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Questions and Answers

You have done such an excellent job simplifying the Liturgy of the Hours for the average person. . . . I wonder if you could give some clear guidance about divorce and remarriage in the Church. . . . I hear so much that is contradictory.

Outline of the Answer
• Marriage
• Implications for Converts to Catholicism
• Implications for Catholics
• About Annulment

 
Let’s begin with two basic principles about marriage. First, with the exception of unlawful (that is, sinful) marriages—such as with a close relative, an ex-spouse of a parent, or between two men or two women, etc.—the Catholic Church recognizes all marriages between persons outside the Catholic Church as legal marriages.

Second, whenever one of the persons involved in the marriage is Catholic (by baptism or conversion), the marriage is valid only if a Catholic bishop or priest contracted the marriage or assisted at it. (See the Code of Canon Law: Can. 1108 §1)

With these principles as the starting point, let’s now consider the implications for prospective Catholic converts and Catholics themselves.

 
Implications for Converts to Catholicism

Not Married

If you are not married (and have never been divorced), then issues about marriage will not be an impediment to your conversion.

Divorced

If you are divorced, then, when you enter the Church, you cannot marry without getting your first marriage annulled. (If you have been divorced several times, only the first marriage is the impediment; the other “marriages” are invalid.)

Currently Married—Never Divorced

If you are currently married and neither you nor your spouse has ever been divorced, then, when you enter the Catholic Church, your marriage can be given a Catholic blessing.

Currently Married—History of Divorce

If you are currently married and you or your spouse has ever been divorced, then your current marriage is sinful, being an adulterous relationship. When you enter the Catholic Church, you could remain legally “married” but you would have to commit to sexual continence to be in a state of grace. If circumstances warrant, your first marriage (and your spouse’s first marriage as well, if that is the case) might be annulled by the Church, and then your current marriage could be blessed.

 
Implications for Catholics

Not Married, Seeking Marriage to a Divorced Person

There are several possibilities here.

You, the Catholic, cannot marry a non-Catholic person unless his or her first marriage were to be annulled.

You, the Catholic, cannot marry a Catholic person who has previously contracted a valid Catholic marriage unless his or her first marriage were to be annulled.

You, the Catholic, could marry (under pastoral guidance and approval) a Catholic person who has previously contracted a non-valid Catholic marriage.

Non-Catholic Marriage, Now Divorced, Seeking Remarriage

If, as a Catholic, you married outside the Catholic Church, your marriage is not considered valid, so, if you have a civil divorce, you could remarry (under pastoral guidance and approval) someone who is suitable to contract a valid Catholic marriage.

Catholic Marriage, Now Divorced, Seeking Remarriage

If you married within the Catholic Church, you did so with full awareness of your obligations as a Christian spouse. To say otherwise would make a mockery of Catholic marriage preparation. Therefore, it would be a rare case for such a marriage to be annulled. Divorce, then, would be the end of the line because remarriage would not be possible.

 
About Annulment

A decree of nullity from a diocesan tribunal essentially amounts to saying that one or both spouses entered the marriage gravely lacking in free consent to the responsibilities of a Catholic marriage. This is not something easy to prove, and it usually requires considerable documentation.

Note, however, that in seeking advice about these matters from a priest or a diocesan official you might receive information that is contrary to canon law. If everyone adhered to the true Faith, we would have unity. But, when people dissent from the true faith, they contradict the faith, and that is why they end up contradicting each other.

You’re free to circumvent any of the rules that you want, but what would be the point? Liberal Church officials can deny Christ, but Christ cannot deny Himself. If you follow the advice of those who want to make you throw aside the Cross in order to feel good about yourself, you take up the risk of following those heretics right into hell. It would be far better for you to take up the Cross and follow Christ into the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

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