Baptism & divorce


#1

Hello,

This is my first post and I hope I'm posting my question in the right forum. I've browsed through some threads on this board but I want to ask a few questions more specific to my situation.

Both my husband and I are non-Catholic. My husband had a previous marriage which ended up in a divorce. He's pretty sure his ex was non-Catholic.

I want to become a Catholic and have just started the RCIA process. So the Pastor at the local parish interviewed me and my husband at different times. The Pastor said they need to find out more about previous marriage such as whether the ex was Catholic. I'm confused. Does my husband need an annulment even though they were both non-Catholic? What if the ex gives the Church a hard time and delays any proofs or documents needed, etc? Must the Church wait for these proofs before I can get baptised? What is an annulment anyway?

Thanks


#2

Canon Law is not simple matter.

Now I do not think that your Baptism has anything to do with his previous marriage - I could be wrong, but I don't see how.

The issue is that the Church does not "marry" people: She simply witnesses the marriage. Because marriage is something that takes place between the spouses.

Clearly the issue with civil marriage is that it seems to end with civil divorce. However:

a divorce does not question the validity of the initial consent in that marriage. By contrast, in the canonical process, if the gathered factual evidence, examined in the light of Canon Law, shows that a particular marriage was not canonically valid; the Church's Tribunal declares it null and void. This is the ecclesiastical Decree of Invalidity (colloquially called an "annulment").

An erroneous impression, very common among Catholics, is that the Church recognizes as valid only the marriages of Catholics. The reality is that the Catholic Church recognizes as valid not only the marriages celebrated in the Catholic Church between Catholics, but also those of baptized non-Catholics, as well as those of the non-baptized. Valid marriages between baptized people (Catholics or non-Catholics) are Sacraments; those between non-baptized are not Sacraments, but are "natural bonds" because they are contracted according to the natural law, rather than by the sacramental bond that comes through Baptism.

Therefore, if a Catholic wishes to marry a divorced, baptized non-Catholic, or a divorced, non-baptized person, a decree of invalidity would have to be issued by a Catholic Tribunal before any new union can take place in the Church.

This, of course, applies for the convalidation of a non-Catholic civil marriage.

The issue is not with the Sacrament of Baptism: it is with reception of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. I am afraid that in your situation you would become a Catholic with all the rights and duties, among which is the fact that unless your marriage is convalidated you may not partake of the Holy Eucharist.

It's a complicated thing. It can make us sad. It sure makes me sad. But it is based on a very simple issue:

non-Catholics are considered to be validly married persons unless the former spouse has died or the marriage has been declared null by the Catholic Church.

You should patiently begin to learn about this process through the guidance of your priest, and then begin the request of the annulment.

Keep in mind that even if the annulment is granted, you will still not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist unless your marriage is convalidated by the Church - a separate process, that may depend on your husband.

Overall, it is a complicate process for a complicate background. Go forth, and the rewards will be infinite. You will be in our prayers.


#3

I encourage you to get a copy of the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you understand what a decree of nullity is and isn't.

Take things one step at a time and ask questions of the priest when you do not understand something.

To answer your question regarding his ex, if he does need to go through the nullity process, her participation will be invited but is not required. So she can choose not to respond and the petition can still move forward. If he is unbaptized, there are some other options (your priest can explain Pauline and Petrine privilege to you).


#4

[quote="brownbear, post:1, topic:302048"]
Hello,

This is my first post and I hope I'm posting my question in the right forum. I've browsed through some threads on this board but I want to ask a few questions more specific to my situation.

Both my husband and I are non-Catholic. My husband had a previous marriage which ended up in a divorce. He's pretty sure his ex was non-Catholic.

I want to become a Catholic and have just started the RCIA process. So the Pastor at the local parish interviewed me and my husband at different times. The Pastor said they need to find out more about previous marriage such as whether the ex was Catholic. I'm confused. Does my husband need an annulment even though they were both non-Catholic? This is exactly why he would need an annulment. If his ex was Catholic, the likely hood is that the marriage was not in the Catholic Church or, with a dispensation to marry in another church. If that had been the case, it would be a case of lack of form. However, all non-Catholic marriages (both parties being non-Catholic) are assumed to be valid. Therefore, he cannot be married to you without an annulment. ** What if the ex gives the Church a hard time and delays any proofs or documents needed, etc? Must the Church wait for these proofs before I can get baptised? *Yes. You and your husband are not validly married. This situation must be resolved prior to your baptism. * What is an annulment anyway? **A tribunal looks at the situation at the time of the marriage and determines whether a valid sacramental marriage took place. If it did, no declaration of nullity will be given. If it is determined that, for one or another of the the situations that means that no valid sacramental marriage took place was the case, then your husband's first marriage would be declared null and he would be free to marry you. If that happens, then you and he can have your marriage convalidated, and you can be baptized.

Thanks

[/quote]


#5

[quote="R_C, post:2, topic:302048"]
Canon Law is not simple matter.

Now I do not think that your Baptism has anything to do with his previous marriage - I could be wrong, but I don't see how.

The issue is that the Church does not "marry" people: She simply witnesses the marriage. Because marriage is something that takes place between the spouses.

Clearly the issue with civil marriage is that it seems to end with civil divorce. However:

This, of course, applies for the convalidation of a non-Catholic civil marriage.

The issue is not with the Sacrament of Baptism: it is with reception of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. I am afraid that in your situation you would become a Catholic with all the rights and duties, among which is the fact that unless your marriage is convalidated you may not partake of the Holy Eucharist.

It's a complicated thing. It can make us sad. It sure makes me sad. But it is based on a very simple issue:

You should patiently begin to learn about this process through the guidance of your priest, and then begin the request of the annulment.

Keep in mind that even if the annulment is granted, you will still not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist unless your marriage is convalidated by the Church - a separate process, that may depend on your husband.

Overall, it is a complicate process for a complicate background. Go forth, and the rewards will be infinite. You will be in our prayers.

[/quote]

**"a divorce does not question the validity of the initial consent in that marriage. By contrast, in the canonical process, if the gathered factual evidence, examined in the light of Canon Law, shows that a particular marriage was not canonically valid; the Church's Tribunal declares it null and void. This is the ecclesiastical Decree of Invalidity (colloquially called an "annulment").

An erroneous impression, very common among Catholics, is that the Church recognizes as valid only the marriages of Catholics. The reality is that the Catholic Church recognizes as valid not only the marriages celebrated in the Catholic Church between Catholics, but also those of baptized non-Catholics, as well as those of the non-baptized. Valid marriages between baptized people (Catholics or non-Catholics) are Sacraments; those between non-baptized are not Sacraments, but are "natural bonds" because they are contracted according to the natural law, rather than by the sacramental bond that comes through Baptism.

Therefore, if a Catholic wishes to marry a divorced, baptized non-Catholic, or a divorced, non-baptized person, a decree of invalidity would have to be issued by a Catholic Tribunal before any new union can take place in the Church."**

Which book or document is this quote from. I would be interested in reading more.


#6

[quote="thistle, post:5, topic:302048"]
Which book or document is this quote from. I would be interested in reading more.

[/quote]

This looks like it comes from diocese-sacramento.org/diocese/tribunal_faqs.html ...


#7

[quote="Gorgias, post:6, topic:302048"]
This looks like it comes from diocese-sacramento.org/diocese/tribunal_faqs.html ...

[/quote]

Thanks.


#8

[quote="thistle, post:7, topic:302048"]
Thanks.

[/quote]

Yes. Sorry for forgetting to add the source.


#9

Yes and no. He does not need one per se. If you are going to enter the Catholic Church you need your husband to get an annulment. The Catholic Church recognises marriages as valid even when they take place outside the Catholic Church. If your husband is not a Catholic and his former spouse is not a Catholic their marriage will be seen by the Catholic Church as valid. It will, of course, need to have been conducted according to the laws of the country where it took place, and, if it was a religious ceremony, acccording to the rules of that religion. Because the Church does recognise, as valid, marriages of other religions and civil ceremonies it will recognise your husband’s first marriage as valid. That means he was not free to marry you. That means your marriage won’t be considered valid.

There are a number of options. Is your husband’s first spouse still alive? If she is not he is freed from that marriage and yours could be convalidated. If she is still alive, was she a Catholic. If she was and there was not a Catholic marriage rite and she wasn’t dispensed from Catholic form, your husband’s first marriage can be resolved by a relatively straightforward documentary process due to lack of form. If she was not a Catholic and is still alive your husband will need to go to a Catholic priest and begin the process of annulment. It is only fair to advise you that there is no guarantee he will be granted an annulment.

It may cause some delays in the process. This means it may take longer to get an annulment. However, her lack of cooperation cannot stop the process going ahead.

The Church will almost certainly want to regularise your marriage situation before you are baptised.

It is a decision made by the Church that at the time of marriage one or more of the requirements that make a marriage valid were absent. Therefore, the marriage was invalid. It does not make its decision on anything that happened after marriage, which is usually the basis on which civil divorces are granted.


#10

Thank you everybody for the detailed responses. I really appreciate it.

My husband's ex is most likely not Catholic and she had a previous marriage (my husband was her 2nd). She most likely did not get an annulment if she was not Catholic, which makes her and my husband's marriage invalid from the beginning, am I correct? But if that's the case, will my church ask her to provide her previous marriage and divorce certificate as proof? I can't see anyone do this for their ex's... If she does not respond, then is it a common procedure for the church itself to obtain this information by let's say, contacting the marriage registry by the church?


#11

[quote="brownbear, post:10, topic:302048"]
She most likely did not get an annulment if she was not Catholic, which makes her and my husband's marriage invalid from the beginning, am I correct?

[/quote]

Unless her first husband was a Catholic -- in which case her first marriage may have been invalid. That would mean that her marriage to your husband might have been valid.

Best course of action: go back to your parish priest and give him all the info that you have, including all the info on your husband's ex's first marriage. He'll get you started on this journey...


#12

Your pastor is already on it. Trust him.


#13

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.