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Jenny wrote:

Hi, guys —

I'm a 45 year old woman who has three adult children, three children school-aged children, and
two grandchildren. I have been raised mainly in non-denominational churches but am now very seriously thinking about becoming a Catholic.

I got married (my Mom pushed me into it) when I was 16 and was divorced seven years ago.
I have committed myself to a wonderful man that loves God. We have lived together for four years. I know that the Catholic Church doesn't feel it's right for people to be living together.

My question is:

  • Can I still become a Catholic and live with the man I call my husband?

I have been his daughter's Mom since she was 6 years old. We also have a 5 year old. I talked to a priest at a Catholic church nearby, but since he said he was old-fashioned, I was afraid to tell him that I was living with someone.

I just want to become a Catholic and serve God in the Church.

Thank you!

Jenny

  { Seeing I'm not married, can I still become a Catholic and live with the man I call my husband? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jenny,

I would echo the words of our previous Pope, John Paul II, Be not afraid. I personally think it is a blessing that you have an old-fashion type of priest. This will ensure things are done correctly on issues of determining whether your previous marriage was valid or not.

If you still feel uncomfortable asking him, search around or call the Catholic diocese in your
area and ask if there are any religious orders around. Our priests are pretty busy these days.
A religious-order priest probably will have a little more time to assist you in understanding certain teachings you are struggling with. (e.g. living together out of wed-lock) I am assuming this is your current situation.

Seeing that your mother pushed you into your original marriage and you were as young as you were, things should be in your favor, but I don't want to pre-judge what the Church says.
The pastor can help you:

  1. determine the status of any previous marriage and
  2. explain the process to becoming a Catholic.

You have a great attitude in your desire to serve God and His Church!

You may be interested in some of my favorite links:

Take care and know you are in my prayers.

Mike

John replied:

Jenny,

Just to add to what Mike has said:

Mike talked about the matter of your previous marriage. You never mentioned if the man you are living with was previously married. If he was, then the matter of his previous marriages will also need to be looked at by the Church. Nevertheless, let's assume he was not married, and look at your circumstance.

Your current situation (although well intentioned) constitutes both adultery and fornication. This is not a matter of feelings. It is a matter of objective truth that is based on Divine revelation. The Church, and indeed Scripture, has always taught that adultery (sex with someone other than your spouse) and fornication (sex outside of marriage) are indeed sin.

A sacramentally valid marriage is forever. A marriage is presumed to be valid until it is found to be invalid for some pre-existing impediment (i.e.: You were coerced into getting married at a young age.) So although it appears, you have a good case for an annulment, your current living arrangement constitutes both adultery and fornication.

The Church is bound by Divine Revelation. It doesn't just make up matters of faith and morals based on contemporary social trends. It's not a matter of being old-fashioned or new-fashioned. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

All that said, it is wonderful that the Holy Spirit is drawing you into the fullness of the Christian faith found only in the Catholic Church.

Upon entering the Church, you will be asked to reject sin. Now assuming you are granted an annulment; that will mean you and the man you call your husband will need to be married.
It sounds like the relationship is based on love, respect, and mutual nurturing. Hence, I would hope getting married would not be a stumbling block for either one of you. However, if on the other hand, you were not granted an annulment (which in my humble opinion seems unlikely based on what you've told us), then rejection of sin would mean you would have to change your lifestyle.

I encourage you and your mate to pray and continue to seek the Lord's guidance. If your love for one another is of a self-giving nature, than both of you ought to want what's best for each other. Therefore, allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you.

As my colleague Mike has written, you ought to seek out the further counsel of this old-fashioned priest or a priest whom you would know to be faithful to the teaching of the Church. After all, you are seeking the Truth. The last thing you want to do is shop around for a priest that will tell you what you want to hear over what is the Truth.

Finally, it is evident that you are on a genuine faith journey that is being led by the Holy Spirit. Take advantage of this grace. Be not afraid for it is God working in you.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Jenny —

Yes, you can become Catholic right away, even while living with someone.

It would involve living celibately, as brother and sister, as they used to say, until the marriage thing is worked out. You can't honestly become Catholic and not want to obey the Commandments! The Church knows that there are serious reasons — like the stability and care of the little girl — for a couple to continue living together until they can legitimately and validly marry.

You say you have committed yourself. I hope he has committed to you.

  • If so, why haven't you married civilly or even in your own denomination?

There is a lack of commitment if someone won't — well — commit. Somebody is not committing. Commitment means marriage. Now a couple can live in a common law marriage, and the Church respects that for non-Catholics, just as the state does but they have to present themselves as married, which it doesn't seem that you and this gentleman have done.

If there are previous marriages for him, of course, that is another whole issue. As for you, your previous marriage is quite likely to be able to be annulled (on grounds of coercion, age, or lack of consent) or it can even be dissolved under what is called the Pauline Privilege, since you wish to become Catholic. (St. Paul says that a party that wishes to convert should be free.) That is a question to take to a priest, as my confreres mentioned, especially a parish priest, who would be the one to start the paperwork.

And, finally, it is not the Church that says that people shouldn't cohabit sexually without marriage (what we call living together.) It is:

  • all recorded history
  • every civilization until now (except for ours in the last 60 years)
  • every legal system
  • every religion, and
  • every Christian denomination (until the last 20 years).

That unanimous historical opinion expresses natural law, and protects women and children from all the terrible wrenchings and abuse that our sexual revolution has subjected them to but even that tradition is not the source of the idea that people shouldn't live sexually together without marriage.

It comes from God, who inscribed it in our beings (we know deep in our hearts that it is true), and just to be good He also wrote it in the Ten Commandments, which hardly anyone knows anymore.

Finally, he confirmed the Truth when He came to be one of us, and that you can find in the Gospels.

So don't worry about pleasing the Catholic Church. Worry about doing God's will, because that is what is good for us.

He knows what will make us happy.

Mary Ann

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