I hope that this is the right forum to post my question/story in.
My fiancee is a non-catholic. She was baptized in a baptist church when she was little. She was married in a baptist church in 1998 and had a civil divorce in 2009. Her ex-husband was not baptized in any religion.
This isn’t really about me, but for clarity - I am a practicing Catholic (except for some years in college and right after). I have never been married.
In the last three months, we have been going to mass regularly to a parish in the diocese of Sacramento. She starts RCIA classes on Sept. 8. Our parish recently changed pastors. We have thought about getting married in the church, and are hoping for next summer. So, she decided to start the annulment process. She has a meeting with our new pastor, he got all of the information from her and said it should be an easy process - she’s a non-catholic and was married to a non-baptized person in a non-Catholic church. He gave us a form to fill out, titled “Lack of Form”. She filled it out and returned it to him with her baptismal record from the baptist church, the marriage license, and the civil decree of separation. The pastor was out of town when we turned in the paperwork and was away for 3 days.
She did some research in those 3 days because we had expected there to be much more to it based on some things that have happened in my family.
When she finally got a hold of the pastor he said “everything’s fine, I see all the paperwork here”. When she questioned him about if it needed to be more than just a lack of form because from what she saw, that’s only for Catholics who were married outside of the Church, he said he’d have to find out. He called the diocese and found out that she needs a formal petition rather than simply a lack of form.
So, here we are… we expected a difficult process but after meeting with the pastor, we expected it to be easy. He had told us $150 and couldn’t promise but said 3-6 months for the process to be complete. Now though, we’re looking at $600 and “the average time to process a formal case is 18 months, but it can take longer”-according to the paperwork we received. And, MUCH more involved, including witnesses and statements.
What I’m wondering is this: I don’t understand the reasons behind a “lack of form” case versus a “formal case”. From what I see, a lack of form case is for a Catholic who was married not in the Catholic church but was married either in a civil ceremony or in another faith. Is this true? If so, why is it easier for someone who is a Catholic and basically says “screw the church, I’m going to get married somewhere else” and then “oops, I made a mistake” than it is for someone who wants to become a Catholic and is genuine.
In the lack of form case, the declaration is that the marriage was not done according to canonical form, I get that, but wouldn’t a marriage between a non-catholic and a non-baptized person in a non-catholic church also not follow the canonical form? Why is there a difference between the lack of form for a catholic and the full formal petition?
We are very frustrated and it does not make any sense.
We want God to be a presence in our lives and in our marriage and our lives when we do get married.