Greetings. My apologies in advance for a lengthy post. My hope is that a priest can respond and advise:
I’m a cradle Catholic.
My father is an ordained deacon in our diocese.
I fell away, far away from the Church for over ten years. During that time I was married in a civil ceremony entirely devoid of anything religious.
I then had a profound “reversion”, thanks be to God, and met my second wife. We were married by my father in a Catholic Church in our diocese in 2001 with full approval from the parish priest and have since been blessed with thirteen years of fruitful marriage and three children. We are very active in our parish and go to weekday Mass together often. I’m a lector and my wife is a Eucharistic Minister.
I heard on Catholic Answers Live that second marriages in The Church needed to be “normalized”. I met with our priest a few months ago and told him that I’d been married outside the church in a previous marriage. He’d asked if I’d received Nullity and if a Lack of Canonical Form form was completed before our marriage in 2001. I told him I assumed so wherein he instructed me to check with the diocese. After doing so, I found that in fact the proper forms had not been completed. Our priest explained that I’d need to fill out those forms, submit them and then have a very short ceremony to bless our marriage. Our priest was sensitive to our situation and in helping us along the way. I refrained from lectoring and my wife and I refrained from receiving Communion for the month and a half it took to complete the process at the end of which the diocese issued a declaration of nullity for my first marriage outside The Church. Our priest did day that in the eyes of the Church our first wedding in The Church was not valid and therefore was as if it had not happened which troubled the both of us.
We met with our priest and didn’t realize that the Convalidation was like a second wedding. We pulled in the associate pastor as my Best Man and the church secretary was my wife’s Maid of Honor but prior to that my wife and I gave our confessions; my wife gave her confession first. When we convened in the church, I could tell my wife was upset and shaken. She whispered to me asking if our priest said we were cohabitating and she said he castigated her about it because she hadn’t confessed cohabitation. At the end of my confession, our priest told me the same thing, that I needed to confess the sin of cohabitation which caught me off guard.
How could we have been sinning for thirteen years when we had no idea that our marriage was not valid???
It troubled both of us to the point that I met with our priest again and asked him how we could have been sinning when we believed our marriage was absolutely valid for the last thirteen years. He said some sins are objectively wrong. He said that admittedly our level of culpability in our situation was low.
Please advise. Thank you and God bless you all.