Reasoning behind Catholics living in invalid marriage?

What are some of the ways that Catholics might attempt to defend their choice to live in an invalid marriage (and thus live in the sin of ongoing fornication or adultery)?

I am not asking anyone to condone or justify this choice — I know I certainly don’t — but I would like some insight as to the psychology going on in these situations.

Some possible rationales I’ve thought of:

  • The Church is wrong, behind the times, and out of touch with people.
  • Celibate males don’t understand marriage.
  • Love is more important than doctrine.
  • The Church will eventually change to allow this, it just hasn’t happened yet.
  • It’s not a big enough sin to worry about, certainly not bad enough to go to hell.
  • Everybody else does it, so it can’t be wrong.
  • I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong.
  • Being in good standing with the Church doesn’t have anything to do with my relationship to God.
  • I’ll settle things up with God before I die.

Any other ideas?

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Well, there’s also the atheist perspective, which sounds like “There’s no god so it doesn’t matter” to “justify” it. Of course, like the rest of the “rationales,” this one falls flat.

As a non Catholic I have to wonder. Is this a topic that most lay Catholics concern themselves with?

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Actually, they do. I should have been more clear that I was referring to how Catholics think, and I will revise my original post accordingly.


Ohhh…I see. I was a little confused at first.

The Catholics I know who do it, do it because of family relations. They have children and sometimes grandchildren and they believe God will judge them based on the way they looked out for the well-being of others (emotional, physical, etc) before He judges that they weren’t married in the Church. They don’t really worry about it. Perhaps they are more cultural Catholic, but they seem pretty faith-filled in all other areas.

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From an atheist perspective, there is absolutely no need either to condemn or to “justify” divorce, aside from a possible injustice done to one party, or its effect upon the children.

Fair enough. The handful of Catholics I know never mention these things or most of the moral/theological topics raised on these forums.

I’ve heard the excuse it’s too expensive to get an annulment. Yes, I do know there are minimal costs if any associated with a marriage case these days.

That excuse was one I was given by a Catholic man I met when I asked why he hadn’t started his petition.

When one is married, the validity of the marriage is key. Being in a state of grace, thus being close to God, following his will for our lives in all matters is a topic most Catholics concern themselves with.

We’re living in a materialistic and narcissistic culture where people are more worried about how many will attend their “gender reveal” party or which hotel they’ll stay at in Bermuda for their bachelor/bachelorette party than whether the marriage vows are fulfilled.


Many Catholics (I used the word “most” in a thread some time back and it was intensely disliked by some, I was accused of “judging”) have difficulties in their lives with one or more of the issues surrounding marriage and/or sexuality. Either because they think they cannot, or simply will not, change their lives to end this behavior, it is possible that they reassure themselves “there’s nothing wrong with it”. Once these sins are indulged, they are very hard to stop. So that’s why people have to rationalize them. Examples:

  • Entering into an invalid marriage (thus committing constant adultery or fornication)
  • Using artificial birth control
  • Living together before marriage
  • Illicit sexual relations within a non-marital relationship
  • Homosexual activity
  • Self-gratification
  • Reading or watching pornography

Remember what Our Lady of Fatima saying about the sins of the flesh and how they lead more people to hell than any other kinds of sins.

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It is entirely possible that poorly catechized people don’t even know what “being in a state of grace” means.


Excellent point. Once you commit one sin, the struggling Catholic can easily rationalize “well I’ve already sinned, so might as well go nuts and sin some more…I’ll just go to confession at some point down the road and ask for forgiveness and all will be ok”. I believe that sin of presumption? (committing a sin while consciously rationalizing that you’ll go to confession for it later)

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That is for the “struggling Catholic”, as you put it, who even acknowledges that what they are doing is a sin to begin with. Some say “oh, pfui to the priest, they don’t understand”. I have noticed that Europeans, especially, say “the priest”, not “the Church”, when being dismissive of Catholic moral doctrine. Historical anti-clericalism?

You can be the most benevolent, self-sacrificing person in the world, and if you die with one unconfessed, unrepented mortal sin on your soul… you’re toast.

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That may be what you believe and what the Church teaches, but it isn’t what they believe. I thought you were asking what they believe (?)

I was. What they believe, deep down, what once in a blue moon they wake up thinking about at 3 o’clock in the morning, what is buried deep in their subconscious, what pricks at them when, for instance, they see The Passion of the Christthat’s what tells the tale, not what they say they believe, or what they seem to believe.

I can tell you that being exposed to people, being around people, who do accept these teachings, makes them think, bothers them, even causes them to become hostile to those people. Makes them face things they’d rather not face.

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Maybe some people. The ones I know are pretty sure they are right, and the Church is wrong. They have scrutinized their beliefs, and are quite comfortable in them. They don’t argue with others about it, because they don’t feel they owe anyone an explanation of what is in their heart and soul.

I am not sure why you asked this question and the curiosity is killing me. Please do share, if you feel like it.

I asked this question because I wanted some insight into what makes these people tick.

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