Annulments Before Being Baptized


#1

Hello. I am a Catholic convert, baptized and confirmed in 2008. Recently, I have been helping my sister and grandmother come into the Faith, both having been nominal Christians beforehand but neither were baptized. They have been in RCIA and were planning on being fully received into the Church this coming Easter, but my priest told my grandmother that, because she had had multiple marriages in the past, she would need to divorce her current husband and have annulments for all the previous marriages before she could be baptized, which could delay her baptism about 16 months.

I found this quite perplexing. My father came into the Church when I did and had been married and divorced, but he was not even required to annul that marriage. Furthermore, I was under the belief that only someone’s first marriage was truly valid. Can someone have multiple valid marriages at the same time? I know that divorce cannot dissolve a marriage, so if multiple marriages are all valid, would that make polygamy possible, if immoral? And, why is it even required to have one’s marriages annulled to be baptized, as was not the case for my father? It is just confusing to me and has been a deep blow for my grandmother who was really hopeful of becoming Catholic and entering the Church as soon as possible. Even my priest was disappointed at how long a process it would be. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all and God bless. :slight_smile:


#2

This has to do with sin and forgiveness of sin, so if someone gets baptized all past sin is removed. What ever the particulars in the case maybe, the Church does not want to forgive all sin and then have that person immediately back in a state of sin because of the situation of life for what ever reason. so the option is to wait on baptism and remove all obstacles. I would recommend the time as extra preparation in study of the faith and especially prayer. In an emergency situation ( meant imminent danger of death) anyone can baptized with the intentions of the Church using water and the words “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

as for the other questions: No multiple valid Marriages, the second one would be adultery. polygamy would not be possible due God natural law, refer to Gen 2;24. I do not know the specifics in your fathers case, there may have been nothing hindering him, or maybe he should check to see if something was overlooked and should still be taken care of.

Hope all goes well, I will be praying for a speedy resolution.


#3

If your dad had been married and divorced but had not remarried there was nothing impeding his reception into the Church. He would, however, require an annulment if he were to want to marry again.

As for your grandmother, each of her marriages would have to be examined in turn. At this point the first one is presumed valid and any subsequent one invalid. The first marriage needs to be examined and, if found invalid, the second one is presumed valid and needs to be examined. And so on, and so on until only her present marriage remains. If any of the previous marriages were to be found valid then it would mean that the present marriage is indeed invalid and that’s an obstacle to her Baptism.


#4

I believe that the past marriages and divorces are not the problem. It is the questionable validity of her current marriage, which cannot be blessed by the Church unless her previous marriages are declared null, if her other husbands are still living.

I found this quite perplexing. My father came into the Church when I did and had been married and divorced, but he was not even required to annul that marriage.

Was he in a new marriage at the time? If not, the previous marriage and divorce would not prevent his entry to the Church.

Furthermore, I was under the belief that only someone’s first marriage was truly valid. Can someone have multiple valid marriages at the same time? I know that divorce cannot dissolve a marriage, so if multiple marriages are all valid, would that make polygamy possible, if immoral? And, why is it even required to have one’s marriages annulled to be baptized, as was not the case for my father? It is just confusing to me and has been a deep blow for my grandmother who was really hopeful of becoming Catholic and entering the Church as soon as possible. Even my priest was disappointed at how long a process it would be. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all and God bless. :slight_smile:

No, a person cannot be in multiple valid marriages at the same time. For that reason, if a person wants to enter into a third marriage and has two previous living spouses, both of those first two marriages must be declared null before the third marriage could be a valid Christian marriage. The previous marriages are not an obstacle to conversion if a person is living a chaste celibate life.

I know that this seems confusing. It shows the dramatic contrast between Christ’s teaching on marriage and the current American divorce practice, which has led to a huge decline in respect for marriage.

It may take some time for your grandmother to sort out and validate her situation with Christ and His Church. Don’t despair, though. Eternity is at stake.


#5

Even with all the replies that have been posted, this assertion – that your priest advised your grandmother to get a divorce – doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps, rather, he told her that she and her husband shouldn’t live as a married couple, but as brother and sister? Could that be what he said, and ya’ll took it to mean ‘divorce’?

On the other hand, if he suggested divorce as a means to allow baptism immediately, that would be a highly unseemly approach to the resolution of the problem of remarriage in the context of reception of baptism!


#6

Wouldn’t it be better to ask the priest to explain? He’s the one who knows the details of the situation, not us.


#7

I have never heard of someone being told to “get a divorce.” As you said, couples are often told to “live as brother and sister.” Maybe someone needs to check to see exactly what the priest said.

Yes, this. :thumbsup:

Someone needs to sit down and find out exactly what the problem is and how it is being dealt with. It could be that your grandmother needs multiple marriages checked out. But I would check why she would need a divorce. :shrug:


#8

Simple question: were any of the previous spouses in either case baptized?

If not, those would fall under the Pauline Privilege.

Start from there. Then enumerate the previous marriages and the circumstances which led to the divorces.

Adultery on the part of either party would nullify a marriage, as I understand it.

Ask the priest what he meant. “Live like brother and sister” would make more sense because of the adultery against the previous spouses involved.

I would also advise finding “petitioner advocates” to help with the process. As part of our vocations committee apostolate, I hosted an Annulment Workshop, where a nun from the Tribunal and a married couple who were petitioner advocates came to our church and hosted a seminar. About 10 people attended. I sold a book called “Annulment” which was available from any Catholic bookstore. This seminar had ‘seal of confession’ privacy.

Blessings,
Cloisters


#9

I apologize, I misrepresented my priest who did not specifically say that she should get a divorce from her current husband. I was just under the impression that that was the prescribed procedure for dealing with this issue. However, I would think that she would need to get a civil divorce from her current husband if she did not want to have the marriage blessed, if her first marriage was valid.

I think that is the primary issue here, that she is currently civily married to her current husband and they must go back and see if any of her previous marriages were valid so that her current one could potentially be valid and thus could be blessed. However, her first marriage was valid - both fully consented to their marriage vows, which is the condition for validity - and so none of her other marriages, including her current one, would be valid. I see no reason why she could not simply get a civil divorce from her current husband, since just living as “brother and sister” would still make them married in the eyes of the state which we are not supposed to do either, and then just be married to her first husband and get baptized as my father did. Because only her first marriage would be truly valid, she is already separated from her other husbands except being civily married to her current husband, which would be invalid too, so why couldn’t she just divorce her current husband to repair her secular state, and then get baptized? She need not get an annulment from her first husband to be baptized.

Thank you all for your patience, I know I haven’t given every detail, largely for the sake of privacy, but I appreciate your help, this is really troubling her and thus us too. God bless. :slight_smile:


#10

Does your grandmother want to get separated or divorced from her current husband? The priest was right in one thing which is that her situation needs to be sorted out. But how her situation is sorted out will depend on a lot of factors. Most of the replies you have received are not very helpful because they contain errors or invalid assumptions. If you are concerned about this, talk with a canon lawyer at your local tribunal because a parish priest does not necessarily know how these things work. Seriously. All it takes is a free phone call to the canonist on call at your Tribunal for you to get some professional advice on the matter.


#11

Not true. If a person never intended fidelity, from the start of the marriage, that would be potential grounds for a case for nullity. However, the mere fact of adultery cannot “nullify a marriage.” :wink:


#12

Aah, ok. But, if her first marriage were to be found to be valid, then the question of whether she wanted to have her current marriage blessed wouldn’t be in play – she’d be in an invalid marriage, and that would preclude validation (at this point in time). (It’s at this point that, if a priest wishes to allow the pastoral solution of ‘living as brother and sister’, this solution might be an option.)

I think that is the primary issue here, that she is currently civily married to her current husband and they must go back and see if any of her previous marriages were valid so that her current one could potentially be valid and thus could be blessed.

Agreed. And, in fact, it wouldn’t just be a ‘blessing’, it would be a convalidation, which is an actual sacramental wedding ceremony. :wink:

However, her first marriage was valid - both fully consented to their marriage vows, which is the condition for validity - and so none of her other marriages, including her current one, would be valid.

“Fully consent[ing]” to the marriage vows isn’t the sole criterion for the determination of the validity of the marriage, though. This is why it’s important to talk to your priest and see what he suggests. He should have the requisite education to provide an approach (and, of course, if he’s unable to do so, he can always call the tribunal and ask for their help).

just living as “brother and sister” would still make them married in the eyes of the state which we are not supposed to do either

Agreed; yet, it might be a more just alternative than to force a divorce on them.

Because only her first marriage would be truly valid, she is already separated from her other husbands except being civily married to her current husband, which would be invalid too,

At this point, we don’t know this, right? Without a proper review of her situation, it wouldn’t be appropriate to make these sorts of assumptions about which of her marriages were or were not valid, right? :wink:

so why couldn’t she just divorce her current husband to repair her secular state, and then get baptized?

I think I would suggest that a divorce is not a just solution to this issue. You haven’t mentioned whether they want a divorce, just that it seems to be a good solution! :eek: I would think that it is more appropriate to have your priest (perhaps in coordination with your diocesan tribunal) research her situation and come to an understanding of what the situation truly is, before deciding on an approach. :shrug:

She need not get an annulment from her first husband to be baptized.

Agreed; but she need not get a divorce from her current husband if she’s never been validly married. :wink:


#13

I am not her, so obviously I cannot fully speak for her desires or her past; I can only go by what she has said and intimated to me. Based on that, her first marriage was entirely valid. I can personally see no reason why it wouldn’t be. There could of course be some factors that would normally be inadvisable, such as how young both of them were when they got married, but simply being young doesn’t invalidate a marriage. Presuming this is the case, then none of her other marriages are valid, including her current one. She has also expressed that she does not want to be with her current husband. It has been somewhat unclear, because she has been separated from him for several years but has not pursued a divorce and retains a somewhat friendly, if often argumentative, relationship with him. She has also not specifically said, that I know of, that she wants a divorce. Again this is more private and more her business. I am just trying to sort out specifically why it would take her as long as 16 months (as our local bishop told my priest) for her to be able to get baptized. That seems like a very long time to establish the validity of her first marriage and then for her to get divorced from her current husband or do whatever is necessary for that situation. The time of it and difficulty of contacting her other husbands, one of which has passed away, is largely what has bothered her.

She was really looking forward to getting baptized this Easter with my sister, but that does not seem possible at this point. It also confused me as an informed Catholic, though my previously-held understanding of marriage has been reinforced and enlightened by this discussion, so I appreciate that, and all the help you all have given us. I ask you all to pray for us. (This isn’t meant to end the discussion, just a thank you. :smiley: )


#14

With all due respect, that’s a judgment call that neither you nor any of us are able to make; instead, that’s a call that a tribunal would be able to make.

I can personally see no reason why it wouldn’t be.

You might want to pick up a copy of Annulment: the Wedding that Was, by Michael Foster. You might be surprised at some of the considerations that might lead to a finding of invalidity. It goes far beyond “they both consented”… :wink:

For example – and I’m not saying that this is the case in her situation!!! – if one of the spouses never intended fidelity or indissolubility, from the start of the marriage, that might be sufficient as a cause for invalidity. There’s a lot more to consider than the simple fact that they both consented to the marriage.

Presuming this is the case, then none of her other marriages are valid, including her current one.

Yes, but that’s quite the presumption. The way it has to work is that the Church considers all of her marriages, in order, as well as any other previous marriages of her prior spouses, in order to make a determination of potential validity. It can get very complicated, very fast. If there are multiple marriages in her life, and some or all of her prior spouses were married before attempting to marry her, then there’s a lot of research that has to be done. (Perhaps this is the reason that you’re hearing that it might take 16 months to reach a resolution in this case?)

She has also expressed that she does not want to be with her current husband.

OK… that makes a big difference in understanding the situation!

she has been separated from him for several years but has not pursued a divorce and retains a somewhat friendly, if often argumentative, relationship with him.

OK – so, if they’re not living together, or having relations, then the question of “living as brother and sister” is easier than ever! What that phrase means is not that they have to go back to a situation of living under the same roof, but back to a situation in which their physical relationship is like that of a brother and sister – i.e., no physical relationship at all. Know what I mean? So, if the priest is amenable to that solution, then there might not be any need for a divorce at all! (Of course, if the priest is not amenable to that solution, then another solution might be needed…)

She has also not specifically said, that I know of, that she wants a divorce. Again this is more private and more her business.

Agreed; for all we know here, she might wish to reconcile with him. :shrug: (And, in that case, divorce is particularly inappropriate as a ‘remedy’ to her situation.)

I am just trying to sort out specifically why it would take her as long as 16 months (as our local bishop told my priest) for her to be able to get baptized. That seems like a very long time to establish the validity of her first marriage

If that first marriage is valid. If it were determined that it was invalid, then they need to look at the next marriage, and any previous marriages of that spouse. Etc, etc, etc… until they’ve examined each marriage or determined that one of those marriages was valid. Yes, that’s a lot of potential research, and yes, it could take 16 months, easily!

The time of it and difficulty of contacting her other husbands, one of which has passed away, is largely what has bothered her.

Well… there are no issues with a deceased ex-husband; any potentially valid marriage in that case would have ended naturally with his death. So, it’s just the living ex-husband(s) that are relevant here…


#15

My question is “Since she’s separated from this husband, if she were to divorce him why would she need an annulment at all?”

It would seem to me that only if she wanted to remarry would she need to have her marriages examined.


#16

One of the issues in the question of the prudence of allowing a ‘brother and sister’ arrangement is the possibility of scandal. If the faithful, seeing the situation of a woman married (seemingly) invalidly, yet being permitted to partake of the sacraments, were to be scandalized (and I mean that in an ecclesial sense, not a secular sense!), then it would be inappropriate to allow the baptism. In other words, if it were the case that others would be led to sin by virtue of having witnessed the situation, it would be preferable to resolve her marital status first, prior to allowing the baptism to proceed.


#17

Not the same circustances but hers what my wife and I are going through. We were both married in the chruch the first time to others (but she wasnt a baptised catholic) We got married by the justice of the peace. My wife and i started attending mass a while back and she showed inerest in being battized and confirmed and becomming a catholic. She is in the process of taking classes with our decon which ive been sitting through with her. We both have applied for anulments. We have been told that after the annuulments go through and she gets confirmed into the church that its a matter of getting our marrige blessed in the church. There was no need for us to get divorced and have our marrige annuled and then remarried.


#18

OK, then neither is Christian in the normative sense - to be a full member of a Christian community baptism is the basic requirement. They may have practiced Christian values, etc.

What has to happen is the entire situation from marriage #1 needs to be examined. The Church wants to be certain she and her husband are free to marry at this time. It will take time.

If she was indeed never baptized there are several possibilities for the disposition of each marriage case in question:

Pauline Privilige (both parties were unbaptized)

Petrine Privilige (one baptized, one unbaptized)

annulment (both parties were baptized when the marriage was attempted or after while still together)

death of the previous spouse(s)

If none of the previous husbands are still living, there is no issue. (sounds crass, but marriage is dissolved upon the death of one of the spouses)

There is lots of paperwork, and lots of waiting. 16 months might be an optimistic estimate. Her priest (or deacon) really is in the best position to guide her through the process.


#19

Well, I know that my grandmother has never been baptized, so one or the other of those privileges would be usable for her marriages I would think.


#20

On the face of it, neither of these would work. For the Pauline Privilege to take effect, the newly-baptized Catholic, who had been married to a non-believer (while s/he, too, was a non-believer) would have to marry a believer; upon entrance into that marriage, the Pauline Privilege would kick in. That’s not the case here.

The Petrine Privilege is reserved to the Holy See (hence the name ;)). It’s rare, and it isn’t quick.

Her priest (or deacon) really is in the best position to guide her through the process.

This is the best advice; let the priest who is working with her determine the best course of action. :wink:


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