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Confused wrote:

Hi, guys —

My wife is Catholic and I am not. We did not get married in a Catholic Church. She is active and goes to Confession and to Mass but the pastor at her church will not let her partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion because, as I was told, we are not legally married in the Church.

I'm just wondering how this can be. I'm confused, lost and looking for someone to help me better understand the issues involved.


  { Why can't my wife received Holy Communion just because we were not married in the Church? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Confused,

The reason your wife is not allowed to receive Communion is that in the eyes of the Church she is not married, but living in an objective state of sin. (no judgment as to the subjective state.)

A Catholic, to be validly married, must marry "in the Church", which means with a Catholic witness and with the necessary dispensations and preparations. It seems that you two are civilly married for some reason.

  • Why not marry sacramentally in the Church so that your wife can receive the sacraments?
  • Why not have the grace that comes with the covenant of marriage?
  • Does one of you have a prior marriage?

To be clear, you two are legally married, I gather, but your wife, as a baptized Catholic, in order to be truly married, must marry in the Church. The entire concept of civil marriage is modern.

Marriage was always something religious, and the state simply acknowledged it. With Napoleon, the state tried to secularize all of life and that is when civil marriage began.

Mary Ann

Mary Ann followed-up later:


I would like to add that your civil wife could indeed receive Communion if she abstained from sexual activity.

It is not that sex is bad; it is because it is non-marital. I know you believe you are married, but the Church, the guardian of the Sacraments, requires Catholic marriage for Catholics.

Mary Ann

Fr. Jonathan replied:


I would like the share the following with Confused.

I would add three things:

First, Mary Ann's addendum about receiving the woman receiving Holy Communion if they abstained from sexual relations is only half correct. She would need to get that permission within the Sacrament of Confession. She could not just give herself permission.

Second, we do not know if the man is baptized or not, so we do not know for sure if they will receive the “Grace of the Sacrament” if they get this squared away.

Third, the Catholic woman should be advised that if neither one was married before, they could ask their bishop to sanate this Marriage and therefore this man would not have to worry about redoing the Marriage.

Fr. Jonathan

Confused replied:

Thanks for the replies.

As for me being baptized, Yes, I am just not Catholic and, Yes, this is the first marriage for both of us.

  • So we should just be able to talk to the Bishop and things should be good?


Fr. Jonathan replied:

Confused —

You have two options then:

  1. For the sake of your wife, you agree to go and have your Marriage validated – but to do that, there needs to be a new act of the will.
  2. Your Catholic wife will have to go to her parish priest and together they write to the Bishop and ask for a "radical sanation" so that your marriage will be considered valid by the Church.

    The difference is that there is no new act of the will but the "consent" is retroactive to the day of your marriage.

Fr. Jonathan

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