Non-sacramental Marriage

Hello, I’m a lifelong Catholic who entered a civil marriage 11 years ago; my husband is Catholic also. Neither of us were practicing our faith at that time, but I feel strongly called to become more actively faithful (it’s all I can think about lately). My problem is that I can’t receive Communion until my marriage is convalidated. My husband, however, does not feel similarly called to faith and does not want the convalidation. In fact, he will not go near a church for any reason… Where does this leave me?


Hello! Welcome Home. Your local Priest will be able to answer all of your questions, as there are too many personal variables for a bunch of strangers on a board to sort out.

We can however be here with prayer and support as you make this AMAZING journey back home.

I talked to 2 priests about it so far. The first one said that I could still be a good person without going to church, and that if I insisted on going to church, there were many others to choose from. (I was completely agast; I never heard a priest talk like that in my entire life!).

The second priest (different church) told me I had to get the marriage convalidated to participate fully, or else I could attend Mass but not receive communion. He also advised that my husband and I should live as brother and sister until/unless the marriage is convalidated, and that in doing so my husbad would quickly change his position against convalidation. This did not work, however… there is no way hubby is going to live as my brother! He didn’t appreciate the bribery either.

Now what?


The second priest gave you what I would understand as good advise.

Based on what you have said, your marriage is not recognized as valid by the Church. So, by having relations, it is having relations outside of marriage.

My suggestion is to register at your Parish, see if they have a Returning Catholics program or even RCIA that you could sit in on - just to get to be back in the community. Continue to pray for your husband, attend Mass and offer your longing for the Eucharist for the good of your family. A good and loving husband will see that this is important to you, and would be willing to spend 10 minutes with a Deacon or Priest so you could be happy, I am sure.

Check with your priest, you might be a candidate for a radical sanation. That is a declaration from the bishop that your marriage was valid & sacramental from the beginning. It doesn’t require new vows or your husband to set foot in the church.

Here are more tips about convalidation and also radical sanation.
Hope this helps. Keep praying on it.

I am surprised your priests haven’t brought up the possibility of a radical sanation, but I guess some priests are not especially well-informed on such matters. Radical sanation is a process that can be done by one partner in a marriage on their own.

I’m not too sure of the ins and outs of it, may not be possible in every case but certainly make inquiries about it. I’d not bother with the priests, who usually aren’t expert anyway, and straight to the horse’s mouth - contact your Bishop’s office.

As for the brother-and-sister thing. No, it’s not designed as a form of bribery, but it IS a fact that currently you are living in a state of grave sin, and the only way to avoid this is to forego the marital embrace until the situation is rectified, and for good (as painful as that may be) if it can’t be otherwise.

Your husband should respect your faith and be willing, and it’s usually only for a few months, to comply, for your sake if not his own. After all, wouldn’t he do as much if you were physically ill for a few months and needed to avoid sex?

I hate to say it, but quite honestly, no… I really don’t think so :frowning: I’ ve been quite ill, hospitalized for various reasons - including 4 c-sections, and even then he could not do without sex. (He has a serious problem in that department, but that’s a whole other thread). He certainly wouldn’t do it for the sake of religion, particularly Catholicism, which he detests. He’s slightly more open (and I do mean slightly) to protestant denominations, but I just can’t go there…

Besides, wouldn’t it be wrong for him to enter into a sacramental marriage with no intention of living as a Catholic husband? I did not think it was possible for him to “go through the motions” just for my sake, without having a commitment of his own… Would that be truly sacramental?

Thanks for the info on Radical Sanation. I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll look into it!

:frowning: If your husband won’t even let you recover from a c-section then he does indeed, as you say, have serious problems. But he certainly has no legal or other right to physically or emotionally pressure you - that would be sexual assault for starters. And yes married men have been found guilty of raping their wives, so don’t let him or you think it’s impossible.

Besides which, he need do no more than any other non-Catholic partner would who marries in a Catholic church, which is to not oppose any children of the marriage being raised Catholic. He doesn’t need to believe that it’s sacramental, few non-Catholics would and yet they still marry Catholics in Catholic churches.

I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this - I will keep you in my prayers.


I’m not entirely sure that you would qualify for a radical sanation…

A radical sanation is essentially a retroactive dispensation from canonical form done by the bishop. No one can dispense from canonical form for two Catholics. Essentially, you are going to have to have a convalidation, which is really a Catholic wedding.

Have you sat down and talked to your civil spouse about what you want and why you want it? Have you explained why this is so important to you?

And the more difficult question that you need to resolve inside of yourself… what’s more important to you…? Are you willing to stay with someone who refuses to let you live out your faith in peace of mind? I mean, all the Church is asking him to do is to go through a wedding ceremony. If he can’t do that for you, what sort of relationship do you really have? Is this a man who would lay down his life for you like Christ did for the Church if he won’t even go through a wedding ceremony just because you asked?

I think you really need to talk with him about why this is important to you and let him know that you do not consider yourselves married… therefore, he won’t be receiving any of the “benefits” of marriage until such time as you are officially married in the Church. :wink: Let’s see how long he holds out then… :smiley:

I’m willing to stay. We have young children who love him dearly and would be devastated if our family broke up. He is a really great father, not to mention a good husband and provider for all of us. He does have problems, as we all do, but I couldn’t possibly leave him just because he won’t marry in the church. (He has a very good reason for not wanting a church wedding, which you may have been able to guess - abuse) I could never bribe or force him into it.

He has overcome so much so far… but from a psychological standpoint, it is too difficult for him to submit to the church for any reason. He has not forgiven it yet, nor has the church asked for his forgiveness though he reported what happened.

To his credit, he is letting me raise the children Catholic and they have received their sacraments (Baptism, Reconciliation, Communion) without incident.

I don’t know if this makes any difference, but I looked at our marriage certificate and realized we were married by a non-denominational Christian minister. Is this the same as a civil ceremony?

Yep, if both of you are Catholic, then it’s the same thing as a civil ceremony, because it only has civil effects.

I still think the way to go is to tell him that you wish to be married in the Church and that if he loves you as much as he says he does, he will find a way in his heart to work through what he has to work through to get there.

Having seen a lot of ppl deal with their abuse issues, if he hasn’t done therapy and is not willing to let you have your faith life, then he’s never really dealt with what has happened to him. I understand how he can feel betrayed and angry and all of that… I’m not trying to minimize what he has gone through. But, he claims to love you and you want to practice your faith. Sometimes we have to move outside of our own comfort zone for the sake of our spouses. It will not literally kill him to go through the ceremony. So, I stand by my original suggestion to tell him that you have learned that the Church does not recognize you as married and therefore you will have to live as brother and sister with him.

In all honesty, if you live with him as brother and sister and DO NOT have sexual intercourse with him, and then go to confession… and continue to live as brother and sister, then you actually will be able to receive communion. So, you can remain in the house and you can receive communion, and until such time as he is willing to put aside his own hurt and anger in order to be a good spouse to you, this is the way it will remain.

However, then you have to make the choice… what’s more important to you… living in a state of mortal sin by continuing your sexual relationship with your civil spouse, or being able to live in grace, receive communion and not worry about the state of your immortal soul. I don’t really believe that’s an overstatement. It’s basic Church teaching what will happen if you die in a state of mortal sin and if you continue to live in a sexual relationship outside of the bonds of marriage, that is mortal sin.

What really bugs me is that priests did not care enough about your spiritual welfare to be honest with you… Very sad…

Ummm… the Church isn’t telling him that he can’t have sex with his wife… you aren’t technically his wife. You are the woman with whom he has entered a civil contract, but you aren’t his “wife” by definition. In order to be married, you have to fulfill God’s natural laws, the laws of the state and the laws of the Church. You have only fulfilled two of the three and therefore you are objectively not married.

It’s like this… a man and a woman decide that they want to be married, so they go out into a field and exchange vows and from then on present themselves as married (think the scene in the movie Braveheart where the Mel Gibson character and his woman go off into the woods and exchange vows and consider themselves married). So, they live together as husband and wife and even have children together. But, after a couple of years, she’s tired of his **** and she decides that she wants to go and get a divorce. So, she goes to the judge and files for a divorce. What is the judge going to tell her? He’s going to tell her that he cannot grant her a divorce because she’s not married. She may have thought she was married, subjectively, because they exchanged vows and lived as married, but they did not go and get a license or stand before the civil official, therefore, they do not have what is defined as a “marriage” therefore there cannot be a civil divorce.

It’s the same way in the Church. If you don’t do what is required of you, you aren’t objectively married. You can think you are married all you want. It’s not a matter of the subjective. I can subjectively think that I’m a man, but the objective reality is that I’m not. Just because you think it’s true, doesn’t make it so. Marriage is an objective reality, not a subjective one.

So, back to my original point… the Church isn’t telling him that he cannot have sex with his wife. If you were, in fact, his wife, the Church would be telling him to have as much sex with you as he wanted! All day long if he wanted to! :blush: But, you aren’t his wife in the objective reality sense.

Ultimately, it looks like you’ve made your decision. It’s hard to live according to Church teaching. No one said it would be easy. But, everyone has to set their own priorities. You have to decide what is more important to you… the here and now or the hereafter.

Oh my… if I tell him this he will surely think I’m mad! :eek: He does not give a fig what the church thinks, that’s the root of the problem. Rather than trying to force a change in him, which he clearly isn’t ready to make, is there anything I can do on my own? A friend mentioned Ocular Communion as a possible option, but I’m not familiar with it… going to research it tonight after I put the children to bed!

I would highly suggest talking to the marriage tribunal in your diocese. You need the specific help of a canon lawyer. You can contact me privately with your diocese, and I’ll get you the name of someone you can speak with. :slight_smile:

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