What makes a marriage invalid?

Is any wedding not in a Catholic church invalid? What about protestants or people of other religions getting married? What about if someone was baptized catholic but left the church and was getting married in a protestant church? What if both parties were baptized and confirmed Catholic but were married outside the church without a priest?

If either party is Catholic and no dispensation was given, yes it is invalid.

What about protestants or people of other religions getting married?

See CCC quote below. If both parties are free to marry, it is a valid marriage.

What about if someone was baptized catholic but left the church and was getting married in a protestant church? What if both parties were baptized and confirmed Catholic but were married outside the church without a priest?

Catholics, whether lapsed or not, are bond to the Catholic form of the marriage cermony, unless granted a dispensation.

From the CCC:

[quote=CCC, 1625]The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means:

  • not being under constraint; - not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
1 Like

Is my marriage valid…here are the details.

We are both baptized and confirmed Catholic. She ended up getting pregnant and we got married while she was pregnant. We were living together before we got married. We were married by my friend’s mom (who is a non denominational person who marries people) at my wife’s parents house. Is that valid?


In general, non-Catholics marry validly when they marry in their own faith tradition or civilly. This presumes freedom to marry (i.e., no prior marriages, etc). The Catholic Church does recognize other religion’s requirements for form-- for example, the Eastern Orthodox do not recognize any marriages of their own members unless conducted by an Orthodox priest.

A person who is baptized in the Catholic Church is bound by the Catholic form of marriage. To marry a protestant in their place of worship requires a dispensation from Catholic form from the Bishop in order to be considered valid by the Catholic Church.

They are in an invalid marriage.

lol, ok, looks like I am in an invalid marriage. My parish priest actually recommended that route and said I should wait a few years before getting married in the Catholic Church.

As Catholics, you are bound by the Catholic form of marriage. From what you have stated, you did not follow the requirements for a valid marriage. Therefore, you would be in an invalid marriage.

Go see your priest, and discuss convalidation of the marriage.

Yeah, he said that we should wait a few years for it. To be honest I don’t know if my wife and I are ever going to get around to it.

Sounds as if you got some very poor advice. I do not know why a priest woul “recommend” that a Catholic commit a number of serious transgressions against Church law and live in an objective state of mortal sin in an invalid marriage.

I think he just wanted to avoid a divorce.

There is not Catholic Divorce. There is anullment if the couple was not married validly which you weren’t from the sounds of it. It sounds to me like what the Priest recommended to you was within the letter of the law but not the Spirit. For the most part it sounds like this is where you ended up - although you don’t sound as if you meant to:

2391 Some today claim a “right to a trial marriage” where there is an intention of getting married later. However firm the purpose of those who engage in premature sexual relations may be, "the fact is that such liaisons can scarcely ensure mutual sincerity and fidelity in a relationship between a man and a woman, nor, especially, can they protect it from inconstancy of desires or whim."183 Carnal union is morally legitimate only when a definitive community of life between a man and woman has been established. Human love does not tolerate “trial marriages.” It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another.184

Right now you are not free to participate in Eucharist in order to correct this you can do one of two things:

  1. Go to Reconcilliation and then live as brother and sister

  2. Get your marriage convalidated

I would recommend doing both - in that order. Go see another priest if this one will not work with you - How can you bring up your children in the Faith if you and your wife are not even in communion with the Church.

I am not too sure how dedicated we are to bringing my child up in the faith. I want him to make his own choices. I will explain my beliefs and how those beliefs differ from other people. I will explain that some people don’t even believe in any God and there are decent points on both sides. I will then let him choose his own beliefs without trying to push Catholicism or anything on him. The last thing I want to do is teach Catholicism as if it were 100% true, no doubt about it, and anyone that believes differently is wrong and misguided.


A question for you, and I will try to be as charitable as I can.

**Do you really believe in the precepts of your faith, or are you just following only the rules of your faith that “feel right” or are appropriate for you?

I don’t want to scare you or increase your apprehensions about being a Catholic, or joining the faith or maintaining your faith. However, as an adult, you have something that your child doesn’t have–experience and truth.

A child is susceptible to many dangers. Obviously you would not let a ten-year child experiment with dangerous recreational drugs or play in the middle of a busy street, for you know from *your *experience, from the truth *you *have gained, that such behaviors are not only dangerous but can have permanent repercussions.

If you are true to yourself and your beliefs in God, specifically the tenets of Catholicism, why would you let your child play with the dangers of non-Catholic beliefs, knowing that such experimentation would not be wise? Why would not you not share what is true in your heart about the Church and its faith to your own children, without giving them a “cafeteria” menu of faiths and their pros and cons?

Metaphorically speaking, a child will often prefer pizza over a casserole, which may be healthier. If you start with a pattern of appeasement, it’s hard to bring a child back to truth–much of it which will not be pretty or easy to understand as what “easier” options you give to them before they are ready to understand the significance of choice.

This isn’t an accusation, of course. I just thought it best to point out that there is a certain sense of contradiction in your motives, however well-intentioned they may be in giving a child some freedom. A child, however, will abuse freedom of choice until they grow in experience and truth. Establishing your child in the Catholic faith is not a yoke, but protection from error. From truth comes real choice, choice that does not lead a person to ruin, short-term or long-term. God bless.

Actually it is your duty - not only in a Catholic marriage - but in a Catholic household at all it is your duty to bring them in to the Eucharistic community which means the three initiation sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation.

The duties of parents

2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute."29 The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.30

2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law.

2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones."31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.32
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.33

2224 The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.

2225 Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.34 A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.

[quote]2226 Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.35 The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.


Maybe because in the situation described it would still be an invalid marriage? Lack of full consent due to the pregnancy? My present pastor’s attitude to these situations is “Well, when (not if) this ‘marriage’ fails they won’t have to petition for a decree of nullity.”

I didn’t say that I was going to bring him to a mosque or synagogue and make him practice other faiths. I just said that I don’t want him thinking that Catholicism is 100% the one true religion and that everything is wrong (if he comes to that conclusion by himself, so be it, but I don’t want him coming to that conclusion purely because I told him that and he trusts me). I want to teach him my beliefs, but also the beliefs of others and show him that you should not discriminate. Really, none of us know for sure what is right until we die, and I want him to know that.

I especially don’t want to teach him that God existing is a FACT. I believe God exists, and I have some good (albeit personal) reasons for it, but many intelligent people doubt that God exists. I want to make sure he understands this from a young age. I want to be completely open with him so he doesn’t follow a religion just because I told him to.

Thanks for your reply.

I and others will pray for you. You have led me to consider your presence here, in a religious forum, as strange, for you seem to lack such faith in your own beliefs that you cannot share them with others, yet you post here. That was the point of Christ’s message.

Some people are so intellectual, so open-minded that their brains are hanging out of their heads. I ask you to see the world only for what it is, a means, and not an end. You’re not being a bully to tell your child to believe in something merely because you say so. You would do it because you believe it to be true–and because that is one job of a parent.

I will leave it at that and respect your privacy. Saying “God bless” is obviously not something you may appreciate as much as I had thought, so I leave you with all the best wishes for you and your family.

Well, it may not help the discussion, but are you going to teach him that murder is wrong? Stealing is wrong? Adultery is wrong? Rape is wrong? Or are you going to suggest that some intelligent people think differently (they do, and not all of them have been jailed for such matters), so he has to make up his own mind?

The Catholic Church teaches, and has done so for 2000 years, that it has the fullness of the Faith; that what the Church teaches is what was handed down from one generation to the other through the apostles and then through apostolic succession, all of which is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit from all errors. There are some 30,000+ other Christian churches; and none of them make the same claim.

The LDS profess that they are without error, but do not make the same claim and in fact while using words which Christians use, define them radically differently.

Either the Caholic Church teaches the truth, or it is the greatest liar around (since the others don’t make such a claim). If it is the greatest liar around, then we can all go home and do something productive rather than continue on here.

On the other hand, if it is true, then certain things follow like night follows day.

You are obviously young, do not have all that much worldly experience, have not lived long enough to gain much wisdom (which only comes in time, and not to all), seem to believe that the 10 Commandments are the 10 Suggestions, appear to believe that all is relative (which means there is no absolute truth - which in and of itself is a logical contradiction, since that in and of itself is an absolute truth, hence contradicts itself) and odds to a betting man, are not sure you are going to stay married.

You have 700+ posts, but just as a curiosity, why are you here? Are you searching for the truth, or is it a game? You seem to be living a life with no foundation other than personal culture, married to a woman whom you got pregnant (and I will give you to extremely important points - you did not have an abortion to “take care of the matter” and you are making some effort to form a family unit instead of abandoning her and your child after she so inconveniently got pregnant). The short of it is that you seem to be living life with no clear sense of direction; whatever happens, well, we will figure out some answer. Maybe. Or we’ll just go with the flow. Or whatever.

So, to the basic question, why are you here?

I don’t lack faith in what I believe. My beliefs just don’t mesh with the Catholic Church. I would be glad to tell you what I believe, but it can’t be summed up in a word or phrase like “Catholic” or “Lutheran.” It is much more complicated than that. I do believe in God and God bless means just as much to me as it does to other Catholics.

In 3 weeks I will have a BA in religious studies and I plan on getting my masters and PHD as well. But I do believe that a person should be honest with their children about their beliefs. A child should not encounter an atheist when they are 10 and be dumbfounded that someone could believe that there is no God.

My answers are in bold.

You are right; I do not know your marriage.

However, I am a bit older than you; my guess is that I am at least twice as old and possibly approaching three times as old, and as such have a different perspective on things if for no other reason than that I have far more experience - or if you wish, far more data.

That includes 12 years of being a divorce attorney, and being a “people watcher”. And while each individual is unique, the Old Testament comment about there being nothing new under the sun has far more validity than you wish to give credit.

It wasn’t me; it was a secular scholar from a non-Catholic university who did a survey of those who shacked up together; within 5 years 90% had broken up. The divorce rate statistics need no retelling, and interestingly, those who engage in sexual relations before marriage, and particularly those who conceive a child out of wedlock are at far higher risk than those who don’t.

None of that means you are guaranteed to divorce. However, it is clear from your writing that you are far more a relativist when it comes to truth than an absolutist, and relativism is a slippery slope leading in only one direction - down. Your marriage may be great right now - according to your accounting; last I checked it meant you have a spouse, and you both have to not only be on the same page, but stay on the same page. I never had a divorce client in 12 years who did not admit to having had a great marriage - at one point. and each and every one of them found themselves on different pages than their spouse at some point; different enough that they were parting company.

And having the same faith and actually believing what your church teaches (which you have already said you don’t) is no guarantee against divorce. It is just that when you are not on the same page spiritually with a solid foundation (the “I believe” part), you enter that much more into the area of relativism, that much more into the area of different values or shifting values.

So you want to be a professor of religion. You missed my point; if you want to be a pick-and-choose member of whatever church, Catholic included, and you have decided you have far more wisdom than a whole lot of people who came before you. You say things cannot be proved. Perhaps that depends on what you call proof. John Henry Cardinal Newman comes to mind immediately, and there are many others; if you wnat a more recent person, Scott hahn will do for starters, and Kimberly a close second. The Catholic Church, built on the history of the people of the Old Testament has another 2000 years of thinking on what we call Sacred Scripture. And it is interesting that the whole thing hangs together intellectually; something that no one else can say or does say. You want to be the professional skeptic? Be my guest. There are numerous people, far more brilliant than you and I combined, who were skeptics, pursued the issue (as you appear to be disintested in doing) and came to the conclusion that there is far more proof in the teachings of the Catholic Church than you wish to concede. And I have met very, very few truly intellectual people who do not have a sub rosa issue that fuels their skepticism. All too much of what gets passed off as intellectual skepticism is nothing more than “I”. “I want to do…” I want to behave" “I want my freedom…” except that freedom is not freedom from, it is freedom to, and freedom from is simply license, not freedom.

What was my point? You are mistaking a personal goal for what I mean by a clear sense of direction; and that direction is Christ. I would point you to the Synoptics story of the Rich Young Man, but I won’t waste your time or mine. It goes back to the conundrum of not being fully human until one has emptied oneself completely. You are young and full of yourself. That is not particularly unusual in someone young. But as the saying goes: too soon old and too late smart.

Why am I here? Because I choose to follow Christ, and would hope that in some small way I could encourage others on that same path. Because I am not yet too old to learn something. And because I have had others thank me for my comments and tell me that I have helped them.

By the way, I am a bit pointed at times. I am not mad at you at all. Bemused is closer to what I feel. You are welcome to blow off what I say; that does not impact me. I wish you well. I strongly disagree with your analysis of religion, of how you intend to raise your child, and what I see as your relativism. Why do I even enter the fracas? Part of wisdom is the understanding not only that I have made mistakes, but what those mistakes and wrong chocies fully entailed, and the wisdom to choose differently the next time a similar opportunity arises. And part of wisdom is the desire to impart it in others, so the road they travel is smoother.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.