Catholic Weddings

living together before marriage--pre cana issues?

My FI and I are non-practicing Catholics, and trying to get back into the swing of things before our wedding. The Catholic church we are getting married at is ok with us living together (we got engaged before moving in). The priest said to do our best to live chaste over the next year (like brother/sister was the line he used), and to do confession before the marriage ceremony to cover all our bases. Financially we can’t afford a second place, so moving out is not an option. We agreed with their request, and are doing our best.

Our issue is that we are getting married out state at the church I grew up in, so we need to do our pre-cana work close to us in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A friend told us when she approached a church in the diocese, the priest wouldn't do their pre-cana work until they could prove they were living apart. She ended up just not doing a church wedding after that since it was apparently a really mean, judgmental meeting where the priest raised his voice a lot.

Have any of you dealt with this? How did you handle it? Is it common for a priest to flat out refuse to do your pre-cana work if your cohabitating? The guide I saw for our diocese said that was not an appropriate response for a priest to flat out refuse—the approach the priest who is marrying us took was the correct one. We know we’re not perfect (who is???), but we are doing our best and trying to reengage with church life, which should mean something. 

Re: living together before marriage--pre cana issues?

  • Have you tried inside D.C. ?  I would suggest asking at Georgetown as they are most used to counseling young people.


    Sorry but that's all I can think of.  My sister's church is right behind Fairlington but I don't know their stand on this.

  • ootmother2--good suggestion. Holy Trinity in Georgetown was just recommended to me by a coworker. FI is leaning towards going to a closer church and lying, but I really want to find a priest who we can be honest with.
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Yeah, don't lie. That is not how you want to start your marriage. My husband and I didn't live together before marriage, so I don't have much experience. I would just be honest with the priest and let him know that you are living chastely and that you are celebrating Reconciliation as needed (assuming that is the truth).
    MesmrEwe
  • Thanks!  I was able to solve it with the help of a coworker who went through the same thing--a Jesuit church in Georgetown has the same policy as my church back home, so we'll be going there. The staff person was super friendly and very welcoming, so we'll check it out this weekend and see if we also want to make this our permanent parish. They indicated our living situation was of course not ideal, but the fact we're committing to marriage was wonderful and they'd love to work with us on the preparation.
    MesmrEwe
  • edited September 2014
    It's not just catholic churches that people need to think of when living together. Ours was ok with us living together. Our friends who attend a very open nondenominational church refused to marry them because they had been living together. I agree with PP's do not lie.
  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe member
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited October 2014

    Do not lie! 

    As long as you're living a chaste existence and doing your pre-canna you've got your bases covered.  Your friend's experience was just that, your friend's!  You're following through on what you were requested by YOUR priest in the planning process.  IMO, confronting the issue is smarter than hiding it, and just because one priest said something to a friend doesn't mean it represents all priests.  I once got yelled at by a priest, and now years later looking back I think of how much of an idiot that particular priest was! (I talked our parish priest into seeking treatment for his severe alcoholism when I was home from college for Easter break, which he did and ultimately left the priesthood on his own and is now alive because of having cleaned up - the priest that replaced him shall I say wasn't too appreciative - as though I should have let the guy commit suicide by alcohol poisoning at that point in his disease, I mean, it REALLY was that bad at the time I talked to him, not as a priest but as a person that sobriety was attainable for him - and I'd do it again in a HEARTBEAT if I knew someone in that position!!)...

  • I actually found the living together thing around here (northern Virginia) is actually a big issue, even if you stay in separate rooms. I called 3-4 catholic churches in my area, and NONE would do pre-cana with us while we were under the same roof, even if living in separate rooms. One said they would prefer we sell the car and give up our pets if that's what it took to live separate--there were no exceptions to the rule. I was pretty shocked. 

    As I posted above though, I did find a church who would work with us in DC. It just appears the diocese I live in is VERY strict. 


  • Do some more calling around - there has to be a church in the area willing to do pre canna classes with you locally that is more "progressive".  We have a few parishes around here that have a reputation as "this is where you send someone who is more non-traditional" and they've had no issues.  Check Mass Times .org - there's got to be a "megaplex" Catholic church (your best chance) in the area somewhere!!

  • I live in the Arlington, VA diocese (I'm not Catholic), and we had to go through pre cana here in order for my FI to get his dispensation.  We lived together for financial reasons, and we initially started pre cana with my FI's former college chaplain in DC.  Once he found out we lived together (and lived in Arlington, though my FI belonged to a church in DC), he was worried that it would look like we "priest shopped" to find someone who would be lenient with us.  He gave us the names of two priests who would be more sympathetic to our situation in the Arlington diocese, and we completed pre-cana with one of them.  Send me a private message if you're interested in his info.  We had to go to two private meetings with him, one large group class for engaged couples at that church, and one all-day "engaged encounter" workshop for the whole diocese.  The process wasn't really beneficial to us, but it checked all the necessary boxes.   

    We ran into a lot of issues when we tried to do pre-cana outside of the diocese where we lived, despite my FI belonging to a church in the other diocese.  Ask these questions up front to make sure you don't run into issues down the road.  Good luck! 

  • Mkincaid2014--thanks! We're getting married in Michigan, so priest-shopping likely wont come up as an issue (the church in MI just wants the paperwork showing we did the class). We also plan to join whatever parish we do pre-cana with. I will send you a PM though, since those may be churches we want to look at if the one in DC doesn't work out.
  • I think it depends on the priest but ours knew we were living together and we had no issues.  Prior to meeting with him we hadn't been to church in years.  He encouraged us to start going and we went occasionally, although not every single weekend.    We were living together before even engaged.  He didn't think it was ideal, but wasn't there to judge us or tell us we couldn't get married.  We were completely honest with him.   At our pre-cana there were many couples that lived together, some with children already, some that had children from previous partners.   It was very non-judgmental for us.  Good luck!
    MesmrEwe
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