Why is convalidation of marriage so difficult?

We are getting our marriage convalidated in the Catholic Church. We are both Catholic and have never been married before. We’ve been married 20 years with 3 children. I’ve been told this was supposed to be a simple process. So far it has been very difficult.

We’ve been members of this parish for over 10 years and all of our children have been baptized there. We are required to have affidavits and interviews with people we know and the priest. Neither of our families live around here so it is not so simple. Also we must request permission from the Archdiocese. The whole process will take months and looks to be about 6 months total. Also, it will cost us a minimum of $800 and we are supposed to live celibate the whole time. We have to attend Pre Cana, a FOCCUS evaluation, and NFP classes. We have to provide proof of Baptism and Confirmation. Isn’t this stuff already recorded? The parish I was baptised at won’t send me any info without a written request.

Seems completely unreasonable to me. The thing that gets me the most is that we have send in paperwork and wait a minimum of two months to be approved by the Archdiocese. Permission for what? We are both Catholics! Six months of celibacy?

We are thinking it’s really not worth it.

So my question is why does this need to be approved by the Archdiocese? Also if anyone knows of alternatives I’d appreciate it.

You’re both Catholic but you didn’t get married in the Church? If you don’t mind, may I ask why?

Yes, it can sometimes be a long and trying process, but it’s an incredibly worthy process. At least you didn’t have to go through this with your marriage (good update link at the end).

Several of the things you mentioned is what’s required of couples looking to just get married in the Church. When my husband and I were engaged, we had to do Pre-Cana, evaluations, get witnesses (usually parents), contact the parishes where we received our Baptism and Confirmation. For those we had to provide a written request as well. I was baptised in another state and I had to do some research of what parish it was since the only info my mother had was the name of the parish and the city. My husband’s family moved around to various states a lot, so they had to do a lot of research as well. Since we were getting married at the Archdiocese Cathedral, we also had to receive permission from our parishes to be married there. So, it really isn’t that much different from the convalidation process, although we didn’t have to pay $800 to have it done, just the amount to get copies of our Baptism and Confirmation certificates and other things. If we had to pay for the Cathedral (which was waived since we were heavily involved there), that would have cost $800.

Anyway, just wanted to add some perspective so that you can see it’s not just done for people who need a convalidation. I don’t know much about the process. When my grandparents had theirs done, it didn’t take that long and was fairly simple then. But GM wouldn’t consummate the marriage until it was done. They eloped before my GP went off to the war, so it was about 3 years before the convalidation was done when he came back from the Pacific.

I think it is really stupid to have somoene married 20 years to attend pre-cana (which is for people not married yet) and to do FOCCUS (what are they going to do if they don’t like your answers, tell you to divorce?) Why is it so difficult to get a Baptism certificate. We have people call all the time for one…It takes 10 minutes to look it up and send the certificate. And I don’t understand the $800. A convalidation can be done in 15 minutes outside of a mass, or it can be done in about 5 minutes at a parish mass. The celibacy thing I can understand because in the eyes of the Church you are living in sin. Yet to wait 6 months is a hardship. I would talk to another priest or call the diocese. I have never heard of waiting 6 months for a convalidation, especially since you both were never married before.

Lorrie, Thanks for the perspective. My dad went through the same thing as your mother. The only difference was that his wife refused to live celibate and they did get a divorce because of it.

I can give you an honest but poor reason for us not getting married in the Church. At that time, my faith was weak and it was not important to me.

Sarabande, I actually understand why those things are required for newlyweds getting married. We still have to do the witnesses. The affidavits I don’t get. I guess that I expect us to not be treated as newlyweds. We only need and want a 15 min ceremony with 2 witnesses.

I don’t understand the baptism cert either. My wife called and got one sent to us within 2 days. Mine seems to be a different story. Isn’t all that info in a computer database somewhere? Why the need for the cert at all?

The $800 is a combination of several things. $300 for the church, $150 for the organist, $200 for pre cana, $50 for tips. I guessed at $100+ for the NFP classes. I also don’t know how much it will cost us for the work the Archdiocese does.

I would actually prefer to move out rather than live celibate in the same bed. This would also avoid the near occasion of sin. The problem with that is our 3 small children. This is not an option.

Some parishes are more careful about sending out documents. In some places baptismal certificates are accepted as ID and if the parish wasn’t careful, they might be misused or used to steal someone’s identity. If they want a written request, send them one. I had to do that when I misplaced my son’s Baptisimal certificate. I faxed them a request and they sent one over straight to the Church that needed it. No big deal and the expense was the cost of a phone call.

Parish records are not usually “in a data base”, especially if you are in a different parish/diocese from where you were living when you were baptized and received other Sacraments. Some diocese are keeping records that way now but I am guessing your baptism was 30 or 40 years ago so computerized records aren’t likely. When you receive other sacraments, they are supposed to be recorded on your original baptisimal certificate but that’s not always the case.

They need it to confirm (with documentation) that a) you were Catholic at the time you got civilly married and that b) there are no other marriages recorded.

The parish can’t require that you use the Church and the organist. A small stipend for the priest is customary. I don’t know why the Archdiocese would be involved with a convalidation unless there is some additional complication you haven’t shared (not that you must).

There are usually several options for pre-cana - perhaps there is a cheaper option. Even though you have been married for a while, if your children are small, you have many life changes ahead of you. If you had no marriage preparation, you might find this money well spent. One option that is often available for pre-cana is Engaged Encounter. Given your circumstances, perphaps they will let you substitute Marriage Encounter.

If you have been already using NFP, you can request being excused from the class. If not, you (or rather your wife) may be entering a time of life soon (pre-menopausal) where even many long-time NFP users take refresher courses. Again, think of this as a good investment aside from it being part of the convalidation process.

My guess is that someone in the Church office gave you a “standard” response. If I were you, I would make an appointment with your pastor, explain that you are not young newlyweds and see if there is a different route for a more mature couple.

BTW, you can’t be celibate. Celibate means never marrying. You are being asked to be continent. With 3 kids, have you never gone a few months without sex?

You have the right to be frustrated. Someone dropped the ball here, IMO. Besides you and your wife, I mean. :wink: You said you have been in the parish for 10 years and had your children baptized there. The priest who baptized your first child should have had a “come to Jesus” talk with you back then. Even if you didn’t follow through, this wouldn’t be coming as such a surprize now and maybe some of these steps would already be done.

(Come to think of it, didn’t you already have to supply your baptisimal certificates when you got your kids baptized? The parish office might already have them and not know it.)

Have your parish contact the other parish directly for the baptismal certificate. Usually the parish secretary or whoever keeps the sacramental records can do so easier than you.

No. The information is in the sacramental registry.

To prove you are a Catholic. To prove you have received the Sacrament of Confirmation. And, to prove you do not have a prior marriage. All of your Sacraments are recorded on your baptismal certificate. You must prove your freedom to marry and your canonical status.

You mentioned you did not expect to be treated as a newlywed or someone preparing for marriage. Well you ARE preparing for marriage. YOU ARE NOT MARRIED. You wed civilly. You are not married in the Church-- you are now approaching the Church and asking for a Sacrament.

Therefore, you must go through the sacramental preparation to receive that sacrament just the same as parents to through baptismal prep classes when they approach the church to have their baby baptized, just like children go through sacramental preparation for Reconciliation, Holy Communion, and Confirmation. Just like priests go through sacramental preparation for Holy Orders. Just like adults go through a year or two of RCIA to enter the Church and receive the Sacraments of Initiation. Just like every other couple goes through premarital preparation. All of these sacraments are preceded by sacramental preparation.

I encourage you not to see this as some inconvenience, but as the Church being faithful to her mission to administer the Sacraments carefully and to prepare individuals to receive the sacraments carefully.

I’m wondering if you can talk to the priest about this. Can your convalidation be done during a regular Sunday mass? That would cut out the cost of the church fee and organist fee as well as tips. I know it was a LONG time ago and it was before WWII was over, but when my grandparents marriage was convalidated, it was done, I believe in the rectory or the sacristy (grandfather was a Lutheran). They had the parish secretary and the other priest at the parish as the witnesses and it cost nothing. I understand the fees for the NFP classes and pre-cana classes, though. Of course, if you do want at special ceremony done then it probably would be worth it for you to use the church on a day other than Sunday and to hire an organist, etc. Although, you don’t even have to have music at the ceremony. It could be very simple. It seems to me that this is what you and your wife are looking for anyway, since you were talking about 15 minutes. I think if you can, see if you can have it done at a Sunday mass or something similar. It shouldn’t cost much if anything, in that regard.

I do understand what you are saying because you have been married civilly for 20 years, but 1ke did explain it very well. They want to be sure that you understand the sacramental part of a Catholic marriage. You probably already do, but they don’t know that and are treating it like you are newlyweds. They also need documented proof of you both being Catholic, never been married before, etc.

Thanks Corki, I see now why the documents are required. The priest is the person who gave me all this information at our first meeting. Without having gone to the pre cana, I can’t say whether it’s necessary or useful or not. That’s really not that big of a deal to me. There is no information that I haven’t given or special circumstance about our marriage. The approval from the arch diocese still makes no sense to me at all. The priest informed us that all our documents must have been processed within 6 months so any old records are no good.

I didn’t know the church or organist was not an option. The priest only presented one option to us.

definition of “celibate” from dictionary.com - observing or pertaining to sexual abstention or a religious vow not to marry.

I was actually a witness for a convalidation a few years back at a different parish. I remember the whole thing lasting 10 minutes. I am not against the Pre Cana. We have actually signed up for the special class of those people who are already married.

I didn’t think you were against the Pre-Cana. Sorry, if I sounded that way. But I am wondering why you’d have to pay $300 for the church and $150 for the organist if it is to be a 10-15 min ceremony. Perhaps the priest is thinking you will be having a mass with it as well? So, that is why I’m wondering if you can talk to the priest about it and see what other options there might be if you want a 15 minute ceremony, like having it done during the regularly scheduled Sunday mass, etc.

ADDED - Actually, that is probably what the priest is thinking. I just remembered, a couple of years ago, children of family friends of my parents had their marriage convalidated, but they did an entire mass. The couple were married for a few years and already had two kids. It was apparently like a wedding - the wife wore a gown, veil had bridesmaids, groom wore tux, groomsmen, etc. The whole nine yards. So, he might have been expecting that your wife and you were planning something similar? Talk to the priest.

Geneologists love Catholics. Once you hit the motherload of records in a parish church you have all kinds of names and birthdays. But that isn’t the reason for the need for the baptismal certificate. You have been given very good answers about that.

Let me approach this from another point of view. In your head you have been “married” for 20 years. But not really.

Yet, you don’t want to jump through the hoops other couples do.

That could be a problem. The hoops are there for a reason. You know your situation, but to the church you are just another couple. The Church has a need to protect the institution of marriage. You may be members of the parish for 10 years, but does the priest really know your marriage and your personalities? Some families (speaking from personal experience) can maintain a very good facade hiding all kinds of creepy things for years.

There are many couples in bad and failing marriages that were never done in the church. Do you know how many people convalidate marriages and then a few years later it doesn’t work, and those same people want their convalidated marriage annulled?


Probably not.

The priest wants you to follow the rules everyone else does. Take it from someone whose fiance was too good to follow the rules (made for everyone but him), it comes back to haunt you and your marriage. The same personality traits and lack of regard for the sacrament that led a couple to marry and live outside of church regulations for years could be the seedbed for a newly convalidated marriage to fall apart. The Church doesn’t want that to happen to you. Both of you need to be on board with humility and respect. Those qualities make for a solid marriage. If one or both parties cannot do that in the sacramental preparation, that’s what I often refer to here as a “flashing red light.”

Proceed with extreme caution. One of the other posters commented about the rules leaving them to want to dispense with getting a convalidation. Then that indicates the change of heart and desire to really please God doesn’t go so deep. One would question the sincerity there. If you’ve been living with your partner for 20 years without the sacrament, couldn’t you look upon 6 months of abstinence as a good chance for sacrifice and penance to make up for the years when you disobeyed?

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but there are many people who are married and go longer without relations. Is God #1 yet in your lives? Are you ready to make this permanent? Or is there an indication here of a problem that may explode in a few years?

If you are thinking this isn’t worth it, maybe you are not ready. Making your marriage whole before the God who created that spouse is not worth it? This is the age of the internet. Contacting churches where people were baptized and getting certificates sent is not more work than filling out a rebate certificate for a computer purchase. Would you “write a letter” and fill out an address for $250 back on a purchase? Or $60 for a printer? Wouldn’t you go through at least that much work getting letters of recommendation and fulfilling requirements for a good job? This is about your immortal souls.

The classes they mandate are important. You may be surprised what you learn. The best way to get lost in life is to try to take shortcuts.

As for the letters from families… all couples have to have them. It’s in place of that dramatic movie moment when the preacher asks “Who is against this marriage, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” That isn’t part of a Catholic ceremony really. It’s a chance for the church to find out quietly before everyone is standing on the altar that the groom really married before and has a family in Schenectady or that the bride is certifiably insane and does this every year with a new man. Or that one of them may be of such dubious moral character that no one should marry them. Or histories of drug abuse, alcoholism or a hundred other secrets that should come out before this big step but don’t. It gives the priest a chance to deal with these issues in premarital counseling.

In your case, the church probably wants to be sure none of you are doing this under duress and that there is not abuse or neglect going on.

Be glad the Church tries to protect the integrity of the process. A 50 percent divorce rate among Catholics might be even higher if the Church didn’t do this.

How important is your relationship with God? Follow through. Your children are watching you. What you are doing now could have a huge effect on their choice of mates and wedding procedures in the future. Good luck! :thumbsup:

If you just want a quick ceremony, many priests will perform the convalidation in their office. In such a case, you can probably get the church fee and organist fee waived. You also won’t need an alter server to “tip”.

(some of this is a rehash, but anyway…) The baptismal certificates are to prove that you’re Catholic, the affidavits are to prove that you were not previously married (how else would the priest know if you didn’t tell him?). When I went to pre-Cana, much of it was about the sacrament and what it means, similar to the sort of classes / education you go through before any sacrament. I’m surprised your diocese requires an NFP class. Most I’ve seen do an introduction in the pre-Cana course (with optional classes for any family in the parish).

The permission from the diocese and the 6-month wait might just be policies from your bishop. The priest may have to fill out a form and the diocese may have to approve that he’s properly investigated the proposed marriage - I don’t really know, I’m just postulating.

I think the Pre cana classes would be a waste of time in this case. If the classes are anything like the ones we do there are sessions on learnig to live toghter as a couple (after 20 years I th ink they have this one down) also issues like dealing with new in-laws and finances. Plus they are going to be in class with a bunch of wide eyed 20 or 3 0 somethings. They could proabaly teach the class of dealing with kids. With so many second marriages and a lot of convalidations the CHurch would do well to provide a class for couple in this situation. After 20 years, or in the case of a 2nd marriage, there are different issues that should be discussed. As far as the CHurch, we do convalidations and don’t charge a cent for them, we just ask for a donation. Most have no music or anyting. One priest does it in 10 minutes in a side chapel. Basically it is a reading and the vows and the blessing, that’s it. Heck we don’t even charge first time couples $800 for a full blown wedding with music and all the trappings.

The affidavits are to prove that you are free to marry. Yes, you are legally married but you might not be free to marry in the church so they have to check.

The affidavits, i would presume, are for people to testify that this is the only civil marriage that you and your husband have ever entered into. I’m not sure what you mean by “interviews”.

Neither of our families live around here so it is not so simple.

Testimony of “free status” should be able to be done by mail. Your family would simply go to their local parish to fill it out and have it stamped with the parish’s seal.

Also we must request permission from the Archdiocese.

That’s basically a formality.

The whole process will take months and looks to be about 6 months total.

Not sure why it would take that long, but even still, is that really the end of the world?

Also, it will cost us a minimum of $800 and we are supposed to live celibate the whole time.

Why is the cost so high?

We have to attend Pre Cana, a FOCCUS evaluation, and NFP classes.

I’m not exactly sure why the parish/diocese puts you through all of that. My diocese does not require pre-cana for convalidation. Perhaps if the civil marriage was only a few years old, but certainly not for a convalidation of a 20-year-old civil marriage!
And we don’t requrie anyone to do the FOCCUS evaluation. I laugh everytime I get a marriage file from another diocese that uses those silly things.

We have to provide proof of Baptism and Confirmation. Isn’t this stuff already recorded? The parish I was baptised at won’t send me any info without a written request.

The baptismal certificates are needed for 2 reasons:

  1. It is proof you are a baptized Catholic
  2. Sacramental marriages are noted on baptismal certificates, so it tells us if you’ve ever been married in the Church before

And no, your parish does not have any proof that you were baptized, up until this point they’ve taken your word for it. But now you are requesting that the Church publicly witness a sacramental marriage, so you need to provide definitive proof.

Seems completely unreasonable to me. The thing that gets me the most is that we have send in paperwork and wait a minimum of two months to be approved by the Archdiocese. Permission for what? We are both Catholics! Six months of celibacy?

The “permission” is merely a canonical formality.

We are thinking it’s really not worth it.

I understand why you’d think that, but just try to remember the reasons that you sought the convalidation in the first place.

Feel free to private message me.

I missed this the first time. Either you don’t believe in the Church’s teachings about marriage or you don’t know them. Do you really want to be away from the Eucharist for the rest of your life? Do you really want to put your soul in jeopardy like that?

*What? This sounds really odd. My husband and I were married about 13 years, when we had our marriages blessed/convalidated by the Catholic Church. Granted, we DID go through precana before we eloped (long story why we called off an actual wedding) and when we joined our parish in PA, we were asked to refrain from receiving Communion, and the priest literally scheduled our ceremony within three weeks of us registering to become members. I had been attending there for some time, before officially deciding to join as a family. I don’t understand why you need to shell out $800??? That does not seem right, I’d look into another Diocese. Seriously, it shouldn’t be easy-peasy, but it shouldn’t cost you $800, and for you to wait 6 months. Honestly, my husband and I met with our priest one particular weekend, we talked for about 2 hours…we then planned the date, and within three weeks, we were married in the eyes of the Church. I don’t know why your situation is so much different, other than you didn’t go through precana? :confused:I didn’t read through the entire thread, I will have to do so. *

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