From a reader…
You recently had a post, “ASK FATHER: Godparents must be confirmed, married properly”
In this post you discuss the con-validation of a mixed marriage and a little but about the process.
I have an interesting situation that has been with me for a while:
I am a cradle Catholic that was raised in a home that didn’t practice the Faith. After Confirmation, I quit practicing and drifted further and further from the Faith. During that period, I met a wonderful women, we were married (in a Baptist Church).
Along comes April, 2005. I was sitting in my office and news came that Blessed John Paul II had died. I’m not sure what it was, the next thing I know, I attended the noon Mass at the Church a few blocks away. This was my first Mass in more then two decades.
I get get back to my office a scour the internet for directions on making a good Confession (I had previously availed myself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation only twice: before First Communion and before Confirmation)
The next day I head over to the local Church for the pre-Mass Confession. I get in the box and dump 20+ years of sin on poor father. He does something amazing. He thanks me, telling me I have made his day.
I began to immerse myself in the Faith, learning what it meant to be Catholic for the first time in my life. My wife is very supportive, we are actively raising our daughter as a Catholic (she loves the Latin Mass!) and I volunteer as a Catechist.
About fours years ago now, I stumbled on the issue of the validity of my marriage. For reasons all her own (and she has some good ones that have to do with me not the Church) she is not yet willing to seek validation for our union. [There’s the point.]
This caused me all kinds of Sacramental angst. How can I receive Communion? How can I seek Reconciliation? How can I become a Catechist? What about my daughter’s upbringing?
I have sought guidance from numerous Priests, both on the canon and the spiritual. The guidance has come back two-fold: 1. Because I had more or less abandoned the Faith when I was married, I didn’t need to do anything. It would be like recognizing the wedding of two Protestants before they converted; 2. My wife and I can “live as brother and sister, not husband and wife” so that I can continue to receive the Sacraments until the validation.
The first response came from a single, rather 1970s diocesan Priest, so I’m iffy on that interpretation. The second I have heard from multiple Priest, some who I trust implicitly on this issue.
For the last year and a half, my wife and I have been doing just that, living “as brother and sister”. It has not impacted how we are around our daughter, simply the level of physical intimacy.
I read your post yesterday and would love to get your take on the situation.
As with everything, I pray about!
The “1970’s priest” is wrong, but possibly not maliciously so.
He may have been thinking that you “formally defected” from the faith and therefore, were not held accountable to ecclesiastical law (which is what the requirement of canonical form for marriage is).
“Formal defection” was – was – a very difficult thing to determine. In 2009, the Church did away with that concept. We have returned to the more traditional understanding “semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus – once a Catholic, always a Catholic”. Your Catholic baptism initiated you into a family. No matter what you do, you are always going to be family.
There are good Catholics and bad Catholics. There are practicing Catholics and non-practicing Catholics. There is no such thing as an “ex-Catholic.”
One thing that might be possible. It would be worthwhile sitting down and talking with a good priest canonist or someone at your local marriage tribunal. You might look into a sanatio in radice. This is sometimes translated into English as a “radical sanation”, but a more literal translation of the Latin would be “a healing at the root.” It is also called a “retroactive validation” (can. 1161-1165). In this procedure, the bishop retroactively grants a dispensation which “heals” the wound of the invalidly contracted union.
This procedure is especially useful when one of the parties is not willing to exchange consent anew (but still wishes to remain in the union).
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