QUAERITUR: “Marry us or you’ll drive us out of the Church!”

From a reader:

Starsky and Phyllis [LOL] were married while vacationing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean last summer, and now want to have their married “blessed.” Starsky does not believe this is necessary because even though he was baptized Catholic, he was raised to believe the Church is just a bunch of rules trying to control people’s lives. But, he says, he will do whatever Phyllis wants if it will make her happy. He says he will even go to church with his wife on Christmas and at Easter. Phyllis, who claims to be a “good” Catholic, says she wants to raise their children in the Catholic Faith, “the right way.” Phyllis is due to deliver their first child in two months and wants to be married “in the Church” before the child is born. To reject their request, according to Phyllis, will both push Starsky away from the Church and ruin her life.

Whatever happened aboard the cruise ship, Starsky and Phyllis, if they were both baptized Catholics at the time, and did not receive a legitimate dispensation, were not married.

Baptized Catholics are bound to observe the Catholic form of marriage.

What we have here is a situation where an unmarried couple comes to the Church, not to get their marriage “blessed,” but rather, to get married.

Let’s track this.

The groom is reluctant.  He thinks, perhaps, he is already married.  He has no need to get married again. He may be reluctant to observe his Catholic faith in any regular manner. Phyllis, on the other hand, seems to be using emotional blackmail to get what she wants.  It’s a common argument in many spheres: the Church MUST marry her, or it will push Starsky away from the Church even more!  The Church will ruin her life.

A cruel, if honest, pastor might tell Phyllis that it was her choice to enter into a civil union despite her Catholic faith, that she chose Starsky as a mate (not a paragon of Christian manliness or the ideal husband), it was her choice to consummate that civil union despite her Catholic faith.

Who brought ruin down upon her life again?

On the other hand she may encounter a less cruel, but nevertheless honest pastor.

This priest will remember that sacraments are for people. Not only the most virtuous have the right to the assistance of the Church. Some people are led back into a regular practice of the faith because of the ministration of a kindly, but firm, priest. This priest will recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his 2011 Allocution to the Rota:

“The right to marry, ius connubii, must be seen in this perspective. In other words it is not a subjective claim that pastors must fulfill through a merely formal recognition independent of the effective content of the union. The right to contract marriage presupposes that the person can and intends to celebrate it truly, that is, in the truth of its essence as the Church teaches it. No one can claim the right to a nuptial ceremony. Indeed the ius connubii refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage.”

Here’s a fact: the couple came.  They desire to be married (or at least one of the parties desires to get married). They demonstrate they are prepared for marriage. The fact that a child is on the way should not hasten the necessary inquiry and preparation for marriage.  That fact should make the preparation more urgent.

Someone might be concerned about the “legitimacy” of the child.  This is primarily a civil, not a canonical matter.  Children born outside of marriage are legitimated by the subsequent marriage of the parents (can. 1139). Holy Church is more interested that the couple has a solid foundation for a true, lasting marriage than that a wedding take place quickly.

In most places, the Church requires a six-month or longer preparation time before celebrating the wedding. During this time, hopefully, there is solid catechesis about marriage, natural family planning, even professional counseling if significant issues come up. Despite what the wedding industry says the arrangement of the externals (e.g., the dresses, tuxes, reception hall,  menu, and the damn photos…) are NOT IMPORTANT.

Couples should prepare for their marriage, not for their wedding.

If our aforementioned kindly, but honest pastor thinks Starsky and Phyllis are not prepared for a true marriage, he can delay their wedding.

If he deems they are not headed towards a true marriage, he has the right to say: “I’m sorry, but I can’t sanction this wedding.”

Tough love.

The couple would have the right to appeal to the bishop for a “second opinion” but – get this- the Church’s interest is not in having as many weddings as possible.  

The Church’s interest is to celebrate as many true, valid and binding marriages as possible.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. catholicmidwest says:


  2. philbert says:

    A couple I know slightly were in a similar situation some years ago, though he wasn’t ever a Catholic. When they wanted to regularize their situation, their civil marriage was “convalidated,” – that’s what it was termed. Then their first baby was baptised immediately afterwards.

    Is this convalidation still allowed? It was the prelude to a really committed involvement in the parish and their three teenage children are now, by their own choosing, confirmed in the Catholic Church.

  3. Cathy says:

    Starsky???? Perhaps part of marriage preparation should be on selecting names for one’ s child! I wonder if the young man has a twin brother and, if so, what his name might be? Could it be Hutch? Just a hunch!

  4. Phil_NL says:

    I think we’re suffering from over-legalization here, although not in the way people might first interpret this term.

    A situation where a couple has consummated their union prior to their marriage is hardly new. (understate ment of the year; their ceremony on the ship, or in Vegas, or whatever, is more a civil matter and can be ignored). It’s likely that Startsky and Phyllis joined a long line of people going back to the beginning of the Church.

    Now in the 2000 or so years we have this issue pop up, I get the impression that for at least 1900 of them the standard response was one of two options: a) stern lecture, confession, marriage – which could be done in very little time indeed; b) the priest told them he wouldn’t do it. Nowadays, option a is pretty much a long drawn-out agony, where the stern lecture is replaced by half a year of forced coursework and confession is optional. Is this really better? It’s understandable from a legalistic perspective, where the Church already assumes that a marriage tribunal will be needed somewhere along the road, and where the legal loopholes of insufficiently prepared catholics need to be closed as much as possible. And, as we can all see in the US, with great effect!

    Option a) also included marriage, and all the obligations and permanency attached to it. No fuss was made about it, no loopholes allowed (ok, unless you were of high nobility, which essentially meant marriage was an affair of state). It might be a lot better to go back to that situation, rather than assuming beforehand that a 6 month course is needed while for centuries it wasn’t (and catholics weren’t necessarily better cathechised for much of that period, but they were more familiar with the concept that decisions have consequences, and permanent ones at at).

    To sum up, if you already assume that there is going to be a failure, that people can’t really abide by their marriage vows, you’re going to get exactly that.

    Last but not least, should the father-in-law-to-be be holding his lupara to the back of the groom, a long preparation might result in an inadvertent movement of his trigger-finger. Which is also slightly less than traditional.

  5. CharleyCOllins says:

    I agree with Phil; forcing cohabitating people to sit through 6 months of classes, especially if they are already civilly married, is silly. The priest should be able to determine if there are any natural-law impediments in an interview (or two). But, to hop down a rabbit hole, they could not have gotten a dispensation for the marriage on the cruise ship (unless it was personally from the Pope), unless they were docked in port. Ships are not in anyone’s jurisdiction, so there is no one to give any delegation, let alone permission. Catholics cannot get married on a ocean-going vessel. A funny quirk of canon law.

  6. jcr says:

    The Church requires marriage prep to ensure that the marriage is well-considered and valid. A hasty decision to marry represents a major risk to the salvation of the parties, because the reasons for which the marriage was contracted are often short-lived, and when they pass the couple may find life together intolerable. They will then be strongly tempted to separate or divorce, which would oblige them to life-long continence, unless the marriage can be proved to be invalid. Because of the difficulty of observing this obligation, many remarry or otherwise regularly violate the sixth commandment. Repeated sins against the sixth commandment, besides creating powerful and long-lasting vices, have the particular effect of causing one to gradually lose the taste for the things of God, to the point of losing the faith. From this state of slavery to sin, they can only be freed by a moral miracle of conversion, and there is a shortage of people who pray and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.

    Besides her concern for the salvation of souls, the Church must also safeguard the validity of the sacrament of marriage, not from a legal concern to close loopholes, but because carelessness with the validity of sacraments is a sin of sacrilege.

    Lastly, should there literally be a lupara in play, there can be no valid marriage until it is withdrawn (cf. CIC 1103).

  7. Phil_NL says:

    The Lupara part was tongue-in-cheek, obviously (at least, I hoped so).

    And yes, there are dangers to a hastily contracted marriage. However, six months is not long enough to weed out the usual (heads-over-heels-in-love) blindness they may exist among parties. And you don’t need a course for that either.
    I remain unconvinced of the need for, and certainly the superiority of, the modern appraoch, where we try to prevent any problems to such an extent we al but remove the responisbility of dealing with such issues form the persons involved. If there was no mandatory prep and no annulment mill (interestingly enough, much of the West outside the US has the former, but not the latter), a culture would ensure where people would think twice themselves. And that’s vastly superior. Furthermore, I again point to the ‘successrate’ of the current practice.

    Let people marry, and let them deal with (the consequences of) that decision. We lack that in our society.

  8. Phil_NL says:

    Oops, did I forget to clase a tag? . My apologies.

  9. jessicahoff says:

    Whilst sympathetic to the general drift here, Father, I do wonder if there is not a hint, or more, of Pharisaism here? The sinfulness of a priest does not invalidate the efficacy of a sacrament, does the sinfulness of those who receive it. How do we respond to a penitent sinner? It is not recorded that Our Lord interrogated them and made them sit test months later to see if they were really repentant, and then did six monthly check ups. We should always be prepared to respond with something of the generosity of Christ Himself; after all, what did or do any of us do to deserve Grace and Salvation?

  10. StWinefride says:

    Interesting post, Fr Z.

    But by “opening the windows of the Church to the world” in the 1960s, the Church only has herself to blame.

    Matters were far less complicated in the “old days” i.e. pre-Vatican II when Catholics had to obey the marriage laws of the Church. They still do, but the problem is, the Church has weakened her position by this “opening up to the world” and people don’t listen to her anymore.

    What of those of us who discovered that their mothers were three months pregnant on their wedding day?

    Does it matter that they were probably “told” to marry?

    Speaking for myself, I don’t care. Because for my whole life I have had the witness of a mother and a father who have stuck by each other through thick and thin, through the ups and downs and there have been many. A couple who have shown that true love means sacrificing oneself for the good of the other, who have rejected this modern notion of “personal happiness”, who have been witnesses in their own, sometimes strange ways, that marriage should lead to the mutual sanctification of the spouses. Through the graces that God has poured, and continues to pour into their sacramental marriage, I have no doubt that they will make it “till death us do part” and I love them all the more for it.

    When the divorce rate of Catholics is the same as the divorce rate of secular society, the Church must know she has a BIG problem.

    When the Church opened her windows to the world, so much of what she held truly dear was allowed to escape.

    A tragedy that has caused the loss of countless souls.

  11. Genna says:

    I know that hard cases make bad law but I’d just like to tell of my parents who met and married within six weeks. It was wartime. My mother was instructed and baptised into the faith before the wedding. The marriage lasted 60 years. She never faltered in the faith. It may be a good example or it may not. My instinct here is to be generous, whilst ignoring the blackmail, and giving some instruction both prior to and after the marriage. The alternative is not the loss of two people to the Catholic faith, but of the children and their children.
    A wise priest at the London Oratory once opined: “They disappear when they’re young but as soon as they want to have children, they come back. And we are very pleased to see them.”

  12. Elodie says:

    Phil: you’ve hit the nail on the head. I would go so far as to say the same with regards to sacramental prep for children, RCIA, as well as the pre-Baptism classes for parents. None of the hoops we have to jump through for the sacraments are churning out well-formed or well-informed Catholics. And the hoops are painful for those who are well-formed and well-informed.

    Yes. I think a good priest knows within a few minutes whether child/parent/couple has a grasp of the sacrament. But as it stands, it seems all sacramental prep filters through the parish’s (or diocese’s) aging hippies with an Agenda.

    So, I’m sympathetic with you, Father. But I don’t think our current set-up is a help.

  13. PA mom says:

    Genna, so true. I do not think that it is the time (remember, maybe they have been dating for several, or 10, years…), it is the quality of the discussion. I do think that there should probably be special persons trained to handle such cases, within a larger parish or the diocese. Making them wade through the usual steps will seem so hollow and a waste of time. Maybe not the best people to place in contact with those attempting to go about things the other way, either.
    Six months seems reasonable to me, but I must admit that a year sounds over the top, but that is how it is presented at my parish as well.

  14. Father K says:

    If Starsky believes he is already married and goes through the motions 1] to please Phyllis 2] just to have the marriage ‘blessed,’ that marriage would still not exist – consent makes the marriage. In other words, it would be invalid. A quicker, more painless solution would be for the bishop to grant a radical sanation – sanatio in radice. However the priest should take the opportunity to give some instruction to the future parents of a Catholic child.

    Jessicahoff – it is not about the ‘sinfulness’ of the people involved but the consent.

  15. Phil is 100% right. The six month “waiting period” is largely a waste. And a complete waste in this case. I should think a long talking to, followed immediately by confession is a better way to go. Dragging it out six months is just an impediment to bringing this family – whole family – back into the church.

    And I am speaking from the experience of having gone through it, like Starsky (LOL), out of respect for my wife, as I was effectively a CINO at the time. But having been married, was slowly drawn to the church and to an encounter with a wise old tough but thoughtful priest who more or less brought me home by explaining the way of the church and expecting me to toe the line.

    So I think the “get em in the door, get em on their knees” method is the better way of creating an opening for Gods grace to do the work.

  16. wmeyer says:

    Whilst sympathetic to the general drift here, Father, I do wonder if there is not a hint, or more, of Pharisaism here?

    JessicaHoff, I am sympathetic to that observation, at least in part. My wife, who was born and raised (atheistically) in China, and married to a similarly raised man who later divorced her, had to get a full annulment which took a full three years to resolve. Now I can appreciate the reluctance of the Tribunal to be dismissive of the possible sacramentality of a marriage made by any of our separated brethren, but between two atheists raised in an atheistic society? Add that she was pushed into the marriage by her family, thereby creating another impediment to a sacramental marriage, and it really gets pretty strange.

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    The husband is already estranged from the Church, so the threat is completely hollow. What’s really at stake is that the woman is trying to strong-arm the Church somehow into fulfilling her wishes by her threats. This is despicable, manipulative and presumptuous. They’re civilly married so if they get a child, the child will not be considered illegitimate by the culture, so that’s not really an issue in this day & age.

    So… See how much it’s worth to them and whether they really want to go through with it or not. Put them BOTH on a marriage preparation schedule together. They can’t get married in the Church the way they are. The priest, a deacon or a trusted person of high fidelity should be in charge of this. Forget personality surveys and all that nonsense. RATHER: The pair must understand the history and meaning of marriage and understand how married people in the Catholic Church are SUPPOSED to behave. This should also include the expectation of receiving the sacraments, including confession, on a regular basis. Perhaps their meetings can be right after whenever they attend Church so you can determine whether that’s happening. Regular mass attendance must be happening to be married in the Church. Confession must happen. Otherwise there’s NO POINT to all this, and it would degenerate into the hollow show of lace and hankies, which is far too common. The Church doesn’t want that, and doesn’t need that.

    If a child comes, and the parents just waltz in and get their lace and hankies without some work, do you HONESTLY believe that this child will see the inside of a Church once a week, every week? I don’t. And in fact, the odds of it are miniscule. 80% of Catholics in the US do not attend Church on a weekly basis. On the hand, if the parents go through the whole process and get it right, the odds of seeing the child on a regular basis are much, much higher because the parents will have to make a commitment at one point at least. The odds are much higher that the commitment will be permanent.

    And look, if one of our biggest problems as a Church is the number of non-practicing members we have, why are we so eager to get more? Yet, that’s exactly what we do. But no, we need to concentrate on the ones that we have, to teach them better, expect more of them, take better care of them, and then we won’t keep having these “situations” constantly.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    One other thing:

    Starsky and Phyllis and whole army like them are only interested in their supposed rights and how things look. Catholics get hung up on morals as if everything was only about morals. BUT think about that for a minute. What is the Christian faith really about, really? Salvation.

    Salvation, the main point of the Christian faith and the reason Christ went to the Cross, gets totally lost in the shuffle about 90% of the time in these situations. But that’s the lens through which you have to see this, because that’s the Church’s lens.

    Starsky and Phyllis have to be brought around to view it that way too, or they can’t be married in the Church. There wouldn’t be any point to it.

  19. LisaP. says:

    Amazingly good post and fabulous comments.
    As an aside, I again recommend the Protestant home movie “Divided”, about church youth groups and how by delegating responsibility to teachers and professionals they wound up relieving families of their responsibility to uphold the faith, to the point of making families feel they were wrong to take responsibility, and the bad results of this.


    (Please remove the link if inappropriate.)

  20. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. Z’s canonico-pastoral points seem to me quite correct, and Fr. K’s point about possible “invalid convalidation” here also seem right (tho I am very reluctant to recommend s.i.r. to most folks, for many reasons). But, at root here is the question of requiring canonical form in the first place. I won’t begin to outline the nigh-on 60 year-old-debate on this matter, I just mention it for possible looking-into by the canonically curious.

  21. poohbear says:

    This is just another symptom of the “I want it now” society. This couple chose to ignore the church and her teachings for their convenience and now they change their minds and expect the church to cater to them because that’s what they want, and if they don’t get what they want, when they want it, they will pout and stamp their feet and leave and take all their CINO friends and family with them . Well boo hoo on them. What happens next year when they change their minds again and get divorced and then want to remarry someone else? Oh, the church better cater to us or we’ll leave, etc.

    Setting aside the discussion on whether the current pre-cana rules are effective or not, they are still the rules and should be followed. Ignoring rules for people’s personal convenience it what got society into its current mess in the first place, so continuing to ignore rules really makes sense to get them out of the mess. Yeah, right.

  22. Couples should prepare for their marriage, not for their wedding.
    Amen, amen, a-MEN!!
    Put it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, everywhere.

  23. Ralph says:

    Been there done that. My wife and I were married by a justice of the peace. Later when we came into the church – 5 years and 3 kids later – we had to get married in the Church. We had to take classes and read a book.

    At one point we had to each take an exam that explored our beliefs and expectations. A week later, we had a meeting to discuss areas of agreement and conflicts with the pastor. He was shocked to discover we had nearly 100% areas of agreement and knew exactly the areas we did not. “I have never seen scores this close in an engaged couple” is what he told us. We broke out laughing and had to demind him we had been married 5 years!

    We were both pleased to receive the sacrament and would tell others in a similar situation that all the “hoop jumping” was worth it.

  24. Pingback: SATURDAY MID-DAY EDITION | Big Pulpit

  25. Marie S. says:

    The pastor has the care and feeding of souls in his responsibility. While he is in all charity to provide the sacraments for all in his charge who seek them in faith, he also has the responsibility to prevent the sacrilege of imitating the sacraments without faith. Would it not be an act of sacrilege for someone to imitate the sacrament of marriage with no true intent?

    Poohbear also brings up the valid point that such unions are at high risk for divorce, and subsequent pain of proving their ‘church wedding’ was no marriage at all. It would be more charitable to ensure the marriage was true beforehand, if it takes 6 hours, weeks, months or years. The priest should work with the couple for as long as it takes until he is satisfied that the husband and wife understand what marriage is and are ready to confess their sins.

    Note that it’s not possible to push someone from the church who has already jumped…

  26. Mundabor says:

    Once upon a time people were raised differently and, as a result, had a different concept of commitments. This is the reason why they could meet, marry within a few weeks and live happily ever after. Most were also infinitely better instructed, and went into a marriage with a much better idea of his sacramental value, and much less illusions of never-ending-romance.

    Today the very concept of “commitment” has to be explained, as the mainstream thinking is that once the “emotional needs” of one of the two partners aren’t “satisfied”, the way should be free for the emergency exit. In addition, there is often a rather childish concept of permanent emotional (and erotic) fun-time that just does not match with reality. All mistakes our ancestor did not make.

    Therefore, in my eyes the instruction course makes a lot of sense today, though it might have been superfluous two or three generations ago.

    Just my two drachmas of course…


  27. Cathy says:

    While we’re on the subject of marriage preparation, wouldn’t it be prudent, given that, in today’s society via the education system, television and the cinema, that our children, and adults be taught the marriage precepts of the Church prior to the time they actually start dating/experimenting. I just don’t see any excuse that the Catholic child who goes through so much “preparation” for the sacrament of Confirmation is left without knowledge of the precepts of the Church on marriage. I don’t see any excuse for a Catholic divorcee not recognizing that even dating is a problem – they are still very married in the eyes of the Church and Christ. Those who are on the left have claimed that the Church has not kept up with the times. In such a matter, I agree. By the time our young candidates reach the age of Confirmation, they have been taught how to be sexual, that sexual predation is expected of them, how to have great sex and that it is a right with no responsibility. Many have divorced parents, have witnessed the pain and anxiety of divorce along with the pain and anxiety of parents marketing themselves to find their “soul mates”. Many have half-siblings and a multitude of families. I know a young woman who became pregnant telling her boyfriend that she is Catholic and birth control was against her religion, which is correct, but their seems to be a disconnect – failure that she did not also recognize that sex before marriage is also against her religion. When my mom attended the Catholic Academy in her small town in Nebraska, every young woman was required to join the Good Counsel club which kept them oriented towards the obligations of their vocational direction as women.

  28. Random Friar says:

    The diocese where I currently reside offers “Marriage Preparation” courses for couples who are/were cohabitating. They also offer for those previously married (civilly). If they want a convalidation/Catholic marriage, off they go!

  29. Gaetano says:

    I guess Veruca Salt got married under a pseudonym….

  30. Gaetano says:

    I didnt realize Veruca Salt was Catholic and got married under a pseudonym….

  31. The reason one doesn’t jump for people who make these threats is that, after all is said and done, and after every possible accomodation has been made, they leave anyway. My favorite example of this is when Citibank led the charge on the New York State Legislature to raise the maximum interest rate on credit cards many years ago. The Legislature gave in, but Citbank’s credit card statements have return addresses of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Hagerstown, Maryland on them today. They left anyway.

    Jesus let many walk away from Him. He tried His best, but He would not compromise just to keep the numbers high.

  32. Father K says:

    Dr E Peters, ‘(tho I am very reluctant to recommend s.i.r. to most folks, for many reasons). ‘ I agree, but I put this solution within the context of a bit of serious instruction about the responsibilities connected to marriage and Christian parenthood. My idea stems from the fact that it may not be possible to show Starsky that his marriage is non existant and could avoid an invalid convalidation while helping Phyllis on her journey back to being a practising Catholic and a good Catholic mother. Just a pastoral/canonical solution which is available.

    BTW whatever happened to pseudonyms like Titus and Cornelia? LOL

  33. acardnal says:

    Nice post, Cathy.

  34. New Sister says:

    I know several Catholic couples who had their invalid civil unions “convalidated” in the Church.
    Only one of these couples outwardly recognizes the convalidation as the first time they were *married* and celebrate it [the convaldiation date] as a new “wedding anniversary.”
    All the other couples continue to count from & celebrate the original [invalid] date.

  35. Father K says:

    New Sister

    proves my point

  36. EXCHIEF says:

    Bye Bye. Since the liberal, bend or ignore the rules focus of the Church in the USA over the past 50 years obviously isn’t working anyhow I’m all for letting the catholics go on their way. It’s their decision and their souls. Better to have a leaner, meaner, more orthodox Church anyhow since the current version is deficient in so many ways. Any accomodation of this “threat to leave” is simply a continuation of the philosophy that OMG we can’t offend anybody! That certainly hasn’t worked so I am all for abandoning that approach.

  37. acardnal says:

    Time for some “tough love” as Fr. Z said. Stop the “misguided compassion” as Mother Angelica of EWTN says. Sometimes hearing and living the truth is painful, but ultimately it sets one free.

  38. wmeyer says:

    EXCHIEF, I am with you. Souls are at stake, and that must always trump “feelings”.

  39. pfreddys says:

    I’m was actually a bit relieved by this story……At first, I thought it was going to be yet another homosexual story.
    At least we are discussing something natural.

  40. Father K says:

    to the few posts before [not all – work it out] let’s not become Donatist

  41. Father K says:


    Haven’t you heard of paragraphs?

  42. Alan Aversa says:

    Nice response, Fr. Z.

  43. acardnal says:

    Father K, why are you so frequently critical of PEOPLE on this blog? It’s unfair and uncharitable. Criticize and debate the TOPIC not the person.

  44. wmeyer says:

    Father K, we are not all sufficiently knowledgeable of all the many heresies which have inflicted the Church in 20 centuries to enter into the argument on those terms. However, I will happily say that holding close those who have so effectively damaged catechesis and the liturgy over the last 50 years, and worse, continuing to support their erroneous teachings, seems to me a matter of common health for the Church, and for all within it.

  45. wmeyer says:

    …sorry, brain cramp. I meant to say that keeping such people in plce damages the health of the Church and people still further, and for the health of all, should be rejected.

  46. frjim4321 says:

    It seems at least in the archdiocese I’m familiar with that from jurisprudence the ground of invalid convalidation for declarations of nullity is more of a slam dunk than other grounds, and most judges will go with that ground whenever possible.

    Indeed these often take place because someone needs a sponsor certificate for baptism or confirmation of a nephew/niece. And yes, often the couple still considers the civil marriage as their “real” marriage. If no real consent was exchanged at the time of the convalidation it’s not a valid marriage.

    Phyllis has recourse to a sanation if she wishes to return to the sacraments but Starsky refuses to go through with the validation; so there is an “out” for her. I think they are pretty rare, I’ve never done one. Most sanations I’ve seen have been have been because of an error the presider made, and the couple never ever know about it. For example a visiting priest who witness a wedding without faculties, or in case when the vows were “split up,” with the groom’s priest receiving his vow and the bride’s priest receiving her vow (the things that people thing of!).

    With regard to the right to receive a sacrament, I think we need to be careful before we agree that a person does not have a right to a sacrament:

    “Prominent among those provisions are Canon 213 which asserts the faithful’s “right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the Word of God and the sacraments” and Canon 212 § 2 which recognizes the faithful’s “right to make known their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires to the pastors of the Church.”

    This from an obscure canonist, Dr. Edward N. Peters, found at “http://www.canonlaw.info/a_preparingchildren.htm.”

  47. cwillia1 says:

    The requirement that a priest witness the vows of a marrying couple is a technicality. It is the couple that contract marriage with each other. A couple comes to a priest and they are interested in dealing with this technicality. The proper role of the priest is to decide if they are capable of marriage and if they intend to be married and then, provided the answer is yes to both questions, to marry them as quickly as possible. Any sacrament of the church should be received in a state of grace and so confession prior to the priest witnessing their vows is appropriate.

    A 6 month preparation period for marriage seems to be excessive. I think it is an unnecessary barrier to the reception of a sacrament. The question should be: is the couple properly disposed. Almost every adult is capable of marriage so if a couple intends marriage there is no need to drag the process out.

  48. Traductora says:

    Sometimes I think we’re trying to drive people away from marriage. The stupid stuff formerly called “pre-Cana” has gotten stupider. My daughter went through it and it was idiotic and was practically training in how to be a negligent Catholic, and the priest wouldn’t even discuss birth control with them.

    So if God has told at least one of these partners (and please stop laughing at their names, that’s not their fault) that she wants to be married as Catholic, and bring her husband in at least as somebody supporting their being brought up Catholic, why are we complaining?

    Our first bishop here in St Augustine, FL, traveled far and wide “regularizing” marriages, and that’s the approach in a missionary country. And the US is now missionary territory.

  49. Kate says:

    Wow. Harsh bunch, here, it seems to me.

    Might it be at all possible that Phyllis really has a desire to bring her husband back into the Church? Maybe she knows him well enough to know that if a priest were to deny this request to validate their marriage it would be the last straw for him, and he would never consider coming back to the Church again.

    Maybe she has a dream of being an active Catholic mother of an active Catholic family. Perhaps her life will be ruined if Starsky made a blanket “never again” statement about his participation in the Church. She obviously seems to have a desire to have things be right with the Church – why would she come asking for the marriage to be validated if she didn’t care?

    People know so little about the Faith these days – – and the fault lies where? Is boring both kids and adults to death in CCD or pre-Cana going to do anything to set them on fire for Christ and His Church? Are all the canonists in the world going to dissect their case and smile smugly as they wave goodbye to the young couple – -“no validation for you!”

    Please have a little compassion – – present them with a good, holy priest or religious sister who has been trained in Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” – – to enlighten them to the beauty of God’s plan for married couples. Offer a Mass for them. Pray with them and for them. Show them the way back, and I don’t doubt they’ll be persuaded by the simple humility of a holy person of God.

    It does no one any good to “take bets” as it were on the “divorce-abile” of a particular couple (engaged or civilly “linked”) – – we are all flawed and no magic number of months of a waiting period will make a couple stay married or cause them to divorce.

    The example of true Christian love and humility will warm even cold hearts to the beauty of the Faith. Starsky and Phyllis just may become the strongest, pro-life Catholic couple in the parish.

  50. LisaP. says:

    Every sacramental prep class I’ve ever been in trained me in neglect of my faith (save one, which had its own issues).

    Sometimes I think prep classes are like the Patriot Act, Each party is all for ir while they have control, and can’t seem to anticipate how awful it is when the other guy has that power.

    But I like the argument that it substitutes check marks for personal responsibility (and the pastoral responsibility to have one good conversation with the betrothed) better.

  51. Tim Ferguson says:

    Father Jim, a couple things – the Signatura has made it very clear that the ground of “invalid convalidation,” formerly pretty widespread, is no longer to be used – it doesn’t pass jurisprudential muster. If your local tribunal is still using it, they’re about five years behind the times.

    Secondly, the point you make about the faithful having a right to the sacraments is exactly right – and is exactly what Pope Benedict is saying – it is a right to a valid sacrament, not a right to go through a wedding ceremony. Certainly, the presumption must fall on the side of those wishing to marry, and their good faith should be presumed. At the same time, if Starsky (and I believe that is a pseudonym, so folks who are concerned about people making fun of the names need to lighten up a bit) is going into this saying, “I really don’t need to get married, I’m married already,” he is, objectively, not entering a sacrament – he’s intending to simulate.

    A good pastor, it seems to me, would be willing to give a couple the benefit of the doubt, but also open-eyed, and not willing to permit a simulated sacrament to take place.

  52. Jeannie_C says:

    As for concern about losing the parents and hence future children by not marrying the couple, I can tell you I was the daughter of a non-practicing Catholic father and a non-practicing Anglican mother. My parents were married in the Anglican Church, I was baptized in the United Church as an infant because it was closest to home and I had to “be done”.

    Many years later I entered the R.C.I.A. and found there were others like myself – the collateral damage. We were all drawn into the Catholic faith not by our religiously negligent parents, but through experiences with active Catholics, people who as Fr. Z would say “said the black but lived the red”. We committed to a full year of preparation and instruction before being received into Catholicism. We wanted in so badly it was worth every effort.

    If the hypothetical couple in question are sincere, they will commit to the time involvement as an investment. If they are not sincere, then we will rely on the faith of other committed Catholics to lead the way for their children.

    When we start making exceptions to the rule, and the rule has been well thought out and based on the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, we deny the truth. At that point we have nothing left to lose because we’ve lost it all.

  53. Katheryn says:

    Forcing a couple to receive 6 months of pre-Cana is basically forcing them to the near occasion of sin.
    My wedding prep was a total joke. Some pant-suit nun yammering on how JPII had no business being pope anymore because he was frail, it got worse from there too.

  54. Jeannie_C says:

    And to Elodie – how can you state that current preparation including R.C.I.A. is not churning out good informed Catholics? Your broadcast statement is simply not true. Many who come out of R.C.I.A. know the value of our faith, give back in the parish. Many of us continue learning by reading and participating in study groups sanctioned by the Diocese. If in your parish the end result of preparation is unsatisfactory then perhaps you need better catechists.

  55. Traductora says:

    Lisa P – The sacramental prep classes are a joke. For one thing, they seem to be taught mostly by people who either have no idea what a sacrament is, or know but don’t believe in them.

    I have known several people who have attended one RCIA class, been scandalized by stupidity (the old lady or elderly sister in charge lighting a candle and making them all hold hands and gaze into the flame!) and never gone back. Some people have been lucky and then found an orthodox priest or some program to instruct them, but I always wonder how many we have lost.

    As for marriage, one thing we forget is that this sacrament is performed by the couple themselves and witnessed by the priest (receiving the seal and support of the Church) . So we should be rushing out there to encourage people and bring them into a setting that will be more supportive of their marriage than the secular world, which is not supportive at all. That was always the approach in the past, but the VII insistence on checking off the bureaucratic boxes has turned us into something like the New York City Department of Motor Vehicles as far as the sacraments go.

  56. St. Epaphras says:

    Ralph (at 10:51 a.m.), Can you tell us why you had to get married in the Church after being married by a Justice of the Peace? Was at least one of you Catholic when you had the civil ceremony? Not trying to be nosy, but I was told a civil marriage between two non-Catholics is accepted as valid by the Church even when one party converts later on.

    If Ralph does not see this, will a knowledgeable person please comment on the status of a JP marriage once a person converts?

  57. Jeannie_C says:

    I don’t know whether the R.C.I.A. differs in the U.S. as compared to here in Canada, but ours was no joke. We covered the Old and New Testament, Sacraments, Church history, models of prayer and spirituality, integration of faith, sacraments. Our participants included a wide range of people from different backgrounds and professions, nobody who would have put up with staring into candle flames and in fact our “elderly sister” was someone who held several university degrees. When she retired our new catechist was also a highly educated and spiritual individual.

    The R.C.I.A. is a starting point, there is so much more to read and learn about, and if anyone finds that sacramental prep classes and R.C.I.A. aren’t living up to all they can be, then there is a perfect opportunity to take the courses and become a leader of these programs in their own parish.

    As far as marriage being a sacrament, yes, it is, but there are requirements that must be fulfilled in order for it to be a sacrament, otherwise it is invalid. A sacramental marriage is a covenant, the giving of one person to another, as opposed to a civil marriage, which is a contract. The hypothetical couple spoken of in this article wanted their cruise ship wedding, they didn’t prepare for marriage. Much like the bridzillas who want “their day”, celebrating the sacrament of marriage involves far more than walking down the aisle in the big dress.

  58. Jeannie_C says:

    To St. Ephphras: Not speaking for Ralph, but yes, a Catholic is bound to marry in the Church. If they don’t, their marriage is invalid, as was my parent’s. The remedy is a convalidation. Two baptized Christians of another denomination, baptized in the trinitarian formula recognized by the R.C. Church (and not all Protestant denomination baptisms are recognized by our church) are not bound by the Catholic canon law. In fact, only in the R.C. Church is marriage considered a sacrament. Remember, we have 7 sacraments, Protestants have 2.Their valid baptism validates their marriage even if married civilly. Two unbaptized but married (even if civilly) people, upon baptism int the Catholic faith, emerge from the waters with the same status. Radical sanation is a whole other topic and reserved for special cases, but is basically a recognition of scripture where the faith of one spouse sanctifies the other.

    Who says you don’t learn anything in R.C.I.A.?

  59. eulogos says:

    Jennie C, It sounds as if you found a parish with a great RCIA program. While yours isn’t the only such parish, there are many which are nothing like that. Around here, they tend to the candle gazing, talk about your feelings type of thing. The people who run them have gone to classes which undermine what they once learned about their faith and substitute high sounding nonsense. As for “take the courses and become a leader in your own parish” , if one is already known as one of those people who don’t “understand the spirit of Vatican II” one will not be accepted as an RCIA teacher in this sort of parish. Once I told the pastor of my local parish that I had taken an all day long for a week study of the Catechism and wondered if this was preparation for helping with RCIA. He visibly shuddered and said “Oh, that isn’t for catechesis, it is just for reference. ” He went on to say something about pedantic, and the faith has to be caught not taught. He told me they already had their team for RCIA in place. I gave up asking.

    Just be glad you were in the place you were and got the instruction you did.
    Susan Peterson

  60. New Sister says:

    @ Cathy who wrote, “…they are still very married in the eyes of the Church and Christ.” — Not so! If the marriage is not valid, it never existed. I hear this error so much and am constantly correcting, “until so-and-so ‘gets an annulment’, he/she is still married in the eyes of God.” Let us rather say, “until this bond is declared null by Holy Mother Church, let us *behave* as though one is married.” [i.e., do not risk the possibility of sin or bringing scandal to the Body of Christ.]

    A priest in our parish [preparing his doctorate at Catholic U in moral theology] put it bluntly lest anyone misunderstand: “if a union between two persons is declared null, then a ‘marriage’ never existed and, I’m sorry, but every marital act between them – all those 20 years – was an act of fornication.” [NB: this is not to say a person is culpable of the sin, but objectively that is what it is.]

  61. LisaP. says:

    Eulogos, spot on.

    Jeannie, I’m glad your RCIA was faithful and helpful. It’s often not so,but in my opinion even when it is so it should not be required. Not all people best come to understanding the Church through group education. RCIA should be one offered path of many. The narrow gate is not the classroom door, and the keys Peter were given we’re not to the parish education center.

    Traductorus, my husband might join the Church if there were a way around RCIA. He says he could even just check out for the navel gazing and he knows the faith well enough that heresies won’t fool him. But we are trying to get by, here, make a living and raise kids, all stuff it seems God wants us to spend our time doing. He can’t work a ten hour day, spend two hours at RCIA, then 40minutes driving home once a week for six months. The requirement is frankly disrespectful. It assumes we are not living our faith. The work we are doing outside of the church is all supposed to be for the glory of God, it is not lightly set aside for workbook reviews.

    And there is so much possible pride arrogance in believing your lecturing or small group leadership is so important no one can enter the Church or even know God without it. We need to stop calling it holy because a woman or man who lets his or her ego keep another from the sacraments is in grave danger and needs us.

  62. New Sister says:

    I thing accuracy in language is very important. Catholic couples who are now married – really, sacramentally married – but who had a previous bond that was declared null by the Church should (IMO) really fight the temptation to use language such as, “my first marriage” or “his first wife/her first husband.” Those are inaccurate, untrue statements. I urge couples I know who are in these situations to use terms that reflect the truth and witness to our faith, e.g., “the mother/father of [the child born].” If no child was born to a previous union, then say, “the man/woman I was living with” when you’re forced to speak about it, but (I say) do not call them what they never were. Reserve the sacred titles of wife/husband for your true – and until death, only – spouse.

  63. LisaP. says:

    Just to clarify, I think *offering* any prep or other faith education class is great. *Requiring* it before allowing a sacrament is the problem.

  64. Gail F says:

    My husband and I had our marriage convalidated after we had our first child. We were away from the Church when we married and we thought we were being honest and mature by not having a Catholic wedding because we did not intend to be Catholics. Obviously, and happily, that changed! However, we were not previously married and we were both Catholic, so there was no legal impediment to our marriage. The parish we were in at the time did have us do marriage prep, but it was a short preparation — I think weekly meetings with the deacon and his wife for a month. We were happily “married” at the time (5 years in) and have been happily married ever since (20 more years). To me it seems like a very good compromise. It was plenty of preparation for two people who had already been working things out for five years. Six months or so would have been a waste of everyone’s time and would not have had any different outcome.

  65. poohbear says:

    @ Lisa P How is this disrespectful? I don’t understand.
    He can’t work a ten hour day, spend two hours at RCIA, then 40 minutes driving home once a week for six months. The requirement is frankly disrespectful.

    Many people do it, and then some. Many people work full time, go to school several days a week, and raise a family. One day a week for six months is 24 days. 24 days to get your soul right with God really isn’t very much to ask, unless you really don’t want it.

  66. poohbear says:

    Forgot to add: 24 days at 2 hrs per day is only 48 hours out of your life. Isn’t God worth it?

  67. LisaP. says:


    This is why it’s disrespectful, fully acknowledging your good intentions by this:

    “Forgot to add: 24 days at 2 hrs per day is only 48 hours out of your life. Isn’t God worth it?”

    Because your assumption is that those 48 hours out of his life would be taken from something not serving God.

    And it will be, if they are taken from watching “Desperate Housewives”! :)

    But let’s depersonalize this from our situation, and give a few scenarios.

    Should those 48 hours be taken from overtime at work where the dad of a family below poverty level is trying to stay off food stamps out of integrity?

    Should they be taken out of sleep time so that a person with a commute of an hour and a half in the snow should take the risk of exhaustion taking her away from her family permanently?

    Should they be taken out of time spent with an elderly neighbor or relative who is lonely? Time taking your turn as a parent sitting up at night with a chronically ill child? How about simply time taken from adoration before Christ? Is time spent listening to the director of religious education lecture on the catechism (at best) or tell cute little anecdotes about how he has learned to “set aside” teachings of the Church (at worst) spent more for the love of God than time in front of Him?

    The assumption is that most people live lives of secular frivolity and that by forcing — forcing — a person into an ed program you are doing that person a favor by bringing his mind back to God. I’m sure you can see that this is at the worst arrogant and prideful, but at the best lacks in imagination.

    How about the 78 year old woman on oxygen that I worked for, lives out in the middle of no where, it took her about an hour to get herself in the car. Is she supposed to come to 2 hours at night every week to convert? Hey, she does it for groceries, why not for God, doesn’t she love God?

    Honestly, any time I see the “Isn’t God worth it?” line it reminds me a bit of the email forwards I get — if you love me and you love God you’ll send this on to twenty people. Or the time I was cleaning the church offices and heard the music minister on the phone (didn’t try to eavesdrop, she was loud!) laughing with a friend about how hectic life was for those of them who “worked for God”. We all work for God, who work well and rightly. Those 48 hours my husband gives to God. If he gave them to the RCIA program he would, frankly, in our opinion, be risking taking them away from God.

  68. New Sister says:

    @ Gail F – congratulations & ad multo annos.
    Would you mind if I ask — which date [& number of years] you celebrate as your anniversary?

  69. LisaP. says:

    “Many people work full time, go to school several days a week, and raise a family. ”

    I’m afraid I don’t believe this is true.

    Some people work full time, go to school several days a week, and raise a family. They are not just the sacrificing, they also are graced with extraordinary abilities and/or situations that make it possible.

    Many, many people work full time, go to school several days a week, and *have* a family.

    I grew up in a hard charging household, I value hard work and sacrifice. But when you give your time and energy in one direction, it diminishes in another. There is an opportunity cost for every choice you make, and that includes the choice to go to leave work at 5:45 after leaving for work at 5:45 and spend the hours of 6 to 8 listening to a guy talk, then getting home after your kids are in bed. I get that my POV is kind of an outlier, but I honestly can’t think how it is normal to believe that my kids (and myself) losing my husband’s presence and help and guidance one full day every week for six months is a virtuous thing.

    Not a world I understand.

  70. Jeannie_C says:

    LisaP, I can’t imagine how the RCIA in your area consists of 6 to 8 hours. I’ve lived in two major Canadian cities, RCIA for myself in one and sponsored candidates twice. Our program consisted of two hours per week. There were retreats of one day twice in the 9-12 month time frame, but everyone worked and commuted as well as raising families. 6 to 8 hours does sound excessive.

    Getting back to the marriage prep, someone earlier stated it sounded silly to force people who were civilly married and had been so for a number of years to go through it. Here in Canada we have a different program for these folks. It isn’t a one size fits all. My husband and I know a couple who lived together for 8 years before marrying (first marriage for both). They didn’t think they needed any of it, but discovered new methods for coping with disagreement, gained insight into each other’s values they hadn’t known about before. There is always something to learn.

    Faith is indeed caught,and people come in to our church already gifted with faith, but the formation aspect makes for a well equipped Christian. I come from parishes of upwards of 4,000 families, large churches, and we see those from previous RCIA classes not only worshipping faithfully but becoming involved in service and outreach. Those who go through marriage prep and raise their children in the church are also a visible majority as we have all ages at masses.

    Reading the negative comments saddens me because I know how good it can be. I would urge those in parishes where the program directors are not serving the people well, or where the priest is blase about volunteers to become involved and change things from the inside if need be. It’s easy to look on from the outside and criticize, but Christianity is about hope, not defeat, here on earth as well as the afterlife.

  71. LisaP. says:

    Jeannie, to be fair and honest the RCIA program starts with Mass (which is a good thing itself) and then an hour plus of class. My family could, in theory, go to Mass with him and thereby reduce the family time lost. This would be a lot of strain since we are in a rural community with harsh weather and our vehicles are strained (the situation for many, many here, which is why I find it a big blind spot that the parish doesn’t seem to know what it is asking of people) but we do it for other things, we could do it for that. Theoretical questions of whether it is right to require one route to entrance to the Church aside, 6 to 8 hours would be something we could hold our nose and do, certainly.

    For the rest, I’m very glad you have good stuff where you are — would that not be served as well by programs that are voluntary?

    I would also suggest that it’s great that you see people who are happy to come to RCIA-types of classes then turning out to do outreach service. These folks are clearly oriented towards institutional types of service, and that’s great, and served by both programs for them and programs by them.

    What about the woman whose husband has Parkinson’s and the family has adopted five children with special needs out of foster care? She’s certainly serving too, right? But in a different way. And if she chooses to enter the Church by, say, privately studying the faith and sitting down with the priest once, then taking the sacraments, that is just different, not wrong.

    But in my diocese, it’s disallowed.

    O.k., no more RCIA talk from me — back to marriage!

  72. Imrahil says:

    I’m with dear @Phil on the matter. Getting the Sacraments is among the rights of the faithful, no matter how much some of our fraction (you know what I mean) may despise talking about rights. And we are talking about adult people here. You may, of course, give laws to adults, for good reasons (as the Church does in the impediments). But the distinct attitude of “we know what is better for you” is for use on children. Adult people should be able to marry even a new acquaintance as soon as the canonical requirements are fulfilled, if they wish so; that’s my opinion. We might talk again about whether such an action would be wise.

    As to invalidity, I fail to see how there is much more needed than to have the bride-pair sign a document with their signature that says
    1. that they in untertaking the marriage ceremony intend to conclude a valid marriage, hence have the necessary consent,
    2. that they both know that this consent consists in a) … and b) … and c) … .

    (Needed. The pair might be advised to attend further catechesis.)

    I fail to see how married people who have signed such a document (and this is part of marriage preparation as far as I know) can receive an annulment at all, for that matter, if they cannot prove that one part purposely lied, or are physically / (in concrete terms) psychically unable.

  73. wmeyer says:

    I fail to see…

    Having gained far more knowledge than I ever wanted (and yet not enough) with respect to the annulment process, I would recommend you read Dr. Edward Peters’ book Annulments and the Catholic Church. Dr. Peters does a fine job of presenting the subject in generally non-technical terms. Holy Mother Church has centuries of experience, and the documents to go with it. It is far better to try to learn about it than to opine without a solid appreciation of Church teaching on the subject.

  74. Sissy says:

    Jeanne_C, I think you misread LisaP’s comment about the length of RCIA classes. She said they last from 6 until 8, not that they are 6 -8 hours long.

    LisaP, I sympathize with the situation you are facing with your husband. It’s my understanding that baptized Christians always have the option of entering the Church through one-on-one direction from the pastor. For some, entry into the Church might take place in a very short period. A relative of mine and her entire family entered the Church through private instruction with the priest. They began meeting him in September and were received within just a few weeks. Some parishes try to channel everyone into RCIA, but there are other options. If your own pastor won’t meet privately with your husband, find one who will.

  75. StWinefride says:

    Cathy, you make a good point. In The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (1981), Familiaris Consortio, Pope John-Paul II distinguished three stages of marriage preparation: Remote, Proximate, Immediate. Remote starts in childhood, Proximate is in “early youth leading up to the engagement period” and Immediate in the months before the actual marriage – interesting reading. Link here:


  76. poohbear says:

    I get that my POV is kind of an outlier, but I honestly can’t think how it is normal to believe that my kids (and myself) losing my husband’s presence and help and guidance one full day every week for six months is a virtuous thing.

    Yet you say it could take away from overtime, implying being away for long hours would then be ok. Depends on where your priorities are. Not everyone is ready for the sacraments at the same time, and that’s ok, but people need to be honest and admit that instead of blaming the Church.

    “Many people work full time, go to school several days a week, and raise a family. ”

    I’m afraid I don’t believe this is true.

    I’ll be sure to pass this along to all the people I know who are doing just that. Happy Sunday!

  77. LisaP. says:

    Thanks, Sissy, there are a couple priests I’ve almost asked about this, but don’t frankly know what’s appropriate. My brief inquiry with our geographical pastor indicated it was one route with him. If it is appropriate, maybe I’ll ask. And I totally didn’t get the confusion, oops! Sorry if it was unclear, that was six to eight p.m.

  78. LisaP. says:

    Poohbear, I don’t think I can make my POV clearer than a reread of my previous comments might do.

    I will clarify that I blame * the Church * not one wit for this situation.

    I will respectfully decline to discuss your estimation of my husband, or anyone else’s, readiness to join the Catholic Church and receive the sacraments.

  79. AnAmericanMother says:

    We came in sideways, as it were.
    As nosebleed-high Anglicans we were Practically Catholic in All But Name.
    The pastor of our parish realized this pretty early on, and after a couple of meetings with us and recommending some reading, he catechized us and received us into the Church privately.
    I would have been an annoyance and a starter of rabbits and propounder of too many questions in RCIA anyhow, so it’s just as well (they loved me in the “Why Catholic?” class, with my bag full of the Catechism, Canon Ripley’s take-no-prisoners This Is the Faith, Greek Testament and lexicon, and the laptop with the interlinear Latin/English Bible. :-) )
    Seriously, though, I would think that asking around, or even contacting your bishop, might locate a pastor who doesn’t subscribe to the One Size Fits All theory.

  80. acardnal says:

    Canon Ripley’s, This Is the Faith. Great read for those who want to know what the Catholic Church believes and teaches . . . well should be teaching.

  81. wmeyer says:

    AAM: You, make trouble??? ;) It’s always interesting to quote the CCC, and see how they squirm.

  82. wmeyer says:

    acardnal: I suspect our list of preferred reading has much commonality.

  83. Sissy says:

    LisaP, I’m attaching a link to one diocese – scroll down for statements about candidates vs. catechumens. I don’t know which diocese you are in, but this is standard as far as I know. The USCCB guideline is that candidates shouldn’t be received into the Church at the same time as the catechumens, to avoid giving the impression that candidates aren’t already baptized. Candidates can come in at any time after private instruction. It’s my opinion that some parishes choose to throw everyone in together for reasons of their own, but it’s not necessary. Keep searching for a priest who is willing to help. I’ll be praying for you; I know what it’s like to yearn for ones husband to enter the Church. http://www.archindy.org/worship/rcia-faq.html

  84. Sissy says:

    LisaP, this might also be helpful to you: “Those who have already been baptized in another Church or ecclesial community should not be treated as catechumens or so designated. Their doctrinal and spiritual preparation for reception into full Catholic communion should be determined according to the individual case, that is, it should depend on the extent to which the baptized person has led a Christian life within a community of faith and been appropriately catechized to deepen his or her inner adherence to the Church” (NSC 30).U.S. Conference of Bishops, National Statues for the Catechumenate

    The NSC also states baptized Christians seeking full communion with the Catholic Church should not be initiated at the Easter Vigil with the catechumens, but rather at any Sunday Mass when the priest determines they are ready.

  85. AnAmericanMother says:

    Me? The Earnest Inquirer? :-)
    I try to take as my pattern the Lamb in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. Don’t always succeed, as my natural position is “contrarian”.
    But when I ask a question, I’m not (just) making trouble, I really do want to know the answer. There’s no jury there, and I’m not cross-examining.

  86. wmeyer says:

    AAM: Yes, meek and mild you, the timid one.

    We are much alike, I think, in asking questions to get real answers, and also, in taking pleasure in asking the difficult questions.

    I don’t do it just to make trouble. Not often.

  87. AnAmericanMother says:

    It’s a great scene. The meek and mild, timid Lamb is the one who diffidently asks the question that blows the whole thing up in their faces.
    Since Lewis is stage-managing the story, of course it works. But oddly enough, it works extremely well in real life. I used it often enough questioning a hostile witness. Nine times out of ten the jurors were instantly sympathetic to a friendly, gentle lawyer (!) getting a beating from the guy on the witness stand.
    Of course, you have to have the truth on your side. But we always settled the other ones before trial. :-)

  88. wmeyer says:

    Uh huh, and you got away with it because the jury hasn’t seen you in action before. ;)

  89. AnAmericanMother says:

    I sat at the feet of a master — my dear old dad, who was an excellent trial lawyer for many, many years. He said you should never be nasty in the courtroom, and you should never pretend to be something you’re not, because the jury will find you out for the fraud you are.
    Fortunately I inherited something of his genial temperament, although I was never half the lawyer he was. I haven’t been in a courtroom in years, I’m in another area of practice now. Children and a busy trial practice do NOT work well together, believe me.

  90. LisaP. says:

    AnAmericanMother, thanks for that kindness. Sissy, I had no idea that was even a factor. I am a little shocked by the help, and a bit shamed by it! I have talked with my husband, we went over the new information and the suggestions, I’ve got a plan to go talk to someone I trust in the next town over tomorrow. Thank you very much.

  91. wmeyer says:

    AAM, your dad sounds like a class act. A principled man.

  92. AnAmericanMother says:

    Thanks, wmeyer, he’s my hero.
    The best lawyers always are men (or women) of principle and honor.
    Short cuts and shaving the truth don’t pay in the long run (let alone on the Last Day).

  93. Imrahil says:

    Note: When I said “I fail to see” etc., I meant precisely that, and nothing else. The words, as they stand, contain no opinion of mine, nor did I wish to include one.

    I do, however, have the feeling, that the very complexity of annulments, setting aside simple cases as when one part purposely and provably lied or a person was imprisoned or threatened with a by her or the spouse’s parents with a gun etc., is at least not totally improblematic with respect to Church’s stand as to indissolubility of marriage, as received in the general unlearned population to which I, in this respect at least, belong.

    Long story short sense: That such people as my own person fail to see why the Church is right does certainly not mean she is wrong. However, being bold, it is a problem in itself.

    That said, thank you, dear @wmeyer, for your wish to help and your recommendations.

    So much for this parenthesis. (I wanted to include a “for that matter” into the respective paragraph, but then it had been posted already.)

  94. Jeannie_C says:

    LisaP – I just checked in, I will remember you and your husband when I next pray my rosary, guaranteed to be within 24 hours., thank you AnAmericanMother for giving her a nudge in hopefully a better direction.

    Hope all works out, we want to welcome your husband into the Church.

  95. wmeyer says:

    AAM: My pleasure to acknowledge a hero. We have too few of them today.

  96. AnAmericanMother says:

    Persevere! and my husband and I will remember you and your husband in our prayers tonight.

  97. Sissy says:

    LisaP, I will be praying for you and your husband. I will light a candle for your husband each time I go to church, also….I have a list of folks making their way to the Church for whom I am praying regularly.You husband is now on my list! Hopefully, this problem will be solved quickly! ; )

  98. Philly area says:

    I tend to agree with Phil_NL and some others here. I also wanted to add a bit of my own experience going back nearly two decades. My husband and I just wanted to get married – throwing a wedding celebration that included our families would’ve been easy. A VFW, some hot roast beef and potato salad, a keg of beer, some diet and regular coke, a DJ, and we’d all have had a blast. The problem is a Church wedding is not only a family event, it’s a social event as well, particularly if you’re climbing a career ladder as my husband was. Once we set a date six months in the future as required by our Church, expectations all around us rose. If we had gone immediately to city hall (or done a destination wedding) we could have returned home and there would’ve been no expectations at work of a wedding celebration. We’d have gotten some backslapping “crazy kids” congratulations and the anxiety of paying for a big wedding would’ve evaporated just like that. Then, we could’ve had our marriage blessed and the ensuing family party at the VFW. It’s a tempting thought, particularly for those of us who didn’t grow up dreaming of their wedding day. And lots of us don’t.

    I think a little more empathy for the folks who’ve gone the civil route before going the church route is in order. My husband and I threw our church wedding and managed not to embarass ourselves in front of work people which (sadly) was our most pressing goal coming out of the day. Had we done a quick elopement followed by a family only church marriage, we’d have been able to focus on the joy of the day itself. We are now parents to seven children, none of them are in any way subsidized by the government. We give a lot of money to the Church and other charitable causes, so please don’t tell me that worrying about appearances of a wedding celebration is silly. Would we be as financially comfortable if we hadn’t invited our bosses and coworkers to our wedding which cost more money than a keg at the VFW and cost a lot more anxiety trying to make that VFW budget look somewhat classy? Maybe, or maybe the people who mattered career wise would’ve felt slighted or thought our celebration was cheesey and there would’ve been repurcussions.

    We all learn from our earliest days of catechesis that a marriage is performed by the bride and groom themselves. I believe that. I can’t imagine not embracing a civilly married couple who wanted to be married in the Church.

  99. celinedesilva says:

    A priest must always be mindful that his duty is to 1. Offer Sacrifice of the Mass = consecrate, 2. Preach the gospel, admonish = teach, 3. Forgive sins=Confession and to 4. Bless = administer the Sacraments to the faithful.

    A good Catholic who says he or she wants to raise their children in the faith must first know and firmly believe without any exclusion, everything in that faith.

    To start with, if this couple being Catholic believed in this faith they would not have rejected the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and started off in the wrong way.

    That they have now come to realize the importance of the Sacrament of Matrimony and want to be married in the Catholic Church is a grace of God. It is indeed commendable. They want “the right way”

    However, to threaten to leave the Catholic Church if their request to dictate to the church to hasten their marriage regardless of the proper preparation required, and have their way “is rejected” means, they do not believe in the Catholic Faith. If they did believe, nothing, or no one will be able “to push them away”.

    No priest is going to deny marrying them in the Catholic Church. However, it is only right that the priest does his duty in ensuring that the couple is properly catechized in the faith and instructed on the duties, responsibilities and seriousness of obeying God’s law on this very important Sacrament. This is important so that they can teach their children, raise and nurture them in the Catholic faith, to know God, to love God, to serve God and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

    Dear Phyllis and Starsky, you now have a golden opportunity to prove your love for God, each other and your children by taking the time to learn your faith first and follow the instruction of the priest who acts in the Person of Christ. The priest has a sacred duty and responsibility to instruct the faithful entrusted to his care. Jesus said to His first priests, the Apostles: He that hears you hear Me and he that despises you despises Me…” He too will have to answer to God if he fails in his duty as a priest.

    You will have a beautiful life ahead of you with God as the Centre of your lives and your family.

  100. LisaP. says:

    Jeannie, Sissy, and AAM, thank you so much, that’s very touching and encouraging to us both. Yesterday’s answer was no, but you’ve reminded me of how important prayer is, and I’m better equipped now to keep looking for answers. Thanks.

  101. Sissy says:

    LisaP, keep asking. Perhaps your priest simply doesn’t understand what the Church says about this. How about a call to the diocesan canonist – not to complain, but just to seek information and supporting documentation? At a critical point in my conversion, Fr. Z sent me in that direction and it made all the difference. If your priest just feels he’s too busy and isn’t interested, seek someone else. I also found that the Coming Home Network (run by Marcus Grodi) was very helpful. If you go to their website and ask, they will assign someone to correspond with you by email for counsel, advice, recommendations, etc. They do great work and have lots of good resources. Keep praying; your husband is officially on my prayer list as “LisaP’s husband” ; ), and I will light a candle for him each and every time I go to church to pray. You’ll get your “yes”, sooner or later. When the Lord begins a good work, He also provides the means for it’s completion.

  102. LisaP. says:

    That’s a good show, I will look at that right away, Sissy. Even just one candle, one decade, that’s extraordinary and appreciated. I’ll keep your last line in mind for this and all our endeavors as a family.

  103. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Lisa P.,

    what about this way:

    Your husband (I assume baptized) goes meet your pastor somewhere, throws an Apostolic Creed plus a a formula such as “I firmly believe all that the Catholic Church, united under the Bishop of Rome as the Vicar of Christ, has taught and teaches etc.” at him, and asks him to hear his Confession and protocol what just happened?

    Wouldn’t this make him Catholic? (Not Confirmed, though.) No rhetorical question, though.

  104. LisaP. says:

    Imrahil! You crack me up! Love your thinking.
    I suppose if my husband can state the creed to God with sincere belief, and something like what you have above, then *that* might actually make him a Catholic, eh? Dunno. Is he Catholic now? It is a weird world that for years before reversion I was a “Catholic” (cradle) without belief or obedience to the Church but he is not Catholic although he believes and obeys. But he would never try to access the sacraments without all the i’s dotted. . .thanks!

  105. Sissy says:


    When you go to the site, on the right will be a button that says “Join”. There is a form there to fill out for assistance. They will get back to you quickly. They have helped me tremendously.

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