An annulment question!

I read through the Stickies on this subject, and have been looking through some of the websites that were given as references, but I am still struggling to find an answer.

A friend of mine was raised Catholic but was not committed to our Mother Church. About two years ago, she started really feeling the pull back into the Church. Her husband, who was not raised Catholic, was previously married twice before marrying my friend. He too is feeling the call to Catholicism, and they both are attending Mass regularly. I understand that to have their marriage validated by the Church, he must first annul his first Christian marriage. He was told by a priest that he also has to annul his second marriage.

My question is, wouldn’t the second marriage be considered invalid already because the first was never annulled? Does he truly need to attain an annulment of both marriages?

The marriages must be looked at sequentially. If the first is declared invalid, then the second would be the de facto valid marriage unless proven that it too was invalid.

This is a complex case, as the husband has multiple marriage attempts, and we do not know about any other marriage attempts of those partners, nor their baptismal statuses.

Due to the complex nature of this, I suggest the friend and her husband simply go talk to their priest to start the process of the investigation. Through the investigation, many relevant facts will be gathered, and then the priest or the diocesan tribunal advocate will guide the couple as to the type of case(s) they may have (full nullity case, ligamen, lack of form, pauline/petrine privilege, etc).

But, bottom line, yes both marriages must be examined. He cannot claim Ligamen (prior bond) on the second marriage if he is seeking a declaration of nullity for the first marriage.

If the first marriage is considered invalid, then his second marriage could have still been valid, and hence should also be annulled to prove that it was also invalid.

I’m a little confused… Isn’t it true that a person cannot marry validly if they do not have an annulment for a previous and presumed valid marriage? If so, why would the second “marriage” need to be looked at as it could not have validly taken place because at least one of the people were presumed to be already validly married? :confused:

That was my question as well.

He wasn’t Catholic at the time of either marriage. Church laws didn’t apply to him.

If he had never been validly married, his second marriage would be valid for him as a non-Catholic.

Echoing earlier advice, this is a question for a priest very experienced in annulments.

God Bless

Perhaps his first marriage was at the Justice of the Peace (not sacramental) and his second marraige was in a Christian faith community, thus making the second one a valid sacrament. :shrug:

No, this is not true. What is true is that a Catholic cannot marry licitly if they do not have an annulment for a previous and presumed valid marriage.

No, this is not accurate.

A marriage between two baptized non-Catholics is valid and a sacrament when they exchange consent before a Justice of the Peace. The JP is the civil witness of the marriage, just as a non-Catholic clergyman would be. There is no difference.

Furthermore, it is really counterproductive to speculate like this. This is a complex situation with many variables and dependencies.

No, this is not true.

One other thing to consider is that if the first marriage is presumed valid and will be dissolved by either the Pauline or Petrine privilege, then the second marriage will be invalid due to prior bond. This is because the Pauline and Petrine privileges dissolve a valid marriage, whereas a decree of nullity merely confirms the juridical status of an already invalid marriage.


Certainly, anyone who* is *married cannot marry again while that bond remains.

As your question makes clear, we are speaking of presumptions of validity. Whenever a person follows the appropriate law in expressing marital consent, that marriage is presumed to be valid by the law of the Church.

So, for the example in the OP, the non-Catholic man married a non-Catholic in accord with civil law. This is a presumptively valid marriage as far as the Church is concerned. Then, he divorced and entered another civil marriage with a second, non-Catholic woman. This is also a presumptively valid marriage since the couple properly manifested their marital consent. Obviously, both marriages cannot be valid but the presumed validity of one or the other could be upheld. Or, both could be invalid for whatever reason(s).

I hope this helps.


Ok, for everyone who has corrected me,

I have definitely seen people told that it is impossible for them to marry validly as long as their past marriage was not annulled. Was this, then, just misinformation? Would the above be true in some circumstances? And I would appreciate it if someone could post official quotes about this, as I am still quite confused about it all. Thanks.

If at least one of the parties is Catholic, then they must be married in the Catholic Church. But if either of the parties has a prior marriage that ended in divorce without an annulment (and the ex-spouse is still alive), then the priest will not perform the wedding.

On rare occasion, it has transpired that a “disobedient” priest would determine that there is a good case for an annulment, and go ahead and perform the wedding before an annulment has been granted. But this is extremely unusual and irregular.

So this is only advice that would be given to those seeking a Catholic wedding and only because they will not receive permission to marry, not because the marriage itself would necessarily be invalid?

Hmm. Terse response. :wink:

It seems to be causing some confusion. Are you referring to the possibility that the previous marriage might itself be found not valid at some point, and in that case, the next marriage would be found to have been able to be valid? 'Cause, the way you answered, it looks like it sounds that you’re saying that, in general, an annulment isn’t necessary for a subsequent marriage to be valid… :wink:

It’s stronger than advice. It is a requirement of canon law that priests not perform weddings when either party is not free to marry, which includes having a prior marriage that ended in divorce without an annulment.

Right, so this predicament is only one that non-Catholics would find hemselves in, but is still a predicament that happens now and again. I guess I just misunderstood the advice being given on other threads here, though if anyone could link to the relevant passages in Canon Law I would really appreciate it still, its always good to double check things for yourself. :slight_smile:

You could be dealing with a lack of form case (which gets handled differently in different countries), or a marriage dissolution.

The section of canon law on marriage starts here. Canon 1066 requires priests to ensure that all necessary annulments have been obtained. The complementary norms applicable in the U.S. can be found here. Canon 1085 defines the diriment impediment of prior bond (ligamen). In particular:

Can. 1085 §2. Even if the prior marriage is invalid or dissolved for any reason, it is not on that account permitted to contract another before the nullity or dissolution of the prior marriage is established legitimately and certainly.

The instruction on handling annulments is here. Article 145 requires that a person who needs multiple annulments must have them done in chronological order.

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