Can a man who divorced before being baptised become a priest?

Are there any examples of this sort of thing happening in the early Church? Whether involving priests, bishops, married or unmarried.
Does it make a difference if there were no children or if he was not at fault?
(Please note that I am not asking for personal reasons. I have never been married.)

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

A married man has an impediment to holy orders, unless he is entering the permanent diaconate. A civilly divorced man is in fact a married man.

Can.* 1042 The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:

1/ a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate;

The impediment might cease, such as if the man becomes a widower or receives a decree of nullity. The impediment can be dispensed by the Apostolic See.

Pauline privilege might also apply here.

It’s my understanding that a widower or annulled marriage removes any impediment to the priesthood. Technically. But they still need to accept you. If you have kids they need to be grown and independent.

The Pauline Privilege is the dissolution of the bond of a natural marriage in favor of a sacramental marriage. The dissolution of the natural bond occurs when the person remarries.

The Pauline Privilege would not apply to Holy Orders.

We must discuss terminology. As all Christians should know, Christ does not recognize the divorce of a valid marriage. A man is either validly married or not. The presence of children or “fault” or sin after marriage has nothing at all to do with the validity of a marriage.

There are married priests in the Eastern Church, and a few in the Latin Church. There were married bishops in the early Church. I would not be at all surprised if some were or are separated or civilly divorced.

I can see the link with the Pauline Privilege although this is slightly different.

The Pauline Privilege would allow a man to remarry if his wife left him either before he was baptised or because he became a Christian.

What I’m asking, is that if a man’s wife left him for another before he was baptised and so a civil divorce took place, does this prevent him from becoming a priest even though he never had a sacramental marriage?

If your looking for a way out of the annulment process you are out of luck.

Even the unbaptized must be looked at by the church (in essence fact checked) to ensure a sacramental marriage did not occur.

I already answered your question.

A man who is married (a man who is civilly divorced and has no decree of nullity is married) has an impediment to holy orders (in the Latin Rite).

The impediment can be dispensed.

Forgive my lack of knowledge of Catholic understandings please, but how could a sacramental marriage have occurred if the people weren’t baptised? How can a sacramental marriage take place outside the Church?

Also, just to clarify again, I’m not asking this for myself. I’m not, nor have I ever been, married in any way, shape or form.

I was actually hoping to obtain some quotes from the Church fathers / history which talk about these sorts of situations.

If the people weren’t baptized it wouldn’t be a sacramental marriage. But the tribunal would still need to investigate to ensure that was the case.

Regarding history…it was not always practiced that marriage was an impediment to holy orders at all. The matters you are talking about are of discipline, not doctrine. You are not likely to find much in history or in the fathers because of that. The rule against married men in priest is simply a matter of the church’s chosen practice. Men can and have been dispensed to become ordained while married, and it is permitted for eastern rite churches (which do not follow the same code of canon law).

It wouldn’t be sacramental but this is a very serious matter so the church investigates all previous marriages.

Sadly if they did not. Tons of people would abuse the process by lying and saying they were not baptized when married.

A marriage can be valid without the reception of Sacramental Graces. The marriage between two Jews, for example, is just as binding of a tie as the marriage of two baptized Catholics.

Such a marriage is called a Natural marriage, and it two cannot generally be dissolved. If the man in question was in a valid Natural marriage, he remains married in the eyes of the Church.

It can’t. A marriage involving the unbaptized are natural marriages. Natural marriages are valid marriages.

A valid marriage between two baptized people is a sacrament by its very nature. If two Methodists (who are not bound by the Catholic form of marriage) marry, and they are both validly baptized, then they enter a valid, sacramental marriage.

Also, just to clarify again, I’m not asking this for myself. I’m not, nor have I ever been, married in any way, shape or form.

If you are considering becoming a priest, contact your local diocese and get the best answers to your questions. I would hate for you to be discouraged so early on if you have been called to serve. Maybe you were meant to be a priest. Maybe you were meant to be a deacon.

Thanks for the replies.

It’s interesting that over in the ByzCath forums (where I also asked this question) the consensus was that there was no impediment to the man becoming a priest due to the Pauline Privilege.

I also read of a case where a long divorced Romanian Catholic was ordained as a priest. This surprised me as his marriage had been annulled (i.e. the divorce was a civil one).

Just to clarify again, I myself have never been married in any way, shape or form. This question was asked just to learn how the Church thinks on such matters.


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