Questions on the validity of marriage


#1

After reading through various posts over the past few days, I have a couple questions. Please forgive me for not understanding; I was not raised Catholic. I just want to see if I understand this correctly, and if not, what is correct.

If both man and woman are Catholic, and they are married in the Church, their marriage is valid.

If both man and woman are Catholic, and they are married outside of the Church, their marriage is not valid.

If either man or woman are Catholic, and the other is not, and they are married outside of the Church, their marriage is not valid.

If both man and woman are not Catholic, and they are married outside of the Church, their marriage is valid.

If a couples’ marriage is valid, and they wish to separate/divorce/remarry, they must get an annulment.

If a couples’ marriage is not valid and they wish to separate/divorce/remarry, there is nothing they must do, because the marriage is not valid.

If a couples’ marriage is not valid and they wish to make it that way, they must see a priest to find out what to do.

Are these statements correct? Am I confused? (Well, I know I am confused, I’m just trying to see if I am understanding correctly.)

Thank you!


#2

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
A
If a couples' marriage is valid, and they wish to separate/divorce/remarry, they must get an annulment.

If a couples' marriage is not valid and they wish to separate/divorce/remarry, there is nothing they must do, because the marriage is not valid.

If a couples' marriage is not valid and they wish to make it that way, they must see a priest to find out what to do.

Are these statements correct? Am I confused? (Well, I know I am confused, I'm just trying to see if I am understanding correctly.)

Thank you!

[/quote]

you lost it here, because of false assumptions.
If a Catholic in a presumably valid marriage divorces and wishes to remarry, or if a divorced person wishes to marry a Catholic---
here we are talking about two people who are divorced, with living spouses, who are therefore not free to marry, no matter what their religious affiliation. If one is Catholic, or wishes to marry a Catholic, the first marriage(s) must first be investigated by the Catholic canon law tribunal to determine if it was valid from its inception. If it is found to be invalid (an annulment is granted) that does not mean a valid marriage was dissolved, it means no valid marriage ever happened. The individual is now free to marry. The Catholic party is further bound to follow Catholic law on marriage.

Two Catholics, or a Catholic and a non-Catholic who have married outside the law of the Catholic Church, are as you state not validly marriage. If they want to stay together and be reconciled with the Church so that the Catholic party can return to the sacraments, the marriage must be convalidated--completed in the Catholic rite of the sacrament of matrimony. If they have separated and divorced with no possibility of reconciliation, no action needs to be taken UNLESS one of them wishes to remarry. Then a shorter formal process, but not a full blown annulment investigation, is required to establish that the marriage was invalid due to lack of form (not following the rules). Then both parties are free to marry.

each marriage situation is unique, and there are many other variables besides the situations posed here. It is utterly fruitless to try and answer a question about a specific marriage situation based on such general information because we do not and cannot know all the relevant details. that is why there is a formal process to make that determination.


#3

Thank you! I'm new to all of this, and was trying to understand, but clearly was not grasping the concept fully. :) This makes sense to me, thanks!


#4

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
After reading through various posts over the past few days, I have a couple questions. Please forgive me for not understanding; I was not raised Catholic. I just want to see if I understand this correctly, and if not, what is correct.

[/quote]

I'll do my best to answer your questions, but please bear in mind that I am not a priest or a canon lawyer. I don't think I'm wrong on any of these answers, but I could be.

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If both man and woman are Catholic, and they are married in the Church, their marriage is valid.

[/quote]

Yes, unless there is some impediment. A few examples of impediments would be:

[LIST]
*]One of the parties is already validly married to someone else.
*]One of the parties has no intention of being faithful in the marriage.
*]One of the parties is completely drunk at the time of the wedding (and thus unable to give full consent).
[/LIST]

(These are just a few examples. There could be many other impediments to a valid marriage.)

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If both man and woman are Catholic, and they are married outside of the Church, their marriage is not valid.

[/quote]

Correct, unless they have received a dispensation from their bishop to have a non-Catholic ceremony. (Though if both parties are Catholic, I don't know of a reason why such a dispensation would be granted. But perhaps there could be a reason for such a dispensation.) This is because Catholics are obliged to follow the Catholic form of marriage -- in other words, to come to the church for the sacraments.

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If either man or woman are Catholic, and the other is not, and they are married outside of the Church, their marriage is not valid.

[/quote]

Correct, unless they have received a dispensation from their bishop to have a non-Catholic ceremony. (Same reasoning as the previous answer.)

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If both man and woman are not Catholic, and they are married outside of the Church, their marriage is valid.

[/quote]

Correct, unless there is some other impediment, like the examples I gave in my first answer. This is because people who are not members of the Catholic Church are not obliged to follow the requirements of canon law.

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If a couples' marriage is valid, and they wish to separate/divorce/remarry, they must get an annulment.

[/quote]

An annulment cannot be granted if the marriage is valid. Now, it is possible that the marriage tribunal could make a mistake, and could grant an annulment when it should not have been granted. But in the case of a truly valid marriage, an annulment should not be possible.

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If a couples' marriage is not valid and they wish to separate/divorce/remarry, there is nothing they must do, because the marriage is not valid.

[/quote]

I think that they still need to have the local marriage tribunal look at their previous putative marriage(s) if they wish to remarry in the Catholic Church, to make sure that their previous marriage(s) was/were not valid. Depending on the circumstances, this may be a short and simple process, or a long and more complex process. This process can be initiated through your local parish priest.

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:1, topic:239885"]
If a couples' marriage is not valid and they wish to make it that way, they must see a priest to find out what to do.

[/quote]

Yes. If there is no impediment to the couple marrying (e.g., a previous valid marriage), then they can have their marriage convalidated in the Catholic Church. However, this assumes that at least one member of the couple is Catholic. If neither member of the couple is Catholic, then I'm not sure why they would be going to a Catholic priest to have their marriage convalidated.

I hope this helps, and I hope that others here will correct me if I got anything wrong.


#5

Remember that validity and legality are two distinct concepts. A valid marriage is a sacramental one - one that is considered a Covenant between the spouses and God. A legal marriage is one that is recognized by the polity and confers legal rights under state, national or municipal law. All valid marriages have to also be legal marriages - ie, the Church won't marry a couple where one spouse is not able to legally consent.

Maybe it would help to reframe this in terms of what's expected.

Catholics, enjoined under Canon Law, are expected to participate only in a valid, sacramental marriage. This is whether the Catholic marries another Catholic or a non-Catholic. A Catholic couple who is married legally but not validly is expected to seek a convalidation - one example might be a couple who marries legally prior to the age of consent in the Church and then, when the impediment of age ceases to be an issue, they marry in the Church. Another example would be a couple who, for legal or benefits reasons does not wish to wait for the Cana process to marry in the Church, goes to a JoP first and convalidates the marriage later.

The second part is how separation, divorce or remarriage come in. This is trickier. A legal marriage is, as far as I can tell, a marriage under natural law and an annulment would be required. An annulment is not a divorce - where a divorce breaks what was once unified, an annulment declares that something that appeared to be unified was never actually unified.

Now if a marriage is invalid - either an annulment was declared or the marriage was not legal (no marriage license, common law marriage, etc), then the couple are free to remarry.

Is there a specific question that led you to approach the distinctions?


#6

[quote="PaulGH, post:4, topic:239885"]
An annulment cannot be granted if the marriage is valid.

[/quote]

This should be further qualified. The annulment cannot be granted if the marriage is sacramental. Non-sacramental marriages are not fully indissoluble, and may be dissolved in certain specific circumstances, via the Pauline and Petrine privileges.


#7

The whole reason I even started wondering is because I was married and am now divorced. My ex-husband is Catholic; I am not. I have been learning about Catholicism and am contemplating converting, and was curious if doing so would mean I would need to do something further in that aspect. The more I read, however, the more confused I got, which is why I was trying to clarify everything here. :) And thank you, everyone, for helping with that!


#8

[quote="Warrior1979, post:6, topic:239885"]
This should be further qualified. The annulment cannot be granted if the marriage is sacramental. Non-sacramental marriages are not fully indissoluble, and may be dissolved in certain specific circumstances, via the Pauline and Petrine privileges.

[/quote]

OK, good point. I'm not sure if those types of dissolution are called annulments, and those types of dissolution are rare by my understanding, but I think that you are correct.


#9

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:7, topic:239885"]
The whole reason I even started wondering is because I was married and am now divorced. My ex-husband is Catholic; I am not. I have been learning about Catholicism and am contemplating converting, and was curious if doing so would mean I would need to do something further in that aspect. The more I read, however, the more confused I got, which is why I was trying to clarify everything here. :) And thank you, everyone, for helping with that!

[/quote]

If you and your ex-husband were married outside the Catholic Church, and he is/was Catholic, and he did not receive a dispensation from his bishop, then I think that your marriage would be invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. However, only by going to the church (starting with your local parish, and possibly having the circumstances of your marriage examined by the diocesan marriage tribunal) can you determine this with certainty.

Now, if you have no desire to remarry, then the validity of your previous marriage doesn't technically matter, as far as I know. You can consider yourself married but separated, and as long as you aren't pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone else, then I don't think you have to seek an annulment or any other type of remedy for your marriage situation.

However, if you do have a desire to remarry, or if you just want some kind of closure as far as knowing whether or not your marriage is valid, then you should go through the annulment process. Your local parish priest should be able to help with all of this. And marriage issues are often dealt with during the RCIA process, so you can raise the issue then, if you do decide to go through RCIA and join the church. If the priest or RCIA leaders at your local parish are not helpful, then maybe try a different parish, or contact the diocese directly if you have to.

I wish you the best, and I hope that this marriage (valid or not) will not be a stumbling block as you investigate the Catholic Church.


#10

[quote="losh14, post:5, topic:239885"]
Remember that validity and legality are two distinct concepts. A valid marriage is a sacramental one - one that is considered a Covenant between the spouses and God. A legal marriage is one that is recognized by the polity and confers legal rights under state, national or municipal law. All valid marriages have to also be legal marriages - ie, the Church won't marry a couple where one spouse is not able to legally consent.

[/quote]

Not all valid marriages are sacramental. Two Jews may be in a valid marriage but it won't be sacramental. A Catholic and a Hindu may be in a valid marriage but it won't be sacramental.

The valid marriage of two baptized persons is de-facto sacramental. Such a marriage cannot be 'annulled'.

A valid natural marriage (the marriage of a baptized and a non-baptized or of two non-baptized) can be dissolved by Petrine or Pauline Privilege.

No marriage can be 'annulled', which implies that something was changed. It can be found invalid due to any number of factors and the couple issued a decree of nullity which states that fact.


#11

[quote="bdjohnbg, post:7, topic:239885"]
The whole reason I even started wondering is because I was married and am now divorced. My ex-husband is Catholic; I am not. I have been learning about Catholicism and am contemplating converting, and was curious if doing so would mean I would need to do something further in that aspect. The more I read, however, the more confused I got, which is why I was trying to clarify everything here. :) And thank you, everyone, for helping with that!

[/quote]

The best course of action is to make an appointment with the local priest and discuss your specific case.

In general, whether or not your marriage is presumed valid, and therefore in need of a full tribunal investigation to determine validity, depends upon where you were married and whether or not your ex received the proper permissions and dispensations to do so.

If your ex did not marry according to Church law or obtain the proper dispensation to wed you outside Catholic form, then the marriage is invalid. If he did follow Catholic requirements then it would be presumed to be a valid marriage.

If you are currently not in a "remarriage" situation, you can join the Catholic Church without any investigation of the marriage. You cannot, however, attempt to marry anyone else.


#12

[quote="Warrior1979, post:6, topic:239885"]
This should be further qualified. The annulment cannot be granted if the marriage is sacramental. Non-sacramental marriages are not fully indissoluble, and may be dissolved in certain specific circumstances, via the Pauline and Petrine privileges.

[/quote]

A decree of nullity and a dissolution of the bond via the Pauline or Petrine privilege are not the same thing.

A natural marriage can be declared null due to an impediment or defect. It can also be found valid, but still dissolved via the privilege.


#13

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