Not Baptised - Valid Marriage?



My wife and I were married 30-odd years ago, by a priest, in a Catholic church. We were young and didn’t know or think about it at the time, but my wife was not baptised. She became Catholic several years later (praise God!) - she was baptised at the same time our first child was baptised (in a Catholic church). I am a cradle-Catholic.

I now understand there is a requirement for both parties to be baptised. I’m surprised neither the priest who celebrated our marriage, nor the priest who subsequently baptised her (knowing we were married) didn’t raise this as an issue.

I would appreciate knowing if this is “an issue” in anyway.

  • Is our marriage valid in the eyes of the Church?
  • Is it a “sacramental” marriage?
  • Does it need to be “corrected” in any way?

Thanking you in advance!


Talk to your Priest about this ASAP!




I would have assumed that the Priest would have checked during prep. You don’t both need to be baptized to have a valid natural Marriage but you do both need to be baptized for mhe marriage to be sacramental. A valid natural marriage automatically becomes sacramental once both spouses have been baptized.

You should have a dispensation frpm disparity of cult.


Definitely talk to your priest. Dispensation can be granted to marry a non-baptized person. So you’ll want to confirm if that was done in your case.

Our deacon took care of all the dispensations we needed for our marriage.


Hi Elf01,

Can you please explain what that means?


There needs to be permission to marry the unbaptized for validity. If you were married in the Church, then I would assume the priest would have done the necessary paperwork. However, because she was not baptized, the marriage would be considered a natural marriage rather than a sacramental one. This is because the ministers of the sacramental graces are the couple. They marry each other. And every time you have sex, you’re engaging in a sacramental act, conferring graces onto your marriage. So once she was baptized, your marriage became sacramental.

That’s the theology of it. And as for the prohibition against marrying non-Christians/unbaptized individuals, that’s canon law. So there’s a legal impediment. If the Church changed the law, then you wouldn’t need the permission. And we don’t say that couples who are outside the Church aren’t married because they aren’t baptized.


Hi jlc2k2,
I have no recollection of that having been done (we were living in another country then too, which may make things a little more involved).
Thanks for your reply.


Hi Catholicwife32,
Thank you for your reply!
So do you know if the legal impediment you refer to was overcome once she was baptised, or still remains?


Thank you Maximilian75 - emailed accordingly.


The deacon took care of the dispensation for us. He just told us he was doing it. It is definitely worth following up on to ensure that it was done.


If dispensation from the diriment impediment of disparity of cult was obtained, then yes.

If the marriage was indeed valid, it would have been a natural marriage; both parties need to be baptized, even if they are not Catholic, for a marriage to be sacramental. A valid natural marriage becomes sacramental when the unbaptized person(s) receive baptism.

If it is found that the original natural marriage was invalid due to the fact that a diriment impediment was not dispensed, a radical sanation is necessary. The canonical effects of a radical sanation are retroactive, meaning that your original marriage ceremony would be counted as the ceremony. It’s a little like a “time-warp”, so to speak.


Thanks St_Pius_X_fan,

It sounds like I will need my local diocese to get in touch with our old overseas diocese to check if dispensation was obtained (there is nothing on our marriage certificate indicating this).


I certainly will follow up - just 30-odd years after the event!


Marriage always enjoys the favor of presumed validity in the Church, so while you may want to look into it, you don’t need to worry or fret too much in the meantime unless you’re planning for divorce, annulment, and remarriage.


Trust the priest who married you. You were married in the Catholic Church. He knew what to do. You have no reason to doubt your marriage or to investigate anything.


If you got married in the Catholic Church, the priest would have dealt with the necessary paperwork. The permission really tends to be just red tape for the priests. Some disagree with what a formality it’s become, but it’s not considered pastoral to tell people about everything Canon Law requires. The most I’ve seen is priests and apologists trying to influence Catholic single people to have a preference of dating exclusively Catholics so as not to enter a mixed marriage.

As such, he may simply not have told you what he was doing on his end. He may have even considered it a silly formality. If you got married outside of the Catholic Church and were Catholic at the time, you’d need a convalidation. If you were not Catholic, then you weren’t bound by Canon Law at the time, so there’s no problem there either.


There is every reason to believe the priest took care of the appropriate permissions behind the scene.

Your marriage was a valid, natural marriage.

When your wife was baptized, your marriage became a valid Sacramental marriage.


I am not sure where you are getting this idea from? Catholics validly marry non-baptized persons all the time and did so 30 years ago.



BTW… there wouldn’t be anything on your marriage certificate. Dispensations aren’t recorded there.

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