Marriage to non-Catholic, non-Catholic ceremony


Hi Everyone, I got some distressing news today and thought I would post here to see if it is true and to get some feedback…

I was born and raised Catholic, and received all the Sacraments as a child and teenager. I still attend Catholic Mass and I take communion. I was married (my first marriage) several years ago to a non-Catholic, non-religious man (although he was baptized Protestant as a baby) in a ceremony officiated by a Unitarian minister at a historic mansion. It was my husband’s second marriage; his first was a civil ceremony and he was divorced several years before our marriage.

I have just heard that because of my ‘public marriage in another faith’ I have excommunicated myself from the Catholic Church!

Is this really true? I still consider myself as Catholic, and although I have not received the Catholic Sacrament of marriage, I am bewildered by this. What do I do now?


As with all marriage issues, please make an appointment with your Priest to discuss the details.

Catholics are required to follow the Catholic form of marriage, simply put to marry in a Catholic Church or have a dispensation from the Bishop to marry in another Church. If a Catholic decides to not follow this form, they will be legally married but not validly married in the eyes of the Church.

Assuming that the couple acts as a married couple, they would be committing adultery, thus - yes be in a state of grave sin.

Talk to the Priest. He will assist you in reviewing the prior marriage(s), working with the tribunal if needed. If it is determined you are both free to marry, you can go to Confession, marry in the Church (a simple thing, does not have to be a huge full blown wedding) and be back to recieving the sacraments!!


Also, I don’t think Unitarians use the trinitarian baptism so he might not even be a baptized Christian.

Not a Christian, not in the Church = not a real marriage. Seems like a Prima Facie annulment to me. If so, consider yourself blessed.


And, why would you-- a Catholic-- marry outside the Church in the first place?

Well, your husband was not free to marry-- having a previous bond to his first wife. Therefore, he was not free to marry you, nor you to marry him. He would first have to have had his prior marriage examined by the Tribunal to determine whether it is valid or not.

You did not follow Catholic requirements for marriage regarding the form of marriage, nor did you receive a dispensation from your bishop to marry outside of the Catholic form.

So, no, you are not excommunicated, but you ARE in an invalid marriage-- committing adultery-- and are NOT free to receive Communion.

You need to make an appointment with your priest and discuss your situation with him at once. Your husband can begin a Tribunal process regarding his first marriage-- but that is not guaranteed to be declared null. If it is not, then you have some other decisions to make.

Bewildered? Maria, I am bewildered. You knew you were marrying outside the Church and you knew you were marrying a man who is not free to marry. How can you now be bewildered that you are not free to receive the Sacraments while in your current state?

So, Maria, go see your priest-- lay it all out and ask for his help to straighten it out.


heard from who? from someone qualified to give you advice on your personal situation? namely your pastor or another priest, or someone from the diocesan marriage tribunal? I think not, I think from a busybody who read an article on annulment and Catholic marriage and now thinks he is an expert in condemning other people.

your own situation is unique, no one here is qualified to comment, except to offer general statements about Church law. You need to see your priest and get straight answers, and he will refer you to the tribunal for further action if necessary, assist you with paperwork, and with convalidating your current marriage if that is indicated.

number one, even if you had committed an offense (procuring an abortion is one example) that carries a penalty of excommunication, if you did not know the offense was grave and incurred such a penalty, you would not be guilty.

A Catholic who marries without regard for Church laws on marriage voluntarily separates themselves from the sacraments, but that is not the same as excommunication, which is a formal penalty imposed in grave cases for the purpose of aiding the person’s repentance and return to full communion with the Church. You have to want and actively seek excommunication and the acts that merit the penalty, you can’t get it “by accident”.

just on the basis of facts as related in OP, if they are accurate and complete, to be free to marry now, or to convalidate a current civil marriage, a rather simple paperwork procedure is indicated, but since the past marriages will require a bit if investigation and documentation, the process could take a while, but eventually easily resolved.

there is not enough info on husband’s baptismal and marital status to make a determination here, as I said, see your priest and get the ball rolling.

welcome home, you would not be asking had you not been heading home to the Church and her sacraments anyhow.


Not everyone is well instructed in their faith.

I’m married in the Church, but back in '84 when I married, I would have had no idea what the ramifications would have been had I not married in the Church. I was clueless. —KCT


Exactly… not only that, but perhaps someone strayed from the Church for some time, and was married during that time. Now that they’ve come back to the Church, they realize that they have some repair work to do to conform with the Church law on marriage. I know that’s what I had to do.

It can certainly be fixed, though. Go see your priest and start the process.

Good luck!



Definitely talk to your priest, this was not done deliberately, you obviously didn’t realize the rules at the time. My understanding of mortal sin is that if you do not know it is a sin it is not a mortal sin. You did not realize the ramifications having a non Catholic ceremony without a dispensation, I’m sure your priest will work with you on it. Good luck.


It is grave sin, but, only your Priest can help you determine if that grave sin met the requirements of mortal sin.

Three requirements:

Grave matter
Full knowledge


How did you find this out?If it wsn’t by your priest then you need to make an appointment with your priest to begin sorting this out. You should immediately stop receiving communion at Mass but please do not stop attending Mass. You cannot recieve absolution in the sacrament of penance as of yet. You will have some decisions to make about your relationship with your husband. He will need to request an annulment . You may need to live as brother and sister also if not outright separate. This man was not free to marry.You are not validly married therefore it would be a mortal sin for you to have a marital relationship with someone you are not married to. Then you may get to go to confession.
Spend some time before the blessed sacrament to ask for strength to correct what was done wrongly .
Yes, you are a catholic. Just one who has made an error in judgement that you now need to work to correct. Perhaps now is a good time to start learning more about the church so that errors like this one don’t continue to cause you this type of grief . This is a great place to learn .I’m sure you can get many recommendations for books or other materials to help you .As Catholics we are bound by the guidelines and protections of the Catholic church. You didn’t follow them and chose to put yourself out of union with the church and out of union with God.
Good news is you now realize this and can repent and repare.

I’ll be praying for your journey.

If I may ask- why did you get married outside the church?


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit