the Sacraments despite than less a sacramental life many have. Marriage is a big thing in life and for them to do this in the Church can give great meaning to their marriage union. We can only trust that by its grace they may receive the love to practice again as Catholics do.

If a practicing Catholic marries someone who has “notoriously” rejected the Catholic faith the CCCB’s Complementary norms on the Code of Canon Law has this to say

In the case of a marriage between a baptized Catholic and a person who has notoriously rejected the Catholic faith, the local Ordinary, before he gives permission to proceed with the wedding (cf. c. 1071, § 2), shall require from the Catholic party the same promises as for a mixed marriage, with the appropriate adjustments.

Now, can two people who are simply non-practicing be said to have “notoriously rejected the Catholic faith”? They consider themselves Catholic enough to ask for marriage.

It happens a lot in my parish. Folks we’ve rarely, if ever, seen in church suddenly turn up to get married, or to have their child baptized, not usually in that order. While I’ve never been privy to what is said in the priest’s office, I’m confident that no priest has ever refused a couple the sacrament of marriage because that would have been proclaimed far and wide in our small town with the priest made to look like the bad guy. I do know that many such couples marry within a Liturgy of the Word rather than a Nuptial Mass.

Is it possible for a non-practicing Catholic to get into a state of grace through confession without simultaneously becoming (or at least firmly intending to become) practicing?

I thought that in order to enter a state of grace one must make a firm commitment to, in the future, follow all the teachings of the Church. Of course, you can still fail in the future, but if you aren’t intending to follow them, then you don’t get absolution.

I will not answer that question because it is pretty much hypothetical.

But let’s just just say this. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is efficacious for the absolution of past sins if it is done accordingly. The greatest gift of this Sacrament is the forgiveness of sins, and there are no sins that God does not forgive. Scripturally the exception is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Thus, going for Confession for non-practicing Catholics is sufficient for them to be in a state of grace and to return/reconcile with God.

Other than that, the question you asked. That may be considered as bad insincere Confession, if it is done deliberately. I cannot imagine a situation that people do this.

What often happen is that a penitent falls into the same sin again after Confession, in fact some times, again and again, whereby there may be other root cause for it but the sins being confessed nevertheless are forgiven, assuming he/she follows the usual procedure of Confession.

As I mentioned, it is a great opportunity for non-practicing Catholics to come back to the Church by getting married in the church. The future is for them and they have a family and children to think about other than themselves. The grace of the Sacrament often does wonder that can amaze us.

This Sunday, the Gospel reading was about the Prodigal Son. Similarly, the Church/God would always give opportunity for us to come back to him. She has made it possible for astray Catholics to come back and the Sacraments are some of those facilitating graces.

God bless.

I would look at it as a very great achievement is for non-practicing Catholics to come back to the Church. Getting them to get married in the church is one of them.

They could refuse and there is nothing we can do. But if they do, like in most parishes, they have to go through a pre-marriage course. Great things often happen in all these procedures, where they would feel the love of God as it is explained to them, and it is during these kind of process that cause the turnaround for some people.

The first hurdle is to get them to go through the process, and the rest we trust the mercy and grace of God to work on them.

Hi Reuben,

Well, actually, I can prove it's not hypothetical - I had much that same experience. When I was trying to decide if I could come back to the faith, I still abstained from communion, but I went to Confession often. In those confessions, I was honest with the priest that I understood the Church's teachings about sexuality, but that I didn't accept them and I was struggling to understand how to reconcile what I considered to be the mistaken and outdated teachings of the Church with my desire to be a good Catholic.

You know what? Of the three priests that I confessed with during that time, they all absolved me of being with my civil spouse and using contraception even though I was honest that I had no intention of giving up contraception or living as brother and sister. I did get a penance from one(!) of them to start the process of convalidating my marriage. But that was it.

I still never took the communion, because I suspected that there was something not right in their absolution. And courtesy of this forum and other orthodox priests, I realized that a confession in which the penitent knows the Church’s teachings and has no intention to stop breaking those teachings isn’t valid.

Were my confessions insincere? I don’t think that’s the right word. They were painfully honest for me. Maybe confused was the right word for it. I thought that confession was the one sacrament that was always available to a baptized Catholic no matter their state of sin. The orthodox priests convinced me that I could not validly partake of that sacrament if I was obstinate in my desire to continue my sins.

Do you think that a lapsed Catholic who is confessing for a marriage has the intention to start going to Mass every Sunday and start living according the Church’s sexual teachings, which are tremendously at odds with what modern society teaches us. I would say that there’s no way that’s the case unless the lapsed Catholic is intending to become a practicing Catholic.

Now, they may fail in the future and they may give up that intention. Everyone lapses back into sin. But for them to make a valid confession, it would seem to me that there is a level required beyond simple sincerity of confession. Saying “I fully intend to continue using birth control with my wife, but forgive me for the times I’ve used it before so that I can take communion tomorrow” doesn’t rise to the bar the Church sets.

But I stand to be corrected. I don't claim to have a good understanding of the theology of confession. This is just my best understanding. It would be great if I'm wrong!

That got abrogated by Pope Benedict, didn’t it? The whole “formal defection from the Church” thing – for pastoral reasons – was dropped from canon law.

This is what you’re talking about, isn’t it? (Then again, it’s early, and I haven’t had my first cup of coffee yet.)

So, since we’re not talking about ‘mixed marriage’ here, the canons that refer to it do not apply in this case.

Thank you for a shiningly honest and accurate appraisal and yes you are right. Hard or credit priests who acted as they did. But then my mother used to say of RC that they went to confession then went out and did the same things again

How can there be penitence without firm and sincere resolve to leave the sin behind? It makes a mockery of the sacrament. Bow can anyone confess a mortal sin under those ciircumstances ?

While I do think you understand the essence of Confession, I think that maybe the other priests who did absolve you might have been applying the “law of gradualness”. It is the idea that we can’t make a complete change overnight but that change takes place in small steps. Steps that lead to Holiness. My pastor used again in the Joy of Love document talk at out church.

Hi. If I understand you correctly, that’s the point I was trying to make. You get to be absolved of your sins in Confession. Yes, you were honest, but you were absolved. And future sins committed are for future Confession. :slight_smile:

Maybe I misunderstood but insincere Confession is when a person is not contrite of his sins but go for Confession to deceive in order to get the marriage mass performed for the marriage. One can still be absolved by the priest because he won’t know one’s heart, but obviously the Confession is not to be done that way.

My point was, non-practicing Catholics should be allowed to get married in the church by following the usual procedure. It is not for us to know their intention if they go for Confession but trusting that the Sacrament would be efficacious as a way for them to come back to the Church and the marriage valid. It would be a new beginning to the couple, and who knows, anything can happen.

More importantly is not to deny them if they should agree to get married in the Church.

On the personal level, in my involvement in the ministry of marriage, I have seen many couples were saved this way, and eventually go back to church. So certainly, God ways is not something that we can predict except to trust that in His love, people may be touched.

I personally disagree if a priest refuses to conduct a marriage mass for Catholics due to one reason or another.

I was once a sponsor for a couple intended to get married but after engagement they were staying in the same apartment together with another tenant, for economic reason as both had just graduated. This priest refused to give a mass for them but only a blessing, saying that they had lived together.

I said they only stayed in the same house. If they wanted to lie, they would not have told him about it. And I said what about Confession. Wouldn’t Confession solved all their sins? He refused nevertheless.

I finally got another priest to say their mass as I did not want them to be deprived of a full matrimonial mass. It was good that they wanted to get married in the church. They could have had a civil marriage, and we might have lost them altogether.

Of course a blessing would serve the purpose of validating their marriage, but we can show mercy and love to be God’s agents of ministering them.

I think you might be forgetting that a “good confession” must include the “firm amendment not to sin again”. I think that is why he felt his confession was not sincere

I am not an expert on this. I am not formally trained to really explain it.

But is not that what a sin is? We know it is a sin, confess it, but then sin again later.

I would use this line in my Confession, “God, I am truly sorry for I have sinned against you, and because you are so good, I will try not to sin again.”

In that way, there is no firm amendment, but try not to sin again. We are weak, we cannot change in our sinful ways, but God nevertheless forgives us, again and again, if needs be, if we come to him, admitting what we did was sinful. In many ways we are under God’s mercy. Sometimes the changes that can happen in us may be from God, not from our own strength.

I am sorry if I wrote wrongly. If it is, always remember it is just a personal opinion from a lay person who has much to learn. :o:)

Im no expert either, so I am sure someone will come along and correct me if I am wrong…
We say, in the act of contrition, that we “will sin no more” and Christ said to the woman “go and sin no more” We don’t say we will TRY not to sin. If course I know I will sin again, but the amendment is not to. Think of it like with birth control. I can’t confess the sin knowing I have half a pack in my purse and I absoulty plan to continue them right after my confession. Please, I know loads of priest will absolve people in this situation, but that does not make it right.

Yes, it means more than simple not practicing. St. Pope John Paul II provides the key in Familaris Consortio:

  1. … However, when in spite of all efforts, engaged couples show that they reject explicitly and formally what the Church intends to do when the marriage of baptized persons is celebrated, the pastor of souls cannot admit them to the celebration of marriage. In spite of his reluctance to do so, he has the duty to take note of the situation and to make it clear to those concerned that, in these circumstances, it is not the Church that is placing an obstacle in the way of the celebration that they are asking for, but themselves.

CIC References:

Can. 1071 §2. The local ordinary is not to grant permission to assist at the marriage of a person who has notoriously rejected the Catholic faith unless the norms mentioned in can. 1125 have been observed with necessary adaptation.



Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;

3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

Birth control is not right. However, priests deal with this issue in many ways. While by itself it is sin, the rehabilitation may not be as clear cut.

We can be confident that Confession absolves us but that does not stop us from committing that same sin again. In this case we totally depend on the grace of God so that there will be a solution for us one day.

However if one goes for Confession for some dubious reason other than admitting that it is not a sin, then why go for Confession at all? That is a situation when I said it was hypothetical though obviously there are people doing exactly just that. And I do not know how to answer that other than to say it is not a good Confession.

But certainly knowing what we do is a sin and admitting it as such, that would be a good starting point. No two situations are the same.

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