Catholics/RCIA and Civil marraige


QUESTION: My situation is similar to Sharon's, you answered her in the spring of 2010.  I am baptized, my husband is not.  We were married by a non-denominational pastor over 12 years ago.  I am going throught the RCIA process now coverting from the Lutheran faith, Missori Synod along with our three children.  Will my marraige need to be blessed in the Catholic church for it to be considered a valid marriage, am I considered to be in a state of mortal sin until it is blessed and to refrain from receiving the Eucarist unil our marraige is blessed?  My RCIA director is aware of my situation, however, I was told yesterday by a friend that it will need to be blessed before recieving Communion.  I of course do not want to recieve Communion in a state of Mortal sin nor live in a state of Mortal sin.  My intention, with a whole lot of prayer, is that my husband will come around and be willing to have our marriage blessed and someday entere into the Church. I see your answer to Sharon, does the same apply in my case? I appreciate your help in clarifying this.  Thank you Father.

ANSWER: Hello, Heather - and thank you for the question:

Based upon the information you provided, it appears as though you were married to your husband prior to your current situation of looking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.  You were baptized - he is not a baptized person.
This would constitute what is called a "lawful marriage"; though not "sacramental" due to the fact that he is not baptized.

Question: Had you or he ever been married previously?  If either of you had ever been previously married, this would introduce other matters in the situation to be dealt with.


1. Since you neither one was Catholic, you were not bound by Catholic Church Law concerning your marriage.

2. As long as you were free to marry, and gave valid free consent through public marriage vows, then you are currently in a "lawful" marriage.

3. What you refer to as "having a marriage blessed" only refers to what is actually known as a "convalidation."

4. A "convalidation" is necessary only if there has been something unlawful or an impediment that would otherwise prevent you from being able to marry.

5. If you have celebrated a truly "lawful" marriage, then there is no need to go through any kind of special "blessing" ceremony of that marriage.

6. You can be a Catholic in good standing and celebrate the Sacraments simply by being received into the Catholic Church, whether your husband does or not.  Your good standing is not based upon whether or not he is a Catholic - only whether you are "lawfully" married already in a non-sacramental marriage, due to his not being baptized.

Let's pray that your husband might come to share in the full communion of the Catholic Faith along with you; but leave it in God's hands, in God's time.  In the meantime, just be certain to present all the relevant facts of your current marriage situation, and we should surely be able to trust that the local Parish Priest and his RCIA ministry team will lead you through the proper process.  May God bless you; and I wish you the best of everything in life!

Fr. Timothy Johnson

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Father Tim, I have been asked to be Heather sponsor, I am having a difficult time understanding, Once she becomes Catholic, why she does not have to adhere to the same set of rules that apply to other Catholics.

Meaning once she becomes Catholic why would her marriage not have to be blessed in the Catholic Church? I get she was not Catholic at the time, but now she is Catholic (RCIA)  why would the church not require her to have a blessed marriage .... I don't see how a marriage with one person ( not even baptized) can be a good marriage in the eyes of the church, I am pretty sure it is not pleasing to God.

I don't see how the church can allow her to receive communion, without a blessed marriage.  Why would this not be one of the steps in RCIA?

Do we have two sets of rules?

Thank you for your reply.

Hi, Kris:

Thank you for your follow up on the question.
Like I said: Provided it is the first marriage for both of them, there is no additional blessing or anything that needs to be done to the marriage.  It is a "lawful" marriage, recognized by the Church.
You could certainly double check on this matter by calling the Marriage Tribunal Office of the Chancery of your Diocese.
You are correct: There are two sets of rules recognized; though only one Church Authority.

To be married in the Catholic Church = Having been married by the Authority of the Catholic Church.

The Authority of the Catholic Church, given commission and office by Jesus Christ Himself, has declared that CATHOLICS are bound by the Church Law of "Canonical Form": A marriage ceremony that involves at least one baptized Catholic, in a church building, utilizing a Catholic Rite of Marriage, vows received by an authorized Catholic Priest or Deacon, in the presence of at least two witnesses.

However: Those entering into a marriage involving two non-Catholics are not bound to Church Law, i.e. They are not bound by Canonical Form.  Two non-Catholics are bound only by the Positive Natural Law: That it be one man and one woman; with marriage vows exchanged freely with the intention to enter into a union together for life; to form a domestic family together, be open to bearing children, and the spouses exclude any other lovers.

There is no step in the RCIA that would go beyond the regulations of the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church (western, latin church).
It would be acceptable for the couple to celebrate an anniversary date together of their marriage, and make a renewal of vows and get blessed; but they are already to be understood as having been married from the time their marriage is recorded and they exchanged vows the first time.

I can understand your concerns that you want Heather to be in proper, good standing with the Catholic Church.  But we want to be careful not to seem to require more than is actually required for a lawful valid marriage.  I admit that some aspects of Catholic Marriage Law can be a little difficult to understand or get all the nuances.  I encourage you to check out this matter in greater depth through other sources in addition to myself.
I wish you and Heather a great, wonderful, and blessed Easter season 2013 with the joy of coming to the completion of the RCIA process for her reception into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Fr. Timothy Johnson  


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