ASK FATHER: A committed Church of England man, Steve, married Jenny…

From a reader…


A committed Church of England man, Steve, married Jenny, a Catholic who had baptism, 1st communion, confirmation in the Faith. She in full knowledge of her large Catholic family did not seek a dispensation for their wedding in a CofE church. She has blocked their 2 children from being baptized in the CofE but didn’t agree to Steve’s suggestion of baptism in a Catholic church. She never moved away from her family geographically or emotionally. Jenny only ever goes to church some distance away from her home area. He has been a good father and husband, but she is now suing for divorce. No 3rd parties are involved. He is quite rich and suspects an in-law conspiracy, especially after I told him of Catholic marriage law – English non-Catholics really do not know any problems can possibly exist. As a Catholic in those circumstances, can Jenny be accused of entering into the marriage in bad faith?

Cutting through all this drama…

As Catholics, we are obliged to follow the Church’s laws on marriage. If we (or rather you, since my attempt at marriage would be invalid for other reasons, can. 1087), marry outside the Church without a dispensation, the marriage is not valid.

In this case, regardless of whether Jenny entered into her union with Steve out of good faith, or bad faith, or a mix of the two, the marriage is invalid in the eyes of the Church because one party was Catholic and did not observe canonical form.

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  1. Michael says:

    I think the questioner is suggesting that “Jenny” in fact knew that getting “married” in the Church of England without dispensation would be invalid. I think the “bad faith” comes from knowingly exploiting the Church’s laws on marriage precisely to create an invalid marriage.

    If I’m right about the question, though, I think the questioner probably puts too much stock in the average Catholic’s knowledge of canon law.

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Forma canonica delenda est. But that’s long story.

  3. sirmaab says:

    I agree with Dr. Peters.

  4. Alice says:

    Lots of Catholics are clueless about Catholic marriage laws. I’ve even seen good priests get confused about whether or not a marriage outside the Church was invalid or valid and non-sacramental, so I think Steve needs A LOT more evidence before he can conclude that Jenny and her family acted in bad faith. I think it’s far more likely that Jenny doesn’t care much about religion or, apparently, her children’s need for their father and that Steve, in his distress, has fallen victim to the English fear of the Papist bogeyman.

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