Annulment Required For Baptism?

I work with the RCIA class.

This week, Father scheduled a meeting with them individually to see how they were doing and if they intended to proceed.

Last night, one of the guys called me with some questions after his meeting with Father.

He’s never been baptized and is recently engaged to a parishioner who’s father is also in the class.

While talking with Father, the engagement came up as well as a prior marriage.

Long story short, he was married about 10 years ago by a judge in a backyard. They were married less than 5 years, there were no children and he has not seen or heard from her in almost that long.

Now I know he must apply for annulment before he can marry in the Church. He understands that and is willing to do that. He even remarked that he does not want to do anything that would keep the young lady from the sacraments.

However, Father has told him that he cannot come into the Church at the Easter vigil unless he is granted an annulment. While I’m not questioning Father, I can’t explain to the young man why this is so especially when I know that Father has brought other divorced people have joined the Church.

Can anyone help me understand this so I can explain it to him?

Well, unless the man is planning to remarry before Easter, it seems to me that either Father misunderstood the situation, the man misunderstood Father, or possibly you have misunderstood something. Maybe asking Father directly for a reason would help? Not in the sense of questioning his authority, but in the sense of seeking to understand, to help you with future RCIA people.


That’s a problem since he is apparently not free to marry.

I’m guessing your pastor is thinking something like this: If he is baptized without a declaration of nullity and then goes on to marry his fiancee, they will both be barred from receiving the sacraments and may end up leaving the Church.

Since he is planning to marry, it makes more sense for him to obtain a declaration of nullity first, then pursue baptism and matrimony. If his first marriage is found to be valid, then he would have to decide whether to pursue baptism or not, knowing that he can’t remarry.

When I do my initial interview with inquirers, I always ask about current and prior marriages. I strongly encourage anyone who is divorced to seek a declaration of nullity as they proceed through RCIA. That way they know up front what their marital status is and whether they are free to date and think about marriage in the future.

It may also be that the priest wishes this man not to obtain a ruling of nullity but rather to have his first marriage dissolved via the Pauline or Petrine Privilege. I’m not sure exactly how that works but I think you have to wait to be baptized until the favor of the Faith dissolution is granted.

I too think that if he is engaged and is determined to be married to this person he should not join the church until it is decided that he is free to marry. He should not be dating anyone at all until this is decided.

The situation would be different if he broke off the engagement, steeled himself to do God’s will whatever it may be, and asked to be baptized. And honestly, most people engaged to a Catholic and in RCIA don’t envision being told that if they convert they may not be able to marry that person and probably wouldn’t be willing to break off the engagement if the annulment was denied.

The fact that he was not previously baptized may have some positive bearing on his case.

I think Father is acting prudently.

In my experience, as director of RCIA in our parish, we could not proceed to the Rite of Election/Recognition, where the Bishop certifies the participants to receive the sacraments at Easter, until all marriage problems have been resolved. I remember at least two cases where a Petrine was granted before the Rite of Election/Recognition.

I think many programs will not allow participation in the Rite of Acceptance until the problems have been resolved. There are strong arguments in favor of that.

Exactly, the person wishing to marry a Catholic and become baptized should pursue all avenues-- nullity, Pauline or Petrine privilege-- before becoming baptized.

I disagree.

There is nothing that is an impediment to baptism here. He is not divorced and remarried which could be a problem. He is engaged after being divorced which the Church would not like but he has expressed his wish to wait for marriage till things are normalized.

I think there is a misunderstanding somewhere here. That or we do not have all the information as to what is going on here.

I kind of have to disagree as well.

Refusing baptism because the man is engaged seems to be putting the cart before the horse. I agree that baptism should probably wait if the person is already remarried. But in this case, what needs to wait is declaration of the engagement, not entrance into the church.

There is nothng in divorce to prevent entry into the Church or reception of the Eucharist and Confirmation and Confession. What prevents full participation in the Sacraments is remarriage.

The man needs to know that he cannot, in all conscience, refer to himself as engaged until his first marriage is declared null. That doesn’t mean he should be barred from entering the Church.


I again bring up the idea of whether or not the Pauline or Petrine Privilege could apply.

It is my understanding that in order for a first marriage to be dissolved that at least one party to that marriage must be unbaptized. (Or the marriage unconsummated but that seems unlikely to apply.) If the first wife happened to be baptized then this man wouldn’t want to be baptized and thus have the first marriage (should it be valid) become sacramental. Then it couldn’t be dissolved.

We obviously don’t know all the facts. Perhaps the Parish doesn’t either and just wants to wait until they do know them. It would seem that this man *could *be baptized since he has not remarried. But since he *wants *to remarry it might be better for him to wait to be baptized so that he has the greatest number of options open to him.

I did not say the *Church *should refuse baptism. I said the *person *wishing to become Catholic should pursue all avenues before becoming baptized. If he first receives baptism, he will have closed off the possibility of having a valid, natural bond dissolved via the Pauline or Petrine Privilege if he does not proceed in a particular manner.

I never said their was anything preventing the OP from being received into the Church.

However, if the person receives baptism and their petition for nullity is denied based on the marriage being valid, they will have potentially closed off the option of petitioning for a dissolution of the natural bond under the Petrine or Pauline Privilege. This could lead him to be unable to marry. Since he has clearly indicated he plans to marry, I think it foolish to close off these options.

If the first marriage is declared valid, his unbaptized state will allow him to petition for a dissolution of the bond. If he receives baptism, these will not be options (depending upon the baptismal status of the ex-spouse).

Again, I merely suggested that it is prudent to pursue the marriage situation first. I never stated he **could not **be baptized.


Even if he does get baptized, that will have no effect on the case for nullity as the tribunal only looks at when the marriage was contracted.

The only way to fix issues that would invalidate a marriage is a convalidation, baptism fixes nothing.

This Priest is WRONG, if he told this man that he must get an annulment before he can come into the church.

He MIGHT require an annulment IF he had more than one legitimate marriage and was still married to one of the partners, but that would be the ONLY case when it might possibly be required.

Something is missing from this situation, something that either you, or the person is question is not telling.

I have a problem with saying the priest is wrong.

We don’t have all the facts. Even if we did, we are not – or maybe I should speak for myself and say that I am not – experts at canon law.

The priest was presumably given all the information and was in a position to make a decision. He decided the catechumen should not be baptized at the Easter Vigil. If the catechumen doesn’t understand why, he should speak to the priest again and ask questions so that he does understand.

People have speculated on why the priest may have said what he did, but none of us can know for sure.

I’m confused. He was married in a yard by a judge. Why would he need an annulment? Isn’t the marriage considered invalid by the Church already?

Not necessarily. The Church considers marriages between non-Catholics to be valid. If he attempted marriage to a Catholic by a JP, without the dispensation, then that would be invalid.

So then would it be a civil annulment?


Non-Catholics aren’t bound by Catholic marriage laws. They can get married in a church, city hall, Las Vegas chapel, in a garden, etc. The assumption is that they have entered into a valid marriage. Should such a person divorce, the assumption remains that they were in a valid marriage until proven otherwise.

The person is not free to marry because they are already married. Their civil divorce doesn’t change anything.

The Tribunal can determine whether the original marriage was valid or not. If it was, then the person is bound to their vows. If there wasn’t a valid marriage, then the person would be free to marry. Just as the civil divorce doesn’t affect how the Church views their marriage, the Tribunal’s decision doesn’t have an effect on the state’s view.

I understand what you’re saying, however, most canonists recommend waiting until after a declaration of nullity for the first marriage before preceeding with baptism in order to avoid any possible complications due to unplanned consummation.

If the individual becomes baptized and after baptism ends up sleeping with their former spouse, the marriage is considered to have become a valid consummated sacramental marriage.

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