Luis asked:

"I want to come back to the church ... I want to get married. But my fiancee is non-Catholic. So we're planning to have a marriage outside the church ... somewhere in the courtyard ... I asked the priest ... to have it blessed ... once we get married ... I have to wait a year and then the process starts where I can get it blessed. Is that correct?"

Jim Blackburn replied:

"If you are going to get married and you are a Catholic ...Then you have an obligation to get married ... in the Catholic church ... I'm talking about the form of marriage that the church obliges us to is something that you must follow. If you are going to get married outside of that you need to get permission. It's called a dispensation, from your bishop ... This is something that needs to take place before the wedding. Not something that you can go outside the church, do your own thing and then later come back to the church and have your marriage regularized ... You are then entering into a marriage that is not valid ... This is objectively contrary to what God wants for you."

"For anyone who has done that ... if your marriage is not valid then there's a remedy for that to simply not live as though you are married for a time until it can be remedied in the church ... A convalidation can be scheduled. And until that time if the couple is committed to living in a state of marital continence, that doesn't mean you have to move out necessarily, for some people it might mean that."

Mark's take:

I'm going to have a bit to say here as my situation was similar. My wife and I were married in a civil ceremony by a good friend on the beach. Years later we came to the Catholic church. I was a cradle Catholic, so I was not able to receive the eucharist or receive confirmation (until our marriage was convalidated), however I could immediately return to confession. My wife was a baptized Christian. She was previously married, her ex wanted to marry again and received an annulment previously so that smoothed our entrance into the church as my wife was free to re-marry in the church's eyes.

Once I returned to confession we could no longer live as a married couple. We chose to live as brother and sister because if we didn't (and this wasn't mentioned in the call) we'd be living in a state of mortal sin (adultery). Once I received absolution for the last several years of our marriage I could not in good conscience do anything else once I'd received God's mercy. We had to live this way as I was truly penitent for my past actions. It was very difficult to live this way for the year or so it took for our process to be complete, but it was well worth the end result.

There are many variations on the question that Luis asked, and while I realize that the show host and guest have limited time to answer questions, I think a disservice is regularly done when they don't stress how someone living in a marriage outside of the sacrament of matrimony (a civil only marriage) is living in a constant state of mortal sin and must stop. While you may be legally married to your spouse, you are not married in the church's eyes.

There is another aspect to Luis' situation which went unanswered. Just because you are Catholic and your spouse isn't, this does not preclude you from getting married in the Catholic church. As long as there are no impediments in the way, a dispensation can be received.


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: September 3, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Jim Blackburn

Question appeared in show: 22:39, 30:52

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