Would this marriage be a valid marriage in a Catholic church?


Supposed to say John cheated on Jane when they were still lovers/dating. John has confessed this to the priest but NOT to Jane. Jane has clearly stated that if John ever cheated on her, she would not marry him but John still refused to tell her about the event.

If they decide to get married, is John obliged to tell Jane about the infidelity so they can get a valid marriage in the Catholic church? Is there some law that says hiding something from your fiance would deem an invalid marriage?

What are John’s options in regards to this? Can he choose to keep it between him and God and be the best husband that he can be? If he decides to push throught without Jane knowing, should he be taking communion during mass?

Thanks for your input!


This statement would imply that the marriage would not be valid. Annulments have been granted when one of the spouses has ‘hidden’ something from another-that something being a revelation that would have prevented the marriage from ever taking place, not some random secret. So I imagine it would be the same case here.


Then again, John’s cheating is not something that would have prevented the marriage from taking place. Although it sounds like Jane would refuse to marry him if she knew.
If John has confessed to the priest, he is free of the sin. He is under no obligation to tell Jane, however knowing that she feels so strongly about it, he should tell her. And they will probably not marry in that case.


Catholic matrimony allows for conditions about the past and present but not the future. So it could be found to be invalid. CIC (Latin Canon Law)

Can. 1097 §1. Error concerning the person renders a marriage invalid.
§2. Error concerning a quality of the person does not render a marriage invalid even if it is the cause for the contract, unless this quality is directly and principally intended.

Can. 1102 §1. A marriage subject to a condition about the future cannot be contracted validly.
§2. A marriage entered into subject to a condition about the past or the present is valid or not insofar as that which is subject to the condition exists or not.
§3. The condition mentioned in §2, however, cannot be placed licitly without the written permission of the local ordinary.


The concealment of one incident such as you describe would not likely be sufficient to obtain a declaration of nullity or even get the case accepted.

However, if such deception is part of a pattern and infidelity continues shortly before and shortly after the wedding day, a joinder of grounds including Canon 1095.2 may be in order. Canon 1101.2 might be in order as well.

But again, the situation, as described would be a very weak case indeed. There is no obligation for the husband to reveal an infidelity which took place in the courtship. Indeed, this may cause unnecessary hurt and trust issues in light of his fidelity during the marriage.


Actually, the canons do allow for validity based on future condition. At the moment the condition is met, the marriage becomes valid .

Yet, the Canons you cite would not likely enter into this hypothetical case. An incident of infidelity, once before the marriage and then concealed does not constitute error of person or constitute an invalidating condition.

It may be true that she would not have married him had she know, but if both exchanged vows with the full understanding and intention of marriage as the church teaches, then the marriage is presumed valid. Contracting marriage validly is not impeded by one isolated incident or even concealed provided is does not indicate total or partial simulation.


It doesn’t quite work the way you imagine it does. Deception alone does not necessarily invalidate. The judges will be focus one one thing… The moment of the vows.


The possibility I mention is specifically when: “this quality is directly and principally intended” or the condition is with “the written permission of the local ordinary” as given in the canon law.


I see. But wouldn’t there be a problem if someone says his vows while knowing that she wouldn’t marry him if she knew the truth? If would seem like she was being deceived into marrying someone she thought she knew. If that still makes a marriage valid, I would be curious if there’s a line (if someone lies about their past sexual history, parts of their identity etc)


So the answer is that as always, conflicting opinions, none of them from a chancery figure or someone with a canon law degree, appear here. You would need to consult with your priest about this, rather than anoynmous strangers on an internet message board.


Well… your example is kinda contrived. Typically, the statement goes something like this: “if you ever cheat on me, I’ll leave you!” And, as a warning about her future behavior in the context of a marriage already contracted, it would seem to demonstrate invalidity, since it reveals an intention against perpetuity, and therefore, partial simulation.

However, one would have to establish that at the point it was said, prior to the marriage, it was meant literally and not as hyperbole.

However, inasmuch as you’ve written up the thought experiment…

I’m not sure that @Vico’s claim about “future condition” holds up. As stated, this is a condition about the past (“if you ever cheated on me, I won’t marry you”), at least at the time of the marriage.

I don’t think that @TheOldColonel’s take on it is where @Annabanana is coming from, either. I’m taking it to mean that the girl in the example is saying “I will not marry a man who is capable of cheating on his girlfriend”, even though that kind of guy very well might be the kind of guy who is capable of cheating on his wife.

@Vico’s take on “quality of the person” is interesting, if by it, he means that the girl in the example is saying, “I would never marry a cheater”, and the quality of fidelity is more directly intended by her than the identity of her spouse.

How do you know that the “anonymous strangers on an internet message board” aren’t chancery figures or have canon law degrees? :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :exploding_head: :rofl:


On the face of it, this would not be grounds to find nullity. :two::copyright:

Had she known of the infidelity, she would not have consented to the marriage, but she did not know, so she did consent. And that consent is not revocable, else annulments would be easy. (I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee)

To nullify her consent, it would have to be worked into the vows (I, Jane, take you, John, to be my husband, unless I ever discover you to be unfaithful in the past or in the future.) which I doubt any celebrant would permit.

I’m not saying it is the healthiest nor most mature relationship to forge into a marriage, but marriageable it is. :two::copyright:


If they haven’t identified themselves as such, one may safely presume that they are not.


Perhaps the OP, in posing the scenario, had a perspective not connected to Canon Law, any concept of sacramental matrimony or Church teaching. Indeed, we may never know. My response was merely from the perspective of an appointed officer of an ecclesial court familiar with such cases… nothing more.


How would a local ordinary give written permission for a past condition (i.e. “if he ever cheated.”)? Indeed. You might want to rethink your understanding of the Canon and its dubious applicability to this proposed scenario.

At any rate, the burden upon the Petitioner, in bringing this particular ground, is two-fold: 1) Providing evidentiary Proof 2) Demonstrating that there was a positive act of the will prior to the marriage in imposing the condition. That is a rather tall mountain to climb in any ecclesial court. Usually, there are easier grounds to be had. :sunglasses:


[quote=“Gorgias, post:11, topic:506976, full:true”]

I’m not sure that @Vico’s claim about “future condition” holds up. As stated, this is a condition about the past (“if you ever cheated on me, I won’t marry you”), at least at the time of the marriage.

@Vico’s take on “quality of the person” is interesting, if by it, he means that the girl in the example is saying, “I would never marry a cheater”, and the quality of fidelity is more directly intended by her than the identity of her spouse.


No future events, meaning after the celebration. It can be stipulated that the spouse is a virgin, and that is past and present.



You know the old joke about what happens when you ‘assume’, right…? :wink:

Huh? I’m just saying that it’s not a future condition because it pertains solely to events in the past. I’m not claiming that it meets the definition of “past condition” as found in the applicable canon. :wink:

Well, that wasn’t part of the OP’s thought experiment, but I suppose we could propose a variant – an assertion that “I will only marry someone who is a virgin at the time of the wedding.” You would have to make the case, in order to prove nullity, that this quality was intended directly and primarily, though. “If you cheated on me…” doesn’t seem to rise to that level, on its own as an assertion.


That seems fair to me. Dating sometimes involves exclusivity as a mutual agreement but cheating would mean fornication or adultery with some other, but there is no guarantee that any are virgins, per the OP.


Fascinating! Foster raises precisely this case in his book. And, he claims that while this used to be the case, it is no longer: any future condition now invalidates. Perhaps you’re thinking of the 1917 CIC?


It does not even need be a condition held by the parties. An example I read once (I think in Fr Wrenn’s book) was something like this:

John Presbyterian exchanges vows with Jane Methodist in front of a Justice of the Peace. Among those wishing the couple well is Joan Presbyterian (nee Episcopalian), John’s amicably divorced ex-wife.
On the face of it, John and Jane’s marriage is invalid, owing to John’s prior bond with Joan.
A few years later Joan dies. The impediment against John ceases and, presuming their consent continues, John and Jane’s marriage becomes valid (and by virtue of their baptisms, sacramental) without any other action on their part.

(At least that’s the way I remember it)

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