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Ben wrote:

Hi, guys —

My wife is Catholic and I'm Protestant. We were married by the Justice of the Peace. I'm in the process of converting to Catholicism in the hopes of being married in the Catholic Church.

I've started the RCIA program and to my dismay was told that I could not go through acceptance since we were not married in the Church. The deacon said he would have to work with us on this but offered no solution.

  • What solution, if any, is there?
  • Also, is it just because we were married by the Justice of the Peace or does our case apply to any couple who has one spouse that is not Catholic?



  { I want to join the Church and get re-married but was told certain issues had to be resolved. }

Mike replied:

Hi, Ben —

Thanks for the question.

First, I want to encourage you not to get discouraged.

Your interest in becoming Catholic is a call of the Holy Spirit; it just may require a little patience on both you and your spouse's part.

Let me see if I can address your concern and my colleagues can fill in anything I have missed.

Because you were married by the Justice of the Peace, in all likelihood, there was no investigation into whether you or your spouse had any previous valid marriages.

The Church is not trying to give you a hard time for the heck of it, but rather has to keep faithful to Our Blessed Lord's word's about marriage being a life long commitment between one man and one woman.

The reason why the deacon probably wants to "work with you on this" is so he and the pastor can review both you and your spouses background to ensure that neither of you have a current valid marriage in the eyes of the Church.

If you did and the Church married you, She would be embracing polygamy, rather then monogamy
which is what Christ intended within a covenantal, marital bond.

You said:
or does our case apply to any couple who has one spouse that is not Catholic?

No. Both a non-Catholic Christian or a Catholic Christian could have valid marriages, though only
the Catholic Christian could have a sacramental marriage.

Seeing that you have started RCIA classes, I would encourage you to consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as faithful Catholics.

Hope this helps,


Paul replied:

Dear Ben,

If I am reading your post correctly, you are saying you want to become Catholic in order to get married in the Catholic Church, and the deacon is saying you cannot become Catholic unless you are married in the Catholic Church.

If this seemingly confusing statement is correct, here is the reason why. Your wife, being Catholic, would have to had married you in the Church for it to be valid. According to the Church's canon law, a Catholic must marry according to Church laws (otherwise called proper form), even when marrying a non-Catholic, for it to be a valid marriage.

That did not occur because, as you said, you got married by a Justice of the Peace, therefore the marriage is invalid. Hence, becoming Catholic would not yet be possible; the union must be validated in order for the two of you to be objectively right with Christ and in union with His Church. The deacon may be leading you through the appropriate steps so that your marriage may be validated and you may become Catholic.


Mary Ann replied:


You definitely do not need to become Catholic in order to be married in the Church so there is some confusion here. You can have your marriage blessed any time you like, as long as neither of you were married before. If one of you has a previous spouse, that marriage would need to be found invalid for you to be married in the Church. That could be an easy matter, depending on the circumstances. Nevertheless, you can become Catholic without being married in the Church,
as long as you promise to live celibately with your wife until the marriage is convalidated.

From the deacon's reaction, I am assuming the current marriage is invalid for some reason, probably because your wife did not marry with the requisite dispensations or according to Catholic form. That is easy to fix, as I said, barring previous spouses. As a matter of fact, there is nothing to prevent you from receiving all these sacraments at around the same time! There appears to be a miscommunication somewhere here.

Mary Ann

Ben replied:

Hi guys,

I appreciate all of your help.

I've had long talks with the padre and the deacon.



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